Famous Wildlife migrations

Birds do it. Fish and mammals do it, even insects and reptiles do it. Animals across the globe fly, swim or walk in their effort to find food or a more hospitable climate or places to breed. To be counted as a true migration, the movement of the animals should be an annual or seasonal occurrence. Migrants can use the sun, the stars, reflected light, the Earth’s magnetic field and their sense of smell to find their way.

The longest migration record is held by a bird, the Arctic terns, weighing in at less than 4.5 ounces (125 grams), flying around 25,000 miles (40,000 kilometers) from their Arctic breeding grounds to the Antarctic and back. But a few years ago, researchers fitted birds with miniature geolocators and discovered that some of them traveled more than 50,000 miles (80,000 km) in a year because of the meandering routes they took to exploit prevailing wind systems!

Arctic terns

Also famous in birds world, the Alaskan bar-tailed godwit, which apparently makes its eight-day, 6,835-mile autumn migration (11,000 km) from Alaska to New Zealand in one step, with no stopovers to rest or refuel!

The longest migration made by a land mammal is that of the caribou, which can travel 3,000 miles annually, in North America!

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In Africa, migrating wildebeest know there’s strength in numbers. They travel close to 1000 miles in a herd of over 1.5 million individuals, along with hundreds of thousands of zebra and gazelles, between Kenya and Tanzania.

On the other hand, the world’s largest mammal migration (in terms of numbers of individuals) occurs every October through December, when up to 10 million straw-coloured fruit bats migrate from the Congo to Zambia’s Kasanka National Park.

According to Guinness World Records, the leatherback sea turtle holds the record for the longest migration of any reptile. Astoundingly, a tagged turtle reportedly took 647 days to travel from its nesting site on the beaches of Papua, Indonesia, to its feeding grounds off the coast of Oregon in the United States.

Salmon fishes have one of most impressive migratory power in animal kingdom, they traverse between freshwater and saltwater. After hatching of eggs salmons remain in river waters for 2-3 years. During that time salmons undergo many physiological changes. These changes help them to migrate to seas waters without facing much obstacles. For next 3-4 years they prefer to live within salt water. Reproductive capacity within this species of fish will develop during that time. Then they migrate back to fresh water, the exact river where they born, return to home for spawning. The exceptional navigation power itself help salmons to make their return journey from saltwater to freshwater, their brain can detect exact magnetic field of their birth place. Their ability in jumping and sense of smell also help them during their extreme migration, will cover up to 3800 kilometers in a complete migration. You could then truly say the salmon’s live is one long migration route, with few preparation and transformation stages!

 

Demoiselle cranes have to take one of the toughest migrations in the world. In late August through September, they gather in flocks of up to 400 individuals and prepare for their flight to their winter range. During their migratory flight south reaching altitudes of 16,000–26,000 feet (4,900–7,900 metres), and along their arduous journey they have to cross the world’s highest mountains (Himalaya) to get to their over-wintering grounds in India.

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Like nomadic humans, animals migrate because it’s often difficult to survive if you remain in the same place all year long. By moving from one place to another, these animals also give their environments time to rebound as well. Food supplies are often more plentiful when the animals return after a long absence. Migrations may be one way that ecosystems keep themselves in balance.

Migrations are the true animal kingdom marathons and triathlons, proving one more time that each living individual is a survivor and a champion of its specie, each year betting their lives on it, whereas in human world only few take lower scale equivalent of long distance body and mind endurance challenges! This is one extra reason for all humans to respect wildlife and try to learn from, and to assure the survival of these champion species in a natural unspoiled environment, and a continuity of their migratory way of life, saving their most important spots for feeding and breeding along these essential for survival migratory routes!

World’s most amazing migrations images HERE, and their amazing record keepers, by CNN. Enjoy!

Happy International Day of Forests!

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Today, with the occasion of International Day of Forests, let’s take the time and review few of most important well known benefits of forests for humanity and wildlife alike, to understand importance of fighting for for their long term preservation, in their actual state, limiting current intensive exploration by governments and private companies whose only short term and narrow minded objectives are material profits to benefit few!

Forests help us breath, also clean dirty air and keep the Planet cool: Trees absorb CO2 and emit Oxygen, essential for existence of life on Earth as we know it, whereas CO2 is stored in wood, leaves and soil, often for centuries, delaying global warming and maintaining a fragile ecosystem balance! Today’s combination of high CO2 human activity emissions and cutting down forests is leading to an accelerated global warming, with its associated disasters!

