The Tasmanian Wedge-tailed Eagle, Aquila audax fleayi, is one of the most iconic birds occupying Tasmania for a variety of reasons. The species represents 10,000 years of genetic isolation from its mainland relative and, therefore, is treated as an endemic subspecies.
These immense birds can weigh up to five kilograms but their two-meter-long wings allow them to soar over a variety of habitats as they search for their prey. Wedge-tailed eagles feed on a variety of creatures, ranging from large wallabies to road-killed rabbits.
The other top predator native to Tasmania, the Thylacine, is now extinct, leaving the eagle at the top of the food chain on the island. This has implications on their overall density, especially in relation to nesting sites. From August to January, the eagles utilise old-growth trees for nesting sites and normally raise only one chick per year.
These breeding habits, especially, leave the eagles especially vulnerable and are the main reasons for the decline in the overall population of Aquila audax fleayi.
Population estimates for Tasmanian Wedge-tailed eagles vary widely, but researchers generally agree that less than 200 breeding pairs are left on Earth. The birds have been persecuted for years due to the mistaken belief that they are extremely detrimental to sheep flocks which is due, perhaps, to their tendency to soar over pastured areas as they seek out prey.
Poisoning, power-line collisions, and cars have all taken their toll on their population, but nesting disturbance represents the largest threat to eagle populations today. The tendency of eagles to nest in the largest trees in a given forest leaves them particularly susceptible to old-growth timber harvesting practices. Furthermore, disturbance can greatly affect the breeding success of eagles and few undisturbed forests remain in Tasmania.
Public awareness is the best friend of this magnificent bird of prey and could be the answer to its salvation from extinction. Officially, there is a moratorium on logging Tasmania’s old growth forests but this has yet to be put into practice due a variety of political reasons.
Most of Tasmania’s timber is ground to pulp and shipped overseas. This means that there is no advantage to logging virgin forest over logging plantation forest which exists throughout the Australian state. Old growth logging is not as economically viable as other, more sustainable, forestry practices in Tasmania and the government there should act to impose the moratorium it voted into practice.
The only way it will do that, and the only way Tasmanian Wedge-tailed eagles will be saved from extinction, is with your support. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let them know that you care about these birds and that you’d like to see further steps taken to protect them. You can make a difference.
Bekessy, S.A., Wintle, B.A., Gordon, A., Fox, J.C., Chisholm, R., Brown, B., Regan, T., Mooney, N., Read, S.M. and Burgman, M.A. (2009). Modelling human impacts on the Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle (Aquila audax fleayi)‘, Biological Conservation142, 2438-2448.
Bell, P.J. and Mooney, N.J. (1998). National recovery plan for the Wedge-tailed eagle 1998-2003. Department of Primary Industries, Water, and Environment, Information Report.
Gaffney, R.F. and Mooney, N.J. (1992). The Wedge-tailed eagle recovery plan. Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service, Information Report.
Lefort, P. and Grove, S. (2009). Early responses of birds to clearfelling and its alternatives in lowland eucalypt forest in Tasmania, Australia. Forest Ecology and Management258, 460-471.
Threatened Birds: Wedge-tailed Eagle (2008, July 14). Wedge-tailed Eagle. Retrieved April 19, 2011 from Parks and Wildlife Service on the World Wide Web: http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/index.aspx?base=1001
Watts, D. (2003). ‘Field Guide to Tasmanian Birds’. (New Holland Publishers Limited: New South Wales).
The greater one-horned rhino (Indian or Nepalese rhino), is the most numerous of the three Asian rhino species. These rhinos number just 2,850 and are surviving in only two countries.
Photo courtesy of Suman Bhattarai
Greater one-horned rhinos (Rhinoceros unicornis) were once widespread throughout the northern floodplains and nearby foothills of the Indian sub-continent between the Indo-Myanmar border in the east, and Sindh River basin, Pakistan in the west. It is also suggested that the species could once be found in southern China, Myanmar, and Indochina.
Unfortunately, this Asian rhino species was decimated after decades of demand for its single horn, a key ingredient in Traditional Chinese Medicine. They were also hunted relentlessly by royals and “big game” collectors.
I get this question a lot. No, a herpetologist does not study herpes, we study reptiles and amphibians. The prefix “herpe” means “creeping thing”, so that’s how both things got their names. I love my job. I get to work with animals that I love and I get to work to conserve the world in which we all live. There are great things and horrible things that I have to deal with, and I hope through this blog, I can share my conservation passion with everyone. This first entry is basically going to talk about how I got to where I am and why I do what I do. Enjoy.
How it all began…
Ever since I was a child, I have been fascinated with the world around me. I wanted to know how everything worked and how animals became the way they are in modern times. My room was plastered in toy dinosaurs and I never went more than a few months without some type of pet fish. …read more of You’re a Herpe-what? Do you Study Herpes? here
“. . . on April 22, 1970, Earth Day was held, one of the most
remarkable happenings in the history of democracy. . . ” -American Heritage Magazine, October 1993
What was the purpose of Earth Day? How did it start? These are the questions I am most frequently asked.
