Best of our wild blogs: 5 Aug 12

11 Aug (Sat): FREE Chek Jawa Boardwalk trip with the Naked Hermit Crabs
from Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Stars, snake, sharks at Beting Bemban Besar
from wild shores of singapore

Birds in frenzy
from Bird Ecology Study Group

The Atlas Moth Chronicles - Episode 1
from Butterflies of Singapore

ICCS Pre-National Day coastal cleanup @ Lim Chu Kang mangrove! 新加坡国际海岸清洁运动国庆特别活动 from PurpleMangrove

S's of Cyrene Reef: Slugs, stars and sharks!
from wonderful creation

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Indonesia: Another whale shark beached on Yogyakarta coastline

Bambang Muryanto,The Jakarta Post 5 Aug 12;

A seven-meter whale shark (Rhincodon typus) of some 2 tons in weight was found stranded and dead at Parangkusumo Beach in Kretek, Bantul, Yogyakarta, on Friday night.

This was the second gigantic sea creature found at the same region this week after a 13-meter, 4-ton shark of the same kind became stranded and died on Wednesday on a neighboring beach, 10-kilometers to the west of Parangkusumo.

Ismail, a local youth, said he saw the shark was dying off the waters close to the beach at about 6 p.m. and about three hours later it had drifted to the shore and was already dead. “Fishermen then dragged it further to the beach,” he said.

Animal systematics expert Donan Satria Yuda of Gadjah Mada University’s School of Biology said that the phenomenon of two sharks found stranded in the area at the same week might indicate that they were hunting for plankton and small fish at the Yogyakarta’s Southern Beach area.

“Plankton and small fish are flaring in the area in June and July,” Donan said.

During this time, he added, coral reefs were ejecting sperm that then were eaten by the plankton and small fish, which later attracted the sharks. Apart from that, the dotted sharks also liked to swim near the beach.

He also said that the southern beach area might be rich in basins and that the sharks were trapped in them during the high tide, but could not swim back to sea when the tide was low.

Activists of the Animal Friend Jogja (AFJ) group were seen guarding the shark’s carcass as of Saturday. Dessy Angelina of the AFJ said she had coordinated with the local SAR team and Water Police to bury the shark.

Dessy also said she had been trying to make contact with the Australian government to seek information regarding why the two sharks were stranded in the Indonesian waters within such a short time. She said the dotted shark was protected in Australia but in Indonesia it was still categorized as endangered.

“We want to know the reason why, because Australia has already conducted research on this issue,” Dessy said.

The sharks, according to Dessy, were finding it difficult to proliferate and they were now on the brink of extinction.

She blamed the condition on drilling activities beaches, at the vibrations of which caused the shark to experience disorientation and such conditions made them easily stranded.

Other factors to blame, Dessy added, included global warming.

As of Saturday people were still seen flocking to the beach to look at the stranded creature, take pictures of it, or even strike a pose with the dead shark.

“I heard about the shark from Twitter. I came here because I wanted to have a closer look at something that I have never seen before,” resident Kricak Johan said.

Second Whale Shark Dies After Washing Up on Java Beach
Jakarta Globe 4 Aug 12;

Bantul, Yogyakarta. A nine-meter whale shark died early on Saturday morning after it was stranded on a beach in Yogyakarta, making it the second big fish to perish on a South Java beach during the past week.

Ali Sutanto, an official with the Yogyakarta office of the National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas), said on Saturday that the whale shark was first spotted at Pelangi beach in Bantul, Yogyakarta, on Friday evening.

“Our post received a report [of the shark] from the locals at about 7 p.m.,” Ali said, as quoted by Indonesian news portal

He added that the shark was initially still a half of kilometer away from the beach, but at midnight it washed ashore.

“The local SAR team immediately dispatched our entire 56 members to pull the shark to the beach. Police at Parangtritis and surrounding areas also helped us,” he said.

Ali said that rescuers initially tried to pull the huge whale shark toward the beach to keep it from being battered by waves in the shallow water.

The shark was still alive as rescuers finally managed to pull it shoreward, but the big fish struggled for breath, and died four hours later.

“We tried to pull it away from the waves all night. But it was difficult; [the shark] was too heavy,” Ali said. The remains of the shark sat on the beach on Saturday, drawing hundreds of spectators.

Animal Friends Jogja said the whale shark was about nine-meters long and two meters in width.

On Wednesday, another whale shark that was 13-meters long and weighed 3 tons — among the largest size of the species — died after it was stranded on Pandansimo beach, also in Yogyakarta.

And on July 28, rescuers managed to return a stranded sperm whale to sea in West Java after it spent four days trapped on Karawang beach. But the animal was found dead hours later.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) regards both whale sharks and sperm whales as “vulnerable.”

