Family & Pets

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How to keep your cat happy indoors according to science

<p>By 2030, 60% of the world’s population <a href="https://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/publications/pdf/urbanization/the_worlds_cities_in_2016_data_booklet.pdf">will live in cities</a>, while one in three will share their city with at least half a million other inhabitants. With more and more people living in dense urban settings, what does the future hold for pets?</p> <p>High-rise living <a href="https://www.purina.co.uk/cats/getting-a-new-cat/finding-the-right-cat-for-me/dog-or-cat-how-to-choose-the-right-pet-for-you">might not be ideal for most pets</a>, as outdoor access can be difficult and there may be limited space indoors. For cats in particular, a trend towards indoor lifestyles might restrict how much they’re able to behave normally.</p> <p>As the domesticated descendants of the African wild cat, cats are obligate carnivores – they need to have a meat-based diet. Naturally, this requires them to <a href="https://theconversation.com/is-there-a-killer-in-your-kennel-billions-of-wild-animals-fall-victim-to-pet-cats-and-dogs-33199">hunt</a>. A study <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms2380">in the US</a> found that pet cats could be killing up to four billion birds and up to 21 billion mammals every year.</p> <p>So housebound cats may be good for wildlife, but how can people ensure their pets thrive indoors? Sadly, scientific research is pretty light on this question. Despite so many of us inviting them into our homes, we know relatively little about <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0168159119301054">how cats handle living inside</a>.</p> <p><span class="attribution"><a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/cat-waiting-on-top-birdhouse-kitten-776578606?src=7fce4dc1-901e-4090-9867-0213b0542040-1-0" class="source"></a></span><strong>Choosing the right cat</strong></p> <p>We know that some cats are more suited to being house cats than others, although we need to be careful not to generalise. All cats have <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1098612X13477537">individual needs</a>, <a href="https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/The_Cat_Personality_Test.html?id=v0iIDwAAQBAJ&amp;source=kp_book_description&amp;redir_esc=y">personalities and preferences</a>. High energy and hyperactive cats, rescued strays with little indoor experience or those that aren’t very friendly towards people aren’t good choices for a life lived entirely indoors.</p> <p>It’s often assumed that older cats may be a better choice because they’re more sedentary and cats with a previous history of living indoors may also adjust more easily to a new indoor home. Some cats have diseases, such as feline immunodeficiency virus, that keep them housebound. But this doesn’t mean these groups of cats will all have the right temperament to cope with indoor living.</p> <p>House cats are prone to obesity and may spend large amounts of time inactive, both physically and mentally. Providing a <a href="https://www.battersea.org.uk/pet-advice/cat-care-advice/enriching-your-garden-or-outside-space">safe</a> outdoor space for cats could be <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0211862">beneficial for their wellbeing</a>. <a href="https://protectapet.com">Cat proofing</a> gardens, for example, so they can’t escape, could ensure pets can benefit from the outdoors in a more controlled way. But if this isn’t possible, there’s still much that can be done to improve a cat’s life indoors.</p> <p><strong>Personal space</strong></p> <p>Because cats are only considered semi-social, indoor environments may present several situations that they would <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1098612X13477537">usually choose to avoid</a>. This can be anything from too much attention and unexpected guests to toddlers and other animals that don’t understand the concept of <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-to-stroke-a-cat-according-to-science-116025">mutual respect and personal space</a>.</p> <hr /> <p><em> <strong> Read more: <a href="http://theconversation.com/how-to-stroke-a-cat-according-to-science-116025">How to stroke a cat, according to science</a> </strong> </em></p> <hr /> <p>We know cats like boxes, but you can also give them high vantage points to climb to. To do this, you can use a “cat tree”, although an accessible shelf or the top of a wardrobe would work well too. Cats also need access to quiet rooms and spaces to hide under so they can remove themselves from situations they find stressful. Be mindful though – if your cat spends most of its time hiding, your house may be less cat-friendly than you think. Uncontrolled stress in a cat’s life can lead to <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1748-5827.2004.tb00216.x.">illnesses such as idiopathic cystitis</a>.</p> <p><strong>Predatory behaviour</strong></p> <p>But what about their need to hunt? Allowing this behaviour is vital, and that includes them being able to look for food as well as finding and eating it. Searching for food usually involves short bursts of activity and long periods of waiting in cats, while the feeding part is also complex, as the cat decides how and where is best to eat.</p> <p>To recreate this, you can scatter food on the floor or hide it in <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1098612X16643753">puzzle feeders</a>. You can even vary where you feed your cat and encourage it to explore and manipulate objects. Getting a cat to move more and eat regular, smaller amounts of food can help reduce the risk of obesity.</p> <p>Play can also be used to mimic hunting without the need for food. It’s always best to keep bouts of play short, encouraging pouncing and chasing, and using toys which mimic the shape, texture and movement of live prey. You should always end on a positive note and while the cat is enjoying itself, so that future playtimes will be anticipated rather than endured.</p> <p><span class="attribution"><a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/graywhite-tabby-cat-plays-feather-toy-676360354?src=055d4fd6-441f-4202-88dd-bb46a21b7535-1-3" class="source"></a></span><strong>Brushing up</strong></p> <p>Like humans, cats like to maintain themselves. Sharp claws are a must for effective climbing and defence, so make sure to provide scratching posts, especially if you want to protect your furniture. In the wild, cats use trees and other objects, not just to maintain their claws but also to leave marks for other cats to follow.</p> <p>Make sure your cat can comfortably go to the toilet. Use unscented litter that is changed regularly and put the toilet in a discreet place, away from their food and water. For cats, as for us, it’s not a public activity. If your cat is going to the toilet somewhere inappropriate, it may be that they’re unhappy with their toilet arrangements or they may need to be checked by a vet.</p> <p>Cats are as complex and each individual has unique needs. Before you decide whether to have an indoor cat, make sure that it’s a decision the cat would be likely to make too.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/126726/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mark-farnworth-887019">Mark Farnworth</a>, Associate Professor of Animal Behaviour, <a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/nottingham-trent-university-1338">Nottingham Trent University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lauren-finka-727070">Lauren Finka</a>, Postdoctoral Research Associate, <a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/nottingham-trent-university-1338">Nottingham Trent University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/keeping-cats-indoors-how-to-ensure-your-pet-is-happy-according-to-science-126726">original article</a>.</em></p>

Family & Pets

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The result of Australia's extinct species is saddening and devastating

