8. A Sustainable World

Champions of a Sustainable World
2017-04-14. Eating ecosystems. By Justin S. Brashares, Kaitlyn M. Gaynor, Science.

2016-10-10. Climate refuges identified for endangered snow leopards. By Brett Israel, UC Berkeley News.

2016-10-07. Climate change could be a greater threat to tropical frogs than deforestation. By Brett Israel, UC Berkeley News.

2016-09-08. We’ve destroyed one-tenth of Earth’s wilderness in just 2 decades. By Elizabeth Pennisi, Science.

2016-06-14. Australian Rodent Is First Mammal Made Extinct by Human-Driven Climate Change, Scientists Say. By Michelle Innis, The New York Times.

2016-06-02. U.S. Bans Commercial Trade of African Elephant Ivory. By Jasa R. Smith, The New York Times.

2016-05-02. After a Comeback, New Challenges for Yellowstone’s Grizzly Bears. By Jim Robbins, The New York Times.

2016-02-26. Decline of Pollinators Poses Threat to World Food Supply, Report Says. By John Schwartz, The New York Times.

2015-07-31. U.N. tackles illicit wildlife poaching amid Cecil the lion uproar. By Michelle Nichols, Planet Ark.

2015-07-25. Obama uses Africa trip to highlight proposed rules on ivory sales. By Darlene Superville and Kevin Freking, Associated Press.

2015-05-29. China agrees to phase out its ivory industry to combat elephant poaching.  By Karl Mathiesen, The Guardian.

2015-02-11. Obama Administration Plans to Aggressively Target Wildlife Trafficking.Ron Dixon, The New York Times.

2014-05-01. Guarding the Nest. Excerpt: Loggerhead turtles have been laying eggs on Georgia's barrier islands for hundreds of years. Now local residents are working to ensure the threatened species' survival. ...Beginning this month, typically in the dead of night, pregnant sea turtles weighing as much as a Falcons lineman will emerge from the Atlantic Ocean, spend an hour digging holes with their rear flippers on the beaches of Georgia’s barrier islands, deposit a hundred or so eggs, repack the sand, and head back into the ocean. Over the course of the summer, a prospective mother might nest up to six times. ...The turtles that make it this far have already defied the odds, evading obstacles both natural (sharks and whales) and man-made (nets, boats, polluted waters). Not that their eggs have it much easier. Raccoons and feral hogs dig them up for a snack. Not long ago, children would dare one another to eat them raw. And in the past locals considered them something of a delicacy. Things got so bad that by the early 1960s, many nests on Little Cumberland Island would produce no viable hatchlings. In 1978 the loggerhead was listed by the federal government as threatened, on the cusp of being endangered. ... 2013 was a record year for nesting on the Georgia coast. Over fifteen beaches, loggerheads laid 2,289 nests—up forty-one from last year. It’s the fourth year in a row that the number of nests has increased, after years of yo-yoing that included a nadir of 358 in 2004.... http://www.atlantamagazine.com/features/2014/05/01/guarding-the-nest-georgia-loggerhead-turtles.  By Nikhil Swaminathan, Atlanta Magazine.

2014-03-20. Limits on Ivory Sales, Meant to Protect Elephants, Set Off Wide Concerns.   FExcerpt: ...New federal rules aimed at blocking the sale of ivory to protect endangered elephants are causing an uproar among musicians, antiques dealers, gun collectors and thousands of others whose ability to sell, repair or travel with legally acquired ivory objects will soon be prohibited ...guitars featuring ivory pegs and bridges, ...chess sets with antique ivory pieces ...ivory inlay from ...commemorative handguns and rifles ...piano with ivory keys.... “The U.S. market is contributing to the crisis now threatening the African elephant,” the Fish and Wildlife Service director, Daniel M. Ashe, told Congress last month.  ...An unusual assortment of trade groups opposes the regulations, including the National Association of Music Makers, the Art and Antiques Dealers League of America and the National Rifle Association.  ...At the hearing, some critics questioned whether criminalizing the civilian ivory market would be as effective as helping African countries protect elephants and punish poachers. But federal officials said the reduction in demand will invariably put a dent in poaching efforts.... http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/21/arts/design/new-limits-on-ivory-sales-set-off-wide-concerns.html. Tom Mashberg, New York Times.

