2008 October 6. One in 4 Mammals Threatened With Extinction, Group Finds. By James Kanter, The New York Times. Excerpt: BARCELONA, Spain — An “extinction crisis” is under way, with one in four mammals in danger of disappearing because of habitat loss, hunting and climate change, a leading global conservation body warned Monday.
“Within our lifetime, hundreds of species could be lost as a result of our own actions,” said Julia Marton-Lefèvre, the director general of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, or I.U.C.N., a network of campaign groups, governments, scientists and other experts.
Among 188 mammals in the group’s highest threat category — critically endangered — was the Iberian lynx, which has an estimated population of 84 adults and has continued to decline as its primary prey, the European rabbit, has fallen victim to disease and overhunting.
...Jan Schipper, the director of the global mammal assessment for the I.U.C.N. and for Conservation International, an environmental group, said it was hard to draw a direct comparison with the last detailed survey on mammals, in 1996. New species have been identified, others discovered, and the criteria used to assess species have been made more broadly applicable across all animals and plants.
But he gave a mostly bleak assessment.
“Although 5 percent of mammals are recovering, what we observe are rates of habitat loss and hunting in Southeast Asia, Central Africa and Central and South America that are so serious that the overall rate of decline has steadily increased during the past decade,” Mr. Schipper said....
2008 Aug 5. Trove of Endangered Gorillas Found in Africa. By ANDREW C. REVKIN, NY Times. Excerpt: A grueling survey of vast tracts of forest and swamp in the northern Congo Republic has revealed the presence of more than 125,000 western lowland gorillas, a rare example of abundance in a world of rapidly vanishing primate populations.
As recently as last year, this subspecies of the world's largest primate was listed as critically endangered by international wildlife organizations because known populations - estimated at less than 100,000 in the 1980s - had been devastated by hunting and outbreaks of Ebola virus. The three other subspecies are either critically endangered or endangered.
The survey was conducted by the Wildlife Conservation Society and local researchers in largely unstudied terrain, including a swampy region nicknamed the "green abyss" by the first biologists to cross it.
...The lowland gorillas discovered in the Congo Republic survey are secure for now, but pressures are growing on wildlife in central Africa as international demand builds for tropical hardwood and other resources. The government of Congo Republic has granted national park status to one of the studied regions, Ntokou-Pikounda, which is estimated to hold 73,000 gorillas. But there is little money for staff or operations, conservation society officials said....
2008 Aug 5. Alaska: Suit Filed Over Polar Bears. By WIRE SERVICES. Excerpt: The state has sued Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, seeking to reverse his decision to give polar bears protection under the Endangered Species Act.... The lawsuit, filed Monday, argues that the Interior Department failed to consider that polar bears had survived previous warming periods....
2008 July 15. Efforts on 2 Fronts to Save a Population of Ferrets. By Jim Robbins, The New York Times. Excerpt: WALL, S.D. — A colony that contains nearly half of the black-footed ferrets in the country and which biologists say is critical to the long-term health of the species has been struck by plague, which may have killed a third of the 300 animals.
A much-publicized endangered species in the 1970s that had dwindled to 18 animals, the black-footed ferret had struggled to make a comeback and had been doing relatively well for decades. But plague, always a threat to the ferrets and their main prey, prairie dogs, has struck with a vengeance this year, partly because of the wet spring.
The ferrets are an easy target for the bacteria. “They are exquisitely sensitive to the plague,” said Travis Livieri, a wildlife biologist here who is trying to save the colony. “They don’t just get sick, they die. No ifs, ands or buts.”...
But the fight is not only against the plague. While the federal Forest Service is part of the effort to protect ferrets, it has also, at the request of area ranchers, poisoned several thousands of acres of prairie dogs on the edge of the Conata Basin, a buffer strip of federal land adjacent to private grazing land. The buffer strip does not have ferrets, but it is good ferret habitat, experts say, and if they were to spread there it could help support the recovery.
But prairie dogs eat grass, and a large village can denude grazing land.
Of even more concern to biologists and environmentalists, though, is a Forest Service study of an expanded effort to kill prairie dogs in ferret habitat, which biologists say could be devastating to the restoration of the ferrets.
...Enough prairie dogs need to survive the plague to keep the ferrets from starving to death. One ferret eats 125 to 150 prairie dogs a year...
Summer 2008. Jurassic Beach. Jennifer Uscher, Nature Conservancy Magazine. Excerpt: ... Throughout most of the past century, the horseshoe crab never registered as much more than an oddity for beach goers to step around.... "My grandparents fed them to their chickens and their hogs; it was the only thing they were good for," says Bill Hall, a marine researcher and education specialist at the University of Delaware. Then, in the 1950s, scientists discovered a compound in the crab's copper-based blood that clots when it comes into contact with harmful bacteria. Many countries, including the United States, now require that the biomedical industry use this compound, called lysate, to test just about any object or substance used during a medical procedure that could cause infection-syringes, scalpels, intravenous drugs.
"Most people have no idea," says Hall ...But thanks to lysate's ability to alert against infection, the horseshoe crab has helped save many lives-more than a million people, according to one estimate-since the compound was discovered.
To supply the biomedical industry with this anti-infection compound ... approximately 300,000 crabs are caught and bled each year. While some of these crabs are returned to the ocean, only a little worse for the wear, as much as 40 percent of the catch dies from the trauma or is sold to the bait industry. Bill Hall helped start the crab count in 1990 in part to monitor the impact of the biomedical industry, which had-and still has-a huge stake in sustainably managing the horseshoe harvest. "This crab saves lives," says Hall. "There is nothing to replace it."
While the biomedical industry's limited catch was not considered a major threat to the horseshoe crab population, in the mid-1990s Hall and others began to notice signs that something was going wrong with the numbers of crabs coming onto shore during the annual spawning counts.
Half a world away, a culinary trend was sending the Delaware Bay horseshoe crab population into a downward spiral. Beginning in the 1990s, surging demand in Asia for whelk (or conch, as it is called) and American eel gave watermen along the Atlantic Coast a big incentive to catch horseshoe crabs, which they slice up and use as bait in traps. ...From the late 1960s to 1996, the annual catch increased from 10 tons to 2,550 tons.
A crash in the horseshoe population wasn't far behind. And ... it put at risk dozens of other species, including threatened loggerhead sea turtles ... and at least 11 species of migratory birds, which rely on the crab's protein-packed eggs as a crucial food source during their intercontinental spring migrations....
2008 May 15. Polar Bear Is Made a Protected Species. By FELICITY BARRINGER, NY Times. The polar bear, whose summertime Arctic hunting grounds have been greatly reduced by a warming climate, will be placed under the protection of the Endangered Species Act, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne announced on Wednesday.
But the long-delayed decision to list the bear as a threatened species may prove less of an impediment to oil and gas industries along the Alaskan coast than many environmentalists had hoped. Mr. Kempthorne also made it clear that it would be "wholly inappropriate" to use the listing as a tool to reduce greenhouse gases, as environmentalists had intended to do.
... the Interior Department added stipulations, seldom used under the act, that would allow oil and gas exploration and development to proceed in areas where the bears live, as long as the companies continue to comply with existing restrictions under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Mr. Kempthorne said Wednesday in Washington that the decision was driven by overwhelming scientific evidence that "sea ice is vital to polar bears' survival," and all available scientific models show that the rapid loss of ice will continue. The bears use sea ice as a platform to hunt seals and as a pathway to the Arctic coasts where they den.
