31 December 2007

Love 'em or Lose 'em

Being in love makes everything look different. Suddenly, doing the dishes, which used to be a chore, turns into an act of gratitude. A kiss becomes not just an exchange of physical pleasure, but a deep communication of affection and desire. A trip to the shopping mall is no longer an item on the to-do-list, but an opportunity to shower the loved one with gifts.

Loving is a great act of unselfishness, and sometimes unselfishness means sacrificing to make the loved one happy.

The world, right now, needs some love.

More specifically, the frogs, toads, and other amphibians of the world, need some love. They're desperate for love. In fact, if they don't get some love soon, they'll die. From agricultural pollutants, from invasive species, from poaching and hunting, from deadly disease, and climate change. Without some love, thousands of species of amphibians will be extinct, before my yet-to-be-born children ever have a chance to meet them, or get to know them.

In the past decade or so, over a hundred amphibians have become extinct. About 3000 more are in danger of disappearing. Amphibians are a vital link in ecosystems around the world, and as they disappear, those ecosystems will begin to crumble. And as they disappear, so will the medical cures that they hold. Cures that are the key to saving the lives of people we love.

All of this lack of love is not because amphibians are unlovable, or because people don't want to love them. It's just that sometimes we're not very good at knowing how to show our love. Sometimes we bring flowers, when a back rub would have been more appropriate. Sometimes we try to say the right words, when we should have just listened.

So how do you love a frog? 2008 has been designated the Year of the Frog (YOTF), and it's purpose is to show the amphibians of the world that they are loved, and to show people how to love them. The Amphibian Ark, a collaboration between conservation organizations, is leading the effort, and will be promoting frog conservation around the globe. Their plan is to work with zoos, botanical gardens, museums, universities, or anyone else that is able, to house the most endangered species, until the extinction crisis can be averted. The eventual goal, of course, is to return the species to the wild.

So. This year, 2008, love a frog. Get involved. Tell your friends. Volunteer. Live greener. Sign the petition. Learn more. Donate. Love.

22 December 2007

Prize Fish

Mekong Giant Catfish (Pangasianodon gigas), Critically Endangered

Here's a great post, over at Endangered Ugly Things, about a crazy big fish.

16 December 2007

Rescue Mission

Sloth Bear (Melursus ursinus), Vulnerable

A bear poacher has been arrested in Orissa, India, and a baby Sloth Bear confiscated. The poacher, Jumman Khan, was under surveillance for three weeks, before the presence of the bear cub was confirmed. He was arrested in a bout of 'high drama.' The period from November to February is when the majority of these bears are poached, as this is when cubs are born. Protective mothers are often killed in order to retrieve the cubs. The cub is being held and cared for by Wildlife SOS, an organization committed to the prevention of hunting, poaching, and trading of endangered species.

Donate to Wildlife SOS's Bear Rescue program.

12 December 2007

One for the Eagles

Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi), Critically Endangered

The Philippine Eagle, is known as the National Bird of the Philippines, and is found only on the islands of Luzon, Samar, Leyte and Mindanao. With a wingspan of up to 2 metres, and growing up to a metre long, this Eagle is one of the largest and most powerful birds in the world, weighing in at 7 kilograms. It is also a long-lived bird, living up to 41 years in captivity.

The Eagle's habitat is being rapidly destroyed, primarily by logging of old-growing forests and the encroachment of agriculture. It is listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN, which estimates that there are fewer than 250 mature birds left in the wild.

Fortunately, there is an organization committed to the conservation of this magnificent species. The Philippine Eagle Foundation is committed to "promote the survival of the Philippine Eagle, the biodiversity it represents, and the sustainable use of our forest resources." The Foundation uses several methods, including a breeding program, field research, community-based initiatives, and educational programs.

The breeding program to date, has produced 22 captive-bred Eagles. The most recent Eaglet hatched on December 7, and according to the center, is healthy, and feeding on ground quail.

You can get involved or donate by contacting the Philippine Eagle Foundation.

09 December 2007

Changing Careers

Irrawaddy Dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris), Critically Endangered

Cambodia, home to a critically endangered subpopulation of Irrawaddy Dolphins, is taking action to prevent this rare dolphin from becoming extinct. There are several populations of these dolphins found near coasts and estuaries in south-east Asia, all of which are critically endangered. The Cambodian population inhabits the Mekong River, and is threatened mainly by poaching, accidental killings by fishermen, and depletion of their food-supply, also by fishermen.

Now, the Cambodian Government is working with the World Tourism Organization, to increase prosperity in the area, as well as protect the Dolphins. The plan calls for locals to make a shift from depending mainly on fishing, to depending mainly on tourism. The idea is that if the dolphins can become the center of a thriving eco-tourism trade, thousands of visitors will flock to the area, allowing locals to find their livelihoods away from fishing the river.

07 December 2007

Questions

Yangtze Giant Soft-shelled Turtle (Rafetus swinhoei), Critically Endangered

The Yangtze Giant Soft-shelled Turtle is on the verge of disappearing forever. Only two known turtles exist, a 100-year-old male, and an 80-year-old female, each living in a separate zoo in China. Hope certainly exists that artificial insemination and breeding may ensure future generations of Yangtze Turtles, but many questions still remain. Can these two turtles produce viable offspring? Do they possess, between them, enough genetic diversity to recreate a healthy population. Will there be a healthy river ecosystem to return any future turtles to? Would the money be better spent on breeding these two turtles, or on attacking the root causes of over-development, pollution, and overharvesting?

Answers to these questions will come in time, but until they are answered, let's hope that these two turtles stay alive and healthy.

06 December 2007

Tigers, North and South

Amur Tiger (Panthera tigris ssp. altaica), Critically Endangered
South China Tiger (Panthera tigris ssp. amoyensis), Critically Endangered

Good news for tiger fans, from South Africa and Russia. Two critically endangered subspecies of tigers have provided new hope, in the form of young, captive-born cubs.

In Russia, Iris, an Amur (or Siberian) Tiger, has given birth to two cubs this year. With less than 500 Amur Tigers in the wild, every birth is a reason for hope, especially since these Tigers are not well-known for breeding in captivity.

In South Africa, Cathay and Tiger Woods, two South China Tigers, have given birth to a young male cub, the first of his kind to be born outside of China. This young cub will be an important part of South Africa's Save China's Tigers program, which aims to build up a stock of Tigers which can be reintroduced to the wild in China. With only 30 South China Tigers in the wild and 60 in captivity, this program has potential to bring these majestic cats back from the brink.

Watch some extraordinary footage of the pre-birth, birth, and post-birth of the South China Cub.



Donate to help save the South China Tiger.
Donate to help save the Amur Tiger

05 December 2007

Caught!

Fly River Turtle (Carettochelys insculpta), Vulnerable

Fly River Turtles, having a unique nose, are also referred to as Pig Nosed Turtles. And this is pretty self-explanatory. They are the only freshwater turtles to have flippers resembling those of marine turtles.