2014-03-10. Sex and the Single Rhino. Excerpt: ...Last spring, wildlife experts met in Singapore for what was starkly titled the Sumatran Rhino Crisis Summit. ...it was announced that the number of Sumatran rhinos in the wild had dropped to a perilously low level: only about 100 animals remain. ...The Javan rhino, which once ranged across most of Southeast Asia, is even rarer than the Sumatran, with probably fewer than 50 individuals left, all in a single Javanese reserve. The Indian rhino, the largest of the five living rhino species, ...is down to about 3,000 individuals. A century ago in Africa, the population of black rhinos approached a million; it has since been reduced to around 5,000 animals. (Two years ago, the Western black rhino, a subspecies that lived in and around Cameroon, was officially declared extinct.) The white rhino, also from Africa, is the only species not currently classified as threatened. It was hunted nearly to oblivion in the nineteenth century, then made an astonishing comeback in the twentieth, owing to a combination of careful protection and breeding on game farms. Now, in the twenty-first, the white rhino has come under renewed pressure from poachers, who can sell rhino horns on the black market for more than $20,000 a pound. The horn is particularly popular these days in Southeast Asia, where it is sometimes powdered and used as a party “drug.” (In fact, rhino horn is made of keratin, like your fingernails.).... http://www.onearth.org/articles/2014/03/in-the-case-of-saving-the-sumatran-rhino-is-incest-best. Elizabeth Kolbert, OnEarth (NRDC).

2014-01-16. NRDC Asks New York to Restrict its Ivory Trade. Excerpt: Seventy-two percent of elephants have been lost. ...preliminary indicators suggest that 2013 may have seen the highest levels of illicit ivory trade ever. ...despite the fact that elephants are being killed at such an alarming rate that they could be gone entirely within a decade, demand for ivory is booming. ...the U.S. is the world’s second largest retail market for ivory and that New York is one of its epicenters. ...New York law prohibits the sale of elephant ivory unless the seller has been given a license by the Department of Environmental Conservation and ...the seller possessed it prior to the species’ Endangered Species Act listing: 1976 for the Asian elephant and 1978 for the African elephant. ...New York law ...actually facilitates a large parallel illegal market focused mainly on small ivory figurines sold at gift and antique shops. ...sellers can simply falsify the date.... ...the law continues to allow other kinds of ivory, such as mammoth tusks, antique walrus. and whale teeth, to be sold. ...illegal sellers can also claim that elephant ivory comes from these other species instead.... The easiest way to crack down on the illegal sale of elephant ivory is to simply end the legal market, through either a ban or a moratorium. ...With 30,000 elephants being poached every year, there is no time left to waste.... http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/epepper/nrdc_asks_new_york_to_restrict.html. Elly Pepper, Natural Resources Defense Council.

2013-11-06. Western black rhino declared extinct.  Excerpt:  Africa's western black rhino is now officially extinct according the latest review of animals and plants by the world's largest conservation network. The subspecies of the black rhino -- which is classified as "critically endangered" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species -- was last seen in western Africa in 2006. The IUCN warns that other rhinos could follow saying Africa's northern white rhino is "teetering on the brink of extinction" while Asia's Javan rhino is "making its last stand" due to continued poaching and lack of conservation. ...In the case of the western black rhino and the northern white rhino the situation could have had very different results if the suggested conservation measures had been implemented," Simon Stuart, chair of the IUCN species survival commission said in a statement. ...The latest update to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species reviews more than 60,000 species, concluding that 25% of mammals on the list are at risk of extinction.... http://www.cnn.com/2011/11/10/world/africa/rhino-extinct-species-report/index.html. Matthew Knight, CNN.

2013-07-06.  New Species Discovered: Cambodian TailorbirdThree Stinky Fungi, Burying BeetleStripey Scorpion, Four-Fin Blenny, Yellow Slug Moth, New Corals.

2013-May/June.  Tortuga Rising, A conservation success story. Excerpt: ...ALTHOUGH GREEN SEA TURTLES have inhabited the Pacific coast of Mexico for millions of years, for the past few decades these ancient mariners (known locally as tortugas prietas or “black turtles”) have struggled to survive a relentless onslaught of hunting. As recently as the early 1980s, there were still some twenty-five thousand of their nests each year along the Mexican coast. But as demand grew for turtle meat and eggs in Mexico and across the U.S. border, turtle hunting multiplied exponentially. When the Mexican government outlawed the trafficking of sea turtles in 1990, turtle hunters were labeled poachers and smugglers overnight, but the practice continued. By the mid-1990s, poaching, fishing nets, and habitat pollution and destruction had caused the number of nesting females to drop to less than five hundred. It was at this time that a doctoral student named Wallace J. Nichols proposed studying the biology and conservation of sea turtles in northwestern Mexico for his thesis, but was told that cultural inertia was too great to overcome and it was too late to even bother trying. Undeterred, Nichols and a colleague traveled to Baja California to study the five species of sea turtle.... ...Nichols attached a transmitter to a captured loggerhead’s shell. The turtle...swam seven thousand miles from Baja California to nesting grounds in Japan, marking the first time any animal had been tracked swimming across an ocean. The experience convinced Nichols that the best way to change cultural habits was to earn the trust and respect of a local population, rather than alienate them through guilt and reams of scientific data. ...Twenty years later, Grupo Tortuguero, the grassroots network that Nichols helped found, is active in fifty coastal communities. Hundreds of local volunteers, many of whom are former poachers, work to protect and promote an appreciation for and pride in these gentle animals. Says Nichols, “If given the chance, who wouldn’t want the opportunity to tell their grandkids that they helped rescue from extinction an animal that’s so central to their culture?” This year there were some fifteen thousand green sea turtle nests on the beaches of southern Mexico.... http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/7486. Andrew D. Blechman, Orion Magazine.

