WILDLIFE STORIES OF 2015
from being bizarre creatures and giants among their kind, what do Alabama
hellbenders and Thailand flying foxes have in common? They, along with
more commonplace animals such as monarch butterflies and muskrats, were
included in a top 10 list. They are among The Wildlife Society's "favorite
web stories from 2015."
founded in 1937 with a mission that includes efforts "to sustain
wildlife populations and habitats through science-based management and
conservation." With a membership approaching 10,000, this highly
effective organization focuses on conservation issues such as hunting,
energy development and invasive species that affect wildlife in North
America and globally.
one of the largest salamanders in the world, reach record lengths of
2½ feet. They also qualify as ugly, but in an appealing manner,
sort of like a Disney troll from "Frozen." They live in cold,
clear mountain streams and rivers from New York to Georgia and once
were reported from Alabama. Hellbenders are a benchmark species because
they cannot persist in polluted waters. Their disappearance from streams
where they once lived gives cause for environmental concern. Their presence
is a good indicator of high water quality. The last confirmed sightings
in Alabama were more than 45 years ago in the northeast corner. Do hellbenders
no longer exist in the state, or have they simply been overlooked?
you go to a clear flowing stream where hellbenders abound, you are highly
unlikely to see one, despite their large size. The most common method
of finding a hellbender is to look under large rocks in the streambed.
technique, wildlife biologists in September 2015 discovered an adult
female hellbender in the Flint River, a tributary to the Tennessee River
in northern Alabama. The finding was noteworthy enough to qualify for
top 10 status of last year's wildlife discoveries.
about flying foxes involves a more high-tech approach than turning over
rocks in a stream - researchers attached GPS tracking devices to big
bats to determine where they go and what they eat.
foxes, or fruit bats, are fruit-eating vegetarians instead of the typical,
much smaller insect-eating species we are familiar with. Flying foxes
are huge compared to our idea of a bat, the largest having wingspans
up to 5 feet. Imagine that tangled in your hair.
to the attitude that fascinating animals are worth putting up with even
though they cause problems on occasion. However, the mindset about the
big bats appears to be much different in Thailand where "local
fruit farmers see the large flying foxes as a nuisance and sometimes
kill the animals to stop them from eating their commercial crops."
in Thailand is known as Lyle's flying fox, which roosts in Buddhist
temples, not for religious reasons but because the monks don't harm
them. The bats venture out at night to forage. I once saw these giant
creatures fly at dusk in Australia. A sky full of the flying monkeys
in "The Wizard of Oz" came to mind as they sailed overhead
on their way to trees with berries. But obviously, fruit growers in
the region are not fond of having their orchards raided by several thousand
bats in a single night.
story discusses the plan of the scientists to enhance bat conservation
by reducing "conflicts between local farmers and flying foxes"
by learning more about the ecology of the bats and educating the public
on their importance to the natural ecosystem.
the other species making the TWS's top 10 list were the golden-winged
warbler in Georgia, mountain lions in New York state and giraffes and
hippopotamuses of the Serengeti Plains in Africa.
that TWS presents some remarkable wildlife stories, but don't be intimidated.
You can enjoy wildlife adventures in your own backyard or in local natural
areas, and they will be equally exciting simply because you experience
them in person.
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