The grey wolf

One of the most controversial predators in the world is for sure the famous grey wolf, it is also one of the most adaptive, which despite the ubiquitous persecution and death sentence from the human kind, it has still manage to survive in large parts of the world, and eve thrive, due to his shy nature and its excellent survival skills.

Wolf_distr

The wolves are highly sociable animals, with a clear family structure, built around an alpha pair. The killing of a wolf may have catastrophic consequences over the entire pack, as each individual has a well defined role in raising puppies and hunting. As interesting fact, the domestic dog is a descendant of one of those now-extinct wolf populations, sometimes showing similar social behavior.

The beneficial role of the wolf on the ecosystem has been proved by scientists in the field, in U.S. Yellowstone park, where for tens of years the absence of wolves led to herbivore populations of deer grow out of control, exhausting landscape from over-grazing, and even changing water course, of rivers, by modifying the consistence of vegetation on the river beds. Then the wolves have been reintroduced and the beneficial effects appeared soon, the forest recovered, and the deer number was back under control, all has been measured by scientists and recorded, nevertheless this did not increase wolves acceptance by human communities, in U.S or around the world.

The wolf is a common motif in mythology throughout Eurasia and North America (corresponding to the historical extent of the habitat of the gray wolf). The obvious attribute of the wolf is its nature of a predator, and correspondingly it is strongly associated with danger and destruction, making it the symbol of the warrior on one hand, and that of the devil on the other. The modern trope of the Big Bad Wolf is a development of this although majority of recorded attacks on people have been attributed to animals suffering from rabies. There is however a conflict between wolf and heard grazer which use to leave their animals unattended in the mountains and wild spaces, claiming themselves absolute master of the land…I just call it irresponsibility, laziness and even stupidity, with absolute lack of respect for the other species with which we share this planet.

Fingers cross for this magnificent animal, hope it will survive, as it truly represents the symbol of wild and unspoiled nature! It would be a pity one day if it existed only in the fairy tales or the zoos, the world would never be the same again!

Wildlife as dog food, made in U.S.A.

 

Anything for a dollar, right? It is the case in the U.S.A. today, as its iconic wildlife (as the american bison) is used to make dog food (other “flavors” are available as well, also made of wildlife meat)! Found this in a store in Europe in Spain, but seems they distribute all over Europe! And this is not a new company opened with the new U.S. administration, it has been going on since before…Simply disgusting and outraging! What can we than ask from less developed countries, like African countries, if the “free world leader” is behaving like this?!

On the wildlife in the ZOOs

Too often people are considering some things as part of normality, simply because they exist. It is the case today of the ZOOs (public zoological parks), which have been around since 1765 (first of its kind has been open in Vienna, Austria), and whose number exceeds now 10.000, most of them located in bigger cities, in US alone being visited by more than 180 Mil people annually. The origins of the ZOOs may date back even longer at the time of kings and emperors, during Roman Empire for example, when wild animals caged and later used for fighting in the arena, an outstanding number of animals being eventually killed.

Many zoos see their primary purpose as breeding endangered species in captivity and reintroducing them into the wild. Modern zoos also aim to help teach visitors the importance on animal conservation, often through letting visitors witness the animals firsthand. Some critics and the majority of animal rights activists say that zoos, no matter what their intentions are, or how noble they are, are immoral and serve as nothing but to fulfill human leisure at the expense of the animals (which is an opinion that has spread over the years). However, zoo advocates argue that their efforts make a difference in wildlife conservation and education.

I normally visit a zoo each time I visit a new country, and their set-up may vary wildly, normally the well-being of animals (mainly space dedicated) is directly proportional with well-being of that particular country inhabitants. The ZOOs in general are having various sources of financing, from selling tickets to visitors, to public funding. Animals also can be traded between zoos. It is said the animals in the ZOOs these days are babies of other captive animals, and no longer caught from the wild.

My reaction, when I see animals behind bars, as in below picture, only makes me sad. Look again please! There is nothing more unnatural and immoral than this! You would normally put people behind bars, for a determined period of time, if they did something wrong! But what these bears did wrong? They didn’t brake any law, in fact they could have not, because they only submit to the laws of nature, this has always been the case with wild animals for millions of years now!

HPIM0004

Still today the captives wildlife living conditions can unimaginable. Many animals remain in barren concrete enclosures or other minimally enriched cages. Animals which naturally range over many km each day, or make seasonal migrations, are unable to perform these behaviors in zoo enclosures. For example, elephants usually travel approximately 45 km (28 mi) each day. Animals in zoos often exhibit behaviors that are abnormal in their frequency, intensity, or would not normally be part of their behavioral repertoire. These are usually indicative of stress. For example, elephants sometimes perform head-bobbing, bears sometimes pace repeatedly around the limits of their enclosure, wild cats sometimes groom themselves obsessively, and birds pluck out their own feathers. Some critics of zoos claim that the animals are always under physical and mental stress, regardless of the quality of care towards the animals. Elephants have been recorded displaying stereotypical behaviors in the form of swaying back and forth, trunk swaying or route tracing. This has been observed in 54% of individuals in UK zoos. Worst seems to be in some Chinese provinces, as below bear cages, one square meter in size, in Dalian zoo, Port Arthur, Liaoning Province, China.

china cage bears 1997

Try to judge for yourself next time when visiting a ZOO! Hopefully the visit would only educate you on the conditions of the particular wild animals in the wild, as many zoos, in more developed countries, will display such info boards. But surely I wouldn’t call a Sunday visit to the zoo as an entertainment day!

