33 lions, rescued from appalling conditions in circuses in Peru and Colombia by Animal Defenders International (ADI), surely cannot believe their eyes this morning as they roared in their first sunrise in the African bush.
 
A record-breaking cargo flight with all 33 lions on board jetted into Johannesburg on Saturday night. The lions, saved during an ADI mission to help enforce bans on wild animal acts in Peru and Colombia, are now settling into their forever home at Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary, situated on a private estate in Limpopo Province. Many of the lions have been declawed and have broken teeth so would not survive in the wild.
 
During an 18-month operation in Peru, ADI raided every circus and rescued every animal.  Known as Operation Spirit of Freedom, and also providing support on wildlife trafficking enforcement, 100 animals were saved – most, including bears and six different species of monkeys, were rehomed in Peru.  Nine circus lions were also handed to ADI in Colombia where a ban has also been passed.
 
A massive ADI relocation effort began on Thursday morning in Bucaramanga in Colombia, with nine lions loaded into travel crates and travelling to Bogota by truck. The same night 24 rescued lions were loaded into travel crates in Peru and taken to Lima Airport.  A huge MD11 aircraft chartered from ethical cargo company Priority Worldwide Services then flew the nine lions from Bogota to Lima where they were joined on board for a trans-Atlantic flight to Johannesburg – not without its problems due to a long delay in Brazil due to a computer problem. The lions were monitored throughout the flight by ADI President Jan Creamer, ADI Vice President Tim Phillips, and ADI veterinarian Eva Chomba. The lions arrived in South Africa on Saturday evening, bellowing out a huge roar that echoed through the aircraft as they touched down. Trucks donated by Ibubesi Transport Logistics then carried the lions to Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary in Limpopo, arriving Sunday morning.
 
The dawn of a new day marks their first full day of freedom under the African sun and new beginnings for the lions in the natural bush environment they now call home. Returning to the homeland their ancestors had been torn from, the lions can feel the African soil beneath their feet and the sun on their backs, protected within an environment they can be given the care they need. One of the nine lions from Colombia, Iron, was the first of the 33 to step into his forever home, clearly relishing being able to rub up against a tree, another first for the big cats who had formerly lived in cages on the back of circus trucks.
 
Jan Creamer ADI President:  “Before ADI rescued them, these animals had never felt the grass beneath their feet or the sun over their heads, yesterday they were in the African bush.  This has been a really important mission because it has eliminated circus suffering in Peru, saving future generations of animals.  Getting the animals home has been exhausting and exhilarating.”
 
Savannah Heuser, founder of Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary: This is their birth-right. African sun, African night skies, African bush and sounds, clouds, summer thunderstorms, large enclosures in a natural setting where they can remember who they are.  We love being part of the final rescue. Knowing that ADI has changed laws means that wild animals will never again be exploited like this again in Peru and that process has begun in Colombia.”
 
To familiarize the big cats with their new home, the lions will initially live in “bonding camps” where families will also be reintroduced. Then, over the coming months, the lions will be released into huge habitats with platforms and watering holes, for which donations are being sought as well as the lions’ ongoing care.  www.lionsbacktoafrica.org   
 
ADI has launched an appeal to fund phase two of the lion habitats and to care for the lions for life, which for some lions could be as long as 20 years. http://bit.ly/1TjatPq

 
The lion flight marked the epic conclusion of the ADI rescue mission in Peru, which TV legend Bob Barker’s DJ & T Foundation helped kickstart with a major donation that enabled ADI to start raiding circuses and removing animals. The cost of the lions’ first class ticket to freedom was funded through an online campaign by ADI and GreaterGood.com, with individuals including Oakland Zoo, Dr. Lo Sprague & Rev. Dr. Gwynne Guibord, Elise Zoli, and the Facebook group ‘Lion Lovers’ stepping in to fund the $10,00 airfare of individual animals.

Businesses have also donated services and goods or discounted services to help get the lions home including Priority Worldwide Services who chartered the MD11F cargo aircraft, Spherical Logistics and Swissport International at Johannesburg Airport, and fencing manufacturer Bonnox, Lood Swanevelder Fencing, Faan Venter, Ibubesi Transport Logistics, and Chill Box (who donated a freezer room at the lions new home).
 
ADI and Emoya would like to thank the Peruvian Government departments, SERFOR and ATFFS, and Police and in Colombia CDMB, a regional wildlife authority in Bucaramanga for enabling this incredible operation to happen.



