LB1C. 2011 Seeking Biodiversity
Staying current for Chapter 1
Articles from 2011–2020
Stay current index page for chapter 1
2020-12-17. Ivory From Shipwreck Reveals Elephant Slaughter During Spice Trade. By Rachel Nuwer, The New York Times. Excerpt: In 2008, workers searching for diamonds off the coast of Namibia found a different kind of treasure: hundreds of gold coins mixed with timber and other debris. They had stumbled upon Bom Jesus, a Portuguese trading vessel lost during a voyage to India in 1533. Among the 40 tons of cargo recovered from the sunken ship were more than 100 elephant tusks. More than a decade after the ship’s discovery, a team of archaeologists, geneticists and ecologists have pieced together the mystery of where the tusks came from and how they fit into the overall picture of historical ivory trade. The researchers’ analysis also revealed that entire elephant lineages have likely been wiped out since the Bom Jesus set sail, shining a light on the extent to which humans have decimated a species once found in far greater numbers across large parts of the African continent…. [https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/17/science/ivory-elephants-shipwreck.html]
2020-12-15. Monarch Butterflies Qualify for Endangered List. They Still Won’t Be Protected. By Catrin Einhorn, The New York Times. Excerpt: The monarch butterfly is threatened with extinction, but will not come under federal protection because other species are a higher priority, federal officials announced Tuesday. …But their numbers have been decimated by climate-change-fueled weather events and pervasive habitat loss in the United States. …The number of Eastern monarchs — which undertake an astonishing, multigenerational migration from as far north as Canada to overwinter in central Mexico — has declined by 75 percent since the 1990s, scientists estimate. Across the Rocky Mountains, Western monarchs have seen an even more alarming drop. Some of this collapse is tied to a need for milkweed, the only plant that monarch caterpillars can eat. Milkweed has declined across monarch breeding grounds throughout the United States since farmers started using crops that are genetically modified to tolerate Roundup, a brand of weedkiller. Milkweed often grew among crops, but cannot survive spraying…. [https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/15/climate/monarch-butterflies-endangered-species-list.html] See also U.S. agency sidesteps listing monarch butterflies as endangered, by Elizabeth Pennisi, Science Magazine.
2020-12-10. Tasmanian devils claw their way back from extinction. By Elizabeth Pennisi, Science Magazine. Excerpt: For decades a ghastly facial cancer has been decimating Tasmanian devils. Spreading from animal to animal when the stocky, raccoon-size marsupials bite each other, the transmissible cancer has killed up to 80% of the devils in Tasmania, their only home for millennia. Some researchers saw extinction as inevitable. Now, a new study in Science, suggests the remaining 15,000 devils have reached a détente with the cancer. Until recently it was spreading exponentially, like the pandemic coronavirus among humans in many parts of the world. But geneticists calculate that each infected devil now transmits tumor cells to just one—or fewer—other devils. That could mean the disease may disappear over time…. [https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/12/tasmanian-devils-claw-their-way-back-extinction]
2020-10-16. How Many Plants Have We Wiped Out? Here Are 5 Extinction Stories. By Marion Renault, The New York Times. Excerpt: …In a study published in August in Conservation Biology, Dr. Frances and 15 other researchers from across the United States quantified how many trees, shrubs, herbs and flowering plants have vanished from North America since European settlement. After compiling existing information on presumed extinct species and working with local botanists to vet the data, the group narrowed down a list of 65 plant species, subspecies and varieties that have been lost forever in the wild. That figure is almost certainly an underestimate, said Wes Knapp, a botanist at the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program and a co-author of the study…. [https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/16/science/plants-extinction-north-america.html]
