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Australia’s Iconic Platypus Has Been Pushed To The Brink Of Extinction, Scientists Warn

“In our region, they’re all dead, they’re gone—I can’t find them.”

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Australia’s Iconic Platypus Has Been Pushed To The Brink Of Extinction
Photo Credit: Plant Based News

Elias Marat, The Mind Unleashed

With Australia’s spiralling environmental catastrophe receiving world attention in recent weeks, ecologists have sounded the alarm on the dire threat faced by the country’s endemic wildlife populations.

Researchers are now warning that the platypus—the unusual duck-billed, egg-laying mammal native to eastern Australia whose existence was believed to be a hoax in the late 18th century—is one of the iconic species teetering on the brink of extinction.

According to a new study by the University of New South Wales (UNSW) that was published in the scientific journal Biological Conservation, platypus numbers have declined by half or more since the European colonization of the island continent with local extinctions occurring across 40% of the species natural habitat thanks to drought and human activity such as dam building, water harvesting, land clearances, the impacts of livestock and threats from feral species.

Along with other contemporary threats including the changing climate, scientists fear that platypus numbers will continue to decline between 47% and 66% by 2070.

However, when taking fast-heating climate projections into account the animal’s decline could rapidly fall by 51% to 73 over the next five decades—pushing the species once common in the country’s waterways toward all-out extinction.

The danger to platypuses has become alarming in recent consecutive years as brutal heat-waves and arid conditions made worse by the dearth of rainfall have had a devastating effect on local populations.

Platypus populations, like other aquatic species, are believed to have taken major damage from an intensifying drought and record heat, even prior to the bushfire crisis.

AFP reports that study co-author Gilad Bino, a researcher at the University of NSW’s Centre for Ecosystem Science, said:

“These dangers further expose the platypus to even worse local extinctions with no capacity to repopulate areas.”

The study recommended that national authorities give attention to the “urgent need” for a risk assessment that could downgrade the animal to “vulnerable” status and look at the steps necessary to conserve the species and “minimize any risk of extinction.

The government has taken few if any measures to protect the species despite the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recently downgrading the nocturnal creature’s status to “near threatened.”

The study notes that such conservationist measures would include “increasing surveys, tracking trends, mitigating threats and improving management of platypus habitat in rivers.

Dr. Bino said:

“Under predicted climate change, the losses forecast were far greater because of increases in extreme drought frequencies and duration, such as the current dry spell.” 

The platypus, along with four species of echidnas, are the world’s only monotremes or egg-laying mammals that secrete milk from the female bellies.

Australia’s ABC reports that conservationists have seen a precipitous drop in platypus numbers in traditional habitats such as NSW’s Great Barrington region. Tim Faulkner, the president of conservationist group Aussie Ark, said:

“In our region, they’re all dead, they’re gone—I can’t find them … They don’t go into hibernation … They must have water to feed in.

Private landholder management, the management of riparian zones along creeks, water harvest as well as control on stock trampling [are all required].

And going to the toilet in the last fragments of water [must also be controlled].

Our own parks are full of pests like the feral fox and cats responsible for over 90% of all mainland mammal extinction.”

Continuing, Faulkner explained:

“The platypus that we did rescue, we had two die the next day … Their bellies are empty and they’re all riddled with E. coli and a greater diversity of bacteria than that.

Platypus are a Gondwanan dinosaur species—they are monotremes, egg-laying mammals, some of the oldest lineages of mammals on earth.

They’ve been in this constant east coast temperate environment, largely unchanged, for millions of years.

To see it now … a cesspit that’s bacteria ridden and lifeless … certainly in our area—and this must be so wide spread—they’re gone.”

With its unique set of physical features, early sketches of the duck-billed mammal shocked western scientists who stumbled on the existence of the platypus during the colonization of Australia. Even after the creature’s pelt was delivered to researchers in the U.K., the existence of the platypus was believed to be a hoax comprised of a duck’s bill sewn onto a beaver’s body. The species was then hunted for its fur until the last century.

