Europe nature

Articles in ‘Europe nature’

Golden eagles hunt reindeer

October 20th, 2009 Remarkable footage by a BBC camera crew in Northern Finland of what has long been believed by the Sami people and by forensic evidence: golden eagles hunt reindeer calves. Watching it I was surprised, naively I guess, that the adult reindeer didn’t come to the calf’s rescue. BBC

Loss of lions in Kenya blamed on policy

September 18th, 2009

Researchers from the Kenya Wildlife Service have reported that Kenya is losing about 100 lions each year, and that there are and now just 2,000 lions left in the country. Some observers, perhaps somewhat alarmist, have believe lions might be extinct in the next 10 to 20 years. The cause of the rapid decline of the country’s lion population is conflict with people. They are a threat to people’s lives and livelihoods, and locals retaliate by killing lions, often poisoning them with by a pesticide called Furadan. But this excellent article believes the root cause of these conflicts lies linked to Kenya’s wildlife conservation policies.

Although lions are costly to local communities and private landholders especially those who raise livestock, these renowned predators are very valuable economic assets.

Economists have estimated the value of a single male lion in Amboseli National Park in relation to tourism activities at over $500,000 during the course of the animal’s lifetime. More recent estimates suggest that Kenya’s remaining lions may be worth over $30 million annually.

Certainly, lions are a foundation of a national tourism industry that accounts for up to 10 per cent of Kenya’s GDP.

The fact that lions support flows of revenue and economic activity, yet are rapidly disappearing from Kenyan landscapes represents what economists call a ‘market failure’.

The marketplace, as currently structured, does not translate lions’ economic value into incentives for their production–hence their widespread decline.

At the root of this market failure is the reality that the beneficiaries of lions– mainly the government and private companies such as hotels, airlines, and safari outfitters–do not control the production or maintenance of lion populations.

Rather, the status of lion populations is effectively determined by the rural landholders and communities who live alongside lions.

Those landholders, however, are not the principal beneficiaries of the tourism industry and do not capture most of the revenue that lions generate. As a result, local people generally have incentives to exterminate lions rather than producing or conserving them.

More here

Venomous snakes of Europe

September 4th, 2009

Europe does not have the range or potency of the venomous snakes of other continents, but there are still a number of species which can cause human deaths. I’ve not included all the numerous species occurring in Russia and Turkey. This article here claims 30,000 people are bitten by snakes every year in Europe but these are responsible for only 30 fatalities. The only truly venomous snakes in Europe all belong to the Viper family

  • Vipera ammodytes – Nose-horned viper. Occurs in south-eastern Europe, from Hungary and Austria to Italy, Romania, former Yugoslavia, and northern Albania.
  • Vipera aspis – Asp viper. south-western Europe: northeastern Spain, Andorra, most of France- inckuding in the Ile de Re and Oleron islands -, Monaco, Italy, the islands of Elba, Montecristo and Sicily, San Marino, Switzerland; northwestern,  Slovenia and extreme southwestern Germany
  • Vipera barani – Turkish viper
  • Vipera berus – European viper or the adder – extends from Western Britain all the way to the Pacific coast of Russia.
  • Vipera latastei – Lataste’s viper, snub-nosed viper – Iberian Peninsula  and northwestern Africa-
  • Vipera seoanei – Seoane’s viper. Extreme southwestern France and Cantabrian mountains in Spain
  • Vipera ursinii – Ursini’s Viper. South-eastern France, Central Italy, western Balkans, northern Greece, Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, and Germany.
  • Akistrodon halys- Pallas’ Viper. Southeastern Europe
  • Vipera nikolskii – Nikolsky’s Adder or Forest-steppe Adder. Endemic to central Ukraine.
  • Macrovipera schweizeri – Milos viper Macrovipera schweizeri- limited to the Greek islands of Milos, Kimolos, Polyaigos, and Sifnos.
  • Malpolon monspessulanus – Montpellier snake – Not a viper and unlikely to inject venom as fangs are at the back


European wildlife news 1

September 2nd, 2009
  • Fin whales have not returned this year to the Bay of Biscay in as many numbers as usual, raising concerns over the state of the fish stocks they feed on, and the health of this important marine ecosystem. Here
  • Sweden has introduced a shoot to kill and cull campaign in an attempt to reduce the number of vehicle accidents and damage to forests due to the increasing moose population in the country.  42 people have been killed and almost 2,000 people have been injured in road collisions involving the animals over the past five years. Here
  • Thousands of birds have died as a result of one of Norway’s worst oil disasters which happened 100 miles south of Norway’s capital city, Oslo, after an oil tanker ran aground in bad weather. Birdwatch
  • France faces an invasion of Chinese hornets that could hasten the decline of the honeybee population. BBC

European bisons genetically on the edge

August 4th, 2009 Despite the numbers of wild European bison rising in the last 50 years, the species remains extremely vulnerable to extinction. One of the two remaining wild herds of pure bred European bison is now formed by 800 individuals but in terms of genetic diversity it is down to an effective population size of just 25. European bisons survive in the wild in just two herds, each living on either side of the Bialowieza forest which straddles Belarus and Poland. BBC

Deaths from ticks in Turkey

July 23rd, 2009 An outbreak of bites by ticks in Turkey has led to the death of 31 people from Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever so far this year. The Turkish authorities are considering releasing partridges which feed on the ticks to control the disease. (Público). 3128 Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever cases with 5% of case-fatality rate have been reported by the Ministry of Health of Turkey between 2002-2008. Wikipedia

Tracking brown bears in Slovakia

July 22nd, 2009

Account of tracking brown bears in Slovakia’s High Tatras. The High Tatras are the highest part of the Carpathian mountain range. Current estimates reckon there are about 800 brown bears in the High Tatras. Thanks to enlightened protection policies in the 1930s and the creation of Tatra national park in 1948, the bears here have survived, while in the rest of Europe the were decimated by hunting. Read about this guided tour in the Guardian