2013 March 31. Homes evacuated after ExxonMobil oil pipeline spill in Arkansas. By CBS/AP, CBS News. Excerpt: Crews recovered about 12,000 barrels of oil and water after a crude oil pipeline ruptured in central Arkansas, officials said Saturday…ExxonMobil and local officials said in a Saturday news release that they suspected a few thousand barrels of oil spilled but are preparing a response for more than 10,000 barrels "to be conservative." Authorities are still investigating the cause of the spill. The city said Saturday that it recommended that 22 area homes be evacuated. On Friday, officials put the number of homes at dozens…Professional hygienist authorities are also monitoring air quality, officials said. There are precautions in place to keep oil away from nearby Lake Conway, the news release said.…

2013 March 26. Rare Australian Possum could be continent's first climate change victim. By Reuters in Sydney, The Guardian. Excerpt: A rise in temperature of just 1C (2F) could spell doom for a rare Australian possum within a decade, potentially making the tiny long-tailed marsupial the continent's first victim of climate change... Mountain pygmy possums have been a part of the Australian ecosystem for more than 25m years, but only 2,000-2,600 are believed to remain in the Snowy Mountains that extend between New South Wales and Victoria states...The possums hibernate in rock piles during the six months of the year that snow blankets the mountains. The snow serves as an insulator that prevents the rock piles from growing too cold and prevents the animals from freezing... A lack of snow also causes the possums to come out of hibernation before the moths and mountain plums they feed on become available, causing the animals to starve....

2013 March 05.  US and Russia unite in bid to strengthen protection for polar bear | Damian Carrington in Bangkok guardian.co.uk. Excerpt: A fight to protect polar bears from Arctic hunters has led cold war foes the US and Russia to unite against Canada.... The bitter row is over the 600 or so of the polar species killed each year by Canadian hunters, most of which are exported as bear skin rugs, fangs or paws. ...the European Union attempted to block the US proposal.... The US is adamant the trade is unsustainable. "The best scientific evidence says two-thirds of the polar bear population will be gone by mid-century, so how can you have a sustainable commercial trade?" asked Dan Ashe, head of the US delegation to the 178-nation meeting of the Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) being held in Thailand. Canada, home to about three-quarters of the world's 20,000-25,000 remaining polar bears, is the only country that allows the export of polar bear products. Its delegates argue there is "insufficient scientific evidence" that polar bear populations will decline by more than half in the coming decades and that trade is "not detrimental to the species". They say hunting and trading in polar bears is "integrally linked" with Inuit subsistence and culture. All experts agree that the loss of Arctic sea ice due to climate change is the greatest threat to polar bears, who need the ice to hunt seals. But Canada argues that the impact on polar bears of shrinking ice, which reached record low levels in 2012, is "uncertain". Nikita Ovsyanikov, a leading polar bear expert and member the Russian delegation, rejects all the Canadian arguments.  ...The US and EU proposals are expected to go to the vote on Wednesday or Thursday, with many delegates predicting that Canada is set to lose. If so, the new rules will enter force within 90 days. Hunting for polar bears by Inuit peoples would still be permitted under Canada's domestic law, but exporting the skins would not..... See full article at http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/mar/05/us-russia-unite-polar-bear.

2013 January 25.  Can We Name Earth's Species Before They Go Extinct? | Mark J. Costello et al, Science. Abstract: Some people despair that most species will go extinct before they are discovered. However, such worries result from overestimates of how many species may exist, beliefs that the expertise to describe species is decreasing, and alarmist estimates of extinction rates. We argue that the number of species on Earth today is 5 ± 3 million, of which 1.5 million are named. New databases show that there are more taxonomists describing species than ever before, and their number is increasing faster than the rate of species description. Conservation efforts and species survival in secondary habitats are at least delaying extinctions. Extinction rates are, however, poorly quantified, ranging from 0.01 to 1% (at most 5%) per decade. We propose practical actions to improve taxonomic productivity and associated understanding and conservation of biodiversity. http://www.sciencemag.org/content/339/6118/413.abstract

2012 October 16. Twenty-five primates on brink of extinction, study says. By Alister Doyle, Planet Ark. Excerpt: Twenty-five species of humans' closest living relatives - apes, monkeys and lemurs - need urgent protection from extinction, a report by international conservation groups said on Monday. Many of the primates, from the Ecuadorean brown-headed spider monkey to the eastern black-crested gibbon in China and Vietnam, are under threat from human destruction of forests, from hunting and from illegal wildlife trade. The study said five of the 25 most endangered primates were from Africa, six from the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar, nine from Asia, and five from South America, including the Ka'apor capuchin monkey in Brazil.... 