...The Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace and the Natural Resources Defense Council filed suit in 2005 to force a listing of the polar bear. ...Kassie Siegel, a lawyer for the Center for Biological Diversity, said the listing decision was an acknowledgment of "global warming's urgency" but would have little practical impact on protecting polar bears.
...Over all, scientists agree that rising temperatures will reduce Arctic ice and stress polar bears, which prefer seals they hunt on the floes. But few foresee the species vanishing entirely for a century and likely longer.
...The territorial government of Nunavut, which is home to upward of 15,000 polar bears, had campaigned against new United States protections for the bear, largely because of worries that the lucrative local bear hunts by residents of the United States would stop when trophy skins could no longer be brought home.
2008 Apr 13. In the West, a Fierce Battle Over Wolves. By KIRK JOHNSON. The NY Times. Excerpt: DENVER - ...Since March 28, when the wolf was taken off the list of federally protected species in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, a fierce battle of perceptions and posturing has unfolded on the Web and in the news media as pro-wolf and anti-wolf forces stake out sometimes hyperbolic positions concerning where in the West animals and humans should exist.
The backdrop is a running time clock and a lawsuit. On April 28, a coalition of environmental groups has said it will to go federal court challenging the decision to lift protections.
Until then, the court of public opinion is in session, as cases are built for how the new system of state management is working or not. ...Some ranchers and hunters urge caution in killing wolves unnecessarily, to avoid inflaming emotions that could haunt the legal process later on.
"I would certainly not want to create any useful ammunition, no pun intended, for the pro-wolf environmental groups that have announced their intention to sue," said Budd Betts, a dude-ranch operator and former Wyoming state legislator near Jackson Hole. "The legal aspect is connected to the emotional and the political, and no judge is immune."
Pro-wolf forces, meanwhile, say that wolf killers may have created a martyr. On the first day protections were lifted, a partly crippled and much photographed radio-collared wolf named 253M was legally shot near the town of Daniel in western Wyoming.
The killing made headlines as far away as Utah, where 253M had wandered in 2002, before being transported back to Wyoming. A story in The Salt Lake Tribune quoted a woman as saying she had wept at the news of the animal's death.
Responding to what it says are numerous public inquiries, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department began a w eekly wolf update on its Web site, starting on April 4. "We're hearing a lot, from all sectors of the public," said a spokesman, Eric Keszler. "Some want no wolves to be killed - others ask where the trophy game area is going to be."
Wyoming, Montana and Idaho plan their first wolf trophy hunting seasons this fall. About 1,500 wolves inhabit the three states, most of them descended from 66 wolves introduced into Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho in the mid-1990s.
State management plans allow for wolf hunting - or in some places, outright eradication - with a target population of 150 in each of the three states....
2008 April 6, Koalas In Danger. By Kathy Marks, The Independent. Excerpt: The future of the koala, perhaps Australia's best-loved animal, is under threat because greenhouse gas emissions are making eucalyptus leaves – their sole food source – inedible.
Scientists warned yesterday that increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere were reducing nutrient levels in the leaves, and also boosting their toxic tannin content. That has serious implications for koalas and other marsupials that eat only, or mainly, the leaves of gum trees. These include a number of possum and wallaby species.
…Despite koalas' predilection for eucalyptus, the leaves are not nutritionally rich. In fact, even in the best conditions they are so low in protein that koalas – which spend up to 20 hours a day asleep, and most of the rest of their waking hours eating – have to eat 700g (1.5lb) of them a day to survive.
…WWF Australia warned recently that rising temperatures threatened numerous Australian native species, including the tree frog, the hare kangaroo, the tiny tree kangaroo and the greater bilby.
In a report last month, it said that such creatures – already endangered as a result of wide-scale land clearing and the introduction of exotic predators – could be pushed into extinction by climate change and its knock-on effects….The Australian Koala Foundation estimates that there are fewer than 100,000 koalas remaining in Australia today.
2008 Mar 25. Bats Perish, and No One Knows Why. By TINA KELLEY. NY Times. Excerpt: Al ... Hicks, a mammal specialist with the state's Environmental Conservation Department, said: "Bats don't fly in the daytime, and bats don't fly in the winter. Every bat you see out here is a 'dead bat flying,' so to speak."
They have plenty of company. In what is one of the worst calamities to hit bat populations in the United States, on average 90 percent of the hibernating bats in four caves and mines in New York have died since last winter.
Wildlife biologists fear a significant die-off in about 15 caves and mines in New York, as well as at sites in Massachusetts and Vermont. Whatever is killing the bats leaves them unusually thin and, in some cases, dotted with a white fungus. Bat experts fear that what they call White Nose Syndrome may spell doom for several species that keep insect pests under control.
Researchers have yet to determine whether the bats are being killed by a virus, bacteria, toxin, environmental hazard, metabolic disorder or fungus. Some have been found with pneumonia, but that and the fungus are believed to be secondary symptoms.
...One affected mine is the winter home to a third of the Indiana bats between Virginia and Maine. These pink-nosed bats, two inches long and weighing a quarter-ounce, are particularly social and cluster together as tightly as 300 a square foot.
"It's ironic, until last year most of my time was spent trying to delist it," or take it off the endangered species list, Mr. Hicks said, after the state's Indiana bat population grew, to 52,000 from 1,500 in the 1960s....
2008 Mar 25. Link to Global Warming in Frogs' Disappearance Is Challenged. By ANDREW C. REVKIN, NY Times. Excerpt: ...The amphibians, of the genus Atelopus - actually toads despite their common name - once hopped in great numbers along stream banks on misty slopes from the Andes to Costa Rica. After 20 years of die-offs, they are listed as critically endangered by conservation groups and are mainly seen in zoos.
It looked as if one research team was a winner in 2006 when global warming was identified as the "trigger" in the extinctions by the authors of a much-cited paper in Nature. The researchers said they had found a clear link between unusually warm years and the vanishing of mountainside frog populations.
The "bullet," the researchers said, appeared to be a chytrid fungus that has attacked amphibian populations in many parts of the world but thrives best in particular climate conditions. The authors, led by J. Alan Pounds of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve in Costa Rica, said, "Here we show that a recent mass extinction associated with pathogen outbreaks is tied to global warming." The study was featured in reports last year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Other researchers have been questioning that connection. Last year, two short responses in Nature questioned facets of the 2006 paper. In the journal, Dr. Pounds and his team said the new analyses in fact backed their view that "global warming contributes to the present amphibian crisis," but avoided language saying it was "a key factor," as they wrote in 2006.
Now, in the March 25 issue of PLoS Biology, another team argues that the die-offs of harlequins and some other amphibians reflect the spread and repeated introductions of the chytrid fungus. They question the analysis linking the disappearances to climate change....
2008 Feb 22. U.S. Ends Protections for Wolves in 3 States. By KIRK JOHNSON, NY Times. Animal advocates say that gray wolves in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho still need protection, despite considerable growth in their numbers.