<p>It’s well established that unsustainable human activity is <a href="https://wwf.panda.org/knowledge_hub/all_publications/living_planet_report_2018/">damaging the health of the planet</a>. The way we use Earth threatens our future and that of many animals and plants. <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-is-a-mass-extinction-and-are-we-in-one-now-122535">Species extinction</a> is an inevitable end point.</p> <p>It’s important that the loss of Australian nature be quantified accurately. To date, putting an exact figure on the number of extinct species has been challenging. But in the most comprehensive assessment of its kind, our <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S000632071930895X">research</a> has confirmed that 100 endemic Australian species living in 1788 are now validly listed as <a href="http://www.nespthreatenedspecies.edu.au/news/a-review-of-listed-extinctions-in-australia">extinct</a>.</p> <p>Alarmingly, this tally confirms that the number of extinct Australian species is much higher than previously thought.</p> <p><strong>The most precise tally yet</strong></p> <p>Counts of extinct Australian species vary. The federal government’s list of extinct <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicthreatenedlist.pl?wanted=flora">plants</a> and <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicthreatenedlist.pl?wanted=fauna">animals</a> totals 92. However 20 of these are subspecies, five are now known to still exist in Australia and seven survive overseas – reducing the figure to 60.</p> <p>An RMIT/ABC fact check <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-19/fact-check-does-australia-have-one-of-the-highest-extinction/6691026">puts the figure</a> at 46.</p> <p>The states and territories also hold their own extinction lists, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature keeps a global database, the <a href="https://www.iucnredlist.org">Red List</a>.</p> <p>Our <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S000632071930895X">research</a> collated these separate listings. We excluded species that still exist overseas, such as the <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicspecies.pl?taxon_id=24168">water tassel-fern</a>. We also excluded some species that, happily, have been rediscovered since being listed as <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-12-13/seed-bank-holds-the-forgotten-conservation/10610418">extinct</a>, or which are no longer recognised as valid species (such as the obscure snail <em><a href="https://bie.ala.org.au/search?sortField=&amp;dir=desc&amp;q=Fluvidona+dulvertonensis">Fluvidona dulvertonensis</a></em>).</p> <p>We concluded that exactly 100 plant and animal species are validly listed as having become extinct in the 230 years since Europeans colonised Australia:</p> <ul> <li>38 plants, such as the <a href="https://bie.ala.org.au/species/http://id.biodiversity.org.au/name/apni/91897">magnificent spider-orchid</a></li> <li>1 seaweed species</li> <li>34 mammals including the <a href="https://australianmuseum.net.au/learn/australia-over-time/extinct-animals/the-thylacine/">thylacine</a> and pig-footed bandicoot</li> <li>10 invertebrates including a funnel-web spider, beetles and snails</li> <li>9 birds, such as the <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicspecies.pl?taxon_id=723">paradise parrot</a></li> <li>4 frogs, including two species of the bizarre <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/phenomena/2013/03/15/resurrecting-the-extinct-frog-with-a-stomach-for-a-womb/">gastric-brooding frog</a> which used its stomach as a womb</li> <li>3 reptiles including the Christmas Island forest skink</li> <li>1 fish, the Pedder galaxias.</li> </ul> <p>Our tally includes three species listed as extinct in the wild, with two of these still existing in captivity.</p> <p>The mammal toll represents 10% of the species present in 1788. This loss rate is far higher than for any other continent over this period.</p> <p>The 100 extinctions are drawn from formal lists. But many extinctions have not been officially registered. Other species disappeared before their existence was recorded. More have not been seen for decades, and are suspected lost by scientists or Indigenous groups who <a href="https://theconversation.com/eulogy-for-a-seastar-australias-first-recorded-marine-extinction-103225">knew them best</a>. We speculate that the actual tally of extinct Australian species since 1788 is likely to be about ten times greater than we derived from official lists.</p> <p>And biodiversity loss is more than extinctions alone. Many more Australian species have disappeared from all but a vestige of their former ranges, or persist in populations far smaller than in the past.</p> <p><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/303097/original/file-20191122-74593-1qdj0uz.gif?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="" /> <span class="caption">The geographical spread of extinctions across Australia. Darker shading represents a higher extinction tally.</span></p> <p><strong>Dating the losses</strong></p> <p>Dating of extinctions is not straightforward. For a few Australian species, such as the Christmas Island forest skink, we know the <a href="https://theconversation.com/vale-gump-the-last-known-christmas-island-forest-skink-30252">day the last known individual died</a>. But many species disappeared without us realising at the time.</p> <p>Our estimation of extinction dates reveals a largely continuous rate of loss – averaging about four species per decade.</p> <p>Continuing this trend, in the past decade, <a href="https://conbio.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/cobi.12852">three Australian species have become extinct</a> – the Christmas Island forest skink, Christmas Island pipistrelle and Bramble Cay melomys – and two others became extinct in the wild.</p> <p><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/303096/original/file-20191122-74584-f59vt8.gif?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="" /> <span class="caption">Cumulative tally of Australian extinctions since 1788.</span></p> <p>The extinctions occurred over most of the continent. However 21 occurred only on islands smaller than Tasmania, which comprise less than 0.5% of Australia’s land mass.</p> <p>This trend, repeated around the world, is largely due to small population sizes and vulnerability to newly introduced predators.</p> <p><strong>We must learn from the past</strong></p> <p>The 100 recognised extinctions followed the loss of Indigenous land management, its replacement with entirely new land uses and new settlers introducing species with little regard to detrimental impacts.</p> <p>Introduced cats and foxes are implicated in most mammal extinctions; vegetation clearing and habitat degradation caused most plant extinctions. Disease caused the loss of frogs and the accidental introduction of an Asian snake caused the recent loss of three reptile species on Christmas Island.</p> <p>The causes have changed over time. Hunting contributed to several early extinctions, but not recent ones. In the last decade, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/534437a">climate change</a> contributed to the extinction of the Bramble Cay melomys, which lived only on one Queensland island.</p> <p>The prospects for some species are helped by legal protection, Australia’s fine national reserve system and threat management. But these gains are subverted by the legacy of previous habitat loss and fragmentation, and the ongoing damage caused by introduced species.</p> <p>Our own population increase is causing further habitat loss, and new threats such as climate change bring more frequent and intense droughts and bushfires.</p> <p>Environment laws have demonstrably <a href="https://theconversation.com/environment-laws-have-failed-to-tackle-the-extinction-emergency-heres-the-proof-122936">failed to stem the extinction crisis</a>. The national laws are now under review, and the <a href="https://theconversation.com/our-nature-laws-are-being-overhauled-here-are-7-things-we-must-fix-126021">federal government has indicated</a> protections may be wound back.</p> <p>But now is not the time to <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/about/review">weaken</a> environment laws further. The creation of modern Australia has come at a great cost to nature – we are not living well in this land.</p> <hr /> <p><em>The study on which this article is based was also co-authored by Andrew Burbidge, David Coates, Rod Fensham and Norm McKenzie.</em><!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/127611/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/john-woinarski-16660">John Woinarski</a>, Professor (conservation biology), <a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/charles-darwin-university-1066">Charles Darwin University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/brett-murphy-11434">Brett Murphy</a>, Associate Professor / ARC Future Fellow, <a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/charles-darwin-university-1066">Charles Darwin University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dale-nimmo-15432">Dale Nimmo</a>, Associate professor/ARC DECRA fellow, <a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/charles-sturt-university-849">Charles Sturt University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/michael-f-braby-511682">Michael F. Braby</a>, Associate Professor, <a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/australian-national-university-877">Australian National University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/sarah-legge-413029">Sarah Legge</a>, Professor, <a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/australian-national-university-877">Australian National University</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/stephen-garnett-4565">Stephen Garnett</a>, Professor of Conservation and Sustainable Livelihoods, <a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/charles-darwin-university-1066">Charles Darwin University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/scientists-re-counted-australias-extinct-species-and-the-result-is-devastating-127611">original article</a>.</em></p>

Family & Pets

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“My little Louis”: Kate Middleton shares sweet story about the one-year-old prince

<p>During a recent engagement with the Duchess of Cambridge, she revealed a very sweet story about her son Prince Louis.</p> <p>The one-year-old reportedly “wants to go everywhere with her”, according to<span> </span><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.thesun.co.uk/fabulous/10483618/kate-middleton-sweetly-reveals-prince-louis-wants-to-come-with-me-everywhere-during-childrens-farm-visit/" target="_blank">The Sun</a></em>.</p> <p>According to the<span> </span><em>Daily Mail’s<span> </span></em>Rebecca English, the Duchess of Cambridge laughed at one boy who was trying to get her attention by saying “me, me”.</p> <p>“Inside the farm’s Elves Enchanted Forest Kate laughed at one boy who held his hand up to get her attention, saying: ‘Me, me.’</p> <p>“Kate stroked his cheek and said: “You remind me of my little Louis, he keeps saying: “Me, me, me and he wants to come everywhere with me.” Sweet!”</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en-gb"> <p dir="ltr">Inside the farm’s Elves Enchanted Forest Kate laughed at one boy who held his hand up to get her attention, saying: ‘Me, me.’<br />Kate stroked his cheek and said: “You remind me of my little Louis, he keeps saying: “Me, me, me and he wants to come everywhere with me.” Sweet! <a href="https://t.co/UJC5kX8XaN">https://t.co/UJC5kX8XaN</a></p> — Rebecca English (@RE_DailyMail) <a href="https://twitter.com/RE_DailyMail/status/1202256271409385474?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">4 December 2019</a></blockquote> <p>The festive visit marked her taking on the Family Action patronage from the Queen, who held it for more than 65 years after Queen Mary passed it onto her in 1953.</p> <p>Kate appeared in good spirits as she joined families and children supported by Family Action for Christmas activities.</p> <p>The families and Kate picked Christmas trees for Family Action pre-schools and chatted as they decorated the trees.</p> <p>Scroll through the gallery to see photos of the Duchess of Cambridge at the event as well as sweet photos of Prince Louis.</p> <p><em>Photo credits: Instagram<span> </span><span>@</span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/kensingtonroyal/?hl=en" target="_blank">kensingtonroyal</a></em></p>

Family & Pets

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Melissa Doyle gushes over lookalike daughter

