July 8, 2013

A sketch of the elusive night parrot.     Photo: Courtesy Wikimedia

Rare Night Parrot Spotted

Last seen a century ago

An Australian naturalist claims to have captured video footage of the elusive night parrot, a bird that hasn't been found alive for more than a century. John Yong, a self-described wildlife detective, showed footage—collected over a 15-year period, with 17,000 hours spent in the field—to enthusiasts and the media at the Queensland Museum.

Experts were overjoyed with the footage. "It's incontrovertible. He's got stills, he's got moving videos and he's got feathers," Dr Steve Murphy, senior ecologist at the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Land Management Unit in South Australia, told ABC News. Australian conservationists likened Young's sighting to "finding Elvis Presley flipping burgers in the outback."

The species was decimated during the 19th century with the introduction of cats and foxes to the continent, falling off the scientific record until a dead bird was found in southwest Queensland in 1990.

In 2007, Young's claim to have discovered a new species of fig parrot was partially discredited after several experts accused him of doctoring his photos.


    Photo: Courtesy of Mainstream Last First

Rowers Traversing Northwest Passage

Hope to finish in three months

A Canadian-Irish team is trying to become the first to row the Northwest Passage in one season. The Mainstream Last First team departed Inuvik on July 4, according to Wired UK, and will spend the next 75 to 90 days rowing their 25-foot craft, the Arctic Joule, across the Canadian Arctic, sleeping in shifts along the way.

"It’s not necessarily the physical challenge that makes this so difficult but more the cloud of uncertainty that Mother Nature will cast over us on this expedition," team member Paul Gleeson wrote on the expedition's blog. "We can prepare and train all we like but ultimately she will decide if we make it across the North West Passage or not."

On previous expeditions of their own, Gleeson and teammates Kevin Vallely, Frank Wolf, and Denis Barnett have broken records for skiing to the South Pole, rowing across the Atlantic, and crossing Australia by bicycle.


    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Valley Fever Reaching Record Levels

Attributed to climate change

Valley fever, a gnarly, airborn fungal infection common in the Southwestern United States, is reaching epidemic levels. Also known as Coccidioidomycosis, or cocci, the affliction, for which there is no cure or vaccine, has hit some 20,000 people so far this year.

The infection is transmitted through microscopic spores in the soil kicked up by the wind. Once lodged in the warm, moist flesh of the lungs, it can spread to your bones, skin, eyes, or in extreme cases, the brain. The infected tend to lose weight and strength at a rapid pace. While it isn’t immediately life threatening, about 160 people die each year from complications.

The dramatic uptick in the number of infections is currently being attributed to changes in climate. Cases tend to spike when rainfall is followed by dry spells, and with much of the Southwest experiencing severe droughts, there’s no shortage of dust to act as a vector.

Last week, the fever attracted national attention when a federal judge ordered the transfer of some 2,600 vulnerable inmates from prisons in the San Joaquin Valley, where the infection gets its name and is known to thrive. In a study from the Department of Health Services in Arizona, researchers found that African Americans have a 25% chance of developing complications from the disease, compared with only 6% of whites.


    Photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Tigers In Indonesia Tree Six, Kill One

Villagers come to their aid

A group of police and park officials rescued five men that had been treed by six tigers for five days in Indonesia's Mount Leuser National Park. The group was helped from the branches, where they had subsisted off of rain water. The sixth member of their party was mauled to death earlier in the ordeal when he fell from a branch.

The six men originally went into the park to search for a rare agar wood used in perfumes and incense. While trapping animals for food, they accidentally caught a tiger cub, angering its mother and leading five more of the animals to join in on the attack.

After climbing into the trees, the group texted nearby villages asking for help. After a long trek into the reservation, three animal tamers and a host of soldiers and policemen were able to scare off the remaining three tigers.