2012 Jun 07. Warming nears point of no return, scientists say. By David Perlman, SF Gate. Excerpt:  The Earth is reaching a "tipping point" in climate change that will lead to increasingly rapid and irreversible destruction of the global environment unless its forces are controlled by concerted international action, an international group of scientists warns. Unchecked population growth, the disappearance of critical plant and animal species, the over-exploitation of energy resources, and the rapidly warming climate are all combining to bring mounting pressure on the Earth's environmental health…scientists from five nations, led by UC Berkeley biologist Anthony Barnosky, report their analysis Thursday in the journal Nature….

 2012 Apr 5. Betting on Technology to Help Turn Consumers Green | by Marc Gunther, environment360.  Excerpt: …U.S. consumers tell researchers they want to buy environmentally friendly products, …. Now a host of companies and nonprofits are trying to use new technology — from smartphones to social networking — to make it easier for buyers to make the green choice. …Dara O’Rourke …an associate professor of environmental and labor policy at University of California, Berkeley, wondered about the ingredients in Coppertone Water Babies; … it contained oxybenzone, a potential skin irritant. …Johnson’s Baby Shampoo contained trace amounts of 1,4-dioxane, a probable human carcinogen. …O’Rourke started GoodGuide … as a social enterprise, … to persuade consumers to vote with their wallets for environmentally-friendly products and companies, and thereby help tackle big problems, including climate change, biodiversity loss, and industrial pollution. …a global initiative known as The Sustainability Consortium … is building scientific tools to measure and report on the lifecycle impact of thousands of products; but its progress has been painfully slow. No one doubts that green consumers can make difference. They can be credited for the success of a slew of small and mid-sized U.S. companies like Annie’s Homegrown, Seventh Generation, and Stonyfield Farm that have built brands imbued with environmental goodness.  …Joel Makower, the founder of media company GreenBiz, is skeptical about the power of green consumers — to whom he has been paying close attention since 1991 when he was co-author of a book, The Green Consumer. “A small percentage of consumers, by changing their habits, can move markets,” Makower says. “It’s an incredibly compelling notion. I just haven’t seen it in the market.”….Full article: http://e360.yale.edu/feature/betting_on_technology_to_help_turn_consumers_green/2513/

April 6. Press Release 11-071: Precedent-Setting Evidence of the Benefits of Biodiversity. National Science Foundation News. Excerpt: … Bradley J. Cardinale of the University of Michigan has produced a new study that finally verifies that biodiversity promotes water quality and explains how it does so. Specifically, the study reveals how biodiversity helps remove excess levels of nutrients from streams that commonly degrade water quality….

2010 June 8. Using the Internet to Save the Rainforest. By Juliane Von Mittelstaedt, ABC News. Excerpt: …The Surui will be soon be one of the first indigenous peoples that will be paid by the world to preserve its forest. They are being advised by investment bankers, lawyers, and managers. But the decisions will be all their own, taken at a gathering of 1,300 native Indios. Almir Surui believes his people need modernity to help them maintain their traditional way of life, that this is the only way they can save their forest, their culture, and their tribe. But because it is an experiment, the outcome is uncertain -- for both the Surui and the rest of the world.
…Just last year, 130,000 square kilometers of forest was cut down or burnt, at least 10,000 square kilometers of this in Brazil. That may be the lowest figure in decades, but it's still too much. Twenty percent of the Amazon rainforest has already disappeared. The same amount has been damaged. On a purely proportional scale, the greatest amount of forest has been lost in the state of Rondônia.
…When the chief returned to his village, he brought with him a computer and an idea: that the Surui's only hope for survival lay in combining the two worlds of technology and tradition. It was the dawn of a new era.
…The chief's words convinced nearly all the Surui, who avidly began breeding and planting seedlings. Gradually the forest returned. Ignoring the rain and the heat, they planted more and more species: Açai palms, Ipé (trumpet trees), Brazil nut, mahogany. Women, children, and the elderly all lent a hand, clearing scrubland that looks like forest but is no more than brushwood, palm trees, and ferns. They are still planting to this day.
…Almir Surui first heard the term REDD -- or "retchy", as he pronounces it -- three years ago. The acronym stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation. He discovered that forests trap carbon dioxide, and companies around the globe are willing to pay a lot of money to have the trees soak up carbon dioxide on their behalf. They don't pay for a forest that is merely in existence, but rather for preventing its destruction.

