|2014-09-25. Gray wolves back on the protected list in Wyoming. The resurgence of gray wolves, especially in Yellowstone National Park, is often held up as a great success in conservation. Indeed, so successful was the effort that in 2012 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared the wolf population to be stable enough for the species to be delisted. However, since that time, 219 wolves have been killed out of an estimated 1600 in the state of Wyoming, The Dodo reports, thanks to a state-enacted “kill-on-sight approach to wolf management.” In response, a U.S. district judge ruled this week that the endangered species protections for gray wolves would be reinstated—a decision praised by conservationists. http://news.sciencemag.org/sifter/2014/09/gray-wolves-back-on-the-protected-list-in-wyoming. Science.
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....
2007 December 18. Zoologist
Gives a Voice to Big Cats in the Wilderness.
By CLAUDIA DREIFUS, NY Times. Excerpt:
Among zoologists, Alan
Rabinowitz is known as the Indiana Jones of wildlife conservation.
But he is actually more the Dag Hammarskjold of biology. ...That
is because Dr. Rabinowitz, executive director of science and
exploration at the Wildlife Conservation Society, is a kind of
international diplomat for big cats - jaguars, leopards, pumas.For
20 years, he has traveled the world, imploring the power elite
of democracies and dictatorships to dedicate large parcels as
reserves for these imperiled felines.In the 1980s, he persuaded
the leaders of Belize to establish the world's first jaguar preserve.
More recently, this Brooklyn-born biologist prevailed on the
junta in Myanmar to transform 8,400 square miles of forest into
the Hukawng Valley Tiger Reserve....
Q. With so many of the world's animals in danger, why do you
mostly advocate for big cats?
A. Because cats get to the human psyche. People love big cats.
If I go to a government and say, "If you don't do something
quickly, you're going to lose your tigers," they listen.
If I say, "You're about to lose all your wolves," they
won't care. But leopards, tigers, jaguars - people have a huge
admiration for them. My real goal is to save large sections of
pristine wilderness for all types of wildlife. One way to do
that is to make sure that the top predators have enough safe
territory to thrive in. Because big cats need so much territory,
when you save them, you're really saving whole ecosystems and
you're saving the other animals down on the food chain. This
is what's called the "apex predator strategy" in conservation.
The other thing I've seen is that no government, even if they
are doing a lot of development, wants to lose their big cats.
Even when you're talking to the most authoritarian of dictators,
none of them wants to be the guy at the helm when the last of
his country's tigers go extinct....
Q. What originally drew you to conservation?
A. As a child, I had this horrific stutter. In school, I was
put in what was called the retarded classes. I was very angry
that people couldn't see past the stuttering. From the second
grade on, I stopped talking, except to the little green turtle
and the chameleon I kept at home. Talking to the animals, I realized
they had feelings. I didn't know if they understood me. But I
saw that they were exactly like me. They weren't broken, but
people mistreated them because they can't communicate. I thought
if these animals had a voice, people wouldn't be able to crush
them and throw them away. When I was a child, I promised the
animals that if I ever got my voice back, I'd be their voice....
2007 November 13. Off
Endangered List, but What Animal Is It Now?
The Great Lakes gray wolf is off the endangered
species list, but biologists say it has
hybridized with coyotes and wolves from
Canada. By MARK DERR. NY Times. Excerpt:
Amid much fanfare this year, the federal
Fish and Wildlife Service declared the western
Great Lakes gray wolf successfully recovered
from an encounter with extinction and officially
removed it from the endangered species list.
Under the protection of the Endangered Species
Act, the wolf boomed in population to 4,000
in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin today,
up from just several hundred in northern
Minnesota in 1974.
But the victory celebration was premature,
according to two evolutionary biologists,
Jennifer A. Leonard of Uppsala University
in Sweden and Robert K. Wayne of the University
of California, Los Angeles. The historic
Great Lakes wolf did not return intact from
the edge of oblivion. Instead, the scientists
report in the online edition of the journal
Biology Letters, it hybridized with gray
wolves moving in from Canada, coyotes from
the south and west and the hybrids born
of that mixing....
2007 November 12. World's
Smallest Bear Faces Extinction. By THE
ASSOCIATED PRESS.. Excerpt:
GENEVA (AP) -- The world's smallest bear
species faces extinction because of deforestation
and poaching in its Southeast Asian home,
a conservation group said Monday.
The sun bear, whose habitat stretches from
India to Indonesia, has been classified
as vulnerable by the World Conservation
''We estimate that sun bears have declined
by at least 30 percent over the past 30
years and continue to decline at this rate,''
said Rob Steinmetz, a bear expert with the
Geneva-based group, known under its acronym
The group estimates there are little more
than 10,000 sun bears left, said Dave Garshelis,
co-chair of the IUCN bear specialist group.
The bear, which weighs between 90 and 130
pounds, is hunted for its bitter, green
bile, which has long been used by Chinese
traditional medicine practitioners to treat
eye, liver and other ailments. Bear paws
are also consumed as a delicacy.
Another threat comes from loggers, who are
destroying the sun bear's habitat, Steinmetz
Thailand is the only country to have effectively
banned logging and enforced laws against
poaching, allowing the sun bear population
to remain stable there, Garshelis said.
IUCN said six of the eight bear species
in the world are now threatened with extinction.
Other vulnerable bear species are the Asiatic
black bear, the sloth bear on the Indian
subcontinent, the Andean bear in South America
and the polar bear. The brown bear and the
American black bear are in a lesser category
of threat, IUCN said....
