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Wildlife news stories are gathered from around the world from online sources. There's emphasis on endangered or threatened bird species in North America, other than pelicans for which see this site's pelican news. There are also links to interesting stories about various wildlife — and wildland habitat — protection measures, including threats to the Endangered Species Act.

NB: Occasionally, this non-profit site, PelicanLife.org, will edit, with edits marked by ... or :::snip:::, and will provide links or URLs to the original sources. PelicanLife's Wildlife News section's sole purpose is educational, to contribute to education and research. Citations and references should always be to those original sources. Most pieces require permission for copying for other than "fair use" purposes such as here; please contact the original sources for permission.


winter, 2006

Click here for recent news about pelicans

2004-5 Archives | Amboseli, Kenya | Avian flu and wild birds | Avian flu: wild birds: vectors or victims? | Avian Flu - Alaska | Avian Flu - Colorado | Avian flu and the loss of wetlands | Bald Eagles nesting | Bald Eagle HATCHING! | Ca Condors nest in Big Sur | domoic acid and marine mammals | E. S. A. in peril | ospreys | sea otters, causes of death | Kenya - migratory bird day | poisoning in China | Western Snowy Plover and the ESA | whooping cranes, Illinois | Whooping Cranes, Wisconsin |

Wildlife Service keeps tiny shorebird on Endangered Species list

DON THOMPSON, Associated Press
SACRAMENTO - Federal wildlife officials have rejected two petitions to remove the Western snowy plover from Endangered Species Act protections, but they proposed easing penalties for harming the tiny shorebirds in areas where the population seems to be recovering.
The birds live on Pacific coast beaches, laying their eggs in depressions in open sand where they are vulnerable to predators and people. That has led since 1999 to the closure of the dry sand portions of many miles of beaches during the March-through-September nesting season, just when humans like to go to the beach.

The Surf Ocean Beach Commission of Lompoc and the city of Morro Bay had filed to remove the species from federal protection in California, Oregon and Washington, arguing that the snowy plover actually isn't in danger of extinction and isn't genetically distinct from inland populations.

Fish and Wildlife rejected the petitions Friday, finding there was not enough crossbreeding between inland and coastal plovers to sustain the beach-breeding variety. Most of the estimated 2,600 birds, listed as "threatened" since 1993, live south of San Francisco.

But the wildlife service also said that counties with approved management plans for plovers and that are meeting goals for recovery of the species shouldn't face the same restrictions as other areas if some of the nesting birds are disturbed.
The agency has proposed allowing counties that meet bird population goals over five years to lift some restrictions on activities in nesting areas or allow humans to use more miles of currently closed beach. That would encourage more counties to come up with preservation plans, the service said.

"I think it's a reasonable compromise. Realistically, if we were to flat-out delist the birds, we would see them go away from coastal areas," plover researcher and biologist Dave Lauten told the Eugene (Ore.) Register-Guard.
Read the decision at http://www.fws.gov/sacramento

Protection of wetlands way to curb bird flu

THE loss of wetlands around the world is forcing wild birds that may have avian influenza onto alternative sites like farm ponds and paddy fields, where they come into contact with chickens, ducks, and geese, a new report commissioned by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has revealed.
According to the report by Dr. David Rapport of Canada, the restoration of the tens of thousands of lost and degraded wetlands could help reduce the threat of an avian flu pandemic by providing wild birds with their preferred habitat.
The report’s preliminary findings were announced at a scientific seminar on avian influenza taking place at UNEP headquarters in Nairobi.

"Wetland depletion has direct implications for migrating wild birds," Dr. Rapport says.
Due to lack of enough natural habitat for staging, nesting and migration, areas associated with rice paddies and farm ponds prove to increasingly attract the wild birds.

Current "heroic efforts" focusing on "isolation, quarantine, culls and medications" are likely to be quick fixes offering only limited short term benefits,” Dr. Rapport, who is an honorary professor of the Ecoystem Health Program, Faculty of Medicine, University of Western Ontario, and a member of the firm EcoHealth Consulting of Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, said
In his report, he recommends that governments, the United Nations and public health experts back environmental measures over the medium and longer term to counter the spread of diseases like the highly pathogenic strain of bird flu, H5N1.
This strain has killed or caused the culling of 200 million poultry birds in the current outbreak that began in December 2003.
The H5N1 virus has been confirmed in 45 countries on three continents - Asia, Europe and Africa and up to date, the virus has killed 108 people, all in Asia and majority died after handling diseased poultry.

Health experts fear that the H5N1 strain could mutate into a form of the virus that spreads easily from human to human, triggering a global avian flu pandemic that might cause the deaths of millions of people.
"Intensive poultry operations along migratory wild bird routes are incompatible with protecting the health of ecosystems that birds depend upon. They also increase the risks of transfer of pathogens between migrating birds and domestic fowl," he writes.
He also suggests reducing contact between wild birds and poultry by shifting livestock production away from humans and other mammals such as pigs.

The report acknowledges that in some parts of the world, such as Southeast Asia, separating poultry from people is at odds with generations of cultural traditions and practices.
"As unpalatable as this may be, where it is clearly in the interest of preventing future pandemic with potentially catastrophic global effects, it can and should be undertaken," Rapport says.
"These thought provoking findings will need to be looked at in detail by all those involved in fighting current and future threatened pandemic. However, what this research underlines is that the link between a healthy environment and disease prevention is no marginal topic, but an important component in public health policy, particularly in a globalized world," Shafqat Kakakhel, UNEP deputy executive director said.

Wetlands are natural water storage features that filter pollution, help absorb floods, and are inhabited by numerous species including fish. "Their ability to disperse and keep wild birds away from domestic ones is now yet another compelling argument for conserving and rehabilitating them," Kakakhel added.

