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Get in touch EDITORIAL Tel 0117 314 7366 Email Post BBC Wildlife Magazine, Immediate Media Company, 2nd Floor, Tower House, Fairfax Street, Bristol BS1 3BN

Nick Upton

Welcome... When I read about our changing environment, I often think about a game of pick-up sticks. If it’s played properly the sticks will be in a tight jumble and removing just one stick without disturbing any of the others is difficult, if not impossible. Just like taking one animal out of a complex and interwoven ecosystem cannot fail to disturb so many others. Sadly, in a lot of cases, it’s only when the ‘others’ are human beings that anything’s done

about it. Thankfully, there are champions who see what a species’ decline could lead to and attempt to do something before it’s too late. That’s the way things are with many of the animals this issue – jaguars in Brazil (p20), short-haired bumblebees in the UK (p66), African elephants (p72) and European vultures (p38) – all of them vital to a hierarchy of living things in their habitats, and all the subjects of efforts to keep them thriving in the modern world. Hurrah for all those pick-up sticks reassemblers! Sheena Harvey Editor

Contributors ALLISON DEVLIN Allison is studying the ecology and behaviour of jaguars in the Brazilian Pantanal: “When the chesty sound of a jaguar’s bellow echoes through the night, the forest becomes deathly silent.” See p20

September 2016

HELEN BABBS Author Helen has written about the return of the shorthaired bumblebee. “This reintroduction story isn’t just about bringing back a lost bee,” she says. “It’s about restoring an entire ecosystem.” See p66

JO PRICE Staff ff writer Jo visited the Save the Elephants centre in Kenya. She says, “Collaring and tracking elephants is revealing fascinating information about the movements of these African giants.” See p72

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ON THE COVER: Jaguar: João Marcos Rosa; bee: Nick Upton; elephant: Denis-Huot/NPL; whale: Tony Wu/NPL; vulture: Javier Castro/Getty

BBC Wildlife


CONTENTS September 2016




Thrilling encounters with some of the largest jaguars in the world




20 Brazil’s jaguar power


Boom in Britain Roe deer are Packham’s pick of the month

Following every move of the Pantanal’s big cats

September highlights

30 The end of extinction?

Greenshanks, rowan and ivy bees are among this month’s species to spot


Nature table Ammonite biology Plus What tree rings reveal about the speed of growth


Wild events Head to RSPB Dungeness to see sand martins

14 Latest science research Capuchins using tools Plus Treasure in amber, mating diving beetles and lions and the lunar cycle



BBC Wildlife

How lab techniques could recreate long gone species

36 Fighting back

38 Vulture culture How the Spanish people are bringing populations back from the brink

57 Competition Win a Sri Lankan holiday

58 Meeting Moby Dick

Why cuckoos don’t have it all their own way

Sperm whale secrets

66 What’s the buzz? The return of the shorthaired bumblebee

72 Spying on elephants Fascinating insights into the behaviour of African giants

80 The mighty oak A tree that supports a wealth of biodiversity

were named 111 Ammonites after a Greek god

45 Hen Harrier Action plan Why the RSPB has pulled out of the project

46 Vision for nature Young Britons outline their hopes for the future

47 My agenda A wildlife photographer on teaching children to take photos of nature

50 Conservation insight Protected areas are helping to save the Audouin’s gull

53 Mark Carwardine Find out more about the The Ramsar Convention

54 Analysis The advantages of being a naturalist on the spectrum

September 2016

58 The natural mystery of the sperm whale


Amazing photos of the oak tree and the wildlife it supports


Real-time monitoring of African elephants in Kenya is helping to protect them against poachers

EDITORIAL Editor Sheena Harvey Features Editor Ben Hoare Environment Editor James Fair Section Editor Sarah McPherson Production Editor Seth Burgess Art Editor Richard Eccleston Designer Benedict Blyth Picture Editor Tom Gilks Staff Writer Jo Price ADVERTISING Group Ad Manager Tom Drew 0117 933 8043 Ad Manager Neil Lloyd 0117 300 8276 Brand Sales Executive Sophie Mills-Thomas 0117 314 8816 Junior Brand Sales Executive Tara Hennell 0117 314 7357 Senior Classified Executive Dan Granville 0117 314 7397 INSERTS Laurence Robertson 00353 876 902208 MARKETING Subscriptions Director Jacky Perales-Morris Digital Marketing Manager Mark Summerton Senior Direct Marketing Executive Corrina Persad Press and PR Manager Carolyn Wray LICENSING & SYNDICATION Rights Manager Emma Brunt 0117 314 8782; Director of Licensing & Syndication Tim Hudson PRODUCTION Ad Co-ordinator Sophie Loats Ad Designer Rachel Shircore Production Director Sarah Powell Production Co-ordinator Lily Owens-Crossman IMMEDIATE MEDIA COMPANY BRISTOL LTD Publisher Marie Davies Publishing Assistant Rosa Sherwood Managing Director Andy Marshall Chaiirman Stephen Alexander Depu uty Chairman Peter Phippen CEO Tom Bureau

Every month th 38 The Spanish are Jaguar: Nick Garbutt; whales: Tony Wu/; jay: Solvin Zankl/; elephants: James Warwick/natureinstock/; vulture: Bill Baston/FLPA; illustration by Holly Exley


Chris Packham

making room for vultures

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Book reviews Interview with TV presenter Simon King g


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100 Q&A ‘Living fossils’, eagle ow wls in the UK and sealionss

108 Your feedback 110

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Tales from the bush

September 2016

BBC W Wildlife e provides trusted, independent travel advice and inform mation that has been gathered without fear or favour. We aim to o provide options that cover a range of budgets and reveal the po ositive and negative points of the locations we visit. The views v expressed in BBC Wildlife are those of the authors and not n necessarily those of the magazine or its publisher. The publisher, p editor and authors accept no responsibility in respect of any products, goods or services that may be ad dvertised or referred to in this issue or for any errors, omisssions, mis-statements or mistakes in any such adverrtisements or references. © Imm mediate Media Company Bristol Limited 2016. All rig ghts reserved. No part of BBC Wildlife e may be reproduced in any y form or by any means either wholly or in part without prior written permission of the publisher. Not to be resold, lent, hired out or otherwise disposed of by way of trade at more than the re ecommended retail price (subject to VAT in the Republic of Irelan nd) or in mutilated condition. Printe ed by William Gibbons Ltd.

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BBC Wildlife



Duy Anh Pham


This roe deer is a hind – you can tell from her lack of pedicles, the pair of bony protuberances from which antlers grow in males. Her beautiful clean coat indicates that she’s fairly young, though already adult-sized.


Age in minutes when a newborn roe deer takes its first steps. It may start trying plant food within 10 days, but suckles for up to three months.





o you see roe deer more often nowadays? If so, you’re not alone. The Breeding Bird Survey run by the British Trust for Ornithology, which also collects mammal records, shows that the UK’s roe deer population grew 53 per cent between 1996 and 2014. Provisional data from the Mammal Society’s National Mammal Atlas, due to be published in 2017, suggests that these herbivores are absent only from islands such as the Outer Hebrides. Unfortunately, the boom in numbers is having a negative impact on woodland ecology; some studies even implicate roe deer in the decline of several scarce birds, including nightingales and willow tits. Though widespread, roe deer like rolling countryside best. “A mosaic of wooded hills, valleys and farmland is ideal,” says the University of Hull’s Alastair Ward, an expert on the species. “Roe need cover, so tend to browse at field edges. In more open farmland, such as in East Yorkshire, they use ditches to move around.” Typically the deer are spotted singly or in small groups. “At this time of year you will often see a hind and her youngster, together with last year’s grown-up female offspring,” Alastair says. “Though a mother will kick male offspring out in late winter or early spring, she allows young females not yet of breeding age to stay with her for a second summer.” FIND OUT MORE Learn more about deer and other British mammals, and report your own sightings, at





SAFE E PASSAGE PASSAGE For waders, waders autumn comes early. Failed breeders return from the far north as early as July, followed by successful adults and juveniles, many passing along British coasts en route to the Mediterranean or Africa. The greenshank is one such passage migrant: in August and September birds from nesting grounds in the Arctic tundra and Scotland’s bogs mingle on our saltmarshes and estuaries. These are nervy waders, quick to take off with a ‘tchu tchu tchu’ alarm call, flashing a pure white rump and back. TOP TIP Find out how to identify greenshanks in a BTO video:


TRAILBLAZING TREES Rowan, or mountain ash, are ‘pioneer trees’: they are among the first to colonise new areas, spread in the droppings of mammals or birds. Laden with scarlet berries, they look their best now – especially when sprouting from a cliff, boulder or scree slope, out of reach of sheep and red deer. They “know how to get blood out of a stone,” as Scottish writer Jim Crumley puts it in his new book k The Nature of Autumn. GET INVOLVED Record sightings of rowan berries at


The essential wildlife events to enjoy this month, compiled by Ben Hoare.


RAZZLE-DAZZLE Greenshank: Laurie Campbell; badger: Tom Way; bee: Alex Hyde; cuckoopint: John Bebbington; moth: David Whitaker; rowan: Roger Key

Resplendent in pistachio-green, white and black, this moth is a real bobby-dazzler. Its intricate patterns – even its legs are alternately banded black and white – wouldn’t look amiss on a catwalk. Yet the purpose is not to impress but to hide, an example of disruptive coloration highly effective against lichen-clad bark. Despite its name, the moth is active at night: look for it this month or next at a lit window or moth trap. It feeds on berries and ivy flowers, and its caterpillar on oak trees. FIND OUT MORE Learn about Britain’s moths at


BBC Wildlife

September 2016





The ivy bee is among the last drinkers at the nectar bar. Its flight period – from early September until November – is unusually late for a bee and coincides with ivy blossoming. In fact the later in the year you see a ‘honeybee-like’ insect among ivy flowers, the more likely it is to be this one. Remarkably, it was not even recorded in mainland Britain until 2001 on the Dorset coast, yet has already spread through southern areas as far as Norfolk, Shropshire and Pembrokeshire. Though the species is a solitary bee – meaning females create their own nests, without workers – it can be highly social. Large numbers may swarm around ivy in sunny, sheltered spots. TOP TIP Help this bee and other late-flying insects

These curious, abnormal growths form when another organism interferes with a plant’s cells. The three shown here are created by tiny insects called gall wasps.

by y allowing g ivy y to ramble and flower.


Red-pea gall

FRUITS OF THE FOREST At this time of year you may notice purplespattered pavements, usually a sign that woodpigeons or starlings have been gorging on berries, and on woodland paths you’re likely to come across liberally seed-studded scats, showing that Brock has been helping himself too. In autumn a badger has to feed intensively to lay down fat for the coming winter, when foraging opportunities will be more limited. In areas with especially harsh winters, such as Scotland, the animal can weigh half as much again in late autumn as in summer. FIND OUT MORE A mine of information about badgers:


One of many galls found on oak trees, in this case on leaf unders sides. The wasps emerge in wiinter from fallen leaves.


TOXIC BEAUTY By September the glossy, V-shaped leaves of this strange wildflower have long since shrivelled, leaving tightly packed orange berry spikes. These look luscious among the leaf litter of a shady wood or hedgebank, but – in common with several other members of the family Araceae – are poisonous and can cause a burning sensation. The plant, also known as cuckoo-pint, has a reproduction system rare in the British Isles: in spring it produces heat and wafts a foul smell to attract tiny pollinating flies. FIND OUT MORE Discover more about native plants

Silk-button Silk b spangle gall MADE BY: NEUROTERUS NUMISMALIS

Also occurs on undersides of oak leaves, occasionally in large numbers. The wasps emerge in spring from leaves shed the previous autumn.


MADE BY: DIPLOLEPIS ROSAE Look for this striking gall on wild roses. Inside the feathery mass are many chambers, each with a wasp grub.

BBC Wildlife


Illustrations by Felicity Rose Cole

Robin’s pincushion




Visit one of our fossil-rich coasts to hunt for ammonites.

Uncovering the science of seasonal treasures.

Illustration by Holly Exley; warbler: Mike Lane; wood: John Bebbington

20 AMMONITE FOSSIL Fossil-hunting jaunts bring out the inner child in all of us, and ammonites are what we’re most likely to find. They are among the most plentiful fossils at many seaside locations, reflecting their dominance in prehistoric seas. Some rocks from 200–65 million years ago seem to comprise little else but their mineralised remains. As well as being phenomenally abundant, ammonites were also spectacularly diverse, with new forms arising so routinely that they’re used to date rocks and other fossils. But despite their familiarity, much about ammonite biology is mysterious. Ammonites were named for their resemblance to the curling horns of the Greek god Ammon – a version of Zeus borrowed from the Ancient





Garden warblers ‘see’ magnetism.

September 2016

Egyptian Amun, or Amun-Ra. There are straight and irregular ammonites too, but most are ‘planispiral’ with a shell laid down in flat whorls. The mature animal would have been small compared with the size of the shell, its body occupying only the largest and most recent chamber. The vacated older chambers filled with gas in much the same way as those of a cuttlefish bone (see Nature Table, July). By adding chambers as it grew, the ammonite ensured its flotation

Recent research suggests that molecules called cryptochromes in the retinas of migrating birds change their chemistry according to surrounding magnetic fields. The resulting state of ‘quantum entanglement’ – where spatially separate electrons influence one another – may form the basis of a chemical compass.

device kept pace with its body size. In fossil ammonites, each chamber is known as a camera, meaning ‘little room’. In most ammonite species, two forms are often found in close association – large female ‘macroconchs’ and small male ‘microconchs’ (females needed bigger physical reserves in order to produce eggs). Something else to look for nearby are the small fossils known as aptychi. Originally thought

to be tiny clam shells, these are now acknowledged to be ammonite body parts. Aptychi grew singly or in pairs close to the ammonite’s shell opening. They resemble the trapdoor-like operculum that closes the shell opening of some modern snails, but may have had more active purposes, such as stabilising swimming posture or serving as a rudimentary jaw. AMY-JANE BEER is a naturalist. Her book of fun facts Cool Nature is out now (Pavilion, £9.99).

GARDENWATCH Tree rings are a detailed woody record of a growing season. If you’re trimming a woody tree or shrub, look at its growth rings. If you’re cutting back a few years’ growth, the stems will comprise just juicy sapwood. This is the fibrous, porou us living plumbing that wicks fluids and nutrient up and down stems. New sapwood is laid down fast in spring and slowly in summer, creating g rings of different

density. In many species, as branches and trunks age, the older wood close to the core dries out, leaving only the tough cell walls made of the resilient polymers cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. lignin This heartwood is ess sentially dead. Th he proportion of sapwood o tto heartwood depends on how fast the tree is growing, the size g of its crown and o the e leaf area that is be eing serviced. BBC Wildlife




WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT RSPB Dungeness is a fascinating reserve to visit in September as birds flock here to roost and feed before they head back to Africa. This is the last time you’ll see large numbers of swallows and sand martins before next spring.

Look out for goosanders at RSPB Dungeness in the autumn.

season, followed by smew and goosanders (right) later on.

TOP WILDLIFE SPOT The visitor centre boasts a spectacular view over our largest lake where you can sit and watch sand martins catching insects.



Learn about moths and bats at Dungeness in the Dark at 7pm on 10 September. Tickets cost £10 for adults and £5 for children. Visit

Towards the end of September wildfowl numbers will start to increase, filling the lakes with hundreds of ducks and geese. We expect to see the first goldeneyes of the

We’re looking for volunteers to lead our new education programme next year. Find out more by calling 01797 320588.




Sept X


Help keep UK beaches clean and protect marine life by collecting litter and recording what you find. Your survey will help the work of the Marine Conservation Society. You can organise your own event or find one near you at the website below.


30 Sept 2017

10-11 Sept EVENT X




Explore the wonderful world of worms at this National Museum Cardiff exhibition. Walk inside the museum’s Wrigaloo to see life from a worm’s point of view, spot ragworms living in crab shells and discover how a bobbit worm is able to slice a fish in half.

10 Sept


This fun, free event takes place at the University of Derby and has naturalist Chris Packham as its special guest and speaker. The festival also includes talks, workshops and screenings.


BBC Wildlife


Improve your photographic skills by listening to inspirational talks by award-winning wildlife photographers at the Battleby Conference Centre, Perth. A weekend ticket costs £106.


Beach clean: MCS; otter: Laurie Campbell; serpulid worm: A Mackie/National Museum Wales; sculpture: Roger Davies; goosander: Ben Andrew/RSPB; Louise: RSPB



DAVID MACDONALD WHAT Conservation panel discussion WHEN 5pm on Saturday 17 September WHERE Royal Geographical Society

David Macdonald, Wildlife Conservation Research Unit director, will join a panel of experts to discuss a range of conservation issues including poaching and habitat loss at the Beyond by Steppes Travel festival. “It is important to raise awareness of the plight of different species and the issues facing conservationists,” he explains. Other panellists include Durrell Conservation Trust’s Andrew Terry, conservation biologist Amy Dickman, BBC Wildlife columnist Chris Packham and co-founder of Wilderness Safaris Colin Bell. Tickets cost £15 and must be booked in advance. Visit 29OiTRw for details. Beyond takes place on 17–18 September in South Kensington, London: September 2016


DISCOVERIES The latest in scientific research from all over the animal king kingdom. ngdom.


A tufted capuchin smashes open a cashew nut with a makeshift hammer.



Ben Cranke/Getty


umans and chimpanzees are not the only primates to use tools. South American capuchin monkeys have developed a sophisticated system for cracking nuts, and new research shows that they’ve been at it for hundreds, if not thousands of years – and suggests they might even have taught humans a trick or two. In 2004 the bearded capuchin became the first species of monkey documented to use tools in the wild, though the behaviour was already well known to local people. These intelligent little primates use stone hammers to crack open


BBC Wildlife

“It has probably been cashew nuts placed upon large, happening for several thousand flat rock anvils. Both tools are years, after some capuchin carefully selected for the job and species migrated to more open are carried or dragged to cashew areas where they could use stands, often from afar. the ground,” said Haslam’s Excavations of one such colleague Tiago Falótico. ‘cashew factory’ in Brazil’s Strikingly, the technology Serra da Capivara National Park seems to have changed little are now providing a tantalising over seven centuries – a period glimpse into the behaviour. that has seen remarkable Biologists and archaeologists, progress in human led by Michael Haslam culture. It might be of the University of DID YOU KNOW? the case, though, Oxford, have unearthed Q The stones used that the monkeys similar tool kits in by capuchins as hammers can weigh contributed to our deposits laid down at over 1kg, though the own successes. least 700 years ago. But monkeys themselves “This is an exciting, they suspect that the weigh less than 4kg. unexplored area of practice is much older.

scientific study that may even tell us about the possible influence of monkeys’ tool use on human behaviour,” said Haslam. “For example, cashew nuts are native to this area of Brazil, and it is possible that the first humans to arrive here learned about this unknown food through watching the monkeys’ industry.” So while some great apes have shown the capacity to take from human culture, added Falótico, this may be a rare example of the learning process flowing the other way. SOURCE Current Biology LINK

September 2016


A preserved wing plus a reconstruction of the adult bird (inset).

Beetles: David Bilton/Plymouth Unversity; amber: Xing et al./Nature Communications; illustration by Shenna Wang; eye: Liam Norris/Getty; gnat: The Royal Parks

SMOOT BEETLE LOVING A sexual arms race amo ong British diving beetles seems to be driving rapid chan nge. Hydroporus memnoniius females come in two forms. Scottish ones arre smooth and shiny, while south of the border they have a rough, pebble-dashed finish. Charles Darwin believed that the rougher a female’s texture, the easier it is for males to cling to her during mating. However, Plymouth University’s David Bilton said, “The rough surface is a way in which females make things harder for males and so exert greater control over mating.” Bilton found that as a result English males are developing more powerful foot suckers. This gives them an advantage when trying to mate with either type of female. And rough females outcompete smooth ones, as they can better resist unwanted sexual attention. Meanwhile the border between the two forms is creeping northwards. “The process may lead to the disappearance of thee smooth s form altogether,” g ” said Bil Bilton.


TREASURE IN AMBER Tiny wings discovered in 99-million-year-old amber are providing rare insights into the plumage of early birds. The fossils are exquisitely preserved, and include bones, skin and feathers – even pigmentation patterns. Being just a couple of centimetres long, they are probably hatchlings. The feathers, The feathers however, are are ‘adult’, strikingly not downy. similar to the adult feathers of modern birds, suggesting that the chicks hatched at an advanced stage of development.

The amber was excavated from a mine in Myanmar, then purchased at a market by palaeontologist Lida Xing of Beijing’s China University of Geosciences. “These specimens were being prepared for jewellery when Lida found them,” said Xing’s colleague Ryan McKellar of Canada’s Royal Saskatchewan Museum. “Lida realised that they were significant right away, but their full importance did not become clear until we had examined them in greater detail.”

SOURCE Nature Communications LINK


SOURCE Peer erJ LINK NK http://b

September 2016




Top to bottom: a ‘smooth’ and ‘rough’ female beetle and their wingcases.


Most organisms inherit two copies of each of their genes – one from each parent. Sometimes these two ‘alleles’ work together, but often one overrides the other. Human alleles for brown eyes override those for blue ones, for example. Because recessive alleles can ‘hide’ behind dominant ones, harmful recessives are rarely weeded out entirely by natural selection. This can be a problem in small, inbred populations, which increases the chances of two recessives coming together in the same individual (see Wildlife Updates, p17).

Two brown-eyed parents can have blue-eyed offspring.

Grzegorzekia G bu bushyae has so far only been found fo in wood odland.

WHAT IS IT? As insects go, fungus gnats are spectacularly unspectacular. But even the dowdiest of species have their own ecological roles to play. While it is too early for scientists to say much about the bushy gnat’s particular niche, they at least know how to distinguish it from its relatives: by using the shape of its genitals. WHERE IS IT? Discovered in Bushy Park, Teddington, London, the gnat would appear to be very scarce – only three specimens, all males, have been caught there. It has since turned up at a site in south-east France, and might turn out to have been introduced to the UK via imported plant material. SOURCE Entomologist’s Gazette LINK

BBC Wildlife Wil


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Mudskippers feed and interact with other mudskippers on land, ‘walking’ with their fins. Q EVOLUTION

FISH OUT OF WATER All terrestrial vertebrates owe their existence to that unlikely moment 350-odd million years ago when an ancestral species of fish hauled itself out of the water. But perhaps the real surprise is that it happened only once. “Intuitively, we might think that moving from an aquatic to terrestrial lifestyle is very hard to do – hence the cliché ‘a fish out of water’,” said Terry Ord of Australia’s University of New South Wales.

