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Octopus Boom round Britain

Bowdleflode News No. 50 – July 2022

Octopus set to boom in British Waters

Baby rhino following its mother through the bush with it nose millimetres from her back leg.

Octopus off Cornwall

Vast numbers of common octopus have been spotted along Cornwall’s Lizard peninsula this month in what experts are labelling as a “bumper year” for sightings.  Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s conservation officers now think this could confirm an octopus population boom – an event which was last recorded more than 70 years ago.

Despite its name, this large species of octopus is rarely seen in UK waters and has been recorded by the wildlife charity just twice a year on average.  Matt Slater, marine conservation officer at Cornwall Wildlife Trust, said: 

“I got really excited when I started receiving messages from our Seasearch divers – not only because sightings of these striking animals are few and far between, but because they’d seen several of them on one dive.  They are such amazing, alien creatures – one of the most intelligent animals in our oceans – and to witness a population explosion in our local waters would be incredible.”

Local fishermen along Cornwall’s south coast have also witnessed large numbers of octopus in their lobster pots and cuttlefish traps.  One Mevagissey fisherman reported catching 150 octopuses in a day, compared to his usual catch of one or two a year.

The Common Octopus is known for its large eyes, soft bag-like body and tentacles which can span up to one metre.  Like other cephalopods, their populations fluctuate dramatically as scientists attempt to learn more about their behaviour and abundance.  Massive population booms of octopus are uncommon, but not unheard of.  The Marine Biological Association has reported on several major octopus ‘plagues’ along the south coast of England from Lands End to Sussex; first in 1899 and most recently in the summer of 1948.

 

Polar bear feasts on whale

Polar Bear on whale

Polar bear standing on a dead whale

Extraordinary images of polar bears in a remote part of the Arctic Circle have been captured by a group of filmmakers as the endangered creatures face increasing threats to their survival.

The bears were caught feasting on a beached sperm whale on the Svalbard archipelago of Norway.  As the bears roam the Arctic wilderness, it has become harder to get an easy meal.   As sea ice declines due to climate change, bears are forced onto land, away from their main diet of seals.  So, when a dead sperm whale washes up on a beach in Svalbard, it is a bit of a gift.

Filmmakers were recording for a new Disneynature feature called Polar Bear, which documents the lives of one polar bear family in the remote region, and includes footage of the bears feeding on the carcass.  With around 3 billion calories in sperm whale, food has been plentiful for the bears, meaning less competition and more interesting and playful interactions. 

Even though it may appear these bears were having a good time, the species as a whole is in serious trouble due to the impacts of global heating, driven largely by the burning of fossil fuels.  The minimum sea ice extent in the Arctic has declined by 13 per cent every decade since 1979, according to Nasa.  Polar bears need sea ice to catch seals, one of their primary food sources.  Increasing heat in the Arctic may be forcing the bears to look for alternative prey, like birds or reindeer, according to reports.  There are an estimated 26,000 polar bears in the wild but a hotter Arctic and melting sea ice means that by 2100, many polar bear populations could face extinction.

 

Polar bear standing on whale

A polar bear standing on a dead whale

Puffins Galore!

Puffin Sculptures

Forty-two decorated puffin sculptures have gone on display along the coast of East Yorkshire in the north of England.  The Puffins Galore scheme aims to attract visitors to the area while also highlighting threats to wildlife.

The fibreglass statues can be seen at Bempton and Kilnsea as well as in Hull, Bridlington, Hornsea and Withernsea.  Each sculpture has been sponsored by a local business and painted by an artist or organisation, and will be auctioned to raise money for charity.

Those to benefit include the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, RSPB, Hornsea Inshore Rescue and the RNLI.  The trail follows similar schemes in the region, including “Larkin with Toads” and “A Moth for Amy”, and is supported by Yorkshire Coast Business Improvement District (BID) and Visit East Yorkshire.

Congratulations Marwell!

Congratulations to Marwell Zoo in Winchester, Hampshire who are currently celebrating multiple awards at the Winchester Business Excellence Awards. 

Winning both the Business of the Year and the Sustainable Business Award (The Queen’s Award for Enterprise), has given the zoo a royal seal of approval. 

Marwell is one of the premier visitor attractions on the South Coast, bringing millions of pounds into the local community.  Like many other wildlife parks facing difficult years through the pandemic, the awards are a testament to their place in the community and recognise the zoo’s achievements in education as well as their commitment conservation and carbon neutral status. 

Dr Duncan East, Head of Sustainability at Marwell, said: “Winning these awards is a great opportunity to reflect on the things we’ve achieved rather than what’s next on the list to do and we don’t often do that”.

Bowdleflode of the Month

This month’s Bowdleflode has been created by Raphael, aged 6 from Edge Grove School in Hertfordshire, UK

Meet… TIGERWIDOW!

 

Tigerwidow is an insect which has the body and legs of a Black Widow spider but the head and stripes of a tiger.  They inhabit Asian forests where they survive eating mice, rats, birds and plenty of flies.  They are excitable critters who are always on the prowl!


Thank you Raphael for your wonderful creation and addition to our Wildlife Park!

👏 👏⠀