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One Stop Pet Shop- for everything pet related !
One Stop Pet Shop- for everything pet related !


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Seagull Attacks on the Increase

Seagull attacks are on the increase all over the duchy and people are taking extreme approaches to deal with them.

Seagull attacks are at their highest in a decade, according to the RSPB.

From tales of shocking horror as seagulls are lured to their deaths under the wheels of passing cars, to fed up postmen abandoning their delivery rounds for fear of being dive-bombed, it seems seagulls are causing quite a stir across Cornwall.

The RSPB could not say why there are more complaints coming out of Cornwall this year than previously. But it says seagulls generally become more aggressive when its breeding time.
For one pensioner in Truro, it is nesting seagulls which are causing her grief.

Jon Haynes says she is kept awake until 3am by seagulls squawking loudly and the pitter-patter of webbed feet over the roof of her home on Kenwyn Street.

Mrs Haynes says the noise is becoming unbearable and the seagulls are aggressive.

They have also defecated all over her house. She said: "It's horrible. They have woken me up every night for the past week. I want to get out in to my garden and feed the regular birds there. This just seems to spur the gulls on. One of my friends was walking through the centre of Truro and was divebombed by a couple of seagulls. There must be something that can be done, maybe a cull is in order, but I think that is illegal."

Meanwhile, in Perranporth, postmen were forced to abandon their delivery routes after they were repeatedly attacked by seagulls on Liskey Hill Crescent.

And Helston Mayor, Councillor Jonathan Radford-Gaby, warned that the council there is considering fining or 'naming and shaming' people whose black bin bags are ripped apart by seagulls.

In a shocking "scene of horror" gulls are being lured to their deaths in St Ives.

Artist Linda Weir says she saw a group of local young men sadistically luring one seagull to its death under the wheels of a passing car and leaving another bloodied and mutilated.

RSPB spokesman Tony Whitehead suggested the seagulls' aggressive nature will calm down: "This is the time of year when chicks begin to hatch. Of course, they remain flightless for some time but this period normally only lasts for a few weeks. During that time, the gulls become very aggressive towards humans. I think the issue will pass very soon.

"Gulls cannot be culled, as with any bird, they are protected.

"There's been an increased number of phone calls to us this year, more so than the past eight or so years from the Cornwall area, and we're not sure why.

"But once the young have begun to fly, it usually calms down."

FACTFILE: Herring gulls, or the common seagull, are protected under the Conservation of Wildlife (Jersey) Law 2000.means it is illegal to intentionally injure or kill any gull or to take, damage or destroy an active nest or its contents.There are things you can do to deter gulls from nesting on your roof. The most effective measure is removing all food from outside your home. You can also reduce the attractiveness of a nest site by putting up barriers. Plastic eagle owls or spikes on your roof can also act as a deterrent.Seagull chicks leave the nest at an early age and it is common to find them on the ground after falling from the nest. You should leave the chick where it is because the parents will look after it.When feeding birds in the garden, do not throw scraps on the ground. It could result in loud gulls resting on your roof looking for the next meal.
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The Real Vultures

We think they're horrible for their habit of eating rotting carcasses, but look more closely and vultures have a beauty all their own.

Vultures are bald, ugly, squabbling and filthy scavengers. They have no sense of smell. The world would be better off without them.
BUT not all vultures are bald. Some are even beautiful, especially in flight. Irrespective of appearance, they play an important role as biological waste controllers. We are better off with vultures, for sure.

With their archetypal ugliness and scavenging antics, vultures are easy to malign.
The lappet-faced vulture has an undeniably shifty appearance. When asked to picture a vulture, it is this species – with its hunched stance, naked neck and featherless scalp – that comes to mind.
But the contempt for vultures based on their alien looks and scavenging habits is quite obviously silly. There is a lot to admire about vultures.

Wildlife documentaries do not help.
The dominant motif is on the African savannah, a wake of vultures lurching, lunging and bickering over the remains of some poor mammal. One bird pulls its head out of the carcass and turns its face to camera, covered in blood and guts.
"I understand why people don't like them," says Mark Habben, curator of birds at London Zoo in the UK.
But in flight the vulture comes into its own, he says. "It's an absolutely stunning animal."