But his survey suggests otherwise. Thirty-three families of modern fish contain species capable of moving and breathing on land. Among blennies alone, amphibiousness has evolved on seven separate occasions. Why, then, haven’t any of these species that have adapted to a partially terrestrial life gone the whole hog, like their ancestor did all those millions of years ago? One possibility is that preventing desiccation is such


Mudskipper: Michael Nolan/robertharding/Alamy; lioness: Will Burrard-Lucas Orchid: Marta Kolanowska/AAAS/Creative Commons; chough: Dickie Duckett/FLPA

MOONLIGHT BECOMES THEM It is well known that wild ungulates are more nocturnally active when there’s a full moon. But new research in South Africa’s Kruger National Park suggests that it’s not actually the moon they are tuned into. It’s certainly true that it makes intuitive sense for ungulates to vary their behaviour according to the lunar cycle. “If prey animals are mobile at night, then the probability of encountering a predator is increased,” explained Lochran Traill of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. “The prey animals simply need to be able to see the predators at a safe distance.” Traill’s research shows that zebras and wildebeest are indeed more active when the moon

September 2016

a massive challenge. Or perhaps the fact that one fish managed to conquer land made it harder for others to follow. “Making a complete transition to land today could be more difficult, not because of the physical challenges, but because there are many other organisms already on land competing for resources,” said Ord. SOURCE Evolution LINK //

Lions may be attuned to the lunar cycle.

iis bigger bi – but, b t crucially, i ll only l on nights i ht when h lions are about. When the nearest lions are more than a kilometre away, the prey go about their business regardless of the moonlight. In which case, perhaps it is the lions, not the prey, who are tuned into the lunar cycle, because on a dark night they are less likely to be spotted. SOURCE Journal of Zoology LINK

DIABOLICAL BEAUTY Close scrutiny of a beautiful new species of orchid from southern Colombia reveals a devil in the detail – a likeness to the head of Beelzebub himself. Named in the journal PhytoKeys as Telipogon diabolicu us, the species is known only from a single population of about 30 plants. NEW TARANTULA FOUND Kankuamo marquezii is a new tarantula named after Colombia’s Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez. According to the journal ZooKeys, it possesses irritating barbed hairs on its abdomen, which it wields in tussles with predators. Most tarantulas kick up a cloud of the hairs using their back legs. NORTH–SOUTH DIVIDE Wrens from the chilly north of the UK are tougher than those from the balmy south, according to new research in Open Science. Scottish birds are more resilient to winter frosts than their southern counterparts. They are also a bit larger, which may buffer them against the cold. CHOUGH LUCK A fatal blindness afflicting Scotland’s choughs has been traced to a recessive gene circulating among the population of 60-odd breeding pairs. Scientists report in Journal of Animal Ecology y that inbreeding has increased the r of inheriting risk the two copies of the gene required to c cause blindness, though it does not im mmediately threaten the population.



harles Waterton is dead. Sadly we never met, him dying in 1865 being a significant handicap in this regard. But he’s a hero of mine for several reasons, perhaps most notably because he is one of the true founding fathers of conservation. And also because it seems he was a colourful, determined and visionary bloke. N AT U R A L H I STO R Y In truth there’s a good chance we wouldn’t have hit it off. Waterton was very ‘posh’, supposedly related to no fewer than eight saints and also to Ailric, who was made a ‘king’s thane’ by Edward the Confessor. (I’ll save you the trouble: a thane, or thegn, was a bit like a pre-Norman baron or knight.) Waterton’s conservation ethos didn’t come early, either 1782–1865 – at school he became its Not content with being a skilled naturalist, explorer and unofficial ‘pest’-control officer and showed conspicuous taxidermist, Waterton created the first nature reserve. pride in ridding the place of foxes, rooks, rats and polecats using a crossbow as his weapon of choice. But his craft to one of his uncle’s pretty small world back then. great thirst for exploration slaves, who, after being given Imagine the gossip! And blossomed here, and so in his freedom, passed the art of there was plenty of that… 1804 aged 22 he went off stuffing things on to Darwin …Waterton was regarded to manage some land owned himself. I get the impression as an eccentric. Legend has by his uncle in what is that zoologists lived in a it that he liked to act like a now Guyana. dog and nip visitors, that he Not too liked to tickle them with a much actual brush, that he practised the management ancient medical technique of ensued though, ‘cupping’ (again, I’ll save you as Waterton the bother: small cups are began a series placed on the skin to produce of expeditions suction, then cuts are made deep into the to cause bleeding) and that interior of South he loved climbing trees. This America, the last point, at least, is definitely accounts of true – Waterton scuttled high which inspired up into the canopy until the none other end of his life. than the young Then in 1865 this amazing Darwin and proto-conservationist tripped Wallace. over a bramble, fell hard and The intrepid suffered internal injuries. Waterton also Walton died the following Waterton risking became a superb morning after listening to life and limb to taxidermist and the dawn chorus, including look for fossils. even taught this the call of the corncrake.


Unsung heroes + +


Pictorial Press Ltd/Alamy

Charles Waterton

September 2016

But he left a great legacy. Walton Hall, Waterton’s ancestral home, had been converted to the first nature reserve anywhere. He had it walled to keep out poachers (at a cost of £9,000), planted trees to attract more birds, won a battle against a soap factory polluting his rivers and lakes, tried unsuccessfully to introduce the little owl and took a keen interest in improving conditions for livestock. Waterton had become a brilliant naturalist and was a keen observer of animal behaviour. But perhaps his greatest gift hangs only a few metres away from where you sit… you see, Waterton invented the nestbox. His pioneering efforts were for the tawny owl, jackdaw, sand martin and starling, all of which he trialled on his own reserve. What a bloke!


HE BEGAN A SERIES OF EXPEDITIONS THAT INSPIRED DARWIN AND WALLACE” And what a pity we don’t have a lot more modern-day Watertons in conservation – generous philanthropists with the knowledge to spend constructively. We do have some… I know three. Two are making fabulous progress in rewilding their estates, and the other gives generously to conservation and campaigns against illegal hunting. I think that Waterton would have liked these folks a lot. CHRIS PACKHAM is a conservationist and presenter. ODo you have a conservation hero? Let us know: email wildlifeletters@

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FLOODS FEUDS Brazil’s Pantanal has one of the world’s largest jaguar populations – and some of the largest jaguars. Researcher Allison Devlin is following their every move. Photos by Nick Garbutt



Airing in autumn on

A male jaguar wades through the shallows of a backwater of the CuiabĂĄ River in the northern Pantanal. Jaguars are very conďŹ dent around water.

September 2016


he late-afternoon sun baked the parched pastures and dirt roads of Fazenda São Bento, a working cattle ranch and our research base in the northern Pantanal. The September air shimmered on the horizon and an occasional hot breeze wafted from the banks of the Cuiabá River. The dry season had peaked, so wildlife sought the oasis offered by shaded forest beside the water. Situated in western central Brazil, the Pantanal is the largest inland wetland on Earth and home to a breathtaking diversity of flora and fauna. Smoke from a distant fire, typical here at this time of year, billowed in the sky. In the final rays of the setting sun, a small group of 20 capybaras – the world’s largest rodents – lounged along the sandy riverbank by our headquarters, still alert to any shadowy threat. I had returned to base after a long day of field surveys with Rafael Hoogesteijn, a veterinarian and an expert in predator– livestock conflict, and Fernando Tortato, a biologist for the Brazil programme of Panthera, the big-cat conservation organisation. As I deposited the field equipment in my room, a bell rang to signal that dinner was ready. Barely had I left my doorstep when the capybaras erupted into frenzied flight. A lithe feline form kicked up a cloud of sand and dust as it rolled over a juvenile that reacted one fateful second too late. In the fading light, I watched the cat deliver a lethal bite straight through the skull – a signature move unique to jaguars. With dinner secured in its powerful jaws, the jaguar lifted its head and quickly hauled its prize into the nearby forest. I ran back into my room, grabbed my notebook to hurriedly record the observation, then raced to Fernando 22

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and Rafael to ask if they had also witnessed this incredible event. Could it be that the jaguar was Noca, the famed resident female that we had recently captured and fitted with a radio-collar?

BONE-CRUNCHING BITES The world’s third-largest felid and the biggest in the Americas, the typically solitary jaguar has long been a cultural icon of stealth and power. Its tawny coat is dappled with uniquely patterned rosettes that provide beautiful camouflage in a mosaic of habitats from northern Mexico to northern Argentina (all-black, or melanistic, individuals are rare). Its name is derived from the native Tupi–Guaraní word yaguará, meaning ‘beast that kills its prey with one bound’. And indeed this is a

Top: female jaguars have litters containing one to four cubs. Above: a female capybara swims with her young in a lagoon off ff the Paraguay River. The rodent is key prey for the Pantanal’s jaguars.

September 2016


Above and above right: jaguars (here a female) are excellent swimmers. Rivers provide no escape for their prey, such as this capybara. Right: the big cat (this one is male) has such strong jaws that it can bite through the skull of its prey (here another capybara) and pierce its brain with its canines. Below: the yacare caiman – another key jaguar prey item – is thriving in the Pantanal.

prodigious predator that stalks prey very close and, after a lightning-quick pursuit, delivers that bone-crunching bite, the strongest in the cat world. Jaguars in the Pantanal are among the largest in the world, tipping the scales at an average of 100kg in males and 70kg in females. The heaviest males can weigh over 140kg. In contrast, males and females in Central America generally average 50kg and 40kg, respectively. The gargantuan Pantanal jaguars are well fed by a variety of large-bodied prey, including an abundance of capybaras and yacare caiman. Though caiman are seen sunning themselves on beaches during the day, their astonishing numbers are most apparent at night. A steady sweep of a spotlight reveals a river teeming with the shining orbs of dozens – sometimes hundreds – of the unblinking reptiles. Armoured with bony scutes and reaching lengths of up to 3m, these crocodilians are still no match for the phenomenal bite of the Pantanal jaguars. During the May–October dry seaso Du season the Cuiabá River is tame, its languid current bound byy shorelines teeming with plant life. Forest canopies burst with the pink or yellow ye w blossoms of tabebuia treees, while the branches of mango trees are heavy with ripening fruit. Butt from November to April torrential rains from A tthe A Amazon and Cerrado regiions to the north, plus the constriction of the Parraguay River in the

THE GARGANTUAN PANTANAL JAGUARS ARE WELL FED BY A VARIETY OF LARGE-BODIED PREY, INCLUDING ABUNDANT CAPYBARAS. southern Pantanal, cause the swollen river to breach its banks, flooding these plains up to 3m deep. Wildlife and cattle alike flee to dry ground, wherever they can find it. Jaguars, however, are more forgiving of these seasonal surges. Most aquatic of all of the big cats, they are powerful swimmers and will happily dive underwater to pursue a fleeing caiman or capybara. I have watched jaguars calmly glide with the current and use the river as a highway to travel from one beach to the next. Indeed Noca once crossed this broad river five times in just seven days.

ROOM TO ROAM Jaguars roam expansive territories – the radio-collared males in our project defend an average of 100km² (in contrast female territory averages 40km²). During the wet season their home range is relatively small, because prey gathering on the few remaining islands of exposed ground provides easy pickings. But in the dry months these animals once again freely disperse through the landscape – and the jaguars inevitably follow. However, caiman and capybaras routinely patrol the riverbanks in any season. So, whenever possible, jaguars prefer to stalk the narrow strips of ‘gallery’ forest that BBC Wildlife


A male stalks along the bank of the Cuiabรก River. There may be fewer than 100,000 jaguars left in the wild.



border the rivers. And though the big cats are solitary, they are by no means an island unto themselves. Territorial boundaries need defending, food needs catching and mates need finding. A dominant male secures a territory large enough to overlap with those of three or four females. Males mark their borders with strategically placed scats, scrapes or sprays of urine. If those signs fail to deter a potential usurper – perhaps a covetous neighbour, or a subordinate, lower-ranking ’transient’ – roars usually do the trick. When this chesty percussion of cough-like bellows echoes through the night, the forest becomes deadly silent. Will there be a confrontation? Or was the threat enough to

The Pantanal hosts a wealth of other fascinating wildlife, including these toco toucans flying across the Piquiri River at dawn.

warn off the trespasser? Our studies have found that most dominant males in the Pantanal hold their territory for just two or three years before they are ousted by a newcomer or neighbour. This may help to keep the mating pool fresh so that future generations of jaguars are genetically diverse. We have yet to discover exactly how females with cubs navigate this perilous landscape, and protect their offspring from the tumult of warring males and rival neighbouring females. We suspect that, like other solitary big cats, the female hides her young cubs in carefully chosen dens at the core of her home range. But what makes for an ideal den? And how do cubs survive the different challenges of seasonal flood and drought? We hope to reveal such closely held secrets in the next phases of our work.



NOCA: STAR OF THE PANTANAL Now about eight years old, Noca is a long-time resident of the Pantanal’s Jofre region and the star of several US TV documentaries. She is often seen around the ranch headquarters, swimming the Cuiabá and Piquiri Rivers or sunning herself along their sandy beaches. We have tracked Noca’s movements over multiple

September 2016

seasons and discovered that, unlike most jaguars, she holds a narrow territory along the rivers throughout both wet and dry seasons, probably due to the plentiful caiman prey. In 2013 she was observed with a male cub, confirming that our conservation efforts are helping to secure a future for this amazing species.

Floods and feuds are not the only source of strife in the Pantanal. Though small, parasites are the bane of many an animal’s existence. During the dry season, the Pantanal has few mosquitoes, but its swaths of forest host a plethora of ticks and large biting flies. Joares May, a Brazilian wildlife vet and professor at the University of Southern Santa Catarina, has captured dozens of jaguars for research purposes throughout the Pantanal. He says that though the dry season is ideal for capture campaigns, ticks are one of the most unbearable parts of fieldwork – sometimes we capture jaguars that are absolutely covered, and do our best to relieve the cats of their burden (and study the ticks for any diseases they may carry). During the peak wet season, mosquitoes swarm in nearmaddening quantities. Elza Silva Costa, a long-time caretaker of a remote homestead in the western Pantanal, regaled me with tales about the hardships her family endures. Mosquitoes blacken the screened windows in such great numbers that no daylight can get in, while chickens die from anaemia due to the flies’ unrelenting appetites. Jaguars and other wildlife are forced to wallow in lagoons and rivers to escape the parasites’ unrelenting harassment. BBC Wildlife




Male jaguars in the Pantanal, such as the one in this photograph, average 100kg, while females average 70kg.

However, while there are some small villages and homesteads in these remote regions, over 95 per cent of the Pantanal is currently held by large cattle-ranching operations; less than 5 per cent is protected for wildlife. Unfortunately, historically this great floodplain didn’t just produce beef – until the early 1970s illegally traded jaguar skins were also a major export. The region’s jaguars were saved from near-extinction by fur-trade regulations set by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and adopted by Brazil in the mid-1970s. Nevertheless there are still retaliatory attacks by cattle ranchers.

O The Pantanal is a great place to spot jaguars. The peak season runs from midJune to mid-October, which is cooler and drier. O Reef & Rainforest (01803 866965, http:// pioneered jaguar-watching tours to the region. It uses US firm SouthWild’s Jaguar Flotel and Suites (, O Other UK firms offering jaguar tours include

Natural World Safaris (01273 691642, www., Naturetrek (01962 733051,, Speyside Wildlife (01479 812498, www.speyside, Steppes Travel (01258 787416,, Wildlife Worldwide (01962 302086, www.wildlife and WildWings (0117 965 8333,, and there are local operators based in Campo Grande.

A VERY MYSTERIOUS CAT I have spent nearly three years in the Pantanal, yet feel I have barely scratched the surface of what we need to know about its jaguars. Soon I’ll return for another two years, and together with my Panthera colleagues and many other researchers I hope to develop cutting-edge techniques to reduce the conflict with landowners. So while the Pantanal’s jaguars remain threatened, there’s cause for hope. We’re working to develop a local economy based on both cattle and jaguars, where landowners, communities and tour guides all benefit from these charismatic cats. A case in point is our new research base, Jofre Velho, on the opposite side of the Cuiabá River to Fazenda São Bento. Once Jofre Velho was a major cattle ranch, but over 10,000ha was declared a protected landscape in 2015, and we have opened a school here for the children of the region’s ranch hands, to demonstrate how jaguar conservation benefits local communities. Since 2006, the number of jaguars has already doubled; Fernando’s latest camera-trap study revealed 27 individuals at Jofre Velho and Fazenda


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São Bento, with more still in the greater Jofre area. Today there are on average between six and eight jaguars in each 100km² of the Pantanal, with Jofre at the higher end of the scale. Such a remarkably high concentration, combined with the presence of some jaguars that have become used to humans, has enabled a boom in ecotourism. Boat trips can offer close views of the local jaguars lounging along the riverbanks, and sometimes even swimming, hunting or fighting over territory. Our work is full of such thrilling encounters. Though we were unable to confirm the identity of the jaguar that I watched capture the juvenile capybara, the dramatic event left me with a newfound resolution. This cat was still hunting native prey in front of a busy ranch, which shows that if we just give jaguars the space and protection they need they can co-exist with humans and continue to survive the seasonal challenges of the Pantanal. ALLISON DEVLIN is a zoologist who works with Panthera’s jaguarconservation programmes:

+ FIND OUT MORE Jaguars: Brazil’s Super Cats, part of the new series of Natural World, airs on BBC Two in autumn. Don’t miss the preview on p90.

September 2016

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Photo by Martha Fischer - Elephants in Samburu


African lion safari


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September 2016


THE END OF EXTINCTION? Cutting-edge lab techniques such as IVF and DNA editing now have the potential to rescue animals from the edge of extinction – and even beyond. Helen Pilcher finds out why some species are less extinct than others.


nder the vigilant gaze of their rifle-clad guards, three very special rhinos wallow in the mud at the Ol Pejeta Nature Conservancy in Kenya. Their tasselled ears flick back and forth under the hot African sun, but the animals have no idea how precious they are. For these are the last three northern white rhinos anywhere on Earth. We all know that rhinos are in danger, that poaching and habitat loss are driving them ever closer to extinction, but the northern white rhino is in an unenviable class all of its own. The surviving animals are too old, too ill and too related to be able to breed naturally, so to all intents and purposes the northern white rhino is already extinct. Grandfather, mother and daughter – Sudan, Najin and Fatu – are the walking dead; ghosts of a magnificent subspecies that once roamed Africa in the thousands. So how can we save an animal when its future seems so hopeless? Over the past few years I’ve been following the work of Thomas Hildebrandt, a veterinarian from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo

and Wildlife Research in Berlin. Traditional conservation has failed the northern white rhino, so Hildebrandt is part of an audacious mission that is working to save the subspecies by blending high-tech assisted-reproduction methods with the latest research in cell biology. The idea is to create test-tube northern white rhinos, then use southern white rhinos – the species are cousins – as surrogates to carry the embryos and then nurture the calves beyond birth. It’s a tall order, not least because no one has ever created a rhino through in vitro fertilisation (IVF) before, and it hinges on the availability of two vital ingredients: sperm and egg. With this in mind, Hildebrandt and his team have been collecting and freezing semen samples from male northern white rhinos for years. Eggs are more of a problem. They are difficult to collect and even harder to freeze, so Hildebrandt is having to make his own. His team are taking skin cells, biopsied from northern white rhinos in the past, adding in genes to turn them into stem cells, and then coaxing them to become eggs. It’s cellular alchemy. I find research like this fascinating, not just because it could change


the fate of the northern white rhino, but because it could be applied to other species too, living and dead. Using these and other related techniques, scientists are on the verge of being able to claw species back not just from the edge of extinction, but from beyond it too. They call it de-extinction.


he stage was set a little over a decade ago, when researchers resurrected an extinct type of mountain goat called a bucardo (a subspecies of the Spanish ibex). They collected skin cells from the last living animal and then, once she died, used the DNA inside these cells for cloning. After many attempts they managed to create a kid, but though the newborn looked perfect on the outside, her lungs were grossly deformed. She lived for just seven minutes. It was a devastating blow to the scientists who created her, but for the world at large it was the beginning of something much bigger: an end to the finality of extinction. It’s a profound and dogma-challenging thought. If we have the cells or DNA of a creature and the necessary methods to recreate it, then to what extent is that animal extinct? We can’t get DNA from dinosaur bones because they’re too ancient. So these and other creatures older than a million years old are truly lost forever. But what of the bucardo? Vials of the goat’s frozen cells still exist, and the scientists who tried to bring it back tell me that the only obstacles between

Illustrations by Danny Allison September 2016

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CITIZEN SCIENCE: good or bad for conservation?

For evidence-based conservation

Find out more at our 2016 Autumn Symposium 15th November, London

How much do you know about UK mammals? National Mammal Week 22nd-30th October 2016 #nationalmammals

WILDLIFE ESSAY them and success are the time to iron out the teething problems, and funding. The bucardo is in limbo – not quite gone forever, but not quite with us either. Some animals, it seems, are less extinct than others. De-extinction is a field still in its infancy, but when the technology comes of age it could offer a lifeline to species that are functionally extinct, such as the northern white rhino, and to those that are recently departed, like the bucardo. It’s an exciting prospect – a collection of new techniques with the potential to positively influence conservation and enhance biodiversity. But at this current early stage, de-extinction is contributing to conservation indirectly.


rog expert Michael Mahony from Newcastle University, Australia, became involved in the ongoing project to de-extinct the gastricbrooding frog – a recently extinct amphibian that swallowed its fertilised eggs, turned its stomach into a makeshift womb then burped up fully formed froglets – because he realised that the techniques involved could be applied directly to endangered frog species that were still living. The basic research needed to make de-extinction happen is generating knowledge that is useful to those who are trying to stem the tide of species loss. Later, however, de-extinction will impact on conservation more directly. De-extinction isn’t about making lonely zoo exhibits. It’s about making healthy, robust populations of animals that can be returned to the wild where they can resume their vital ecological roles. In the USA scientists are trying to deextinct the passenger pigeon, a rosy-breasted bullet of a bird that once darkened the skies over North America. At first glance, it might seem like a strange choice. These were, after all, birds that flocked in their billions. When passenger pigeons took to the skies, they blotted out the sun, and when they roosted they broke branches, toppled trees and carpet-bombed the forest floor with droppings. But this apparent devastation created life. The pigeons turned the closed-canopy woodland into an open, sunlit nursery. Their nutrient-rich guano fostered the growth of new grasses, flowers and shrubs, which in turn provided habitat and resources for insects, reptiles, birds and mammals. The landscape became more productive, diverse and bio-

abundant… until the closed canopy regrew and the cycle started again. Passenger pigeons drove the rejuvenation of the eastern North American forests. Since their extinction in the early 1900s, the woodlands have become stagnant and native animals are in decline. Bring back the passenger pigeon, the argument goes, and the natural cycles of biodiversityboosting forest regeneration will follow. Similarly, scientists seeking to resurrect the woolly mammoth, an ecosystem engineer from the last ice age, hope it will help to convert the modern, mossy, unproductive Arctic tundra into the lush, biodiverse grasslands of its former heyday. Scientists don’t just want to de-extinct animals – they want to de-extinct ecosystems too. From DNA barcoding to remote satellite tracking, conservation has at its fingertips an increasingly sophisticated tool kit with which to protect our planet’s wildlife. De-extinction could be part of that tool kit. Though it’s not initially obvious, there is, I think, a blurred line between the


September 2016

concepts of de-extinction and conservation. They are not discrete entities. They share the same ultimate goal – to boost biodiversity – and some of the same methods. The procedure being used to bring back the passenger pigeon – a clever technique that sees the birds of one species nurture the sperm of another – is being developed to help save endangered avian species including the houbara bustard. And cloning, the method that briefly brought back the bucardo, is being adapted to help both the Asiatic cheetah subspecies and an endangered wild sheep called the Esfahan mouflon (a subspecies of the mouflon). In another significant advance, scientists can now edit the DNA of living things with pinpoint precision. Harvard University geneticist George Church is making mammoths by editing mammoth genes into elephant cells, but the same technique could play a vital role in preserving the wildlife that we already have. Last year Revive & Restore, an organisation that promotes de-extinction, submitted two groundbreaking proposals to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. These plans focus on the black-footed ferret, a feisty North American mustelid that was once almost driven to extinction by an BBC Wildlife


WILDLIFE ESSAY infectious disease called sylvatic plague. Today the surviving ferrets are massively inbred, but stashed away inside vats of liquid nitrogen are the frozen cells of captured, wild individuals that died without passing on their genes. The first part of the plan, then, is to use these cells for cloning, in order to make new, genetically vibrant animals that will then breed naturally and introduce lost genetic variation back into the population.


ut there’s no point going to all this trouble if the animals are set free, only to succumb to disease. So the second proposal involves editing the black-footed ferret’s DNA to make it plague-resistant. If the two proposals are accepted and they work, then it will make conservation history. What we learn from the blackfooted ferret could then be applied to countless other species in need of help. For decades, scientists have been stockpiling cells and tissues from wildlife including the black-footed ferret, bucardo and northern white rhino, “just in case”.

