Mountain goats are rapidly becoming nocturnal due to the heat: impacts?

Just bare in mind, with the video above, if you have problems with heights, the view when you start the video above will not be pleasant.

So, if you are a species who spends its days moving around on cliffs, which most species would spend their lives avoiding often even if the alternative choice is death, clearly it is extreme. 
The fact of the matter, is that heights are not the only threat that animals like mountain goats face when living in the mountains: Bears, wolves, eagles, and wolverines and even animals like snow leopards that live in the mountains, will get the majority of their calories from meat. Animals like mountain goats, along with various deer species, will be the mainstay of these predators in the mountains.

What is, unfortunately a fact, is that mountain goats do not fly. As such they need to be able to see the cliff, so as to be able to step carefully and not loose their footing. 

This means that goats cannot become nocturnal, as without enough light, they will fall to their deaths. As such mountain goats tend to be crepuscular – active in the early morning and late evening

 However, this move has already happened, so all that this move might do, is reduce the length of time that mountain goats can remain active, which is likely to lead to starvation amongst much of the wild population.

Scientists think they know what wiped out the largest ever ape (a huge species of Orangutan)

Gigantopithecus blacki – the likely largest species of great ape ever to have existed

Thought to have gone extinct 295,000 and 215,000 years ago, having first appeared around 2 million years ago. Rather than being caused by our ancestors, it unfortunately became extinct as a result of the climate became more seasonal and the plant-eating primate struggled to adapt to changing vegetation.

Might this be a for-shadow for the extinction of the rest of the great apes?

The largest ever primate Gigantopithecus blacki went extinct at a time when Asian great apes were thriving, and its demise has long been a considered a mystery. A massive regional study of 22 caves in southern China explores a species on the brink of extinction between 295,000 and 215,000 years ago. As the environment became more seasonal, forest plant communities changed Primates such as orangutans adapted their eating habits and behaviors in response but G. blacki showed signs of stress, struggled to adapt and their numbers dwindled.

This species was 3m (10 feet) tall, it was around twice the weight of the the largest gorillas. It was first identified around 100 years ago, from fossilized teeth (around 2000 have been found) sold as dragon bones. Around (700,000 or) 600,000 years ago we start to see large environmental changes and during that period we see a decline in the availability of fruit.

As a result Giganto (ate) less nutritious fall-back foods. We’ve got evidence from looking at the teeth structure, Westaway added. Pits and scratches on the teeth suggest it was eating really fibrous food such as bark and twigs from the forest floor.

Funnily enough, they are not thought to have ever lived in caves, but instead had their remains carried there.

As there are no, non-cranial fossils (i.e. any fossils of any part of this species below the neck) , it’s hard to know exactly what Gigantopithecus would have looked like. Its upper molars are 57.8% larger than a gorilla’s and the lower molars are 33% larger, suggesting its body weight would have been 200 to 300 kilograms.

Given its size, it is thought to have long abandoned the tree-tops, though given its closest living relative is the Bornean Orangutan, of which, older males are often spending more time on the ground given their large weight as well.

There are fossils of homo erectus from nearby, from around 800,000 years ago, suggesting that we might well have lived alongside them. How happy or harmonious this relationship is, we cannot know. Unfortunately, given recent history, it is quite likely that directly or indirectly we had a hand in this species extinction, given our impact on almost all other species that we know.

The Skywalker Gibbon has been found living in Myanmar – more than doubles its population

Skywalker gibbon Genus Hoolock

The Skywalker gibbon was only first described in 2017. At that time it was thought that only 150 of this rare species of Hoolock gibbon existed (there are 3 species of Hoolock gibbon, the eastern western and skywalker gibbon).

In a recent discovery, Skywalker gibbons have been found in areas of Northeastern Myanmar, where they have found around 44 groups of this primate. Given that the 150 was thought to be made up of 11 solitary and 32 groups, we can say that roughly speaking a group consists of 4 individuals. If that is true, then this incredibly rare species, has just had its numbers expanded by 133.3% in one go. What is more, is that this part of Myanmar has many other species of gibbon, and it is quite possible that there are more skywalker gibbons as yet unidentified.

This also expands its range beyond the forests of China, well into Myanmar.

It should be noted that this new community lives in forests that have threats of their own.

Oddly, despite gibbons habits of singing loudly at the start of the day, it is only recently that acoustic surveys were used for the Skywalker gibbon. There are 20 wild species of gibbon, and their songs are usually easy to tell apart. This yielded this huge increase in the population of the Skywalker gibbon.

It would appear that the new home of the Skywalker gibbon is little more secure than the old one, suggesting a bigger fight to protect the area which it lives in.

Killer whales trapped in drift ice off the coast of Hokkiaido in Japan have got free

This pod of Orca have been trapped, with only this small opening to breathe from. Unlike other marine mammals, orca generally stay close to the surface, and breathe regularly, which can make this a death trap.

While Orca have been timed, holding their breathe for 15 minutes, they usually take shallow dives of up to a minute, or deeper dives lasting 3-4 minutes. While Orca can hit speeds of almost 30 miles per hour, this is usually only over short distances, and they could not sustain this for long under water – especially without being able to take a breathe.

Thankfully, in the last few hours, these animals have managed to get free.

Can simple changes help the Javan rhino recover?

