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A Conservation Dog in NZ known for Saving Countless Kiwis, Retires

Now that Rein, the conservation dog, has spent the better part of a decade searching for kiwis to keep them from going extinct, it’s time for her to retire.

DOC’s conservation dog Rein, a Hungarian Vizsla, will retire at the end of the month after more than a decade of service.

With the support of her handler Iain Graham, they work to protect the rarest kind of kiwi, row, as part of a multi-agency initiative to increase the kiwi population.

There are now 600 rows in the wild, up from 160 in the critically endangered category in 2016, and the species became downlisted to “nationally vulnerable” in 2017. Graham credits Rein with finding 1700 kiwis during her time with the program.

Motuara, a predator-free Creche Island in the Marlborough Sounds, will be her final stop before retirement from her job.

Graham has been a biodiversity ranger with the DOC’s Franz Josef kiwi team for four years. A colleague in Hamilton gave Rein to him as a puppy in early 2010, and he immediately saw the potential in her becoming a conservation dog.

As a conservation dog, she would need a strong sense of self-control, so he named her Rain.

To help with Operation Nest Egg, Graham wanted Rein to find kiwis in the wild.

In a slight stretch of low-lying forest inland near Quito in South Westland, Operation Nest Egg has successfully saved the rowing community from oblivion.

Since kiwi chicks are vulnerable to stoats and other predators, the environmentalists take the eggs from the woods for secure hatching.

After hatching at the West Coast Wildlife Sanctuary, the chicks spend roughly two months at the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve in Christchurch before being transported to Motuara Island for their final destination.

On the West Coast, they get released after they are mature enough to defend themselves from predators.

In the Omoeroa ranges, north of Franz Josef, kiwis have been relocated from the keto forest.

By utilizing treats and feathers from the kiwis, Graham taught Rein essential dog training and how to act around birds.

“It was already clear that she had a strong drive.” In the beginning, training is primarily about building a relationship with the dog’s owner. When she was seven months old, “early for any protection dog,” he noted, “she had her first test.”

Each bird that gets released has a transmitter attached to it that monitors its movements. A 50% decrease in feeding activity signifies that the birds are nesting. “We realize they have an egg when the row females and males scavenging hours reduce from 10 to 5 hours a nightly,” he stated.

A little over a month later, Graham and Rein are on their way to search for the eggs. The moment she discovers the nest, she comes to a complete halt and starts pointing with her front paws.

When the breeding season is over, Rein doesn’t take a break for the rest of the year. Every 12 to 14 months, she makes the trip to Motuara Island to check on the chicks and change the transmitter batteries on the island’s resident kiwis.

“When the transmitters malfunction, that’s when she performs assisting us in locating the chicks who don’t have tags,” Graham said.

Haast Tokoeka’s new population was one of her most significant accomplishments.

After working in the sector for ten years, Graham felt Rein should take a break. Brew, a second vizsla, has gradually taken over the workload over the last few months.

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Scientist Studying Satellite Images Stumble Upon Colony of Emperor Penguins

Kevin Wells

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Scientists in Antarctica have made a ground-breaking discovery by using satellite imagery to discover a previously unknown emperor penguin colony. The colony on the Danger Islands is thought to be one of the world’s largest emperor penguin colonies, with an estimated population of over 1.5 million birds.

A team of scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Stony Brook University made the discovery while studying satellite imagery of the Danger Islands to better understand the Adélie penguin population. They discovered a large number of emperor penguin guano stains while analyzing the images, indicating the presence of a large colony.

The group then traveled to the Danger Islands to confirm their findings and conduct a population count. They were able to confirm the presence of the colony and estimate its population using drones and on-the-ground surveys. The discovery is significant because it sheds new light on the Antarctic emperor penguin population, which has been declining in recent years due to climate change and other factors.

The discovery of the colony is also significant because the Danger Islands are part of the Weddell Sea region, which is designated by CCAMLR (Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources) as a “Marine Protected Area” (MPA), which means that the area is protected from human activities that could harm the penguins or their habitat.

The discovery of the emperor penguin colony is significant for both scientists and conservationists. The new information about these birds’ population and habitat will aid in better understanding and protection of the species. The team intends to continue monitoring the colony in order to gain a better understanding of the emperor penguin population and how climate change affects it.

The discovery of an emperor penguin colony in Antarctica’s Danger Islands is a game changer that emphasizes the importance of satellite imagery in conservation and the need to continue monitoring and protecting these species. The colony adds to our understanding of the emperor penguin population and habitat, allowing us to better understand and protect the species.