<p>Former <em>Sunday Night</em> host Melissa Doyle has taken to social media to humbly brag about her “mini mel” daughter Natalie.</p> <p>The 49-year-old shared her daughter to Instagram as she saw her off for her tenth-grade formal.</p> <p>The gorgeous snap showed her “baby girl” dressed to the nines in a stunning ankle-length gown and strappy red pumps.</p> <p>“Oh my gosh ... my baby girl just grew up! #year10formal,” the mum-of-two gushed.</p> <p>Eagle-eyed followers didn’t have to get out the magnifying glass to point out her daughter bears a striking resemblance to her journalist mother and took to the comments to share their reactions.</p> <p>“It’s a Mini Mel,” Paralympian Curt McGrath said.</p> <p>“She is as gorgeous as her Mumma,” wrote a fan.</p> <p>“She looks like her mum...stunning!” gushed another.</p> <p>One pointed out that Natalie was posing the exact same way her mother has a habit of doing.  </p> <p>“Oh Mel she is stunning and holds her hands just like you when you stand and talk,” one user wrote.</p> <p>Others were similarly astounded by how much the teen had matured.</p> <p>“NO WAY!” wrote one, to which Mel replied, “I know!”</p> <p>“No way I remember the little girl starting kindy. Growing up to quick Mel,” said another.</p> <p>It was not too long ago we got to see the <em>Sunrise </em>star with her other growing child that she shared with hubby John Dunlop.</p> <p>Back in September, Mel shared a sweet throwback photograph of her “little guy” Nick who was graduating highschool.</p> <p>“Well, he made it! My little guy finished high school today &amp; I’m sure I’m not the only parent to shed a few tears,” she captioned the photo.</p> <p>Scroll through the gallery to see Mel with her two children, Natalie and Nick.</p>

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The controversial Royal British documentary that you can’t watch anymore

<p>In 1969, the Queen made an oddly rare decision – she allowed cameras inside her home to film the royal family for several months.</p> <p>It what was meant to be a documentary to introduce Prince Charles, Britain’s future king, to the public. At the time, he was a polite young man attending Cambridge University.</p> <p>The film,<span> </span>Royal Family,<span> </span>aired to television and was viewers by around 30 million people.</p> <p>However, the movie has never been seen in its entirety since the palace ordered its removal from public view.</p> <p>Despite how much information manages to make its way into the media sphere for the consumption of the public, the Royal Family prefer to live an extremely private life inside their palace walls.</p> <p>So what happens behind closed doors is typically left in the hands of former and current employees, friends of the royals, speculation, tabloids and plain old gossip.</p> <p>After<span> </span>Royal Family<span> </span>was aired to television on June 21, 1969, it received mixed reviews from the newspapers.</p> <p>The palace quickly relegated the film to the royal archives after its initial release.</p> <p>Royal archiving films, propaganda, images and other forms of media means anything inside the vault, including<span> </span>Royal Family<span> </span>could only ever be seen again under the permission of the Queen.</p> <p>For more than 50 years, the film has been kept from the eyes of the public, however nothing ever really disappears – even in the 60’s – as short clips and stills from the documentary remain on the internet to be found.</p> <p>Scroll through the gallery to see the Royal Family from the only documentary they let cameras inside palace walls for.</p>

Family & Pets

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Tragic twist in deaths of twin sisters who passed away in bed next to mum

<p>Twin sisters who died while sleeping in bed next to their mother were reportedly “miracle babies”, according to a close friend of the family.</p> <p>Violet and Indiana passed away after being found unconscious in bed with blankets covering them in their home in Brisbane.</p> <p>The twin sisters had been born just six weeks earlier.</p> <p>'They did want to extend their family and it was probably going to be the last throw of the dice for them,' family friend Kieran Garratt told<span> </span><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/little-girls-were-last-hope-for-extended-family/news-story/abe7ca6bd95c3ac2db8cb0a226444844" target="_blank">The Courier Mail</a></em>.</p> <p>The father is said to be beside himself with grief as his two-year-old son who was diagnosed with autism doesn’t understand that the babies are gone.</p> <p>“We're in a very dark place. But we have to keep going for our other children. Our son is walking around the house looking for the babies. He loved them so much,” the father said, according to<span> </span><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.couriermail.com.au/news/national/brisbane-twin-girls-die-in-cosleeping-accident-grieving-father-tells-of-heartbreak/news-story/0a459ff91ae80ed6c7a252f3e1ece787" target="_blank">The Courier Mail</a></em>.</p> <p>Garratt confirmed this to<span> </span><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.msn.com/en-au/news/australia/heartbreaking-twist-in-the-deaths-of-twin-girls-who-died-while-sleeping-in-bed-with-their-mum-as-friend-reveals-the-babies-were-a-last-roll-of-the-dice-to-extend-the-young-family/ar-BBXJhtZ?li=AAgfYrC" target="_blank">MSN</a></em>.</p> <p>“The boy has been pretty hurt by it,” he said.</p> <p>“Being autistic he doesn't have a line of communication, if you like.</p> <p>“He was always touching them very gently and, in some ways, he was more connected to them than his bigger sister.”</p> <p>The couple also have an older daughter who is almost five, who knows about what happened to her siblings, but it hasn’t sunk in yet.</p> <p>“We told her the truth. We didn't say they had fallen asleep… we told her they died. She's on the trampoline calling out to me to come and jump with her. She's saying, 'Daddy come play with me'', but I just can't. I say, '’sweet girl, I can't'’,” he said.</p> <p>The twin’s grandfather told<span> </span><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7755375/Brisbane-sleeping-tragedy-Father-tells-daughter-autistic-son-newborn-twin-sisters-died.html" target="_blank">The Daily Mail</a></em><span> </span>that the family are struggling to cope.</p> <p>“It's every parent's worst nightmare what they are facing... they've been through hell,” he said.</p> <p>Friends of the couple have created a<span> </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.gofundme.com/f/rip-twin-angels-of-brisbane" target="_blank">GoFundMe</a> page to ease the financial burden on the family, as they are planning to move out of the place they’ve called home for two years. The appeal has raised more than $22,000 in the six days since it’s been launched.</p> <p><em>Photo credits: <a href="https://www.gofundme.com/f/rip-twin-angels-of-brisbane">GoFundMe</a></em></p>

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Royal family goes all out for Christmas at Windsor Castle

<p>The Royal Family don’t shy away from a chance to celebrate Christmas and have released their annual gallery of stunning holiday decorations at Windsor Castle.</p> <p>2019’s Christmas at the castle is truly a sight to behold, and one of the main features includes a 20-food Nordmann Fir, which is sourced from the nearby Windsor Great Park.</p> <p>The tree sits in St George’s Hall, filled with hundreds of ornaments and just a few metres down is a slightly smaller 15-foot fir which was placed in the Crimson Drawing Room.</p> <p>This year has a historical theme, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s births.</p> <p>In the castle’s Octagon Dining Room is a number of gifts the couple gave to each other for Christmas.</p> <p>Famously both Queen Victoria and her husband have a hand in a number of Christmas traditions we know and celebrate today.</p> <p>Thanks to her German heritage, the Queen’s mother brought yew trees for the holidays as gifts, however it was the couple who made having a decorated tree in your home a trend that would be followed hundreds of years later.</p> <p>In 1948, Prince Albert sent decorated trees to nearby schools and army barracks.</p> <p>It was a particular engraving, featuring the royal family gathered around a Christmas tree, that really made the trend take off.</p> <p> It seemed to be a holiday the royal family were infatuated by, according to Royal Collection curator Kathryn Jones.</p> <p>She told the<span> </span><em><a rel="noopener" href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/berkshire/hi/people_and_places/history/newsid_9286000/9286971.stm" target="_blank">BBC</a> </em>that "Queen Victoria and Prince Albert brought the tree into Windsor Castle on Christmas Eve and they would decorate it themselves.</p> <p>"They would light the candles and put gingerbread on the tree and the children would be brought in."</p> <p>While the royal family might not celebrate Christmas at Windsor Castle in the year 2019 as Queen Elizabeth famously prefers to spend her holidays at Sandringham – this year’s décor shows visitors how Victoria and Albert used to live.</p> <p>Scroll through the gallery to see this year’s Christmas decorations at Windsor Castle.</p>

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Australia's threatened bird species decline dramatically by 59 per cent over 30 years