2020-10-04. ‘David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet’ Review: Ruin and Regrowth. By Natalia Winkelman, The New York Times. Excerpt: The majestic documentary “David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet” opens with its title subject standing in a deserted location. It’s the territory around the Chernobyl nuclear plant, a once buzzing area that was evacuated after human error rendered it uninhabitable. …Calling the film (streaming on Netflix) his “witness statement” for the environment, David Attenborough goes on to trace his more than 60-year career as a naturalist, mapping how steeply the planet’s biodiversity has degenerated before him. Global air travel was new when he began his work, and footage of him as a young producer encountering exotic flora and fauna lends a moving, even haunting, note to his plea to restore ecological balance. …upsetting is the loss of rain forests, showcased through the stark cutoff between flourishing vegetation and uniform rows of oil palms planted for profit. Such cinematic juxtapositions are persuasive: A dying planet is an ugly one, while healthy ecosystems please the eye and the earth. …The most devastating sequence finds Attenborough charting the disasters we face in future decades — global crises that he, as a man now in his 90s, will not experience. Yet he finds hope by extrapolating small successes. Sustainable farming in the Netherlands has made the country one of the worldwide leaders in food exports. …The film’s grand achievement is that it positions its subject as a mediator between humans and the natural world. Life cycles on, and if we make the right choices, ruin can become regrowth…. [https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/04/movies/david-attenborough-a-life-on-our-planet-review.html]
2020-09-15. A ‘Crossroads’ for Humanity: Earth’s Biodiversity Is Still Collapsing. By Catrin Einhorn, The New York Times. Excerpt: The world is failing to address a catastrophic biodiversity collapse that not only threatens to wipe out beloved species and invaluable genetic diversity, but endangers humanity’s food supply, health and security, according to a sweeping United Nations report issued on Tuesday. When governments act to protect and restore nature, the authors found, it works. But despite commitments made 10 years ago, nations have not come close to meeting the scale of the crisis, which continues to worsen because of unsustainable farming, overfishing, burning of fossil fuels and other activities. “Humanity stands at a crossroads,” the report said. It comes as the devastating consequences that can result from an unhealthy relationship with nature are on full display: A pandemic that very likely jumped from bats has upended life worldwide, and wildfires, worsened by climate change and land management policies, are ravaging the American West. “These things are a sign of what is to come,” said David Cooper, an author of the report and the deputy executive secretary of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, the global treaty underlying the assessment. “These things will only get worse if we don’t change course.”…. [https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/15/climate/biodiversity-united-nations-report.html]
2020-07-31. With powerful LED flashlights, humans are upping their jungle kills. By Warren Cornwall, Science Magazine. Excerpt: Cheap, powerful flashlights are allowing hunters in tropical jungles around the world to more easily kill nocturnal animals, including endangered species such as pangolins, according to a new study. Scientists warn the new technology threatens to further damage ecosystems already strained by overhunting. Humans have stalked their prey with bright lights such as flashlights for decades. Sudden illumination can cause animals to freeze, making them easier targets. But flashlights using conventional incandescent bulbs quickly run out of power, making such hunting costly and difficult. By comparison, light-emitting diode (LED) flashlights—which emit light from tiny electronic chips—can provide a burst of light while using less than one-quarter of the power. Their efficiency and brightness has made them ubiquitous in everything from TVs to cellphones over the past decade. Mark Bowler, an ecologist at the University of Suffolk, wondered whether the technology might also be changing the way people hunt in the jungles of the Peruvian Amazon, where he studies animal ecology. …He joined researchers in Brazil and Gabon to gather data from hunters about their use of such lights. The results confirmed his suspicions. Of 120 hunters, nearly all reported using LED lights, Bowler and colleagues report this week in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. In South America, two-thirds of the hunters said they did more nighttime hunting with the new flashlights; in Gabon, where such hunting is illegal, just one-third said they did more night hunting. More than half the hunters said the LEDs made hunting easier…. [https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/07/powerful-led-flashlights-humans-are-upping-their-jungle-kills].
