Discover Wildlife From the team at BBC Wildlife Magazine 2020-11-13T17:07:13Z Megan Shersby <![CDATA[The best wildlife-themed games]]> 2020-11-13T16:47:30Z 2020-11-13T13:00:27Z

From board games and card games, to mobile and video games, there*s a wide range of great wildlife-themed games being created. Learn about wildlife around the world in these fantastic products, whilst having fun with friends and family.

For even more gift ideas you may like our round-ups of gifts for nature lovers,?nature books for kids and teenagers, and?books on mental health, mindfulness and connecting with nature.

We*ve split these games into different categories:

Board games for nature lovers

Oceans (2020)

By Nick Bentley, Dominic Crapuchettes, Ben Goldman, and Brian O*Neill. Northstar Games Studio, ㏒49.99.

Age 12+, 2-4 players, 60-90 minutes playing time.

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Oceans - Final Box Cover (HiRez)_cmyk

The aim of this new wildlife game is to create and evolve marine species, and try to stop them from going extinct. The first half of the game is relatively slow, as you gradually evolve your species and feed from the reef to build their populations. Then the Cambrian explosion occurs, and suddenly everything becomes a lot more extreme, including the playing of powerful trait cards from the &Deep*, such as &Abyss Dweller*, &Electric Discharge* and &The Kraken*.

oceans setup 3d

If the latter half doesn*t appeal to you, the game can be made more family-friendly by playing the Reef variant and avoiding the &Deep*. There*s also a deluxe edition available.

Reviewed by Megan Shersby, editorial & digital co-ordinator, BBC Wildlife

Monopoly 每 RSPB edition

RSPB, ㏒34.99.

Age 8+, 2-6 players.

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RSPB Monopoly

I hardly ever win at Monopoly, so this bird-watching themed version instantly endeared itself to me when I triumphed over an avid player (who, unsurprisingly, was less enamoured with the format).

Instead of the traditional London locations, avian species 每 from gannet and puffin to nuthatch and skylark 每 and their habitats are accrued as you make your way around the board. Instead of houses and hotels, hides and visitor centres can be constructed to draw more money away from your opponents.

Community Chest cards may see you parting with your hard-earned cash for binocular repairs or reward you for winning second prize in a wildlife photography competition, for example.

While the theme could, perhaps, work a little harder in?some areas, it*s?a great way to introduce younger players to a variety of species.

Reviewed by Angharad Moran, production editor, BBC Wildlife

Indian Summer (2017)

By Uwe Rosenberg. Stronghold Games.

Age 10+, 1-4 players, 15-60 minutes playing time.

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Indian Summer 1

Designer Uwe Rosenberg is a big name in modern board games, known for some of the most popular strategic titles available. In Indian Summer, considered the most complex in his trilogy of tile placement games, players compete to cover their forest floors in tetris-like blocks of colourful leaves.

Indian Summer 2

The race gets more interesting as you uncover treasures such as berries and mushrooms that tweak the rules. On the downside, the pieces are fiddly for less dextrous players, and it requires plenty of brain power 每 especially once the animal tiles come into play. Overall, the autumnal artwork makes this a spectacular option for fans of strategy games.

The other two games in Rosenberg*s trilogy are Cottage Garden (Amazon UK), and Spring Meadow (Amazon UK).

Reviewed by Ella Davies, nature writer

Sticky Chameleons (2017)

By C谷dric Barb谷 and Th谷o Rivi豕re. IELLO.

Age 6+, 2-5 players, 20 minutes playing time.

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Sticky Chameleons 1

Sticky Chameleons is a game for 2-6 players best played at a safe distance from precious family heirlooms! Each player is a chameleon, equipped with a sticky pink &tongue* they must use to pick up the correct insect prey tiles as indicated by a roll of the dice. Naturalists will gripe that wasp tiles are to be avoided, despite chameleons regularly feasting on them in real life.

Sticky Chamelons 2

Those familiar with the sticky, stretchy toys kids love to fling at walls and get tangled in their hair will realise how chaotic the game can get in large groups. If you can stop laughing and crying long enough to keep track of the score, the winner is the first to five points.

Reviewed by Ella Davies, nature writer

Squirrel Rush (2016)

By Krzysztof Matusik. Tailor Games.

Age 6+, 2-6 players, 15-30 minutes playing time.

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Squirrel Rush 1

Squirrel Rush is a tile placement game that casts you as competitive squirrels, trying to collect as many nuts as possible before winter arrives. The game is simple to set up and quick to play but gets tactical as you choose the best path through the glade for the maximum haul of acorns.

Squirrel Rush 2

It*s a fun family game, the wooden squirrel player pieces are satisfyingly tactile, and the cards feature adorable illustrations of red squirrels in action. Consider adding a copy to your cache if you*re a fan of logic puzzles, need a &filler* between more involved games, or you*re catering for shorter attention spans.

Reviewed by Ella Davies, nature writer

Ocean bingo (2018)

Laurence King,?㏒19.99.

Other wildlife- and animal-themed bingo games are also available from Laurence King: Bird, Bug, Monkey, Australia*s Deadly Animals, Cat, Dog, for ㏒19.99, and for younger children: Poo, Jungle, and Dinosaur, for ㏒16.99.

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Ocean bingo

Hurrah! A board game with no ridiculously complicated rules that drain all joy from the arena before anyone?has so much as spun a spinner. This 每 the latest in a series of wildlife-themed Bingo sets 每 is perfect for restless kids and rainy days, and requires precious little by way of instruction.

All you have to so is select a game card; cover your?25 (out of 64) sea creatures with yellow discs as they are called; and the first?to finish shouts The Word. It*s a great way for children to get to know some?of our amazing ocean species, from?red lionfish to leatherback sea turtles.

Reviewed by Sarah McPherson, section editor, BBC Wildlife

I Saw It First! Ocean & Jungle

Laurence King, ㏒19.99 each

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Ocean board game

The concept couldn*t be simpler. You have a board with pictures of some 300 species of creatures 每 whales, coral, shellfish, jellies, crabs, et al in the Ocean version, and creatures such as gorilla, tiger, Temminck*s tragopan and Sumatran torrent frog in the jungle version.?And you have a box, from which you draw illustrated tokens. All you have to do is match the picture on the token with one on the board. The winner keeps the token and you draw again from the box. Whoever ends the game with the most tokens is the champ.

Jungle board game

The tokens include the species* names, and as we played, we assimilated oceanic ID knowledge without realising. So far, my son and I have only played?a handful of times, but our spotters* badges are assured 每 we*ll never fail?to identify a terrible claw lobster or googly-eyed glass?squid. Simple,?but effective.

Reviewed by Paul McGuinness, editor, BBC Wildlife?

Card games?for nature lovers

The Lost Words (2020)

Thames and Kosmos, Age 8+, ㏒13.99.

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The Lost Words pack

Based on the bestselling book by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris, this is a relatively straightforward card game, the object of which is to be the first to pair the cards in your hand with those on the table.

The Lost Words - otter

There*s an edge to proceedings, as certain cards allow you to mess with your opponents 每 draw a magpie, for example, and you can steal a completed pair. One hand took about 30 minutes, and it was something of a delight to play with such beautiful illustrations of the natural world, and to hear 10- and 12-year-old boys talking about brambles, wrens, otters and larks.

Reviewed by Sarah McPherson, section editor, BBC Wildlife

Arboretum (2015)

By Dan Cassar.?Renegade Games Studio, ㏒19.99.

Age 8+, 2-4 players,?30 minutes playing time.

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If you dream of planting trees, you might be attracted by the prospect of Arboretum, a card game for 2-4 players that requires you to plot a path through a beautiful collection of your own creation. In truth, it*s not suited to dreamers, as things quickly become very competitive and players eventually wipe out each other*s arboricultural efforts.

