Wednesday, April 29, 2015

EXTREME WEATHER: Dust From Sahara Desert Covers Sections Of The Caribbean!

April 29, 2015 - CARIBBEAN
- Dust particles from sand storms in the Sahara desert have blanketed sections of the Caribbean, affecting air quality in the region.

Each year, Saharan dust storms pass through the region, usually in the spring and summer months. Meteorologist with the National Weather Service here, David Sanchez says the dust cloud is a significant event when it comes to the quality of dust in the air.

“It’s basically high pressure across the Atlantic and all levels of the atmosphere that brings the dust in.”

The dust also raises the heat index, making the air feel quite hot. It is not just sticking around through the end of the week, it is going to get worse, Sanchez said.

The dust, which comes from the Sahara Desert, causes the skies around the region to be hazy, which reduces visibility and results in poor air quality.

As a result of the dust storms and warm air, the sand rises above the desert and is carried from North Africa west over the Atlantic Ocean and across the Caribbean.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Saharan Air Layer can act to weaken a tropical cyclone by promoting downdrafts around the storm, while its strong winds can substantially increase the vertical wind shear in and around the storm environment.

Saharan dust is not harmful; however, people with allergies or respiratory ailments should remain indoors when possible and consult their physician or health care professional for further guidance. - Jamaica Observer.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Sinkholes Keep Popping Up Across The United States - Woman Rescued From 35-FEET-DEEP Sinkhole In Cherokee County, Texas!

© KLTV staff

April 29, 2015 - TEXAS, UNITED STATES
- One woman is in the hospital after falling into a massive sinkhole in Cherokee County.

The Lake Palestine East Fire Department tells CBS19 the accident happened on Wylie Road in the Shady Brook subdivision near Lake Palestine.

The road began giving way early Monday morning and has been blocked off most of the day.

The woman slipped and fell in around 8:30 p.m. Monday while trying to put up barricades around the hole.

Two firemen from the Lake Palestine East Fire Department had to go down into the sinkhole in order to pull her out. She was taken to a local hospital with minor injuries.

Lake Palestine East, Bullard, and Jacksonville Fire Departments assisted in the rescue.

Fire crews estimate the sinkhole is about 35 feet deep and stretches about 25 feet across Wylie Road. The road is shut down to all traffic at this time.

The sinkhole is located less than a mile away from a home that is collapsing on Lake Palestine. It is not clear at this time if the two incidents are related. - Tyler Morning Telegraph.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVALS: Massive Landslide Buries Remote Village In Afghanistan - At Least 2 People Killed!

A landslide in the same province in May last year killed hundreds.

April 29, 2015 - AFGHANISTAN
- At least 52 people have been killed in north-eastern Afghanistan after a huge landslide swept through a village.

Nearly 100 homes were destroyed in Khawahan district, Badakhshan province, near Afghanistan's border with Tajikistan. A provincial official told the BBC that most of those killed were women and children.

He said the affected area was not accessible by road due to heavy snow, seriously hampering rescue efforts. The region regularly suffers landslides when snow begins to melt in the spring.

Deforestation in the impoverished region has also been blamed for the growing frequency of landslides.

In Thursday night's landslide, 25 women, 22 children and five men died when 97 houses were buried, said deputy provincial governor Gul Mohammad Beidar.

He said the central government was sending helicopters to allow emergency teams to get to the isolated area.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was "deeply saddened" to hear about the landslide, his office said in a statement quoted by AFP news agency.

About 350 people died in May last year when a landslide engulfed an entire village in the same province. - BBC.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVALS: Heavy Rainfall Triggers 147 LANDSLIDES In Salvador, Brazil As The Celestial Black Event Nears - At Least 14 People Dead; 21 Buildings Collapse; Widespread Destruction! [PHOTOS + VIDEO]

Landslides after heavy rain in Bairro do Lobato, Salvador, Brazil, April 2015.  © Manu Dias/ GOVBA

April 29, 2015 - BRAZIL
- Local civil defence officials today confirmed that at least 14 people have been killed in landslides near the city of Salvador in the Bahia region, north-eastern Brazil.

Two people are still missing. Search and rescue operations, with assistance from military personnel, will continue today.

The landslides were triggered by heavy rain that fell between 26 and 28 April 2015. More than 100 landslides have been reported in the area, nearly all of them in the poorest areas on the steep hillsides around the city, such as Bom Juá, where 4 people died, and Bairro do Lobato, shown in the photos below.

Salvador Civil defence said that the heavy rain had caused 147 landslides. Floods were reported in 17 areas of the city, and at least 21 buildings have collapsed. Flooding affected some of the city's hospitals and caused schools to close.

Landslides after heavy rain in Bairro do Lobato, Salvador, Brazil, April 2015.

Landslides after heavy rain in Bairro do Lobato, Salvador, Brazil, April 2015.

Rainfall Figures

Local officials say that 200 mm of rain has fallen in Salvador over the last few days - over half the total average rainfall for the month of April.

WATCH: Deadly landslides destroy homes in Brazil.

WMO figures say that 45 mm of rain fell between 26 and 27 April, and a further 142 mm between 27 and 28 April. - Floodlist.

DELUGE: Massive Flash Flooding In Narok, Kenya - Several People Feared Dead!

Narok river floods. © Gitonga Theuri

April 29, 2015 - NAROK, KENYA
- The streets of Narok town in Kenya were turned to rivers after a massive downpour yesterday, 28 April 2015.

