Birds Are Dying Out Completely In North America

The United States and Canada are seeing a decline in their bird populations by over three billion, which is over 29 percent loss of bird population in North America. And the worst part is this has all happened in just the past 50 years, as per new research published by biologists and scientists looking into bird conservationist strategies.

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Essentially we could say that the skies are being emptied out. The number of birds flying around North America is now at an all-time low, with it falling by 29 percent since 1970. If you had walked around the lands of the United States and Canada 50 years ago then you would have seen 2.9 billion more birds flapping around. The analysis and research have been published by the scientific journal Science, and it is the most intensive study yet to figure out what exactly is happening to our dwindling avian populations.

David Yarnold the president and chief executive of the National Audubon Society has announced that this publication is confirmation that the region has entered a full-blown crisis when it comes to keeping up bird populations. The truth is that experts have known for quite some time that birds were prime to be the next species on the extinction list. However, the new research is showing that the losses in the population are even happening amongst birds that are traditionally thought to have very strong populations such as robins or sparrows.

The main problem is habitat loss and the wide use of pesticides in farming. Common bird species are very vital when it comes to keeping our wider ecosystem alive and healthy, so this is an alarming study. Birds help control pests, pollinate flowers, spread seeds and even regenerate forests. As these birds die out and disappear, the habitats where they lived will not be the same. A big culprit is a pesticide known as a neonicotinoid, which causes birds to have difficulty putting on weight and delays their time of migration.

Another problem is that wider public opinion is not as interested in the sparrows or other little brown birds disappearing, the attention is focused on losses such as bald eagles, whereas the little birds dying out will have a much larger impact on the world.

Scavenging Meat From The Mouth Of A Lion

An ancient tribe in Kenya still practices a regular tradition of stealing meat from a fresh lion kill. This is a way of scavenging that has existed for centuries in their tribe and culture. In modern times, this way of finding food is becoming less prominent due to the advances in pollution and urbanization but some tribes do still scavenge food in this crazy way.

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Lions are known to kill people if they feel threatened, so taking meat from their kill seems like an extremely bad idea. But the strategy does not sound so bad if you think about early humans and how they would have needed food to survive. It is a practice known as kleptoparasitism, the art of stealing prey from another and does still happen in Africa today.

There have been reports by biologists witnessing this practice in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda – so it seems it was not such an uncommon way to scavenge food. For the people of Mbororo in North Camaron, it is a part of their culture and happens regularly. Some villages are known to allow lions to live around their area freely for the sole purpose of harvesting meat from their kills.

Conservationists say this type of scavenging has a negative impact on lion populations, however, the Mbororo are proud of their way of finding food. Biologists say that due to the amount of energy a lion spends to take down prey if the prey is then stolen from them, it can cause their already dwindling numbers to continue to fall.

The scavenging tactic plays on the lions being wary enough of humans to be scared away, of course, it is a bluff. Generally, a pride of lions is at least 15 strong, which means they could easily kill humans if they decided to attack. In a video by BBC Africa, we watch three Mbororo tribe members walk up casually to a fresh kill, without hesitation to ensure the lion’s runoff. It is not an easy strategy though and can take weeks to pay off, because, lions hunt more actively at night – but at night it is much too dangerous to walk upon a fresh kill.

The Mbororo sometimes spend weeks following a pride to find a fresh kill that happens during day time, and that is when they strike. Not everyone will agree with their methods, but for many tribes in Africa, it is simply a way of life.

World’s Loneliest Frog Saved By Online Dating Profile

It sounds extraordinary and untrue, but the world’s loneliest frog was indeed saved by an online dating profile. A Valentine’s stunt that conservationists played on Match.com played off, it raised awareness and found the lonely frog a partner. The expedition found five new Sehuencas water frogs and this even included a mate for lonesome Romeo.

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Last year on Valentine’s day, the Bolivia Museo de Historia Natural Alcide d’Orbigny in Cochabamba created a Match.com profile for Romeo. Romeo is a male Sehuencas water frog that was thought to be the last species of his kind. Unfortunately, no lady frogs messaged him back, but many humans did. The stunt raised over $25,000 and helped the movement’s efforts to save more endangered amphibians. And now that money raised is paying for itself, researchers in Bolivia were able to use it to find more Sehuencas frogs.

