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Scottish SPCA appeals for food donations for fox cubs

Scottish SPCA appeals for food donations for fox cubs

Charity expects 'busy year' for wildlife admissions

The Scottish SPCA is asking animal lovers in Scotland to donate vital resources to help the charity care for fox cubs brought into it's National Wildlife Rescue Centre in Fishcross.

As fox cub season approaches, the charity expects to take in high numbers of infant foxes and staff members will have to take on the difficult task of nurturing them back to health.

2019 was the Scottish SPCA's (SSPCA) busiest year ever, with more than 11,000 wildlife casualties admitted. Although the pandemic caused a significant drop in the number of animals brought into its wildlife hospital, the charity still treated more than 7,000 wild animals in 2020.

Centre manager Steven Gray said: “As we are entering fox cub season, we are appealing for Pedigree puppy food and puppy milk.

“Last year, we cared for 76 foxes. 39 of those were fox cubs. It can be a struggle to keep up with so many hungry mouths to feed.

“We expect to be even busier with admissions this year so we need help from members of the public. If anyone can help with food for these young mammals, we would appreciate anything that people can spare.”

Anyone living in the Fishcross area can drop off puppy food and milk directly to the SSPCA's National Wildlife Rescue Centre. While those further afield can purchase supplies from the charity's Amazon wishlist.

New population of blue whales discovered

New population of blue whales discovered

Researchers identify group living in Indian Ocean by it's unique song

A team of researchers has found a previously unknown population of blue whales living in the Indian Ocean, after identifying an unrecognised whale song in the area.

Although blue whales are difficult to find, every population has it's own unique song, which is hugely helpful to researchers. This new song was first detected in 2017 in the Mozambique Channel off Madagascar by Dr Salvatore Cerchio, the director of the African Aquatic Conservation Fund's Cetacean Programme.

Dr Cerchio was also working with a team of scientists collecting acoustic recordings off the coast of Oman in the Arabian Sea, who also picked up the unique song.

“It was quite remarkable,” he said, “to find a whale song in your data that was completely unique, never before reported, and recognize it as a blue whale.

“With all that work on blue whale songs, to think there was a population out there that no one knew about until 2017, well, it kind of blows your mind.”

After reporting their findings to the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in 2018, the team was contacted by Emmanuelle Leroy from the University of New South Wales, Australia, who recognised that his team had recorded the same song off the Chagos Archipelago in the central Indian Ocean.

As the collaborative team grew and analysed their shared data, they concluded that this new population likely spends most of it's time in the northwestern Indian Ocean, in the Arabian Sea and to the west of the Chagos.

The importance of this new discovering is heightened by the fact that some researchers consider both the northern Indian Ocean blue whales and Arabian Sea humpback whales to comprise unique subspecies, not simply populations, making them particularly important to biodiversity.

A published paper about the new population can be found in the journal Endangered Species Research.

Image (c) Robert Baldwin, Environment Society of Oman.


Petition launched to reverse decision on bee-harming pesticide

Petition launched to reverse decision on bee-harming pesticide

Government permits emergency use of neonicotinoid thiamethoxam to control sugar beet virus.

A petition has been launched after farmers were given the go-ahead to use a bee-harming pesticide for the treatment of sugar beet seed in England.

Following pressure from the National Farmers Union (NFU), the UK Government has authorised the emergency use of a product containing neonicotinoid thiamethoxam to protect crops from Beets Yellows virus.

The move comes just two years after the European Union voted in favour of a near-total ban on the use of neonicotinoids due to their effect on pollinators – and a UK government pledge to support the restrictions.

Wildlife Trusts
Wildlife campaigners have opposed the decision, arguing that neonicotinoids are a significant risk to the environment, particularly to bees and other pollinators. 

In a series of Twitter posts, the Wildlife Trusts said: 'The Government has bowed to pressure from the National Farmers Union to agree the use of a highly damaging pesticide - neonicotinoid thiamethoxam - for the treatment of sugar beet seed in response to beet yellows virus.

