Australia is set to embark on a mass audit of the country’s koala population using drones and detection dogs amid a warning that the species is “sliding towards extinction”. The koala count is part of an AUS$18m package to protect Australia’s iconic marsupials from multiple threats, including habitat destruction, climate change, disease and car strikes.
Heat-seeking drones and sniffer dogs will be used to document the koala population, which was estimated in a 2016 study to number 329,000. Since then, there have been annual bushfires reducing the number further.
The Australian Koala Foundation believes there could be fewer than 80,000 remaining today – and possibly as few as 43,000. “If this rate of decline continues then yes, the koala is at risk of extinction,” the group said. Acoustic surveillance and citizen surveys will also be used to locate and count the animals, and annual reporting of koala populations will become part of ministerial meetings.
Commenting on the koala audit, which will cost AUS$2m, Sussan Ley, the Australian environment minister, said: “For all our focus on koalas, scientists are telling us that there is a serious lack of data about where populations actually are, how they are faring and the best ways to help them recover after the devastating bushfires."
More than 60,000 koalas were killed, injured or displaced in fires that raged across parts of Australia last summer, a report by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) released on Monday estimated.Top of FormBottom of Form
Those bushfires, which Scott Morrison, the prime minister, dubbed Australia's “black summer”, also killed 33 people and razed over 24 million hectares (59 million acres) in the country.
Nearly 3 billion native animals would have been in the path of the bushfires, the WWF study said. Even before the fires, koala habitats had been in rapid decline due to land clearing for agriculture, urban development, mining and forestry.
“That (60,000 figure) is a devastating number for a species that was already sliding towards extinction in Eastern Australia. We cannot afford to lose koalas on our watch,” WWF-Australia chief executive Dermot O'Gorman said in the report.
South Australia's Kangaroo Island was the worst-hit area for koalas, with some 40,000 koalas impacted by the fires, the WWF said. Nearly 11,000 in Victoria and 8,000 in New South Wales (NSW) were also affected.
A NSW parliamentary inquiry in June concluded after a year-long inquiry that koalas in the state could become extinct by 2050 unless the government immediately intervened to protect them and their habitat. The WWF aims to double the number of koalas in eastern Australia by 2050.
The organisation’s protection plan includes a trial of drones to disperse seeds of eucalyptus trees which provide both food and shelter for koalas, and the establishment of a fund to encourage landowners to create koala safe havens.
The biggest dog show in the country is about to bark at a much bigger audience.
The AKC National Championship will be presented on ABC for the next three years under an agreement between the American Kennel Club and ESPN announced Monday.
Nearly 5,300 dogs entered the AKC event that was won by Wasabi the Pekingese last year, almost twice as many pooches as usually take part in the prestigious Westminster dog show.
This year’s AKC National Championship will be held next weekend in Orlando, Florida. The three-hour ABC broadcast of the competition will be shown on Jan. 17, hosted by Mary Carillo with Gina DiNardo and Carolyn Manno handling the paw-by-paw duties.
The afternoon telecast will be opposite an NFL playoff game. But a taped broadcast of a dog show going against football has worked well in the past — the annual National Dog Show on NBC routinely attracts a total audience of over 20 million on Thanksgiving Day for an event held outside Philadelphia
“People just love their dogs and our viewers responded very well to our previous AKC telecasts,” Burke Magnus, ESPN executive vice president of programming and original content, said in a statement. “I know my black labs Luna and Stella will be joining me to watch.”
The AKC, which has collaborated on “ESPN Dog Day” and “ESPN Puppy Day,” will produce other championships and competitions for the network that feature dog agility and skills.
The deal includes digital rights for events to stream live on the ESPN app, among them the upcoming AKC National Championship evening and group competitions. Last year’s big event was shown on the AKC.tv app.
“It is exciting to introduce new audiences to these action-packed events and showcase the stellar dogs that compete,” AKC President Dennis B. Sprung said.
Next year’s Westminster show, presented live on Fox, has been shifted because of COVID-19 concerns from its usual mid-February date to June 12-13 outdoors at an estate in Tarrytown, New York, about 25 miles north of Manhattan. It will mark the first time since 1920 that the Westminster best in show hasn’t been awarded at Madison Square Garden.