Arboretum cards

While the cards can teach you about the shapes and shades of some of the world*s most flamboyant tree species, the game overall feels like a slightly harsh lesson on how to read your opponents. That said, it*s ideal for analytical thinkers, particularly when played head-to-head.

Reviewed by Ella Davies, nature writer

Birds of a Feather (2015)

By Teale Fristoe. Nothing Sacred Games.

Age 9+, 1-7 players, 15 minutes playing time.

Birds of a feather

You don*t have to know much about US bird species to play Birds of a Feather, though you might pick up a few facts from the game. Playing as a twitcher, you manage your hand of cards to tick off as many species as possible, earning extra points for full groups from differing habitats including wetlands, deserts and mountains.

It*s a great game for getaways, packed in a neat little box and with beautifully clear artwork sure to cheer up any rainy days. It*s also quick to play, suitable for all ages and can be played solo 每 but is best in bigger groups of up to seven.

Reviewed by Ella Davies, nature writer

Butterfly Wings: A matching game

Laurence King, ㏒14.99.

Other wildlife- and animal-themed matching games are also available from Laurence King: Pair of Birds, Flower, Animal Tracks, Dinosaur Bones, Leaf, Cats & Kittens, Dogs & Puppies.

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Butterfly Wings game 1

A box full of 25 delicately detailed butterflies awaits players of this game. The challenge? Each species?is featured twice, once with wings open, and once closed 每 all you?need to do is pair them up. Though crimson rose and zebra longwing make life easy, those such as blue morpho and gold-banded forester may prove a little trickier.

Butterfly Wings game 2

While Christine Berrie supplies the wonderful illustrations, Mike Unwin provides information on each species in the accompanying &key to the butterflies*, which reveals the correct pairings. You*ll soon be able to tell your dead leaf from your sunset daggerwing.

Reviewed by Angharad Moran, production editor, BBC Wildlife

Birds playing cards

Laurence King, ㏒8.99

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Bird cards 1

Introduce an ornithological element to your game nights. Each of the cards in this delightful deck is adorned with a different bird species illustrated by Ryuto Miyake. The traditional suits are colour co-ordinated 每 diamonds feature a snowy egret and Bali mynah; a hummingbird and Victoria crowned pigeon are placed within spades; a flamingo and scarlet ibis are part of the clubs family; while a raven and long-wattled umbrellabird are included in the hearts suit.

Bird cards 2

With an educational aspect for younger players and the chance to admire lovely artwork, your games may take a little longer but what*s the rush?

Reviewed by Angharad Moran, production editor, BBC Wildlife

Jigsaw puzzles?for nature lovers

Wentworth Wooden Puzzles, ㏒25.00.

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Jigsaws have enjoyed something of a resurgence since lockdown. If you*re after something a bit different, try this colourful and absorbing 185-piecer. Like all Wentworth products, it*s UK-made (from sustainable sources) and includes the Victorian-inspired &whimsy* pieces, shaped according to theme 每 so here, wolves, flowers and ornate spirals.

These aren*t your standard jigsaws. Aside from the obvious quality of the wooden pieces, they are a law unto themselves 每 middle pieces can have straight edges and no two are the same. I began mid-morning and emerged mid-afternoon 每 just the right level of taxing.

Reviewed by Sarah McPherson, section editor, BBC Wildlife

Mobile games?for nature lovers

Wildeverse May 2020

Internet of Elephants, free


Enter an augmented reality with this new mobile wildlife game. Look through the virtual forests to find and learn about four species of ape, all of which are based on real individuals in the wild 每 Fio (Bornean orangutan), Chili (white- bearded gibbon), Buka (western lowland gorilla) and Aida (chimpanzee). Working with scientists, you*ll help to conserve the apes through various missions, such as looking for tracks and poo, and finding out what food the apes have been eating.

Working with scientists from real wildlife organisations 每 Goualougo Triangle Ape Project and Borneo Nature Foundation 每 the developers had planned for users to play the game outdoors, but with the outbreak and spread of coronavirus, they worked to adapt it?for playing indoors.

Reviewed by Megan Shersby, editorial & digital co-ordinator, BBC Wildlife

Video games?for nature lovers

Bee simulator

BigBen Interactive, ㏒34.99.?Available on PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch and Xbox One.

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Bee Simulator 2

Explore the world of a honeybee in this fun game. Born to a hive in a world inspired by New York*s Central Park, you*ll gradually learn how to fly, collect pollen, help other bees, dodge spider webs, and even how to fight wasps. The game is educational and aimed at families.

Bee Simulator 1

Though enjoyable to play, the voiceovers are quite cheesy, and controlling the flight of your bee is far more difficult than expected 每 so it is probably not suitable for first-time gamers.

Reviewed by Megan Shersby, editorial & digital co-ordinator, BBC Wildlife

Beyond Blue

By E-Line Media. Available on Steam, X-Box One, X-Box Series X|S, and PS4. Coming soon to Nintendo Switch. ㏒15.99.

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Dive into the underwater world of our oceans as &Mirai*, a deep sea explorer and scientist. With the help of a research team, you*ll be tracking down marine animals 每 delicate comb jellies, spider crabs, octopuses and awe-inspiring humpbacks 每 and studying a family of sperm whales that Mirai has been following for a while.

The science includes audio playback experiments, collecting DNA samples and using UV light on sharks, all accompanied by insightful information. However, there are some odd topics covered in conversations with Mirai*s sister and colleagues, such as a grandmother*s illness. Perhaps these are added to give depth to the characters, but they felt unnecessary.

Back at your submarine hub, there are mini documentaries to watch, featuring never-before-seen- footage from BBC Studios* Blue Planet II and interviews with leading ocean experts. Even in virtual form, the species are beautiful and fascinating to watch.

Reviewed by Megan Shersby, editorial & digital co-ordinator, BBC Wildlife

Main image: Playing a board game. ? Sean Justice/Corbis/VCG

These reviews originally appeared in BBC Wildlife Magazine. Take a look inside the current issue and find out how to subscribe.

Simon Birch <![CDATA[Exotic pet trade poses health risks]]> 2020-11-10T15:08:45Z 2020-11-13T08:00:33Z

The public*s health is being put at risk by the millions of live wild animals being legally imported into the UK from emerging disease hotspots, which are then sold as exotic pets, according to the global animal welfare charity World Animal Protection (WAP).

Using a Freedom of Information request to the Animal and Plant Health Agency, an agency of Defra, researchers found that between 2014 and 2018, more than three million animals were imported into the UK to supply the exotic pet trade, one of the major commercial purposes for importing live wild animals.

Golden gecko. ? F. Teigler/blickwinkel/Alamy
Golden gecko. ? F. Teigler/blickwinkel/Alamy

These animals included African pygmy hedgehogs, snakes and tortoises. Many of these animals were taken from countries that are considered to be emerging disease hotspots 每 Cameroon, El Salvador and Indonesia, for example.

According to WAP, importing animals in such numbers risks the spread of diseases caused by harmful viruses, bacteria and parasites introduced into new environments.

※The wildlife trade is a lethal hotbed of disease, because it brings wild animals with immune systems weakened by the stress of captivity, and transport in unnatural proximity to other animals, into close contact with people, often in unsanitary conditions,§ says Peter Kemple Hardy, wildlife campaign manager, WAP.

The World Health Organisation estimates millions of deaths occur every year from diseases spread to humans from animals.

A Defra spokesperson says, ※The UK is a world leader in wildlife conservation, both at home and abroad. We have strict measures in place to protect animals imported into the country and prevent the spread of diseases.§

※Well-managed trade can bring important benefits, contributing to livelihoods and economies across the globe. We remain fully committed to ensuring that any trade in wildlife is safe, sustainable, legal, and adheres to high standards of welfare.§

Dr Neil D*Cruze, head of wildlife research, WAP, states: ※Even with the best bio-security measures in place, there are still questions about what diseases are being looked for, how new and emerging diseases are being monitored and how we deal with individual animals that are imported but are asymptomatic. Given the health risks, it*s time for a re-evaluation of the commercial use of wildlife.§

Read the full paper in Animals.

