Earth ChangesS


Flushing live goldfish now illegal in Switzerland; they must be killed first

Want to get rid of your goldfish? Swiss owners who have been flushing them down the toilet - still alive - must now find other methods since strict, new animal protection laws took effect today.

Instead, a fish must be first knocked out and then killed before its body can be disposed of, the law stipulates.

The new legislation spells out in exhaustive detail how all domestic animals are to be treated, whether they be pets, farm animals or destined for scientific experiments.


Massive Canadian Arctic ice shelf breaks away

A huge 55-square-kilometre ice shelf in Canada's northern Arctic broke away last month and the remaining shelves have shrunk at a "massive and disturbing" rate. These are the latest signs of accelerating climate change in the remote region, scientists said on Tuesday.

They said the Markham Ice Shelf, one of just five remaining ice shelves in the Canadian Arctic, split away from Ellesmere Island in early August. They also said two large chunks totalling 120 square km had broken off the nearby Serson Ice Shelf, reducing it in size by 60%.

"The changes ... were massive and disturbing," says Warwick Vincent, director of the Centre for Northern Studies at Laval University in Quebec.

Temperatures in large parts of the Arctic have risen far faster than the global average in recent decades, a development that experts say is linked to global warming.


Venison's fine, but wolves prefer salmon

Wolves are not quite the red-blooded hunters we thought they were. It appears they prefer to dine on a nice piece of salmon rather than deer.

Ecological studies into predator-prey relations have traditionally shown that wolves feed on hoofed animals like deer, elk and moose, particularly during the spring and summer. However, ecologists have recently noticed that the fanged animals can capture and eat salmon in the autumn when the fish swim upriver.

Cloud Lightning

Monsoon misery spreads in India

Guwahati - Heavy rains and rising floodwaters forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes in northeastern India and sent elephants and rhinos fleeing, as monsoon misery spread in South Asia.

floodwaters at Chandpura
©REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri/Files
A girl holds a goat as she makes her way through floodwaters at Chandpura village of Madhepura district in India's eastern state of Bihar, August 31, 2008.

In the eastern Indian state of Bihar, desperate flood victims attacked a warehouse and looted food supplies, while in neighboring Bangladesh major rivers rose to danger levels and fresh parts of the country were submerged.

In the northeastern state of Assam, heavy rains caused water levels to rise on Tuesday, affecting more than a million people and disrupting road networks for the second consecutive day.

Animals fled to higher ground in Kaziranga National Park after the Brahmaputra burst its banks and flooded most of the park, home to more than half of the world's population of one-horned rhinoceros.

Cloud Lightning

Storms swirl in Atlantic, Hanna over Bahamas

Miami - A new tropical depression formed on Tuesday near the Cape Verde Islands off Africa while storm Hanna drenched the Bahamas and Ike sped westward as Atlantic storm activity reached a frenetic pace.

Hurricane Hanna
Hurricane Hanna is seen southwest of Nassau in a satellite image taken September 2, 2008.

These followed on the heels of Hurricane Gustav, which began to dissipate on Tuesday after slamming ashore on the U.S. Gulf Coast near New Orleans the day before. The new tropical cyclones threatened vast areas, from South Carolina in the United States to the Caribbean islands.

The flurry of storms was the latest evidence that predictions for a busier than normal season were on the mark, and was worrisome news for U.S. oil and natural gas producers in the Gulf of Mexico, millions living in the Caribbean and on U.S. coasts, and farmers fearing flooded fields.


Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary In Fair Condition, Facing Emerging Threats

A new NOAA report on the health of Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary indicates that the overall condition of the sanctuary's marine life and habitats is fair. The report also identifies several emerging threats to sanctuary resources, including non-indigenous marine species, overfishing, waterborne chemicals from human coastal activities, and increased recreational use of the site.

Grays Reef
Soft corals, sponges, and fishes that are typical inhabitants of Gray's Reef.

The first-of-its-kind report about the sanctuary finds that its water quality is relatively good, although researchers have detected low levels of human-produced pollutants in the sanctuary's sediments and water-filtering organisms.

The report cites illegal anchoring, recreational fishing and spearfishing as additional human pressures on the living marine resources of Gray's Reef, and states that snapper and grouper are being overfished both within the sanctuary and throughout the region.

The report also notes that the red lionfish, a voracious and venomous predator native to Pacific waters, has been seen in the sanctuary and may pose a danger to local fish populations and recreational divers.


Endangered Black-footed Ferrets Sired By Males That Died 8 Years Ago

Two black-footed ferrets at the Smithsonian's National Zoo have each given birth to a kit that was sired by males who died in 1999 and 2000. These endangered ferrets - part of a multi-institutional breeding and reintroduction program - were artificially inseminated in May with frozen semen from the two deceased males, each giving birth to a kit on June 20 and 21 respectively.

black-footed ferret
©Jessie Cohen, Smithsonian's National Zoo
A two-month-old black-footed ferret (right) is pictured with its mother at the National Zoo's Conservation and Research Center in Front Royal. Va. on Aug. 18, 2008. The mother gave birth to the kit on June 21 after National Zoo reproductive scientists inseminated her with previously frozen semen from a male that died in 1998. Successful inseminations with frozen semen are extremely rare -- until now only three black-footed ferret kits have been born from this method.

The sperm samples were collected and frozen in 1997 and 1998. Successful inseminations with frozen semen are extremely rare - until now only three black-footed ferret kits have been born from this method.

The black-footed ferret is one of the most endangered animals in the world. Once inhabiting the grasslands of the western Great Plains, the black-footed ferret population declined with the loss of the North American prairie ecosystem. Prairie dogs are the ferret's primary prey, and only 2 percent of the original prairie dog habitat remains today. A recent outbreak of sylvatic plague (also known as bubonic plague) in a prairie dog population in South Dakota also threatens to decimate ferret populations there.

Cloud Lightning

Greece: Storms cause heavy flooding

Storms and heavy rainfall hit much of the country over the weekend, causing serious flooding in places.

The eastern port of Volos was one of the worst hit areas, with rainwater turning streets into virtual torrents and damaging ground-floor homes and stores. The fire service received hundreds of telephone calls to pump out water from flooded basements.


Indian military struggling to end flood chaos

Troops and aid workers are scrambling to reach hundreds of thousands of stranded people across flood-devastated northern India in one of the country's largest-ever relief efforts, as hungry villagers began to riot, desperate families swam for their lives and widespread chaos ruled.

Nearly half of the 1.2 million people left homeless when the Kosi River burst its banks in Nepal two weeks ago, spilling over north India's vast plains, had been rescued said Prataya Amrit, a top disaster management official in Bihar state. Despite disjointed efforts, officials hoped to reach the rest in the next two days.

The massive relief effort was the first to deploy all three branches of India's military - the army, the navy, and the air force, Amrit said.

Cloud Lightning

Hanna becomes hurricane off Bahamas

MIAMI - Tropical Storm Hanna on Monday developed into a full-fledged hurricane east of the Bahamas in the Atlantic ocean, US officials reported, as deadly Hurricane Gustav pounded the Gulf Coast near New Orleans.