Now they have the ability to do something truly staggering with them, to create and shape new life. At a time when biodiversity is taking an unprecedented hammering, these new methods could be a possible source of salvation. I’ve spoken to a lot of conservationists, and many of them are opposed to deextinction, arguing that it is a moneygrabbing distraction from traditional conservation methods that are tried and tested. Moreover they are concerned that if we become able to bring species back from extinction, the incentive to protect them will become eroded. However, it’s precisely because extinction rates are soaring that I think we should be openminded. De-extinction shouldn’t replace existing conservation practices; rather it should work alongside them. Nor is it true that de-extinction is siphoning funds from conservation. If anything, it’s struggling to make

ends meet. At present the field is in its embryonic phase. We don’t know how or even if de-extinction will change our feelings towards the natural world, but it could work as a positive force inspiring future generations to care more about their planet. It’s understandable that conservationists are nervous of de-extinction because it is new and unproven, and because they don’t want to find the answer to the current biodiversity crisis in a test tube. But none of us wants that. We want the answer to be in a fertile rainforest, scorching African plain or garden pond. We want our wildlife to reproduce naturally, the way it’s been doing for millions of years, the way it evolved to happen. However, it now needs human assistance. In addition, I think that the idea of de-extinction is unpopular to some people because its very existence embodies an implicit and unpalatable truth: that we are losing the battle to save our wildlife and our wild places. Extinction rates are a thousand times higher than before humans arrived on the planet, and studies suggest that this figure could increase by another order of magnitude in the future. The situation is overwhelming, but not beyond hope. As long as we keep devising new ideas, we have the potential to turn things around. We should be keeping our options open, not dismissing any potentially helpful technology just because it’s unfamiliar or ‘artificial’. It may be too soon to predict how the field of de-extinction will pan out, but one thing is certain. If we keep doing what we’ve always done, sticking with the traditional conservation methods that we feel comfortable with, we’re going to lose a lot more species than if we get off our backsides and explore other options. In the meantime, Hildebrandt and his team continue their work with dogged persistence. If I could have one wish, it would be this: that their truly heroic efforts bear fruit, and we hear the pitter-patter of tiny test-tube rhino feet before Sudan, Najin and Fatu are gone.


HELEN PILCHER is a science writer who specialises in genetics, cell biology and quirky animals. Her first book Bring Back the King: The New Science of De-extinction (Bloomsbury Sigma, £14.99) is published on 22 September. 34

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A sedge warbler launches a ďŹ erce onslaught on a cuckoo in Dumfries and Galloway in June this year. A whinchat also joined in.




Mark Caunt

CUCKOOS don’t have it all their own way, as Nick Davies explains. Most adult ‘British’ cuckoos are already back in their Central African winter quarters, having spent just a month or two in the UK. It will have been a tough return journey, involving a non-stop flight over the Sahara lasting 50–60 hours. But as this remarkable photo shows, they face challenges on their breeding grounds too, because their hosts fight back against parasitism. Not only do cuckoo hosts reject eggs unlike their own, they also attack the invaders. Even a small host, such as this sedge warbler, can damage a cuckoo’s plumage with its bill and feet. A favourite larger host in Eastern Europe, the great reed warbler, has been seen to fly at a female cuckoo while she was laying, knocking her clean off the nest into the water below. The incredible speed with which a female cuckoo lays her egg, often during the space of a 10-second visit to the host nest, reduces her chance of being attacked. Even the sight of a cuckoo at or near the nest will make hosts more likely to reject the cuckoo egg, so speed

and secrecy are essential if the female is to trick her hosts successfully. In ancient times, the seasonal disappearance of common cuckoos (which are sadly common no longer) in winter was thought to be because they transformed themselves into hawks. They are indeed rather hawk-like in shape, flight and plumage, with barred underparts. On the other hand, this sedge warbler can clearly tell the difference, because it would never approach a sparrowhawk so closely. Yet the cuckoo in this picture is actually a male and therefore no threat to the warbler’s nest, so why is it being attacked? Perhaps the aggression towards female cuckoos simply generalises to the similar-looking males, or it might dissuade a male from calling to attract females in the vicinity of the host’s nest. ONick Davies is a professor of behavioural ecology at Cambridge University and the author of Cuckoo: Cheating by Nature (Bloomsbury, £9.99). Find out more about the bird at

Black vultures: Herman van der Hart/natureinst/; griffon: Mario Suarez Porras/Minden/FLPA; dehesa: Angelo Gandolfi/; black: Dennis Jacobsen/Alamy; Egyptian: Saverio Maria Gallotti/Alamy

The deployment of poisons to control pests, the change in land use, the expansion of the human population, the rise in logging and uncontrolled hunting, as well as nest disturbance and egg collecting, seriously affected raptor numbers until the 1970s. Disturbance is hard to control, as black vultures in particular have a long breeding season, with the egg incubated for an average of 57 days and the chick staying in the nest for 110–120 days. Even after they have fledged, they still return to the nest for a period to roost at night. Curtailing activity such as forestry, cork harvesting, legal hunting and road maintenance for such a long period requires the buy-in of local people, whose livelihoods may well be affected. However, in many parts of the country there has been that support.

VULTURES RISING In 1979 the Spanish Ornithologiccal Society established a national survey of griffon vultures and recorded only an estimated 3,200 breeding pairs in the whole country. But a secon nd and third national census have since reported signifi ficant rises thanks to concerted efforts to protect the biirds, and the current count stands somewhere around 25,000.


BBC Wildlife

Above: black vultures are the largest – and one of the most endangered – raptors in Europe. Below: a griffon vulture perches on a rock. Like blacks, adults tend to be sedentary, with juveniles more likely to disperse over longer distances.

In Monfragüe, hunting is not allowed within the park boundaries, so there is a natural provision of medium-sized carrion favoured by vultures, in the form of rabbits, wild boar and deer. But to ensure sufficient feeding opportunities there has also been the creation of muladares (middens), where the remains of animals not destined for human consumption are left. This practice started as a common but illegal activity by shepherds and hunters, who would leave carcasses and the unwanted portions of kills in the fields rather than go to the trouble and expense of burying or burning them. But it was later sanctioned as a necessary aid to increase declining populations of many Spanish carrion-eating birds, and the old regulations were re relaxed. This was somewhat curtailed in the years of ‘m mad cow disease’ and outbreaks of bovine tuberculosis an nd brucellosis in Spain, but as recently as June this yeaar th he Directorate-General for the Environment of Extremaadu ura authorised an extension to the network of muladaarees, providing supplementary feeding points in eenviironmentally important areas. The creatio on o of Monfragüe National Park in 1979 also saafeg guarded nest sites in this region. A ban on n hu uman encroachment – logging, farming g an nd hunting – in the forested areas aand d the active encouragement of trad ditiional farming methods in the surrrou unding grasslands, known as the deehessa, have combined to the benefit of m much native wildlife, not just tthe vultures. The crags and gorges ccarrved out by the Tajo and Tiétar September 2016

EXTREMADURA VULTURES THE DEHESA A SHARED LAND Surrounding Monfragüe National Park are the ancient managed grasslands known as the dehesa – traditional low-intensity grazing land for merino sheep, pigs and the black bulls raised for fighting. The land is important for rural industry, as in this pastoralsilvo-agricultural landscape of dry summers and cold winters the poor soil can still sustain the oak trees used in cork, firewood and charcoal production. The acorns from the trees feed free-roaming black Iberian pigs that provide the world-famous jamón Ibérico, and wild mushrooms and wild asparagus grow under the low-spreading branches. The young oak trees are allowed to grow naturally from dispersed acorns, but are thinned out and kept well

spaced to make the most of the available nutrition. The shallow 20–30cm covering of soil in the wildflower meadows is broken in places by sharp slate outcrops that are known locally as dogs’ teeth. All of these natural features combine to promote a high level of biodiversity. Eurasian cranes winter in the area to feed on the acorns, and it is a breeding ground for imperial eagles. The drinking pools that farmers dig out for the cattle and sheep are good for amphibians, and diverse wild plants support a variety of insect life, including bees, from which honey is produced. Steppe species of birds such as great and little bustards, sandgrouse, and crested and calandra larks also thrive in this environment.

Marc pointed out a black vulture nest on top of a tree in the river valley, which was so huge that I hardly needed my w binoculars to see it, though it must b have been several kilometres away. h


rivers that converge within the park provide rovide perfect homes for the colonial-biased griffons, with their need for ledges that can accommodate their metre-wide nests, protected by overhangs. Black vultures, with their tree-nesting habits, also find the park inviting for its abundance of tall, broad oaks that can hold their vast collections of roughly piled sticks. These mighty abodes can be 1.5m in diameter and 1m high, necessitating a tree of some sturdiness to hold them steady. The undulating landscape of bare rock poking out of mature woodland also lends itself to the creation of thermals, on which the birds soar while seeking carrion. We climbed to the top of one of the towers to gaze down over the Tajo. A lone chough hopped among the tumbled stones below, and crag martins swooped through the lookout slits in a smaller tower beyond. September 2016

Egyptian (left (left)) is the rarest of Extremadura’s three vulture species, while black (right) is beginning to breed here in good numbers.

“Sometimes the griffons will use an old black vulture nest,” he said. “But really b th here are enough spaces in Monfragüe for th hem. A national census in 2008 recorded 1,670 breeding pairs of griffons here in Exxtremadura and 922 pairs of black vultures – 44 per cent of the European population.” In the distance we saw the first signs of rap ptor movement as the air warmed and thermals began to form. Slowly the skies to the the horizon filled with birds spiralling upwards. “About 10am is the time to be here,” said Marc, “when the air is warm enough to bring them up from their roosts.” We relocated to an area of surrounding wall overlooking a ridge from where griffons were now streaming in large numbers. It was obvious from the closeness of the stillperching birds that they did not require much personal space. In fact, for breeding purposes, they are seemingly content to allow just a few metres between their territory and their neighbours’. The occasional irritable squabble broke out if someone overstepped their bounds, but the birds generally seemed content to pose majestically on the ridges before launching themselves into space. Our views were now thrillingly close as the vultures BBC Wildlife


Salto del Gitano: Jose Ignacio Soto/Getty; Monfrague castle: Alan Harvey; carcass: Bas Van Den Boogaard/ Minden/FLPA; nest: Jose Luis Gomez de Francisco/; flying: David Hosking/FLPA

g glided past almost at eyellevel: the griffons with flat wings, the blacks with tips angled slightly downwards. The bonded pairs became obvious as they circl circled close to each other, Top: see close views of vultures the ends of their adjacent wings almost touching. at Salto del Gitano. Then, high above our heads and joining a kettle of griffons, Inset: the ruins of Monfragüe Castle came a bird with a slightly smaller body and outstretched ‘arms’ of white with thick black edging. “Egyptian!” whispered overlook the Rio Tajo – and beyond. one member of our group, gleefully adding another first to his bird tally. The number of breeding Egyptian vultures in








3 9 12 13

15 16 17

11 10

14 19





22 23 24


25 26

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11. El Larguijo 2 Finca Granadilla 2. 3 La Cota 3. 4 Los Cabezos 4. 5 La Engorroná 5. 6 Lugar Nuevo 6. 7 Las Corchuelas de Palacio Viejo 7. 8 La Parrilla 8. 9 Pozuelo 9. 1 La Dehesilla de Trujillo 10. 1 Boticojo de Orozco 11. 1 Rincón de la Cotadilla 12. 1 La Suertecilla 13. 1 El Robledillo 14. 1 Las Cañas y Los Labrados 15. 1 El Prior de Azagala 16. 1 La Espada y Bonilla 17. 1 Valdesequera 18. 1 La Roca de la Sierra 19. 2 Explotaciones Porcinas Señorón 20. 2 Zuhilla 21. 2 Lanos y Pedrizas 22. 223–26. Planned for the future

Extremadura is tiny – approximately 170 pairs, according to the Vulture Conservation Foundation. However, an unusual occurrence has recently been noted by scientists working with the Extremadura regional government: a small but significant population of wintering Egyptian vultures in the north-west of Cáceres province, possibly the only such gathering in Continental Europe. In the winter of 1990, 15 Egyptians were observed long after their companions had migrated to northern Africa. A census in the winter of 2014/15 identified up to 100 individuals, two of which were caught and radio-tagged. And in December 2015 another four were tagged. Curiously, all of these birds were female. Then in February of this year another, nicknamed Espiga, joined her cousins with satellite trackers. The atypical behaviour of these birds has raised many still unanswered questions. No such consideration intruded on our minds as we watched our late spring Egyptian being joined by another, and then a third. To cap the excitement, another rare species joined the griffon funnel – a black stork, resembling the proverbial sore thumb in the vulture mass. The exact number of these birds in Extremadura is not known, but breeding pairs are thought to number only about 500. In Iberia they nest on rocks as well as in trees, a characteristic we witnessed for ourselves at our next stop – a massive rocky outcrop straddling the


Above: when a griffon vulture locates a meal (here a sheep carcass) others soon follow for a share of the feast. Left: griffon vultures build metre-wide nests on cliff ledges. Below: a griffon’s wingspan reaches an impressive 2 8m in length. 2.8m length

River Tajo called Salto del Gitano or Gypsy’ss Leap, an evocative place steeped in Sp panish folklo ore and legend. One of the few roads bissecting the park p runs alongside the river here, offfering easy access to the viewing area.

WINGS ON THE WATER A pair of black storks were patro olling the riverside, apparently still undeciided on a spot to settle, pausing tantalisingly at one rocky crevice after another. An additional a male was trying his hardest to co onvince the female to change her choice of mate, m though h to little avail. A huge flock of corrmorants also skimmed the water’s surfacce, raising a flash of silver as a shoal of fish h darted away from the predatory threat. It required binoculars, partly for distance bu ut also to heelp separate the well-camouflaged bird b from its September 2016

surroundings, to spy a griffon vulture sitting on its nest among the crags, and the fluffy grey head of its chick peeping out from beneath its parent. Despite such sightings, the picture for vultures in Extremadura – and in the rest of Spain – is not entirely rosy. Studies are being conducted to assess the impact of wind farms. And there has been controversy following the approval in 2013 by the Spanish government for the veterinary use of two new drugs containing the antiinflammatory and analgesic diclofenac, the widespread use of which was banned in the Indian subcontinent in 2006. This drug was linked to the deaths of millions of Asian vultures and a decline of some populations by up to 99 per cent. Though beneficial to livestock, the drug is toxic to t the kidneys of vultures, which ingest it through eating g contaminated carcasses. The scavengers’ habit of gatherring in large numbers on a single cadaver means that evven limited use can have devastating effects. Asu unción Ruiz, chief executive officer of SEO BirdLife Spain, has said, “The Spanish government has a big respon nsibility to ban the use of diclofenac on farm animaals, as well as responsibility for the conservation of the biggest populations of scavenging birds in the Europ pean Union and one of the most important in the world.. We just cannot afford to allow an environmental disasteer to occur like it did in Asia.” Giveen the efforts of the Spanish people to bring their vulturre populations back from the brink, common sense must surely prevail. Watching the soaring vultures of Monfrragüe – maybe not beautiful in everyone’s eyes, but magniificent in most – is a pleasure that will hopefully be enjoyeed by locals and visitors alike for the rest of time. SHEEN HARVEY SHEENA is the e editor of BBC Wildlife e Magazine. She tra avelled with Extrem madura Tourism: www.b birdingin extrem

+ GET INVOLVED International Vulture Awareness Day celebrates these vital but neglected birds. This year’s event is on Saturday 3 September: ● Visit to find out more about vulture conservation.

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Every Bird, Every Plumage The Most Comprehensive Field Guide to the Birds of Britain & Ireland BRITAIN’S BIRDS An Identification Guide to the Birds of Britain and Ireland Rob Hume, Robert Still, Andy Swash, Hugh Harrop & David Tipling R

More than 3,200 superb colour photographs carefully selected to show key identification features The only field guide to show all distinctive plumages Depicts 648 species, including all those on the official British and Irish Lists up to 31 March 2016 Innovative design allows direct comparison between similar species Latest information on status, population, conservation designations and legislation

Flexibound | 560 pages | £19 £19.95 95

Distribution maps show summer, winter and resident ranges, plus details of migration routes




Mark Hamblin/2020VISION/

Hen harriers breed mainly on grouse moors, where they are blamed for reducing grouse density by taking chicks.




he RSPB has pulled out of the Hen Harrier Action Plan a little over six months after it was launched. Announcing the move on the RSPB’s website, conservation director Martin Harper said that the grouse-shooting community was not doing enough to stop the illegal killing of hen harriers and other raptors. “My natural preference is to build partnerships and work to make positive change from the inside,” he said. “However, this year there have been a series of depressingly predictable incidents in England and Scotland, the disappearance of the hen harriers ‘Chance’ and

September 2016

Wildlife Conservation Trust – on ‘Highlander’ and the use of pole the six-point plan to raise hen traps and the hen harrier decoy harrier numbers. in the Peak District.” Amanda Anderson, director Speaking to BBC Wildlife of the Moorland Association – in January when the plan was a membership organisation that launched, Harper said the RSPB represents grouse-moor owners was interested in whether the in England and Wales – said it plan could raise hen harrier was too early to say whether or numbers. “I want to see more this not the action plan was working. year than last year,” he added. One component of the plan – But 2016 has seen the number brood management, whereby of nesting pairs in England fall gamekeepers are permitted from six last year to three. to rear hen harrier chicks in Grouse-moor owners said they captivity in would continue to The number of order to reduce work with other hen harrier nests predation of partners – which in England from grouse – has yet include Defra, which chicks were fledged to be introduced. Natural England in 2016. “You can’t say you and the Game &


have failed your A-level if you haven’t sat the paper,” she said. Anderson hopes a brood management trial scheme will start in 2017 and added: “We wish to reiterate our total abhorrence of any act of wildlife crime and support of prosecutions.” The RSPB now says that the only approach that will work is to license grouse moors, so that estates where illegal persecution is proven to have taken place are barred from operating shoots. James Fair

+ FIND OUT MORE Read the Hen Harrier Action Plan:

BBC Wildlife



Barn owl: Jules Cox/FLPA; lynx (captive): Andreas Rose/Imagebroker/FLPA; Sigourney: Mike Marsland/Getty; whale: Don Graves

250-year plan for the environment, all farming subsidies to benefit wildlife, primary-school children to spend 20 per cent of lesson time outdoors – these are three of the recommendations contained in a new report that has been compiled by a group of young conservationists. Called A Focus on Nature, the group consists of scientists, photographers and writers all under 35. The report – Vision for Nature – sets out how they would like to see the natural world managed by 2050. One of the people who compiled Vision for Nature, 29-year-old climate-change campaigner Matt Adam Williams, said there were good reasons why the Government should take note of the report. “Our polling data shows that the millennial generation are more socio-environmentally minded [than previous ones],” he said. Here BBC Wildlife looks at the recommendations and assesses how they relate to reality.

CONSERVATION MISSING LYNX Kielder Forest in Northumberland has emerged as the best location in the UK for a trial reintroduction of the Eurasian lynx. The Lynx UK Trust says that it is the largest area of continuous forest in Britain, making it an ideal place in which to bring back this native cat.


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AMBITION Government produces a 250year plan for nature for the UK within the next 35 years.

REALITY Defra is working on a 25-yearplan for the environment to be produced within the lifetime of this parliament – ie by 2020 – but for England only. This was one of the recommendations made by the Natural Capital Committee in January 2015.

AMBITION Subsidies for fossil fuels in the UK to be redirected to renewable energy.

REALITY Estimates for the level of subsidies given to the fossilfuel industry by the UK government range from £3.7bn a year calculated by the OECD to £5.6bn calculated by the Overseas Development Institute and Oil Change International. The Government says that subsidies for renewables total

about £5bn a year and will reach more than £10bn by 2020.

AMBITION All agricultural subsidies to incentivise a way of farming that benefits wildlife.

REALITY Under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), in 2015 British farmers received £2.4bn in subsidies that were paid according to how much land they owned. All farmers are eligible to apply for additional funding for schemes that benefit



the environment. In 2015–16, £453m was paid out under this, roughly 16 per cent of the total subsidy level. CAP funding will disappear when we leave the EU, and it will be up to ministers what they replace it with and whether there is any change to the wildlife component.

AMBITION Twenty-five per cent of UK land and marine environments to be managed for nature.

REALITY The total area of land and sea protected for wildlife and the environment in England was 21,000km2 in 2015 – 10,000km2 of terrestrial and freshwater habitat (representing 8 per cent of surface area) and 11,000km2 of marine habitat (representing 21 per cent of inshore waters). Much of the land is protected under the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) designation, and of the 4,400 different sites, only

briefing `

PLAYING DIAN BROUGHT ME INTO THE WORLD OF GORILLAS.” Sigourney Weaver, who played Dian Fossey in the film Gorrillas in the Mist, has been made a global wildlife ambassador.

September 2016


Farming subsidies should only be paid to benefit wildlife, the report says.



37.5 per cent are regarded as being in a favourable condition, with 58 per cent classified as ‘unfavourable recovering’.

AMBITION A programme of rewilding and reintroduction, including keystone and apex species.