The large wings are not for flapping but for gliding.
Back in the 1960s, zoologist Colin Pennycuick climbed into a Schleicher ASK-14 powered sailplane and took to Tanzanian airspace, mostly above the Serengeti, to study the gliding flight of the white-backed vulture Gyps africanus.
As he motored along in search of targets to photograph, tawny eagles and martial eagles were occasionally attracted to his airplane "within 2-3 m of the cockpit in a somewhat menacing fashion".
Pennycuick found that the vultures could bank in impressively tight circles without falling from the sky. The size and shape of their wings allowed them to exploit "tiny (and often transient) patches of lift as early as 08.30h".

By 9.30 in the morning, the vultures were flying successfully at heights of 300m or more above the ground.

All 23 species of vulture use this thermal soaring to gain hight. "They are looking out for a recent kill and looking out for the descent of other vultures," says Habben.
Vultures have legendary long-distance vision, but they may not be able to see in front of them at all. Whilst some birds have a field of view approaching 360°, the visual field of vultures is severely limited at around 60°.
That may sound silly, but vultures' insensitivity to anything above the horizontal effectively eliminates the blinding glare from the Sun, helping them to focus on what's going on beneath them.
This may also explain why vultures have prominent supra-orbital ridges (brows) and long lashes.

In 1938, some bright spark at Union Oil in California noticed that turkey vultures seemed to be homing in on a known leak in a gas pipeline. That suggested that the species might be used to pinpoint other sites of wastage.
In the 1960s, ornithologist Kenneth Stager of the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History in California confirmed that turkey vultures were responding to ethanethiol. This chemical is a pungent byproduct of decaying organic matter, and energy companies use it to give odourless gas an easily identifiable smell.

At a kill, things do admittedly get a little ugly. The competition can be fierce and fights are inevitable.
Feeding itself is not particularly well-mannered. Vultures often dine out on the dead animal's eyes and anus before moving on to less penetrable tissues.
The blood from the carcasses helps explain why most vultures come close to baldness. "It would destroy the feathers," says Habben, whereas blood on skin will just dry and flake off.

Vultures are biological waste controllers. "Without them the consequences are significant," says Habben. "We need them more than we recognise."
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David Attenborough and Barack Obama.

Sir David Attenborough says President Obama wanted to make clear he was "not a philistine" about the environment during a private meeting last month.
Sir David Attenborough is a sought-after authority on the natural world.
But the 89-year-old has told how he was left “astonished” last month to find his environmental expertise called upon – by the President of the United States, barack Obama.
Sir David said that he was flown to Washington at the invitation of Barack Obama, who requested a meeting with the naturalist after hearing about his documentary, Rise of Animals: Triumph of the Vertebrates, being screened in America.
Sir David said his audience with the President took place in the Blue Room of the White House and saw the two men discuss climate change, conservation and Mr Obama’s “feeling for nature”.

“He wanted to make it clear that he was not a philistine in this matter. He is on the side of the natural world and that's what he wanted to be clear. And that's against some very powerful voices that are in the US which are not in favour of the natural world.”
Sir David said that Mr Obama was "very much in favour of dealing with climate change" but that "of course, as we also know, he is coming to the end of his last Presidency".
"I got the sense that he is wondering what he is going to do next,” he said, adding that he could imagine Mr Obama working on environmental issues after he stands down as President

Sir David described the “chat” with Mr Obama as a “great privilege” but said he had “no idea” why the President had wanted to see him. “To be absolutely truthful I am baffled,” he said.
“He invited me to go to Washington. He sent me a ticket,” he said. "I was astonished, I don't understand it.”
“I had to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning and I flew into Washington and a car met me and I went to a hotel changed into a suit and went to the White House.”

Sir David was speaking at the launch of the Global Apollo Programme, a proposed new worldwide research programme to tackle climate change by reducing the cost of green energy.
The programme, which Sir David endorsed as “exciting”, was drawn up by figures including Sir Gus O’Donnell, the former cabinet secretary, and Lord John Browne, the former BP chief.
It calls on governments to commit 0.02 per cent of GDP to work together on research and development in the hope of scientific breakthroughs akin to the Apollo space programme that put man on the moon.
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Pets in the World of Poetry.

Quiet as a mouse. Blind as a bat. Crazy as a fox. It seems there is no end to the simile-making possibilities of animals. Animals are invoked almost as frequently as the beloved, and in many cases are even used to describe the beloved. Early examples are the stallions, doves, and deer in love poetry of the Hebrew Bible’s Song of Songs and the anthropomorphized swans and goats in ancient Greek mythology.