During the biannual meeting that ended March 31 in Brazil, the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) concluded that a far wider range of species than birds may be affected by bird flu with Large cats like leopards and tigers, small cats such as civets, and other mammals like martens, weasels, badgers, and otters might also be at risk.
The CBD delegates concluded that over 80 percent of known bird species, both migratory and non-migratory, might also be at risk, with members of the crow and vultures families of particular concern.
Culling of poultry, especially in developing countries where chicken is a key source of protein, may lead to local people killing wild animals for food, the CBD delegates warned as this may put new pressure on endangered species such as chimpanzees, gorillas and other great apes.
The delegates also expressed concern over the development of a genetic monoculture of domestic poultry, claiming that this may make domestic fowl less disease resistant.

The two day avian flu seminar, organized by UNEP, the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), and the African Eurasian Water Bird Agreement builds on the work of the international Scientific Task Force on avian influenza established by CMS last August, includes experts from 13 UN agencies, treaty organisations and non-governmental.

Copyright © 2006 Times News Services Ltd,All rights reserved.http://www.timesnews.co.ke/21apr06/nwsstory/opinion1.html


Deadly flu can be hard to spot in wild birds
Virus' arrival in U.S. could initially be difficult to detect, government warns

No need to cull wild birds to stop birdflu: expert
20 Apr 2006 21:38:22 GMT Source: Reuters
By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent

WASHINGTON, April 20 (Reuters) - Ducks and other wild birds are carrying the feared H5N1 virus, but there is no need to cull or otherwise target them as part of efforts to control the virus, experts said on Thursday.

Poultry are more important carriers of the virus, and H5N1 avian influenza has probably been circulating, unseen and steadily, for years in Southeast Asian flocks, the experts in the Netherlands and Sweden said.
"With our current limited knowledge on highly pathogenic avian influenza in wild birds, there is no solid basis for including wild birds in control strategies beyond the physical separation of poultry from wild birds," Ron Fouchier and Albert Osterhaus of Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam and a team of colleagues wrote in a report published in the journal Science.

"Even in areas with significant outbreaks in poultry, virus prevalence in wild birds is low, and the role of these wild birds in spreading the disease is unclear," they wrote.
"However, there is at present no scientific basis for culling wild birds to control the outbreaks and their spread, and this is further highly undesirable from a conservationist perspective," they added.
The H5N1 bird flu virus has spread quickly in recent months, and has been reported in birds in more than 40 countries across Asia, Europe and parts of Africa.
Humans rarely catch the virus, but it has killed 110 people and infected 196 since 2003. Experts fear the virus could acquire the ability to pass easily from human to human and could kill millions of people in a pandemic.

The virus is found naturally in ducks, and usually does not make them sick. But they can spread it, especially in their droppings.
"It has been shown that influenza viruses remain infectious in lake water up to 4 days at 22 degrees C (72 degrees F) and more than 30 days at 0 degrees C (32 degrees F) (7)," the researchers wrote.

Dabbling ducks -- those that prefer to browse in shallow waters, such as mallards -- are particularly likely to carry the virus with no ill effects.
When chickens and ducks are allowed to mingle, chickens can become infected and H5N1 kills them very quickly.
Veterinarians and other animal-health experts say quick culling of poultry is the best way to deal with this, but there has been some debate about the role of wild birds.

"It is clear that the H5N1 problem originated from outbreaks in poultry and that the outbreaks and their geographical spread probably cannot be stopped without implementation of proper control measures in the global poultry industry," Fouchier's team wrote.
"Poultry trade and mechanical movement of infected materials are likely modes for spreading highly pathogenic avian influenza in general," they added.
"It is most likely that the H5N1 virus has circulated continuously in domestic birds in Southeast Asia since 1997 and, as a consequence, has evolved substantially," they wrote.
Something must have changed, experts agree. H5N1 has been around in birds since 1959 and a 1997 outbreak in Hong Kong, in which 18 people became infected, was quickly stopped with merciless culling and disinfection of bird markets.
But it re-emerged in 2003 and has accelerated its spread.

The experts suggested that the spring migration may not spread the virus much. Water fowl seem most susceptible to infection when they are young, and they cited studies showing that the viruses are more common in birds in the autumn and less common in the spring.


Whooping crane pairs nesting at refuge

By BETSY BLOOM | La Crosse Tribune
NECEDAH, Wis. — It’s not geese that are laying the golden eggs at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge this spring.
At least four pairs of rare whooping cranes are nesting at the refuge, raising the possibility the endangered birds will produce the first chicks hatched in the wild in Wisconsin in more than a century, officials said.

Richard Urbanek of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who is senior biologist for the ongoing whooping crane restoration project, said he suspects a fifth pair is nesting on the refuge as well, and a sixth pair could be in a nearby state wildlife area.
The project, started in 2000, brings young cranes hatched in captivity to Necedah, where they are trained to follow an Operation Migration ultralight plane 1,200 miles to Florida’s Gulf coast.
As hoped, most of the 64 birds released through the project have made their way back to Wisconsin in the spring, Urbanek said.

Two of the pairs now on the nest at Necedah did produce one egg each last year but left it unattended long enough it was eaten by predators.
That’s a potential threat this year as well — the refuge is “full of raccoons,” Urbanek said — but the birds seem to have better parenting skills this time.
“They’re sticking really close to the nest and they’re doing everything just about perfect,” Urbanek said.
Nesting began last week, so the eggs should hatch in early May.

The tall, white cranes only produce one to two eggs in a season. “Their reproduction is very slow,” Urbanek said.
All of the nesting females are 4 years old, and were released in the project’s second year, while the males range in age from 5 to 3. Whooping cranes take four to seven years to mature enough for breeding, and often will pair for a couple years before nesting, said Larry Wargowsky, refuge manager.
The prospect of having home-grown chicks at the refuge doesn’t mean another batch of captive-hatched young cranes won’t be brought in this year, Urbanek said.
But the number of young birds the refuge receives this year could be lower, due to a late snowstorm that collapsed breeding pens at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Md., which has provided most of the project’s cranes.