REALITY The Scottish government is due to make a decision on whether to allow more reintroductions of beavers – a keystone species – following the five-year trial in Knapdale. In England, Defra has permitted a group of beavers living wild in Devon to remain there for a five-year period. A group of conservationists is pushing for releases of lynx – an apex species – in Kielder Forest. Reintroductions of white-tailed eagles have occurred in Scotland in previous decades.

AMBITION 20 per cent of lesson time in primary schools to be spent in the outdoors.

REALITY A study commissioned for Scottish Natural Heritage found that primary schools in Scotland had increased the amount of time pupils spent learning outdoors from an average of 19 minutes a week in 2006 to 30 minutes a week in 2014, representing about 2.2 per cent of lesson time in the week. There are no comparable figures for other parts of the UK.

AMBITION Programme to create 10 city national parks across the UK and develop urban nature.

REALITY There are no city national parks in the UK, but a campaign to make London the world’s first ‘national park city’ is gathering momentum. According to Daniel Raven-Ellison – one of the brains behind the idea – it has the support of London’s new mayor Sadiq Khan and 44 per cent of the council wards in the Greater London area.

I want to make watching wildlife more accessible for children because it can appear very elite, but so much is on our doorstep and easy to see. I have been working with primary schools for about eight years now. It’s great to have the photos at the end, but the key element is that cameras slow the children down and encourage them to look. One of the first things I teach them is that the world is not seen from four foot above ground by an ant. If you get down very low, the world looks much bigger, and then much smaller if you get up high. I also do a lot of macro work – a spider or the inside of a flower look very different when you get very close to them. Cameras enable children to show things that they don’t have the written, verbal or artistic skills to

communicate. They can be very creative – last winter one group was pulling the ice out of water troughs and using it as a filter. As well as discovering nature on their doorstep and acquiring new skills, the children learn the value of teamwork. Some kids have low self-esteem, and it really helps them. Seeing their images printed out is exciting for them. At a school in East London a teacher said, “There’s nothing to photograph here.” I made a point of talking about stag beetles because I wanted them to have pride in what they had. Later on, some of the children came running in and said they’d found one – and they had!

+ FIND OUT MORE Iain Green works with primary schools in the south-east, south-west and the Midlands: www.


September 2016

With a camera in their hands, children slow down and see more.


A new species of beaked whale has been identified in the North Pacific. Scientists said a smaller, black form of Baird’s beaked whale traditionally recognised by Japanese whalers is actually the 23rd member of this group of cetaceans.

BBC Wildlife



Kiwi: Tui De Roy/Minden/FLPA; badger: Richard Costin/FLPA; snares: Lee Beel/Alamy

BADGERS’ FEAR FACTOR The sound of the human voice is scarier for a badger than the noise of a wild, native carnivore. That’s the conclusion of a study carried out in Wytham Woods in Oxfordshire – researchers from Western University in Canada played recordings of people talking, plus sounds of bears, dogs and wolves, to badgers living within the forest, and then filmed their responses. “Hearing dogs and bears delayed foraging, but the delay caused by human voices was respectively 228 and 189 per cent greater,” the scientists say. Wolf sounds, however, had no impact on the badgers at all, the study concluded. Badgers are more scared of people than predators.

An estimated 20 kiwis a week could be saved if the initiative goes ahead.

NZ HATCHES PREDATOR PLAN Getting rid of non-native pests is possible and could even happen in the UK, say experts.

Conservationists have welcomed a groundbreaking plan from New Zealand that aims to eliminate all non-native pests from the country by 2050. Announcing the initiative, Prime Minister John Key said: “Our O ambition is that, by 2050, every single part of New Zealand will be completely free Z off rats, stoats and possums in what is the most ambitious w conservation project attempted co anywhere in the world.” Sir Rob Fenwick, chair of Predator Free New Zealand and a leading advocate for pest

eradication, said the plan would allow a military-style response to the problem for the first time. “It will drive a more strategic and comprehensive approach to a landscape-scale assault on predators,” he said. While existing methods of control will be used, including poisoned bait and traps, it is hoped that the initiative will help drive the development of new forms of eradication. Animals introduced by European and Polynesian settlers have proved to be catastrophic for New Zealand’s wildlife, which mainly evolved in a world without mammals, making them extremely vulnerable to new predators.

BAN SNARES, SAY MPs But the Government says they are needed to control pests.

The UK is one of only a few EU countries to permit snaring.


BBC Wildlife

MPs have passed a resolution calling on the Government to implement a full ban on the manufacture, sale and use of snares to trap wild animals such as foxes. The debate in the House of Commons was launched by the MP for Lewisham West, Jim Dowd, who said snares were inherently cruel and barbaric. In addition, he said, “a snare set to catch a fox is just as capable of catching other species. Cats, dogs, badgers, otters, deer, hares

and livestock have all suffered terrible injuries or been killed by snares.” But the Government’s environment minister Thérèse Coffey said that land management and gamekeeping associations have developed a new code of practice on the use of snares that should be given “a chance to come into effect before even considering any further legislation”.

+ FIND OUT MORE Read the debate in Hansard:

An estimated 25 million native birds are killed every year by introduced predators, including 20 kiwis every week. British red-squirrel conservationist Dr Craig Shuttleworth believes a similar approach could help eliminate non-native pests such as grey squirrels and mink in the UK. “Eliminating the grey squirrel would be entirely possible if we had the concerted commitment, but up to now there hasn’t been a proper joined-up policy in the UK,” he said. Simon Birch

+ FIND OUT MORE Predator Free New Zealand 2050:

11 The expected and recordbreaking number of osprey chicks that have successfully fledged from four nests at Kielder Water in Northumberland this year. It beats the previous record of eight (set in 2014) after ospreys began nesting there in 2009. One nest has fledged four chicks in total, with three each hatching from two others, and two from the last one.

September 2016


Urgent call for help to save the eastern black rhino issued by Fauna & Flora International

Photo: Gill Shaw/FFI

One of the world’s most powerful and awe-inspiring creatures is teetering on the edge of extinction. A hundred years ago, experts say there were around 65,000 black rhino in Africa. Over the decades, the numbers have plummeted due to relentless hunting and poaching, to the extent that there could be as few as 850 eastern black rhino left in the wild. Unless we act now, the eastern black rhino could be reduced to a few tiny populations in a decade, and we will be the generation responsible for its loss. We cannot let that happen. That’s why Fauna & Flora International (FFI) needs your donation today.

“If you value the natural world, if you believe it should be conserved for its own sake as well as for humanity’s, please support FFI.” Sir David Attenborough OM FRS Fauna & Flora International vice-president

Rhino horn fetches a huge price in markets like Vietnam. Ruthless international gangs will stop at nothing to get it – they even supply poachers on the ground with equipment and rifles. But there is a ray of hope. In 2004 Fauna & Flora International helped to purchase Ol Pejeta ranch, a substantial piece of land in Kenya, to create a safe haven for endangered animals. Now known as the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, it is home to over 100 eastern black rhino.

Specially trained rangers constantly patrol Ol Pejeta to spot and check every single one, every three days. It is gruelling work, as the rangers have to trek miles each day and risk their lives keeping the rhino safe. By making a donation of £25, you could help recruit and train more rangers, ensuring we can cover more ground and keep the rhino safe. Your gift could help train rangers in military skills and dog handling to help them protect the rhino. Every day rangers like Stephen Elimlim and his colleagues walk at least 20km. They urgently need trekking boots and camouflaged uniforms, as well as powerful binoculars to spot the rhino so they can protect them from the poachers. Your gift of £35 would help get this vital equipment to the rangers who need it. So much is possible with your help. Amazingly, we have already seen the numbers of rhino rise in Ol Pejeta, and the population is growing by around 5% each year. Yet we cannot be complacent. As the poachers grow bolder and become better equipped, the challenge becomes greater day by day. We urgently need to raise £96,807 to train, equip and support the local rangers and help keep the rhino of Ol Pejeta safe. A gift of £100 from you today could assist us in building accommodation for rangers in the heart of the Conservancy, so they can stay one step ahead of the poachers. Whatever amount you can spare, your gift will help us build on our successes. We know that our approach works, and with your help we can support the use of the same techniques elsewhere across Africa. Your gift really can help us save a species. Please send a donation by 3 October in order to ensure the safety and survival of the last few eastern black rhino in the wild. The future of a unique race of animals depends on it. Please complete the donation form now.

Fauna & Flora International, formerly the Fauna and Flora Preservation Society, is the oldest international conservation charity, working in over 50 countries worldwide. With a 94% spend on charitable activities, we use our experience to ensure that we work as effectively as possible.

Around 850 remain and poaching is at an all time high. Fauna & Flora International has launched an appeal to raise £96,807 to pay for the conservation of eastern black rhino in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. We need to raise the money urgently – time is running out to save the eastern black rhino.

How you can help rangers like Stephen to save the eastern black rhino

Stephen, a ranger at Ol Pejeta Conservancy

• £25 could help buy a pair of binoculars, essential for surveying the rhino population • £35 could help pay for a uniform and boots for a newly trained ranger, giving them protection and camouflage • £100 could go towards training ranger and dog teams • One exceptional gift could make a huge difference - £1,000 could fully equip and train a ranger

Cut the coupon below and return it with your gift to FFI. Alternatively, go to or call 01223 749019.

YES! I want to support rangers like Stephen with a donation of £____ to help save the remaining eastern black rhino Title


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Please note: if Fauna & Flora International succeeds in raising more than £96,807.08 from this appeal, funds will be used wherever they are most needed.

Please return to: Freepost FAUNA & FLORA INTERNATIONAL, The David Attenborough Building, Pembroke Street, CAMBRIDGE CB2 3QZ or go to to donate online now. Registered Charity No.1011102. Registered Company No. 2677068.


The eastern black rhino has been pushed to the verge of extinction. Just 850 remain. Please return the coupon or visit to help protect them.

Photo: Ol Pejeta Conservancy

Photo: Jelena Aleksic,

In ten years, eastern black rhino populations could be almost completely destroyed.

AGENDA NEWS Half of the gull’s global population breeds in harbours between Barcelona and Valencia.



HABITAT Prefers marshes and sandy beaches for breeding, though has adapted to using harbours and urban regions in recent years DIET Preys on pelagic species that rise to the top of the water column at night THREATS Loss of breeding sites, and concentration of a large part of the population in unprotected areas



Ugo Mellone



BBC Wildlife

September 2016






udouin’s gull has always had a very limited distribution, and until the late 2000s had never been recorded breeding outside the Mediterranean. Today 90 per cent of the population still breeds in Spain, mainly because the ocean in the western part of the region offers a rich supply of food. But at least the species’ total population is much higher now than it was in the 1970s. Then there were estimated to be just 1,000 breeding pairs, following a catastrophic decline caused by development of the coastal areas where the species mainly breeds. Fortunately the downward trend started to reverse in the 1980s when a network of protected areas was set up on the Spanish coast, and at the same time the gull began to exploit discards from fishing boats, providing an abundant and predictable source of food. As a result, numbers rose Current range

dramatically to about 20,000 pairs, and the most recent assessment (carried out in 2008) found that most of the global population was either stable or increasing. However, the main area of concern is that 67 per cent of the world’s population breeds in the Ebro Delta in north-east Spain. In recent years the site has attracted terrestrial carnivores such as foxes and badgers, which has led the bird to colonise new areas – mainly harbours, which we did not anticipate. Another surprise is that though the gulls, with their nocturnal vision, are adapted to feed on pelagic (open sea) fish species, they are now commonly found feeding behind trawlers or on food waste discarded by tourists on beaches and in urban areas. Daniel Oro is the head of the Population Ecology Group at the Institut Mediterrani d’Estudis Avançats, Majorca, Spain.

Ebro Delta


Mediterranean Sea








North Atlantic Ocean





+ FIND OUT MORE Read the IUCN’s report on the gull:

September 2016

BBC Wildlife



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Mark Carwardine’s 07



WHAT IS RAMSAR? The Ramsar Convention is an international treaty for the conservation and wise use of wetlands. It is named after the Iranian city of Ramsar, on the Caspian Sea, where the treaty was signed on 2 February 1971. Known officially as ‘the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat’ (or, more recently, just ‘the Convention on Wetlands’), it came into force in 1975. It currently has 169 Contracting Parties, or member states.

WHAT EXACTLY IS A WETLAND? According to the Convention, wetlands include almost any habitat where water is key to the environment and its wildlife. It can be natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, and with water that is static, flowing, fresh, brackish or salt. Anywhere from estuaries, lakes and rivers to underground aquifers, mangroves, coral reefs and rice paddies count.

Bob Gibbons/FLPA

WHO IS IN CHARGE OF RAMSAR? Day-to-day co-ordination is carried out by the Ramsar Secretariat, at the headquarters of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), in Gland, Switzerland. But big decisions are made at the triennial conference of the member states, during which government representatives discuss progress and make plans; the 13th conference takes place in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, in 2018. September 2016

ARE ANY OTHER ORGANISATIONS INVOLVED? Yes. Six main NGO partners (BirdLife International, the IUCN, the International Water Management Institute, Wetlands International, WWF International and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust) advise, help implement field studies, and provide in-kind support; many other organisations are involved to varying degrees. In addition each member state designates a government body to be responsible for implementing the Convention at the national level.

WHAT DO MEMBER STATES HAVE TO DO? The member states’ main commitments are: to designate at least one site as a Wetland of International Importance (a ‘Ramsar site’) and promise to look after it; to make wetland conservation part of their national land-use planning; and to co-operate with other countries that share their wetlands or wetland wildlife. They are also expected to train wetland researchers, managers and wardens, for example, and to contribute to the core budget of the Convention.

IS THE UK A SIGNATORY? Yes, the Convention entered into force in the UK in 1976. The Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) – the government adviser on nature conservation – is responsible for its implementation.


Lymington and Keyhaven Marshes, Hampshire, are under Ramsar protection.



More than any other member state, though they tend to be relatively small. Currently we have 154 sites, as well as another 16 in our Overseas Territories and Crown Dependences, covering nearly 13,000km2. These include the Severn Estuary, Minsmere, Rutland Water, the Firth of Forth and, in the South Atlantic, Gough Island. For comparison, the US has 38 sites totalling 18,600km2.

DOES RAMSAR WORK? Today, the Convention has 2,241 listed wetlands – from the Camargue to the Pantanal – covering 2.14 million km2, an area larger than Mexico. These range in size from Île Alcatraz in Guinea (1ha) to Llanos de Moxos in Bolivia (69,000km2), and the level of protection varies greatly. Though Ramsar has no teeth (it cannot punish member states for violations), it is often instrumental in protecting sites under threat. And it has raised the profile of wetland conservation immeasurably.


MARK CARWARDINE is a frustrated and frank conservationist. O Every month he demystifies some of the most important issues affecting the world’s wildlife and assesses the organisations that protect it.

Some countries – including Somalia, Saudi Arabia and Singapore – are yet to sign, and many more wetlands need to be listed. World Wetlands Day is celebrated on 2 February every year, to mark the signing of the treaty and to raise awareness. O Find out more at the Ramsar


BBC Wildlife


Elliot Montieth plays a vital role in recording birds at Port Sunlight in the Wirral, according to Anne Litherland.



alf an hour into our interview and as he’s showing me around Port Sunlight River Park in the Wirral, 17-yearold Elliot Montieth runs down to the foreshore of the River Mersey. “Two common sandpiper,” he remarks to park ranger Anne Litherland. “That’s a site first.” He quickly focuses his

spotting scope on one of the birds and shows it to me. “There it is,” he says proudly. “I’m made up. Last year I found the park’s first and only kingfisher and whinchat, too.” “How could he tell?” the ranger remarks. “Just from their flight?” It’s hard to say, on the basis of a morning in the field with Elliot, just how talented a birder he is,

but he knows his stuff and he’s ticked off a number of unusual species es in his local patch – Birken nhead Docks – just a short distance from Port Sunlig ght. He reels off a list off county rarities he’s seen that t includes Iceland gull, great g northern diver, scaup and Chris Packham roseatte has discussed tern. being on the spectrum.


BBC Wildlife

September 2016 S

Elliot x2: Colin McPherson; Chris: Charlie Best; tern: Markus Varesvuo/


In many ways, Elliot is just your typical, obsessive young birder, but he is different in one fundamental way. The teenager has been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, part of the autism behavioural condition that affects the way in which those who have it relate to other people. The issue received rare publicity earlier this year when TV presenter and BBC Wildlife columnist Chris Packham said that he was on the spectrum. While this had res resulted in sociial isolatiion as a tteenagerr, he explaained, it had also g given him m huge advantag ges as a naaturalist. “The ability to o recogniise instantan neously aand record immensse

AGENDA ANALYSIS Socially isolated as a young teenager as a result of his Asperger syndrome, Elliot went on an RSPB conservation course. “I met all these young people fascinated by nature,” he says, “when I’d thought it was just me.”

WHAT IS AUTISM? It is described by the National Autistic Society (NAS) as “a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others”.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN? All autistic people share certain difficulties, but being autistic will affect them in different ways. They may find it difficult to read other people’s body language, including facial expressions, and

detail has been a tremendous asset to me,” he told BBC Wildlifee (‘Packham’s progress’, June). “Hypersensitivity to smell, sound and colour are part of it.” Elliot can also see the pros and cons of being Asperger’s, and talks enthusiastically about the pleasure he gets from identifying different species of gull. “Because I’m a visual



learner, I can pick out the key markings that distinguish them,” he says. “I love gulls because they are so hard to ID.” With a friend, he’s blogged about the basic elements of gull identification, and they plan to move on to warblers next. “Booted and Sykes’s warblers are virtually impossible for me to separate, but it’s something that I want to learn.” FROM TRAINS TO TERNS Elliot recognises that Asperger’s also gives him a drive to focus on a single area of interest that most teenagers don’t have. It started when he was much younger with Thomas the Tank Engine, before he moved on to dinosaurs (he still loves collecting bones and skeletons) and then to birds. Port Sunlight is a former

struggle to understand social signals. This can cause anxiety in social situations, leading to feelings of isolation.

ANYTHING ELSE? The desire for routine, highly focused interests and overor under-sensitivity to sounds, touch, tastes, s, smells and light are also a fea ature of people with autism.. Some autistic people can feel f overloaded by environm mental noise se and may use earr defenders to reduce the volume. v

landfill sitee that’s beeen turned into o a green communitty space and d is manageed on a day-to-dayy basis by a local chaarity, Autism m Together, which is ho ow Elliot got involvved. His motther, Adele Montieth h, describes the park as “somewh here he can come and relax and d feel comforta comfortable, and not worry about things being a bit too boisterous”, but Elliot isn’t the only one who benefits. Ranger Anne Litherland says, “He spots things that we don’t, so he’s adding to the recording for the site.” There was a time when Elliot’s Asperger’s had a more negative impact on his life. He was bullied in his early teenage years, and found it difficult to make friends. “I got isolated, I was by myself, nobody talked

HOW DOES IT RELATE TO ASPERGER’S? People with Asperger syndrome do not have learning disabilities and are of (at least) average intelligence. They may have problems with understanding and processing language.

HOW C COMMON IS IT? There are about 700,000 people l diagnosed with autism and Asperger’s in the UK – just over 1 per cent off the h population. l i

Elliot has recorded roseate terns in the Wirral.

to me and I talked to no one one,” Elliot recalls. It was only when he went on an RSPB conservation vation course in North N Wales that he realised there were other people like him. A LIFE’S DEVOTION Indeed there are. Temple Grandin is autistic and also a professor of animal science at Colorado State University. While not a naturalist like Elliot or Chris Packham, she has spent her life trying to understand how animals think – in her case, in order to BBC Wildlife


redesign slaughterhouses to make them more humane. And, like Elliot, her thinking and learning is done mainly visually, as opposed to verbally. “[Autism has] given me a lot of insight into the animal mind,” she said in a TED talk given in 2010, “because an animal is a sensory, not verbal, thinker. And the thing about the autistic mind is that it attends to detail, and in my work with cattle I’ve noticed lots of things [about the design of slaughterhouses] that most people don’t.” AUTISTIC ARTISTS There are other ways in which autistic people can express themselves in a way that involves wildlife – painting is an obvious one. Austin Orelli is a 23-yearold American with autism who finds it difficult to communicate verbally, which brings added learning disabilities. In 2008


Elliot: Colin McPherson; Austin:

AUTISM HAS GIVEN ME INSIGHT INTO THE ANIMAL MIND BECAUSE AN ANIMAL IS A SENSORY THINKER” he drew a picture of some tigers for an auction raising funds for a centre for people with special needs – and his artwork sold for $2,200 (£1,700). “We thought, ‘Maybe we should do something with his other paintings,’” says Austin’s sister Tiffany Fuller, who works as his job coach. Tiffany helps run a business – with Austin supplying the artwork – that in some years has pulled in $6,000. It sells prints and postcards of everything from tigers and zebras to blue-footed boobies and lemurs. They are childlike, but charming. “All of his animals have cartoon-like eyes,” she says. 56

BBC Wildlife

Elliot wants to pursue a career in wildlife conservation.


GOING OUTDOORS In a study carried out by the David Suzuki Foundation, participants were asked to spend 30 minutes outdoors every day for a month – those involved averaged 8.6 hours a week on walks or nature activities, an increase of 90 per cent on what they were achieving before they took up the challenge.


“The eyes are really intense. He definitely puts the emotion of how he sees the animals into the drawings.” A PERFECT FIT There are two good reasons why people with autism may be especially drawn to wildlife – there’s no pressure to communicate because animals don’t talk, and their habitats are generally calm places that do not place heavy sensory burdens that autistic people can find difficult. Sean Locke – who won a BBC Wildlife Blogger Award in 2015 – describes himself as ‘the Autistic Naturalist’ and writes about his wildlife encounters, particularly at RSPB Strumpshaw Fen where he works as a volunteer. In one blog he discusses his autism in depth, recalling how he would have violent breakdowns at school because of the stress caused by levels of noise. “Being autistic is about being awkward socially cially – it it’ss difficult to make frriends, or fall in love,” he sayys. “With wildlife it’s a lot easier, because it doesn’t talk back.” But, like Chris Packham, Sean acknowledges that his autism may givee

him advantages in identifying wildlife in the field and greater clarity of recall. He can, he says, identify birdsong from a distance while listening to heavy-metal music in his headphones (which he does sometimes, particularly at times of the year when the birds are singing less). “It’s an autistic skill that I’ve taught myself,” he adds. NATURE’S HEALING POWER Of course, it’s not just people with autism who need to get out into the wild to feel better – the idea of nature as a necessity within all our lives is part of the agenda driving movements campaigning for children to spend more time outdoors. However, perhaps the requirement is greater for people on the spectrum. Elliot Montieth is determined to forge a career c in wildlife conservatio on and has already Austin Orelli has made a name for himself as an artist.

Participants scored how they felt for a number of parameters on a scale of one to five at the beginning and end of the month – the score for “vitality, energy and enthusiasm” rose by 18 per cent, while they also identified themselves as feeling less stressed as well as more calm and content.

