Wolf encounter in France (not mine unfortunately)

I have had an encounter with a wolf – perhaps 100m distant, and no reaction to my presence. I have also watched a wolf from the safety of a bear hide. I have even listened to the eery sound of a wolf howl, both within an English zoo (late at night) and more excitingly from all around when trying to see wolves on the edge of the Sierra de Culebra in Spain. Annoyingly, although our guides howl was answered from 4 different locations, on that occasion the wolf did not allow us to see them at all.

In France, with a wolf population (as of 2021) of about 580, unless you know what you are doing, or are incredibly lucky you are unlikely to encounter a wolf. Indeed even wildlife guides working in nature reserves do not normally see wolves every day. Here I will recount an encounter someone had in France.

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200 “Carbon bombs” are in the planning. What are they and can we survive them?

A carbon bomb is defined as a project (mine, oil well or similar) which if allowed to go ahead will emit 1 billion tonnes of carbon over its lifetime. A guardian analysis suggests that there are around 200 of these so called carbon bomb mega projects around the world. This is the equivalent of 18 years of total global emissions.

Despite what we know about the effects, there are still 200 “carbon bomb” plans in the pipeline
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Species Watch: Cross river gorilla and western lowland gorilla

The cross River gorilla is a critically endangered subspecies of the Western lowland gorilla species. The cross River gorilla are scattered in at least 11 groups across the lowland montane forests and rainforests of Cameroon and Nigeria, an area of 3,000 square miles, or a little smaller than Puerto Rico. There are only 200-300 that remain of this subspecies.While there are some physical traits that are different between these species, the cross River gorilla has become a Highland specialist. Although known to have interbred in the past, genetic analysis suggests this stopped more than 400 years ago. Changes in climate may well have been the catalyst to stop the interbreeding.

 
A male cross river gorilla

 

In this way, the cross River gorillas and the mountain gorillas have similar habits and ecosystem niches. In this way, it could be suggested that cross River gorillas are simply 50 years behind mountain gorillas in the sense that 40 years ago, there were only around 250 mountain gorillas – this population has increased to over 1000, so clearly it isn’t too late for the cross River gorillas numbers to recover.

 

Could a similar recovery take place? Perhaps following the pattern set up by Diane Fossey for tourism of the mountain gorillas, might work?

 

Western lowland gorillas have a wild population in a fast healthier position, with an estimated 100,000 remaining. Unfortunately though, this is a very tough estimate as they live in some of the hardest to reach jungles so an accurate count is hard. It is however, thought that this gorilla population has seen a 60% reduction over the last 10-25 years. It is thought that if the pressures of placing and diseases were removed this population would recover in about 75 years (of course these pressures are unlikely to disappear, and with the loss of rainforest there may be nowhere for these gorillas to live if they did recover.

Western lowland gorilla

Western lowland gorillas are closely related to cross river gorillas, in the same way that eastern lowland gorillas are closely related to mountain gorillas. However, retaining these different subspecies is highly important as they are adapted to the different conditions where they live.

It is unfortunate that there is little positive news on either of these species at the current time, but many people are working on it.

Species watch

I am intending to make this into a new set of articles that will appear on this website. Obviously, these species will not be the only ones that are covered – for those who read this website regularly, you will know that I talk about a wide range of species.

The species that I am going to look at are those which often attract visitors to see just them. With the majority of the species we will follow they are found across a surprisingly large number of countries – some however are as interesting but are found in only one country. In each instance we will look at an entire group of species that look similar. However, due to the differences in these many different countries, these species can be thriving in one country and threatened with local extinction in another. As a result it is important to give this more focus.

These articles will be marked by SW

Those species that I will initially focus on include:

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Visit to local zoo, one that I know very well – Marwell zoo

If you live in the UK, there is relatively little wildlife to watch (when compared to somewhere like South Africa), which is why zoos are often such popular places.

 

An Amur tiger on the prowl

As people have come to have better thoughts about keeping animals in zoos, these places have greatly improved. Long gone is enclosures such as “bear pits”. Now zoos give the animal relatively large enclosures with (as much as possible) plants and other items that make the area similar to the animals wild habitat. Also a great deal of progress has been made in understanding the various conditions that are required in order to make the animals happy enough to breed.

I have, in the past, been a wildlife educator at the zoo. This has consisted of me visiting the zoo a few times each month, and spending a few hours beside specific animals. I am there to engage visitors – in some cases help them see the animal, as well as talking about its wild habitat and the threats that the animal faces to its ongoing survival. Due to covid, this has been impossible in the last few years.

 

Marwell zoo has been particularly good on its big cats. Unfortunately since our last visit, they have lost their Amur leopards and their cheetah – however, as with both of these, the animals were old, and the zoo is perfectly set up for breeding of these species, therefore if new cheetah or Amur leopards arrive this can continue. One of the main ways that these zoos can work in this way, is to have two enclosures next to each other, this allows the connecting gate to be opened or closed depending on circumstances, allowing male and female to spend times apart and together – as close to mirroring how they would behave in the wild as possible.

