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Animal Alert!

Encouraging and Distressing News from the Ecological Realm

Condors Spotted in Colorado

Two endangered California condors were spotted putting on an hour-long "airshow" for tourists and park staff in Colorado's Mesa Verde National Park on Friday.

The birds, which had never before been seen at the park, flew so low that the visitors could read the numbers on the identification tags of their nine-foot wingspans.

Park officials said that a variety of other birds, including several turkey vultures, also flew to the cliffs where the condors were circling.

The birds were expected to make their way back to Vermillion Cliffs, Ariz., where they and the 18 other condors that had been raised in captivity were released last fall.

Environmentalists from the Peregrine Fund, which raises the birds for release in the wild, said that it is not uncommon for young condors to fly great distances from their home range and then return.

Transplanted condors have been spotted as far north as Flaming Gorge along the Utah-Wyoming border and as far south as Flagstaff, Ariz.

Chesapeake Bay Fish Kill

More than 200,000 fish have died in two tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay during the past week in one of Maryland's worst fish kills in decades. Oxygen depletion caused by the region's drought conditions is being blamed for the loss.

The deaths occurred in abnormally shallow creeks and coves of the Patapsco and Magothy rivers, where oxygen levels are far lower than normal.

All fish species living in the area were affected, including menhaden, silversides, perch, mummichogs, pickerel, catfish and sunfish. Most of the fish that died were young and were only 2-3 inches long.

Environmental officials determined that the cause of death was not the toxic microbe Pfiesteria piscicida responsible for wiping out massive numbers of Chesapeake Bay fish in the past.

Wandering Lion Spotted in Victoria Suburbs, Canada

Xinhua via NewsEdge Corporation : OTTAWA (July 5) XINHUA - A mountain lion is wandering around in the suburbs of Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia, and city residents have to keep their children and pets indoors just in case.

The local television station said Monday that conservation officers have brought in tracking dogs in search of the cat, but have been unable to capture it.

The beast, still unknown to have ever attacked human beings, usually eats deer and elk, according to the television station.

Lions Battle Hyenas in Ethiopia

Lions and hyenas have waged a fierce weeklong fight in Ethiopia's Gobele wilderness, but the bloody battle's cause remains a mystery, the Ethiopian News Agency reported Tuesday.

"If drought had been the cause, the beasts would have attacked neighboring villages rather than butcher each other,'' says Kemal Bedri of the Harrar State Agricultural Bureau.

The animals might have fought over some unknown vendetta, he says.

The lions succeeded in chasing away the hyenas after what policemen and local residents described as a ``ferocious battle,'' the agency reports.

At the end of the fighting, six lions and 35 hyenas lay dead in the semi-desert turf near the ancient walled city of Harrar, 220 miles east of the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, says the agency.

The news agency did not say when the fighting took place.

Although hyenas are better known as scavengers, picking at the remains of animals already killed, they often attack animals and humans in packs when provoked.

An unidentified villager told the news agency the hyenas spent their days hiding in caves, and came out at night to joust with the lions.

Threatened Birds Breed

April 23, 1999 -- One of two rare birds brought from China to Japan earlier this year laid an egg on Thursday at a breeding center, raising hopes that the species could be revived.

The birds, Youyou and Yangyang, began mating last week and have begun preparing a nest for themselves on the breeding center on Sado Island, located 160 miles (260 km) northwest of Tokyo.

If the egg is fertilized, it could hatch in 27 days. Yangyang could lay as many as three more eggs during the next few days.

Youyou and Yangyang were gifts from Chinese President Jiang Zemin to Japanese Emperor Akihito. There was only one crested ibis left in Japan before the two birds arrived.

With its graceful walk and a six-foot wing span, the ibis has been depicted on Japanese scroll paintings and decorative screens for centuries. However, the environmental destruction that accompanied Japan's economic growth has squeezed the once vast bird colonies.

Expensive Cat Nap

A cat lost a British bus company a $40,000 dollar contract after falling asleep on a fax machine and sending confidential information to a rival firm, The London Telegraph reported on Monday.

