Swim in the Arctic? I'm hitching a lift: Polar bears develop new tactics to protect their cubs from the chill... and it's all down to global warming

By DAILY MAIL REPORTER

Hold on tight: A mother carries her cub as she prepares to swim


While the idea of global warming may be far from the thoughts of Britons at the moment, it is being blamed for changing the behaviour of polar bears.

They have been spotted carrying their cubs on their backs while they swim through icy waters. The phenomenon, which is thought to be new, was discovered while researchers tagged and tracked the animals.

It is understood to be the result of the bears having to swim longer distances because of reductions in the Arctic ice in the summer.

Conservationists from the WWF charity say that travelling on the mother’s back could be vital for the survival of the cubs in waters surrounding scattered ice, which is prime seal-hunting territory for the animals.

The phenomenon, revealed while tagging and tracking polar bears, is thought to be new and the result of the bears having to swim longer distances in the sea because of reductions in the Arctic ice in the summer.

The scientists say that in the face of the longer swims, travelling on the mother's back could be vital for the survival of the cubs in waters surrounding scattered ice, which is prime seal-hunting territory for the animals.

Travelling on the mother's back will mean the cub's body will be in direct contact with the adult's fur and a large part of the baby will be out of the icy water - reducing heat loss.


Under threat: A lone polar bear picks its way through melting sea ice off Jackson Island in the Arctic. Bears are being forced to spend more time in the water because global warming is reducing solid ice in the region


This is important because the young polar bears have not built up a sufficient layer of fat to stop them getting cold if they are swimming in the sea for a prolonged period of time.

The data from the WWF-Canon polar bear tracker programme, which has been running since 2007 in the Arctic, indicate that tagged bears in Alaska have swum around 350 to 400 miles in the past four years.

Radio collars, which can only be fitted on the females as the males' necks are wider than their heads so the collars slide straight off, send signals via satellites monitoring the bears' movements to track their behaviour and help determine how they are affected by climate change.

Polar bears, the largest land predators in the world, are excellent swimmers but they hunt and breed on top of the sea ice, which in the Arctic has been in decline in recent years.

Geoff York, polar bear specialist from conservation charity WWF, said: 'As the Arctic ice continues to melt, it is likely that polar bears are increasingly going to have to swim longer distances.

'Data from tagged bears near Alaska has indicated swims of 350-400 miles in the past four years and if polar bear cubs are forced to cover these distances, then it is vital for them to behave in a way that minimises heat loss.

'This reported behaviour, and anything else that helps cub survival in those circumstances, is good news.'

But having to swim longer distances is dangerous for bears that are in poor condition or are caught in poor weather.


source: dailymail

Baby elephant gets stuck upside down in a ditch... and has to be rescued by a BULLDOZER

11:43 PM Posted by ms.tk 0 comments
By DAILY MAIL REPORTER

Trapped: The baby elephant ended up on its back after falling into the ditch


A baby elephant who accidentally fell into a ditch and became stuck upside down has been rescued... with the help of an excavator.

The male calf, aged four of five years old, stumbled and slided into a ditch in Bokakhat in north-east India's Assam state.


He was crossing a tea estate with the rest of his herd at the time of the accident.


On all fours: The calf manages to turn over and get upright


The mother of the calf and several other elephants tried to drag him out of the ditch, but to no avail.

After several local residents tried to pull the struggling calf free, it was left to forest rangers and an animal welfare expert to step in.

But they too had to admit defeat and called in a bulldozer.

Once free, the young elephant was reunited with his mother.

Despite his ordeal, he suffered nothing more than a few bruises, said Anil Deka from the International Fund for Animal Welfare.


Huge problem: Local villagers used sticks to encouraged the elephant out - without success



End of the adventure: The calf is finally pulled free and able to rejoing his mother




source: dailymail

That's a bit too much crunch in my salad: Woman finds live giant Egyptian grasshopper in her bag of greens

11:43 PM Posted by ms.tk 0 comments
By DAILY MAIL REPORTER

Creepy crawly: This giant Egyptian grasshopper was found alive in a bag of supermarket salad


A Sussex woman's lunch almost became a Bushtucker Trial this week when she discovered a live giant grasshopper in a salad bag.

