April 2016

Reintroductions

Oryx were reintroduced in Chad this month, while northern quolls were released in Kakadu.

The United States have declared bison their “national mammal”, while whooping cranes repopulate Louisiana and burrowing owls repopulate British Columbia.

In New Zealand there have been successes with the kākāpō, while Inky the Octopus escaped from the National Aquarium – rewilding himself.

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Jean-Michel Cousteau has joined the mounting public pressure on SeaWorld to return its orcas to the wild.

Dr Brent Hughes described how sea otters are restoring the balance in California, while river herring have returned to Rhode Island.

Populations of buzzards in Britain and griffon vultures in Bulgaria are both doing well.

Rewilding Europe welcomed five new members, while becoming a member itself of the IUCN. Their project in Portugal’s Côa Valley was also spotlighted by Travel and Leisure.

The Wildlife Trust are looking for someone to do a feasibility study on pine marten reintroduction in the Forest of Dean. George Monbiot has written about the trophic cascade associated with these predators and squirrels.

Dams

Following the success story of the Elwha, the river dams of Klamath may soon be rewilded.

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Paul Greenberg pointed out that thousands of small scale dams are blocking migratory New England fish like shad, herring and salmon, prompting John Waldman to call for “every dam to have an existential crisis and figure which are needed.”

Trees

Studies this month have explained how bears help trees climb mountains, and how big cats play an even bigger role in plant preservation than we knew.

Bhutan celebrated the birth of its prince by planting 108,000 trees. Meanwhile Kenya is aiming to plant 20 million new trees.

A cooperative project between ecologists, the oil palm industry and a Sabah landowner is designing a wildlife corridor for Malaysia’s orangutans.

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The last of Europe’s primeval forest remains under threat from logging, that some have said is illegal. Białowieża forest is home to 20,000 species, and recent research has shed light on the delicacy of its forest biodiversity. The Guardian ran a beautiful piece on this ancient ecosystem, and Patrick Barkham has called for the EU to intervene, cajole and penalise the Polish government until its vandalism is stopped.

Eastern Australia is now considered a global deforestation front. Illegal logging has begun near Chernobyl. Less than a month after Leonardo DiCaprio visited Indonesia’s Leuser ecosystem, a palm oil and mining moratorium has been declared.

These acts of devastation come at a time when scientists are finding that disturbances even outside rainforests can jeopardize internal biodiversity. These forests are also keeping wildlife cool as the world warms.

One environmental defender is killed each week protecting forests. Half of these victims are indigenous. Cambodian lawyer Leng Ouch spoke to Western media, explaining that “even though I know my life is at risk, I still try to save the forest.”

America’s Predators

In a similar situation to Cecil the lion, Yellowstone’s celebrated grizzly bear Scarface was shot dead. Jane Goodall has voiced her opposition about the delisting of grizzly bears. Read more on the crisis of America’s grizzlies herehere and here. A bear hunt is also being planned within the newly “protected” Great Bear Rainforest.

The death of a wolf called OR-4 was seen as a sobering turn for Oregon’s wolf plan. At the same time, researchers concluded that it is now too late for a genetic rescue of near extinct Michigan wolves. A legal settlement has however forced the government to finally prepare a Mexican gray wolf recovery plan.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, a petition to end trapping on wildlife refuges is gaining momentum.

Cats

The US federal government are seeking public comment on a plan to develop panther habitat.

The WWF and Leonardo DiCaprio celebrated the fact that tiger populations are rising for the first time in a century. At the same time, it was announced that tigers have become extinct in Cambodia.

The Asian Ministerial Summit on Tiger Conservation concluded with a New Delhi Resolution. Tiger biologists issued a statement of concern.

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Cheryl Lyn Dybas wrote an intriguing article in the National Geographic about the prospect of rewilding the Caspian tiger.

According to the BBC, sheep farmers have said “No” to lynx in Britain. Miles King has described this response as firing a dud, and Ecosulis were prompted to explain why claims that sheep increase biodiversity are wrong.

Beavers

Following the Canadian example, Sweden’s capital city is now home to a wild beaver population. Europe’s broader context is similarly positive for beavers. The dark brown sections in the map below are the Eurasian beaver’s range in 1900, the light brown is today:

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Meanwhile, unscientific attitudes in the UK have resulted very modest beaver reintroductions and occasional mass slaughters of unprotected populations.Scottish Natural Heritage has been accused of fence-sitting on the issue.