A new study of dust-like particles of soot in the air — now emerging as the second most important — but previously overlooked — factor in global warming provides fresh evidence that reducing soot emissions from diesel engines and other sources could slow melting of sea ice in the Arctic faster and more economically than any other quick fix, a scientist reported here today. In a presentation at the 242nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), Mark Z. Jacobson, Ph.D., cited concerns that continued melting of sea ice above the Arctic Circle will be a tipping point for the Earth's climate, a point of no return. That’s because the ice, which reflects sunlight and heat back into space, would give way to darker water that absorbs heat and exacerbates warming. And there is no known way to make the sea refreeze in the short term. Jacobson’s calculations indicate that controlling soot could reduce warming above parts of the Arctic Circle by almost 3 degrees Fahrenheit within 15 years. That would virtually erase all of the warming that has occurred in the Arctic during the last 100 years.
“No other measure could have such an immediate effect,” said Jacobson, who is with Stanford University. “Soot emissions are second only to carbon dioxide (CO2) in promoting global warming, but its effects have been underestimated in previous climate models. Consequently, soot’s effect on climate change has not been adequately addressed in national and international global warming legislation. Soot emissions account for about 17 percent of global warming, more than greenhouse gases like methane. Soot’s contribution, however, could be reduced by 90 percent in 5-10 years with aggressive national and international policies.”
Soot or “black carbon” consists of particles, nearly invisible on an individual basis, released in smoke from combustion of fossil fuels and biofuels. Major sources include exhaust from diesel cars, buses, trucks, ships, aircraft, agricultural machines, construction equipment and the wood/animal dung fires that hundreds of millions of people in developing countries use for used for cooking and heating. Black carbon particles become suspended in the atmosphere and absorb sunlight, just like a black t-shirt on a sunny day. The particles then radiate that heat back into the air around it. Black carbon also can absorb light reflected from Earth's surface, which helps make it such a potent warming agent.
The good news is that decreasing soot could have a rapid effect, Jacobson said. Unlike carbon dioxide, which remains in the atmosphere for years, soot disappears within a few weeks, so that there is no long-term reservoir with a continuing warming effect. And the technology for controlling black carbon, unlike that for controlling CO2, already is available at relatively modest cost. Diesel particulate filters, for instance, can remove soot from car and truck exhaust. Government and other agencies also are trying to introduce low-soot cookstoves in developing countries. “Converting gasoline- and diesel-burning cars and trucks to electric or hydrogen vehicles and reducing emissions from diesel generators could have an immediate effect on warming,” according to Jacobson. Jacobson, who developed the first detailed climate model to include the global effects of soot, reported on use of the model to gain new insights into the effects of soot particles trapped inside and between the water droplets that make up clouds. Previous research on black carbon and climate overlooked that topic. Jacobson said the information is important because black carbon within clouds makes the clouds “burn off” and disappear over heavily polluted urban and other areas. Climate models that ignore this “cloud absorption” phenomenon underestimate the effects of black carbon on climate.
Chitter chatter in the forest. Are trees talking to each other? Yes, in a sense. Some research has shown that trees have a unique way of expressing themselves to one another. About twenty years ago, an ecologist named Suzanne Simard “discovered that trees communicate their needs and send each other nutrients via a network of latticed fungi buried in the soil.” She has continued her research to learn how trees, using fungal filigrees, “send warning signals about environmental change, search for kin, and transfer their nutrients to neighboring plants before they die.”
Back in 1997, she used radioactive isotopes of carbon to determine that paper birch and Douglas fir trees were interacting with each other. Dr. Simard has found an elaborate system “which she compares to neural networks in human brains.” Her current studies are focused on the impact of climate change, pine beetle infestations, and logging.
Dr. Simard tells us all trees form symbiotic relationships with fungi. Fungi cannot photosynthesize, but they can explore the soil. Part of the fungi, called mycelium, will pick up nutrients and water and bring it back to the tree. The tree then exchanges these offerings from the fungi for a sugar-like substance the tree makes during photosynthesis. This underground network is one avenue with which trees exchange information.
There is another article online from Smithsonian.com that is quite entertaining. Richard Grant writes that “wise old mother trees feed their saplings with liquid sugar and warn the neighbors when danger approaches.” He continues with stating “reckless youngsters take foolhardy risks with leaf-shedding, light-chasing and excessive drinking, and usually pay with their lives.” Check out the full article here: smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-whispering-trees-180968084
Grant refers to German forester and author, Peter Wohlleben, as a tree whisperer. He notes that trees are social, sophisticated and intelligent. They cooperate with each other and maintain relationships. They do this by sending chemical, hormonal and electrical signals. Not only do they communicate underground, they send pheromones and other scent signals through the air.