2009 October 7. Peter Zahler: Saving Afghanistan's wildlife. By Phil McKenna, NewScientist. Excerpt: Interview with biologist Peter Zahler, who oversees the US-based Wildlife Conservation Society's work across Asia and the South Pacific. He established the Afghanistan office in Kabul in 2006. ...The country has become synonymous with human conflict, but there's another battle going on – for its biodiversity.
...Why are you doing conservation work in Afghanistan?
It's a fascinating place in terms of biodiversity. Afghanistan is a crossroads of northern and southern species as well as mountain specialists like snow leopards and Marco Polo sheep.
...What is the biggest threat to wildlife in Afghanistan?
One of the major threats is the wildlife trade, mainly furs. We have discovered the primary driver for this trade is actually the international community: people in the military or in construction who are making a pretty decent salary but don't have much to spend it on....

2009 June 9. Afghanistan Protects 33 Species. By Andrew C. Revkin, The NY Times. Amid Afghanistan’s struggles to stem violence and political instability, the country is slowly moving forward to protect its biological and environmental patrimony. The country recently established its first national park and now has created a list of 33 protected species, ranging from the snow leopard to the obscure goitered gazelle and paghman salamander. The Wildlife Conservation Society on Tuesday released photographs of snow leopards taken last month in the Wakhan Corridor region using automatically-triggered camera traps...

2008 August 22. Vote in Alaska Puts Question: Gold or Fish? By WILLIAM YARDLEY, The New York Times. Excerpt: DILLINGHAM, Alaska — Just up the fish-rich rivers that surround this tiny bush town on Bristol Bay is a discovery of copper and gold so vast and valuable that no one seems able to measure it all. Then again, no one really knows the value of the rivers, either. They are the priceless headwaters of one of the world’s last great runs of Pacific salmon.
...What people are doing is fighting as Alaskans hardly have before. While experts say the mine could yield more than $300 billion in metals and hundreds of jobs for struggling rural Alaska, unearthing the metals could mean releasing chemicals that are toxic to the salmon that are central to a fishing industry worth at least $300 million each year. And while the metals are a finite discovery, the fish have replenished themselves for millenniums.
“If they have one spill up there, what’s going to happen?” said Steve Shade, 50, an Alaska Native who has fished on Bristol Bay all his life, for dinner and for a living. “This is our livelihood. They’re going to ruin it for everybody.”
...On Tuesday, Alaskans will vote on Measure 4, an initiative intended to increase protections for streams where salmon live. Over just a few months, the measure has become one of the most expensively fought campaigns in state history, with the two sides expected to spend a total of more than $10 million. Opponents of the measure have outraised supporters by more than two to one.
...Opponents of the Pebble Mine worry that it will open the entire area to mining. For now, the most likely possibility is that Pebble Mine would be a combination of open-pit and underground, because of the way minerals are dispersed. Both methods could require huge holding areas for toxic mine waste with walls hundreds of feet high, as well as a facility for processing ore, pumps that remove millions of gallons of water from the ground and an 80-mile road in an area that is now accessible only by helicopter....

2008 July 2. Species extinction threat underestimated due to math glitch, says CU-Boulder study. Excerpt: Extinction risks for natural populations of endangered species are likely being underestimated by as much as 100-fold because of a mathematical "misdiagnosis," according to a new study led by a University of Colorado at Boulder researcher.
Assistant Professor Brett Melbourne of CU-Boulder's ecology and evolutionary biology department said current mathematical models used to determine extinction threat, or "red-listed" status, of species worldwide overlook random differences between individuals in a given population. Such differences, which include variations in male-to-female sex ratios as well as size or behavioral variations between individuals that can influence their survival rates and reproductive success, have an unexpectedly large effect on extinction risk calculations, according to the study.
"When we apply our new mathematical model to species extinction rates, it shows that things are worse than we thought," said Melbourne. "By accounting for random differences between individuals, extinction rates for endangered species can be orders of magnitude higher than conservation biologists have believed."...
"We suggest that extinction risk for many populations of conservation concern need to be urgently re-evaluated with full consideration of all factors contributing to stochasticity," or randomness, the authors wrote in Nature...

