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COVID spreads to captive animals

It seems that the warnings many in the zoo community have been giving about the risks of COVID spreading to captive animals have still not been taken so seriously.

6 months ago it was highlighted that COVID-19 was passed to captive mink in Denmark by humans and then passed back to them after it had mutated, but even now most news channels are not highlighting the seriousness of the virus mutation that has already taken place. Travel from Denmark to other countries around the planet and the spreading the new strain is a real concern for many: people travelling out of Denmark back to the UK for example are currently simply being asked to self-isolate. 

The new strain has the potential to spread rapidly, as it did with the initial COVID-19 virus, and be undetected due to its similarity with the current strain of COVID. It seems the new strain may well affect the human’s ability to produce antibodies, taking natural resistance to any COVID and potentially rendering all future vaccines useless.  Let us hope that it is well contained and that other captive animals, especially mammals at greater risk in captivity around the world, including pet ferrets, do not catch COVID-19 or allow it to mutate further. Interestingly, because ferrets can catch Covid-19 so easily they may actually aid us to deal with it

THANK YOU DEFRA –  was it right to re-open zoos?

David Attenborough on the reason for new pandemics 

New Butterfly Atlas for 2021

A new way to explore Cornwall’s butterflies: your chance to get involved

In 2021, Cornwall Butterfly Conservation will publish a new atlas on the state and status of the county’s butterflies. Lavishly illustrated, Butterflies of Cornwall: Atlas for the Twenty-first Century will be the go-to book on butterfly population trends and distribution from Bude to Land’s End, and will include a chapter on the Isles of Scilly. 

Following the runaway success of the 2003 A Cornwall Butterfly Atlas, now out of print, the new Butterflies of Cornwall brings together the latest information with stunning images. You can find out more about the new atlas here.

The Cornwall branch of Butterfly Conservation invite you to be a Major Donor for Butterflies of Cornwall. Alternatively, for a larger donation, you can choose to be a Premium Sponsor:

 Download information about how to be a Major Donor or a Premium Sponsor

Ensure your contribution is properly recorded and acknowledged

 

Back on our map

Duke of Burgundy (Hamearis lucina) © Andrew Cooper
Duke Of Burgundy butterfly © Andrew Cooper

Last week I spent the day helping out the Back On Our Map (BOOM) team, by planting cowslips at Gait Barrows nature reserve in Silverdale in order to re-establish habitat for the endangered Duke of Burgundy butterfly. Found only in England, the Duke of Burgundy has declined in numbers significantly since the 1970’s, now remaining in only a few strongholds in South Cumbria and the North York Moors.

Gait Barrows is an area where there has previously been a healthy population, however the numbers have declined here too due to disturbance to the limestone pavements which has caused changes to the vegetation in the area and climate change causing extreme weather conditions during the flight period.

Freshly planted cowslip © Bethany Dean

Cowslips are one of only two species of plant that the Duke of Burgundy will use to  lay their eggs on, hiding them on the underside of the leaves, which the caterpillars eat away at once they have emerged. The reserve management, BOOM staff and volunteers have been growing cowslips over the summer ready to plant in the autumn months.

The Duke of Burgundy butterfly is very particular about the location of the cowslips, preferring bunches of plants that are in tucked away in sunny areas usually backed by a rocky feature or tussocks of grass, which provides an amount of shelter from harsh weather and grazing animals. The cowslips planted will hopefully restore the loss of cowslips caused presumably during the limestone destruction.

Limestone pavements of Gait Barrows © Bethany Dean

Gait Barrows is a beautiful reserve, which is extremely diverse in habitats and the species it hosts. The reserve has expansive limestone pavements, which is home to an array of plants which inhibit the grikes and thrive in the micro-climates they provide. Ancient but miniature trees grow from the grikes, stunted in growth by the lack of nutrients in the rocky terrain, making this afascinating landscape.

In May the area will be monitored by the BOOM team for flying adult butterflies and the cowslips will be monitored in June and July for evidence of damage caused by the caterpillars, which make small round holes in the underside of the leaves. Damage by Duke of Burgundy caterpillars can be distinguished easily from other animals as they never damage the leaf veins. Fingers crossed there will be news of the presence of butterflies and caterpillars in the coming Spring and Summer!

