Iconic curlew evicted from our changing countryside

Having grown up on a council estate with tiny gardens and a father who thought birds were best eaten, it wasn’t until I had my own family that I started walking in the countryside and watching birds.

It was only recently though, having moved to Norfolk, that I had the pleasure of seeing a pair of curlews on the Sheringham National Trust estate. I wondered how I could have missed this enchanting bird in the past. Perhaps I just hadn’t been in the right place.

I wanted to find out more about curlews, so what better way than to read a nature memoir! Unlike me, nature writer and campaigner Mary Colwell is no stranger to the curlew call, nor why they may be hard to see. Continue reading

Can we justify culling some animals to save others? 

Bellbird on Tiritiri Matangi Island, New Zealand

Humans have a complex relationship with animals, ranking them in a hierarchy of utilisation and affection according to human cultures and values. While some animals are saved, others are slaughtered.

Depending on where you live in the world, elephants, rhinos and lions might be seen as endangered species to be protected or they might be used for pseudo-medicine, trinkets and trophies. Cats are beloved pets for some but for others, they are bird killers or meat. It can be difficult to balance cultural differences, species conservation status and ethics to find the best outcome.

But questionable cultural practices aside, even evidence-based conservation science faces an ethical dilemma.     Continue reading

Have you seen the latest Wildlife Blog Collection?

The Wildlife Blog Collection ebook front cover

 

Terra Incognita Travel’s first Wildlife Blogger of the Year competition was a resounding success with stories from nature writers around the world. I’m delighted to have my story included in their new wildlife blog eBook alongside other personal stories of wildlife encounters and conservation insights. The team at Terra Incognita describe below the idea behind the collection and what the judges—renowned conservationists, scientists, nature writers and filmmakers—said about the top stories. Continue reading

Remembering a blackbird fledgling

I lift the blinds on the back door and there he is. Every morning, the garden birds arrive for breakfast but while other birds wait in the pine trees or gather on the fence, this fledgling has been sitting between the flower pots. As I open the door, he hurries forward to be first in line for the soaked mealworms I sprinkle on the patio, then under the table where he will be safe. I have grown fond of this blackbird fledgling, although I know he is quite poorly. He can no longer fly like his sibling. Continue reading

Jewel in the crown: New Zealand’s yellow-eyed penguin

New Zealand yellow-eyed penguin feeding its chick

Huddled behind the hide at the far end of Sandfly Bay, we shelter from winds whipping sand across the dunes. The sun is yet to break as we wait for yellow-eyed penguins to make their way from the headland to the rocks below. It’s a perilous journey from forest nests to ocean feeding grounds, and I wonder why a penguin makes this long trek across farmland each day. Continue reading

Terra Incognita Wildlife Blogger of the Year 2018

Yellow-Eyed Penguin, native to New Zealand. Credit: David Brighten

Sponsored by Swarovski Optik, ecotourism social enterprise Terra Incognita Travel have organised a competition (details below) to find the wildlife blogger of the year. How exciting is that!

Thank you to James Common, Director of New Nature Magazine, for sharing his red squirrel encounter on social media that led me to Terra Incognita. Reading the variety of wildlife experiences and stories, I was inspired to enter my own: ‘Jewel in the Crown: New Zealand’s Yellow-Eyed Penguin‘. What an opportunity to be read by judges that include highly regarded nature writers, wildlife filmmakers, conservation scientists and environmental campaigners—that’s a prize in itself! Continue reading

Ocean plastic waste: be part of the solution not the problem

By Tracy Brighten

Our love for plastic and our throwaway culture is choking our oceans and wildlife, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

Plastic waste washes up on beaches and injures ocean wildlife

Covering 71 per cent of the Earth’s surface and deeper in places than Mount Everest is tall, oceans have long been a source of fascination. Since Captain Cook charted the Pacific Ocean in the 18th century, returning with zoological specimens and botanical artwork that set the mark for scientific exploration, we have been learning about the natural world. Scientists are still discovering new species. Researchers and filmmakers travel to the most inhospitable places revealing the ocean’s mysteries in documentaries such as Blue Planet.