Well over 100 years ago, John Muir knew something fantastical was happening in a forest. He held a “deeply religious response to trees as living, sentient beings” and endowed them with a “kind of personhood.” We can thank Muir for his observations which helped lay the framework for the protection of our wilderness areas: gtu.edu/events/talking-trees-john-muirs-nature-spirituality
This is an amazingly fascinating topic to me. As a horticulturist, I have always thought we underestimate plant intelligence. The next time you take a walk in the woods, consider pausing for a moment to reflect on the fact that plants are communicating with each other. Give a tree a hug and a pat on the bark. Could we one day find out they are whispering about us behind our backs? If so, I wonder what they would say.
Kelley Rawlsky has an M.S. in horticulture and is the director of Bringing People and Plants Together, an organization dedicated to bringing horticulture education and therapy to the community.
The owner of Pet Supplies Plus is seeking to sell the retailer, according to PE Hub, a website covering private equity deals.
Sentinel Capital Partners, which bought Pet Supplies Plus two years ago, is working with investment banks in the process, PE Hub reports, citing “three sources familiar with the matter.”
PE reports that Pet Supplies Plus is believed to have EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) of $65 million to $75 million. Sources say the sale price could amount to 8 to 10 times that figure.
When Sentinel acquired Pet Supplies Plus in December 2018, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Sentinel purchased the company from Irving Place Capital.
Founded in 1988 and headquartered in Livonia, MI, PSP is a leading franchisor and operator of pet-specialty stores.
Crain’s Detroit Business reported in December 2019 that Pet Supplies Plus had annual revenue of more than $1 billion.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) and ESPN announced that they have signed a three-year content agreement that brings unique, high-energy dog programming to the channel and includes digital rights for selected events to stream live on the ESPN App. The agreement also brings the AKC National Championship, to ABC for the next three years. The three-hour show will air on Sunday Jan. 17, 2021 at 2 p.m. ET. The show is the largest dog event in North America and features thousands of dogs from around the country and the world competing for the coveted title of National Champion and the prize of $50,000.
Building on the success from their collaborations “ESPN Dog Day” and “ESPN Puppy Day,” the AKC will produce championships and competitions for the leading sports network. Each show will give audiences an insight into the fun and intensely competitive world of dog sports. The slate includes:
- AKC Fastest Dogs USA
- AKC National Championship
- AKC Agility Premier Cup
- AKC National Agility Championship
- North America Diving Dog Premier Cup
- AKC Flyball National Championship
Each program will have two re-airs on ESPN television channels as well as re-airs on the Nat Geo WILD Channel. The agreement also grants ESPN access to the AKC’s extensive library of dog programming for potential future programming.
“We are thrilled to expand on our amazing relationship with the leader in sports television,” said Dennis B. Sprung, president and CEO of the AKC. “AKC Sports demonstrate the very best in canine athleticism and the strength of the human-canine bond. It is exciting to introduce new audiences to these action-packed events and showcase the stellar dogs that compete, and we cannot think of a better place to do so, than ESPN.”
Programming kicks off on Friday Dec. 11 with AKC Fastest Dogs USA competition live-streamed on the ESPN App from 2-4 p.m. ET and airing on ESPN2 Sunday Dec. 13 at 6 p.m. ET. The AKC National Championship evening and group events will also be live streamed on the ESPN App on Dec. 12 and 13 at 4:30 p.m. ET each night.
“People just love their dogs and our viewers responded very well to our previous AKC telecasts,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN executive vice president, programming and original content. “We’re very pleased to be able to bring them more in the years to come, showcasing the beauty and athleticism of dogs and the great teamwork these events require, and making ESPN the home of dog action sports. I know my black labs Luna and Stella will be joining me to watch.” The AKC is the largest purebred dog registry in the world and the leading governing body of dog sports in the United States. More than 22,000 competitions for AKC-registered purebred and mixed breed dogs are held under AKC rules and regulations each year including conformation, agility, obedience, rally, tracking, herding, lure coursing, coonhound events, hunt tests, field and earthdog tests.
Nowhere is climate change more obvious than in the Arctic. And the Arctic helps to regulate the world’s temperature, so as more Arctic ice melts the warmer our world becomes.
These are the facts:
- Melting ice speeds up climate change. Global warming is causing Arctic ice to melt – ice reflects sunlight, while water absorbs it. When the Arctic ice melts, the oceans around it absorb more sunlight and heat up, making the world warmer as a result.