PRODUCTIVITY UP... At work, the average increase in productivity was reported as being 6 per cent, though there was no significant rise in job satisfaction.

...TV TIME DOWN The average amount of time spent watching TV decreased from 8.3 to 5.7 hours a week.

successfully campaigned to protect nesting birds in Birkenhead Docks. It is possible that a condition that is usually seen as negative may end up giving him the edge in terms of success, and that nature and the environment stand tto benefit as well.

+ FIND OUT MORE Autism Together Elliot’s Birding Diaries The Autistic Naturalist

September 2016

E IV US CL EX ON TI TI PE M CO O brilliant prize Our in ncludes travel within Sri Lanka w and the chance of encounters with such w unforgettable wildlife as Sri w Lankan elephants and toque macaques. m



WIN AN AMAZING WILDLIFE HOLIDAY TO SRI LANKA! BBC Wildlife has got together with Rickshaw Travel to offer readers an exclusive chance to win an eight-day/seven-night stay for two in Sri Lanka.


guides. In fact Sri Lanka’s varied habitats make it one of the best countries in South Asia for watching wildlife, and our prize will allow one lucky winner and their travelling companion to enjoy superb encounters with species in their beautiful natural habitat, and to sample much of the fascinating history and culture of the island. Rickshaw Travel specialises in ethical wildlife experiences and supports THIS FABULOUS HOLIDAY INCLUDES: projects to promote natural environments and help local ● Return flights from ● Accommodation in communities. Accommodation Gatwick or Heathrow small-scale, authentic hotels and guesthouses on its Sri Lankan tours is in ● Transport within Sri Lanka, including one train journey ● Breakfasts small-scale, authentic hotels and the services of a ● Excursions as described and guesthouses that offer a private driver warm welcome, and its trips are Not included: Meals, aside from breakfast; travel insurance; Visa fees; transport designed to provide employment to and from UK airports; national-park fees; tips and gratuities to a wide variety of local people.

Rickshaw Travel

he island of Sri Lanka offers biodiversity to rival any continent, with a wealth of exciting wildlife. As well as countless species of birds and reptiles, elephants, wild pigs, buffalos, langur monkeys, toque macaques, sambar deer, leopards and elusive sloth bears are just some of the many animals that can be seen with luck, patience and the skill of local

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September 2016

THE PRIZE After a flight from the UK to the island’s capital Colombo, the winner and their companion will travel to Kandy for an experience perfect for lovers of food and culture. The tour then takes in the colonial hill station of Nuwara Eliya at the heart of Sri Lanka’s tea-plantation area and Ella on the edge of the hill country with its sweeping scenic landscapes. There will be an option to hike Adam’s Peak or Ella Rock before moving on to join a jeep safari in Yala, the country’s premier national park and home to about 30 leopards and hundreds of elephants. Then it’s back to Colombo for a tour and high tea before returning to the UK.

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BBC Wildlife


Pod: Tony Wu/; petrels: Pedro Ferrão Patrício/Alamy; head: Andrew Sutton


perm whales fascinated me before I even knew what they were. These are the whales we all drew as children, with large, square heads, spouts and smiling grins. Fifty years later, I’ve come to realise that the reality is much more extraordinary. Historically, the sperm whale occupied a mythic status: it is the only whale that could have swallowed Jonah, the prophet of the Bible, and it appears in the Koran as sacred to Allah. But as humans began to pursue it, the species assumed another role. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the sperm whale’s presence as a stranded monster on beaches around Europe was taken as an omen of good or ill fortune. By the time of Herman Melville’s 1851 novel Moby-Dick, the species had become the most hunted of the modern era, prized for its precious spermaceti – the waxy oil within its enormous head (or, more accurately, extended nose). The oil was used to make candles and to light lamps, and had extraordinary lubricating properties. In the 20th century it was even used by NASA, because it doesn’t freeze in outer space. Yet the whale’s own natural history is even more amazing. The creature is a natural submarine, able to dive deeper than any other mammal – only the rare beaked whales can rival its ability. To descend, a sperm whale changes the very shape of its body. The head, which looks counterintuitively unhydrodynamic, draws into a narrow wedge; and the pectoral fins fit into the flanks like an 60

BBC Wildlife

aircraft’s undercarriage. Every organ shuts down, except for the brain and heart; and the lungs collapse as the ribs fold in, lubricated by mucus. The whale then plunges perpendicularly into the depths. We still aren’t sure what it does down there, far from the sunlight, where only its almost extra-sensory perception of sound – in the form of sonar clicks – is of any use in navigating and feeding.

ALIENS AMONG US Part of the reason why so little is known about the species is because it spends most of its time in this alien environment. According to scientist Hal Whitehead, who has been studying sperm whales for 40 years, these cetaceans should be called ‘surfacers’ rather than ‘divers’, since they spend only 10 per cent of their time at the surface, briefly sharing the air with us. One of the best and nearest places to the UK to observe sperm whales is the Azores, a Portuguese archipelago lying some 1,500km west of Lisbon. I’ve been visiting the central island of Pico for 10 years now, and the species is imprinted on my memories. Hunting sperm whales in the Azores only ceased in 1986, when Portugal joined the European Union. Before then, whales were still pursued by men in wooden September 2016


THE CREATURE IS A NATURAL SUBMARINE, ABLE TO DIVE DEEPER THAN ANY OTHER MAMMAL – ONLY THE RARE BEAKED WHALES CAN RIVAL ITS ABILITY. clinker-built boats, known as canoas, who employed the same techniques as 19th-century whalers in the USA (whaling stations that once ground cetaceans into rose fertiliser and pet food are still found on Pico – thankfully now reincarnated as museums). This was the culture that greeted Serge Viallelle, a young Frenchman who came to the Azores in the mid-1980s. As the curtain fell on the whaling era, he saw an opportunity for both cetaceans and islanders. So in 1989 Viallelle created the archipelago’s first whale-watching operation – Espaço Talassa – employing the Azorian whalers as captains and guides.

HEAVEN FOR WHALE WATCHERS Whale watching in these waters has since become some of the most exciting in the world, thanks in part to the use of unique spotting towers, known as vigias, that stand on Pico’s high cliffs. From these lookouts, scouts can locate cetaceans across a 30km sweep of ocean, then direct the whale-watching boats via shortwave radio to their whereabouts with a high degree of accuracy. And there’s plenty to spot here. These deep waters are not only home to residential pods of sperm whales, but also to a remarkable 25 other species of cetacean, from spotted, striped, common, bottlenose and Risso’s dolphins, to Sowerby’s beaked whales and blue whales. This is a paradise for us ‘whaleheads’. I first came to the Azores a decade ago to film The Hunt for Moby-Dick for BBC Four’s Arena. I remember the sense of isolation I felt when I arrived on Pico, which is essentially a large active volcano. Its black basalt shores lack sandy beaches, tumbling directly into the sea as if still in the process of formation. To the north is the Arctic; to the south the Antarctic. I felt the immensity of the Atlantic all around. The next morning we left the harbour on a Zodiac skippered by João Quaresma, a young captain working September 2016

Clockwise from top left: sperm whales live in pods of 15–20 individuals, usually females and young; petrels and shearwaters, here Cory’s in the Azores, are often seen near sperm whales, feeding on fallen fragments of food; the whale’s head is one third of its bodylength, and houses the largest brain on Earth.

BBC Wildlife





Diving & pigmented: Andrew Sutton; rubbing & squid: Tony Wu/

On a recent visit to the Azores, photographer Andrew Sutton and I spent a day diving with a pod of 15–20 sperm whales south of Pico. The two of us both became fascinated with the extraordinary pigmentation we saw on this sub-adult female. A band of pale grey encircled her midriff and spread across her dorsal fin, then splintered out into fragments on the rear of her darker body. It

for Espaço Talassa. Guided by his colleague Marcelo Soares from the vigiaa above, he steered us out into the open water. Within minutes we were joined by a pod of common dolphins, who began riding the boat’s bow wave as if leading us somewhere. It may sound fanciful, but dolphins are often associated with the presence of great whales, taking advantage of the scraps of food that occasionally fall from the giants’ mouths. Later I’d see this for myself, in the form of large chunks of squid tentacle floating in the water. The dolphins peeled away and João suddenly shut off the engine, pointing to what looked like logs floating on the surface in the near distance. I had no idea why we’d stopped, until one of the ‘logs’ lifted its great, square head. We had found a pod of a dozen sperm whales. “They’re chilled out,” said João. “They’ve been feeding. Now’s your chance!” There was no time for a wetsuit. I jammed on fins,

mask and snorkel, and jumped into the mile-deep ocean. I immediately realised my mistake. The water that had appeared so clear from above was positively murky when viewed laterally, clouded with phytoplankton, zooplankton and sediment. I was swimming towards a group of the world’s largest predators, but I couldn’t actually see them.

VERY CLOSE ENCOUNTERS When they came into view, I was less than 20m away. My vision was wall-to-wall whale, a great, grey mass of cetaceans. I had absolutely no idea what to do. Then the largest of the whales detached herself from the pod and came to me. What I was witnessing was a matriarchal whale society in operation. As with orcas, sperm whale culture is entirely governed by the females. Learned, rather than instinctive, behaviour is passed on matrilineally. Not only that, but cetaceans such as sperm whales and orcas


September 2016

was as if she was wearing a haute couture gown. Many sperm whales bear pale patches on their bodies, but these usually appear much less pronounced. Indeed Melville describes Moby Dick himself as partly white, albeit not an albino (though entirely white sperm whales have been observed). It will be interesting to see whether this female’s offspring inherit their mother’s exquisite markings.

Top left: the species can stay submerged for up to 170 minutes. Above left: sperm whales rub against each other to shed skin, probably to dislodge parasites. Above right: squid make up 90 per cent of sperm whales’ diets. We don’t know for certain how the whales subdue their prey, but we see scars on their bodies resulting from injuries inflicted by the squids’ tentacles.

BBC Wildlife



Whales: Andrew Sutton; tower: Reinhard Dirscherl/Alamy

may be the only animals (other than humans) to offer an active role to post-menopausal females, known as ‘alloparental care’. I’ve seen this in action in the Azores: mature females ‘baby-sit’ calves that may not even be genetically related to them, while their mother forages in the deep before returning to suckle. Sperm whales, like other toothed cetaceans in the family Odontoceti, are highly social, sometimes travelling together in great numbers. They are individuals defined by their communality. For a whale, home means other whales. A recent scientific paper proposed that orcas may be the only mammals, other than ourselves, whose genes have actually been changed by culture. Could this also be true of sperm whales? “I would not expect to find similar patterns – functional genes correlated with cultural traits – in sperm whales,” says Hal Whitehead. “This is because, unlike in orcas and humans, sperm whale mating often seems to be between, rather than within, clans. So genes don’t stay tied to cultural traits.” Rather, mitochondrial genes, being maternally inherited, will stay tied to cultural groups. “This is what I call ‘cultural hitchhiking’,” he adds.

MUTUAL CURIOSITY I’m now accustomed to sperm whales’ curiosity about humans, but during that first epic encounter I had no clue what was happening. The whale kept on coming, and I thought she would either ram into me or open her mouth at the last moment. I was fully aware that, of all whales, only the sperm whale could and indeed has swallowed human beings. The prospect was not a happy one. At that moment I felt, rather than heard, a ‘click click click’. The female’s sonar was moving through me like a scanner, creating a sectional, 3D sound image that was 64

BBC Wildlife

HOW TO SEE SPERM WHALES IN THE AZORES O Sperm whales can be seen here year-round, though numbers peak in summer, and winter seas are too rough for tourism. April and May are best for other large whales, such as blue, fin and sei. Before booking, check that your operator observes guidelines regarding speed and approaching the animals.

Naturetrek k (01962 733051, www., Steppes Travel (01285 601630, www.steppestravel., The Travelling Naturalist (01305 267994, www.naturalist. and Wildlife Worldwide (01962 302086,

O Philip Hoare travels with Espaço Talassa, based at Lajes do Pico. Its Zodiac trips last three hours and run n April–October (+351 292 672010, O UK tour operators include Exodus (0845 287 7601,,

Top: this mature female is ‘babysitting’ juveniles. Sperm whales tolerate the presence of divers – here our writer Philip Hoare – but it pays to stay on your toes around such big animals. Inset: a whaleobservation tower on Pico Island.

being beamed back to her head and inner ear via her jaw. It was ironic: I’d spent years as a writer trying to describe whales, and here was a whale trying to describe me. She came as close to me as it was possible to get, looking directly at me as she swam alongside. Her eye, the size of a melon, was reading me, too – it was impossible not to sense her curiosity, even sentience. I said “Sorry”, for everything really. Then she dived into the velvet black and was gone. Since then I have spent many days with these whales. Yet you never become used to the fact that we share this blue planet with such storied, magnificent cetaceans. They still exist beyond us, “ubiquitous, but immortal”, as Melville wrote. They are animals whose culture predates ours by millions of years and which, even in the 21st century, remain remote and in many ways unknown. PHILIP HOARE is an author and self-confessed ‘whalehead’. His latest book is The Sea Inside (Fourth Estate, £9.99). September 2016

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Getting BRITAIN BUZZING again Bringing back the short-haired bumblebee means more than resurrecting an extinct species – it’s an attempt to restore a landscape, says Helen Babbs. Photos by Nick Upton


ungeness isn’t classically beautiful. Flat and, in places, shingly, it’s as famous for its nuclear power station as it is for its RSPB reserve. But the site is picturesque in its own wind-blown way, and important too – for birds, of course, but also for bees. In fact this whole stretch of the south coast is an insect hotspot. Rarities are recorded here but so, sadly, are losses. Agricultural intensification has contributed to the disappearance of 98 per cent of the UK’s wildflower meadows since the 1930s, with a devastating impact on farmland wildlife. The short-haired bumblebee Bombus

subterraneus, one of our 25 native bumblebee species, was last recorded in Dungeness in 1988. It was officially declared nationally extinct 12 years later – starting a new millennium with an extinction was a wake-up call. Dungeness is now at the heart of an ambitious project to bring the short-haired bumblebee back. Reintroductions are fashionable right now, and it would be a cold heart that couldn’t get a little excited about the return of such charismatic species as the beaver and white-tailed eagle. But can we get enthused about a lost insect, one many of us didn’t even miss? The answer is yes, we absolutely can.

Together, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust (BCT),

A short-haired bumblebee queen visits bird’s-foot trefoil. She was collected in Sweden, and has been released at Dungeness as part of an ambitious reintroduction programme.

Natural England, RSPB and Hymettus, an organisation dedicated to conserving insects, are attempting to reestablish the short-haired bumblebee on our south-eastern shores. There have been five releases since 2012, with 203 queens set free so far, most recently this summer. The queens are collected from Sweden, where these bumblebees are still common. A tiny proportion of the population is caught – just 0.01 per cent – and then quarantined at Royal Holloway, University of London. Once the queens are confirmed disease-free, they are released and monitored throughout the summer by a team of eagle-eyed volunteers. Worker bees have been seen buzzing about Kent and neighbouring East Sussex, which means the queens are successfully nesting. The ultimate aim is to establish a selfsustaining, genetically diverse population. Data is still being gathered and analysed, but so far it seems to be working.

A NEW HOPE For Dave Goulson, founder of BCT and author of the bestselling A Sting in the Tale, losing the short-haired bumblebee was a tragedy of our own making, and bringing it back is about hope. “It will show that we can look after our natural heritage,” he says. “Perhaps future generations will be able to enjoy a healthy British countryside, rich in wildlife of all shapes and sizes.” But are attention-grabbing reintroductions really what our wildlife needs? “It’s always controversial to bring something back – you have to be confident it will work,” admits Richard Comont, BCT’s science manager. “A few eyebrows raise when you do something innovative, but in general people are supportive.” In fact the short-haired bumblebee is the tiny figurehead of a project that has much wider, landscapescale ambitions. Nikki Gammans, who is managing the reintroduction, says it clearly: “It’s about restoring a whole ecosystem that has been lost.”






The return of the nationally extinct large blue butterfly (pictured) to southwest England offers a template for insect reintroductions, and shows what largescale collaboration s between scientists, betwee conservationists and conservatio volunteers can a achieve.

A sighting of a shorthaired bumblebee at Dungeness on the Kent coast is the last confirmed record in the UK. The species was once widespread across the south of England – Humberside was the northern limit of its range.

The short-haired d bumblebee is officially fficially declared extinctt in the UK. Its disappearance is more evidence of the consequences ces for farmland wildlife of the loss oss of almost all of our wildflower meadows. dows.

The ingenious attempt to return the short-haired bumblebee to the UK is something to celebrate, te, even if it’s a pity that it’s necessary. So how did we get here?

BUMBLEBEES Before the queens could be released, the team first had to ensure that there would be enough food available throughout the summer foraging season. Local farmers were crucial to this. Encouraging them to return to a more wildlife-friendly way of working was the only way to create the expansive sweep of nectar-rich land the bees need. “There’s no point in having a little bit here and a little bit there,” explains Nikki. “You need to have connectivity, so species can move and colonise new areas. We’re using GIS [a geographical information system] to plot all of the habitat, mapping the flower species, how long they flower for and the management technique in use. We can then see the gaps, and who we need to work with next.”

Clockwise from left: the bee’s long tongue (here a queen) makes the species a crucial pollinator for some crops; Nikki Gammans sets one of her precious charges free; wildflower margins help pollinators move through farmland landscapes.

Queens may disperse as far as 24km.





The Bu Bumblebee Conservation Trust Conse (BCT) is founded as a response r to a population crash popu – two tw bumblebee spec species had been decl declared nationally extinct, while several extin others were suffering other serious decline. seriou

The BCT-led project to reintroduce the shorthaired bumblebee begins, focusing first on preparing the wider environment for the release. Local farmers and landowners are key.

Mated short-haired bumblebee queens are collected from Sweden, then released in Kent and East Sussex after quarantine and screening for disease. Volunteers monitor the bees in restored wildflower habitat.

The fifth batch of queens is released, bringing the total set free to more than 200. About 1,200ha of habitat have now been restored. Other rare bumblebee species are now also being recorded by the project’s volunteers.

Butterfly: Gary Chalker/Getty; grass strip: Burazin/Getty

THE FARMER’S FRIEND It has been relatively easy to convince farmers to help – crops such as broad beans and peas need long-tongued species like the short-haired bumblebee to fertilise them; together with other pollinators, bees contribute hundreds of millions of pounds to the UK economy every year. By working with 72 farmers and 20 landowners, 1,200ha have been improved for bumblebees in the project area since 2009, with knock-on benefits for a host of other insects, mammals and birds. Nikki escorts me through a glorious hay meadow

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in Dungeness. Her eyes are attuned to the micro-life at work in the field, and she’s constantly spotting different bumblebee species zipping low among the knotty vetches, or busy feeding on the pom-pom-like flowers of red clover. A kestrel glides overhead, skylarks sing and electric-blue dragonflies cut a dash around a reedy pond. “We’ve done five years of reintroductions, so this is an important year for us,” Nikki explains. “This is when we review the population of B. subterraneus to establish what is happening, and the genetic diversity of the workers we’re seeing. We’ll also be quantifying the amount of habitat and the number of bumblebees over it.” What if the scheme isn’t working, and the reintroduced bees aren’t getting established? Nikki insists that, though the short-haired bumblebee is important, the success of the project doesn’t hinge solely on it. Increasing floral diversity and extending the length of the forage season is having a positive impact, and other rare species are expanding into and colonising newly restored habitat. “We found the ruderal bumblebee this year in an area it hasn’t been recorded in for 25 years,” says Nikki proudly. “This is what gives us momentum and keeps us going.”

Queen bees emerge from hibernation to be fed extra pollen. These hatch in spring and briefly feed up before into queens that disperse, mate, find a they select nest sites. Each queen hibernation site – and start the cycle collects pollen from flowers and lays all over again the following spring. eggs that hatch into white grubs, Richard Comont which eat the stored pollen. They Bumblebee Conservation Trust pupate, then hatch into sterile erile female workers – up to 400 by the he midsummer peak. These take over foraging as the queen remains in A queen the nest laying eggs. drinks from Eventually she begins a yellow iris. laying male eggs, and picks out female eggs

Top (left to right): countless pollinators benefit from repairing our lost landscape, including the marbled white butterfly and this dance fly Empis tessellata; left: queens spend two weeks in quarantine to ensure their release doesn’t introduce nonnative parasites.

NATURE-RICH LANDSCAPE When I visit in early July, the wildflowers, grasses and herbs in the Dungeness hayfield are knee-high and the tenant farmer will soon cut them back, then + GET INVOLVED bundle up the hay to sell as fodder. Within three weeks the dead-headed wildflowers Learn more about the shorthaired bumblebee project at will be in bloom and busy with insects. www.bumblebeereintroduction. Later, cattle and sheep will be brought in org, and visit http://bumblebee to graze, keeping the grasses under control to find out and disturbing the ground, encouraging how to help other bumblebees. more wildflowers to grow. It’s a nature-rich September 2016

landscape that’s completely human-made. Without any large herbivores roaming wild, it is machinery and livestock that enable the flowers, and all the creatures they support, to thrive. The site is just one example. Across Kent and East Sussex, a network of bee-friendly fields, margins and gardens is being created and maintained. Nikki is also trying to convince local councils to do more – they could make a big difference by cutting roadside verges less frequently and insisting that municipal planting (from roundabouts to traffic islands) supports our bees. But it is agriculture that’s producing the fastest, most exciting results. I ask Nikki about the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. The EU has backed many agri-environment schemes, and she’s concerned what the future will hold. “We must make farming sustainable, and agri-environment schemes are the main way we can do that,” argues Nikki. “If they went completely then it could be a disaster.’” For now, her focus is on engaging more farmers, and collecting the data that illustrates the impact of the reintroduction. “Our project is very much underpinned by science, which influences how it moves forward,” she says. “We’re collecting results that show that if you create the habitat, the bees do respond – they do come.” HELEN BABBS is an author and journalist. Her books include Adrift: A Secret Life of London’s Waterways (Icon, £16.99). BBC Wildlife


Herd: Dennis Kirkland/Jaynes Gallery/; Flaubert: Jo Price; Stratus: Save the Elephants; Luna: Shifra Goldenberg/Save the Elephants

TRACKING ELEPHANTS Samburu’s elephants have had something of a difficult time of late. Detailed monitoring shows that poaching peaked in the wider Samburu ecosystem in 2012, when 70 per cent of the dead elephants that were found had been killed for their ivory or as a result of conflict with humans. However, this figure reduced to 33 per cent by 2015. Community-outreach programmes and legal reforms have both played their part, but radio-tracking has been crucial. Just ask Abdikarim, one of 80 game wardens working in Buffalo Springs National Reserve, which is next to Samburu. “Planes can lose track of an elephant or herd, so collars can help save the animals from poachers,” he says. Technology can provide near-instantaneous observation of the GPS location of an elephant within seconds of it being recorded by its tracking collar.