2020-06-09. Trump administration makes it easier for hunters to kill bear cubs and wolf pups in Alaska. By Darryl Fears, The Washington Post. Excerpt: A ban against luring mothers from their dens with doughnuts and other treats will be lifted. The Trump administration reversed an Obama-era rule that banned hunters from hunting bears and wolves using practices some called cruel…. [https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2020/06/08/trump-administration-make-it-easier-hunters-kill-alaska-bear-cubs-wolf-pups/]
2020-06-05. Elephants, Long Endangered by Thai Crowds, Reclaim a National Park. By Hannah Beech and Muktita Suhartono, The New York Times. Excerpt: KHAO YAI, Thailand — For as long as the elephants could remember — and that is a long time — the path to the river snaked down the hillside through jungle so dense a troop of pachyderms could simply vanish. But about three decades ago, humans decided they, too, wanted to get to the river, to gaze at the waterfalls that cascaded into the Khao Yai National Park in central Thailand. The humans paved over part of the elephants’ trail with cement. They built toilets and snack kiosks. The elephants, though, still needed to reach the river. They hewed close to the old route, the one imprinted on generations of pachyderm brains, but not so close that the day-trippers, with their picnics of sticky rice and grilled pork, would see them. It was a fatal diversion. The new trail passed a cliff and an area prone to flash floods. Elephant after elephant drowned. Last October, a baby elephant fell into the roiling waters. Others charged in to save the calf. All told, 11 elephants died. Since the coronavirus pandemic accelerated in March, Khao Yai, Thailand’s oldest national park, has been closed to human visitors for the first time since it opened in 1962. Without the jeeps and the crowds, the park’s 300 or so elephants have been able to roam freely, venturing onto paths once packed with humans. Rarely spotted animals, like the Asian black bear or the gaur, the world’s largest bovine, have emerged, too…. [https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/05/world/asia/thailand-elephants-coronavirus.html]
2020-06-01. Mass Extinctions Are Accelerating, Scientists Report. By Rachel Nuwer. The New York Times. Excerpt: We are in the midst of a mass extinction [https://www.nature.com/articles/nature09678], many scientists have warned — this one driven not by a catastrophic natural event, but by humans. The unnatural loss of biodiversity is accelerating, and if it continues, the planet will lose vast ecosystems and the necessities they provide, including fresh water, pollination, and pest and disease control. On Monday, there was more bad news: We are racing faster and closer toward the point of collapse than scientists previously thought, according to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The extinction rate among terrestrial vertebrate species is significantly higher than prior estimates, and the critical window for preventing mass losses will close much sooner than formerly assumed — in 10 to 15 years. …The current rate of extinctions vastly exceeds those that would occur naturally, Dr. Ceballos and his colleagues found. Scientists know of 543 species lost over the last 100 years, a tally that would normally take 10,000 years to accrue…. [https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/01/science/mass-extinctions-are-accelerating-scientists-report.html]
2020-05-22. Would you pay to save this creature? Fake beasties reveal why some animals get conservation bucks. By Amanda Heidt, Science Magazine. Excerpt: [Image caption: Donors were more likely to pay to conserve this large and colorful imaginary beast, compared with its less vibrant cousins.] …it is the winner of a new competition, which used drawings of imaginary animals to deduce which real ones have the power to bring in the big conservation bucks. The upshot: Although it doesn’t hurt to be cute, it’s not the only thing that matters. Researchers already know people tend to support animals they find adorable. That’s why it’s easier to raise money to save pandas than bats. But no one knows exactly which features—both the physical and the nonphysical kind—motivate donors. “Donations are really key to a lot of institutions,” from zoos to nonprofits, says Diogo Veríssimo, a conservation biologist with the nonprofit San Diego Zoo Global, who was not involved in the study. “Without them, many of the largest conservation organizations would struggle to survive.” …To understand which features people find most appealing, Papworth asked hundreds of past conservation donors to rank her imaginary species for attractiveness, taking note of what they did (or didn’t) like. Then, she used a smaller subset of only the most and least popular animals to ask a similar but distinct question: Which creatures would people pay to conserve? Imaginary animals that were larger, more colorful, or dominated by cooler tones such as blues and purples were most likely to solicit donations, the team reported recently in Conservation Letters. On average, participants were 37% more likely to donate to animals with at least one such feature; they were particularly drawn to more colorful species. To be sure their findings weren’t limited to imaginary beasties, the team then gave 50 cents to each person to donate to real animal charities. Charities raising funds for tigers, the most popular choice, received six times the donations of charities for species such as sharks and bats, supporting most of Papworth’s conclusions…. [https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/05/would-you-pay-save-creature-fake-beasties-reveal-why-some-animals-get-conservation]
