Large carnivores’ tough life: Lion and Buffalo fight to death

I usually hear people saying that herbivores are prey and are vulnerable to be killed at any moment. They have fear, and while grazing/browsing are vigilant and ready to run if anything similar to a predator has been spotted or smelled in the surroundings. They are seen as the weakest against the powerful predators armed with sharped claws and muscled jaws that hold an army of threatening canines.

From my point of view, the truth is slightly different. Predators do not have an easy life neither. They have to compete with other powerful and armed carnivores of their same and other species for food, space, access to reproduction, survival, etc. They also have to cope with diseases, human persecution (their biggest challenge in life!) and always have to be in good shape. They must be successful hunters which required skills and techniques that need to be constantly improved throughout their life.

Quite a difficult task too… who is afraid now?

Next pictures were published in the Daily Mail two weeks ago. They were taken by Matt Armstrong-Ford, who works as a safari guide in the South Luangwa National Park, Zambia.

I thought interesting to share them as they well illustrate the predators’ tough life.

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Desesperate six-year-old male lion suffering from mange was waiting nearby a waterhole for a meal when the lone female buffalo appeared in the scene.

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The feline is tossed around in the air as he attempts to mount his adversary.

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The amateur photographer said that the fight lasted up to an hour. The buffalo managed to shake the lion itself off several times but instead of trying to escape just stood there. Both animals stared at each other both too exhausted to move. After a few minutes of rest the lion then went for the buffalo and another ten-minute battle ensued.

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As it looked like fortune was favouring the exhausted but ravenous lion a member of the buffalo’s herd came to its aid and delivered a deadly blow.

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After this the lion managed to drag himself under a bush to lick his wounds. Both animals were covered in blood by the end. Two days later the lion succumbed to his injuries, while the buffalo’s carcass was found two weeks later having failed to fight off infection

Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2945904/Battle-death-Buffalo-lion-endure-epic-hour-long-fight-leaves-animals-fatal-injuries.html

What killed off the giant beasts, climate change or man?

By  for The Guardian,
Earth’s ‘megafauna’ vanished as tribes spread. Now palaeontologists are asking if early humans were the cause
Mammoth

Humans might have played a role in the extinction of the woolly mammoth. Photograph: Andrew Nelmerm/Getty Images/Dorling Kindersley

They were some of the strangest animals to walk the Earth: wombats as big as hippos, sloths larger than bears, four-tusked elephants, and an armadillo that would have dwarfed a VW Beetle. They flourished for millions of years, then vanished from our planet just as humans emerged from their African homeland.

It is one of palaeontology’s most intriguing mysteries and formed the core of a conference at Oxford University las 20th of march when delegates debated whether climate change or human hunters killed off the planet’s lost megafauna, as these extinct giants are known.

“Creatures like megatherium, the giant sloth, and the glyptodon, a car-sized species of armadillo, disappeared in North and South America about 10,000 years ago, when there were major changes to climates – which some scientists believe triggered their extinctions,” said Yadvinder Malhi, professor of ecosystem science at Oxford, one of the organisers of the conference, Megafauna and Ecosystem Function.

“However, it is also the case that tribes of modern humans were moving into these creatures’ territories at these times – and many of us believe it is too much of a coincidence that this happened just as these animals vanished. These creatures had endured millions of years of climate change before then, after all. However, this was the first time they had encountered humans.”

Modern humans emerged from Africa around 70,000 years ago, travelled across Asia and reached Australia 50,000 years ago, a time that coincides with a wave of extinctions of creatures there, including the diprotodon, a species of wombat that grew to the size of a modern hippopotamus. By about 14,000 years ago, humans had reached North America by crossing the land bridge that then linked Siberia and Alaska. Then they headed south.

By 10,000 years ago, Homo sapiens had conquered North and South America at a time that coincided with major megafauna extinctions, including those of the giant sloth and the glyptodon.

“We think of Africa and south-east Asia – with their lions, elephants and rhinos – as the main home of large animals today, but until very recently in our planet’s history, huge creatures thrived in Australia, North America and South America as well,” said Professor Adrian Lister of the Natural History Museum in London. “The question is: why did they disappear in the new world but survive in the old world?

“Some believe it is because large animals in Africa and south-east Asia learned to become wary of human beings and decided to avoid them at all costs. However, I also think climate change may have been involved in the Americas and Australia and that humans only finished off these big animals when they were already weakened by loss of habitats and other climate-related problems.”

The idea that humans were involved in any way in eradicating dozens of species of giant animal when we were still hunter-gatherers has important implications in any case. It was thought, until relatively recently, that it was only when humans invented agriculture several thousand years ago that our species’ relationship with the natural world become unbalanced. Until then, humans had a close affinity with nature. But if ancient hunter-gatherers played a part in wiping out these species of huge animals as long as 50,000 years ago, humanity’s supposed innate harmony with the living world appears misplaced.

More to the point, humanity is still paying the price for the disappearance of the megafauna of the Americas and Australia, the Oxford conference will hear. “There is now a lot of evidence to suggest that large herbivores like gomphotheres, a family of elephant-like animals that went extinct in South America around 9,000 years, played a key role in spreading nutrition in areas like the Amazon. They would eat fruit in the forest, including avocados, and their excrement would then fertilise other areas. That no longer happens and places like the Amazon are today affected by low nutrition as a result,” Malhi said.

