Weekly Roundup 02/11/14

Welcome to another weekly roundup. It’s official we are now in November and the year is very nearly over. This weeks main news stories have followed much the same pattern of previous months, with birds of prey making headlines, as well as more doom and gloom for other bird species.

Birds of Prey

Stories regarding birds of prey have been abundant this week as the RSPB released their bird crime statistics for 2013. Overall there were 164 reports of shooting and destruction of birds of prey, including the shooting of 2 hen harriers, 28 buzzards and 74 reports of poisoning and pesticide-related offences. Of those poisoned, confirmed victims included 20 red kits, a golden eagle and white-tailed eagle. Moreover there were also 14 cases of nests being robbed and 29 cases of illegal taking, possession or sale of birds of prey. 

More than half of the incidents occurred in England, and just over a quarter occurring in Scotland. Unfortunately experts believe many incidents are still going unreported or undetected so this data only represents a fraction of the persecution faced by birds of prey. Campaigners are now calling upon figureheads in the shooting industry to help stamp out the illegal killings.

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The Trouble with Wind Turbines

A report also highlighted the conflict between birds of prey and wind turbines in Scotland. The report showed that wind turbines were actually guilty of killing more birds of prey than deliberate poisoning or shooting in Scotland this past year. Amongst the casualties were a white tailed sea eagle.

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) said that the report showed the “prejudice” landowners and farmers face with the shooting industry often declared “guilty until proven innocent”.

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Birds Affected by Urban Noise

Researchers in Nova Scotia have suggested that urbanisation does more to threaten birds then by creating habitat loss. The levels of noise that come with an urbanised environment can have a negative effect upon nestling birds.

High levels of noise from human activities such as traffic can leave young birds unable to communicate with their parents and as a result leaves them vulnerable to starvation and predation. Nestling birds depend upon their parents not only for food but to give instructions regarding predators. Without these instructions, the birds can misidentify predators as their parents with food and start begging for food animatedly, making them an easy target. Alternatively an over-cautious nestling may fail to hear their parents approach and miss a meal leading to starvation.

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Bewicks Swan Numbers Fall by a Third

For avid wildlife photographers and bird spotters, this is the perfect time of year to see Bewicks Swan as it overwinters in Europe. However the UK’s rarest and smallest swan is becoming much harder to find from just twenty years ago.

According to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) more than a third of the birds have disappeared since 1995 when their numbers were at 29,000. Unfortunately due to illegal hunting, power lines, wind turbines, and lead poisoning from buckshot their numbers were just 18,000 in 2010.

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Illegal Wildlife Haul Found in Lancashire

Two stuffed snowy owls, a sperm whale tooth, four leopard skins and a jaguar skull have been seized from an address near Burnley in Lancashire. The items are covered under Annex ‘A’ of the Control in Endangered Species Enforcement Regulations 1997 which regulates the trade of endangered species, or products such as skins from the endangered species. 

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Turtle Deaths in Scotland

Over the month of October four Leatherback Turtles have been found dead off the coast of Scotland. Leatherback Turtles are the largest of all living turtles and are an endangered species, native to the Caribbean.

Although strandings of Leatherback Turtles do occur in Scotland, it is unusual to have so many occurrences in such a short space of time. Two of the turtles unfortunately got caught in creel lines and subsequently drown, whilst the cause of death of the remaining two is still under investigation.

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Badger Cull Campaigners Lose Legal Battle

The Badger Trusts legal challenge to rule the governments lack of an independent team to monitor the humaneness of the second round of culls as unlawful has failed.

On Wednesday the Court of Appeal rejected the challenge, therefore allowing any further culls to go ahead without an independent team monitoring.

The Badger Trust as part of their appeal claimed that environment secretary Liz Truss had stated that a second round of culls would take place with independent monitors. Yet Lord Justice Bean wrote in his judgement that she had not made “any clear, unambiguous and unqualified representation” on the independent expert panel continuing beyond its first year.

The Trust are now calling for DEFRA to commit to rigorous cattle control measures, like those observed in Wales and vaccination of badgers in the place of culling.

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Fresh Skin Fungus Threat To European Newts and Salamanders

A new skin eating fungus, Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans believed to have originated in South East Asia has been spread to Europe through the pet trade.

Newts indigenous to South East Asia are immune to the effects of the fungus, however their European and American counterparts have no resistance to the disease. It has already caused the collapse of fire salamanders in the Netherlands. Although the fungus is restricted to salamanders and newts, other amphibians are not affected.

Although not yet present in the UK experts believe it poses a grave threat to UK newts, especially the great crested newt, whose populations are already vulnerable in this country. It is feared that the fungus will be easily spread around the world through the pet trade as Asian salamanders and newts are traded in large numbers every year.

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Emily Stewart
Owner of Inspirewildlife - a site dedicated to sharing positive conservation news stories from around the world. Zoo Management Graduate from University of Chester
Emily Stewart

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