The likes of Alison Hammond and Kayla Collins got close to some creepy critters during Sunday's episode of I'm A Celebrity... Get me Out Of Here! but an unnamed Brighton woman had a bigger shock after picking up a healthy lunch from a branch of Tesco in Lewes.

The unnamed shopper was about to sit down for lunch on the East Sussex coast when she found the three-inch insect alive and well among her bag of leaves.


Surprise lunch: The Lewes branch of Tesco where a shopper is believed to have bought a salad bag that contained a live grasshopper


The insect had survived a trip from Egypt in the salad bag before it gave the woman a surprise at the dining table.

Showing admirable calm under pressure - especially as her appetite had been undoubtedly spoiled - the woman passed on the creature to the RSPCA, who received the animal on condition of anonymity for the shopper.

The grasshopper - which the National History Museum has verified as Egyptian - has since been re-homed it at nearby Drusillas Zoo, where it was received by spider and insect expert Angela Hale earlier this month.


Harmless: Insect expert Angela Hale said the grasshopper is flourishing in its new home


'To discover a grasshopper in this way is incredibly unusual,' she admitted. 'Although it may give someone a bit of a shock, these insects are completely harmless.

'The grasshopper is in excellent health and settling into her new home, where we hope she will be very happy.'


Appetising: Alison Hammond and Kayla Collins taking on a disgusting Bushtucker Trial on I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!


Ms Hale was able to identify that the grasshopper had made it to the south coast having travelled all the way from Egypt thanks to its distinctive vertically striped eyes, which are particular to this breed of insect.

The 6.5cm insect is believed to be a fully developed female, with a length more common to the fairer sex of the species, and fully developed wing span and colouration.

Ms Hale also received confirmation from the National History Museum that the bug was an Egyptian giant grasshopper, after the London institution viewed pictures of the insect.

A Tesco spokesman said that incidents such as these were 'extremely rare' and offered his apologies to the customer in question.

'All of our products go through quite a lot of processes before it reaches the customer,' he added.

'Incidents like this are extremely rare although an unpleasant surprise is something that can happen on very, very rare occasions.'




source: dailymail

Strictly come barking!... or how I taught my mad mutt to ballroom dance (with a little help from Britain's Got Talent's Tina and Chandi)

11:42 PM Posted by ms.tk 0 comments
By ANNE SHOOTER

Anne Shooter is trying to teach her dog Rufus to dance


For the past 18 months I have been trying to teach my beloved but rather excitable dog, Rufus, one simple trick: not to jump up all over every person he meets.

I know that practice makes perfect. But some days, getting Rufus to sit quietly on his mat, instead of pouncing on every unsuspecting guest, has seemed harder than climbing Everest on a pogo stick.

So what am I doing, standing on stage in a freezing church hall in Shropshire, dangling a piece of chicken above Rufus’s nose and pleading with him to jump up on me?
For that matter, why am I dressed in a spangly waistcoat and waving a silver cane?

I am, in fact, trying to teach Rufus to dance. That’s right, we are having a dancing lesson. And not from just anyone. This private tuition is from the nation’s best-loved doggy dancing pair — Britain’s Got Talent finalists Tina and Chandi.

Slight, unassuming Tina Humphrey wowed viewers of the ITV show last spring with the amazing connection she had with her beautiful border collie, Chandi.

The pair were like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, executing their charming and amusing routines in perfect unison.

I fear my bruiser of a dog and I will draw rather more comparisons with Ann Widdecombe and Anton du Beke. But that’s OK. I can steel myself for the inevitable withering verdict.

Tina, 38, assures me that any dog can be taught to dance — in fact, she has brought out a DVD to teach dog owners how to do it — so I try to be positive.

And so it is that Rufus and I are somewhere near Shrewsbury, where Tina and Chandi live, learning how to foxtrot (or at least to do the Labradoodle boogie).

As we introduce our two dogs, my reprobate hound bounces around and tries to sniff Chandi’s bottom while Chandi backs off and starts yapping.

‘Since my other dog died four years ago, Chandi hasn’t been overly friendly with new dogs,’ explains Tina, apologetically.


