In the UK solar farms are wild havens, could this be repeated?

In the UK, it has been shown that at every solar farm looked at, there were more species, from insects such as butterflies, to mammals such as hares do well.

I would argue that these areas are not as good as reserves, but it is still a positive benefit. Indeed, it is conceivable that if wolves and bears returned to the UK, these sites could be fantastic for these animals.

Can solar farms not only supply our electricity, but also be essential habitat for many UK species
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Cheetah on the brink of extinction again

I don’t know what your feelings towards cheetah, for many of not most people they have vague idea of the cheetah because it’s the fastest animal on earth. My family have a model cheetah, full size, something I’ve always loved – and it built a deep love for these animals. I was lucky enough to see one whole in the Kruger – not many at the time, so very lucky. I hope this time we will see more

Cheetah running at speed

However, for perhaps most they know little else. I have written on them many times, I believe they are an essential tool for conservation. Given their size, they don’t generally attack humans, and kill livestock far less. Having a historic range that encompasses most of Africa and much of Asia, there are many places they could be, but instead they face extinction once again.

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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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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).

What will the Ukraine war have on wildlife?

I do not know how many of my readers follow current affairs closely, though I follow them.

Whether the Ukraine invasion is to have a long lasting effect on the environment in Ukraine, this picture shows that at least in places the damage is significant

Are wars good for wildlife, or are they bad?

Unfortunately, it completely depends.

I suspect that on the whole, it depends on the wildlife in question. Several times during wars, it was thought that the European bison had been lost – due to soldiers having to camp in remote forests that they still survived. It is not surprising that soldiers with little to eat will take Bison that they encounter (one bison could feed a large number of soldiers). Indeed, it is certainly the case that many herbivores have been lost in this way.

Other species are different.

Mountain gorillas multiplied greatly during the period of the civil war. In similar ways, the Iron curtain that crossed Europe – along the edge of the Soviet Union, had a no mans land on either side of the barrier. This Green belt which ran for thousands of km across Europe, while not wide was never-the-less wide enough for animals to use. Indeed, it is thought that wolves and bears used this route as a highway – allowing them to recolonise land they had been exterminated from.

So, what do we think? Well, partly it depends on how long the war goes on. At the current time, it does not look like Russia will be able to last for long enough for this to have any big effect. If instead this was to go on for years, it might be a very different thing. This is because Ukraine lies between the Eastern Europe and the Carpathians, and the west. Should hunting in Ukraine cease for a few years, it is likely to accelerate the movement of wolves and bears and lynx from east to west. This process is likely to happen over time anyway, but a protracted war could accelerate it.

As I said above, though, it is highly likely that this conflict will not last long.

If you have been lucky enough to have an encounter with wild Boar, like me you will have recognized them as like pigs but different – but …

Wild boar are the wild ancestors of the modern pig. This is why pigs and boar can interbreed – The domestication occurred in Europe, but started about 9,000 years ago, about 3000 years after we started farming crops. It appears to have happened slowly over time, not all at once as some other domestication moves have been. It is thought that this process started in Turkey, and a couple of millennia later in China. There is some evidence that it also occurred elsewhere in Europe.

The modern pig appears to be descended from a variety of different species of wild boar, suggesting a certain amount of mixing of the different domesticated pigs. It is also clear that human preference had a great impact, as very similar pig like animals appeared in several different parts of the world independently.

In the UK, wild boar populations have accidently been created. These have grown fast, and are currently requiring big culls most years. I would like to see some of these boar moved rather than being killed. Forests with wild boar in, are far more healthy with more young saplings naturally sprouting. I believe that we should accept that the boar is back and reintroduce it into every significant area of woodland in existence.

It is true, that they can be dangerous however so can deer. As with all wild animals, provided you do not get too close you should be fine. Now I would argue that natural predators would be the best control on numbers, but I think in the UK we are not there yet.

Lockdown has shown the perils of overreliance on tourism: what to do

Uganda has suffered during lockdown. As much as 7% of the countries population works in tourism, a sector which has been either totally shut down, or greatly reduced over the last few years. Several other countries like Tanzania have suffered in a similar way.

To protect some of the most special wildernesses in the world we need a better system

How can we expect countries to protect huge ecosystems if the income to protect them can dry up with no warning?

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Will Cop26 over shadow Kunming?

Cop26 is essential, there is no doubt, however there is a similarly important threat that the world is facing, and if we are not careful we wont start fighting it until it is too late.

What is Kunming there to fight? It is there to fight loss of biodiversity. Biodiversity is essential for the well running of ecosystems around the world which can often collapse without enough biodiversity.

Indeed, it is actually a problem that Kunming and Cop26 have been split. What we need is for the two fights to be fought side by side.

I have written in the past, about the problems for the Congo rainforest that have been caused by the local extinction of forest elephants. Without many of the wild animals that exist in these landscapes the forests and peat lands and grass lands will fail, releasing their huge carbon stocks back into the air.

These two must be tied together

What to do about the wild animal market in China

The Coronavirus is thought to have emerged in one of the wet markets of Wuhan, China. Much of what went on in these markets was never fully legal. Indeed this $13 billion a year trade has often operated in the grey areas of the law.

However, it has become clear that these are actually rather dangerous. It is one thing to enter a wild area to see the animals that live there. However it is something quite different to go in and kill animals to eat. These wild areas often harbour odd viruses or bacteria and by taking animals alive or dead out of these ecosystems you bring out these threats so that we can contract the illness.

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