Tag Archives: Environment

The Forgotten Endangered Animals

 

International Court victory for whales

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Pic: Paul Hilton/Greenpeace

Japanese whaling in the Antarctic Ocean was ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice this afternoon. This is a landmark ruling which will stop hundreds of whales being killed each year in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica in the name of “research”.

Australia had asked the Court to stop Japan’s annual whaling hunting expedition, claiming their programme is not scientific but commercial, because of its large scale. Japan catches about 1,000 whales each year for what it calls scientific research.

In a statement, the court said: “The special permits granted by Japan for the killing, taking and treating of whales in connection with JARPA II are not ‘for purposes of scientific research’ pursuant to [the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling].”

The court’s decision is considered legally binding and Japan has said in the past that it would abide by the court’s ruling. But this isn’t the end of the story. While this may stop Japan’s whaling efforts in the Southern Ocean, campaigners fear that Japan could still try and find new excuses to continue this cull under another guise.

Greenpeace is urging governments to support a huge network of marine reserves that will act as sanctuaries for the diverse, beautiful, weird and wonderful species all over the world, including places like the Antarctic, which is under threat from commercial fishing and climate change.

They are calling on politicians to create a vast network of marine reserves to protect the Antarctic and species like emperor penguins, minke whales and colossal squid.

 

Big Garden Birdwatch 2014

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Pic: RSPB

More than half a million people are expected to be watching their garden birds the weekend (25-26 January), for the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch.

It’s the biggest wildlife survey in the world and this year participants are being asked to log some of the other wildlife they see in their gardens too, including deer, squirrels, badgers, hedgehogs, frogs and toads.

Also new for 2014, is the RSPB’s LIVE bird counter, making it even easier to take part. The counter can be accessed from the RSPB website and doesn’t even need to be downloaded – simply take your laptop, tablet or smartphone to the window, enter the birds you see as you see them, while the clock counts down your hour.

Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director says: ”Winter has felt more like autumn for many of us and this could have a significant impact on the number of birds in our gardens.

“Birds come into gardens for food when they can’t find it in the wider countryside but if insects and berries continue to be available long into winter, numbers visiting gardens may be down. The Big Garden Birdwatch will be really interesting this year and will be a good indication of just how much the weather affects their behaviour.

“The key thing for the RSPB is that even if you feel you don’t have as many birds in your garden compared to normal, we still desperately need your results. We will be able to compare results to other mild winter years and compare regional trends, so if you don’t see many birds, we still need to know, it’s really useful information.

“The more people that take part, the greater our understanding of the threats and the solutions will be.”

Starlings hit an all time low in the 2013 Birdwatch with their numbers sinking by a further 16 per cent from 2012. Numbers of house sparrows, which are of high conservation concern, dropped by 17 percent in gardens compared to 2012, whilst numbers of bullfinches and dunnocks were down by 20 per cent and 13 per cent respectively.

The data gathered on the mammal and amphibian species will be shared with conservation partners so they can add it to their own records and will be used to help the RSPB tailor its advice on giving nature a home so people can help their wild visitors nest, feed and breed successfully.

To take part, people are asked to spend just one hour at any time of the Big Garden Birdwatch weekend noting the highest number of each bird species seen in their gardens or local outside space at anyone time. They then have three weeks to submit their results to the RSPB, either online or in the post.

Participants don’t have to actually count the other species like hedgehogs and frogs during the birdwatch hour; just tell the RSPB whether they have ever seen them in their gardens, at any time of year.

Gloucestershire badger cull called off

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Great news that the badger cull in Gloucestershire is being abandoned after marksmen failed to kill enough badgers to meet their greatly reduced targets.

The collapse of the trial means that the controversial cull is to end three weeks earlier than planned. Also, according to a document seen by the BBC, the licence will be revoked early by Natural England (NE).

The NE document says: “It is recommended that the daily removal rate of badgers is monitored closely and if the rate falls below projections (such that a significant reduction in badger numbers may not be achieved) then we should consider terminating culling operations (by revoking the licence) as in this scenario there is unlikely to be a net benefit from continued culling.”

The pilot culls were testing whether shooting free-running badgers at night could kill sufficient numbers of the animal to reduce TB in cattle herds and the one in Gloucestershire was tasked with killing 70% of all badgers in the area in a maximum of six weeks.

However,  just 30% were killed in that time, leading to an eight-week extension. A revised target  of 58% was set but shooters have failed to kill enough badgers on any night and several night saw no kills at all. The extended cull was due to end on 18 December.

Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, had wanted to roll out the culls across the country, but will have to wait for the verdict of an independent panel of experts, which will judge whether the culls have been effective, safe and humane.

Mark Jones, Executive Director of Humane Society International-UK said: “I am much relieved the government’s badger cull fiasco is finally over, for the time being at least. We hope the government will now do the decent thing and admit that killing badgers to control TB in cattle is a ludicrous and inhumane idea.”

Dominic Dyer, of Care for the Wild, said a protest against the cull in Bristol today would now turn into a celebration. “We’ve already learned lessons about culling – that it doesn’t work,” he said. “We know that there is another way – an improved cattle management system, in conjunction with volunteer-led badger vaccination.”

Green MP arrested in anti-fracking protest

Green MP Caroline Lucas is arrested near Balcombe during anti-fracking protest at Cuadrilla

Pic: The Guardian

The UK’s only Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas,  was among dozens of anti-fracking protesters arrested today as a “day of action” saw thousands of people take part in demonstrations at sites across the country.

Hundreds of activists blockaded the Balcombe oil drilling site in Sussex owned by Cuadrilla, as well as its Lichfield headquarters and the offices of its PR firm.

Demonstrators hung banners at the country home of the Conservative Lord Howells, who stirred controversy by suggesting the “desolate” north should be fracked and attempted to put up a small wind turbine at the home of Tory MP Francis Maude,  whose constituency includes Balcombe.

Protesters at Balcombe blocked part of the site road but were driven back by police. Lucas, who is the The MP for Brighton Pavilion, said she joined the protest to make up for the “democratic deficit” that was allowing corporate oil and gas interests to trump the concerns of ordinary people.

“Along with everyone else who took action today, I’m trying to stop a process which could cause enormous damage for decades to come,” she said today.

“People today, myself included, took peaceful non-violent direct action only after exhausting every other means of protest available to us. Despite the opposition to fracking being abundantly clear, the government has completely ignored the views of those they are supposed to represent.”

Thousands join march against fracking

Anti-fracking protests

Demonstrations in Balcombe today. Pic: Gareth Fuller/PA

Thousands of people marched through the Sussex countryside today in the biggest show of strength to date for the UK’s anti-fracking movement, the start of a three-day campaign against exploratory drilling near the village of Balcombe in west Sussex.

More than 2,000 supporters from around the country arrived in coaches and by train and filled “matchmaking” forms to on arrival, listing their preferences and skills in activities such as climbing, standing their ground, getting through or over fences, looking after people, providing entertainment or documenting the action.

Cuadrilla has in the past few days, after discussions with local police, halted drilling activities at the site and removed some equipment. The company has also urged protestors not to attempt anything that could compromise their own safety. The firm has partially drilled an exploratory oil well on the site and tests on the data obtained from drilling will help to determine whether the company presses on with its plans.

Protestor Liz Lyddon, from Brighton, said: “I am very concerned about climate change for our future generations. Fracking is not the direction we should be taking – there should be a huge investment in renewable green energy but there is no sign that any of our politicians are even thinking seriously about that.

“This shows that the opposition to fracking is growing.. and I do think that as people start to think about fracking they will begin to think about the wider issues around climate change and energy supply.”

Cattle transport, not badgers, really causes bovine tuberculosis

Dear Kitty. Some blog

This video from Britain says about itself:

Watch this cute badger cub run round in circles with excitement as it sets off for an evening outing.

From Wildlife Extra, about Britain:

Defra statistics show bTB soared after cattle imports

A case of foot in mouth for Defra as their own evidence reveals true cause of bTB outbreak

May 2013. Statistics released by Defra in a bid to explain why the badger cull must go ahead have, in fact, revealed the true cause of the bTB outbreak that they are trying to stop, say Care for the Wild.

bTB soared after Foot and Mouth controls relaxed

Figures show that incidences of bTB soared in 2000/2001, in certain areas. This correlates almost exactly with the relaxation of movement controls after the Foot and Mouth epidemic, which saw large numbers of herds restocked from the UK and across Europe.

Influx of untested…

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Mystery sticky substance back to pollute birds

Staff at the RSPCA West Hatch Wildlife Centre wash a guillemot covered in a unknown pollutant

More than 30 guillemots have been rescued after being washed up on beaches across the south coast of England covered in a sticky substance.

The birds were collected from beaches stretching from Mevagissey in Cornwall to Plymouth and Whitsand Bay. They were affected by what appears to be same sticky substance that harmed their colonies two months ago.