Home of biodiversity: Nearly half of all known species live in forests, estimated at 80% of biodiversity on land, including bugs and worms who work nutrients into soil, bees and birds spread pollen and seeds, and keystone top of the food chain species who keep herbivores in check, protecting on long term the well-being of forest!

Water regulator, as important part of water circuit in nature, refilling aquifers and important role in fighting floods: Large forests can influence multi-regional weather patterns, for example disappearance of Congo basin forest may impact climate on American continent! Regarding floods, tree roots are key allies in heavy rain, especially for low-lying areas like river plains. They help the ground absorb more of a flash flood, reducing soil loss and property damage by slowing the flow. Forests also act like giant sponges, catching runoff rather than letting it roll across the surface, but they can’t absorb all of it. Water that gets past their roots trickles down into aquifers, replenishing groundwater supplies that are important for drinking, sanitation and irrigation around the world.

They block wind: Groups of trees can also serve as a windbreak, providing a buffer for wind-sensitive crops and making it easier for bees to pollinate them.

They keep soil in place and clean dirty soil: A forest’s root network stabilizes huge amounts of soil, bracing the entire ecosystem’s foundation against erosion by wind or water. Not only does deforestation disrupt all that, but the ensuing soil erosion can trigger new, life-threatening problems like landslides and dust storms, or desertification. In addition to holding soil in place, forests may also help cleaning out certain pollutants. Trees can either sequester the toxins away or degrade them to be less dangerous. This is a helpful skill, letting trees absorb sewage overflows, roadside spills or contaminated runoff.

They feed us and give us medicine: Some trees provide fruits, nuts and other seeds and a wealth of natural medicines. The asthma drug comes from cacao trees, for example, while a compound in eastern red cedar needles has been found to fight an infection that resists many antibiotic drugs. About 70 percent of all known plants with cancer-fighting properties occur only in rain forests. Also many other medical benefits are yet to be explored and apply in practice, but large tropical forests disappear today faster than researchers have time to fully grasps all unexplored benefits!

They help explore and relax, reduce noise pollution and stress, lower blood sugar, help with better concentration, diminished pain and improved immunity for humans: Sound fades in forests, making trees a popular natural noise barrier, with just a few well-placed trees being able to cut background sound by about 50%! And because modern society is relatively a new born in evolutionary terms, humans may still feel natural in a forest, rather than a modern urban environment, supporting a multitude of hormones and natural process to occur in our bodies, making us happier people! It may even help us live longer!

Forests are pillars of human communities and here I am not referring to 1% richest of the planet, who probably could live happily in artificial underground palaces, if needed, but to majority 99% whose well-being and survival may depend on preservation of forests, on long term. I am sure through technology the problems as feeding the large population or shelter them may be over-come, but not sure you will feel happier, so it is in our majority interest to fight for a happier and greener future!

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Happy World Wildlife Day 2018!

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To all Wildlife lovers around the world, wishing you a Happy World Wildlife Day 2018! Let’s stay connected and join efforts in making sure there are still wild places and wild animals left in the world, where they rightfully belong! Let’s admire wilderness and take action, in any way we can, every-time is needed! The wildlife is counting on you more than ever!

Urban Wildlife

Urban and Wildlife seem from the start a contradiction, same as any other antonym words. Well, not really! As per Wikipedia, Urban wildlife is wildlife that can live or thrive in Urban environments! Different types of urban areas support different kinds of Wildlife (North America is famous for its coyotes, opossums of Virginia, moose in Anchorage, alligators in Florida, India and Africa for its urban monkeys, in Australia thrive more species of urban birds and insects), whereas some urban species have a cosmopolitan distribution, in some cases almost global. They include house mice, cockroachessilverfishblack ratsbrown ratshouse sparrowsrock doves, and feral populations of domestic species.