Local media say that buildings have collapsed and at least 10 vehicles were swept away in the flooding. Some local media reports say that at least 5 bodies have been recovered from the floods.

This figure is expected to rise as rescue operations continue. There are currently no official figures or confirmation regarding fatalities or missing people. Local police have asked people to report any missing person.

Narok County authorities have been coordinating with Narok County Emergency Team, Police, Kenya Red Cross and medics throughout the night as the try to contain the situation after the floods.

Kenya Red Cross are carrying out rescue operations in the area and have brought in a backup team from Nairobi. The Red Cross said that the Narok to Bomet road was blocked and response operations were being hampered by inaccessibility.

The County government is advising people to keep calm and avoid movement in town, stay indoors as long as possible and not leave their home unless absolutely necessary.

WATCH: Flash floods wreak havoc in Narok town.

Floods set to continue

In a statement yesterday, Narok County Government said: "Forecasts suggest that weather conditions will continue to be very unsettled and will remain so throughout the week, with potentially intense rain falling on already saturated ground from tonight.

Further heavy rainfall is likely to increase river levels, leading to flooding of low-lying land and roads, as well as increasing the risk of groundwater flooding". - Floodlist.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano's Lava Lake Reaches Rim - Threatens To Overflow!

© GB Hajim, COO HawaiiCon

April 29, 2015 - HAWAII
- The lava lake at the summit of Kilauea volcano reached the rim of the Overlook crater vent this morning, "during a period when all spattering stopped, but did not get quite high enough to overflow onto the Halemaʻumaʻu Crater floor," scientists report.

The USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory says there was no significant change in tilt recorded at Kīlauea's summit over the past day. This week's rise in the level of the lava lake to record heights has correlated with inflation recorded at the summit; about 7.5 microradians since inflation started on Tuesday, April 21. The radial tilt leveled off into slight deflation on Monday but as of this posting Tuesday morning it has returned to steady inflation. The lava lake remained at a steady 10-13 feet below the rim on Monday.

The USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory says seismicity is elevated beneath Kilauea's summit and upper East and Southwest Rift Zones. Sulfur dioxide emission rates averaged 3000-5200 tonnes/day for the week ending April 21.

HVO has installed a new webcam at the Halemaʻumaʻu Overlook. The new angle compliments the four views already trained on the volcano vent at the summit.

New webcam at Kilauea summit.

As the lava level rises, some residents have expressed concern. To alleviate fears, Hawaii County Civil Defense issued an eruption information update Tuesday morning:
The recent rise of the lava lake within the Halema'uma'u Crater vent at the summit of Kīlauea has not resulted in any significant change or increased activity at Pu'u 'Ō'ō. All active flows from Pu'u 'Ō'ō remain within about 5 miles of the Pu'u 'Ō'ō vent, and about 8 miles from the area of Highway 130 near Pāhoa. The team at the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory is maintaining close observations of all volcanic activity and the community will be kept informed of any changes in the level of volcanic threat. Presently, the Kilauea Volcano alert level remains at the WATCH or orange threat level and there is no immediate threat to any down slope communities.Hawaii County Civil Defense on April 28 at 8:03 a.m.
The rising lava lake within Halema‘uma‘u Crater at the summit of Kīlauea volcano draws thousands of additional visitors to Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. 
© NPS Photo/Mark Wasser ​

Now that the laval lake is visible to the public, the activity has drawn thousands of additional visitors to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. Over the last several days, hopeful onlookers waited up to 30 minutes or longer to park. Rangers are having to redirect vehicles during peak visitation hours to park at the Kīlauea Military Camp ball field. From there, park officials say visitors can hike one mile to the Jaggar Museum observation deck, the closest and best vantage point to view the spectacular lava lake.
Visitors should come prepared to ensure a safe and enjoyable park experience. We encourage people to avoid peak hours, and arrive after 10 p.m. and before 4 a.m. if possible, or they will likely wait in line for parking. The park remains open 24 hours a day." - Superintendent Cindy Orlando
The National Park Service also offered these tips for an optimal viewing experience:
  • Be prepared to hike one mile each way between Kīlauea Military Camp ball field and the Jaggar Museum observation deck on Crater Rim Trail. Wear sturdy closed-toe shoes, bring rain gear, water, binoculars, a flashlight, and extra batteries.
  • Carpool if possible to reduce the number of vehicles in the parking areas.
  • As a courtesy to other visitors, no "tailgating" in the Jaggar Museum or Kīlauea Overlook parking lots. Choose another picnic location so others have a chance to view the eruption.
  • To observe viewing and weather conditions, monitor the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory webcams. The KI camera provides a panoramic view of Halema'uma'u Crater from HVO.
  • High levels of dangerous sulfur dioxide (SO2) gas and volcanic ash can be blown over Jaggar Museum by southerly winds. These gases are a danger to everyone, particularly to people with heart or respiratory problems, young children and pregnant women. Kīlauea Visitor Center offers updates on air quality 24 hours a day, and visitors can monitor the Hawaii SO2 network website.
The public is also reminded that park entrance fees apply and that the use of unmanned aircraft (drones) is prohibited in all national parks. An incident at the park made headlines Monday: rangers tased a park visitor who was operating a drone at the overlook. - Big Island Video News.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Geological Upheaval - Did The Nepal Earthquake Change Mount Everest's Height?!

