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Australia’s Iconic Platypus Has Been Pushed To The Brink Of Extinction, Scientists Warn

“In our region, they’re all dead, they’re gone—I can’t find them.”

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Australia’s Iconic Platypus Has Been Pushed To The Brink Of Extinction
Photo Credit: Plant Based News

Elias Marat, The Mind Unleashed

With Australia’s spiralling environmental catastrophe receiving world attention in recent weeks, ecologists have sounded the alarm on the dire threat faced by the country’s endemic wildlife populations.

Researchers are now warning that the platypus—the unusual duck-billed, egg-laying mammal native to eastern Australia whose existence was believed to be a hoax in the late 18th century—is one of the iconic species teetering on the brink of extinction.

According to a new study by the University of New South Wales (UNSW) that was published in the scientific journal Biological Conservation, platypus numbers have declined by half or more since the European colonization of the island continent with local extinctions occurring across 40% of the species natural habitat thanks to drought and human activity such as dam building, water harvesting, land clearances, the impacts of livestock and threats from feral species.

Along with other contemporary threats including the changing climate, scientists fear that platypus numbers will continue to decline between 47% and 66% by 2070.

However, when taking fast-heating climate projections into account the animal’s decline could rapidly fall by 51% to 73 over the next five decades—pushing the species once common in the country’s waterways toward all-out extinction.

The danger to platypuses has become alarming in recent consecutive years as brutal heat-waves and arid conditions made worse by the dearth of rainfall have had a devastating effect on local populations.

Platypus populations, like other aquatic species, are believed to have taken major damage from an intensifying drought and record heat, even prior to the bushfire crisis.

AFP reports that study co-author Gilad Bino, a researcher at the University of NSW’s Centre for Ecosystem Science, said:

“These dangers further expose the platypus to even worse local extinctions with no capacity to repopulate areas.”

The study recommended that national authorities give attention to the “urgent need” for a risk assessment that could downgrade the animal to “vulnerable” status and look at the steps necessary to conserve the species and “minimize any risk of extinction.

The government has taken few if any measures to protect the species despite the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recently downgrading the nocturnal creature’s status to “near threatened.”

The study notes that such conservationist measures would include “increasing surveys, tracking trends, mitigating threats and improving management of platypus habitat in rivers.

Dr. Bino said:

“Under predicted climate change, the losses forecast were far greater because of increases in extreme drought frequencies and duration, such as the current dry spell.” 

The platypus, along with four species of echidnas, are the world’s only monotremes or egg-laying mammals that secrete milk from the female bellies.

Australia’s ABC reports that conservationists have seen a precipitous drop in platypus numbers in traditional habitats such as NSW’s Great Barrington region. Tim Faulkner, the president of conservationist group Aussie Ark, said:

“In our region, they’re all dead, they’re gone—I can’t find them … They don’t go into hibernation … They must have water to feed in.

Private landholder management, the management of riparian zones along creeks, water harvest as well as control on stock trampling [are all required].

And going to the toilet in the last fragments of water [must also be controlled].

Our own parks are full of pests like the feral fox and cats responsible for over 90% of all mainland mammal extinction.”

Continuing, Faulkner explained:

“The platypus that we did rescue, we had two die the next day … Their bellies are empty and they’re all riddled with E. coli and a greater diversity of bacteria than that.

Platypus are a Gondwanan dinosaur species—they are monotremes, egg-laying mammals, some of the oldest lineages of mammals on earth.

They’ve been in this constant east coast temperate environment, largely unchanged, for millions of years.

To see it now … a cesspit that’s bacteria ridden and lifeless … certainly in our area—and this must be so wide spread—they’re gone.”

With its unique set of physical features, early sketches of the duck-billed mammal shocked western scientists who stumbled on the existence of the platypus during the colonization of Australia. Even after the creature’s pelt was delivered to researchers in the U.K., the existence of the platypus was believed to be a hoax comprised of a duck’s bill sewn onto a beaver’s body. The species was then hunted for its fur until the last century.

Study co-author Prof. Richard Kingsford stressed that climate change and habit destruction must be reined in. He said:

“This animal is one of the most amazing animals that we have on the planet and it would be a very sad day if we were ever in the position of losing them.

I’m very much hopeful that we’ll never get there, but we do need to address it urgently.”

By Elias Marat | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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Drone Captures One of the Largest Swarms Of Sea Turtles Ever Filmed

“This is the only time I’ve seen a video capturing this phenomenon in the water.”

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Drone Captures One of the Largest Swarms Of Sea Turtles Ever Filmed
Photo Credit: National Geographic

Jade Small, The Mind Unleashed 

Nature has the most amazing sights and surprises to offer and being in the right place at the right time while being able to capture it on film is every wildlife photographer’s dream.

Thankfully, wildlife photographers share their amazing work with those who can only dream of experiencing the unique and extraordinary bounty nature has to offer for themselves.

