sábado, 3 de diciembre de 2011

El radiomarcaje de urogallos para obtener huevos divide a los grupos ecologistas

La reanudación del programa de captura y radiomarcaje de hembras de urogallo cantábrico para suministrar nuevos huevos al centro de cría en cautividad de Sobrescobio, en el parque natural de Redes, ha despertado reacciones contrapuestas en los grupos ecologistas. El Fondo para la Protección de los Animales Salvajes (FAPAS) manifestó en la jornada de ayer su apoyo a una medida que considera «positiva» para promover la recuperación de la emblemática especie, amenazada de extinción. Por su parte, la Coordinadora Ecologista tildó de «error estratégico» el centro de cría, al tiempo que instó a destinar los recursos públicos a la conservación del hábitat del urogallo cantábrico, entre otras medidas que contribuyan a fomentar la conservación de la especie. El centro de Sobrescobio, según las últimas informaciones facilitadas por el Principado, alberga a cuatro ejemplares, un macho y tres hembras. El urogallo y una de la urogallinas proceden de la primera campaña de recogida de huevos, desarrollada hace tres años. En aquella ocasión se habían llegado a obtener hasta 13 huevos. Parte de ellos se malograron y otros llegaron a eclosionar, aunque los polluelos murieron poco después. Otras dos hembras son aves mansas de León y Caso recuperadas por el centro de cría tras fracasar los intentos de reintroducción en su hábitat natural. El Gobierno regional comunicó en un primer momento que con estos ejemplares reproductores no sería necesario recoger más huevos, pero ahora estas tareas se retomarán en la zona de Degaña. Roberto Hartasánchez, presidente del FAPAS, indicó que «cualquier iniciativa encaminada hacia la conservación de la especie nos parece positiva». Y añadió: «Nosotros apoyamos el plan de cría en cautividad y que se desarrolle un control y seguimiento de los ejemplares. Quizá debería haberse hecho hace 15 años, pero más vale tarde que nunca». En la misma línea, el máximo responsable del Fondo para la Protección de los Animales Salvajes contrapuso la actual planificación con las medidas que se venían desarrollando décadas atrás. «Toda iniciativa que se ponga en marcha será mejor que lo que se hacía hace 20 o 25 años, cuando la única política de conservación era contar los ejemplares que había en los montes sin hacer nada más», argumentó Hartasánchez. Más crítico se mostró el portavoz de la Coordinadora Ecologista de Asturias, Fructuoso Pontigo, que puso de manifiesto su rechazo a la gestión en la conservación del urogallo en la región. «Lo más importante ahora mismo es conservar el hábitat porque no se trata de una especie extinta. No entendemos que se destine esa gran cantidad de recursos a un centro de cría y que después se permita habilitar una pista forestal junto a un cantadero», aseguró Pontigo, que dudó del éxito del programa: «Todo lo que se metió allí se ha muerto. El balance hasta ahora es muy malo». El representante del colectivo ecologista alertó del riesgo de caer «en el folclore y el tirón turístico» en lugar de hacer prevalecer la recuperación de la especie y puso como ejemplo el caso del oso cantábrico. «Se está haciendo un esfuerzo importante para impulsar la especie en la zona occidental, mientras que el tema de Paca y Tola ha demostrado que sólo es una atracción para el turismo».
Rioseco, Miguel Á. GUTIÉRREZ

Biologists find albino among Brazil dolphins !!!!!!

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazilian biologists have found an extremely rare example of an albino dolphin among an endangered species that lives off the southern coast of South America.

The research group, based at Univille university in Santa Catarina, said Thursday that it was the first recorded instance of an albino in the pontoporia blainvillei species, a very shy type of dolphin that rarely jumps out of the water. It's known in Brazil as Toninha and in Argentina and Uruguay as the La Plata or Franciscana dolphin.

Camilla Meirelles Sartori, the lead biologist of Project Toninhas, said she first saw the white calf with pinkish fins at the end of October. Her group photographed him in early November.

"We were surprised, shocked," Sartori said. "It's very small, and the color is really different. We didn't know what it was at first."

Sartori said the baby was with an adult, probably its mother. The young live on their mother's milk until they are six months old and remain dependent on the adult until they're a year old.