<p>Australia’s threatened birds declined by nearly 60% on average over 30 years, according to new research that reveals the true impact on native wildlife of habitat loss, introduced pests, and other human-caused pressures.</p> <p>Alarmingly, migratory shorebirds have declined by 72%. Many of these species inhabit our mudflats and coasts on their migration from Siberia, Alaska or China each year.</p> <p>These concerning figures are revealed in our world-first <a href="https://tsx.org.au/tsx/#/">Threatened Bird Index</a>. The index, now updated with its second year of data, combines over 400,000 surveys at more than 17,000 locations.</p> <p>It’s hoped the results will shed light on where conservation efforts are having success, and where more work must be done.</p> <div class="embed-responsive embed-responsive-16by9"><iframe class="embed-responsive-item" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/tAYQO-sNQp0"></iframe></div> <div class="embed-responsive embed-responsive-16by9"><strong>Bringing conservation efforts together</strong></div> <p>The index found a 59% fall in Australia’s threatened and near threatened bird populations between 1985 and 2016.</p> <p>Migratory shorebirds in South Australia and New South Wales have been worst hit, losing 82% and 88% of their populations, respectively. In contrast, shorebirds in the Northern Territory have increased by 147% since 1985, potentially due to the safe roosting habitat at Darwin Harbour where <a href="http://www.nespthreatenedspecies.edu.au/Project%205.1.1_2018_Lilleyman%20et%20al.pdf">human access to the site is restricted</a>.</p> <p>Habitat loss and pest species (<a href="https://theconversation.com/for-whom-the-bell-tolls-cats-kill-more-than-a-million-australian-birds-every-day-85084">particularly feral cats</a>) are the most common reasons for these dramatic population declines.</p> <p>Many of Australia’s threatened species are monitored by various organisations across the country. In the past there has never been a way to combine and analyse all of this evidence in one place.</p> <p>The Threatened Species Recovery Hub created the index to bring this information together. It combines 17,328 monitoring “time series” for threatened and near threatened bird species and subspecies. This means going back to the same sites in different years and using the same monitoring method, so results over time can be compared.</p> <p>Over the past year the amount of data underpinning the index has grown considerably and now includes more than 400,000 surveys, across 43 monitoring programs on 65 bird species and subspecies, increasing our confidence in these alarming trends.</p> <p>About one-third of Australia’s threatened and near threatened birds are in the index but that proportion is expected to grow. As more quality data becomes available, the index will get more powerful, meaningful and representative. For the first time Australia will be able to tell how our threatened species are going overall, and which groups are doing better or worse, which is vital to identifying which groups and regions most need help.</p> <p><strong>Finding the trends</strong></p> <p>Trends can be calculated for any grouping with at least three species. A grouping might include all threatened species in a state or territory, all woodland birds or all migratory shorebirds.</p> <p>The 59% average decrease in threatened bird relative abundance over the last 30 years is very similar to the global wildlife trends reported by the 2018 <a href="https://wwf.panda.org/knowledge_hub/all_publications/living_planet_report_2018/">Living Planet Report</a>. Between 1970 and 2014, global average mammal, fish, bird, amphibian and reptile populations <a href="http://theconversation.com/tipping-point-huge-wildlife-loss-threatens-the-life-support-of-our-small-planet-106037">fell by 60%</a>.</p> <p>One valuable feature of the Threatened Species Index is a <a href="https://tsx.org.au/tsx">visualisation tool</a> which allows anyone to explore the wealth of data, and to look at trends for states and territories.</p> <p>For instance, in Victoria by 2002 threatened birds had dropped to a bit more than half of their numbers in 1985 on average (60%), but they have remained fairly constant since then.</p> <p>We can also look at different bird groups. Threatened migratory shorebirds have had the largest declines, with their numbers down by more than 72% since 1985. Threatened terrestrial birds, on the other hand, have decreased in relative abundance by about 51% between 2000 and the year 2016, and show a relatively stable trend since 2006.</p> <p><strong>Making the index better</strong></p> <p>The index is being expanded to reveal trends in species other than birds. Monitoring data on threatened mammals and threatened plants is being assembled. Trends for these groups will be released in 2020, providing new insights into how a broader range of Australia’s threatened species are faring.</p> <p>This research is led by the University of Queensland in close partnership with BirdLife Australia, and more than 40 partners from research, government, and non-government organisations. Collaboration on such a scale is unprecedented, and provides extremely detailed information.</p> <p>The index team are continuing to work with monitoring organisations across Australia to expand the amount of sites, and the number of species included in the index. We applaud the dedicated researchers, managers and citizen scientists from every corner of the country who have been assembling this data for the nation.</p> <p>We’d also like to hear from community groups, consultants and other groups that have been monitoring threatened or near-threatened species, <a href="http://www.nespthreatenedspecies.edu.au/3.1%20TSX%20data%20usage%20findings%20factsheet.pdf">collecting data</a> at the same site with the same method in multiple years.</p> <p>The Threatened Species Index represents more than just data. Over time it will give us a window into the results of our collective conservation efforts.</p> <hr /> <p><em>This article also received input from James O'Connor (BirdLife Australia) and Hugh Possingham (The Nature Conservancy).<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/128114/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></em></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/elisa-bayraktarov-411460">Elisa Bayraktarov</a>, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Conservation Biology, <a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-queensland-805">The University of Queensland</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/jaana-dielenberg-557036">Jaana Dielenberg</a>, Science Communication Manager, <a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-queensland-805">The University of Queensland</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/australias-threatened-birds-declined-by-59-over-the-past-30-years-128114">original article</a>.</em></p>

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“R.I.P Twin Angels of Brisbane”: Image released of 6-week-old sisters

<p>A tribute has been paid to the Brisbane twins who died in a suspected co-sleeping accident.</p> <p>The six-week-old girls Violet and Indiana were found unconscious in their mother’s bed in Sunnybank Hills last Wednesday. One of the sisters died at the scene and the other was rushed to hospital in a critical condition but passed away the following day.</p> <p>Their deaths are not being treated as suspicious.</p> <p>“Preliminary investigations suggest the babies were sleeping together throughout the night and were discovered unresponsive in the morning,” police said.</p> <p>A <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.gofundme.com/f/rip-twin-angels-of-brisbane" target="_blank">GoFundMe page</a> titled “R.I.P Twin Angels of Brisbane” has been set up by family friend Kieran Garratt with an appeal for donations to cover the twins’ funeral costs.</p> <p>“Violet and Indiana were tragically lost this week in Brisbane. They leave behind a big sister, big brother and two heartbroken parents,” Garratt wrote on the page.</p> <p>“My wife Sylvia and myself, Kieran, are setting this up to ease the huge stress and weight of their burden.”</p> <p>The page has so far raised over $7,900.</p> <p>Garratt told <em><a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-11-29/brisbane-baby-girl-dies-two-days-after-her-twin-sister/11749002">ABC</a> </em>that the family is in grief. “They’re not holding up well at all. It’s a type of grief I’ve never dealt with or experienced before,” he said.</p> <p>“I didn’t know what to do. There’s really nothing you can say or do that will help in a situation like this.”</p> <p>The twins’ grandfather said one of the most difficult things would be explaining to the surviving children about their sisters’ death.</p> <p><span>“It’s every parent’s worst nightmare what they are facing... they’ve been through hell,” he told <em>Daily Mail Australia</em>.</span></p>

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How guide dogs know where their owners want them to go

<p> </p> <p><strong>How do guide dogs know where their owners want to go? – Mia, age 6.</strong></p> <p>Mia, thank you for your question. I know a bit about this topic because I have some experience training and using an assistance dog myself. Also, as part of my job teaching at a university, I’m working with a number of students doing research projects on assistance dogs.</p> <p>The answer to your great question is actually quite simple. Guide dogs, which are assistance dogs for people who are blind or vision impaired, know where to go because they practise.</p> <p>Practice makes perfect – just like how you might learn to walk from home to school, or how adults know how to drive to different places without getting lost.</p> <p>As part of their training a guide dog will practise getting around to some of the most common places the person they will guide needs to go. This may include the shops near their home, or from their home to the bus stop.</p> <p>So, in simple terms, guide dogs only know how to get to and from familiar places they have practised the routes for.</p> <p>What most people don’t realise, though, is the person the dog is guiding still needs to know where they are going too.</p> <p><strong>Identifying obstacles</strong></p> <p>There is a lot of training a guide dog will do before they are taught familiar places. This is because making sure they guide a person safely is much more than knowing where to go.</p> <p>Say you are walking to school and the branch of a tree has fallen across the path you normally walk on.</p> <p>If that branch was small you might just step over it. If it is big you might go around it or even cross to the other side of the road.</p> <p>Since a blind person may not be able to see the branch, it’s up to their guide dog to let them know it is there. How they do this will depend on how big the branch is.</p> <p>If it is small the dog may help safely guide the person around it. If it is large and they can’t get around easily, they will block the person so they know there is something in the way.</p> <p>It is then up to the person to work with their dog to help them safely find a way past the branch.</p> <p>This means a big part of being a guide dog is letting the person they are guiding know when there is an obstacle in their way.</p> <p>To a blind person an obstacle can include things like the step down off the path onto the road, or a step up into a shop. These are things you probably don’t even think of as an obstacle when walking.</p> <p><strong>Working as a team</strong></p> <p>A lot of people may think a guide dog tells a person when they can cross a road. But this is not actually true.</p> <p>The dog will block the person from stepping onto the road to let them then know they have reached the end of the path.</p> <p>It is then up to the person to listen to their surrounds and decide if it is safe to cross the road.</p> <p>It is the person who tells the dog it is safe to cross the road – not the other way around.</p> <p><em>Hello, curious kids! Have you got a question you’d like an expert to answer? Ask an adult to send your question to curiouskids@theconversation.edu.au</em><!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/125567/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/carmel-nottle-422695">Carmel Nottle</a>, Lecturer - Human Movement / Clinical Exercise Physiology, <a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-south-australia-1180">University of South Australia</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/curious-kids-how-do-guide-dogs-know-where-their-owners-want-to-go-125567">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Prince William opens up about George, Charlotte and Louis’s newest favourite activity

