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Mercury poses a rising threat to Arctic birds
ivory gull
Concentrations of mercury in ivory gull feathers increased nearly 50-fold in 130 years.

Contaminant may be the cause of ivory gull declines

Rising exposure to mercury could be the cause of rapid declines in Arctic bird populations, particularly ivory gulls, according to new research.

Ivory gull populations have fallen by more than 80 per cent in Canada since the 1980s, leaving just 400-500 breeding pairs. However, the reasons for this are not well understood.

Biologists from Canada's University of Saskatchewan aimed to find out whether contaminants are to blame by analysing the burden of methyl mercury in feathers over the past 130 years.

Using feathers from museum specimens spanning 1877-2007, researchers found concentrations of mercury had increased nearly 50-fold, despite no evidence of dietary change during this period.

Writing in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B- Biological Sciences, the authors say: "Methyl mercury (MeHG) in ivory gull feathers increased significantly over the past 130 years, despite the lack of evidence of a shift in diet.

"We attribute this increase to increases in the amount of mercury (HG) in the environment that has been observed post-industrially and attributed to human activity."

With oceanic mercury expected to rise four-fold between 2005-2050, the findings have prompted concerns about continued dramatic declines in ivory gull  populations, as well as other high-latitude species.

For the full report, visit: http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/282/1805/20150032

Image © jomilo75/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0

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Endangered turtles rescued from smugglers

News Story 1
 A group of endangered turtles have found a new home at London Zoo after being rescued from smugglers.

The four big-headed turtles arrived at the zoo at the end of last year, after smugglers tried to illegally import them to Canada, labelled as toys.

One of the turtles, named Lady Triệu after a Vietnamese warrioress, has moved to a new exhibit in the zoo’s reptile house. She is the only one of her kind in a UK zoo.

Big-headed turtles have such large heads that they cannot pull them back into their shells. To compensate, they have armour plating from head to tail and a very sharp beak to fend off predators. They are ranked number 18 on ZSL’s EDGE of Existence reptile list, which puts threatened species at the forefront of conservation action. Image © ZSL  

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RCVS Fellowship board chair elections get underway

Voting for the 2019 RCVS Fellowship Chair election is now underway. This year four candidates are standing for election, including Dr Robert Huey, Professor John Innes, Professor Liz Mossop and Professor Ian Ramsey.

The Chair will attend and preside over Fellowship meetings and take the lead in consolidating the Fellowship’s position as the learned society of the RCVS. Fellows will receive an email containing a link to the online voting form, as well as candidates’ details and manifestos. Voting closes at 5pm on Thursday, 5 September.