2020-04-08. Lynx Numbers Are in Decline in the West. By Karen Weintraub, The New York Times. Excerpt: In recent years, the U.S. government has considered removing protections for the Canada lynx, which has been listed as a threatened species. But a recent study in Washington State shows the medium-size wild cat continues to be very much at risk in the Northwest. The largest-scale survey of lynx in the state relied on 650 cameras triggered by motion detection. The cameras captured two million pictures during the summers of 2016 and 2017, which researchers and undergraduates at Washington State University then scanned looking for lynx…. [https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/08/science/lynx-endangered-species.html]
2020-04-08. Poachers Kill More Rhinos as Coronavirus Halts Tourism to Africa. By Annie Roth, The New York Times. Excerpt: Since South Africa announced a national lockdown on March 23 to limit the spread of the new coronavirus, Mr. Jacobs has had to respond to a rhino poaching incident nearly every day. On March 25, he rescued a 2-month-old white rhino calf whose mother had been killed by poachers. The next day he was called to rescue two black rhinos whose horns had been hacked off by poachers. When he finally tracked them down it was too late — both were dead. …At least nine rhinos have been poached in South Africa’s North West province since the lockdown, he said, “and those are just the ones we know about.” …In neighboring Botswana, according to Rhino Conservation Botswana, a nonprofit organization, at least six rhinos have been poached since the country closed its borders to stop the spread of Covid-19. And last week, the country’s government announced that five suspected poachers had been killed by Botswana’s military in two separate incidents. While poaching is not unusual in Africa — the last decade has seen more than 9,000 rhinos poached — conservationists said the recent incidents in Botswana and South Africa were unusual because they occurred in tourism hot spots that, until now, were considered relatively safe havens for wildlife…. [https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/08/science/coronavirus-poaching-rhinos.html] For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 1.
2020-04-03. National parks are no safe haven for West African lions. By Elizabeth Pennisi, Science Magazine. Excerpt: Africa’s national parks are meant to protect lions, elephants, and other wildlife from human hunters. Pachyderms tend to play it safe, generally staying within park boundaries. A new study suggests lions in West Africa are not so cautious. Instead, the big cats are just as likely to hang out in nearby hunting concessions, where trophy hunting is allowed…. [https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/04/national-parks-are-no-safe-haven-west-african-lions].
2020-01-09. Trove of New Bird Species Found on Remote Indonesian Islands. By Karen Weintraub, The New York Times. [https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/09/science/birds-new-species-indonesia.html] Excerpt: Researchers found 10 new species and subspecies of songbirds off the coast of Sulawesi, with distinct songs and genetics from known birds….
2019-12-20. Once, America Had Its Own Parrot. By Carl Zimmer, The New York Times. [https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/20/science/carolina-parakeet-genome.html] Excerpt: When European settlers arrived in North America, they were stunned to discover a gorgeous parrot. The face of the Carolina parakeet was red; its head was yellow, its wings green. Measuring a foot or more from beak to tail, the parakeets thrived in noisy flocks from the Atlantic Coast to what is now Oklahoma. “I have seen branches of trees as completely covered by them as they could possibly be,” John James Audubon wrote in 1830. …Within a century, the Carolina parakeet was gone. In 1918, the last captive died in a Cincinnati zoo. After a few possible sightings in the wild, the species was declared extinct. … Whatever killed the Carolina parakeet “was something quick that left no mark in the genome,” said Dr. Lalueza-Fox. Beth Shapiro, a paleogeneticist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who was not involved in the new study, said this pattern has been observed in two other bird species that have recently gone extinct: the passenger pigeon and the great auk. Only a catastrophic blow delivered by humans could have wiped out those thriving populations, she said: “These data underscore the devastating impact that we can have on other species.” …Did loggers chop down the parakeets’ forests? Did farmers shoot them all? Dr. Burgio leans toward another explanation: He suspects a disease drove the birds extinct. Carolina parakeets may have been attracted to farms by the cockleburs growing there as weeds. The parakeets came into contact with chickens, he speculated — and picked up a poultry disease….
2019-07-05. Could This Be the End of Frankincense? By By JoAnna Klein, The New York Times. [https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/05/science/frankincense-trees-collapse.html] Excerpt: For thousands of years, cultures around the world have revered the sweet aroma of frankincense. … a staple in ancient Chinese medicine. Today its smoke still permeates centers of worship and Ethiopian coffee ceremonies. Demand is also increasing in the West: It’s found in natural medicine stores, spiritual shops, bespoke boutiques and online. …Frankincense may not be around much longer, warns a study published Monday in Nature Sustainability [https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-019-0322-2]….
