Sunday, April 27, 2014 4 comments By: Arun Kumar

The Hawksbill Turtle


The Hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) is a critically endangered sea turtle belonging to the family Cheloniidae. The hawksbill's appearance is similar to that of other marine turtles. It has a generally flattened body shape, a protective carapace, and flipper-like arms, adapted for swimming in the open ocean. E. imbricata is easily distinguished from other sea turtles by its sharp, curving beak with prominent tomium, and the saw-like appearance of its shell margins. Hawksbill shells slightly change colors, depending on water temperature.


The hawksbill is one of the smaller sea turtles. Head is narrow and has 2 pairs of prefrontal scales (scales in front of its eyes). Jaw is not serrated. Carapace is bony without ridges and has large, over-lapping scutes (scales) present and has 4 lateral scutes. Carapace is elliptical in shape. Flippers have 2 claws. The carapace is orange, brown or yellow and hatchlings are mostly brown with pale blotches on scutes.

Relative Size

            Not particularly large compared with other sea turtles, the adult hawksbill sea turtles have been known to grow up to 1 m (3 ft.) in length, weighing around 80 kg (180 lb.) on average. The heaviest hawksbill ever captured was measured to be 127 kg (280 lb.).


Did You Know

Young hawksbill turtles are unable to dive deep and spend their early years floating amongst sea plants near the water’s surface. The mechanisms that aid hawksbill turtles in returning to their nesting beaches are still unknown. It has been thought that these turtles are guided inland by magnetic fields and lunar phases/position.


Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Reptilia
Order
Testudines
Family
Cheloniidae
Genus
Eretmochelys
Species
imbricata

Other Names

German
Echte Karettschildkröte
French
Tortue imbriquée
Spanish
Tortuga carey
  
Status

The hawksbill turtle is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List, and is listed on Appendix I of CITES, and Appendix I of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS or Bonn Convention). The United States Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service have classified hawksbills as endangered under the Endangered Species Act since 1970.


Population

Hawksbills are solitary nesters and, thus, determining population trends or estimates on nesting beaches is difficult. The largest populations of hawksbills are found in the Caribbean, the Republic of Seychelles, Indonesia, and Australia. Each year, about 500-1000 hawksbill nests are laid on Mona Island, Puerto Rico and another 100-150 nests on Buck Island Reef National Monument off St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. In Mexico, about 2,800 hawksbills nest in Campeche, Yucatán, and Quintana Roo each year. Lutz et al. estimate the number of adult hawksbills living in the Caribbean today is 27,000.


The largest nesting population of hawksbills appears to occur in Australia. Approximately 2,000 hawksbills nest on the northwest coast of Australia and about 6,000 to 8,000 off the Great Barrier Reef each year. Additionally, about 2,000 hawksbills nest each year in Indonesia and 1,000 in the Republic of Seychelles.

Habitat

Hawksbill turtles are mainly associated with the clear, relatively shallow water of coastal reefs, bays, estuaries and lagoons, with nesting generally occurring on remote, isolated sandy beaches. They are usually seen resting in caves and ledges in and around these reefs throughout the day. As a highly migratory species, they inhabit a wide range of habitats, from the open ocean to lagoons and even mangrove swamps in estuaries.


Range

          The Hawksbill sea turtles have a wide range, found predominantly in tropical reefs of the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic Oceans. They have a circum-global distribution throughout tropical and, to a lesser extent, subtropical waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, and Pacific Ocean. Hawksbills are migratory and individuals undertake complex movements through geographically disparate habitats during their lifetimes.


Biology

Hawksbills are omnivorous and will also eat mollusks, marine algae, crustaceans, sea urchins, fish, and jellyfish. They feed mainly on sponges by using their narrow pointed beaks to extract them from crevices on the reef, but also eat sea anemones and jellyfish. In the Caribbean, as hawksbills grow, they begin exclusively feeding on only a few types of sponges, and they can eat an average of 1200 lb. (544 kg) of sponges a year. Aside from sponges, hawksbills feed on algae, cnidarians, comb jellies and other jellyfish, and sea anemones. They also feed on the dangerous jellyfish-like hydrozoan, the Portuguese man o' war.


