Archive | Reptiles

Traveler Detained for Possessing 200 Illegal Animals

An Indonesian man was arrested Wednesday at an airport in Bangkok, Thailand for attempting to smuggle 200 live animals – including tortoises, snakes, squirrels, spiders, lizards and a parrot – in three suitcases.

The international wildlife monitoring group TRAFFIC said in a statement Thursday that the traveler was stopped after airport officials spotted the animals in images of the scanned luggage.

“It’s not unprecedented to find numbers — sometimes even hundreds — of live animals inside luggage like this,” TRAFFIC spokesman Richard Thomas told msnbc.com. “What makes this case unusual is the wide variety of wildlife in the cases. Animals like tortoises are usually taped up to keep them from moving, and being detected, but quite how the man in this instance expected not to be found out is quite extraordinary.”

The suspect said he had illegally purchased the animals from an outdoor market in Bangkok.

“One really has to question how Chatuchak Market, which is located just down the street from both Wildlife Protection and Nature Crime Police Offices, can continue these illegal mass sales,” TRAFFIC regional director William Schaedla said, according to MSNBC. “The situation is totally unacceptable in a country that claims to be effectively addressing illegal wildlife trade.”

TRAFFIC reportedly found the following animals crammed inside the three black bags:

88 Indian Star tortoises

34 ball pythons

33 elongated tortoises

22 common squirrels

19 bearded dragons

18 baboon spiders

7 radiated tortoises

6 Argentine horned frogs

6 mata mata turtles

4 spiny tailed lizards

4 striped narrow-headed turtles

3 aldabra tortoises

2 boa constrictors

2 Sudan plated lizards

2 corn snakes

2 king snakes

1 ploughshare tortoise (world’s rarest turtle)

1 pig-nosed turtle

1 African gray parrot

1 milk snake

1 hog nosed snake
The man is currently in police custody and faces smuggling charges, TRAFFIC said.

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Endangered Crocodiles Released into Wild in Philippines

Wildlife officials released nineteen critically endangered crocodiles into the wild in the Philippines Thursday in the hopes that the species will rebound from the brink of extinction.

Conservationists with the Mabuwaya Foundation raised the rare freshwater crocodiles for 18 months in a breeding center prior to loosing them in a remote national park, which is one of just two remaining natural habitats for the freshwater reptiles, AFP reports.

“The Philippine crocodile is the world’s most severely threatened crocodile species with less than 100 adults remaining in the wild. It could go extinct in 10 years if nothing is done,” Mabuwaya Foundation spokeswoman Maria Balbas told AFP.

The species has suffered devastating losses to habitat destruction, dynamite fishing, and hunting by humans who consider it dangerous.

But Balbas is confident that the baby crocs will have a safe home in the Sierre Madre Natural Park, which is located in the northern province of Isabela.

“There is enough food and people are educated on how to protect them. We actually have groups in the local community who guard the sanctuary. They are aware that killing crocodiles is prohibited,” she said.

If the reptiles survive, the population of known Philippine crocodiles will surge by about a fifth.

The baby crocodiles are only 14 to 20 inches long, but they will grow to be up to nine feet in length, AFP reports.

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Sea Turtle Populations Drop Following Spill

The BP oil spill was especially unkind to sea turtles, experts say. A new report finds that more turtles were killed or injured in the Gulf of Mexico in the time after the April 20th disaster than in any similar period in the past twenty years.

Researchers with the National Wildlife Federation, the Sea Turtle Conservancy, and the Florida Wildlife Federation say there were four to six times more turtles found dead, disabled, and diseased in the months after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill than average.

The analysis did not pinpoint cause of death, although researchers said that many of the 600 creatures certainly died of exposure to crude. But while many turtles could have died from other factors such as entanglement in fishing nets and cold weather, the spike in deaths following the spill is still significant – and troubling.