The project also will repeat its “direct autumn release” program, in which fledgling cranes from the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wis., were set loose at the refuge in October in hopes they would follow the older birds on migration to Florida. Last year, four direct-release cranes successfully arrived on their own at Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge in west-central Florida.
The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership project is trying to establish a migrating flock of whooping cranes east of the Mississippi River. The goal is to have at least 25 breeding pairs in the eastern United States by 2020.
Nearly extinct in 1941, whooping cranes had a total population of 453 in March 2005, with about 275 in the wild.
The only other migratory flock of this strictly North American species, the tallest bird on the continent, nests in western Canada and winters on the Texas Gulf Coast.
For more information, visit www.bringbackthecranes. org or www.operationmigration.org.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.


Bird flu expected to arrive in U.S. soon
April 14, 2006
AdvertisementWASHINGTON -- In about three weeks, waterfowl, shorebirds and songbirds will start arriving in Alaska to begin mating. That's when and where government scientists expect the first case of bird flu to show up in the Unites States.
To screen the birds for the deadly virus, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Alaska's Fish and Game Department are setting up more than 50 backcountry camps accessible mainly by float planes or boats.

$29 mil. program to test 100,000
More than 40 species of waterfowl and shorebirds are considered susceptible to infection by the H5N1 bird flu virus that has killed more than 100 people, mostly in Asia. It also has killed or led to the slaughter of more than 200 million chickens, ducks, turkeys and other domestic fowl in Asia, Europe and Africa.

Species migrating from Asia across the Bering Strait -- considered the most likely carriers of the H5N1 virus -- include eiders, pintails, geese, long-tailed ducks, dunlins, sandpipers and plovers. There's also concern about gulls, terns and falcons.

The surveillance program will cost $29 million. Rick Kearney, wildlife program coordinator for the U.S. Geological Survey, said it will collect and sample 100,000 birds -- 15,000 to 20,000 in Alaska alone -- and called it an early warning system for poultry producers and health officials in the lower 48 states.
''If we find it this summer, it could provide them with several weeks of warning,'' he said. ''We're looking in all places, but we're looking most intently in the place we most expect to find it, Alaska.''
After Alaska, surveillance priorities are a matter of geography: the Pacific flyway from the Canadian border to southern California and then east to the Central, Mississippi and Atlantic flyways.


A Rare Bald Eagle Hatches
Officials celebrate the first chick born in more than 50 years on the Channel Islands.

By Gregory W. Griggs, Times Staff Writer — April 14, 2006

After years of trying to bring bald eagles back to the Channel Islands, wildlife officials on Thursday celebrated the first successful, unaided hatching of a chick in more than half a century.
The chick hatched Wednesday on Santa Cruz Island, the largest in the eight-island chain.
"This is a key element in the restoration of the Channel Islands," said David Garcelon, president of the Institute for Wildlife Studies in Arcata, Calif., which manages the eagle restoration program. "Getting a keystone, top predator back into the system is a tremendous accomplishment" on Santa Cruz Island without the aid of biologists.
A pair of adult eagles, born in captivity but raised on Santa Catalina Island, relocated to Santa Cruz Island last year and established a nest early this year. In March, biologists confirmed the presence of two eggs. They believed one of the eggs was not viable.
Biologists are now waiting for the parents, a 5-year-old male and a 4-year-old female, to feed the unnamed chick.
They expect this to happen in the next few days. After about eight weeks, scientists plan to make their first personal contact with the chick, which they will fit with an electronic transmitter and tag for future identification.
The hatching comes during the fifth and final year of the $3.2-million restoration program overseen by the National Park Service, which owns nearly a quarter of Santa Cruz Island, and the Nature Conservancy, which began purchasing the majority parcel of the formerly private island in the late 1970s.

Since the late 1940s, bald eagles have been unable to hatch on the Channel Islands without human help because their eggs contain high levels of toxic PCBs and DDT, a now-banned pesticide that Montrose Chemical Co. and other firms discharged off the Palos Verdes Peninsula in the 1950s and 1960s.
Money for the eagle restoration project came from a $140-million settlement paid by Montrose, other chemical companies and about 100 municipalities.
"We're doing a lot of restoration programs and now we're starting to turn the corner," said Kate Faulkner, chief of natural resources for Channel Islands National Park. "The ban on DDT is what led us to this point today. It's a long road, but I think this tells us we're on the right path."

For more information on the Institute of Wildlife Studies program on Santa Cruz Island, see: http://www.iws.org/


The main causes of sea otter deaths are:

· Parasites. Domestic cats and opossums, both introduced by people, shed parasites in their feces that are washing into the ocean and entering the marine food chain. The parasites attack the otter’s brain. Otters are also dying of intestinal parasites. Otters pick these horny-headed worms up from crabs. Intestinal parasites are one of the few diseases common among otters that do not have a direct connection to the land pollutants.
· Infections. Otters contract bacterial gastrointestinal diseases found in humans. These include salmonella and giardia food and water poisoning. Otters in the southern end of their range are also dying of valley fever, a fungal disease in humans that originates from the soil.
· Heart disease. This unusual cause of death among wildlife is on the rise in otters. Evidence suggests it is associated with domoic acid poisoning and possum parasites.
· Domoic acid. This toxin is produced by some algal blooms called red tides. Domoic acid poisons all kinds of marine mammals, but its effect on otters is slower and more pervasive. Biologists do not list domoic acid as a primary cause of otter deaths but believe the poison causes the animals to die of other causes such as heart disease. Biologists believe that nutrients from polluted runoff may be triggering more frequent red tides.
· Chemicals. Otters’ blood contains elevated levels of pesticides and other man-made substances. Biologists suspect that these chemicals are compromising the immune systems of otters, making them more susceptible to infectious diseases

. Δ

Colorado expects bird flu will arrive in fall
Migrating flocks that mix with Asian birds can't be kept out, but officials call human infection unlikely.