There is also a tradition of poems addressed to pets, either celebrating their deeds or mourning their loss. Perhaps one of the most well known verses addressed to a pet comes from Christopher Smart‘s eighteenth century “Jublilate Agno.” Written in a religious fervor, the poem begins with a litany of animals, and contains an inimitable section addressed to his cat, Jeoffry, which partly includes these lines:

For when he takes his prey he plays with it to give it a chance.
For one mouse in seven escapes by his dallying.
For when his day’s work is done his business more properly begins.
For he keeps the Lord’s watch in the night against the adversary.
For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.
For he counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life.
For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him.
For he is of the tribe of Tiger.

The wild and feral nature of animals is often marveled by poets, such as Mary Oliver‘s detailed portraits, Rainer Maria Rilke‘s trips to the zoo, and Marianne Moore‘s self-described “menagerie.” Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell traded poems depicting the animals and the awkward intrusion of humans, including Bishop’s “The Moose,” “The Armadillo,” and Lowell’s “Skunk Hour.”

There are poems of mythical creatures and fantastical beasts,terrifying and majestic, and even verses relating the tragic results of coupling between humans and animals. The Greek myth of Leda and the Swan has been retold by many poets, including W. B.Yeats, who asks: “And how can body, laid in that white rush, / But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?” In “The Sheep Child,” James Dickey tells the story of a creature born of a human and sheep pairing, a tale that is both darkly comical as well as heartbreaking.

Ultimately, animals offer poets a mirror through which to explore themselves, an unwitting foil used to understand what it means to be human. Sometimes the comparison ultimately reveals a dissatisfaction with humanity, as in “Meditatio” by Ezra Pound and “Dog Poem” by Philip Levine, which concludes with his curse upon the dogs of the world:

…give them three kids
in the public schools, hemorrhoids,
a tiny fading hope to rise above
the power of unleashed, famished animals
and postmasters, give them two big feet
and shoes that don’t fit, and dull work
five days a week. Give them my life.

In other cases, the animal becomes a metaphor to humanity, or more specifically, the poet, as in “The Albatross” by Charles Baudelaire. The poem follows a majestic bird after it is captured for fun by the crew of a ship, and describes its awkward appearance on board and its humiliation by the deck hands. The final stanza, , declares:

The Poet is like this monarch of the clouds
Riding the storm above the marksman’s range;
Exiled on the ground, hooted and jeered,
He cannot walk because of his great wings.

There are numerous poems expressing the grief of losing a pet and pets losing their owners.
Read a list here:
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The Trade in Elephants Ivory

Every year, tens of thousands of elephants are brutally killed for their ivory. Between 2008 and 2013, the estimated death toll ranged between 30,000 and 50,000 elephants per year. The slaughter is horrifying;the trade in elephants ivory employs and arms poachers, who in turn target entire herds of elephants, shooting them with automatic weapons and hacking off their tusks with axes and chainsaws.

These tusks are fed into the illegal international ivory trade which is controlled by highly organised criminal syndicates. This industry feeds demand for ivory products in Asia, Europe, USA and elsewhere, which continues to bankroll elephants’ destruction. Legal international sales of ivory in 1999 and 2008 added to the demand but also caused confusion among consumers (‘is ivory legal or not?’) and provided an avenue for criminals to launder illegal ivory into the black-market.

Tragically the ivory trade has a long and bloody history. Born Free helped ensure the first international ivory ban in 1989 and since then has campaigned tirelessly against attempts to reopen international trade as well as to bring an end to all domestic and legal trade. Born Free also investigates poaching, exposes illegal ivory smuggling and together with the SSN¹ Elephant Working Group works to increase protection for elephants from trade. Just how long will elephants survive before their population can no longer sustain itself.

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Is Acer Britains Smallest Horse?

Think of horses and you think of towering, magnificent beasts with long, muscular legs and the ability to gallop at speed, even with a man - or two - on their backs.

But Acer - dubbed Britain's smallest steed - might change your mind.

Acer who's just 22 inches tall, lives with his owner Maureen O’Sullivan at her Miniature Horse Farm in Corringham, Essex – and is so tiny he’s allowed into the family home.

The petite pet is so small because he was born with a rare condition called dwarfism – a recessive gene which only affects a foal when it is carried by both of the parents.

Maureen said: “We imported his dad from America and put him with our American mare and they must both have been carrying the dwarf gene – he was the result.

Acer was 14.5in at birth, which is significantly smaller than the average height for a newborn miniature horse of 20”.

Despite his stunted size he weighed the same as a normal miniature foal, which resulted in a difficult birth and hours of anxious waiting for Maureen.

Since then Acer has had to have special treatment on his hooves – which cost Maureen thousands of pounds.