'The Government know the clear harm that neonicotinoid pesticides cause to bees and other pollinators and just 3 years ago supported restrictions on them across the European Union.'

It added: 'Insects perform vital roles such as pollination of crops and wildflowers, and nutrient recycling, but so many have suffered drastic declines. Evidence suggests we’ve lost at least 50% of insects since 1970, and 41% of all insect species are now 'threatened with extinction.'

NFU response
NFU sugar board chairman Michael Sly said that he was relieved that the application had been granted and that the sector was working 'as quickly as possible' to find a solution to the disease.

“Any treatment will be used in a limited and controlled way on sugar beet – a non-flowering crop – and only when the scientific threshold has been independently judged to have been met,” he said. 

“Virus Yellows disease is having an unprecedented impact on Britain’s sugar beet crop, with some growers experiencing yield losses of up to 80 per cent, and this authorisation is desperately needed to fight this disease. It will be crucial in ensuring that Britain’s sugar beet growers continue to have viable farm businesses.”

EU-wide ban
There is currently an EU-wide ban on the use of three neonicotinoids - clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam - on crops that are attractive to bees.
The decision followed research by the European Food Safety Authority, which found that most uses of neonicotinoid pesticides pose a threat to bee species.

In 2018, Mr Gove announced his support for the measure, saying: "The weight of evidence now shows the risks neonicotinoids pose to our environment, particularly to the bees and other pollinators which play such a key part in our £100 billion food industry, is greater than previously understood. 

“I believe this justifies further restrictions on their use. We cannot afford to put our pollinator populations at risk.”

At the time of writing, the petition calling on the government to reverse its decision on neonicotinoids had garnered more than 108,000 signatures.

Pirbright reveals new insights into COVID-19

Pirbright reveals new insights into COVID-19

Study indicates how the virus could have adapted from bats to humans. 

Researchers at The Pirbright Institute have revealed new insights into how the virus that causes COVID-19 could have adapted from bats to humans.

Their study, published in the journal PLOS Biology, identifies key differences in severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) that could be responsible for the jump from bats to humans, as well as other animals it could infect.

Dr Dalan Bailey, head of the Viral Glycoproteins Group at Pirbright, said: “Uncovering the common traits that allow viruses to jump between animals and humans helps us to identify potential reservoirs of disease and forewarn us of future threats.

“Using molecular techniques to study coronavirus spike proteins in isolation, without ever needing to work with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, has enabled us to take an in-depth look at how genetic differences in coronavirus spike proteins and animal ACE2 receptors influence which animals the virus may be able to infect.”

Comparing genomes
The origin of the COVID-19 outbreak remains unclear because no immediately related coronaviruses have been identified in animals. The bat coronavirus, RaTG13, is the closet known relative, with a 96 per cent similarity to the SARS-CoV-2 genome.

In the study, researchers compared the genomes of both viruses, identifying several regions that differed between their spike proteins - those which the virus uses to bind to the ACE2 surface receptors of cells to gain entry.

Using a method that does not involve live virus, the scientists swapped these regions to examine how well the resulting spike proteins bound to human ACE2 receptors.

They found that SARS-CoV-2 spikes containing RaTG13 regions were unable to bind to human ACE2 receptors effectively. Conversely, the RaTG13 spikes containing SARS-CoV-2 regions could bind more efficiently to human receptors, although not to the same level as the unedited SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.

This finding could indicate that similar changes in the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein occurred historically, which may have played a key role in allowing the virus to jump the species barrier, the researchers said.

Future threats
The scientists also noted that these genetic adaptions were similar to those made by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) when it adapted from bats to infect humans, suggesting there may be a common mechanism by which this family of viruses mutates.

With this knowledge, researchers may in future be able to identify viruses circulating in animals that could adapt to infect humans and pose a pandemic threat.