Mount Everest (left) and Mount Nuptse (right) might have shifted in the recent Nepal earthquake, but by how much?  © Andy Bardon, National Geographic Creative

- The massive earthquake that struck Nepal Saturday likely caused permanent changes in the Earth's surface and may have made Everest a little taller - or shorter, scientists say.

A team of geologists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is working on the problem now, but they need to retrieve data from a GPS station near Everest within the next 11 days, warns Kenneth Hudnut, a geophysicist who studies earthquakes with the USGS in Pasadena, California.

After that, new data will start recording over information about the quake, erasing the most detailed information on how much the station swayed back and forth and up and down. As a result, the geologists are scrambling to raise the funds to book helicopter time or to piggyback the mission on scheduled humanitarian efforts. (Learn more about the science of the Nepal quake.)

In the meantime, Hudnut and colleagues have been analyzing satellite and seismology data on Saturday's estimated magnitude 7.8 earthquake, to better understand what happened and determine how likely future quakes may be. Preliminary models, which will need to be refined, suggest that Mount Everest and its surrounding area may have shifted by a few centimeters both vertically and horizontally, says Hudnut.

That jives with an estimate from James Jackson, a geologist at Cambridge University in England. At Everest, "the vertical motion is expected to be less than 10 centimeters [four inches] and the horizontal the same," Jackson said via email.

Another spot moved two centimeters to the north, one centimeter to the east, and nothing in the vertical, Jackson added. That location, in Tibet 124 miles (200 kilometers) east of the earthquake's epicenter, may be similar to what Everest experienced, he noted.

Zeroing In

For a closer look, Hudnut hopes to retrieve data from a station called SYBC in a valley less than 17 miles (30 kilometers) from Everest's peak. Since the station is no longer transmitting data, thanks to the quake, scientists will have to fly there and download it directly. Further information could eventually be provided if climbers can survey the top of the mountain with high-quality GPS units.

"We're not just looking to see whether Everest went up or down, but we're looking to understand what the whole Earth did and the science behind the earthquake," says Hudnut. "For example, we want to know if the quake put additional stress on other faults in the area, which could lead to future earthquakes."

Hudnut adds that the city of Kathmandu, which was closer to the epicenter than Everest and was heavily damaged by the temblor, may have seen movement of as much as a meter (three feet). Jackson says movement of the rocks along the fault near the city might have been as much as nine feet, or three meters.

Still, that doesn't mean the city was simply shifted by that much, cautions Jackson, because the Earth's crust deforms in complex, uneven ways. It may mean that parts of the ground underneath the city, or near it, moved relative to each other.

Time to Change Maps?

Asked if a new height for Everest will mean a change to National Geographic's many map products, society Geographer Juan Valdés says he is watching the science closely.

National Geographic doesn't rely on a single scientific agency for its data, he says, but rather reviews data compiled by as many sources as possible. In the case of Everest, that means data from agencies in China, Nepal, Europe, and beyond.

Quakes and other geological events have changed National Geographic's maps before, Valdés notes, from movements in the ground caused by earthquakes to new islands created by volcanoes. The movement experienced in Kathmandu is unlikely to show up in the resolution of the society's maps, says Valdés, but it remains to be seen for Everest's height.

The last time Valdés recalled a significant change in a mountain height was in January 2014, when glacial melt in New Zealand had reduced the height of Mt. Cook from the previously measured 12,316 feet (3,754 meters) to 12,218 feet (3,724 meters), a difference of 98 feet (30 meters).

The fact that the world's tallest mountains can move at all "proves how dynamic the planet truly is," says Valdés. - National Geographic.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Strong 6.2 Magnitude Earthquake Rattles Fiji Islands And New Zealand - No Tsunami Warning! [MAPS + TECTONIC SUMMARY]

USGS earthquake location

April 29, 2015 - FIJI
- A strong earthquake shook the Fiji Islands and the area northeast of New Zealand Tuesday.

The 6.2 magnitude quake struck at 8:39 a.m. Pacific time about 18 miles south of Fiji’s Ndoi Island and 223 miles west of Tonga’s capital Nuku’alofa.

USGS earthquake location

USGS shakemap intensity

Fiji has had three earthquakes of 6.0 magnitude or higher within the last four months, as well as many others in the 4 and 5 magnitude range.

There was no tsunami alert and no immediate reports of damage or injuries. - CBS.

Tectonic Summary - Seismotectonics of the Eastern Margin of the Australia Plate

The eastern margin of the Australia plate is one of the most sesimically active areas of the world due to high rates of convergence between the Australia and Pacific plates. In the region of New Zealand, the 3000 km long Australia-Pacific plate boundary extends from south of Macquarie Island to the southern Kermadec Island chain. It includes an oceanic transform (the Macquarie Ridge), two oppositely verging subduction zones (Puysegur and Hikurangi), and a transpressive continental transform, the Alpine Fault through South Island, New Zealand.

Since 1900 there have been 15 M7.5+ earthquakes recorded near New Zealand. Nine of these, and the four largest, occurred along or near the Macquarie Ridge, including the 1989 M8.2 event on the ridge itself, and the 2004 M8.1 event 200 km to the west of the plate boundary, reflecting intraplate deformation. The largest recorded earthquake in New Zealand itself was the 1931 M7.8 Hawke's Bay earthquake, which killed 256 people. The last M7.5+ earthquake along the Alpine Fault was 170 years ago; studies of the faults' strain accumulation suggest that similar events are likely to occur again.