They even located an adult female frog, which many hope will fall in love with Romeo, to try and play with destiny they named the female Juliet. The species of frog was once pretty abundant in Bolivia and roamed free, but in recent years water frog species have found themselves victim to multiple threats like habitat destruction, climate change, and pollution.

Over ten years ago, Romeo was plucked from the wild, with hopes of repopulating his species but they could never locate a female Sehuencas frog until now. Researchers and scientists around the world were frustrated and worried that Romeo would face the same fate as Toughie – the world’s last known Rabbs’ Fringe Limbed Tree Frog who died in 2016 in captivity.

However, the money raised by the dating website promotion was able to allow non-profit organization Global Wildlife Conservation and the Museo de Historia Natural Alcide d’Orbigny to embark on a new expedition. And this time, the mission was a success, though it was not easy. Nearly all of the streams they originally looked at had no frogs.

Finally, they did find five under a waterfall, and now they have started to create the first water frog love nest – in hopes of creating an insurance population against extinction.

The Manhunting Champawat Tiger

The Champawat Tiger is an infamous tiger that roamed Northern India, which perfected a strategy for hunting humans. Over four years, the tiger hunted and killed more than 400 people before the British decided enough was enough and got serious about hunting it down.

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When it comes down to it, these days, most people do not have anything to fear when it comes to tigers. Although zookeepers have to be careful and it is not by any means a safe profession. If you go back a couple of decades into the 20th century India, then you will find yourself on a completely different landscape. One where you are the prey of a ferocious predator tiger, that has trained to hunt humans. There is, of course, a very valid reason why the tiger is the villain in The Jungle Book.

Tigers were recorded to kill over 1,000 people a year during the end of the 20th century, and in the 1930s there was even a five year period where it is thought they killed over 7,000 people per year. When you compare this to sharks killing only about five people per year, it paints the picture of just how dangerous the tiger was. Nowadays, due to the tiger being hunted to near extinction and urbanization, tiger killings are much rarer.

One legendary predator was feared above all: the Champawat Tiger, who was an insatiable man-eater. It turns out it was a tigress, and she began her reign of terror and destruction around 1903 in Nepal. It is thought she had killed over 200 people when she was finally driven over the border by the Nepalese Army into India, where she went on a bloody killing spree that took down 234 more people in villages around Northern India.

During this era, tiger hunters, as a result, did save the lives of hundreds of people and were sought after. Colonel James Corbett, who operated in colonial India and specialized in tracking down man-eating beasts was called in to track down the infamous tiger. After arriving in the village of Champawat, the tiger soon attacks again killing a 16-year-old girl. Corbett was able to follow the trail of blood and finally, the tiger was killed in 1907 by his hunting rifle.

Corbett concluded that the tiger had broken teeth, and this had led her to hunt man as her it would have been impossible to kill its usual prey. Corbett did have a running theory that most predator animals were only pushed to hunting humans if forced to by external conditions, such as injuries or old age. In his later life, he became a conservationist and opened a national park in India.

Giant Rats Can Spot Deadly Diseases

A crack team of researchers has been busy training giant rats to save us from deadly diseases. This team from Tanzania has trained African pouched rats to make the life-saving discovery of spotting cases of tuberculosis that are routinely missed by health clinics.

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Riziwan is one of those rats, living in a sleek glass and aluminum cage, when let loose he immediately set to work sniffing out any victims of the deadly disease. Riziwan had in a matter of minutes discovered 13 people who may be inflicted with tuberculosis. This would be life-saving news to the people, as they were all from samples that the health clinic had advised were clear. These giant African pouched rats are saving many lives, working for the Belgian organization Apopo’s TB center in Morogoro, Tanzania.

Saving hundreds of lives is now just a daily routine for these rats. Rizwan is almost a year old and would have been trained since birth to do this job to pick up the smell of the disease – one that is notoriously tough to detect: tuberculosis. To complete his work he is placed in a large cage and then the scientist will place dishes of human spit samples to sniff.

All the samples have been heat treated so there is no risk of infection to either the rats or the humans working in the lab. When he smells the disease he scratches the metal bottom of the cage to indicate that he can smell the disease.

And at the seventh hole, he scratches again, and then once more at the eighth. At this point the training supervisor presses a clicker so that Riziwan receives a reward – this is because one of the samples was a controlled test and was correctly identified. It earns Riziwan his favorite meal a mash of bananas, avocados and rat pellets.