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Dogs are helping slow the infestation of Italy’s iconic olive trees

Renee Yates

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The olive fruit fly, a parasitic insect, has posed a serious threat to Italy’s olive trees in recent years. The insect lays its eggs in the olives, which causes them to rot and eventually kills the tree. The infestation was so severe that Italy is estimated to have lost 10% of its olive trees. This has an impact not only on the country’s agricultural economy but also on its cultural heritage, as olive groves have long been a feature of the Italian landscape.


To address this issue, a new plan has been proposed to use dogs to save Italy’s dying olive trees. The plan entails training specially bred dogs to detect the olive fruit fly’s scent, allowing them to locate and identify infested trees. Once the infested olives have been identified, they can be removed and the tree treated to prevent further infestation.


The plan is not only novel, but it is also cost-effective because it eliminates the need for chemical pesticides, which can be harmful to the environment and human health. Furthermore, the use of dogs is more efficient because they can cover large areas quickly and their sense of smell is far superior to that of humans.


The plan has already been implemented in various regions of Italy, with promising results. The trained dogs were able to detect infested trees with high accuracy, and the number of infested trees in areas where the plan was implemented was significantly reduced.


Local farmers who have been fighting to save their olive groves have also praised the initiative. “I never thought that my olive trees could be saved, but thanks to these special dogs, they are now producing olives again,” says one farmer.


The plan to use dogs to save Italy’s dying olive trees is not only effective but also sustainable. It not only helps to preserve the agricultural economy of the country but also its cultural heritage and the environment. The initiative is a great example of how innovation and technology can be used to solve problems sustainably.


Using trained dogs to detect and combat olive fruit fly infestations is a promising solution for saving Italy’s dying olive trees. In the regions where it has been implemented, it has proven to be effective, cost-effective, and long-term. It serves as a model for other countries dealing with similar agricultural issues. The plan is not only to save the olive trees but also to preserve Italy’s cultural heritage and environment.

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Sierra Leone’s Missing Crab Found Again

Renee Yates

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Most biologists dream of being that one scientist who is able to find a species already declared extinct and being able to prove it’s still alive and hanging on. Typically, biologists and similar can spend a career chasing after a single species and not finding anything. However, in the case of a particular crab, Pierre A Mvogo Ndongo seemed to have won the scientific world’s version of a lottery ticket prize.

In January 2021, Ndongo was in Sierra Leone trying to track down a particular type of land-based crab. The last time the given species had actually been recorded as observed was as far back as 1796, some 225 years earlier. Given the lack of siting for more than two and a half centuries, the Afzelius’ crab was considered officially extinct. The last one was seen in Sierra Leone, so Ndongo decided that was the place to start on a blind treasure hunt otherwise.

Officially known as Afrithelphusa leonensis by scientific record, the suspect land crab was clearly a prize in the biology world, and a good number of other scientists had been working to find it for years. This particular creature was even more challenging. Typically, inland crabs can be found near or in freshwater, generally living in burrows in the bank. The Afzelius’ crab was different; it could easily travel far from water being able to breathe air just as well on land as it did in water. Even more notable, the species had the ability to climb, which could easily locate it up in trees, between rocks, marshes and deep in natural holes. Essentially, just about anywhere the crab could fit it could get to.

However, the Afzelius’ crab is only found in a few regions. Sierra Leone and Liberia make up two locations, while Guinea is the other. When Ndongo arrived, the first three weeks pretty much ended up with no results. He had an additional disadvantages – where many research projects have extensive notes and prior research to work with, Ndongo had nothing except a very dated record from two and half centuries earlier.

Some logic did apply. Knowing that motor vehicles didn’t exist at the time, a foreigner would have had to find the animal within walking distance. Freetown was the most likely location a visitor researcher would have been based out of at the time, so that was a rational starting point. Ndongo spent much of his early time in the nearby forests as a result. Additionally, the research teach he led canvassed the area for anyone seeing anything remotely looking like a land crab. As it turned out, one fellow on a farm had seen something. Ndongo and staff went to the farm, talked with the owner, and began searching the location intensively. The tip paid off.

The particular land crab was found in a nearby forest near Guma Lake. They were a hardy bunch and well-talented at hiding. The crew had to practically dig the creatures out of their burrows with shovels and picks. Then, after cleaning off the crabs, the suspicion was confirmed. Ndongo had indeed rediscovered the “extinct” crab once again. Ndongo’s work has now re-established the endangered status of the species, as well as confirmation of related types of crabs in the area as well. All are threatened by local development as well, a classic story. Whether they survive now depends on local conservation efforts in Sierra Leone, a region that for decades as been torn apart by war. It’s going to be a tough road ahead.