North of New Zealand, the Australia-Pacific boundary stretches east of Tonga and Fiji to 250 km south of Samoa. For 2,200 km the trench is approximately linear, and includes two segments where old (Greater than 120 Myr) Pacific oceanic lithosphere rapidly subducts westward (Kermadec and Tonga). At the northern end of the Tonga trench, the boundary curves sharply westward and changes along a 700 km-long segment from trench-normal subduction, to oblique subduction, to a left lateral transform-like structure.

USGS plate tectonics for the region.

Australia-Pacific convergence rates increase northward from 60 mm/yr at the southern Kermadec trench to 90 mm/yr at the northern Tonga trench; however, significant back arc extension (or equivalently, slab rollback) causes the consumption rate of subducting Pacific lithosphere to be much faster. The spreading rate in the Havre trough, west of the Kermadec trench, increases northward from 8 to 20 mm/yr. The southern tip of this spreading center is propagating into the North Island of New Zealand, rifting it apart. In the southern Lau Basin, west of the Tonga trench, the spreading rate increases northward from 60 to 90 mm/yr, and in the northern Lau Basin, multiple spreading centers result in an extension rate as high as 160 mm/yr. The overall subduction velocity of the Pacific plate is the vector sum of Australia-Pacific velocity and back arc spreading velocity: thus it increases northward along the Kermadec trench from 70 to 100 mm/yr, and along the Tonga trench from 150 to 240 mm/yr.

The Kermadec-Tonga subduction zone generates many large earthquakes on the interface between the descending Pacific and overriding Australia plates, within the two plates themselves and, less frequently, near the outer rise of the Pacific plate east of the trench. Since 1900, 40 M7.5+ earthquakes have been recorded, mostly north of 30°S. However, it is unclear whether any of the few historic M8+ events that have occurred close to the plate boundary were underthrusting events on the plate interface, or were intraplate earthquakes. On September 29, 2009, one of the largest normal fault (outer rise) earthquakes ever recorded (M8.1) occurred south of Samoa, 40 km east of the Tonga trench, generating a tsunami that killed at least 180 people.

Across the North Fiji Basin and to the west of the Vanuatu Islands, the Australia plate again subducts eastwards beneath the Pacific, at the North New Hebrides trench. At the southern end of this trench, east of the Loyalty Islands, the plate boundary curves east into an oceanic transform-like structure analogous to the one north of Tonga.

Australia-Pacific convergence rates increase northward from 80 to 90 mm/yr along the North New Hebrides trench, but the Australia plate consumption rate is increased by extension in the back arc and in the North Fiji Basin. Back arc spreading occurs at a rate of 50 mm/yr along most of the subduction zone, except near ~15°S, where the D'Entrecasteaux ridge intersects the trench and causes localized compression of 50 mm/yr in the back arc. Therefore, the Australia plate subduction velocity ranges from 120 mm/yr at the southern end of the North New Hebrides trench, to 40 mm/yr at the D'Entrecasteaux ridge-trench intersection, to 170 mm/yr at the northern end of the trench.

Large earthquakes are common along the North New Hebrides trench and have mechanisms associated with subduction tectonics, though occasional strike slip earthquakes occur near the subduction of the D'Entrecasteaux ridge. Within the subduction zone 34 M7.5+ earthquakes have been recorded since 1900. On October 7, 2009, a large interplate thrust fault earthquake (M7.6) in the northern North New Hebrides subduction zone was followed 15 minutes later by an even larger interplate event (M7.8) 60 km to the north. It is likely that the first event triggered the second of the so-called earthquake "doublet".

More information on regional seismicity and tectonics


MASS ANIMAL DIE-OFFS: Disaster Precursors And Warnings From Mother Nature – The Latest Incidents Of Strange Animal Behavior, Migratory Patterns, Attacks, Deaths, And Appearance Of Rare Creatures!

April 29, 2015 - EARTH - The following constitutes the latest reports of unusual and symbolic animal behavior, mass die-offs, beaching and stranding of mammals, and the appearance of rare creatures.

More than 20 whales beach in Murdeira, Cape Verde

Beached whale at Murdeira, Cape Verde

Teams of biologists, environmentalists are already on Jorge Fonseca beach where they seek at all costs to save the life of the sea mammals and bring them back to the open sea.

Some vessels also already in place to support the rescue.

WATCH: More than 20 whales beach in Murdeira, Cape Verde.

Experts on site frantically go forward because the main concern is to minimize the environmental tragedy and try to save the whales. At least twenty-three cases have been counted already. It is not yet possible to advance the causes but we know that we are in the time of year that this phenomenon tends to happen.

Ocean Press is already on the site and will continue to monitor on location this news, updating it soon with more information. - Ocean Press.

Global decline of large herbivores could lead to an 'empty landscape'

This is a mountain zebra, Equus zebra.  © Halska Hrabar

The decline of the world's large herbivores, especially in Africa and parts of Asia, is raising the specter of an "empty landscape" in some of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet, according to a newly published study.

Many populations of animals such as rhinoceroses, zebras, camels, elephants and tapirs are diminishing or threatened with extinction in grasslands, savannahs, deserts and forests, scientists say.