2019-07-01. Poachers Are Invading Botswana, Last Refuge of African Elephants. By Rachel Nuwer, New York Times. [https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/01/science/elephants-poaching-botswana.html] Excerpt: In September, conservationists in Botswana discovered 87 dead elephants, their faces hacked off and tusks missing. Poaching, the researchers warned, was on the rise. The news had international repercussions. Botswana had been one of the last great elephant refuges, largely spared the poaching crisis that has swept through much of Africa over the past decade. The country is home to some 126,000 savanna elephants, about a third of Africa’s remaining population — plentiful enough that they are increasingly in conflict with villagers in the northern part of the country. …some scientists wondered whether the illegal ivory trade really had found its way to Botswana. Now, the researchers have published data in the journal Current Biology that seems to confirm their initial findings. Based on aerial surveys and field visits, the authors report that fresh elephant carcasses in Botswana increased by nearly 600 percent from 2014 to 2018….
2019-06-21. ‘These Forests Are the Lungs of the Country’: Thai Rangers Guard Precious Rosewood. By Ben C. Solomon and Richard C. Paddock, The New York Times. [https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/21/world/asia/thailand-rosewood-poaching.html] Excerpt: …The jungles of Ta Phraya National Park in southeastern Thailand, part of a Unesco world heritage site, are home to sun bears, crocodiles and elephants. But these poachers are not after animal prey. They are hunting for the perfect tree, and when they do find it, they work quickly, chopping it down and slicing it into wooden planks in a matter of hours. Their target, rosewood, can sell for tens of thousands in China and has earned an infamous nickname: “bloodwood.” The poachers — who announce their presence to each other through the star-shaped symbol — are mostly Cambodians, said officials at the Freeland Foundation, a nongovernmental group that supports the rangers in their fight against poaching. …“These forests are the lungs of the country,” said Kaew Kornkam, an elite ranger trainer. “The army protects the country, the police protect the society, we protect the air that we breath.” …Thailand is the only country in the region with significant stands of rosewood remaining. In the past three months, it has seen a sudden spike in cross-border tree poaching, Mr. Redford said….
2019-05-06. Bengal Tigers May Not Survive Climate Change. By Kai Schultz and Hari Kumar, The New York Times. [https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/06/science/tigers-climate-change-sundarbans.html] Excerpt: NEW DELHI — Climate change and rising sea levels eventually may wipe out one of the world’s last and largest tiger strongholds, scientists warned in a new study. The cats are among nearly 500,000 land species whose survival is now in question because of threats to their natural habitats, according to a report on Monday by the United Nations. The Sundarbans, 4,000 square miles of marshy land in Bangladesh and India, hosts the world’s largest mangrove forest and a rich ecosystem supporting several hundred animal species, including the endangered Bengal tiger. But 70 percent of the land is just a few feet above sea level, and grave changes are in store for the region, Australian and Bangladeshi researchers reported in the journal Science of The Total Environment. Changes wrought by a warming planet will be “enough to decimate” the few hundred or so Bengal tigers remaining there. “By 2070, there will be no suitable tiger habitats remaining in the Bangladesh Sundarbans,” concluded the study by 10 researchers. The paper, which relies on climate scenarios developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for its simulation models, adds to existing studies that offered similarly grim predictions for wildlife in the Sundarbans….
