|2014-02-26. Two Death Valley plants saved by the Endangered Species Act. Excerpt: Eureka Dunes, a towering expanse of shifting slopes wedged between weathered mountains in the Mojave Desert, had a reputation as a campground, an off-road vehicle course and a home to a few plant species found no place else on Earth. In the late 1970s, the dunes earned a reputation as an area where the Eureka Valley evening primrose and Eureka dune grass were listed as federally endangered species to protect them from being driven to extinction by off-road vehicle recreation. On Wednesday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed that the plants be removed from the list because their populations have stabilized in a region that became part of Death Valley National Park in 1994....Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, said, “This is an example of what can happen when off-road vehicles are no longer crushing rare desert plant species and habitat under their wheels.”.... http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-death-valley-plants-saved-20140226,0,7595235.story#ixzz2uvOX3STM. Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times.
2014-02-20. Peru's Manu National Park Home to Most Amphibians and Reptiles on Earth. Excerpt: ...Amphibian and reptile biodiversity is greatest in the world at Peru's Manu National Park, according to a new study...published in the journal Biota Neotropica, identifies 287 reptiles and amphibians in the park, which encompasses high-altitude cloud forests, lowland Amazonian rainforest and Andean grasslands. ...Manu National Park's collection includes 155 amphibian and 132 reptile species, ... more than 1,000 bird species and more than 1,200 butterfly species. The park was recognized as a UNESCO Biosphere Preserve in 1977 and a World Heritage Site in 1987. ...The researchers attribute Manu National Park's remarkable species diversity to its large area and steep topographic variation. The park only represents an estimated 0.01 percent of the Earth's land area, but is home to 2.2 percent of all amphibians and 1.5 percent of all reptiles known worldwide, the biologists said. The park's biodiversity is threatened, however, by the chytrid fungus, which has caused a decline in the number of frogs there, .... Deforestation for subsistence living, gold mining and oil and gas drilling are encroaching on the buffer zone around the park, the researchers said in a statement, noting that these pose threats not just to wildlife, but to the indigenous tribes that call the park home. http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/6113/20140220/perus-manu-national-park-home-amphibians-reptiles-earth-video.htm. [VIDEO] By James A. Foley, Nature World News.
2013-10-15. Moose Die-Off Alarms Scientists. Excerpt: ...Across North America — in places as far-flung as Montana and British Columbia, New Hampshire and Minnesota — moose populations are in steep decline. And no one is sure why. ...Several factors are clearly at work. But a common thread in most hypotheses is climate change. Winters have grown substantially shorter across much of the moose’s range. In New Hampshire, a longer fall with less snow has greatly increased the number of winter ticks, a devastating parasite. “You can get 100,000 ticks on a moose,” said Kristine Rines, a biologist with the state’s Fish and Game Department. In Minnesota, the leading culprits are brain worms and liver flukes. Both spend part of their life cycles in snails, which thrive in moist environments. Another theory is heat stress. Moose are made for cold weather, and when the temperature rises above 23 degrees Fahrenheit in winter, as has happened more often in recent years, they expend extra energy to stay cool. That can lead to exhaustion and death. ...Unregulated hunting may also play a role in moose mortality. So may wolves in Minnesota and the West.... http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/15/science/earth/something-is-killing-off-the-moose.html. Jim Robbins, The New York Times.
2013-06-10. A Glamorous Killer Returns. Excerpt: ... about seven feet long, nose to tail, and weighed up to 160 pounds. Given a dietary choice, they preferred deer, but would eat almost anything that moved: elk, bighorn sheep, wild horses, beaver, even porcupines. Left free for an evening, they were capable of killing a dozen domestic sheep before dawn, eating their fill and leaving the rest for the buzzards. They were also known to attack humans on occasion. Long ago the Inca called them puma, but today — though they belong to only one species — they have many names. In Arizona they are known as mountain lions; in Florida they are panthers, and elsewhere in the South they are called painters. When they roamed New England, they were called catamounts. In much of the Midwest they are known as cougars, .... All but exterminated east of the Rockies by 1900, they were treated as “varmints” in most Western states until the late ’60s and could be shot on sight. In Maine, the last catamount was killed in 1938. But today Puma concolor is back on the prowl. That is one of the great success stories in wildlife conservation, but also a source of concern among biologists and other advocates, for their increasing numbers make them harder to manage — and harder for people to tolerate. No reliable estimate exists for the cougar population at its lowest point, before the 1970s, but there are now believed to be more than 30,000 in North America. They have recolonized the Black Hills of South Dakota, the North Dakota Badlands and the Pine Ridge country of northwestern Nebraska. ...And as cougars migrate eastward, they are likely to wear out their welcome. People in states unaccustomed to these outsize prowlers will have to answer unpleasant questions: How many livestock and game animals are people willing to lose? How dangerous are cougars to pets and children? How much disruption is a small community willing to endure?.... http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/11/science/cougars-glamorous-killers-expand-their-range.html. Guy Gugliotta, New York Times.