An international team of wildlife ecologists led by William Ripple, Oregon State University distinguished professor in the College of Forestry, conducted a comprehensive analysis of data on the world's largest herbivores (more than 100 kilograms, or 220 pounds, on average), including endangerment status, key threats and ecological consequences of population decline. They published their observations in Science Advances, the open-access online journal of Science magazine.

The authors focused on 74 large herbivore species -- animals that subsist on vegetation -- and concluded that "without radical intervention, large herbivores (and many smaller ones) will continue to disappear from numerous regions with enormous ecological, social, and economic costs." Ripple initiated the study after conducting a global analysis of large-carnivore decline, which goes hand-in-hand, he said, with the loss of their herbivore prey.

"I expected that habitat change would be the main factor causing the endangerment of large herbivores," Ripple said. "But surprisingly, the results show that the two main factors in herbivore declines are hunting by humans and habitat change. They are twin threats."

The scientists refer to an analysis of the decline of animals in tropical forests published in the journal BioScience in 1992. The author, Kent H. Redford, then a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Florida, first used the term "empty forest." While soaring trees and other vegetation may exist, he wrote, the loss of forest fauna posed a long-term threat to those ecosystems.

Ripple and his colleagues went a step further. "Our analysis shows that it goes well beyond forest landscapes," he said, "to savannahs and grasslands and deserts. So we coin a new term, the empty landscape." As a group, terrestrial herbivores encompass about 4,000 known species and live in many types of ecosystems on every continent except Antarctica.

The highest numbers of threatened large herbivores live in developing countries, especially Southeast Asia, India and Africa, the scientists report. Only one endangered large herbivore lives in Europe (the European bison), and none are in North America, which, the authors add, has "already lost most of its large mammals" through prehistoric hunting and habitat changes.

The authors note that 25 of the largest wild herbivores now occupy an average of only 19 percent of their historical ranges. Competition from livestock production, which has tripled globally since 1980, has reduced herbivore access to land, forage and water and raised disease transmission risks, they add.

Meanwhile, herbivore hunting occurs for two major purposes, the authors note: meat consumption and the global trade in animal parts. An estimated 1 billion humans subsist on wild meat, they write.

"The market for medicinal uses can be very strong for some body parts, such as rhino horn," said Ripple. "Horn sells for more by weight than gold, diamonds or cocaine." Africa's western black rhinoceros was declared extinct in 2011.

Co-author Taal Levi, an assistant professor in Oregon State's Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, said the causes of the decline of some large herbivores "are difficult to remedy in a world with increasing human populations and consumption."

"But it's inconceivable that we allow demand for horns and tusks to drive the extirpation of large herbivores from otherwise suitable habitat," Levi said. "We need to intensify the reduction of demand for such items."

The loss of large herbivores suggests that other parts of wild ecosystems will diminish, the authors write. The likely consequences include: reduction in food for large carnivores such as lions and tigers; diminished seed dispersal for plants; more frequent and intense wildfires; slower cycling of nutrients from vegetation to the soil; changes in habitat for smaller animals including fish, birds and amphibians.

"We hope this report increases appreciation for the importance of large herbivores in these ecosystems," said Ripple. "And we hope that policymakers take action to conserve these species."

To understand the consequences of large herbivore decline, the authors call for a coordinated research effort focusing on threatened species in developing countries. In addition, solutions to the decline of large herbivores need to involve local people. "It is essential that local people be involved in and benefit from the management of protected areas," they write. "Local community participation in the management of protected areas is highly correlated with protected area policy compliance."

Journal Reference:

William J. Ripple, Thomas M. Newsome, Christopher Wolf, Rodolfo Dirzo, Kristoffer T. Everatt, Mauro Galetti, Matt W. Hayward, Graham I. H. Kerley, Taal Levi, Peter A. Lindsey, David W. Macdonald, Yadvinder Malhi, Luke E. Painter, Christopher J. Sandom, John Terborgh, Blaire Van Valkenburgh. Collapse of the world's largest herbivores. Science Advances, May 2015

- Science Daily.

Arctic snowy owl seen in North Clare, Ireland during spring

Snowy Owl. © John Murphy

A Snowy Owl has been recorded in North Clare, just the fourth such sighting of the bird in Clare during the past 100 years.

The bird was sighted on Sunday in the Gleninagh Mountain area, located a few miles northwest of Ballyvaughan along the North Clare coastline.

A Snowy Owl was recorded in the same area in late May 2014. Previous sightings occurred in Mount Callan in 2010 and at Maghera in East Clare in 1907.

Clare Birdwatching Chairperson, John Murphy of Murfs Wildlife commented: "It appears that the bird is female due to the extensive black barring on the wings and body. Our initial concern was that it was an escaped bird as sightings of Snow Owls are extremely rare in Clare. Our first port of call was to check with Aillwee Cave Bird Of Prey Centre but they confirmed that they had no such bird at their site."

The European population of Snowy Owls is currently evaluated as 'Rare' due to its small breeding population of less than 10,000 pairs. It is a rare winter visitor to Ireland, mainly in the northwest of the country.

The bird does not breed in Ireland with the majority of the European population breeding in Scandinavia and Russia. - The Clare Herald.

2 people killed by elephants within 3 weeks in Botswana

Elephant attack

Police in Kasane have confirmed that yet another life has been lost to an elephant attack in Chobe, barely three weeks after another incident.

A 68-year-old man from Kazungula was allegedly killed by an elephant by the road leading to the Zimbabwean border.