In one day, Riziwan can check 100 samples, and when his work is done for the day he is returned to his large open-air playpen. At this point, the testing cage will be cleaned, and another rat will be brought in to test Riziwan’s findings. On average they discover 40% of TB cases that have been missed by local clinics.

Dragonflies Are The World’s Deadliest Hunters

If you talked about the world’s deadliest hunters then you would probably think to mention Lions, Panthers and other big cats. Surely the tiger or the bear is the world’s apex predator? Well, that is where you would be wrong, as a little dragonfly happens to be the world’s deadliest hunter.

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A cat owner would think their four-legged pawed friend is the most proficient hunter in the world, they have four paws and whiskers and pounce with accuracy. And as the cats get bigger up to the leopard size, surely they become even better hunters, no? Anyone could be forgiven for betting that cats are the most successful predator. Well, big cats are well-practiced and finely honed hunters, evolution has given them all the tools of the trade: powerful jaws and fearsome claws. Tigers are strong swimmers and leopards are amazing when it comes to climbing trees, they can cover all manners of terrain when they hunt.

But are big cats the best hunters on Earth?

No, that is where you may find out a surprising statistic, six out of seven leopard hunts end in disappointment. And when it comes to Bengal tigers it is thought they only catch their prey one out of 20 times. These estimates have been done solely from observations in places like Kruger National Park in South Africa, but still, it shows that nature is very different than what we think. And not to mention that hunting is extremely difficult.

Even with camouflage and stealth, it is difficult to move up and surprise prey. Out on the plains, the roaring speed of the cheetah does allow them to catch their prey half of the time and the hunting groups of lions find success around 25% of the time. African wild dogs fare better, with their monster teamwork skills, they catch their prey over 67% of the time if their pack is 20 dogs strong. When it comes to deadly hunters, you have to go down into the insect world to find deadly ones.

An army ant will capture over 30,000 prey items per day! Of course, a colony is over half a million ants, so they do have an advantage. However, the insect with the most success when it comes to an actual hunt, according to Harvard University, is the dragonfly. They catch their prey up to 95% of the time!

With their complex eyes that specialize in spotting bugs against the sky and wings that let them move with agility, but the real key is their brain. A dragonfly’s brain can optimize their hunting strategy to predict where the prey is going and this allows them to intercept perfectly.

The First Kitty That Went To Space And Back

Her name was Felicette and she was the first cat that went to space and came back again. When it comes to animals being blasted off into space, heroics or not, many of them are simply forgotten in time. Names like Ham the chimpanzee or Laika the dog are generally remembered, but does anyone remember Felicette the cat? We doubt it. However this spacefaring feline paved the way for humans to make it into space, so it is high time Felicette was truly seen as the hero of the cat world.

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On October 18th, 1963, a French cat by the name of Felicette became the very first and only cat to travel into outer space. Traveling on the Veronique AG1 rocket, Felicette flew over 100 miles above the Earth and would briefly have experienced weightlessness. The rocket would have flown over six times the speed of sound and will have seen her being exposed to over 9.5 g’s of force.

The amazing part? Felicette made it back home, all safe and sound, after just fifteen minutes of flying. She parachuted her way down to Earth in a little capsule with coming into any difficulties at all. Plucked off the streets of Paris, Felicette was briefly seen as a cat celebrity during the 60s, but she was quickly overshadowed by the many dogs, monkeys, and chimps that ended up flying out in various rockets during that era.

When it comes down to it, if you look back during the last 54 years, all the stories of the first animals that flew out in rockets to help bring forward an era of innovation to space travel have largely been forgotten. Yet they were integral parts of our journey into space as mankind. The first chimp, for example, is found at the Space Hall of Fame, but the first cat Felicette has no memorial at all.

At the time scientists were researching what the lack of gravity did to animals, to see if they could survive. The idea being that if animals could survive the lack of gravity, then humans would also be able to survive. The cats that were sent out to space by the French Space Team were all sent into strict astronaut training – much like how astronauts are trained today.

Dogs Can Tell When You Are Due Home By Scent

Any dog owners know that most puppies and dogs tend to enjoy simply living in the moment, the excitement of accepting a treat or a snuggle, the toss of a tennis ball or the happiness of their meal. They seem to be very content just to exist with their charming and wagging tails of singlemindedness. Yet dogs do have an understanding of time, it is just a bit different than ours.

