(TMU) — The black softshell turtle was declared extinct in the wild about 17 years ago, but it may have a good chance at recovery after a centuries-old Hindu temple in India devoted its efforts to helping the tiny reptilian creature make a comeback.
Assam, once a paradise for freshwater turtles where the creatures were so abundant that it was a favorite local food, has seen its turtle population precipitously drop due to habitat loss and its over-exploitation as a source of food.
This caused the International Union for the Conservation of Nature to declare the black softshell turtle extinct in the wild in 2002, while also classifying the Indian softshell and the Indian peacock softshell turtles as vulnerable.
Yet this hasn’t stopped the nature-loving caretakers at the Hayagriva Madhav temple from providing sanctuary to the precious creatures in the temple’s ponds.
Residents at the temple are compelled to protect the species because of the sacred status accorded to them as a reincarnation of the Hindu deity Vishnu.
The temple’s religious adherents teamed up with the conservation group Good Earth to nurture dozens of turtles in the temple’s ponds. And now, the turtle’s population has rebounded from its possible demise to far healthier numbers.
“There are plenty of turtles in the temple pond,” Jaya Purkayastha from Good Earth told the Times of India.
The conservationists have helped breed the turtles by collecting newly-laid eggs from the grounds near the pond and warming them in an incubator to ensure that they hatch.
“The population of the turtle in Assam has gone down by a great extent. So we thought we needed to intervene and do something to save the species from extinction.”
The joint efforts showed a significant degree of success in January, when the group released 35 turtle hatchlings into the waters of a local wildlife sanctuary, 16 of which were black softshell turtles reared by hand at the temple.
Pranab Malakar, a caretaker of the pond, has long been devoted to the well-being of the turtle, largely for religious reasons. He explained:
“I used to take care of them as I like them. Later, after I became associated with Good Earth, it became my responsibility.
No one harms them here as they are incarnations of Lord Vishnu. I was born and grew up here. We have been seeing the turtles since or childhood. People respect them.”
Purkayastha told the Hindu:
“This is a milestone in Assam’s turtle conservation history, and it would not have been possible without the interest shown by the temple authorities in the artificial breeding program.”
Yet there still remain challenges ahead, including changes brought about by the immense popularity of the turtles, with hundreds of daily visitors who toss bread and other foods at the little reptiles, who eagerly gobble it up.
“This has triggered some biological changes among the turtles in the pond.
They have also lost their natural tendency of hunting for food.”
By any measure, so far the project has been a great success. Good Earth and the temple are now hoping to expand their breeding program to the 18 other temple ponds in the area that can be used to revive the still-endangered species.
Idaho Senate Approves Bill to Kill 90 Percent of State’s Wolves in “Brutal War”
Idaho’s legislature is swiftly moving forward with a bill that critics say would sanction a “brutal war” on wolves whereby up to 90 percent of the current wolf population would be killed in a bid to protect the interests of the state’s ranchers.
On Wednesday, the Idaho senate passed the measure by a 26-7 vote. The bill will now move forward to the House chamber, reports Associated Press.
Since teetering at the brink of endangerment years ago, wolf populations were removed from the state endangered species list in 2011. Since then, they have thrived despite Idaho allowing hundreds to be killed by hunters, trappers and state measures to control their numbers. Over the past two years, the wolf population has held steady at about 1,500.
According to federal guidelines, wolf recovery numbers require about 150 wolves in the state.
Republican supporters of the bill said during senate debates that the wolf population has grown entirely out of control, endangering the numbers of deer and elk available to hunters and harming the state economy.
“We’re supposed to have 15 packs, 150 wolves. We’re up to 1,553, was the last count, 1,556, something like that. They’re destroying ranchers. They’re destroying wildlife. This is a needed bill,” said Republican state Sen. Mark Harris.
However, critics have blasted the move as rash and potentially damaging to the state’s wildlife.
“The Idaho Senate’s sudden move to pass this bill in the eleventh hour incentivizes the cruel deaths of more than 1,000 wolves across the state,” said Andrea Zaccardi, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.
“This brutal war on wolves must be stopped, and we urge the House to deny this bill,” Zaccardi added.
Maggie Howell, the head of the Wolf Conservation Center, also described the move as the latest in a hostile and extreme campaign against wolves that fails to take into account the creatures’ value to the local ecology.
“Beyond the wanton cruelty and devastation the passage of this bill would bring to wolves, this legislation poses a threat to wolves nationwide,” she told the New York Times. “With the Trump administration’s decision to transfer wolf management authority from the federal government to the states, Idaho’s policies can influence expectations about wildlife management beyond its borders.”
As Marine Life Flees the Equator, Global Mass Extinction is Imminent: Scientists
The waters surrounding the equator are one of the most biodiverse areas in the globe, with the tropical area rich in marine life including rare sea turtles, whale sharks, manta rays, and other creatures.
However, rampant rises in temperate have led to a mass exodus of marine species from the sensitive region – with grave implications for life on earth.
While ecologists have long seen the thriving biodiversity of equatorial species holding constant in the past few centuries, a new study by Australian researchers published in The Conversation has found that warming global temperatures are now hitting the equator hard, potentially leading to an unprecedented mass extinction event.
The researchers from the Universities of Auckland, Queensland, and the Sunshine Coast found that as waters surrounding the equator continue to heat up, the ecosystem is being disrupted and forcing species to flee toward the cooler water of the South and North Pole.
The massive changes in marine ecosystems that this entails will have a grave impact not only on ocean life – essentially becoming invasive species in their new homes – but also on the human livelihoods that depend on it.
“When the same thing happened 252 million years ago, 90 percent of all marine species died,” the researchers wrote.
To see where marine life is headed, the researchers tracked the distribution of about 49,000 different species to see what their trajectory was. The global distribution of ocean life typically resembles a bell curve, with far fewer species near the poles and more near the equator.
However, the vast alteration of the curve is already in motion as creatures flee to the poles, according to a study they published in the journal PNAS.
These changes augur major disruptions to global ecosystem as marine life scrambles in a chaotic fight for food, space, and resources – with a mass die-off and extinction of creatures likely resulting.
The research underscores the dire need for human societies to control rampant climate change before the biodiversity and ecological health of the planet is pushed past the point of no return.
Rare Creature Photographed Alive In The Wild For The First Time Ever
Advances in the methods used by researchers to watch wildlife have allowed for the photographing of a rare creature whose image had never been captured in the wild before.
Researchers in the West African nation of Togo were able to spot the rare Walter’s duiker, a rare species of petite African antelope, for the first time in the wild thanks to camera traps equipped with motion sensors.
In addition to the Walter’s duiker, the camera traps were also able to discover rare species of aardvarks and a mongoose, reports Gizmodo.
At a time when the extinction of entire species is becoming more common worldwide, such devices should help conservationists not only preserve creatures sought by bushmeat hunters but also spot rare animals whose presence is elusive for human observers. In the past, biologists were forced to rely on the same hunters for information.
“Camera traps are a game changer when it comes to biodiversity survey fieldwork,” said University of Oxford wildlife biologist Neil D’Cruze.
“I’ve spent weeks roughing it in tropical forests seemingly devoid of any large mammal species,” D’Cruze continued. “Yet when you fire up the laptop and stick in the memory card from camera traps that have been sitting there patiently during the entire trip—and see species that were there with you the entire time —it’s like being given a glimpse into a parallel world.”
The Walter’s duiker was discovered in 2010 when specimens of bushmeat were compared to other duiker specimens. The new images of the creature are the first to have been seen.
Rare species like Walter’s duiker are often not listed as “endangered” by groups like the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to a lack of data.
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