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  • Whether you’re a fan of Twitter or not, you can now read what people around the world are saying about wildlife. We’ve set up a #Wildlife Daily newspaper that gathers all the tweets using the #wildlife hashtag and puts them in the form of a newsletter. You can have it send a reminder email each time it’s updated, so you get notification right in your inbox. It’s also a terrific way to find other twitter users to follow who are concerned about the world’s wild species.

The Week In Carnivores #15

Biodiversity 100 – Get Involved!

A new Guardian campaign Biodiversity 100 was launched this week by conservation ecologist Guillaume Chapron and George Monbiot. Biodiversity 100 an international campaign to get those responsible in G20 countries to sign up to very specific pledges to protect our top 100 species or ecosystems that are falling by the political wayside.

In their launch article, Chapron and Monbiot describe the plight of the Pyrenean bear, of which there are only around 20 left in the wild. There are political reasons that more isn’t being done to protect this bear which is on the brink of extinction.

We are looking for our top 100 specific targets we will get authorities sign up to prior to the international biodiversity summit in Japan in October. These can be added via a form [http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/aug/13/biodiversity-100-form] on the Biodiversity 100 site or email christine.ottery@biodiversity100.org

Guillaume Chapron:
“As researchers in ecology, we strive that our results are published in the best journals, but we also wish that they can be useful in advancing biodiversity conservation. With many governments stressing their strong commitment to science-based environmental policies, we could hope to successfully reverse the biodiversity crisis. Still, it does not seem to be happening and, in fact, we often observe that pure political considerations prevail over anything else. Are we unable to reach governments or are governments just not listening?.”

The Week In Carnivores #14

Black Bears Prefer Minivans

Locking your car doors in bear country  isn’t going to keep the big bruins out. A hungry bear will happily rip the door right off if he smells food inside.

In Yosemite National Park, California, American black bears are a serious threat to cars. On most nights, they patrol the campground to browse the scents in the parking lot.

Three workers with the US Department of Agriculture have published a study in the Journal of Mammalogy after they analyzed the bear break in data from 2001 to 2007, when the bears had vandalized over 1000 vehicles.

Minivans were first or second on the hit list, despite the fact they represented only a small fraction of the automobiles present in the parking lots. For the years 2004 and 2005, the vans made up only 7 percent of parked vehicles, but nearly 30 percent of them were looted. No other vehicle was raided so disproportionately.

While it’s impossible to know why the bears choose these vehicles, we can make a few assumptions.

Minivans are family cars designed for those with babies and young children. More children generally means more crumbs, and possibly stored food items to keep the kids happy. Manna for a bear’s nose!

Black bears quickly learn how to maximize food resources in any new habitat as a matter of survival. Over time, the bears in the park have probably learned to associate the minivans with greater potential reward, and are just foraging selectively as they do in the wild.

The energy costs of opening these roaming pantries are significant. It takes a lot of work for the bear to tear off doors and rip out seats. They must be confident the effort will be worth it.

Do the minivans really contain more food, or are they just easier for the bears to break into?

It would be very interesting to see a further study on why the bears prefer these vehicles. If they’re chosen because they’re easier to break into, both the auto makers and the families that purchase them might be interested.

My money is on the food hoards. Anyone who has travelled with small children knows how much food you have to take along. Bears aren’t going to go through all that physical work unless they’re pretty sure of a reward, and it seems to me a minivan is a logical place to look for a variety of tasty treats.

The Week In Carnivores #13

Bushmeat Hunting Is Changing Ecosystems

For thousands of years, people living in the world’s rain forests have hunted animals to feed themselves. Wild game is a vital source of protein for indigenous people, and traditional hunting practices were balanced with the biodiversity levels of the forest. But this is no longer the case.

Bushmeat poachers are now emptying rain forests, using automatic rifles and wiping out entire animal populations. The meat is exported to Europe, the USA and other countries, and organized crime figures are often involved in the trade. Logging companies have opened up new access roads, allowing the poachers to reach ever further into the forest.

There is no way the wildlife populations can sustain this level of slaughter. The numbers are horrifying.

  • U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reports more than one billion individual animals were imported into the United States from 2000 to 2004, along with over 11 million pounds of bushmeat and other animal products.
  • A study in Europe has recently found about 270 tonnes of illegal bushmeat could be passing through Paris Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport each year, and that’s just one European airport.
  • Up to a million tonnes of bushmeat is consumed in the Congo Basin each year, representing 80 percent of all meat eaten in the region

Lush jungle canopy growth is becoming increasingly silent as the wild species are wiped out. Now it seems the jungle canopy itself is at risk from the effects of excessive bushmeat hunting.

A team of scientists from the National Museum of Natural History in France has surveyed seeds and seedlings in two different areas in the Central African Republic. In one area, nearly all large mammals have been wiped out. The other area has similar soil, plant species and climate, but still has a healthy population of large animals.

They found the site without large mammals had less plant diversity and lower numbers of medium and large seeds. Vegetation is becoming increasingly dense, and without the competition from large trees, small plants are beginning to thrive.

By exterminating the large mammals, poachers are throwing the plant community out of balance. Larger animals disperse larger seeds, and by removing them, hunters are essentially weeding out the trees and shrubs with big seeds and allowing small-seeded species to take over. The result is a less diverse forest, with unnaturally thick vegetation.

Entire ecosystems are on the verge of collapse due to the illegal bushmeat trade. The strands of the complex, interwoven web of life in the rain forests have been separated, and cannot be put back together.

The question is, as humans are at the top of every ecosystem, will we be able to adapt fast enough to survive? Or is the rampant bushmeat trade ultimately going to lead to forests empty of human footprints as well?

The Week In Carnivores #12

Featured Tee: Big Cat Collage

Big Cat T Shirt Collage

The ultimate wild cat shirt, seven beautiful felines grace the front of this dark khaki tee.
100% preshrunk cotton. Adult sizes M, L, XL Item FT009 $ 15.75 US

The Week In Carnivores #11

This is a weekly roundup of news items featuring the wild carnivores of the world. If you miss the news during the week, check our blog on Fridays!