2008 January 2. A Divide as Wolves Rebound in a Changing West. By KIRK JOHNSON, NY Times
Excerpt: CHEYENNE, Wyo. - Sheltered for many years by federal species protection law, the gray wolves of the West are about to step out onto the high wire of life in the real world, when their status as endangered animals formally comes to an end early this year. The so-called delisting is scheduled to begin in late March, almost five years later than federal wildlife managers first proposed, mainly because of human tussles here in Wyoming over the politics of managing the wolves....From the 41 animals that were released inside Yellowstone from 1995 to 1997, mostly from Canada, the population grew to 650 wolves in 2002 and more than 1,500 today in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. The wolves have spread across an area twice the size of New York State and are growing at a rate of about 24 percent a year, according to federal wolf-counts....The director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Terry Cleveland, said changes in economics and attitude were creating a profound wrinkle in the outlook for human-wolf relations. Mr. Cleveland, a 39 year-veteran with the department, said that many newcomers, who are more interested in breath-taking vistas than the price of feed-grain and calves, do not see wolves the way older residents do. In the public comment period for Wyoming's wolf plan, sizable majorities of residents in the counties near Yellowstone expressed opposition....Many new land owners around Yellowstone have also barred the hunting of animals like elk on their property, sometimes, in a single
pen stroke, closing off thousands of acres that Wyoming hunters had used for decades. ... But the trend of land enclosure, Mr. Cleveland said, is probably not in the wolf's long-term interest. "As large ranches become less economically viable, the alternative is 40-acre subdivisions," he said, "and that is not compatible with any kind of wildlife."
Some advocates of wolf protection say that for all the talk of
moderation and the nods to a changing ethos, old attitudes will take over once the gray wolf is delisted. "I think it's going to be open season," said Suzanne Stone, a wolf
specialist at Defenders of Wildlife, a national conservation group....
2007 December 18. Zoologist
Gives a Voice to Big Cats in the Wilderness.
By CLAUDIA DREIFUS, NY Times. Excerpt:
Among zoologists, Alan
Rabinowitz is known as the Indiana Jones of wildlife conservation.
But he is actually more the Dag Hammarskjold of biology. ...That
is because Dr. Rabinowitz, executive director of science and
exploration at the Wildlife Conservation Society, is a kind of
international diplomat for big cats - jaguars, leopards, pumas.For
20 years, he has traveled the world, imploring the power elite
of democracies and dictatorships to dedicate large parcels as
reserves for these imperiled felines.In the 1980s, he persuaded
the leaders of Belize to establish the world's first jaguar preserve.
More recently, this Brooklyn-born biologist prevailed on the
junta in Myanmar to transform 8,400 square miles of forest into
the Hukawng Valley Tiger Reserve....
Q. With so many of the world's animals in danger, why do you
mostly advocate for big cats?
A. Because cats get to the human psyche. People love big cats.
If I go to a government and say, "If you don't do something
quickly, you're going to lose your tigers," they listen.
If I say, "You're about to lose all your wolves," they
won't care. But leopards, tigers, jaguars - people have a huge
admiration for them. My real goal is to save large sections of
pristine wilderness for all types of wildlife. One way to do
that is to make sure that the top predators have enough safe
territory to thrive in. Because big cats need so much territory,
when you save them, you're really saving whole ecosystems and
you're saving the other animals down on the food chain. This
is what's called the "apex predator strategy" in conservation.
The other thing I've seen is that no government, even if they
are doing a lot of development, wants to lose their big cats.
Even when you're talking to the most authoritarian of dictators,
none of them wants to be the guy at the helm when the last of
his country's tigers go extinct....
Q. What originally drew you to conservation?
A. As a child, I had this horrific stutter. In school, I was
put in what was called the retarded classes. I was very angry
that people couldn't see past the stuttering. From the second
grade on, I stopped talking, except to the little green turtle
and the chameleon I kept at home. Talking to the animals, I realized
they had feelings. I didn't know if they understood me. But I
saw that they were exactly like me. They weren't broken, but
people mistreated them because they can't communicate. I thought
if these animals had a voice, people wouldn't be able to crush
them and throw them away. When I was a child, I promised the
animals that if I ever got my voice back, I'd be their voice....
2007 November 13. Off
Endangered List, but What Animal Is It Now?
The Great Lakes gray wolf is off the endangered
species list, but biologists say it has
hybridized with coyotes and wolves from
Canada. By MARK DERR. NY Times. Excerpt:
Amid much fanfare this year, the federal
Fish and Wildlife Service declared the western
Great Lakes gray wolf successfully recovered
from an encounter with extinction and officially
removed it from the endangered species list.
Under the protection of the Endangered Species
Act, the wolf boomed in population to 4,000
in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin today,
up from just several hundred in northern
Minnesota in 1974.
But the victory celebration was premature,
according to two evolutionary biologists,
Jennifer A. Leonard of Uppsala University
in Sweden and Robert K. Wayne of the University
of California, Los Angeles. The historic
Great Lakes wolf did not return intact from
the edge of oblivion. Instead, the scientists
report in the online edition of the journal
Biology Letters, it hybridized with gray
wolves moving in from Canada, coyotes from
the south and west and the hybrids born
of that mixing....
2007 November 12. World's
Smallest Bear Faces Extinction. By THE
ASSOCIATED PRESS.. Excerpt:
GENEVA (AP) -- The world's smallest bear
species faces extinction because of deforestation
and poaching in its Southeast Asian home,
a conservation group said Monday.
The sun bear, whose habitat stretches from
India to Indonesia, has been classified
as vulnerable by the World Conservation
''We estimate that sun bears have declined
by at least 30 percent over the past 30
years and continue to decline at this rate,''
said Rob Steinmetz, a bear expert with the
Geneva-based group, known under its acronym
The group estimates there are little more
than 10,000 sun bears left, said Dave Garshelis,
co-chair of the IUCN bear specialist group.
The bear, which weighs between 90 and 130
pounds, is hunted for its bitter, green
bile, which has long been used by Chinese
traditional medicine practitioners to treat
eye, liver and other ailments. Bear paws
are also consumed as a delicacy.
Another threat comes from loggers, who are
destroying the sun bear's habitat, Steinmetz
Thailand is the only country to have effectively
banned logging and enforced laws against
poaching, allowing the sun bear population
to remain stable there, Garshelis said.
IUCN said six of the eight bear species
in the world are now threatened with extinction.
Other vulnerable bear species are the Asiatic
black bear, the sloth bear on the Indian
subcontinent, the Andean bear in South America
and the polar bear. The brown bear and the
American black bear are in a lesser category
of threat, IUCN said....
On the Net: World Conservation Union: http://www.iucn.org/en/news/archive/2007/11/12--pr--bear.htm
2007 June 5. SCIENTIST
AT WORK | LINDA J. GORMEZANO A Team of 2,
Following the Scent of Polar Bears By
ANDREW C. REVKIN
The hunt begins with a loud shout
in Spanish by Linda J. Gormezano."¡Búscalo!" Seek.
Waiting with ears pricked and
tail wagging, Quinoa, her black
male Dutch shepherd, leaps to
work, straining at the leash,
nose down, weaving left and right.
... The quarry sought by Quinoa,
named for the Andean grain, is
something utterly conventional
and doglike: feces, poop or,
as field biologists prefer to
call it - scat. It comes from
polar bears. Although this exercise
is taking place in the Mianus
River Gorge Preserve, a wooded
nook tucked in Bedford, N.Y.,
40 miles northeast of Manhattan,
the small hidden heaps contain
things as foreign to New York
as can be - the bones and feathers
of snow geese, kelp and lyme
grass, a trace of seal. The samples,
hidden ahead of time (on Petri
dishes), came from the collection
Ms. Gormezano has been amassing
since 2005 in fieldwork on the
grassy coastal plains ringing
the western shore of Hudson Bay
in central Canada, one of the
southernmost bastions of the
great ice-roaming predators.
