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A South African judge on Thursday lifted a domestic ban on trade in rhino horns, alarming conservationists who described it as an "extremely dangerous move" that could worsen a poaching crisis. The government said it planned to appeal against the ruling, which was delivered in the Pretoria High Court after two South African game breeders fought a legal battle to overturn the moratorium. The court decision came ahead of a meeting in Johannesburg next year of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which could lift the global ban.
One of the four northern white rhinoceros left on Earth died yesterday (Nov. 22), leaving only three surviving members of the critically endangered species. In recent weeks, Nola suffered from a bacterial infection, and on Nov. 13, the aging animal underwent surgery to drain a large abscess in her pelvic region, which veterinarians finally identified as the source of her sickness. When intensified treatment efforts were unsuccessful, the animal's caretakers chose to euthanize her yesterday, in what was a "difficult decision," according to a statement released by the San Diego Zoo.
By Steve Gorman LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A northern white rhinoceros, one of just four left on Earth, died on Sunday at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park after suffering from a bacterial infection and age-related health issues, zoo officials said. Nola, a 41-year-old rhino brought to the Southern California park in 1989 as part of a breeding program, took a turn for the worse over the weekend following a Nov. 13 surgical procedure to drain a large pelvic abscess identified as the infection source, the zoo said in a statement. The 4,000-pound (1,800-kg) rhino had been placed under constant veterinary watch last week as her appetite and activity levels declined.
By Lisa Rapaport (Reuters Health) - There are many potential health benefits to pet ownership, but a good night’s sleep may not necessarily be one of them, a small study suggests. Among pet owners surveyed at a sleep clinic, more than half said their non-human friends slept in their bedroom. One in five pet owners described their animals as disruptive, but two in five perceived the pets as unobtrusive or even beneficial to sleep, the survey found.
By Rich McKay ATLANTA (Reuters) - The Georgia Aquarium called off on Tuesday its fight to import 18 beluga whales from Russia and said it would not challenge a federal judge's ruling to block their arrival, handing a victory to U.S. regulators and animal conservation groups. The decision ends two years of litigation by the aquarium to get federal approval to bring the whales to Atlanta and to other facilities in the United States that had hoped to acquire them, including SeaWorld parks. Also known as white whales, belugas are common in the Arctic Ocean's coastal waters and also found in subarctic waters, according to the National Geographic website.
For more than a century visitors have marvelled at the Hermitage Museum's precious collections, and for just as long dozens of cats have prowled the Saint Petersburg palace's sprawling cellars. "Our cats are as well-known as our collections," beamed Irina Popovets, who runs the unit. Every morning, art lovers from the world over arrive at the gates of the Hermitage complex on the Neva River housing a collection that spans ancient Egyptian and Renaissance art to modern masters like Cezanne, Gauguin and Degas.
Kenya's wildlife authority on Monday vowed to destroy the east African country's vast ivory stockpile from several thousand elephants, nine times more than the largest pile torched so far. President Uhuru Kenyatta set fire in March to a giant pile of 15 tonnes of elephant ivory, which conservationists said then was the largest ever burned in Africa. The promised destruction of the remaining stockpile of 137 tonnes of ivory would dwarf that.
After sparking ridicule with a proposal to build a prison island for drug convicts surrounded by crocodiles, Indonesia's anti-drugs czar has now gone further -- revealing on Friday he also wants tigers and piranhas as guards. In an idea that seemed to come straight out of a James Bond film, Budi Waseso this week unveiled the prison island plan, explaining that crocodiles can't be bribed by drug traffickers seeking to escape jail.
When Indonesia's anti-drugs czar announced plans to guard a death-row prison island with crocodiles, the government rushed to explain that it was just a joke, but on Friday Budi Waseso said he was now thinking of using tigers and piranha fish too. Media quoted the National Narcotics Agency (BNN) chief as saying that he had already obtained two crocodiles from a farm to study their power and aggression and may ultimately put as many as 1,000 in place to keep convicts from escaping. "Because the (prison) personnel numbers are short we can use wild animals.
