Outdoor pet cats kill more animals than wild cats do in the same size area

Wild cats certainly kill many more other animals than outdoor pet cats. After all, they have to hunt for their food instead of just bug their human companions. But a new study by North Carolina State University zoologists and their colleagues revealed that outdoor pet cats kill between two and ten times as many animals as wild cats in the same size area. Apparently, every year North American pet cats with outside access kill between ten and thirty billion birds and mammals. But according to the new data gleaned from GPS cat collars, our feline friends generally don't venture further than 100 meters away from their home. Still, their hunting can be a real problem when it comes to conservation. From Scientific American:

[...]In some places, including California, Florida, Australia, and elsewhere, cats were an important threat to some species that are already in trouble.

"On one hand, it’s kind of good news that the cats aren't going out further abroad, but it’s bad news that they're quite likely to have an impact on animals they share space with near their houses," [says North Carolina State University zoologist Roland Kays.]

With so much killing concentrated around people's houses, the positive impacts of urban wildlife—like the beauty of songbirds, or the way small lizards can control insect pests—could get washed away in precisely the areas where those benefits are most appreciated.

image credit: Stiopa (CC BY-SA 4.0) Read the rest

Athletes at the Tokyo Olympics will sleep on cardboard beds

The 10,000+ athletes at the Tokyo Olympics will sleep on bed frames made of strong cardboard. According to the Athletes Village manager Takashi Kitajima, the frames can hold up to 200 kilograms (440 pounds).

"They are stronger than wooden beds," Kitajima said... "Of course, wood and cardboard would each break if you jumped on them."

From the Associated Press:

The single bed frames will be recycled into paper products after the games. The mattress components—the mattresses are not made of cardboard—will be recycled into plastic products.

The mattress is broken up into three distinct sections, and the firmness of each can be adjusted.

Read the rest

School apologizes after parents complain that "Santa Goes Green" Christmas concert was anti-oil

On Thursday, the Oxbow Prairie Horizons School in Saskatchewan, Canada staged their annual student Christmas concert. The show, "Santa Goes Green," pissed off parents in the town where oil is one of the major industries. Here's a description from the Santa Goes Green sheet music:

Melting ice caps, global warming, surfing reindeer! The North Pole is going green this year and everyone is excited – everyone, that is, except Santa who likes things just the way they are. Solar panels, LED light bulbs, new power sources? It all sounds a bit inconvenient to him. Mrs. Claus, the elves, toys and reindeer have their hands full!

From CBC:

(Mike Gunderman, whose daughter was in the show,) said the concerns raised were not directed at the children. He said they did a great job singing and performing, but he felt it was "the wrong message to send at the wrong time of the season.

"Especially when our industry is suffering right now," he said. "It's a tough time for everybody."

Audrey Trombley, chair of the South East Cornerstone Public School Division where Oxbow Prairie is located, apologized to anyone who was offended by the concert, saying there was never any intention to make the show political.

"There was no political agenda," said Audrey Trombley, chair of the division's Board of Trustees. "The teacher chose the song because of the rhythm and the beat, and thought the kids would like it."

image: cover detail of Santa Goes Green sheet music book (Hal Leonard) Read the rest

Some idiot painted graffiti on a Russian polar bear and now the animal likely won't survive

In Russia, some idiot spraypainted this polar bear with "T-34," the model of a Soviet tank. The video was shared by World Wildlife Fund employee Sergey Kavry who lives in the remote region of Chutkotka. From CNN:

In the comments (on Facebook where Kavry posted the video, he) said he obtained the video via WhatsApp from indigenous minorities in Chukotka, in Russia's far east, though it is not clear from the video where it was filmed...

Anatoly Kochnev, a senior researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences, told Russian state news agency RIA Novosti that, while the black paint is likely to wash off, the polar bear might find it difficult in the meantime to use its coat as camouflage while hunting.

It's not known why the animal was painted. Kochnev said it was probably the work of "pranksters."

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Cute "mouse-deer," long lost to science, has been photographed again

This is a silver-backed chevrotain, aka "mouse-deer," from Vietnam. Read the rest

This is one of the world's tallest trees; and this is the arborist who climbed it

Scientists have identified what is likely one of the world's tallest trees, a 330.7-foot (100.8 meter) yellow meranti tree in the rainforest on the island of Borneo. They spotted the tree growing in the Malaysian state of Sabah during an aerial laser scan of the forest. The rainforest is protected yet Yellow meranti trees are are highly endangered because they're relentlessly chopped down in other parts of Borneo for construction use. To accurately measure the tree, arborist Unding Jami of the South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership climbed it with a tape measure in hand. From National Geographic:

What was it like to climb?

I knew it would feel very exposed [to climb], like you are just hanging in the air. There were really strong winds and a Colugo (flying lemur) nest! It was flying all around as we were trying to shoot the line up into the tree.

It took me 15 attempts to shoot that line 86 meters (282 feet) up to the lowermost branches. Honestly, I almost gave up. We were so lucky to be able to finally shoot the rope over the lower branch.

Once we had the rope up I took nearly an hour to climb up to 86 meters. And then another two hours from there to get to the top to take the final measurement. That last two hours the wind was very strong, and it rained, which slowed me down...

It’s not easy work to do. I climb up slowly, checking the trunk every meter for centipedes, snakes, and things.

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Komodo Island is closing because people are stealing the dragons

Indonesia government officials are shutting down tourist visits to Komodo Island for 2020 because smugglers are stealing the fantastic Komodo dragons and selling them on the black market. All next year, conservationists will focus on boosting the dragon population and habitat preservation. From CNN:

Though plans to limit the number of Komodo visitors have been under discussion for months, Tempo reports the closure comes in response to the March bust of an alleged smuggling ring in which 41 Komodo lizards were taken from the island and sold abroad for 500 million rupiah each (about $35,000)...