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Malaysia: Climate change can affect whales

New Straits Times 5 Aug 12;

KOTA KINABALU: Climate change may be causing a whale of a problem in the global arena.

Such change may cause ocean acidification resulting in whale stranding, notes Universiti Malaysia Sabah's Borneo Marine Research Institute director, Prof Dr Saleem Mustafa.

Stressing the need for more empirical data to establish it, he said: "There are compelling reasons on how ocean acidification, directly and indirectly, will affect whales.

"Altered oceanographic conditions too, will adversely affect whales. Collectively, the climate change effects will put stress on the whales, threaten their resilience, drive them to unfamiliar geographical areas and affect their navigational ability.

"Obviously, we might, unfortunately, see more cases of whale stranding around the world," he said yesteryday.

Saleem was commenting on the death of a whale on Thursday night, after it was stranded in the shallow coastal waters of Hujung Sungai near Kuala Penyu, near here. Bernama

Institute to study why whales beach on Sabah shores
The Star 6 Aug 12;

KOTA KINABALU: The Borneo Marine Research Institute is studying why whales have been beaching in the western shores of Sabah of late.

“Is it because they were ill or had strayed from other whales in the pod due to failure of their natural sonar system?” asked Dr John Madin, a lecturer and researcher with the centre at Universiti Malaysia Sabah here.

Dr Madin said whales usually migrate around sub-tropical and tropical waters in the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean.

“It used to be uncommon for them to enter Sabah’s shallower coastal waters.

“But this year alone we have had two cases,” he said, referring to the beaching of a 15.8m whale at Kuala Penyu on Thursday and a dead whale found on Pulau Mengalum in February. Since 2006, at least five whales have beached in west coast Sabah.

Dr Madin said they wanted to identify which particular species of whales were prone to be stranded.

Commenting on the recent whale beaching, he said the centre believed the stranded mammal at Kuala Penyu was a Brydes whales.

“The one on Pulau Mengalum might have been a Baleen whale.

“The whale could have been sick. Fisheries staff and firemen tried to guide it back into the deep sea but it did not attempt to swim.

UMS to tackle beached whales
Kristy Inus New Straits Times 8 Aug 12;

MARINE MAMMAL RESCUE: Sabah has highest number of cases, task force to develop SOP to deal with problem

KOTA KINABALU: UNIVERSITI Malaysia Sabah marine scientists will form a task force to assist related agencies in handling cases involving beached whales.

The university's Borneo Marine Research Institute (BMRI) director Prof Dr Saleem Mustafa said the possibility of whale beaching incidents in the state was likely to see an increase because of climate changes.

He said Sabah was known to have the most incidents involving stranded whale cases in the country based on studies as early as the 1970s.

BMRI will lead the task force initiative to be better prepared to face such situations, said Saleem.

The institute will also hold a meeting with various agencies to develop a standard operating procedure (SOP) in dealing with stranded marine mammals.

UMS came out with the task force and SOP following the latest incident of a stranded whale in Kuala Penyu on Aug 2. The mammal died after 12 hours of being stranded despite attempts by various agencies and locals to help it return to the waters.

Measuring 15.8m and weighing more than 10 tonnes, it was stranded on the beach at the mouth of Sungai Setompok. The carcass was towed to a nearby jetty the next day for burial.

Dr John Madin, who leads the UMS research team for this case, said they were conducting a DNA analysis to identify the whale species. The results are expected to be out in a month's time.

He said while they believed it was a Bryde's whale from the Baleen family, there were still uncertainties and claims reported online that the mammal was one of the other species.

"As the identification and taxonomic status of the whale is currently unclear and possibly confused with other species in the Balaenopteridae family, tissue samples will have to be processed at the Institute's Microbiology and Fish Disease Laboratory."

Madin also said external examination of the whale showed recovering wounds and many blisters on the dead whale, which could possibly be because of past injuries and long exposure to sunlight.

"The whale also appeared emaciated. With these observations and the fact that it was unable to swim despite efforts to pull it to deeper water during the rescue effort, we believe the main cause of it being stranded was due to an unknown illness.

"However, other factors such as extreme weakness and old age could not be ruled out," Madin said, adding that they could not determine the exact age of the whale except that it was not young.

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New study links current events to climate change

Seth Borenstein Associated Press Yahoo News 5 Aug 12;

WASHINGTON (AP) — The relentless, weather-gone-crazy type of heat that has blistered the United States and other parts of the world in recent years is so rare that it can't be anything but man-made global warming, says a new statistical analysis from a top government scientist.

