Conservation and animal protection groups on Wednesday filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to consider Endangered Species Act protections for Africa’s rapidly dwindling giraffe population.
The groups Center for Biological Diversity, the Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society International and several others petitioned for giraffe protections in April 2017, but the species still has not received the legally required finding that was due in April 2018, nor any protection under the Act.
Last year, after a lawsuit filed by the groups, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that giraffes may qualify for protections under the Act — but the agency has failed to make a decision or implement any protective measures.
“Giraffes are loved by people around the world, so it’s shocking and sad that the U.S. government is ignoring their tragic plight,” said Tanya Sanerib, international legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “As giraffe populations plummet, these extraordinary creatures desperately need the Endangered Species Act’s sturdy shield. But three years after we petitioned for protections, federal officials are still stalling on safeguards for everyone’s favorite longnecked mammal.”
With fewer than 69,000 mature individuals remaining in the wild, giraffes have been undergoing what has been called a silent extinction. Giraffe populations have dropped nearly 40% due to habitat loss, civil unrest and poaching and the international trade in bone carvings, skins and trophies puts additional pressure on these iconic animals.
“The United States has an important role to play in preventing extinction of these magnificent creatures, as the top importer of giraffe trophies, and as many Americans import giraffe parts — including bones and skins — to sell them for commercial purposes in the U.S.,” said Adam Peyman, wildlife programs director for Humane Society International, speaking on behalf of Humane Society International and the Humane Society of the United States. “The time has long passed for the Fish and Wildlife Service to take action and put in place desperately needed protections.”
Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) decided in 2019 to regulate international trade in giraffes — including trophies and other body parts — by placing the species on the Appendix II of the Convention. But several key exporting countries in Africa have expressed that they do not intend to implement or enforce CITES requirements with respect to giraffes even though the listing only requires export permits and reporting of international trade in giraffes. Protection under the Endangered Species Act is desperately needed to help curb imports of giraffe bones, trophies and other parts to the U.S. and increase funding for conservation efforts for the species.
On average, the U.S. imports more than one giraffe hunting trophy a day and imported more than 21,400 giraffe bone carvings between 2006 to 2015. Many of the imported giraffe parts are turned into frivolous decorative items such as pillows, boots, bible covers or jackets.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature assessed giraffes as “vulnerable” to extinction in 2016 and classified two giraffe subspecies as “endangered” and two more as “critically endangered” in 2018.
Half the corals on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef have died over the past 25 years, scientists said, warning that climate change is irreversibly destroying the World Heritage-listed underwater ecosystem. A study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society Journal found an alarming rate of decline across all sizes of corals since the mid-1990s on the vast reef that lies off the country’s northeastern coast.
Larger species, such as branching and table-shaped corals, have been worst affected – almost disappearing from the far northern reaches of the reef, researchers found. “They’re typically depleted by (up to) 80 or 90 percent compared to 25 years ago,” report co-author and James Cook University professor Terry Hughes told the AFP news agency. “They make the nooks and crannies that fish and other creatures depend on, so losing big three-dimensional corals changes the broader ecosystem.”
Aside from its inestimable natural, scientific and environmental value, the 2,300-kilometre-long (1,400-mile-long) reef was worth an estimated $4bn a year in tourism revenue for the Australian economy before the coronavirus pandemic struck.
Changes in ocean temperatures stress healthy corals, causing them to expel algae living in their tissues and draining them of their vibrant colours in a process known as bleaching. Back-to-back mass bleaching events in 2016 and 2017 prompted the government to downgrade the long-term outlook for the world’s largest living organism to “very poor”. Mass bleaching was first seen on the reef in 1998 – at the time, the hottest year on record – but as temperatures continue to soar its frequency has increased, making it harder for the reef to recover from each incident.