 

The Amur leopard is a stunning animal and with its wild population being so threatened (a superb decade has allowed the population to grow back above 100 (WWF estimates that there are now about 100 wild adult Amur leopards) from a population of as few as 20 adults at the turn of the century. As such breeding is essential, and I hope that in the long run, the zoo can have similar success with another pair. Cheetah, while less endangered overall (though the Saharan cheetah and the Iranian cheetah are both this endangered) is famously hard to breed, so we can only hope that in the future cheetah will once again live in this place.

 

When visiting a zoo, I like to go on a very quiet day, as the animals tend to behave more naturally so I like to go outside weekends. However with children that is not currently possible due to school. Nevertheless we had a lovely day, and despite the missing wildlife saw many lovely things.

 

Whether you believe that animals should ever be caged or not, it should be clear to everyone that at the current time, without zoos many species might well be lost from the world. It is also true that many zoos do essential work in the wild to conserve remaining wilderness.

Looking at the capability of the world being powered from solar or wind

The sun sends 470 exajoules of energy to the earth every 88 minutes. This is how much energy the earth uses each year. If we captured just 1% of the sun’s energy this would still give a 6 times more electricity than we need. 

In a similar vein, if wind turbines collected just 20% of the wind energy on earth this would be 8 times what the entire world uses each year.

In terms of area, to generate all the power that the earth needs (using current efficiency) we would need roughly 1 million square km or about 11% of the Sahara desert. Obviously, this is an oversimplification, but it shows that the world is more than capable of running on clean energy.

The energy is there to be used, we just need to undertake it at speed. Vested interests in fossil fuel companies have fought aggressively against this move for decades. Their time must be over, the world can and must clean up its act.

Bwindi impenetrable forest threatened by road plans

Ugandan authorities are considering two roads that will pass through Bwindi. These roads are likely to have two devastating impacts.

Currently this forest consists of unbroken forest – but will it?

Firstly, these roads are likely to splinter the park from the connected park across the border in the DCR. As with the proposed Serengeti road, neither side of the road is big enough for large ecosystems to survive long term, therefore you are threatening one of the biggest draws of tourists to the country – these tourists if well managed bring the means to pull millions out of poverty.

If these roads go ahead, then much damage will be done. Of greatest concern is a road that would run north to south in the far west of park, cutting the park off from its sister reserves across the border in the DRC. This could well lead the the rapid loss of the mountain gorilla population

The other problem is that roads ease the progress of poachers deep into the park. It has regularly been shown that a road is often the easiest way to remove the wildlife that lives in an area.

Tesla has made more sales than Audi BMW and Mercedes combined in their home market

In September Tesla sold more cars in Germany than Audi A4 BMW 3 series and Mercedes c class combined.

Why is this important? Well firstly the Tesla cars are more expensive. As a result they naturally compete against similarly priced cars with a combustion engine. This is why this news is so exciting – it is clearly taking an enormous part of this well established market.

What is particularly concerning, is that these are the people which car companies make their most profit from. Those people with less money, will tend to either buy used cars – no extra money for the established players (though with supercharging and various other things like data, Tesla can profit), or buy small runabout cars – these tend her very small profit margins, and anyway even if you managed to make 20% profit when you’re only talking about to the car that costs £5,000, you still have to sell an awful lot of them to make substantial rewards.

Indeed the next few years are perhaps their last chance to fight back. This is because with the Tesla gigafactory in Berlin, the number of cheaper Tesla cars will explode in the next few years. 5 to 10 years after this many of those will join the used car market at prices that could quickly reduce cheaper cars demand as well.

Where are we (my family and I)? We have been liking the idea of going electric for some time. Unfortunately someone wrote our car a few years ago – too soon for us to go electric. However (as I wrote about a few weeks ago), we have just jumped in having found an old tesla s for far less than normal in the UK. Indeed with the current price of petrol, we think that it will only be about 7 years before we save the purchase price in reduced cost of travel

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Deepest apologies for quiet from me: website attacks and Covid combined

Hello!

How wonderful to be able to write to you once again.

There have been a few things that have got in the way of writing over the last few weeks.

Firstly, the website has been attacked! As regular readers would be aware, this is not the first time. Indeed, these previous attacks have meant that the website was never penetrated.

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Saving the Persian leopard

Leopards once roamed through Africa and Asia and even up into parts of Europe. Now their range is diminished and many of the subspecies are either endangered or critically so.

The Persian Leopard (also referred to as the Anatolian leopard and the Cascina Leopard)  Iranian Plateau and surrounding areas encompassing Turkey, the Caucasus (Armenia Azerbaijan and other parts of southern Russia), Iran, Israel, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and possibly Pakistan.

These ancient Iraqi forests are under threat, and with it the last stronghold of the Persian Leopard

Today it is thought that the population only consists of 1000 adults, though their population is highly fragmented. One of its strongholds is the Iraqi Kurdistan forests, unfortunately as much as half of these forests has been lost to illegal deforestation.

Unfortunately if the Persian Leopard cannot hang on here there is little hope elsewhere. Numbers have roughly halved (as habitat has similarly halved).

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