By Dave Curtin, Denver Post Staff Writer

When the greenwing teal and the Canada goose fly south to Colorado this fall, state wildlife veterinarians expect they'll bring avian flu with them.
After mingling this summer in Alaska with migratory birds from Asia, where the virus first surfaced, some North American birds are likely to pick up the flu, wildlife officials say.
Colorado and federal officials already have prepared monitoring and screening systems.
There will also be a telephone hotline for people to report dead birds - 877-462-2911.

Officials stress, however, that one northern mallard with the flu does not make a pandemic.
"Remember that avian influenza is an animal disease, it's not a human disease," said Keith Roehr, acting state veterinarian with the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

"The people who have become ill in most cases have very intimate and chronic contact with infected birds," Roehr said." The virus doesn't infect people very easily," he said. "With common hygiene and protection, people are at low risk."
Still, an army of state and federal agencies is getting ready to do battle against the H5N1 bird flu virus, which has infected tens of millions of wild birds and domestic poultry in Asia, Europe and Africa.
Fewer than 200 people have been infected - with the flu killing half of them.
To combat the virus, multiple Colorado agencies have joined to form the Avian Influenza and Surveillance Education Task Force for early detection of the virus when it lands in Colorado.
The effort will cost more than $500,000, according to Kristy Pabilonia, a Colorado State University researcher and the program's coordinator.
The state Division of Wildlife has been swabbing migratory birds since December to test for the flu.
The Department of Agriculture is monitoring poultry and livestock birds, and CSU tests the samples in a lab.
So far, 175 wild birds have been screened - mallards in northeastern Colorado and turkeys in the central-west region, said DOW veterinarian Laurie Baeten.

The task force will begin screening Canada geese along the Front Range in June, Baeten said.
Once the virus is confirmed in birds migrating through Colorado, the next line of defense is protecting commercial poultry facilities and small backyard flocks.
"There is no way to prevent wild birds from migrating into the United States, but we have fairly good biosecurity in place to prevent mixing of wild birds with domestic poultry," Baeten said.
That isn't true in Asia, where wild birds commingle with poultry and the
virus has ravaged the domestic chicken population.

"Here, the commercial poultry - egg layers and meat birds - are confined in an indoor facility and don't have direct contact with migratory birds," said Pabilonia.
A greater concern is noncommercial poultry - backyard hobbyists, 4H clubs and small operators. These birds are outside part of the day, and they may come in contact with migratory waterfowl, Pabilonia said.
Wild birds flying into a farm pond shed the virus in feces, potentially infecting domestic ducks and backyard chicken flocks.

The virus can also be transmitted from bird to bird through saliva and nasal secretions.
Pabilonia has been testing backyard flocks for about a year without finding the disease.
Meanwhile, Roehr, the acting state veterinarian, says the state's commercial poultry operators can protect their birds from the virus.
One of Colorado's largest egg producers, Morning Fresh Farms in Platteville, has a shower-in and shower-out policy for employees in direct contact with birds, said president Derek Yancey.
Those employees also wear masks, respirators and uniforms. Tires and undercarriages of delivery trucks are disinfected before entering the property.
"We've had these measures in place for eight or 10 years," Yancey said. "All commercial industry has some type of biosecurity program. It's protecting our livelihood and our investment."
The current avian flu threat is only one of many risks the poultry industry faces, Roehr said.
"Other types of avian influenza - both high and low pathogenic - have existed in the United States," Roehr said.
Last month, the Bush administration announced a federal plan to coordinate state and federal wildlife agencies.
The plan puts Colorado on the second tier of a three-tier risk system. Alaska and the Pacific Northwest get top priority in federal funding for bird testing.
Colorado will get $50,000 in federal funds to collect 500 wild bird samples, said Baeten.
The state health department plans to monitor poultry workers.
"It can be transmitted to humans, and that's why we are very interested in monitoring it," said Kathe Bjork, an epidemiologist for the state Department of Public Health and Environment.
"We're also interested in worker safety for people who work with birds that are sick," Bjork said. "We will have guidelines for worker safety and protective equipment, and we will monitor them for illness."
Staff writer Dave Curtin can be reached at 303-820-1276 or dcurtin@denverpost.com.


Activists flock to Kenya for migratory bird day
09 Apr 2006 15:38:53 GMT, Source: Reuters, By Marie-Louise Gumuchian

LAIKIPIA, Kenya, April 9 (Reuters) - Kenyan children recited poems and Peruvian artists portrayed migrating birds alongside dozens of performers and conservationists gathered in Kenya to celebrate World Migratory Bird Day.
Conservationists, artists and activists met on the edge of the Great Rift Valley to try to counter the negative influence which bird flu has had on how people view migratory birds.

Their meeting in Laikipia, about 180 km (112 miles) north of Nairobi, precedes a U.N. Environmental Programme bird flu seminar in Nairobi this week.
Kenya's part of the Great Rift Valley -- a vast geographical feature that runs from northern Syria to central Mozambique -- is a haven for birds like flamingos, pelicans and storks, but is thought to be at risk from bird flu.
Millions of birds migrating from Asia to the northern hemisphere stop here to enjoy the freshwater ponds, dams and lakes, all possible conduits for the avian flu virus.
The role of migratory birds versus the trade in bird products in the spread of avian flu has also been the source of much debate, with conservationists contending the disease's spread has not closely followed known bird migrations.
Scientists have not reached a consensus on the issue.

"Because the role of migratory birds is a very obvious one, it's often very tempting to say that migratory birds are bringing the disease," Robert Hepworth, executive secretary of the Convention on Migrating Species, told Reuters.
"Migratory birds have been involved of course, but the actual evidence of migratory birds spreading this disease across continents on a large scale is very patchy."
In Africa, the poultry trade poses a bigger risk for the spread of bird flu than migratory birds, some experts say.