On the Net: World Conservation Union: http://www.iucn.org/en/news/archive/2007/11/12--pr--bear.htm
2007 June 5. SCIENTIST
AT WORK | LINDA J. GORMEZANO A Team of 2,
Following the Scent of Polar Bears By
ANDREW C. REVKIN
The hunt begins with a loud shout
in Spanish by Linda J. Gormezano."¡Búscalo!" Seek.
Waiting with ears pricked and
tail wagging, Quinoa, her black
male Dutch shepherd, leaps to
work, straining at the leash,
nose down, weaving left and right.
... The quarry sought by Quinoa,
named for the Andean grain, is
something utterly conventional
and doglike: feces, poop or,
as field biologists prefer to
call it - scat. It comes from
polar bears. Although this exercise
is taking place in the Mianus
River Gorge Preserve, a wooded
nook tucked in Bedford, N.Y.,
40 miles northeast of Manhattan,
the small hidden heaps contain
things as foreign to New York
as can be - the bones and feathers
of snow geese, kelp and lyme
grass, a trace of seal. The samples,
hidden ahead of time (on Petri
dishes), came from the collection
Ms. Gormezano has been amassing
since 2005 in fieldwork on the
grassy coastal plains ringing
the western shore of Hudson Bay
in central Canada, one of the
southernmost bastions of the
great ice-roaming predators.
... Ms. Gormezano is using
scat to track the wanderings,
genetics and condition of the
bears, which in that northern
region, particularly, have
shown signs of stress that
could be related to the warming
Arctic climate and retreating
sea ice. ... Other methods
for tracking shifts in populations
involve chasing the bears in
helicopters, sedating them
with darts and tagging or collaring
them. But such methods can
pose risks or alter the bears'
behavior, she said. ... In
contrast, bear scat, and also
tufts of fur left in dens or
sleeping spots, can be collected
without affecting the bears.
Tests of DNA in the feces can
distinguish individual animals.
So the dispersion of scat provides
a map of a particular bear's
"All the issues with global warming are going to affect
southernmost populations, especially around southern Hudson
Bay and western Hudson Bay, where they're already starting
to see changes, reduced reproductive output, thinner subadults," Ms.
Gormezano said. "So this is a great opportunity to try
out a new method." ...
2007 April 23. Bees
Vanish, and Scientists Race for Reasons.
By ALEXEI BARRIONUEVO. NY Times. Excerpt:
BELTSVILLE, Md. ... The volume of theories
to explain the collapse of honeybee populations "is
totally mind-boggling," said Diana
Cox-Foster, an entomologist at Penn State.
More than a quarter of the country's 2.4
million bee colonies have been lost - tens
of billions of bees, according to an estimate
from the Apiary Inspectors of America, a
national group that tracks beekeeping. So
far, no one can say what is causing the
bees to become disoriented and fail to return
to their hives. ... With Jeffrey S. Pettis,
an entomologist from the United States Department
of Agriculture, Dr. Cox-Foster is leading
a team of researchers who are trying to
find answers to explain "colony collapse
disorder," the name given for the disappearing
bee syndrome. ...the most likely suspects:
a virus, a fungus or a pesticide...."There
are so many of our crops that require pollinators," said
Representative Dennis Cardoza, a California
Democrat whose district includes that state's
central agricultural valley, and who presided
last month at a Congressional hearing on
the bee issue. "We need an urgent call
to arms to try to ascertain what is really
going on here with the bees, and bring as
much science as we possibly can to bear
on the problem." So far, colony collapse
disorder has been found in 27 states, ...Honeybees
are arguably the insects that are most important
to the human food chain. They are the principal
pollinators of hundreds of fruits, vegetables,
flowers and nuts. ... more beekeepers have
resorted to crisscrossing the country with
18-wheel trucks full of bees in search of
2007 February 13. Group:
Germany's Amphibians Threatened. By
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. Excerpt:
BERLIN (AP) -- This year's unusually warm
winter could cause large numbers of amphibians
to die in Germany, an environmental organization
said Tuesday. Unseasonably warm weather
and rain over the last few days has already
brought amphibians out of hibernation, the
German-based Euronatur organization said.
...Newts already have been sighted in pools
of water in southern Germany, and the first
toads should be seen in the next few days
if the weather continues to be warm, Euronatur
said. If a cold spell hits now, it could
be especially deadly for newts, toads and
other amphibians. Eggs could cease developing
and adult animals, which are not able to
return to hibernation in time, could die.
Shorter winters and hotter summers in Germany
and other changes attributed to global climate
change have depleted native amphibian populations,
shortened the lifecycle of already threatened
animals, and dried up small water pools
that amphibians inhabit during the summer's
2007 February 6. For
Wolves, a Recovery May Not Be the Blessing
It Seems. By JIM ROBBINS. NY Times. Excerpt:
HELENA, Mont., Feb. 5 - ...At first glance,
it seems like a win for conservation that
wolves are now successful enough that the
United States Fish and Wildlife Service
proposed taking wolves in Idaho and Montana
off the endangered species list.... But
the price of success may be high. In Idaho,
the governor [C. L. Otter] is ready to have
hunters reduce the wolf population in the
state from 650 to 100, the minimum that
will keep the animal off the endangered
species list. ...The proposed delisting,
as it is called, comes because the population
of wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains
is surging. ...wolves in [Wyoming] will
continue to have federal protections under
the Endangered Species Act, federal officials
say, because the state's policies are not
adequate to keep the wolf from becoming
endangered again. ...At the same time, the
service announced that the delisting process
for wolves in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota
was complete. At 4,000 total, the wolf population
in those states is considered fully recovered,
and the comment period is finished. ....Defenders
of Wildlife, an environmental group that
played a pivotal role in the wolf's return,
opposes the delisting. "We don't support
the delisting at this time," said Jamie
Clark, executive vice president of the group. "Hunting
is fine. But you have to be judicious about
where you hunt and when you hunt. Wyoming
and Idaho say they are going to kill wolves,
but there's no mention of population science
or monitoring. Its politics, not science." ...On
the other hand, some officials say that
federal protection has resulted in far too
many wolves and that delisting is needed
to cull the excess....