Back in March of 2004, a San Francisco pet shop owner smuggled 14 live baby Fly River Turtles into the United States, hiding them in his clothes. He was caught, and the turtles confiscated and given to zoos and aquariums in California. Last Thursday, he pleaded guilty to the charges, and in February, will be sentenced.

These animals, found in Australia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea, are protected in these countries as well as by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). They are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN, with the declines in their population being noted over the past decade. Probably the largest contributor to their decline? Over-harvesting by humans.

04 December 2007

Devils' Hope

Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus harrisii)


The Tasmanian Devil, the largest surviving marsupial carnivore, has been dealing with a nasty disease for the past decade. Referred to as Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD), this rare cancer is infectious, meaning it can be passed between individuals. Devils are often violent with each other, and it is believed that the cancer cells are transmitted during such bouts, either during fights over food, or while mating.

Devils contracting the disease develop large cancerous tumours around their face, mouth, and eyes, preventing them from eating or functioning, and usually die within six months. So far, 59% of the island state of Tasmania has been affected by the disease, with a 53% decline in devil populations over the past ten years. Up until recently, no devil had ever survived or shown an immunity to DFTD.

Now, a devil from unaffected western Tasmania, has shown resistance to the disease. After being injected with tumour cells, the three-year-old devil known as Cedric, was able to develop antibodies. Researchers hope that the disease-free western population may be genetically distinct, and that this distinctness may help fight DFTD, either through the development of a vaccine, or through selective breeding, to increase the numbers of devils able to resist the disease.

However, it's not the only hope. Disease free devils have been captured and a captive breeding program is underway, to ensure that disease free populations remain, whatever happens to the wild devil populations. Up to 150 devils will be in captive breeding programs by early next year, both in Tasmania, and in zoos and parks on mainland Australia.

Help the Devils.

03 December 2007

733

Whooping Crane (Grus americana), endangered

Operation Migration, a program which is reintroducing whooping cranes to the Eastern United States, has reason to celebrate.

Each year, 20 or so captive born endangered whooping cranes, are taken on a journey guided by an ultralight aircraft. Young whooping cranes learn their migration routes from their parents, and being captive born, must learn the migration route from their breeders.

This year, during the journey between Wisconsin and Florida (see the route), a crane dubbed 733, dropped out of the flight during a difficult stretch of the trip. Crane watchers everywhere held their breath, hoping that 733 might have survived and be found. And a few days ago, they all breathed sighs of relief, as 733 was found in Kentucky, and will soon continue the journey to its winter home.

Get involved.

28 November 2007

Breeding Rails

Guam Rail (Gallirallus owstoni), Extinct in the Wild

Guam is a tiny island territory, comprising a mere 541 square kilometers, or a little more than half the size of New York City. Until the 1980s, this little island paradise was home to the Guam Rail, which existed only on this tiny patch of land. In 1980 The Guam Rail disappeared from its natural home.

What happened? It all goes back to World War II, when foreign ships accidentally imported the Brown Tree Snake. The ground-dwelling Guam Rails had never had to deal with predators such as snakes before, and were completely defenseless. The snakes decimated not only the Rails, but also 9 other native species, 5 of which were found nowhere else in the world.

The Guam Rail is not extinct yet, however, as it is still held in captivity in Guam and American zoos, and has been bred successfully. Although reintroduction efforts are underway on the nearby island of Rota, their success is far from guaranteed, as the Brown Tree Snake persists and continues to threaten introduced birds. Researchers have had some success in keeping snakes out of small controlled areas, but as long as the snakes pose a threat, this species will require monitoring and management.

Recently, the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, one of the few zoos working to breed the birds, shipped off another year-and-a-half old Rail to join its struggling fellows back in the wild. Godspeed and goodluck!

27 November 2007

An Absence of Amphibians

Old pond
and a frog-jump-in
water-sound

This famous haiku by the Japanese poet Bashô evokes images of an evening filled with the chorus of croaking frogs and splashes as they leap into an old pond. Unfortunately, unnoticed by the majority of the world's population, frogs around the world are falling silent. As various threats to their survival converge, like ants on a fallen bread crust, amphibian species in every nation are facing extinction. Threats such as habitat loss and fragmentation, climate change, pollution, and invasive species are stacking themselves up against amphibian populations. To top it all off, the deadly chytrid fungus, perhaps helped along by global warming, is devastating amphibians everywhere. Chytridiomycosis, the disease caused by the fungus, causes a problem in the functioning of the amphibian's pores, making it difficult for them to absorb water. Without the ability to rehydrate, they soon die from a lack of water.

Now, scientists around the world are working together in an effort to save the amphibians from impending doom. Amphibian Ark, a collaboration between several conservation organizations, is asking zoos and botanical gardens around the world to create a safe haven for a species of amphibian. These havens would only be temporary, until the disease crisis has been averted, and the animals can be safely returned to their natural habitats. If their efforts are unsuccessful, I don't want to imagine what will happen to the balance of the world's ecosystems as a whole class of animals is wiped out.

This issue is not something to be taken lightly. It's downright scary when you think of the implications of what could happen if all of the frogs, toads, and other amphibians disappeared. Frog Matters, a blog with the latest happenings from Amphibian Ark has a great post on things that anyone can do to help prevent a mass extinction.

Donate now to help prevent the next great extinction.

17 November 2007

Last Chance for the Vaquita

Vaquita (Phocoena sinus), critically endangered










Way back in February, I blogged about the 'little cows' or Vaquitas, which live only in the upper regions of the Gulf of California. At that time, their numbers were estimated to be under 400. That number has dropped to an estimated 150, although it's possible this number may be lower.

Then, as now, the greatest danger to the Vaquita is accidental death in the nets of fishing crews. At least 40, and possibly more, are killed each year as by catch. Scientists say that at least 100 Vaquitas must survive to preserve enough genetic diversity for the porpoises to prosper. That leaves, optimistically, only two years in which a turn around must occur. While there have been efforts in the past to create zones where fishing is not allowed, they have failed.

Now, in a last ditch effort to save the Vaquita, WWF, Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, and the Mexican government have pledged $14 million to buy boats and nets that kill the Vaquita, and developing economic alternatives for local fishermen. If this and other efforts do not work, the Vaquita will go extinct.

Here's an article with more info.

Support the survival of the Vaquita (cheque only).

09 November 2007

Cats!

Iberian Lynx (Lynx pardinus), critically endangered

I've been away from the world of computers and internet and news in general for quite some time, having been limited to 10-30 minute spurts of online time, every week or so. So it was a nice surprise that one of the first pieces of news I stumbled upon was good. The critically endangered Iberian Lynx, found mainly in southern Spain, has been reduced to about 100 individuals, in two isolated populations. Recently, however, a previously unknown population has been discovered in central Spain, offering a bit of hope for the survival of "Europe's Tiger." Still, the Iberian Lynx is a long way off from stability or full recovery, still being threatened by habitat and prey loss, and accidental death by vehicles.