The three-year-old was born in a stable on the farm where he still lives now, but has a tiny stable door specially fitted so he can see out on to the yard.
Maureen said: “We had the door specially made for him so he can put his head over and see all the other horses.

“It’s a very big stable for a little horse but he was born in this stable and now it’s his stable for life.”

Acer is even allowed in the family home, where he is small enough to fit under the kitchen table.

Maureen said: “One day we were in the living room and he just wondered in – we were really surprised.

“When he comes in he loves to watch the television – he just stands there staring at it.

“He likes to walk around and sniff everything so now we let him come and go when he wants.

“We have to keep an eye on him because he’s not house trained but he’s never done anything naughty.

He’s absolutely one of the family now, he wonders around the farm.

Acer is dwarfed by the full-size horses kept on the farm – but is a firm favorite with Maureen who treats him as one of the family.

The little equine is best friends with a Labrador called Demon, who is taller than the tiny horse.

Maureen said: “Demon and little Acer are best buddies, they have been playing since Acer was a foal.

“Now they’re both a bit old to play but they’re so similar in size – Acer is more like a dog than a horse.”

But what about habit, will Acer fetch a stick or sit up and beg, give you a hoof?
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Canadian Man Arrested After Balloon Chair Flight.

A Canadian man has found himself in trouble with police after he attached 150 helium balloons to a lawn chair and floated off into the skies over Calgary city.
The promotional stunt, which was aimed at publicising a cleaning company, went wrong and Daniel Boria, 26, had to jump from his makeshift aircraft, injuring his ankles.
"He had no control device on the balloons and was really just travelling by the grace of the wind," Derek Mojaher, Mr Boria's business partner, told ABC News.

Mr Boria, who carried with him a GPS and oxygen tank, told the Calgary Herald that his flight was "the most fun thing" he had ever done.
“It was incredibly peaceful up there," he said.
The stunt was months in the making and cost $12,000 for the helium alone.
Police were called after a member of the public spotted Mr Boria in the chair flying over the city centre. At one point he reached "cloud level" police said.
Officers said Mr Boria "jumped from the chair and opened a parachute attached to his back."

He missed his landing zone and sustained minor injuries to his ankles.
He was arrested and charged with mischief causing danger to life and has since been released.
It is not known where the chair and balloons ended up. Anybody who finds them please return to sender!!
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Animal Extinction - the greatest threat to mankind

By the end of the century half of all species will be extinct. Does that matter?

In the final stages of dehydration the body shrinks, robbing youth from the young as the skin puckers, eyes recede into orbits, and the tongue swells and cracks. Brain cells shrivel and muscles seize. The kidneys shut down. Blood volume drops, triggering hypovolemic shock, with its attendant respiratory and cardiac failures. These combined assaults disrupt the chemical and electrical pathways of the body until all systems cascade toward death.

Such is also the path of a dying species. Beyond a critical point, the collective body of a unique kind of mammal or bird or amphibian or tree cannot be salvaged, no matter the first aid rendered. Too few individuals spread too far apart, or too genetically weakened, are susceptible to even small natural disasters: a passing thunderstorm; an unexpected freeze; drought. At fewer than 50 members, populations experience increasingly random fluctuations until a kind of fatal arrhythmia takes hold. Eventually, an entire genetic legacy, born in the beginnings of life on earth, is removed from the future.

Scientists recognise that species continually disappear at a background extinction rate estimated at about one species per million per year, with new species replacing the lost in a sustainable fashion. Occasional mass extinctions convulse this orderly norm, followed by excruciatingly slow recoveries as new species emerge from the remaining gene-pool, until the world is once again repopulated by a different catalogue of flora and fauna.

From what we understand so far, five great extinction events have reshaped earth in cataclysmic ways in the past 439 million years, each one wiping out between 50 and 95 per cent of the life of the day, including the dominant life forms; the most recent event killing off the non-avian dinosaurs. Speciations followed, but an analysis published in Nature showed that it takes 10 million years before biological diversity even begins to approach what existed before a die-off.

Today we're living through the sixth great extinction, sometimes known as the Holocene extinction event. We carried its seeds with us 50,000 years ago as we migrated beyond Africa with Stone Age blades, darts, and harpoons, entering pristine Ice Age ecosystems and changing them forever by wiping out at least some of the unique megafauna of the times, including, perhaps, the sabre-toothed cats and woolly mammoths. When the ice retreated, we terminated the long and biologically rich epoch sometimes called the Edenic period with assaults from our newest weapons: hoes, scythes, cattle, goats, and pigs.