  
About Animal Defenders International
Operating from Los Angeles, London and Bogota, ADI campaigns across the globe on animals in entertainment, providing technical advice to governments, securing progressive animal protection legislation, drafting regulations and rescuing animals in distress. ADI has a worldwide reputation for providing video and photographic evidence exposing behind-the-scenes suffering in the industry and supporting this evidence with scientific research on captive wildlife and transport. ADI rescues animals and educates the public.  www.ad-international.org
 
About Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary
The Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary is set in 5,000 hectares of pristine African bush on a private estate in Limpopo Province. Opened by Savannah Heuser in 2012 when she was just 16 years old, the sanctuary has a no breeding policy and is not open to the public. https://www.facebook.com/EmoyaBigCats

 
Worldwide end to use of wild animals in traveling shows:  The evidence that the suffering caused to wild animals by the constant travel, severe restrictions on movement and unnatural lifestyle has prompted authorities and governments around the world to end their use.
 
National restrictions on performing animals in travelling circuses, either wild or all animals, have been enacted in 32 countries – Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, India, Iran, Israel, Malta, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, Slovenia, Sweden, and Taiwan, The Netherlands. Similar laws are under discussion in the UK, USA, Brazil and Chile.

 


Video and Images of Today's Beach Release

Click Here to Watch Video 

Click Here to Download B-Roll Without Captions

(Grand Isle, La.) – Today, Audubon Nature Institute and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries in coordination with NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service and Chicago Zoological Society's Sarasota Dolphin Research Program released a juvenile male dolphin into Barataria Bay. The dolphin is the first to be rescued, rehabilitated and released back into the wild off Louisiana’s coast.

“This is a truly notable event,” explained Mandy Tumlin, the Louisiana State Stranding Coordinator for marine mammals and sea turtles. “Dolphins can be deemed non-releasable for a variety of reasons, such as a medical condition that may hinder their ability to survive.”
 
On October 26, 2015, biologists from LDWF responded to a report by a private citizen of a live, stranded dolphin on Grand Isle Beach. Based on initial evaluations, the 6.5-foot-long juvenile dolphin was responsive. High water and rough seas associated with Hurricane Patricia likely contributed to the cause of the stranding.
 
“It’s unknown how long the animal was on the beach before he was discovered, but that period of time was a definite strain on him,” said Tumlin. “Dolphins are accustomed to buoyancy when in the water, so there is significant strain on their muscles when the animal is stranded and take on their entire body weight."
 
“We had a short window to diagnose whether the animal could be released or brought back to Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center (FMASSC) in New Orleans for treatment,” said Audubon’s Stranding and Rescue Coordinator Gabriella Vazquez. “He was lethargic and had short, shallow breaths. We attempted a soft release in the surf, but he showed no initiative to swim back into the Gulf.”
 
The dolphin was transported to FMASSC and made positive progress in the following months of evaluation and treatment.
Named “Octavius’’ in an affectionate nod to the Audubon veterinarian caring for him, the dolphin responded well to treatment and was able to swim on his own.

In order to determine if the dolphin was a candidate for release, specific milestones needed to be met. First, he was required to pass behavioral clearance. Vazquez explained: “Octavius showed no signs of abnormal swimming, breathing or diving behavior. Importantly, he had not become desensitized to humans – which is crucial because human interaction with dolphins in the wild can be a problem.”
 
Tumlin further explained, “Animals can often become dependent on humans for food and other resources following time in rehabilitative care. Dolphins are very intelligent animals. Over time, they can learn to associate humans and boats as a source for food, which is why it is illegal to feed them in the wild.”
 
Next, the dolphin passed an “auditory evoked potential test” administered by Dr. Dorian S. Houser, Ph.D., Director of Conservation and Biological Research for the National Marine Mammal Foundation, and showed no signs of hearing impairment.
 
Finally, Octavius passed medical clearance, including blood work and veterinary examinations, showing no indication of congenital defects or medical issues that would hinder his ability to survive in the wild.

Because Octavius was only 190cm in length at stranding, he could be as young as 1 year or as old as 7 years (best age estimate is ~3 years). Because there is the possibility that he could be a dependent calf (if he were 1-2 years old), he is being considered a “conditionally releasable” animal. Both LDWF and Audubon are responsible for stringent post monitoring protocols outlined by NOAA/NMFS. Staff will be required to monitor this animal in the wild over the next six weeks.

"Audubon and LDWF have been working tirelessly to care for Octavius," said Vazquez. "While there is still more critical work to be done with post-release monitoring, we have given this animal the best chance for a successful return to the wild."

Dr. Randy Wells, Director of the
Chicago Zoological Society’s Sarasota Dolphin Research Program affixed a tag to the dorsal fin of the dolphin allowing staff to monitor him in real-time. “The tag allows for satellite tracking as well as radio tracking. Since he could be a younger animal, this type of monitoring is necessary to ensure he is thriving back in the wild,” said Tumlin.
 
LDWF Secretary Charlie Melancon added, “While this animal is not completely out of the woods, this is a remarkable story demonstrating the success of our strong partnership with Audubon Nature Institute, working together to preserve this species for future generations. We are happy to be able to return this animal to the wild in its natural environment today.”
 