Urban areas range from fully urban – areas having little green space and mostly covered by paving, tarmac, or buildings – to suburban areas with gardens and parks. Pigeons are found scavenging on scraps of food left by humans and nesting on buildings, even in the most urban areas, as the tall buildings resemble their natural rocky homes in the mountains. Rats can also be found scavenging on food. Gulls of various types also breed and scavenge in various coastal cities. With an endless supply of food, more city chicks survive each year, and become accustomed to urban living. They in turn breed even more birds, with less reason to undertake a winter migration. The advent of these animals has also drawn a predator, as Peregrine falcons have also been known to nest in urban areas, nesting on tall buildings and preying on pigeons. The peregrine falcon is becoming more nocturnal in urban environments, using urban lighting to spot its prey. This has provided them with new opportunities to hunt night-flying birds and bats. Numerous animals can also live within buildings. Insects that sometimes inhabit buildings include various species of small beetles such as ladybirds, which often seek refuge inside buildings during the winter months, as well as cockroaches. Bigger mammal species like the moose seem to favor vicinity of people, especially when they have small calves, as they learned the predators won’t follow them in proximity of humans!

These animals living in urban areas sometimes come into conflict with humans, as some of them will open garbage bags in search of food, eat food left out for pets, prey on unattended pets, feed on prized garden plants, dig up lawns or become traffic hazards when they run out into the road. However one thing seems to be sure, these Urban species are here to stay, thanks to their very adaptive skills, and may be around long time after people are gone!

Europe’s big cat, the Lynx

Europe’s biggest wild cat, the Lynx, is weighing anywhere between 30 Kg (the Eurasian Lynx) and 9 Kg (the Iberian Lynx) and up to 70 cm height. It is considered a national animal in the Republic of Macedonia and is displayed on the reverse of the 5 dinars coin. It is also the national animal of Romania.

The Lynx (FB profile) is native to European, Central Asian, and Siberian forests. While its conservation status has been classified as “least concern”, populations of Eurasian lynx have been reduced or extirpated from Western Europe, where it is now being reintroduced. Lynx in Britain were wiped out in the 17th century, but currently the efforts of conservation groups have intensified, to persuade locals and government to re-introduce the lynx in the wild, to naturally curb the numbers of deer and hares.

In Spain starting 2004, a government survey showed just two isolated breeding populations of Iberian lynx in southern Spain, totaling about 100 lynxes. Since then, through massive effort and protection, the population has increased today to count over 400 individuals! However this effort must continue, to assure this sub-specie survives!

The Lynx is a strict carnivore, consuming about one or two kilograms of meat every day. It feeds on a wide range of animals from white-tailed deer, reindeer, roe deer, small red deer, and chamois, to smaller, more usual prey: snowshoe hares, fish, foxes, squirrels, mice, turkeys and other birds ( Video of lynx feeding in the wild).

Do animals have feelings or emotions?

More than half of world population lives in cities today. In the developed world, the percentage is much higher! And the urbanization trend will continue and accelerate in future, as cities give more opportunities for a higher living standard, to an increasing number of people. It means also that contact with nature and other species will be limited to sporadic country-side visits, exceptional contact with urban smaller wildlife or vacations visits to shrinking national parks, for most urban people. It is not surprising that younger generation today may have lived their entire life without constant basic contact with natural state of things, with nature itself, with wildlife and even with domestic animals, on which we ultimately feed.

A book I recently read and I think it might bridge the gap (as a starting point before real nature exploration) and would like to recommend is “The Inner Life of Animals“, which based on life-long observations of author and practical science easy for anyone to understand, presents animals (both domestic and wild) as beings capable of human-like emotions and feelings (e.g. pain, grief, gratitude, courage, happiness, empathy, altruism, fear,…), to help people better understand the subject through empathy, starting to see animals not as simply food or at best “creatures that experience only pale imitations of our rich range of sensations”, but as evolutionary complex beings, each very special in each own way, deserving human protection and a place in an unaltered nature, which they have earned along millions of years of evolution, a peer we should respect and learn from!

Author’s hope, which I share, is that humans which evolved in a world full of species (first human like ape, Lucy, is aprox. 3 Mil years old), and “had to survive despite them and with them”, by learning to read the intentions of predator species, or of animals we eventually domesticated, can quickly recover those traits and re-start the way we see the nature, and ecosystem, and the other species before they disappear, and to be able to take daily educated decisions on what we eat, how we treat animals, what negatively impacts nature and ultimately us, what to consume, and why bond with nature needs to be kept, which will assure preservation of a natural state of planet with its biodiversity, support healthy and moral humanity evolution and will ultimately make us humans happier!

Enjoy the reading!

The Inner Life of Animals Amazon hyperlink