2014 Roundup: January – April
As we come to the end of 2014 we will not be bringing you one final weekly roundup, instead we will be bringing you one large roundup of 2014. Filled with all the best and most important wildlife news from around the year we will bring you four months each day to count you down into the new year. So, in a year filled with badgers, beavers and butterflies relax and relive the news from January to April.
It’s safe to say that the during the wettest January on record weather news was as hard to avoid as the wild weather itself. As storm after storm pummelled the UK and the human cost grew, so did the cost to wildlife. It has since transpired that 5,000 puffins died during the storms off the Pembrokeshire Coast.
Despite the destructive weather, it was also an extremely mild January with Snowdrops reported as appearing early as well as more feathered species taking advantage of the early spring. Many birds appeared on our shores early this year, including the song thrush and the Chiffchaff whilst invertebrates such as ladybirds were also spotted in January. This caused concern amongst many as it was believed these early bloomers would not survive a sudden cold snap.
Meanwhile Australia was suffering from a heatwave. Although at the time most Brits were probably jealous of the Sun their cousins down under were getting, it had one nasty side effect. 100,000 bats rained down on the state of Queensland as they struggled to cope with the heat. Not only did this have a disastrous effect upon the estimated 25 colonies affected but the rotting carcasses of the bats posed a health hazard to residents who were warned against touching them due to the risk of contracting Australian bat lyssavirus.
Across the Atlantic controversy was being sparked by the sale of a permit to hunt an endangered Black Rhino. The Dallas Safari Club sponsored the auction which sold the permit for an unnamed buyer to hunt the rhino in Namibia for $350,000. Despite claims all the money raised was going towards conserving the species and that the rhino at the centre of it all was likely to be targeted for removal anyway as an old, aggressive male, many wildlife charities were up in arms about the sale.
For More Information on Trophy Hunting read Louisa Woods article on The Price of Life here
February continued the work of January as the storms kept coming as did the warnings about the threats to our wildlife. Bee hives were washed out as were many ground-dwelling hibernators such as voles and hedgehogs. The RSPB were also reporting losses to water birds who were finding the conditions hard to find food in. The Kingfisher for example needs clear water, when this silts up in flood conditions it becomes a struggle to see his prey. Unlike the economic cost of the years storms we may never be sure what cost it had upon our wildlife.
Poaching also kept making headlines as South Africa started to employ CSI style tactics to combat poaching and of course there was the London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade hosted by David Cameron. The Royals also spoke out on the need to combat poaching with Prince William and Prince Charles launching their campaign with a sincere and passionate video on the topic, which can be seen here.
The London Conference also saw a groundbreaking agreement regarding wildlife trade. Leaders and delegates from 46 countries including Botswana and Tanzania have committed to ensure that wildlife poaching and trafficking are classed as serious crimes, putting them on the same level as drugs, arms and people trafficking. This will ensure that anyone found guilty of the offence will receive a minimum of four years in prison.
Finally a month so similar to January couldn’t end without controversy as the frequency of zoo culls became public knowledge. In Denmark the culling of healthy giraffe Marius despite a global petition to save him sparked outrage. The zoo stated that Marius had to be put down to prevent inbreeding and that they made the best decision regarding the circumstances but their decision to feed him to their lions certainly didn’t appease the anger across social media. In the media frenzy that followed it emerged that culling is much more prevalent then the general public were previously aware of with approximately 5,000 animals being put down in European zoos every year. This number however includes everything from tadpoles to giraffes, with far fewer large mammals being culled. It however remains a hard and controversial truth that to maintain a genetically diverse captive population, culling must sometimes happen.
March was the month where you could not escape the video of the python engaged in an epic 5 hour battle with a crocodile. If you missed this you can find the link here but beware it’s probably not for those either scared of snakes or those who’ve just eaten.
Away from the internet, March was a bleak month for the Red Squirrel as Ministers admitted defeat against their invasive grey counterpart. This resulted in the government scrapping laws intended to protect the Red Squirrel as they were now deemed redundant. The law being removed required landowners to report grey squirrels on their land so they can be destroyed as the removal of the grey squirrel is no longer feasible.
The weather of course made news again in March, after fears of a cider drought emerged due to the destruction of acres of orchards. Scotland was also put on high alert for midges as the weather was creating perfect conditions for them.
March also saw the start of a story which would fill Twitter feeds and newspapers alike throughout the year and become almost as controversial as the topic of fox hunting. The persecution of birds of prey was hot news this year as was the banning of grouse hunting, and during March 13 birds were found dead over a period of 10 days in the same area. What followed was an unprecedented wildlife crime investigation as it transpired the birds had been illegally poisoned.
Birds continued to dominate the press in April as the month began with the RSPB offering a £10,000 reward in the hunt for the bird poisoner. Chris Packham then came forward to attack the mass slaughter of migrant birds in Malta. He heavily criticised the mass media for failing to publicise one of Europe’s biggest legalised bird hunts.
Approximately 10,500 hunters spend three weeks shooting migrant birds as they rest on their journey from Africa back to their European breeding grounds. Despite guidelines stating only two species (the turtle dove and quail) may be shot on the hunt, Packham claims at least 24 species of protected birds such as kestrels were killed in 2013. After failing to gain backing from television production companies, Packham has funded his own documentary series available on Youtube. The first episode can be viewed here.
It was then the turn of Vultures and Spain to make headlines. Spain approved the use of diclophenac – an anti-inflammatory drug which is highly beneficial in the treatment of mammals. The only downside? It’s highly poisonous to the vultures which might feed upon the carcasses of mammals containing traces of the drug.
The drug had already caused havoc and decimated India’s vulture population, which resulted in a dangerous increase of rotting animal carcasses and a rise in rabies. The fear is now that it could do the same in Spain where 90% of Europe’s vultures reside.
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