LDWF leads the response for sea turtles and marine mammal strandings, and Audubon Nature Institute works closely with the department as a response partner to collect data about existing populations of animals along Louisiana’s coast and waterways and to assist and support researchers in the conservation of marine species.
 
“This is one of the latest in a series of successful stranding network rescues across the country,” said
Audubon Nature Institute President and CEO Ron Forman.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums
facilities make up roughly 25 percent of non-governmental response partners.  According to NOAA, “Over the last decade, 7,979 marine mammal standings have been reported in the Southeast region with an average of 798 strandings per year."
 
“This cooperative group of partners has rescued, rehabilitated and released more than 200 sea turtles and marine mammals since 2010,” said Forman. “It is critically important that we all work together to save animals in the wild.”
 
“We are particularly grateful to the public who continually assist us with our recovery efforts by reporting these strandings to our department,” said Melancon. “Robert Shannon, the individual who first discovered the dolphin lying beached on its side, likely saved this animal's life.”
 
The public can contact LDWF’s stranding hotline at (337) 962-7092 or Audubon Coastal Wildlife at (504) 235-3005 if they encounter an injured or stranded (live or dead) marine mammal or sea turtle or report strandings through NOAA's Dolphin & Whale 911 app for your smartphone (
http://1.usa.gov/1b1kqfv).

Click Here to Download High-Resolution Images

Click Here to Watch Video of Rescue

Audubon Nature Institute
Audubon Nature Institute operates a family of museums, parks and research facilities dedicated to celebrating the wonders of nature. Through innovative live animal exhibits, education programs, and scientific discovery, Audubon makes a meaningful contribution to preserving wildlife for the future. Audubon Nature Institute flagships include Audubon Park, Audubon Zoo, Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, Entergy Giant Screen Theater, Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, Audubon Louisiana Nature Center, Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Special Survival Center, Woldenberg Riverfront Park and Audubon Wilderness Park. Ron Forman is President and CEO of Audubon Nature Institute.

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BirdLife International, American Bird Conservancy (ABC), IUCN, UNEP, GEF, and the Governments of Brazil, Chile, and Madagascar team up to safeguard endangered species

(Montreal/Cambridge/Washington, D.C., April 28, 2016)Gathered in Montreal1, leading conservation organizations have announced a new global initiative to prevent the extinction of endangered species, in partnership with the governments of Brazil, Chile, and Madagascar.

Supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the initiative will mobilize $6.7 million to deliver a project entitled the “Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE): Conserving Earth’s Most Irreplaceable Sites for Endangered Biodiversity.”AZEis a global initiative working to prevent species extinctions by identifying and safeguarding the places where Endangered or Critically Endangered species are restricted to single remaining sites.

Birds such as theStresemann’s Bristlefront2, clinging to existence with fewer than 15 known individuals in significantly fragmented habitat in Brazil, will be targeted. The project’s focus will be the creation and improved management effectiveness of protected areas and the improved conservation status of AZE species at five demonstration sites in Brazil, Chile, and Madagascar and at an additional 10 sites globally.3

“By focusing on those sites that represent the tip of the iceberg of the extinction crisis, the Alliance for Zero Extinction is a key approach to save species from extinction,” said Gustavo Fonseca, GEF Director of Programs. “These are sites that are the last remnants for entire species. Saving the habitat is saving these fragile species."

Carlos Alberto de Mattos Scaramuzza, Ministry of the Environment, Government of Brazil,stated:“By expanding the Mata do PassarinhoReserve and working with local landowners, this initiative will provide a vital lifeline for the critically endangered Stresemann’s Bristlefront. The initiative will provide essential information to inform national species conservation efforts, by focusing effort on the last remaining habitats of endangered species.”

Neville Ash, UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre Director,said:“Working with the GEF and other partners, this UNEP project is the first global effort to integrate AZE as a distinct priority into conservation planning at the national level. It will scale up best practices on effective and equitable management of the world’s ecological safety nets, and has potential to have a major long-term reduction of global extinction rates, directly contributing towards CBD’s Aichi Targets 11 and 12.”

Braulio Dias, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity,stated:“Protecting the last remaining habitats for critically endangered species is a vital strategy for preventing extinctions. The CBD Secretariat welcomes this initiative as a contribution towards global species conservation efforts.”

Diego Flores Arrate, Ministry of the Environment, Government of Chile,said: “In Chile, the initiative seeks to create conditions for the survival of three amphibian species, by protecting their habitat and reducing impacts from farming, ranching, and logging activities, considering a participatory approach with different stakeholders.”

Paola Mosig Reidl, CONABIO, Government of Mexico,stated:“Mexico is a strong supporter of the Alliance for Zero Extinction. As host of the CBD COP this year, Mexico welcomes the role of the AZE initiative in informing global species conservation efforts.”