Another example is provided by the giant wombat, the diprotodon, which some scientists have argued browsed bush across Australia and kept biomass levels very low. When the diprotodon vanished, plants and shrubs across the outback grew unhindered. The result was major bush fires which, archaeologists have discovered, became a serious problem just after the giant wombat disappeared from Australia.

Diprotodon optatum from the Pleistocene of Australia.

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What you don´t learn at University (Part 1)

Dear followers,

This post starts a new episode in this blog where we wish to share not only wildlife research but our own experiences as wildlife researchers that live and work in the bush.

So, there is a picture of wildlife biologist Vera Menges’ legs after checking leopard kill-sites and looking for their prey remains. Despite of the scratches (that after 4 months are still visible), she had a successful day and found prey remains at seven different locations and I am pretty sure that the thorny bushes did not have a better ending…

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This is the kind of girl that you don´t mess with!

Probably, during your studies you were never taught that fieldwork and legs do not always get on well, specially if you work in the thorn-bush savanna…

Some of you may wonder why she is not wearing long trousers. To put it in her own words:

It is freaking hot here and if I have to choose between melting or being scratched. I’d rather choose the later!

This is only one of the challenges that you will face during fieldwork. Those of you who are doing it every day and enjoying it as much as me, are most likely thinking that nothing will never erase the smile that the field put on our faces.

Enjoy the nature fellas!

P.S. Want to find out more about her research? Join the Leopard Project Facebook page.

License to kill: reforming federal wildlife control to restore biodiversity and ecosystem function

For more than 100 years, the US government has conducted lethal control of native wildlife, to benefit livestock producers and to enhance game populations, especially in the western states. Since 2000, Wildlife Services (WS), an agency of the US Department of Agriculture, has killed 2 million native mammals, predominantly 20 species of carnivores, beavers, and several species of ground-dwelling squirrels, but also many nontarget species. Many are important species in their native ecosystems (e.g., ecosystem engineers such as prairie dogs and beavers, and apex predators such as gray wolves). Reducing their populations, locally or globally, risks cascading negative consequences including impoverishment of biodiversity, loss of resilience to biotic invasions, destabilization of populations at lower trophic levels, and loss of many ecosystem services that benefit human society directly and indirectly.

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Monitoring Rarity: The Critically Endangered Saharan Cheetah as a Flagship Species for a Threatened Ecosystem

A paper on  the first survey of the critically endangered Saharan cheetah Acinonyx jubatus hecki was recently published in the Journal PlOS ONE. The study was carried out over two field seasons (August-October 2008 and August-November 2010) in Ahaggar Cultural Park, South Central Algeria by Farid Belbachir and his colleagues.

A rectangular trapping grid was designed and overlaid on a satellite image of the study area using 40 camera trap locations, spaced 10 km apart, covering a total area of 2,551 km2. The survey used camera-traps which use passive infra-red motion detectors that trigger a photograph when animals pass in front of the camera.

Cameras were usually placed under the nearest tree within 1km of each pre-allocated grid point. Trees were selected as they were likely to be attractive to passing cheetah; however they had the added advantage of providing shade for the camera traps, protecting them from the heat of the day.

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Photographs were obtained from 15 captures of cheetah in 2008 and 17 captures in 2010. The data in 2008 and 2010 yielded captures of four adult cheetah (3 males and 1 of unidentified sex) and two adult cheetah (2 males) and one subadult (unidentified sex) respectively. Camera-trap effort totaled 1862 trap-days in 2008 and 3367 trap-days in 2010. Overall, an average of 124.1 and 198.1 trap-days were necessary to capture a single cheetah picture in 2008 and 2010, respectively. Continue reading

Rapid declines of large mammal populations after the collapse of the Soviet Union

Poster Bragina by Roberta Kwok

When a country goes into economic freefall, the resulting chaos can trigger a host of environmental changes. Wildlife regulation often falls by the wayside, and poaching rises — but activities such as logging may drop. “Thus, socioeconomic shocks may hinder or help conservation,” researchers write in Conservation Biology. In the case of the 1991 Soviet Union collapse, which was it? The team studied population trends for 8 mammal species in Russia, including deer, bears, lynxes, and grey wolves. For data, they turned to the Russian Federal Agency of Game Mammal Monitoring’s records. That database contains annual tallies for mammal species, obtained by methods such as counting tracks in the winter and surveying hunters. The researchers studied data from 1981 to 2010, covering the decade before the collapse and the two following decades. Continue reading

Movements of African White-backed Vultures

This Google image reveals the movements to date of 9 tracked African White-backed Vultures of varying age that were captured and fitted with GSM tracking in the north of the Kruger National Park during 2014. The tracking of their movements are part of a study to assess the role these birds play as vectors of disease in the region and is done in partnership with the State Veterinary Department and the University of Pretoria. No doubt that they must rank as one of the most mobile resident species of birds out there!

Copyright: Andre Botha

Other links:

http://projectvulture.org.za/

https://www.facebook.com/projectvulture