Other animals
Finally, the team investigated whether the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein could bind to the ACE2 receptors of 22 different animals. They found that bat and bird receptors made the weakest interactions with SARS-CoV-2, giving weight to the evidence that SARS-CoV-2 likely adapted its spike protein when it jumped from bats into people.

Dogs, cats and cattle had the strongest interactors with the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, suggesting that efficient entry into cells could mean that infection may establish easier in these animals.

London Zoo undertakes annual stocktake

London Zoo undertakes annual stocktake

Keepers tally more than 400 species behind closed doors

Zookeepers at ZSL London Zoo began their annual stocktake this week, continuing their essential work despite the zoo's closure as a result of the national lockdown.

Kathryn England, ZSL London Zoo’s chief operating officer, said: “There’s no doubt that 2020 was the most challenging year in our almost 200-year history – national lockdowns saw us closed for 18 weeks, cutting off millions of pounds of vital charitable income from lost ticket sales – but kicking off this new year with the annual stocktake is a chance to reflect on some of our achievements in the face of these challenges.”

The zoo welcomed multiple births across 2020, including two otter pups, a critically endangered Waldrapp ibis chick and a female okapi calf, which was born as part of the breeding programme for the endangered species.

A critically endangered Sumatran tigress called Gaysha was also brought over from Ree Park Safari in Denmark. She was reunited with her former mate, Asim, in mid-December.

The zoo's animal manager, Angela Ryan, said: “ZSL London Zoo is home to more than 400 species, from endangered Asiatic lions to critically endangered Chinese giant salamanders – we’re working not only here in the Zoo to increase their numbers and learn more about these amazing animals, but on conservation projects around the world too.”

The annual task takes almost a week to complete and some keepers had to use imaginative methods to tally the zoo's many animals. For example, rather than tracking hundreds of individual ants, the team at B.U.G.S count colonies as one.

This information will be uploaded to the ZIMS database and shared with zoos around the world in order to help manage worldwide conservation breeding programmes for endangered species.

Image (c) ZSL London Zoo.

Rare white tiger cub born at Nicaragua zoo

Rare white tiger cub born at Nicaragua zoo

Cub being raised by humans after mother rejected it

A white tiger cub has been born to two yellow and black Bengal tigers at the National Zoo of Nicaragua.

According to the BBC, the female cub – named Nieves (snow in Spanish) – is just over a week old now. She is the first white tiger to have been born in the country.

The cub's mother, Dalila, who was rescued from a circus five years ago, rejected the cub and could not produce milk to feed her.

Nieves is now being hand-raised by the zoo director's wife, Marina Argüello, who feeds the cub warm goat's milk every three hours.

According to the WWF, white tigers get their colour from the expression of a recessive gene. They are found only among the Bengal tiger species and none are currently known to exist in the wild.

Nieve's mother was known to carry this recessive gene, which she inherited from her father – another white Bengal tiger.

White tigers are frequently inbred to maintain their unique fur colour. However, this inbreeding can lead to a number of deformities and health problems.

Hundreds of birds found dead in Rome

Hundreds of birds found dead in Rome

Animal welfare campaigners say fireworks are to blame.

Animal welfare campaigners are calling for a ban on fireworks after hundreds of birds were found dead on the streets of Rome, Italy, on New Year's Day. 

Video footage circulating online shows the birds - many of which are starlings – lying on the ground near the city's Termini Train station. Although it is not exactly clear how the birds died, the International Organization for the Protection of Animals (OIPA) has attributed the deaths to fireworks.

A spokesperson for the organisation said: "It can be that they died from fear. They can fly up together and knock against each other, or hit windows or electric power lines. Let's not forget they can also die of heart attacks." 

The spokesperson added that fireworks cause stress and injury to wild birds and other animals - and the unusual amount of deaths occurred despite the city-wide ban on personal fireworks displays.

The OIPA is now calling for a complete ban on the sale of fireworks and firecrackers, but the RSPB says there is little evidence to suggest that fireworks harm wild birds or affect their conservation status. 