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Whales Adopt Other Whales, Even Between Species

Shannon Jackson

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Do animals adopt young of other species? It’s been known to happen among canines as well as raptors. However, for the first time, marine scientists have now confirmed whales are willing to adopt the young of different whale species as well.

As it turns out, an orphaned humpback whale has found a new parental figure with a southern right whale, completely mixing two different breeds of whale. Granted, both are large sea mammals, both breathe air and generally consume the same food groups, and they are technically both whales. But in the animal world, the differences are as distinct as a horse to a cow or a dog to a black bear. However, there the pair were, swimming together and clearly bonded right off the coast of an Esperance beach. From the researcher’s perspective, the answer is clear; the adult southern whale has adopted the young and clearly smaller humpback whale.

Interestingly, the difference was caught immediately. Instead, it was Jess Wohling going over her work on a recent photography shoot who figured out what she was looking at was two different whales acting like mother and pup. At first, Wohling thought there was a camera glitch or a bad light exposure. However, as she studied the digital images from her camera, it became very clear, two different whales were swimming next to each other in tandem or like a parent and child whale pod. With the detail captured by the camera, Wohling compared the aspects of her image to whale images on the Internet, and she confirmed her hunch.

At that point, Wohling transmitted the digital image files to a whale researcher she knew, Katy Fannei. Looking at the images, Fannei not only confirmed Wohling’s assumption, she was also shocked by the documented behavior and pretty much floored. The news hit the digital wire immediately as Fannei started sharing the news with everyone she knew in her professional circle. Everyone who got the communication and images, including researchers with far more experience than Fannei were also shocked by the apparent adoption behavior.

While it is quite possible for southern right whales to come into contact with humpback whales, they almost never converge with each other for any extended period of time. A lot of new hypotheses started getting thrown around. Was the southern right whale a female in mothering mode? Maybe it lost its own pup and the timing of finding a stray humpback child was a coincidence, or maybe some sort of protection in company perspective was going on. Most agreed on the idea of adoption taking place. Again, this wasn’t unheard of in other species. Recently, an eagle pair adopted a falcon fledgling in Canada and have been raising it along with their eaglets.

The key behavior pattern arguing for adoption involves the close positioning of the humpback pup to the adult southern right whale in the water. It literally looks like a mother and child whale behavior. The major filter now is determining whether the pair are already tracked somewhere in the known southern right whale database the researchers use. If not, then the discovery will represent a unique and new biological finding.

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America’s Single Remaining Hyena Born in Captivity Born in Mid-October 2022

Renee Yates

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Most people think of hyenas as scavengers and vicious animals that dying creatures have to fend off in the African Serengeti. The last thing the majority of people take into account is what a baby hyena pup might look like. However, as it turns out, folks in Hattiesburg are going to get a front row seat. Their local zoo is now the proud owner of a new pup.

Per the Hattiesburg American, the zoo’s local hyenas, spotted variety, gave birth to a new cub. There was only one born, but the parents, Pili and Niru, are doting on it. The cub arrived in mid-October, and probably broke history by doing so, now being the single living hyena born in U.S. captivity. All others have passed and those that are in zoos originally came from the wild.

In typical situations in the wild, a birth would include anywhere from a pair to four cubs at a time. That said, more than half die before they even have a chance in the wild. Worse, the mortality rate for the mothers is extremely high, with surviving females being the great majority that produce most of the cubs. In short, the first cub has the highest possibility of being fatal for the mother hyena.

Kristin Moore, representing the Hattiesburg Zoo, described the cub weighing in at 3.2 pounds the day after it was born. By a week later, it had gained an additional pound and some in weight, a positive sign. However, the zoo staff are extremely cautious and not jumping the gun. The mother is isolated with the cub to protect it, and the father has only had general exposure to the baby hyena in case he decides to attack it. Fortunately, Niru was very calm about the matter, not showing any signs of aggression but safely separated from the cub by a mesh.

To give the mother hyena, Pili, and the cub time to relax and stay healthy, their den and exposure for now is closed off from zoo guests as a public exhibit. Once the pup has gained enough size and strength, the conditions will change accordingly. The Zoo, through social media and the new PR wire, requests that Hattiesburg patrons be patient until mother and cub have clearly passed the danger stage in the newborn’s growth. Once acclimated and established, the cub and mother will then be weaned back to regular public display in the months ahead.

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