Main image: Fischer*s Lovebird, Pavel Chonya, Lake Naivasha, Naivasha, Great Rift Valley, Kenya. ? Education Images/Universal Images Group/Getty

Carys Matthews <![CDATA[European badger guide: habitat, diet and where to see]]> 2020-11-12T16:01:09Z 2020-11-12T15:44:33Z

With their distinctive black and white markings, badgers are one of the easiest mammals to identify and watch 每 their eyesight is poor and if you are downwind, still and silent, it is easy to get close to them. Position yourself near an active sett entrance with a solid object behind you, so you are not silhouetted, or watch them feeding in your garden.

Learn everything you need to know about badger social structure, behaviour, identification and breeding in our expert guide to European badgers.

How many badgers are there in the UK?

Badgers are widely distributed in Britain and Ireland, being absent only from parts of the Scottish Highlands and from offshore islands, including the Isle of Man. Estimates of the UK*s badger population vary widely; the last official survey, 16 years ago, arrived at a figure of 350,000 individuals 每 the largest national total in Europe.

Urban European badger (Meles meles) in London
An urban badger in London. ? Damian Kuzdak/Getty

How to tell the difference between male and female badgers

By Steve Harris

Males can generally be distinguished from females by their broader, more domed heads, fuller cheeks and thicker necks. Tails are a less reliable guide 每 males typically have thinner, whiter tails; females shorter, broader ones.

Albino badgers are rare, but erythristic badgers (in which the black is replaced by reddish pigment) are more common.

Individual badgers are easily recognised by the width and shape of their facial stripes, scars from fights and how much of their ears are left 每 the conspicuous white tufts are often lost in skirmishes.

European Badger (Meles meles) on an evening stroll
European Badger on an evening stroll. ? Kristian Bell/Getty

What is the social structure of badgers?

Badgers live in complex social groups, which average about five adults. There is usually a slight preponderance of females because of the higher?mortality of males in fights and on roads.

Only some females breed. Those that do not are generally smaller and more likely to carry scars on their rumps from fights.

Cubs of subordinate sows may be killed soon after birth by dominant sows and left outside the sett.

How dangerous are badgers?

During fights badgers often bite each other*s rumps, tearing off chunks of skin and flesh. Males fight in spring and late summer, when they are mating; females throughout the year.

Aggressive badger/Credit: Getty Images
Badgers are generally keen to avoid human contact and will rarely be aggressive?unless challenged/Credit: Getty Images

Where do badgers live?

Badgers live in setts which are usually found in the countryside in woodlands or the edges of fields. Badgers can still be found in urban areas in woodland parks and green spaces.

Juveniles often play around the sett 每 particularly leap-frog and king-of-the-castle. See below for the best places to see badgers in the UK.

Badger looking out of a sett/Credit: Getty Images
Badger setts can be used by many generations of badgers/Credit: Getty Images

In spring and summer, badgers dig out their setts. Setts can be used by many generations of badgers, and why they are extended is not clear 每 it may be that with more nest chambers, parasites build up less.

Bedding collection is common, especially in spring and to a lesser extent after harvest time, when there is straw and hay debris in the fields.

Month-by-month guide to badger activity

Find out what badgers get up to throughout the year.?

Words: David Dixon


Badgers do not hibernate, but their activity is irregular at this time of year. Sows are pregnant and all the group members are living off their fat reserves.


The month when most cubs are born, and also the start of the mating season. Typically, two or three cubs are reared, but this depends on a sow*s age and social status.


Badgers are more active 每 reflected by a peak in road kills. Sows often move their cubs if disturbed by amorous males. Look for freshly dug soil and discarded bedding.


Cubs make their first appearance above ground. The adults are very hungry, especially lactating sows, and all spend more time foraging.


Cubs start to accompany adults on feeding excursions. The breeding sows are extremely wary of potential predators such as foxes, which they often attack on sight.


Most cubs are weaned by the end of the month. Long days make this one of the best months for badger watching.


Cubs forage independently and travel greater distances in search of food. Adults make increased use of dung pits at greater distances from the sett.


Dry weather can lead to a shortage of worms and other natural food. Mortality increases, especially among the young. Badgers may visit gardens to drink from ponds.


Look out for signs of increased digging and bedding collection. Autumn is when most dispersal takes place, involving mainly young males. Increased mobility means another peak in road kills.


Shorter days stimulate a second peak of mating activity. Badgers feed heavily on nuts, seeds and berries to lay down fat reserves for the winter.


Digging and bedding collection continues. Animals are less active, especially in wet weather. Fewer tunnel entrances are in use and many become blocked with leaves.


More nights are spent underground. Implantation of the blastocysts (fertilised eggs) takes place around the time of the winter solstice in the second half of the month.

What do badgers eat?

Badgers are good foragers and their diet tends to consist of earthworms, slugs and snails and wild fruits, nuts and seeds. They are also known to eat small mammals, such as mice, rats and squirrels and rabbits and amphibians, such as frogs and toads. There have been various studies into whether badgers are responsible for the decline of hedgehogs.

Badger and fruit bush/Credit: Getty Images
European Badgers eat a diet of earthworms, but also eat nut, berries and small mammals/Credit: Getty Images

How do badgers groom each other?

There is frequent social grooming, for which badgers use their incisors. They also engage in scent-marking, particularly &bum-pressing*, where one badger presses the scent gland under its tail onto another badger, so that the group shares a common odour.

When do badger mate and breed?

Mating occurs mainly in early spring and late summer, often close to setts or in sett entrances.

Delayed implantation occurs 每 blastocysts (very early embryos) implant in late December or early January, and the peak birthing period is early February. The typical litter size is two or three.

Newborn cubs emerge after 8 to 10 weeks, usually in late April or early May, and have silky, grey fur. Their behaviour is cautious until late May.

Why do badgers have black and white stripes?

Newborn badgers show hints of two dark eye-stripes in otherwise thin, silky fur, and by the time they leave the sett they have developed full adult coloration. They also behave exactly as adults do when threatened, facing the enemy with lowered heads and fluffed-up coats. This displays remarkable confidence for their size, suggesting that the stripes may be a warning.

Close up of a badger (Meles meles) taken on a summer evening at Dinefwr Country Estate in Pembrokeshire, West Wales, UK
Badgers stripes could be used to suggest a warning/Credit: Getty Images

Badgers have poor eyesight, so their stripes are unlikely to be for soliciting grooming or attracting mates, and in 1911 Reginald Pocock was one of the first zoologists to speculate that it was warning coloration. His hypothesis was backed up in a 2005 paper by Chris Newman, Christina Buesching and Jerry Wolff. They concluded that the European badger, American striped skunk and other middleweight carnivores evolved dazzling patterns to flag up their main defence (anal scent glands in skunks; huge jaws in badgers) to predators.

An old name for badger is &grey*, alluding to a rather odd attribute. Its body and leg fur is mostly pale grey: only part of the longest, wiry &guard* hairs is black, producing the overall grizzled appearance. A drawing in Ernest Neal*s monograph The Badger (1948) shows how each mature male*s guard hair is white for 4.4cm, black for 2.2cm and white for the final 1.4cm.

Why do badgers give birth in winter?

Much of what we know about badger ecology comes from long-term studies at Wytham Woods near Oxford and Woodchester Park in Gloucestershire, where scientist Steve Carter of the Animal and Plant Health Agency is based.

※In winter badgers don*t hibernate, but spend far more time in their setts so we see them less,§ he says. ※They do emerge to forage in mild weather, generally being more active further south and if they are regularly fed by people.§

Despite female badgers eating less and living off fat reserves, winter is nevertheless when they give birth to their cubs, which are helpless, blind and barely 12cm long, with a 3每4cm tail. Yet this makes sense in the long run, explains Steve.