A statement on the RSBP's website reads: 'Available information suggests that the effect of firework displays on birds is little different from that of a thunderstorm. However, we will continue to monitor the situation and research to ensure the best course of action for wild bird conservation.

'Setting off fireworks close to nesting and roosting birds can cause disturbance. To minimise any adverse impact of fireworks on birds, we urge organisers of firework displays to avoid launching the rockets near to sensitive wildlife areas, such as nature reserves, and nesting and roosting sites for wild birds.'

Vets call on Namibia to abandon live elephant sales

Vets call on Namibia to abandon live elephant sales

“These sentient, sensitive and highly social animals need protecting” - Dr Mark Jones. 

A coalition of 60 veterinary surgeons, wildlife organisations and scientists are calling on Namibian authorities to abandon plans to sell live elephants to unknown destinations within or outside the country.

Led by international wildlife charity, Born Free, the coalition has written to President Hage Geingob, calling on him to intervene and cancel the sales, and offering their expertise to help protect Namibia’s elephants. 

The move comes in response to a notice published in local media in December 2020, in which Namibia's Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism advertised up to 170 live elephants for sale, including family groups and adult males.

According to Born Free, media reports suggest the Namibian authorities are claiming the sales are in response to overpopulation, drought, and increasing human-elephant conflict. 

Born Free’s head of policy Dr Mark Jones said: “These proposed sales will do nothing to manage populations or mitigate conflict between elephants and people. Indeed, the disruption to elephant family groups and wider elephant society could make conflict with people much more likely. 

“There is also no indication of where the animals will end up; some of them could find themselves exported to captive facilities which are completely unsuitable for wild elephants. We implore the Namibian authorities to abandon these sales and instead work with experts to find practical and humane solutions to the problems of drought and conflict, that will enable elephants and the people who live alongside them to peacefully coexist.” 

Thanks to poaching, habitat loss and retaliatory killings, elephant populations are in drastic decline across much of Africa. Namibia is fortunate to be home to around 23,000 elephants, some of which are uniquely adapted to desert life. 

While exports of live elephants are currently limited to in situ conservation programmes, conservationists fear that buyers could try to get around these rules by exporting elephants to zoos and other captive facilities for profit. 

Dr Jones continued: “These sentient, sensitive and highly social animals need protecting. Selling some of them off to private bidders will cause immense animal suffering, and disrupt their remaining family groups and herds.”

Edinburgh Zoo may have to return giant pandas to China

Edinburgh Zoo may have to return giant pandas to China

COVID-19 losses leave charity considering 'every potential saving'

Edinburgh Zoo's giant pandas may have to return to China next year as a result of the financial pressure that COVID-19 has placed on the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS).

It currently costs £1 million a year to lease the mating pair from the Chinese Government. RZSS is concerned that it may be unable to renew the deal at the end of the ten-year contract next year.

The zoo had to close for three months last summer, as did Highland Wildlife Park which is also run by RZSS. The financial impact of the reduction in visitor numbers amounted to a £2 million loss for the charity.

RZSS Chief executive David Field said: “We have to seriously consider every potential saving and this includes assessing our giant panda contract and the cost of their daily care.

“At this stage, it is too soon to say what the outcome will be. We will be discussing next steps with our colleagues in China over the coming months.”

The zoo was not eligible for the UK Government's zoo fund, as it was aimed at smaller zoos. But it has taken out a government loan, furloughed staff, made redundancies where necessary and launched a fundraising appeal in a bid to recover funds.

Mr Field added that the charity is incredibly grateful to its members and other animal lovers who have helped to keep the doors open.

He concluded: “Yang Guang and Tian Tian have made a tremendous impression on our visitors over the last nine years, helping millions of people connect to nature and inspiring them to take an interest in wildlife conservation.

“I would love for them to be able to stay for a few more years with us and that is certainly my current aim.”