Anne and Rufus are having private tuition from the nation's best-loved doggy dancing pair - Britain's Got Talent finalists Tina and Chandi


Her embarrassment is nothing compared with my humiliation when I spot Rufus rummaging in Tina’s rucksack, only to emerge with a box of cheese pieces (Chandi’s favourite treat) in his mouth.

‘Don’t worry,’ says Tina, before adding damningly: ‘He simply hasn’t been taught otherwise. Chandi never takes any food unless I tell her she can. She waits for my permission for everything.’

A touch smug? Well, I remind myself that Chandi is an international champion at competitive obedience work who has won more awards at Crufts than any other dog in the country.

The bond Chandi and Tina have is extraordinary. Chandi never takes her eyes off Tina. She responds to the softest command, skipping, dancing on her hind legs and trotting when asked.

Not bad for a dog who was picked up at the pound as a puppy and was so unresponsive Tina thought she might be deaf. So, how did all this competitive ‘dancing’ come about?

Tina — who has a degree in music from Oxford and is a violin and piano teacher when she is not being Chandi’s dance partner — is not sure.

‘As I started to teach Chandi the basic commands to sit, heel and so on, I realised she was particularly responsive,’ she says. ‘I began to work more with her and started to see that she has some kind of gift.’


Tina says any dog can be taught to dance. She has brought out a DVD to teach dog owners how to do it


I have to admit that Chandi is a truly remarkable animal. She understands some 350 commands — everything from beg, sit up, turn round, skip, trot and so on — and words including tree, cat, lamp post, dustbin, phone and keys.

Tina’s latest project is teaching her two-way communication. If Chandi is asked a question such as ‘is this a drain?’ while Tina points at a bin, she will answer no by touching Tina’s finger with her nose. If the answer is yes, she gets excited and touches Tina’s thumb.

It’s real Dr Doolittle stuff. And yes, it might even be a bit weird if it wasn’t for the fact that Tina seems likeable and down to earth.

True, she is 38 and single, but that is more down to her fussiness, she tells me, than not wanting a man in her life.

‘I know how blessed I am to have such a special relationship with Chandi. I think of her as my soulmate,’ she says. ‘But I haven’t stopped looking for a partner. I am sure there must be someone out there who is right.’


On Chandi: 'She wags her tail the entire time we train or perform and always looks relaxed and focused. It's a purely joyful experience,' said Tina


One thing’s for sure: any prospective husband would have to accept there would be three of them in the marriage — particularly as Chandi sleeps on Tina’s bed.

Catering for Chandi isn’t easy. She eats an exclusively raw-food diet of fresh meat, vegetables and fruit. And that’s before you factor in visits to her canine massage therapist, chiropractor, holistic vet and U.S.-based nutritionist (Chandi has, would you believe it, a Hollywood-style wheat allergy).

This is one pampered pooch — in fact, Tina tells me, all her money goes on Chandi. Her last investment was a special ramp for entering and leaving Tina’s car.

I ask Tina if it might be considered cruel, asking a dog to dance, all the more so when it’s at the rather advanced age of 12. After all, I venture, most women of an equivalent age — 84 in human years — might find all that skipping and trotting a bit exhausting.

Tina is adamant that Chandi loves it.

‘I don’t think she would do it if she didn’t want to,’ she insists. ‘She wags her tail the entire time we train or perform and always looks relaxed and focused. It’s a purely joyful experience.’


'After his moment in the spotlight, Rufus is back to thinking it's de rigueur to jump up on everyone he meets,' said Anne


I can’t say I wholly share Tina’s enthusiasm, but it’s time to see if Rufus can rise to the challenge. Could he be the canine equivalent of Strictly’s Matt Baker — or will he be more John Sergeant?

Tina explains that you start by teaching the dog a verbal sound which means he has been successful. Do this by making the sound and giving your dog a treat, she commands.

You then introduce a different ‘support signal’ to encourage the dog as it moves towards doing the correct thing, increasing the pitch and intensity of your voice.

Our first basic move involves trying to teach Rufus to follow my hand, as I move it in front of him. Once he’s got the hang of that, the dancing begins.