But sadly, today’s naturalists are faced with the impact of ocean plastic waste. Watching albatross parents feed plastic to chicks has been one of the lows of David Attenborough’s natural history career. But how did we reach this point and what can we do to help regenerate our oceans? Continue reading

Why there should be no black and white in veganism

Black and white cows

How can veganism not be a black-and-white philosophy? After all, causing pain and suffering to animals is black and white – you either do or you don’t. You’re either vegan or you’re not.

This all-or-nothing premise was used by TV host Piers Morgan to attack environmental journalist, author and recent vegan advocate George Monbiot on ITV’s Good Morning Britain. Monbiot was under the impression he had been invited to discuss the ethics and impact of animal farming. But Morgan clearly had other ideas. Continue reading

Pollution from pipes beached in Norfolk puts wildlife at risk

By Tracy Brighten

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency says pipes washed ashore in Norfolk pose no danger of pollution. Are they unaware of, or simply ignoring plastic fragments scattered along the coast?

The MCA’s announcement on the pollution risk from four gigantic plastic bore pipes washed up on Norfolk’s east coach beaches was reported by The Guardian. Twelve pipes were being tugged from Norway to Algeria when they came loose after a collision with a container ship. While there are reports that the recovery operation is underway, no-one is talking about the plastic fall out on pristine beaches used by seals and rare seabirds. Continue reading

Little terns brave tides, dogs and falcons in Norfolk

By Tracy Brighten

The second rarest seabird in the UK, little terns face a bleak future without our help

EULife Little Tern Recovery Project

At a colony along Norfolk’s east coast where I’ve been helping as a volunteer, RSPB wardens are providing dedicated round-the-clock protection for endangered beach-nesting birds. The RSPB’s conservation work is part of the EU Life + Nature Little Tern Recovery Project involving eleven partner organisations, including the RSPB, Natural England, The National Trust, Cumbria Wildlife Trust and Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust. The recovery project has been crucial in monitoring, protecting and increasing little tern populations across the UK. Continue reading

Pasture Promise: Asda leads the way for free-range cows and fair deal for farmers

A major supermarket chain supporting farmers and animal welfare is welcome news, especially in light of past price wars

Asda will be the first supermarket to stock Free Range Dairy Network milk carrying the Pasture Promise, which is encouraging news for animal welfare advocates. To be awarded Pasture Promise certification, free-range dairy herds must be grazed outside for a minimum of six months each year and farmers aren’t permitted to shoot calves at birth. Continue reading

Licence and lunacy in driven grouse shooting

By Tracy Brighten

Conservationists call time on a blood sport damaging the environment 

grouse-1107406_1920

Social media has provided an important platform for raising awareness of the wide-reaching implications of driven grouse shooting in the UK. Birders Against Wildlife Crime, League Against Cruel Sports and Raptor Persecution have been highly effective on social media and it was through Twitter that I first heard about hen harrier persecution.

Since conservationists Mark Avery and Chris Packham organised the first official ‘Hen Harrier Day’ in 2014, the campaign to ban driven grouse shooting has been gathering momentum. Continue reading

Create a cafe for hungry garden birds and feel good

Help garden birds through the winter and feel the warmth of nature

Garden birds robin

The rental property we moved to recently was built on land where an old bungalow used to be. Except for three conifers, the garden was cleared and laid to lawn except for an empty flower bed which I turned over the other week hoping to attract robins and blackbirds with worms.

The garden may be neat, but it isn’t bird-friendly. Continue reading

World’s rarest penguin suffers disease, starvation and selfies

By Tracy Brighten
Human settlement pushes New Zealand’s yellow-eyed penguin to the brink
Yellow-eyed penguin and chick

Yellow-eyed penguin feeding chick at Penguin Place, Otago. Image credit: David Brighten

The Emperor penguin is arguably the most familiar penguin in the world, the poster penguin for climate change as global warming melts the Antarctic ice they depend on. Indeed, this magnificent penguin’s survival in such an inhospitable environment is well-reported in films and documentaries such as March with the Penguins and the BBC’s Dynasties.