The species is endangered. Its dolphins have long, thin snouts and get easily tangled in fishing nets. They can drown or die of stress if not quickly released, Sartori said.

Since Herman Melville created the albino whale Moby Dick in 1851, rare albino marine mammals have held a special fascination.

Albinism is the lack of melanin pigments in the body, giving an individual very light or white skin and hair. Little is known about the genetic predisposition in dolphins because it's so unusual.

Sartori said the rarity of the baby spotted by her group only highlights the need to preserve the Bay of Babitonga in the southern Brazil state of Santa Catarina, where this population of endangered dolphins lives.

"Albino animals generally have fewer chances of survival because they have greater chances of being caught by predators," Sartori said. "Here, in this bay, they don't have natural predators. But there is a lot of environmental degradation from two ports, industrial and residential sewage, tourism. This is an another argument for its protection."

After Duty, Dogs Suffer Like Soldiers-2

More serious cases will receive what Dr. Burghardt calls “desensitization counterconditioning,” which entails exposing the dog at a safe distance to a sight or sound that might set off a reaction — a gunshot, a loud bang or a vehicle, for instance. If the dog does not react, it is rewarded, and the trigger — “the spider in a glass box,” Dr. Burghardt calls it — is moved progressively closer. Gina, un pastor con PTSD que era el sujeto de artículos de noticias el año pasado, fue con éxito tratada con la desensibilización y ha sido limpiada para desplegar otra vez, dijo la Tecnología. Sgt. Amanda Callahan, una portavoz en Base de Fuerza Aérea Peterson en Colorado.

Some dogs are also treated with the same medications used to fight panic attacks in humans. Dr. Burghardt asserts that medications seem particularly effective when administered soon after traumatizing events. The Labrador retriever that cowered under a cot after a firefight, for instance, was given Xanax, an anti-anxiety drug, and within days was working well again.

Dogs that do not recover quickly are returned to their home bases for longer-term treatment. But if they continue to show symptoms after three months, they are usually retired or transferred to different duties, Dr. Burghardt said. As with humans, there is much debate about treatment, with little research yet to guide veterinarians. Lee Charles Kelley, a dog trainer who writes a blog for Psychology Today called “My Puppy, My Self,” says medications should be used only as a stopgap. “We don’t even know how they work in people,” he said.

In the civilian dog world, a growing number of animal behaviorists seem to be endorsing the concept of canine PTSD, saying it also affects household pets who experience car accidents and even less traumatic events.

Dr. Nicholas H. Dodman, director of the animal behavior clinic at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, said he had written about and treated dogs with PTSD-like symptoms for years — but did not call it PTSD until recently. Asked if the disorder could be cured, Dr. Dodman said probably not.

refusing to go inside a bus or a building.

“It is more management,” he said. “Dogs never forget.” James Dao ; The New York Times

After Duty, Dogs Suffer Like Soldiers

SAN ANTONIO — The call came into the behavior specialists here from a doctor in Afghanistan. His patient had just been through a firefight and now was cowering under a cot, refusing to come out. Apparently even the chew toys hadn’t worked.

Post-traumatic stress disorder, thought Dr. Walter F. Burghardt Jr., chief of behavioral medicine at the Daniel E. Holland Military Working Dog Hospital at Lackland Air Force Base. Specifically, canine PTSD.

If anyone needed evidence of the frontline role played by dogs in war these days, here is the latest: the four-legged, wet-nosed troops used to sniff out mines, track down enemy fighters and clear buildings are struggling with the mental strains of combat nearly as much as their human counterparts.

By some estimates, more than 5 percent of the approximately 650 military dogs deployed by American combat forces are developing canine PTSD. Of those, about half are likely to be retired from service, Dr. Burghardt said.

Though veterinarians have long diagnosed behavioral problems in animals, the concept of canine PTSD is only about 18 months old, and still being debated. But it has gained vogue among military veterinarians, who have been seeing patterns of troubling behavior among dogs exposed to explosions, gunfire and other combat-related violence in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Like humans with the analogous disorder, different dogs show different symptoms. Some become hyper-vigilant. Others avoid buildings or work areas that they had previously been comfortable in. Some undergo sharp changes in temperament, becoming unusually aggressive with their handlers, or clingy and timid. Most crucially, many stop doing the tasks they were trained to perform.