Study co-author Prof. Richard Kingsford stressed that climate change and habit destruction must be reined in. He said:

“This animal is one of the most amazing animals that we have on the planet and it would be a very sad day if we were ever in the position of losing them.

I’m very much hopeful that we’ll never get there, but we do need to address it urgently.”

By Elias Marat | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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Animal World

Millions Of Dead Birds Fall From The Sky Across New Mexico And The Southwest

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Photo Credit: Unilad

Paul SeaburnGuest Writer

It is rarely, if ever, a good thing when something falls from the sky that isn’t precipitation-related. It’s worse when those things are living or sick – tragic and frightening when they’re already dead. The recent news out of New Mexico of dead birds falling from the sky across the state, and now across the entire Southwest, goes beyond tragic and frightening simply because of the sheer numbers.

“It’s just terrible. The number is in the six figures. Just by looking at the scope of what we’re seeing, we know this is a very large event, hundreds of thousands and maybe even millions of dead birds, and we’re looking at the higher end of that.”

Martha Desmond, a professor at the University of New Mexico in the fish, wildlife and conservation ecology department with expertise in ornithology, told CNN she was contacted in mid-August 2020 when a large number of dead birds were discovered at the US Army White Sands Missile Range and White Sands National Monument. Dead birds at White Sands immediately raises suspicions of radiation poisoning (it was a primary location for the Manhattan Project) or military testing. However, before that could be confirmed, more dead birds appeared in Doña Ana County, Jemez Pueblo, Roswell, Socorro and other areas of New Mexico. (Sad photos here.)

We have been collecting dead birds (with appropriate permits) off the streets, on campus, at local golf courses, literally EVERYWHERE. (3/9) 

We have noticed that the majority of species collected are insectivores and long-distance migrants, such as swallows, wood-pewees, empidonax flycatchers, and warblers. (4/9) 

Another interesting note is that resident species, such as Curve-billed Thrashers, White-winged Doves, and Great-tailed Grackles do not seem to be impacted at all. (6/9)

Allison Salas, a graduate student at New Mexico State, joined Desmond in collecting and cataloguing the dead birds, which by the beginning of September were also being reported Colorado, Texas, Arizona and Mexico. She tweeted alerts on the dead birds, noting that they were all migrating insectivore species, not local species. Before you suggest smoke inhalation from the West Coast fires, Salas has already concluded that the fires may be the cause, but not necessarily the smoke.

“We have very little data, but suspect that the west coast fires, in combination with the local cold front we experienced last week, has altered the migration patterns of many migrants. On top of that, there is little food and water available here in the Chihuahuan Desert. (7/9)”

Desmond told CNN that the birds appear to have migrated early, before they had enough fat reserves built up. Weak and finding cold weather and a lack of insects on their stops in New Mexico to feed, they probably starved or died because they were too weak to keep flying – many of the bodies were extremely thin. However, the deaths started before the fires, so Desmond suspects there may be other causes that are not readily apparent. Not surprisingly, she thinks those causes will also be related to climate change. The study now has a name – the Southwest Avian Mortality Project – and, as of this writing, birds are still dying and being sent to the school.

Is there any good news? Anything?

That’s the sound of no birds chirping.

Recommended Articles by Paul Seaburn
About the Author

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as “The Tonight Show”, “Politically Incorrect” and an award-winning children’s program. He’s been published in “The New York Times” and “Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humour. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humour to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn’t always have to be serious.

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Animal World

Endangered Orcas Have Begun Surrounding And Attacking Boats This Sümter

Numerous cases of Orcas ramming boats have been reported, and some experts suggest that the orcas could be fighting back against perceived threats.

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Endangered Orcas Have Begun Surrounding And Attacking Boats This Sümter
Photo Credit: Getty

(TMU) – Numerous cases of Orcas ramming boats in the Gibraltar Strait near Spain and Portugal have been reported this summer, and some experts suggest that the orcas could be fighting back against perceived threats posed by fishing boats and other vessels. This type of behavior is very unusual for the species, which is typically known to be friendly and playful.