<p>Prince William has revealed that his three children have learnt how to swim while at a royal engagement.</p> <p>The Duke of Cambridge made a comment to British swimming legend Eileen Fenton while presenting her with an MBE during an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace.</p> <p>He told the swimming legend that his three kids, Prince George, six, Princess Charlotte, four, and Prince Louis, 17-months, had recently just learnt to swim.</p> <p>Eileen was the first woman to complete the Cross-Channel Swimming Race in 1950, across the English Channel when she was just 21 years old.</p> <p>The three Cambridge children are likely to have spent their afternoons and free time, swimming at the Buckingham Palace pool with the Duchess of Cambridge.</p> <p>The 37-year-old mother of three has also been known to treat her children to water park days at an exclusive members’ club in the heart of London.</p> <p>When they are enjoying the comfort of their Norfolk home, the Duchess has been seen taking Prince George and Princess Charlotte to a luxury hotel complex where they enjoyed the water and "both the children swam unaided and were super confident" <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.hellomagazine.com/royalty/2019022570161/kate-middleton-half-term-swim-prince-george-princess-charlotte/" target="_blank" title="Hello"><em>Hello</em></a><span> </span>reports said.</p> <p>Duchess Kate’s sister, Pippa, revealed she had started her son in swimming lessons from an early age.</p> <p>"Starting my son Arthur swimming at four months old has given him confidence and enjoyment in water," Pippa said in April.</p> <p>"He's now six months old, and swimming is one of our favourite activities."</p>

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Lewis the koala put to sleep in hospital after horrific bushfire burns

<p>The 14-year-old buck who made international headlines after footage emerged of him coming out of the NSW bushfires with horrifying burns, has died. </p> <p>Lewis the koala was rescued by a heroic grandmother who carried him in her arms and the heartbreaking moment sent hearts racing around the world. </p> <p>The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital has shared sad news on Tuesday afternoon, saying staff made the decision to put him to sleep. </p> <p>“We placed him under general anaesthesia this morning to assess his burns injuries and change the bandages,” the hospital said in a post at about 2.30pm.</p> <p>The hospital said Lewis’ burns became worse “and unfortunately “would not have gotten better”.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr">UPDATE: Lewis, the koala who went viral in this daring rescue video, has died at Port Macquarie Koala Hospital <a href="https://t.co/RshwIOyvyn">https://t.co/RshwIOyvyn</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/RIPLewis?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#RIPLewis</a> <a href="https://t.co/nsdOVVAI0U">pic.twitter.com/nsdOVVAI0U</a></p> — NowThis (@nowthisnews) <a href="https://twitter.com/nowthisnews/status/1199342797469425664?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 26, 2019</a></blockquote> <p>“The Koala Hospital’s number one goal is animal welfare, so it was on those grounds that this decision was made,” it read.</p> <p>$1.66 million in donations streamed in for the hospital after Lewis’ sad rescue went viral. </p> <p>Grandmother Toni Doherty was filmed ripping the shirt off her back near Long Flat in NSW to save the wailing koala. </p> <p>The 14-year-old suffered burns to his feet, stomach and chest. </p> <p>Named “Ellenborough Lewis” after Toni’s grandchild, or Lewis for short, he had been receiving care by long-term home care volunteer and koala hospital supervisor, Barb.</p> <p>“Barb hand feeds Lewis a single leaf at a time, with feeding taking up to an hour a feed,” the hospital said on Friday.</p> <p>“Lewis’s prognosis is guarded as he sustained significant burns however he is receiving the best possible care.”</p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7832794/koala-lewis.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/8dba411c87ee48d3aa0091b70f4a008e" /></p> <p>Lewis was just one of 31 koalas brought into the hospital from fire-grounds in the surrounding area, and an estimate of 350 koalas was killed as a result of the horrific bushfires. </p> <p>There are grave concerns from wildlife rescuers that there is a “much worse” toll of about 1000 koalas across NSW, Queensland and South Australia who were killed. </p> <p>Toni’s husband Peter Doherty told<span> </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.nine.com.au/" target="_blank">Nine</a><span> </span>they “were there this morning” when Lewis died.</p> <p>“We are naturally very sad about this, as we were hoping he’d pull through but we accept his injuries were severe and debilitating and would have been quite painful,” Mr Doherty said.</p> <p>The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital is part of a not-for-profit organisation established in 1973. </p> <p>They operate with four staff members and rely on the help of 140 volunteers. </p> <p>According to its website, the hospital has a treatment room, eight intensive care units, six outdoor intensive care units and 33 rehabilitation yards.</p> <p>In total, they handle between 200 and 250 koalas every year.</p>

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Carrie Bickmore opens up: “sadness I can’t shake”

<p>Carrie Bickmore has opened up about dealing with her eldest son Oliver, 11, who is seemingly growing up faster than she is prepared for.</p> <p>The 38-year-old<span> </span><em>The Project</em><span> </span>host told readers in her latest Stellar Magazine column she is finding it hard to deal with little Ollie – the only child she had with husband Greg Lange, who passed away from brain cancer in 2010 – who will be graduating primary school soon.</p> <p>“I feel a gentle sadness creeping over me that I can’t shake,” Carrie wrote. </p> <p>“It’s the end of an era. The end of primary school for my eldest and I’m not ready.”</p> <p>The Network 10 star went on to admit while she is aware kids grow up and into themselves while in high school, she is not so sure she is prepared for all the changes bound to come.</p> <p>“I have friends with kids in high school, I see what’s ahead - the smells, the retreating, the grunting - and I’m not sure I’m ready,” she said. </p> <p>Bickmore went on to say she is “starting to savour these seemingly mundane moments” in the lead up to the big change looming for her and her family.</p> <p>Luckily for Carrie, she has a long way to go until her two other children, four-year-old Evie and 11-month-old daughter Adelaide – who she shares with partner Chris Walker – go on to “big kids school.”</p> <p>Scroll through the gallery to see Carrie Bickmore with her three children. </p> <p>images: Instagram @carriebickmore</p>

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High-tech fishing gear could help save endangered right whales

