Pics: Amazing Geckos

Via The Ark in Space, a Compendium of Creatures, some of the best gecko pictures collected plus facts like this: an account of what happens to its tail when it sheds it when threatened:

“When a gecko sheds its tail, many will return later to see if it is still there. If it is then they will eat it. This is because the gecko uses part of its tail to store nutrients so that it can get through lean times when food is scarce.”

Caption: A common leopard gecko. Image credit Flickr user Dusantos


The New Fashion Victims: Snow Leopards

World-wide demand for cashmere is leading to increased sizes of goat herds in northern India, the Tibetan plateau and Mongolia, according to a new study. The goats take away forage areas that local antelopes depend on, reducing their numbers, which in turns reduces prey for predators like the snow leopard, reports The Guardian. According to the study, published in Conservation Biology, the goats are devouring 95 percent of forage, leaving just five percent for wildlife.

Said one of the researchers: ” ‘But it is not an easy issue because producing cashmere does benefit local communities and economic development is essential,’ ” said[ Charudutt Mishra]. ‘I care about the snow leopard but I also genuinely care about those people and their livelihoods. The solution is about empowering them.’ Examples of small projects that have helped so far, he said, are paying bonuses for cashmere goods produced by communities that do not shoot snow leopards or poach wild animals, improvements to the corrals in which the goats live to prevent leopards killing them and vaccination of goats to prevent the spread of disease.”

Image via Raikthorstad, Flickr Creative Commons


Why Dead Tigers Were the Ultimate British Imperialist Symbol

After my last post about the decline of tigers in which I came across the bit of trivia that the Maharaja of Surguja had personally hunted and shot over 1,000 tigers in his life, I started searching his name and came across a couple fascinating stories about the history of tiger hunting in India.

The hunt was “nothing short of pageantry of organised animal slaughter,” wrote Roshni Johar in the Tribune India in 2003. Named shikar, it involved sometimes hundreds, even thousands, of “beaters,” who would use drums and flutes and elephants to drive tigers directly to so-called hunters, who were comfortably ensconced in tents or treehouses waiting to pull a trigger. Glamping-meets-species genocide.

As a writer named Dave adds on the blog Madame Pickwick, “Tigers also represented for the British all that was wild and untamed in the Indian natural world. Thus, the curious late Victorian and Edwardian spectacle of British royals and other dignitaries being photographed standing aside dead tiger carcasses depicted the staging of the successful conquest of Indian nature by ‘virile imperialists.’”

Below is a photo of Lord Reading, viceroy and governor general of India in the 1920s with the spoils at his feet.

By the Numbers: Tiger Decline

Just came across this Mongabay post on a NatureIndia story about the fate of tigers amid human populations that are increasing with no end in sight. The following stick out:

1. Tigers now occupy just seven percent of their historic range.

2. Just 2,000 tigers are believed to live in India currently, down from 40,000 in the 1930s.

3. And research has shown that dwindling tiger populations has dramatically affected gene diversity. To quote, “The results show that tigers have lost about 93% of the maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA.”

The shocker that really stood out for me though was that one man, the Maharaja of Surguja, holds the records for shooting the most number of tigers ever. He killed anywhere from 1,100 to 1,700 according to various reports, a number not far from the current total of all tigers living on earth.

Birdsong App a Nuisance?

Some are wondering that a new app called Chirp! that imitates birdsong will be played so much to lure birds for photos that it could endanger them, via HuffPo:

Tony Whitehead, public affairs officer for the RSPB, Europe’s largest conservation charity, told the BBC : “Repeatedly playing a recording of birdsong or calls to encourage a bird to respond in order to see it or photograph it can divert a territorial bird from other important duties, such as feeding its young.”





Before They Were Snuffed Out

Documenting Reality has collected a great gallery of photos of “extinct animals that were photographed alive” including the thylacine (or Tasmanian tiger), Bali tiger, Syrian wild ass, Bubal hartebeest and passenger pigeon. Many were photographed in captivity and represent a final view of the last of their kind.

Animal Enrichment for Captive Animals

They are definitely helping animals — but it still looks like a jail. This Chinese wildlife center has saved more than seven moon bears, or Asian black bears, since 1995, some of which were injured. The bear is under state protection in China. Nineteen pandas also live there.

Good Prospects: Bacteria to Break Down Plastics

Amazing — more bacteria can be harnessed to break down phthalates from plastics, say two young scientists Miranda Yang and Jeanny Yao in a TED Talk. Explained Yao on TED blog: ”We weren’t the first ones to break down phthalates, but we were the first ones to look into our local river and find a possible solution to a local problem.” They obtained the most efficient degraders in a landfill.

Good Prospects: European Fish Stocks Recovering

A major new study reports that northern Atlantic fish stocks have taken a surprising turn for the better, with most recovering far more quickly than anticipated since greater protections were put in place.

As Science Daily reports: “We should be aware that low fishing pressure needs to be maintained until stocks recover,” says Robin Cook of the University of Strathclyde. “This is only the first step. Now we need to see numbers increase as a result of continued low fishing pressure.”

Archive shot of a big cod from 1910. The species is not recovering as well as others according to the story.

Big Cod Fish from the trap, Battle Harbour, Labrador. The larger fish measured 5ft. 5in., and weighed 60lbs, courtesy The National Archives

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