Actually, the idea for Earth Day evolved over a period of seven years starting in 1962. For several years, it had been troubling me that the state of our environment was simply a non-issue in the politics of the country. Finally, in November 1962, an idea occurred to me that was, I thought, a virtual cinch to put the environment into the political “limelight” once and for all. The idea was to persuade President Kennedy to give visibility to this issue by going on a national conservation tour.
I flew to Washington to discuss the proposal with Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who liked the idea. So did the President. The President began his five-day, eleven-state conservation tour in September 1963. For many reasons the tour did not succeed in putting the issue onto the national political agenda. However, it was the germ of the idea that ultimately flowered into Earth Day. …read more of The Origin of Earth Day here
Photo: ‘Tonho da Onca’ (Jaguar Tony). Courtesy of Brazilian Federal Police.
Twenty years ago Brazil’s most notorious jaguar hunter, Teodoro Antonio Melo Neto, also known as “Tonho da onça” or “Jaguar Tony,” swore off poaching after logging 600 kills.
The foe-turned-jaguar-ally began helping conservation agencies track the elusive cats for their monitoring and research and his dramatic change of heart even became the subject of a children’s book, titled Tonho da Onça, which related a conservation message. More recently, however, “Jaguar Tony,” now 71 years old, revealed his true spots when federal agents busted him and seven others for illegal jaguar hunting.
In late 2009, Brazilian federal authorities launched a nine-month investigation, code-named Operation Jaguar, after receiving reports of radio-collared jaguars that had “gone silent” and also of jaguar carcasses on farms in Brazil’s Pantanal, the world’s largest wetland – about the size of Illinois – and prime habitat for the large cats. …read more of Operation Jaguar: Poaching and Human-Wildlife Conflict here
photo credit: Lavanya Sunkara- black rhino sighting in Nairobi National Park
World Wildlife Fund recently reported that at least five endangered rhinos have been killed in Africa since the beginning of 2011. Poaching has grown more rampant in recent years due to rise in demand for the rhinoceros horns in China and Vietnam.
The horn, which sells for a higher price than gold at approximately $57000 a kilogram on the black market, is used as an ingredient in traditional Asian medicine for its supposed benefits in curing ailments from headaches to impotence despite any proof. Last year, in South Africa’s Krugersdorp Park, the last female rhino was left to die after poachers hacked off her horn, leaving her baby orphaned.
What’s the first thing, rising in your mind when you hear the word “eagle”? No, I can’t read your mind, but I don’t even need to – I bet there’s no person, who would deny the majesty and genius of these absolutely beautiful creatures. Add one “imperial” in front of “eagle” and the result is one of the most amazing wonders of nature.
“Why imperial?”, you may ask. Well, let’s have a look at the size of these birds. The simple scientific data says the wingspan of an adult Imperial eagle can be more than 7 feet (I’m not kidding!) or about 2.15 meters, only a bit smaller than the Golden eagle. Just for a comparison – the distance between the fingertips of one of your hands and these of the other equals your height. Unbelievably, but with their wings outspread these fellows are larger than an average human. Pretty imperial, aren’t they? …read more of Imperial Eagles and Co. here
Over the last year I have spent countless hours talking to people, explaining why I’m an amphibian conservationist battling to save some of the 2000-odd species of amphibians that are facing extinction. I’ll bet that the bird conservationists saving warblers don’t get that question as often as I do, because birds clearly do matter.
Birds are a very accessible form of wildlife, you can see them in your back yards, and they are the sound of nature. Just a few adrenalin-filled moments spent watching a woodpecker and a cardinal having a fight at a bird feeder is enough escapism to lift the burdens of a hard day in the office. Yet frogs do matter for all these reasons and more. …read more of Why Frogs Matter here
I never tire of gazing at bison in Yellowstone. I find them magnificent creatures and they are inextricably linked for me to a prehistoric time when 60 million of their ancestors roamed in endless herds across North America (one explorer noted a sea of buffalo that stretched 20 miles wide).
In the winter I salute their tenacious survival skills, and smile when I see a bison “snow angel,” the marks in the snow left from them brushing their head from side-to-side in search of sparse forage underneath. Somehow these 2,000 pound animals scratch out a living in Yellowstone’s extreme winter by eating mostly dead plants–what we would consider the equivalent of munching on cardboard. …read more of A Lament for a Bison here
Whether you’re a scientist working in the field or a young person in your backyard, this is where you get to share your stories through pictures, videos and articles with the rest of the world. Without your voice, these stories go unshared, and our planet’s ecology, wildlife and natural resources go unexplored. Connect with each other and us and let’s enjoy this process of learning from one another.