... Ms. Gormezano is using
scat to track the wanderings,
genetics and condition of the
bears, which in that northern
region, particularly, have
shown signs of stress that
could be related to the warming
Arctic climate and retreating
sea ice. ... Other methods
for tracking shifts in populations
involve chasing the bears in
helicopters, sedating them
with darts and tagging or collaring
them. But such methods can
pose risks or alter the bears'
behavior, she said. ... In
contrast, bear scat, and also
tufts of fur left in dens or
sleeping spots, can be collected
without affecting the bears.
Tests of DNA in the feces can
distinguish individual animals.
So the dispersion of scat provides
a map of a particular bear's
"All the issues with global warming are going to affect
southernmost populations, especially around southern Hudson
Bay and western Hudson Bay, where they're already starting
to see changes, reduced reproductive output, thinner subadults," Ms.
Gormezano said. "So this is a great opportunity to try
out a new method." ...
2007 April 23. Bees
Vanish, and Scientists Race for Reasons.
By ALEXEI BARRIONUEVO. NY Times. Excerpt:
BELTSVILLE, Md. ... The volume of theories
to explain the collapse of honeybee populations "is
totally mind-boggling," said Diana
Cox-Foster, an entomologist at Penn State.
More than a quarter of the country's 2.4
million bee colonies have been lost - tens
of billions of bees, according to an estimate
from the Apiary Inspectors of America, a
national group that tracks beekeeping. So
far, no one can say what is causing the
bees to become disoriented and fail to return
to their hives. ... With Jeffrey S. Pettis,
an entomologist from the United States Department
of Agriculture, Dr. Cox-Foster is leading
a team of researchers who are trying to
find answers to explain "colony collapse
disorder," the name given for the disappearing
bee syndrome. ...the most likely suspects:
a virus, a fungus or a pesticide...."There
are so many of our crops that require pollinators," said
Representative Dennis Cardoza, a California
Democrat whose district includes that state's
central agricultural valley, and who presided
last month at a Congressional hearing on
the bee issue. "We need an urgent call
to arms to try to ascertain what is really
going on here with the bees, and bring as
much science as we possibly can to bear
on the problem." So far, colony collapse
disorder has been found in 27 states, ...Honeybees
are arguably the insects that are most important
to the human food chain. They are the principal
pollinators of hundreds of fruits, vegetables,
flowers and nuts. ... more beekeepers have
resorted to crisscrossing the country with
18-wheel trucks full of bees in search of
2007 February 13. Group:
Germany's Amphibians Threatened. By
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. Excerpt:
BERLIN (AP) -- This year's unusually warm
winter could cause large numbers of amphibians
to die in Germany, an environmental organization
said Tuesday. Unseasonably warm weather
and rain over the last few days has already
brought amphibians out of hibernation, the
German-based Euronatur organization said.
...Newts already have been sighted in pools
of water in southern Germany, and the first
toads should be seen in the next few days
if the weather continues to be warm, Euronatur
said. If a cold spell hits now, it could
be especially deadly for newts, toads and
other amphibians. Eggs could cease developing
and adult animals, which are not able to
return to hibernation in time, could die.
Shorter winters and hotter summers in Germany
and other changes attributed to global climate
change have depleted native amphibian populations,
shortened the lifecycle of already threatened
animals, and dried up small water pools
that amphibians inhabit during the summer's
2007 February 6. For
Wolves, a Recovery May Not Be the Blessing
It Seems. By JIM ROBBINS. NY Times. Excerpt:
HELENA, Mont., Feb. 5 - ...At first glance,
it seems like a win for conservation that
wolves are now successful enough that the
United States Fish and Wildlife Service
proposed taking wolves in Idaho and Montana
off the endangered species list.... But
the price of success may be high. In Idaho,
the governor [C. L. Otter] is ready to have
hunters reduce the wolf population in the
state from 650 to 100, the minimum that
will keep the animal off the endangered
species list. ...The proposed delisting,
as it is called, comes because the population
of wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains
is surging. ...wolves in [Wyoming] will
continue to have federal protections under
the Endangered Species Act, federal officials
say, because the state's policies are not
adequate to keep the wolf from becoming
endangered again. ...At the same time, the
service announced that the delisting process
for wolves in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota
was complete. At 4,000 total, the wolf population
in those states is considered fully recovered,
and the comment period is finished. ....Defenders
of Wildlife, an environmental group that
played a pivotal role in the wolf's return,
opposes the delisting. "We don't support
the delisting at this time," said Jamie
Clark, executive vice president of the group. "Hunting
is fine. But you have to be judicious about
where you hunt and when you hunt. Wyoming
and Idaho say they are going to kill wolves,
but there's no mention of population science
or monitoring. Its politics, not science." ...On
the other hand, some officials say that
federal protection has resulted in far too
many wolves and that delisting is needed
to cull the excess....
2007 January 23. A
Radical Step to Preserve a Species: Assisted
Migration. By CARL ZIMMER, NY Times. Excerpt:
The Bay checkerspot butterfly's story is
all too familiar. It was once a common sight
in the San Francisco Bay area, but development
and invasive plants have wiped out much
of its grassland habitat. Conservationists
have tried to save the butterfly by saving
the remaining patches where it survives.
But thanks to global warming, that may not
be good enough. ...Studies on the Bay checkerspot
butterfly suggest that this climate change
will push the insect to extinction. The
plants it depends on for food will shift
their growing seasons, so that when the
butterfly eggs hatch, the caterpillars have
little to eat. Many other species may face
a similar threat, and conservation biologists
are beginning to confront the question of
how to respond. The solution they prefer
would be to halt global warming. But they
know they may need to prepare for the worst.
One of the most radical strategies they
are considering is known as assisted migration.
Biologists would pick a species up and move
it hundreds of miles to a cooler place....
Dr. Jason McLachlan, a Notre Dame biologist,
...and his colleagues argue that assisted
migration may indeed turn out to be the
only way to save some species. But biologists
need to answer many questions before they
can do it safely and effectively. The first
question would be which species to move.
If tens of thousands are facing extinction,
it will probably be impossible to save them
all. ...The next challenge will be to decide
where to take those species. ..."We
don't even know where species are now," Dr.
McLachlan said. Simply moving a species
is no guarantee it will be saved, of course.
...As species shift their ranges, some of
them will push into preserves that are refuges
for endangered species. "Even if we
don't move anything, they're going to be
moving," Dr. McLachlan said....
2007 January 2.The
Rancher and the Grizzly: A Love Story.
By Bruce Barcott Excerpt:
People, livestock, and a threatened predator
are learning to get along in the new west.