2007 January 23. A
Radical Step to Preserve a Species: Assisted
Migration. By CARL ZIMMER, NY Times. Excerpt:
The Bay checkerspot butterfly's story is
all too familiar. It was once a common sight
in the San Francisco Bay area, but development
and invasive plants have wiped out much
of its grassland habitat. Conservationists
have tried to save the butterfly by saving
the remaining patches where it survives.
But thanks to global warming, that may not
be good enough. ...Studies on the Bay checkerspot
butterfly suggest that this climate change
will push the insect to extinction. The
plants it depends on for food will shift
their growing seasons, so that when the
butterfly eggs hatch, the caterpillars have
little to eat. Many other species may face
a similar threat, and conservation biologists
are beginning to confront the question of
how to respond. The solution they prefer
would be to halt global warming. But they
know they may need to prepare for the worst.
One of the most radical strategies they
are considering is known as assisted migration.
Biologists would pick a species up and move
it hundreds of miles to a cooler place....
Dr. Jason McLachlan, a Notre Dame biologist,
...and his colleagues argue that assisted
migration may indeed turn out to be the
only way to save some species. But biologists
need to answer many questions before they
can do it safely and effectively. The first
question would be which species to move.
If tens of thousands are facing extinction,
it will probably be impossible to save them
all. ...The next challenge will be to decide
where to take those species. ..."We
don't even know where species are now," Dr.
McLachlan said. Simply moving a species
is no guarantee it will be saved, of course.
...As species shift their ranges, some of
them will push into preserves that are refuges
for endangered species. "Even if we
don't move anything, they're going to be
moving," Dr. McLachlan said....
2007 January 2.The
Rancher and the Grizzly: A Love Story.
By Bruce Barcott Excerpt:
People, livestock, and a threatened predator
are learning to get along in the new west.
As an afternoon rainstorm sweeps down Montana's
Madison Valley,…rancher Todd Graham
stands inside a dusty barn and asks his
neighbors for help….Graham addresses
a veritable cross section of the new West:
sheep ranchers, cattlemen, conservation
biologists, government officials, retirees,
and second-home owners. Seated in folding
chairs, they've gathered for a Living With
Predators workshop jointly organized by
the Madison Valley Ranchlands Group (which
defends livestock) and Keystone Conservation
(which defends animals that want to kill
the livestock)…..The Madison Valley
today is the crash point of two demographic
trends: a hot western housing market and
rebounding populations of predators….About
7,000 people live in the valley, and cattle
still outnumber them ten to one. But that's
changing. Retirees and second-home owners,
eager to claim their slice of Montana heaven,
are snapping up 20-acre ranchettes carved
out of 1,000-acre working ranches…....Humans
aren't the only creatures attracted to the
valley. Yellowstone's grizzlies, once threatened
with extinction, have made a strong recovery....Having
reached their population limit within Yellowstone
-- these bears need plenty of territory
to roam, forage, and mate -- they are fanning
out beyond the park's boundaries…..As
their numbers grow, Yellowstone grizzlies
face a crucial test: Can they survive on
land owned by ranchers, farmers, and the
new wave of retirees, telecommuters, and
vacation-home owners?.....One of the largest
relatively intact temperate ecosystems on
earth, the Yellowstone region hosts perhaps
the greatest concentration of large mammals
in the contiguous United States, including
the nation's biggest populations of grizzlies
outside Alaska. It's a region marked by
concentric circles of wildlife protection.…..A
final decision is expected from the Fish
and Wildlife Service in early 2007. If the
Yellowstone grizzly loses its threatened
status, protection of the bear will be turned
over to state wildlife agencies….
27 December 2006. Agency
Proposes to List Polar Bears as Threatened.
By FELICITY BARRINGER and ANDREW C. REVKIN,
NY Times. Excerpt:
WASHINGTON, Dec. 27 - The Interior Department
proposed Wednesday to designate polar bears
as a threatened species, saying that the
accelerating loss of the Arctic ice that
is the bears' hunting platform has led biologists
to believe that bear populations will decline,
perhaps sharply, in the coming decades.
