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Deadly fungus could spread to UK newts, scientists say
The private trade in amphibians could result in Bsal spreading to wild populations of newts and salamanders in the UK.

Bsal ‘impossible to stop’ once in a wild population 

A deadly fungus that has decimated salamander populations could soon find its way to the UK, scientists are warning.

New research suggests that Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal) is widespread in private amphibian collections in Western Europe.

Seven out of 11 collections tested positive for the fungus, according to findings published in Scientific Reports.

The infection has been transmitted between several countries and was discovered in Spain for the first time.

Scientists said they are concerned about the private trade in amphibians, as it could result in Bsal spreading to wild populations of newts and salamanders in the UK, with dire results for conservation.

Lead author Liam Fitzpatrick from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), said: “Once the fungus is in a wild population it is likely to be impossible to stop its spread and the loss of susceptible species.

“We already know that Bsal can be lethal to a number of European salamander species, so understanding ways in which the fungus could be introduced to new areas is essential in our efforts to conserve wild amphibians.”

Bsal was responsible for a 99 per cent decline in one monitored population of fire salamanders in the Netherlands. Population declines have since expanded into Belgium and Germany.

Professor Andrew Cunningham, also from ZSL, said the “critical point” is to prevent Bsal from being introduced to collections in the first place.

It is estimated that 131,000 live amphibians were imported to the UK in 2006, with 98 per cent used for the legal pet trade.

Co-author Professor An Martel from Ghent University said: “Screening captive collections and treating Bsal positive individuals, along with engaging with collectors to improve sanitary protocols, are likely to be the most effective and feasible measures to protect both captive and wild salamanders and newts from Bsal.”

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Nominations for 2019 RSPCA Honours Awards now open

News Story 1
 People across the UK are being urged to nominate a standout animal champion for the 2019 RSPCA Honours Awards.

The awards recognise those who have worked tirelessly to improve animal welfare, campaigned on behalf of animals, or shown true bravery. Previous winners include comedian John Bishop, who was awarded Celebrity Animal Champion of the Year, and 11-year-old Lobby Cantwell, who raised more than £1,000 for the charity through mountain climbs and bike rides.

To submit a nomination or find out more about the awards visit the RSPCA website. Nominations will remain open until 4 pm on Friday, March 15.  

Click here for more...
News Shorts
New £1m project to investigate dairy cow lameness

Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) is leading a new £1 million research project to investigate the causes of lameness in dairy cows.

One in three dairy cows are affected by lameness every day in the UK, costing the industry an estimated £250 milion annually.

The project will take three years to complete and is due to finish by November 2021.

Professor Georgios Banos of SRUC commented: “In addition to pain and discomfort to the animal, lameness is associated with decreased milk production and inflated farm costs.

“Among cows raised in the same environment, some become lame while others do not. Understanding the reasons behind this will help us develop targeted preventive practices contributing to enhanced animal welfare and farm profitability.”