But not all penguins live in sub-zero temperatures. The yellow-eyed penguin is challenged by temperatures at the other extreme, yet the plight of this ‘Endangered’ IUCN Red List Threatened Species is less widely known.  Continue reading

Malta set to slaughter 5000 turtle doves in spring hunt

By Tracy Brighten

Migrating turtle doves will be shot down as they fly over Malta.

European turtle dove

The Maltese government has sanctioned the slaughter of 5,000 European turtle doves as they fly over Malta in the last stages of their 5,600 km journey from wintering grounds in West Africa to breeding grounds in Europe.

No other European country allows spring hunting of turtle doves. Continue reading

Pet trade spurs poaching of African grey parrot

By Tracy Brighten

Our fascination with intelligent parrots has a catastrophic impact on wild populations

African grey parrot head    

When we’re looking for an animal to keep as a pet, we think about food, exercise and affordability. But how much thought do we give to where the animal comes from? When we buy exotic birds through online ads or breeders, we may unknowingly support the plunder of wild species. The African grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus) is one such species. Continue reading

Blind love for cats is killing our songbirds

By Tracy Brighten

As cat ownership soars, we need a radical change in attitude to save mammals and songbirds from cats’ claws

Cat whiskers

Despite evidence from camera traps and Cat Tracker devices showing predatory behaviour, cat owners tend to describe their pets as too slow or too gentle to harm wildlife.

But Kitty is equally at home stalking wildlife as she is sleeping on our lap.

As human populations and domestic cat ownership explode, especially in urban areas, more small mammals and birds fall prey. When breeding can’t keep pace with predation, species numbers decline. Well-fed domestic cats might even be compared to trophy hunters in the sense they aren’t hunting for food. Continue reading

Catios and collars cool for cats and wildlife

By Tracy Brighten

Cat predation is wreaking havoc on wildlife, but an open-air safe haven for domestic cats and a collar that warns birds could be the purr-fect solution

Cat wearing Birdsbesafe collar

I’ve written in the past about the threat to wildlife from domestic cats and owners’ reluctance to accept their cat might be involved. While exact prey numbers are difficult to determine, camera traps show that small mammal and bird populations are threatened in areas with high-density cat populations.  Continue reading

Sylvia spreads the word on birds

By Tracy Brighten

A profile of volunteer Sylvia Durrant who has been caring for sick and injured birds on Auckland’s North Shore for over twenty years

Sylvia Durrant

Sylvia Durrant found her calling when she replied to an advert for an SPCA bird rescue volunteer. Sylvia’s previous career as a nurse had prepared her for this life-saving work with birds and educating the community. She is an inspiration, as I found out when I had the pleasure of meeting her. Continue reading

Let’s put the pure back in New Zealand

By Tracy Brighten

New Zealand owl

Imagine British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had been invited to give a speech at a university conference on sustainability. Imagine her topic was the discrepancy between the clean, green image created by the ‘100% Pure New Zealand’ campaign and the environmental reality. Imagine she wanted to inform the audience of this discrepancy; to persuade them it is economically damaging as well as morally unacceptable; and to motivate them to take action. As a scientist and politician, she knew the importance of commerce, government and environmental groups working together, and as an effective public speaker, she knew the power of words. Imagine this was her speech. Continue reading

Taiji fishermen dump Risso’s dolphins at sea

By Tracy Brighten

Marine conservationists claim that dolphin hunters may be dumping slaughtered calves and juveniles at sea to avoid quota counts
Risso's dolphin on rocks

Young Risso’s dolphin washed up on rocks in Taiji

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s Cove Guardians are on the ground in Taiji, documenting the dolphin hunt season from September through March. Operation Henkaku is reporting the drive hunts to the world through live stream, press releases and social media.