Well, I say dancing. What this mostly involves is Rufus standing on his hind legs and jigging up and down. It’s hardly going to win over Craig Revel Horwood. But while it may look ungainly, Rufus loves it. After just a few minutes Tina admits he ‘has potential’.

We press on to even harder challenges. In less than an hour we have Rufus sitting up on his hind legs to the command of ‘beg’.


'I know how blessed I am to have such a special relationship with Chandi. I think of her as my soulmate,' Tina said


Then we have him standing right up, front paws on my chest or on the glittery pole, to the command of ‘up’.

Tina even has him turning circles following her fingers, and he is halfway to marching on the spot.

The only downside to our foray into the world of doggy dancing?

Well, after his moment in the spotlight, Rufus is back to thinking it’s de rigueur to jump up on everyone he meets.

In fact, he looks astonished not to receive a treat for doing so.

Perhaps he’s not ready to become a dancing star after all — and I can’t help thinking that might be for the best.

Tina And Chandi Teach Your Dog New Tricks is available to buy on DVD at £19.99.





source: dailymail

These pussycats are NOT afraid of water: Meet the Bengal tigers who just love splashing around

11:41 PM Posted by ms.tk 0 comments
By DAILY MAIL REPORTER

Mine! Two tigers fight each other in a pool as Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in California, U.S., as they chase chunks of meat


Most cats run away at the first sign of water, but as these purr-fect paddlers show some just love to make a splash.

The trio of unusual underwater playmates fight each other underwater as they chase after a chunk of meat at the Six Flags Discovery Kingdom Zoo, near San Francisco.

Big cats are known to use water as a way of cooling down but it is rare to see so many striped swimmers enjoying the pool.


Cat-fight: The two adult males cause a real splash as they battle against each other in front of hundreds of spectators


Odin, a nine-year-old white Bengal male, is the leader of the tiger pack while Fedor, a six-year-old Siberian tiger, is also a keen swimmer.

But two-year-old white Bengal male Nalin and female Bengal Akasha are the stars of the show.

Trainers Jonah Lime, Lee Munro and Shawn Fortney have all worked with tigers for more than 10 years.


There's someone on your tail: Odin, a white Bengal tiger, closes his eyes as he chases after his rival



Top cat: Two of the tigers grapple in the water during their show


Nancy Chan, who works at the zoo, said: 'Our tigers just seem to love submerging themselves in water.

'It all started a few years ago when we noticed one of our tigers called Kuma loved jumping in.

'Another cat started copying and now all of our tigers just seem to follow suit.
'Sometimes we throw meat in for them to dive after as motivation but often they don't need any convincing.

'Audiences are utterly astounded when they see them in action, it's safe to say they are the most popular animals at the zoo.'


source: dailymail

This hotel's a bit of a dive: Abandoned rig that has been converted into scuba paradise

11:40 PM Posted by ms.tk 0 comments
By DAILY MAIL REPORTER

Big population: The nutrients of the coral attracts a vast array of exotic sea creatures to the reef beneath the Seaventures resort


An abandoned oil rig had been transformed into the world's first ever scuba diving hotel.

The isolated 25-bedroom Seaventures Dive Resort in the Celebes Sea of Malaysia is surrounded by a coral reef which is populated by regal sharks and barracudas, making it ideal for diving.

Just to reach the rig at Wisma Sabah, guests must fly to Kuala Lumpur, complete an hour long drive to the coast and then jump on a boat for another hour trip.


Well rigged: The Seaventures Dive Resort in Wisma Sabah was an oil rig before becoming a diving hotel


Once there, visitors can learn to dive on the reef which, because of the nutrients swept in by the currents, makes it an appealing location for a wide variety of marine life.

These stunning photos show the vast underwater world to be found at the rig - which its owner Suzette Harris claims is even better than the Great Coral Reef in Australia.

'So far as we know, we're the only ones in the world using an oil rig as a hotel and diving platform,'she said.


Gone fishing: A diver exploring the coral reef beneath the Seaventures Dive Resort in Wisma Sabah



Down time: During their training, scuba divers are lowered slowly on to the reef on a specially built platform


'You can buy a used drilling platform just like you can buy a used boat so it wasn't that hard to arrange.'