On July 29th, biology graduate Victoria Morris was on a sailboat off the coast of Spain when her crew was surrounded by a pod of about nine orcas. At first, the crew was interested to see such a strange natural phenomenon, but then the mood suddenly changed. The orcas began to aggressively ram into the boat in what seemed to be a coordinated attack.

In the deep: a pod of highly intelligent killer whales, or orcas. Constant harassment by boats affects their ability to hunt, and has a negative impact on their behaviour. Photograph: Rand McMeins/Getty Images

“They just started surrounding us in a circle, coming for the rudder and the keel. They really just were going for us, and there was definitely no playing,” Morris said during a CBC interview.

The orcas kept up their assault for about an hour until they caused some serious damage to the boat. According to the Guardian, this incident is just one of four similar cases that took place this summer.

Morris believes that the orcas were communicating to coordinate their attack, or in her words, they “orca-strated” it. She says that she heard whistling sounds during the attack, which she believed to be the orcas communicating.

“It was like a whistle, like a very, very loud whistle, and there was lots of them, maybe about four or five of them were doing it at the same time. And it was just so loud,” she said. “It was actually quite amazing to hear,” Morris explained.

She said that when her crew called for help, “it was almost like they didn’t believe us at first.”

“They asked us to repeat a quite a few times. Like, ‘Can you confirm that you are actually under attack by orcas?” she said.

The crew was eventually rescued and towed into the nearby town Barbate, where shocked onlookers observed a boat covered in bite marks.

Marine biologist Jörn Selling has suggested that possibly the orcas became comfortable with the quieter waters during the pandemic restrictions, and are now disturbed by the increase in traffic now that businesses are slowly going back to normal.

Morris believes the orcas seemed to be fighting back against something, and she hopes that these encounters could raise some awareness about what this species is facing.

“They do have the capacity to be angry and they’re very, very intelligent creatures and so it is very possible. But if that is true, then, you know, something needs to be done. I think as bad as it is that all these attacks have been happening, especially to us, but I think in a way it’s also a good thing because it’s turned the spotlight on the fact that there is a problem. Something has changed that’s causing them to do this,” Morris said.

The Gibraltar orcas are endangered, and it is estimated that there are fewer than 50 of them remaining in the wild.

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World’s Rarest Great Ape, Discovered 3 Years Ago, Is Fast Being Wiped Out By British Firm’s Goldmine

It is feared that the rarest great ape species on the planet could soon be made extinct by transnational mining operations.

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World’s rarest great ape, discovered 3 years ago, is fast being wiped out by British firm’s goldmine
Photo Credit: TMU

(TMU) When scientists discovered the Tapanuli Orangutan in 2017, they were ecstatic. After all, these rare primates were the first great ape species to be discovered in almost a century. But now, with only about 800 of the newly-identified animals remaining, it is feared that the rarest great ape species on the planet could soon be made extinct by transnational mining operations.

The Tapanuli orangutan can be found only in a single high-elevation forest in the Batang Toru Ecosystem, which lies in North Sumatra, Indonesia. The area is rich in biodiversity, with other highly endangered species like the Pangolin and Sumatran tiger calling it home.

However, the lush rainforest of Batang Toru is also the site of a major gold-mining project by Jardine Matheson, an Anglo multinational conglomerate whose dealings in Asia date back nearly 200 years, when it trafficked opium to China from colonial India to the Pearl River Delta and directly helped deliver Hong Kong to the British imperialists.

The Hong Kong-based transnational corporation now has extensive holdings across Southeast Asia and the world, including automobile companies, dairy farms, and ownership of the Mandarin Oriental hotel chain.

But ever since 2018, when Jardine Matheson bought the Martabe goldmine on Sumatra Island, the company has been expanding its operations deeper and deeper into the Tapanuli orangutans’ environment. This has entailed the destruction of the irreplaceable Tapanuli orangutan forest habitat with projects to expand mining infrastructure including the huge massive Batang Toru hydroelectric dam project, which is meant to power the smelters of the Martabe mine.