Bird flu has spread rapidly since late 2003 from Asia to Europe, the Middle East and Africa, killing 109 people worldwide and raising the spectre of a mutated form which could pass easily between humans and kill millions of people.
From the start of the year, more than 30 new countries have reported outbreaks, increasing panic among populations who fear migrating birds may have come in contact with the disease and brought it to their doorstep.
"Something they look forward to seeing in the back garden is now being seen as a threat," Leon Bennum, director of science and policy at BirdLife International, said.
"There's a panic and hysteria spreading. People don't understand the role wild birds play."

Conservationists say some people have destroyed nests or have wanted to cut down trees for fear infected migratory birds would perch in their gardens.
"For people in Europe to be destroying swallows' nests as a response to this disease is a disproportionate, unjustified overreaction," Hepworth said.
World Migratory Day was celebrated in 40 countries on Sunday with bird walks and small festivals.
"This is a symbolic occasion which is going to declare to the world that the migratory birds do matter and that we do something in protecting them", Italian author and conservationist Kuki Gallmann said.

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L09227388.htm; © 1998-2001 Reuters Limited.


Endangered Cranes Sighted at Dupage Forest Preserve (early April)
Imagine you and 13 friends decide to embark on a long journey where you must travel more than 1,200 miles on your own power, finding food and shelter along the way. And there will be no one to guide you back; you'll have to remember the route you took to get there. This was the task that faced the 14 whooping cranes that recently stopped at a wetland at the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County's East Branch Forest Preserve in Glendale Heights for a couple of days of hard-earned rest.
Life is difficult for North America's tallest bird, the whooping crane (Grus americana). Included on the federal endangered species list, only a little more than 300 birds live in the wild. Breeding pairs typically raise only one chick each year, and individual whooping cranes do not reach breeding maturity until they are 4 years old. Habitat loss, poaching and disease brought the birds to a low point in the 1940s, when the population shrank to 16.
A recovery program began in 1967, and in 2001, the first assisted migration from Wisconsin occurred when a human-piloted ultralight aircraft led young cranes to wintering grounds along Florida's Gulf Coast.
The birds that stopped at East Branch hatched in spring 2005 and last fall were led by ultralight from Wisconsin to Florida, where they spent the winter. These birds began their spring migration on their own from Florida on this March 28th.
The birds' brief visit was exciting for District staff. According to animal ecologist Scott Meister, whooping crane migration patterns can be similar from year to year, and the birds may continue to use DuPage County as a stopover point on their long journey.
The whooping crane is not the only species reliant upon large natural areas and high-quality wetlands. "The more wetlands the District can conserve and restore, the more migratory birds such as cranes, rails, bitterns and moorhens that can find their critical habitat needs met here in DuPage County," notes Meister.

In fact, the District has been an important factor in the increased health of North America's only other native crane species, the sandhill crane (Grus canadensis). Listed as a threatened species in Illinois, sandhill cranes have faced many of the same dangers as whooping cranes, with loss of breeding habitat as a critical factor in the species' decline. Today, the species is recovering to stable condition, with a population of around 650,000 throughout North America. Groups of hundreds of sandhill cranes stop in DuPage County each year to rest and feed during their annual migrations. And, a breeding population has even returned to the county's large natural areas for several years, finding suitable wetland habitat to raise new generations of these majestic birds.
"The whooping cranes' stopover is just one more example of why habitat preservation is so important," says Meister. "So many species rely on the forest preserves for their very survival."

Since 1915, the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County has served the people of DuPage County through its mission to acquire and hold lands for the purpose of preserving the flora, fauna and scenic beauty for the education, pleasure and recreation of its citizens. Today the Forest Preserve District owns or manages over 25,000 acres of land, including 60 forest preserves and one state park. For more information, visit www.dupageforest.com, or call (630) 933-7200.


http://www.chicagoaudubon.org/webPDFs/2002/Compas0602.pdf - flight over Chicago in 2002.


Nesting couple
Bald eagles intent on making rickety tree their home

TOWN CREEK— Instinct led a young bald eagle couple to pair up, build a nest and mate, but they somehow missed Mother Nature's class on architectural stability. :::snip:::


and follow-up: http://www.decaturdaily.com/decaturdaily/news/060404/eagles.shtml

Posted on Wed, Mar. 29, 2006 California condors spotted nesting in Big Sur
BIG SUR, Calif. - For the first time in more than 100 years, California condors were spotted nesting in the northern part of the state, scientists said.
The condor couple was found Monday displaying typical nesting behavior inside a hollowed-out redwood tree in Big Sur, a mountainous coastal region south of Monterey, the Ventana Wildlife Society said Tuesday.
"For the past 10 years when this sort of thing came up, it turned out to be just in my dreams," Kelly Sorenson, the group's executive director. "Now it is a reality."
The male and female took turns guarding the nest every two or three days, never leaving the nest unattended for more than several minutes, the scientists said.
"Although the view into the cavity is very limited and we can't actually see the egg, we strongly suspect they have an egg based on their behavior at the nest site," said Joe Burnett, a wildlife biologist.

Scientists have worked for years to bring the condor back from the brink of extinction.
Ventana, a nonprofit group, began releasing condors into the wild in 1997 and now monitors a population of 38 condors in Central California.The last known condor egg in Northern California was collected in 1905 in Monterey County.
The condor recovery effort has increased the number of birds tenfold over the past two decades. But about 40 percent of released condors have died from attacks by golden eagles and power lines, among other causes.

Biologists said the mortality rate of condors in Big Sur is much lower.
Information from: San Jose Mercury News, http://www.sjmercury.com



Must be March: Ospreys Return to the Patuxent
Mar 22nd - 5:53am
LOTHIAN, Md. (AP) - One of the surest signs that spring has arrived on the
Patuxent River is the sight of an osprey displaying a freshly caught fish to his mate.
While ospreys and their mates winter in Central and South America separately, ospreys return to their mates every spring. Almost driven to extinction in the 1960s by the use of the pesticide DDT, ospreys abound once again on the Chesapeake

At the Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary, more than two dozen breeding pairs nest, said Karyn Molines, a naturalist at the sanctuary. "People come from Europe, where the ospreys never made a comeback, and they are amazed that we have so many," Molines told The (Baltimore) Sun.