... in a conference call with reporters,
Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said
that although his decision to seek protection
for polar bears acknowledged the melting
of the Arctic ice, his department was not
taking a position on why the ice was melting
or what to do about it. ...[he said] it
was not his department's job to assess causes
or prescribe solutions. ...The scientific
analysis in the proposal itself, however,
did assess the cause of melting ice. ...buildup
of heat-trapping gases was probably contributing
to the loss of sea ice to date or that the
continued buildup of these gases, left unchecked,
could create ice-free Arctic summers ...possibly
in as little as three decades. The Interior
Department ...must also work out a recovery
plan to control and reduce harmful impacts
to the species, usually by controlling the
activities that cause harm. It is unclear
whether such a recovery plan could avoid
addressing the link between manmade emissions
of heat-trapping gases and the increase
in Arctic temperatures. Kert Davies, the
research director for Greenpeace U.S.A.,
one of three environmental groups that sued
the Interior Department in 2005 to force
it to add polar bears to the list of threatened
species, said the administration was "clearly
scrambling for credibility of any kind in
this issue." Kassie Siegel, the lawyer
for the Center for Biological Diversity,
...that took the lead in the lawsuit calling
on the department to list the polar bear,
added, "I don't see how even this administration
can write this proposal without acknowledging
that the primary threat to polar bears is
global warming and without acknowledging
the science of global warming." As
a result of the lawsuit, the Interior Department
had a court-ordered deadline of Wednesday
to make a decision. The worldwide population
of polar bears currently stands at 20,000
to 25,000, broken into 19 groups in Russia,
Denmark, Norway, Canada and the United States.
...The most-studied bear population, in
the Western Hudson Bay in Canada, has dropped
22 percent, to 935 from 1,194 from 1987
12 December 2006. All
but Ageless, Turtles Face Their Biggest
Threat: Humans. By NATALIE ANGIER, NY
...With its miserly metabolism and tranquil
temperament, its capacity to forgo food
and drink for months at a time, ... the
turtle is one of the longest-lived creatures
Earth has known. Individual turtles can
survive for centuries,.... Last March, a
giant tortoise named Adwaita said to be
as old as 250 years died in a Calcutta zoo,
having been taken to India by British sailors,
records suggest, during the reign of King
George II. In June, newspapers around the
world noted the passing of Harriet, a Galapagos
tortoise that died in the Australia Zoo
at age 176 - 171 years after Charles Darwin
is said, perhaps apocryphally, to have plucked
her from her equatorial home. Behind such
biblical longevity is the turtle's stubborn
refusal to senesce - to grow old. ...Dr.
Christopher J. Raxworthy, the associate
curator of herpetology at the American Museum
of Natural History, says the liver, lungs
and kidneys of a centenarian turtle are
virtually indistinguishable from those of
its teenage counterpart .... "Turtles
don't really die of old age," Dr. Raxworthy
said. In fact, if turtles didn't get eaten,
crushed by an automobile or fall prey to
a disease, he said, they might just live
indefinitely. ...Researchers estimate that
at least half of all turtle species are
in serious trouble, and that some of them,
like the Galapagos tortoise, the North American
bog turtle, the Pacific leatherback sea
turtle and more than a dozen species in
China and Southeast Asia, may effectively
go extinct in the next decade if extreme
measures are not taken. ...Geneticists have
proposed that the turtle shell may have
appeared quite suddenly in the distant past,
rather than emerging slowly through modest,
mincing modifications of pre-existing structures.
They suggest that the dramatic innovation
could have arisen from just a few key mutations
in master genes like the so-called homeobox
genes, which help specify an animal's basic
14 November 2006. Global
Warming Increases Species Extinctions Worldwide,
University of Texas at Austin Researcher Finds AUSTIN,
has already caused extinctions in the most
sensitive habitats and will continue to cause
more species to go extinct over the next 50
to 100 years, confirms the most comprehensive
study since 2003 on the effects of climate
change on wild species worldwide by a University
of Texas at Austin biologist. Dr. Camille
Parmesan's synthesis also shows that species
are not evolving fast enough to prevent extinction. "This
is absolutely the most comprehensive synthesis
of the impact of climate change on species
to date," said Parmesan, associate professor
of integrative biology. "Earlier synthesis
were hampered from drawing broad conclusions
by the relative lack of studies. Because there
are now so many papers on this subject, we
can start pulling together some patterns that
we weren't able to before." Parmesan
reviewed over 800 scientific studies on the
effects of human-induced climate change on
thousands of species....
September 2006. Dinos
of the Sea Scramble to Survive. Terrain
Magazine, Ecology Center. by Susan P. Williams Excerpt:
All seven species of sea turtles are considered
critically endangered by the World Conservation
Union, but the precarious plight of the leatherback,
the oldest and largest species, has conservationists
especially alarmed. Karen Steele of the Sea
Turtle Restoration Project says that the population
has plummeted by over 95 percent, from 115,000
in 1980 to less than 3,000 nesting females
in 2006. Steele worries that the big turtles
may be only 5 to 30 years away from extinction.
...Known as "the dinosaurs of the sea," leatherbacks
have been around for 100 million years, since
before the time of Tyrannosaurus rex and friends.