As an afternoon rainstorm sweeps down Montana's
Madison Valley,…rancher Todd Graham
stands inside a dusty barn and asks his
neighbors for help….Graham addresses
a veritable cross section of the new West:
sheep ranchers, cattlemen, conservation
biologists, government officials, retirees,
and second-home owners. Seated in folding
chairs, they've gathered for a Living With
Predators workshop jointly organized by
the Madison Valley Ranchlands Group (which
defends livestock) and Keystone Conservation
(which defends animals that want to kill
the livestock)…..The Madison Valley
today is the crash point of two demographic
trends: a hot western housing market and
rebounding populations of predators….About
7,000 people live in the valley, and cattle
still outnumber them ten to one. But that's
changing. Retirees and second-home owners,
eager to claim their slice of Montana heaven,
are snapping up 20-acre ranchettes carved
out of 1,000-acre working ranches…....Humans
aren't the only creatures attracted to the
valley. Yellowstone's grizzlies, once threatened
with extinction, have made a strong recovery....Having
reached their population limit within Yellowstone
-- these bears need plenty of territory
to roam, forage, and mate -- they are fanning
out beyond the park's boundaries…..As
their numbers grow, Yellowstone grizzlies
face a crucial test: Can they survive on
land owned by ranchers, farmers, and the
new wave of retirees, telecommuters, and
vacation-home owners?.....One of the largest
relatively intact temperate ecosystems on
earth, the Yellowstone region hosts perhaps
the greatest concentration of large mammals
in the contiguous United States, including
the nation's biggest populations of grizzlies
outside Alaska. It's a region marked by
concentric circles of wildlife protection.…..A
final decision is expected from the Fish
and Wildlife Service in early 2007. If the
Yellowstone grizzly loses its threatened
status, protection of the bear will be turned
over to state wildlife agencies….
27 December 2006. Agency
Proposes to List Polar Bears as Threatened.
By FELICITY BARRINGER and ANDREW C. REVKIN,
NY Times. Excerpt:
WASHINGTON, Dec. 27 - The Interior Department
proposed Wednesday to designate polar bears
as a threatened species, saying that the
accelerating loss of the Arctic ice that
is the bears' hunting platform has led biologists
to believe that bear populations will decline,
perhaps sharply, in the coming decades.
... in a conference call with reporters,
Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said
that although his decision to seek protection
for polar bears acknowledged the melting
of the Arctic ice, his department was not
taking a position on why the ice was melting
or what to do about it. ...[he said] it
was not his department's job to assess causes
or prescribe solutions. ...The scientific
analysis in the proposal itself, however,
did assess the cause of melting ice. ...buildup
of heat-trapping gases was probably contributing
to the loss of sea ice to date or that the
continued buildup of these gases, left unchecked,
could create ice-free Arctic summers ...possibly
in as little as three decades. The Interior
Department ...must also work out a recovery
plan to control and reduce harmful impacts
to the species, usually by controlling the
activities that cause harm. It is unclear
whether such a recovery plan could avoid
addressing the link between manmade emissions
of heat-trapping gases and the increase
in Arctic temperatures. Kert Davies, the
research director for Greenpeace U.S.A.,
one of three environmental groups that sued
the Interior Department in 2005 to force
it to add polar bears to the list of threatened
species, said the administration was "clearly
scrambling for credibility of any kind in
this issue." Kassie Siegel, the lawyer
for the Center for Biological Diversity,
...that took the lead in the lawsuit calling
on the department to list the polar bear,
added, "I don't see how even this administration
can write this proposal without acknowledging
that the primary threat to polar bears is
global warming and without acknowledging
the science of global warming." As
a result of the lawsuit, the Interior Department
had a court-ordered deadline of Wednesday
to make a decision. The worldwide population
of polar bears currently stands at 20,000
to 25,000, broken into 19 groups in Russia,
Denmark, Norway, Canada and the United States.
...The most-studied bear population, in
the Western Hudson Bay in Canada, has dropped
22 percent, to 935 from 1,194 from 1987
12 December 2006. All
but Ageless, Turtles Face Their Biggest
Threat: Humans. By NATALIE ANGIER, NY
...With its miserly metabolism and tranquil
temperament, its capacity to forgo food
and drink for months at a time, ... the
turtle is one of the longest-lived creatures
Earth has known. Individual turtles can
survive for centuries,.... Last March, a
giant tortoise named Adwaita said to be
as old as 250 years died in a Calcutta zoo,
having been taken to India by British sailors,
records suggest, during the reign of King
George II. In June, newspapers around the
world noted the passing of Harriet, a Galapagos
tortoise that died in the Australia Zoo
at age 176 - 171 years after Charles Darwin
is said, perhaps apocryphally, to have plucked
her from her equatorial home. Behind such
biblical longevity is the turtle's stubborn
refusal to senesce - to grow old. ...Dr.
Christopher J. Raxworthy, the associate
curator of herpetology at the American Museum
of Natural History, says the liver, lungs
and kidneys of a centenarian turtle are
virtually indistinguishable from those of
its teenage counterpart .... "Turtles
don't really die of old age," Dr. Raxworthy
said. In fact, if turtles didn't get eaten,
crushed by an automobile or fall prey to
a disease, he said, they might just live
indefinitely. ...Researchers estimate that
at least half of all turtle species are
in serious trouble, and that some of them,
like the Galapagos tortoise, the North American
bog turtle, the Pacific leatherback sea
turtle and more than a dozen species in
China and Southeast Asia, may effectively
go extinct in the next decade if extreme
measures are not taken. ...Geneticists have
proposed that the turtle shell may have
appeared quite suddenly in the distant past,
rather than emerging slowly through modest,
mincing modifications of pre-existing structures.
They suggest that the dramatic innovation
could have arisen from just a few key mutations
in master genes like the so-called homeobox
genes, which help specify an animal's basic
14 November 2006. Global
Warming Increases Species Extinctions Worldwide,
University of Texas at Austin Researcher Finds AUSTIN,
has already caused extinctions in the most
sensitive habitats and will continue to cause
more species to go extinct over the next 50
to 100 years, confirms the most comprehensive
study since 2003 on the effects of climate
change on wild species worldwide by a University
of Texas at Austin biologist. Dr. Camille
Parmesan's synthesis also shows that species
are not evolving fast enough to prevent extinction. "This
is absolutely the most comprehensive synthesis
of the impact of climate change on species
to date," said Parmesan, associate professor
of integrative biology. "Earlier synthesis
were hampered from drawing broad conclusions
by the relative lack of studies. Because there
are now so many papers on this subject, we
can start pulling together some patterns that
we weren't able to before." Parmesan
reviewed over 800 scientific studies on the
effects of human-induced climate change on
thousands of species....
September 2006. Dinos
of the Sea Scramble to Survive. Terrain
Magazine, Ecology Center. by Susan P. Williams Excerpt:
All seven species of sea turtles are considered
critically endangered by the World Conservation
Union, but the precarious plight of the leatherback,
the oldest and largest species, has conservationists
especially alarmed. Karen Steele of the Sea
Turtle Restoration Project says that the population
has plummeted by over 95 percent, from 115,000
in 1980 to less than 3,000 nesting females
in 2006. Steele worries that the big turtles
may be only 5 to 30 years away from extinction.
...Known as "the dinosaurs of the sea," leatherbacks
have been around for 100 million years, since
before the time of Tyrannosaurus rex and friends.