※The aim is for the cubs to start venturing above ground in April or early May, when invertebrate food is plentiful and they have as much time as possible to put on fat to prepare them for their own first winter. To get this timing right, female badgers must give birth between January and March, with February usually the peak month in Britain.§

Pregnancy lasts six to seven weeks in badgers, so it follows that sows need to fall pregnant in December. But mating normally takes place in spring or summer. The solution is delayed implantation. ※Each blastocyst, the tiny ball of cells that becomes an embryo, does not implant for several months,§ says Steve.

※Interestingly, a female badger may mate with more than one male and bear a litter of mixed parentage. She can also ovulate a second time and mate again while already carrying blastocysts from an earlier mating, and still start the pregnancy at the same time to produce a single litter of cubs. This remarkable ability is called superfetation.§

Did you know?

In northern Russia badgers seldom leave their sett in winter.?In southern Spain, however, they remain fully active since their main food 每 rabbits 每?is still easy to find.

How protective are badgers of their young?

Badger cubs are born in early February, but life for newborns is dangerous. In the first couple of weeks, up to a third may die underground; most of them will have been killed by sows who have their own cubs.

The survivors emerge from the sett when they are nine to ten weeks old. Watching a sett in late April and early May is the best time to see the cubs* first foray above ground.

Keep an eye on the entrance because they will probably remain in it, or nearby, as well as staying extremely close to their mother. She will herd them below ground at the first sign of danger, and even drag a cub to safety by the scruff of its neck.

Foraging trips

Sometimes the sow will take her young on short trips while she is foraging, but she is very wary of danger.

When a female appeared in my garden with three very young cubs, she spent most of her time rounding them up and trying to hide them in the flowerbeds while she ate the peanuts on?the lawn.

How much of a threat are foxes to badger cubs?

The sow was particularly nervous when there were foxes around, repeatedly rushing at them with her back arched and fur raised to make herself look larger and more aggressive. Females with cubs may even corner and kill foxes.

A few nights later, the sow had given up trying to marshal her cubs; they chased each other around the lawn, seemingly oblivious to any threat from the foxes.

Best places to see badgers in the UK

Increase your chance of seeing a badger in the wild with these tops tips from the Jack Reedy at the Badger Trust.

Most rural woodlands will have a badger sett hidden away somewhere, and there are even some small urban badger populations if you know where to look. But if you want the best possible chance of seeing badgers, here are some of the best sites in the UK.

By far the most exciting way to watch badgers is to search for an active sett 每 look for piles of fresh spoil outside, well-worn paths and a latrine pit full of droppings. The telltale signs of these enchanting mammals are far less attractive than the badgers themselves!

European badger (Meles meles) at sunset
Woodland badger at sunset. ? Damian Kuzdak/Getty

How to watch for badgers


Wear the right clothing for badger watching

Pack a waterproof and extra layers, a hat and gloves in a rucksack 每 it quickly gets chilly after dark. In summer, take insect repellent. For badger watching, the best binoculars are lower-magnification models (such as 7 or 8x) with wide objective?lenses (42每55mm), because these tend to produce a brighter image in low light.


Get to the badger sett nice and early

Stealthily approach your chosen sett an hour or so before dusk. Don*t flash lights unnecessarily in case people living nearby report suspicious behaviour to the police.


Position yourself well

Pick a comfortable spot, with the sett at least 10m in front of you and your back to a tree or hedge, to avoid the badgers seeing you outlined against the sky. Ensure that the wind is on your face so that you*re downwind of the sett.

A badger taking a look around its forest home
A badger taking a look around its forest home. ? Damian Kuzdak/Getty

Stay still and smell natural

Badgers have phenomenal hearing and powerful noses, so avoid perfume or aftershave, and don*t rustle clothing, snap twigs, cough, sneeze, whisper or smoke.


Use torches carefully

Take a torch with a dimmer function, and set the brightness as low as possible; some people also advise a red light. When badgers appear, shine the beam upwards?at first, then lower it gradually, but only as far as necessary.

Badger coming down to a pond to drink at night.
Badger coming down to a pond to drink at night. ? Fabrizio Moglia

Don*t disturb the badgers

Take pictures at the end of your session in case the sound of your camera frightens the badgers away, and don*t leave the sett area until they have finally dispersed to forage.


Badger watching requires patience

Sometimes badgers simply hide, but don*t give up! Aim to visit the sett several nights in a row 每 that way, you should get lucky on at least one evening.

European Badger (Meles meles) on an evening stroll
European Badger on an evening stroll. ? Kristian Bell/Getty

Megan Shersby <![CDATA[New langur species in Myanmar described by scientists]]> 2020-11-10T16:54:00Z 2020-11-11T02:00:03Z

Scientists have confirmed the existence of a previously undescribed primate species in Myanmar, following field surveys, genetic analysis, and examination of museum specimens.

Called the Popa langur (Trachypithecus popa), the primate is found in central Myanmar and is named after Mount Popa, an extinct volcano which is considered sacred and is believed to have the largest population of this newly described species, with just over 100 animals.

Mount Popa is a sacred pilgrimage site, home to the &Nat* spirits, as well as an important wildlife sanctuary.

The addition of the Popa langur has expanded the knowledge of langur evolutionary history, a group of primates which is mainly found in Southeast Asia, but also parts of the Sunderland region.

Samples and complete mitochondrial DNA were collected from the 20 known langur species in the Trachypithecus?genus.

It was quite a complex picture to begin with because previous work focused only on a few species at a time,§ says Roberto Portela Miguez, senior curator in charge of mammals at the Natural History Museum (NHM) in London.?※Having the opportunity to collaborate with such a great group of colleagues from around the globe allowed us to integrate more information from more specimens and deliver one of the most comprehensive studies on this genus to date.§

Part of the study involved examining a langur specimen at the NHM in London, which was collected by the British zoologist Guy C. Shortridge in 1913.

A Popa langur skull. ? Trustees of The Natural History Museum
A Popa langur skull. ? Trustees of The Natural History Museum

※Whilst there are subtle physical differences, such as fur colouration, tail length, the size of the molars and skull shape, genetic work was key to establish that it was a new species,§ explains Miguez.

It is estimated that there are only 200-250 individuals of the Popa langur, across four isolated populations, and the researchers recommend that the species should be listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List as it?faces a number of threats including habitat loss and hunting.

※Sadly this is a bittersweet discovery due to the limited number of individuals left in the wild and fragmented populations,§ adds Miguez. ※Although Mount Popa is a national park, meaning the species that occur there are legally protected, hunting and deforestation for the timber industry and fuelwood still occur.§

&The hope is that by giving this species the scientific status and notoriety it merits, there will be even more concerted efforts in protecting this area and the few other remaining populations.§

Main image: Popa langur. ? Thaung Win

Stuart Blackman <![CDATA[Male elephants’ educational role more crucial than previously thought]]> 2020-11-10T16:58:01Z 2020-11-10T13:20:03Z

Elephant society revolves around stable herds of females who raise and educate calves cooperatively under the leadership of an elderly, experienced matriarch. But new research suggests that mature males, too, play a crucial educational role 每 a discovery that has implications for the regulation of trophy hunting.

Rather little is known about the social lives of males after they leave their natal herd in adolescence, says University of Exeter biologist Connie Allen, who conducted the research in Botswana*s Makgadikgadi Pans National Park. Certainly, the males do have a social life, though their friendships are more casual than those of females.

※Some males have regular friends, but in general male groups are very fluid and changeable,§ explains Allen.

※If you talk to the safari guides, they all say the young males learn from the older bulls,§ she adds. ※But that hadn*t been scientifically investigated. Males have huge ranges, so they*re really difficult to track.§

An elephant bull kicking up sand while advancing in a mock charge, Nxai Pan, Botswana. ? Jami Tarris/Getty
An elephant bull kicking up sand while advancing in a mock charge, Nxai Pan, Botswana. ? Jami Tarris/Getty

Using video camera-traps, Allen and her colleagues have shown that male groups travelling between watering holes are routinely led by the most experienced bulls.