Biologist Vanessa Bézy was studying the olive ridley sea turtles and their reproduction. While flying her drone over the Costa Rica coastline, she captured what is likely to be the largest swarm of sea turtles on film.

Thousands of turtles were swimming across a region off the Ostional National Wildlife Refuge.

Bézy said:

“I immediately knew there was something special going on. To this day I’m still blown away by the video. They look like bumper cars out there.”

Ostional National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1983 specifically for the turtles. Although the olive ridley is the most abundant sea turtle of the seven turtle species in the world, they are considered a vulnerable species and conservationists fear that swarms of this size may be the last ever seen.

Roldán Valverde, scientific director of the Sea Turtle Conservancy in Florida, said:

“This is the only time I’ve seen a video capturing this phenomenon in the water. Most of the photography documenting this occurs on the beach.”

Bézy’s wish is to raise awareness of the importance of protecting the olive ridley and that her footage will help in the efforts to maintain healthy population numbers.

Few nesting sites remain globally and Bézy is concerned that the booming tourism industry around nesting beaches will have a devastating effect on their numbers, especially since regulations to protect the nesting sites don’t seem to be enough.

Unfortunately, the olive ridley hatchlings survival rate into adulthood is very low which means that any additional threats to the population will likely have a negative impact.

Bézy is investigating the reason for the great numbers of olive ridley sea turtles gathering in that particular area between August and October which could include factors such as the type of sand, the beach orientation, and sea currents. Finding the answer could help put measures in place to increase the survival rate of the species.

Sea turtles swim thousands of miles through our oceans during their lifetimes. They are only able to reproduce after decades and females return to the same beaches where they were born to lay their eggs. Although females often lay hundreds of eggs in one nesting season, few hatchlings will survive their first year of life and those who do face growing human caused threats such as being caught in commercial fishing gear, illegal trade, consumption, climate change, and pollution.

Diminishing numbers in sea turtle populations have devastating effects on marine ecosystems. WWF (World Wildlife Organization) explains their importance:

“Sea turtles are a fundamental link in marine ecosystems. They help maintain the health of seagrass beds and coral reefs that benefit commercially valuable species such as shrimp, lobster, and tuna. Sea turtles are the live representatives of a group of reptiles that have existed on Earth and travelled our seas for the last 100 million years. Turtles have major cultural significance and tourism value. Five of the seven species are found around the world, mainly in tropical and subtropical waters. The remaining two species, though, have relatively restricted ranges: Kemp’s ridley is found mainly in the Gulf of Mexico and the flatback turtle around northern Australia and southern Papua New Guinea.”

By Jade Small | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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Animal World

Morgan Freeman Turns His 124-Acre Ranch Into Huge Honey Bee Sanctuary To Save The Bees

Morgan Freeman converted his 124-acre Mississippi ranch into a gigantic honeybee sanctuary to save threatened bee colonies.

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Morgan Freeman Turns His 124-Acre Ranch Into Huge Honey Bee Sanctuary To Save the Bees
Photo Credit: Truth Theory

Morgan Freeman has long been known for having a voice of gold, using his clout and vocal talents for such worthy causes as environmental conservationist group One Earth. But it has also become apparent that the beloved actor also has a heart of gold–especially now that he has devoted his ranch to helping save honeybees.

The 81-year old actor took up beekeeping on his 124-acre Mississippi ranch as a simple hobby in 2014, largely in reaction to the mass die-offs that were occurring and continue to this day.

To kick off his efforts, he had 26 bee hives shipped to his ranch from Arkansas, where they are fed a healthy diet of sugar and water while surrounded by a wide variety of pollinator friendly plants and flowers.

In an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Kimmel, he explained that his relationship with the bees was one of mutual respect.

Freeman explained:

“I have not ever used the beekeeping hat with my bees. They haven’t stung me yet, as right now I am not trying to harvest honey or anything, but I just feed them … I also think that they understand, ‘Hey, don’t bother this guy, he’s got sugar water here.’”

Continuing, Freeman stressed the vital importance of bees to our eco-system and the need to increase efforts to save them. He added:

“There is a concerted effort for bringing bees back onto the planet … We do not realize that they are the foundation, I think, of the growth of the planet, the vegetation … I have a lot of flowering things, and I have a gardener too.”

“As she takes care of the bees too, all she does is figure out, ‘OK, what would they like to have?’ so we have got acres and acres of clover, and we have some planting stuff like lavender, I have got like, maybe 140 magnolia trees, big blossoms.”

Government agencies like the EPA and the scientific community in general have been sounding the alarm in recent years over Colony Collapse Disorder–a situation many fear could become an existential crisis for bee populations around the globe. Studies have largely blamed the overuse of toxic pesticides called neonicotinoids for the crisis, among other factors.