...Leatherbacks face many threats, but chief
among them are humans harvesting the eggs
from nesting beaches and drift gillnet and
long-line fishing. Drift gillnets, often a
million square feet in size, are placed vertically
like curtains to drift with the current and
ensnare large fish. Long-line fisheries catch
fish and sometimes turtles with 60-mile lines
of baited hooks. Other hazards are plastic
bottles and bags that leatherbacks may confuse
with jellyfish, and developments near nesting
beaches which, when lit up at night, draw
hatchlings away from the water. Development
of major nesting beaches around the Pacific
has forced the population out to fewer, more
11 July 2006. Racing
to Know the Rarest of Rhinos, Before It's
Too Late. By MARK DERR, NY Times. Excerpt:
A two-ton rhinoceros measuring 5 feet tall
and 10 feet long, with a fondness for browsing
on low-lying shrubbery, hardly seems like
a difficult animal to find. Unless there are
fewer than 60 left on the planet. That is
the case with the Javan rhinoceros, often
called the rarest large mammal on earth and
perhaps the most endangered. ...Because they
lead solitary, secretive lives in remote forests
in Indonesia and Vietnam, these rhinos are
very hard to study: images of them come from "camera
traps" activated by movement in the forest,
and biologists get DNA samples from dung or
from the horns and hides of dead animals. "It
is totally amazing how little we know about
these animals, their mating habits and social
behavior," said Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando,
director of the Center for Conservation and
Research in Rajagiriya, Sri Lanka. "Till
a decade ago people were debating whether
the females have horns." (They do.) ...The
plight of the Javan rhino is a direct result
of human actions, especially habitat destruction
and hunting, Dr. Fernando said. For millions
of years, the animal flourished in lowland
forests from eastern India and Bangladesh
all the way to the islands of Java and Sumatra,
now part of Indonesia. During periods of glacial
advance and low sea levels, those islands
formed a land mass, Sundaland, that was connected
to the mainland. Unfortunately for the rhino,
humans favored the same habitat and had little
use for a large herbivore that raided their
crops. Farmers regarded rhinos as agricultural
pests and often killed them on sight. In the
18th and 19th centuries, the advent of colonialism
and firearms drew hunters who slaughtered
thousands. By 1934, the species was all but
extinct on the Asian mainland. Devastated
by the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883, the Ujung
Kulon peninsula was later recolonized by rhinos
and other animals but not by humans. It has
since become a national park, and strong anti-poaching
measures are in place. But perversely, the
rhinos' numbers have barely budged since 1980;
the lack of human disturbance means that mature
forests and exotic plants are replacing the
shrubby lowland vegetation the animal prefers.
A further problem, the scientists say, is
that the remaining rhino populations lack
the genetic variation they need to combat
disease, adapt to changing conditions and
avoid the health and fertility problems that
arise from inbreeding. ...The Indonesian forestry
department has decided to improve rhino habitat
in Ujung Kulon by keeping out or removing
competitor species, like the banteng, a wild
cow, and invasive, exotic plants that crowd
out the rhino's preferred food, Adhi Rachmat
Hariyadi, site manager for the World Wide
Fund for Nature's Ujung Kulon National Park
project, wrote in an e-mail message. ...
"Allowing a species such as a rhinoceros
to go extinct in the 21st century," he
writes, "would be tragic and unpardonable."
28 May 2006. Alligators
Abound During Annual Fla. Count. By THE
ASSOCIATED PRESS. ON LAKE OKEECHOBEE, Fla.
(AP) Excerpt: ...
officials estimate there are more than one
million alligators in Florida -- a miraculous
comeback for a species that was approaching
extinction 40 years ago. State officials and
environmentalists attribute the population
growth to strict federal regulations on sales
of alligator products like skin and meat,
along with tight limits on hunting and trapping.
...Each year, scientists set out into some
50 locations statewide for the monthlong population
assessment, recording alligator size and estimating
If they can't get close enough before a gator
sinks beneath the surface, the biologists
use estimates, sometimes using the distance
between its eyes to determine size or noting
the pace with which it fled. ...Though its
brain is only the size of a man's thumb, the
American alligator has proven highly adaptable
since it emerged about 4 million years ago
from a line of reptiles that have survived
on Earth for 200 million years. ...the species
can grow to 14 feet long and weigh up to 1,000
pounds during a life span of more than 30
years. ... In 1967, after years of overhunting
and habitat loss, the American alligator was
listed as an endangered species, but conservation
efforts and hunting regulations led the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service to pronounce it
fully recovered 20 years later. ...State alligator
27 May 2006. Bear
Hunting Caught in Global Warming Debate.
By CLIFFORD KRAUSS. NY Times. Excerpt:
RESOLUTE, Nunavut ...Polar bear hunting has
gotten caught up in the larger debate over
global warming. Scientists and environmentalists
are pushing for measures to protect the animal,
whose most immediate threat, they say, is
not hunters, but loss of habitat. As its icy
environs shrink, the polar bear has, improbably
perhaps, become the new poster face of Arctic
vulnerability. ..."People care about
polar bears - they're iconic," noted
Kassie Siegel, a lawyer at the Center for
Biological Diversity. ...Her group, along
with Greenpeace and the Natural Resources
Defense Council, filed a petition with the
United States government to list the polar
bear as threatened as a way to push the American
authorities to control greenhouse gas emissions,
like carbon dioxide from cars. The message
has alarmed American polar bear hunters....
It has also run up against unbending opposition
from local communities of Inuit, also known
as Eskimos, and the Nunavut territorial government,
which has expanded sport hunting in recent
years. ... a list of stresses on the polar
bear: Global warming is melting the bear's
icy migration routes, critical for breeding
and catching seals for food, around Hudson
Bay and Alaska. ... there are more than 20,000
polar bears roaming the Arctic, compared to
as few as 5,000 40 years ago, before Canada,
Denmark, Norway, the Soviet Union and the
United States agreed to strong restrictions
on trophy hunting in the 1970's. ...In Resolute,
a snow-swept hamlet of shacks hugging a salty
ice-packed Arctic channel, Inuit villagers
hold an annual lottery to see who will get
the permits to kill the local quota of 35
bears a year. Fifteen of those bears will
be consumed locally, as food and to make rugs,
mattresses, wind pants and mittens. The 20
other permits are sold to American hunters.
With each permit, or tag, worth nearly $2,500,
that means a fast infusion of nearly $50,000
a year into the community, on Cornwallis Island
some 500 miles above the Arctic Circle. On
top of that, the guides earn almost $8,000,
and their assistants another $4,500, per hunt.
1 May 2006. 16,000
Species Said to Face Extinction. By THE
ASSOCIATED PRESS. GENEVA (AP) -- Excerpt:
Polar bears and hippos are among more than
16,000 species of animals and plants threatened
with global extinction, the World Conservation
Union said Tuesday. According to the Swiss-based
conservation group, known by its acronym IUCN
the number of species classified as being
in serious danger of extinction rose from
about 15,500 in its previous ''Red List''
report, published in 2004. The list includes
one in three amphibians, a quarter of the
world's mammals and coniferous trees, and
one in eight birds, according to a preview
of the 2006 Red List. ...The Red List classifies
about 40,000 species according to their risk
of extinction and provides a searchable online
database of the results. The total number
of species on the planet is unknown, with
15 million being the most widely accepted
estimate. Up to 1.8 million are known today.
People are the main reason for most species'
decline, mainly through habitat destruction,
according to IUCN. ...Freshwater fish have
suffered some of the most dramatic population
declines because of human activities that
damage their habitat, like forest clearance,
pollution and water extraction. In the Mediterranean,
more than half of the 252 endemic species
are threatened with extinction.
14 March 2006. A
Rare Predator Bounces Back (Now Get It Out
of Here). By ABBY GOODNOUGH. NY Times. Excerpt:
OCHOPEE, Fla. - In the weeks before Valentine's
Day, a healthy Florida panther kept emerging
from the dense, sloshy wilderness around Big
Cypress National Preserve to kill things he
shouldn't: chickens, ducks, a turkey, a pig
and a house cat, all on residential property
that his stealthy species normally shuns.