But, as harmful as our forebears may have been, nothing compares to what's under way today. Throughout the 20th century the causes of extinction - habitat degradation, overexploitation, agricultural monocultures, human-borne invasive species, human-induced climate-change - increased exponentially, until now in the 21st century the rate is nothing short of explosive. The World Conservation Union's Red List - a database measuring the global status of Earth's 1.5 million scientifically named species - tells a haunting tale of unchecked, unaddressed, and accelerating biocide.

When we hear of extinction, most of us think of the plight of the rhino, tiger, panda or blue whale. But these sad sagas are only small pieces of the extinction puzzle. The overall numbers are terrifying. Of the 40,168 species that the 10,000 scientists in the World Conservation Union have assessed, one in four mammals, one in eight birds, one in three amphibians, one in three conifers and other gymnosperms are at risk of extinction. The peril faced by other classes of organisms is less thoroughly analysed, but fully 40 per cent of the examined species of planet earth are in danger, including perhaps 51 per cent of reptiles, 52 per cent of insects, and 73 per cent of flowering plants.

By the most conservative measure - based on the last century's recorded extinctions - the current rate of extinction is 100 times the background rate. But the eminent Harvard biologist Edward O Wilson, and other scientists, estimate that the true rate is more like 1,000 to 10,000 times the background rate. The actual annual sum is only an educated guess, because no scientist believes that the tally of life ends at the 1.5 million species already discovered; estimates range as high as 100 million species on earth, with 10 million as the median guess. Bracketed between best- and worst-case scenarios, then, somewhere between 2.7 and 270 species are erased from existence every day. Including today.

We now understand that the majority of life on Earth has never been - and will never be - known to us. In a staggering forecast, Wilson predicts that our present course will lead to the extinction of half of all plant and animal species by 2100.

You probably had no idea. Few do. A poll by the American Museum of Natural History finds that seven in 10 biologists believe that mass extinction poses a colossal threat to human existence, a more serious environmental problem than even its contributor, global warming; and that the dangers of mass extinction are woefully underestimated by almost everyone outside science. In the 200 years since French naturalist Georges Cuvier first floated the concept of extinction, after examining fossil bones and concluding "the existence of a world previous to ours, destroyed by some sort of catastrophe", we have only slowly recognised and attempted to correct our own catastrophic behaviour.

Some nations move more slowly than others. In 1992, an international summit produced a treaty called the Convention on Biological Diversity that was subsequently ratified by 190 nations - all except the unlikely coalition of the United States, Iraq, the Vatican, Somalia, Andorra and Brunei. The European Union later called on the world to arrest the decline of species and ecosystems by 2010. Last year, worried biodiversity experts called for the establishment of a scientific body akin to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to provide a united voice on the extinction crisis and urge governments to action.

Yet, despite these efforts, the Red List, updated every two years, continues to show metastatic growth. There are a few heartening examples of so-called Lazarus species lost and then found: the wollemi pine and the mahogany glider in Australia, the Jerdon's courser in India, the takahe in New Zealand, and, maybe, the ivory-billed woodpecker in the United States. But for virtually all others, the Red List is a dry country with little hope of rain, as species ratchet down the listings from secure to vulnerable, to endangered, to critically endangered, to extinct.

All these disappearing species are part of a fragile membrane of organisms wrapped around the Earth so thinly, writes Wilson, that it "cannot be seen edgewise from a space shuttle, yet so internally complex that most species composing it remain undiscovered". We owe everything to this membrane of life. Literally everything. The air we breathe. The food we eat. The materials of our homes, clothes, books, computers, medicines. Goods and services that we can't even imagine we'll someday need will come from species we have yet to identify. The proverbial cure for cancer. The genetic fountain of youth. Immortality. Mortality. The living membrane we so recklessly destroy is existence itself.

Biodiversity is defined as the sum of an area's genes (the building blocks of inheritance), species (organisms that can interbreed), and ecosystems (amalgamations of species in their geological and chemical landscapes). The richer an area's biodiversity, the tougher its immune system, since biodiversity includes not only the number of species but also the number of individuals within that species, and all the inherent genetic variations - life's only army against the diseases of oblivion.