“A vibrant coral population has millions of small, baby corals, as well as many large ones — the big mamas who produce most of the larvae,” the study’s lead author Andy Dietzel, also of James Cook University, said. “Its resilience is compromised compared to the past because there are fewer babies and fewer large breeding adults.”
On top of long-term ocean warming and associated bleaching, the reef has been battered by several cyclones and two outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish, which eat the coral, since 1995. When the starfish occur in small numbers, they are considered part of the natural ecosystem, but when a large outbreak happens, they can rapidly destroy parts of the reef.
Hughes said scientists expected corals to continue dying off unless nations met their Paris Agreement commitment to keep the increase in global average temperature less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. “It takes about a decade for a half-decent recovery for the fastest-growing species, so the chances of us getting decades between the future sixth, seventh and eighth bleaching events is close to zero because temperatures are going up and up and up,”.
Even then, Hughes said: “We don’t think they’ll rebuild into the mix of species that we’ve known historically”. If the rise is as much as three or four degrees Celsius, “forget it”, he said. “The trajectory is changing very, very quickly – we’re shocked and surprised by how quickly these changes are happening – and there’s further change ahead.” ------------------
Understanding the intrinsic bond between a kitten and its mother might be the key to improving the care of young cats in shelters and foster homes.
New research out of the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) demonstrates orphaned kittens experience higher levels of stress when briefly removed from their nests in the first weeks of their life than those who were mother-reared.
The study looked at kittens and mother cats cared for in foster homes (no animals were deliberately orphaned, UC Davis says). Researchers separated orphaned and mother-reared kittens from their nest and littermates for two-minute periods, recording the number of vocalizations displayed by the animals, as well as their overall level of activity. These behaviors were noted because they are often exhibited by young animals when they are separated from their mothers as a way to find their way back to their nest.
The researchers observed more crying and movement in orphaned kittens as compared to those who were mother-raised. The findings, they say, suggest the effects of early maternal separation persist for at least the first few weeks of a cat’s life.
Young kittens naturally spend most of their time with their mothers and the long-term effects of being orphaned are largely unknown. The study, UC Davis says, could improve the care of kittens put in animal shelters or foster homes in the event of early separation.
Researcher Mikel Delgado, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, emphasizes the findings do necessarily mean kittens raised apart from their mothers will have a tougher upbringing.
“Although we are interpreting these behaviors as signs of stress,” she says, “it’s important to note orphaned kittens receive specialized care, and there may even be some benefits to being hand-raised by humans, especially if kittens have littermates for appropriate social interactions.”
The study, which was supported by Maddie’s Fund and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), National Institutes of Health (NIH), has been published Applied Animal Behaviour Science.
While pudgy pets have been a persistent problem for years, the pandemic certainly hasn’t made things any easier.
Lindsey E. Bullen, DVM, Diplomate ACVN, a veterinary nutritionist, says overfeeding and lack of exercise is to blame.
“People are spending more time at home with their pets, which makes overfeeding and overtreating a greater possibility,” she says. “Owners who are more likely to get up and move may be taking on more of an active role regarding their pet’s activity levels. This means more walks and playtime.”
Further, Dr. Bullen adds, those having a tough time finding suitable work-life balance may be spending less time with their pets and compensating for this by giving them more treats.
“Unfortunately, these modern-day realities can and likely will negatively impact pet weight.”
To help companion animals shed those extra pounds, Bullen offers these tips for veterinarians to share with clients:
- Be cautious when giving your pet human food. Even in small quantities, human food can represent a large percent of your pet’s daily caloric intake, and may cause digestive discomfort or complications (e.g. toxicity, intestinal blockage).
- Don’t give in to begging. Instead of giving your pet food or treats when they’re begging, see if playing or grooming will satisfy them instead. They may simply be hungry for your attention.
- Make meal time fun. Try scatter-feeding your pet using dry food to slow down their eating, while also encouraging them to be more active. Additionally, small treasure hunts can extend mealtime and keep your pet mentally stimulated.
