11 September 2008

More Monkeys Is Good News

Gray Snub-nosed Monkey (Rhinopithecus brelichi), Endangered

This endangered monkey is confined to a 400 square kilometer reserve in China. Up until 1978, their mountainous home was severely disturbed and damaged due to mining activities. Since then, the Fanjing Mountains Natural Reserve has been established, and their population has increased from an estimated 400 in 1979 to 850 today.

Since 1992 the Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve Administration Bureau has successfully bred seven captured individuals, producing a mere 16 offspring-an average of one per year.

You can donate to Save the Primates to aid conservation of primates world-wide.

10 September 2008

No More Protein!

Kakapo (Strigops habroptila), Critically Endangered

The Kakapo is a large ground-dwelling parrot, found only on two small, isolate islands in New Zealand. The total number of birds has risen to 91 in the past year, but this number is still precariously low.

Part of the problem is that Kakapo only lay eggs every three to five years, when Rimu Trees produce an especially large harvest of fruit. When this happens, the Kakapo feast and breed. Scientists have been trying to increase the frequency with which these beautiful birds breed, by supplementing their diets with protein, known to be an important nutrient for other breeding species.

Now, the importance of protein for the Kakapo is being questioned. Professor David Raubenheimer has recently analyzed the nutrient content of the Rimu fruit, and found that it is low in protein and high in calcium. He thinks that calcium may be more important for breeding Kakapo, as it would be used in their eggshells and incorporated into their unusually large skeletons.

Scientists will continue to try and increase the breeding frequency of the Kakapo to boost the population, by using a new formulation of feed that more closely matches the content of the Rimu fruit. One question still remains, however. Is it just the nutrients that are limiting the Kakapo, or are they programmed to breed only when there is an abundance of Rimu fruit?

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

09 September 2008

One. Five. Zero.

Vaquita (Phocoena sinus), Critically Endangered

One. Five. Zero.

That's the estimated number of Vaquitas Marinas, or little sea cows still alive. These miniature porpoises (featured here previously), which live only in the Gulf of California, are the most endangered cetacean. If nothing is done, they are likely to become extinct within the next year or two, or sooner.

The main cause of their decline, is not habitat loss, climate change, or pollution (although these things do affect the Vaquita). The biggest threat to the survival of the Vaquita is the nets local fishermen. The nets are intended for other fish and shrimp, but an estimated 40 are caught accidentally each year. When your total population is 150, losing 40 is a big deal.

The Mexican government is pledging 16 million US dollars to pay fishermen to avoid the Vaquita's habitat or to stop fishing altogether. Some of the money will also be spent to teach fishermen alternative techniques using snares that are too small to endanger Vaquitas.

So far, about 1000 fishermen (40%) have agreed to stay out of Vaquita habitat or stop fishing altogether. This is a good start, but more is needed. With the population already so low, if the Vaquita is to make a full recovery, accidental deaths due to fishing must be reduced to zero.

Here's a great site with information about the history of the conservation of the Vaquita and the threats it faces.

Support the survival of the Vaquita (cheque only).