Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Saving the Arabain Oryx and some sensitive ears.

Hello and welcome to my latest blog, I hope you have all been well since the last time I updated on here. Regular readers may remember a feature which focused on raising awareness of species in endanger of becoming extinct. In this edition I start a new feature Conservation success stories, where I focus on some of the successful conservation projects which have brought species back from the brink and highlight the work and dedication of passionate conservationists. Also in this update is the next instalment of the feature "senses" this time focusing on species which possess an incredible sense of hearing. As always I hope you enjoy the blog.

 Saving the Arabian Oryx Oryx leucoryx

 It's the early 1960's and the Arabian Oryx looks doomed centuries of suffering through habitat loss and hunting have brought about a decline so severe it looks like there is no way back and now, as a result of the availability of military surplus equipment, enabling trophy hunters to pursue their targets in four by four vehicles, the last of the wild population of Arabian Oryx in Arabia has just been claimed, by 1972 the species is declared extinct in the wild. Something needs to be done to save the species urgently to stop them disappearing of the face of the planet completely, the species needs a saviour and it's about to find one in the shape of Phoenix Zoo. This is the how the Arabian Oryx teetered on the edge of extinction and survived.   

Phoenix Zoo is credited with saving the Arabian Oryx from extinction, while wild populations were being decimated into oblivion; history was being made the project to help establish the first captive breeding heard in any zoo had already begun. Starting with only 9 animals in the year of 1962, the number increased slowly at first by the middle of 1964; what had become known as the "world herd" was now made up of eleven individuals. The year of 1982 signalled the re-introduction of the first of the new population of wild Arabain Oryx. By 1990 the number of wild Arabian Oryx had increased to over 1300, 112 of which had originally been captively bred and successfully released back into their native lands. The reintroduction process had not been a straight forward process, social groups needed to be firmly established alongside the familiarisation process of becoming used to new terrain and vegetation. To do this, individuals prior to being released were kept in fenced enclosures and were then progressed through a series of larger enclosures before they were at last free to roam the deserts of Jordan and Oman once more. It was necessary to establish social groups and after transportation, allow the Oryx to establish familiarity with local terrain and vegetation. The Oryx were initially confined to fenced enclosures and before being progressed through larger and larger enclosures before their final release into the deserts of Jordan and Oman. Further evidence of the remarkable turn around in fortunes of the species can be identified through its gradual re classification on the IUCN redlist. Once "Extinct in the Wild" the species is now classed as "Vulnerable" with a wild population of over 1000 individuals.

The fact this beautiful antelope once again roams at least some of its former range signals one of the great conservation success stories. Had it not been for the passion and dedication of some inspirational people this famous antelope would almost certainly have been consigned to the history books like so many species before it. Stories like this show that despite the problems caused by some groups of people there will always be others with a burning desire to right the wrongs and save a species surely giving hope for other species dicing with extinction.


5 fantastic senses of hearing.

1) Quite simply the Bat - Eared Fox Otocyon megalotis is an extraordinary predator with an incredible pair of ears, which may grow up to 5.3 inches long. These ears are essential for hunting and can detect the sounds of feeding termites on short grass or larvae chewing their through their dung beetle ball underground. 2)

2) The Great Grey Owl Strix nebulosa, surely one of the most beautiful birds in the natural world is another predator which owns an outstanding sense of hearing, essential for detecting its rodent prey under the thick snow.

3) African Elephant Loxodonta africana of course no section on hearing could be written without this most iconic of species being included. These magnificent animals have the ability to hear each other’s calls and subsequently reply to it from over 4 kilometres away. 
Image taken by author.

4) The Tiger Moth Arctiidae has evolved remarkably to deal with the threat of predation by bats. Their hearing is so sensitive they can hear the ultrasonic chirps of bats resulting in them being able to escape their predators.

5) Pigeons as a family (also in the same family as Doves), have remarkable hearing, able to detect sounds at frequencies as low as 0.1 Hz.

That is all on this occasion everyone, I really hope you enjoyed this blog and be sure to keep an eye out for the next one, have a good week! George.

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