※It suggests the younger ones target the old bulls for their knowledge and survival skills 每 how and where to find things like water and fruiting trees,§ says Allen. ※They seem to occupy a similar role to the females in breeding herds.§

But what*s in it for the mature bulls? Why should they share their hard-won know-how with potential rivals? Perhaps, by keeping competitors close, an old bull is able to inhibit their sexual activity. Allen says that, in the absence of old bulls, males can become ※hyper-aggressive§ and enter the sexually active state of musth while unusually young.

Mature bulls 每 with their great size and large tusks 每 are the most attractive targets for trophy hunters, and enjoy less legal protection than females.

※That needs rethinking,§ says Allen. ※We don*t really know the knock-on consequences of the loss of information built up over 20, 30 or 40 years, but it*s probably going to be damaging to the wider group.§

Then again, Allen adds, targeting bulls that repeatedly raid farms could help reduce human-elephant conflict: ※It might make good sense to take out older males that are teaching younger ones to raid crops.§

Read the full paper in Scientific Reports.

Main image: Elephants in Botswana. ? Getty

Georgie Bray <![CDATA[European water vole guide: identification, diet and habitat]]> 2020-11-10T12:48:28Z 2020-11-10T12:38:30Z

The UK*s population of water voles have fallen over the last 25 years, although they still remain the largest species of vole in Britain. Sometimes mistaken for the brown rat, the water vole is also known by the name of &water rat* and gained legal protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act in 2008.

water vole is a large species of rodent found throughout much of Britain, but has undergone a serious decline in numbers

Learn more about the water vole with our expert guide which explains how to identify, best places where to see water voles in the UK and conservation efforts to protect the species.

How to identify water voles

The water vole is occasionally, mistaken for a brown rat, which can be found in a similar habitat. However, he water vole can be identified by their silky, yellowish-brown to dark brown coat, blunt nose, rounded body and long tail. The brown rat is larger with a pointer nose. See how to tell the difference between a water vole and a brown rat.?

Water vole, Arvicola amphibius, single mammal by water, Warwickshire, UK/Credit: Getty Images
Water vole, Arvicola amphibius, single mammal by water, Warwickshire, UK/Credit: Getty Images
Rat in a drain/Credit: Getty Images
The brown rat has a longer, pointer nose than the water vole/Credit: Getty Images

Do water voles hibernate?

Overwinter, water voles go under ground and maintain energy levels by sleeping more, and by laying down stores of tubers, bulbs and rhizomes.

One farmer uncovered a hundredweight of potatoes cached in a ditch, presumed by water voles.

Are water voles territorial?

Although water voles hunker down together throughout winter to keep warm, aggression is triggered again in February and they become highly territorial throughout the breeding summer months.

What are alternative names for water voles?

The water vole is sometimes known as the water dog, or even water rat in some areas around the country.

Water voles are excellent swimmers. If disturbed, they dive into the water with a &plop*. ? Mike Lane/Getty

How to water voles survive winter?

These rodents plug some of their burrow entrances with a mixture of mud and vegetation to help maintain heat in their burrows through winter.

Voles have galleries that they excavate for storing compacted waste. These chambers are full of food scraps and excrement that will decompose and help to generate heat throughout the cold winter months.

Why are water voles threatened?

Although water voles are on the up at the moment, at one point they were the fastest declining species in Britain.

Between 1989 and 1998, the population fell by almost 90%. Hopefully with continued conservation efforts they have escaped extinction.

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Water voles can be spotted swimming in rivers and waterways/Credit: Getty Images

How are water voles threatened by mink?

Before 2000, mink regularly escaped or were released from Britain*s fur farms. These alien invaders pose one of the biggest threats to water vole survival as they predate on the native rodent.

American Mink in Surrey, England.
American Mink in Surrey, England/ Credit: Getty Images

Are Scottish water voles different?

Scottish water voles have a completely different ancestry to their southern cousins across the border. Voles to the south of Scotland migrated over from south east Europe, recolonising after the Ice Age. Scottish voles came from the Iberian Peninsula.

How much do water voles eat?

Water voles eat 80% of their own body weight every day. Adult water voles weigh 200-350g on average, and will consume approximately 80 per cent of its body weight every day,?generally eating a diet of plants found on the banks of waterways. British water voles have been recorded eating 227 plants.

European water vole (arvicola amphibius) smelling berries/Credit: Getty Images
European water voles eat berries and plants 每 consuming around 80% of their body weight daily/Credit: Getty Images

Do water voles always live in water?

Water voles in mainland Europe don*t actually live near water at all, but borrowed in underground systems more like that of a mole.

Do water voles scent mark?

Water voles don*t use faeces or urine to scent mark. Instead, they actively scratch flank glands with hind-feet at latrines and during agonistic and sexual encounters.

How long do water voles live for?

Water voles usually live a maximum of two winters. However, they can raise two litters each year with up to five offspring in each brood.


Water vole emerging from a drainage pipe
Water voles are much bigger than other vole species, and can sometimes be confused with brown rats. ? Jamie Hall/Getty Images

Best places in the UK to see water voles

Unexpectedly, of the UK largest populations of water voles doesn*t live near water, but close to one of Glasgow*s housing estates.?Researchers found that the small rodents were living in a rough area of grassland, with some even existing by the side of motorway. Studies found the water voles were still creating burrow systems and foraging in a similar way to their bank side relatives.

Cardowan Moss, Glasgow

Scan the ditches around the wetland section of this reserve for black-furred water voles. This melanistic form is more common in the Scottish Highlands.

Cromford Canal, Derbyshire

Set off from the car park at High Peak Junction, and cross to the canal. This?is a very popular location for wildlife photographers.

Barton Broad, Norfolk

This Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserve lies in the valley of the River Ant, a water-vole hotspot. You might see otters here, too.

Rainham Marshes RSPB, Essex

The ditches on this popular reserve in East London host a thriving water-vole population. Check the wooden feeding rafts positioned along the banks.

Cheddar Gorge, Somerset

There are several reliable sites for water voles here, the most popular of which is Mill Pond. If you*re travelling?up through the gorge, it is on the left-hand side, just past Cox*s Cave.

Arundel WWT, West Sussex

Spot the reintroduced water voles from the reedbed walk or, in summer, take a trip in one of the silent electric boats.

Askham Bog Nature Reserve, Yorkshire

The boardwalk footpaths make this reserve very accessible. Follow the path to the pond where you will come to a viewing area with a bench 每 then just sit and wait for the voles to appear.

Cors Caron National Nature Reserve, Tregaron

Follow the raised boardwalk, suitable for wheelchair users and pushchairs, across the peat bog to search for water voles. Otters and polecats might also be spotted.

West Sutherland, Lairg

The watercourses in the Assynt area support sizeable water-vole populations. Voles also inhabit the surrounding area, including the mountainous terrain to the south.

Sandown, Isle of Wight

Head to the metal bridge on the Wetland Walk; from there, let it guide you along a network of waterways where riverbanks have been constructed to encourage water voles.

How to spot signs of water voles

Water voles favour open wetlands away from tree cover, with lush vegetation that offers both food and protection. Search flat spots on banks for chopped up piles of vegetation and latrines of 1cm-long droppings.

If you do find these signs, put out some apples over the course of a few days, then return in early morning or late evening: you may be rewarded with a sighting of Ratty.

Look for these telltale clues that will reveal if water voles are in your area.


Water-vole burrows are about 7cm wide 每 roughly the same as a Pringles tube. Since the voles dig upwards from below, the entrances are tidy, without spoil heaps on the outside. The grass around the entrance is often nibbled short to make a &lawn*.


