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.

 

The Red Deer of Europe and Asia

The red deer is one of the largest deer species. The red deer inhabits most of Europe, the Caucasus Mountains region and parts of Asia. It also inhabits the Atlas Mountains region between Morocco and Tunisia in northwestern Africa, being the only species of deer to inhabit Africa. Although at one time red deer were rare in parts of Europe, they were never close to extinction.

Subtle differences in appearance are noted between the various subspecies of red deer, primarily in size and antlers, with the smallest being the Corsican red deer found on the islands of Corsica and Sardinia and the largest being the Caspian red deer (or maral) of Asia Minor and the Caucasus Region to the west of the Caspian Sea. The deer of Central and Western Europe vary greatly in size, with some of the largest deer found in the Carpathian Mountains in Central Europe.

Mature red deer usually stay in single-sex groups for most of the year. During the mating season, called the rut, mature stags compete for the attentions of the hinds and will then try to defend the hinds they attract. Rival stags challenge opponents by belling and walking in parallel. This allows combatants to assess each other’s antlers, body size and fighting prowess. If neither stag backs down, a clash of antlers can occur (as present in attached picture), and stags sometimes sustain serious injuries.

Red deer are widely depicted in cave art found throughout European caves, with some of the artwork dating from as early as 40,000 years ago! What a great animal, another symbol of wilderness!

The chamois of Europe’s mountains

The chamois is a goat-antelope native to mountains in Europe, including the European Alps, the Pyrenees, the Carpathians, the Tatra Mountains, the Balkans, parts of Turkey, the Caucasus, and the Apennines.

A true symbol of wilderness, they can be found on top of mountains in summer where there is enough food and few predators, but they can come down in valleys during winters, and they can be spotted on the touristic trails quite often, as these photo cameras captured them, in attached photos. Surely your mountain trip will be much more interesting if you manage to spot on the way these majestic mountain animals!

 

Brown Bears of the Carpathians, Romania

One of the last corners of true wilderness in Europe are the Carpathian mountains, most of them in territory of one Eastern Europe country, Romania! This is one of the last remaining homes of shrinking populations of brown bears in Europe (excluding Russia), but with huge pressure from many sides like deforestation, hunters lobby, poaching and infrastructure development!

In recent past, poverty (lack of capital to exploit local resources like forest) together with very high tolerance of Romanian rural people for wildlife have allowed brown bear population to survive in these places. Currently as Romania joined European Union and received funds to develop their roads, and when most of forests were auctioned to private Western European bidders for exploitation, with lack of proper government legislation to allow long term sustainability, together with intensive poaching from increasing number of local rural population and even hunting lobby represented by richest person in Romania, all these factors started to take their toll on the now officially estimated 6000 brown bears in Romania. It is a matter of time before all bears are gone, with current pace, and Romania will join the other European countries which have almost completely sacrificed their bears and other wildlife predators for profit or ignorance reasons.

In favor of bears survival there is still high tolerance from part of population, although most would not actively support an initiative and anyway majority would always favor developed infrastructure instead of current status, and a handful of non-profit organizations like WWF Romania which do a great job in trying to assure bears survival, and have many initiatives in this regard, but of course they count as well as much funding as possible to continue their fight and here you can contact them and try to support them! Romsilva is another organization (public) which tries to protect the forests from illegal deforestation, they can gather high number of volunteers to re-plant trees in non-urban areas and they have a bit more funds to monitor forests and wildlife with drones and video cameras, whose images they also share on their facebook account: here . Also Bear Sanctuary in city of Zarnesti does a great job savings captive bears from owners which captured them illegally, unfortunately these bears can never return in the wild, but they can still serve an education purposes for visitors, here for more details!

Poaching is another phenomenon which takes a big toll on bear population, this is made with snares or with guns, as at least in Romania, almost each person with a license for legal hunting is also an opportunistic poacher. They do this for food, for “sport” and also from lack of education, for them predators are clearly bad animals, these people failed to understand, even when explained, how all elements of an eco-system connect! In attached pictures is a brown bear seen by a group of Romanian tourists which love mountains and sometimes they see wildlife which they happily photograph. But in the same forests unfortunately you can also find remaining of brown bears fallen victims to poachers.