Michael Parr, Chairman of AZE and Chief Conservation Officer for American Bird Conservancy,said: “AZE presents an ambitious but realistic plan to address Earth’s pending extinction crisis. This is a team effort that ultimately needs to involve all of us. The time for action is now.”

Pepe Clarke, Head of Policy, BirdLife International,stated:“This initiative is particularly important as it links local conservation action to national and international policy. We are truly honoured to be working with the Governments of Brazil, Chile and Madagascar.”

# # #

 
 
 
ITHACA, N.Y. – Canine parvovirus, or CPV, emerged as a deadly threat to dogs in the late 1970s, most likely the result of the direct transfer of feline panleukopenia or a similar virus from domesticated cats.
 
CPV has since spread to wild forest-dwelling animals, including raccoons, and the transfer of the virus from domesticated to wild carnivores has been something of a mystery.
 
“The underlying issue is, how do viruses jump from one animal to another and what controls viral host range?” said Colin Parrish, the John M. Olin Professor of Virology and director of the Baker Institute for Animal Health at Cornell University.
 
Parrish co-authored a research paper, published in the Journal of Virology, with Susan Daniel, associate professor in Cornell’s Robert Frederick Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, which contends that a key mutation in the protein shell of CPV – a single amino acid substitution – plays a major role in the virus’ ability to infect hosts of different species.
 
“That was a critical step,” he said. “It took a lot of changes to allow that to happen.”
 
He said another key factor in CPV’s infectivity is adhesion strengthening during TfR binding.
 
“There’s an initial attachment, which is probably relatively weak,” he said. “The thing just grabs on and holds on a little bit, sort of like using your fingertips. And then it looks like there’s a second attachment that is much stronger, where it’s like you grab on and hold on with both hands and won’t let go.”
 
“We think that the second event, this structural interaction that occurs in a small proportion of the binding cases, seems to be critical,” he said. “We think that it actually causes a change in the virus, that it triggers a small shift in the virus that actually makes it able to infect successfully.”
 
One of Daniel’s specialties is the investigation of chemically patterned surfaces that interact with soft matter, including biological materials such as cells, viruses, proteins and lipids. Her lab has pioneered a method called single-particle tracking – placing artificial cell membranes into microfluidics devices, fabricated at the CNF, to study the effect of single virus particles on a variety of membrane host receptors, in this case from both dogs and raccoons.
 
“The nice thing about these materials is that we can design them to have all different kinds of chemistries,” she said. “So in this particular study, we can put the receptor of interest in there, isolated from everything else so we can look at the specific effect of that receptor on a particular virus interaction.”
Daniel’s lab also developed the precision imaging devices used in the study.
 
“Another piece of this paper is how the parvovirus actually sits down and binds even stronger over time with that receptor,” Daniel said. “That was kind of a new result that came out of the technique itself, being able to look at individual binding events.”
 
“When this virus infects a young animal, it can be fatal,” Parrish said. “It’s very unpleasant, and if you own a puppy or a kitten, that’s why you should vaccinate.”
 
This work was funded by grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.
 
 

Birding Gets Up Close and Personal

From attention-grabbing mating displays to musical songs, vibrant color patterns and intricate nesting behaviors, it’s easy to see why a recent USDA Forest Service National Survey on Recreation and the Environment found that 85 million Americans are fascinated by birds. They attend classes, enter competitions, join clubs, invest in expensive gear, post on social media, and, of course, spend hours behind a pair of binoculars.

 

Did You Know?

Crow kids help bring up and babysit the next year’s nestlings.

Spider silk is an essential material in the construction of hummingbird nests.

Red-Winged Blackbirds can have eggs of several different fathers in one nest.

During courtship, a male Great Blue Heron will propose to his intended mate with series of sticks.

But for all this work, even experienced birders may never see the intimate lives of the species they observe. And popular birding literature focuses more on helping birders add to their life lists than on showing what makes each species unique: the sometimes endearing, sometimes peculiar, often astonishing details that make up their daily lives. Until now. With Into the Nest, birding experts Laura Erickson and Marie Read present beautiful, close-up photographs and text that capture each dramatic and spectacular stage of the family lives of birds, from courtship through mating, nest construction, egg-laying, parenting on the nest, nestling, feeding time, and, finally, the first triumphant flight of the fledglings.

 

With its careful documentation of life stages of common birds and its never-before-seen shots, Into the Nest offers a unique perspective on a popular American pastime. Now beginning birders and seasoned experts alike can experience the private lives of their favorite species — from the dramatic “sky dances” of courting Bald Eagles to the gentle berry exchanges between Cedar Waxwing parents, from Downy Woodpecker chicks developing inside their tree cavity to a Warbler feeding a Cowbird chick twice her size.

