23 April 2008

Still Hanging On

(Teucrium ajugaceum)
(Rhaphidospora cavernarum)

Two plants thought to be extinct, have been rediscovered in Cape York, Queensland, Australia. Neither plant had been seen since the late 1800s

22 April 2008

More for Your Money

Normally, here at Not Extinct Yet, I tend to focus on organizations that are working on conservation of endangered species or animal groups--the Kakapo, the Vaquita, Rhinos, Frogs, etc.

But for Earth Day 2008, I thought I'd present an opportunity to give, which will help conserve an endangered ecosystem--the Atlantic Forest of eastern Brazil. The forest, a hot-spot of biodiversity, has lost 93% of it's original area. It is home to many endangered species, including the Golden Lion Tamarin.

The Nature Conservancy, one of my favourite organizations, has started the Plant a Billion Trees campaign, to restore the Atlantic Forest. Their goal is to, well, plant a billion trees obviously. Over the next seven years, they will plant Guapuruvu, Golden Trumpet, Ice-cream Bean, and Capororoca trees, which will restore important habitat, as well as remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

For just $1, you can plant a tree. Every tree counts!

Happy Earth Day!

Jabba the Hutt or Rare Frog?

Bornean Flat-headed Frog (Barbourula kalimantanensis), Endangered

On the island of Borneo, lives a frog that has been described by David Bickford as "a squished version of Jabba the Hutt," the slimy slug-like character from the Star Wars movies. Resembling a famous alien, however, isn't its claim to fame. Bickford, of the National University of Singapore and a team of scientists, recently discovered that Barbourula kalimantensis is the only known lungless frog in the world. It 'inhales' 100% of its oxygen through it's skin.

Scientists speculate that the adaptation has allowed this frog to survive in the clear, cold, fast-flowing streams where it lives. Having lungs would make the frogs more buoyant, and hence more likely to be washed downriver. As it is, the denser lungless frogs can more easily sink to the bottom of the river without being swept away. This fast-flowing cold current habitat, is what makes lunglessness (is that a word?), possible. The cold water can hold more oxygen, and the current delivers it quickly and efficiently to the frogs flattened body, which provides a greater surface area for gas exchange. In water that is still, warm, or even slow-moving, these flat frogs can't survive.

Which is unfortunate, because the rivers of its forest home, are becoming slower and warmer, as illegal logging and gold-mining pollute the rivers and destroy vital habitat. The Bornean Flat-headed Frog may be headed for extinction if action isn't taken very soon.

If you want to help, you can donate to the Heart of Borneo project, organized by the WWF, which aims to conserve a chunk of rainforest. You can also donate to Amphibian Ark, an organization committed to conserving frogs and other amphibians.

21 April 2008

Short Snouts are Back

Short-snouted Seahorse (Hippocampus hippocampus), Data Deficient

Earlier this month, conservationists from the Zoological Society of London announced that several Short-snouted Seahorses (which are actually fish, for those who wondered) had been found in the Thames River. Though they had been found earlier, the announcement was delayed, until official protection for the Seahorses came into effect on April 6, 2008, under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. Conservationists believe that the rediscovery of the Short-snouted Seahorse illustrates the improving health of the Thames as habitat for marine life.

The conservation status of Short-snouted Seahorses is unknown, and the IUCN classifies them as Data Deficient. They could be abundant and plentiful . . . or they could be teetering on the brink of extinction.

The Seahorse Trust works worldwide to conserve Seahorses, and you can donate to their cause from their website.

20 April 2008

A Friend for Kim Qui

Yangtze Giant Softshell Turtle (Rafetus swinhoei), Critically Endangered

Back in December, I wrote about the Yangtze Giant Soft-shelled Turtle. Then, there were only two known Rafetus swinhoei known to exist, both in captivity, in separate zoos in China. It turns out that they aren't, in fact, the last two in existence. There are at least two others. One, highly revered by the Vietnamese and figuring prominently in legends as Kim Qui, the Golden Turtle God, lives in Hoan Kiem Lake, in Hanoi.

The discovery of the fourth, and only other known surviving turtle of this species, was recently announced by the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Scientists backed by the zoo spent three years searching in Vietnam, up and down the Red River. They finally found success at a lake just west of Hanoi, where locals said they occasionally spotted the rare turtle. As there are so few of these rare turtles left, every individual offers a greater hope for recovery. With only four known, however, prospects of long-term survival aren't very positive.

Rafetus swinhoei can live to be up to 100 years old, and perhaps it's not too late. There is a plan in the works to breed the male and female turtles from the Chinese zoos. So far though, no one knows for sure whether that attempt will be successful. Keep your fingers crossed.

You can join the Turtle Survival Alliance if you want to make a difference. You could also make a donation.

17 April 2008

Endangered Eating - Indian Bushmeat

Himalayan Quail (Ophrysia superciliosa), Critically Endangered
River Terrapin (Batagur baska), Critically Endangered
Malabar Civet (Viverra civettina), Critically Endangered
Pygmy Hog (Sus salvanius), Critically Endangered
Hoolock Gibbon (Bunopithecus hoolock), Endangered
Narrow-headed Softshell Turtle (Chitra indica), Endangered
Swamp Deer (Cervus duvaucelii), Endangered
Capped Langur (Trachypithecus pileatus), Endangered
Markhor (Capra falconeri), Endangered
Asiatic Black Bear (Ursus thibetanus), Vulnerable

"Musk-deer jerky, rice garnished with boiled macaque, roasted porcupine and marbled cat curry," begins an article published at OneWorld South Asia.