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Many dogs can predict events with uncanny accuracy, such as leaping up to look out of the window when the kids are just about to make it home. Or when their owner is nearly home from work. Even more, dogs seem to know when their exact dinner time is, are they hungry or do they judge it from the sound of their stomach rumblings?

New research from Alexandra Horowitz states out a new theory, that dogs actually smell time. She writes her new book Being a Dog: Following the Dog Into a World of Smell, that the powerful dog nose is how dogs perceive the passing of time. They are not able to follow the clock or understand the movement of sunlight, it is not a mystical or otherworldly power – it just comes down to the scents in their area and how they change during the day.

Dogs can tell and understand much about the past, just because their noses are so sensitive. Odors actually change during time, and sometimes the changes are predictable which is what allows dogs to seemingly know things before they happen. For example, when you leave your home to go to work, the smell you leave behind decreasing by each hour you have been away. And your dog can actually detect the difference, which is why after many days of following these same scent’s decreasing they can know around what time you will be home. So you could say that the strength of your odor predicts when you will be home.

Woman Searches 57 Days For Missing Dog

A couple named Carol and Verne King were staying in a dog friendly hotel in Kalispell, Montana. When they returned to the hotel after a stock car race, they made a heartbreaking discovery: their beloved dog Katie was missing. The seven month old Border collie had managed to unlock the door and escape, perhaps because of a loud storm that had rolled through the area. They headed to the front desk where the employees there told them they had seen an anxious dog run out of the door hours earlier. They were heartbroken that their beloved dog was gone and they would do whatever it took to get her back.

The small city where they were stayed had a population of 23,000 and was surrounded by Glacier National Park, a dense collection of fields and forests. Katie could be anywhere, but they were not discouraged. The first night, they spent hours searching nearby neighborhoods and putting up flyers with pictures of Katie. They did not find her but knew where to look and where to go, as they are both former law enforcement officers. As time wore on, after 15 days, they took extreme measures by purchasing game cameras and setting up food and traps to catch her and even setting out personal items for her.

They even purchased night vision goggles when they heard someone had spotted her in a nearby field. The days and weeks wore on, and Carol even quit her job as a postal carrier so she could dedicate herself full time to Katie’s rescue. On the 57th day since her escape, the couple got word someone had spotted Katie in their backyard. Once they got there, she was gone—but they pressed on. Then, they saw a dog under a tree and they realized it was her. After they called for her, Katie came running into her mom’s arms. She was dirty, tired, and had lost 15 pounds, but he was finally safe.

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New York Times//Facebook

The Barking Trains Of Japan

Some of you may be wondering where is the famous Choo Choo sound when traveling via train around the countryside of Japan. And it is indeed true, Japanese trains in certain regions make entirely different noises: they bark like a dog but they do not bite.

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In a forward-thinking and conservationist stance, trains in Japan are being fitted with speakers that scream out the massive sounds of dog barks. They also emit loud deer snorts and other predator wildlife noises. The goal? Well to keep wild animals away from the tracks of course!

These animal sound imitations are proving to be very successful, with the Tokyo newspaper The Asahi Shimbun reporting that deer sightings from trains are down by over 40% since the Railway Technical Research Institution started to use the dog barking devices on their trains. You see the main problem for train drivers was that deer with congregating around the train tracks at night and almost not visible in some cases, which caused brutal collisions with deer packs.

Luckily researchers developed a device that uses deer snorts, three shrill and short blasts. This is taken from the deer’s behavior of producing short and shrill sounds to warn other deer of danger being closeby. And then the dog barks and yaps come in for a long 20 seconds to scare the deer away. This is because in most cases, wild animals are indeed afraid of dogs.

The reason that this research had to be done and a solution needed to be found, is because deer are actually attracted to licking train tracks. They lick the tracks for nutritional value: iron. Japan has also taken other measures such as providing iron licking rocks in the forests as a safe alternative. So far, the dog barking trains are proving to provide the best results.

Nobody wants to kill a deer, and the country’s transport ministry is taking the correct steps in ensuring the deer population of Japan is kept safe. And of course, the last reason is that collisions cause massive delays in 2016 there were over 613 cases of wild animal collisions.