09 September 2007

Not Extinct Yet

Baiji (Lipotes vexillifer)

The Baiji is not extinct yet. Early in January of this year, the rare river dolphin was proclaimed extinct. After an extensive and fruitless search of the polluted Yangtze River in China, the dolphin's sole habitat, scientists gave up hope. Now, a digital video has provided evidence that at least one Baiji may survive in a small section of river. Although efforts may be made to capture and transport any remaining dolphins, scientists warn that extinction is still almost the guaranteed outcome--even if a few dolphins still survive, with such low numbers, a comeback is highly unlikely.


National Geographic News Article

27 June 2007

Hello, Good-bye

Gorgeted Puffleg (Eriocnemis isabellae)

The Gorgeted Puffleg is a species of hummingbird recently discovered in Colombia. It was first documented during expeditions in Southwest Columbia, in the mountainous Serrania del Pinche region. Researchers fear the bird may soon go extinct, due to loss of habitat. To remain undiscovered for so long, it's range must be very small, and slash and burn agriculture is on the rise in that area. This distinct bird has a large irridescent throat patch (in males) and white tufts above the legs, hence, the Gorgeted Puffleg.

23 June 2007

Wadi fish go?

Garra barreimiae Garra barreimiae

In the Arabian Peninsula, wadis are riverbeds which are dry for most of the year, and full of water for the rainy season. There are, however, some riverbeds and pools that maintain water all year round. And in these, survive several species of fish--wadi fish. When the annual floods begin, these fish swim upstream and lay eggs in the highest pools.

However, they are threatened on many fronts--development, introduction of invasive species, lowering of the water level due to pumping, the building of dams, and pollution. Very little is known about the habits or range of these fish, although studies are underway.

Here's a photo of one better known species, Garra barreimiae, and an
article
about wadi fish.

For more info, or to help out, check out Wadi Fish Conservation.

22 April 2007

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright

Tiger (Panthera tigris)

The WWF and twenty-nine tiger conservation groups have joined forces to send a message to the Chinese government, as China considers lifting its ban on tiger trade under pressure from wealthy breeders set to profit from sales of tiger bone wine, meat, and skins. The conservation organizations are creating a huge photomosaic of a tiger, which will be composed of individual and group pictures of tiger supporters, to be unveiled at the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) meeting in
The Hague, Netherlands.

Help end the tiger trade. Go here to add your photo to the mosaic and show your support

19 April 2007

When it rains, it pours.

Booroolong Frog (Litoria booroolongensis)

Another rare species of frog is on the brink of extinction. And no wonder. The Booroolong tree frog is confined to less than 10 square kilometers, has been affected by the frog-killing fungus, chytridiomycosis, has to deal with invasive species preying on its eggs and tadpoles, has lost much of its habitat, and the area where it lives is undergoing a drought, drying up it's breeding grounds.


Donate to the Amphibian Ark, a movement saving frog species in decline.

17 April 2007

Caught!

Queen Alexandra's Birdwings (Ornithoptera alexandrae)

A Japanese man has been sentenced in the US to nearly two years in a federal prison, after admitting to smuggling endangered butterflies into the country, and attempting to sell them. Among them was a pair of Queen Alexandra's Birdwings, which sold for $8,500.

These beautiful buterflies, are the largest in the world, with a wingspan of 30 cm.

09 April 2007

. . .

For those of you who are still reading, thanks. Unfortunately, due to my new schedule and responsibilities, posting and some features will be declining. I'll still be around and will still post, but not as much as I used to. If you would like to help out and contribute to the site, I'd love to hear from you.

Rare rabbit still alive

Sumatran Rabbit (Nesolagus netscheri)

Wildlife Conservation Society researchers have confirmed the continued existence of the Sumatran Rabbit, which had not been seen since 1998. Using infrared camera traps, the scientists have captured images of the striped rabbit, which is endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

It is one of only two known species of striped rabbits, the other being the Annamite Striped Rabbit. The greatest threat to the Sumatran rabbit is habitat loss, mainly through clearing to make way for agriculture.

Here's the article, including the photo, from the WCS.

31 March 2007

Ack.

Sorry again. My internet has been down for the past few days. Right now I'm stealing my neighbours wireless. Back soon (hopefully).

26 March 2007

Snuwolf and Snuwolffy

Gray Wolf (Canis Lupus)

Here's some interesting news. Scientists in Korea have successfully cloned two wolves. Although the wolves were born about a year and a half ago, the news was not released until recently. The scientists from Seoul National University (SNU) are former collaborators of the disgraced Dr. Hwang (he allegedly faked some of his human stem cell research), who is on trial for, for embezzlement, fraud and violations of bioethics law. Although there are still some doubters that the wolves are clones, others hold that scientists who were close to such scandal would not announce such news if it weren't true, and that no journal would accept it without excellent evidence. Cloning and Stemcells, a high-ranking journal on cloning has accepted the paper.

Although the Gray Wolf isn't technically endangered worldwide, some subspecies and subpopulations are vulnerable or even extinct in the wild. Still, it's possible that this research might one day lead to cloning as another tool in the conservationists arsenal for saving endangered species. Although it wouldn't necessarily be able to increase the genetic pool of small populations, it could still help to increase the individuals of species with very small numbers.

Do you have an opinion? Do you think that cloning is an avenue of research worth pursuing, or should the money be spent on other more proven conservation methods.

23 March 2007

Rhinos Killed for $60 000

One (Rhinoceros unicornis)

Four Rhinos have recently been killed in Kaziranga National Park, as poachers have grown bolder and guards have grown fewer. Those four horns, each weighing about 1.6 kg, represent about $60 000 (USD) that buyers are willing to pay, usually for traditional medicines in south-east Asia.

Contribute to the International Rhino Foundation.

21 March 2007

Endangered Eating - Phillipine Dish of the Day

Giant Grouper
Dwarf Pygmy Goby
Whale Shark
Basking Shark
Zebra Shark
Big-eye Tuna
Blue-fin Tuna
Giant Manta Ray
Sea Turtles
Whale
Dolphin

These are just a few of the endangered species that are found on the menus of many restaurants in Manila. Although it is illegal both within the country and internationally to harvest, sell, or trade these species, they continue to persist in restaurants in the Phillipines. With 40 million Phillipinos relying on seafood as a primary part of their diet, and unchecked poaching, barely 1% of the countries reefs remain in pristine condition.

Here's a story about some poachers who may be getting off too easy.

20 March 2007

Blip . . . Blip . . . Blip . . .

Sorry for the break in posting . . . been settling into a new routine . . .

Species of the Week, 18 Mar 2007

Giant Bronze Gecko (Ailuronyx trachygaster)

Photo©Justin Gerlach

Not much is known about this lizard. It lives on two small islands in the Seychelles (north of Madagascar), with a total range of about 13 km squared.

