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Wildlife and Exotics

 

Cats vs. Birds: Researching the Research

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In this reblogged post from his Vox Felina blog, feral cat advocate Peter J. Wolf demonstrates how to evaluate the validity of research with his in-depth critique of a study on bird predation. Policy decisions to promote the well-being of all animals should be based on sound research, not regurgitated assumptions. Animal advocates should be on the lookout for poorly documented assertions about animals in the press.


Consumer Beliefs Regarding Farmed versus Wild Fish

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This marketing study used focus groups and surveys across Spain to identify why consumers prefer wild-caught fish to farmed fish. Consumers preferred wild fish on quality measures, but did not perceive a difference between the safety of wild and farmed fish, a change from previous research. They also perceived farmed fish as cheaper and more available. Environmental or animal welfare buying considerations were not included in the study.



Volunteering to Help Conserve Endangered Species: An Identity Approach to Human–Animal Relationships

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This study surveyed animal conservation project volunteers to analyze their motives for participating. Volunteers wanted contact with animals, wanted to offset their guilt about mistreatment of animals and differentiate themselves from humans responsible for it, and wanted to associate with a group identity they found affirming. The author called for further research with populations who live more closely with animals and have more diverse cultural outlooks, as well as on emergency rescue volunteers.



Brown Bear Circadian Behavior Reveals Human Environmental Encroachment

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This study measured GPS locations of brown bears in three regions of Sweden to determine whether the presence of roads impacted the time of day during which bears were active. The authors found that bears traveled more at twilight (dawn or dusk), or at night in areas with many roads, compared to more daylight activity in roadless areas. High road density also impacted seasonal cycles of heavier daylight activity. This may affect ability to gain fat for hibernation and reproduce.


Evaluating the Impacts of Marine Debris on Cetaceans

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This review studies cetacean mortality due to marine debris, compiling previously published studies and reviews, and reports from strandings networks. Fatal ingestion of debris and deaths from entanglement (overwhelmingly by fishing gear) occur in 58% of cetacean species. Study sample sizes are often too small for accurate quantification, and a species can be differently impacted in different locations. Additional research should be undertaken to determine whether mortality in high-impact areas poses a conservation threat.


An Experimental Investigation into the Effects of Traffic Noise on Distributions of Birds: Avoiding the Phantom Road

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This experiment broadcasted recorded road noise in a roadless area, which enabled the researchers to separate noise effects from other impacts of roads. Birds were identified and counted at sites inside the broadcast area during noise-on periods and noise-off periods (simulating day and night), as well as at control sites with no broadcast. There was a 28% decrease in the number of birds along the "phantom road" when noise was on - 2 species avoided it entirely. This is an important consideration for wildlife managers. Since 83% of the U.S. is within 1 kilometer of a road, suitable bird habitat may be more limited than previously believed.

Animal Welfare Decisions in a Triage Situation: Amphibian Rescue

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This brief article describes how rescuers used paper towels in amphibian tubs during the rescue of a large number of animals from an exotic animal dealer. There was not time to research the needs of so many different species, even where such information existed. The paper flooring may have contributed to stresses the animals were already under due to indifferent and inappropriate care, as mortality rates dropped, and normal behaviors improved, when a more natural flooring was provided. The author calls for research to better understand the needs of amphibians in captivity.


Disturbance and Habitat Factors in a Small Reserve: Home Range Establishment by Black Rhinocerous (diceros bicornis minor)

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This dissertation studied the impact of topographical, resource, and human habitation factors upon black rhinocerous populations in a small reserve in South Africa. Rhinos avoided areas of human disturbance, and year-round water holes, even when this reduced their access to high quality food. These findings are an important consideration in the siting of small private and community reserves that are established to promote the restoration of these highly endangered animals.



Do Trophic Cascades Affect the Storage and Flux of Atmospheric Carbon? An Analysis of Sea Otters and Kelp Forests

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This article examines predator restoration as a means to offset global climate change. The authors reviewed 40 years of data on kelp beds, which sequester carbon; sea urchins, which eat kelp; and sea otters, which eat sea urchins. They found that a robust sea otter population prevented sea urchin overpopulation and "overgrazing" of kelp, which in turn produced a locally strong reduction of carbon. The authors suggest that similar effects may be possible in multiple species, but caution against manipulating ecosystems without a thorough knowledge of interdependencies.


Polar Bears: The Fate of an Icon

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Written by a veterinarian, this article describes the wide range of physiological and behavioral adaptations that polar bears have evolved for life in the arctic. It explains the impacts of climate change, as increasing loss and fragmentation of sea ice disrupts their access to prey. Since polar bears will be unable to adapt quickly enough to shift to alternative food sources, their long term conservation depends on successful mitigation of climate change. The author stresses the need for objective, value-free reporting of scientific findings in the press, and calls for the continued involvement of the veterinary profession in arctic research.

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