Among the species* most reliable field signs, water-vole droppings are shaped like Tic Tacs but slightly larger, at about 8每12mm in length. They range in colour from olive to black, depending on freshness. Both sexes deposit piles of droppings to mark territory.

Feeding signs

Search for stems of grasses, rushes and sedges consistently cut at a 45∼ angle. The offcuts are often left stacked in small piles.

Water vole reaching for berries/Credit: Getty Images
Keep an eye out for feeding signs from water voles/Credit: Getty Images


Water-vole prints are a similar size to those of rats, so can be tricky to identify, but there is a &starry* shape to a water vole*s paw as the outermost toes splay out on both sides.


Water voles push tunnel-like paths through long grass on banksides, and make muddy slipways leading into the water.

Main image: Water voles are active during the day. ? Mike Lane/Getty

Paul Bloomfield <![CDATA[Wildlife, sustainability, and cruise ship tourism in the Arctic]]> 2020-11-10T11:08:17Z 2020-11-10T10:30:59Z

Almost exactly 175 years ago, in 1845, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror sailed west from Disko Bay, Greenland on a planned three-year expedition led by Captain Sir John Franklin, aiming to navigate the ice-choked waters between Baffin Bay and the Pacific coast. By the following September, both ships were icebound; a year later Franklin perished, followed by the rest of his crew, some of whom allegedly resorted to cannibalism. None completed the journey.

In September 2016, around the time the wreck of the Terror was discovered, some 1,000 tourists sailed from Anchorage to New York, enjoying close encounters with polar bears and whales 每 as well as a choice of restaurants and bars, a gym and pool, even a cinema and nightclub. The Crystal Serenity was the first conventional luxury cruise ship to traverse the infamous Northwest Passage 每 but it won*t be the last.

Change is afoot in the Arctic, largely driven by climate change. On 16 September 2012, Arctic sea-ice reached its lowest recorded extent: 3.41 million km2, nearly 50% less than the 1979每2000 average minimum. Stretches once consistently packed with ice, notably the Northwest Passage and Northeast Passage (including the Northern Sea Route, off Russia*s Arctic coast), are now ice-free for much of the year, permitting large-scale shipping traffic.

That latter route offers an alternative to the Indian Ocean/Suez Canal route for commercial vessels linking Asia with Europe, cutting as much as 40% off the journey time. And, of course, it also opens the way for increased tourism.

Waterfalls cascade to the sea from a melting icecap. ? Keen Press/Getty
Waterfalls cascade to the sea from a melting icecap. ? Keen Press/Getty

The booming global cruise market 每 passenger numbers ballooned from 17.8 million in 2009 to an estimated 30 million in 2019 每 is a key driver in the growth in Arctic tourism. Total passengers on expedition cruise ships in the Arctic nearly trebled from 12,744 in 2009 to 32,356 in 2019, according to the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO). And that doesn*t include larger conventional cruise vessels.

Could the Arctic be the next wildlife tourism frontier 每 the new Maasai Mara? There are, obviously, significant differences. One is sun-drenched savannah, the other icy ocean; the Greater Serengeti Ecosystem is a 30,000km2 sea of grass and scrub, while the Arctic is 1,000 times larger, spanning 32.2 million square kilometres 每 slightly bigger than the African continent.

But nature- lovers head to both regions to watch large, charismatic creatures roam wild expanses: lion, leopard, elephant and giraffe in East Africa, polar bear, orca, beluga and?walrus in the Arctic, which hosts 34 species of marine mammals.

Could overtourism, which some visitors bemoan in parts of the Mara, also afflict the northern polar ocean? Until now, the majority of Arctic itineraries have focused on Svalbard, which is easily accessible and has historically offered ample sightings of polar bear, walrus, whales and seabirds. In 2019, nearly two-thirds of passengers on AECO member vessels visited this Norwegian archipelago.

Tourists watching a polar bear. ? Eric Smith
Tourists watching a polar bear. ? Eric Smith

※One of the issues in the Arctic, like the Antarctic, is there are certain hotspots and best landing sites,§ comments BBC Wildlife columnist and conservationist Mark Carwardine, who*s been visiting the region for over three decades. ※It*s not like everybody spreads out 每 they all want to go to particular seabird colonies, or hotspots for bears, or whatever. Svalbard is about three times the size of Wales, but if everyone is aiming for the same few places, it becomes a big issue.§

How many tourists can visit the Arctic and what are the impacts?

There are attempts to tackle this problem. Before the start of each sailing season, AECO members 每 which represent the majority of expedition cruise operators 每 submit sailing plans and book timeslots to visit each site, to avoid two vessels visiting at the same time. In Svalbard, this is managed in collaboration with local authorities, which can impose further restrictions at vulnerable sites, for example during bird mating or moulting seasons.

But there are big differences between the impacts of, and experiences offered by, expedition ships carrying between 30 and 500 passengers and conventional cruise vessels, which may bring more than 2,000 people to Longyearbyen on Spitsbergen.

Longyearbyen in Svalbard. ? Adrian Wojcik/EyeEm/Getty
Longyearbyen in Svalbard. ? Adrian Wojcik/EyeEm/Getty

※Expedition ships are smaller, so less reliant on port infrastructure,§ says Edda Falk, AECO communications manager. ※They can take passengers ashore in remote areas that don*t have ports or settlements, using tender boats or Zodiacs, so can access sites that bigger vessels can*t.§

To an extent, though, boundaries are becoming blurred. ※Traditionally, expedition cruising was defined by small groups of relatively intrepid travellers exploring the remote corners of the globe,§ says Aaron Russ, director of Heritage Expeditions.

※In recent years, a new version of the &expedition traveller* is sailing on ships carrying upwards of 500 guests. Aside from their size and the logistics of taking larger groups to the Arctic, in food, fuel and crew, there is also the impact when landing and interacting with wildlife. These guests all still want to walk around, experience and see everything 每 there are just a lot more of them and, by default, this increases the potential for impact.§

Arctic tourists at a glacier in Svalbard. ? Anna Henly/Getty
Arctic tourists at a glacier in Svalbard. ? Anna Henly/Getty

That impact comes in many forms, from carbon emissions to the potential for spills of oil, sewage and other wastewater, solid rubbish and bilge water from engines and other machinery. Emptying and cleaning ballast tanks can also result in the introduction of non-native, potentially invasive species. There*s also the risk of direct disturbance to sensitive wildlife, plants and cultural remains.

Unlike the Antarctic, designated a natural reserve dedicated to peace and science by a 1959 treaty, the Arctic does not benefit from internationally agreed legal protection limiting mining or other exploitation. Nonetheless, AECO operators adhere to an extensive set of rigorous guidelines covering safety, biosecurity, community interactions and operations designed to minimise disturbance.

And the Arctic Marine Tourism Project, co-ordinated by the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) Working Group of the intergovernmental Arctic Council, has produced a set of best practice guidelines.

Where do tourists go in the Arctic?

Unsurprisingly, as more ships visit Svalbard, operators and travellers look to farther- flung destinations for wilder experiences: Arctic Canada, Greenland and Arctic Russia. AECO- registered visitor numbers to Franz Josef Land, a Russian archipelago east of Svalbard, doubled from 500 in 2014 to 1,000 in 2019, though for now bureaucracy limits numbers.

Two humpback whales swimming past an iceberg in Ilulissat, Greenland. ? Monica Bertolazzi/Getty
Two humpback whales swimming past an iceberg in Ilulissat, Greenland. ? Monica Bertolazzi/Getty

※Currently, visa clearance procedures have to be conducted in Murmansk,§ which adds up to three days to the voyage from Svalbard, explains Edda Falk. ※It would be attractive for operators to cross-sail direct, and there are signals that visa/passport clearance will be instituted in Franz Josef Land.§

Farther east still, Wrangel Island offers a yet-more-remote and challenging destination. ※There*s more of everything, except people,§ says Mark Carwardine. ※You just get into the ice and look up, and there*s a bear 每 they*re everywhere. You*ve also got more variety, with bowhead whales, grey whales, wolverines.§

Two polar bears fight over a seal carcass in the Svalbard Archipelago. ? Chase Dekker Wild-Life Images/Getty
Two polar bears fight over a seal carcass in the Svalbard Archipelago. ? Chase Dekker Wild-Life Images/Getty

This area is much harder to reach, requiring a flight right across Russia, so far fewer people visit and, at present, tourism is strictly managed to protect island ecology.