It is rarely observed, as it spends most of its time high in the tree tops, feeding on nectar and pollen, especially of the coco-de-mer palm. There are fewer than 3500 estimated to be living, and although not in immediated danger, any loss of habitat would be disastrous. Unfortunately, invasive plants may be degrading their habitat in some areas, although efforts are under way to combat the alien plants.

Visit the Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles, to find out more about the people working with the Giant Bronze Gecko and other wildlife of the Seychelles.

16 March 2007

Got Sperm?

Iberian Lynx (Lynx pardinus)

In an effort to find new methods to help save the Iberian Lynx, scientists have successfully inseminated domestic cat eggs, with sperm from male Lynxes. No, they're not trying to create cross-breeds, they are actually testing the sperm's fertility--without wasting any eggs from the rare Iberian cat.

Using this new method, scientists can try to develop methods to inseminate female Lynxes, without dealing with any of the problems associated with such a process-capturing, moving, and holding animals, being some of the main ones. It will also hopefully allow them to use sperm from male cats killed on the roads near their confined habitat. Roadkilled Lynx is one of the biggest contributors to the species decline, and by preserving their sperm, it's possible that their genes will not be lost from the population.

Another initiative addresses the Lynx's declining food supply, another major problem threatening the Lynx.

15 March 2007

A Leopard's Spots

Clouded Leopard (Neofelis nebulosa)

Scientists have recently discovered that the Clouded Leopards that live in Borneo and Sumatra, are actually a separate species from those living on mainland Asia. Their analysis is based on genetic tests and morphology.

Read the article for more about their differences.

14 March 2007

Biodiversity Expert

Check out this great interview with Dr. Peter Raven, an expert on biodiversity and extinction. Lots of great info and discussion.

13 March 2007

River Dolphin Survey

Pink River Dolphin (Inia geoffrensis)
Gray River Dolphin (Sotalia fluviatilis)

A nearly complete survey of the Amazon and Orinoco basins in South America has turned up more Pink and Gray River Dolphins than expected. According to scientists, they have noted that the Dolphins seem to have moved to different areas, but have not suffered huge declines. Still, they continue to face threats such as pollution and habitat degradation. Having a good grasp on the state of this species will allow a conservation plan to be put into action.

Support efforts to help the River Dolphins.

11 March 2007

Got Rabbits?

Iberian Lynx (Lynx pardinus)

The Iberian Lynx is, perhaps, the most endangered species of large cat. With only about 200 individuals, the species hovers dangerously near to extinction. According to some, if this species disappears, it will be the first large cat to become extinct since the sabertooth.

Doñana National Park in Andalusia, southern Spain, is where most of them live. Unfortunately, there is currently a short supply of wild rabbits in the park, and the cats have been venturing further and further, putting them in the path of cars and roadways, which have killed many. If the population continues to fall at the current rate, the Iberian Lynx will disappear within 10 years.

Now, scientists and park wardens are attempting to keep the cats in the park, by supplementing their diet of wild rabbit with their domestic cousins. By increasing the food supply, they hope to keep the Lynx in the park, and give them a better chance for survival.

Support efforts to save the Iberian Lynx.

10 March 2007

Endangered Species of the Week, 11 Mar 2007

Golden-rumped Sengi (Rhynchocyon chrysopygus)

©Galen Rathbun

The Golden-rumped Sengi lives in a very small piece of forest in Kenya. This species belongs to a group of animals called afrotherians, which includes hyraxes, tenrecs, aardvarks, and golden moles. One of the most interesting things I found about Golden-rumped Sengis, is that if they become aware of a predator, they will slap their tails on the leaf litter on the forest floor. This alerts the predator that they have been seen, and communicates that it's not worth trying to catch the Sengi. The vivid gold patch may also serve as a distraction to predators, causing it to react prematurely, and notifying the Sengi of its presence. Pretty cool, huh?

You can learn more about all kinds of Afrotherians here.

09 March 2007

What was lost, now is found

Large-billed Reed-warbler Acrocephalus orinus)

In 1867, a single Large-billed Reed Warbler was collected in the Sutlej Valley, near Rampoor, India. It was never seen or heard of again. Until March of 2006, when scientists in Thailand trapped one, while working with other birds. Scientists have only just now released the news of the discovery, because it has taken a year to confirm the identity of the bird through DNA comparison with the single collected specimen. Now the search is on to find out where these birds live and breed, and to learn what makes them special.

08 March 2007

Rhino Baby Born

Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis)

Viewers watched from across the world as a baby Black Rhino was born at England's Paignton Zoo. The pregnancy and birth of this new baby were available online via webcam, and became quite a popular stopping site. Check out the videos or submit a suggestion for a name for the youngun.

07 March 2007

Devil Facial Tumour Disease

Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus harrisii)

In 1996, the Tasmanian Devil was placed in the category of animals at 'Least Risk' of extinction. In that same year, a few devils were observed and photographed with growths and tumors on their faces. Today, 10 years later, it is estimated that 40% of the Devil population has been wiped out by what has come to be known as Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD). The disease causes large tumours to grow on the faces of the Devils, and once the tumours appear, there is no recovery--at least not yet. Researchers are actively pursuing research to combat DFTD and preserve the threatened population of Devils.

DFTD is transmitted by allograft, which is fairly rare. Allograft occurs when diseased cells are passed physically from one individual to another. In the case of DFTD, it is thought that the cells are passed between individuals during their frequent scuffles, or mating which often involves biting the necks of their partners.

Currently, captive breeding populations have been established to ensure that the species will survive in the event that DFTD causes them to disappear from the wild. There is also concern that competition with introduced species such as foxes will hinder the Devil's ability to recover.

Tasmanian Devils are confined to the island of, well, Tasmania, and are named for their eerie calls (my friends will tell you that at times, I can be convinced to attempt an imitation).

Here's a site with info on how you can get involved, donate, or volunteer.

06 March 2007

Three Rare Lions Fall to Poachers

Asiatic Lion (Panthera leo ssp. persica)

Three Asiatic Lions have been poached for their bones and claws, which are highly valued in traditional Chinese Medicine. Two lionesses and one cub were found mutilated in Gir National Park, on Saturday. There are only an estimated 350 Asiatic Lions still living in the wild, though they used to range from Turkey to India. All of the Lions are in this one location, raising fears that the lions will be vulnerable to disease and poaching. The Indian government has set up a separate sanctuary, but the state government of Gujarat, where the park is located, has refused to send any Lions to the new sanctuary (located in a different state), claiming that the animals are a symbol of Gujarat.

Check out this organization devoted to helping the Asiatic Lion. They have some good ideas on how you can get involved and help the Asiatic Lion.

05 March 2007

Poison, Pests, and Politics

Grey-headed Albatross (Thalassarche chrysostoma)
Wandering Albatross (Diomedea exulans)

Macquarie Island, a World Heritage site, and part of the Australian state of Tasmania, is currently overrun with pests. Cats, rats, and rabbits were introducted to the island in the 19th century by sealers and whalers, all of which are extremely harmful to the native wildlife, especially birds. And the birds that live here include several endangered and vulnerable species. About 80 pairs of Grey-headed Albatross breed there, and the island is important habitat for both Grey-headed and Wandering Albatrosses.

