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Disgraceful disaster

As we give our children Easter eggs, there’s something you might be forgiven for not hearing too much about over the past few of weeks. Its not been in the headlines..

90spills.3.360Seems children in parts of the Amazon can’t even drink water or eat fish for over 4 months from the waterway on which their very lives depend. At least two devastating oil spills have occurred in the Peruvian Amazon since 25 January, spilling thousands of barrels of oil into Amazonian rivers. In the latest incident, ruptures in Peru’s main oil pipeline have spilled 3,000 barrels of thick black crude oil into the Amazon jungle river system threatening the environment and lives of local indigenous people.

Peru’s national oil company is responsible and yet again has been unconscionably slow in responding to the disaster and providing clean water, food, and necessary health services to affected indigenous communities.

featured-petroperu-jovenes-700x345No one really knows how much was swept down the River Chiriaco and then into the River Maranon, one of the biggest Amazon tributaries in Peru, but not for the first time in recent years, locals have been struggling to deal with the aftermath, with young people and small children from poor, indigenous communities involved in the clean-up.

One 12-year-old boy reported he was paid 57 cents for every bucket of oil he collected before being injured by the effects. Peruvian health studies have found that 98% of Achuar children have high levels of cadmium in their blood, and two-thirds suffer from lead poisoning.

_88762470_victorpalominoAlthough there’s a state of emergency that means locals cannot use the water or fish in it for four months, and the effects will last much longer, smug faced officials and oil company chiefs are shrugging it all off as an ‘Inevitable accident’, of which there are bound to more of. Its not just Peruvian oil companies, but in Ecuador, just the same has been happening for years.

I have witnessed personally how the oil companies operate in these regions  – No respect for wildlife, people, or life, even in the National parks such as at Yasuni. The oil workers treat spillages as a joke – they even open the taps and empty crude oil from trucks right in front of you and laugh as the drive off with it leaking out. The roads are deliberately paved with thick spilled oil, check points are unmanned, pipelines broken and unmaintained, bent and even flaming pipes are common at the side of the roads. Its unbelievable. Large, shear-sided pits are dug to contain spilled oil in the rainforest, filled with water and oil, without anything for the poor animals that fall in to climb out on, so they all drown. Villager’s who speak out disappear and reporters get death threats. All an utter disgrace and so bad for the poor indigenous people and wildlife.



The Dirty Dozen      A Brazilian Trim          COP21        Groundbreaking Legal Win

Spring Ahead

B.bufo amplexus for blog

Common Toads, Bufo bufo, in amplexus with spawn (c) Adam Bland

Spring has officially begun in the North of England, and like many people I have been itching to get out and see some of our native reptiles and amphibians as they emerge from their long hibernation and begin their breeding season. Species that many people are most familiar with seeing this time of year are our Common Frogs, Common Toads and Palmate & Smooth Newts as they migrate to their breeding sites, usually ponds, and fill them with their spawn. In some areas, all of the above species may be found together, newts especially like to feed upon the spawn of frogs and toads so will often be found within their breeding ponds.

Z.viviparia close up blog

Viviparous Lizard, Zootoca vivipara, (c) Adam Bland

Perhaps less easily observed are our native reptiles, which are much more secretive when it comes to reproduction, and usually quickly disappear once disturbed. Although, on a clear day you may be lucky enough to see Viviparous Lizards this time of year basking in the first warm days of Spring, or perhaps even an Adder. Male Adders tend to emerge before females and may be observed sat basking in the sunlight close by to where they spent the winter hibernating, if disturbed they will quickly retreat back into these sheltered areas. Females emerge around April when males then begin to compete with one another for the opportunity to mate, in late Summer females then give birth to a litter of live young which are a miniature version of the adults and totally independent from birth.

V.berus for blog

A male Adder, Vipera berus, (c) Adam Bland

Adders are a species of viper, and the only species of venomous snake native to the UK. It is believed that they may be suffering population declines over much of their distribution in the UK; historically Adders have been heavily persecuted leading to them now being found within relatively limited ranges in England. These days although many people’s attitudes towards Adders have changed, they remain incredibly sensitive to land development meaning that it is very important that their habitat is conserved for their populations to remain stable. It is great to see this species in the wild, and if you are lucky enough to see one yourself remember that it is highly important to leave them undisturbed. Adders are shy snakes that are best observed from a distance, and they will usually quickly retreat at the slightest disturbance.


Native Reptiles & Amphibians           Common Toads            ARGUK

The Urban Naturalist

Urban Naturalist Moth

I have recently got involved in organising The Urban Naturalist at Manchester Museum.

‘Friendly, practical workshops run by leading naturalists. From wild food-foraging and composting to bird song and insect identification, explore biodiversity on our doorstep’.

Last months edition was hosted in the Collection Study Centre by Dr Michael Dockery, one of our resident entomologists at The Manchester Museum.

We explored survival strategies found within several species of moths, including some species masquerading as bird droppings and those that blend perfectly into their environment.


Dr Michael Dockery © Matthew O’Donnell

Michael had also brought some fascinating examples of moths and butterflies from the museum’s collection to give us a close up view, including the largest species of butterfly in the world – Queen Alexandra’s birdwing (Ornithoptera alexandrae). This certainly trumped the largest British species the Swallowtail (Papilio machao) for size, but perhaps not in beauty!

We also had the opportunity to try our hand at working out the distribution of wingspan variance within a population of moths!

I think I can speak for the rest of the participants in wholeheartedly thanking Michael for his fun and informative session; I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop and certainly learnt a lot.

The 27th of March Urban Naturalist will be presented by David Winnard (discoverthewild.co.uk)one of the most respected foragers and naturalists in the North of England. In this workshop he will explore the edible, medicinal and poisonous plants and fungi found in the Greater Manchester area.  We will learn how to locate and identify them from one and other safely. How to forage sustainably, what laws we need to be aware of and a whole lot more!

The 24th of April workshop will take a look at the relationship between people and nature in cities, and explore ideas around community engagement. Join Dr Luke Blazejewski (Vimeo), a local wildlife photographer and conservationist, who will be sharing some of his experiences as an urban naturalist, and encouraging people to develop new ways of helping communities engage with the wildlife on their doorstep.

For those interested in getting involved in future Urban Naturalist sessions;

Keep up to date with the events page on the Museum Website

Sign up via the Museum Eventbrite page

The Urban Naturalist is part of Museum Meets, The Manchester Museum’s year round programme for adults.


Vivarium Gallery Tours

Did you know that we run weekly tours of the Vivarium Gallery and these are conducted by our knowledgeable Vivarium staff, who are  extremely enthusiastic about their subject. Whilst sharing their passion for the animals during the tours, they also highlight  some of the fundamental conservation and education work being carried out with our live collection. The tours, aimed at an adult audience, take place every Thursday, between 12 and 1pm.

To book a place on the free tour, please follow this link:

To view our feedback in relation to the Vivarium Tours*, please click here

*Please note that these are informative Gallery Tours and not ‘Behind the Scenes’.