Just this week, Forbes noted:

“Research, published in the journal Science, links the declining bee populations to a combination of parasites, pesticides and habitat loss. While there is no evidence that bees are going to become extinct anytime soon, the decline of bee populations will continue to have ripple effects on wild vegetation and agricultural crops around the world.”

Under the Trump administration, the EPA has opened the floodgates on the use of bee-killing neonicotinoids by big agriculture, clearing sulfoxaflor–an insecticide considered “very highly toxic” to bees by the agency–for use on over 16 million acres of crops that attract bees. In combination with the proliferation of insect resistant GMO crops, bee populations have continued to plummet worldwide.

While Freeman’s efforts may not be enough on their own to turn back the tide of adverse factors facing bees, his example is an inspiring signal that people are beginning to grow more conscious of the winged pollinators’ importance to humanity.

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In Great Barrier Reef, Amazing Photos Captured Of World’s ONLY Pink Manta Ray

The rose-tinted manta ray is named Inspector Clouseau.

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In Great Barrier Reef, Amazing Photos Captured Of World’s ONLY Pink Manta Ray
Photo Credit: Unilad

Elias Marat, The Mind Unleashed

An underwater photographer has captured rare images of the world’s only known pink manta ray, dazzling online observers and marine biologists.

The rose-tinted manta ray is named Inspector Clouseau—in homage to the detective from the Pink Panther films—and is known to dwell near Lady Elliot Island in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia.

Finnish photographer Kristian Laine was fortunate enough to get within touching distance of the rare creature, which was first spotted in 2015 by diving instructor Ryan Jeffery, reports Australian Geographic.

The photographer Kristian Laine bumped into a bubblegum pink manta ray on the Great Barrier Reef – probably a rare mutation, like albinism but oh wow, how beautiful! Follow Kristain on Instagram @kristianlainephotography
for more underwater marvels. pic.twitter.com/BfCBK0jg9a

— Lucy Cooke (@mslucycooke) February 13, 2020

Laine took the brilliant photos some time last year.

He explained to Daily Mail:

“It is very rare because I think there has only been around eight to 10 sightings since the first sighting in 2015.

I felt amazed afterwards but also felt like when I was in its eye level, I felt like he was smiling at me.

He was big and I got into a touch range but obviously didn’t touch, I was super close, about a meter at best.

The whole encounter lasted for about 20 to 30 minutes and he was part of a mating manta train that was just circling around a cleaning station.”

While scientists had initially believed that the manta ray’s pink belly was perhaps a result of a skin infection, the University of Queensland’s Project Manta believes that “the coloration is just an unusual and unique expression of the skin’s melanin.” However, other theories have been floated about why the ray has its unusual pink color.

Laine continued:

“I have read multiple different answers, they have analysed a sample of his skin and they have changed their theories many times and still don’t seem to know for sure.

I think the latest theory is that it’s some sort of a genetic mutation causing a pink of melanin to be expressed.”

By Elias Marat | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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Animal World

Iconic Photo Shows Orangutan Catching Fish With A Makeshift Spear

One of the most iconic photos ever taken of a primate shows an orangutan hunting for fish with a spear.

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Photo Credit: Truth Theory

John Vibes, Truth Theory

Primates are extremely intelligent creatures, but humans can sometimes forget how similar we are.

One of the most iconic photos ever taken of a primate shows an orangutan hunting for fish with a makeshift spear, using very similar techniques as a human would. The image was captured by Gerd Schuster, who co-authored the book “Thinkers of the Jungle: The Orangutan Report.”

The photo was reportedly taken in Borneo, Indonesia, on the island of Kaja. Schuster says that the animal observed locals fishing with spears in the Gohong River, and began to replicate their techniques.

Eventually, the animal was able to improvise and find a strategy that worked for him, hanging down from a tree and then using a stick as a spear to strike the fish in the water.

The animal was even smart enough to seek out the lines that were set up by the fishermen, which made the task even easier for him.

The authenticity of this photograph was confirmed by Michelle Desilets, executive director of the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOS) UK, who said:

“I can confirm that the photo is authentic. It is also backed by the BOS Scientific Advisory Board, including Dr Anne Russon who has done extensive studies of the orangutans on this island. The behaviours including spearfishing and swimming on these islands are not uncommon, and are almost certainly learned behaviours as they have not been seen in wild populations. “

This is not the first or only time that something like this has been captured in photos or videos. More recently, also in Borneo, a wild orangutan was observed helping a man who was wading through snake-infested waters.

An amateur photographer named Anil Prabhakar was on a safari with friends at a conservation forest run by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOS) when he witnessed the scene.

Prabhakar was able to capture a photo of the moment, which showed one of the island’s critically endangered apes extending a hand to help a man out of unsafe water.

By John Vibes | TruthTheory.com | Republished with permission

The views in this article may not reflect editorial policy of Collective Spark.

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