In 2000, the last cat on the island was removed, but this had the unfortunate effect of allowing a population explosion among the rabbits and rats that were left. Plans are underway to exterminate the rabbits and rats, using poison delivered by helicopters during the winter, when most of the birds are at sea. However, the plans have been delayed because of wrangling between the state and federal governments over who should fund the approximately 16.5 million dollar program. The federal government has agreed to fund half the program, but the state believes they should cover the whole cost.

Cool fact about Macquarie Island: It is the only place in the world where the oceanic crust is exposed above the surface of the sea.

Articles, articles, articles.

03 March 2007

Endangered Species of the Week, 4 Mar 2007

Northern Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis caurina)



The Northern Spotted Owl is one of three Spotted Owl subspecies, the other two being the California and Mexican. Although Spotted Owls are not in danger of extinction, this particular subspecies may be. Although hard data is lacking, it is likely that they are very close to being endangered or extinct due to loss of old-growth forests. Their range extends from Southern British Columbia to Northern California.

This particular species is meaningful to me, as I had a chance to spend a day with a researcher keeping track of these birds in Washington State. He located the birds by hooting at them (he was quite good), and listening for their response. Then we captured, weighed, banded, and released two young owlets. They were very docile, and just sat there and watched as we handled their sibling. I took this photograph of the mother owl, who also simply watched as we handled her babies.

02 March 2007

Unexpected Numbers

Sociable Lapwing (Vanellus gregarius)

Ornithologists observed a record number of Sociable Lapwings in Syria. Previous populations estimates had a high end of 1500 individuals, but recently over 1200 were observed in a single day and over 1500 during a trip through Syria. The findings give hope that this critically endangered bird is doing better than expected. Nevertheless, habitat loss and illegal hunting still threaten this bird and leave it in a precarous situation.

01 March 2007

Cheetahs Collared

Asiatic Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus ssp. venaticus)

Two rare Asiatic Cheetahs have been fitted with GPS tracking collars. This rare subspecies lives only in Iran, although it was previously found throughout Asia. Scientists hope to understand better the routes that the cheetahs travel, so that they can help protect these areas.

28 February 2007

Cotton Crown

Cotton-top Tamarin (Saguinus oedipus)

A pair of Cotton-top Tamarin twins were born recently at the Marwell Zoo, in the UK. These small squirrel-sized monkeys are native to Colombia, where they have become endangered due to deforestation and exportation for research. These little furry creatures have the coolest headdresses. They remind me of some sort of Mayan Prince, or the Emperor, from the Emperor's New Groove.

27 February 2007

More Condors, and Safer

California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus)

A couple of pieces of good news for the California Condor. First off, lead bullets will be banned beginning in the 2008 hunting season at Tejon Ranch, California's largest private game reserve. Lead poisoning, from consuming carcasses that have been shot with lead bullets is believed to be the primary cause of the Condor's decline.

Plus, seven more captive-bred Condors will be released into the wild in Arizona, where there are now 57 wild condors.

26 February 2007

Rare Bird Call Recorded

Sumatran Ground Cuckoo (Carpococcyx viridis)

Scientists have recorded the call of the extremely rare Sumatran Ground Cuckoo. This bird lives in the remote forests of Indonesia, on the island of Sumatra. It was thought extinct for 81 years, until a single bird was spotted in 2002. Up until now, however, noone knew what this bird sounded like. This was a problem, since a birds call is one of the key methods scientists use to find birds, and estimate their population.

The birds call, consisting of two piercing shrieks, was recorded when a trapper handed over the bird to scientists. The bird, whose foot was injured, is being nursed back to health, and will be released back into the wild. So far it is not known if the bird has other vocalizations.

This article has a great picture, as well as a link to a recording of the bird's call.

24 February 2007

Species of the Week, 25 Feb 2007

Pallid Squill (Scilla morrisii)


©C. Christodoulou, MIPSG-SSC-IUCN

The Pallid Squill has a range of about two kilometers squared. That's tiny. Within this range, there are three isolated subpopulations. In total, there are less than 600 individuals. They grow on the island of Cyprus, in the Mediterranean. The main threat to this species is habitat loss due to road construction, logging and the expansion of farmland. The Pallid Squill is one of the IUCN's Top 50 Plants Campaign, aimed at saving some of the species at the highest risk of extinction.

The Pallid Squill, along with other plants in this genus are known to be poisonous, causing digestive disorders.

22 February 2007

In Memory of: the Gastric Brooding Frogs

Northern Gastric Brooding Frog (Rheobatrachus vitellinus)
Southern Gastric Brooding Frog (Rheobatrachus silus)

The Gastric Brooding Frogs were unique. No other frogs like them are known. Little known or undiscovered until the 1970s and 80s, both species had died off by 1985. These two extinct Australian frogs didn't raise their young in the usual way. While most frogs mate, and then lay their eggs in or near water and allow them to hatch, Gastric Brooding Frog females, as their name suggests, swallowed the fertilised eggs, and allowed them to develop in her stomach. The eggs, and then the tadpoles, lived off of yolk, and both produced a hormone which prevented the mother's stomach from producing digestive acids. During this period, the mother didn't eat, but remained active. Once the babies completed their metaorphosis from tadpole to frog, the mother regurgitated them, and they hopped out of her mouth, fully formed. Unfortunately, not much more is known about them.

So sad to see you go, crazy frogs.

Large, but Hard to Find

Goliath Frog (Conraua goliath)

Check out this great post about the Goliath Frog, over at Endangered Ugly Things.

21 February 2007

Endagered Eating - Mountain Chicken

Giant Ditch Frog (Leptodactylus fallax)

Mountain Chicken Legs with Pears

Ingedients:
COOKING TIME: 7 - 8 MINUTES
SERVINGS: 6

1 1/2 lb hard pears
6 pairs frog legs
1 dessertspoon oil
1 tsp ginger root juice
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp sherry: salt
1/2 pint veal stock
1 tsp cornflour
2-3 tbsp cold water
few drop sesame oil

Core and slice the pears. Cut each frog leg into 2 pieces and put in hot oiled pan together with ginger root juice, sugar, sherry and salt to taste. Cook for 2 minutes. Remove frog legs and put in a dish. Add pears to the pan and cook for 2 minutes. Add cornflour diluted with water, and sesame oil, cook for 1 minute and serve.

The Giant Ditch Frog, is also known as the Mountain Chicken, supposedly because of its taste and size. It used to live on a number of Carribean islands, but is now confined to two: Montserrat and Dominica. One of the problems facing this frog besides the ever present chytrid fungus and the fact that much of their habitat on Montserrat has been destroyed by volcanos, is over-harvesting by humans for consumption. Invasives, such as pigs and rats, which disturb the frogs during breeding season, or feed upon the frogs, are also a problem. As you can see, the cards are stacked against this frog.