Most of the birds were transported to the RSPCA West Hatch wildlife centre in Taunton. “Five birds transferred to West Hatch last night were in an extremely poor condition and were put to sleep to end their suffering,” said a spokesperson for the charity. “There is still no indication whether this is a new pollution incident or not.”

In February, scores of sea birds were injured and hundreds more killed by the pollutant, which affected a 200-mile stretch of coastline. About 300 birds, mostly guillemots, were treated at the West Hatch centre.

Experts at Plymouth University found the mystery substance was almost certain to be polyisobutene, an oil additive known as PIB, which has a chemical mixture ranging from oils to solids. But the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said it was unable to trace the source of the spill and confirmed it has closed the investigation.

Staff at West Hatch first tried to clean the birds with normal soapy water, which was not successful in removing the sticky substance, but eventually had more success with margarine.

Freezing weather endangers British wildlife

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Britain’s long cold spell is threatening ever greater numbers of animals, birds and insects. The length of the current cold spell is unprecedented, with temperatures are unlikely to return to their average level until the end of April. By that time, a great deal of harm could have been done to the nation’s wildlife.

A report in The Observer warns that the freezing weather is particularly affecting creatures that are already struggling to survive the loss of their habitats and changes in climate, including:

  • Hedgehogs that are still hibernating. “The weather is not yet warm enough to wake them,” said Fay Vass, Chief Executive of the Hedgehog Preservation Society. “Usually they would be up and about by now. The problem is that the longer a hedgehog remained asleep, the weaker it gets and the less energy it has to restore itself to wakefulness. In general, the longer the cold weather lasts, the greater the number of animals that will not wake up at all. Hedgehogs that have already woken up are having a hard time finding any food.
  • Seabirds along the east coast are also badly affected, struggling to catch fish in the current stormy conditions. Puffins, guillemots, razorbills, cormorants and gulls are all affected.
  • Owls and small birds, such as goldcrests, long-tailed tits and wrens, which mainly feed on small insects, are finding the current cold weather very tricky.
  • Frogs have spawned only for their ponds to have frozen over, while many plants and insects are emerging late, which has a knock-on effect on species that feed on them.
  • Butterflies wake-up in April and, if it is still freezing, that could have very serious consequences for their ability to get food.

The RSPB says everyone can help by making sure their bird feeders are regularly topped up, and The Hedgehog Preservation Society recommends that nature lovers leave plentiful water supplies and food, either meaty cat or dog meals or specialist hedgehog food.

Plastic waste linked with UK shops kills whale

National Geographic

Pic: National Geographic

There was some sad news today when it was reported that a dead sperm whale washed up on the southern Spanish coast had swallowed 17kg of plastic waste dumped into the sea by farmers tending greenhouses that produce vegetables for British supermarkets.

The 4.5 tonne whale had swallowed 59 different bits of plastic – most of it thick transparent sheeting used to build greenhouses in southern Almeria and Granada, reported The Guardian. The plastic had eventually blocked the animal’s stomach and killed it, according to researchers from Doñana national park research centre in Andalusia.

In all the whale’s stomach contained two dozen pieces of transparent plastic, some plastic bags, nine metres of rope, two stretches of hosepipe, two small flower pots and a plastic spray canister. All were typical of the Almeria greenhouses where plants are grown in beds of perlite stones and drip-fed chemical fertilisers.  Tesco, Waitrose and Sainsbury’s are all valued customers.

Environmentalists complain that local riverbeds are often awash with plastic detritus and  some ends up in the sea. “The problem of degraded plastics that are no longer recyclable still remains,” said Renaud de Stephanis, lead researcher at Doñana. “These animals feed in waters near an area completely flooded by the greenhouse industry, making them vulnerable to its waste products if adequate treatment of this industry’s debris is not in place.”

The news came just two days after British actor Jeremy Irons told a conference that people must overhaul their habits of “unadulterated consumerism” if the EU is to curb its huge waste problem.

The European Commission hosted the conference in Brussels  to announce the publication  of the EU’s green paper on plastic waste. It aims to launch discussions about how to make plastic products more sustainable throughout their life cycle and reduce the impact of plastic discards on the environment.

“We have time for things we think are important,” said Irons. “If people were made aware of the follow on [of waste disposal]… Unadulterated consumerism will not work. Now it is really time to think. The old model, especially in this part of the world, hasn’t worked well.”