 

Laura Erickson is the author of seven bird books and has served as an editor of BirdScope magazine and a columnist and contributing editor for BirdWatching magazine, as well as a contributor to the All About Birds website. She recently won the American Birding Association’s prestigious Roger Tory Peterson Lifetime Achievement Award. She lives in Duluth, Minnesota.

 

Marie Read is the author of three books, and her photographs and articles have been featured in magazines including BirdWatching, Birds & Blooms, Bird Watcher’s Digest, and National Geographic. She lives in Freeville, New York.

 

Into the Nest

Laura Erickson and Marie Read

Storey Publishing, April 2015

208 pages; 9 ¾" x 8 ½"

Full-color; photographs and illustrations throughout

$16.95 Paper; ISBN 978-1-61212-229-8

Action Alert
Don’t Let Hawaii Spread Deadly Poison That Could Kill Cats and Other Animals!

Dear Becky,

We need your help! Animals and people in Hawaii are in danger.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources are considering a plan to kill rat and mongoose populations by aerially and manually spreading deadly poison. This poison would indiscriminately affect all wildlife, poison the water supply, and potentially even make its way to humans.

The poison is an anticoagulant, which causes victims to hemorrhage and slowly bleed to death. The poison could be ingested by any animal, including cats, either directly or by eating a poisoned animal. The plan also includes live traps, kill traps, and multi-kill devices, which will harm non-target animals, too.

Comments on the plan are open until Thursday, April 7.

Please comment and tell the Fish and Wildlife Service that you oppose this deadly and irresponsible plan.

Below is a template with important points to make. We highly encourage you to comment in your own words and make your voice heard. 

I oppose this experimental plan because it is irresponsible and highly dangerous for animals and humans. Indiscriminately spraying poison will not just affect the target animals, but all animals in the area who could come into contact with the poison directly or indirectly by eating poisoned animals. Pets, other wildlife, and even people will be endangered.

The poisons could end up in the ocean and water supply and do further damage to wildlife and plant life, and even work their way up the human food chain.  Even worse, the suggested chemicals are anticoagulants, which cause animals to suffer and bleed to death slowly. The mechanical methods being considered are also cruel and highly ineffective. Kill traps and multi-kill devices do not discriminate and endanger all wildlife.

I don’t want to live, visit or vacation in a place where the government is recklessly spreading deadly poisons. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources must go back to the drawing board and come up with humane, sound methods.

All comments must be submitted here. Click the ‘Comment Now!’ button in the upper right corner to create your own message. You can copy and paste the text above but again, we encourage you to write your own words with these points in mind.

Spreading poison could cause lasting damage to Hawaii’s animals and environment, and goes against the Hawaii spirit of love, peace and compassion. Comment on the plan and tell the Fish and Wildlife Service that you don’t want to live, visit or vacation in a place where deadly poison puts humans and animals in danger.

Becky Robinson

Sincerely,

Becky Robinson
Becky Robinson
Founder and President, Alley Cat Allies 

P.S. Please share this with your friends and family. We need as many voices as possible to stop this deadly plan from happening.

 

Zoo and Conservation Facility Was Ranked #4 in the U.S. and #9 in the World in TripAdvisor's 'Zoo' Category
 
MIAMI, FLA. - APR. 4, 2016 - TripAdvisor, the world's largest travel site, has recognized the Zoological Wildlife Foundation (ZWF Miami) as a winner of the 2016 TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice™ awards. For two consecutive years, ZWF Miami, a zoo, preservation and conservation facility in Miami, Fla., was ranked as the #4 in the United States, and #9 in the world in the "zoo" category, based on popularity according to feedback from travelers.
 
"We are so honored to receive this prestigious recognition," said Mario Tabraue, president and director of ZWF Miami. "We are thankful to the thousands of members of the TripAdvisor community who have taken the time to rate and review their experience of our park."
 
ZWF Miami is home to more than 150 animals, including domestic animals, leopards, big cats, primates, large predatory birds, mammals and dozens of other exotic species, most of which are available for interactive encounters with the public. It was founded in 2001 by Mario and Maria Tabraue, and is dedicated to preserving and protecting animals, as well as educating the public about rare and endangered animal species in captivity and in the wild. The foundation is accredited by the Zoological Association of America.
 
ZWF Miami is located at 16225 SW 172 Ave. in Miami, Florida and is open-to-the-public seven days a week. Tours of the park are available by appointment only. Visit www.zwfmiami.com or call 800-300-6542 or 305-969-3696 for more information.
 
