January 24, 2008

NZ frog species high on endangered list
Otago Daily Times - www.odt.co.nz
24 Jan 2008
R Fox
Area: New Zealand

New Zealand's critically endangered Archey’s frog has been rated the top of a list of a extremely rare amphibians identified by scientists as being in urgent need of help to survive. Zoological Society of London scientists have assessed all 6296 amphibian species according to how evolutionary distinct and globally endangered (Edge) they are, and this week released its top 100 species which includes New Zealand’s four species of native frogs a group that have changed little in the last 70 million years. They include the critically endangered Archey’s frog (Coromandel and Whareorino Forest) which is rated No 1 and Hamilton’s frog rated No 17. The ‘‘vulnerable’’ Hochstetter’s frog (North Island) is rated No 38 and the nationally endangered Maud Island frog (Marlborough Sounds) No 58.

. . . Archey’s frog had been hit by chytridiomycosis, a disease blamed for many frog declines and extinctions, and Dr Bishop, along with Prof Russel Poulter of the university’s biochemistry department and honorary Prof Rick Speare, of James Cook University, Australia, had come up with the cure for the disease that was effective in the laboratory. The university’s frog group was also looking at ways to assist captive breeding and how frogs communicate, given they are considered ‘‘earless’’. Dr Bishop had also just completed a frog recovery plan which would help advise the Department of Conservation in its work. As it was the Year of the Frog, Dr Bishop said all efforts were being made to educate people on how unique and important they are and lobby Government for more funding.

USGS Genetics Research Sheds Light on Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia Virus in Great Lakes’ Fish [Press Release]
USGS - www.usgs.gov
23 Jan 2008
Area: United States

A devastating virus that has killed thousands of fish in the Great Lakes over the past few years is different from other strains of the same virus found in Europe and the West Coast of the United States, according to new genetic research by the U.S. Geological Survey. The Great Lakes' strain of viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus (VHSV) is the only strain outside of Europe that has been associated with significant die-offs of freshwater fish species. VHSV is a rhabdovirus that is the causative agent of one of the most dangerous viral diseases of fish, said Dr. Jim Winton, a fisheries scientist at the USGS Western Fisheries Research Center (WFRC) in Seattle. The virus belongs to a family of viruses that includes rabies. The disease causes internal bleeding in fish, but is not harmful to people.

Winton and co-authors Gael Kurath and William Batts recently authored a new USGS fact sheet that describes important genetic information about isolates of VHSV from Great Lakes region (see Molecular Epidemiology of Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia Virus in the Great Lakes Region factsheet).Other strains of the VHS virus are found in continental Europe, North Pacific Ocean, North Atlantic Ocean, Baltic Sea and North Sea. "This Great Lakes strain appears to have an exceptionally broad host range," said Winton. "Significant die-offs have occurred in muskellunge, freshwater drum, yellow perch, round goby, emerald shiners and gizzard shad."

Don't blame wild birds for H5N1 spread - expert
Reuters - www.reuters.com
23 Jan 2008

There is no solid evidence that wild birds are to blame for the apparent spread of the H5N1 virus from Asia to parts of Europe, Africa and the Middle East, an animal disease expert said on Wednesday. There was also no proof that wild birds were a reservoir for the H5N1 virus, Scott Newman, international wildlife coordinator for avian influenza at the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organisation, said at a bird flu conference in Bangkok. After H5N1 was found in 2005 in a huge lake in central China where it killed over 10,000 wild birds, it turned up in parts of Europe, Africa and the Middle East, leading some experts to believe migratory birds may be to blame. But Newman said there was no good reason for thinking so.

"We know that some wild birds have probably moved short distances carrying viruses and then they died, but we have not been able to identify carriage of H5N1 across large scale spatial distances and then resulting in spread to other birds and mortality in poultry flocks," Newman told Reuters. He said fecal tests on some 350,000 healthy birds worldwide had to date only yielded "a few" positive H5N1 results. Furthermore, in instances and places where wild birds were found with the disease, there were no concurrent outbreaks of the virus in poultry. "So we don't have at this point in time a wildlife reservoir for H5N1 ... so they can't be a main spreader of the disease," Newman said.