Yet it's a mistake to think that critical genetic pools exist only in the gaudy show of the coral reefs, or the cacophony of the rainforest. Although a hallmark of the desert is the sparseness of its garden, the orderly progression of plants and the understated camouflage of its animals, this is only an illusion. Turn the desert inside out and upside down and you'll discover its true nature. Escaping drought and heat, life goes underground in a tangled overexuberance of roots and burrows reminiscent of a rainforest canopy, competing for moisture, not light. Animal trails criss-cross this subterranean realm in private burrows engineered, inhabited, stolen, shared and fought over by ants, beetles, wasps, cicadas, tarantulas, spiders, lizards, snakes, mice, squirrels, rats, foxes, tortoises, badgers and coyotes.

To survive the heat and drought, desert life pioneers ingenious solutions. Coyotes dig and maintain wells in arroyos, probing deep for water. White-winged doves use their bodies as canteens, drinking enough when the opportunity arises to increase their bodyweight by more than 15 per cent. Black-tailed jack rabbits tolerate internal temperatures of 111F. Western box turtles store water in their oversized bladders and urinate on themselves to stay cool. Mesquite grows taproots more than 160ft deep in search of moisture.

These life-forms and their life strategies compose what we might think of as the "body" of the desert, with some species the lungs and others the liver, the blood, the skin. The trend in scientific investigation in recent decades has been toward understanding the interconnectedness of the bodily components, i.e. the effect one species has on the others. The loss of even one species irrevocably changes the desert (or the tundra, rainforest, prairie, coastal estuary, coral reef, and so on) as we know it, just as the loss of each human being changes his or her family forever.

Nowhere is this better proven than in a 12-year study conducted in the Chihuahuan desert by James H Brown and Edward Heske of the University of New Mexico. When a kangaroo-rat guild composed of three closely related species was removed, shrublands quickly converted to grasslands, which supported fewer annual plants, which in turn supported fewer birds. Even humble players mediate stability. So when you and I hear of this year's extinction of the Yangtze river dolphin, and think, "how sad", we're not calculating the deepest cost: that extinctions lead to co-extinctions because most living things on Earth support a few symbionts, while keystone species influence and support myriad plants and animals. Army ants, for example, are known to support 100 known species, from beetles to birds. A European study finds steep declines in honeybee diversity in the past 25 years but also significant attendant declines in plants that depend on bees for pollination - a job estimated to be worth £50bn worldwide. Meanwhile, beekeepers in 24 American states report that perhaps 70 per cent of their colonies have recently died off, threatening £7bn in US agriculture. And bees are only a small part of the pollinator crisis.

One of the most alarming developments is the rapid decline not just of species but of higher taxa, such as the class Amphibia, the 300-million-year-old group of frogs, salamanders, newts and toads hardy enough to have preceded and then outlived most dinosaurs. Biologists first noticed die-offs two decades ago, and, since then, have watched as seemingly robust amphibian species vanished in as little as six months. The causes cover the spectrum of human environmental assaults, including rising ultraviolet radiation from a thinning ozone layer, increases in pollutants and pesticides, habitat loss from agriculture and urbanisation, invasions of exotic species, the wildlife trade, light pollution, and fungal diseases. Sometimes stressors merge to form an unwholesome synergy; an African frog brought to the West in the 1950s for use in human pregnancy tests likely introduced a fungus deadly to native frogs. Meanwhile, a recent analysis in Nature estimated that, in the past 20 years, at least 70 species of South American frogs had gone extinct as a result of climate change.

In a 2004 analysis published in Science, Lian Pin Koh and his colleagues predict that an initially modest co-extinction rate will climb alarmingly as host extinctions rise in the near future. Graphed out, the forecast mirrors the rising curve of an infectious disease, with the human species acting all the parts: the pathogen, the vector, the Typhoid Mary who refuses culpability, and, ultimately, one of up to 100 million victims.

"Rewilding" is bigger, broader, and bolder than humans have thought before. Many conservation biologists believe it's our best hope for arresting the sixth great extinction. Wilson calls it "mainstream conservation writ large for future generations". This is because more of what we've done until now - protecting pretty landscapes, attempts at sustainable development, community-based conservation and ecosystem management - will not preserve biodiversity through the critical next century. By then, half of all species will be lost, by Wilson's calculation.

To save Earth's living membrane, we must put its shattered pieces back together. Only "megapreserves" modelled on a deep scientific understanding of continent-wide ecosystem needs hold that promise. "What I have been preparing to say is this," wrote Thoreau more than 150 years ago. "In wildness is the preservation of the world." This, science finally understands.