Follow ZWF Miami on social media:
Twitter and Instagram: @ZWFMiami
 
About the Zoological Wildlife Foundation
Founded in 2001, the Zoological Wildlife Foundation (ZWF Miami) is an organization accredited by the Zoological Association of America that serves as a zoo and a conservation facility that is dedicated to educating the public about rare and endangered animal species in captivity and in the wild. Located south of Miami and spanning several breathtaking acres of land, ZWF Miami is home to everything from domestic animals, leopards, big cats primates, large predatory birds and mammals to dozens of exotic species, most of which are available for interactive encounters with the public. ZWF Miami has a sister facility that is a private reserve where animals rescued from being terminated or from being raised to be hunted live alongside confiscated and unwanted exotic species. At this location, endangered species are bred in captivity and injured animals are brought here to recuperate.
 

 

Successful Crowdfunding Campaign and Corporate Donations Make Cam Possible

 

Annapolis, Md. – Following a successful crowdfunding campaign and corporate donations, the Chesapeake Conservancy today announced the launch of its third wildlife webcam. In addition to the osprey and peregrine falcon cams, visitors to the Chesapeake Conservancy’s website can now also enjoy a Great Blue Heron cam (heron cam). The live-streaming webcam found at chesapeakeconservancy.org/blue-heron-webcam, gives viewers around-the-clock coverage of a heron rookery located on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

“We’re thrilled with this chance to share these majestic birds with the public. We often see Great Blue Herons soaring in the sky or hunting fish by the water’s edge, but rarely do we get to see them up close and at home in their rookery. We’re so grateful for the more than 100 people whose donations have made this possible and to the homeowner who is lucky enough to have this magnificent habitat in their backyard and is willing to share it with the world,” Chesapeake Conservancy President and CEO Joel Dunn said.

“The Chesapeake Conservancy uses technology to connect, conserve and restore the Chesapeake. Through our wildlife webcams and virtual tours of the John Smith Chesapeake Trail, we hope technology will help connect people to the Chesapeake Bay,” Dunn continued. “People see these iconic species and fall in love with them. They see how the birds interact with their habitats and it creates a desire to support conservation efforts such as Maryland’s Program Open Space and the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund to protect the ecosystems that sustain these and all wildlife in the region.”

A private homeowner contacted the Chesapeake Conservancy last month expressing an interest in sharing the rookery located on their property with the world via a webcam. For the last ten years, the property has been home to between 10 and 12 nests, and as many as 50 herons, 100 feet off the ground in loblolly pine trees.

Logistics moved quickly as the herons were soon to return to the rookery to mate and incubate their eggs.  The Chesapeake Conservancy turned to the public for financial support to launch the new webcam by crowdfunding through a gofundme.com campaign. To date, more than $6,500 has been raised from more than 100 donors, ranging from $5 to $500. While the Chesapeake Conservancy will continue to fundraise to support and maintain the cam, this was enough to get the cam up and running.

The cam is powered by Mediacom, who donated equipment and Internet services for the live-stream. Skyline Technology Solutions, Inc., based in Glen Burnie, MD, provided a discounted installation rate and equipment. Skyline also supports the Chesapeake Conservancy’s osprey and peregrine falcon cams. Axis Communications also provided discounted equipment. Generously, a tree company based in Rehobeth, DE, donated their services to mount the cam in the 100-foot-tall pine.

Heron cam features a wider-angle view to capture activity from multiple nests, as well as infrared night vision to see in darkness. Currently, two nests can be seen on the camera, and one is home to two herons alternating incubation of their eggs. It is believed that the eggs are due to hatch in mid-April. The homeowner has named the couple “Rell & Eddie” after the surfers Rell Sunn and Eddie Aikau, both deceased but not forgotten.

“Another nest featured more prominently on the cam seems to be serving as a ‘supply closet’ for the heron rookery. I jokingly call the visitors ‘great blue bandits’ as they periodically land there to ‘steal’ sticks for their own nests. It is quite a surprise when one of the bandits land,” Chesapeake Conservancy Director of Communications Jody Couser said. “The pines sway in the breeze and sometimes, when it’s windy, I wonder how the eggs will stay in the nest. At night, you can often hear an owl nearby.”

“Mediacom is proud to partner with the Chesapeake Conservancy to help bring the natural beauty of Maryland’s Eastern Shore to bird watchers around the world,” said Pat Hynes, Mediacom’s Director of Area Operations. “This initiative is a shining example of how Mediacom’s innovative high-speed Internet technology positively impacts the communities we serve.”

"Skyline Technology Solutions is pleased to partner with the Chesapeake Conservancy on a third wildlife webcam. It's exciting to see our technology help connect people with nature and benefit the conservation movement,” Aaron Kahn, business development, Skyline Technology Solutions, Inc., said.

The Chesapeake Conservancy currently hosts two successful webcams featuring osprey and peregrine falcons, which have each attracted more than a million views a year from around the world. "Tom and Audrey," are Kent Island's celebrity osprey couple, and peregrines "Boh and Barb " live in downtown Baltimore on the Transamerica skyscraper.