The rig training dive platform is one of the resort's biggest draws. Divers are lowered into the water to the coral reef just a few feet below the surface and close to steep underwater cliffs which plummet 180ft.

The Seaventures Sun Deck is also is one of the highest points in Mabul so visitors can see across the ocean to the islands islands of Indonesia, Borneo and the Philippines.


source: dailymail

Fashionable felines show why they're the cat(walk)'s whiskers

11:39 PM Posted by ms.tk 0 comments
By DAILY MAIL REPORTER

Precocious: Bruce is only 11 months old but already has sophisticated tastes in clothing


Step aside puss in boots because these models are showing off the latest designer clothing in a new calendar.

The amusing pictures show the fashionable felines are more than ready for the catwalk as they proudly display the new winter collection of fashion house, United Bamboo.

Designer and creative director of United Bamboo, Miho Aoki got the idea to put together the feline range after discovering his pet kitten, TG, had a penchant for high fashion.


Model moggies: Oscar (left) looks the cat's whiskers in a natty white blazer while 12-year-old Thomas Jefferson models a more colourful design


Creating these made to measure outfits, the company held auditions to find the right cat model, with the result is this incredible non-photoshopped calendar.

'I made my kitty TJ's clothes with extra fabrics from the United Bamboo collection long ago and took pictures with my friend just for fun,' said Miho.

'For some reason, last year everyone around me were a bunch of cat lovers; my pattern maker, my sales person and my assistant.

'So I thought it would be really fun to make some mini kitty United Bamboo pieces that are fun to create for everyone to try on their cats.'

Most fashion photographers have stories of temperamental models, and these feline fashionistas gave just as good to Miho and his team


Fur coat: Patootie models a custom- made parka as he poses for the December page of the calendar


Floral feline: Egon is pretty in pink though he doesn't loko particularly happy with his outfit


'It was bit difficult to dress the kitties, so we made as simple as possible,' said Miho. 'We made two piece outfits into one piece, and put velcro tape instead of buttons and zippers so that its easier to close and adjustable.

'The faster you can get them into the outfit, the less time the claws have to come out!

'Almost every cats shoot was funny because they all have completely different personalities. We had to act as fluffers too, using props like toys, feathers etc to get the cats to pose!

'Some are really quiet and really like models - they knew what they were doing!


Wrapped up warm: The United Bamboo calendar features a wide range of feline fashion including coats and dresses


'Some are bit angry, and you just have to keep shooting till you get something. It depends on the character.'

The photographs for the kittie calendar were taken in the United Bamboo studios in September and shows a cat for each month of the year.

The calendar is in its second year of production after Miho was bombarded with interest from customers as well as those volunteering their pet cats

'There's been an amazing reaction,' he said. 'We had no idea how much people love cats in dresses!'


Why the long face? Ziggy looks a little happier in this strappy number than out of it


Two-piece: Vivi's boucle cape and skirt could have come from the feline version of Chanel


United Bamboo was founded in 1998, specialising in innovative patterns, fabrics, origami pleats and asymmetrical shapes.

United Bamboo's clients include Yeah Yeah Yeahs singer, Karen Oh, photographer, Annabel Mehran and musician, Joanna Newsom.

The Cat Calendar 2011 is available at www.unitedbamboo.com.


All tied up: Another model appears perfectly poised in a feature bow and flared skirt



May model: Noel struts his stuff in a print dress

source: dailymail

London Zookeeper Laura Childs poses for a picture with a spiney stick insect

11:39 PM Posted by ms.tk 0 comments

London Zookeeper Laura Childs poses for a picture with a spiney stick insect as she takes part in a photocall to promote London Zoo's annual stock take of animals on January 5, 2010.

At London Zoo, the animals come two by two -- and sometimes in fours and sixes as well. The zoo's annual 'stocktaking' took place on Tuesday, giving keepers a chance to check on the numbers of everything from stick insects to tigers -- and even a sex-change meerkat.


source: Daylife
photo: Gettyimages

The black-headed spider monkey baby 'Azusa'

11:38 PM Posted by ms.tk 0 comments

The black-headed spider monkey baby 'Azusa' holds a fluffy toy at the zoo in Wuppertal, western Germany on April 1, 2010.


