Wildlife Updates

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September 10, 2000
Genetically engineered crops threaten British skylarks
The Population of the beloved skylark who sings his heart out high in the sky has already been decimated along with those of other British birds because of environmental factors and the hunting and netting that takes along the birds' migration routes to the south.  The skylark, Shelley's "blithe spirit" has already declined in number by 52% partly because of more intensive farming practices that discourage weeds that produce seeds to feed this species.  Growing herbicide-resistant sugar beets results in more herbicide spraying which translates to fewer weeds and less food for seed-eating birdds.

September 4, 2000
Possible new birth control fo elephants.  While there is still fear that elephants will disappear from poaching in India and North Africa, southern African countries  are finding burgeoning population a problem.  Immuno contraception has been found to work in elephants, but it has to be administered by darts and requires two injections.  Dr Antoni Milewski of the University of Capetown argues that elephants require iodine to aid in reproduction.  Iodine is not generally found in surface water, but the continent's ground water is rich in it.  Closing boreholes to limit the elephants' iodine intake might decrease reproduction.  So far so good if it works, but elephants could die from thirst during the dry season.

September 1, 2000
Just before the final hearing on a proposal to protect sea turtles and preserve shrimp stocks the state "gutted a proposed shrimping closure" (See next item.)  The gutting was accomplished with the support of Governor George W. Bush who has "once again put short term profits before the environment, " according to the Sea Turtle Restoration Project

August 25, 2000
Texas has opportunity to save shrimp and sea turtles at the same time by enacting proposal "no shrimping" zone for 5 miles off coast.  The shrimp catch declined and 450 turtles washed up dead on the shore last year. 

August 21, 2000
Iowa State University study finds Bt corn pollen kills monarch butterflies in the field.  The study found that 20% of the monarch caterpillars eating milkweed grown within 10 feet of a cornfield had died after just two days  Other studies are underway in an attempt to prove that pollen from Bt crops is harmless.
       An earlier study at Cornell University was criticized because the pollen was sprinkled on milkweed leaves in the laboratory.  The Iowa study is being criticized as untypical of general field conditions (probably because the milkweed was growing in pots).  There is no  doubt that the pollen is harmful to monarch caterpillars, however, causing speculation that other desirable species may be similarly harmed.

August 19, 2000
Minnesota legislature passes a "terrible wolf management plan" that would allow indiscriminate slaughter of wolves.  This measure, which would probably not have passed on its own merits, was attached as a rider to an appropriation bill even though the state constitution forbids such riders.  A coalition of local and national wolf protection groups is suing the state for repeal..

August 5, 2000
Restored California condor population threatened.  To begin with, there are only 169 of these birds still in existence.  When biologists decided there was a better chance of saving them by starting a captive breeding program, there were only 27.  Of the 104 young birds released, in California and Arizona, 35 have died.  Five have died so far this year of lead poisoning from dining on carcasses contaminated by lead buckshot.  There is also concern that some of the birds hatched in incubators and fed via hand puppets resembling their parents are too habituated to humans and concern that the parent-raised birds will adopt their habits. They have even approached people at campsites begging for food.

August 4, 2000
Last year's massive spraying of malathion in the New York City area  to kill mosquitoes that might be carrying West Nile disease has been blamed for killing 90% of Long Island Sound lobsters.  Also affected were crabs and starfish.  The pesticide was washed into the water by heavy rain.  More spraying is taking place this year.

July 26, 2000
NRA is using back-door methods to insinuate Eddie Eagle gun and hunter education program into public schools.  After Governor Pataki refused to give blanket permission for the program to be presented in New York schools, the promoters began working through the 4-H clubs and Cooperative Extension to get individual schools to accept it.

July 21, 2000
Another federal judge, this time in Alaska, banned trawlers from western Alaska coastal waters where Steller's sea lions hang out.  According to the judge's ruling, there is sufficient scientific evidence...that industrial scale trawling of Alaskan pollock and other groundfish is crowding out sea lions at their foraging, breeding, and resting sites"  The National Marine Fisheries "failed to protect dwindling Alaskan sea lion populations which are now "in danger of being wiped out" sea lion numbers having declined by 80% since the 1970's. 

July 20, 2000
Federal judge in Hawaii decides against longline fishers in favor of the highly endangered leatherback sea turtles.  To compensate for years of stalling by the National Marine Fisheries Service, the judge reduced the length of the fishing season by 95%, limited longline fishing territory, and required monitoring to protect the leatherbacks who are almost extinct.

July 18, 2000
Japanese lawyers have petitioned their government to preserve Okinawa dugongs.  Their petition called for an assessment of the effect of a proposed US military airfield and regulation of fishing nets to preserve the 50-member remnant population.  The government's attitude has been described as passive, and the fishery department is more interested in promoting fishing than saving dugongs.  The dugong is a relative of the manatee.

July 11, 2000
Arctic warming threatens walruses, polar bears and seals.  Biologists have been finding less fat and lower body weights in walruses and polar bears.  The polar ice has been melting earlier shortening the season when polar bears can load up on seals. The seals need the ice to support their cubs.  With the shrinking ice cap moving farther away from the fertile continental shelf, the animals have to travel farther to find food.

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