Wednesday May 22, 2013
The State of Hawaii has received a warning from the Federal Government over their use of street lights that are dangerous to birds and other wildlife. The Hawaii Department of Transportation currently uses about 11,000 street lights that need replacing. The current lights disorient birds when flying and in doing so increase their risk of collisions, injury and death. The lights also interfere with other wildlife such as nesting sea turtles.
The Hawaii Department of Transportation is required to use special lights that reduce light pollution and in turn the threats the lights pose to wildlife. To date, only about 1,800 such lights have been installed by the Hawaii Department of Transportation.
The Federal Government has noted that failure of the State of Hawaii to use the proper lights has resulted in the deaths of numerous wedge-tailed shearwaters. The penalty for the violation includes possible jail time and significant fines.
Photo © Jim Denny / kauaibirds.com.
Wednesday May 22, 2013
The Arizona Department of Water Resources recently approved a groundwater pumping program that could cause the drying of the Sand Pedro river in southern Arizona. The San Pedro River provides critical stopover habitat for millions of migratory birds each year. In 1995, the area was designiated as a Globally Important Bird Area, an area of habitat deemed by conservationists to be among the highest value and priority to the protection of birds.
The American Bird Conservancy has requested Arizona Governor Janice Brewer to overturn the Arizona Department of Water Resources' decision. The conservation organization points out that the program will effectively drain the San Pedro River to support unsustainale growth in the nearby town of Sierra Vista. Many of the birds that are most likely to be affected by the program are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and one species in particular, the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher—is protected under the Endangered Species Act.
The American Bird Conservancy characterizes the habitat around the San Pedro River as being a critical stopping point for migratory birds where they feed and rest. Among the birds that use the area during their migration are the Wilson's Warblers, yellow warblers, western yellow-billed cuckoos, gray hawks and green kingfishers.
Photo © Greg Homel / Natural Elements Productions.
Thursday April 25, 2013
The more stressed a mother squirrel is, the stronger and more robust the offspring she produces are, a new study by researchers from the Univeristy of Guelph in Ontario reveals. During pregnancy and after young are borne, female squirrels listen for cues about their social environment.
In crowded environments were squirrel populations are dense, female squirrels pick up on more frequent and louder rattles and calls (sounds made to declare territory). In response to these sounds, the females produce higher levels of stress hormone. In areas where squirrel populations are dense, the fastest growing squirrels are more likely to survive. When female squirrels were fed peanut butter with added sress hormontes, their pups grew faster than pups of females with low stress hormones. The study shows that despite the many negative aspects of stress, in some cases it can result in benefits.
Photo © Ryan Taylor / Univeristy of Guelph.
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Thursday April 25, 2013
Think Elephants International, an organizaton that promotes elephant conservation through research and education, joined forces with 12-14 year old students at East Side Middle School in New York City to design and conduct an experiment on how elephants perceive the world around them. The study focused on how elephants process visual clues made by humans and also examined how elephants responded to vocal commands. The study found that elephants do not easily interpret visual clues such as pointing. Instead, they process vocal commands more successfully.
The findings are important because they can contribute to better conservation strategies for protecting elephants. If elephants do not use visual information as a primary method of navigating their environemnt, we need to understand better what kind of information they do use whether it be, for example, sound or smell.
Conservationists at Think Elephant point out the importance of elephant conservation and estimate that without intervention in the next fifty years we could see elephants become extinct. Think Elephant plans to extend similar research programs to involve sutdents at schools in Thailand.
Photo © Paula Bronstein / Getty Images.