Rigger, a stray cat adopted by Boldon Executive Coaches, settled down for a snooze on the machine, and released details of the firm's closed bid for a contract by pressing the send button as she curled up.

The company lost the contract after its competitor put in a lower bid. A spokesman for Boldon Executive Coaches said: "We had made a bid of 200 dollars a day. We then heard that our rival had put in a bid for 195. But we can't be angry with Rigger.''

Earthquake Causes Leopard Attacks

A leopard, forced out of its habitat following a devastating earthquake in northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh several weeks ago, killed two people and injured another over the weekend.

A four-year-old boy was killed by the leopard in the town of Dabara as he was standing outside his home on Sunday, the Press Trust of India reported.

In another incident, the leopard killed a nine-year-old boy in the nearby town of Aryapani. The agency said the animal was believed to be the same as the one involved in the Dabara incident.

Officials told reporters that the cat also attacked and injured a woman in the community of Dalal but fled when local residents scared it away.

All the towns are located in the Garhwal region of the state, which was devastated by a recent earthquake in which more than 100 people were killed. The quake forced many wild animals out of their natural habitats and into surrounding communities.

Hundreds of Squirrels Slaughtered

An apology from KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has done little to quell public outrage over the airline's admission that it slaughtered 440 illegally imported squirrels in a shredding machine.

KLM apologized last Thursday for feeding the furry rodents live into an industrial meat-processing machine at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, but said it had little choice after failing to find them a new home.

The slaughter touched a nerve in the pet-crazy Netherlands, where the population of nearly 16 million owns 2.5 million cats, 1.4 million dogs and millions of hamsters and other animals.

"We are going to do everything possible to try to have this type of machine banned," said Mattheus Beyenberg, spokesman for the Dutch-based Organization for Pets. "It is illegal and someone made a big mistake."

The squirrels, which arrived from China last week without proper documentation en route to a collector in Athens, Greece, were killed last Monday. Animal rights groups denounced the slaughter as cruel, illegal and unnecessary, triggering a debate in the Dutch Parliament.

KLM argued that it had simply abided by health regulations for live animal imports, and it blamed the Ministry of Nature Management for ordering the squirrels to be destroyed. According to Ministry guidelines, the shredding machine is the most humane manner of killing the animals.

Officials said the strict import rules are intended to minimize the risk of accidentally introducing new diseases and animals into the country.

Stranded Dolphin Dies in Australia

One of three dolphins stranded on a beach in the south Australian city of Adelaide died on Friday.

The mature adult bottlenose dolphin became stranded on the city's Island Beach. Australian Dolphin Research Foundation marine scientist Mike Bossley said two dolphins followed the first onto the beach and also became stranded.

Rangers from the National Parks and Wildlife Service helped the sea mammals back into the sea, but one dolphin died soon afterwards. The two other dolphins survived.

"We believe the dolphin could have been sick or had some sort of problem and that caused him to become beached," Dr Bossley said.

"Because dolphins are very loyal animals, the others didn't leave him, and they became beached as well," Bossley added.

The latest incident comes just three weeks after 50 dolphins became beached at neighboring Western Cove Beach. All but one of those dolphins survived.

Turtles Expected in Virgin Islands

The U.S. Virgin Islands is expecting a bumper crop of visitors to its beaches this year. And hopefully, they'll lay plenty of eggs.

Nesting leatherback turtles flocked to the islands in 1997, and scientists say because the sea-dwelling behemoths breed once every two to three years, they expect another peak in the number of turtles in 1999.

"All things being equal, we are anticipating another good year,'' said Mike Evans, manager of the Sandy Point Wildlife Refuge on St. Croix.

He said a record 118 leatherbacks nested at Sandy Point in 1997, twice the previous record of 55 in 1994. The turtles peppered the beaches with 720 nests, he said.

The nesting season will peak in June, he said. The eggs hatch about 65 days after they are laid.

Leatherback turtles, an endangered species worldwide, are the world's largest turtles. They can grow to seven feet long and weigh 1,200 pounds.

Mercury Poisoning Hits Brazilian Amazon

People living in remote villages of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest are suffering from an unusual debilitating disease caused by mercury poisoning, New Scientist magazine reported on Wednesday.