- Sea levels are rising. Over the past century, the global average sea level has risen four to eight inches. Melting Arctic ice is expected to speed up sea level rise. Some experts even estimate that the oceans will rise as much as 23 feet by 2100, which would flood major coastal cities and submerge some small island countries, causing untold devastation.
- But wait, there’s oil in the Arctic. Even though there’s oil in the Arctic Ocean, our dependence on oil is what’s causing climate change in the first place, but that hasn’t stopped big corporations like Shell and Exxon Mobil from trying to exploit the Arctic. Burning more fossil fuels is the last thing we should be doing if we hope to prevent the worst effects of climate change.
The good news is that there’s still a chance to limit the damage.
By preventing drilling, we can protect the Arctic for the millions of people and animals that call it home and stop fossil fuel companies from making climate change worse. Our planet is too precious to be exploited for corporate profits.
Everest making the summit almost 30 feet higher than when it was first calculated 164 years ago.
The mountain’s height has been the subject of furious debate ever since 1856 when a British team first calculated it as 29,002 feet.
But China and Nepal, the nations the mountain borders, both agreed to a new measurement after separate calculations — announcing Tuesday that it is officially 29,031.7 feet tall.
That is 13 feet higher than China’s last calculation 15 years ago — a discrepancy blamed on the fact that China only determined the rock height of the summit and didn’t include the snow and ice on the peak.
It is also 2.8 feet higher than Nepal’s last calculations, which used the Survey of India estimate in 1954 that included snow.
“This is a milestone in mountaineering history which will finally end the debate over the height and now the world will have one number,” said Santa Bir Lama, president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association.
But no matter what measurement is used, Everest has always been the world’s highest peak, with second place going to Mount K2, some 900 miles away, at just 28,244 feet tall.
The new measurement came after Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Nepal last year and decided that they should agree on a height.
Nepal had already installed GPS and satellite equipment that year, and a survey team from China then conducted measurements in the spring of 2020 while expeditions were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The agreed height was announced by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Nepalese counterpart, Pradeep Gyawali.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced last month the approval of Stelfonta (tigilanol tiglate injection), the first intratumoral injection to treat nonmetastatic cutaneous mast cell tumors (MCTs) in dogs.
Stelfonta, which is injected directly into the MCT, activates a protein that spreads throughout the treated tumor and disintegrates tumor cells, according to the FDA website.
“This approval provides an additional treatment option to help treat local mast cell tumors on or under the skin in dogs,” says Steven M. Solomon, DVM, MPH, director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine.
MCTs are the most common malignant skin tumors in dogs. Full surgical removal of mast tumor cells can be challenging when tumors are located in certain areas, like the leg. If not fully removed, the remaining malignant cells can start to grow and spread rapidly. “Stelfonta offers a novel way to treat nonmetastatic MCTs as the only approved intratumoral injection,” according to the FDA.
Stelfonta’s safety was demonstrated in a laboratory study of 118 dogs with a measurable cutaneous or a subcutaneous MCT on the lower leg. A total of 80 dogs were treated with Stelfonta, and 38 were in an untreated control group. After monitoring the dogs for a month, the complete remission rate of the treated group was 75%.
Eighteen dogs in the treatment group, whose tumors didn’t completely disappear, were retreated with Stelfonta a second time about a month after their first treatment. Approximately a month after receiving their second treatment, 44% of these dogs’ tumors had disappeared completely. Dogs in the untreated control group were treated with Stelfonta for the first time a month after the study began; 62% of those dogs’ tumors disappeared.
The most common adverse reactions associated with Stelfonta administration include wound formation at the tumor site and injection site reactions, such as pain, swelling, reddening of the skin, bruising, thickening, scarring, and death of some cells in the tissues.
Stelfonta is available by prescription only, as it should be administered only by veterinary personnel with the expertise to ensure safe use of the drug, assess the patient for contraindications, and monitor for adverse reactions.
Additionally, this drug should always be administered with a corticosteroid, an H1-receptor blocking agent and an H2-receptor blocking agent, thus decreasing the risk of severe systemic adverse reactions, including death, from mast cell degranulation.
The FDA also advises veterinarians to provide clients with handouts detailing important information about Stelfonta, including how to care for their pets after drug administration.