...Leatherbacks face many threats, but chief
among them are humans harvesting the eggs
from nesting beaches and drift gillnet and
long-line fishing. Drift gillnets, often a
million square feet in size, are placed vertically
like curtains to drift with the current and
ensnare large fish. Long-line fisheries catch
fish and sometimes turtles with 60-mile lines
of baited hooks. Other hazards are plastic
bottles and bags that leatherbacks may confuse
with jellyfish, and developments near nesting
beaches which, when lit up at night, draw
hatchlings away from the water. Development
of major nesting beaches around the Pacific
has forced the population out to fewer, more
11 July 2006. Racing
to Know the Rarest of Rhinos, Before It's
Too Late. By MARK DERR, NY Times. Excerpt:
A two-ton rhinoceros measuring 5 feet tall
and 10 feet long, with a fondness for browsing
on low-lying shrubbery, hardly seems like
a difficult animal to find. Unless there are
fewer than 60 left on the planet. That is
the case with the Javan rhinoceros, often
called the rarest large mammal on earth and
perhaps the most endangered. ...Because they
lead solitary, secretive lives in remote forests
in Indonesia and Vietnam, these rhinos are
very hard to study: images of them come from "camera
traps" activated by movement in the forest,
and biologists get DNA samples from dung or
from the horns and hides of dead animals. "It
is totally amazing how little we know about
these animals, their mating habits and social
behavior," said Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando,
director of the Center for Conservation and
Research in Rajagiriya, Sri Lanka. "Till
a decade ago people were debating whether
the females have horns." (They do.) ...The
plight of the Javan rhino is a direct result
of human actions, especially habitat destruction
and hunting, Dr. Fernando said. For millions
of years, the animal flourished in lowland
forests from eastern India and Bangladesh
all the way to the islands of Java and Sumatra,
now part of Indonesia. During periods of glacial
advance and low sea levels, those islands
formed a land mass, Sundaland, that was connected
to the mainland. Unfortunately for the rhino,
humans favored the same habitat and had little
use for a large herbivore that raided their
crops. Farmers regarded rhinos as agricultural
pests and often killed them on sight. In the
18th and 19th centuries, the advent of colonialism
and firearms drew hunters who slaughtered
thousands. By 1934, the species was all but
extinct on the Asian mainland. Devastated
by the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883, the Ujung
Kulon peninsula was later recolonized by rhinos
and other animals but not by humans. It has
since become a national park, and strong anti-poaching
measures are in place. But perversely, the
rhinos' numbers have barely budged since 1980;
the lack of human disturbance means that mature
forests and exotic plants are replacing the
shrubby lowland vegetation the animal prefers.
A further problem, the scientists say, is
that the remaining rhino populations lack
the genetic variation they need to combat
disease, adapt to changing conditions and
avoid the health and fertility problems that
arise from inbreeding. ...The Indonesian forestry
department has decided to improve rhino habitat
in Ujung Kulon by keeping out or removing
competitor species, like the banteng, a wild
cow, and invasive, exotic plants that crowd
out the rhino's preferred food, Adhi Rachmat
Hariyadi, site manager for the World Wide
Fund for Nature's Ujung Kulon National Park
project, wrote in an e-mail message. ...
"Allowing a species such as a rhinoceros
to go extinct in the 21st century," he
writes, "would be tragic and unpardonable."
28 May 2006. Alligators
Abound During Annual Fla. Count. By THE
ASSOCIATED PRESS. ON LAKE OKEECHOBEE, Fla.
(AP) Excerpt: ...
officials estimate there are more than one
million alligators in Florida -- a miraculous
comeback for a species that was approaching
extinction 40 years ago. State officials and
environmentalists attribute the population
growth to strict federal regulations on sales
of alligator products like skin and meat,
along with tight limits on hunting and trapping.
...Each year, scientists set out into some
50 locations statewide for the monthlong population
assessment, recording alligator size and estimating
If they can't get close enough before a gator
sinks beneath the surface, the biologists
use estimates, sometimes using the distance
between its eyes to determine size or noting
the pace with which it fled. ...Though its
brain is only the size of a man's thumb, the
American alligator has proven highly adaptable
since it emerged about 4 million years ago
from a line of reptiles that have survived
on Earth for 200 million years. ...the species
can grow to 14 feet long and weigh up to 1,000
pounds during a life span of more than 30
years. ... In 1967, after years of overhunting
and habitat loss, the American alligator was
listed as an endangered species, but conservation
efforts and hunting regulations led the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service to pronounce it
fully recovered 20 years later. ...State alligator
27 May 2006. Bear
Hunting Caught in Global Warming Debate.
By CLIFFORD KRAUSS. NY Times. Excerpt:
RESOLUTE, Nunavut ...Polar bear hunting has
gotten caught up in the larger debate over
global warming. Scientists and environmentalists
are pushing for measures to protect the animal,
whose most immediate threat, they say, is
not hunters, but loss of habitat. As its icy
environs shrink, the polar bear has, improbably
perhaps, become the new poster face of Arctic
vulnerability. ..."People care about
polar bears - they're iconic," noted
Kassie Siegel, a lawyer at the Center for
Biological Diversity. ...Her group, along
with Greenpeace and the Natural Resources
Defense Council, filed a petition with the
United States government to list the polar
bear as threatened as a way to push the American
authorities to control greenhouse gas emissions,
like carbon dioxide from cars. The message
has alarmed American polar bear hunters....
It has also run up against unbending opposition
from local communities of Inuit, also known
as Eskimos, and the Nunavut territorial government,
which has expanded sport hunting in recent
years. ... a list of stresses on the polar
bear: Global warming is melting the bear's
icy migration routes, critical for breeding
and catching seals for food, around Hudson
Bay and Alaska. ... there are more than 20,000
polar bears roaming the Arctic, compared to
as few as 5,000 40 years ago, before Canada,
Denmark, Norway, the Soviet Union and the
United States agreed to strong restrictions
on trophy hunting in the 1970's. ...In Resolute,
a snow-swept hamlet of shacks hugging a salty
ice-packed Arctic channel, Inuit villagers
hold an annual lottery to see who will get
the permits to kill the local quota of 35
bears a year. Fifteen of those bears will
be consumed locally, as food and to make rugs,
mattresses, wind pants and mittens. The 20
other permits are sold to American hunters.
With each permit, or tag, worth nearly $2,500,
that means a fast infusion of nearly $50,000
a year into the community, on Cornwallis Island
some 500 miles above the Arctic Circle. On
top of that, the guides earn almost $8,000,
and their assistants another $4,500, per hunt.