For those who make the trip to the sanctuary about 20 miles east of Washington, the brown-and-white birds of prey put on
quite a show. Mating rituals include the "fish flight," in which the male zips around his mate waving a large fish. Catching large fish is an important skill because during the breeding season, males might present as many as eight fish to the female each day. Unlike kingfishers or pelicans, which plunge headfirst into the water for fish, ospreys snag fish with sharp talons on their
feet. Mating, which lasts only seconds, is repeated many times, not only to breed, but to bond, Molines said.

More than 2,000 osprey pairs now nest in the bay, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Web site.
The number of ospreys in the state has returned to 1950s levels, said Chandler Robbins, an ornithologist with the Patuxent
Wildlife Research Center.

Molines said the number is up from two breeding pairs on the Patuxent in 1972 when Maryland banned DDT use.
"It's an ecological success story," Molines said.
However, Don Merritt, a biologist with the Horn Point laboratory in Cambridge, said ospreys could once again be
threatened, this time by pollution and declining numbers of small fish such as menhaden. Ospreys feed on larger fish, such as striped bass, that depend on menhaden for food.

Information from: The Sun (Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press.)


Sentinels of the seas
Marine mammals provide insight into the health of oceans

By Bruce Lieberman
February 19, 2006
ST. LOUIS – Toxic algal blooms, animal waste and chemical pollution are making coastal waters an increasingly dangerous place for marine mammals and other animals that feed on them – including humans.
Marine mammals, as a consequence, have become sentinels of ocean health, signaling various kinds of naturally occurring and man-made environmental threats, said scientists gathered last week in St. Louis for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The conference ends today.
“I believe that these sea lions that are washing up along the coast are actually acting as important canaries in the coal mine, warning us of some ocean changes that contribute in fact to human health,” said Frances Gulland, a researcher at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito in Northern California.
Gulland has studied how domoic acid – a toxin produced by some algae that proliferate in algal blooms along the coast – threatens the health of sea lions. Algal blooms, which occur worldwide, are sometimes known as red tides and are common off San Diego County beaches.
Some types of blooms are toxic, others are harmless. But all types of algal blooms have appeared more frequently in recent years, and scientists don't know why. River runoff polluted with fertilizers may be one cause, and global warming may contribute, but there are no conclusive answers, scientists said.
Domoic acid spreads in the food chain when it's eaten by sardines, anchovies and other fish that larger predators then eat
. Sea lions with the toxin can develop brain damage that causes seizures and comas. The toxin may cause females to spontaneously abort pregnancies.
The toxin can sicken and even kill humans. The first known case of domoic acid poisoning in humans was in 1987, when 150 people were reported ill with neurological and gastrointestinal problems after ingesting farmed blue mussels.
In 1991, the first evidence of domoic acid on the West Coast was found when a large number of pelicans and cormorants died in Monterey.
Then, between May 15, 1998, and June 19, 1998, 70 California sea lions were stranded along the Central California coast from San Luis Obispo and Santa Cruz. Of the 70 sea lions, 57 died. Since then, toxic algal blooms have occurred off the California coast every summer.
Because marine mammals become sick when they eat fish, commercial catches of fish are screened for the toxin before they can be sold. But sport fishermen who eat their own catch could be at risk of ingesting the toxin, scientists said.
In the Gulf of Mexico off Florida, toxic algal blooms that produce a chemical called brevetoxin have hit manatees hard in recent years, said Gregory Bossart, with the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution in Ft. Pierce, Fla.
Brevetoxin can be found in the air above the surface of the water, so that manatees who breathe in the contaminated air are gassed to death, Bossart said.
Toxins found in the air just above coastal waters in the Gulf can apparently make people ill. Bossart and his colleagues have associated incidents of algal blooms with an upsurge in the number of people reporting to nearby emergency rooms with bronchitis, asthma flare-ups and other respiratory problems.
Studies in mice, meanwhile, have shown that exposure to brevetoxin can cause long-term damage to the animal's immune system, Bossart said.
“We really need to understand the mechanisms of these toxins, how they cause disease,” he said. “We need to understand the chronic effect of these toxins and we need to understand why red tides are apparently increasing in number.”
Some diseases originate on land. Off California, brain damage in sea otters who swim near major water outflows along the coast of urban areas has been linked to a parasite called toxoplasma gondii. The parasite is commonly found in the feces of cats that washes down storm drains and into the ocean, said Patricia Conrad, a scientist at the University of California Davis.
Between 1998 and 2004, a survey of 257 live sea otters off California found that 38 percent of them were infected with the parasite,
Conrad said. Of 305 dead otters found during that same period, 52 percent of them had been infected.
The problem is likely to get worse as the huge population of domesticated and feral cats in the United States – estimated at about 150 million – rises, Conrad said.
A cat owner herself, Conrad has urged people to keep their cats indoors to prevent them from eating the birds and rodents that often carry the parasite.
She recommends bagging cat litter for disposal at sanitary landfills.
“What the sea otters are trying to tell us about this land-sea connection is a very important message,” she said. “Not only what we do, but what our pets do on the land, can actually affect not only us but the animals in the sea, like sea otters.”
Man-made pollution that finds its way into the ocean, meanwhile, has reached even Arctic lands, where dangerous chemicals have accumulated in the tissues of killer whales, seals, polar bears and other animals that feed on fish and other sea life.
Todd O'Hara of the University of Fairbanks has cataloged several toxins in the animals, including pesticides, flame retardants, stain repellents and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury.
Humans who live in the Arctic and hunt in the sea for subsistence are also exposed to such chemicals, and O'Hara is studying the health risks they face.
“There's a clear connection with polar bears and the Arctic fox as indicators of ocean health,” he said. “These animals feed on similar species as humans. We share resources with these animals.”
Bruce Lieberman: (619) 293-2836; bruce.lieberman@uniontrib.com