This season, Cove Guardians have documented small boats covered by tarpaulin leaving Taiji cove after the slaughter of Risso’s dolphin pods. Continue reading

Chinese ‘ivory queen’ arrested in Tanzania for ivory trafficking

By Tracy Brighten

The alleged notorious leader of an ivory trafficking syndicate operating between East Africa and China has been arrested in Tanzania

Tanzania’s National and Transnational Serious Crimes Investigation Unit (NTSCIU) had been surveilling Yang Feng Glan for over a year, before arresting the 66-year-old for her 14 year involvement in ivory trafficking Continue reading

Elephant orphans find comfort in wool blankets

By Tracy Brighten

When baby elephants lose their mother, soft blankets give comfort and protect them from wind, rain and sun at an elephant nursery in Nairobi

DSWT elephant orphan

When elephants become victims of habitat destruction, human-elephant conflict and ivory poaching, their young calves are unable to survive without help. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is an anti-poaching, rescue and rehabilitation charity working alongside the Kenyan Wildlife Service to rescue rhino and elephant orphans.

The Trust warns of the devastating consequences of not taking action to reverse the decline in elephant populations. Continue reading

Offshore wind farms threaten northern gannets at Bass Rock

By Tracy Brighten

Northern gannets around the UK are at much greater risk from wind turbine blades than previously thought, according to new scientific research  

northern gannet

Several wind farms are due to be built in the next five years at locations within 50 kilometres of Bass Rock, the world’s largest gannet colony, located in the Firth of Forth off the east coast of Scotland.

The northern gannet is amber listed according to a UK national assessment of Birds of Conservation Concern. This new study, published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, highlights the urgent need for further research to inform wind turbine specifications and locations.  Continue reading

Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary to protect unique marine habitat

By Tracy Brighten

New Zealand initiative to protect a region of unique fauna diversity shows world leadership in sustainable marine environment management

white-capped albatross

At the United Nations General Assembly in New York, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key announced the creation of the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary that will protect a vast area of pristine ocean habitat covering 620,000 km² within New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone. Continue reading

Kiwi-killing dogs euthanised after rampage

By Tracy Brighten

New Zealand’s endangered national bird suffered another blow in Northland where dog owners thwart conservation efforts

Kiwis for kiwi

The New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) recovered eight kiwi killed in a conservation area in North Island’s Northland region over a ten week period from May to August. Post mortem examinations revealed they were mauled to death by dogs. Continue reading

Operation Henkaku exposes Japan’s dolphin slave trade

By Tracy Brighten

Hunters chase profit as they drive bottlenose pod into Taiji Cove; dolphins sold from this single dolphin hunt could bag over US$7 million

Taiji dolphins trapped 

Each year from September through March, hundreds of dolphins are caught in one small cove along Japan’s Pacific coast and either traded as a live commodity, or slaughtered and sold as meat. Continue reading

Beehive fence protects crops from African elephant raids

By Tracy Brighten

An innovative project is using the elephant’s innate fear of honey bees to protect subsistence farmers and elephants from injury and death

Beehive fence

Whether elephants are afraid of mice, or simply surprised by their movement, has long been debated, but there is science-based evidence that elephants are afraid of honey bees.

Oxford University researcher Dr Lucy King started a project in 2007 born out of local knowledge that suggested African elephants are scared of honey bees. Dr King carried out scientific studies using playback experiments where honey bee recordings are played to unsuspecting elephants.  Continue reading

Interpol listed ship escapes Thailand with 182 tons toothfish

By Tracy Brighten

The poaching vessel Taishan, detained in Phuket since March, has fled the port with its illegal Patagonia toothfish, or ‘Chilean sea bass’, cargo.

Toothfish

The Thai Royal Navy (TRN) has launched an air and sea search for the illegal fishing vessel Taishan, or Kunlun as it was formerly known, reports AEC News Today. The search involves TRN aircraft and patrol boats, as well as the Department of Fisheries and the Thai police marine division.