2013-06-07. Gray wolves to be removed from endangered species list. Excerpt: Gray wolves no longer face the threat of extinction, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Calling the recovery “one of the most remarkable success stories in the history of conservation," FWS Director Dan Ashe announced today the agency is proposing to remove all of the nation's wolves from the endangered species list, turning management over to states. Federal protection will remain for the Mexican wolf. ...in most states they'll still be under state-level endangered species protection. “No one suggests that gray wolves don’t require management,” Ashe said in a teleconference on Friday. “The issue is whether gray wolves still require federal protection under the endangered species act, and we believe quite clearly they do not." Friday’s de-listing proposal is already being questioned by some environmentalists who view the move as premature. “Wolves currently inhabit only a fraction of their former range, and this proposal will cut off wolf recovery from vast areas of suitable habitat out west where the species can still thrive,” Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of Defenders of Wildlife, said in a press release. But Ashe firmly told reporters at the teleconference that for wolves to be considered recovered, they do not need to occupy most or all of their historic range. He also said he expected to see wolves continue to expand into northern California, Utah, Nevada and Colorado under state management. Center for Biological Diversity’s endangered species director, Noah Greenwald, worried states would kill too many wolves under their management plans. ...Officials need to keep the total number of wolves around 140, with at least 10 breeding pairs, to avoid a re-listing.... http://www.hcn.org/blogs/goat/gray-wolves-to-be-removed-from-endangered-species-list. Emily Guerin, High Country News.
2013-05-08. Who Would Kill a Monk Seal?. Excerpt: The Hawaiian monk seal has wiry whiskers and the deep, round eyes of an apologetic child. ...The seals can grow to seven feet long and weigh 450 pounds. ... Monk seals are easy targets. After the Polynesians landed in Hawaii, about 1,500 years ago, the animals mostly vanished, slaughtered for meat or oil or scared off by the settlers’ dogs. But the species quietly survived in the Leeward Islands, northwest of the main Hawaiian chain — a remote archipelago, .... There are now about 900 monk seals in the Leewards, and the population has been shrinking for 25 years, making the seal among the world’s most imperiled marine mammals. The monk seal was designated an endangered species in 1976. Around that time, however, a few monk seals began trekking back into the main Hawaiian Islands — “the mains” — and started having pups. These pioneers came on their own, oblivious to the sprawling federal project just getting under way to help them. Even now, recovering the species is projected to cost $378 million and take 54 years. ...The animals have been met by many islanders with a convoluted mix of resentment and spite. This fury has led to what the government is calling a string of “suspicious deaths.” .... Jon Mooallem, New York Times Magazine. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/12/magazine/who-would-kill-a-monk-seal.html?ref=magazine&_r=1&
2013-03-05. Conservationists say online ivory trade poses threat to African elephants | Associated Press. Excerpt: BANGKOK — Conservationists say there’s a new threat to the survival of Africa’s endangered elephants that may be just as deadly as poachers’ bullets: the black-market trade of ivory in cyberspace. Illegal tusks are being bought and sold on countless Internet forums and shopping websites worldwide, including Internet giant Google, ...“The Internet is anonymous, it’s open 24 hours a day for business, and selling illegal ivory online is a low-risk, high-profit activity for criminals,” Tania McCrea-Steele of the International Fund for Animal Welfare told The Associated Press ...IFAW found 17,847 elephant products listed on 13 websites in China. ...illegal ivory trading online is an issue within the U.S., including on eBay, and it is rife on some websites in Europe, particularly nations with colonial links to Africa. It is often advertised with code words like “ox-bone,” ‘’white gold,” ‘’unburnable bone,” or “cold to the touch,” and shipped through the mail. Another conservation advocacy group, the Environmental Investigation Agency, said Tuesday that Google Japan’s shopping site now has 10,000 ads promoting ivory sales. About 80 percent of the ads are for “hanko,” small wooden stamps inlaid with ivory lettering that are widely used in Japan to affix signature seals to official documents; the rest are carvings and other small objects. The trade is legal within Japan.... The EIA said hanko sales are a “major demand driver for elephant ivory.” ...About 70 years ago, up to 5 million elephants were believed to have roamed the African continent. Today, just several hundred thousand are left. See full article at http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/conservationists-say-online-ivory-trade-poses-threat-to-african-elephants/2013/03/05/597217e2-8611-11e2-a80b-3edc779b676f_story.html.
2013 February 27. Tusk tracking will tackle illegal trade. By Daniel Cressey, Nature. Excerpt: International treaties meant to protect elephants are not working. Researchers estimate that tens of thousands of African elephants are now being killed by poachers each year, from a total wild population of around 400,000... Nearly 39,000 kilograms of illegal ivory were traded worldwide in 2011, more than at any other time in the 16-year history of the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS), which tracks the ivory trade for CITES. Another CITES programme, Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants, will report at the meeting that between 3.5% and 11.7% of the total African elephant population was killed by poachers in 2011 — the worst year for illegal killing since the programme began collecting data in 2002....Poachers in Samburu are also switching focus from males to older females and killing entire social groups, says Wittemyer....Scientists argue that an international drive to trace seized ivory back to its origins is urgently needed, so that authorities can curb poaching before elephant populations collapse. There are few reliable estimates of regional elephant numbers, and counting corpses is inaccurate because many are likely to be lost in the vast forests and savannahs of Africa. A team led by Wasser has developed a map of DNA samples collected across Africa1, 2 — often from elephant dung — which it uses to pinpoint the probable origins of seized ivory samples (see ‘Hunting the poachers’).….
2012 October 07. State learns sad lesson with Wedge Pack wolf hunt. By Nicholas K. Geranios, The Seattle Times. Excerpt: …The Wedge Pack of wolves has killed between 40 and 50 head of cattle on his Diamond M Ranch, located near the Canadian border north of Kettle Falls, Stevens County, in Northeastern Washington. That prompted a huge effort by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to wipe out the pack, less than a year after adopting a plan to recover wolf populations in the state. The Wedge Pack needed to be wiped out because the wolves appeared to have switched from preying on deer, elk and moose and instead were focusing on cattle, state officials said. The expensive hunting effort — which included shooting wolves from helicopters — concluded last week...The hunt was expensive, although the costs have not been tallied yet, Ware said. They include four days of helicopter use, plus weeks of overtime for various state employees, Ware said. He said any future wolf hunts probably will not have to be on this scale....