Amid the flurry of stories touting the first COVID-19 vaccines for humans comes news of a vaccine trial targeting SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in cats. Applied DNA Sciences, a biotechnology company in Stony Brook, New York, and EvviVax, a veterinary biotechnology company in Rome, announced on Monday that they have received approvals from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets and the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a clinical trial of a vaccine candidate in domestic felines. Applied DNA and EvviVax said they are targeting cats, in part, to mitigate a potential reservoir for infections in humans. Scientists believe infected cats could transmit the virus to people; however, there is no documented case of such transmission happening to date. In the 40 or so cases of pet cats testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 worldwide, the majority are believed to have caught the virus from infected people. A few infected cats are believed to have transmitted the virus to other cats. The companies said the trial is expected to begin within 90 days at Guardian Veterinary Specialists, a multi-specialty veterinary hospital in Brewster, New York, where Dr. Joseph Impellizeri is the supervising investigator.
Fifteen healthy pet cats, living at home during the trial, each will be given two doses of the vaccine, administered 30 days apart, according to an email from Brian Viscount, executive director of product management for Applied DNA Sciences. The cats will be tracked for up to six months to evaluate the vaccine's safety and assess their immune response, including the presence of neutralizing antibodies. This trial will not demonstrate whether the vaccine works against the virus. Applied DNA and EvviVax said they are developing another trial that will expose a second group of vaccinated cats (not pets) to COVID-19-positive cats in a controlled setting to see if the vaccine is effective against the virus. The companies say if the trials are successful, they will apply for a conditional license from USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which would allow for commercial sales due to the pandemic. Whether there would be any takers of a COVID-19 vaccine for cats is an open question, since cats don't appear to be getting sick from the virus in significant numbers.
The companies maintain there would be a market. "With about 96M cats living in households in the U.S. as of 2017 and COVID-19 infection rates increasing nationally today, we believe there is utility for a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 for cats," Viscount said via email. Impellizeri suggested zoos might want the vaccine. He pointed to the case of the Bronx Zoo, where a Malayan tiger was the first documented case in the United States of a non-human animal showing clinical signs and testing positive for the COVID-19 virus. Ultimately, five tigers and three lions tested positive. In addition, a puma at a Johannesburg zoo and three tigers at a Knoxville zoo tested positive in April and October, respectively. "Imagine the larger feline collections around the world, and you say, 'I have something that's preventative,' " Impellizeri said. "That could be tremendous, considering their value." Applied DNA President and CEO James A. Hayward said in this week's announcement that a feline vaccine is not the sole goal of the research. He said he expects that the trial will provide "valuable complementary data for potential human COVID-19 vaccine candidate trials and charting a possible development path to other animals, such as mink."
Mink are a source of concern, as SARS-CoV-2 has been found in mink on farms in Denmark, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United States. Animals have gotten sick and died from the virus. Farmworkers are considered the likely initial source of the infections, which spread among the mink and other farm animals, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Currently, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in the spread of SARS-CoV-2 to people," the CDC said in a statement updated on Nov. 18. "However, reports from infected mink farms in the Netherlands and Denmark suggest that in these environments there is the possibility for spread of SARS-CoV-2 from mink to humans." In Denmark, the world's largest producer of mink fur, the government ordered the culling of millions of mink to stop the spread of the virus, after mutated versions were found in the animals there. There are concerns that mutations could undermine the effectiveness of future vaccines for humans.
A snow leopard at the Louisville Zoo has tested positive for COVID-19.
NeeCee, a 5-year-old snow leopard, tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, according to the Louisville Zoo.
Zoo officials said they are waiting for results for the two male snow leopards, Kimti and Meru.
All three snow leopards have mild respiratory symptoms, including an occasional dry cough or wheeze, that started about two weeks ago. All three are expected to recover.
“Fortunately, based on clinical cases in large cats at other zoos in the country to this point, SARS-CoV-2 infection does not appear to be life-threatening,” senior staff veterinarian Dr. Zoli Gyimesi said. “We will be closely monitoring the snow leopards for ongoing symptoms and resampling them to identify when they have cleared the infection.”
Officials believe NeeCee contracted the virus from an asymptomatic employee.
According to the Louisville Zoo, transmission of the virus between animals and humans is low. Staff members who care for the snow leopards have started additional precautions that include enhanced PPE.
The Zoo initiated safety precautions at the beginning of the pandemic that remain in place.
The snow leopards will not be on exhibit while they recover.
NeeCee is the first known case of the virus in a snow leopard, according to the Zoo.