The baby was born on October 31, 2009, but was raised by hand after integration problems with the monkey group.


source: Daylife
photo: Gettyimages

Female ring-tailed lemur 'Susen'

11:37 PM Posted by ms.tk 0 comments

Female ring-tailed lemur 'Susen' (R) enjoys fresh food as she carries her twin babies on her back on April 13, 2010 at the zoo in Dresden, eastern Germany.

The still nameless lemurs were born on March 17, 2010 at the zoo. Lemurs are endemic to the island of Madagascar.


source: Daylife
photo: Gettyimages

Bizarre beaked toad one of three new species discovered deep in the Colombian jungle

By DAILY MAIL REPORTER

Discovery: The new beaked toad species found in Choco, Columbia


Discovered deep in the heart of the Colombian jungle, this bizarre-looking beaked toad had never been seen before.

Smaller than a human thumbnail, the tiny beaked toad, with deep purple skin and small blue blotches, was among three new species of amphibian discovered by a British-led scientific team.

The environmental research team responsible for the discovery were hunting for a 'lost' species of toad not seen since World War One.


Tiny: The new beaked toad is no bigger than a human fingernail


Instead the researchers unearthed these three creatures - caught on camera by a British researcher.

The next newly found treasure is a red-legged tree frog with distinctive black streaks from nose to body. A brown toad with red eyes completes the new additions for the zoological record.

The pictures show the creatures in their native environment where they seem to scramble without fear of their human visitors.

As expedition leader, Scottish amphibian conservation officer and photographer, Robin Moore, 35, from Edinburgh, played a key role in the discovery.

'The amazing part is that nobody, in the history of its existence, has ever recorded its presence,' he said.

'It is tantalising to be reminded that there are still pockets of the unknown that provide us with a chance at discovery.

The organisation Robin works for, Conservation International, was founded in 1987 to use scientific studies to help protect delicate ecosystems and empower local communities.

Describing the moment they came upon their first new species, he said: 'We woke at 4.30 am and bundled into two vehicles to make the 10-hour drive.

'Clouds hung low with a promise of rain: perfect weather for frogs.

'We found some promising forest, left the car at the side of the road and scrambled up a steep, muddy slope in the rain. We had been walking for about an hour when a voice behind us alerted us to something unusual.

'Alonso, our Colombian partner, ran to meet us, holding a small, brown toad with bright red eyes. 'He knew instantly that what he was holding was a new species. The air buzzed with excitement as we clambered to take a look.

'It was a true honour to be looking at a species new to science, a species yet to even be named.'


Colourful: The new species of rocket frog (genus Colostethus) was also found


The new species of amphibians were discovered by the scientists as they hunted for a totally different frog species lost in the deep Colombian jungle for nearly 100 years.

The science team were attempting to rediscover the Mesopotamian beaked toad, which was only ever recorded once, in 1914.

Since American biologist Gladwin Noble made his discovery has disappeared from scientific records and no photographs are known to exist of the elusive toad.

The search for the Mesopotamian beaked toad continues. The scientists involved can only guess at what natural wonders they will find.

There are over 4000 species of frogs and toads known to exist, making them the most diverse group of amphibians.

They are cold blooded and usually lay eggs from which their offspring hatch.
Once born they go through a juvenile water-breathing tadpole stage before becoming mature air-breathers.

Amphibians evolved during the Devonian Period, approximately 250 million years ago.



Strange: The new harlequin toad species (genus Atelopus) was among the three new species found in the jungle

source: dailymail

Komodo dragons eat chickens at Jakarta Ragunan Zoo

10:15 PM Posted by ms.tk 0 comments

Komodo dragons eat chickens at Jakarta Ragunan Zoo on November 28, 2010. The komodo dragon is a vulnerable species found on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's red list, with approximately 4,000 to 5,000 living in the wild.




Workers feed komodos at Jakarta Ragunan Zoo on November 28, 2010. The komodo dragon is a vulnerable species found on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's red list, with approximately 4,000 to 5,000 living in the wild.



Komodo Dragons gather in enclosure at Ragunan zoo in Jakarta, Indonesia, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010.