2012 August 15. Blue iguana breeding program succeeding | by Associated Press, San Francisco Chronicle. Excerpt: Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands. The blue iguana has lived on the rocky shores of Grand Cayman for at least a couple of million years, preening like a miniature turquoise dragon as it soaked in the sun or sheltered inside crevices. Yet having survived everything from tropical hurricanes to ice ages, it was driven to near-extinction by dogs, cats and cars.
Now, though, a breeding program some see as a global model has worked better than any had hoped to dream for a species that numbered less than a dozen in the wild just a decade ago, preyed upon by escaped pets and struggling to survive in a habitat eroded by the advance of human settlement…. Read the full article: http://www.sfgate.com/science/article/Blue-iguana-breeding-program-succeeding-3791959.php#ixzz23jK5mFRP
2012 Jun 07. 100 Amazon birds risk extinction, group says. By Jenny Barchfield, Associated Press. Excerpt: The list of Amazon bird species facing danger of extinction has risen sharply because their rainforest habitat is being slashed to make room for cattle ranching and agriculture, a conservationist group said Thursday. BirdLife International said that globally, 1,331 types of birds, or 13 percent of the world's 10,064 total bird species, were listed as at risk on this year's Red List of Threatened Species…The biggest jump came in the Amazon, where 100 Amazon avian species are now on the Red List, three of them in the highest-risk, "critically endangered" category. Only 10 were listed last year. The sudden jump is due to new models of future deforestation, which predicted accelerating destruction over the coming decade. "We have previously underestimated the risk of extinction that many of Amazonia's bird species are facing," said Leon Bennun, BirdLife's director of science, in a news release…"Given the weakening of Brazilian forest law, the situation might be even worse than recent studies have predicted," he said, referring to Brazil's new Forest Code, which loosens protections on the Amazon and is expected to take effect in the coming months.…
2012 May 27. To Save Some Species, Zoos Must Let Others Die. By Leslie Kaufman, The NY Times. Excerpt: As the number of species at risk of extinction soars, zoos are increasingly being called upon to rescue and sustain animals, and not just for marquee breeds like pandas and rhinos but also for all manner of mammals, frogs, birds and insects whose populations are suddenly crashing. To conserve animals effectively, however, zoo officials have concluded that they must winnow species in their care and devote more resources to a chosen few. The result is that zookeepers, usually animal lovers to the core, are increasingly being pressed into making cold calculations about which animals are the most crucial to save. Some days, the burden feels less like Noah building an ark and more like Schindler making a list....
2011 November 11. Western black rhino declared extinct. By Matthew Knight, CNN News. Excerpt: Africa's western black rhino is now officially extinct according the latest review of animals and plants by the world's largest conservation network.
The subspecies of the black rhino -- which is classified as "critically endangered" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species -- was last seen in western Africa in 2006….
...The latest update to the IUCN [International Union for Conservation of Nature] Red List of Threatened Species reviews more than 60,000 species, concluding that 25% of mammals on the list are at risk of extinction. ...Recent studies of 79 tropical plants in the Indian Ocean archipelago revealed that more than three quarters of them were at risk of extinction. In the oceans, the IUCN reports that five out of eight tuna species are now "threatened" or "near threatened"...
2011 April 25. A Passion for Nature, and Really Long Lists. By Nicholas Wade, The New York Times. Excerpt: Jesse H. Ausubel, a Rockefeller University environmental researcher who is also vice president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation of New York...writes and thinks about the environment. Under his foundation hat, he has so far started four major international programs to survey the planet and catalog its biological diversity.
…Mr. Ausubel explained his view that the environment will be protected, not harmed, by technology. Over the long run, he notes, the economy requires more efficient forms of energy, and these are inherently sparing of the environment.
2010 Nov 26. The Fight for Yasuni. By Eric Marx, Science. Abstract: Over the past decade, biologists working in Ecuador's Yasuni National Park and the adjoining Waorani Ethnic Reserve, a 17,000-kilometer section of the Amazon Basin that was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1989, have documented Yasuni's remarkable biodiversity, providing evidence that its forest has the highest number of species on the planet, including an unprecedented core where there are overlapping world richness records for amphibians, reptiles, bats, and trees. Through a group called Scientists Concerned for Yasuni, these researchers have waged an international campaign to protect the location, which happens to sit atop Ecuador's second largest reserve of crude oil. This unabashed science-based advocacy has had an impact...
2010 Oct 26 The Impact of Conservation on the Status of the World’s Vertebrates. By Michael Hoffmann et al., Science. Abstract: Using data for 25,780 species categorized on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, we present an assessment of the status of the world’s vertebrates. One-fifth of species are classified as Threatened, and we show that this figure is increasing: On average, 52 species of mammals, birds and amphibians move one category closer to extinction each year. However, this overall pattern conceals the impact of conservation successes, and we show that the rate of deterioration would have been at least one-fifth as much again in the absence of these. Nonetheless, current conservation efforts remain insufficient to offset the main drivers of biodiversity loss in these groups: agricultural expansion, logging, overexploitation, and invasive alien species.
2010 Oct 26. Scenarios for Global Biodiversity in the 21st Century. Henrique M. Pereira, Paul W. Leadley, et al., Science. Abstract: Quantitative scenarios are coming of age as a tool for evaluating the impact of future socioeconomic development pathways on biodiversity and ecosystem services. We analyze global terrestrial, freshwater, and marine biodiversity scenarios using a range of measures including extinctions, changes in species abundance, habitat loss, and distribution shifts, as well as comparing model projections to observations. Scenarios consistently indicate that biodiversity will continue to decline over the 21st century. However, the range of projected changes is much broader than most studies suggest, partly because there are significant opportunities to intervene through better policies, but also because of large uncertainties in projections.