The illness, a result of contamination from a toxic form of mercury called methyl mercury, attacks the immune system and causes deformities in children. Victims suffer uncontrollable shaking and muscle wasting.

It is the first outbreak outside of Japan of Minimata disease, which was named after the Japanese town where it was first diagnosed in the 1950s.

Experts say the Amazon villagers consumed the methyl mercury in fish, just as the Japanese sufferers had eaten fish from a bay polluted with mercury from a nearby metals plant.

Researchers believe millions of miners in Brazil, who use mercury to purify gold, release about 250 tons of the metal into the Amazon region each year, contaminating rivers and fish.

However, Donna Mergler of the University of Quebec, who also studied the Brazilian victims, thinks deforestation is the problem.

According to Mergler, "The widespread mercury contamination in fish is from leaching of natural mercury in soils and is released following slash-and-burn activities."

Indonesian Fish Faces Extinction

A rare fish species may have become extinct in the wake of a massive fish kill in a lake on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, environmental officials reported on Monday.

Hundreds of tons of decaying Bilih fish have been drifting in Singkarak Lake, 60 miles (100 km) north of the city of Padang, the capital of West Sumatra province.

Experts suspect that poisonous gases from underwater vents extending out of the nearby Marapi Volcano may have wiped out the fish population. They believe a channel links the lake and the crater of the 9,500-foot (2,900-meter) volcano, allowing sulfurous gas to seep into the lake and ravage the fish population.

The Bilih fish, whose scientific name is Mystacoleneus padangensis, only exists in the Singkarak Lake.

Australian Fish Kill

Australian wildlife officials are unable to determine what caused the deaths of around 2 million fish found washed up on the beaches of Frasier Island north of Brisbane. The dead leatherjackets and bulleyes littered 25 miles of beach at the far northeastern end of the island.

Ongoing tests of samples from the dead fish failed to reveal the presence of any viral infection. The largest mystery surrounding the kill is why the two types of bottom-feeding fish were affected while other species were not.

The Australian Associated Press reported that scientists are investigating the possibility that the leatherjackets and bulleyes had been affected by algae or fire weed. The latter has been blamed this year for about 300 complaints of burning and irritated skin by swimmers at Fraser Island.

Polar Bears Finally Migrate North

The end of the record warmth that covered parts of the Canadian Arctic for much of the last few months has sent the famed Hudson Bay polar bears migrating northward to their winter habitats.

The lack of pack ice over the expansive body of water had left the animals stranded for over a month at the south end of the bay.

"They've left. Once the ice hits, they go," said provincial natural resources officer Wade Roberts in Churchill, Manitoba.

The polar bear population of Hudson Bay averages about 1,200, and the animals move north each year to hunt and live on the Arctic ice shelf during the winter months. In summer, they roam around the town of Churchill, which has turned the bears into a growing tourist attraction.

Elephants Rampage Through Vietnamese Village

Two villagers from southern Vietnam were trampled to death last Friday when a herd of 10 elephants attacked Gia Canh in Dong Nai province.

The pachyderms knocked down a bamboo hut, then seized the two victims with their trunks and trampled them to death, according to local officials. They also destroyed four other village homes and caused damage to 2,470 acres (1,000) hectares of rice fields in the community, located about 70 miles (114 km) from Ho Chi Minh City.

Buffalo Carnage

The Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) scattered hay at their capture facility outside West Yellowstone, MT to bait buffalo leaving Yellowstone National Park. They hazed the buffalo who were outside of the park into the capture facility during the night.

Thursday, five buffalo were captured and shipped off to a slaughter house in Sheridan, MT. These will be the first buffalo slaughtered by the DOL this winter. The bison in the trailers were bleeding from gore wounds they inflicted on each other in the pens and in the transfer process.

The DOL also relocated four of Yellowstone's buffalo away the Duck Creek drainage, to be released at Horse Butte. These buffalo were marked with bright orange paint and could be injured.

