Humanity’s values and choices yield harsh consequences
Pets kill, frogs and birds disappear, yet China cleanses H2O
What is our prevailing attitude toward nature? Is it linked to our ownership of land? If we were to share land rent among ourselves, might we do a better job of sharing land with other species? Conversely, could a bio ethic yield a commons ethic? We trim, blend, and append four 2009 articles from: (1) BBC, Mar 17, on dogs; (2) BBC, Mar17, on frogs by Black; (3) Reuters, Mar 19, on birds by Deborah Zabarenko; and (4) SciDev.Net, Mar 17, on China by Chen and Gong, posted by OneWorld.
by BCC, by Richard Black, by Deborah Zabarenko, and by Weixiao Chen and Yidong Gong
Feral dogs kill child in Sicily
Italian police are hunting a pack of stray dogs in the Ragusa area of southern Sicily which killed a boy aged 10 and mauled a 24-year-old woman, a German tourist, who was walking on a beach.
Reports suggest the dogs had been neglected and starved by a man entrusted with caring for them. A suspect has been arrested.
Police caught about 30 strays after the boy was dragged off his bicycle and killed but about 20 dogs are believed still to be running wild.
Animal rights groups estimate there are up to half a million stray dogs, mainly in the south of the country, many of them abandoned by their owners and left to run wild.
It is an offence to kill a dog in Italy. Although local town councils are supposed to round up strays and put them in public kennels, the law is often ignored as public funds are not provided for building pounds.
JJS: From neglecting to over-hunting.
Fungus devastates ‘chicken’ frog
Montserrat’s “mountain chicken” frog has become the latest victim of the killer fungal disease that is devastating amphibians worldwide.
Only two small pockets of the animals on the tiny Caribbean island remain disease-free.
The mountain chicken (Leptodactylus fallax) is one of the world’s largest frogs, and appears on the coat of arms of neighboring Dominica.
Researchers suspect the chytrid fungus entered Montserrat on small frogs stowing away in consignments of produce from Dominica.
The frogs are so called because their meat tastes like chicken. In both Caribbean islands — the only places where they naturally occur now — hunting was already impacting populations before the arrival of chytrid.
Events on Montserrat now appear to be mimicking what happened on Dominica in 2002. Within 15 months of the fungus arriving, about 80% of the island’s mountain chicken had been wiped out.
First identified just over a decade ago, the fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) has spread through hundreds of amphibian species on different continents. It sweeps some to extinction in a matter of months, while others are apparently immune.
Conservationists plan to breed surviving frogs in captivity. There, chemicals can be used to rid amphibians of the fungus. As yet there is no way to cure them in the wild, or to cleanse infected water bodies.
In contrast to others, they plan to return some frogs to the wild within a few years, placing them in areas that appear to be free of chytrid.
JJS: Conditions ripe for fungi — reduced habitat and pollution — dont suit birds.
Nearly 1/3 of US bird species in trouble
Nearly one-third of all US bird species are endangered, threatened, or in significant decline, reports The State of the Birds, issued by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar along with conservation groups and university ornithologists.
Wetland bird populations have soared since 1968, with an increase of up to 60 from levels 40 years ago. But birds in other habitats — forests, grasslands and arid areas — have declined as much as 40%.
In Hawaii birds have declined the most. The main culprits are new plant and animal species introduced into the Hawaiian ecosystem.
Before humans arrived in the Hawaiian islands, possibly as early as the year 300, there were 113 bird species that occurred nowhere else on Earth. Since humans arrived, 71 species have gone extinct and 31 more are listed as threatened or endangered.
Wildlife watching and recreation generate $122 billion annually.
Overall, the United States is home to more than 800 species of birds; 67 of those are federally listed as endangered or threatened, with an additional 184 species causing concern because of they are narrowly distributed or have declining populations.
JJS: Helping ourselves should help others.
China Launches Vast Water Clean-Up
The safety of drinking water has become a great concern in China. Some 64% of the water reaching urban areas is categorized as suitable only for industry or agriculture and half of cities have suffered groundwater pollution.
In the summer of 2007 an outbreak of algae around Taihu Lake left more than one million people in the city of Wuxi — in the economically-advanced Jiangsu Province — without drinking water for two days.
And when a drought reached its peak in early February it was affecting 10.7 million hectares of farmland in at least 12 provinces in northern China.
To improve water quality, Chinese government officials have launched a initiative that is the largest expenditure on environmental protection since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949.
The project will treat whole river basins for pollution instead of targeting end-pipes.
Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
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