2008 April 30. An Unlikely Way to Save a Species: Serve It for Dinner. By Kim Severson. The NY times. Excerpt: Some people would just as soon ignore the culinary potential of the Carolina flying squirrel or the Waldoboro green neck rutabaga. But not Gary Paul Nabhan. He has spent most of the past four years compiling a list of endangered plants and animals that were once fairly commonplace in American kitchens but are now threatened, endangered or essentially extinct in the marketplace. He has set out to save them, which often involves urging people to eat them. Mr. Nabhan's list, 1,080 items and growing, forms the basis of his new book, an engaging journey through the nooks and crannies of American culinary history titled "Renewing America's Food Traditions: Saving and Savoring the Continent's Most Endangered Foods".
…He organized his list into 13 culinary regions that he calls nations, borrowing from Native American and other groups. The Pacific Coast from California to northern Mexico is acorn nation. Its counterpart on the mid-Atlantic coast is crab cake nation. Moose nation covers most of Canada. New Yorkers, for the record, live in clambake nation.
…Leading the way are members of the gastronomic group Slow Food U.S.A., which assesses whether foods on Mr. Nabhan's list are delicious and meaningful enough in the communities where they originated to be worth reviving and promoting. Foods that do become part of what the group calls its Ark of Taste. The Chefs Collaborative, a group of more than 1,000 professional cooks and others dedicated to sustainable cuisine, willingly signed on, too. Several members incorporated traditional ingredients into modern restaurant dishes, holding a series of picnics last year to show off their work. And everyone in Mr. Nabhan's alliance tried to encourage farmers and ranchers to grow the seeds and the breeds, promising to deliver buyers if they did. That is the most complicated part of reviving traditional food, said Makalé Faber Cullen, a cultural anthropologist with Slow Food U.S.A. who contributed to the book. Farmers are often more concerned with innovating and crossbreeding than in preserving cultural traditions or encouraging biological diversity.
...But Mr. Nabhan doesn't want people to eat everything on his list. The idea of eater-based conservation, which holds that to save something, one has to eat it, works well for agricultural products and some wild foods like clams that benefit from regular harvesting. For some wild species, however, like the foot-long, pink-fleshed Carolina flying squirrel, a harvest would create too much pressure on a tiny population. The squirrels used to make regular appearances in Appalachian game-meat stews. But as their forests declined, so did the squirrel population; they are now on state and federal endangered species lists. Even if catching them were legal, Mr. Nabhan says a trapper would be hard-pressed to bag more than half a dozen a season. Because the squirrel was once so important to the diets of North Carolina and east Tennessee, Mr. Nabhan included it on his list, along with a recipe for the thick vegetable stew called Kentucky burgoo. It calls for corn, lima beans, spring water and two pounds of cubed and fried squirrel meat. Just don't use flying squirrel. At least not yet.

14 August 2007. Call It a Comeback: Ferret Population Shows Big Growth in Wyoming. By HENRY FOUNTAIN, NY Times. Excerpt: Black-footed ferrets in the Shirley Basin in central Wyoming would seem to have had everything going against them a decade ago. A population of 228 was bred in captivity and introduced into the wild in the early 1990s as part of a program to save the species, but by 1997 most were wiped out by disease. Only five ferrets were spotted, and the animal, the most endangered mammal in North America, was thought to be well on the road to extinction.
But Martin B. Grenier of the University of Wyoming and colleagues report in Science that the ferrets have made a remarkable comeback. Starting in 2003, when more than 50 of the animals were spotted, the population has grown rapidly, and the observed population is now close to the original number. ...The ferrets also seem to have overcome the problems of disease and low prey availability (their main food source, a type of prairie dog, is not very abundant and hibernates in the winter).

15 October 2006. Salmon Find an Ally in the Far East of Russia. New York Times. C.J. Chivers.
Excerpt: UTKHOLOK RIVER BIOLOGICAL STATION, Russia - All six native species of Pacific salmon remain abundant on the Kamchatka peninsula in Eastern Russia. One river alone, the Kol, is reported to have as many as five million returning salmon each year. Each year, Russian and American scientists say, a sixth to a quarter of the North Pacific's salmon originate in Kamchatka, a peninsula about the size of California. Estimates of the salmon fisheries' annual value in this region reach $600 million, and the fish are a crucial source of employment for Russia and other nations.
Now, in a nation with a dreary environmental record that is engaged in a rush to extract its resources, the peninsula's governments are at work on proposals that would designate seven sprawling tracts of wilderness as salmon-protected areas, a network of refuges for highly valuable fish that would be the first of its kind. Kamchatka is selecting protection zones not to create wildlife reserves, Mr. Chistyakov said, but because fish runs are the best foundation for the peninsula's economy. Oil, gas and mining sectors will be developed, he said, but will provide a comparably brief revenue stream. Sustainable fishing, he said, can last generations.
Encompassing nine entire rivers and more than six million acres, the protected watersheds would exceed the scale of many renowned preserved areas in the United States. Together they would be more than four times the size of the Everglades, nearly triple that of Yellowstone National Park and slightly larger than the Adirondack Park, which is often referred to as the largest protected area in the lower United States.
These areas would be protected from most development. Their purpose would be to produce wild salmon - for food, profit, recreation and scientific study, and as a genetic reserve of one of the world's most commercially and culturally important fish. "What makes this special is that these rivers are being protected while they are still amazing fish producers," Mr. Klimenko said. "To preserve something that is not destroyed is much less expensive than restoring an ecosystem that is already broken."

