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Submitted by admin on 04/07/14 13:04
Pangolin: Scaling death

Pangolin: Scaling death

 

  An impervious skin, covered in tough, imbricate scales and a shy personality best describe a pangolin — an anteater living on the periphery of civilization.

But even their preference to lead solitary lives in deep burrows has failed to shield them from human exploitation. Out of the eight pangolin species found in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, the Indian Pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) is found in Pakistan.

The mammal resides in barren, hilly areas or deserts and there have been reported sightings in the Potohar plateau when the nocturnal animal steps out of its shelter in search for food. But with the soaring demand for pangolin skin products in the international market, the mammal might soon become completely extinct.The declining mammal population is a result of the illegal trading of pangolin scales for magic rituals, bullet-proof jackets, shoes, clothes and flesh for medicines, primarily in China. Local practitioners believe the scales have aphrodisiac properties.

Nearly 181 pangolins have been illegally captured or killed in Pakistan between January 2011 and May 2012, reveals Illegal Mass Killing of Indian Pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) in Potohar Region, Pakistan, a 2012 study conducted by the Department of Wildlife Management and the Department of Zoology in Pakistan. Out of the total, 45 bodies were discovered scale-less and dumped inside an unused railway tunnel near Chakwal. Nomads and hunters from all four districts of the plateau, Chakwal, Attock, Jhelum and Rawalpindi, have been held directly responsible for the act which has become a profitable sport.

Every kill secures a sum of Rs10,000 to Rs15,000, depending on the size. “We lack information on estimates and behaviour of pangolins in Sindh, whereas it is a protected animal according to the Sindh Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1972,” says Dr Fehmida Firdous, deputy conservator for the Sindh Wildlife department. Fear of further decline in the number of Indian pangolins rises as other Asian species, especially the Malayan pangolin (Manis javanica) and the Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla), approach extinction. According to the above study, the Punjab Wildlife Acts and Rules, 1975, has declared the mammal a protected species. In its recommendations it urges for the species to be moved from the category of ‘near threatened’ to ‘endangered’ in the near future. Misconception and a general lack of awareness have also spurred killings.

The anteaters are commonly sighted at graveyards where they wander in search of termite mounds, and this has inadvertently earned them the label of ‘murda khors’ or grave diggers. Pangolins with their short limbs and sharp claws dig through the mounds and, due to a lack of teeth, use their long, sticky tongues to attract prey and swallow it whole. According to experts, it’s the mammal’s very diet that allows it to play an important ecological role by serving as pest control.

Although the Indian pangolin is protected under numerous wildlife ordinances in Pakistan, poaching continues. According to the Inspector-General from the Forestry department, Syed Mahmood Nasir, one way to deter trade is to, “Place signboards and very visible ones on all points of exit (airports) to educate the customs officers.” Since protection measures are still at a bare minimum, the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Wildlife department, including religious leaders and community members, have taken it upon themselves to punish poachers, and over the past year and a half have put over a dozen behind bars, imposed heavy fines and confiscated dead animals. “Unfortunately, they (poachers) have now moved towards Punjab,” laments Conservator Wildlife Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Chaudhry Muhammad Razzaq.

 

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Submitted by admin on 04/07/14 12:55
Wildlife Fences Alter Ecosystems

Wildlife Fences Alter Ecosystems and Lead to Disappearance of Certain Species

 

Wildlife fences are constructed to protect wildlife from poachers, prevent the spread of diseases and lower the threat of human-wildlife conflict. Despite these conservation benefits, construction of fences should be considered as the last resort, according to a new finding.

The report documented in the journal Science, weighs the pros and cons of large scale fencing and claims that fencing has devastating environmental effects and costs a lot. The study emphasizes that fencing of wildlife should be avoided whenever possible. "An increased awareness of the damage caused by fencing is leading to movements to remove fences instead of building more. Increasingly, fencing is seen as backwards step in conservation," says co-author Sarah Durant of ZSL's.

Contagious wildlife habitats that are converted into islands with the help of fencing pose a great threat to the small and isolated animal population. Such fencing makes the animals prone to extinction. This results in the loss of predators as well as other species and greatly influences the interaction between species and triggers a local extinction. The researchers term this process as 'ecological meltdown'. "In some parts of the world, fencing is part of the culture of wildlife conservation - it's assumed that all wildlife areas have to be fenced. But fencing profoundly alters ecosystems, and can cause some species to disappear.

We're asking that conservationists as well as other sectoral interests carefully weigh up the biodiversity costs and benefits of new and existing fences," ZSL's Rosie Woodroffe, lead author of the study, said in a statement.Fences are mainly built to lower human-wildlife conflict. But in most cases they fail to deliver the same benefit. What remains as a major challenge is the right fencing design, location, construction and maintenance.

Sadly, in certain places these fences offer poachers a supply of wire for making snares. Co-author Simon Hedges of WCS said, "A variety of alternative approaches - including better animal husbandry, community-based crop-guarding, insurance schemes, and wildlife-sensitive land-use planning - can be used to mitigate conflicts between people and wildlife without the need for fencing. WCS projects working with local people and government agencies have shown that human-elephant conflict can be dramatically reduced without using fences in countries as different as Indonesia and Tanzania." Mainly in Southern Africa, there has been an extensive use of fencing system to create regions free from diseases such as foot and mouth diseases.

But some of these fences have led to devastating environmental effects. It is only with enhanced testing and vaccine people can curb the spread of such diseases and can do without fencing. The rapidly changing climate elevates the need to provide wildlife with sufficient mobility and to maintain connectivity on land.

 

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Submitted by admin on 04/03/14 13:41
Why the Zebra has Stripes

Why the Zebra has Stripes?

 

Researchers have discovered something that will interest you for sure.

It is often said everything in this world has a reason behind its existence as nothing happens by chance. Well, scientists have found a reason to support the belief by unveiling the secret behind existence of stripes on zebras. Actually, stripes help zebras to keep flies away.

The researchers found that zebras and other horse-related species with stripes live in areas that have lots of bloodsucking insects. Their endeavor helped them to reach a conclusion that black and white pattern helps the animals to repel bloodthirsty, disease-carrying flies by hindering their normal vision and making it difficult for them to land. The study, conducted by California scientists, claimed that warding off flies is significant for zebras than other animals because weight gain, diseases and disease and lower milk production are caused by flies. Also, Zebra has coats of hairs that are thinner than some other animals, so they are not able to enjoy good enough protection as enjoyed by the others. The discovery is not a trivial one, because it was never known previously that why zebras have such striking coloration.

Even Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace never knew the exact reason behind stripes on zebras. They gave number of hypothesis on the color pattern of zebras. Some of them suggested that stripes could be a method of heat management, social function or a way to avoid flies and other parasites. Whereas, another one suggested that it may act as a form of camouflage, or as a pattern to confuse predatory carnivores.

"No one knew why zebras have such striking coloration. But solving evolutionary conundrums increases our knowledge of the natural world and may spark greater commitment to conserving it", said lead author Tim Caro, UC Davis professor of wildlife biology, in a statement.

 

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