“Of all the species affected by the oil spill, those for which I have the greatest concern are the sea turtles,” said study co-author Doug Inkley, senior scientist at the National Wildlife Federation.

Inkley believes the oil spill was at least partially responsible for the above-average deaths, although necropsies performed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association indicate that most of the turtles drowned in fishing gear.

Sea turtles are especially vulnerable because it takes them 10 to 30 years to reach adulthood, so it could take decades to restore dwindling populations to healthy numbers.

Four of the turtle species dwelling along the Florida coast – green, hawksbill, leather back, and Kemp’s ridley – are endangered.

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5-Ft. Monitor Lizard Scares Californians

A 5-foot Monitor lizard weighing in at 45 lbs. was caught wandering the grounds of a condominium complex in Riverside, Calif. Wednesday.

Animal control officer Jenny Selter responded to a 2:30 p.m. call about a “huge” lizard in the complex.

“She said she saw it and almost jumped back in her truck,” said John Welsh, spokesman for Riverside County Animal Services, as reported by The Associated Press. “The residents were freaking out because here’s the Godzilla-like creature walking down the sidewalk.”

The department said Selter used a catch pole – a long pole equipped with a loop that is usually used to catch vicious dogs – to capture the reptile. A police officer had to hold onto the lizard’s body while Selter held onto its tail. Together they loaded it into her truck.

Welsh said authorities believe the lizard is an escaped pet.

The carnivorous reptiles, which are native to the African grasslands and parts of Asia, are not illegal to keep in the state.

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Orange Alligator: Pigment Not Genetic, Experts Say

An orange alligator photographed in South Florida this week is causing a stir.

Venice, Fla. resident Sylvia Mathen captured a photo of the rust-colored gator, which was sunbathing beside a neighborhood canal.

After the shot ran on a local television program, it generated a considerable amount of buzz. But experts say the gator’s pigment isn’t natural.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said Thursday that they don’t believe the color to be genetic. Instead, the creature was likely covered in paint or some other orange substance.

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Fishing Nets Killed More Sea Turtles than BP Spill

Fishing Nets Killed More Sea Turtles than BP Spill

Endangered sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico may face more dangers from fishing operations than the BP oil spill, according to an essay published Wednesday in the Miami Herald.

Jane Lubchenco, the administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, writes that marine biologists initially feared that the Deepwater Horizon disaster would be catastrophic for sea turtles in the Gulf. Populations were already dwindling from years of unrestrained hunting, coastal development, fishing, and pollution, and the crisis occurred just in time for the nesting season of loggerhead and Kemp’s ridley sea turtles.

But researchers were surprised to find that most of the sea turtles found dead during the oil spill were killed by fishing operations.

NOAA, the Gulf states, and several nonprofit organizations worked to de-oil and rehabilitate over 400 turtles. 96 percent were successfully released back into the wild. The teams also relocated 25,000 eggs from heavily oiled coastlines to safer waters.

But necropsies on the 600 dead sea turtles determined that the majority appear to have drowned in fishing gear.

“When NOAA became aware that a large number of stranded turtles may have drowned in fishing operations, we alerted state marine resource officials,” Lubchenco writes. “In response, the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources issued a rule in June to further restrict the time shrimp skimmer trawls could be towed to help prevent sea turtles from being caught and drowning.”

Lubchenco advised that fishermen be required to use devices that allow turtles to escape from skimmer trawls, called turtle excluder devices, or TEDs.

“The heightened scrutiny of the Gulf of Mexico during the oil spill brought to light the need for stronger cooperation between NOAA, the Gulf states, and the fishing industry to address the significant ongoing problem of sea turtles drowning in fishing operations. More enforcement is needed for TED requirements and tow time limits,” Lubchenco concluded.

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Record Long-distance Dinosaur Flights?

PITTSBURGH, Oct. 12 (UPI) — Ancient flying dinosaurs may have been able to fly for 10,000 miles non-stop on wings stretching up to 30 feet, a U.S. scientist says.