The hungry panther - nicknamed Don Juan by
scientists who had radio-collared him years
earlier and knew he had fathered some 30 kittens
- kept coming back for more, despite efforts
to deter him. So on Feb. 16, wildlife officials
had dogs chase Don Juan up a tree, shot him
with a tranquilizer gun and removed him from
the wild. It was no light decision, as the
number of Florida panthers, the only subspecies
of puma east of the Mississippi, is estimated
at fewer than 100. Cars have already hit and
killed five other panthers in 2006, including
one pregnant with four kittens and another
that was crossing a road just north of the
Florida Keys, far from typical panther habitat.
A sixth was apparently killed by another panther,
an increasingly common fate as the territorial
cat loses habitat to subdivisions, golf courses
and the like. A new federal report in January
announced the obvious: that the Florida panther
population must grow to survive - ideally,
to three separate populations of at least
240 each - but that it is ever more desperate
for space. The report, by the United States
Fish and Wildlife Service, rehashed the thorny
old idea of moving some of the cats to Central
Florida and eventually to other states where
they once roamed, like Georgia and Arkansas....Darrell
Land, the panther team leader for the Florida
Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission,
... and other government officials said they
hoped the new federal plan for dealing with "panther-human
interactions" and educating the public
would avert conflicts ...A panther that stalked
or showed other aggressive behavior toward
people would immediately be removed from the
wild. But with one that killed pets or livestock,
or did not retreat when a human tried to scare
it away, wildlife officials would first try "aversive
conditioning": chasing it with dogs,
hitting it with a slingshot or otherwise trying
to deter it from returning to the area. ...The
new federal report - the latest draft of a
panther recovery plan last updated in 1995
- suggests keeping panthers far from urban
areas by moving some of them into rural Central
Florida. But many scientists, including Mr.
Land, are skeptical. They say that Central
Florida does not have enough contiguous panther
habitat, that the cats would have to cross
more highways, and that much agricultural
land would have to be turned into the dense
forests that panthers prefer. A better alternative,
many scientists agree, is moving some Florida
panthers to remote areas of Georgia, Arkansas
or other states where they used to roam and
where choice panther habitat still exists.
But as history and the recent tensions here
suggest, getting the public to embrace what
the report calls "large carnivore reintroduction"
will not be easy. When Texas pumas were released
in North Florida in 1988 and 1993, to gauge
whether a permanent population of Florida
panthers could be established there, local
opposition was fierce and hunters shot some
of the cats. ..."The cat was listed as
endangered in 1967 and we're still waiting,
39 years later." In Arkansas, home to
four of the nine recommended relocation sites,
David Goad, deputy director of the Arkansas
Game and Fish Commission, said panthers were
unlikely to be welcome there. "Before
you can move a large predator into an area
you've got to have a lot of support from the
public," Mr. Goad said....
15 December 2005. Parrots
of the Caribbean. By Alan Mowbray, Forest
Magazine, Winter 2006. Excerpt:
The Puerto Rican parrot was one of the first
species to be listed under the Endangered
Species Act more than thirty years ago. It
remains one of the most critically endangered
members of the list today; fewer than forty
individuals remain in the wild. Five hundred
and twelve years ago, on his second voyage
to the New World, Christopher Columbus dropped
anchor off the Caribbean island that he named
San Juan de Bautista. He and his crew of Spanish
explorers saw white-sand beaches bordered
by lushly forested mountains. They were greeted
by the native Taino people, who gave them
gifts of gold nuggets plucked from the island's
rivers. Hundreds of noisy, bright-green parrots
with beautiful white-ringed eyes swooped overhead.
The Taino called these birds "Higuaca." At
the beginning of the sixteenth century, Spanish
colonists estimated that there were nearly
a million of these beautiful birds living
in the island's forests. Today there are fewer
than forty Amazona vittata-the Puerto Rican
parrot-living in the wild on the island we
know as Puerto Rico. ...Their demise is directly
related to the rise of human population on
the island: As colonists cut down forests
and converted land for agriculture, the habitat
on which the species depended started to disappear.
The remaining parrot population, which had
retreated to the Luquillo Mountains, was further
reduced when the forests there were cut for
charcoal production in the 1900s. ...By 1989,
the Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Plan had
been in operation for almost two decades and
the parrot population in the wild had increased
to forty-seven birds. Then disaster struck.
On September 18th, 1989, Hurricane Hugo roared
across the Luquillo Mountains, destroying
more than half of the parrots in the wild.
By year's end, only twenty-two birds remained.
By early 1994, the wild population had risen
to thirty-nine birds and six breeding pairs.
Today's parrot population continues to hover
at that level....
6 December 2005. In
Mongolia, an 'Extinction Crisis' Looms.
By JOHN Noble Wilford, NY Times. Excerpt:
ULAN BATOR, Mongolia - On a highway west of
this capital, roadside signs advertise marmot,
fox and other wildlife, and stacks of skins
stand on display. In open markets, traders
conduct a gritty commerce in furs and hides,
much of it illegal. Similar markets flourish
elsewhere in Mongolia, especially along the
border with China....If the good news in Mongolia
is the gradual comeback of the Przewalski
wild horses, the disturbing news is the diminishing
numbers of other wildlife, under relentless
siege by overhunting and excessive trade in
skins and other animal products. ... the populations
of endangered species - marmots, argali sheep,
antelope, red deer, bears, Asiatic wild asses
- have plummeted by 50 to 90 percent. The
only other possible exception to the woeful
trend, conservation experts say, is the apparent
increase in wolves. ...A draft report of the
study, "The Silent Steppe: The Illegal
Wildlife Trade Crisis in Mongolia," was
circulated recently. ... Hunting for subsistence
and income increased. Illegal trade in meat
and other animal products proliferated. "Neighboring
countries, especially China, have been the
happy recipients of this new stream of wildlife
product, consuming millions of animals every
year and generating uncounted profits," ...
more than 250,000 Mongolians, out of a population
of 2.6 million, are active hunters. ...In
the last five years, the saiga antelope has
declined from more than 5,000 to fewer than
800; the saiga horn is prized in China as
a traditional remedy. The red deer population
has fallen 92 percent in 18 years, and the
argali, the wild mountain sheep with handsome
spiraling horns, are down 75 percent in 16
years. One of the rarest animals in the Mongolian
mountains is the snow leopard, and its survival
is endangered. ...The Gobi bear, a small animal
related to the brown bear and known to exist
only in a corner of the desert here, may be
beyond saving. Dr. Zahler, of the conservation
society, said that as few as 25 were left. "The
bears appear to face numerous potential threats,
ranging from lack of food and water to inbreeding
and fragmentation of the few remaining breeding
adults," Dr. Zahler wrote in an earlier
26 September 2005. As
Population of Yellowstone Grizzlies Grows,
Further Protection Is Up for Debate. By
JIM ROBBINS. After
dwindling to 200 or so by the 1970's, the
number of the big bears in the mountains and
grassy meadows around Yellowstone National
Park has grown to more than 600, thanks to
the federal protections given to the species
in 1975. "It's the biggest success story
under the Endangered Species Act because grizzly
bears are one of the toughest species to manage," said
Chris Servheen, who has been working on efforts
to protect and to re-establish grizzlies in
Yellowstone and elsewhere for 25 years and
is coordinator for grizzly bear recovery for
the Federal Fish and Wildlife Service in Missoula,
Mont. While there is widespread agreement
that the story is a good one, however, there
is disagreement on the next chapter. The Fish
and Wildlife Service, saying that the mission
to bring the bear back has been accomplished,
will propose removing the bear from the list
of threatened species this fall and, after
a comment period, make a final decision in
2006. Delisting has happened for only about
15 species out of the 1,830 on the imperiled
list. But opponents of delisting say the bear
is still endangered, primarily because of
threats to critical food sources. Both sides
say the science is on their side. ...Whether
to recognize the Yellowstone bears as a recovered
population is not just an abstract scientific
debate. Grizzlies, which occasionally prey
on people, are moving out of the park's mountain
wilderness and federal forest refuges and
into areas with growing human populations.