<p>Many fish, marine mammals and seabirds that inhabit the world’s oceans are critically endangered, but few are as close to the brink as the North Atlantic right whale (<em>Eubalaena glacialis</em>). <a href="https://www.narwc.org/uploads/1/1/6/6/116623219/2018report_cardfinal.pdf">Only about 411 of these whales exist today</a>, and at their current rate of decline, they could become extinct within our lifetimes.</p> <p>From 1980 through about 2010, conservation efforts focused mainly on protecting whales from being struck by ships. Federal regulations helped <a href="https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/endangered-species-conservation/reducing-ship-strikes-north-atlantic-right-whales">reduce vessel collisions</a> and supported a slight rebound in right whale numbers.</p> <p>But at the same time, growing numbers of right whales died after becoming entangled in lobster and crab fishing gear, and the population has taken a significant downward turn. This may have happened because fishing ropes became stronger, and both whales and fishermen shifted their ranges so that areas of overlap increased. In research that is <a href="https://www.int-res.com/prepress/d03376.html">currently in press</a>, we show that 72% of diagnosed mortalities between 2010-2018 occurred due to entanglements.</p> <p>This comes after a millennium of whaling that decimated the right whale population, reducing it from perhaps between <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/cobi.12664">10,000 to 20,000</a> to a few hundred animals today. And entanglement deaths are <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2012/230653">much more inhumane</a> than harpoons. A whaler’s explosive harpoon kills quickly, compared to months of drawn-out pain and debilitation caused by seemingly harmless fishing lines. We believe these deaths can be prevented by working with the trap fishing industries to adopt <a href="https://ropeless.org/">ropeless fishing gear</a> – but North Atlantic right whales are running out of time.</p> <p><strong>Deadly encounters</strong></p> <p>Whalers pursued right whales for centuries because this species swam relatively slowly and floated when dead, so it was easier to kill and retrieve than other whales. By the mid-20th century, scientists assumed they had been hunted to extinction. But in 1980, researchers from the New England Aquarium who were studying marine mammal distribution in the Bay of Fundy off eastern Canada were stunned when they <a href="https://www.canadianwhaleinstitute.ca/habitats">sighted 26 right whales</a>.</p> <p>Conservation efforts led to the enactment of regulations that required commercial ships to <a href="https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/endangered-species-conservation/reducing-ship-strikes-north-atlantic-right-whales">slow down</a> in zones along the U.S. Atlantic coast where they were highly likely to encounter whales, reducing boat strikes. But this victory has been offset by rising numbers of entanglements.</p> <p>Adult right whales can produce up to an estimated <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/mms.12230">8,000 pounds of force</a> with a single stroke of their flukes. When they become tangled in fishing gear, they often break it and swim off trailing ropes and sometimes crab or lobster traps.</p> <p>Lines and gear can wrap around a whale’s body, flukes, flippers and mouth. They impede swimming and feeding, and cause chronic infection, emaciation and damage to blubber, muscle and bone. Ultimately these injuries weaken the animal until it dies, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1093/icesjms/fsu008">which can take months to years</a>.</p> <p>One of us, <a href="https://scholar.google.com/citations?hl=en&amp;user=DQ-fD1QAAAAJ">Michael Moore</a>, is trained as a veterinarian and has examined many entangled dead whales. Moore has seen fishing rope embedded inches deep into a whale’s lip, and a juvenile whale whose spine had been deformed by the strain of dragging fishing gear. Other animals had flippers nearly severed by swimming wrapped in inexorably constricting ropes. Entanglement injuries to right whales are the worst animal trauma Moore has seen in his career.</p> <p>Even if whales are able to wriggle free and live, the extreme stress and energy demands of entanglement, along with inadequate nutrition, are thought to be <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.2615">preventing females from getting pregnant</a> and contributing to record low calving rates in recent years.</p> <p><strong>Solutions for whales and fishermen</strong></p> <p>The greatest entanglement risk is from ropes that lobster and crab fishermen use to attach buoys to traps they set on the ocean floor. Humpback and minke whales and leatherback sea turtles, all of which are federally protected, also become entangled.</p> <p>Conservationists are looking for ways to modify or eliminate these ropes. Rock lobster fishermen in Australia already use <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WeeieRr7sTw">pop-up buoys</a> that ascend when they receive sound signals from fishing boats. The buoys trail out ropes as they rise, which fishermen retrieve and use to pull up their traps.</p> <p>Other technologies are <a href="https://www.wnpr.org/post/innovations-fishing-gear-could-change-lobster-industry-help-endangered-right-whale">in development</a>, including systems that <a href="https://ropeless.org/november-6th-2018-presentations/">acoustically identify traps on the seafloor</a> and mark them with “virtual buoys” on fishermen’s chart plotters, eliminating the need for surface buoys. Fishermen also routinely use a customized hook on the end of a rope to catch the line between traps and haul them to the surface when the buoy line goes missing.</p> <p>Transitioning to ropeless technology will require a sea change in some of North America’s most valuable fisheries. The 2016 U.S. lobster catch was worth <a href="https://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/commercial-fisheries/commercial-landings/annual-landings/index">US$670 million</a>. Canadian fishermen landed <a href="http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/stats/commercial/land-debarq/sea-maritimes/s2016av-eng.htm">CA$1.3 billion</a> worth of lobster and <a href="http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/stats/commercial/land-debarq/sea-maritimes/s2016av-eng.htm">CA$590 million</a> worth of snow crab.</p> <p>Just as no fisherman wants to catch a whale, researchers and conservationists don’t want to put fishermen out of business. In our view, ropeless technologies offer a genuine opportunity for whales and the fishing industry to co-exist if they can be made functional, affordable and safe to use.</p> <p>Switching to ropeless gear is <a href="https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/lobster-trap-aims-protect-endangered-whalesand-fishers-livelihoods-180971208/">unlikely to be cheap</a>. But as systems evolve and simplify, and production scales up, they will become more affordable. And government support could help fishermen make the shift. In Canada, the federal and New Brunswick provincial governments recently awarded CA$2 million to Canadian snow crab fishermen to <a href="https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/snow-crab-right-whale-fishing-gear-research-1.5143321">test two ropeless trap designs</a>.</p> <p>Converting could save fishermen money in the long run. For example, California Dungeness crab fishermen closed their 2019 season three months ahead of schedule on April 15 to settle a lawsuit over whale entanglements, leaving crab they could have caught still in the water. Under the agreement, fishermen using ropeless gear will be <a href="https://www.nationalfisherman.com/west-coast-pacific/dungeness-drag/">exempt from future early closures</a>.</p> <p><strong>A rebound is possible</strong></p> <p>The <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/laws-policies/">Endangered Species Act</a> and <a href="https://www.fws.gov/international/laws-treaties-agreements/us-conservation-laws/marine-mammal-protection-act.html">Marine Mammal Protection Act</a> require the U.S. government to conserve endangered species. In Congress, the pending <a href="https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/1568/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22H.R.+3729%22%5D%7D">SAVE Right Whales Act of 2019</a> would provide $5 million annually for collaborative research into preventing mortalities caused by the fishing and shipping industries. And an advisory committee to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently recommended <a href="https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/feature-story/team-reaches-nearly-unanimous-consensus-right-whale-survival-measures">significant fishing protections</a>, focused primarily on reducing the number of ropes in the water column and the strength of the remaining lines.</p> <p>Consumers can also help. Public outcry over dolphin bycatch in tuna fisheries spurred passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and led to <a href="https://swfsc.noaa.gov/textblock.aspx?Division=PRD&amp;ParentMenuId=228&amp;id=1408">dolphin-safe tuna labeling</a>, which ultimately reduced dolphin mortalities from half a million to about 1,000 animals annually. Choosing lobster and crab products <a href="https://doi.org/10.1093/icesjms/fsy194">caught without endangering whales</a> could accelerate a similar transition.</p> <p>North Atlantic right whales can still thrive if humans make it possible. The closely related southern right whale (<em>Eubalaena australis</em>), which has faced few human threats since the end of commercial whaling, has rebounded from just 300 animals in the early 20th century to an <a href="https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/resource/document/southern-right-whale-eubalaena-australis-5-year-review-summary-and-evaluation">estimated 15,000 in 2010</a>.</p> <p>There are real ways to save North Atlantic right whales. If they go extinct, it will be on this generation’s watch.</p> <p><em>Editor’s note: This article was updated on May 28, 2019 to correct the number of North Atlantic right whale deaths in recent years that were caused by entanglements.</em><!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/115974/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/michael-moore-652534">Michael Moore</a>, Senior Scientist, <a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/woods-hole-oceanographic-institution-954">Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/hannah-myers-726400">Hannah Myers</a>, Guest Investigator, <a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/woods-hole-oceanographic-institution-954">Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/high-tech-fishing-gear-could-help-save-critically-endangered-right-whales-115974">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Owners shocked as they’re reunited with cat after 3,400km five-year trip

<p>Sasha the cat hadn’t been seen by his owners in five years after a long walk meant that he didn’t come home.</p> <p>However, in a surprise twist, they are set to be reunited this week as the adventurous cat went on a shocking 3,400km journey from their home in Portland, Oregon. This means that Sasha was found in Santa Fe, which is in the US’s far south.</p> <p>His owner, Vicktor Usov had figured that a coyote had gotten to Sasha five years ago.</p> <p>“We waited a week or so,” Mr Usov said to<span> </span><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.oregonlive.com/news/2019/11/portland-man-to-reunite-with-lost-cat-found-1300-miles-away-after-five-years-on-the-loose.html?utm_medium=social&amp;utm_campaign=theoregonian_sf&amp;utm_source=facebook" target="_blank">The Oregonian</a></em>.</p> <p>“But when we didn’t get a call from the Humane Society and no one returned him, we figured a coyote got him. We were upset but we moved on.”</p> <p>However, a phone call from an animal shelter in Santa Fe turned around Usov’s day.</p> <p>"We have this long-haired black cat ... it's attached to your name on its microchip," the voice on the line said.</p> <p>The animal shelter officer that found Sasha said that they were lucky he was microchipped as it could be proved he belonged to Portland resident Viktor Usov.</p> <p>It appears that Sasha was less than thrilled when he was picked up.</p> <p>"He was very mad when we picked him up," said Murad Kirdar of the Santa Fe Animal Shelter to<span> </span><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.kgw.com/article/news/local/portland-cat-turns-up-1300-miles-away-five-years-later-santa-fe-new-mexico/283-657bf08c-8683-4b05-bcdd-ecd755924e53" target="_blank">KGW</a></em>. "He's not skinny ... definitely been eating."</p> <p>Usov is thrilled for his return, although he’s unsure as to how Sasha got more than 3,400kms away.</p> <p><iframe src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fsfhumanesociety%2Fvideos%2F441579156500117%2F&amp;show_text=0&amp;width=560" width="560" height="315" style="border: none; overflow: hidden;" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true" allowfullscreen="true"></iframe></p> <p>"He went on a grand American adventure," Usov said. "He stopped by the Grand Canyon, Crater Lake, he saw the monuments, all the national parks, definitely Redwood Forest."</p> <p>Usov also reminisced on quirks of Sasha after adopting him from the Humane Society in Oregan.</p> <p>"He'd always greet you at the door with his little tail wagging," said Usov. "Loved his belly scratched."</p> <p>"I will recognise him for sure," Usov said.</p> <p>Sasha is currently on a flight home to Portland, where the pair will be reunited.</p>

