08 December 2011

What will happen to Peter's chameleon?

Petter's chameleons (Furcifer petteri), Vulnerable.

Back in the dry season of 2007 on the very northern tip of Madagascar, our favourite nightwalk victim became sleeping Petter's chameleons (Furcifer petteri) {Peter/Petter wasn't asleep the chameleons were).

Attributed as a defense mechanism these chameleon climb to the furthest parts of branches and curl their prehensile tails around branch before they nod off. If predators come along the branch tip is more shook up than the rest and either the chameleon wakes up or falls off to be rudely awakened once it hits the ground.

IUCN classifies them as vulnerable but this is largely due to our lack of knowledge how fragmentation affects this species. We found them in a patch of dry deciduous forest fairly close to the coastline, they have also been found in survey of two national parks - Mt. Ambre (wet montane) and Ankarana (dry and full of limestone karst).

The problem is that we don't know if they can bridge the expanses between these sites and if they have been isolated for too long to provide a healthy population. Most likely, they are severely impacted by deforestation and survive in small pockets of remaining habitat.

Another confounding thing about the Petter's chameleon, true also for other species, is that juveniles are too easily confused with similar looking species. We just don't know enough about them or their lives to make even rough estimates of habitat requirement, sensitivity to human disturbance / cattle disturbance. Species range is also loosely defined for these chameleons.

What I do know is that they are the least stressed out/nasty when being handled, will hold onto a pencil like a security blanky while you weigh them and measure lengths. Sexing adults is easy peasy for the Petter's chameleon - males have you-can't-miss-it nasal protrusions (refer picture). These were also the first chameleons that I saw with PINK on them - they put on trippy color shows.

We definitely need to assess what species remnants of northern Malagasy forests harbor and how best we can connect fragments across the agricultural landscape. Especially now when Madagascan biodiversity is more threatened than ever before (with the last political coup and rampant harvesting of illegal hard wood from pristine primary forests).

Here's a pic of one of them lounging on the camp fence after spending a night on camp with us.

28 September 2011

Endangered Eating

Check out this great blog post from Eating . . . Our Words, a blog hosted by Houston Press. It details ten species of endangered fish that are still commonly eaten, and asks the question "Why are we still eating species that are on the verge of collapse?"

10 Fish You're Eating That Are Endangered Species

Here's a list of different organizations and advisories focusing on sustainable seafood choices.

22 June 2011

Responsible Reading

Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus harrisii), Endangered

Check out this anthology of 'speculative fiction.' Titled Extinction Doesn't Mean Forever, the stories are themed around extinct or imaginary creatures returning to the modern world. The authors have decided to donate the profits earned between July 1 and July 15, 2011 to help save the Tasmanian Devil.

Download a copy of their book during those two weeks and you can help prevent the extinction of the Tasmanian Devil.

Check out these previous posts on the Tasmanian Devil to learn what's been causing their decline, or check out the Save the Tasmanian Devil website for the latest news and information.

03 May 2011

Bluefin Blues

Northern Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus Thynnus), Critically Endangered

I'm in Japan for my brother's wedding, and I almost cried. Not because of the wedding. Because of the Bluefin Tuna.

The Bluefin Tuna, known in Japan as Hone Maguro, is prized as a delicious morsel of sushi and is extremely popular. I went down to the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, the largest wholesale seafood market in the world, two days ago, hoping to get a glimpse of the auction where the Tuna are sold. The Tuna auction (and the entire wholesale portion of the market) was closed to tourists, so my family and I snuck in. Walking past aisle upon aisle of Shellfish, Molluscs, and hundreds of Fish species, I was appalled to see a sign for a booth selling Whale. My mother reminded me that fishing was in my heritage (I'm half Japanese), and I felt ashamed.
Though I only managed to get a few glimpses and blurry photographs of the rows of frozen Tuna bodies as the guards were escorting us out, I was sad and angry that we are still killing and eating a species that is so close to extinction.