2010 October 5. Toiling to Save a Threatened Frog. By Erica Rex, The New York Times. Excerpt: ...Vance Vredenburg, a professor of biology at San Francisco State University, is conducting an experiment he hopes will help preserve what remains of these once abundant creatures. Dr. Vredenburg and his colleagues are inoculating chytrid-infected frogs with a bacteria, Janthinobacterium lividum, or J. liv, that does not prevent infection with chytrid but can help frogs survive...
2010 Sep 17. In Search of the Grizzly (if Any Are Left). By William Yardley, The New York Times. Excerpt: PASAYTEN WILDERNESS, Wash. -- “Here,” said Bill Gaines, a wildlife biologist for the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, “is the mother lode.”
Caught on a prong of barbed wire that he had strung weeks earlier in these remote mountains was a tantalizing clue: strands of light brown bear hair.
...Mr. Gaines is leading the most ambitious effort ever to document whether grizzlies still exist here — a century after fur trappers and ranchers killed them off by the hundreds — at a time when tension is high in the West over the fate of wild predators like gray wolves. While many people want the grizzlies, an endangered species, to make a comeback here, others worry that more bears will mean more conflict.
“Grizzlies are a threat to livestock and to humans,” said John Stuhlmiller, the director of government relations at the Washington State Farm Bureau…. People whose livelihoods are not threatened by predators do not get it, Mr. Stuhlmiller said. “If my 401(k) was being raided by grizzly bears, I would think differently,” he said.
…For nearly 30 years the federal government has had a program to help restore the grizzly bear population in Idaho, Montana, Washington and Wyoming. It has made a difference in places like Yellowstone National Park and the Continental Divide region of Montana, but not in the North Cascades, one of six designated recovery zones. Instead, this area has been locked in a virtual standstill as political winds shift over the preservation of large predators.
…Yet small steps are being taken. If the study in the North Cascades proves that grizzlies still live in the area, advocates for recovery will probably face less political opposition. This is because they would be augmenting the historic population, not trying to rebuild the population from scratch when there were no bears at all.
2010 April 29. World's 2010 nature target 'will not be met'. By Richard Black, BBC News. Excerpt: The world's governments will not meet their internationally-agreed target of curbing the loss of species and nature by 2010, a major study has confirmed.
Virtually all species and ecosystems show continued decline, while pressures on nature are increasing, it concludes.
Published in the journal Science, the study confirms what conservationists have known for several years.
The 2010 target was adopted in 2002, but the scientists behind this study say implementation has been "woeful".
"Our analysis shows that governments have failed to deliver on the commitments they made in 2002," said research leader Stuart Butchart, from the UN Environment Programme's World Conservation Monitoring Centre (Unep-WCMC) and BirdLife International.
"Biodiversity is still being lost as fast as ever, and we have made little headway in reducing the pressures on species, habitats and ecosystems."
Unep chief scientist Joseph Alcamo added: "Since 1970, we have reduced animal populations by 30%, the area of mangroves and seagrasses by 20% and the coverage of living corals by 40%.
"These losses are clearly unsustainable."...
2010 April 10. Giant Lizard Discovered in the Philippines is New Species. NY Times. Excerpt: MANILA, Philippines (AP) -- Researchers have concluded that a giant, golden-spotted monitor lizard discovered in the forested mountains of the Philippines six years ago is a new species, according to a study released Wednesday.
The 6.5-foot (2-meter) -long lizard was first spotted in 2004 in the Sierra Madre mountains on the main island of Luzon when local researchers saw local Agta tribesmen carrying one of the dead reptiles.
But it took until last year to determine it was a new species. After capturing an adult, researchers from the University of Kansas and the National Museum of the Philippines obtained DNA samples that helped confirm the lizard was new to science.
...''I knew as soon as I saw the animal that it was something special,'' Luke Welton, a graduate student at the University of Kansas and one of the co-authors of the study, said in a statement.
It is not that unusual to find a new species of tiny fish, frog or insect these days. But Welton and his colleagues said it was a ''rare occurrence'' to discover such a large vertebrate, particularly on an island hit by deforestation and nearby development. They compared their find to the 1993 discovery of the forest-dwelling Saola ox in Vietnam and a new monkey species discovered in the highlands of Tanzania in 2006....
2010 March 12. Climate Change Threatens Migratory Birds, Report Says. By John M. Broder, NY Times. Excerpt: WASHINGTON — Changes in the global climate are imposing additional stress on hundreds of species of migratory birds in the United States that are already threatened by other environmental factors, according to a new Interior Department report.
The latest version of the department’s annual State of the Birds report shows that nearly a third of the nation’s 800 bird species are endangered, threatened or suffering from population decline.
For the first time, the report adds climate change to other factors threatening bird populations, including destruction of habitat, hunting, pesticides, invasive species and loss of wetlands....
2010 Feb 18. World's most endangered primates revealed. IUCN. Excerpt: Mankind’s closest living relatives – the world’s apes, monkeys, lemurs and other primates – are on the brink of extinction and in need of urgent conservation measures according to Primates in Peril: The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates, 2008–2010.
The report, compiled by 85 experts from across the world, reveals that nearly half of all primate species are now in danger of becoming extinct from destruction of tropical forests, illegal wildlife trade and commercial bushmeat hunting. The list includes five primate species from Madagascar, six from Africa, 11 from Asia, and three from Central and South America, all of which are the most in need of urgent conservation action.
