Chronicling Sixth Great Extinction

Jan Libourel

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Not strictly an "extinction" topic, but since we talk about a lot of wildlife issues, I thought I would include this here:

The other day some imbecile jumped into the hippopotamus enclosure at the Los Angeles Zoo, slapped one of the hippos on the behind and made his escape! What a total idiot to attempt such a stunt! Hippos are deceptively fast, aggressive and can kill you in a few seconds with one mighty bite! A lucky fool that one was.
 

Pimpernel Smith

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Amazon deforestation up 108% in just one year.

http://imazon.org.br/publicacoes/boletim-do-desmatamento-da-amazonia-legal-junho-2018-sad/

With what's happening in the Arctic this summer McPherson could've been too optimistic, although he's now adjusted to just one year left for most humans. I feel like we have at least six years left just a gut feeling combined with extensive knowledge.
I thought that a lot of the Amazon basin is seasonally flooded so not much use to fell trees to create cattle space? But then again, for hard wood furniture.
 

Jan Libourel

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For all the talk of endangered species, it may be worth noting that a lot of exotics are thriving where they are non-natives. We all know about those dreadful pythons in Florida. Beavers were introduced into the southern tip of South America where they are thriving to the point of becoming pests. I recall they were doing much the same in our local San Bernardino mountains some years back, but I don't know the current situation. What brought this to mind was reading a piece online that nutria (an aquatic South American rodent akin to the porcupine) have established themselves in central California and appear to be multiplying rapidly. They are a major pest in the South, where they established themselves after escaping from fur farms. Tough animals: I shot one on a pond in Texas, and although I hit it perfectly with a heavy .38 Special load right behind the shoulder, it managed to swim away. We found it the next morning. It had made it up to the bank, where it had expired.

I was also recently reading about how some hippopotami from erstwhile drug lord Pablo Escobar's menagerie in Colombia had escaped and established themselves in the wild. Wouldn't it be something if they thrived and became a common animal in the riverine portions of South America?

As a matter of interest, early in the 20th century there was a movement to establish hippos in the swamplands of the Deep South. The idea was they could control the water hyacinth (another exotic) and provide large quantities of good meat. I am not sure they could have survived the occasional cold spells that hit that region, however.
 

Pimpernel Smith

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Gold mining.
The danger there is mercury and the local populations are getting high doses in Brazil, Venezuela and likely elsewhere. I've travelled through the wild cat gold mining area of Venezuela in the late 1990s. Not sure what it would be like today, back then it was decent with lots of civilization to be found in small villages with outposts of liveable hotels and bars for a few a English pence. My ties with Venezuela continue and I've been asked to do some work again for them, but sadly, it doesn't look like they can zero the very small aged invoices they owe.
 

Jan Libourel

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An interesting matter is that some species are being "lost" through hybridization. I was recently reading how the rare Cuban crocodile and the Morelet's crocodile (found along the coast of eastern Mexico and Central America) are extensively hybridizing with American crocodiles. If these two species are lost through hybridization, there will be only two species of crocodile in the New Word: the American crocodile and the Orinoco crocodile, which is also very endangered.

American crocs are found fairly far northward in the Pacific, as far as the southern coast of Sonora. Perhaps with all this global warming they'll make their way up to Southern California. Now wouldn't that be something? However, I doubt very much that I shall live long enough to see it.
 

Jan Libourel

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^Fishing nets often wreak a lot of havoc on wildlife. For instance, the vaquita, a very small porpoise (in fact the smallest cetacean in the world) has been pushed to the brink of extinction because of being trapped in fishermen's nets.

On another note, I saw today in the paper that a bowhunter was killed by a black bear he had wounded. This was near Banning, California, in, I presume, the San Jacinto massif. Back in the '80s, when I used to sometimes hike there, there were no bears, but the black bears have been pushing relentlessly southward--across huge freeways and wide tracts of desert--to take over a lot of former grizzly habitat.
 