Male hawksbills mature when they are about 27 inches (70 cm) long. Females mature at about 30 inches (80 cm). The ages at which turtles reach these lengths are unknown (They reach maturity after 30 years.). Female hawksbills return to the beaches at night, where they were born (natal beaches) every 2-3 years to nest. They usually nest high up on the beach under or in the beach/dune vegetation. The nesting season varies with locality, but in most locations nesting occurs sometime between April and November. A female hawksbill generally lays 3-5 nests per season, which contain an average of 130 eggs. Eggs incubate for around 2 months.


The baby turtles usually hatch at night after around two months. They instinctively crawl into the sea, attracted by the reflection of the moon on the water (possibly disrupted by light sources such as street lamps and lights). While they emerge under the cover of darkness, baby turtles that do not reach the water by daybreak are preyed upon by shorebirds, shore crabs, and other predators. The normal lifespan of hawksbill turtles is thought to be about 30 to 50 years.


Predators

Hawksbill turtles have a hard shell that discourages predators from trying to eat them. Adult turtles are consumed by sharks, crocodiles, large fish, and octopi. Directly after hatching, hawksbill turtles face the most dangerous time of their lives: the journey to water. Although this scramble only lasts a few minutes, countless hatchlings are preyed on by flocks of gulls and large crabs.
  

Threats

The most important threats to Hawksbill turtles are

(i) Tortoiseshell Trade - Within the last 100 years, millions of Hawksbills have been killed for the tortoiseshell markets of Europe, the United States and Asia. The global plight of the Hawksbill in the latter half of the 20th Century has been recognized by the inclusion of the species in the most threatened category of IUCN’s Red List since 1968 and the listing of all Hawksbill populations on Appendix I of CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, since 1977. 
(ii) Egg Collection - Intense levels of egg exploitation continue in many parts of the world, especially Southeast Asia, where it approaches 100% in many areas. 
(iii) Destruction of Nesting Habitat - Tropical coastlines are rapidly being developed for tourism which often leads to destruction of nesting habitat. Because Hawksbills prefer to nest under vegetation they are particularly impacted by beach-front development and clearing of dune vegetation. 
(iv) Destruction of Foraging Habitat - Hawksbills are typically associated with coral reefs, which are among the world’s most endangered marine ecosystems. Climate change has led to massive coral bleaching events with permanent consequences for local habitats. 
(v) Entanglement and Ingestion of Marine Debris - including Fishing Gear. Hawksbills are particularly susceptible to entanglement in gill nets and capture on fishing hooks.


Conservation Measures

           In 1982, the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species first listed E. imbricata as endangered. This endangered status continued through several reassessments in 1986, 1988, 1990 and 1994 until it was upgraded in status to critically endanger in 1996. The data given by the MTSG (Marine Turtle Specialist Group) showed the worldwide hawksbill sea turtle population had declined by 80% in the three most recent generations, and no significant population increase occurred as of 1996.


Hawksbill turtles are protected by various international treaties and agreements as well as national laws. They are listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), which means that international trade of this species is prohibited. In the U.S., NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have joint jurisdiction for marine turtles, with NOAA having the lead in the marine environment and USFWS having the lead on the nesting beaches. Both federal agencies, and a number of state agencies, have promulgated regulations to eliminate or reduce threats to sea turtles.
  

References
http://www.seaturtles911.org/image/hatchling-predators.jpg


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Tuesday, April 8, 2014 0 comments By: Arun Kumar

The Northern Bald Ibis


The Northern Bald Ibis, Hermit Ibis (Geronticus eremita) is a migratory bird found in barren, semi-desert or rocky habitats, often close to running water. Adults have a bare head and neck, which are red in colour apart from a black crown. Blueish-purple feathers cover the rest of the body and are long and glossy with a metallic green hue. The upper wing-coverts are a glossy purple-red and the long curved beak is also red. Juveniles have a dark appearance and have grey feathers on their heads.
  

