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.

DoƱana 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.