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Bei Bei the giant panda leaves Washington for China

<p>Bei Bei the giant panda was born at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington D.C in 2015.</p> <p>However, he’s heading back to China after an agreement with the zoo. It means that giant pandas go back to China after the giant panda turns 4.</p> <p>Bei Bei was named by former First Lady Michelle Obama and China’s First Lady Peng Liyuan and was the first generation of pandas to live at the National Zoo.</p> <p>"Bei Bei is part of our family," Steve Monfort, a zoo director, told <em><a href="https://edition.cnn.com/2019/11/17/us/bei-bei-giant-panda-national-zoo-trnd/index.html">CNN</a></em>. "Our team has cared for him, learned from him and, along with millions, loved watching him grow."</p> <p>“We’re sad he’s leaving, but excited for the contributions he will make to the global giant panda population. Bei Bei is an ambassador for conservation and part of a 47-year program that proves bringing species and habitats back from the brink is possible through global cooperation.”</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en-gb"> <p dir="ltr">Bei Bei always sticks the landing. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ByeByeBeiBei?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ByeByeBeiBei</a> <a href="https://t.co/gEFU641UGs">pic.twitter.com/gEFU641UGs</a></p> — National Zoo (@NationalZoo) <a href="https://twitter.com/NationalZoo/status/1196422839672475648?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">18 November 2019</a></blockquote> <p>If you’re worried about how he’s travelling, Bei Bei gets his own private jet for the journey from Washington to China.</p> <p>It’s called the Panda Express and he has great snack options on board, including 66 pounds of bamboo, snacks and water. As giant pandas eat 20 to 40 pounds of bamboo each day, this should last Bei Bei a day and a half on his long journey.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en-gb"> <p dir="ltr">Wheels up on the FedEx Panda 🐼 Express! ✈️ You can track Bei Bei’s flight FDX9759 here: <a href="https://t.co/PizokJyYDt">https://t.co/PizokJyYDt</a> Thank you <a href="https://twitter.com/FedEx?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@FedEx</a>! <a href="https://t.co/N93Y7HVS3r">pic.twitter.com/N93Y7HVS3r</a></p> — National Zoo (@NationalZoo) <a href="https://twitter.com/NationalZoo/status/1196844909979938818?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">19 November 2019</a></blockquote> <p>Bei Bei is the third giant panda that was born at the zoo to move to China, following Tai Shan who moved in 2010 and Bao Bao who moved in 2017.</p> <p>In order to celebrate his time at the zoo, Bei Bei was awarded with an ice cake which had some of his favourite treats, such as sugar cane and sweet potato.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en-gb"> <p dir="ltr">🐼🎂 Here’s a close up of Bei Bei’s ice cake! It featured some of his fav treats like sugar cane and sweet potato! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ByeByeBeiBei?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ByeByeBeiBei</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PandaStory?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PandaStory</a> <a href="https://t.co/MJYuLAoHEG">pic.twitter.com/MJYuLAoHEG</a></p> — National Zoo (@NationalZoo) <a href="https://twitter.com/NationalZoo/status/1196115384354721792?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">17 November 2019</a></blockquote> <p>He has now arrived safely in China and is in safe hands at the Bifengxia Panda Base. The animal care team at the Smithsonian zoo will stay with him for a few days to make sure that Bei Bei adjusts well to his new home.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en-gb"> <p dir="ltr">🐼 🛬 Bei Bei has arrived safely in China. Our animal care team will go with Bei Bei to his new home and stay with him for a few days at the Bifengxia Panda Base. Thanks to <a href="https://twitter.com/FedEx?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@FedEx</a> and their crew! Thanks for the outpouring of support for Bei Bei ❤️and our panda team! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ByeByeBeiBei?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ByeByeBeiBei</a> <a href="https://t.co/rFf9aXZYQc">pic.twitter.com/rFf9aXZYQc</a></p> — National Zoo (@NationalZoo) <a href="https://twitter.com/NationalZoo/status/1197090641177649153?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">20 November 2019</a></blockquote> <p>There are an estimated 1,800 giant pandas left in the wild and they are listed as “vulnerable” in the wild by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.</p>

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How to plan for animals in emergencies

<p>Animals are desperately vulnerable to natural disasters. An <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw-bushfires-koala-population-like-in-a-cremation-after-blazes-20191110-p5396f.html">estimated 350 koalas have died</a> during <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/live/2019/nov/12/nsw-fires-qld-bushfires-queensland-australia-new-south-wales-catastrophic-fire-danger-warning-emergency-sydney-illawarra-hunter-shoalhaven">catastrophic bushfire conditions</a> across eastern Australia and reports of injured animals continue to <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-11-06/first-koalas-triaged-after-devastating-bushfires/11671924">pour in</a>.</p> <p>It’s not just wildlife at risk. February’s Townsville floods claimed the lives of some <a href="https://theconversation.com/catastrophic-queensland-floods-killed-600-000-cattle-and-devastated-native-species-120753">600,000 cattle</a>. People are often injured while attempting to rescue pets, and the thought of leaving a dependent animal to face fire alone is devastating.</p> <p>The good news is there are already disaster management plans for animals in some states in Australia. Knowing about these plans can help you reduce the risk to your loved ones – human and otherwise.</p> <p><strong>Know your state’s rules</strong></p> <p>Since the 2009 Royal Commission into Victorian bushfires, <a href="https://www.emergency.nsw.gov.au/Documents/plans/supporting-plans/Agriculture-and-Animal-Services-Functional-Area-Supporting-Plan-2016.pdf">New South Wales</a>, <a href="http://agriculture.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/365088/Victorian-Animal-Emergency-Welfare-Plan_updated.pdf">Victoria</a>, <a href="https://semc.wa.gov.au/emergency-management/plans/state-support-plans/Documents/InterimStateSupportPlanAnimalWelfareinEmergencies.pdf">Western Australia</a> and <a href="https://www.dpc.sa.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/38355/Managing-Animals-in-Emergencie....pdf">South Australia</a> have adopted animal welfare plans for pets, livestock and wildlife.</p> <p>Animal disaster management plans try to anticipate how the needs of animals will be managed in the event of a disaster. They assign roles to government agencies and non-government organisations to administer relief for animals.</p> <p>During a disaster, however, animal owners remain responsible for them. A legal duty of care remains, although what that demands obviously changes during an emergency.</p> <p><strong>What about pets?</strong></p> <p>In NSW, people are advised to keep their pets with them in an emergency. Contained animals, such as dogs on a leash or cats in a carrier, may be taken to “animal friendly” evacuation centres.</p> <p>Likewise, the Victorian plan directs councils either to ensure evacuation centres are equipped for animals or to advise people of alternative arrangements.</p> <p>Unfortunately, SA and WA do not allow pets in evacuation centres (with the exception of assistance animals), meaning they must be housed outside or at a different location. Animal management plans in these states cite fairly vague “health and safety” reasons for the exclusion.</p> <p>If you’re at any risk of future evacuation it’s vital you check whether your nearest relief centre can accommodate your pet. Even if you’re planning to stay with friends or family, unexpected circumstances may force you to spend some time at a relief centre.</p> <p>Your disaster kit should contain pet food, registration and vaccination details, bedding, and any other equipment and medicine. You should also have a recent photo of your animal on your phone or printed out (puppy photos will not be useful in tracking down your adult dog).</p> <p>State guidelines also urge pet owners to make sure your animals are properly vaccinated, microchipped, and wearing identification tags. Local councils, veterinarians, the RSPCA and Animal Welfare League are often designated points of contact when companion animals become lost in a disaster.</p> <p><strong>Livestock and horses</strong></p> <p>Livestock and large companion animals are obviously harder to manage than small pets. Disaster management guidelines recommend contacting relocation sites well before an emergency happens to arrange accommodation, and ensuring you have access to suitable transport ahead of time.</p> <p>If you are unable to make advance arrangements – or if your plans have been disrupted – you can generally take large animals, such as horses, to your local evacuation centre for advice on your options.</p> <p>If your animals cannot be moved off your property, the guidelines call for owners to move the animals to a low-risk area stocked with food and water for several days. Even if you plan to evacuate your horses or livestock, it’s a good idea to identify a suitable spot just in case.</p> <p>Planning and guidance documents also stress that horses should be microchipped. The <a href="https://www.nlis.com.au/">National Livestock Identification System</a> may be used to track certain agricultural animals. They also arrange the distribution of emergency fodder following disasters.</p> <p><strong>Wildlife</strong></p> <p>Wild animals face unique challenges in disasters. They cannot be systematically evacuated and are highly dependent on natural habitat for their survival.</p> <p>Animal emergency plans and guidance therefore tend to focus on providing relief to wild animals affected by disaster, relying on the contribution of charitable organisations.</p> <p>The NSW plan identifies several partner wildlife rescue organisations, including WIRES, which is the state’s principal avenue for reporting injured wildlife. In SA, animal welfare organisations also lead relief efforts, whereas in Victoria, the government coordinates rescue and triage actions with support from volunteers.</p> <p>In addition to relief services, holistic planning requires measures for preserving habitat and wildlife corridors. These reduce the risk of animal populations becoming isolated, and improve the availability of viable alternative habitat.</p> <p>While some states have made good progress, every jurisdiction needs clear processes for managing animal welfare during emergencies. As our fire season continues, make sure you’re familiar with your state or territory and local council animal welfare plans.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/126936/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><span><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ashleigh-best-821440"><em>Ashleigh Best</em></a><em>, PhD Candidate in Law, <a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-melbourne-722">University of Melbourne</a></em></span></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-we-plan-for-animals-in-emergencies-126936">original article</a>.</em></p>