“If the dog is trained to find improvised explosives and it looks like it’s working, but isn’t, it’s not just the dog that’s at risk,” Dr. Burghardt said. “This is a human health issue as well.”

That the military is taking a serious interest in canine PTSD underscores the importance of working dogs in the current wars. Once used primarily as furry sentries, military dogs — most are German shepherds, followed by Belgian Malinois and Labrador retrievers — have branched out into an array of specialized tasks. They are widely considered the most effective tools for detecting the improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.’s, frequently used in Afghanistan. Typically made from fertilizer and chemicals, and containing little or no metal, those buried bombs can be nearly impossible to find with standard mine-sweeping instruments. In the past three years, I.E.D.’s have become the major cause of casualties in Afghanistan.

The Marine Corps also has begun using specially trained dogs to track Taliban fighters and bomb-makers. And Special Operations commandos train their own dogs to accompany elite teams on secret missions like the Navy SEAL raid that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. Across all the forces, more than 50 military dogs have been killed since 2005.

The number of working dogs on active duty has risen to 2,700, from 1,800 in 2001, and the training school headquartered here at Lackland has gotten busy, preparing about 500 dogs a year. So has the Holland hospital, the Pentagon’s canine version of Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Dr. Burghardt, a lanky 59-year-old who retired last year from the Air Force as a colonel, rarely sees his PTSD patients in the flesh. Consultations with veterinarians in the field are generally done by phone, e-mail or Skype, and often involve video documentation. In a series of videos that Dr. Burghardt uses to train veterinarians to spot canine PTSD, one shepherd barks wildly at the sound of gunfire that it had once tolerated in silence. Another can be seen confidently inspecting the interior of cars but then refusing to go inside a bus or a building. Another sits listlessly on a barrier wall, then after finally responding to its handler’s summons, runs away from a group of Afghan soldiers.

In each case, Dr. Burghardt theorizes, the dogs were using an object, vehicle or person as a “cue” for some violence they had witnessed. “If you want to put doggy thoughts into their heads,” he said, “the dog is thinking: when I see this kind of individual, things go boom, and I’m distressed.”

Treatment can be tricky. Since the patient cannot explain what is wrong, veterinarians and handlers must make educated guesses about the traumatizing events. Care can be as simple as taking a dog off patrol and giving it lots of exercise, playtime and gentle obedience training.

runs away from a group of Afghan soldiers.

James Dao : The New York Times

Weed killer linked to gender-bending in animals

Exposure to atrazine, a commonly used weed killer, increases the risk of reproductive problems in a wide range of animals, says a new review study that analyzed research from around the world.

In earlier studies, various scientists have concluded that the herbicide has gender-bending properties. For instance, some studies showed that male frogs could be turned into females by exposing them to small amounts of atrazine at critical points in their development. But the findings were disputed – especially by the chemical industry.

In response, Tyrone Hayes, a professor of integrative biology at the University of California at Berkeley, urged others studying atrazine to pool their work into a single comprehensive study.

In total, 22 scientists from North and South America, Europe and Japan contributed to the new study that was published this week in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Dr. Hayes, the lead author of the study, says the research reveals a common association between exposure to the chemical and the “feminization” of male gonads in many animals – including amphibians, reptiles, fish and mammals.

“No science is perfect, but all this research from around the world, done independently in controlled conditions and field studies, points to the same thing,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you are a fish or a frog, a cat or a dog, if you are exposed to atrazine, there is a problem.” It has huge implications for humans as well, he added.

Val Beasley, a co-author of the study and professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, noted that the chemical has been shown to contaminate groundwater, surface water and even rain (due to dust particles blown into clouds).

“We have to ask ourselves whether we want to continue to be exposed to something like this,” said Dr. Beasley.

European countries have already banned atrazine, but it is still widely used to kill weeds in agricultural areas – especially corn fields – in Canada, the United States and more than 60 other countries.

Olivia Caron, a spokesperson for Health Canada, said in an e-mail that the federal agency has received a copy of the study. “Should validated data raise concerns for the use of atrazine in Canada, Health Canada will take action as necessary to protect the health and environment of Canadians. ’’

Dr. Hayes said the herbicide affects many biological processes – not just reproductive systems. With input from more that 40 international scientists, he is already working on a bigger study that explores the impact of atrazine on animal and human health. PAUL TAYLOR