The damage of invasive species in Australia

 

The fauna of Australia consists of a huge variety of animals; some 83% of mammals, 89% of reptiles, 24% of fish and insects and 93% of amphibians that inhabit the continent are endemic to Australia (ecological state of a species being unique to a defined geographic location)! Australians are very proud of their local fauna, two of the most famous ones being present even of the country’s coat of arms.

A unique feature of Australia’s fauna is the relative scarcity of native placental mammals. Consequently, the marsupials — a group of mammals that raise their young in a pouch, including the kangaroos and koalas, occupy many of the ecological niches placental animals occupy elsewhere in the world.

The settlement of Europeans from 1788 has significantly affected the fauna, through hunting and introduction of non-native species, leading to numerous species extinction! An invasive species is a plant, fungus, or animal species that is not native to a specific location (an introduced species), and which has a tendency to spread to a degree believed to cause damage to the environment. Introduced organisms affect the environment in a number of ways. Rabbits render land economically useless by eating everything. Red foxes affect local endemic fauna by predation while the cane toad poisons the predators by being eaten.

Costly, laborious and time-consuming efforts at control of these species has met with little success and this continues to be a major problem area in the conservation of Australia’s biodiversity.

Elephants of Thailand’s tourism industry

There are fewer countries whose culture is so connected to elephants like Thailand, but how good is that for elephants? Surely there are more elephants statues around cities and temples of Thailand than there are wild elephants left in the wild, last estimate around 2000 exemplars.

And Thailand, as part of the South-East Asia region, has been among champions at deforestation and continues to lead ahead in unsustainable tourism. Apart from the coral reefs destruction through negligence of the local motor boats driver and industrial destruction of tropical forests, wild animals also suffer through extreme exploitation, either through illegal trade or tourism industry.

An apparently innocent elephant ride, multiplied with the massive number of foreign tourists in Thailand, have developed over years an industry which seems to have brought massive suffering to these wonderful and extremely socially complex herbivores. There are few sources of reading below to understand how suffering starts since elephant is just a baby, to adulthood, and older age, where, if lucky, it ends in the elephant sanctuary (if saved in time).

One piece of advise for tourists, which still have doubts, is to visit first an elephant sanctuary, and then they can decide if they take the ride or not. I am sure they will have doubts…Elephant Sanctuaries in Thailand

Other sources:

Why You Shouldn’t Ride Elephants In Thailand,

The Shocking Secrets Behind Thailand’s Elephant Tourism Industry,

Can elephant tourism be ethical? by The Telegraph

The Ugly

 

The common Roe Deer

Few words about one of the most common wildlife in rural and wild Europe, the roe deer, a familiar sight close to villages and agricultural fields.

Only the males have antlers, which fall every year, and can be sometimes found in the forests. When the male’s antlers begin to regrow, they are covered in a thin layer of velvet-like fur which disappears later on after the hair’s blood supply is lost. Males may speed up the process by rubbing their antlers on trees, so that their antlers are hard and stiff for the duels during the mating season. Unlike most cervids, roe deer begin regrowing antlers almost immediately after they are shed.

coarne caprior

The roe deer is spread in most of Europe, as well as Caucas, and its conservation status is LC (Least Concern), although too often the fall victims of poaching, for meat.

Areale_Capreolus_capreolus

Delta of Danube, Eastern Europe

 

The Danube Delta is the second largest river delta in Europe, after the Volga Delta, and is the best preserved on the continent. 

In 1991 agricultural land in the delta surpassed 100,000 hectares, and more than a third of its surface has been affected by crop cultivation, forest plantation, or pisciculture. As a result of these changes, along with the increasing pollution and eutrophication of the waters of the Danube, and decades of exploitation and poor fishing regulations, the fish population has been visibly reduced.

In 1991, the Romanian part of the Danube Delta became part of UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. Around 2,733 km2 of the delta are strictly protected areas.

As a young region in full process of consolidation, the Danube Delta represents a very favorable place for the development of highly diverse flora and fauna. Situated on major migratory routes, and providing adequate conditions for nesting and hatching, the Danube Delta is a magnet for birds from six major eco-regions of the world, including the Mongolian, Arctic and Siberian. There are over 320 species of birds found in the delta during summer,of which 166 are hatching species and 159 are migratory. Over one million individual birds (swans, wild ducks, coots, etc.) winter here.