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


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


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


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.