If you'd like to help, donate to Durrell Wildlife. They have a captive breeding program, and would also like to implement some new initiatives, including wild pig control, and education programs aimed at reducing the rate of consumption.

20 February 2007

Frozen frogs may not stay frozen

Wood Frog (Rana sylvatica)

This species of frog, while not endangered, may soon be threatened by rising global temperatures. It's blood and physiology allow it to undergo multiple freeze-thaw cycles. When it get's too cold, the frogs simply freeze in place, their heart and lungs stop, and they turn into a literal ice cube. Once it warms up again, their hearts start pumping and they resume hopping around. Freezing during the winter helps the frogs by eliminating their need for food for those long months when none is to be had. With warmer temperatures around the corner, these frogs may find it difficult to survive the barren winter unfrozen.

Read about the mechanism frogs use to survive the freeze-thaw cycle, and how scientists hope it can benefit humans. An older article from National Geographic about frogs and Global Warming in general.

19 February 2007

More good news for the frogs

Spotted Tree Frog (Litoria spenceri)

In Kosciuszko National Park, Australia, a captive breeding program has been successful beyond scientists expectations. The Spotted Tree Frog population crashed in 1998, which scientists believe was caused by the chytrid fungus outbreak mentioned in a previous post. Nearly 20% of the frogs released last year, have survived, suprising scientists who said "we'd have been very happy with 5% survivorship."

Captive breeding and release programs have been tried many times before with limited success. The reason for the success of this particular program is not well understood, but scientists hope that captive breeding and reintroduction may be a means to save many frogs from extinction in the near future.

18 February 2007

Endangered Frog Bred Successfully in Captivity

Fiji Ground Frog (Platymantis vitiana)

This story is a little old, but still good news. A student at the University of South Pacific has managed to breed the endangered Fiji Ground Frog. They are only found on two small islands in the Republic of Fiji, and their habitat is very fragmented, and numbers have been declining. These frogs have never been bred in captivity, and this gives hope that they can be preserved if their habitat is destroyed.

17 February 2007

Species of the Week, Feb 18

Blue Poison Frog (Dendrobates azureus)
All frogs worldwide



The Blue Poison Frog is one of the most (in my opinion) beautiful frogs in the world. But that might just because I happen to like blue better than green, orange, red, yellow, or a bunch of other colours. It lives in the South American country of Suriname, on Vier Gebroeders Mountain, and nowhere else in the world. Well, nowhere else in the world except a lot of zoos', aquariums', and collectors' glass tanks. This is actually a good thing, since its abundance in captivity means that it is not at threat in the wild from poaching. It may be threatened in its tiny range, from time to time by fire.

More alarming is the worldwide outbreak of Chytridiomycosis, a fungus affecting at least 30% of the world's frog species, and contributing to a planet-wide decline and extinction of amphibians. The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Botanical Gardens Conservation International have teamed up to create a global Amphibian Ark--a system of zoos and gardens that will house endangered species, while the fungal and other crises are dealt with.

In honour of frogs throughout the world, all posts this week will be frog-themed.

16 February 2007

Rare Rhino Returns Home

Sumatran Rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis)

This critically endangered Rhinoceros, is the most endangered of all Rhino species, with only about 300 alive in the wild. The good news is that there may be hope for a captive breeding program. Andalas, born in the United States in 2001, is the first captive-born Sumatran Rhino in over 100 years. And now he's heading off to Indonesia, where he will be bred to two females at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary on the island of, well, Sumatra, of course.


Want to help? Adopt a Sumatran Rhino.

15 February 2007

Blind as a . . . Dolphin?

Platanista gangetica (Blind River Dolphin)

There are only four species of river dolphins. Or were, I should say, since the Baiji, or Yangtze River Dolphin, may now be extinct. The others are the the Amazon River Dolphin, the La Plata Dolphin (which inhabits saltwater estuaries off the coast of S. America), and the Blind River Dolphin of India.

Two subspecies of the Blind River Dolphin Exist. The Indus, and the Ganges, inhabiting these rivers respectively. One of the most interesting facts about this species is that it is blind. It has eyes, but no lenses, meaning it can detect light, but cannot resolve images. Instead, it has a highly developed sonar system, similar to bats. It emits pulses of sound, which it uses to find prey and navigate through the river.

It is likely that less than 2000 of these animals are still alive in India. They suffer from the damming of the rivers, pollution, poaching, and habitat degradation. Conservation has been hampered, in part, because of the difficulty of obtaining information on populations and their movements and habits.

Now, technology has been developed by the Japanese which will allow scientists to identify and track individual dolphins. The device is an underwater hydrophone that can differentiate between the clicks of different dolphins, which are unique to each individual.

14 February 2007

Save the fox!

Channel Islands Fox (Urocyon littoralis)

Just off the coast of California, not too far from Los Angeles, lie the Channel Islands. These islands have never been connected to the mainland, leaving it with at least twelve species that are not found anywhere else in the world. One of these, the Channel Islands Fox, is of special concern. This canid used to be the top of the food chain up until the 1990s. At that time, Golden Eagles, which feed on baby foxes, began to take up residence. The Golden Eagles' increase may have been partially due a decline in Bald Eagles (due to DDT poisoning), and the abundance of feral pigs. Golden Eagles also feed on baby feral pigs (Bald Eagles eat fish and carrion). The overall effect was a major decline in the fox population. Conservation efforts are well underway, with captive breeding and Golden Eagle relocation programs, but the Fox population has still not completely recovered.

Help out by getting informed, staying informed, or donating.

Check out the islands where the Island Fox lives.

13 February 2007

Little Cows in Danger

Vaquita (Phocoena sinus)

The Vaquita, which means little cow in Spanish, may not survive more than a few years, if immediate action is not taken. It is estimated that there are fewer than 400 individuals in their limited range, which encompasses the Northern part of the Gulf of California.

The main threat to this species is accidental bycatch in the nets of local fishermen. Fishing is the main economical driver in this region, complicating the Vaquita's plight, even further. Another problem may be the drastically reduced flow of the Colorado river due to damming, and the run-off of pesticides drained from agricultural lands along the river.

Conservationists are attempting to find solutions to this problem. Read more here.

Wikipedia article.

Support EDGE or WWF International, both of whom are working to save this species.

Circle Hooks Save Turtles

A new kind of fishing hook, shaped as a circle instead of a 'j' may help prevent accidental bycatch of sea turtles, which causes uncounted numbers of sea turtle deaths every year. Although these hooks might have been around for a little while, it seems like they may start to gain more acceptance in the commercial fisheries industry.

12 February 2007

You've got a what, where?!

Back in 2004, Alex Steffen wrote about a Culture of Extinction, and suggested that people start getting tattoes of extinct animals, in order to change it "from abstract issue to human concern." Although not exactly the same, Lisa Fasulo, an artist in New York, has begun to offer tattoos of endangered species. The proceeds from the project, dubbed Endangered Ink will go help some of Lisa's favorite species.