Jan Libourel

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^Difficult ethical point when animals should be harvested or culled. In general, I am always in favor of letting them breed and multiply until such time as they become pests or public menaces. I really don't like trapping, anyway.
 

Jan Libourel

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"87 elephants were killed for their horns. [sic]" Well that's a new one on me! Here I've lived halfway through my 77th year, and I never knew elephants had horns. I always thought they were killed for their teeth/tusks. I mean, I have teeth, but I don't have horns.
 

Jan Libourel

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^Yeah, conservation of beneficial insects is probably much more important to the planet than creatures like white rhinos. One of the wildlife organizations I support is the Xerces Society, a group dedicated to invertebrate conservation.
 

LelandJ

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Probably only some species of fungi and bacteria will survive this extinction since they'll have to be able to thrive in a highly radioactive environment. 440+ nuclear power plants will end in uncontrolled explosions and melt throughs once we're gone.
 

Jan Libourel

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^I kind of doubt this. Many animals adapt very well and thrive with human presence and alteration of the natural environment. I have cited in the past in this thread how many large animals have increased their numbers in my lifetime,

I'll give a personal example. When I grew up in Los Angeles, three or four miles west of downtown and a couple of miles south of the Hollywood Hills, the only wild mammals I would ever see were the Western gray squirrel and those rarely. Today, the Greater Los Angeles area is overrun with skunks, opossums and raccoons and teeming with (exotic) Eastern Fox Squirrels. We even have a mountain lion living in the Hollywood Hills and another (until recently) in the Verdugos. This would have been inconceivable when I was younger. In many parts of Europe I know that large mammals--deer, wild boar, even wolves--are multiplying rapidly. Another example: When I was a lad, some 60 years ago, the deer population of the USA was estimated at 16 million, as best as I recall. Today, I believe estimates run as high as 40 million. What more can I say?
 

LelandJ

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I wonder what sort of firearm's strong enough to euthanize a whale with one shot.
 

Pimpernel Smith

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Kestrels have made a big come back in these parts the last couple of years. We see a lot near our house, but we border on park land comprising of woodland and several small lakes. But I didn't expect them to come this far into The Hague:


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Journeyman

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^That's great.

An acquaintance of mine who lives just down the road from me was walking his dog a few nights ago when he saw a large, feathery bundle awkwardly hopping about near the side of the road. He popped back home, grabbed a blanket, locked up the dog, went back and found the bird, threw the blanket over it and managed to get it back home, where he gently deposited it in a cardboard box.

When he carefully unwrapped the blanket, the head of an irritated peregrine falcon was glaring back at him!

He popped it in the car and took it to a 24-hour vet clinic. They diagnosed a broken wing, splinted it and have now sent it to a wildlife park for rehabilitation.
 

Jan Libourel

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^Nice story about the peregrine falcon.

As to kestrels, when I was growing up in Los Angeles, they were a fairly common bird. In later years, though, I hardly ever saw them. I rarely have seen them in the 24+ years I have lived in Long Beach. I had always suspected crows of having driven them out. However, recently one birder told me he thought their habit of hovering over open spaces made them highly vulnerable to predation by Cooper's hawks. Cooper's hawks and red-tailed hawks are by far the most common large avian raptors near where I live although I do see ospreys with some regularity. As I believe I have mentioned elsewhere in this thread, the comeback of the osprey, mostly due to bans on DDT, has been a heartening conservation success story.
 

Jan Libourel

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Two stories about wildlife in yesterday's paper: One is that there is an overpopulation of wild (feral) horses in the United States. The horse has a curious evolutionary history. It evolved in North America, migrated west into Eurasia, went extinct in North America at the end of the Pleistocene, was reintroduced into NA by the Spaniards, where it revolutionized the cultures of many of the native tribes, and now, once again, they are so abundant that they are destroying a lot of habitat.