1 May 2006. 16,000
Species Said to Face Extinction. By THE
ASSOCIATED PRESS. GENEVA (AP) -- Excerpt:
Polar bears and hippos are among more than
16,000 species of animals and plants threatened
with global extinction, the World Conservation
Union said Tuesday. According to the Swiss-based
conservation group, known by its acronym IUCN
the number of species classified as being
in serious danger of extinction rose from
about 15,500 in its previous ''Red List''
report, published in 2004. The list includes
one in three amphibians, a quarter of the
world's mammals and coniferous trees, and
one in eight birds, according to a preview
of the 2006 Red List. ...The Red List classifies
about 40,000 species according to their risk
of extinction and provides a searchable online
database of the results. The total number
of species on the planet is unknown, with
15 million being the most widely accepted
estimate. Up to 1.8 million are known today.
People are the main reason for most species'
decline, mainly through habitat destruction,
according to IUCN. ...Freshwater fish have
suffered some of the most dramatic population
declines because of human activities that
damage their habitat, like forest clearance,
pollution and water extraction. In the Mediterranean,
more than half of the 252 endemic species
are threatened with extinction.
14 March 2006. A
Rare Predator Bounces Back (Now Get It Out
of Here). By ABBY GOODNOUGH. NY Times. Excerpt:
OCHOPEE, Fla. - In the weeks before Valentine's
Day, a healthy Florida panther kept emerging
from the dense, sloshy wilderness around Big
Cypress National Preserve to kill things he
shouldn't: chickens, ducks, a turkey, a pig
and a house cat, all on residential property
that his stealthy species normally shuns.
The hungry panther - nicknamed Don Juan by
scientists who had radio-collared him years
earlier and knew he had fathered some 30 kittens
- kept coming back for more, despite efforts
to deter him. So on Feb. 16, wildlife officials
had dogs chase Don Juan up a tree, shot him
with a tranquilizer gun and removed him from
the wild. It was no light decision, as the
number of Florida panthers, the only subspecies
of puma east of the Mississippi, is estimated
at fewer than 100. Cars have already hit and
killed five other panthers in 2006, including
one pregnant with four kittens and another
that was crossing a road just north of the
Florida Keys, far from typical panther habitat.
A sixth was apparently killed by another panther,
an increasingly common fate as the territorial
cat loses habitat to subdivisions, golf courses
and the like. A new federal report in January
announced the obvious: that the Florida panther
population must grow to survive - ideally,
to three separate populations of at least
240 each - but that it is ever more desperate
for space. The report, by the United States
Fish and Wildlife Service, rehashed the thorny
old idea of moving some of the cats to Central
Florida and eventually to other states where
they once roamed, like Georgia and Arkansas....Darrell
Land, the panther team leader for the Florida
Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission,
... and other government officials said they
hoped the new federal plan for dealing with "panther-human
interactions" and educating the public
would avert conflicts ...A panther that stalked
or showed other aggressive behavior toward
people would immediately be removed from the
wild. But with one that killed pets or livestock,
or did not retreat when a human tried to scare
it away, wildlife officials would first try "aversive
conditioning": chasing it with dogs,
hitting it with a slingshot or otherwise trying
to deter it from returning to the area. ...The
new federal report - the latest draft of a
panther recovery plan last updated in 1995
- suggests keeping panthers far from urban
areas by moving some of them into rural Central
Florida. But many scientists, including Mr.
Land, are skeptical. They say that Central
Florida does not have enough contiguous panther
habitat, that the cats would have to cross
more highways, and that much agricultural
land would have to be turned into the dense
forests that panthers prefer. A better alternative,
many scientists agree, is moving some Florida
panthers to remote areas of Georgia, Arkansas
or other states where they used to roam and
where choice panther habitat still exists.
But as history and the recent tensions here
suggest, getting the public to embrace what
the report calls "large carnivore reintroduction"
will not be easy. When Texas pumas were released
in North Florida in 1988 and 1993, to gauge
whether a permanent population of Florida
panthers could be established there, local
opposition was fierce and hunters shot some
of the cats. ..."The cat was listed as
endangered in 1967 and we're still waiting,
39 years later." In Arkansas, home to
four of the nine recommended relocation sites,
David Goad, deputy director of the Arkansas
Game and Fish Commission, said panthers were
unlikely to be welcome there. "Before
you can move a large predator into an area
you've got to have a lot of support from the
public," Mr. Goad said....
15 December 2005. Parrots
of the Caribbean. By Alan Mowbray, Forest
Magazine, Winter 2006. Excerpt:
The Puerto Rican parrot was one of the first
species to be listed under the Endangered
Species Act more than thirty years ago. It
remains one of the most critically endangered
members of the list today; fewer than forty
individuals remain in the wild. Five hundred
and twelve years ago, on his second voyage
to the New World, Christopher Columbus dropped
anchor off the Caribbean island that he named
San Juan de Bautista. He and his crew of Spanish
explorers saw white-sand beaches bordered
by lushly forested mountains. They were greeted
by the native Taino people, who gave them
gifts of gold nuggets plucked from the island's
rivers. Hundreds of noisy, bright-green parrots
with beautiful white-ringed eyes swooped overhead.
The Taino called these birds "Higuaca." At
the beginning of the sixteenth century, Spanish
colonists estimated that there were nearly
a million of these beautiful birds living
in the island's forests. Today there are fewer
than forty Amazona vittata-the Puerto Rican
parrot-living in the wild on the island we
know as Puerto Rico. ...Their demise is directly
related to the rise of human population on
the island: As colonists cut down forests
and converted land for agriculture, the habitat
on which the species depended started to disappear.