Endangered species from The Center for Biological Diversity

6 June 2006. To Stem Widespread Extinction, Scientists Airlift Frogs in Carry-On Bags. Erik S. Lesser for The New York Times.
Excerpt: ATLANTA, June 5 - Of all the things airport security screeners have discovered as they rifle through travelers' luggage, the suitcases full of frogs were a first. In a race to save amphibians threatened by an encroaching, lethal fungus, two conservationists from Atlanta recently packed their carry-ons with frogs rescued from a Central American rain forest - squeezing some 150 to a suitcase - and requested permission from airlines to travel with them in the cabin of the plane. The frogs, snuggly swaddled in damp moss in vented plastic deli containers big enough for a small fruit salad, were perhaps the last of their kind, collected from a pristine national park that fills the bowl of El Valle, an inactive volcano in Panama.
In many parts of the world, habitat loss is thought to be the biggest driver of amphibian extinctions, but the frogs in El Valle are facing a more insidious threat.
A waterborne form of chytrid fungus is marching down the spine of the mountain range where they live. Scientists aren't exactly sure how the fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, kills, but it seems to break down a protein in the skin called keratin that may be important for respiration. The skin of infected animals sloughs off in layers, and within two weeks, they die.
The chytrid fungus is thought to play a large role in the worldwide disappearance of amphibians, a trend terrifying to experts, who say it would be the first loss of an entire taxonomic class since the dinosaurs.
...Dr. Mendelson ... and Ron Gagliardo, the amphibian conservation coordinator at the Atlanta Botanical Garden... wanted ... to collect as many frogs of as many different species as they could and move them out of El Valle as soon as possible. ... estimated they had only weeks to carry out the mass frog evacuation.
... in an apparent validation of their tactics, Dr. Mendelson said the chytrid fungus had recently been found in El Valle, as predicted, and he estimated 90 percent of the frogs there would be gone within 90 days.
"You won't hear scientists say this too often," Dr. Mendelson said. "But I wish we were wrong."

10 May 2006. By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. HONOLULU -- Twelve species of rare flies known for their elaborate courtship displays and found only in the Hawaiian Islands are now protected under the Endangered Species Act. Excerpt: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the protected status for the highly valued picture-wing flies Tuesday. The Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity sued the service in March 2005, accusing it of violating the Endangered Species Act. ...The flies of Hawaii have been studied by scientists for four decades, said Kenneth Kaneshiro, a professor of entomology and director of the Center for Conservation Research and Training at the University of Hawaii. ...Kaneshiro's own work focuses primarily on picture-wing flies. And a theory of evolution named after him postulates that it's not just natural selection but also mating behavior that plays a role in the birth of new species. Researchers have also found antibiotic resistant bacteria on some Hawaiian flies, including some of the newly protected species, that may help scientists find new ways to combat diseases such as bird flu and even cancer, he said.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Endangered Species Program
Center for Biological Diversity

18 April 2006. Endangered, Rescued, Now in Trouble Again. By JIM ROBBINS, NY Times. Excerpt: WALL, S.D. - Black-footed ferrets, the weasel with the burglar's mask that was brought back to life after reaching the brink of extinction, are facing a new challenge from the spread of plague in prairie dogs, their only prey. The disease has slowed the growth of the wild population, which is constantly replenished by the introduction of captive-bred ferrets. And plague is now approaching a colony of prairie dogs that supports half the wild ferret population. Wildlife biologists are waiting to see if the disease will reach the Conata Basin here, a treeless moonscape next to Badlands National Park with the largest population of the highly endangered black-footed ferrets anywhere in the country. "If we lose Conata, oh boy, the program is in trouble," said Michael Lockhart, coordinator of the black-footed ferret recovery program for the federal Fish and Wildlife Service. There are now about 850 of the ferrets in the United States, about 350 in a captive breeding center at Fort Collins, Colo., and the rest at 10 sites around the West and one site in Mexico. About 250 of the wild ferrets live in the Conata Basin. The plague bacteria, Yersinia pestis, is the same one that caused the Black Death in Europe. ...The black-footed ferret, the only ferret native to North America, was part of the Great Plains ecosystem that spread from Canada to Mexico, an expanse that was perforated with sprawling prairie dog towns. Because of predators, prairie dogs are vigilant and need clipped grasslands to feel secure, so they stayed near grazing buffalo herds. Ferrets, in turn, lived in the prairie dog towns, right in the midst of their food supply. One ferret eats about 140 prairie dogs each year. The prairie dogs are despised by many ranchers and farmers because they eat grass and often live near cattle herds, which substitute for buffalo. A ruthless private and federal campaign wiped out 99 percent of them by 1960. By the late 1970's, the black-footed ferret, deprived of its only prey, was thought to be extinct.... "Ferrets are the charismatic representative of a healthy prairie ecosystem," said Travis Livieri, director of Prairie Wildlife Research, a nonprofit research organization based here. "If we can restore ferrets to the prairies of the U.S.," Mr. Livieri said, "that means prairie dog numbers are healthy, which mean ferruginous hawks, swift foxes and burrowing owls."