At 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Buffalo Nations volunteer Dan Howells locked himself to a trailer getting ready to relocate the four buffalo. With a kryptonite bicycle lock around his neck, Howells, a 29 year-old non-violent protester from Michigan, stated "We must stop the buffalo slaughter. These buffalo do not belong to the Department of Livestock, they belong to the people of the United States. The buffalo should be allowed to be wild and free." Howells was cut free from the trailer, and charged with obstruction, a misdemeanor.

Buffalo Nations believes that the Department of Livestock does not have the right to capture and slaughter our last wild buffalo herd. Yellowstone's bison are not livestock, and should not be subjected to conditions which are alien to them. The DOL has no right to bait wildlife into leaving the park. Last year, buffalo were indiscriminately shipped to slaughter even though the tests for brucellosis are at best 70% effective. This resulted in the slaughter of bison who tested positive at the facility but tested negative at the slaughterhouse.

Buffalo Nations is calling for the concerned citizens of the United States to express their outrage to Montana's governor, Marc Racicot (email:,, over the resumed slaughter of this nation's heritage, the last wild buffalo. Unfortunately, a Federal Judge has already conceded that at least 100 more can be killed this winter.

 Rare Dolphins Threatened By China Oil Spill

An oil spill in the South China Sea threatens a dwindling population of rare pink dolphins that inhabit the mouth of the Pearl River Delta near Hong Kong, say environmentalists.

Chinese authorities are trying to contain an oil slick near the delta following a collision on Friday between two tankers, which resulted in oil polluting the waterway. The oil slick stretched for 6 miles (10 km) and was 165 feet (50 meters) wide, diverting shipping and ruining fishing grounds, the official China Daily reported.

The endangered dolphins are born a gray color, mature into pink and then turn white as they age. They are already threatened by increased pollution in the waters in which they live, according to local marine biologists.

Climate Change Endangers Arctic Caribou

Warmer temperatures and more snow are to blame for the steep decline in the caribou population of the Canadian Arctic, Greenpeace officials reported on Tuesday.

During the past 30 years, the total population living in Canada's western Arctic islands has dropped from 24,000 to only 3,000.

According to Ann Gunn of the Bathurst Island Research Station in Canada, caribou expend valuable energy trying to dig through deeper levels of snow to eat. Eventually they run out of energy and starve to death.

Scientists have stated that the major factor causing climate change is the burning of fossil fuels such as oil, coal and gas. Greenpeace fears that the accelerating climate change in the Arctic could lead to extinction of other animals as well.

Deadly Disease Imperils Southern African Lions

Southern African lions in Kruger National Park are being afflicted with a deadly tuberculosis after feeding on infected Cape buffalo, their natural prey. In one area of the vast reserve, the adult lion population has decreased
from 25 to 12 during the past 2 1/2 years.

Park officials say that more than 90 percent of the lions tested in the southern part of the park are infected with the disease. Officials fear that all of Kruger's 1,500 to 2,000 lions may contract the disease. They are considering slaughtering 8,000 Cape buffalo or building a fence across the park to contain the diseased animals.

100 Beached Whales Buried in Australia

Australian park rangers buried 100 pilot whales on Monday after they defied rescue efforts and beached themselves on the island of Tasmania.

During the ordeal that began Saturday, the whales frustrated rescuers' attempts to keep them in deep water, returning repeatedly to the deadly shallows off Tasmania.

Authorities estimated they were successful in rescuing 40 to 80 of the stranded marine mammals.

Experts remained puzzled as to why some of the grounded whales that were transported back out to sea from shallow water simply returned to another shallow section of the coastline.

Parks and Wildlife Services Director Max Kitchell said that about 100 whales were transported to deeper water since Saturday, but there was no way of knowing how many returned to the beach.

Kitchell said once a whale is trapped in the shallows, it sends out distress calls that beckon others to help. "But why, when we get them back out to sea and there are no more whales on the beach to call them, they still come in again, we just don't know," he added.

Thousands of Baby Sea Turtles Released in Mexico

Mexico's Guerrero State Autonomous University released 2,500 baby sea turtles into the Pacific Ocean at Acapulco last Friday.