2019-05-06. Biodiversity Report Paints a Bleak Picture. By Randy Showstack, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: The natural world is under siege and declining at a dizzying and dismal rate, according to a sobering new report on biodiversity. The rate of global change in nature during the past half century “is unprecedented in human history,” according to a landmark global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services released today, 6 May. The global rate of species extinction “is already at least tens to hundreds of times higher than the average rate over the past 10 million years and is accelerating,” according to the report [https://www.ipbes.net/news/ipbes-global-assessment-summary-policymakers-pdf] by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The report states that about 1 million species are threatened with extinction, many within decades. …“Goals for conserving and sustainably using nature and achieving sustainability cannot be met by current trajectories, and goals for 2030 and beyond may only be achieved through transformative changes across economic, social, political and technological factors,” the report states. …The report, compiled by 145 expert authors who reviewed about 15,000 scientific and government sources and also drew on indigenous and local knowledge, is the most comprehensive document ever prepared about biodiversity. …75% of the terrestrial environment and 40% of marine environments have been severely altered by human actions, about 55% of the ocean area is covered by industrial fishing, the growth of urban areas has more than doubled since 1992, and the amount of renewable and nonrenewable resources that are extracted globally each year has doubled since 1980. According to the report, the direct drivers of change in nature that have the largest global impact are, in order, changes in land and sea use, exploitation of organisms, climate change, pollution, and the invasion of alien species…. See also New York Times article Humans Are Speeding Extinction and Altering the Natural World at an ‘Unprecedented’ Pace [https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/06/climate/biodiversity-extinction-united-nations.html] and Science article Landmark analysis documents the alarming global decline of nature [https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/05/landmark-analysis-documents-alarming-global-decline-nature]
2019-03-15. This Songbird Is Nearly Extinct in the Wild. An International Treaty Could Help Save It — but Won’t.By Rachel Nuwer, The New York Times. [https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/15/science/endangered-species-cites.html] Excerpt: Fewer than 500 black-winged mynas remain in the wild in Indonesia, but each year more of the songbirds are captured and sold as pets. Banteng — “the most beautiful and graceful of all wild cattle,” according to the World Wide Fund for Nature — were listed as endangered in 1996, but their horns still are sold in markets across Southeast Asia. And the critically endangered giant carp, a Mekong River native that can weigh up to 600 pounds, recently began turning up on restaurant menus in Vietnam. Experts warn that the fish might soon be pushed into extinction. International trade poses a threat to all of these species, yet not one is subject to key regulations that would help protect it. They are not listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), a treaty meant to ensure that trade does not imperil the survival of threatened and endangered species. …“Wildlife trade is a threat equal to or greater than habitat destruction for many species, and it’s not going to get any better unless countries step up,” added Dr. Wilcove, co-author of research into the problem published recently in the journal Science. …Cites protects thousands of animal and plant species by barring trade of the most highly endangered and by sustainably regulating the others. But as conservationists have repeatedly pointed out, the treaty neglects entire classes of animals, including 92 percent of the world’s 10,700 reptile species, most amphibians, songbirds and fish, as well as invertebrates and small mammals….
2018-08-29. Why Are Puffins Vanishing? The Hunt for Clues Goes Deep (Into Their Burrows). By John Schwartz, The New York Times. Excerpt: Overfishing, hunting and pollution are putting pressure on the birds, but climate change may prove to be the biggest challenge. … The birds have been in precipitous decline, especially since the 2000s, both in Iceland and across many of their Atlantic habitats. The potential culprits are many: fickle prey, overfishing, pollution. Scientists say that climate change is another underlying factor that is diminishing food supplies and is likely to become more important over time. And the fact that puffins are tasty, and thus hunted as game here, hardly helps. … Around Iceland, the puffins have suffered because of the decline of their favorite food, silvery sand eels, which dangle from the parents’ beaks as they bring them to their young. That collapse correlates to a rise in sea surface temperatures that Dr. Hansen has been monitoring for years. …Between the 1965-1995 cold cycle and the current warm cycle, Dr. Hansen said, winter temperature records show about one degree Celsius of additional warming — a seemingly small amount, but disastrous for the sand eels. His theory, he said, is this: “If you increase temperatures one degree, you’re changing their growth rates and their ability to survive the winter”… https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/08/29/climate/puffins-dwindling-iceland.html