Fatal skin disease in dolphins linked to climate change

Fatal skin disease in dolphins linked to climate change

Study concludes that more intense storms are decreasing the salinity of coastal waters.

A fatal skin disease affecting dolphin communities across the globe has been linked to climate change.

In a groundbreaking study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, scientists provide the first-ever case definition for freshwater skin disease in bottlenose dolphins. 

They conclude that the increasing severity of storms has led to a drastic decline in water salinity, causing patches and raised skin lesions covering up to 70 per cent of a dolphin's body.

It is the first time that scientists have been able to find a link to the condition, which first appeared in 2005. Scientists hope that the discovery could provide professionals with the information they need to diagnose and treat affected animals.

The study was conducted by the Marine Mammal Center, California, in collaboration with researchers at the Murdoch University, Perth, and the Marine Mammal Foundation, Victoria.

Dr Pádraig Duignan, a chief pathologist at The Marine Mammal Center, said: “As warming ocean temperatures impact marine mammals globally, the findings in this paper will allow better mitigation of the factors that lead disease outbreaks for coastal dolphin communities that are already under threat from habitat loss and degradation.

“This study helps shed light on an ever-growing concern, and we hope it is the first step in mitigating the deadly disease and marshalling the ocean community to further fight climate change.” 

The deadly skin condition was first noted in bottlenose dolphins following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  In recent years there have been significant outbreaks in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Texas and Australia. 

Researchers found that in all of these locations, a sudden a drastic fall in water salinity was the common factor. While dolphins are accustomed to seasonal changes in salinity levels, they do not live in freshwater. 

The study concludes that more intense storms are dumping unusual volumes of rain that turn coastal waters to freshwater. Such conditions can persist for several months, especially after events like hurricane Katrina, they note.  

Scientists predict that as climate temperatures increase, storms like these will occur more frequently, and lead to more severe outbreaks in dolphins.

Dr Duignan said: “This devastating skin disease has been killing dolphins since Hurricane Katrina, and we’re pleased to finally define the problem. With a record hurricane season in the Gulf of Mexico this year and more intense storm systems worldwide due to climate change, we can absolutely expect to see more of these devastating outbreaks killing dolphins.” 

RZSS launches new Scottish wildcat conservation project

RZSS launches new Scottish wildcat conservation project

Charity celebrates record breeding year for species

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) is launching a new partnership project which aims to preserve the future of Scottish wildcats by breeding and releasing them into the wild.

The charity is celebrating a record-breaking year for wildcat conservation, after 57 wildcat kittens were born across the ten zoos, wildlife parks and private collections working with RZSS.

However, wildcat populations are still under threat in Britain as a result of habitat loss, persecution and breeding with domestic cats.

The new six-year-long project – named Saving Wildcats – aims to bring about the urgent action needed to prevent the extinction of wildcats.

Saving Wildcats ex-situ conservation manager and coordinator of the UK conservation breeding programme David Barclay said: “Over the last few years, the members of the wildcat breeding programme have demonstrated the immense value in working together to secure a future for this iconic species.”

“It has been a challenging year but we are really excited to be bringing together all the necessary resources and expertise to save Scotland’s wildcats, and incredibly grateful to everyone making this vital work possible."

A dedicated conservation breeding for release centre is being built at Highland Wildlife Park near Aviemore as part of the project. This facility will support wildcat populations through breeding, veterinary care and remote monitoring, as well as preparing the cats to be released into the wild.

The centre aims to release the first cats into the wild in 2022.

For more information on Saving Wildcats, please visit savingwildcats.org.uk/

Kangaroos gaze at humans to communicate, study suggests

Kangaroos gaze at humans to communicate, study suggests

Study suggests marsupials interact with humans in a similar way to dogs.

Animals that aren't domesticated, such as kangaroos, can intentionally communicate with humans, according to new research.
The study by scientists in the UK and Australia found that kangaroos 'actively gaze' at humans when attempting to access food, as though they are asking them for help.