Above is a fascinating video about a photographers journey to try to see this rhinos in the wild (spoiler alert, it was a success, as you can see from the thumbnail). The problem is that despite this video being from 8 years ago, the Javan rhino has not recovered a great deal in the intervening years.

So, when I say it has not recovered much in those years, what do I mean? Well in 2015 the Javan rhino population was estimated at 72, it is now thought to number 76.

A new study has suggested a number of idaes that might accelerate the recovery of this rhino.

These are captive breeding, and forest clearance to give more areas for the rhino to feed.

While the latter may well have some merit, the former may not. It should also be noted that currently 13 of the rhino show signs of inbreeding. So why not bring some of the remaining rhino into captivity, in order to breed? This has not proved highly successful in the past, and indeed often a number of individuals die in the early stages. With a population of just 76 individuals, we do not have spare rhino to gamble with.

Like the Sumatran rhino, the small population left in Java is a relict of a species which roamed a great area of Asia, until not that long ago. If we can save this Javan population there is a potential in the future to reintroduce them to a wide variety of countries in this part of Asia, both mainland and islands.

Will this happen? who knows

Is the Javan tiger extinct? Update on image

This is a post origially put out 2 years ago, however, I found the video had not worked, so here it is again.

There are still sizable areas of protected land in Java, and in 2017 a warden took the below photo.

 

 

Now it is hard to see it clearly, but to me I think it looks more like a leopard unfortunately

Now I am unsure about this picture but would be pleasantly pleased to be proved wrong.

If not, the Javan tiger is very similar to the Sumatran tiger. As such, with a recovery in the wild Sumatran population if a reserve is not suffering poaching, it would be possible to bring the tiger back to Java.

There has been no more sightings of this animal, which suggests that this sighting cannot have been real, but who knows.

It should be noted, that while rangers decided that it must be showing a leopard, this is still exciting. This is because, while a leopard is not a species declared extinct 48 years ago, the Javan Leopard is a species that is highly threatened. The current estimate of the population of this leopard species is between 188-571, most likely around 250 leopards is an accurate figure.

The video below is a clip filmed of the Javan leopard

Half of plantations in Indonesia’s palm oil heartland are illegal

I wrote in February about how an assessment had found that 20% of palm oil plantations were illegal (to read click here). This latest assessment suggests that in its heartland, half are illegal. Riau province is this heartland. Illegal plantations within this area cover an area almost as large as Hawai, and hosts more than half of the illegal plantations in the whole of Indonesia.

These illegal plantations are also not all owned by small players, with some of the biggest names in palm oil on the list. The government is suggesting 3 years to get retrospective permission.

The problem with this, is that it is essentially permission by the back door. If companies know that they will eventually get permission, there is a high incentive to break the law.

Furthermore, if these areas were designated for coservation, we need to find areas of similar importance to replace them

 

Company Green Grazing from Vietnam is aiming to grow and sell red seaweed, as an additive to livestock feed

Why is this important?

red seaweed photo credit Peter Southwood

Around the world there are around 3 billion cattle and sheep. These produce around 231 billion pounds of methane each year, which is around 10 billion metric tonnes of methane into the air. Remember that over the first 20 years (it reduces after this) methane traps roughly 80 times the same amount of carbon dioxide. So this is the equivalent of a huge amount of carbon.

To put this in perspective, if we shrink the worlds carbon emissions to zero, but are left with all this methane, we are likely to have runaway global warming anyway.

So what does this seaweed do? It essentially causes the cows and sheep to create less methane. How much? Well, while around 100 million tonnes of this seaweed would be needed, they could eliminate 98% of the methane emissions from these livestock!

In 2019 around 34.7million tonnes of seaweed was farmed, which is leading some sceptical researchers to suggest that it cannot be done. However, if we look logically, this is already enough seaweed to reduce methane emissions by 1 third – not to be sneezed at.

Another problem, is that currently Greener Grazing is restricted to only growing 1/3 of the year, as the water temperature kills the seaweed the rest of the time. However, this could be fantastic – if cross breeding can give this seaweed the ability to cope with warmer water, they might be able to meet the whole worlds demands.

More work is needed, and other tests have proved less successful in the reduction of methane, but still, this is a field, where we might be able to green peoples behaviour without requiring them to stop eating meat.

Now, of course, if meat grown in a lab could reach price parity, it may deal with this problem overnight, though it would also eliminate many peoples source of income.

Time will tell if this company is going to have a large effect or not. We need to have farmers wanting this additive, thereby creating a valuable market for coastal communities around the world.

Panda bear behaving like a meat eater/scavenger?

This bear was filmed, gnawing on a bone from a takin, a species of wild cattle.

For a species which is thought to survive exclusively on bamboo, this would be strange behaviour.

However, pandas do not survive exclusively on bamboo as roughly 1% of their diet comes from other foods. In fact, their digestive system is typical of a carnivore, so the remaining 1% of their diet can include eggs, small animals and carrion – like this bone. Pandas are also known to forage in farmland for pumpkin, kidney beans, wheat and domestic pig food.

The thing is, pandas eat up to 38kg a day, which means that during the week, they eat around 3kg of food that is not bamboo. This is significant, and while much of this may well be other vegetation, if the time spent on other food sources was around 1% of the time, it would suggest at least 1 hour a week spent eating other things.

One must remember that their intelligence is on a par with Chimpanzee and gorilla -like other bears, so they are capable of working things out.

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