THE DYNAMICS OF DATA This information enables conservationists to identify when an elephant has become unnaturally immobile, indicating that it may be in trouble. If this happens, rangers can be deployed efficiently to aid and protect the mammal and its herd. And an even more important benefit to the future of the region’s elephants is that, over the longer term, tracking data helps build knowledge of their ranging and social behaviour. “In an increasingly crowded Africa, this information is key to preserving habitat and the

corridors that link areas used by both elephants and other wildlife,” explains George Wittemyer, the chair of STE’s scientific board. At the last count there were about 6,300 elephants in the Samburu-Laikipia ecosystem in northern Kenya. STE tracks 197 elephants across Africa and 97 are in Kenya. Forty-seven elephants are tracked in the north, some of whom range in and out of the unfenced Samburu National Reserve. A collar weighs less than 1 per cent of the body weight of an adult elephant, and lasts up to three years. About half of the elephants collared by STE are female, and it is normal for one to be collared in each group – usually a breeding female rather than the matriarch, to avoid putting unnecessary stress on families and older individuals. However, during the period that Samburu has changed from a relatively safe zone to a poaching hotspot, many elephant families have lost their leaders as a result of the targeting of larger-tusked animals. Mothers and matriarchs define the social context for their calves, and calves build out their own social relationships within this context. Shifra Goldenberg, a researcher at Colorado State University, has studied the orphans and disrupted families of Samburu using tracking data and field observations. “One of the most interesting patterns that we’ve seen is that young female elephants can be pretty socially resourceful,” she says. This means that if they are faced with a major challenge like losing their older relatives, they can reach into their extended networks to compensate n ffor the lost bonds. So though many Elephant herds such as this one in Samburu are organised around a dominant matriarch. We now know how females react to the loss of their leader thanks to the latest research.

Name: Flaubert ++ Family: Art ists


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ly: Planets Name: Luna ++ Fami September 2016

iindividuals have d disappeared following tthe death of their older rrelatives, other elephants have strengthened the h bonds within their b exxtended networks and in ntegrated more closely. When Goldenberg looked W att the social networks of mothers and their daughters, m sh he discovered that the reelationships between faamilies were pretty well Name: Stratus ++ Family: Clo co onserved even when there uds weere deaths in the family. The ‘Swahilis’ and ‘Spices’ families are a good example of how this process operates. They were connected herds before the poaching reached a crisis point in 2009, which coincided with a drought. These Hours of patient two groups spent a lot of time together, but went their fieldwork have enabled the separate ways regularly. identification When poachers targeted the Swahilis and killed of Samburu’s their matriarch Khadija, the oldest remaining female elephants, and in the group was 12-year-old Habiba. After this tragedy the families that they belong to. the Swahilis always followed the Spices, a family less September 2016

affected by poaching that was led by a matriarch named Cinnamon. So Habiba was leading her young group by sticking to a bond-group matriarch that she already knew. Indeed elephants’ social bonds are known to be extremely flexible. Each animal can recognise hundreds of individuals, though their closest level of association is their core family group. However, when this group becomes too large, it divides into two or three distinct bond groups. These herds then split themselves in order to create clan groups – and the whole process is driven by competition for resources.

REPLACING LOST MEMORIES So when young matriarchs have to lead a herd without a ‘memory bank’ of information to rely on within their core family group, they get close to an older matriarch within their bond group to take advantage of the knowledge of friends and distant relatives. The ‘Planets’ provide a good example of this. They were one of the most dominant families using Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba National Reserves, and were particularly hard hit by poaching. Luna was one of three young females that survived and joined forces with a receptive matriarch called Alpin from the ‘Flowers’ family. The Planets and Flowers were in the same clan group before the poaching, so Luna likely knew Alpin through her mother Neptune. “Elephants that these young BBC Wildlife



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females have been introduced to throughout their lives become elephants they trust,” says Frank Pope, STE’s chief operating officer. Though some of these new, strong bonds may have previously appeared random to researchers, looking at the historical data in light of the latest behavioural discoveries shows that young female elephants are in fact relying on their mothers’ extended networks to recreate their own relationships in society.

DANGEROUS JOURNEYS So thanks in part to STE’s tracking programme, we now know a lot about the behaviour of Samburu’s female elephants. However, bull elephants are more of a mystery because they are lot harder to follow and periodically live on their own. But in February tracking data revealed an exciting discovery about a collared male in his 30s called Morgan. “At the beginning of this year was one of the most extraordinary movements we’ve seen,” Pope remembers. Morgan began an unexpected march northwards from the Tana River in Kenya towards Somalia – some conservationists believe that he was remembering an ancient route that elephants haven’t used for decades, following the outbreak of Somalia’s civil war in the 1980s. But though Morgan’s general direction was known, he could not be September 2016

Calf: Frans Lanting/FLPA; aerial: Nigel Pavitt/Getty; Monsoon: Shifra Goldenberg/Save the Elephants; Aztec: Save the Elephants

Above: there are thought to be about 700,000 African elephants on the planet, but poaching remains a severe problem – every calf is vital. Left: the Seiya River courses its way in the lowlying parts of Samburu District, northern Kenya.


Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserves

Ewaso N’giro R


KEY Reserve extent DOMINANT FAMILY Elephant Aztec Family American Indians Core area used Home range SUBORDINATE FAMILY Elephant Monsoon Family Storms Core area used Home range

DOMINANT vs SUBORDINATE RANGE This map shows the home ranges ffor Aztec of the American Indians ffamily (dominant) and Monsoon of tthe Storms family (subordinate) during the dry season. Both groups d have part of their core range within h tthe boundaries of Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserves, B but the American Indians’ range is b cohesive while that of the Storms c is more dispersed.

their homeland, so they know exactly where to go when times are harder, but what about male elephants? For young bulls this library can be lost s an : American Indi when they become independent. Name: Aztec Family Kate Evans, the founder and director di t off Elephants El h t for f Africa, conducted a field study of sseen ffrom an aircraft. i ft Name: Monsoon ++ Family: Sto bull elephants in Botswana and found that males of all ages He was able to remain H rms preferred to be close to the bigger, older bulls, because they hidden and undetected h know the area and the location of the good resources. while on the move, and w During her research she analysed data on two scales – successfully traversed one of the most dangerous places males within 50m of each other, and all males seen on one for elephants in their African range. day in the study area. Elephants can communicate over vast Morgan walked 220km and entered Somalia briefly distances, but no evidence was found to suggest they form before turning back and heading home. This is the first social groups on that scale. However, Evans did discover that time that elephants have been seen in the country for males in a group may be constantly assessing each other to 20 years. It is thought that he was looking for females choose who they want to hang out with and follow. to mate with, though we know that bulls also travel to explore new territory and investigate historical ranges. This is not the only example of radio-tracking revealing FISSION AND FUSION fascinating insights into elephants’ wandering. Michael “While female-elephant society relies on the close Chase, director of the Botswanan charity Elephants companionship of related individuals, bulls live in a ‘fission– Without Borders, has discovered that collared elephants fusion’ society, meaning their social groups change on a daily moving from Botswana and sometimes hourly basis,” she says. This even greater to Angola following the flexibility enables adolescent males to develop, explore civil war appeared to and establish themselves in the dominance hierarchy. learn to avoid landmines. In elephant society, rank exists not only within bond Still, female elephants groups but also between herds, especially during the dry store a vast encyclopedia season when there is greater competition for resources. of knowledge gathered A study of the seasonal movements of elephants in over decades of roaming Samburu and Buffalo Springs has revealed that these


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1 3

Flamingos: Tim Fitzharris/Minden/FLPA; wildebeest: Rob Reijnen/Nature in Stock/FLPA; gerenuk: Eric Baccega/NPL; green turtle: David Fleetham/NPL; giraffe: Eric Lafforgue/Hemis/Alamy





1. RIFT VALLEY This huge geological fault line runs 6,000km across the Middle East and Africa, and has created one of Kenya’s best birding regions. Lesser flamingos are present year-round but move from lake to lake. Visit Lake Nakuru National Park to see black and white rhinos. Where to stay: Flamingo Hill Camp, Lake Nakuru Lodge, Sarova Lion Hill Game Lodge 2. SAMBURU, SHABA AND BUFFALO SPRINGS NATIONAL RESERVES This area boasts its own ‘big five’ – the Grévy’s zebra, the northern gerenuk, the reticulated giraffe, the East African oryx and the Somali ostrich. Where to stay: Ashnil Samburu Camp, Elephant Watch Camp, Shaba Sarova Lodge


hierarchies minimise the frequency of potentially dangerous disputes. The higher a group is in the dominance hierarchy, the much better access it has to the landscape, to protected areas in the reserve where conflict with humans is minimal, and to feeding grounds close to the river. In the study tracking data was collected from seven families, all of them led by matriarchs estimated to be over 35 years old. The rank of each herd was not known before the study, and results showed that during the dry season dominant groups had smaller home ranges and expended less energy than subordinate ones. During the wet season, when water and + FIND OUT MORE food are more available, the dominant groups Save The Elephants http://save travelled three to four times further and has created a increased their home ranges more than video showing how the animals gather at the river during the the lower-ranking groups. day but move to higher ground Studying the movements of elephants using at night: technology helps us understand their needs 78

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3. MAASAI MARA NATIONAL RESERVE The annual wildebeest migration here makes Kenya one of the best wildlife destinations in the world. Visit from July to October to see this spectacle. Where to stay: Ilkeliani, Little Governors’ Camp, Maji Moto 4. WATAMU MARINE NATIONAL PARK The shallow coral gardens here are near the shore and perfect for snorkelling. This area is a key laying site for turtles. Where to stay: Kobe Suite Resort, Ocean Sports Resort, Turtle Bay 5. GIRAFFE CENTRE The centre is located in Langata, just outside Nairobi. Rothschild’s giraffes are bred here. Where to stay: House of Waine, Fairmont The Norfolk, The Emakoko

and how they make choices. This can lead to the definition of vital corridors and dispersal areas outside the officially protected zones where the elephants are more likely to be targeted by poachers or come into conflict with humans.

NEW CHALLENGES And the need for this information grows ever more urgent. By 2050 Kenya’s population is expected to double, and major infrastructure projects are on the drawing board. The country aims to include a road, rail and oil link joining the island of Lamu with South Sudan and Ethiopia, which would cut the range of Kenya’s secondlargest elephant population in half. Using GPS data, STE is now working hard on a conservation strategy to keep large fauna-migration routes intact when this happens. As Frank Pope says, “We want the landscape to retain its tracks and wild spaces and be at a spiritual well-being with the world.” Our staff writer JO PRICE flew with Airkenya and Kenya Airways, staying at Ashnil Samburu Camp, Little Governors’ Camp, Turtle Bay and House of Waine on a trip run by Somak Holidays (http:// For more on Kenya: September 2016

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Fieldfares gather in a big, bare oak – these Scandinavian thrushes overwinter in large numbers in the UK. Oaks can live over 1,000 years, and such ancient trees are among the oldest living things in Britain.


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September 2016

The mighty oak PHOTO STO RY

September 2016

The most common tree in the UK, the oak supports a wealth of biodiversity – from plants and insects to birds and mammals, as Solvin Zankl’s photos reveal.

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ABOVE Male stag beetles battle on the branch of an oak tree. The female of the species, which has sometimes been called the oak-ox, lays her eggs on or near rotting wood, which the larvae eat, spending up to seven years underground before emerging as adults. RIGHT A single oak can host a myriad lichens, including bark-encrusting and tufted forms. Britain has two native oak species: the English Quercus robur, also called the common or pedunculate oak, and the sessile Q. petraea. The former has short leaf stalks but very long acorn stalks, while the latter has long leaf stalks but very short acorn stalks.


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September 2016


LEFT TOP In spring oak leaf buds provide food for many invertebrates. Those of the English oak, shown here, are brown and rounded, and each has more than three scales. In contrast, the sessile oak’s buds are slightly slimmer. LEFT A female gall wasp emerges from its gall. The larvae of these tiny insects secrete chemicals that cause these odd-shaped growths to form. Different galls develop on the acorns, foliage, flowers and stems – see other examples on p9.

September 2016

The gigantic, gnarled ‘Majesty’ is a famous English oak in Fredville Park, Kent. It is thought to be 600–1,000 years old and one of the country’s biggest oaks, with a 12m girth. The Woodland Trust keeps an inventory of ancient trees, which you can add to (www.

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RIGHT A long-eared owl takes off from an oak in Germany. This magnificent bird is a superb predator due to its acute hearing (though the ‘ear tufts’ are purely decorative) and near-silent flight. In the UK it is uncommon and more often associated with conifers.

Despite the jay’s eye-catching plumage, it can be elusive, being a shy bird that tends to stick close to cover. You can see jays year-round, but they are most visible in autumn when they search for fallen acorns and cache many for the winter. Research suggests that a single jay can hide up to 5,000 acorns in the course of a season, with a good chance of germination for any that it fails to recover.


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September 2016


FAR LEFT Oak foliage feeds a host of caterpillars. One is the larva of the scarce merveille du jour (see this moth’s close relative on p8). It is active from July to early September, before spending winter in a chrysalis among the leaf litter. LEFT TOP Leaf-miners are insects such as flies, sawflies and moths whose larvae feed within leaves, causing blotches or long, meandering feeding tunnels. This photo shows the trail left in an oak leaf by the caterpillar of a Stigmella moth. LEFT A springtail on an oak leaf. Springtails are minuscule invertebrates with no wings but a prodigious leaping ability, thanks to a tail-like appendage folded under the abdomen that catapults them into the air when they feel threatened.

September 2016

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BELOW TOP Oaks are important habitats for slugs and snails too, such as this copse snail. BELOW BOTTOM Old oaks shelter roosting and hibernating bats, such as this common pipistrelle. ‘Pips’ are the UK’s most widespread bat; adults weigh as little as a sugar cube.

ABOVE A fly larva on oak leaves. The leaves are soft, and in autumn quickly break down to create a nourishing leaf mould, providing vital habitat for invertebrates such as beetles, as well as fungi.

RIGHT The roots of an old oak are the ideal hunting ground for common toads (here a juvenile). Oaks support toads another way, too: the amphibians sometimes choose a loose piece of bark as a safe spot to hide behind during their hibernation. 86

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September 2016

ABOVE The ‘English’ oak is actually found throughout Europe. ‘Rumskulla’ has stood in the Kvill Nature Reserve, Småland, for at least 1,000 years and is considered Sweden’s oldest tree. It is also one of the largest in all Scandinavia. LEFT Blue tits are among the many songbirds that both forage on and nest in oaks. They synchronise breeding with the glut of caterpillars.

SOLVIN ZANKL is an awardwinning wildlife photographer based in Germany. Many of the images in this Photo Story appear in his book Wildnis Eiche (Frederking & Thaler, €39), which features German text by biologist Mario Ludwig. September 2016

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O BOOKS O TV O RADIO O DIGITAL O MOVIES The hoopoe paints its eggs with a bacteria-rich fluid that it secretes from a gland beneath its tail; the bacteria release antibodies that protect the chicks.



A GREAT BOOK ON SMALL WONDERS A fantastic voyage through your inner space.

I Contain Multitudes By Ed Yong The Bodley Head £20

H Here’s a natural history of human beings with a difference. It’s a remarkable fact that w tthere are as many, if not more, microbial ccells living in the human body as there aare human cells. This fine book is about aall of those bacteria, viruses and fungi tthat flourish on and within us and other animals, as sci animals science writer Ed Yong reveals how our bodies are home to ecosystems as rich and diverse as any other natural habitat. Each of us contains our own unique community of these myriad microscopic hitchhikers, which contribute to our individuality – what we smell like, for example – and influence how we develop, fight disease and choose our friends. And just occasionally, of course, they can kill us. Our lives are intimately and inextricably intertwined – in ways that we are only beginning to understand. Yong delves into our deepest, darkest nooks and crannies to shed new light on what it is to be human. Stuart Blackman Science writer (see p14)


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Mountain Flowers

Britain’s Birds

By Michael Scott Bloomsbury £35

By Rob Hume et al.

Our mountain flowers are tenacious species that arrived soon after the glaciers retreated and, in the face of a warming climate, moved up to the high, exposed places where their lowland competitors could not thrive. In this richly illustrated and engaging account botanist and conservationist Michael Scott travels from Cornwall to Shetland, sharing a lifetime of knowledge of Arctic–alpine plants along the way. This beautifully produced book left me wanting to climb to the high places to admire these pioneering species.

Princeton University Press’s natural-history books deliver the ‘wow’ factor time and time again, and this ID guide to every bird species seen in the UK including some non-natives is no exception. Thousands of high-quality photographs and a ‘starters’ section focusing on the key features of each avian family will help readers to identify their sightings easily, while up-to-date population estimates, distribution maps, preferred habitats and conservation status are all included. The result is a must-read for bird enthusiasts.

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Princeton University Press £19.95

September 2016


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Hoopoe: Mario Cea Sanchez/Biosphoto/FLPA; hedgehog: Les Stocker/Alamy

Hedgehogs are rare garden visitors – visit www.hedgehog to find out how to help.

Companion to Wildlife Gardening By Chris Baines Frances Lincoln £25

Chris Baines’s book How to Make a Wildlife Garden n was first published in 1985, the year his wildlife-friendly show garden ruffled feathers at the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Chelsea Flower Show. The bestseller has been reprinted several times and is now, some 30 years later, happily endorsed

by the RHS. It’s also had a makeover, been given a new name and images, and contains the latest research and statistics on issues such as bee declines. Essentially, it’s the same book – but why fix something that isn’t broken? There are the same chapters on creating habitats, with detailed advice on the woodland edge, garden ponds, kitchen gardening and propagating wild plants, as well as how to study and record wildlife. By starting in our gardens we can have an eye on what’s outside them, knowing that our plots are part of the tapestry of habitats that shelter a huge range of species. Kate Bradbury Garden writer

Naturalist and broadcaster Simon shares some of his greatest wildlife encounters. Why did you decide to write NatureWatch?

What equipment do you need to explore nature?

I have spent most of my life learning how to track and watch wildlife in the field, so I wanted to share some of the knowledge that I’ve gleaned with others. There are nature signs all around that speak to us, tell us stories and connect us to the creatures that made them.

All you really need is your senses. Beyond that, good binoculars definitely add to the experience, as do the clothes to tackle the worst – and the best – of the weather.

What has been your greatest British encounter?

I’ve had so many extraordinary wildlife experiences in the UK, so it is very hard to choose just one. Lying back in the long grass of a hay meadow while a barn owl hovers just a metre above my face, sleeping close to a family of wild otters in Scotland and having a peregrine falcon rip past me in pursuit of a pigeon are just a few. What have you learned about your home patch?

Behind the Binoculars

Birds: Myth, Lore and Legend

By Mark Avery and Keith Betton Pelagic Publishing £16.99

By Rachel Warren-Chadd and Marianne Taylor Bloomsbury £17.99

This collection of interviews about British birding includes big names, veterans, twitchers and career ornithologists. The Q&A sessions are presented verbatim and include quick-fire answers and longer discussion. Recurring themes include the pivotal role of inspirational teachers and the Young Ornithologists Club (forerunner to today’s RSPB youth sections), and the almost universally dismal quality of everyone’s first binoculars. The memories are rich and rewarding reading, but pervaded by the sad reduction in native populations.

This is a global compendium of fables, the stories drawn from familiar and limited sources. That said, there is much to commend. There is a pleasing interweaving of legend and learning, as tales are explained or illuminated with reference to their origins in observations of wildlife behaviour. There are strong thematic threads too, such as birds in art and religion. Best of all, this is a visual feast, with stunning photographs and illustrations given space to delight.

Amy-Jane Beer Columnist (see p11)

Derek Niemann Naturalist

September 2016

Nothing is more fulfilling than getting to know the wildlife of your local area. I brought about a landrestoration project on my 10-acre [4ha] home patch that has had a profound effect in terms of both biomass and biodiversity. With the presence of wildflower meadows, woodland, a lake and a river, I’ve seen a huge uplift in the bustling energy of life all around me.

How do you track an animal without disturbing it?

The first and last rule is that your subject comes


FULFILLING THAN GETTING TO KNOW THE WILDLIFE OF YOUR AREA” first. Never risk disturbing or alarming a creature for the sake of a better or closer view. The more you learn how to move, look and listen in the landscape, the more you will see. What species can readers observe in the autumn?

Autumn brings the promise of deer rutting over much of the UK. Listen out for stags calling to let hinds (and you) know of their whereabouts. It’s also a great time of year to see small birds foraging on the natural bounty of seeds and nuts, and winter migrants in coastal regions.

O NATUREWATCH: HOW TO TRACK AND OBSERVE W WILDLIFE by Simon King is a heavily illustrated guide to observing wildlife in Britain and Europe (Quadrille Publishing, £20): BBC Wildlife


Two researchers from The Onçafari Project observe a female jaguar at close range.




An exciting new initiative in Brazil could safeguard the future of the country’s jaguars. Jaguars: Brazil’s Super Cats TV BBC Two

Due to air in the autumn. See RT T for details

It’s unfortunate that Brazil’s jaguars hit the headlines in the build-up to Rio 2016, when a captive female departed the torch relay with a bullet in her head. Because, out in the quiet, watery wilderness of the Brazilian Pantanal, a dedicated team of scientists and experts could be on the brink of halting – and even reversing – the demise of this iconic big cat. The groundbreaking initiative – known as The Onçafari Project – is explored in the latest instalment of the BBC Two series Natural World. Modelled on successful work with leopards in South Africa’s Sabi Sands, the project aims to promote ecotourism in the planet’s

The Onçafari Project


largest wetland by habituating these notoriously secretive creatures to vehicles. If the plan works – and several females are already at ease with the team’s conspicuous 4WDs – the hope is that a new era of tourism, commerce and conservation will permeate across Brazil’s remaining wild places. You’ve probably heard about India’s ‘tigernomics’ – well, this is essentially ‘jaguarnomics’, and the formula is simple: invest in protecting native species for a healthy return in visitor fees. “Brazil is waking up to the possibility of ecotourism,” says producer-director Joe Stevens. “The Pantanal is a unique location, with jaguars the main draw. There are areas where these animals have been habituated by chance to boats, and this



BBC Wildlife

project takes that to a new level, getting them used to cars while learning more about their behaviour and biology. It’s a great combination of ecotourism and science.” Woven in with the habituation initiative is another story, of two orphan jaguars taken in by The Onçafari Project and returned to the wild with the guidance of the Brazilian Department of Conservation. Rehabilitation of jaguar cubs has never previously been achieved in Brazil, and the techniques learned can be applied in locations such as the Atlantic Forest, where the cats are clinging on. “The story has real resonance,” says Joe. “These animals were more than just orphans – they were significant to the future of their species.” Sarah McPherson Section editor

DON’T MISS OUT! Catch up with any TV and radio programmes that you’ve missed at

September 2016




Joe Stevens

When we first set out to make this film, we didn’t know that two cubs were about to lose their mother, and that we’d have a whole separate story to tell. Keeping up with that thread was tricky as we were beholden to the cats’ own timing – no one could predict how they would progress, so filming had to be very flexible to ensure we covered their full story, particularly the release.