※Only one group is allowed to visit at a time, and all vessels are accompanied by reserve rangers who supervise and manage all landings,§ reports Aaron Russ. Russian authorities have stated an intention to further develop the Arctic, including?tourism; participants at a recent meeting in Arkhangelsk reportedly agreed that this development must be anthropocentric 每 human interests must be prioritised. And that*s a pertinent point: the Arctic is far from empty of humans.

※Four million people live in the region and make their living there,§ says Edda Falk. ※So there will be economic activity in the Arctic. Expedition cruising can be a considerate way of bringing visitors into the region so they can experience it, without the need to build infrastructure and make changes in the landscape. If you do it right, you can do it in a sustainable way.§

Inuit with Umiak watching for bowhead whales, Chukchi Sea near Barrow, Alaska. ? Michael Sewell Visual Pursuit/Getty
Inuit with Umiak watching for bowhead whales, Chukchi Sea near Barrow, Alaska. ? Michael Sewell Visual Pursuit/Getty

Can Arctic tourism be sustainable?

Sustainability comprises various elements. Many new Arctic-class vessels are &greener*, increasing fuel efficiency, and reducing carbon and other emissions, disturbance of the seafloor at landing sights, and light and other pollution. AECO co-ordinates clean-up programmes collecting beach waste in both Svalbard and Franz Josef Land. Many operators also enable passengers to participate in &citizen science* projects, and support important conservation.

※We are active partners of several research programmes in both polar regions in various capacities, including Seabird Watch, Penguin Lifelines, Happywhale and Polar Bears International,§ says Lyndsey Lewis, Quark Expeditions operations and sustainability manager.

And as Aaron Russ explains, Heritage Expeditions aims to boost the fortunes of a Critically Endangered bird species: ※Our eight-year relationship with the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force is a good example of how we support conservation organisations and reserves we visit; we are actively involved in providing transport for researchers and spoon-billed sandpiper eggs and chicks, as well as on-the-ground monitoring.§

Spoon-billed sandpiper in Thailand. ? Rapeepong Puttakumwong/Getty
Spoon-billed sandpiper in Thailand. ? Rapeepong Puttakumwong/Getty

Climate change in the Arctic hits communities as well as wildlife. For example, belugas, whose lack of dorsal fins enables them to shelter under ice, are more easily predated by orcas as the sea-ice retreats; changes in their movements affect Indigenous peoples in the Canadian Arctic who traditionally hunt beluga and seals. And, of course, the arrival of increasing numbers of tourists also has an impact.

Commenting on Crystal Serenity*s 2016 cruise, a WWF Arctic 2018 report noted that: ※While tourism like this brings income to some indigenous communities, it also exerts a powerful transformational pressure all its own. At times, the Crystal Serenity tourists who went ashore to visit Indigenous villages outnumbered the Inuit living there by a factor of more than two to one. These temporary invasions awakened fears that the ship was enabling a form of &extinction tourism* 每 people hastening to see vanishing ecosystems and accelerating their destruction in the process.§

※The carrying capacity is different in different places,§ says Justin Francis, founder and CEO of Responsible Travel. ※Spitsbergen is well set up for tourism, which is tightly regulated, and where many residents are involved in tourism and research; it has the infrastructure to manage relatively large numbers. Smaller places with indigenous communities, for example in Greenland, have a much smaller capacity. The key is to ensure that tourism creates better places to live in, as well as to visit.§

Narwals and cruise ship. ? Eric Smith
Narwals and cruise ship. ? Eric Smith

Several companies support communities in the Arctic directly, and financially through onboard auctions. ※We have programmes in place to deliver goods and supplies to very remote settlements,§ says Quark Expeditions* Lyndsey Lewis. ※Our passengers are also encouraged to purchase handicrafts and souvenirs, and strongly discouraged from buying supplies from local stores because, even if it does inject small sums of money, these are rarely replenished and reduce the community*s inventory.§

So, it could be argued that Arctic tourism can be done sustainably 每 but as numbers rise and larger ships proliferate here, sustainability may be tested. Whether the Arctic itself can sustain its natural and human communities in future remains to be seen 每 and tourism may play only a minor role in that outcome.

※When I first visited the Arctic, it never rained 每 now it rains quite often,§ observes Mark Carwardine. ※And temperatures have increased. I wouldn*t say there*s less wildlife now 每 it*s just harder to find because it*s less predictable. In 30-odd years of travelling to such places, very rarely do I go somewhere for a second time and find more wildlife and fewer people.§

Main illustration: Eric Smith

This feature originally appeared in BBC Wildlife Magazine. Take a look inside the current issue and find out how to subscribe.

November 2020: This feature is a finalist in the Sustainability Feature of the Year category of the Travel Media Awards. The winners will be announced on 25 January 2021.

Rebecca Gibson <![CDATA[Gentoo penguins should be split into four species, rather than two subspecies]]> 2020-11-09T14:26:27Z 2020-11-09T13:58:49Z

In a new study, scientists at the University of Bath have revealed that differences in both the genetics and morphology (physical appearance) of gentoo penguins throughout the southern hemisphere are significant enough to reclassify them into four different species, bringing the total number of penguin species to 21.

Some of the gentoo penguins studied live in Antarctica while others live further north in milder climates and these factors have caused contrasting adaptations among the penguins.

※Gentoos tend to stick close to their home colonies,§ explains Dr Jane Younger, Prize Fellow from the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath and leader of the study, ※Over hundreds of thousands of years [they] have become geographically isolated from each other to the point where they don*t interbreed with each other.§

Northern gentoo penguins (P. papua). ? Gemma Clucas
Northern gentoo penguins (P. papua). ? Gemma Clucas

To study the penguins* genes, the team created an evolutionary tree to determine how the various populations are related. After comparing these individuals with museum specimens, distinct differences were discovered.

※When we measured their skeletons,§ explains PhD student Josh Tyler, ※We found statistical differences in the lengths of their bones and the sizes and shape of their beaks.§

As well as these factors, the team also recorded differences in breeding habitat 每 while some birds favour tussock grass and flat beaches, others use low-lying gravel beaches. There is also variation in the ratios of fish, squid and crustaceans consumed from site to site.

Gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua) are currently divided into two subspecies which represent the split between northern and southern birds: P. p. ellsworthi?and?P. p. papua.

Southern gentoo penguins (P. ellsworthi). ? Gemma Clucas
Southern gentoo penguins (P. ellsworthi). ? Gemma Clucas

Now scientists believe that these groups should be classified as official species along with two additional species. The first is named after Sally Poncet, an Australian seabird conservationist (P. poncetii). The second, P. taeniata, commemorates a scientific name formerly proposed for gentoo penguins in the 1920s.

Although gentoo penguin numbers are reasonably stable, there is evidence of some of the northern birds moving further south as the climate warms. Some populations have increased in recent years while others have fallen.

The proposed reclassification will enable conservation planning to be more tailored to each species. It will also mean that their individual statuses will be represented more accurately on the IUCN Red List.

The suggested adjustments to the classification of gentoo penguins will be assessed by a committee of international scientists before the new species are confirmed.

The gentoo penguin (prior to reclassification) is the third-largest penguin species, after the emperor and king penguins, and has a wide white stripe above its eyes.