The next day, I went to a sushi restaurant with my aunts, grandparents, uncles, brothers, nieces, parents, and sister-in-law. Several of them selected slender cuts of Bluefin as they scrolled by on the moving conveyor belt. They hid their eyes from me in joking half embarrassment as they downed the delicious morsels. That's when I almost cried.

Experts estimate that sometime in 2012 (2012!!!) the Bluefin Tuna will pass the point of no return on the road to extinction, unless something changes.

If you want to help make the change and stop the extinction, support these guys. They're going to make a direct last ditch direct effort to stop illegal fishing, since much of the Tuna sold on the market is caught illegally. They also made the animation at the start of this post and are working on several other campaigns to raise awareness about our impact on the Bluefin Tuna.

For a broader scale impact, support WWF, who are working from a more political angle to stop the unsustainable fisheries practices.

Also, please, stop eating Bluefin Tuna. I don't want to cry.

19 April 2011

Numbat Numbers

Numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus), Endangered

Having just spent several months living and working in Australia, Australian species are especially interesting to me right now. Koalas, Kookaburras, and Kangaroos all crossed my path, as did Wallabies, Wattles, and Wombats. What didn't cross my path was a small creature known as a Numbat. This is likely because the Numbat is no longer common in the state of Victoria, where I spent almost all of my time.

Numbats used to live all across the southern regions of Australia. Their population was reduced to two tiny pockets in the state of Western Australia after the introduction of foxes. Since then, it has been reintroduced to a few small conservation areas, but still numbers less than a 1 000 animals in the wild.

The Numbat diet is a little bit monotonous, consisting of nothing but termites. Each individual can eat between 10 000 and 20 000 termites in a day! Unlike many other termite eating animals, however, Numbats are small, and lack claws or any other method to open up termite nests. This means that they have to forage for termites when the termites themselves are out of the nest foraging--that is, during the day--making it one of the very few marsupials active during the day. Being active during the day like this is thought to make them more susceptible to predation.

In the evening, when they aren't foraging, these rare marsupials retire to their burrows, which are very often inside of hollowed out logs. It is thought that an abundance of hollow logs to hide in may have saved the two groups of Numbats that survived in Western Australia, as they provided protected hiding places from predators.

These stripy furry animals are cute, no doubt about it. They're one of Western Australia's State Emblem's, and they've also been chosen as the icon for the Conservation Council of Western Australia. A captive breeding and reintroduction program is underway, and Numbats are bred at Perth Zoo and released each year into managed habitat. Here's a great video about hand-rearing baby Numbats at the zoo.

If you want to help Numbats, you can donate to Perth Zoo's Wildlife Conservation Action.

22 January 2011


Northern Hairy Nosed Wombat (Lasiorhinus krefftii), Critically Endangered

This cute-ish animal is critically endangered. Endemic to Australia, it's range has steadily decreased, until in the early 80s, there were only 30-40 individuals in tiny Epping National Forest Park, about 800 km northwest of Brisbane. In 1982, Cattle were excluded from their habitat, and their population has risen to over 130.

In May of 2009, a number of Wombats were moved from Epping to a newly created nature reserve, just north of St. George, providing some protection for the species. The biggest threat to the species is a catastrophe such as fire, flood, drought, or disease, that could wipe out the entire population. Having two separate populations is a bit of a disaster insurance policy.

This largest of Wombat species, also sometimes referred to as the Yaminon, is now protected in both locations by predator proof fences to keep out dingos and other predators. Conservationists managing these populations engage in reproductive and behavioural research, as well as controlling invasive species of grass, controlled burns of habitat, DNA studies to estimate population (by collecting hair samples with tape), and much more.

If you want to help out this nearly extinct animal, here's some ideas:

You could of course donate to the Wombat Foundation.

Or you could buy some children's books featuring Willit the Amazing Wombat.

Most importantly and least expensively though, you could learn more about the Northern Hairy Nosed Wombat, and then tell your friends.

Here are some very informative sites:

From the Queensland Government.
From Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE).
From the Wombat Foundation.