The Wildlands Project, the conservation group spearheading the drive to rewild North America - by reconnecting remaining wildernesses (parks, refuges, national forests, and local land trust holdings) through corridors - calls for reconnecting wild North America in four broad "megalinkages": along the Rocky Mountain spine of the continent from Alaska to Mexico; across the arctic/boreal from Alaska to Labrador; along the Atlantic via the Appalachians; and along the Pacific via the Sierra Nevada into the Baja peninsula. Within each megalinkage, core protected areas would be connected by mosaics of public and private lands providing safe passage for wildlife to travel freely. Broad, vegetated overpasses would link wilderness areas split by roads. Private landowners would be enticed to either donate land or adopt policies of good stewardship along critical pathways.

It's a radical vision, one the Wildlands Project expects will take 100 years or more to complete, and one that has won the project a special enmity from those who view environmentalists with suspicion. Yet the core brainchild of the Wildlands Project - that true conservation must happen on an ecosystem-wide scale - is now widely accepted. Many conservation organisations are already collaborating on the project, including international players such as Naturalia in Mexico, US national heavyweights like Defenders of Wildlife, and regional experts from the Southern Rockies Ecosystem Project to the Grand Canyon Wildlands Council. Kim Vacariu, the South-west director of the US's Wildlands Project, reports that ranchers are coming round, one town meeting at a time, and that there is interest, if not yet support, from the insurance industry and others who "face the reality of car-wildlife collisions daily".

At its heart, rewilding is based on living with the monster under the bed, since the big, scary animals that frightened us in childhood, and still do, are the fierce guardians of biodiversity. Without wolves, wolverines, grizzlies, black bears, mountain lions and jaguars, wild populations shift toward the herbivores, who proceed to eat plants into extinction, taking birds, bees, reptiles, amphibians and rodents with them. A tenet of ecology states that the world is green because carnivores eat herbivores. Yet the big carnivores continue to die out because we fear and hunt them and because they need more room than we preserve and connect. Male wolverines, for instance, can possess home ranges of 600 sq m. Translated, Greater London would have room for only one.

The first campaign out of the Wildlands Project's starting gate is the "spine of the continent", along the mountains from Alaska to Mexico, today fractured by roads, logging, oil and gas development, grazing, ski resorts, motorised back-country recreation and sprawl.

The spine already contains dozens of core wildlands, including wilderness areas, national parks, national monuments, wildlife refuges, and private holdings. On the map, these scattered fragments look like debris falls from meteorite strikes. Some are already partially buffered by surrounding protected areas such as national forests. But all need interconnecting linkages across public and private lands - farms, ranches, suburbia - to facilitate the travels of big carnivores and the net of biodiversity that they tow behind them.

The Wildlands Project has also identified the five most critically endangered wildlife linkages along the spine, each associated with a keystone species. Grizzlies already pinched at Crowsnest Pass on Highway Three, between Alberta and British Columbia, will be entirely cut off from the bigger gene pool to the north if a larger road is built. Greater sage grouse, Canada lynx, black bears and jaguars face their own lethal obstacles further south.

But by far the most endangered wildlife-linkage is the borderland between the US and Mexico. The Sky Islands straddle this boundary, and some of North America's most threatened wildlife - jaguars, bison, Sonoran pronghorn, Mexican wolves - cross, or need to cross, here in the course of their life's travels. Unfortunately for wildlife, Mexican workers cross here too. Men, women, and children, running at night, one-gallon water jugs in hand.

The problem for wildlife is not so much the intrusions of illegal Mexican workers but the 700-mile border fence proposed to keep them out. From an ecological perspective, it will sever the spine at the lumbar, paralysing the lower continent.

Here, in a nutshell, is all that's wrong with our treatment of nature. Amid all the moral, practical, and legal issues with the border fence, the biological catastrophe has barely been noted. It's as if extinction is not contagious and we won't catch it.

If, as some indigenous people believe, the jaguar was sent to the world to test the will and integrity of human beings, then surely we need to reassess. Border fences have terrible consequences. One between India and Pakistan forces starving bears and leopards, which can no longer traverse their feeding territories, to attack villagers.

The truth is that wilderness is more dangerous to us caged than free - and has far more value to us wild than consumed. Wilson suggests the time has come to rename the "environmentalist view" the "real-world view", and to replace the gross national product with the more comprehensive "genuine progress indicator", which estimates the true environmental costs of farming, fishing, grazing, mining, smelting, driving, flying, building, paving, computing, medicating and so on. Until then, it's like keeping a ledger recording income but not expenses. Like us, the Earth has a finite budget.

Disappearing World

More than 16,000 species of the world's mammals, birds, plants and other organisms are at present officially regarded as threatened with extinction to one degree or another, according to the Red List.