The research by a man often called the "godfather of global warming" says that the likelihood of such temperatures occurring from the 1950s through the 1980s was rarer than 1 in 300. Now, the odds are closer to 1 in 10, according to the study by NASA scientist James Hansen. He says that statistically what's happening is not random or normal, but pure and simple climate change.

"This is not some scientific theory. We are now experiencing scientific fact," Hansen told The Associated Press in an interview.

Hansen is a scientist at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York and a professor at Columbia University. But he is also a strident activist who has called for government action to curb greenhouse gases for years. While his study was published online Saturday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, it is unlikely to sway opinion among the remaining climate change skeptics.

However, several climate scientists praised the new work.

In a blunt departure from most climate research, Hansen's study — based on statistics, not the more typical climate modeling — blames these three heat waves purely on global warming:

—Last year's devastating Texas-Oklahoma drought.

—The 2010 heat waves in Russia and the Middle East, which led to thousands of deaths.

—The 2003 European heat wave blamed for tens of thousands of deaths, especially among the elderly in France.

The analysis was written before the current drought and record-breaking temperatures that have seared much of the United States this year. But Hansen believes this too is another prime example of global warming at its worst.

The new research makes the case for the severity of global warming in a different way than most scientific studies and uses simple math instead of relying on complex climate models or an understanding of atmospheric physics. It also doesn't bother with the usual caveats about individual weather events having numerous causes.

The increase in the chance of extreme heat, drought and heavy downpours in certain regions is so huge that scientists should stop hemming and hawing, Hansen said. "This is happening often enough, over a big enough area that people can see it happening," he said.

Scientists have generally responded that it's impossible to say whether single events are caused by global warming, because of the influence of natural weather variability.

However, that position has been shifting in recent months, as other studies too have concluded climate change is happening right before our eyes.

Hansen hopes his new study will shift people's thinking about climate change and goad governments into action. He wrote an op-ed piece that appeared online Friday in the Washington Post.

"There is still time to act and avoid a worsening climate, but we are wasting precious time," he wrote.

The science in Hansen's study is excellent "and reframes the question," said Andrew Weaver, a climate scientist at the University of Victoria in British Columbia who was a member of the Nobel Prize-winning international panel of climate scientists that issued a series of reports on global warming.

"Rather than say, 'Is this because of climate change?' That's the wrong question. What you can say is, 'How likely is this to have occurred with the absence of global warming?' It's so extraordinarily unlikely that it has to be due to global warming," Weaver said.

For years scientists have run complex computer models using combinations of various factors to see how likely a weather event would happen without global warming and with it. About 25 different aspects of climate change have been formally attributed to man-made greenhouse gases in dozens of formal studies. But these are generally broad and non-specific, such as more heat waves in some regions and heavy rainfall in others.

Another upcoming study by Kevin Trenberth, climate analysis chief at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, links the 2010 Russian heat wave to global warming by looking at the underlying weather that caused the heat wave. He called Hansen's paper an important one that helps communicate the problem.

But there is bound to be continued disagreement. Previous studies had been unable to link the two, and one by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration concluded that the Russian drought, which also led to devastating wildfires, was not related to global warming.

White House science adviser John Holdren praised the paper's findings in a statement. But he also said it is true that scientists can't blame single events on global warming: "This work, which finds that extremely hot summers are over 10 times more common than they used to be, reinforces many other lines of evidence showing that climate change is occurring and that it is harmful."

Skeptical scientist John Christy of the University of Alabama at Huntsville said Hansen shouldn't have compared recent years to the 1950s-1980s time period because he said that was a quiet time for extremes.

But Derek Arndt, director of climate monitoring for the federal government's National Climatic Data Center, said that range is a fair one and often used because it is the "golden era" for good statistics.

Granger Morgan, head of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, called Hansen's study "an important next step in what I expect will be a growing set of statistically-based arguments."

In a landmark 1988 study, Hansen predicted that if greenhouse gas emissions continue, which they have, Washington, D.C., would have about nine days each year of 95 degrees or warmer in the decade of the 2010s. So far this year, with about four more weeks of summer, the city has had 23 days with 95 degrees or hotter temperatures.

Hansen says now he underestimated how bad things would get.

And while he hopes this will spur action including a tax on the burning of fossil fuels, which emit carbon dioxide, a key greenhouse gas, others doubt it.

Science policy expert Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado said Hansen clearly doesn't understand social science, thinking a study like his could spur action. Just because people understand a fact that doesn't mean people will act on it, he said.

In an email, he wrote: "Hansen is pursuing a deeply flawed model of policy change, one that will prove ineffectual and with its most lasting consequence a further politicization of climate science (if that is possible!)."

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