Removing protections would allow the bears
to be hunted. Since the late 1960's, there
have been 17 fatalities involving bears and
many more attacks in Yellowstone and Glacier
National Park, home to the only other large
population of the bears in the lower 48 states.
...A critical element in the Yellowstone grizzlies'
future is that they are an island population,
a remnant of a much larger one that once extended
from the Pacific Ocean to the Midwest. While
bears in Glacier are connected to much larger
Canadian populations, bears in the Yellowstone
area are, in terms of numbers and genetics,
on their own. A disease could decimate the
Fall 2005. Seeking
a Missing Species. By Richard S. Nauman.
Forest Magazine. Excerpt:
...in the spring of 1996, when U.S. Forest
Service biologists Dave Clayton and Sam Cuenca
flipped over a rock and found something unexpected
underneath, the esoteric study of genes, principally
the realm of university researchers, became
part of their daily work. Under the rock was
a small woodland salamander. ... Clayton and
Cuenca noticed that this salamander was different.
It shared the general form and color of neighboring
populations, but it appeared a little more
full-bodied, with a wider head, shorter body
and longer legs than other salamanders. Though
they didnœt realize it at the time, the
pair had discovered a species new to science,
a salamander that may have been living for
millions of years along the dry hillsides
above the Klamath River in the rain shadow
of the Marble Mountains. ... even as the new
species was being established, changes in
land management laws were affecting it. In
2004, the Bureau of Land Management and the
Forest Service, the two land management agencies
governed by the Northwest Forest Plan, eliminated
the survey-and-manage provision of the plan
altogether. The original version had required
salamander surveys prior to timber harvest,
road building and other land management projects
for the Siskiyou Mountains salamander and
protection of all known sites. ...While federal
agencies move cautiously with the management
of the salamanders, the California Department
of Fish and Game has submitted a petition
to the State Fish and Game Commission recommending
elimination of the state protections that
protect both species on private lands, and
states in its petition that
"The Department further believes that
no special management provisions or protections
under the California Environmental Quality
Act or Forest Practice Rules are necessary
to conserve this species."
7 July 2005. Did
humans cause ecosystem collapse in ancient
Australia? Dr. Marilyn Fogel, Carnegie
Institution. Washington, D.C. Massive
extinctions of animals and the arrival of
the first humans in ancient Australia may
be linked, according to scientists at the
Carnegie Institution, University of Colorado,
Australian National University, and Bates
College. The extinctions occurred 45,000 to
55,000 years ago. The researchers traced evidence
of diet and the environment contained in ancient
eggshells and wombat teeth over the last 140,000
years to reconstruct what happened. The remains
showed evidence of a rapid change of diet
at the time of the extinctions. The researchers
believe that massive fires set by the first
humans may have altered the ecosystem of shrubs,
trees, and grasses to the fire-adapted desert-scrub
6 June 2005. Prehistoric
Decline of Freshwater Mussels Tied to Rise
in Maize Cultivation. USDA
Forest Service (FS) research suggests that
a decline in the abundance of freshwater mussels
about 1000 years ago may have been caused
by the large-scale cultivation of maize by
Native Americans. In the April 2005 issue
of Conservation Biology, Wendell Haag and
Mel Warren, researchers with the FS Southern
Research Station (SRS) unit in Oxford , MS,
report results from a study of archaeological
data from 27 prehistoric sites in the southeastern
United States. Worldwide, freshwater mussels
have proven to be highly susceptible to human-caused
disturbance, and represent the most endangered
group of organisms in North America. Of 297
species found in the United States, 269 freshwater
mussel species are found in the Southeast. "We
can tie declines of specific mussel populations
to the construction of dams, stream channelization,
or pollution from a specific source," says
Haag, "but the worldwide patterns of
decline in these animals implies that larger-scale
disturbances such as sedimentation and nonpoint-source
pollution may have an equal impact." ..."Human
population in the Southeast began to increase
steadily about 5000 years ago,"
says Warren. "With increasing population
came land disturbance from agriculture. This
intensified about 1000 years ago, with the
beginning of large-scale maize cultivation.... "As
far as we can tell, Native Americans harvested
mussels without preference for species," says
Haag. "Shell middens provide us with
a way to establish the range of freshwater
mussel species before human impacts, and to
chart changes in relative abundance as impacts
increased." The researchers found that
the relative abundance of riffleshell mussels
in the rivers they studied declined gradually
during the period between 5000 and 1000 years
ago; however, the decline accelerated markedly
during the period between 1000 and 500 years
ago, when thousands of acres of land were
cleared for farming.
Full text version of the article: http://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/pubs/9281
For more information:
Wendell Haag at (662-234-2744 x245) or email@example.com
Mel Warren at (662-234-2744 x34) or firstname.lastname@example.org
5 October 2004. NEW
TOOLS FOR CONSERVATION (from NASA Earth
are studying animal and plant
species with satellites. With
remote sensing data, researchers
are able to accurately map
species' habitats and plan
6 January 2004. Multiplication
Problem Threatens Stock of Sturgeon, By
CHRISTOPHER PALA. TYRAU, Kazakhstan
- Beluga caviar, pearly black and $1,500 a
pound, goes well with Champagne. But next
year, connoisseurs may have to do with farmed
American caviar or lesser Caspian species
if the United States Fish and Wildlife Service
decides to ban imports. At issue is the number
of beluga sturgeon in the Caspian Sea. Some
researchers say the sturgeon, a 200-million-year-old
species, is in serious trouble. [photo caption]
A beluga was dragged to a barge on the Ural
River near Atyrau, Kazakhstan. The river is
the last spawning ground for the endangered
sturgeon. Overfishing has wiped out much of
the adult population.
18 December 2003. NASA
HELPS FORCAST REPTILE DISTRIBUTIONS IN MADAGASCAR -- NASA-supported
biologists developed a modeling approach that
uses satellite data and specimen locality
data from museum collections to predict successfully
the geographic distribution of 11 known chameleon
species in Madagascar.
Frogs Live by Michon Scott. In
the 1970s, Cynthia Carey was studying a population
of boreal toads in the Colorado Rocky Mountains
for her Ph.D. thesis when the unthinkable
happened: all the toads in her study mysteriously
died. Carey suspected a pathogen, perhaps
bacterial, but had no way to verify her hypothesis.
In the late 1980s, amphibian population declines
gained widespread attention as a growing number
of researchers observed similar problems.
When they returned to once-thriving frog habitats,
the familiar amphibians were gone. Concern
deepened in 1995 when Minnesota schoolchildren
visited a local frog pond to discover alarming
deformities in leopard frogs.
Articles from 2001–2008
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Center for Biological Diversity -- http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/