By Laura Zuckerman SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) - Native American tribes on Wednesday called for the U.S. government to halt plans to strip grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone of Endangered Species Act protection because it would open the way for trophy hunting in Idaho and two other states bordering the national park. Government bear managers have said the 700-plus grizzlies in the Yellowstone area have exceeded their recovery goal of 500 bears and no longer need federal protection. Grizzlies in the Lower 48 states were formally listed as threatened under the law in 1975 after being hunted, trapped and poisoned to the edge of extinction.
By Shelby Sebens PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) - Oregon's population of about 81 gray wolves will soon lose its status as a state-protected endangered species after a decision by state wildlife managers, who came under fire from animal advocates who said politics had won over sound science. The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted 4-2 late on Monday to remove the wolves from the list, saying they had recovered in sufficiently healthy numbers that they no longer faced the threat of extinction. The action was to take effect after documentation to de-list the wolves was submitted to the Oregon secretary of state for review on Tuesday, commission officials said.
By Marty Graham SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - SeaWorld said on Monday it plans to replace its signature "Shamu" killer whale shows in San Diego with displays focused on "conservation," after grappling with sagging attendance and years of criticism over treatment of the captive marine mammals. Animal rights activists, pressing to end public exhibition of killer whales altogether, branded the SeaWorld announcement as little more than window-dressing designed to make continued display of the animals more palatable to the public. The move, unveiled in a company presentation to investors, followed a vote by California regulators last month barring SeaWorld San Diego from continuing to breed the killer whales, or orcas, if it proceeds with a planned expansion of their artificial habitat.
(Reuters) - Lindsey Vonn needed medical treatment after being bitten by her dogs, the skier said on Saturday. Vonn posted a video on Twitter of her bloodied right hand, the result, she said, of an attempt to break up a fight between her two canine companions. Vonn, 31, has two dogs, named Leo and Bear, that she adopted from a rescue shelter.
Bottlenose dolphins swimming in waters affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill are dying earlier and birthing fewer calves than dolphins living in other areas, a new study shows. Just 20 percent of pregnant dolphins in Barataria Bay — a part of the Gulf of Mexico that was most heavily tainted by oil from the spill — gave birth to surviving calves, much lower than the 83 percent success rate in other dolphin populations, the researchers found. In addition, just 86.8 percent of the Barataria Bay dolphins survive every year.
By Laura Zuckerman SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) - Federal wildlife managers have determined that grizzly bear numbers in and around Yellowstone National Park have rebounded sufficiently to propose stripping the animals of U.S. Endangered Species Act protections in the months ahead, a spokesman told Reuters. The latest count of grizzlies in the Yellowstone region puts the estimated population of the hump-shouldered bruins at just over 750, well exceeding the government's recovery goal of 500 animals, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
A school of 10 whales that washed up Monday in northern France may have done so voluntarily after the death of the dominant male, an expert said. "The group was in the middle of a deep-sea migration towards the Faroe Islands to reproduce and feed," said Jacky Karpouzopoulos, of the Centre for Marine Mammal Research at La Rochelle. Six of the black pilot whales were already dead when they were found.
A rare, US-born Sumatran rhino arrived Monday at his new home in Indonesia, an official said, where it is hoped he will find a mate and give his critically endangered species a shot at survival. A senior biodiversity conservation official in Indonesia's forestry ministry told AFP the rhino was "adapting well" after travelling 36 hours by air, sea and land to reach to the national park. "He is healthy and has a great appetite," Bambang Dahono Adji told AFP.
Suspected poachers have used cyanide to kill 23 elephants in Zimbabwe's Hwange national park, raising the death toll there and in the northern part of the country to 60 since late September, officials said on Thursday. Hwange national park in western Zimbabwe currently hosts 53,000 elephants, twice the park's carrying capacity. Park rangers recovered most of the tusks after the 23 elephants were killed with the deadly poison last Friday but poachers got away with three tusks, officials said.
By Ed Stoddard CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Africa's vultures are vanishing, according to a report released on Thursday, a situation that could affect human health and livestock since populations of other scavengers such as rats and jackals could rise as a result. The assessment, carried out by conservation group BirdLife International, found that six of Africa's 11 vulture species were at risk of extinction. Africa's elephant and rhino populations are being relentlessly poached for their ivory and horns to meet red-hot demand in newly-affluent Asian economies.