Conservationists want to highlight the plight of species such as the golden headed langur (Trachypithecus p. poliocephalus), which is found only on the island of Cat Ba in the Gulf of Tonkin, north-eastern Vietnam, where just 60 to 70 individuals remain. Similarly, there are thought to be less than 100 individual northern sportive lemurs (Lepilemur septentrionalis) left in Madagascar, and around 110 eastern black crested gibbons (Nomascus nasutus) in northeastern Vietnam.
...Almost half (48 percent) of the world’s 634 primate species are classified as threatened with extinction on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™. The main threats are habitat destruction, particularly from the burning and clearing of tropical forests (which results in the release of around 16 percent of the global greenhouse gases causing climate change), the hunting of primates for food, and the illegal wildlife trade....
2009 November 23. In the Dark: Unusual Deep-Sea Species Documented [Slide Show]. By Katherine Harmon, Scientific American. Excerpt: The darkest reaches of the ocean have long been thought of as a desolate biome. But as researchers send equipment down to document these mysterious depths, they are quickly learning not only that it is teaming with life, but also that it boasts surprising diversity.
More than 340 scientists from around the world have been working over the past nine years to complete the Census of Marine Life, a project that has sent out dozens of expeditions to document ocean life at all levels of the sea....
2009 July 25. New Creatures in an Age of Extinctions. By Natalie Angier, The NY Times. Excerpt: ...Since the last summary of the world’s mammals was published in 2005, tallying the roughly 5,400 mammalian species then known, Dr. Helgen, curator of mammals at Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, said an astounding 400 or so new species have been added to the list. “Most people don’t realize this,” he said, “but we are smack-dab in the middle of the age of discovery for mammals.”
Yet as he and other biologists are all too aware, we are also smack-dab in the middle of a great species smack down, an age of mass extinctions for which we humans are largely to blame. Estimates of annual species loss vary widely and are merely crude guesstimates anyway, but most researchers agree that, as a result of habitat destruction, climate volatility, pesticide runoff, ocean dumping, jet-setting invasive species and other “anthropogenic” effects on the environment, the extinction rate is many times above nature’s chronic winnowing. “Our best guess is that it’s hugely above baseline, a hundred times above baseline,” said John Robinson, an executive vice president at the Wildlife Conservation Society. “The problem is, we’ve only described an estimated 15 percent of all species on Earth, so most of what’s going extinct are things we didn’t even know existed.”
In sum, we have a provocatively twinned set of rising figures: on the one hand, the known knowns, that is, the number of new species that researchers are divulging by the day; and on the other, the unknown unknowns, the creatures that are fast disappearing without benefit of a Linnaean tag....
2009 July 2. World 'still losing biodiversity'. BBC News. Excerpt: An unacceptable number of species are still being lost forever despite world leaders pledging action to reverse the trend, a report has warned. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) says the commitment to reduce biodiversity loss by 2010 will not be met. It warns that a third of amphibians, a quarter of mammals and one-in-eight birds are threatened with extinction. The analysis is based on the 44,838 species on the IUCN Red List.
"The report makes for depressing reading," said co-editor Craig Hilton Taylor, manager of the IUCN's Red List Unit.
"It tells us that the extinction crisis is as bad, or even worse than we believed.
...The main policy mechanism to tackle the loss is the Convention for Biological Diversity (CBD), which came into force in 1993... Currently, 168 nations are signatories to the convention, which set the target "to achieve by 2010 a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national level".
Jean-Christophe Vie, deputy head of the IUCN's Species Programme, warned that the scale of "wildlife crisis" was far worse than the current global economic crisis.
"It is time to recognise that nature is the largest company on Earth working for the benefit of 100% of humankind," he said....
The assessment lists 869 species as Extinct or Extinct in the Wild. Overall, the report categorises at least 16,928 species as being threatened with extinction....
2009 June 17. Dingoes 'could help rare species'. By Richard Black, BBC News. Excerpt: Re-introducing dingoes across tracts of Australia could have benefits for wildlife and possibly cattle farmers.
Researchers found that dingoes suppress populations of kangaroos and red foxes, which are big consumers of vegetation and small mammals respectively.
Writing in the Royal Society's journal Proceedings B, they say the benefits of dingoes outweigh concerns over their presence as an "alien predator".
The wild dogs were brought to Australia about 5,000 years ago. Their appetite for sheep means they have been expelled from large swathes of the country, notably the productive farmlands of New South Wales and Victoria, where a "dingo fence" more than 5,000km long has been erected to keep the predators out.
But this may have contributed to the demise of some native animals and the endangerment of many more.
"There is a lot of pressure to get rid of dingoes, and they can do damage," said Michael Letnic from the University of Sydney.
..."But dingoes suppress fox and kangaroo numbers, and when you don't have dingoes in the system, kangaroos basically eat all the herbiage and foxes take all of the prey."...
2009 February 17. Debate Rages Over Elk Feeding. By Kirk Johnson, The NY Times. Excerpt: JACKSON, Wyo. — When the mighty elk herds of the West were facing the possibility of extinction from overhunting, settlement and neglect a century ago, people here stepped forward and began what has turned out to be a profound biological experiment.
They offered food to the straggling survivors.
The Jackson herd, now tens of thousands of animals strong, became the foundation for a resurgent elk population. After the federal government stepped in to run the feeding system in 1912, a self-reinforcing loop of tourism, hunting, ranching and politics emerged. Having lots of elk in one place where humans would feed them, year in and year out, gradually became a goal in itself, shrouded with complex motives and enshrined by time.