Here's the press release.

10 February 2007

Species of the Week, 11 Feb 2007

Dlinza Forest Pinwheel (Trachycystis clifdeni)

This is a beautiful snail, confined to an itty-bitty piece of forest in South Africa. Before you read any further, get an idea of just how small this little mollusc's habitat is.


Click here to open a map. Look at the little triangle of forest, just below the green arrow, stuck in the fork of the road. That's Dlinza forest, in the midst of the urban envirnoment of the nearby town of Eshowe, and the only place where the Dlinza Forest Pinwheel is known to live. Now zoom out one click at a time, until you can see all of South Africa, and realize just how tiny an area that is. Only about 250 hectares.

The name of the forest, Dlinza, reflects its past and present. This little piece of forest, once served as a burial site for fallen Zulu warriors during the Anglo-Zulu War. Today, the area is protected by KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife and provides a haven for several interesting and rare species of wildlife. In Zulu, the word idlinza can be used as a noun, meaning grave or sepulchre, or as a verb, meaning meditation and thought.

Not much is known about this species, or, more accurately, not much is known about this species that has been published, other than a few paragraphs in a 2004 field guide. It lives in the understorey, among downed logs, fallen leaves, or in damp and swampy areas.

Listed as critically endangered, the main concerns for this species are its small range, and its location near to an urban environment.

A Free Lunch!

Slender-billed Vulture (Gyps tenuirostris)
White-rumped Vulture (Gyps bengalensis)
Indian Vulture (Gyps indicus)

Good news for vultures in Nepal, who are now receiving free--as in Diclofenac-free--meals. Conservationists concerned about the birds' survival have begun setting up feeding sites, to provide cattle that have not been treated with the deadly (to vultures) drug, which the birds can feed on.

In the early 1990s, three vulture species in India, Nepal, and Pakistan began dying at alarmingly high rates. It was soon discovered that Diclofenac, used to treat cattle, was the culprit. Vultures feeding on cattle carcasses would ingest the drug--which is good for cows, but causes kidney failure in vultures.

Although the drug has been banned in all three countries, problems with illegal use, production, and smuggling have continued, with the result that birds have continued to be affected.

Now in Nepal, conservationists with Bird Conservation Nepal, have started buying old and weak cattle, ensuring that they are Diclofenac-free, and when they die, setting them out for vultures to feast on. Their efforts have attracted large numbers of vultures, and they have plans to open several more centers in areas where large numbers of vultures are known to roost, with the hope that vulture populations will begin to recover.

Lots of news stories about vulture restaurants.

Whale ho!

North Atlantic Right Whale (Eubalaena glacialis)

Listed as Endangered on the IUCNs Redlist, there are only an estimated 300-350 individuals of this species left in the ocean. Scientists from Cornell University started an experiment in December, using underwater microphones to determine the whales' position based on their vocalizations. They hope that by being abe to detect the whales' presence in real-time, they will be able to provide this information to ships, thus preventing mortality caused by collisions.

A brief article.

09 February 2007

A Hispaniolan Palm

Carossier palm (Attalea crassispatha)

Here's an endangered tree, for a change from all the endangered animals. The Carossier Palm grows only on Hispaniola. Hispaniola is the Carribean Island shared by two countries--The Dominican Republic and Haiti. It's estimated that there are only 30 or so trees left in the wild. 30!

It's mainly threatened by habitat loss, due to the conversion of land to agricultural purposes, although storms and flooding may also be a problem. Another threat is the excessive harvesting of the nuts from this palm, as they are highly valued for food and cooking oil. But . . . no nuts left to grow, means no new trees. It is thought that perhaps the best chance of survival for this tree, is as an ornamental in courtyard gardens.

Efforts are underway to collect nuts and propagate them as seedlings. If you'd like to donate to the organization responsible for this initiative, go here.

If you want to read more about the trees, go here, or view some photographs, go here.

08 February 2007

Hundreds of Sea Turtles Dead

Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea)

In the past two weeks, hundreds of Olive Ridleys, one of the smallest sea turtles, have been found dead. They are being washed up on shore along the coast of Bangladesh. In the past ten years, over 100,000 Olive Ridleys have washed ashore dead, likely due to offshore drilling and trawling.

Read about Olive Ridleys from a second-hand source.
Read about them from an eye-witness.
Join Greenpeace's Ocean Defenders.
See what they look like.

07 February 2007

Gharials in Danger

Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus)

The Gharial, or Gavial, is in need of help. Although this species was once the focus of a captive breeding and egg collection program, funding was cut off in 1991. Since that time, only two surveys have taken place. In 1998, 1200 gharials were found, in 2003, a mere 514 were found, and now it is estimated that there are less than 200 still in the wild. Of these, likely 20 or fewer are males.

Read a great feature article about Gharials and the history of their conservation here

Big Babies

Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus)
One-horned Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis)

Whipsnade Wild Animal Park, a division of the Zoological Society of London, has recently welcomed two new infants--an Asian Elephant and a One-horned Rhinoceros. Both are listed as Endangered on the IUCN's Redlist. Both babies were born in January, and can be viewed in a video here.

06 February 2007

Endangered Eating - Fish and Chips

Spiny Dogfish (Squalus acanthias)
Porbeagle (Lamna nasus)

What do Schillerlocken, Saumonette, Fish and Chips, Zeepaling, and Rock Salmon have in common? All of them are foods made from the meat of the Spiny Dogfish, a species of shark listed as Vulnerable, on the IUCN’s Redlist of Endangered Species.

In Germany, Schillerlocken is a smoked meat delicacy. In France, it is sold as saumonette, which translates to little salmon. In the UK, order some Fish and Chips, and Rock Salmon, another name for the shark, is what you’ll get. Or go to Belgium and dine on zeepaling, aka sea eel. Another way to enjoy this endangered species is as shark fin soup in Chinese cuisine.

Another shark, the Porbeagle (also listed as Vulnerable on the Redlist), is eaten fresh, frozen, dried, and salted throughout Europe. Both species are declining, mainly as a result of overfishing to meet demand.

A proposal is being spearheaded by the German government, to add these two species to Appendix II of the CITES agreement, which would require that international trade in these species be sustainable and non-detrimental to the species or their ecosystems. However, the success of the proposal is questionable, as it requires the support of the rest of the EU member countries.

Help spread the word about the dangers of overfishing sharks through the Shark Alliance, or donate to Oceana, an organization active in preserving many ocean species, including sharks.


References here, here, here, and here. And here and here.

Scientists Capture Images of Rare Antelope

Ader's Duiker (Cephalophus adersi)

Scientists in Kenya have a taken photos using a remote camera system of the rare Ader's Duiker. They hope to learn more about the animals in order to aid conservation efforts.

Article.

05 February 2007

Scientists Track Irrawaddy Dolphins

Irrawaddy Dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris)

Scientists have started tracking the movements of Irrawaddy Dolphins in Chilka Lake in Eastern India. Using underwater hydrophones, they can record the movements and activities of the Dolphins, helping them understand migrations and track changes in the population. Several different populations of Irrawaddy dolphins exist, all of them endangered or critically endangered.