Station commander for Kasane police, Superintendent Silton Fidzani confirmed the incident, which he said took place on Tuesday (April 21) at around 2:30pm.

According to an eye witness, two men were digging some trees by the side of the road when a herd of elephants came towards them with one elephant in particular charging at them.

"One of the men managed to escape while the elephant caught up with the victim who was later confirmed dead at Kasane Primary Hospital," he said.

This was the second death caused by elephants this month alone as on April 2, another incident was reported in which a 78-year-old man was killed by an elephant along the Kazungula-Nata road.

Supt Fidzani cautioned people to be vigilant at all times, especially in areas that are considered wildlife corridors. - All Africa.

Man fights off wild leopard with only a stick in Indore, India

This is the moment a fearless forest ward armed only with a stick fought off a wild leopard in central India.

In the amazing encounter that occurred in the city of Indore, Madhya Pradesh, the man is seen confronting the big cat in an attempt to stop it from attacking local residents.

After a short face-off, the leopard launches itself at the forest ward with its claws raised and its mouth open.

WATCH: Man fights off leopard.

The ward then manages to strike the big cat on the head twice before it strikes again, dragging the ward to the floor.

Astonished bystanders can be heard screaming as the leopard stands at the feet of the seemingly doomed man.

Despite being injured on the floor and unable to move, the ward continues to wave the stick and after a few seconds the animal runs off.

According to local media, the man did not suffer any serious injuries as a result of his death-defying encounter.

The residents of Indore and its surrounding areas are used to living in close quarters with leopards.

Last December, a leopard was filmed by CCTV cameras as it travelled through the city at night terrorising residents.

While in September 2014, in the nearby area of Alirajpur a nine-year-old girl and six-year-old boy were killed in a spate of leopard attacks, which saw nine people die in a two-month period.- The Independent.

25 injured as stray dogs go on biting spree in Vijayawada, India

Injured by dogs

Stray dogs in and around city went on a biting spree on Monday and around 25 people fell victim to the canine attack. The casualty ward of the Government General Hospital here was choked with dog bite victims and the doctors there had their hands full administering anti-rabies vaccine to them.

A pack of stray dogs went on the rampage and attacked people in Sanatnagar and Kannur on the city outskirts. As many as nine persons including five children were hurt in these places.

Enraged over the dog menace, residents of the area beat a dog to death. In Payakapuram, three persons were bitten by a street dog. There were other sporadic incidents of dog bites reported from other parts of the city and suburbs.

"Since the morning we have seen around 25 dog bite cases and we have given anti-rabies vaccine to them and there were no severe injuries. We have sufficient number of vaccines and required medicines to treat the victims," said GGH Superintendent U Surya Kumari. - The New Indian Express.

Elephant tramples traditional doctor to death in Zambia

A trip to gather wild plants in Kazungula forest turned into a nightmare when a 68-year-old traditional doctor was trampled to death by an elephant, on Tuesday.

The elephant reportedly charged at the man, who was in the company of his 50-year-old friend while the two were digging for healing plants. The latter man managed to escape and flee for safety, while the traditional doctor failed to run away.

News of the traditional healer's death was trending on online social media platforms like Facebook, as he was well known in the North West district, for his divine healing gift.

Kasane police station commander, Superintendent Silton Fidzani said that the traditional doctor who hailed from Parakarungu within the Chobe District, but was stationed in Kasane met his demise at around 14:30 hours on Tuesday.

Fidzani noted that the case brings to two, those of human deaths caused by elephants this month. Still in Kazungula, an elephant killed a 78-year-old man on April 2, 2015.

"The man was discovered by a passerby who reported to the police, who in turn took him to Kasane Primary hospital where he was certified dead," said Fidzani.

He advised members of the public in Chobe to be careful when accessing the thickets because they are infested with wild and dangerous animals. - Mmegi.

Harsh winter kills 29% of blue crabs in Chesapeake Bay

A bushel of "Number 1" male blue crabs, the largest crabs that the
watermen sell.  © Alyssa A. Botelho/The Washington Post
For the second straight year, a harsh winter killed more than a quarter of adult blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay.

But a baywide survey of the crab population released Monday said there was encouraging news in spite of the blow. The overall population of the beleaguered crustacean climbed modestly from a catastrophic low last year.

The yearly winter dredge survey conducted by Virginia and Maryland marine scientists estimates that 411 million crabs are in the main stem of the bay and its tributaries, a 38 percent increase from last year's critically low population.

Officials at Virginia's Marine Resources Commission greeted the news as a positive sign but said it's probably not enough to lift strict limits on the numbers of blue crabs that can be commercially fished.

"This is a step in the right direction, but we are not out of the woods," said Virginia Marine Resources Commissioner John M.R. Bull. Calling the gains modest, Bull said the state will continue to cautiously manage its crab stock. "More work needs to be done to boost us above modest abundance levels."

To recover, bay blue crabs need more breeding-age females, and by the dredge survey's count there are a few more. Their numbers increased from a number that meant the stock was depleted, 68.5 million in 2014, to 101 million this year.

The Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee ruled that a female population below 70 million is depleted and in danger of collapse, and any number below 215 million is unhealthy for the overall population.

The bay's spawning-age female stock has surpassed the healthy threshold only once in the past decade, and only twice in the past 15 years.