11 October 2005. Foal by Foal, the Wildest of Horses Is Coming Back. By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD. NY Times. HUSTAI NATIONAL PARK, Mongolia - Excerpt: ...Mongolia is a land of the horse. The warriors of Genghis Khan and his successors in the 13th century conquered most of Asia on the backs of sturdy horses. Today, nomads still mind their flocks from the saddle, and they never look more at home than in a race across the empty distances of the Gobi Desert, a study in fluid motion and the centaurian harmony of man and horse as one. But even the Mongols never managed to domesticate the wildest of horses, a species known as Equus ferus przewalskii, or P-horse for short. It is one of just two extant species of horse. All the breeds of the familiar domestic horse, from Shetland pony to Clydesdale, belong to the other species, which submitted to the bit and bridle 6,000 years ago. Przewalski's horse (pronounced zheh-VAHL-skee and named for the 19th-century Russian explorer who first identified it) is about the size of a large pony, with a stocky body in shades of tan to tawny, short brown legs and a dark mane that stands straight up. They once roamed Central Asia, and particularly Mongolia, where they are called takhi. They banded in families, called harems, of mares, foals and bachelor males overseen by a dominant male. In the 1960's, the takhi disappeared from the wild in Mongolia and everywhere, victims of overhunting for horse meat and habitat competition from people and their livestock. A few hundred survived in captivity, mainly in Europe. From that number, wildlife biologists led by a Dutch preservation group organized a breeding program and, in 1992, started reintroducing the P-horse in Mongolia. Officials here estimate that at least 300 of the horses, immigrants and their offspring, now inhabit the somewhat protected lands of national parks.

March 2005. Not for the Squeamish. OnEarth Magazine. The humble earthworm may hold the key to removing one of our most deadly environmental toxins: PCBs. Charles Darwin admired the earthworm extravagantly. "It may be doubted," he wrote in 1881, "if there are any other animals which have played such an important part in the history of the world as these lowly organized creatures." The earthworm is a natural organic chemist, cultivator, and fertilizer. But it may have yet another talent, one that Darwin would never have discovered: toxic cleanup specialist. It turns out that PCBs -- among the nastiest of modern pollutants -- may be no match for the humble earthworm.

Summer 2004. Prescription Rice: The Brave New World of Pharma Foods, by Melissa Pamer. Terrain magazine, pp. 10-13. Excerpt: ... Farmers in California's flat, hazy rice fields have worked for years...to please the demanding Japanese palate and gain a toehold in its lucrative market. And it's beginning to work: roughly 40 percent of the rice grown in California goes to Japan. ... Just in the past few years California's rice has finally earned some respect in Japan and other finicky Asian markets, and last year's crop could achieve the best return for farmers in the state's history. But now California farmers worry that the purity of their rice, its hard-won status, and their own livelihood may become casualties of the global debate on genetic modification. At issue is a new kind of rice-a new kind of farm crop, in fact-that is genetically engineered to produce pharmaceuticals. Using the same recombinant DNA techniques that have created GE foods, biotechnology companies are now making plants like rice, corn, and tobacco into "factories" for producing medically useful compounds....Over the past few months, a small Sacramento-based biotechnology company's aim to expand its experimental crop of pharmaceutical rice has caused a shake-up in the normally hermetic California rice industry. In October of last year, Ventria BioScience petitioned the California Rice Commission (CRC) for permission to grow 120 acres of two varieties of rice engineered to produce artificial versions of two human proteins-lysozyme and lactoferrin-which occur naturally in breast milk and tears. ...Ventria's petition set off a review process. ..."One little slip. One slip, that's all it's gonna take. If there's a mistake, the farmer is going to pay-big time," rice farmer Joe Carrancho told the CRC advisory board as it prepared to vote on Ventria's protocol in late March. In work boots and dusty blue overalls, Carrancho held up a chart showing 100 percent opposition to GMO wheat from Japanese consumers. "We are fearful," he said.

 

Articles from 2004–present

Non-chronological links:

IUCN - The World Conservation Union, through its Species Survival Commission (SSC) has for four decades been assessing the conservation status of species, subspecies, varieties and even selected subpopulations on a global scale in order to highlight taxa threatened with extinction, and therefore promote their conservation.

Help create species distribution maps from IUCN data - The International Union for Conservation of Nature Redlist (IUCN Red List) documents the conservation status of thousands of species of plants and animals. Data of the distribution of specific species can be downloaded from the IUCN Red List site and used to create a map with GIS software. More instructions and example maps can be found at Wikimedia Commons.

Create a Certified Wildlife Habitat - National Wildlife Federation. Gardening practices that help wildlife (e.g. reducing the use of chemicals, conserving energy and water, and composting) also help to improve air, water and soil. All species of wildlife need the basics of food, water, cover and places to raise young.