Following a joint investigation between Interpol, Sea Shepherd and authorities in Thailand, Australia and New Zealand, the ship has been detained in Phuket since March when the crew attempted to offload 182 tons of illegally caught Patagonian toothfish as grouper fish. Continue reading

Blue whale drags fishing line from Los Angeles to Mexico

By Tracy Brighten

The blue whale entangled in fishing line off the Californian coast has moved south towards Mexican waters and could die if not found

Blue_whale_tail by Michael Baird

On Friday, whale response teams attached a buoy to the whale, found between Santa Catalina Island and the coast, to make it more visible before high seas thwarted rescue efforts, reported the Guardian.

Federal government officials assisted by boats, aeroplanes and helicopters searched the West coast on Saturday and Sunday, but were unable to locate the whale. Continue reading

Disturbing truth behind Australia’s shark nets

By Tracy Brighten

Shark nets and baited drum lines in Australia have killed thousands of marine animals in the bid to protect ocean users from shark attacks
whale in shark net

Whale entangled in shark net

Since 1962, a staggering 84,800 marine animals have been caught in Queensland’s shark control program alone, including vulnerable and endangered species such as turtles and whales, as well as shark species that do not threaten human life. Over 9,000 unborn pups have been lost. Continue reading

Deer hunter blunder kills rare takahe

New Zealand deer hunters culling pukeko on an island sanctuary have killed rare flightless birds in another case of mistaken identity

Takahe

The pūkeko is probably one of the most recognised native birds in New Zealand,” says the Department of Conservation website.

It seems not when deerstalkers are killing critically endangered takahe instead of common pukeko in a case of mistaken identity. Continue reading

Rising tension between Faroe Islands and anti-whaling Sea Shepherd

Sea Shepherd’s Bob Barker vessel, with 21 activists on board, has been refused entry to the Faroe Islands by Danish authorities protecting whaling. 

A Faroese government statement said the decision was to protect “the legal and regulated activity of driving and killing pilot whales for food,” reported The Guardian. Sea Shepherd believes the action by Danish Customs at the port of Sund is unlawful.

Although Denmark is a member of the European Union that bans whaling, Denmark supports whaling in its Faroe Islands self-governing territory. Continue reading

Taiji dolphin slaughter turns cove into bloodbath

By Tracy Brighten

Despite a ban on Japanese aquarium and zoo association members sourcing live dolphins from Taiji, local fishermen say demand is unaffected 

Each year, from September to March, hundreds of dolphins are caught in one small cove along Japan’s Pacific coast and either traded as a live commodity, or slaughtered and sold as meat. Continue reading

Tasmanian devil on mainland could control feral cats

Scientists suggest reintroducing the Tasmanian devil to mainland forests could restore ecological systems and save native species from extinction

Tasmanian devil

Rewilding is being hailed in Europe and the U.S. as a potential solution to restore ecological systems that have become unbalanced, often from human impacts including habitat loss, animal culling or hunting, and introduced predators.

Australian researchers from the University of New South Wales and the University of Tasmania have conducted the first study to look at the feasibility of reintroducing the Tasmanian devil to mainland Australia. Continue reading

Cull of 2 million feral cats by 2020 to save native animals

By Tracy Brighten

Australia has pledged to tackle the soaring feral cat population that threatens more native animals with extinction 
Numbat by Martin Pot

Australian numbat

With 1800 nationally listed threatened species, the Australian Government has set targets for conserving 30 priority plant species, 20 mammals and 20 birds.

“That means humane culling of one of our wildlife’s worst enemies – feral cats,” said Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt in a statement. Continue reading

Could a legal ivory trade save the African elephant from extinction?

By Tracy Brighten

Legal trade of “conservation ivory” could end black market trade in “blood ivory”, but opponents say stigmatisation and a trade ban is the only solution

Carved elephants by William Warby

African elephants are in crisis, threatened by extinction like the woolly mammoth wiped out by man in the Arctic. Farmers attack when they roam on land that was once elephant habitat; zoos remove them to an unnatural life as exhibits; and trophy hunters take pride in slaying this ‘big five’ giant.

But most of all, elephants are at risk from poachers who hack off their face for tusks. Continue reading