The reasons for the species' long-term decline are unclear, but hunting, loss of foraging habitat, and pesticide poisoning have been implicated in the rapid loss of colonies in recent decades. The species probably split into two distinct populations at least 400 years ago and, since then, the two populations have been diverging morphologically, ecologically, and genetically; nevertheless, the Turkish and Moroccan populations of this ibis are not currently classed as separate subspecies.


Relative Size

            The Northern Bald Ibis is a large, glossy black bird, 70–80 cm (28–31 in) long with a 125–135 cm (49–53 in) wingspan and an average weight of 1.0–1.3 kg (35–46 oz). The plumage is black, with bronze-green and violet iridescence, and there is a wispy ruff on the bird's hind neck. The face and head are dull red and un-feathered, and the long, curved bill and the legs are red. The sexes are similar in plumage, although males are generally larger than females and the longer-billed males are more successful in attracting a mate.


Did You Know

Religious traditions helped this species to survive in one Turkish colony long after the species had disappeared from Europe, since it was believed that the ibis migrated each year to guide Hajj pilgrims to Mecca. The ibis was protected by its religious significance, and a festival was held annually to celebrate its return north.

Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Aves
Order
Ciconiiformes
Family
Threskiornithidae
Genus
Geronticus
Species
eremita

Other Names

German
Waldrapp
French
Ibis chauve
Spanish
Ibis Eremita
  
Status

This species has undergone a long-term decline and now has an extremely small population, with over 95% of truly wild birds concentrated in one subpopulation in Morocco. Northern bald ibis is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List 2007. Listed on Appendix I of CITES and Appendices I and II of the Convention on Migratory Species (Bonn Convention).

Population

Although the Northern Bald Ibis was long extinct in Europe, many colonies in Morocco and Algeria survived until the early twentieth century, the last colony in Algeria disappearing in the late 1980s. In Morocco there were about 38 colonies in 1940 and 15 in 1975, but the last migratory populations in the Atlas Mountains had vanished by 1989. In Souss-Massa National Park and Tamri, Morocco, 113 pairs nested, out of 319 adults in 2013, and produced 148 fledged young ones.


Habitat

Unlike other ibises, which nest in trees and feed in wetlands, the Northern Bald Ibis breeds on undisturbed cliff ledges, and forages for food in irregularly cultivated, grazed dry areas such as semi-arid steppes, and fallow fields. The close proximity of adequate steppe feeding areas to breeding cliffs is an important habitat requirement.


Range

            The Northern Bald Ibis was once widespread across the Middle East, northern Africa, and southern and central Europe, it bred along the Danube and Rhone Rivers, and in the mountains of Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. It is extinct over most of its former range, and now almost the entirety of the wild breeding population is in Morocco, at Souss-Massa National Park, where there are three documented colonies, and near the mouth of the Oued Tamri, where there is a single colony containing almost half the Moroccan breeding population.

Biology

The Northern Bald Ibis is very sociable. They leave the colony or roost site in groups early in the morning, and may fly 10 -15 km. They march together at a brisk pace, fanning out in a line and using their long curved bills to probe the sand or shrubs for their prey. The Ibis will hunt for a variety of different prey items from snails, worms, insects, and arachnids to frogs, lizards and even small rodents. At the end of their beak they have very sensitive touch and smell organs and this allows them to differentiate between a potential food and debris.


The Northern Bald Ibis breeds in loosely spaced colonies, nesting on cliff ledges or amongst boulders on steep slopes, usually on the coast or near a river. The ibis starts breeding at 3–5 years of age, and pairs for life. The male chooses a nest site, cleans it, and then advertises for a female by waving his crest and giving low rumbling calls. Once the birds have paired, the bond is reinforced through bowing displays and mutual preening.


The Northern Bald Ibis normally lays 2–4 rough-surfaced eggs and is incubated for 24 –25 days to hatch. The chicks fledge in another 40 – 50 days and the first flight takes place at about two months. The Northern Bald Ibis lives in captivity for an average of 20–25 years (oldest recorded male 37 years, oldest recorded female 30 years). The average age in the wild has been estimated as 10–15 years.


