17 December 2009

Collector's Item

Gooty Sapphire (Poecilotheria metallica), Critically Endangered

The first thing I learned about this tree dwelling tarantula, was that it has to be seen to be believed. When I saw a picture, I understood why. The rare beauty of this spider's color may be its salvation or its doom.

Native to a tiny, tiny, tiny, patch of India, this entire species occupies less than 100 km squared--and that's a generous estimate. Sounds big, but look at this map, and you'll see just how tiny it is.

With it's habitat being degraded as humans cut trees for timber and firewood, it's up for debate whether the smugglers who have spirited some of these spiders out of the country will ultimately help the spiders or cause their demise.

Coveted among spider and insect collectors and hobbyists for their colour, these spiders are being bred in captivity by specialist pet shops. A young Sapphire Gooty spiderling can fetch more than US$150. Although they are fairly rare right now, as hobbyists continue to breed them, they may become more common.

I don't generally support taking wild animals out of their native habitat for use as pets, but perhaps this time it might save them, or at least ensure that some remain if they can no longer survive in the wild.

What do you think? Is this biopiracy or conservation in disguise?

11 December 2009

Viva Vaquita

Vaquita (Phocoena sinus), Critically Endangered

A new taskforce has been formed to prevent the extinction of the Vaquita, the world's rarest marine mammal. Check out the Viva Vaquita website for more information.

Here's a recent article about the latest happenings in the world of the Vaquita.

10 December 2009

Vultures in Vain

Oriental White-backed Vulture (Gyps bengalensis), Critically Endangered
Indian Vulture (Gyps indicus), Critically Endangered
Slender-billed Vulture (Gyps tenuirostris), Critically Endangered

In the 1980s, millions of somewhat ugly but still majestic vultures congregated around the carcasses of dead and decaying animals throughout India, Nepal, and Southeast Asia, disposing of them in less than an hour. Today, with their population a mere 0.01% of its former size, carcasses of livestock sit for days or weeks, rotting in the sun.

What happened to the other 99.9%? Poisoned.

Diclofenac is a drug that was commonly used to treat inflammation and arthritis in livestock. When animals receiving the drug died, vultures would come to feast. A few days later, their kidneys would fail and death would follow shortly. Diclofenac is, as far as anyone can tell, the sole culprit for the decline of these useful birds.

Diclofenac has been banned for veterinary use in India, Nepal, and Pakistan since 2006, but is still available for human use--and some farmers still use it for their livestock.

Now, another drug commonly used to treat livestock, ketoprofen, has been shown to have similar effects to diclofenac. Ketoprofen is not used as widely, but it's becoming more popular. Although it's not as toxic as diclofenac, studies and modeling have shown that even with very small numbers of poisoned carcasses, massive declines in vulture populations would occur.

Conservation organizations, including the Bombay Natural History Society, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and Birdlife International, are advocating the use of meloxicam. Though this drug is more expensive, it is the only drug known to be safe for vultures. Other drugs exist, but their effect on vultures is unknown.

Captive breeding centers for Vultures have been established, as well as Vulture restaurants, where undrugged carcasses are left out for the birds. There have been some successes with captive breeding, but the birds will probably not be released until harmful drugs are no longer a threat.

02 December 2009

Endangered Eating: The End of Tuna

Atlantic and Southern Bluefin Tuna, (Thunnus thynnus and maccoyii), Critically Endangered

So much has been written about the plight of Bluefin Tuna that I feel it's pointless to add another article to the mix. However, if you aren't aware of what's happening to our Tuna, you should read one or two of the articles below. Our fish are being used up at a ridiculously unsustainable rate. If you can't be bothered to read any of the articles, the main gist is this--stop eating Bluefin Tuna for a while, or in a few years, there won't be any left.

Check out Tuna can stay on the menu... for now, to get an idea of which Tuna species are sustainably harvested if you're a Tuna lover, or become a sustainable seafood consumer.


Tuna can stay on the menu... for now

Tagging the tigers of the sea

Are lower catch limits enough to save the bluefin tuna from extinction?

ICCAT fails to protect critically endangered tuna—again

Atlantic bluefin trade ban now vital as tuna commission fails to take action again

Mediterranean bluefin catches continue to mock quotas and science

Top French chefs take bluefin tuna off the menu

Don't Order the Tuna -- Endangered Fish Served as Sushi

Monaco seeks global bluefin tuna trade ban

Bluefin quota to cost Australian fisheries millions

Southern Bluefin Tuna crashing toward extinction to feed sushi & sushimi market