- Use a digital scale. While measuring cups can lack accuracy and cause unintentional overfeeding, digital scales help ensure daily feeding allowance accuracy.
- Opt for healthy treats. Keep in mind that treats (including those used for training and medication administration) should be less than 10 percent of a pet’s total daily caloric intake.
- Involve the whole family. Make sure everyone in the household is aware of the pet’s feeding regime.
- Stay active. For dogs, regular walks and games of catch are great exercise. For cats, try using toys and gadgets (e.g. laser pointers) to promote play.
Despite their herbivorous ways, horses sometimes run into trouble with even the most innocuous vegetation. Cockleburs tangle manes and tails; hedge apples have been known to lodge in throats; and the spiky awns of foxtail pierce gums and cheeks, sometimes leading to oral abscesses. Another plant, blackthorn, causes a much different injury among foxhunters, point-to-point racehorses, and other horses that sail over or through hedges as part of their work: puncture wounds with accompanying synovitis, or inflammation of the lining of the joint capsule.
Blackthorn is a shrub that grows naturally in the woodlands of Europe, New Zealand, western Asia, and parts of North America, including the northwest and northeast United States. As part of its branch structure, blackthorn grows thorns so rigid and sharp that the plant sometimes serves double-duty as cattle-proof hedging and obstacles in cross-country riding. When horses jump the hedges, as they may during foxhunting, the thorns can penetrate the skin that covers joints, resulting in synovitis, sometimes severe.
A recent study described the presentation and outcome of blackthorn-induced synovitis in horses.* Thirty-five horses with these specific injuries were included in the study, and all of the horses presented with profound inflammation of the affected joints.
The mean lameness score of the horses at the time of presentation was 4 or 5 on a scale of 1 to 5, indicating lameness was obvious at the walk (score of 4), or lameness produced minimal weight-bearing or a complete inability to move (score of 5).§
A two-stage surgical technique was used in these cases: (1) high-resolution ultrasound to identify thorn fragments so their removal caused minimal trauma, and (2) arthroscopy to assess synovial structure in order to remove foreign material and rapidly restore function, according to the researchers.
Diagnosis was confirmed through the retrieval of thorn fragments from synovial or perisynovial structures. The most common sites of injuries were tendon sheaths of the forelimb (12 of 35 cases) and fetlock joints (11 of 35).
All horses eventually returned to work in an average of eight weeks. Because of the positive outcomes, synovitis instigated by blackthorn has a different etiology than synovitis originating from sepsis or other types of contamination, the researcher explained.
Musculoskeletal health is critical for all athletic horses but is especially so for those that have had compromises in joint integrity. Choose high-quality joint supplements from reputable manufacturers to keep performance horses comfortable and willing.
According to several studies and anecdotal reports, mares are more likely to suffer from exertional rhabdomyolysis than geldings or stallions, yet researchers cannot pinpoint why sex might be a risk factor for this disease. Could a correlation exist between exertional rhabdomyolysis and the estrus cycle?
European researchers evaluated the changes in muscle enzyme activities in mares affected by exertional rhabdomyolysis compared to control mares before and after typical exercise and the correlation of such changes with the stage of the estrous cycle and sex hormone fluctuations.*
Researchers used 20 Standardbred race mares with regular estrous cycles in a four-week study. Ten mares had experienced at least two bouts of mild to moderate rhabdomyolysis in the previous training season but none in the preceding month. Disease signs in these mares were characteristic: sweating, discomfort, stiffness, reluctance to move, and muscle pain in the hindquarters. Clinical diagnosis was made based on elevated levels of aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and creatine kinase (CK). The other 10 mares had no signs of muscle disease and were designated as controls. Serum muscle enzyme activity before and after exercise and sex hormones were analyzed in both sets of mares.
In sum, the researchers found “that AST activities in mares with exertional rhabdomyolysis are always higher than those in control mares, except for pre-exercise activities during estrus. Hence, far from being a conclusive study, results suggest that sex hormones may play a different role in horses predisposed to exertional rhabdomyolysis.”
