Animals in the News

From The New York Times

Jim Hollander/European Pressphoto Agency

A motorcyclist passed through a cloud of locusts near the Egyptian border in March.


As recently as 1963, plagues of ravenous desert locusts could stretch across continents, blanketing lands from West Africa to India up to 14 years at a time. Today, with pesticides and early eradication efforts, such biblical swarms no longer occur. But as farmers in Sudan, Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia can currently attest, locust swarms remain a serious regional threat.

Locusts are grasshoppers that have evolved to undergo a sort of Jekyll-to-Hyde transformation, a result of sporadic patterns of rainfall.

After a particularly wet season, deserts bloom into life. Vegetation supports a growing population of thriving grasshoppers. When the rains cease, the leaves wither and the hungry insects begin congregating in the last patches of remaining plant life.

As the grasshoppers crowd together, something shifts. The insects, which normally live alone, begin bumping into one another. When grasshoppers touch one another’s hind legs, the contact sets off hormonal changes: The adults’ neutral brown coloring is replaced with a fearsome bright yellow, and they become “gregarious” group insects, coordinating their growth, behavior and egg laying. When the swarm devours all of the surrounding vegetation, it takes to the air, traveling up to 100 miles a day in search of its next meal.

“Take a swarm the size of Manhattan,” said Keith Cressman, a senior locust forecasting officer at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome. “In one day, that swarm will eat the same amount of food as 42 million people.”

Cruel or necessary? The true cost of wild horse roundups

By Lisa Myers and Michael Austin

Read more at: NBC News

This recent roundup ended a season of wild horse “gathers” in which the government captured and removed thousands of mustangs from nearly 32 million acres of public land in 10 Western states.

Afterward, the Bureau of Land Management reported new numbers likely to shock many Americans unfamiliar with the economics and politics surrounding the roundups: A record number of wild horses – almost 50,000 – are now living in captivity, far more than the 32,000 left on the range.

Both critics and supporters of the roundups agree on one thing: the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program is “out of control” and heading for crisis. With adoption rates falling, its cost has doubled in a decade to $78 million this year.  Even the government acknowledges “the current path is not sustainable for the animals, the environment or the taxpayer.”

“The roundups are devastating for the wild horses, being terrorized by helicopters and stampeded for miles,” said Suzanne Roy, director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, one of several groups fighting the roundup program.  “It doesn’t make sense.  It doesn’t work.  It costs taxpayers money.  It costs horses their freedom, sometimes their lives.  It’s insanity.”

Read more at: NBC News


Wild horses relax and graze in the Pryor Mountains Wild Horse Range in south-central Montana on July 16, 2004, in an image provided by the Bureau of Land Management.

A BLM contract helicopter chases and then hovers directly over a wild horse during the Wassuck roundup, southwest of Yerington, Nev., on Oct. 5. This image was provided by the activist group Wild Horse Education.

Wild horses line up for a drink in the Sand Wash Herd Management Area in northwestern Colorado. This undated image was provided by a wild horse activist group.

A mare nuzzles her newborn foal on the day of its birth, at the Pryor Mountains Wild Horse Range in Montana in July 2010. This image was provided by a wild horse activist group

Wild horses slam into each other and against a steel fence in the close confinement of the BLM trap at the Barren Valley roundup in Nevada in September 2011. This image was provided by a wild horse activist group.

A charcoal and tan mare at the BLM Palomino Valley National Adoption Center near Reno, Nev. Older horses like this are often passed over and usually spend the rest of their lives in long-term holding pastures. This image was provided by a wild horse activist group.


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