Predators

The well-protected cliff ledges by the sea make access difficult for mammals like foxes, cats or jackals. One of the known primary predators of eggs and chicks is the raven. It has a similar size of the ibises and some individuals seem to specialize on preying on the Ibis eggs and young. Other possible predators include birds of prey, reptiles and domestic cats and dogs.
  

Threats

It has declined for several centuries, perhaps partly owing to unidentified natural causes. However, the more recent rapid decline is undoubtedly the result of a combination of factors, with different threats affecting different populations. In Morocco, illegal building and disturbance close to the breeding cliffs and changes in farming on the feeding grounds are the threats that may have the most severe impact on the population. Hunting is the main threat to the tiny Syrian population, and overgrazing and collecting of firewood have reduced habitat quality in feeding areas. Pesticide poisoning has also had disastrous consequences, most notably in Turkey in the late 1950s, when hundreds were killed outright by DDT (sprayed to kill mosquitoes), with the survivors subsequently suffering very low breeding success.


Conservation Measures

           Bird Life International and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) have been working alongside local people to research and monitor this enigmatic species. A major step has been to train and manage a team of wardens in Morocco to monitor breeding and roosting sites, prevent disturbance by tourists or fishermen, collect information, and make local people aware of the bird’s significance.


In 1991, the Souss-Massa National Park was designated specifically to protect nesting and feeding areas and in 1994, a monitoring and research programme was set up involving local people The provision of freshwater near the breeding colonies in the national park has been shown experimentally to increase productivity, A captive breeding centre has been built at Ain Tijja-Mezguitem, northeastern Morocco, and is stocked with zoo-bred imported birds. Six pairs bred in 2006 and successfully reared six offspring. In 2007, the aviary contained 19 birds (13 adults and six juveniles). A reintroduction is planned once the population has reached around 40 birds. Other captive breeding schemes exist or are planned in Austria, Spain and Italy, and programmes of releasing captive birds are either in progress or in the experimental phase.
  

References

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014 1 comments By: Arun Kumar

The Bactrian Camel


The wild camel (Camelus ferus) is a large, even-toed ungulate native to the steppes of Central Asia. The Bactrian camel has two humps on its back, in contrast to the single-humped dromedary camel. It belongs to the family Camelids (llamas, vicuñas, alpacas, guanacos and camels) evolved in North America during the Eocene Epoch, over 46 million years ago. They differ from all other mammals in the shape of their red blood cells, which are oval instead of circular.



The two-humped Bactrian camel is smaller and more slender than its domestic relative, and is superbly adapted to life in the harsh Gobi Desert. It has a double row of long eyelashes and hairs inside the ears to protect against damage from sand, and the camel’s long slit-like nostrils can be closed for further protection during sandstorms. The foot has a tough undivided sole consisting of two large toes, which spread apart widely for efficient travel across the shifting desert sands. The camel’s fur, which is a light brown or beige color, is thick and shaggy during the harsh winters and is shed rapidly in the spring.

Relative Size

            The Bactrian camel is the largest mammal in its native range and rivals the dromedary as the largest living camel. Shoulder height is from 180 to 230 cm, head-and-body length is 225–350 cm and the tail length is 35–55 cm At the top of the humps, the average height is 213 cm. Body mass can range from 300 to 900 kg with males often being much larger and heavier than females.


Did You Know

            Bactrian camels regularly eat snow to provide their water needs as snow and ice are the only forms of water during winter. The latent heat of snow and ice is enormous compared with the heat capacity of water, demanding a large sacrifice in heat energy and forcing animals to eat only small amounts at a time.


Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Mammalia
Order
Artiodactyla
Family
Camelidae
Genus
Camelus
Species
C. ferus
  
Other Names
           
English
Wild Camel and Bactrian Camel
French
Chameau de Bactriane
German
Trampeltier
Mongolian
хавтгайг
Spanish
Camello Bactriano
  
Status

            The Bactrian camel is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List, 2010. The species was first identifies as Vulnerable in 1986 and Endangered by 1996 before classified as Critically Endangered (CR) by 2002, 2007 and 2008. The species is also listed on Appendix I of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS or the Bonn Convention)
  
Population

            The domesticated population exceeds over two million whereas the wild population dwindle approximately 600 individuals surviving in China and 350 in Mongolia.
  

Habitat

           The camels are migratory, and their habitat ranges from rocky mountain massifs to flat arid desert, stony planes and sand dunes. Historically the habitat extended from about the great bend of the Yellow River, across the deserts of southern Mongolia and northwestern China to central Kazakhstan.
  
Range

            The species has suffered a drastic reduction in its range. It now occurs only in three separated habitats in northwest China (Lake Lob, Taklimikan desert and the ranges of Arjin Shan) and one in the Trans-Altai Gobi desert of southwest Mongolia. The largest population lives in the Gashun Gobi (Lop Nur) Desert in Xinjiang Province, China, which was for 45 years used as a test site for nuclear weapons. The camels’ distribution is linked to the availability of water, with large groups congregating near rivers after rain or at the foot of the mountains, where water can be obtained from springs in the summer months, and in the form of snow during the winter.
  

Biology

         Bactrian camels are extremely adept at withstanding wide variations in temperature - from freezing cold to blistering heat.  They have a remarkable ability to go without water for months at a time, but when water is available they may drink up to 57 liters at once. To conserve water, camels produce dry faeces and little urine and allow their body temperature to fluctuate, therefore reducing the need to sweat. If no fresh water is available, the species can drink salty or brackish water with no ill effects (camels are the only land mammals adapted for this).


Wild Bactrian camels are highly migratory, and herds will travel vast distances in search of food and water sources. Herds of up to 100 individuals may gather in the autumn at the beginning of the rutting season, usually in the more mountainous regions where there is a greater availability of water. Wild camels are diurnal, sleeping at night in open spaces and foraging for food during the day. Shrubs and grass form the bulk of the diet, with the animals being well adapted to feed on thorns, dries vegetation and salty plants, which other herbivores avoid.


Breeding usually occurs in winter, often overlapping with the rainy season. Males during this time are often quite violent and may bite, spit, or attempt to sit on other male camels. The age of sexual maturity varies, but is usually reached at 3 to 5 years. The Gestation lasts around 13 months, with most young being born from March through April. Females give birth to their first calf at around 5 years of age and the inter birth interval is usually at least 2 years. The young ones are nursed for about 1.5 years. The young calf stays with its mother for three to five years, until it reaches sexual maturity. Wild camels are thought to live up to 40 years of age.


Predators

The only extant predators that regularly target wild Bactrian camels are gray wolves, which have been seen to pursue weaker and weather-battered camels as they try to reach oases. Due to increasingly dry conditions in the species' range, the numbers of cases of wolf predation on wild camels at oases has reportedly increased. Historically, the Caspian tiger was also known to predate wild Bactrian camels before its extinction.


Threats

           Habitat loss has been high to development for mining and industrial complexes. Due to increasing human populations, wild camels are forced to share food and water sources with introduced domestic stock and are thus sometimes shot by farmers. The domesticated Bactrians, freely mate with wild individual and led to a concern of a loss of genetically distinct wild Bactrian camel. Wild Bactrian camels have been heavily hunted for their meat and hide over the centuries and further habitat loss has occurred with the development of a gas pipe-line in the north of the reserve and highly toxic illegal mining activities.
  

Conservation Measures

           Areas of the Gobi and Gashun Gobi desert (Lop Nur), where the Bactrian camel remain, are protected by the Great Gobi Reserve in Mongolia which was established in 1982, and by the national reserve ‘Lop Nur Wild Camel Reserve’ in China which was established in 2000. The Wild Camel Protection Foundation (WCPF) aims to increase the population of the species through captive breeding. In 2003 it established a sanctuary in Zakhyn-Us, Mongolia, which has some of the last non-hybridized herds of Bactrian camels.
  

References

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