Each year females embark on an epic downstream trek baywide after mating in spring and fall to release sacks of eggs where the bay's fresh water meets the salty Atlantic Ocean in Virginia. They dodge commercial crabbers and predators through nearly the entire route.

Like crabs throughout the bay, they bury themselves in mud and dirt in an attempt to survive winter. Blue crabs are a tropical species that originated in the Caribbean Sea and migrated south as far as Argentina and north to the Chesapeake Bay and beyond. They are established as far north as Massachusetts but are sensitive to cold.

Last year, 28 percent died over the winter. This year's winter was worse, killing 29 percent.
Maryland and Virginia conduct the dredge survey at 1,500 sites in the bay watershed during the overwintering period, December through March.

Females that manage to survive release their eggs in spring and return to various rivers and creeks upstream. Microscopic hatchlings spend their early lives at the mouth of the Atlantic before starting a deadly trek upstream in fall, whenmost are eaten by predators, including adult crabs.

Maryland and Virginia have two options that will likely hurt watermen who depend on the commercial crab fishery: continue to conserve females by reducing the number that can be taken in the March-to-November open crab fishery, and continue to conserve juveniles in the hopes that they reproduce in higher numbers in 2016.

This year's spawning female population is still well below the level of 160 million to 215 million that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says is needed to lift the overall population to its estimated strength of 828 million in 1991.

Juvenile crabs jumped from 199 million to 269 million, a 35 percent increase, and now comprise the bulk of the crab stock.

Crab populations naturally go up and down, but the number taken at harvest has an effect. The overall population reached 828 million in 1991, but dove to 367 million the next year after watermen harvested 90 million pounds.

History repeated itself a few years later in 1997, when watermen caught 77 million pounds after the stock rebounded to 680 million. The next year, the population dropped by 327 million.

A 21-year high of 765 million was reached in two years ago, then plopped to 300 million after watermen removed 56 million pounds.

Management is key, said Rom Lipcius, a Virginia Institute of Marine Science researcher who participates in the annual survey. "It's likely the collective management actions since 2008 enhanced the population's resilience."

Without it, Lipcius said, "The winter's impact on the crab stock could have been much worse." - Washington Post.

Pet monkey enters neighbourhood houses and attacks children in Nigeria

The three children who suffered serious injuries following an unexpected attack by a monkey in Illado, Ikorodu, Lagos, are receiving treatment at the Shallom Hospital in the area, the Police in Lagos said on Thursday.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the children, attacked on Tuesday, are eight-year-old girl, Funmilayo Gbadegeshin, two siblings Roda and Emmanuel Alombo.

Eyewitnesses told NAN that the monkey is owned by one Mrs Daniel, popularly known as "Iya Ibeji' who also resides in Illado also.

Mr Babatunde Oyesola, one of the residents, who said he witnessed the incident, told NAN that the monkey left the owner's house and went into the Gbadegeshin's home.

It attacked Funmilayo right in the parents' home as she just returned from school.

He added that after the she was rescued and was rushed to a nearby hospital the monkey moved to another house belonging to Mr Alombo to attack Roda and Emmanuel.

The children had just returned from school also.

Oyesola said that neighbours on hearing the shout of the girl, felt she was being scolded by her older sister.

"The incident happened at about 4.30 p.m. when the children had just returned from school.

"I heard Funmilayo shouting and crying, so, I felt her sister was beating her for something she did, but when the cry did not stop, I decided to check what was happening myself.

"When I got there, I saw blood all over the place and saw a monkey jumping out from the window but because of what I saw, I had to save the girl first.

"We noticed that the vein on her right hand has been cut off and the blood was seriously rushing out of it,'' he said.

Oyesola added that while Funmilayo was being attended to in the hospital, other children who were attacked by the monkey too were rushed in.

Another eyewitness, who pleaded anonymity, said the monkey had been attacking people in the area and that necessary precautions had not been taken by the owner.

The victim's father, Mr Mojeed Gbadegeshin, who was away when the incident occurred, said he was called from work that the monkey had attacked his daughter.

"When I got to the hospital, I met a crowd and I was asked to go inside and see the state the monkey left my daughter.

"Afterwards the owner of the monkey came without uttering a word of sympathy and she only left with the monkey,'' he said.

Gbadegeshin said that a report was made by well-wishers in the area to Igbogbo Barracks Police Division.

The police were said to have arrested the monkey and its owner.

Confirming the arrest, the Lagos State Police Command's spokesman, DSP Kenneth Nwosu, said the owner and the monkey were already in custody.

"One of the children was badly injured and the other two were mildly injured but they are currently being treated.

"Also, necessary precautions will be taken to check such attacks by animals reared by people in communities.

"Necessary tests will be carried out on the children to ensure that the monkey is a healthy animal and that the children are free from any form of disease,'' he said. - Leadership.

Second dead dolphin washes ashore in a week in Mumbai, India

While BMC had dumped the dead mammal, found last week, in the Deonar dumping yard, they took nearly 15 hours to clear the body found on Monday; officials said the body was stuck between the rocks and was difficult to remove

More people, perhaps, have seen dolphins in the city in the past week or so, than they might've seen in their entire lifetime. Another dead dolphin washed ashore Marine Drive on Monday, and this time, the civic body took nearly 15 hours to lift its body from the rocks.