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What a mass extinction is and what it means for you

<p>For more than 3.5 billion years, living organisms have thrived, multiplied and diversified to occupy every ecosystem on Earth. The flip side to this explosion of new species is that species extinctions have also always been part of the evolutionary life cycle.</p> <p>But these two processes are not always in step. When the loss of species rapidly outpaces the formation of new species, this balance can be tipped enough to elicit what are known as “mass extinction” events.</p> <p>A mass extinction is usually defined as a loss of about three quarters of all species in existence across the entire Earth over a “short” geological period of time. Given the vast amount of time since life first evolved on the planet, “short” is defined as anything less than 2.8 million years.</p> <p>Since at least the <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/215/4539/1501">Cambrian period</a> <a href="https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev.earth.33.092203.122654">that began</a> around 540 million years ago when the diversity of life <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/105/Supplement_1/11536">first exploded</a> into a vast array of forms, only five extinction events have definitively met these mass-extinction criteria.</p> <p>These so-called “Big Five” have become part of the scientific benchmark to determine whether human beings have today created the conditions for a sixth mass extinction.</p> <p><strong>The Big Five</strong></p> <p>These five mass extinctions have happened on average every 100 million years or so since the Cambrian, although there is no detectable pattern in their particular timing. Each event itself lasted between 50 thousand and 2.76 million years. The first mass extinction happened at the end of the Ordovician period about 443 million years ago and wiped out over 85% of all species.</p> <p>The Ordovician event <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/pala.12397">seems to have been the result</a> of two climate phenomena. First, a planetary-scale period of glaciation (a global-scale “ice age”), then a rapid warming period.</p> <p>The second mass extinction occurred during the Late Devonian period around 374 million years ago. This affected around 75% of all species, most of which were bottom-dwelling invertebrates in tropical seas at that time.</p> <p>This period in Earth’s past was characterised by high variation in sea levels, and rapidly alternating conditions of global cooling and warming. It was also the time when plants were starting to take over dry land, and there was a drop in global CO<sub>2</sub> concentration; all this was accompanied by soil transformation and periods of low oxygen.</p> <p>The third and most devastating of the Big Five occurred at the end of the Permian period around 250 million years ago. This wiped out more than 95% of all species in existence at the time.</p> <p>Some of the suggested <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0031018216306915">causes</a> include an asteroid impact that filled the air with pulverised particle, creating unfavourable climate conditions for many species. These could have blocked the sun and generated intense acid rains. Some other possible causes are still debated, such as massive volcanic activity in what is today Siberia, increasing ocean toxicity caused by an increase in atmospheric CO₂, or the spread of oxygen-poor water in the deep ocean.</p> <p>Fifty million years after the great Permian extinction, about <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/248289771_Triassic-Jurassic_boundary_events_Problems_progress_possibilities">80% of the world’s species</a> <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/292/5519/1148">again went extinct</a> during the Triassic event. This was <a href="https://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783319680088">possibly caused</a> by some colossal geological activity in what is today the Atlantic Ocean that would have elevated atmospheric CO₂ concentrations, increased global temperatures, and acidified oceans.</p> <p>The last and probably most well-known of the mass-extinction events happened during the Cretaceous period, when an estimated 76% of all species went extinct, including the non-avian dinosaurs. The demise of the dinosaur super predators gave mammals a new opportunity to diversify and occupy new habitats, from which human beings eventually evolved.</p> <p>The <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/350/6256/76">most likely cause</a> of the Cretaceous mass extinction was an extraterrestrial impact in the Yucatán of modern-day Mexico, a massive volcanic eruption in the Deccan Province of modern-day west-central India, or both in combination.<img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/301159/original/file-20191111-178484-1e7unnm.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="" /><strong>Is today’s biodiversity crisis a sixth mass extinction?</strong></p> <p>The Earth is currently experiencing an extinction crisis largely due to the exploitation of the planet by people. But whether this constitutes a sixth mass extinction depends on whether today’s extinction rate is greater than the “normal” or “background” rate that occurs between mass extinctions.</p> <p>This background rate indicates how fast species would be expected to disappear in absence of human endeavour, and it’s mostly measured using the fossil record to count how many species died out between mass extinction events.</p> <p>The most accepted background rate estimated from the fossil record gives an average lifespan of about one million years for a species, or one species extinction per million species-years. But this estimated rate is highly uncertain, ranging between 0.1 and 2.0 extinctions per million species-years. Whether we are now indeed in a sixth mass extinction depends to some extent on the true value of this rate. Otherwise, it’s difficult to compare Earth’s situation today with the past.</p> <p>In contrast to the the Big Five, today’s species losses are driven by a <a href="http://assets.press.princeton.edu/chapters/s5_8879.pdf">mix of direct and indirect human activities</a>, such as the destruction and fragmentation of habitats, direct exploitation like fishing and hunting, chemical pollution, invasive species, and human-caused global warming.</p> <p>If we use the same approach to estimate today’s extinctions per million species-years, we come up with a rate that is between <a href="https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/66/9/785/1753703">ten and 10,000 times higher than the background rate</a>.</p> <p>Even considering a conservative background rate of <a href="https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/1/5/e1400253">two extinctions per million species-years</a>, the number of species that have gone extinct in the last century would have otherwise taken between 800 and 10,000 years to disappear if they were merely succumbing to the expected extinctions that happen at random. This alone supports the notion that the Earth is at least experiencing many more extinctions than expected from the background rate.</p> <p>It would <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nature11018">likely take several millions of years</a> of normal evolutionary diversification to “restore” the Earth’s species to what they were prior to human beings rapidly changing the planet. Among land vertebrates (species with an internal skeleton), <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/345/6195/401">322 species have been recorded going extinct</a> since the year 1500, or about 1.2 species going extinction every two years.</p> <p>If this doesn’t sound like much, it’s important to remember extinction is always preceded by a loss in population abundance and shrinking distributions. Based on the number of decreasing vertebrate species listed in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s <a href="https://www.iucnredlist.org/">Red List of Threatened Species</a>, 32% of all known species across all ecosystems and groups are decreasing in abundance and range. In fact, the Earth has lost about <a href="https://wwf.panda.org/knowledge_hub/all_publications/living_planet_index2/">60% of all vertebrate individuals since 1970</a>.</p> <p>Australia has one of the worst recent extinction records of any continent, with <a href="https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/9ca4/f10e7349b6618dfbbfeb118a0954ab0643b8.pdf">more than 100 species of vertebrates going extinct</a> since the first people arrived over 50 thousand years ago. And more than 300 animal and 1,000 plant species are <a href="https://www.iucnredlist.org/">now considered threatened with imminent extinction</a>.</p> <p>Although biologists are still debating how much the current extinction rate exceeds the background rate, even the most conservative estimates reveal an exceptionally rapid loss of biodiversity typical of a mass extinction event.</p> <p>In fact, <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12210-013-0258-9">some studies show</a> that the interacting conditions experienced today, such as accelerated <a href="http://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-35068-1">climate change</a>, changing atmospheric composition caused by human industry, and abnormal ecological stresses arising from human consumption of resources, define a perfect storm for extinctions. All these conditions together indicate that a sixth mass extinction is <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nature09678">already well under way</a>.</p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/frederik-saltre-220925">Frédérik Saltré</a>, Research Fellow in Ecology &amp; Associate Investigator for the ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage, <a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/flinders-university-972">Flinders University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/corey-j-a-bradshaw-9183">Corey J. A. Bradshaw</a>, Matthew Flinders Fellow in Global Ecology and Models Theme Leader for the ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage, <a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/flinders-university-972">Flinders University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-is-a-mass-extinction-and-are-we-in-one-now-122535">original article</a>.</em></p>

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