Komodo activist Zebby Febrina (R) feeds komodos at Jakarta Ragunan Zoo on November 28, 2010. The komodo dragon is a vulnerable species found on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's red list, with approximately 4,000 to 5,000 living in the wild.



A keeper feeds Komodo Dragons at Ragunan zoo in Jakarta, Indonesia, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010.


Komodo dragons eat chickens at Jakarta Ragunan Zoo on November 28, 2010. The komodo dragon is a vulnerable species found on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's red list, with approximately 4,000 to 5,000 living in the wild.


source: Daylife
photo: AP photo

The Great Barrier Reef of Norfolk: 20 mile chalk bank found of British coast is world's longest

10:14 PM Posted by ms.tk 0 comments
By DAILY MAIL REPORTER

The spectacular chalk reef photographed by diver Rob Spray off the Norfolk coast


It is a mere stone’s throw from the shore and just 25ft under the sea’s surface.
But for 300 million years, no one realised that the world’s longest chalk reef lay off the coast of Norfolk.

It was only when divers surveyed what they thought was a small rocky plain earlier this year, that they discovered the towering arches of rock and deep chasms actually stretched for more than 20 miles

The marine haven has so many species, including sponges, sea slugs and fish, that experts are describing it as ‘Britain’s Great Barrier Reef’.

It is one-and-a-half times longer than the Thanet Coast chalk reefs in Kent, the former record holder.

Diver Rob Spray, 43, whose team discovered the reef, said: ‘It was like finding a natural Stonehenge hidden under the water.’

The true scale of the underwater landscape, which is likely to be made a protected reserve, only emerged when Mr Spray, who runs the Marine Conservation Society survey project, and his team of 20 volunteers were granted funding to do a survey of the structure.

He said: ‘We couldn’t believe it when we found it was actually 20 miles long and had this amazing complex of gullies and arches. In some areas it looks like a moonscape.’


An edible crab, surrounded by Plumose Anemones, discovered living at the reef


Rock fans: A 'smiling' tompot blenny fish and a butterfish are both found on the newly-discovered reef


Three species never before recorded on the East Anglian coast have already been found there; the leopard spotted goby, the blush-red strawberry anemone and the Atlantic ancula sea slug. It is also home to the rock-loving, ‘smiling’ tompot blenny fish.

The team next plan to find out how wide the reef is. Mr Spray added: ‘Every time we went back we found more. I never expected to find anything on this scale in Norfolk.’

Mr Spray, who has been diving in the North Sea with partner Dawn Watson, 41, for 12 years, knew there was a chalk area off the east coast but had always believed it was fairly small.

'We thought it would be a small project, but on the very first day we started five miles west of where we though the reef was and discovered chalk,' he said.

'So after our first dive we had already doubled the size of the known reef and every time we went back we found more and more.


Kate Risely, a Seasearch volunteer meeting a Common Lobster on the Sheringham reef


'We were also stunned to see it had so many significant features, such as the man high rock arches. I found one then suddenly discovered a whole row.

'It reminds me of reefs I have seen in Malta and I never expected to find anything on this scale in Norfolk.'

Mr Spray added: 'The chalk reefs are fantastic for wildlife and are teaming with shoals of reef-loving fish, coated with anemones and hosting characters such as the tompot blenny.

'Animals and plants can live in sand and gravel but they are hostile environments and rocky reefs are much better as they enable creatures to get up into the water column to feed.'

The divers hope the reef will be made into a protected reserve under European law.
They also plan to continue their survey next year to find out how wide the reef is, so they can work out its total area.

'The white chalk gives this reef a really unique character and we hope people will now come to Norfolk to see it for themselves,' he said.

'Norfolk is an easy place to dive and you can walk just 100 metres out from the coast and be on the reef.

'I think the reef will really benefit tourism in the county and we hope it will officially be made into a reserve as it has no real protection at the moment.'

Although less than one per cent of the UK coastline is chalk, the UK has 75 per cent of the chalk reefs in Europe.

The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is the largest reef in the world stretching over 1800 miles.

There are a handful of cold water coral reefs around Britain, including one off Rockall, an isolated island 200 miles off Scotland.



The chalk reef was discovered by divers just off the coast of Norfolk but its exact location has not been disclosed


source: dailymail