Part of the UNESCO-listed Komodo National Park, Komodo Island has grown increasingly popular in recent years thanks to the addition of new flights and hotels in the nearby town of Labuan Bajo on the island of Flores. The park currently receives an average of 10,000 visitors per month.

According to UNESCO figures, there are more than 5,000 dragons spread across the national park's islands of Komodo, Rinca, Gili Motong and some coastal regions of western and northern Flores.

(image: UNESCO) Read the rest

Diver swims with 20-foot great white shark

Watch marine biologist Ocean Ramsey (yes, Ocean is her first name!) swim with a 20-foot great white shark off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii. First spotted off Guadalupe in 2014, this animal, nicknamed "Deep Blue," is thought to be the largest great white in the world. They're definitely going to need a bigger boat.

“We never would have imagined we would be fortunate enough to be graced with the presence of this massive, big, beautiful, female white shark," says Ramsey, who at the time was observing tiger sharks with her One Ocean Research team. “It fills my heart with joy and takes my breath away.”

(NBC News)

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Beyond magic! Please #helpsavesharks !!!! Incredible swimming with “Deep Blue” one of the largest great white s for hour! Just using our @oneoceandiving boat as a scratching post, so mellow and beautiful. Help ban the purposeful killing of sharks and rays with @oneoceanconservation this year & in your local/international community ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ AHHHHHHMAZING!!!! #Beyondwords still out to sea/going back in ?????? vid shot by @oneoceandiving Shark specialist & my amazing #seaster @mermaid_kayleigh out with @juansharks @forrest.in.focus @camgrantphotography @oneoceanresearch

A post shared by Ocean Ramsey #OceanRamsey (@oceanramsey) on Jan 15, 2019 at 5:54pm PST

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Lake monster license plate to raise money for clean water

Champ, the lake monster that reportedly lives in Lake Champlain, may soon appear on Vermont license plates. Representative Dylan Giambatista (D-Essex Junction) introduced legislation to create the plate to raise money for the state's clean water fund and raise awareness about water conservation. From WCAX:

"For me, it involves thinking out of the box about how are we gonna fund our challenges," (Giambista says). One way we could do it is to offer a license plate. I would call it a 'Be a Champ' water license plate..."

The bill creates a conservation plate -- several styles already exist that feature deer and loon. But Giambatista says it could also be a special issue plate. like the Vermont Strong ones issued after Tropical Storm Irene that helped raise a million dollars for recovery efforts.

"We would want to put Champ on it because we want folks to be a water champ and to focus the conversation about water quality in this state. We gotta go to what people know, so let's start with a beloved figure like Champ. Let's get the conversation started and let's raise money for a good cause," Giambatista said.

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Save The Elephants: How DNA revealed the 3 cartels behind most of Africa’s ivory smuggling

Science writer Ed Yong has an amazing whodunit at The Atlantic on how genetic science can help stop elephant poaching. Read the rest

Magical hummingbird slow-motion video shot on a smartphone

Conservationist, entomologist, and photographer Phil Torres recorded this enchanting slow-motion video of hummingbirds in the cloud forest of Sumaco, Ecuador. He used Moment lenses Read the rest

This punk turtle that breathes through its genitals is going extinct

The Mary River Turtle (Elusor macrurus), seen in this marvelous photo by Chris Van Wyk, calls Queensland, Australia its home. It's a fantastic creature with a green mohwawk of algae strands. The Mary River Turtle can stay underwater for up to 72 hours as it breathes through glands in its reproductive organs. Unfortunately, it's also one of the latest animals that the Zoological Society of London's EDGE conservation group added to its list of endangered species. From National Geographic:

The Mary river turtle waddled its way on the list for a number of reasons: it's the only member of its genius, and according to EGDE's website, it became evolutionarily distinct 40 million years ago. Forty million years of Earth's changes, however, wasn't enough to prepare them for 100 years of human intervention.

Their habitat... has been disrupted from dam construction, and the species was widely bought and sold in the pet trade.

Today it's protected by the Australian government, and conservation groups are working to make sure its habitat is preserved.

Read the rest

Scientist finds shimmering blue moths last seen in 1887

A Polish entomologist has observed and recorded footage of a bee-like moth called the Oriental blue clearwing. Read the rest

Conservationists offer $150K to buy a forest, government sells it to loggers for $40K less

Indiana’s Yellowwood State Forest is a scenic forest that Indiana's Department of Natural Resources put up for sale. But after conservationists gathered $150,000 to preserve the forest for another 100 years, the government sold it to a local logging company for $108,785. Read the rest

Last-ditch plan to save 30 remaining vaquitas, earth's tiniest porpoises

Vaquita CPR is the international effort to save the "pandas of the sea," critically endangered and super-cute vaquitas, the earth's smallest species of porpoises. Only 30 are believed to live in their range in the northern Gulf of California. Read the rest

Fantastic trailer for new Jane Goodall documentary

I can't wait to see Jane, the new National Geographic documentary about the inspiring primatologist Jane Goodall who famously lived with chimpanzees in Tanzania for decades and has worked tireless on conservation and animal welfare issues her entire adult life. The film, containing unseen footage of Jane in the jungle, was directed by Brett Morgen (Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck) with music by minimalist master Philip Glass!

This photo below of Jane Goodall observing chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania, taken by her mother Vanne Morris-Goodall, was encoded on the Voyager Golden Record launched into space 40 years ago:

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Hundred-year-old fruitcake found in Antarctica is in "excellent condition"

Researchers from the Antarctic Heritage Trust turned up this 100-year-old fruitcake in a Cape Adare hut. From their report: Read the rest

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