In the study, researchers tested kangaroos at three locations in Australia (Australian Reptile Park, Wildlife Sydney Zoo and Kangaroo Protection Co-Operative), by putting their food in a closed box.
They found that, in a similar way to dogs, most of the kangaroos actively looked at the person who had put the food in the box to get it. 

Previous research found that domesticated animals like dogs and goats can understand human cues, including pointing, to gather information about their environment.
Scientists say this new study suggests that kangaroos may also be able to adapt their usual social behaviours for interacting with humans. Their findings are published in the journal Biology Letters.

Lead author Dr Alan McElligott from the University of Roehampton said: “Through this study, we were able to see that communication between animals can be learnt and that the behaviour of gazing at humans to access food is not related to domestication. Indeed, kangaroos - showed a very similar pattern of behaviour we have seen in dogs, horses and even goats when put to the same test.

“Our research shows that the potential for referential intentional communication towards humans by animals has been underestimated, which signals an exciting development in this area. Kangaroos are the first marsupials to be studied in this manner and the positive results should lead to more cognitive research beyond the usual domestic species.”

Co-author Dr Alexandra Green from the University of Sydney, said: “Kangaroos are iconic Australian endemic fauna, adored by many worldwide but also considered as a pest. We hope that this research draws attention to the cognitive abilities of kangaroos and helps foster more positive attitudes towards them.”

European bison returns from brink of extinction in IUCN Red List update

European bison returns from brink of extinction in IUCN Red List update

Conservation efforts ongoing as 31 species declared extinct

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has announced that the European bison has moved from Vulnerable to Near Threatened status in the latest update to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

The European bison survived only in captivity throughout the early 20th Century, being reintroduced into the wild in the 1950s. Thanks to long-term conservation management, the wild population of the European bison has grown from 1,800 in 2003 to 6,200 in 2019.

According to IUCN, there are currently 47 free-ranging European bison herds, but only eight of them are large enough to be genetically viable in the long term.

Dr Rafał Kowalczyk, co-author of the new assessment and member of the IUCN SSC Bison Specialist Group said: “Historically, European bison were reintroduced mostly to forest habitats, where they don’t find enough food in winter.

“However, when they move out of the forest into agricultural areas, they often find themselves in conflict with people. To reduce the conflict risk and the bison’s dependence on supplementary feeding, it will be important to create protected areas that include open meadows for them to graze.”

The latest update also saw 31 species move into the Extinct category and all of the planet's freshwater dolphin species are now threatened with extinction.

IUCN director general Dr Bruno Oberle said: “The European bison and 25 other species recoveries documented in today’s IUCN Red List update demonstrate the power of conservation.

“Yet the growing list of Extinct species is a stark reminder that conservation efforts must urgently expand. To tackle global threats such as unsustainable fisheries, land clearing for agriculture, and invasive species, conservation needs to happen around the world and be incorporated into all sectors of the economy.”

Endangered giraffe born on 'day of hope'

Endangered giraffe born on 'day of hope'

Calf named Margaret in honour of the first person to receive COVID-19 vaccination.

Keepers at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo are celebrating the arrival of a six-foot-tall baby giraffe, named Margaret in honour of the first person to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. 

Born in the early hours of Tuesday (8 December), the female calf arrived into the world as 90-year-old Margaret Keenan rolled up her sleeve to receive the first Pfizer/BioNTech jab.

The Zoo said the birth adds yet more meaning to that 'day of hope', as it provides a positive boost for the population of the species, which is officially classified as Endangered in the wild.

Team Leader Mark Holden said: “2020 has been a challenging year for the world, and the arrival of our precious giraffe calf on the same day – and actually at the same time! - as the much-anticipated COVID-19 vaccination was first administered feels like a real moment of hope – and one we are so keen to celebrate and remember.

“Here at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo we have keenly felt the pressures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we and our sister site ZSL London Zoo, were forced to close for a total of 16 weeks each, putting huge financial strain on our charity and our global conservation efforts.”