Main image: Gentoo penguins (P. poncetti). ? Gemma Clucas

Richard Smyth <![CDATA[Wildlife crossword 17 – answers]]> 2020-11-09T11:56:05Z 2020-11-09T11:55:45Z

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      These are the answers to Wildlife crossword 17.


      1 Siskin

      4 Baltic

      8 Uplands

      9 Ephedra

      11 Washington

      12 Cape

      13 Lupus

      14 Cowslips

      16 Edgeland

      18 Tommy

      20 Kelp

      21 Hoverflies

      23 Rosebud

      24 Florida

      25 Easter

      26 Raptor


      1 Sepia

      2 Sea whip

      3 Indonesia

      5 Aspen

      6 Tiercel

      7 Corn poppy

      10 Stock dove

      13 Lodgepole

      15 Water flea

      17 Empress

      19 Mole rat

      21 House

      22 Elder

      ?Main image: Corn poppy. ? Jacky Parker Photographer/Getty

      This crossword originally appeared in BBC Wildlife Magazine. Take a look inside the current issue and find out how to subscribe.

      白小姐四肖必选一肖中特 ]]>
      Sarah McPherson <![CDATA[How to win Wildlife Photographer of the Year]]> 2020-11-06T14:15:30Z 2020-11-06T14:00:01Z

      Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London (NHM). The competition was originally?founded in 1965 by BBC Wildlife Magazine, then called Animals. The NHM joined forces in 1984 to create the competition as it is known today, and now solely runs and owns it.

      The 2020 competition attracted almost 49,000 entries from professionals and amateurs across 86 countries.

      Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cambridge, Patron of the Museum, announced?Sergey Gorshkov as this year*s Wildlife Photographer of the Year for his magnificent image &The Embrace*, of an Amur tigress hugging an ancient Manchurian fir in the Russian Far East. Amur, or Siberian, tigers are only found in this region and it took more than 11 months for the Russian photographer to capture this moment with hidden cameras. View the winning and highly commended images from the 2020 competition in our online galleries.

      The 2021 competition opens for entries on Monday 19 October and closes at 11.30am GMT on 10 December 2020. The competition is open to photographers of all ages and abilities. Find out more on the WPY website.

      Why is the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition important?

      For photographers of wildlife and environmental subjects, it is the most renowned competition in the world, with a long history of rewarding the very best individual pictures and stories.

      Having pictures placed in the top 100 can help make careers and reputations, and for professionals, the reward goes beyond financial, bringing huge international exposure. That value is immense for photographers motivated by the desire to see coverage of the stories their images carry.

      Owned by the Natural History Museum 每 an institution with a mission to create advocates for the planet 每 the competition is itself an institution. Both a photographic art exhibit and a story-telling platform, with a tale attached to every image, its reach?is both huge and continuous through the year.

      As well as a major exhibition at the museum, there are exhibition sets touring the world and commemorative books?in several languages. The competition?also brings together a community?of photographers, providing creative inspiration and moral support.

      In a nutshell, what are the Wildlife Photographer of the Year judges looking for?

      Originality. That can mean fresh ways of looking at familiar subjects as much as new ones or surprising situations. The emotional impact or resonance of a picture is also important. But on the international jury, that can differ among the judges, depending on their visual knowledge and background?and also their emotional history. Differing reactions can be influenced by culture as much as experience.

      The Sacrifice, Runner-up 2010, Wildlife Photojournalist Story Award. ? Brian Skerry/Wildlife Photographer of the Year
      The Sacrifice, Runner-up 2010,?Wildlife Photojournalist Story Award. ? Brian Skerry/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

      Roz says:?

      A bigeye thresher shark hangs in a drifting gillnet, as if crucified. A truly iconic image 每 graphically powerful but hauntingly beautiful 每 symbolising the destruction caused by industrial fishing and the enormous toll on wildlife from abandoned plastic nets.

      Among thousands of great shots, what makes an image stand out?

      Immediate impact can be important, but that may not last through the subsequent three to four rounds of judging. So, increasing the contrast to catch the eye?is not the answer.

      After the first rounds,?it is fascinating to find out if the judges have seen an image that stands out as a potential overall winner. Rarely do they all have the same choice.

      It is also fascinating how the impression an image makes can grow with looking, whether resulting from the beauty of form and balance, its underlying emotive power, or both.

      Spirit of the Mountains, Winner 2016, Land. ? Stefano Unterthiner/Wildlife Photographer of the Year
      Spirit of the Mountains, Winner 2016, Land. ? Stefano Unterthiner/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

      Roz says:?

      Taken in Italy*s Gran Paradiso National Park (the photographer*s home ground), this is a picture that you can look at again and again. The flow of the choughs, the line of ancient larches and the protrusion of volcanic rock, sprinkled with snow, create a weave of texture and colour. Emerging ghost- like from the clouds, a bearded vulture gives an extra brushstroke of magic.

      Over the years, what Wildlife Photographer of the Year?images have really stopped you in your tracks?

      For me, the test is lasting power 每 whether I get the same pleasure every time I look at the picture. That can be a mixture of marvel at the wonder of the subject or scene, the design perfection, or both of those, or it can be a reaction to the emotion or thought- provoking impact of the image.

      There are many pictures that do that for me, so it*s hard to pick out just a few, but &Spirit of the Mountains*, &True Love* and &The Sacrifice* (all pictured in this article) are good examples.

      Can you tell if Wildlife Photographer of the Year?images are the result of time and skill or luck and timing?

      There are always the &how on earth did they achieve that?* pictures, and camera-trap and remote region images will obviously have taken an enormous amount of time and planning. But it is the end result that?is judged, not the effort.

      Many behaviour pictures result from serendipity, but a photographer has to be primed and ready?to catch those moments 每 and catch them perfectly.

      True Love, Commended 2013, Behaviour: Birds. ? Steve Race/Wildlife Photographer of the Year
      True Love,?Commended 2013, Behaviour: Birds. ? Steve Race/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

      Roz says:?

      A male presents his mate with a wreath of red campion. Many people have created portraits of gannets but never one like this, with such simplicity of composition, perfection of colour and touchingly beautiful behaviour. It was shot on the photographer*s doorstep at the Bempton Cliffs gannet colony in Yorkshire.

      What tips can you give when submitting images of well-trodden subjects to Wildlife Photographer of the Year?

      Are you familiar enough with what has already featured in the competition to see your image as special enough to be better? Also, it*s worth getting a second opinion from an honest critic.

      What are the key do*s and don*ts when selecting an image to enter Wildlife Photographer of the Year?

      Don*t select your entries in a rush. Review your selection afresh several times and?get a second opinion, if only to verify your own. Make sure you have the RAW files?to match. And don*t enter a photo that has already been placed in another competition.

      What happens when the Wildlife Photographer of the Year judges disagree?

      As with all competitions, it*s the majority decision that stands, though discussion can swing the balance. This does mean that winners can be the result of compromise.

      Are any new categories planned for the 2021 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition? If so, what will the judges be looking for?

      Yes, including two very important ones, given our planetary emergency: Oceans and Wetlands. Images should have something to say 每 symbolically or literally, whether through broad strokes or specifics, beauty or impact 每 about the importance and functions of freshwater and marine ecosystems and their living components. So, as well as the aesthetics, think about the message that can accompany a picture.

      Roz is an editor, photo editor and writer specialising in wildlife and environmental issues. She has been judging the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition over nearly four decades and edits the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Portfolio books.?

      Previously editor of BBC Wildlife Magazine for more than 20 years, she currently project manages, edits and writes photography-led books.

      Roz is an affiliate of the International League of Conservation Photographers and was awarded an OBE for services to conservation and photography.

      Roz Kidman Cox, photographed by Steve Taylor

      This article originally appeared in BBC Wildlife Magazine. Look inside the current issue and find out how to subscribe.

      Main image: Spirit of the Mountains, Winner 2016, Land. ? Stefano Unterthiner/Wildlife Photographer of the Year