While researchers continue to contemplate why racehorse fillies and mares are more susceptible to exertional rhabdomyolysis, it is important to nourish affected horses in a way that undergirds both performance and muscle health.
“Forage should be the foundation of every feeding program, so it is important to establish both the type and expected intake of forage before choosing concentrates or supplements,” said Catherine Whitehouse, M.S., a nutrition advisor at Kentucky Equine Research. “For racehorses with high energy needs and a propensity for gastric ulcers, alfalfa may be the best choice.”
In selecting a concentrate for horses with recurrent exertional rhabdomyolysis (RER), substitution of fat for nonstructural carbohydrates (NSC) as an energy source has proven beneficial. “Current feeding guidelines suggest that NSC should provide no greater than 20%, and fat should provide between 20% and 25%, of daily digestible energy intake for optimal management of RER horses,” explained Whitehouse.§
The benefit of a high-fat diet for RER horses does not, however, appear to be a change in muscle metabolism. Instead, low-starch, high-fat diets may decrease muscle damage by tempering anxiety and excitability, which coincide with the onset of rhabdomyolysis in susceptible horses. Low-starch, high-fat diets led to a calmer demeanor and lower post-exercise heart rates.+
Feeding high-performance horses with exertional rhabdomyolysis requires an understanding of both the disease and the nutritional requirements of the individual horses, especially when faced with high-strung fillies and mares. ----------------------------------------------
Following two weeks of USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) Situation Reports with no new confirmed vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) cases and all previously positive premises released from quarantine, APHIS confirmed one new positive equine premises, in Texas County, Missouri, in its Oct. 8 report.
Premises with confirmed positive and suspect cases are quarantined and monitored by veterinarians for at least 14 days from the onset of lesions in the last animal affected.
Once APHIS confirms a county as VSV-positive, new equine premises in that county that show clinical signs of VSV aren’t required to be tested. Instead, that premises is quarantined and classified as suspect. Also classified as suspect are premises where animals don’t meet the definition of a confirmed case, but where diagnostic evidence of a recent VSV infection exists.
Vesicular stomatitis virus can cause blisters and sores in the mouth and on the tongue, muzzle, teats, or hooves of horses, cattle, swine, sheep, goats, llamas, and a number of other animals. Lesions usually heal in two or three weeks.
Because of the virus’ contagious nature and its resemblance to other diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease, animal health officials urge livestock owners and caretakers to report these symptoms to their veterinarian immediately. Most animals recover with supportive care by a veterinarian.
“Vesicular stomatitis has been conﬁrmed only in the Western Hemisphere,” APHIS said on its website. “It is known to be an endemic disease in the warmer regions of North, Central, and South America, and outbreaks of the disease in other temperate geographic parts of the hemisphere occur sporadically. The Southwestern and Western United States have experienced a number of vesicular stomatitis outbreaks … Outbreaks usually occur during the warmer months, often along waterways.” According to Angela Pelzel McCluskey, DVM, APHIS’ equine epidemiologist, the largest VS outbreak in more than 40 years of recorded history occurred in 2019.
Some states and other countries might restrict movement of, or impose additional requirements for, susceptible animals from states having known VS cases. Before moving livestock, contact the state of destination for its requirements.
Attention, all swan lovers.
Officials in Lakeland, Florida, are making plans for a swan sale in the weeks ahead.
The reason for the unusual event?
The city spends $10,000 a year feeding and caring for them. The picturesque birds are also largely overpopulated, which causes quality of life issues for them, according to Lakeland's website.
"We currently have 80 swans here on Lake Morton to feed and care for, so we are looking to sell around 30 to 40 to ensure proper care for them all," Bob Donahay, Lakeland's Director of Parks and Recreation, told CNN.