Margaret is a reticulated giraffe, born as part of the international conservation breeding programme (EEP) for the species.

Zookeepers kept a close eye on mum Luna throughout her pregnancy and prepared a deep layer of bedding when they knew birth was imminent. The rest of the herd waited close by to provide reassurance and support to mum. 

Less than an hour after her birth, Margaret was already taking her first few wobbly steps. She is said to be suckling well from Luna, who has continued to take motherhood in her stride. 

Mark Holden continued: “Just as the first vaccine has given people across the UK new hope, our new arrival brings new hope for this endangered species. With fewer than 9,000 individuals living in the wild, this little one’s arrival is a vital boost to the numbers of this Endangered species.”

“We very much hope that Margaret Keenan, will be able to come in and visit her namesake one day soon, so we can introduce them in person!”

Image (C) ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.

New RZSS and National Museums Scotland facilities support UK's first zoological biobank

New RZSS and National Museums Scotland facilities support UK's first zoological biobank

Organisations help improve access to biological material

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and National Museums Scotland are working together to help develop the UK's first zoological biobank.

As part of the CryoArks Biobank initiative, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) and National Museums Scotland are both launching new facilities equipped with ultra-low temperature freezers, laboratory space and an online searchable database to help store and distribute animal biological material.

The national biobank provides scientists access to tissue, cells and DNA from endangered species to help bolster research and conservation efforts.

Dr Andrew Kitchener, principal curator of vertebrates at National Museums Scotland, said: “This project is crucial in enabling researchers to engage with a vast resource of biological data samples which until now was difficult to access.

“We have a responsibility to future generations to ethically collect these biological samples, store them in appropriate conditions and make them available for research. These specimens are vital to our understanding of the natural world and our ability to map its changes and respond effectively to the demands of researchers working in conservation and ecology.”

For more than 25 years, National Museums Scotland has been building a collection of tissue samples from donated animals. This collection of several thousand samples has been added to the biobank to help scientists across the UK.

RZSS is also one of four hubs, alongside others in Denmark, Belgium and Germany, to form part of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) biobank, which hosts animal genetic resources across Europe and the Middle East.

Dr Helen Senn, head of conservation and science programmes at RZSS said: “Well managed sample collections are critical research tools which can be used to improve conservation outcomes for many threatened species.

“We are extremely grateful to the multitude of researchers and zoological institutions who are contributing samples that can be used by scientists for the benefit of wildlife around the world.”

Images (c) RZSS.

Campaign to ban single-use, disposable face masks launched

Campaign to ban single-use, disposable face masks launched

Non-recyclable face masks pose a 'significant' threat to UK wildlife

Commercial recycling company Tradewaste has created a petition urging the Government to ban 'environmentally damaging' disposable face masks.

The company states that it is not asking the Government to completely ban the sale of these disposable face masks, as they play an important role in the medical field and in helping to curb the spread of COVID-19. However, single-use, non-recyclable face masks present a 'significant threat' to Britain's wildlife and environment.

Tradewaste.co.uk predicts that – if wearing face masks is mandatory throughout 2021 – the UK will send 19.2 million face masks to landfill.

The RSPCA has reported nearly 1000 incidents of animals becoming caught in litter across 2020 and the charity has expressed concerns that discarded face masks are a new significant hazard, particularly to wild animals and birds.

Charlotte Green from Tradewaste.co.uk said: “It’s really important to consider the wider impact of the single-use face masks we all wear, they are thrown away in streets, ending up in watercourses, rivers and the sea – that’s why we are supporting a new petition on the Government to ban their sale to the general public.

“We are promoting the petition to raise awareness of the environmental problems created by single use face masks, and also to offer an alternative to those worried about the harm cause to wildlife and the impact on the environment in the UK.”

The campaign is aiming to reach 100,000 signatures by the end of 2020 to slow the consumption of disposable face masks. Once the petition reaches this number, it will be discussed in Parliament.

A link to the petition can be found here.