Elk offered corn feed to help eradicate ticks
Whitehorse Star Online - www.whitehorsestar.com
24 Jan 2008
C Tobin
Photo courtesy of USGS
Area: Alaska United States

Wildlife officials are in the field testing the appetite of elk for corn feed they plan to lace with medicine to kill off winter ticks in the next couple of months. The effort is part of the initial step to counter the Yukon’s infestation of winter ticks among the elk population, and reduce the risk of the tick spreading from elk to moose, deer and caribou. Biologist Rick Ward of the Department of Environment said Tuesday staff have been in the field for about four days spreading corn feed to see how well the elk warm up to the new taste. This winter’s focus will be to herd as many of the 150 Takhini Valley elk as possible into wilderness pens and keep them there over a prolonged period while providing them with the medicated feed, Ward said. He said the same feed will be given to 100 or so elk making up the Braeburn herd, though there’ll be no attempt this year to capture that segment of the population.

. . . Winter ticks drop off in the spring and attach themselves to grasses and brush. As the elk, or other members of the deer family, walk by, the tick latches on. While the tick is generally not fatal for elk, research in Alberta, for instance, shows it can be deadly for moose and deer. Itchiness caused by the bloodsucking bugs drives the animals nuts, resulting in disrupted eating patterns and less ability to stay warm, while the animal loses more body heat because of greater hair loss caused by the tick. Grant Lortie, a local non-government biologist familiar with the devastation the winter tick can cause, said an outright cull of the two herds may be the most distasteful approach. But it’s likely the quickest, least expensive means of protecting the territory’s natural populations, he said. Craig Stephen, a veterinarian and research scientist working on disease surveillance in the animal world, was in Whitehorse to participate in Tuesday’s workshop.

Sayonara cyanide: Poison land mines should be banned
The Salt Lake Tribune - www.sltrib.com
22 Jan 2008
Area: United States

They're hollow, spring-loaded land mines, 6-inch-long aluminum cylinders with a lethal dose of sodium cyanide inside. Partially buried, topped with a trigger, covered by cotton impregnated with liquid bait, you'll find them around ranches and farms, on public and private lands, in at least 15 states. When a coyote or fox or pet dog tugs at the device, it unleashes a lethal dose of poison into their mouths, which mixes with saliva to form a gas that causes convulsions, then paralysis, and finally death. The government calls them M-44s. They're part of the arsenal employed by the federal Wildlife Services agency in a long-running, futile attempt to control coyotes and other predators that prey on livestock and poultry. But the devices are indiscriminate killers.

They kill coyotes, for sure, 10,630 in 15 states in 2004, including 481 in Utah. They also killed badgers, bobcats, feral dogs, wild hogs, marmots, opossums, raccoons, ravens, skunks and four kinds of foxes - gray, red, swift and kit. And, while Wildlife Services doesn't provide statistics, they also kill household pets, and sometimes the devices poison pet owners who try to resuscitate them. And it's only a matter of time until M-44s claim their first human victim. Dennis Slaugh of Vernal nearly earned that distinction. While riding his ATV on public lands in Utah in 2003, he attempted to straighten what he thought was a survey stake, and took a blast of sodium cyanide crystals to the face.

Turtle deaths cause alarm
The Statesman - www.thestatesman.net
22 Jan 2008
Area: Orissa India

Orissa coast is fast becoming a graveyard for Olive Ridley turtles as several carcasses have been found in the prominent nesting sites such as Gahiramatha, Rushikulya and Devi river mouths, wildlife experts said. According to official sources, as many as 1,208 carcasses of turtles were found dead along the state coastline from 1 November, 2007, to 15 January, 2008. Most of the carcasses were found at the Devi river mouth, they added. Environmentalists and experts, however, claimed that the actual mortality rate is much higher than the official figures.
They said that it was too early to conclude that there is a declining trend in the mortality of the turtles as claimed by the wildlife officials.

The experts blamed illegal fishing by mechanised trawlers along the state’s coastline as one of the main reasons for the death of the turtles. “Non-enforcement of the Orissa Marine Fisheries (Regulation) Act, 1982, helps them to flout the norms and to kill the visiting turtles,” a wildlife expert said. Several lakhs Olive Ridley turtles visit the Orissa coast every year for mass nesting. The biggest nesting site for these turtles in the world is the Gahiramatha beach, followed by Rushikulya and Devi river mouths off Orissa coast. “Most of the turtles died inside the deep sea and their carcasses reached the shore,” said the chief conservator of the forests (wildlife), Mr SS Srivastav.



Effects of culling on badger abundance: implications for tuberculosis control [free full-text available]
Journal of Zoology. 2008 Jan; 274 (1): 28-37
R Woodroffe et al.

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