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FLORA AND FAUNA
Cane toads wiping out crocodiles Down Under: study
by Staff Writers
Sydney (AFP) July 03, 2013


Hit by poachers, S.Africa to lobby for rhino horn sale
Cape Town (AFP) July 03, 2013 - South Africa said Wednesday it would lobby to relax a ban on international trade in rhino horn to allow a one-off sale of stockpiles to address a poaching bloodbath.

Environment minister Edna Molewa said the country will submit a proposal "to introduce regulated international trade in rhino horn" at the next meeting of the wildlife trade regulator CITES in South Africa in 2016.

"South Africa cannot continue to be held hostage by the syndicates who are slaughtering our rhinos," she told reporters.

"We do have the ability to make this scarce resource somewhat available without impacting on the species, through the implementation of a regulated trade system."

South Africa is home to about three quarters of the world's rhino population. Poaching gangs target the horns which fetch thousands of dollars on the Asian black market where they are believed to have medicinal properties.

Worldwide horn trade has been banned for 36 years but, by June 26, poachers had killed 446 rhinos in South Africa this year. Last year 668 rhinos were slaughtered.

Fundisile Mketeni, deputy director general of biodiversity and conservation at the environment ministry, said the aim was to sell horns collected from natural fatalities.

"The one-off sale currently is the thinking, that we need to go and clear the stock that we have," he said.

"But moving forward, there might be other models," he added.

Rhinos have been registered since 1977 under Appendix I of CITES, banning the trade in their parts. South Africa and Swaziland's white rhinos are listed as Appendix II, allowing trophy hunting and sales of live animals.

The one-off sale model is envisaged along the lines of four CITES-approved auctions of elephant ivory -- from Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe -- in 2008 to accredited traders from China and Japan.

Australia's noxious cane toad is wiping out populations of a unique miniature crocodile, researchers warned Wednesday, with fears the warty, toxic creature could extinguish the rare reptile.

A team from Charles Darwin University studying the impacts of the foul toad in upstream escarpments found "significant declines" in numbers of dwarf freshwater crocodiles after the amphibians' arrival.

Dwarf crocodiles are thought to be stunted due to a lack of available food and researchers believe the crocs started gobbling up the cane toads when they came along.

Lead researcher Adam Britton said there had been 28 of the rare crocs across the study area, around the Victoria and Bullo rivers in the Northern Territory, prior to the arrival of the toads.

The population declined to ten after the toads arrived, the study, conducted from 2007-2008 and published in the latest edition of the journal Wildlife Research, showed.

"Dead crocodiles and evidence of their having eaten cane toads strongly suggest that these declines were caused directly by the arrival of cane toads into the area," the study found.

Dwarf crocodiles, also known as pygmy or "stunted" crocodiles, grow to a maximum of 1.7 metres (five foot six inches), or 0.7 metres (two foot three inches) for females, half the size of other freshwater crocs.

There is no evidence that the rare pygmy is genetically different to other freshwater crocodiles.

Britton said there was concern that, due to their limited numbers -- believed to be in the low hundreds -- the pygmy croc could die out altogether due to the cane toad's march.

"We already know that cane toads kill freshwater crocodiles, but we were concerned that cane toads might have a major impact on dwarf populations because of their small size and lack of alternative food sources," Britton said.

"These are low-density populations to begin with," he continued. "They disappeared totally from one study site."

The researcher added: "We still have a long way to go in our understanding of how native populations deal with invasive species."

The study did offer some hope for the crocodiles, with no apparent population change recorded at one site and evidence of behavioural adaptations to avoid the poison by only eating the toad's hind legs.

Cane toads -- warty, leathery creatures with a venom sac on their heads toxic enough to kill snakes and crocodiles -- are advancing across north-western Australia at a speed of 50 kilometres (31 miles) a year.

They were first introduced to Australia from Hawaii to control scarab beetle populations in the 1930s but have now reached pest proportions, breeding prolifically and with few predators.

Native animals, particularly small marsupials and lizards, will die if they eat a full-grown adult.

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New date set for end of life on Earth -- in 2 billion years
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Scientists have set a new date for the end of the world, when all animals and plants will vanish from Earth - but it'll take another 2 billion years. While increases of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have people concerned about the planet's future, the scientists say it will in fact be a lack of the greenhouse gas that will bring the end to life, the Daily Telegraph reported Tuesday. ... read more


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