(TMU) — A specialized team of conservation scientists has found what appears to be a hidden oasis deep in the rainforest of Honduras that’s teeming with dozens of rare and endangered creatures.
The remote settlement, known as the “Lost City of the Monkey God” or “White City” and located in the Mosquitia rainforest, is a stunning example of the biodiversity that was once common across the tropics and rainforests in the region. The rainforest is home to hundreds of species of bats, butterflies and reptiles, the Independent reports.
The “ecological SWAT team” from Conservation International’s Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) conducted their three-week expedition in 2017 after ancient ruins were discovered in the rainforest, which remains one of the least-explored areas of the region. Their full report on the expedition and its dizzying array of findings was only published this week.
The report details how the pristine ecosystem is filled with a number of rare and unique species, including those previously believed to be extinct.
This has included the False Tree Coral Snake, the pale-faced bat, and a tiger beetle which many had thought was already extinct. 22 species were also recorded whose presence in Honduras had previously been unknown, including the endangered Great Green Macaw and a livebearing fish that scientists have only now discovered.
In total, scientists documented 198 species of birds, 94 butterfly species, 40 of small mammals, 56 amphibian and reptile species, and 30 species of large mammals—including jaguars, ocelots and pumas—not to mention a huge variety of plants, fish, rodents and insects.
Trond Larsen, the director of RAP, expressed that his team was “shocked” by their major find. In a press release, Larsen noted:
“The ‘White City’ is one of the few areas remaining in Central America where ecological and evolutionary processes remain intact.”
The conservationist added that the diversity of the area’s wildlife makes it a very high priority for future conservation efforts. Larsen said:
“One of the main reasons we found such high species richness and abundance of threatened and wide-ranging species (e.g., peccaries) is that the forests around the White City remain pristine, unlike much of the region.
This makes the area a high conservation priority for maintaining the broader landscape connectivity that is essential for the long-term persistence of biodiversity through Central America.”
The White City has long been sought after by explorers searching for what is believed to be the home to an ancient civilization that inhabited the area during the pre-Columbian era.
The area, which is largely undeveloped, has faced threats from illegal economic activities such as deforestation due to cattle ranching, in spite of efforts by Honduras’ president in 2005 to extend official protection to the “lost city.”
“And these are areas with no road networks, no logistics or infrastructure to let people get in or let guards in, so it’s very hard to stop what’s happening.
In many cases, this illegal activity is being driven tangentially by drug trafficking, so it’s driven by powerful people with money. That’s the primary threat to the integrity of the forest of the area.”
Another member of the RAP SWAT team, John Polisar, noted the importance of ensuring strong protection that would allow the treasure-trove of rare creatures to thrive:
“We have been doing field work in the indigenous territories of La Moskitia for 14 years, and this site stood out as being simply gorgeous.
Because of its presently intact forests and fauna the area is of exceptionally high conservation value. It merits energetic and vigilant protection so its beauty and wildlife persist into the future.”
Featured image credit: Trond Larsen / Conservation International
Drunk Man Rescues Injured Baby Bird By Sending It To Animal Shelter… In An Uber
An injured baby bird received a new lease on life after a young man who was inebriated had the good sense to send the little creature to an animal shelter because he and his friends were too drunk to drive.
In the Summer of 2019, a small lesser goldfinch suddenly appeared by itself at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah. The center’s chairman, Buz Marthaler, was notified by a volunteer who sent him a photo.
“It was a picture of this bird, and it had come by Uber,” Marthaler told FOX13. “It was just crazy.”
As it turns out, the tiny bird – which was only two weeks old – indeed rolled up to the site by its lonesome, the sole passenger in an Uber vehicle called by concerned citizens who found the injured creature.
Among those good Samaritans was Tim Crowley, who had been “day drinking” on that Saturday before he and his buddies witnessed the little bird fall from the sky.
“Impromptu, sitting in some camp chairs, hanging out, having a few drinks when we had a visitor fall out of the sky,” he explained.
Crowley then snapped a photo of the bird and sent it to the WRCNU, which instructed him to immediately bring the bird in. However, the group obviously couldn’t drive since they had been guzzling booze all day.
So Crowley decided he’d hail a cab for the creature.
“At first it was a joke, like, ‘Hey, maybe we should just call Uber!’” he said. “Then we were like, ‘No, really. Why not? We’re paying them.’”