The remaining parrot population, which had
retreated to the Luquillo Mountains, was further
reduced when the forests there were cut for
charcoal production in the 1900s. ...By 1989,
the Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Plan had
been in operation for almost two decades and
the parrot population in the wild had increased
to forty-seven birds. Then disaster struck.
On September 18th, 1989, Hurricane Hugo roared
across the Luquillo Mountains, destroying
more than half of the parrots in the wild.
By year's end, only twenty-two birds remained.
By early 1994, the wild population had risen
to thirty-nine birds and six breeding pairs.
Today's parrot population continues to hover
at that level....
6 December 2005. In
Mongolia, an 'Extinction Crisis' Looms.
By JOHN Noble Wilford, NY Times. Excerpt:
ULAN BATOR, Mongolia - On a highway west of
this capital, roadside signs advertise marmot,
fox and other wildlife, and stacks of skins
stand on display. In open markets, traders
conduct a gritty commerce in furs and hides,
much of it illegal. Similar markets flourish
elsewhere in Mongolia, especially along the
border with China....If the good news in Mongolia
is the gradual comeback of the Przewalski
wild horses, the disturbing news is the diminishing
numbers of other wildlife, under relentless
siege by overhunting and excessive trade in
skins and other animal products. ... the populations
of endangered species - marmots, argali sheep,
antelope, red deer, bears, Asiatic wild asses
- have plummeted by 50 to 90 percent. The
only other possible exception to the woeful
trend, conservation experts say, is the apparent
increase in wolves. ...A draft report of the
study, "The Silent Steppe: The Illegal
Wildlife Trade Crisis in Mongolia," was
circulated recently. ... Hunting for subsistence
and income increased. Illegal trade in meat
and other animal products proliferated. "Neighboring
countries, especially China, have been the
happy recipients of this new stream of wildlife
product, consuming millions of animals every
year and generating uncounted profits," ...
more than 250,000 Mongolians, out of a population
of 2.6 million, are active hunters. ...In
the last five years, the saiga antelope has
declined from more than 5,000 to fewer than
800; the saiga horn is prized in China as
a traditional remedy. The red deer population
has fallen 92 percent in 18 years, and the
argali, the wild mountain sheep with handsome
spiraling horns, are down 75 percent in 16
years. One of the rarest animals in the Mongolian
mountains is the snow leopard, and its survival
is endangered. ...The Gobi bear, a small animal
related to the brown bear and known to exist
only in a corner of the desert here, may be
beyond saving. Dr. Zahler, of the conservation
society, said that as few as 25 were left. "The
bears appear to face numerous potential threats,
ranging from lack of food and water to inbreeding
and fragmentation of the few remaining breeding
adults," Dr. Zahler wrote in an earlier
26 September 2005. As
Population of Yellowstone Grizzlies Grows,
Further Protection Is Up for Debate. By
JIM ROBBINS. After
dwindling to 200 or so by the 1970's, the
number of the big bears in the mountains and
grassy meadows around Yellowstone National
Park has grown to more than 600, thanks to
the federal protections given to the species
in 1975. "It's the biggest success story
under the Endangered Species Act because grizzly
bears are one of the toughest species to manage," said
Chris Servheen, who has been working on efforts
to protect and to re-establish grizzlies in
Yellowstone and elsewhere for 25 years and
is coordinator for grizzly bear recovery for
the Federal Fish and Wildlife Service in Missoula,
Mont. While there is widespread agreement
that the story is a good one, however, there
is disagreement on the next chapter. The Fish
and Wildlife Service, saying that the mission
to bring the bear back has been accomplished,
will propose removing the bear from the list
of threatened species this fall and, after
a comment period, make a final decision in
2006. Delisting has happened for only about
15 species out of the 1,830 on the imperiled
list. But opponents of delisting say the bear
is still endangered, primarily because of
threats to critical food sources. Both sides
say the science is on their side. ...Whether
to recognize the Yellowstone bears as a recovered
population is not just an abstract scientific
debate. Grizzlies, which occasionally prey
on people, are moving out of the park's mountain
wilderness and federal forest refuges and
into areas with growing human populations.
Removing protections would allow the bears
to be hunted. Since the late 1960's, there
have been 17 fatalities involving bears and
many more attacks in Yellowstone and Glacier
National Park, home to the only other large
population of the bears in the lower 48 states.
...A critical element in the Yellowstone grizzlies'
future is that they are an island population,
a remnant of a much larger one that once extended
from the Pacific Ocean to the Midwest. While
bears in Glacier are connected to much larger
Canadian populations, bears in the Yellowstone
area are, in terms of numbers and genetics,
on their own. A disease could decimate the
Fall 2005. Seeking
a Missing Species. By Richard S. Nauman.
Forest Magazine. Excerpt:
...in the spring of 1996, when U.S. Forest
Service biologists Dave Clayton and Sam Cuenca
flipped over a rock and found something unexpected
underneath, the esoteric study of genes, principally
the realm of university researchers, became
part of their daily work. Under the rock was
a small woodland salamander. ... Clayton and
Cuenca noticed that this salamander was different.