Scientists are now warning that the damage is so great that if only eight of the Tapanuli orangutans are killed each year, the genetic diversity of the isolated great ape species would decline to the point of no return over the next decade.

Conservationist group Mighty Earth has been organizing and advocating for an end to the destruction of the Tapanuli orangutan habitat by the Martabe gold-mining project and is demanding that Jardine Matheson halt the deliberate damage being done to the forest ecosystem.

“I think this is an issue of corporate responsibility,” campaign director Amanta Hurotwitz told The Telegraph. “You have a mine in the habitat of the most endangered species of great ape… If you are going to profit off this species you have a responsibility to take action to protect the species.

However, spokespeople for the transnational conglomerate strongly reject the claims, explaining that they strictly abide by the guidelines of local authorities, including any environmental regulations that are in place.

“The mine has not encroached on areas categorized as protected forest and has been clear on its commitment to protecting biodiversity,” a spokesperson said.

However, conservationists fear that the Tapanuli orangutan, whose unique genetic make-up and behavior delighted scientists and primatologists, could be forever lost due to the devastating carelessness and corruption that comes with corporate greed – especially in the case of such large-scale mining operations.

Hurotwitz urged the company to rethink its practices, noting that it is crucial that Jardine Matheson resolves to “work with scientists to mitigate the damage that has been done.”

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Animal World

Incredible Photos Of A Rare Black Panther Roaming In The Jungles Of India

Jung explored the Kabini Forest in Karnataka, India and captured stunning film and photographs of the elusive and majestic black cat of the forest.

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Photo Credit: Shaaz Jung

(TMU) – After studying Economics at the Utrecht University in Europe, wildlife filmmaker and photographer Shaaz Jung returned to the forests of south India where he spent most of his childhood.

His lifelong fascination with the jungle and its wild cats, leopards and the mysterious black panthers in particular, was instrumental in changing his career path from corporate to conservationist and photographer extraordinaire.

Jung’s goal was to discover and understand the lives of the masters of darkness, the black panthers. To fulfill his dream, Jung explored the Kabini Forest in Karnataka, India over the past couple of years and returned not only wiser, but also with stunning film and photographs of the elusive and majestic black cat of the forest.

“I spent two and a half years in the Kabini Forest, between December 2017 and January 2020, on a filming permit. This filming permit allowed [me and the team] to make a documentary on the black panther for National Geographic.”

According to Jung, every day was like a journey into the unknown and their attempts to discover the panther’s secrets ended up being one of the most challenging projects he had ever worked on.

“This black panther is a leopard with an abundance of melanin. Unlike other cats in the Kabini Forest, there is only one black panther,” Jung explained. “This of course makes him far more difficult to photograph. However, since 2015… photographers have been fortunate enough to see him and take pictures. We are, however, the first to make a dedicated movie on him.”

Patience is definitely one trait all wildlife photographers need to learn early in their careers and it’s probably safe to say the entire team on the project have mastered this particular art during their time in the jungle.

“It’s been an incredible journey,” Jung said. “I would like to thank the Karnataka Forest Department for protecting these forests. Their hard work enables us to catch glimpses of these beautiful animals that are thriving in our Indian forests.”

Raised in South India, with jungle forests on his doorstep and several of India’s best national parks in the area, Jung grew up in wonder and respect for the jungle. “The jungle is a labyrinth riddled with secrets that are waiting to be uncovered. Every day in the forest was like a puzzle and I had to put the pieces of this puzzle together in order to successfully unlock its secrets,” he said of his 30 month jungle journey.

Unlock the secrets he most assuredly did, capturing these stunning moments on film. “The camera allowed me to take photographs, immortalizing these moments, relishing life, and inspiring the world. Wildlife is unpredictable and I love the challenge of tracking your subject before you can photograph it. It feels far more rewarding,” Jung said.

Shaaz Jung followed his dream, a dream turned into reality, taking him all over the world to capture the amazing creatures that roam Earth. Now also an ambassador for Nikon India and Samsung, Jung runs Safari Lodges in South India and in East Africa, where he also guides private safaris.

More info: shaazjung.com | Instagram

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