SOUTH CUMBRIA SPECIES RESTORATION

BUTTERFLY CONSERVATION ORG

GAIT BARROWS NATURE RESERVE

SUPPORT THE CORNWALL BUTTERFLY ATLAS

OUR PLANET

TODAY’S YOUNG PEOPLE WILL BE THE STEWARDS OF OUR PLANET

The future of all life depends on young people gaining the knowledge, skills and passion for nature necessary to build a more sustainable future. Whether you are a young person, an educator, a youth worker or a parent, these resources and opportunities are your portal to a deeper understanding of our planet, and the role of young people in shaping its future:

 

OUR PLANET TOOLKIT  – DOWNLOADS

Toolkit for Biodiversity action

Learning with Lucy

WWF

Saving our Planet

Life on our Planet

From aquarium to vivarium… a little about me

I’m Bethany and I am pleased to introduce myself as the new curatorial assistant here at the Manchester Museum Vivarium. Last year I completed my bachelor’s degree in animal welfare and behaviour at the University of Central Lancashire during which I carried out my dissertation on the activity and visibility of different species of poison dart frogs before and after introducing environmental enrichment to their habitats. During this project I watched my frog subjects for over 400 hours and subsequently learnt the individual personalities of each, so if I didn’t love frogs before, I certainly do now!

During my degree I volunteered at a number of small zoos and aquariums in the North West before becoming an aquarist at the Lakes aquarium in Cumbria where I stayed for over three years, gaining experience in caring for fish, reptiles, amphibians and mammals. For the last two years I have also helped out my local native amphibians as a toad patroller in the Lancashire and Cumbria areas.

My love for wildlife started young, largely through my parents who always enjoyed nature and wildlife and encouraged my own interest. Over the years I was lucky enough not only to have a variety of animals in the home but also to see many species on family holidays.

Namely, one experience that stayed with me was a trip to Costa Rica in 2005 where I was able to see first-hand the life that thrived in the rainforests, some of which species I am now able to work with at the vivarium.

Ten later years, during my own travels when backpacking in Mexico, Central America, the Philippines and South East Asia I was not only able to experience the native wildlife but also the destruction caused to many habitats and witnessed the threats facing many species which inspired me to want to make a difference.

I am excited to start my journey at the museum, to care for a host of amazing species and share my passion for animal care, wildlife and conservation and hope to share many more frog blog posts in the future!

Food for thought (2)

We have known for years that it’s a spider eat spider world. Males get attracted to females, do their job well and get eaten up as par for the course. Spiders have veracious sex lives, and appetites. Spiders are cool, super intelligent, and jumping spiders more than most. But it seems these little creatures are looking for more than just a good jump. Actually, it seems things are a changing diet wise – did you know 20% of male M. sociabilis eat the females –  not sure where that latin name came from but that doesn’t seem so sociable to me.

Ctenidae (wandering spider) eating a tree frog, Ecuador (c) Andrew Gray

Spiders have a varied diet, they will eat almost anything that moves that they can tackle. Some I have seen on my travels will attack, kill, and eat prey items much larger than themselves, including large frogs. In fact in the neotropics amphibians make up a very large part of the food source of arachnids.

FROG EATING SPIDERS

Cupiennius getazi (family Ctenidae) feeding on a Scinax eleaochroa, Costa Rica (c) Amanda Bamford

From tadpoles predated upon by water-surface frequenting huntsman spiders to aggressive wolf spiders and sit and wait Ctenids inside bromeliads looking for metamorphs to emerge then consume, they represent a formidable predator of our amphibian friends. But that’s life, and death, and nature. Only the trees that we stand beneath and watch the tree frogs call in and the spiders make their fine webs on will still be there after we all are gone. The trees are what we need to revere and champion for the future for they behold the lives of so many species.

NEW PAPER: FROG EATING SPIDERS

ENTOMOLOGY MANCHESTER

Life in Lockdown

COVID and Great Apes at risk

Thank you DEFRA

Time to Boycott Zoos?

From when I was a small boy I loved animals, and I loved Zoos. I loved everything about animals: Johnny Morris on Animal Magic, all great and small creatures in my back garden, Brian Simmons’ pet shop, my first South American wildlife book, and especially childhood visits with my Uncle Loz to Chester Zoo. I connected with animals in a way most people could not imagine. I enthused about them, knew the latin names at 7 years old, had every other kid in Ashton Gardens, St Annes, searching for frogs and newts; I took my grass snake to Roseacre junior school for ‘Bring a Pet to School day’. Memories! – but good ones!

Fast forward 50 years. My heartfelt sorrow now are Zoos – I now can’t stomach setting foot in one anymore. I should, I’m a zoologist, I link to them, I run a zoo-licenced conservation facility, what’s wrong with me? The truth is I live by the truth, and the truth from anyone who is as clued up as I am about animal conservation is that for profit zoos should be things of the past.

Yes, zoos have played a role in supporting species’ conservation – for a small number of endangered species they have supported some commendable field‐conservation projects. However, out of the 30K plus specimens maintained in captivity in some single UK Zoos the actual number that are critically endangered or of high conservation value are still but a fraction. So why are all the others there one could be forgiven for wondering?