...Now a new and tightening circle of challenges is closing in on the elk and the human system that has sustained them, forcing a debate over the science, emotion and economics of protecting these magnificent animals and the landscape they inhabit. At the center is a critical question: Did human kindness backfire, setting the elk up for disaster?
A federal lawsuit filed last year by a coalition of environmental groups charges that feeding the elk violates the Fish and Wildlife Service’s charter to manage refuges for healthy populations and biological integrity. Feeding programs, the suit argues, endanger the elk and create monocultures that degrade the landscape for other creatures, like birds, which can no longer nest on feeding grounds stripped of willows by the ravenous herd....
2008 October 6. One in 4 Mammals Threatened With Extinction, Group Finds. By James Kanter, The New York Times. Excerpt: BARCELONA, Spain — An “extinction crisis” is under way, with one in four mammals in danger of disappearing because of habitat loss, hunting and climate change, a leading global conservation body warned Monday.
“Within our lifetime, hundreds of species could be lost as a result of our own actions,” said Julia Marton-Lefèvre, the director general of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, or I.U.C.N., a network of campaign groups, governments, scientists and other experts.
Among 188 mammals in the group’s highest threat category — critically endangered — was the Iberian lynx, which has an estimated population of 84 adults and has continued to decline as its primary prey, the European rabbit, has fallen victim to disease and overhunting.
...Jan Schipper, the director of the global mammal assessment for the I.U.C.N. and for Conservation International, an environmental group, said it was hard to draw a direct comparison with the last detailed survey on mammals, in 1996. New species have been identified, others discovered, and the criteria used to assess species have been made more broadly applicable across all animals and plants.
But he gave a mostly bleak assessment.
“Although 5 percent of mammals are recovering, what we observe are rates of habitat loss and hunting in Southeast Asia, Central Africa and Central and South America that are so serious that the overall rate of decline has steadily increased during the past decade,” Mr. Schipper said....
2008 Aug 5. Trove of Endangered Gorillas Found in Africa. By ANDREW C. REVKIN, NY Times. Excerpt: A grueling survey of vast tracts of forest and swamp in the northern Congo Republic has revealed the presence of more than 125,000 western lowland gorillas, a rare example of abundance in a world of rapidly vanishing primate populations.
As recently as last year, this subspecies of the world's largest primate was listed as critically endangered by international wildlife organizations because known populations - estimated at less than 100,000 in the 1980s - had been devastated by hunting and outbreaks of Ebola virus. The three other subspecies are either critically endangered or endangered.
The survey was conducted by the Wildlife Conservation Society and local researchers in largely unstudied terrain, including a swampy region nicknamed the "green abyss" by the first biologists to cross it.
...The lowland gorillas discovered in the Congo Republic survey are secure for now, but pressures are growing on wildlife in central Africa as international demand builds for tropical hardwood and other resources. The government of Congo Republic has granted national park status to one of the studied regions, Ntokou-Pikounda, which is estimated to hold 73,000 gorillas. But there is little money for staff or operations, conservation society officials said....
2008 Aug 5. Alaska: Suit Filed Over Polar Bears. By WIRE SERVICES. Excerpt: The state has sued Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, seeking to reverse his decision to give polar bears protection under the Endangered Species Act.... The lawsuit, filed Monday, argues that the Interior Department failed to consider that polar bears had survived previous warming periods....
2008 July 15. Efforts on 2 Fronts to Save a Population of Ferrets. By Jim Robbins, The New York Times. Excerpt: WALL, S.D. — A colony that contains nearly half of the black-footed ferrets in the country and which biologists say is critical to the long-term health of the species has been struck by plague, which may have killed a third of the 300 animals.
A much-publicized endangered species in the 1970s that had dwindled to 18 animals, the black-footed ferret had struggled to make a comeback and had been doing relatively well for decades. But plague, always a threat to the ferrets and their main prey, prairie dogs, has struck with a vengeance this year, partly because of the wet spring.
The ferrets are an easy target for the bacteria. “They are exquisitely sensitive to the plague,” said Travis Livieri, a wildlife biologist here who is trying to save the colony. “They don’t just get sick, they die. No ifs, ands or buts.”...
But the fight is not only against the plague. While the federal Forest Service is part of the effort to protect ferrets, it has also, at the request of area ranchers, poisoned several thousands of acres of prairie dogs on the edge of the Conata Basin, a buffer strip of federal land adjacent to private grazing land. The buffer strip does not have ferrets, but it is good ferret habitat, experts say, and if they were to spread there it could help support the recovery.
But prairie dogs eat grass, and a large village can denude grazing land.
Of even more concern to biologists and environmentalists, though, is a Forest Service study of an expanded effort to kill prairie dogs in ferret habitat, which biologists say could be devastating to the restoration of the ferrets.
...Enough prairie dogs need to survive the plague to keep the ferrets from starving to death. One ferret eats 125 to 150 prairie dogs a year...
Summer 2008. Jurassic Beach. Jennifer Uscher, Nature Conservancy Magazine. Excerpt: ... Throughout most of the past century, the horseshoe crab never registered as much more than an oddity for beach goers to step around.... "My grandparents fed them to their chickens and their hogs; it was the only thing they were good for," says Bill Hall, a marine researcher and education specialist at the University of Delaware. Then, in the 1950s, scientists discovered a compound in the crab's copper-based blood that clots when it comes into contact with harmful bacteria. Many countries, including the United States, now require that the biomedical industry use this compound, called lysate, to test just about any object or substance used during a medical procedure that could cause infection-syringes, scalpels, intravenous drugs.
"Most people have no idea," says Hall ...But thanks to lysate's ability to alert against infection, the horseshoe crab has helped save many lives-more than a million people, according to one estimate-since the compound was discovered.