Article.
Info.

Oil Spill May Affect Condors

California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus)

A recent oil spill in California may affect the well-being of California Condors and other wildlife. The spill, although relatively minor as far as oil spills go, occurred very close to a nearby Condor sanctuary.

Articles here and here.

Rays of Love

Shark Ray (Rhina ancylostoma), Vulnerable

The Newport Aquarium in Kentucky has acquired a male Shark Ray, hoping that it will mate with Sweet Pea, their female Shark Ray. Curiously, it's not known exactly how the Rays mate, as they have horny ridges on their neck and back, a dorsal fin and rounded undersides. The Shark Ray is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN's Redlist.

The article.
Images.

04 February 2007

Species of the Week, 4 Feb 07

Bontebok/Blesbok (Damaliscus pygargus)

Ok, so, I know the picture of the Bontebok has been up for a while, even though the Week of the Bontebok is only just now starting. My apologies, in the future, I'll change the picture at the correct time.


I honestly had never heard of the Bontebok, until I started looking for pictures of endangered species. And right after I learned about it, I got confused, as to whether it was a Bontebok or a Blesbok, and whether it was Damaliscus dorcas, pygargus, or phillipsi. It turns out that there are two subspecies of Damaliscus pygargus, and a name change in it's history to confuse things further (from dorcas to pygargus). If all of this doesn't make sense, here's what matters: There are two supspecies of an African antelope, the Bontebok and the Blesbok.

The Blesbok now survives only on game farms and wildlife refuges. At one point in their history, the Bontebok was reduced to a mere 17 individuals. Today, however, the Bontebok is recovering, with over 2000 individuals in the wild.

Here's more info:
Wikipedia
Bontebok National Park
Kruger Park
Blue Planet Biomes
Ultimate Ungulate.

One Lonely Survivor

Whooping Crane (Grus americana)

According to this article, not all 18 of the whooping cranes were killed in the Florida Storms, as previously believed.

When project organizers went to collect the birds' carcasses, they found that one of them was missing. Strangely, it was this same bird that wandered away from the rest of the flock for a few days during the migration south. Perhaps it's individualism somehow saved it? Who knows, for now, project organizers (and I) are just glad that there is at least one survivor. No word yet on what exactly killed the remaining seventeen birds, though lightning and drowning have both been proposed.

Donate to Operation Migration.
Donate to the International Crane Foundation.

03 February 2007

18 Young Whooping Cranes Lost

Whooping Crane (Grus americana)

Besides claiming many human lives, the recent storms in Florida claimed the lives of 18 endangered whooping cranes.

The birds were part of a program using ultra light aircraft to teach young cranes the correct migration route. This group, migrating from Wisconsin to Florida used to have 81 individuals. After the loss of these birds, the flock numbers 63--at the most--assuming no others were killed by the storm. The only other whooping cranes in existence: a non-migratory flock in Florida (~60 birds), and a flock which migrates from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast (~200 birds).

Read more details here.
Donate to Operation Migration.
Donate to the International Crane Foundation.
Visit the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership for more info.

Name those Pandas

Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)

If you're a Giant Panda fan, and want a chance to name one, you only have two days left. Suggestions are currently being accepted for eighteen cubs in China's Wolong Nature Reserve, that are currently unnamed. Go visit the China Daily website before February 5, 2007 to cast your vote or make a suggestion.

Current suggestions include: Patalo, Choupi, Ice, Oreo, Mei Mei, Meng Lin, Bamboo, Cherish, Golem, Cy and many more.

02 February 2007

Striped Hyena Spotted

Striped Hyaena (Hyaena hyaena)

According to a WWF news release, a Striped Hyena was spotted in northern Turkmenistan recently, by WWF scientists working on the Amu Darya nature reserve. Although not listed as endangered by the IUCN, this species is very rare in Central Asia. The fact that it has been spotted here may indicate that the region's environment is recovering.

01 February 2007

Death of Critically Endangered Whale

Gray Whale (Eschrichtius robustus)

The IUCN released a report today, of the fourth Western Gray Whale death in two years, due to entanglement in fishing nets. The whale was a young female, and was discovered on 19th January 2007 in Yoshihama Bay, off the Northeasten Coast of Honshu.

The Gray Whale was hunted nearly to extinction in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1947, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) placed a ban on killing Gray Whales. Today, two distinct populations exist--the Eastern and Western Pacific Gray Whales. The Eastern population, which migrates between Alaska and Baja Mexico, has rebounded since the IWC ban, and today numbers over 20,000. In recent years, however, mortality has been increasing and the production of offspring has been decreasing, boding ill for this population.

The critically endangered Western Gray Whale, which summers in the Sea of Okhotsk, and winters in the coastal waters of Japan, Korea, and China, never recovered, and today numbers approximately 120 individuals, and only 20-25 reproductive females. This western population faces continued pressure from oil and gas field development off of Sakhalin Island, as well as entrapment in fishing gear and collisions with ships.

Translation of an article from a Japanese Newspaper.
The IUCN's listing.
Donate to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to help prevent whale deaths due to military sonar.
Gray Whale images.

For a great read on the Gray Whale, check out Dick Russell's book Eye of the Whale: Epic Passage from Baja to Siberia.

31 January 2007

If At First You Don't Succeed . . .

Takahe (Porphyrio hochstetteri)

A mated pair of Takahe's, birds indigenous to New Zealand, recently made an unsuccessful nesting attempt, producing two infertile eggs. The ecologists working with the birds say that they are young and still getting the hang of being good parents, and are hopeful the pair will make another attempt in the near future. Here's the original.

Here's more info and images on Takahes.

Abundant in the Hudson

Shortnose Sturgeon (Acipenser brevirostrum)

Here's something you don't hear about everyday. The shortnose sturgeon, listed as vulnerable on the IUCN's Redlist, appears to be recovering, at least in certain rivers in North America. Although the article cites a 400% increase in the Hudson River since the 70s, it makes no mention of other rivers where this species is also threatened.

Here's the article.
Images of Shortnose Sturgeon.

Say it Ain't So

Baiji (Lipotes vexillifer)

The Baiji, also known as the Chinese River Dolphin or the Yangtze River Dolphin, may already be extinct. I don't know what else to say. I'm sitting here, slightly stunned, and hoping that the expedition, which searched for six weeks and found no dolphins, might have missed a few. Enough that the population could still survive. I guess all I can do is keep hoping, and keep working. This might be old news to some who have been following this species closely, but I have just started to learn about this species.


Read articles here or in Wikipedia.

Donate to the EDGE project to try to locate and save any remaining Baiji.

30 January 2007

Tatoosh, Meriweather, Ursa, and Wiley

California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus)

Four California Condors are being prepared for release into the wild. Two will be released this summer, and two next summer, into the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in Arizona.

Read the article.