Conservation News

Why rural Britain would be a sadder place without beautiful hares

As myxomatosis spreads from rabbits, there are fears for the future of a species that holds a unique place in our affections

I usually come across them at night, when I am driving home, or very early in the morning as I cycle across the Somerset Levels. Sometimes one runs down the road ahead, before darting under a gate and disappearing into the long grass. At other times, I glimpse what looks like a clod of earth in the middle of a field, which then surprises me by starting to move. And every once in a while I get a really good view, as I peer through a hedgerow and watch a hare feeding on wild grasses and meadow herbs.

Hares are my favourite British mammal, so when I wrote a book about the natural history of my parish, I decided to call it Wild Hares and Hummingbirds (the latter referring to the hummingbird hawk-moth). Yet now I face the possibility that, in a few years’ time, I’ll no longer be able to see these captivating animals in the fields around my village. Last week, scientists declared that myxomatosis may have made the jump from rabbits and could wipe out Britain’s brown hares. This fills me with dread. After all, up to 99% of Britain’s rabbits were wiped out by this disease, before some managed to develop resistance.

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'Horrific' footage reveals fish suffocating to death on industrial farms in Italy

An Italian NGO has published footage taken on intensive fish farms that appears to reveal troubling practices in an industry that so far has largely gone unregulated.

Shocking footage of intensively farmed fish has emerged in Italy which raises questions about working practices on aquaculture farms for supermarket produce, and which has sparked fresh calls for regulation.

Unlike mammals, fish have almost no legal protections in the EU and the images, secretly filmed in 2017 and 2018, represent the first investigation into Europe’s “factory farms” for fish.

Related: Share your stories from inside the farming industry

Related: Europe's meat and dairy production must halve by 2050, expert warns

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A new leaf: the hardy trees reforesting the Amazon

Scientists in Peru have found tree species that thrive in land poisoned by gold miners; now they have started planting

Flying above the Tambopata River in a single-engine Cessna turboprop, the panorama is desolate. Jungle rivers are ripped open into a delta of sand dunes and stagnant, discoloured ponds. Ant-sized bulldozers roll down mud paths on the soggy moonscape dotted with glinting corrugated iron rooftops.

Amid the roar of the propellers, Cesar Ascorra eagerly points to a cluster of newly planted saplings in the sand. They are evenly spaced, like a polka dot pattern, but the area they cover is dwarfed by the swathe of destruction carved by illegal gold miners.

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Landmark work on frog extinction crisis wins at PM's science prizes

Lee Berger wins Frank Fenner prize for life scientist of the year while ANU emeritus professor Kurt Lambeck wins prime minister’s prize for science

The sudden crash of several frog species in Australia and central America between the late 1970s and 1990s was a global mystery. Six species were lost in Queensland alone. The prevailing wisdom was environmental factors must be to blame for their extinction. Could it be rising pollution? Or ultraviolet radiation from the growing hole in the ozone layer?

It turned out it was neither. A group of Australian scientists showed environmental change was not responsible, and in the process upended conventional thinking about what can trigger species loss. It started as a theory from Rick Speare, a Townsville-based doctor and vet: that an infectious disease was spreading north through Queensland, wiping out frog species as it went. He invited Lee Berger, a veterinary science graduate from the University of Melbourne, to join the investigation as a PhD candidate.

Related: Destruction of threatened species habitat taking place on 'scandalously huge scale'

Related: Leaked Queensland report shows state has no overall strategy to save native species

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Open coalmine near Africa's first nature reserve divides community

Poverty, conservation and industry are at loggerheads in the eastern town of Somkhele

Drive for an hour into the hills that lie behind South Africa’s wild eastern coast, and you will find a game park full of rhino and big cats, a sprawling town spread over dozens of summits and dry valleys, and a vast opencast coal mine.

If all the advantages of the rainbow nation – stunning landscape and wildlife, massive mineral resources and a youthful population – are represented here, then so too are all its problems.

Mining shouldn’t be seen as the solution to all problems. The government needs to be more creative

They are all on the side of the mines. They don’t care about small people like us

Related: South Africa's Wild Coast under threat of mining – photo essay

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