It shared the general form and color of neighboring
populations, but it appeared a little more
full-bodied, with a wider head, shorter body
and longer legs than other salamanders. Though
they didnœt realize it at the time, the
pair had discovered a species new to science,
a salamander that may have been living for
millions of years along the dry hillsides
above the Klamath River in the rain shadow
of the Marble Mountains. ... even as the new
species was being established, changes in
land management laws were affecting it. In
2004, the Bureau of Land Management and the
Forest Service, the two land management agencies
governed by the Northwest Forest Plan, eliminated
the survey-and-manage provision of the plan
altogether. The original version had required
salamander surveys prior to timber harvest,
road building and other land management projects
for the Siskiyou Mountains salamander and
protection of all known sites. ...While federal
agencies move cautiously with the management
of the salamanders, the California Department
of Fish and Game has submitted a petition
to the State Fish and Game Commission recommending
elimination of the state protections that
protect both species on private lands, and
states in its petition that
"The Department further believes that
no special management provisions or protections
under the California Environmental Quality
Act or Forest Practice Rules are necessary
to conserve this species."
7 July 2005. Did
humans cause ecosystem collapse in ancient
Australia? Dr. Marilyn Fogel, Carnegie
Institution. Washington, D.C. Massive
extinctions of animals and the arrival of
the first humans in ancient Australia may
be linked, according to scientists at the
Carnegie Institution, University of Colorado,
Australian National University, and Bates
College. The extinctions occurred 45,000 to
55,000 years ago. The researchers traced evidence
of diet and the environment contained in ancient
eggshells and wombat teeth over the last 140,000
years to reconstruct what happened. The remains
showed evidence of a rapid change of diet
at the time of the extinctions. The researchers
believe that massive fires set by the first
humans may have altered the ecosystem of shrubs,
trees, and grasses to the fire-adapted desert-scrub
6 June 2005. Prehistoric
Decline of Freshwater Mussels Tied to Rise
in Maize Cultivation. USDA
Forest Service (FS) research suggests that
a decline in the abundance of freshwater mussels
about 1000 years ago may have been caused
by the large-scale cultivation of maize by
Native Americans. In the April 2005 issue
of Conservation Biology, Wendell Haag and
Mel Warren, researchers with the FS Southern
Research Station (SRS) unit in Oxford , MS,
report results from a study of archaeological
data from 27 prehistoric sites in the southeastern
United States. Worldwide, freshwater mussels
have proven to be highly susceptible to human-caused
disturbance, and represent the most endangered
group of organisms in North America. Of 297
species found in the United States, 269 freshwater
mussel species are found in the Southeast. "We
can tie declines of specific mussel populations
to the construction of dams, stream channelization,
or pollution from a specific source," says
Haag, "but the worldwide patterns of
decline in these animals implies that larger-scale
disturbances such as sedimentation and nonpoint-source
pollution may have an equal impact." ..."Human
population in the Southeast began to increase
steadily about 5000 years ago,"
says Warren. "With increasing population
came land disturbance from agriculture. This
intensified about 1000 years ago, with the
beginning of large-scale maize cultivation.... "As
far as we can tell, Native Americans harvested
mussels without preference for species," says
Haag. "Shell middens provide us with
a way to establish the range of freshwater
mussel species before human impacts, and to
chart changes in relative abundance as impacts
increased." The researchers found that
the relative abundance of riffleshell mussels
in the rivers they studied declined gradually
during the period between 5000 and 1000 years
ago; however, the decline accelerated markedly
during the period between 1000 and 500 years
ago, when thousands of acres of land were
cleared for farming.
Full text version of the article: http://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/pubs/9281
For more information:
Wendell Haag at (662-234-2744 x245) or firstname.lastname@example.org
Mel Warren at (662-234-2744 x34) or email@example.com
5 October 2004. NEW
TOOLS FOR CONSERVATION (from NASA Earth
are studying animal and plant
species with satellites. With
remote sensing data, researchers
are able to accurately map
species' habitats and plan
6 January 2004. Multiplication
Problem Threatens Stock of Sturgeon, By
CHRISTOPHER PALA. TYRAU, Kazakhstan
- Beluga caviar, pearly black and $1,500 a
pound, goes well with Champagne. But next
year, connoisseurs may have to do with farmed
American caviar or lesser Caspian species
if the United States Fish and Wildlife Service
decides to ban imports. At issue is the number
of beluga sturgeon in the Caspian Sea. Some
researchers say the sturgeon, a 200-million-year-old
species, is in serious trouble. [photo caption]
A beluga was dragged to a barge on the Ural
River near Atyrau, Kazakhstan. The river is
the last spawning ground for the endangered
sturgeon. Overfishing has wiped out much of
the adult population.
18 December 2003. NASA
HELPS FORCAST REPTILE DISTRIBUTIONS IN MADAGASCAR -- NASA-supported
biologists developed a modeling approach that
uses satellite data and specimen locality
data from museum collections to predict successfully
the geographic distribution of 11 known chameleon
species in Madagascar.
Frogs Live by Michon Scott. In
the 1970s, Cynthia Carey was studying a population
of boreal toads in the Colorado Rocky Mountains
for her Ph.D. thesis when the unthinkable
happened: all the toads in her study mysteriously
died. Carey suspected a pathogen, perhaps
bacterial, but had no way to verify her hypothesis.
In the late 1980s, amphibian population declines
gained widespread attention as a growing number
of researchers observed similar problems.
When they returned to once-thriving frog habitats,
the familiar amphibians were gone. Concern
deepened in 1995 when Minnesota schoolchildren
visited a local frog pond to discover alarming
deformities in leopard frogs.
Archive of Past Articles for Chapter 1
TOP WildFinder - a map-driven, searchable database of more than 26,000 species worldwide. Discover where species live or explore wild places to find out what species live there.
Center for Biological Diversity -- http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/