According to the Chesapeake Bay Program’s website, great blue herons live in colonies called rookeries. These tall, bluish-gray wading birds have long, pointed bills and graceful, S-shaped necks. They live year-round in marshes and wetlands throughout the Chesapeake Bay region and are also found on freshwater lakes, ponds and impoundments. The great blue heron grows to 4 feet tall with a 6 to 7 foot wingspan. Despite its large size, its hollow bones allow it to weigh only 5 to 6 pounds. The great blue heron eats mostly fish, but will also feed on insects, amphibians, crustaceans and other small animals. It silently stalks its prey in shallow waters, and then plunges its bill into the water to capture it. It will spend about 90 percent of its waking hours hunting for food.

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The Chesapeake Conservancy's mission is to strengthen the connection between people and the watershed, conserve the landscapes and special places that sustain the Chesapeake's unique natural and cultural resources, and restore landscapes, rivers, and habitats in the Chesapeake Bay region. http://www.chesapeakeconservancy.org.

Mediacom Communications Corporation is the eighth largest cable operator in the U.S. serving about 1.3 million customers in smaller markets primarily in the Midwest and Southeast through its wholly-owned subsidiaries, Mediacom Broadband LLC and Mediacom LLC. Mediacom offers a wide array of information, communications and entertainment services to households and businesses, including video, high-speed data, phone, and home security and automation. Through Mediacom Business, the company provides innovative broadband solutions to commercial and public sector customers of all sizes, and sells advertising and production services under the OnMedia brand. More information about Mediacom is available at www.mediacomcc.com.

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Maintaining Feral Cat Colonies at Jones Beach Puts Piping Plovers at Risk

Piping Plover and chick_Michael Stubblefield_U PR

ABC's lawsuit asserts that Endangered Piping Plovers are at risk from feral cats at Jones Beach State Park, New York. Photo © Michael Stubblefield

Contact:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., ABC Director of Invasive Species Programs, 202-888-7480

(Washington, D.C. March 31, 2016)American Bird Conservancy (ABC) today filed suit in federal court against the New York Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation (Parks Office) over the continued presence of feral cat colonies at Jones Beach State Park. The colonies exist in close proximity to the nesting sites ofPiping Plovers, a species listed as "Threatened" in the Atlantic Coast region under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). New York State’s own Endangered Species Act lists the species as “Endangered.”

In a March 17, 2015 letter to ABC, the Parks Office acknowledged the presence of feral cats at Jones Beach and agreed that "our goal should be the removal of feral cats within New York State Parks." Yet no significant action has been taken. “The endangered plovers are already arriving for the 2016 breeding season and are being placed at an unacceptable risk," said Grant Sizemore, Director of ABC’sInvasive Species Programs.

ABC's complaint seeks an injunction to require that the Parks Office remove the feral cats from Jones Beach and follows a Notice of Intent to Sue submitted on Dec. 1, 2015.

“We regret that legal action is our only recourse,” said Mike Parr, ABC's Chief Conservation Officer. “We would far prefer to settle this out of court.” He added, “The park has placed ‘no pets’ signs at its parking lots, yet allows cats to be fed in the same areas. It makes no sense to prevent one but allow the other.”

The State has long accommodated multiple feral cat colonies at Jones Beach in spite of the known risks to Piping Plovers. The Parks Office has allowed structures to be built to house the cats, and it permits local residents to feed them routinely.

In 2009, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) identified feral cats as a threat to Piping Plovers in the species’ Atlantic Coast range, which includes Jones Beach. As FWS stated in itsreport, “Recent research and reports indicate that predation poses a continuing (and perhaps intensifying) threat to Atlantic Coast Piping Plovers.”

Piping Plover chicks_Venu Challa_PR

Plover chicks are especially vulnerable to predation before they are able to fly. Photo by Venu Challa

The FWS recognized that Piping Plovers are especially vulnerable to feral cats. Adult birds often feign a broken wing to distract predators, putting them at high risk of predation from non-native species. Plover chicks also move around the beach for approximately 25 days before they are able to fly, during which time they are especially vulnerable to cats.

Although many cats are beloved pets, free-roaming and feral cats are non-native predators that kill approximately2.4 billion birdsannually in the U.S.  A single feral cat can kill, on average, from 20 to 55 birds a year. Responding to this threat, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo last yearvetoedlegislation that would have supported “Trap, Neuter, Release” programs that support feral cat colonies, citing the impacts these cats can have “on wildlife, including on threatened and endangered species, habitats, and food sources for native predators.”

“Feeding feral cats, as happens at Jones Beach, does not eliminate their instinct to hunt,” said Sizemore. “And in fact, the mere presence of cats has been shown to have significant adverse effects on breeding birds. Even when cats do not directly kill wildlife, they disrupt nesting and feeding behaviors.” One 2013 studyshowed as much as a 33 percent reduction in feeding of nestlings after cats made even a brief appearance near breeding areas.

