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


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.


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.


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.

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:
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.