The article takes a look at some of the reasons that endangered species in India are rising in popularity as foods. From status symbols to subsistence fare, many of India's most endangered species are being decimated, one meal at a time. Read the full article, to learn more.

15 April 2008

World's Rarest Bustard

Bengal Florican (Houbaropsis bengalensis), Critically Endangered

The Bengal Florican, known by locals as "the whispering bird," has a long black head and neck, long, mostly white wings, and long yellow legs. It received it's nickname from the displays of male birds, which in mating season, struts into a clearing and ruffles it neck feathers. It jumps into the air, then drifts back to the ground, giving a deep humming call as it descends--hence "the whispering bird." It usually competes with other nearby males.

The Bengal Florican survives in areas of India and Nepal, but the largest part of its fragmented population ekes out its existence in the dry grasslands of Cambodia. With less than 1500 individuals, the Bengal Florican is listed by the IUCN as Critically Endangered, and scientists estimate that it may be extinct in Cambodia within 5 years.

The biggest threat to these birds is habitat loss. According to a recent article, "Since 2005, a rush to turn grasslands into large-scale rice farms has gobbled up one-third of the Bengal Florican's habitat in Cambodia."

A land protection program, designed to stop development of critical habitat, has been implemented with some success. The program, a collaboration between the Wildlife Conservation Society, BirdLife International, and Cambodian authorities, protects 135 square miles and has canceled several previously planned developments. Still, the Bengal Florican isn't out of danger by a long shot. Though conservationists have attempted to win villager's support, resistance remains and some areas continue to be developed.

You can donate to BirdLife International, which is working to save 189 of the world's most endangered birds, including the Bengal Florican. Or, if you can spare 20,000 British pounds a year, you can become a Species Champion, and champion the survival of the Bengal Florican.

Here's a video of the Bengal Florican--unfortunately not of the male's mating dance.

08 April 2008

Incremental Increase

Iberian Lynx (Lynx Pardinus), Critically Endangered

Three Iberian Lynx kittens have recently been born in captivity, boosting the population of the worlds rarest cat.

Saliega, raised in captivity since birth, has produced her fourth litter in as many years. Three kittens were born, but only two survived, which is often the case in the wild. However, Brisa, Saliega's daughter, produced two kittens of her own within days of her mother. Of those two, one was still-born, and the other is being cared for by staff at the breeding center in Huelva, Spain.

Azahar and Frans, another pair of Iberian Lynx at a zoo in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain, are expected to have a litter in mid-April.

There are currently only about 150 Iberian Lynx living in the wild, and scientists have estimated that there is a 95% chance the they will be extinct within 32 years, without drastic measures. A captive breeding program is underway, and additional centers are being constructed, but the problems of habitat loss and fragmentation continue to plague the recovery of Europe's last large feline.

Support efforts to save the lynx through petitions, donations, and other methods.

07 April 2008

Home Sweet Home

Asiatic Black Bear (Ursus thibetanus), Vulnerable

A new bear rescue center in Vietnam welcomed it's first inhabitants today--four Asiatic Black Bears, also known as Moon Bears. The bears were rescued by police seven months ago, when they were found in the luggage compartment of a bus. The center will eventually be able to hold up to 200 bears.

Animals Asia, the group operating the center, say they hope to end the illegal bear trade in Vietnam. Although it is legal to raise bears, the sale of bear meat and bile are forbidden. However, both are sold in a thriving black market. Some 4000+ bears are still trapped in cages across the country at illegal farms, in part because there is no place for them once they are rescued. Animals Asia hope that by providing a home for these bears, the government will be able to actually enforce the laws.

The use of bear bile for traditional medicine is still widespread and deeply rooted in the culture. Farmers extract the bile from the animals with a syringe, and sell it for use in cures of the eyes and liver, and other illnesses. Animals Asia hope that the center will send a message about the importance of animal protection to the Vietnames people.

Take a minute to sign a petition to help prevent the abuse of bears.
Donate to the Moon Bear Rescue effort.
Read more, here, here, and here.

03 April 2008

Kakapo - 91 and counting

Kakapo (Strigops habroptila), Critically Endangered

The critically endangered Kakapo is now five newly hatched chicks further away from extinction. The five chicks were recently hatched on Codfish Island a southern New Zealand island. The new hatchlings bring the world's total Kakapo population to 91, and if two more existing eggs hatch live chicks, it will rise to 93.

Part of the reason for the slow rise in Kakapo numbers, is that they only breed every three to five years. The breeding years are linked to years in which certain trees produce high yields of fruit. Scientists think that they may have found a way to mimic the conditions of these high fruit yields, by using some of the chemicals in the fruits themselves, that may trigger the birds to breed. If so, they may be able to increase the number of Kakapo eggs laid each year. For a more detailed explanation, check out this article.

Here's a video of a newly hatched Kakapo.

If you want to help save the Kakapo, you can donate or just become more informed.