According to Juan Vivantes Gonzales, director of the university's Marine Ecology School, a total of 22,115 turtle eggs have been processed in the protected turtle nursery so far this year. He expects the hatchlings will eventually migrate back to where they were released to lay their own eggs.

Every year, many turtles come to the beaches around Acapulco. Biologists have long proposed that the Barra Vieja area should be declared a zone of protection for the endangered marine animals.

Stop the Cruel Starvation of Hens

Forced molting is the cruel practice of withholding food for up to 2 weeks from egg laying hens. As a result of this stress and trauma, hundreds of thousands of birds die a tortuous death by starvation. Those who survive grow weak, shed all their feathers, and lose up to 35 percent of their body weight. The purpose of this practice is to shorten their natural molting cycle so that one more batch of eggs will be produced before the "spent" hens are slaughtered.

Research has shown that forced molting significantly increases the frequency and severity of Salmonella enteritidis among hens. USDA immunologist Peter Holt concludes that forced molting "increased the severity of a concurrent intestinal Salmonella enteritidis infection" (Poultry Science 71:1842-1848; 1992). The result is a sick bird and a contaminated egg. The only benefit from forced molting is seen in the egg producer's pocketbook.

Forced molting is so cruel that in 1987 it was banned in Great Britain and most European countries limit the length of food deprivation to a single day during a forced molt. The hideous conditions that force molted hens endure warrant the elimination of this practice in the United States as well.

What you can do:

1) The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) currently endorses forced molting under their "Positions on Poultry", giving the false impression to the poultry industry that this practice is acceptable. Urge the AVMA to revise its position statement to oppose this practice. Write to:


1931 N. Meacham Road Suite 100,

Schaumburg IL 60173-4360


2) The AVMA will be most influenced by its own members. Urge your veterinarian to support the revision of AVMA's position statement to oppose the intentional starvation of layer hens. Print and mail them the proposed revision statement form that can be obtained by clicking here.

3) Please urge the FDA to eliminate the practice of force molting layer hens. You can do this by supporting a petition filed by United Poultry Concerns and the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights (see When you write to the FDA, include the docket number 98P-0203/CP to identify the petition. Write to:

Dockets Management Branch

Food and Drug Administration

Department of Health and Human Services

12420 Parklawn Dr., Room 1-23

Rockville, MD 20857

Nike Advertising Cruelty to Animals

Nike is currently airing a commercial that has a professional football player dressing a chicken in a football jersey, chasing her, and then cooking her. The commercial makes a joke out of terrifying, traumatizing, and slaughtering a bird and makes light of the developing recognition that people who torment or abuse animals are exhibiting tendencies that may lead to other acts of violence, such as child abuse, rape, or murder.

Please write to the president of Nike Corporation immediately and let him know that there is nothing funny about tormenting and terrifying animals and that this disturbing commercial should be canceled immediately.

Tom Clark


Nike Corporation

One Bowerman Dr.

Beaverton, OR 97005

African Elephant Babies Torn From Their Families

In August, 30 baby elephants were torn from their families in Botswana by use of helicopters. Until that time, they roamed free by the Limpopo River on Botswana's Northern Tuli Game Reserve. The babies--sold to Riccardo Ghiazza of African Game Services--are currently shackled by one front and one rear leg, while both front legs are wrapped in a bamboo-constructed figure-eight device. They are held in a warehouse-like building in Pretoria, South Africa, except when they are taken out to be "broken" (still in the figure-eight leg restraint) by Indonesian workers brought into South Africa for that purpose. Zoos and safari parks are said to be purchasing the animals. One of the babies being beaten was photographed and can be seen at

An investigator with the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) says the baby elephants are "wide-eyed, trembling, and wailing." NSPCA is now working on legal action to help the babies. Unbelievably, there are plans to capture 20 more elephants in the near future using the terrifying helicopters.

Please write polite letters to the following dignitaries and authorities immediately. Ask that these babies be returned to their herds and for a prohibition on the sale of elephants.