The fliers belonged to four species some researchers call supergiant pterosaurs, flying reptiles such as Quetzalcoatlus northropi from Texas, ScienceNews.org reported.

First appearing 70 million years ago, they were about as tall as a modern giraffe and flew on membrane wings.

These supergiants were “big by pterosaur standards,” biomechanist Michael Habib of Chatham University in Pittsburgh said. “They are truly gruesomely huge by bird and bat standards.”

If scientists are correctly estimating their body masses and wing dimensions based on fossils, and if they could catch thermals and glide as birds do, “it would make them the longest single-trip-distance fliers in the Earth’s history,” Habib said.

Other researchers such as David Unwin, a pterosaur researcher at the University of Leicester in England, aren’t so sure but he said “we didn’t fall on the floor laughing” upon hearing of the idea.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Pet Parade: Bullfighting and Debarking

It’s been a good few months for animal rights advocates: Massachusetts banned surgeries to silence a dog or cat and a Spanish province approved a ban on bullfighting.

The silencing procedure, called debarking, severs or removes an animal’s vocal cords making it difficult or nearly impossible for a dog or cat to vocalize. Gov. Deval Patrick, D-Mass., signed a bill April 22 banning the procedure, which activists said left scar tissue in the pet’s throat making it difficult for the animal to breathe.

Some dogs and cats that underwent “debarking” were left wheezing, coughing and choking for the rest of their lives, said Beth Birnbaum of the Coalition to Protect and Rescue Pets. The law bars veterinarians from performing the surgery and carries a maximum penalty of five years in jail and a $2,500 fine.

“This is so remarkable, the passage of this legislation,” she told the Boston Globe.

Massachusetts may also consider making it illegal for landlords to require a cat be declawed or a dog be devocalized to rent an apartment.

Opponents of debarking said it was usually performed on dogs owned by commercial breeders and the public should understand it was done for convenience.

Animal advocates say it’s more important to understand why a pet is making noise, adding behavior modification and obedience training can help keep chronically noisy pets quiet.

Is the dog barking because it is left alone, isolated or unsupervised for long periods? Is there constant noise in the environment, especially in urban areas? Does the dog have other bad social habits like constant chewing?

Some techniques to mitigate barking include confronting a dog immediately when it starts to bark. Approach the animal and say “No!” or immediately spritz it with a blast of water from a spray bottle, BarkingDogs.net suggests. Don’t reinforce bad behavior by running to play with a dog to get it to stop barking. You have to be in charge, not the pet.

Some owners use electronic bark collars that deliver a mild electric shock when the dog begins to bark. Others leave a radio or television on when they leave home so the pet left alone won’t be totally bored.

Exercise or the presence of another pet, even a singing or talking bird, can ease isolation and be a good non-aversion barking deterrent. The Monks of New Skete, in their book “How to be Your Dog’s Best Friend,” warn keeping a dog in a rectangular outdoor dog run can encourage fence running and incessant barking in some dogs. Their advice: Enrich the dogs’ environment by turning a kennel into a fun obstacle course with bridges, tunnels, curved boards, rope toys and safely hanging toys with bells. Shrubs planted around a dog run can block a dog’s view and help keep it quiet.

In the Spanish region of Catalonia, lawmakers voted to ban bullfighting, considered a part of traditional Spanish culture, starting in 2012.

Animal welfare groups had campaigned against bullfighting for more than 18 months calling the ritualized killing of bulls barbaric and outdated.

However, observers said bullfighting has been on the decline in the region for years and had been mainly a draw for tourists. They contend an end of bullfighting is akin to the gradual disappearance of the afternoon siesta as Spain modernized.

“This is a historic day for all who have worked to promote animal rights in a modern society like ours,” animal rights activist Jose Ramon Mallen of Fundacion Equanimal told the New York Times. “This is not about politics and Catalan identity but about ethics and showing that it’s simply wrong to enjoy watching an animal getting killed in public.”