Maintained by the Swiss-based World Conservation Union (usually known by the initials IUCN), the Red List is one of the gloomiest books in the world, and is set to get even gloomier.

Since 1963 it has attempted to set out the conservation status of the planet's wildlife, in a series of categories which now range from Extinct (naturally), through Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable and Near-Threatened, and finishing with Least Concern. The numbers in the "threatened" categories are steadily rising.

Taxonomists at the IUCN regularly attempt to update the list, but that is a massive job to undertake - there are about 5,000 mammal species in the world and about 10,000 birds, but more than 300,000 types of plant, and undoubtedly well over a million insect species, and perhaps many more. Some species, such as beetles living in the rainforest canopy, could become extinct before they are even known to science.

The last Red List update, released in May last year, looked at 40,168 species and considered 16,118 to be threatened - including 7,725 animals of all types (mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, insects etc) and 8,390 plants.
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Council block Little Plumpton Fracking Application.

An application to start fracking at a site on the Fylde coast in Lancashire has been rejected by councillors.
Energy firm Cuadrilla wanted to extract shale gas at the Little Plumpton site between Preston and Blackpool.
Lancashire County Council rejected the bid on the grounds of "unacceptable noise impact" and the "adverse urbanising effect on the landscape".
Cuadrilla said it was "surprised and disappointed" and would consider its "options" regarding an appeal.
A spokesman added: "We remain committed to the responsible exploration of the huge quantity of natural gas locked up in the shale rock deep underneath Lancashire."
'Triumph for democracy'
The Little Plumpton bid had been recommended for approval by the county council's planning officials, subject to working hours, noise control and highway matters.
But councillors rejected the advice and voted 10-4 to refuse the application.

Councillor Marcus Johnstone described the deliberation as "one of the biggest planning decisions ever" for the council.
He said the committee had rejected the application after "listening carefully to many hours of evidence".
A legal adviser had said any attempt to block fracking at the site on environmental grounds would be "unreasonable" and costly.
Dr Adam Marshall, from the British Chambers of Commerce, said the decision was "perverse, short-sighted and timid" and said "the government now needs to step in".
A related application for a monitoring array, to study seismic activity and water quality, was also rejected.
An application to start a fracking operation at Roseacre Wood was also rejected on Thursday.

Anti-fracking protests were held outside the hearing in Preston, which began on 23 June.
Fracking - or hydraulic fracturing - was suspended in the UK in 2011 following earth tremors in Blackpool where Cuadrilla previously drilled.
It is a technique in which water and chemicals are pumped into shale rock at high pressure to extract gas.
For a moment, there was silence as the planning committee voted on a motion to turn down the Little Plumpton planning application.
That was followed by a huge roar of approval and a boo as two councillors had abstained.
People wept openly but they were tears of joy, not disappointment.
A chorus of "Frack free Lancashire" sounded outside County Hall. Then "Frack free world."
Fylde deputy mayor Heather Speak said she felt like she had won the lottery.
Jamie Peters of Friends of the Earth wept and said it "shows people power has worked." He said it had been grassroots campaigning. "The councillors have listened to what people want," he said.
Chris Riley from Kirkham said it was brilliant they had overturned both decisions, adding: "We were hoping they would, but they couldn't possibly go ahead with the damage it would cause."
Another protester said: "It is brilliant. But this is just round one."
The jubilant anti-fracking campaigners marched through Preston for a spontaneous rally outside Lloyds Bank in Fishergate.
They were told: "Keep up the fight," amid cheers.
Katherine Seary, from Bipsham, with her dog Molly, who was wearing an anti-fracking T-shirt feels "ecstatic."
She said: "[I] couldn't believe my ears" initially, "It took me a second listen to take it in."
"I am sure Cuadrilla will appeal, but it is a good start."
Although there was a strong police presence, one said: "Well done, ladies," to a group of protesters.
Greenpeace UK energy and climate campaigner Daisy Sands said the decision was "a Waterloo for the fracking industry" and a "triumph for local democracy".
She said: "Their decision sends a powerful signal to other councils that the fracking juggernaut can indeed be stopped."

Little Plumpton is a hamlet between Blackpool and Preston on the Fylde coast.
According to the electoral register, there are just five households surrounded by green fields containing dairy herds and crops.
In total, there are 13 people on the electoral roll who live in Little Plumpton. There is no pub or village shop as it is too small.
The houses are very close to Cuadrilla's proposed site on Preston New Road.
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