Wild birds: vectors or victims of avian flu?
24 Jan 2006 01:01:08 GMT; Source: Reuters
By Ed Stoddard
JOHANNESBURG, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Do the wild birds that fly through cold winter skies to warmer lands silently carry deadly bird flu around the world? Or are they simply potential victims?
With the virulent H5N1 form of bird flu now killing people in Turkey, there is a growing debate about how it is spread.
Many scientists believe migrating wild fowl are responsible for carrying the virus from Asia and Siberia to Romania and Turkey. And although some argue there is not enough evidence yet for firm conclusions, the theory is gaining ground.
"Scientists are increasingly convinced that at least some migratory waterfowl are now carrying the H5N1 virus in its highly pathogenic form, sometimes over long distances, and introducing the virus to poultry flocks in areas that lie along their migratory routes," the World Health Organisation said in its latest bird flu fact sheet last week.
It said scientists found that viruses from the most recently affected countries, all of which lie along migratory routes, were almost identical to viruses recovered from dead migratory birds at Qinghai Lake in China.
The viruses from Turkey's first human cases were also virtually identical to the Qinghai Lake strain, it added.

In Romania, the outbreak was first detected in and around the remote Danube Delta, Europe's largest wetlands which also happen to lie on a major migratory route for wild birds.
"We do know that avian influenza viruses are carried by migratory birds all over the world. But not all of them are highly pathogenic or H5N1," Juan Lubroth, the senior officer for infectious diseases with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), told Reuters.
"I think that wild birds may introduce the virus but it is through man and man's marketing systems (the poultry trade) that the disease spreads. It is also possible that poultry can transmit the virus to wildlife when they share the same ecosystem," Lubroth said.
The H5N1 virus has killed at least 80 people since late 2003, mostly in Asia. Victims contract the virus through close contact with sick birds, but there are fears it could mutate into a form that can pass easily from person to person -- making the question of how it is spread across regions so important.
"Should this new role of migratory birds be scientifically confirmed, it will mark a change in a long-standing stable relationship between the H5N1 virus and its natural wild-bird reservoir," WHO said.
The FAO said this month that the virus could spread to Africa and Europe during the northern spring migration.
"The avian influenza virus could become entrenched in the Black Sea, Caucasus and Near East regions through trade ... and it could be further spread by migratory birds particularly coming from Africa in the spring," it said.
The H5N1 strain has not yet been detected in Africa -- not an easy task given already high rates of mortality among the continent's chickens. Tests on dead wild birds from Malawi and Ethiopia have been negative and hundreds of tests of migratory bird droppings in South Africa have found no trace either.
The growing popularity of the migratory bird theory has worried an increasingly vocal group of conservationists who fear unfounded claims could lead to indiscriminate slaughters.
"The pattern of outbreaks between Asia and eastern Europe do not follow any known pathway for migrant birds, which tend to fly on northerly-southerly routes. They don't go east-west," Dr Richard Thomas of BirdLife International told Reuters.
Andre Farrar, an ornithologist with Britain's Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), said if migratory birds were spreading H5N1, it would have been spotted elsewhere.
"Go back a stage and start off in southeast Asia. If migration was the primary route you would have expected it in Australasia but it hasn't shown up there," he said.

However, Farrar said it was prudent to keep looking.
"There is clearly a theoretical risk that migrant birds can carry bird flu. There is published work showing that ducks in captivity can survive H5N1 infection and can shed the virus and we'd be foolish to ignore this," he said.
He said the focus on migratory birds detracted from other, more useful policies to fight the virus like public education, biosecurity measures and curbs on the movement of poultry.
Conservationists say tens of thousands of healthy wild migrant birds in infected countries have been tested over the last decade, but not one has had the virus.
Wild birds that have been found to have the H5 virus, such as swans found in Croatia in October, were already dead -- suggesting they were victims rather than vectors.
BirdLife says the poultry trade is a more likely vector.
"South Korea and Japan are two countries to have suffered outbreaks of H5N1 in poultry and wild birds following importation of infected duck meat," it said in a statement.
"Both countries stamped the virus out by culling infected poultry around disease areas, and imposed strict controls on poultry and poultry meat imports. Neither country has suffered a recurrence of the virus despite the influx each autumn of hundreds of thousands of wild migrant birds," it said.
Conservationists are also concerned about reports of wild birds being killed because of fears of avian flu in several countries from Madagascar to Vietnam.


People and wildlife jostle for land in East Africa
Rodrique Ngowi | Amboseli National Park, Kenya
23 January 2006 11:00
Elephants, buffaloes and other wild animals drink water from one side of a swamp, while Maasai warriors watch hundreds of cattle graze on another side as the tropical sun sears the parched land of the wildlife sanctuary.
Wildlife officials recently bent stringent conservation regulations to allow cattle into this national park -- the only permanent source of water in the region -- to help the Maasai save precious livestock from a punishing drought.
Conservation workers warn that Amboseli's delicate swamps and streams face a severe threat from government plans to hand over management of the park to the local county council, a move that will likely result in the granting of rights to Maasai for collection of firewood and water in the sanctuary and to graze their cattle there regularly.
Competition for pastures and water could drive wildlife out of this tiny sanctuary and intensify conflict between animals and people in a region already scarred by clashes over scarce resources, said Connie Maina, spokesperson for the Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS).

