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Positive Conservation News - April 2019

April 30, 2019

April is the kindest month. April gets you out of your head and out working in the garden.
- Marty Rubin 
This month brought with it more conservation success and optimism, and reminded us that there are many inspiring people working tirelessly to protect our environment and the species that depend on it. April saw a record breaking breeding season for a flightless bird, massive protesting catching the attention of politicians, the restoration of a lost river and much more.

Habitat and environment

Traditional orchards are key habitat for birds, pollinators and insects, yet there has been a 63% decline in them since the 1950s. This month, The National Trust announced plans for 68 new orchards across England and Wales by 2025. 

Two years of activism and 70,000 letters has resulted in Canada's government agreeing to stop all oil and gas activities in marine protected areas. Waste dumping and bottom trawling will also be banned, hopefully bringing Canada closer to achieving their pledge to protect 10% of coastal and marine areas by 2020. 

The lost reach of the River Chew in Somerset, which was severed by a dam in 1956, has been restored by The Rivers Trust and Bristol Water. There is hope that vulnerable populations of water vole, eels and white clawed crayfish will recolonise the area, and that fish species including salmon, trout, minnow and perch will return. 

The waters surrounding Hawaii are valuable habitat for sharks, and 40 species are known to pass through the area. The state is putting forward a bill to ban shark fishing in the area to ensure a safe sanctuary for sharks - 31% of which are threatened with extinction. 


Species

Two new bird species have been recorded in Indonesia. The Wakatobi White-eye was considered a sub-species of Zosterops White-eye, but was this month recognised as its own species, and the Wangi-wangi white-eye was previously unknown to science. 

Forestry England have introduced a pair of Eurasian beavers into Cropton Forest in Yorkshire. The aim is to run a five year trial to assess the impact of their dams on slowing water flow in the area and their ability to reduce local flooding. Their presence is also expected to increase the biodiversity in the area by restoring complex wetland habitats which can provide habitat for other species.

There is new hope for the future of the critically endangered kākāpō after a record breaking breeding season was reported this month. Native to New Zealand, the flightless parrots suffered dramatic population declines due to hunting, predation by introduced pests, and habitat loss to farming. 49 of 50 breeding females laid eggs this year, resulting in 76 chicks! 

A new study has revealed that populations of endangered green sea turtles are increasing in US territories. Populations around Hawaii showed an average increase of 8% each year, and an average increase of 4% in American Samoa and the Mariana Islands.

The Netherlands has reported its first resident wolf in 140 years. Wolves have been sighted in the country since 2015, but those were thought to be from a population in Germany. A recent study examining wolf prints and scat has confirmed that the same female has remained in the Netherlands for the past 6 months, making her 'established'. A male has also been seen in the area, so the first pack could be imminent! 


Conservation heroes

The RSPCA and Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service rescued a group of ducklings from a deep drain. The ducklings were witnessed falling in while following their mother. By the time they were free, the mother was nowhere to be seen so the ducklings are currently being cared for at Stapeley Grange Wildlife Centre until they are ready to be released. 

A recent report shows that single-use plastic use in the US and UK has dropped by 53% in the past year. The authors have credited David Attenborough for the success, thanks to his work with Blue Planet II. The survey, targeting 3,833 people, also found that 82% prefer sustainable packaging, and 66% had greater trust in brands aiming to be more sustainable. 

This month saw more protesting for governments to act on climate change and extinctions across the globe. Extinction Rebellion gained massive media attention in response to their protests in Central London. They certainly got the attention of politicians. Jeremy Corbyn, who was also encourged by his meeting with activist Greta Thunberg, is due to hold a vote in Parliament on May 1st to declare a UK climate emergency. Nicola Sturgeon also acknowledged a climate emergency at an SNP meeting and has pledged for Scotland to act accordingly. 

The Goldman Environmental Foundation awarded six prizes to environmental activists from around the world. The 2019 winners were:

  • - Bayarjargal Agvaantseren from Mongolia convinced the government to ban all mining within the Tost Tosonbumba Nature Reserve - a critical habitat for the vulnerable snow leopard.
  • - Alfred Brownell, an environmental lawyer, saved 513,500 acres of tropical forests in Liberia from being replaced with palm oil plantations.
  • - Ann Colovic Lesoska ran a successful seven year campaign to stop the international funding for two hydropower plants in North Macedonia's Mavrovo National Park, which is crucial habitat for the almost extinct Balkan lynx.
  • - Linda Garcia involved local residents in her fight to stop the construction of the Tesoro Savage oil export terminal in Washington. This prevented the flow of 11 million gallons of crude oil per day!
  • - In Chile, Alberto Curamil organised his community to halt the construction of two hydroelectric projects on the Cautín River. Each day, the project would have removed hundreds of millions of gallons of water from a critical ecosystem and contributed to drought. 
  • - Jacqueline Evans' campaigning resulted in the designation of marine protected areas in the Cook Islands, and new legislation to protect and sustainably manage 763,000 square miles of ocean territory.

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