As it turns out, the bird – since named “Petey Uber” by staff at the rescue center – likely would have perished if not for Crowley’s quick thinking.
Marthaler remains impressed by Crowley’s move and shared the news on its Facebook page.
“While we feel we’ve seen it all and can’t be amazed by anything, there is always someone out there to prove us wrong,” the shelter’s post read. “Thank you to the rescuer who helped this little one get the care it needed in a timely manner and thank you for keeping yourself safe and others on the road safe as well.”
Heat Wave Kills Over 1 BILLION Sea Creatures on Canada West Coast, Experts Say
Researchers in Canada are reporting that over 1 billion marine animals on Canada’s Pacific coast are likely to have died in last week’s record-shattering heat wave, showing how ecosystems not accustomed to such high temperatures are especially vulnerable to changing conditions.
The deadly “heat dome” that settled over British Columbia and the U.S. Pacific Northwest for five days is believed to have killed at least 500 people in Canada, and pushed temperatures to extreme temperatures of 104F (40C), sparking wildfires that are burning across the Canadian province.
Multiple experts are now saying that the heat wave also took a horrifying toll on marine life, leaving “postapocalyptic” scenes in its wake.
Marine biologist Christopher Harley of the University of British Columbia knew, when he saw the harrowing weather forecasts, that when the tide dropped the sweltering conditions would absolutely fry the mussels, barnacles and sea stars that were exposed.
When the heatwave actually struck, he was devastated by the stench of decay and the vast death toll sustained by the local ecosystem.
“The shore doesn’t usually crunch when you walk on it,” he told The Guardian. “But there were so many empty mussel shells lying everywhere that you just couldn’t avoid stepping on dead animals while walking around.”
Mussels and barnacles can typical deal with harsh temperatures as high as 113F for a few hours – but any more than that is simply not survivable.
Harley told the New York Times that the loss of mussels likely reaches into the hundreds of millions.
However, when factoring in the death of other marine animals that once lived on the shore and resided on the mussel beds – such as hermit crabs and their crustacean relatives, worms, sea cucumbers and other creatures – the number could quite easily exceed one billion.
“It just feels like one of those postapocalyptic movies,” Harley said.
Harley’s colleagues have also reported on dead sea anemones, rock fish and oysters in the region.
In neighboring Alberta, a massive number of fish also washed up on the shores, likely due to the heat wave.
Fortunately, mussels are able to regenerate over about two years. Starfish and clams, however, live for decades and reproduce much more slowly.
The domino effect of such a vast loss of marine life could be felt on other animals in the ecosystem such as sea ducks, a migratory bird that feeds on mussels in the winter before migrating to the Arctic.
The horrific loss shows that the pace of warming climate conditions is likely outstripping the ability of creatures simply to survive – a prospect that makes Harley feel saddened, but he is still trying to find hope.
“A lot of species are not going to be able to keep up with the pace of change,” he said. “Ecosystems are going to change in ways that are really difficult to predict. We don’t know where the tipping points are.”
Binx the Cat, Who Survived Florida Condo Collapse, Found and Reunited With Family
Amid the tragedy of last month’s collapse of a South Florida condo building, there was a tiny bit of good news when a cat named Binx, who lived on the ninth floor of the Surfside building, was found safe and returned to his family.
“I’m glad that this small miracle could bring some light into the lives of a hurting family today and provide a bright spot for our whole community in the midst of this terrible tragedy,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava in a Friday press conference, reports NPR.
Levine Cava explained that a volunteer who feeds street cats in the area recognized the cat near the building before bringing him to an animal shelter, where it was then identified.
Gina Nicole Vlasek, the co-founder of the The Kitty Campus rescue group, posted on Facebook that a black cat had been found near the rubble of the group before it was brought to the shelter on Thursday night.
“We are so grateful to be able to help in any small way,” Vlasek said.
“All we needed was a ray of hope in this tragedy,” she continued. “Today was one of the most amazing days.. one of the survivors came to see the cat and to determine if it was her families cat and IT WAS!”
The mayor said that animal control workers are continuing to work to recover any pets that may have survived the horrible collapse.
The 12-story Surfside condo collapsed on June 24. At least 79 people have been confirmed dead, with 61 additional residents remaining unaccounted for.