Catalans have long sought greater independence from Madrid and the rest of Spain.

Odds and Ends:

While some 4H members may consider a prized bull more pet than livestock, few farmers go as far a Canadian bison rancher Henry Makinson, who lets buffalo roam inside his home in Grandview, Manitoba. The 80-year-old rancher allows his massive pets inside a one-room farmhouse and a larger home, and one bison likes to lie down and nap on the living room carpet. The Winnipeg Free Press said Makinson’s bison can perform tricks like dancing in a conga-like line at rodeos.

Best Friends Pet Care Resort opens Aug. 27 at Disney World in Florida. People traveling with their pets to the Magic Kingdom can drop them at a 50,000-square-foot resort that includes a water park for dogs, a “kitty city,” VIP suites with flat-screen televisions and two doggy day camp rooms that open onto a yard. The suites rent for $69 to $79 a night. Smaller pets like rabbits and ferrets can stay for $12 to $23 a night, but no reptiles or primates are allowed.

Chew Chew, an all-organic restaurant for pets, opened in Sydney, Australia. The popular spot has a regularly changing menu with such entrees as beef steak, carrot and shitake mushrooms, goat yogurt jelly and lamb bones and chicken wings — for dogs and cats only. Pet owners can buy a coffee or cappuccino next door for themselves.

Online voting ends Aug. 16 for the second annual “VPI Hambone Award, given to the pet responsible for the most unusual pet insurance claim of the year. The award is named after a dog that got stuck in a refrigerator and ate a Thanksgiving ham. This year’s nominees include a Labrador retriever that ate an entire bee hive — bees and all — and a cat that tumbled around inside a clothes dryer. www.VPIHamboneAward.com

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Survey Says Biodiversity Down at Chernobyl

PRIPYAT, Russia, July 30 (UPI) — Researchers say a wildlife census in the exclusion zone surrounding the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Russia shows animal populations are declining.

Professor Timothy Mousseau from the University of South Carolina and Dr. Anders Moller from the University of Paris-Sud, France, spent three years counting and studying animals in the area, the BBC reported Friday.

From 2006 to 2009, they counted and examined wildlife including insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.

In a report in the journal Ecological Indicators, they say they found evidence that radiation contamination has a “significant impact” on biodiversity.

“The truth is that these radiation contamination effects were so large as to be overwhelming,” Mousseau said.

The research compared the population of species in the exclusion zone with similar types of habitats in areas that were not contaminated.

Birds provided the best “quantitative measure” of these impacts, the researchers said, noting barn swallows were observed with tumors on their feet, necks and around their eyes.

“We think they may be more susceptible, after their long migrations, to additional environmental stress,” Mousseau said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Amphibians, Biodiversity, Birds, Mammals, Nuclear, Other, Radiation, Reptiles0 Comments

Oldest Reptile Evidence Found in Canada

ST. JOHN, New Brunswick, July 30 (UPI) — A British scientist has found 318 million-year-old footprints in Canada he says are the oldest evidence of reptiles to date.

Howard Falcon-Lang of the Royal Holloway, University of London, discovered the tracks by accident when he slipped while climbing the steep sea cliffs along the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, LiveScience.com reported Friday.

“I landed on the ancient boulder and looked up and there were the trackways on the boulder next to me and I still have the scars to prove it,” Falcon-Lang said.

The size of the tracks suggests the animal was about the size of a gecko, about 8 inches long.

The prints show the animal had five slender toes on each of its feet, which is a hallmark of reptiles, Falcon-Lang said.

Amphibians sport four stubby toes, he said.

Study of surrounding sediments showed the reptiles were likely living around a contracting water hole.

“We think it was like the (Australian) Outback today with watering holes on a dry landscape,” Falcon-Lang said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Amphibians, Other, Reptiles0 Comments

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