President Nelson Mandela

Office of the President

Private Bag - X1000

Pretoria 0001 Republic of South Africa

Fax: 011-27-12-323-8246

President Festus Mogae

Office of the President

Private Bag 001

Gaborone, Botswana

Fax: 011-267-312-525

His Excellency Archibald Mooketsa Mogwe

Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary

Embassy of the Republic of Botswana

Chancery: 3400 International Drive, N.W., Ste. 7M

Washington, DC 20008

Fax: 202-244-4164

His Excellency Franklin Sonn

Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary

Embassy of the Republic of South Africa

Chancery: 3051 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.

Washington, DC 20008

Fax: 202-265-1607

Mr. Sedia Modise, Director

Department of Wildlife and National Parks

Gaborone, Botswana

Fax: 011-267-312-354

Dr. Pallo Jordan

Minister for Environmental Affairs and Tourism

Pretoria, South Africa

Fax 011-27-12-323-5181

USGS Scientists Find New Invasive Fish Species in Florida 

The Asian swamp eel, a non-native fish, has been found in canals, ditches, streams and ponds near Tampa and Miami, Fla. The species is spreading and has the capability of invading and harming freshwater ecosystems throughout the Southeast, including the already-besieged Everglades system, according to the U.S. Geological Survey scientists who found the species in Florida.

The exotic creature is a highly adaptable predator, able to breathe air and to live easily in even a few inches of water, especially in warm climates.

"This species exhibits unusual behavior, appearance and adaptations," said Dr. Leo Nico, a biologist with the USGS Florida Caribbean Science Center in Gainesville, Fla. "It has the potential to spread into freshwater ecosystems throughout the Southeast where it could compete with or prey upon native fishes. Imagine a creature with all the attributes necessary to successfully invade and colonize the Everglades and other southeastern wetlands. Well, the swamp eel may be that creature."

The lakes, streams, canals and swamps of Florida and the Southeast are ideal habitats for these eels, said Nico, who discovered the species while conducting scientific samples of fish species in a Tampa Bay drainage. Scientists say they suspect the swamp eel may have escaped from a tropical fish farm or have been a pet released from an aquarium. The species, they believe, is already firmly established in Florida.

Although few non-native fishes invade natural wetlands -- instead being primarily found in disturbed habitats such as canals and drainage ditches -- Nico said the swamp eel's biology makes it well suited for all kinds of habitats. "We expect this foreign fish to rapidly occupy natural wetland habitats," said Nico. "One major concern is for the Everglades ecosystem, not only Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve, but the surrounding wetlands as well. At this point, the best outlook would be if the eel becomes a favorite food item of native predators such as alligators or water snakes."

Swamp eels -- or rice eels as they are sometimes called -- were first discovered in Florida waters in 1997 in two widely separated sites. In late summer 1997, USGS researchers discovered a population of swamp eels while sampling fishes in ditches, canals and streams flowing into Tampa Bay on Florida's Gulf Coast. At about the same time, students from Florida International University in Miami netted several small swamp eels while collecting aquatic plants from an artificial lake just north of Miami. By now, several dozen eels have been found in the Tampa Bay area and several hundred in Miami waterways.

To determine the size and extent of the swamp eel population in Florida, USGS researchers, working with investigators from Florida International University and biologists from the Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission, are actively searching waters surrounding the two sites where the eels were previously found.

In May, USGS biologists found swamp eels in samples they took throughout a major east-west canal near the Dade-Broward County line, including a site near the canal's border with Everglades marsh habitat. Biologists have not found the Asian swamp eel in interior wetlands of the Everglades or other natural wetland systems, but the interconnectedness of the waterways and the eel's biology pose substantial risks of the species becoming established there, Nico said.

In North America, the species is sometimes kept as an aquarium fish, although scientists can only speculate that the species may have escaped or been released into the state's waters. In 1995, swamp eels were found in several ponds at the Chattahoochee Nature Center north of Atlanta, Ga., but USGS biologists are unaware of any possible links between the Georgia and Florida populations. In Georgia, scientists suspect the swamp eel may have spread to other parts of the Chattahoochee River system. To determine if this is true, University of Georgia scientists, in coordination with the National Park Service, are sampling the Chattahoochee system. In Georgia, entire groups of fish have disappeared from one impoundment populated by the eels, making Florida scientists especially aware of the potential effect of this species on the state's native fish communities.