BIG CAT DIARY Join the felines experiencing the drama of life on the African plain.

Twenty years ago this month, the first ever episode of Big Cat Diary y was broadcast on BBC One. Originally presented by Jonathan Scott and Simon King, the show proved so popular that it was to become something of a natural-history broadcasting institution over the coming years, bringing all of the drama of Kenya’s Maasai Mara into living rooms up and down the country. The original wildlife soap opera follows the fortunes of key leopard, lion and cheetah

How were the cubs orphaned?

They had entered the city of Corumbá on the edge of the Pantanal, and had climbed a tree to escape floodwaters. When the authorities tried to move them along, the female fell into the water and later died. The Onçafari Project took the cubs in and spent a year teaching them to hunt live prey and to fear humans. These youngsters are now back in the wild and part of a study population. How do you habituate a jaguar to a car?

You have to find one first, then radio-collar it to keep track of its movements. You must then spend time getting closer and closer to the animal, familiarising it with the profile of your vehicle. You have to use a consistent approach that it can get used to – for instance, how you turn the engine on and off. What were the highlights?

Getting an insight into what is usually a very elusive cat, and witnessing the cubs’ release back into the wild. JOE STEVENS is producer-director of Jaguars: Brazil’s Super Cats. September 2016



families as they experience birth, life and death – and plenty of other drama to boot – on the African plains. Notable feline characters include Half-Tail the leopard, Amber the cheetah and, of course, the famous Marsh

Cheetah: Rolf Kopfle/Alamy; raccoon: Matthew Maran/; duck: BBC/Shutterstock/Chainfoto24

What was the biggest challenge?


Cheetahs star in Big Cat Diary.

Pride lions. The series enjoyed nine outings (four Big Cat Diaries, four Big Cat Weeks and one Big Cat Live) and inspired a host of other series on the same format, such as Orangutan Diaries and Elephant Diaries.

Download for £5.99 (was £9.99) from series-1 using code BIGCAT40 by 12.10.16. Ts&Cs:


Due to air October/November. See RT T for details

Yep, it’s a series about cuddly, fluffy, ever-so-cute baby animals – but it’s not all about the ‘ahh’ factor. Narrated by Gordon Buchanan, this three-parter visits a trio of particularly tough habitats to investigate how young animals cope with a gauntlet of predators, competition for food, extreme weather and treacherous landscapes. Will the duckling make it?

“Animal Babiess is all about the hurdles young animals have to overcome,” says series producer Gavin Boyland. “We set out to find the most compelling stories, featuring youngsters with grit, determination and loads of personality.” Highlights include the petrified cheetah cubs backing away from a fresh meal; young fur seals using an inland plunge pool to hone their swimming skills; and the mountain goat kid crossing the rapids of a stream.

Raccoons: among the ingenious.


TV BBC One Due to air in early September. See RT

This new series sees a team of experts travel the globe in search of our planet’s most remarkable species, uncovering the science of how and why they do what they do. Presented by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Giles Clark, Lucy Cooke and Patrick Aryee, the four parts explore intelligence, relationships, communication and anatomy through more charismatic species than you can shake a stick at: raccoons in Canada, wolves in Austria, capuchins in Costa Rica, sun bears in Cambodia and koalas in Australia, to name a few. BBC Wildlife



BEST OF AFRICA Casting asting ng a spellll on visitors visitors, i it th the world’s world ld’s ttop wildlife ildlif d destination ti ti iis h hard d tto resist resist. i t S Sun Sun-bake Sun-baked b baked k landscapes, landscapes pes, huge h skies ki and d friendly f i dl people l are the t backdrop th b kd for f unparalle unparalleled ll l d wildlife ildlif viewing. i Once e you you’ve ou’ve ve had a taste, taste you you’llll w want to return again and again. again

BOTSWANA: OTSWANA: One of the last unspoiled wildernesses in i Africa Africa. f i A country off extreme habitats habitats, h bi from f the vast wa waterless Kalahari dessert, sert, to the he world’s worlds largest g inland delta – the Okavango, Okavango g nearly ly a fifth fif h off Botswana Botsw B isi National Nati l Park land. land

AFRICAN BUSH CAMPS Linyanti Bush Camp offers the perfect setting for an authentic and wild safari experience. The Linyanti marshes are one of the most sought after destinations in Northern Botswana, boasting a great diversity of game and a peaceful atmosphere. Linyanti Bush Camp is an intimate 12-bedded tented camp on the banks of the Linyanti marshes, in a private reserve. The camp hosts small, exclusive

e groups who seek a personalized experience n in a private concession away from the main tourist’s routes. Activities from the camp include game drives, walking safaris, game viewing from hides, spot-lighting, bird watching, boating and fishing safaris as wellll as guided mokoro safaris. If you are in search of unique wildlife encounters, thirst for adventure and want a safari rich with African wildlife and culture, then you have found the ideal safari destination., Email:,, Tel: +27 21 7010 0 270 270 0


Photo Credit: Top: Colin Bell, B Bottom: Grant Gr Truthe the

Liquid Giraffe, founded in 2006, is a registered travel agency, based in Maun, Botswana. We are also a proud member of HATAB (The Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana). Our mission is to provide an unparalleled and personalised booking service for our guests to Botswana and other select African countries. Our emphasis is on service. We will help you put together a holiday so that you get only the best out of your time and investment. Our extensive portfolio of lodges, camps and mobile safaris tthroughout Botswana means that we have a huge array of o options to suit your interests and budget. We also offer specialised horseback safaris in the Delta and the Tuli area – s a as well as scenic flights, helicopter flips and balloon safaris over the Delta. We also provide a booking service for o self-drive guests into the National Parks of Botswana. s Our wilderness, teeming with wildlife, is waiting for you. O Let us shape your dream into a personalised safari you will L never forget. n

E Email: or Web: W /LiquidGiraffe /giraffeliquid


KENYA: A naturalist’s first choice in Africa. Kenya offers arid deserts, rainforests, rolling grasslands, snow-capped equatorial peaks, lush green hills, plus the lakes and spectacular escarpments of the Great Rift Valley. S SATAO CAMP TSAVO EAST KENYA Kenya is a magical country-a legend. There is nowhere in the world that can offer a wider variety of landscapes. The legendary wildlife and game reserves of this vast and unspoiled land draw discerning visitors, few of whom return home without falling deeply under the spell of this country and its friendly people. Kenya’s landscapes are unbelievably rich in diversity. Almost every landform exists within this world in miniature, from snow- clad mountains and glaciers to dense forest and lush lakes; from arid deserts to extinct volcanoes to dry savannah - where we are at Satao Camp. Set in the vast shrub land of Tsavo East National Park, Satao Camp is home to a wide variety of animals and birdlife. Here you can watch the many different species that frequent the waterhole from

the comfort of your veranda, or join any number of game drives to follow in the tracks of herds of elephant and zebra roaming the vast expanses of Tsavo. At Satao, you can feel closer to nature than ever before, and you can be at one with your environment. Nestled amongst Tamarind trees and surrounding a central waterhole, the semi-circular layout of the camp provides an excellent viewing point for each of our guests. The accommodation consists of four luxury suites one of which is the honeymoon and VIP suite with its own bath, six family tents and 10 standard tents - two of which are equipped for guests with disabilities. All tents are en-suite and are luxuriously equipped with comfortable beds, electricity and private verandas.

Email: Tel: +254 (0)-020-2434600/1/2/3, 0720 600 200 / 0734 122 022 P.O. Box 90653 – 80100, Mombasa, Kenya. Southern Cross Safaris, Next to Engen Petrol Station

SOUTHERN CROSS SAFARIS MBA LTD Established in Kenya in 1957, Southern Cross Safaris is renowned for offering both luxury tailor-made and scheduled safaris. Our philosophy is simple: we want to create the perfect safari package.

Grand Caravans, one based at Nairobi’s Wilson Airport and one at Vipingo on the Kenyan Coast. We can offer our clients luxury air safaris and air charters throughout Kenya.

We have an extensive operation in East Africa, offering top quality safaris in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda. We also own two exclusive camps: Satao Camp in Tsavo East National Park and Satao Elerai at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, bordering Amboseli National Park. Our team of consultants have all travelled Africa and are passionate about this beautiful continent and what it offers in the way of wildlife, culture and the many varied landscapes

For our land safaris we use our own extensive fleet of modern customised 4x4 Toyota Land Cruisers. In tandem with our two Cessna aircrafts, we organise air and road trips in private or shared vehicles and aircraft and offer accommodation in a choice of lodges, camps and hotels. Our service is highly personalised and safaris are tailored to individual requirements.

Our expertise also extends to aviation, with Scenic Air Safaris operating two Cessna

All our drivers/guides are KPSGA (Kenya Professional Safari Guides Association) certified and have an in-depth knowledge of routes, conditions and local attractions.

Email: Tel (local): 0720600200, 0734122022, 020-2434600/1/2/3 Tel (Overseas) : +254 (0)20 2434600/1/2/3 Southern Cross Centre, Near Engen Petrol Station, Kengeleni Nyali, Mombasa, Kenya


TANZANIA: ZANIA: Tanzania has dozens of beautiful national parks like the world w famous Serengeti and the Ngorongoro. Ngoron Ngo Lake ake ke Victoria lies to the north and Lake Tanganyika to the west. west Wildlife experiences are plentiful. plent plentifu



Tanzania Travel & Safari company, a wildlife safari and adventure travel company established over 15 years ago, providing tailor-made holidays to Tanzania and east Africa at no extra cost. Locally owned and managed by local Tanzanians. Our packages cover private, family and group tours to great destinations such as mount Kilimanjaro amd Meru, Serengeti, Ngorongoro crater, Manyara, Selous and Zanzibar. Proud members of ASTA, ATA, TATO, and recognized by Tanzania tourism board (TTB). Tailor made specialist for: Safari, Kilimanjaro and Meru climbs, Specialized tours ( students & wedding tours), Outdoor activities, Walking & adventure tours, Zanzibar and beach holiday, Wilderness Light mobile safaris.

Selous G.R. – Ruaha N.P. – Fanjove Private Island – Kilwa – Mafia Island

Email: Email: Web:

We take you to the most spectacular and interesting sites in the South of Tanzania. Our mission is to show you those places you should not miss. Because of their astonishing beauty, wild natural essence, and it is testimony of our ancient steps of mankind. We believe that the best way to keep Tanzania’s wilderness truly wild is to champion respectful and sustainable eco-tourism. We have created or chosen eco-friendly properties or camps. They are designed to have a minimum impact on the environment, while supporting conservation and helping to sustain local communities. Tel: +25522 2601747 Email:, Email:

S SHIDOLYA TOURS & SAFARIS To T op p quality q y tours an and safaris that le eave nothing h to chance. Yo Your tr trip to o Tanzania nzania will truly be on one of a liffetime. t W We will plan for you the high highest sttandard dard of safaris sa safaris, travel arrangements angements n and a coastal ex xtensions. te O Our luxurious xurious fleet of 4x4 vehicles off ffers Wi-Fi,, a guaranteed g window seat and an open roof for optimal se pt al photographic opportunities and amazing views e of the landscapes p and d wildlife. wil

Tel: +255 754 866 068 Tel: +255 27 254 8506 E Email: Web: W eb


ZAMBIA: AMBIA: From Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River, to the varied wildlife of the Luangwa Valley, and from the lakes lak in the north to the vast floodplains in the west, the country offers an ever-changing spectacle of unspoilt nature. EYES ON AFRICA SAFARIS | East Africa | Family run Since 2000 Safari: A Journey of a Lifetime If you dream of having an authentic African adventure, Eyes on Africa Safaris is one of the best ways to experience it. Choosing the right adventure company is important for the success of your safari in Africa. It can be the difference between the trip of a lifetime or a complete nightmare. Family run business for over 16 years now, we are ground tour operators covering East Africa with private, responsible, affordable safari holidays. We are big enough to rely on, but small enough to care. From the time you arrive until your departure, our team on the ground will ensure you receive the highest quality service and the most

experienced guides available. Living and working every day in Africa means that our finger is directly on the pulse of the continent. We know more about safaris round Kenya and Tanzania than anyone else. Our tours are designed to be as flexible as possible, so you can experience Africa in your own way. We believe that, the most important part of any successful safari is your driver-guide. The safari’s success or failure is held in their hands. Therefore, we take great care to ensure that our driver-guides are charismatic, born leaders and work exclusively for us. They are also highly trained, very experienced and experts with a deep knowledge of the landscape, the wildlife and its people.

Skype: eyesonafrica1 Email: Web:

Z ZAMBIAN GROUND HANDLERS H For ridiculously good gameviewing, make Zambia your next African safari destination From designing your itinerary through to delivering the holiday of a lifetime, Zambian Ground Handlers will be with you every step of the way. We specialize only in Zambia and have more experience and knowledge than anyone else. We work with all the safari operators in Zambia and can offer you independent advice to ensure that the trip we book is exactly what you are after. And when you’re in Zambia we are based in Lusaka, on hand 24/7 to ensure a seamless safari experience.

Tel: +260 977 747048 Email: Web:


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BBC Wildlife

September 2016


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Join a research team in Botswana’s Okavango Delta and study the impact of the trophy hunting ban on elephant and predator populations

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September 2016


BBC Wildlife



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BBC Wildlife

September 2016


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With six years’ expertise, we sell a large variety of cameras that are suitable for a wide diversity of wildlife and garden scenarios. Stocking an extensive range that includes wildlife and trail cameras to scout the field, wood or garden, inspection cameras to see inside burrows, wireless cameras to take pictures of birds or nests, as well as time-lapse cameras to watch plants grow, insects moult and seasons change. ☎ 01933 382 674


ADOPT A BEEHIVE A delightful idea from the British Beekeepers Association Become an ‘armchair beekeeper’ by adopting a bee hive and help to save the honey bee. Adopt your beehive from one of ten regions across the UK and receive this welcome box of bee related goodies, plus three updates a year with news from your beehive and its beekeeper.

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BBC Wildlife


OUR EXPERTS STUART BLACKMAN is a science writer who is mildly obsessed with evolution.

GRAHAM APPLETON is an expert on waders who formerly worked for the BTO.

JULES HOWARD is a zoologist and author, and a patron of the charity Froglife.




Do animals appreciate rhythm?

is an evolutionary biologist who specialises in both primates and skeletons.

MIKE TOMS is an author and associate director at the British Trust for Ornithology.

Stuart Blackman

EMAIL YOUR QUESTIONS TO California sealions can follow a beat.


BBC Wildlife

wildquestions@ or post to Q&A, BBC Wildlife Magazine, Immediate Media Company, 2nd Floor, Tower House, Fairfax Street, Bristol BS1 3BN

September 2016

Herbert Kehrer/Imagebroker/FLPA

A There’s no shortage of YouTube evidence that parrots of various species can ‘dance’ in time to music, and very good movers some of them are, too. In addition chimpanzees and bonobos have been observed spontaneously synchronising with human drummers, while horses may have a feel for rhythm. And California sealions can be trained to bob their heads in time to music if bribed with enough fish, though they show no inclination to do it spontaneously. The phenomenon has barely been studied, and it’s unclear why some animals have this ability, which seems far removed from natural behaviour. There is no shortage of suggestions, though. It may stem from the need to co-ordinate group behaviour or courtship displays, for example, or perhaps it reflects an ability to synchronise body movements such as flapping or swimming with rhythmic properties of air and water.



Whyy do curlew sandpiper numbers fluctuate? A

You may see a stunning brick-red male curlew sandpiper in late July, but the curlew sandpipers spotted in Britain and Ireland are usually juveniles, which arrive in the second half of August and in September. Most adult curlew

UK populations of curlew sandpipers (here a juvenile) vary year to year.

Curlew: Leander Khil/NHPA/Photoshot; caterpillar: Nikola Spasenoski/Alamy; nautilus: J.W.Alker/Imagebroker/FLPA


sandpipers, particularly males, seem ab ble to make long migratory journeys, as they travel south from Russia towards winte wintering grounds g as far away as South Africa. Juven niles sttop more frequently; there are large aautum mn flocks in estuaries in mainland Europe,, but ass a rule relatively few cross the North Seaa. Occaasionally weather conditions at the end of Augusst conspire to produce a period of sstrong easterly winds from Russia, the Baltic and d north hern Scandinavia and across to Brritain, aand this is when flocks turn u up heree. The species’ prod ductiviity once varied m markedlly, with lo ow breeding succeess in years when lem mming g numbers ccrashed d and Arctic foxes huntted nessting birds instead. Howeverr, this lemming cycle is now less pro onoun nced and may even have ceased altogether, r, so au utumn numbers are more stable. Graha am App pleton


What is a ‘living fossil’? A

The phrase ‘living fossil’ is both widely used and widely argued over. It refers to an ‘archaic’ species that has survived for a long time, whose anatomy harks back to an early stage in the group’s evolutionary tree and has remained unchanged for much of that period. There are several species that are often referred to as living fossils, including coelacanths, horseshoe crabs, tuataras and nautiloids. The tree Ginko biloba for example is the only living species of its group and dates back almost 300 million years

September 2016



How did insects’ larval stage evolve? A In perhaps as many as 60 per cent of all insect species a worm-like larva transforms into a more distinctive adult. So a larval stage must have some evolutionary advantage. It might be that larvae, many of whom burrow, urrow, can live in environments where pre redators struggle to co-exist, or that a m mobile larva that can find its own food fo gets more nutrition than if it had ad to rely on the finite energy supply y of an egg. The most popular ar idea is that the strategy allows a sp pecies’ adult and juvenile forms to t co-exist in the same habitat. So S a rainforest that can support bo oth juvenile caterpillars feeding g on leaves and adult butterflie es feeding on flowers will be more m highly populated th han The caterpillar of an imaginary one where w the swallowtail they compete to ea at butterfly. flowers, for example e. Jules Howard

The ‘living fossil’ Nautilus belauensis is found in the waters around Palau, an island nation in the Pacific.

in the fossil record. However, some species are more problematic – even okapi are considered by some as ‘living fossils’, yet have only existed for 15–20 million years. The problem with the term ‘living fossil’ is the definition of ‘a long time’ and ‘remained unchanged’. Is a million years a long time, or does it need to be 65 million years? And many species remain largely unchanged for millions of years – even frogs have looked the same for that long – but we don’t call them ‘living fossils’. Ben Garrod

BBC Wildlife


Working to conserve African elephants through our holistic approach to understanding and supporting the needs of both elephants and local people. Our applied research and education programmes empower local villagers to live alongside wildlife and take advantage of XLIFIRI½XWXLEXIPITLERXWGERFVMRK[LMPWX mitigating the damage they may cause. Find out more

Q&A Eagle owls have been observed preying on our native raptors.


The striking vulturine guineafowl. BIRDS

Are there eagle owls living wild in the UK? A The eagle owls currently breeding in the UK, of which there are just a few pairs, are the result of accidental releases or deliberate introductions from captive stock. Within the archaeological and fossil record there are specimens that have been put forward as eagle owls – bird remains are not easy to identify to the species level – and a review of these suggested that the animal should be considered part of our native avifauna. However, there is no evidence that any of the birds currently at liberty have arrived

here naturally, and the eagle owl remains on Category E of the British list, denoting its non-native status. Young eagle owls can disperse over very long distances, but the evidence suggests that they are unwilling to cross large bodies of water, such as the English Channel and the North Sea. A review of aviary losses indicates that as many as 60–70 captive eagle owls may escape into the wild each year, nearly twothirds of which are never recaptured. Mike Toms


Some animals look like they’ve been cobbled together from the parts of disparate species. There’s the secretary bird, which resembles a hawk balanced on the legs of a flamingo; the duckbilled platypus, with its odd mixture of mammalian and avian features; and then there’s the vulturine guineafowl, which appears to be part peacock and part vulture (above). This native of East Africa is the largest species of guineafowl, and with its hooked beak and bald head you might expect it to add flamboyant splashes of colour to the throng of scavengers gathered around the carcass of an unfortunate buffalo or elephant. But you’d be wrong: it is still very much a guineafowl in its habits, eating seeds and small invertebrates. SB


y do many species ower close at night?

Lesser celandine heralds the arrival of spring, blooming (at least traditionally) on 21 February.

September 2016

A Nyctinassty, to give the behaviour itss botanical name, tends to occu ur in species that have long-livved flowers, in order to protect theeir precious pollen and reprodu uctive parts from cold, frost, dew d (wet pollen is a heavier burden for pollinators to carry) or herbivores. In lesser celandine c (left), for exam mple, a native species thatt is a member of thee buttercup family, noccturnal closure proteects the flowers against brow wsing slugs. Species vaary widely in the

precise timing of their opening and closing, depending partly on when their pollinators are active, and flowers pollinated by nocturnal bats or moths tend to close during the day instead. The 18th-century Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus, who is most famous for revolutionising taxonomy with his system of binomial nomenclature (ie ‘scientific’ or ‘Latin’ names), suggested that an arrangement of carefully chosen species could be used as a floral clock for telling the time, though this has proved difficult in practice. SB BBC Wildlife


Owl (captive): Malcolm Schuyl/FLPA; guineafowl: Winfried Wisniewski/Minden/FLPA; lesser celandine: Getty






Plantlife’s Ranscombe Farm What is Ranscombe? Covering 250ha, Ranscombe Farm, near Rochester, Kent, is the second-largest of Plantlife’s 23 reserves. It includes large areas of ancient woodland, grassland and arable farmland, and is probably the UK’s most important site for rare cornfield flowers.


What do your volunteers do?


Volunteers undertake practical conservation work such as coppicing and hay-cutting; help with livestock by providing daily checks on the cattle that graze the grassland; take part in wildlife surveys and monitoring; and get involved in events, promotions and fundraising.



How much time is requested? As much or as little as people can give. Our practical work parties run every week and last about five hours, for instance, while checking cattle requires a couple of hours once a fortnight.

Are qualifications needed? No. We provide all of the necessary training, supervision and equipment.

What’s a recent achievement by your volunteers? W H AT C A N I S E E I N . . .

largest surviving carnivorous marsupial tearing chunks out of a wallaby carcass.

An isolated island off the south coast of Australia, Tasmania offers encounters with such amazing Antipodean delights as wombats, wallabies and wedge-tailed eagles. WEDGE-TAILED EAGLE Tarkine Wilderness This wilderness, which is one of the last substantial tracts of temperate rainforest left in the country, is dominated by moss-clad myrtle beeches and towering pine trees. Look out for the endemic subspecies of Australia’s largest bird of prey soaring above them.

Illustration by Dawn Cooper; volunteers: Plantlife


COMMON WOMBAT Narantapu NP Described as Australia’s Serengeti, Narantapu’s open grasslands are famed


September 2016

for their huge numbers of placidly grazing marsupials. PLATYPUS Scottsdale It lays eggs, has a duck-like bill and sports enormous spurs on its back legs – it’s perhaps not surprising that the first scientists to examine a platypus thought it was a hoax.


