Weekly Round Up 19/10/14

The past week has been tremendously busy week for wildlife this week with some important stories breaking. Unfortunately these stories don’t always make the mainstream media outlets, so here’s a roundup of what you might have missed.


UK’s Native Ladybirds are Under Threat From STD’s

This week scientists warned that the introduced harlequin ladybird posed yet another threat to our already beleaguered native species, in the form of a sexually transmitted disease.

Introduced to Europe as a form of pest control for crops, harlequin ladybirds have been wrecking havoc on our two-spotted population of ladybirds since they were first seen in 2004. The harlequin which is known to eat other species of ladybirds, has now been found to suffer from the Laboulbeniales fungal infection. University of Stirling researchers, who discovered the rise in infected harlequin ladybirds are concerned that this may pose a serious threat to our native species as it can be spread during mating with unpredictable consequences.

The public is now being asked to get involved and help track the disease by observing the ladybirds in their local area and filling in an online survey.

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New Virus Threatens Amphibians

Amphibians in Spain are being wiped out by a series of deadly viruses, previously unreported in the country. The new, called Ranavirus, causes ulcers on the skin of the animals who then die from internal bleeding. It has an immensely high kill-rate, with infected areas witnessing mass mortality events from the three strains of the virus.

Not only is the disease able to decimate the amphibian populations, it also appears to be able to cross species barriers with reports of it infecting a snake who ate an infected animal.

Amphibian populations are already under pressure from the well reported chytrid fungus, with 41% of amphibian species on the verge of being wiped out according to the IUCN. Thus the appearance of another brutally fatal virus could spell disaster for amphibian populations.

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Britain’s Migrant Birds in Dramatic Decline

It’s been a bleak week for populations of our wildlife, with the RSPB announcing that the number of migratory birds visiting our shores has declined. The latest State of the UK’s Birds report featured a migratory birds section which included trends for 29 migrant species which nest in the UK in summer and spend the winter around the Mediterranean, or in Africa south of the Sahara Desert.  

Amongst the 29 species, is the Nightingale, cuckoos and the Turtle Dove. Nearly half of the 29 summer migrants who appear in the UK in spring to breed are showing long term declines.

The birds are facing pressures from the continent as well as in the UK, where they are losing habitat and breeding grounds. Some species are also under threat by the rising number of deer who browse on young woodland. They can also suffer persecution during their migrations as many birds are shot across the Mediterranean or caught up in nets.

Experts are looking to further study the migration routes to determine the pressures faced along the route as well as here in the UK.

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Badger Cull Set To Fail Again

According to the Guardian, the controversial badger cull is set to fail for the second year running. Their sources have shown that less than a third of the required badgers have been shot although the trial is two-thirds of the way through.

The culls are set to end on Monday, with the environment secretary claiming their outcome will determine whether they are rolled out across the country.

The UK has the highest incidence of bovine TB in Europe, yet many scientists are highly opposed to the trials claiming them to be scientifically “rubbish”. Furthermore killing too few badgers risks increasing TB levels, therefore experts claim that DEFRA are being too precautionary with their targets. Defra meanwhile claims that they are using the best evidence available gathered by local experts to set their targets.

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UK Breaking Conservation Laws on Porpoises

Earlier this week it emerged that the UK could be taken to the European Court of Justice within two months regarding its failure to protect harbour porpoises.

The most commonly found cetacean species in UK waters, harbour porpoises although relatively abundant are under increasing pressures from human activities. Under the EU Habitats Directive, the UK has to designate special areas of conservation (SACs) to protect harbour porpoises however only one site has been proposed off the coast of Northern Ireland.

Conservationists argue that important porpoise habitats should be protected in Scottish and Welsh waters as well as the potential to extend migratory routes in English waters.

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Slow worms interrupt station work

Building work on the new Exeter Newcourt Station has had to be halted for a month due to a colony of slow worms. Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, they are a protected species and as such qualified ecologists had to relocate the 25 slow worms. The worms were however successfully relocated to a safe distance on the other side of the railway line.

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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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