While the prolonged drought has yet to kill any animals in wildlife sanctuaries, it has already started to push elephants to leave national parks and game reserves to search for food and water near human settlements -- triggering conflicts between pachyderms and people.
Dwindling wildlife would discourage tourists from visiting Amboseli, Kenya's second-highest earner of tourism revenues. That would hurt the local community that uses the earnings for education, health services and digging wells, said deputy senior warden Thomas Mailu.
Conservation groups have sued the government to stop the handover to Olkejuado county council, whose predecessor ran the sanctuary from 1961 until environmental degradation caused by mismanagement and internal wrangling prompted the central government to take over in 1974.
Local and international conservation groups say the county council politicians lack the ability, experience and qualified personnel to conserve wildlife and their habitat, maintain roads and provide security for tourists and animals in a border region troubled by armed banditry.
Going ahead
Still, government spokesperson Alfred Mutua said the government will go ahead with plans to hand over the park to the council.
"The government is empowering the local community so that they can benefit directly from the resources in their area," Mutua said.
Amboseli is essentially a huge salt lake that fills with water during the rainy season and dries up completely in arid months, except for the swamps and streams that provide water for wild animals, migratory birds, people and cattle.
The water comes from rain and melting snow that seeps from Kilimanjaro -- Africa's tallest mountain that dominates the skyline from neighbouring Tanzania.
Amboseli's new status "is going to be absolutely suicidal as far as the management of wildlife is concerned" because the removal of stringent conservation controls could lead to the drying up of water sources, Mailu said.
The Maasai, however, said they are happy that they will be able to set new priorities over access to water and pastures for cattle and wildlife once the sanctuary is handed over. They plan to press their councillors to open up more parts of Amboseli to livestock.
"We could negotiate with them because they are our people. If it is cows, they have cows like these, so they are people that we could talk to and they could listen to us," nomadic cattle herder Saiyanka Mollel said after washing a herd of 400 cows that later grazed in Amboseli.
"Cows are our life," Mollel said as two elephant calves pressed heads together and used their trunks to fight in the distance.
Amboseli is the second-highest earner of revenues among Kenya's 59 national parks and reserves. Only six of these make a profit and finance conservation in others. Taking Amboseli from the KWS would hurt the less popular sanctuaries, said the KWS's Maina.
But local tourist guide Saitoti Saibolob said the new arrangement is fairer to residents who would get a bigger portion of revenues since they share the land with wildlife and often lose cattle to wildlife.

Other countries
Kenya is not the only East African nation struggling to ensure wildlife and people share water and land. Ethiopian authorities have relocated members of local ethnic groups from the Nech-Sar National Park and handed over its management to a private firm.
The Netherlands-based African Parks Foundation is also expected to take over Ethiopia's Omo National Park, home to the Mursi, towering nomads famous for huge clay plates inserted into the lips and ear lobes of their women.
Government plans to evict them "would severely disrupt their present economy, a semi-nomadic mix of cattle herding, riverbank cultivation following the Omo flood and bushland cultivation following the main rains", Survival, a London-based group that helps tribal people, said on its website.
One official, however, said Ethiopia needs to develop the tourism industry, which is Africa's second-largest source of foreign exchange, after oil.
"For the last 40 years we have totally neglected our conservation areas and wildlife," said Tadesse Hailu, head of the Ethiopian Wildlife and Conservation Department.
In Tanzania, conservation workers are concerned that officials are studying an application by a Dubai-based businessman to build a hotel on the route of the annual migration of more than 1,5-million wildebeest, zebras and other herbivores -- the world's most spectacular wildlife sight.
The planned hotel in the Serengeti National Park would violate stringent conservation rules that ban the construction of permanent structures inside national parks. -- Sapa-AP

Also: http://newsfromrussia.com/world/2006/01/23/71590.html



Suspects arrested for killing rare wild birds
www.chinaview.cn 2006-01-20 08:22:35
BEIJING, Jan.20 -- Two men suspected of poisoning hundreds of rare species of wild birds in Nanjing, East China's Jiangsu Province, were arrested on Wednesday, the local public security bureau revealed yesterday.
A group of five local residents scattered poisoned grains in Yancheng National Rare Birds Nature Reserve several times last month, intending to lure and kill wild ducks and sell their downs for money, according to Zhang Kai, a police officer who investigated the case.
Two suspects were caught when they came back days later to pick up the bodies of these ducks.
More than 200 such ducks were poisoned and killed and at the same time some rare species of wild birds that cohabitate with the ducks also died after eating the grains.
About 400 wild birds were reported to have died including three red-crowned cranes and dozens of white and black storks, said Zhang, from the Sheyang branch of Yancheng Municipal Public Security Bureau in north Jiangsu.
Several cases of poisoning and killing endangered species of wild animals have been reported in both Yancheng and other nature reserves in recent years.
Lu Shicheng, an expert in wild birds protection, told China Daily: "Severe punishment should be imposed on people who do this. Killing three birds with a protected level such as red-crowned cranes will lead to sentences of more than 10 years in prison, in accordance with the country's current wild animal protection law, if they are convicted."
According to Lu, as a fundamental way to ensure the welfare of the wild birds, Yancheng nature reserve should further enhance their protection work and promote people's awareness in wild animal protection.
Out of the 400,000-hectare Yancheng natural reserve, only the 19,000-hectare core area has been under full-time close supervision, according to Deng Jingdong, vice- director of the site.
It was set up in 1984 and provides shelter to more than 3 million wild birds every year, including 14 species of the country's most highly protected birds and 76 species of second-level protected birds.
The nature reserve is the only place in the country for almost all the 1,500 migrant red-crowned cranes in the world to spend their winter, Deng added.



From the Los Angeles Times — LETTERS
Endangered Species Act is in peril itself
January 20, 2006

I appreciated your article "Grizzlies May Lose Protection" (Jan. 16) <<http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/la-me-grizzlies16jan16,1,6774729.story>> because it highlights how important the Endangered Species Act is to the recovery of America's wildlife.
For more than 30 years, the act has been successful at preventing the extinction of species such as bald eagles, grizzly bears and manatees. In fact, only nine out of about 1,800 plants and animals listed as endangered have been declared extinct. However, recently Rep. Richard W. Pombo (R-Tracy) pushed legislation through the House that could actually lead to more wildlife extinctions and undermine our national commitment to protecting endangered species. Fortunately, we have a chance to stop this disastrous and destructive bill in the Senate.
Here in California, we must urge Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer to not only vote against the bill but become champions for the Endangered Species Act, so that we may continue to protect species such as the grizzly.
Field Organizer, Defenders of Wildlife, Riverside, CA


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