American Bird Conservancy is being represented byGoodwin Procter LLPon a pro bono basis.

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American Bird Conservancy is the Western Hemisphere's bird conservation specialist—the only organization with a single and steadfast commitment to achieving conservation results for native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas.  With a focus on efficiency and working in partnership, we take on the toughest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on sound science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation.

 

Group has petitioned for new regulations to protect birds from wind turbines

 

(Washington, D.C., March 24, 2016)American Bird Conservancy (ABC) today released a list of 10 of the worst-sited existing and proposed commercial wind energy projects from the perspective of bird conservation. As the hunger for alternative energy grows, thousands of new wind energy projects are being planned and built—often without regard for the serious risks they pose to birds and other wildlife.(View the list as areport on our blogor as a PDF.)

A leader in developing and supporting the concept of “Bird-Smart” wind energy, ABC identified these 10 poorly sited projects based on a number of factors, including whether they fall in areas considered to be of high risk to birds onABC’s Wind Risk Assessment Map. ABC also examined pre-construction risk studies and related information about these 10 sites to assess the potential for impacts to federally protected species, and studied reports on post-construction mortality data where they were available.

Inadequate System of Checks and Balances

“ABC supportsBird-Smart wind, and it is not our intention to criticize the concept of renewable wind development in general or the developers of the specific projects included in the list,” said Mike Parr, ABC Vice President and Chief Conservation Officer. “Rather, this list is intended to demonstrate that, under the present voluntary guidelines, there is an inadequate system of checks and balances to protect American native birds from poorly planned wind development on a large scale.

“These projects are illustrative of a much broader problem,” Parr continued, “and have been selected to illustrate a range of threats to birds in various regions and habitats—threats that are unfortunately widespread in the wind industry.”

Thelisted projects—five already built or approved and five proposed—are located throughout the United States, in California, Hawaii, Kansas, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, North Dakota, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Some of these projects, like the Summit Repowering Project in the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area in northern California, have a long history of causing bird deaths. Kaheawa on Maui, Hawaii, is considered a top killer of endangered birds, in spite of having conducted a pre-construction environmental risk assessment and implemented a Habitat Conservation Plan. Another, the proposed offshore Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound, would be spread over a 24-square-mile area used by as many as six million migratory birds.

All of the listed projects illustrate the risks of poor siting and the limitations of current mitigation strategies, many of which are still untested for their efficacy. “The wind-energy industry has long claimed that the notorious wind developments in Altamont Pass are an exception in their killing of large numbers of eagles and other birds, and that other wind projects should not be judged in the same way,” said Dr. Michael Hutchins, Director of ABC’s Bird-Smart Wind Energy Campaign. “ABC’s analysis shows that many wind projects kill birds, and not just eagles. Bird killing is more often the norm than the exception.”

 

Turbines in Sensitive Areas for Birds

The 10 listed projects are demonstrative of the inadequate consideration provided to birds during project planning and siting, in locations both on and offshore. As many as 52,000 large turbines already exist nationally, and tens of thousands more are planned, along with hundreds of miles of new transmission lines and towers to carry their energy to the grid. Wind-energy facilities and their associated infrastructure now result in the deaths every year, at minimum, of hundreds of thousands of federally protected birds. According to projections, this is likely to climb into the millions as wind power is fully built out.

ABC fully recognizes the important role that alternative energy, including wind power, can play in addressing climate change. However, current voluntary federal regulatory guidelines fail to keep wind developers from constructing and planning turbines or power transmission lines in sensitive areas for birds.

 

Proper Siting of Turbines Essential

Proper siting is essential and remains the most effective way for wind-energy developers to avoid or reduce bird mortality. ABC has mapped high-risk bird areas to help developers avoid bird hotspots and has petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to put in place a mandatory wind-facility permitting system that requires increased transparency, including independent environmental reviews, public availability of bird-mortality data, and mitigation and compensation for any completely unavoidable bird deaths.

“Alternative energy is not ‘green’ if it is killing hundreds or thousands or millions of birds annually,” said Hutchins. “It’s time to hold the industry accountable for conducting adequate, independent pre-construction site assessments and post-construction mortality studies, and for providing public access to the data so that they can help determine the efficacy and appropriateness of mitigation and compensation.

“Our wildlife should not be collateral damage in our effort to combat climate change, nor does it have to be,” Hutchins added. “Improved regulation and science leading to proper siting, effective mitigation, and compensation would go a long way to address this conflict.”

(View the list of "10 Worst-sited Wind Energy Projects for Birds" as aPDFor as areport on our blog.)

 

ABC's efforts to establish Bird-Smart wind energy in the U.S. are made possible in part by the generous support of the Leon Levy Foundation.

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