Its clear zoos are now fully focused on being high profit commercial businesses. But how does the care, safety and life quality of the animals feature in their commercial success stories? I have good friends who still work in zoos, they are there because they care passionately for the animals, their well-being and conservation, full stop. They do not buy into giant fake dinosaurs for further public attraction, they do not buy into themed disney-style exhibits, they do not buy into integral themed hotels for local funders and Hey Ho supporters to stay in as they look across a makeshift African plain from their panoramic hotel window! It seems planning costly new accommodation (for human attendees) has been more at the forefront of priorities for some of the more commercial zoos recently, at least until lockdown.

No, I remember as a boy seeing the Chimpanzees at Chester Zoo – to be honest it was one thing from my memorable visits that really saddened me. Since then the keeping of wild mammals and birds in captivity in particular has never really sat well with me, mainly because I think their needs and requirements simply cannot be met. Back then I saw the little chimps looking sad, but I thought that’s ok you know, in time they will have a new place, something really befitting of a species that is so close to us humans, this is a cool zoo – I love it.

The cylindrical chimpanzee house/exhibit, often referred to in the zoo world as the goldfish bowl, was the result. Even before, providing the chimps with an outside space and life without bars had been a big move forward in zoo terms, and George Mottershead who had started the zoo had won an Mancunian award for taking his exhibits to the next stage in animal husbandry AT THAT TIME.. he must have been so proud. Ironically, George, the founder of Chester Zoo was driven by ‘His dislike for the Belle Vue Zoo and the conditions in which animals were housed there, which had a familiar ring about them to his own personal experiences as a lad at the London Zoo’.

All I hear about George Mottershead is good. However, I wonder if he would be so proud to know that all these years on, with all the new developments and resources available, that some of the same Chimpanzees still reside within that same exhibit. Maybe if George was still around they would now have the best exhibits imaginable, and the extensive 400 acres owned would be dedicated to just supporting endangered species, kept in optimum conditions, with quality rather than quantity being the focus. But perhaps that’s not a good business model for those now making the decisions or benefitting from the profit.

George Mottershead helped establish new ways forward in animal husbandry, that was his legacy, that was what Chester Zoo was originally all about. Since, with the millions of pounds over the years that Chester Zoo has grossed, the fact that this chimp exhibit still awaits replacement speaks volumes. From the oldest chimpanzees (50 year old plus) and newcomers born into a life of enclosed captivity, who wake each day let within the same glass walls of the pyramid with daylong public viewing, to the growing number of African-evolved wild animals allowed out to pasture on cold rainy English days, is subjecting such intelligent wild creatures to this kind of life really befitting of our time? I wonder what the chimps would say if they could make their feelings known to the real Company Directors?

I have experienced Zoos all my life and this wrong upsets me more than ever. I have seen a lot of change but if conservation rather than profit was the main aim then the zoos concerned would be different already. I am well placed to know the score, all the arguments for and against: Educational benefits V the isolation and unnatural surroundings of a captive environment; Captive breeding V never being able to be released in their lifetime; Half the longevity in captive elephants V those in the wild; How visitor numbers through the till are so important to some V how important it is a magnificent giraffe gets to enjoy the African sun on its back – and how far and fast it gets to run In the Wild..

 THE OXFORD STUDENT: TIME TO BOYCOTT ZOOS? 

SUPPORT WILD GIRAFFE CONSERVATION 

Glorious Garstang

Unveiling of the new environmental education panel with Stewart (left) and Colin (right). Photo: courtesy Chris Foster.

Today I had the great pleasure of meeting up with Colin Sills, Stewart Sim and other volunteers from the Garstang Millennium Green whilst unveiling a new amphibian-focused information panel for the local pond. The Millennium Green Trust comprises of 70 volunteers who work tireless to ensure the local park alongside the river in Garstang stays well kept and beautiful.

Garstang Bloomers (Photo taken before social distancing was required!)

The Millennium Green is a real credit to them, as is the greenery in rest of the town thanks to the Garstang ‘Bloomers’ (above). The wildlife pond itself is a new venture, but is now getting very well established. I hope the new panel adds a useful contribution to its educational value for all the community, and especially the youngsters who I hope will engage in pond dipping sessions in the future – and for them that it may spark a real interest in nature and local wildlife.

I have been living in the beautiful Lancashire town of Garstang for the past 3 years and thoroughly enjoyed being in this wonderful part of the world – I am lucky enough to look out over the Trough of Bowland to see the sunrise from my window each morning, and my beloved Lake District is not so far away. Its a fantastic place to live and the people here are also fantastic too – I have the best neighbour anyone could ever ask for and the community here is something else. Garstang was officially the world’s first fair-trade town and with a beautiful river thats right on my doorstep its probably one of the most glorious places in the whole of the north-west of England.

Garstang Millennium Green

Euxton Millennium Green