The Stephen Island Wren was originally found all throughout the country of New Zealand. By 1894 invasive species forced it into seclusion on Stephen’s Island, a small rocky speck off the tip of the southern main island.It was this year that a new lighthouse keeper moved to the island along with his cat, who had the very nonthreatening name of Tibbles.
Tibbles began his predation of the Wren, bringing them back to his owner – who actually sent them back to Britain for survey, where they were declared a new species! But it was too late for these nocturnal, flightless birds. Tibbles literally hunted into extinction the sparse remains of this once country-spanning species. And that is the story of how one cat killed a species.
Around the world, animals living and breeding in captivity tend to be managed through a technique called a stud book. These decades-deep records keep track of which males bred with which females and which offspring resulted from their unions. Stud books help zoos and other conservation organizations to make sure that the animals in their care don’t interbreed and end up with debilitating genetic defects and ensure that their progeny remain as healthy as possible through the years.
New Zealand is about to take the stud book concept to a whole new level and apply it genetically to a species that lives in the wild.
An African fish eagle got involved in a heated stand-off with a marabou stork in the Zimanga Private Game Reserve in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa after the bird of prey tried to steal the long-legged bird’s fish supper. Picture: Hendri Venter/Solent News
Common Grackles are resourceful foragers. They sometimes follow plows to catch invertebrates and mice, wade into water to catch small fish, pick leeches off the legs of turtles, steal worms from American Robins, raid nests, and kill and eat adult birds.