To supply the biomedical industry with this anti-infection compound ... approximately 300,000 crabs are caught and bled each year. While some of these crabs are returned to the ocean, only a little worse for the wear, as much as 40 percent of the catch dies from the trauma or is sold to the bait industry. Bill Hall helped start the crab count in 1990 in part to monitor the impact of the biomedical industry, which had-and still has-a huge stake in sustainably managing the horseshoe harvest. "This crab saves lives," says Hall. "There is nothing to replace it."
While the biomedical industry's limited catch was not considered a major threat to the horseshoe crab population, in the mid-1990s Hall and others began to notice signs that something was going wrong with the numbers of crabs coming onto shore during the annual spawning counts.
Half a world away, a culinary trend was sending the Delaware Bay horseshoe crab population into a downward spiral. Beginning in the 1990s, surging demand in Asia for whelk (or conch, as it is called) and American eel gave watermen along the Atlantic Coast a big incentive to catch horseshoe crabs, which they slice up and use as bait in traps. ...From the late 1960s to 1996, the annual catch increased from 10 tons to 2,550 tons.
A crash in the horseshoe population wasn't far behind. And ... it put at risk dozens of other species, including threatened loggerhead sea turtles ... and at least 11 species of migratory birds, which rely on the crab's protein-packed eggs as a crucial food source during their intercontinental spring migrations....
2008 May 15. Polar Bear Is Made a Protected Species. By FELICITY BARRINGER, NY Times. The polar bear, whose summertime Arctic hunting grounds have been greatly reduced by a warming climate, will be placed under the protection of the Endangered Species Act, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne announced on Wednesday.
But the long-delayed decision to list the bear as a threatened species may prove less of an impediment to oil and gas industries along the Alaskan coast than many environmentalists had hoped. Mr. Kempthorne also made it clear that it would be "wholly inappropriate" to use the listing as a tool to reduce greenhouse gases, as environmentalists had intended to do.
... the Interior Department added stipulations, seldom used under the act, that would allow oil and gas exploration and development to proceed in areas where the bears live, as long as the companies continue to comply with existing restrictions under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Mr. Kempthorne said Wednesday in Washington that the decision was driven by overwhelming scientific evidence that "sea ice is vital to polar bears' survival," and all available scientific models show that the rapid loss of ice will continue. The bears use sea ice as a platform to hunt seals and as a pathway to the Arctic coasts where they den.
...The Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace and the Natural Resources Defense Council filed suit in 2005 to force a listing of the polar bear. ...Kassie Siegel, a lawyer for the Center for Biological Diversity, said the listing decision was an acknowledgment of "global warming's urgency" but would have little practical impact on protecting polar bears.
...Over all, scientists agree that rising temperatures will reduce Arctic ice and stress polar bears, which prefer seals they hunt on the floes. But few foresee the species vanishing entirely for a century and likely longer.
...The territorial government of Nunavut, which is home to upward of 15,000 polar bears, had campaigned against new United States protections for the bear, largely because of worries that the lucrative local bear hunts by residents of the United States would stop when trophy skins could no longer be brought home.
2008 Apr 13. In the West, a Fierce Battle Over Wolves. By KIRK JOHNSON. The NY Times. Excerpt: DENVER - ...Since March 28, when the wolf was taken off the list of federally protected species in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, a fierce battle of perceptions and posturing has unfolded on the Web and in the news media as pro-wolf and anti-wolf forces stake out sometimes hyperbolic positions concerning where in the West animals and humans should exist.
The backdrop is a running time clock and a lawsuit. On April 28, a coalition of environmental groups has said it will to go federal court challenging the decision to lift protections.
Until then, the court of public opinion is in session, as cases are built for how the new system of state management is working or not. ...Some ranchers and hunters urge caution in killing wolves unnecessarily, to avoid inflaming emotions that could haunt the legal process later on.
"I would certainly not want to create any useful ammunition, no pun intended, for the pro-wolf environmental groups that have announced their intention to sue," said Budd Betts, a dude-ranch operator and former Wyoming state legislator near Jackson Hole. "The legal aspect is connected to the emotional and the political, and no judge is immune."
Pro-wolf forces, meanwhile, say that wolf killers may have created a martyr. On the first day protections were lifted, a partly crippled and much photographed radio-collared wolf named 253M was legally shot near the town of Daniel in western Wyoming.
The killing made headlines as far away as Utah, where 253M had wandered in 2002, before being transported back to Wyoming. A story in The Salt Lake Tribune quoted a woman as saying she had wept at the news of the animal's death.
Responding to what it says are numerous public inquiries, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department began a w eekly wolf update on its Web site, starting on April 4. "We're hearing a lot, from all sectors of the public," said a spokesman, Eric Keszler. "Some want no wolves to be killed - others ask where the trophy game area is going to be."
Wyoming, Montana and Idaho plan their first wolf trophy hunting seasons this fall. About 1,500 wolves inhabit the three states, most of them descended from 66 wolves introduced into Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho in the mid-1990s.
State management plans allow for wolf hunting - or in some places, outright eradication - with a target population of 150 in each of the three states....
2008 April 6, Koalas In Danger. By Kathy Marks, The Independent. Excerpt: The future of the koala, perhaps Australia's best-loved animal, is under threat because greenhouse gas emissions are making eucalyptus leaves – their sole food source – inedible.
Scientists warned yesterday that increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere were reducing nutrient levels in the leaves, and also boosting their toxic tannin content. That has serious implications for koalas and other marsupials that eat only, or mainly, the leaves of gum trees. These include a number of possum and wallaby species.