TASMANIAN DEVIL Bicheno It may be the ultimate afterdark experience for wildlife lovers – watching the world’s


WHITE WALLABY South Bruny A trip to the south side of Bruny’s Adventure Bay is like Alice’s journey into Wonderland, only the white ‘rabbits’ are considerably larger and actually rare morphs of the common-asmuck Bennett’s wallaby.


ORANGE-BELLIED PARROT Southwest NP This rare and unusual parrot migrates between southern Australia and the southern tip of Tasmania to breed – you might be lucky enough to spot one from a bird hide at Melaleuca between October and March.

Our practical conservation team recently built three new corrals for handling cattle. This involved digging post-holes to a total depth of more than the height of Nelson’s column – quite an achievement.

What time of year do you most need help? Work goes on year-round. Wildlife surveys run from spring until autumn; cattle need checking nearly all year; and the work of the practical team never stops. O Richard Moyse, project manager


The practical volunteer team with a nearly completed corral for Ranscombe’s cattle.

BBC Wildlife



How to shoot autumn leaves


ur northerly latitude affords the UK strikingly distinct seasons, and the dazzling colours of autumn are breathtakingly beautiful. No wonder, then, that it is a well-photographed time of year. However, you can still be creative with popular subjects. Vary your approach and autumn leaves offer far more possibilities than the classic golden woodland. The simple fact that leaves fall creates photographic opportunities, as they cascade into rivers, float on the breeze and carpet forest floors. Experiment with your techniques to make the most of the fiery hues.

Shooting a long exposure of a flowing river is a tried and tested method of creating painterly waterscapes. The technique is often used with riverside birds or plants, which sit still and sharp against the blurred backdrop. In this image floating leaves create the brushstrokes, while the vibrant yellows against the dark water resemble headlights on a highway. Use a tripod to ensure that the scenery remains as sharp as a pin.

River: Niall Benvie/; rowan: Guy Edwardes/2020VISION/; canopy: Alex Hyde/ Python: Barry Mansell/; cardinal: Tom Vezo/Minden/FLPA

Sam Hobson Wildlife photographer



BBC Wildlife

September 2016


The Burmese python is now common in the Florida Everglades.

Q  LAYER THE COLOUR Autumn brings a bounty of berries, such as rowan. Here they take centre stage, with the surrounding foliage deliberately out of focus to create a warm, textured haze to view them through. We instinctively shoot with a clear path to our subject, but by layering bright colours in the foreground and background we can add real depth and interest.

 LOOK TO THE SKY Turning your camera skyward captures the vastness of a golden autumn canopy, filtering away the woodland floor and wide trunks to create a worm’s-eye view of the fiery foliage. Here the bright but overcast sky means that the leaves are back-lit and glowing, but the background is a neutral white rather than a high-contrast blue.



For more expert tips and advice on how to improve your wildlife photography, visit www.discoverwildlife. com where you can also enter our online photo competitions.

September 2016


Why are there so many invasive species in the Florida Everglades? A Invasive species are animals and plants that establish themselves somewhere they’re not originally from, and they can have a dramatic impact on biodiversity, outcompeting native species and altering entire food-webs. Indeed the problem is so serious that the US spends over $120 billion annually on managing invasive species. This is a particular issue in the Florida Everglades where the invaders range from the Burmese python, feared to be responsible for severe declines in native mammals, to the Brazilian pepper, Q

which forms impenetrably dense forests. So why do the Everglades have so many? Mainly for the same reason that thousands of tourists visit Florida every year: the climate. The subtropical conditions are ideal for a huge range of plants and animals. The range of habitats also plays a part, from freshwater marshes to mangrove swamps, all of them teeming with resources. Finally Florida is one of the country’s main points of entry for the plant and exotic pet trades, and escapes are all too likely. Christian Dunn Ecologist


How do small birds clean their nests? A

Most passerines sanitise their nests, which explains why chicks typically produce their faeces within a tough mucous membrane known as a faecal sac that makes it easier for the adults to carry the waste away, though sometimes they swallow the sac instead. Since the chicks require a warm and dry environment, removing the faeces benefits both hygiene and insulation; it may also reduce the visibility of the nest to predators. Most passerine species remove the chicks’ droppings throughout the breeding attempt, but a few – notably finches – stop when they are a week or so old. As a result droppings build up around the rim of the nest, where most large chicks tend to defecate. This provides a useful guide to those monitoring finch populations, because it indicates whether the nest survived through to the chick stage or not. MT

A female northern cardinal removes a faecal sac from her nest.

BBC Wildlife



Want to get something off your chest? This is the place.





An unfortunate experience with frogspawn is one of Derek’s precious wildlife memories.

THE CIRCLE OF WILDLIFE I am currently reading Chris Packham’s memoir Fingers in the Sparkle Jar, and I am reminded of some episodes from my own childhood, also in the 1960s and 70s. For instance, in 1967 I had a fishtank on the coal bunker, proudly housing my collection of caterpillars. But while I was away on holiday it rained, and water got in through the lightbulb holes in the lid. As a result all but one of my caterpillars sadly drowned. Over the years that tank was home to a menagerie of creatures including tadpoles, frogs, newts, sticklebacks, stick insects and hamsters, though not all at the same time! I also remember keeping frogspawn in a washing-up bowl on the patio, and one morning found the bowl upside-down while the dried-up spawn was all over the crazy paving. I was inconsolable and vowed to kill the culprit, whoever that might have been. Perhaps mercifully I never found out. I wonder how many creatures are

inadvertently killed by inquisitive boys? At 56 I am a little older than Chris, but I also had a rough time at school and was the proud owner of a Raleigh Chopper in the 70s! I also have a son who is almost four, who has recently been diagnosed as autistic. I take heart from Chris’ story and hope that one day my son, Clarke, however he progresses, will have enjoyment from nature and animals. I have a fairly large garden and to that end have planted bee- and butterfly-friendly flowers, created a bog garden (following the instructions in your July 2015 issue), put up nestboxes and feeders, and am leaving part of the garden that has bushes and small trees totally wild. I am hoping to make a shallow pond when Clarke is a bit older. Hopefully he too will one day enjoy the miracle of seeing tadpoles become frogs, just as I did all those years ago. Derek Summers, Cardiff

Brian Mckay/Getty

BE A WINNING WRITER The Letter of the Month wins a pair of HI-TEC Altitude Lite I waterproof boots, worth £59.99 and perfect for hiking. They are available in sizes 7–13 for men and 4–8 for women. For more information visit


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WRITE TO US BBC Wildlife, Tower House, Fairfax Street, Bristol BS1 3BN

What’s wrong with reality? Suddenly, Pokémon Go is everywhere. If you walk around any public place you see clusters of children, teens and adults chasing virtual animals on their phones. Pokémon Go shows that hunter-gatherer instincts are still alive in humanity, but it is a pity that they could not be challenged into something more useful. Imagine if those children were holding binoculars, dippingnets and magnifying glasses. Imagine if they watched birds and spotted butterflies. Imagine if the money and technology spent on virtual games were invested in wildlife management, preservation and education. I suppose it was inevitable that as wildlife becomes exterminated more would have to be invented. Pat Harrold, Via email

Praise for Amy May I just say how much I thoroughly enjoy reading AmyJane Beer’s Nature Table column every month. It is so informative, and with the love I have for nature I’m always looking to improve my knowledge. Brian Hutchings, Via email Editor Sheena Harvey says: Thanks Brian. Amy’s Nature Table comes to an end this month, but she will continue to write for the magazine. Our new series Hidden Britain, revealing insights into some of our quirkiest species and spectacles, begins in our October issue, which goes on sale on Wednesday 28 September.

BLOGGER OF THE MONTH This month’s winner is Fernando Lessa who blogs about the wildlife of Brazil at Visit www. to read his blog post and find out how you can join our Local Patch Reporters project.

September 2016




O Enter our monthly online photographic competition at your-photos/photo-contest


Safety first


1 FORESTER MOTH in Lulworth Cove, Dorset, UK, by Simon Phelps

2 PAINTED LADY in Köln, Germany, by Cristina Krippahl


3 HUMMINGBIRD HAWKMOTH in Dorset, UK, by Richard Collier

Big-cat encounter

cubs moving again, only this time they were heading our way. I thought that other readers Eventually the bravest of the might enjoy hearing about a youngsters came out of the wonderful wildlife experience undergrowth onto the track I had in India. Early one February in front of us, followed by morning we were lucky to be its mother and siblings. We in the first vehicle into Tadoba watched them playing together Andhari Tiger Reserve in and saw Maya grooming one Maharashtra. Our driver and of the cubs for a while before park guide took us to an area she decided that it was time to where a particular female called go. They followed her as she Maya and her three cubs were disappeared into the long grass, sighted quite frequently. We leaving us to wonder if it had waited for a while, then suddenly all been just a dream. noticed some movement in the Kathy Turner, Bristol undergrowth. We could make out the outline of a small tiger, then another and d another, followed by a much larger one. They were heading away from the direction we were facing. Our driver guessed where they would go, and moved off and repositioned our 4WD. Sure One of Kathy’s photos enough, we saw the of her tiger encoun ter.

September 2016

but it is essential to look at the bigger picture. Without 1080, which is used mainly to control possum which destroy the native bush and birds – both directly and via habitat destruction, we would have fewer birds throughout the country. It also hits rats and mustelids which are serious killers of native birds. New Zealand has huge areas of wilderness infested with imported pests. There is no better technology available for controlling the situation.

Pests and poison I have just read with some interest Julian Fitter’s article ‘Land of flightless birds’ (July). He explains how New Zealand is saving its flightless birds by controlling pests, and one of the methods quoted is poisoning. However, New Zealand is the world’s greatest user of 1080, an insidious poison that has been banned in many countries, both because it causes a slow, painful death and because of the disastrous effect it has on non-target species. In fact the country’s ‘pest control’ methods are actually m killing many avian k sspecies, flighted as well as flightless. w Paul Castle, Hackham, P South Australia S Ju ulian Fitter says: Clearly we would love not to have to use any poison, and inevitably any poison is likely ine to have some side effects,

In your article ‘On the trail of the adder’ (July), one of the photographs shows Nigel Hand crouching down directly in front of a tin he is lifting. While I’m sure that Nigel already knew that there was nothing underneath the tin, I’d just like to remind readers that this is generally a very dangerous way to look beneath a tin or log, especially when abroad. You should always lift a tin from its far side so that it stands between you and any animals beneath it, and you should stand as upright as possible. This ensures that the animal cannot strike at you and can escape away from you if it wishes. Rob Murray, Norfolk

Butterfly parade My passion is butterflies and moths, but this year they have been noticeable by their absence in Somerset, though the large white and red admiral are both doing well. However, I have managed a surprise sighting of a Jersey tiger moth for the first time. I thought that the species was confined to Devon? David Anderson, Somerset Features editor Ben Hoare says: The Jersey tiger is in fact now rather badly named, because the species is rapidly spreading north and west, and has now reached Bristol and South Wales. I myself live in the Quantocks, having moved there in 2008. There were no Jersey tigers locally then, but I saw my first a couple of years ago on my garden buddleia!

QUIZ ANSWERS (see p113) The Wild Words are: 1 C, 2 B, 3 B, 4 B, 5 B, 6 C

BBC Wildlife



PHOTO E CHOIC is the place to see and share wildlife photos.



I took this image of plains zebras while on a dawn game drive in Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa, in January – the jeep stopped so we could watch the herd. The light was perfect as the sun rose, and I had to avoid the heads and shoulders of other tourists to get a good shot through the window. This was my first time on safari and I was thrilled with my picture. Eleanor Hamilton, Shropshire, UK

The colours of male pheasants are stunning, so I have been trying to photograph one for a long time. It was raining the day I took this shot at Carsington Water reservoir in Derbyshire, but I think it makes my image more interesting. By spending time listening to the gamebird and watching his movements I could predict when he would flutter his wings. Mary Wilde, Matlock, UK



Guadalupe Island, Mexico, has to be one of the best locations in the world to see great white sharks in clear water. I visited there in October for the chance to dive with this enigmatic species – the larger female sharks arrive at this time of year to coincide with elephant seals giving birth. This individual passed me while I was in a deep-water cage and I was completely awestruck. Mark Taylor Hutchinson, Sidmouth, UK

Get closer to nature by taking this Terralight backpacking tent, worth £190, on a wild camping trip. The lightweight, double-wall tent for one to two people has a spacious gear porch, and is fast and easy to pitch.

SUBMIT YOUR PHOTOS O Enter our Your Photos competition and your image may run in the magazine: www.


I went on a wildlife photography trip to Sinharaja Forest Reserve, Sri Lanka, in May. During a trek my guide showed me a green garden lizard sitting on a plant – it was the first time I had seen the colourful species. I only noticed the mosquito later on when I looked at the image on my computer. Shafi Rasheed, Kerala, India


BBC Wildlife

September 2016



Every year a pair of bald eagles returns to the same nest in St John’s, Newfoundland, Canada, to raise their young, and it is quite a popular wildlife attraction. This year three eggs were laid, but only two chicks survived. I have learned so much about these birds by spending time photographing them. The youngsters in this photo are just over four weeks old. Vincent Cornaglia, Newfoundland, Canada


I didn’t expect to see a polecat during my visit to Wildwood, a wildlife park near Herne, Canterbury, devoted to British species – I had only ever seen the mustelid on BBC Two’s Springwatch. So I was surprised when this animal poked its head out of a shelter as I walked past. I felt extremely lucky to get this shot. Matt Salmon, London, UK

September 2016

BBC Wildlife


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Answers in our November 2016 issue


City Image/Alamy


Win a prize with our brain-teaser.

1. The definition of pronk A the second swarm of bees

in the same season

JULY ANSWERS Across: 8 Lychee, 9 Arachnid, 10 Tarn, 11 Bird of prey, 13 Sage grouse, 17 Teal, 18 Imago, 19 Army, 21 Sea anemone, 23 Gila, 24 Froghopper, 28 Tees, 29 Hibiscus, 30 Superb. Down: 1 Sycamore,

2 Chinchilla, 3 Derbyshire, 4 Gaur, 5 Mako, 6 Ship, 7 Civets, 14 Guano, 15 Goosegrass, 16 Orangetips, 20 Mulberry, 22 Earwig, 25 Gaia, 26 Orca, 27/12 Puss moth.

JULY PRIZE WINNER Ryan Harrison Stourbridge

ACROSS 1 A young tree (7) 5 Ocean-dwelling cephalopod with eight arms (7) 9 Part of a flower that helps to protect and support the petals (5) 10 Cliff-nesting seabird with a thick black beak (9) 11 Common aquatic plant of Eurasia and the USA; Hippuris vulgaris (5, 4) 12 Root vegetable that is also known as a rutabaga (5) 13 Ocelot, caracal and lynx are all wild ___ (4) 15 5 The study of whales, porpoises and dolphins (8) 18 8 Moss of damp, peaty habitats (8) 19 Substance produced by the caterpillar of the moth Bombyx mori (4) 22 Another name for the snow leopard; also a unit of weight (5) 24 4 Freshwater turtles (9)

26 Colourful Old World lizard with a long tongue and zygodactylous feet (9) 27 7 The male ___ damselfly has distinctive blue and black colouring (5) 28 8 The ___ tit is also known as the ___ reedling (7) 29 Pollen-producing reproductive organs of flowers (7) DOWN 1 Flowering plant widely cultivated for its oil-rich seeds (6) 2 Social insects that construct their nests from wood-pulp (5, 4) 3 The Western ___, also known as the Outer Hebrides, are home to corncrakes, hen harriers and golden eagles (5) 4 Powerful, pale-plumaged raptor of the Arctic tundra (9) 5 The American dipper is also known as the water ___ (5)

6 Old-fashioned name for song thrushes (9) 7 Collective noun for lions (5) 8 The ___ birch has peeling white bark and produces catkins (6) 14 4 Term for bistort, a Eurasian herbaceous plant with a spike of flowers (9) 16 African trees with edible, pod-like fruit (9) 17 7 The common ___ is a US species and a member of the rail family (9) 20 A young animal of the genus Vulpes (3, 3) 211 Flowering plants that may be sea, alpine or goldilocks (6) 23 East African lake home to important populations of cichlids (5) 24 4 River in the Scottish Borders well known for its salmon (5) 25 5 Genus of a group of long-tailed lizards found across Africa (5)

WIN A HENRYKA KINGFISHER NECKLACE CE HOW TO ENTER This competition is only open to residents of the UK (including the Channel Islands). Post entries to BBC Wildlife Magazine, September Henryka 2016 Crossword, PO Box 501, Leicester, LE94 0AA A or email the answers specialises to k by 5pm on 16 September 2016. in designing Entrants must supply name, address and telephone number. The winner will be amber and silve er the first correct entry drawn at random after the closing time. The name of the jewellery inspired by UK winner will appear in the November 2016 issue. By entering participants agree to wildlife. Enter for the chance to win be bound by the general competition terms and conditions shown on this page. its signature kingfisher necklace, Immediate Media Company Limited (publisher of BBC Wildlife Magazine) would love to send you worth £89. The pendant comes newsletters, together with special offers, and other promotions. If you would not like to receive these with a silver chain. please write ‘NO INFO’ on your entry. Branded BBC titles are licensed from or published jointly with BBC Worldwide (the commercial arm of the BBC). Please tick here  if you’d like to receive regular newsletters, special offers and promotions from BBC Worldwide by email. Your information will be handled in accordance with the BBC Worldwide privacy policy:

September 2016

O For more information visit

B an earwig C to leap through the air,

as an antelope does 2. The animal you associate with the adjective simian A a nightingale B an ape C a partridge

3. The offspring of a salmon A a wriggler B a parr C a nymph

4. The sound made by camels A a low B a grunt C a caw

5. The name for a male hawk A a jake B a tiercel C a cob

6. The collective noun for larks A a huddle B a watch C an exaltation

Find out the answers on p109

Questions set by ADAM JACOT DE BOINOD General competition terms and conditions 1. The BBC Code of Conduct for competitions can be found at and all BBC-branded magazines comply with the Code. 2. Competitions are open to all residents of the UK, including the Channel Islands, aged 18 years or older, except employees or contractors of Immediate Media and anyone connected with the promotion or their direct family members. 3. By entering a competition, the participants agree: to be bound by these terms and conditions; that their surname and county of residence may be released if they win a prize; and that should they win the competition, their name and likeness may be used for pre-arranged promotional purposes. 4. Entrants should follow the instructions for each competition carefully in order to enter. Entries received after the specified closing date and time will not be considered, and cannot be returned. 5. Entrants must supply their full name, postal address and landline telephone number. We will use entrants’ personal details in accordance with the Immediate Media Privacy Policy at www. 6. Only one entry will be permitted per person, regardless of method of entry. Bulk entries made by third parties will not be permitted. 7. The winning entrant will be the first correct entry drawn at random after the closing time, or, in creative competitions, the one that in the judges’ opinion is the best. 8. There is no cash alternative and prizes will not be transferable. Prizes must be taken as stated and cannot be deferred. We reserve the right to substitute the prize with one of the same or greater value. 9. Our decision as to the winner is final and no correspondence relating to a competition will be entered into. The name and county of residence of the winner(s) will be available (by sending an SAE to BBC Wildlife Magazine, Immediate Media, 2nd Floor, Tower House, Fairfax Street, Bristol BS1 3BN) within three months of the closing date of the promotion. 10. The winner(s) will be notified by telephone or email within 10 days of the close of the promotion. 11. We reserve the right to amend these terms and conditions or to cancel, alter or amend a competition at any stage if deemed necessary in our opinion, or if circumstances arise outside our control. 12. If we cannot reach you, or if we have not received a response within two working days of the initial date of contact, we may re-offer the prize to a runner-up or in one of our future competitions. The prize will only be reassigned three times before it is given to charity. 13. We exclude liability to the full extent permitted by law for any loss, damage or injury occurring to the participant arising from his or her entry into a competition or occurring to the winner(s) arising from his or her acceptance of a prize. 14. The competitions are subject to the laws of England. 15. Promoter: Immediate Media Co Bristol Ltd.

BBC Wildlife 113

Tales Tal

bush b h from the

A WILD WORLD OF RIPPING YARNS WHO? SANDER JAIN is a photojournalist who focuses on natural history, conservation and wilderness topics. Learn more at



Clayoquot Sound at sunrise. The remote spot is brilliant for wildlife, but can get too wild for comfort.


Flip Nicklin/Minden Pictures/FLPA


ne morning in July 2014, a boat dropped me off in an inlet in Clayoquot Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island. I had a kayak and enough food to last me for a couple of months of observing wildlife and communing with nature. A small cabin would be my base, and for a few days the weather was perfect with cloudless skies. In some remote settings you rarely see wildlife, but here I watched bald eagles, kingfishers, ducks, seals, sealions and river otters on a regular basis. I wasn’t completely cut off, either: I sent texts every morning and evening to a friend in Tofino 50km away via a satellite-communication device. On the evening of the fifth day the weather changed, and rolling clouds sealed me into the fjord. I fired off my text, then heard a distant noise as if boulders were being thrown about. I was just reassuring myself that it could be a black bear looking for a snack when I heard strange, owl-like vocalisations as if several animals were calling to each other. The rocky sounds continued too, culminating in a

huge crash nearby that made me jump while I was brushing my teeth. Could there be illegal loggers in the area, or someone else? Impossible: I had seen no lights or tracks. Hoping for some rational explanation, I went to bed in the cabin’s half-attic and drifted asleep under my sleeping bag. I somehow slept until 3.20am, when impossibly loud stomping next to my shelter shook me awake, and made my heart pound. Then came horrifying vocalisations – erratic but deliberate, and eerily like speech – before I heard two animals (bipeds, surely?) run off. For the next few hours I pressed my hands against my ears in terror and lay under my sleeping bag, all of my passion for adventure forgotten. From my refuge I sent messages to Tofino. “I NEED PICK UP RIGHT AWAY. PLEASE SEND A FLOATPLANE!!!” Theoretically I had to have a clear view of the

sky to get through, but I prayed that one of my texts would miraculously reach its target. When dawn finally broke, I packed my most valuable belongings – I wouldn’t be able to take everything in the plane, but I was past caring – before receiving a message saying that help was on its way. An hour later the floatplane descended into the fjord. “I didn’t feel safe here last night,” I told the pilot. “The ground was shaking and I heard the sounds of moving boulders. I didn’t want to be trapped due to an earthquake or a landslide.” I couldn’t tell the full, crazy story. However, his answer amazed me. “That sounds like a sasquatch, or bigfoot,” he said. “I know people who’ve seen them on the shore.” We climbed high over the area where I’d lived for close to a week. My inlet looked so calm and safe, and I fell in love all over again. Back in Tofino, I told my friend everything that had happened. “I guess there’s a reason why the First Nations call that place ‘Home of the Sasquatch’,” he replied.



BBC Wildlife

O Do you have a tale that you would like to share? If so, please email a synopsis of your idea to

September 2016

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