The Pablo Escobar of Eggs

The Pablo Escobar of Eggs

Jeffery Lendrum, an ex-special forces officer, was caught at Heathrow airport on June 26th, 2018 after arriving from South Africa with illegal cargo. The self-proclaimed “Pablo Escobar of the falcon egg trade” strapped eggs from endangered birds of prey, including vultures, eagles, hawks and kites to his body in hopes of achieving financial gain. The Telegraph reported that the value of his cargo was estimated to be worth around £100,000 [1]. That day, eagle eyed officers noticed something unusual about Lendrum. Unfortunately for him, a heavy jacket wasn’t going to conceal his contraband but expose him like a scarlet macaw (Ara macao) in a flock of pigeons (Columba livia domestica). Because who wears a thick jacket in hot weather in a stuffy airport? The government’s news story details that officers asked him whether he had anything to declare and he admitted to carrying “fish eagle” and “kestrel” eggs [2]. Yet the full extent of his egg smuggling mission was not unveiled until officers performed a full body search. Shockingly, a body belt...
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EU ban on bird imports sees ‘massive’ cuts in global trade

EU ban on bird imports sees ‘massive’ cuts in global trade

Wild birds are one of the most traded animals on the global market, with approximately 1.3 million birds bought and sold internationally every year, according to Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) [1].However, the introduction of the EU ban on trade of wild birds in 2005 has reduced global trade by around 90%, according to new research published in the journal Science Advances [2].Before 2005, EU members such as Belgium, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain accounted for the buying of around two thirds of all birds sold on the global market.The ban was a result of fears of a loss of biodiversity in countries where the birds were captured and an increase in the spread of exotic birds in imported nations, which can cause damage to ecosystems as local crops are destroyed and the population of native birds is threatened as they are outcompeted for food.As a result of the ban, Latin America has...
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Eagles killed and sold illegally on the black market

Eagles killed and sold illegally on the black market

Project Dakota Flyer, an operation set up by the Fish and Wildlife Service in the US, has been investigating the illegal selling of eagles and other protected birds in South Dakota. Eagle parts such as wings, head, feet and feathers are often illegally sold on the black market. This commercialisation of protected birds for the economic gain of illegal traders goes against the safeguarding of species such as the bald eagle and the golden eagle. Bald eagles were removed from the Endangered Species act in 2007 after intense population management resulted in a flourishing increase in the bird of preys population. This increase was due to the banning of the pesticide DDT which contaminated the birds prey, resulting in a great decline in population. Both the golden eagle and the bald eagle are protected by federal laws in the US to help prohibit the possession, use and sale of eagle feathers and parts that have been illegally obtained through means...
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Bats tricked into colliding with buildings

Bats tricked into colliding with buildings

When you initially think of a species under threat, often your first thought would be to blame predation, poaching or habitat destruction. You don’t often think of inanimate objects as being a threat to wildlife. So then, why are bats often found dead or injured near buildings with smooth surfaces - a recent study published in the journal ‘Science’ has found the answer. Bats use echolocation to navigate around their environment and forage for food. They emit a call and listen to the resulting echo from nearby objects, thus allowing them to locate and/or avoid objects in their flight path. In modern architecture a lot of smooth, vertical surfaces such as mirrors and windows are affecting bats’ abilities to avoid collisions. The study found that of the 21 bats investigated, 19 collided into a vertical metal plate while none collided with horizontal objects. It appears that vertical surfaces, in the way they reflect an ‘echo’ trick the bats into thinking...
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Could the iconic hen harrier be facing extinction in the UK?

Could the iconic hen harrier be facing extinction in the UK?

The hen harrier, a beloved resident of Scotland’s heathland, is reported to be at high risk of becoming extinct. Although figures in 2015 showed the greatest reported breeding success rate of the raptor, with 6 successful nests and 18 newly hatched chicks, the suspicious disappearance of 5 males resulted in nesting failures. According to the latest annual survey there has been a decline of 88 pairs (13%) over the last 6 years, despite suitable habitat environments for 300 breeding pairs. This alarming decline is attributed to the destruction of habitats, cold and wet weather conditions and illegal killings. Unfortunately, the hen harrier is a natural predator of the red grouse which causes conflict with the interests of gamekeepers and farmers. High numbers of hen harriers in moorlands owned by private landowners are associated with decreased red grouse density and therefore increased shootings in the interests of commercial estates. Despite being protected under both UK and National Law, it is often surmised...
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Kakapo 125: Sequencing the genomes of an entire species

Kakapo 125: Sequencing the genomes of an entire species

New Zealand has been separate from other land masses for approximately 80 million years. This geographic isolation has allowed for millions of years of natural selection, largely in the absence of predatory mammals. The result has been the evolution of some of the worlds most unique and unusual species. The Kakapo is one of these unique and unusual species and it is currently critically endangered with only 125 known living Kakapo left. The Kakapo, also known as the owl parrot, is the world’s largest parrot. It is flightless, nocturnal and ground-dwelling. Due to Polynesian and European colonisation and the introduction of predatory mammals such as rats, cats, ferrets and stoats, the flightless Kakapo was hunted and predated to near extinction. Once widespread across New Zealand, it is now confined to three predator-free islands, Whenua Hou, Anchor and Hautura-o-Toi. Since the start of the Kakapo Recovery plan in the 1980s, Kakapo numbers have increased from a low of only 51 individuals. Scientists in...
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