Weekly round-up: January 17

Manatees are classed as Vulnerable by the IUCN

Rewards have been offered for information leading to conviction over the discovery of a manatee in Florida with ‘Trump’ scratched into the algae on its back.

It is a federal criminal offence to harass the animals, which are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Threatened by the US Endangered Species Act. 

The Center for Biological Diversity has offered a $5,000 reward, with an additional $20,000 posted by Guardians of the Galaxy star Dave Bautista.

Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the Center, said: “Manatees aren’t billboards, and people shouldn’t be messing with these sensitive and imperiled animals for any reason. However this political graffiti was put on this manatee, it’s a crime to interfere with these creatures, which are protected under multiple federal laws.”

Writing on Twitter, Bautista pledged a further $20,000.

Last year 619 manatees died in Florida waters up to December 25, including as a result of boat strikes and becoming trapped in locks.
Source Center for Biological Diversity

Myotis nimbaensis (Bat Conservation International)

A new species of bat has been discovered in the Nimba mountains in West Africa. 

Bright orange and black in colour, it was discovered by a research team conducting field surveys of mining tunnels, or adits, in Guinea – the adits have been colonized by numerous species of bat, but are in varying states of disrepair and will eventually collapse without intervention, destroying their habitat.

The new species has been christened Myotis nimbaensis, meaning “from Nimba”. Members of the Myotis family are also known as “mouse-eared bats”.

Winifred Frick, chief scientist at Bat Conservation International, associate research professor at the University of California SC and a member of the research team, said: “In an age of extinction, a discovery like this offers a glimmer of hope. It’s a spectacular animal. It has this bright orange fur, and because it was so distinct, that led us to realise it was not described before. Discovering a new mammal is rare. It has been a dream of mine since I was a child.”

Bat Conservation International, in collaboration with local mining company Société des Mines de Fer de Guinée, has started work to reinforce the tunnels. The Nimba mountains are home to an exceptional range of biodiversity resulting from its series of peaks punctuated by varying lowland habitats.
Source American Museum of Natural History

The Marine Conservation Society is calling on UK governments to require microfibre filters in new washing machines from 2024, a bid to reduce the volume of microplastics contaminating the ocean.

Launching a petition to lobby government, the charity stated an estimated 9.4 trillion fibres escape washes every week in the UK, eventually making their way to the sea – where many are ingested by marine animals. Microplastics have been found in 63 per cent of shrimp in the North Sea, while a study published in December revealed microplastic contamination in mussels sold at supermarkets in 12 different countries.

The petition, which can be viewed here, also calls for commercial machines to be retrofitted with filters by 2024.
Source The Marine Conservation Society

Bison are ‘ecosystem engineers’ (And-Kulak/Pixabay)

Looking for a new job in 2021? The Kent Wildwood Trust has advertised for two bison rangers in preparation for their ambitious rewilding project in West Blean and Thornden Woods. 

The Wilder Blean Project aims to use bison in their role as ecosystem engineers to manage a 200 hectare area of woodland – activity by the animals such as eating bark and felling trees can both create and improve habitats for neighbouring species.

The job specification notes that training will be provided, with the successful candidates spending several months training on similar projects in the Netherlands.
Source Kent Wildwood Trust

Warming waters may result in certain species of shark being born earlier and smaller with lower chances of survival, according to a new study by the Arc Centre of Excellence.

Researchers monitored the eggs of epaulette sharks – a species recorded only on the Great Barrier Reef – and found those in warmer waters grew faster, using their yolk sac quicker and so hatching earlier. The hatchlings then needed to feed almost immediately, while lacking in energy and starting life at a significant disadvantage.

The study assessed eggs in water up to 31C.

Co-author and associate professor Jodie Rummer said: “The epaulette shark is known for its resilience to change, even to ocean acidification, so if this species can’t cope with warming waters then how will other, less tolerant species fare?”

Lead author Carolyn Wheeler added: “Sharks are important predators that keep ocean ecosystems healthy. Without predators, whole ecosystems can collapse, which is why we need to keep studying and protecting these creatures.”
Source Arc Centre of Excellence
Publication Scientific Reports

The Prince of Wales unveiled the Terra Carta – or Earth Charter – this week, billed as “a roadmap to 2030 for businesses to move towards an ambitious and sustainable future”. It will also serve as the “guiding mandate” for the Sustainable Markets Initiative, launched by Prince Charles at Davos last year.

The charter, presented at the One Planet Summit in France, comprises ten articles divided into five categories, including creating sustainable industries and reinvigorating innovation. Key to its success is driving a move towards sustainability in the private sector, while a Natural Capital Investors Alliance also launched at the summit aims to target $10 billion this year towards natural capital, which it defines as “the stock of renewable and non-renewable resources (e.g. plants, animals, air, water, soils, minerals) that combine to yield a flow of benefits to people”.

Supporters of the charter include BlackRock, which has previously been accused of failing to support climate change resolutions but last year garnered praise when punishing 53 companies for climate inaction, and Conservation Capital, which has raised £250 million for the development of conservation enterprise initiatives. Heathrow Airport, which recently won the right to build a third runway in the Supreme Court after a battle over climate targets, is also listed.
Source Sustainable Markets Initiative

What to watch A snake has stunned scientists by using its tail as a lasso in order to climb up smooth, vertical poles – specifically those housing bird boxes, designed (unsuccessfully) to keep the ingenious predators at bay

What to read Dire wolves aren’t a Game of Thrones creation, they once roamed North America – find out why they went extinct

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