Another story of interest was that a California condor chick hatched in Utah and looks as if it may survive. When they put California condors in a captive breeding program, there were only about 30 of them left. Today there are about 500 of these magnificent birds soaring over the American West. I saw a couple of condors while I was in prep school in the 1950s. They were a most impressive and memorable sight. I also had a curious experience about 30 years ago. I was testing guns west of Palmdale, California, when an enormous bird sailed overhead. I knew it couldn't be a California condor, as they were all in captivity at this time. It seemed too large to be a golden eagle, so I was baffled. It turns out it was an Andean condor. A few had been released in parts of California to see how they would fare. I guess the experiment turned out favorably since many California condors have been released since then.
 

Pimpernel Smith

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Another story of interest was that a California condor chick hatched in Utah and looks as if it may survive. When they put California condors in a captive breeding program, there were only about 30 of them left. Today there are about 500 of these magnificent birds soaring over the American West. I saw a couple of condors while I was in prep school in the 1950s. They were a most impressive and memorable sight. I also had a curious experience about 30 years ago. I was testing guns west of Palmdale, California, when an enormous bird sailed overhead. I knew it couldn't be a California condor, as they were all in captivity at this time. It seemed too large to be a golden eagle, so I was baffled. It turns out it was an Andean condor. A few had been released in parts of California to see how they would fare. I guess the experiment turned out favorably since many California condors have been released since then.
I imagine that's an awe inspiring sight to see a condor in the wild. I've seen eagles up in the Highlands of Scotland on the train from Glasgow to Fort William. Driving along the roadside next to Lynn Brenig reservoir in North Wales I saw this buzzard sweep across from the woods and was magnificent the wingspan appeared gigantic so close up. There use to be a lot of foxes near where I lived and sometimes I would go for a run across the green belt just as the sun was lowering before sunset and you would see the foxes out and sometimes I would stop and from a distance we would look at each other waying each species up. Another time I was walking across a barley field not long before the harvest and I firghtened a hare that was hidden in front of me, and it frightened me too, it spurted across the full length of the field in what seemed like nothing short of milisecond and was flying above the barley and then dissapearing below and the back again spurting across the field. Truly magnificent.
 
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Jan Libourel

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As to the loss of avian populations, there are an estimated one hundred million feral cats in the USA, and I am sure they wreak enormous havoc on birds and small animals. Moreover, these wretched pests have a protective lobby like you wouldn't believe! This isn't counting the enormous slaughter inflicted by pet cats that are allowed to roam about by their owners. Cats are about the most efficient killers of all the vertebrates.

I am reminded of a case in Texas where a comely female veterinarian killed a feral cat with a bow and arrow and made the mistake of posting it on social media with the caption that this was a proper fate for all feral cats. Well, that elicited so much outrage among cat fanatics that not only did she lose her job, but she was stripped of veterinary license...and this was in f*ckin' Texas, no less. I can only hope that, like a cat, she was able to land on her feet somewhere else.
 

Journeyman

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^What's more, the outrage probably came from people who happily gulp down steak, bacon and sausages every evening... but who quite happily ignore what animals must necessarily go through in order to provide them with dinner.
 

Jan Libourel

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Only a real idiot would think cats are to blame.
Obviously, cats are not the whole problem, but they are among the most efficient killing machines that nature has evolved. Moreover, they don't just kill to eat, they are wanton killers who love to kill merely for sport. Consider this: If there are in fact, as estimated, 100 million feral cats in the USA and they each kill only10 birds a year--a ridiculously low estimate--that's a billion birds right there! And that's not even counting the many, many millions of non-feral housecats that take a toll on birdlife.

Idiocy? I'll let others be the judges.

Interestingly, I have heard some of the birds that suffer most from the depredations of feral cats are hawks and owls. This may seem counterintuitive, but the cats also consume large numbers of small mammals that constitute the bulk of the raptors' prey.

Obviously, cats are by no means the whole problem, but they are a major problem for bird conservation.
 

Jan Libourel

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Oh, while we're on the subject dwindling bird populations, let's not forget wind turbines. Many people love these eyesores because they are generating "Green Energy." They tend to forget the terrible slaughter they inflict on birds and not only birds, but bats as well, the most beneficial of all mammals. Bats do enormous good in insect control and plant pollination.
 
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