Of particular concern to scientists and resource managers is the ability of swamp eels to thrive in a wide variety of natural habitats and in adverse conditions. In addition to marsh and swamp habitats, Nico said the fish survives quite well in ponds, canals, roadside ditches and rice fields -- "just about any freshwater habitat with a few inches of water."

Another trait that could help these fish successfully colonize southeastern waterways is that swamp eels are air breathers, enabling them to survive long dry spells. In fact, said Nico, their use of air is so efficient that the eels can readily migrate short distances across land from one water body to another.

Swamp eels, which reach lengths of three feet or more, are predators, feeding on animals such as worms, insects, shrimp, crayfish, other fishes and frogs. Yet, said Nico, the eels are also able to survive weeks -- and possibly months -- without food. The eels are highly secretive, with most of their activities occurring at night. In the day, the fish hide in thick aquatic vegetation or in small burrows and crevices along the water's edge. In many populations, all young are hatched as females. Then, after spending part of their life as females, the eels transform into large males.

Swamp eels belong to the family Synbranchidae, a group of fishes found in fresh and brackish waters in Central and South America, Africa, and from India east to Australia. These fish are not true eels, in part because they do not migrate to the ocean to spawn. The species introduced to Florida has been tentatively identified as Monopterus albus, a species native to tropical, subtropical and somewhat temperate climates in Eastern Asia. In Asia, the eel is a popular food fish.

As the nation's largest water, earth and biological science and civilian mapping agency, the USGS works in cooperation with more than 2000 organizations across the country to provide reliable, impartial, scientific information to resource managers, planners, and other customers. This information is gathered in every state by USGS scientists to minimize the loss of life and property from natural disasters, to contribute to the conservation and the sound economic and physical development of the nation's natural resources, and to enhance the quality of life by monitoring water, biological, energy, and mineral resources.

Warm Ocean Waters Affecting Marine Life off California

Rising ocean temperatures along the coast of California since 1977 have devastated marine life in the region, according to a report in the journal Nature. Researchers from Scripps Institute of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif., say that surface temperatures have increased by about 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) during the past 22 years.

The warmer waters appear to have had a significant effect on the coastal ecosystems, including severe declines in microscopic plankton, forests of kelp and the fish, birds and mammals that feed on them. The scientists say there have been significant fluctuations in temperatures along the West Coast for the past 80 years but are uncertain how much of it can be attributed to natural cycles.

Caspian Seal Assaults

Seals have attacked several people along the eastern coast of the Caspian Sea in Kazakhstan, the Itar-Tass news agency reported.

Officials in the city of Atkau, where the majority of the attacks have occurred, say that 40 people were bitten on June 15 and 16, and that more people are reporting to clinics each day suffering from seal bites. Victims are being treated with a series of painful rabies vaccinations, but the disease has not been detected in any of the marine mammals.

Unprecedented hot weather has scorched the area for more than a month, with daytime temperatures reaching nearly 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius.) Local residents blame the seals' aggressive behavior on the hot weather, but the veterinary services say that such attacks might be provoked by a viral disease which is not dangerous to humans.

Iranian Jellyfish Danger

Jellyfish, moved by oil tankers from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea, threaten to ruin Iran's $34 million caviar industry. Mohammad-Taqi Farhur, an official in the Mazandaran Province, said the jellyfish have destroyed the caviar industry in the Black Sea area and have moved to the Caspian. Taqui Farhur, who is with the environmental protection agency in the province, had no solution to the crisis.

Wombat Woes

Australia's famed wombat may be under threat from the spread of mange among the country's marsupial population. Researchers told reporters on Tuesday that while it is too soon to predict how many of the wombats may be killed by the disease, it is widespread and causing alarm among those studying the animals.

Mange is caused by the Sarcoptes mite as it burrows into the skin, causing inflammation and irritation. Animals can die if the disease persists for a long period of time.

Researchers said the mange was only affecting a small portion of the population on the edges of the wombat's primary habitats. The animal is still abundant in several areas, such as southeastern Queensland.

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