…Despite koalas' predilection for eucalyptus, the leaves are not nutritionally rich. In fact, even in the best conditions they are so low in protein that koalas – which spend up to 20 hours a day asleep, and most of the rest of their waking hours eating – have to eat 700g (1.5lb) of them a day to survive.
…WWF Australia warned recently that rising temperatures threatened numerous Australian native species, including the tree frog, the hare kangaroo, the tiny tree kangaroo and the greater bilby.
In a report last month, it said that such creatures – already endangered as a result of wide-scale land clearing and the introduction of exotic predators – could be pushed into extinction by climate change and its knock-on effects….The Australian Koala Foundation estimates that there are fewer than 100,000 koalas remaining in Australia today.
2008 Mar 25. Bats Perish, and No One Knows Why. By TINA KELLEY. NY Times. Excerpt: Al ... Hicks, a mammal specialist with the state's Environmental Conservation Department, said: "Bats don't fly in the daytime, and bats don't fly in the winter. Every bat you see out here is a 'dead bat flying,' so to speak."
They have plenty of company. In what is one of the worst calamities to hit bat populations in the United States, on average 90 percent of the hibernating bats in four caves and mines in New York have died since last winter.
Wildlife biologists fear a significant die-off in about 15 caves and mines in New York, as well as at sites in Massachusetts and Vermont. Whatever is killing the bats leaves them unusually thin and, in some cases, dotted with a white fungus. Bat experts fear that what they call White Nose Syndrome may spell doom for several species that keep insect pests under control.
Researchers have yet to determine whether the bats are being killed by a virus, bacteria, toxin, environmental hazard, metabolic disorder or fungus. Some have been found with pneumonia, but that and the fungus are believed to be secondary symptoms.
...One affected mine is the winter home to a third of the Indiana bats between Virginia and Maine. These pink-nosed bats, two inches long and weighing a quarter-ounce, are particularly social and cluster together as tightly as 300 a square foot.
"It's ironic, until last year most of my time was spent trying to delist it," or take it off the endangered species list, Mr. Hicks said, after the state's Indiana bat population grew, to 52,000 from 1,500 in the 1960s....
2008 Mar 25. Link to Global Warming in Frogs' Disappearance Is Challenged. By ANDREW C. REVKIN, NY Times. Excerpt: ...The amphibians, of the genus Atelopus - actually toads despite their common name - once hopped in great numbers along stream banks on misty slopes from the Andes to Costa Rica. After 20 years of die-offs, they are listed as critically endangered by conservation groups and are mainly seen in zoos.
It looked as if one research team was a winner in 2006 when global warming was identified as the "trigger" in the extinctions by the authors of a much-cited paper in Nature. The researchers said they had found a clear link between unusually warm years and the vanishing of mountainside frog populations.
The "bullet," the researchers said, appeared to be a chytrid fungus that has attacked amphibian populations in many parts of the world but thrives best in particular climate conditions. The authors, led by J. Alan Pounds of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve in Costa Rica, said, "Here we show that a recent mass extinction associated with pathogen outbreaks is tied to global warming." The study was featured in reports last year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Other researchers have been questioning that connection. Last year, two short responses in Nature questioned facets of the 2006 paper. In the journal, Dr. Pounds and his team said the new analyses in fact backed their view that "global warming contributes to the present amphibian crisis," but avoided language saying it was "a key factor," as they wrote in 2006.
Now, in the March 25 issue of PLoS Biology, another team argues that the die-offs of harlequins and some other amphibians reflect the spread and repeated introductions of the chytrid fungus. They question the analysis linking the disappearances to climate change....
2008 Feb 22. U.S. Ends Protections for Wolves in 3 States. By KIRK JOHNSON, NY Times. Animal advocates say that gray wolves in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho still need protection, despite considerable growth in their numbers.
2008 January 2. A Divide as Wolves Rebound in a Changing West. By KIRK JOHNSON, NY Times
Excerpt: CHEYENNE, Wyo. - Sheltered for many years by federal species protection law, the gray wolves of the West are about to step out onto the high wire of life in the real world, when their status as endangered animals formally comes to an end early this year. The so-called delisting is scheduled to begin in late March, almost five years later than federal wildlife managers first proposed, mainly because of human tussles here in Wyoming over the politics of managing the wolves....From the 41 animals that were released inside Yellowstone from 1995 to 1997, mostly from Canada, the population grew to 650 wolves in 2002 and more than 1,500 today in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. The wolves have spread across an area twice the size of New York State and are growing at a rate of about 24 percent a year, according to federal wolf-counts....The director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Terry Cleveland, said changes in economics and attitude were creating a profound wrinkle in the outlook for human-wolf relations. Mr. Cleveland, a 39 year-veteran with the department, said that many newcomers, who are more interested in breath-taking vistas than the price of feed-grain and calves, do not see wolves the way older residents do. In the public comment period for Wyoming's wolf plan, sizable majorities of residents in the counties near Yellowstone expressed opposition....Many new land owners around Yellowstone have also barred the hunting of animals like elk on their property, sometimes, in a single
pen stroke, closing off thousands of acres that Wyoming hunters had used for decades. ... But the trend of land enclosure, Mr. Cleveland said, is probably not in the wolf's long-term interest. "As large ranches become less economically viable, the alternative is 40-acre subdivisions," he said, "and that is not compatible with any kind of wildlife."
Some advocates of wolf protection say that for all the talk of
moderation and the nods to a changing ethos, old attitudes will take over once the gray wolf is delisted. "I think it's going to be open season," said Suzanne Stone, a wolf
specialist at Defenders of Wildlife, a national conservation group....
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