New in Nature

Rare rufous bush chat sighted in UK for first time in 40 years

A rufous bush chat was spotted on Saturday at a salt marsh in Stiffkey, north Norfolk, prompting hundreds of birdwatchers to since flock to the area.  The rufous bush chat, also referred to as the rufous warbler and rufous bush robin, is native to southern Spain, Africa and the Balkans and is partially migratory, wintering in Africa and India.  It is rarely spotted in northern Europe, with its presence on British shores stirring up much excitement among the birding community. Dick Filby, of Rare Bird Alert, explained that the bird would have been “heading for a tropical climate and went the wrong way” and that, since “they are meant to winter south of the Sahara (…) it is likely that this one may have taken a wrong direction”. The last time the bird was sighted in Britain was in 1980 at Prawle Point in Devon.  In 1998, a rufous bush chat was spotted in Jersey, which is part of the British Isles but not classed as part of Britain. Larger than the European robin with a long, frequently fanned tail with black and white tips, it has pale brown feathers, a prominent whitish supercilium and a dark eye-stripe.  Its call […]

Tasmanian Devils reintroduced to mainland Australia after 3,000 years

Tasmanian devils have been reintroduced into the wild in mainland Australia for the first time in 3,000 years.  Scientists hope that the predators’ release can help balance ecosystems devastated by invasive species.  Species recovery organisation Aussie Ark has collaborated with non-profits Global Wildlife Conservation and WildArk to release 26 captive-raised individuals into an expansive 1,000 acre fenced sanctuary named Barrington Wildlife Sanctuary in Barrington Tops, eastern Australia. Tasmanian devils are marsupials renowned for their ferocity and powerful bone-crushing jaws.  Their name originates from their high-pitched squeals and they are famous for their gritty fights over access to animal carcasses.  The species is classified as endangered, with the population of wild individuals in Tasmania estimated to be less than 25,000.  It is suspected that dingo packs contributed to their eradication on the mainland and, while some do still inhabit the island state of Tasmania, their numbers have declined over the past two decades.  During the 1990s, there were as many as 150,000 but the animal population was hit by a deadly and contagious mouth cancer that dramatically reduced numbers. It is not known exactly why the species disappeared from Australia thousands of years ago, but researchers suspect that it was due […]

40% of world’s plant and fungi species face extinction

Two fifths of global plants and fungi species are at risk of extinction as humans encroach on the natural world, states a new international report from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.  The grim assessment states that scientists are in a race against time to discover, identify and rescue plant and fungi species before we lose many of them forever, with the number of susceptible species currently near 140,000. The report is entitled State of the World’s Plant and Fungi 2020 and, along with an accompanying short video, is a collaboration between 210 scientists across 42 countries, analysing the health of thousands of species.  Its authors examine how humans are interacting with and utilising plants and fungi, and what potential opportunities are being missed.  The researchers suggest that action is desperately needed to accelerate risk assessments using technologies such as artificial intelligence, in order for key conservation areas and species to be protected. The report notes that the biosphere has never been under such intensive and urgent threat as it is now.  Deforestation rates have soared due to clearing land to feed growing populations, global emissions are disrupting the climate system, new pathogens are threatening crops and human health, illegal trade […]

Conservation success stories of 2020

2020 has been a difficult year.  What with Coronavirus, Brexit, enduring racism necessitating the Black Lives Matter movement and World War 3 seeming dangerously imminent, it has been easy to feel increasingly hopeless about the world that we live in.  In the field of wildlife conservation specifically, the Covid-19 pandemic has been particularly disheartening, placing a well-needed spotlight on the horrors of the global wildlife trade, while the bushfires that raged across Australia devastated tens of millions of acres and a billion animals and left hundreds of species in need of emergency intervention. I myself have become progressively obsessive about checking the news several times a day since the beginning of 2020’s downward spiral and, while I think it is crucial to be aware of current affairs and not to turn a blind eye, I have also become conscious of the damaging impact of learning about tragic and quite frankly terrifying occurrences while feeling somewhat powerless to help.  I also believe it is important to realise that the news consists of the most extreme and usually negative stories and that sometimes we must actively seek out the positive to remind ourselves that more affirming reports do exist.  Below, I have […]

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