"We are fortunate to have veterinarians in town who donate their services to our annual wellness roundups where we check the health of all our swans," Donahay said.
While the city does not conduct background checks on each buyer, Donahay says they do try to get to know each prospect before selling.
It was reported that the Manhattan Supreme Court ordered the NYC based Chelsea Kennel Club to pay close to a $4 million fine as a result of the findings from an undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States in July 2017.
Upon learning of the news, John Goodwin, senior director of the puppy mills campaign for the Humane Society of the United States released the following statement:
“Our Humane Society of the United States undercover investigation into the Chelsea Kennel Club revealed that the store’s owner knew they were selling sick puppies, and that customers would soon be paying hefty vet bills and possibly suffering the heartbreaking death of their puppies. These issues are common at pet stores because of the inhumane and unsanitary conditions in which puppy mill puppies are raised and transported. After our investigation went public, many other buyers of sick puppies contacted authorities. I am sure their stories also helped provide evidence for the case.”
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Melissa Crane has reportedly ordered the Chelsea Kennel Club to pay a $3.9 million fine. We applaud Justice Crane and expect this to send a strong message to every puppy selling pet store that it is their responsibility to provide prompt professional veterinary care to sick and suffering animals.”
In July 2017 the Humane Society of the United States conducted an undercover investigation at the Chelsea Kennel Club in NYC which revealed puppies with fevers, infections and illnesses who weren’t immediately taken to a veterinarian, in many cases only getting sicker as cost-cutting measures delayed their care. The investigator also witnessed pet store staff bullying some of the puppies. One employee smacked puppies with towels and roughly grabbed them by their scruffs. Several staff members held puppies down with their muzzles shut as part of what some of the staff called “dominance” training.
At the time, John Goodwin, senior director for the Humane Society of the United States puppy mills campaign said, “From puppies with open surgical wounds on their bellies to a dog who could barely breathe because she was suffering from pneumonia, our investigator witnessed shocking disregard for the care these puppies need. The retail pet industry has a system-wide problem that begins with cruel puppy mills, continues with the way they ship baby animals across the country in cramped quarters, and ends with consumers often being sold sick animals at an inflated price.”
Japan will release more than a million tons of treated water from the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea in a decades-long operation, reports said Friday, despite strong opposition from local fishermen.
The release of the water, which has been filtered to reduce radioactivity, is likely to start in 2022 at the earliest, said national dailies the Nikkei, the Yomiuri, and other local media.
The decision ends years of debate over how to dispose of the liquid that includes water used to cool the power station hit by a massive tsunami in 2011.
A government panel said earlier this year that releasing the water into the sea or evaporating it were both "realistic options".
As of last month, there were 1.23 million tons of waste water at the facility, the Nikkei reported.
Environmental activists have expressed strong opposition to the proposals, and fishermen and farmers have voiced fear that consumers will shun seafood and produce from the region.
South Korea, which bans imports of seafood from the area, has also repeatedly voiced concern about the environmental impact.
Japan's government has been deliberating the issue for more than three years, but a decision is becoming urgent as space to store the water -- which also includes groundwater and rain that seeps daily into the plant -- is running out.
Most of the radioactive isotopes have been removed by an extensive filtration process -- but one remains, called tritium, which cannot be removed with existing technology.
The expert panel advised in January that discarding the water into the sea was a viable option because the method is also used at normal nuclear reactors.
Tritium is only harmful to humans in very large doses, experts say. The International Atomic Energy Agency argues that properly filtered water could be diluted with seawater and then safely released into the ocean.
The Yomiuri reported that the water would be diluted inside the facility before its release so it is 40 times less concentrated, with the whole process taking 30 years.
The treated water is currently kept in a thousand huge tanks at the Fukushima Daiichi site, where reactors went into meltdown nearly a decade ago after the earthquake-triggered tsunami.
Plant operator TEPCO is building more tanks, but all will be full by mid-2022.