The five-foot creature was spotted at 8 pm, on the rocks opposite the NCPA building. Locals informed the authorities and soon, officials from the Solid Waste Management of the A ward and the Marine Drive police reached the spot.

Last week, civic officials had displayed much alacrity and dumped a dead dolphin's body in the Deonar dump yard a couple of hours after it was found ('BMC dumps dead dolphin in trash', April 22), without even informing the forest department (FD) - as is required by law.

This time, however, police made sure they informed the forest department of the incident. R B Shahu, an officer from the Thane FD, said, "We received a text message from the BMC at 10.55 pm. Police and the BMC were present at the spot.

The dolphin was taken to Bombay Veterinary College for a post-mortem and then cremated yesterday

Mid-Day report on April 22

A dumper and JCB vehicle were called in around 12 am on Tuesday. But they couldn't manage to remove the body, since it had gotten stuck between the rocks." The fire brigade, too, was present on the scene. Attempts made by forest department officials to extract the body failed.

Naresh Rathod, assistant head supervisor, Solid Waste Management department, said, "The body was stuck between the rocks. We tried to push the body with the help of bamboos, after which we managed to lift it up at 10.30 am on Tuesday."

The corpse was taken to the Bombay Veterinary College in Vile Parle for an autopsy, and later cremated. Anil Todarmal, range forest officer, Thane FD, said the post-mortem has been conducted and the report would be out on Wednesday. - Mid-Day.

Man trampled to death by elephant in Nilgiris, India

K. Balan (47) of Bokkapuram was killed by an elephant late on Thursday, when he along with a few other people were collecting firewood in the nearby forest of The Nilgiris North division.

The group was chased by the elephant.

While the rest managed to flee to safety, Balan went missing. On Friday, Balan's body was found at Nelson estate near Bokkapuram. On behalf of the State Government,

Forest Department officials gave away the first instalment solatium of Rs. 25,000 to his family.

The body was sent to Gudalur Government Hospital for post-mortem examination. - The Hindu.

Woman killed by shark off Maui, Hawaii

A Hawaii woman was killed in an apparent shark attack off the coast of Maui on Wednesday morning, prompting officials to close off beaches and a section of the ocean that includes a popular surfing spot.

Snorkelers near the Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve on the southwest coast of the island found the woman's body floating face-down in the water just before 9 a.m., and the injuries are consistent with a shark attack, Maui County government said in a statement.

The woman was only identified as a 65-year-old resident of Kihei, up the coast about 12 miles from where her body was found. Authorities said she was snorkeling with two friends when they became separated, and she was alone when the body was discovered.

Beaches and the ocean from the reserve to Makena State Park to the north, including a surf spot called "The Dumps" were closed until at least noon Thursday, the Department of Land and Natural Resources said.

There have only been two other shark attacks in all of Hawaii so far this year, according to the DLNR, which tracks shark attacks. Neither was fatal.

Until Wednesday, there had been only three confirmed fatal shark attacks in Hawaii waters since 1995, but all three of those occurred off the coast of Maui - two in the past 16 months, DLNR records said.

WATCH: Shark kills snorkeling woman in Maui.

Fisherman Patrick Brinley was killed by an unknown species of shark while fishing from a kayak off the coast of Makena on Dec. 2, 2013, and Jana Lutteropp, a German tourist, died after a shark bit off her arm while she was snorkeling in Makena on Aug. 14, 2013, according to state records.

A surfer also died in a 2004 shark attack off the coast of Maui, according to state records.  - NBC.

Migrating birds still delayed by cooler than normal weather in Canada

A group of Tree Swallows was spotted at Brewer Pond. During cool spells many
swallows concentrate in sheltered areas along rivers, ponds and creeks feeding
on insects.  © Judith Gustafsson / Ottawa Citizen
The anticipation of spring migrants pouring into Canada's Capital is still just a dream. The continuing cool weather last week slowed north bound migration yet again but with warmer temperatures this past week, truly the dream will slowly become a reality.

How cool is it?

On a recent trip to Algonquin Park on April 28, some lakes were still partially frozen and snow drifts were visible in sheltered areas. What we need is a good dose of southern air.

This past week a few new arrivals were found making their way north in spite of the weather including Ovenbird, Palm Warbler, and Northern Waterthrush. A Blue-gray Gnatcher was seen in the Pakenham area on April 26.

This species is a rare but regular migrant to the Ottawa-Gatineau district and has occasionally bred. Most birding areas in Eastern Ontario including migration hot spots such as Presqu'ile Provincial Park and Prince Edward Point have had little movement of birds but hopefully the flood gates will be opening soon with a nice selection of migrants.

Even Point Pelee National Park, internationally renowned for spring birding is having a slow start, but everything can change in a heartbeat.

During the month of May up to 24 species of warblers pass through the Ottawa-Gatineau district and another 10 species are possible in other areas of Eastern Ontario. - Ottawa Citizen.

Herd of elephants trample woman to death in Bangladesh

A herd of 16 elephants trampled a woman on a hill of Satkania upazila in Chittagong this afternoon.

"The elephants destroyed a woman's house in the forest, eventually killing her," said Asheem Mollick, a wildlife inspector of Department of Forests.

The deceased has been identified as Ambia Khatun, 50.

Earlier in the day, the elephants were travelling from one hill to another, through the elephant pass.

On their way, they tampered with a recently built electric pole which finally killed a female aged elephant.

The rest of the elephants were still wandering in the forest.  - The Daily Star.