Britain

40,000 trees and 300 leaky dams reduced peak water flow by 20% during recent floods in Pickering this year. This scheme – Slowing the Flow – has showcased natural flood management, and could inform the UK government’s flooding inquiry.

Holyrood candidates were directly questioned on the issue of rewilding, and you can assess their responses here.

Helen Meech of Rewilding Britain and Robin Milton of the National Farmers’ Union have stated their cases for and against rewilding the country’s national parks. Farmers might find Ben Eagle’s observations on “resilience in a post-subsidies world” an interesting read.

On May 5 wildlife and environmental leaders will meet to discuss Dorset’s rewilding prospects.

Scottish Natural Heritage’s magazine ran an interesting story on Norway’s new woodlands, echoing a 1993 study which compared land use between the two nations.

Poaching / Killing

The League Against Cruel Sports exposed hunt laws being breached in Scotland.

Mark Avery wrote a critical letter to BBC Countryfile, in a month where grouse estates have been under fierce criticism.

Dismayed by the (mostly illegal) killing of raptors, mountain hares, hedgehogs, stoats, foxes, ravens and other wildlife, tens of thousands of people are signing this petition to ban driven grouse hunting.

The government’s initial response was condemned as a “copy and paste” job, just days before an armed man was found on a grouse more with a decoy hen harrier.

Birds and mammals aside, a recent survey in north-east England found far more variety of plants on brownfield sites than moorlands.

The European Commission has taken the first steps in legal infraction against the UK government in relation to the burning of blanket bog in Special Areas of Conservation.

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Meanwhile in Malta, endangered turtle doves have been slaughtered on an industrial scale. Chris Packham exposed how the slaughter also includes cuckoos and bee eaters. See more at #wheredovesdie

A new study shows how the pet trade is driving down Indonesia’s wild bird populations. After watching Disney’s Zootropolis, fans in China have flocked to snatch up rare fennec foxes.

Soon after a rhino was shot dead by poachers in India (hours after a British royal visit), South Africa announced it would not be proposing a legal trade in rhino horn. Southern Africa has been identified as a new poaching hotspot for elephants.

Malaysia has destroyed a 9.5 tonne horde of ivory. Arnold Schwarzenegger has also been destroying ivory. Today, Kenya will burn a 105 tonne stockpile of ivory. Dr Paula Kahumbu explains why this is a good idea.

Talking Points

Translocation explained.

Wild animals avoid the roads that tourists use to see them.

Hiker who fell and cut her knee on Wicklow Way wins €40,000 damages.

Moose respond to climate change by transforming Alaska’s tundra.

Researchers hope to “assist evolution” by creating hardier corals and tougher trees.

Rising C02 levels have “greened the planet”.

Politicians are trying to sell public lands in the United States.

Is tourism putting Antarctic ecosystems at risk?

How to travel your planet without destroying it.

Microplastics: which brands are safe to use?

Environmental accomplishments since the first Earth Day 46 years ago.

Disney pledge to “reverse the decline”, Apple donates to WWF, and major companies renew call for US climate action and rapid transition to a low-carbon future.

Nearly half of all UNESCO natural World Heritage sites are threatened by harmful industrial activities.

US wildlife agencies are underfunded, while UK’s environment department is “hollowed out”.

Nations sign historic Paris climate change deal, while world scientists join forces on major 1.5°C climate change report.

Oceans

Almost 93% of reefs on the Great Barrier Reef have been hit by bleaching. Michael Slezak explained the ongoing struggle between our planet’s largest living structure and a handful of mining corporations. David Attenborough’s three-part documentary on the subject has now reached Australian viewers.

A study found that plankton decline was hitting the marine food chain.

20 April marked six years since the BP oil disaster. Some used it as an opportunity to spotlight the largest restoration effort in American history, while others pointed out the hundreds of baby dolphin deaths linked to it.

Seismic testing for fossil fuels was condemned by Senator Cory Brooker, while Green politicians were alarmed to find a river on fire in Australia – near a fracking site.

Urban Rewilding

Los Angeles are launching the world’s largest urban wildlife study.

The Nature of Cities explained the ins and outs of linear parks.

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London’s National Park City campaign showed enthusiasm for rewilding.

Adam Cormack pointed out that the vote to make sustainable urban drainage systems a default option was good news for urban rewilding.

Vancouver is going wild for rewilding.

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