2018-08-06. Mojave birds crashed over last century due to climate change. By Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley News. Excerpt: Bird communities in the Mojave Desert straddling the California/Nevada border have collapsed over the past 100 years, most likely because of lower rainfall due to climate change, according to a new University of California, Berkeley, study. A three-year survey of the area, which is larger than the state of New York, concludes that 30 percent, or 39 of the 135 bird species that were there 100 years ago, are less common and less widespread today. The 61 sites surveyed lost, on average, 43 percent of the species that were there a century ago. “Deserts are harsh environments, and while some species might have adaptations that allow them to persist in a desert spot, they are also at their physiological limits,” said Kelly Iknayan, who conducted the survey for her doctoral thesis at UC Berkeley. “California deserts have already experienced quite a bit of drying and warming because of climate change, and this might be enough to push birds over the edge. It seems like we are losing part of the desert ecosystem.” …The loss of bird species has happened even though much of the Mojave Desert is protected national park or preserve, including Death Valley National Park, one of the nation’s largest. “This is a shot across the bow of our nation’s national jewels, telling us that climate change is already having an adverse impact even in our largest national parks and wilderness areas, and that we have got to reduce dependence on fossil fuels by smartly employing green energy,” said Steven Beissinger, senior author of the study and a UC Berkeley professor of environmental science, policy and management…. http://news.berkeley.edu/2018/08/06/mojave-birds-crashed-over-last-century-due-to-climate-change/
2018-03-20. Sudan, the Last Male Northern White Rhino, Dies in Kenya. By Rachel Nuwer, The New York Times. Excerpt: The last male northern white rhinoceros died on Monday at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya following a series of infections and other health problems. At 45, Sudan was an elderly rhino, and his death was not unexpected. Hunted to near-extinction, just two northern white rhinos now remain: Najin, Sudan’s daughter, and Fatu, his granddaughter, both at the conservancy. …“This is a creature that didn’t fail in evolution,” said Thomas Hildebrandt, head of reproduction management at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin and one of the project’s leaders. “It’s in this situation because of us.” Northern white rhinos, a subspecies of the more populous southern white rhinos, once roamed the grasslands of east and central Africa. In 1960, there were approximately 2,000. …War, habitat loss and poaching for rhino horn have decimated populations, and by 2008 researchers could no longer locate northern white rhinos in the wild. But a number of the animals — including Sudan, who was captured in 1975 — remained at zoos around the world. “Sudan is an extreme symbol of human disregard for nature,” said Jan Stejskal, director of international projects at the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic, where Sudan spent most of his life. “He survived extinction of his kind in the wild only thanks to living in a zoo.” …scientists also plan to use frozen cell cultures from 12 northern white rhinos, including Sudan, stored at the San Diego Zoo to create stem cells, which in theory might be coaxed into becoming egg and sperm and united to create an embryo…. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/20/science/rhino-sudan-extinct.html
2017-12-05. Sometimes Seeing More Endangered Tigers Isn’t a Good Sign. By Douglas Quenqua, The New York Times. Excerpt: Sumatran tigers can’t seem to catch a break. This week, a study containing good news about the population of this endangered cat also carried a disclaimer that there was probably no cause for optimism. The new study, published Tuesday in Nature Communications, relied on images from more than 300 trap cameras as well as data from decades of similar studies. The authors reported that tiger density in Sumatra’s three largest protected forests increased 5 percent per year from 1996 to 2014, suggesting that Indonesia’s preservation efforts are slowly working. However, the increase was probably caused by an influx of tigers fleeing unprotected forests on the large western island in the Indonesian archipelago, where their numbers are dropping rapidly, the researchers said…. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/05/science/sumatran-tigers.html
2017-11-16. A Population of Billions May Have Contributed to This Bird’s Extinction. By Steph Yin, The New York Times. Excerpt: North America was once a utopia for passenger pigeons. When European colonizers first arrived, as many as 5 billion of the gray-backed, copper-breasted and iridescent beauties roamed the continent, possibly the most abundant bird to have ever graced the planet. …Then, in just a few decades, the inconceivable happened: Commercialized and excessively hunted, the birds vanished. A paper published in Science on Thursday sheds new light on why the creatures went extinct so swiftly and thoroughly. Analyzing the DNA of preserved birds, the researchers found evidence that natural selection was extremely efficient in passenger pigeons. This might have made the pigeons particularly well-suited for living in dense flocks, but unable to cope with living in sparse groups once their numbers started to plummet, the authors suggest. Biologists generally assume that a large population corresponds to high genetic diversity, which acts as a buffer to extinction…. But passenger pigeons were so plentiful and so mobile that beneficial genetic mutations spread and detrimental ones disappeared very quickly throughout their population. This caused a loss in overall genetic diversity, which meant less raw material for adapting to human-induced change. …“We were astounded to learn that the passenger pigeon population had been enormous for at least 20,000 years,” Dr. Shapiro said. “That meant they were really big during the last ice age, and they remained big even as the climate changed dramatically during the warming period after.” …The passenger pigeon illustrates that even species with colossal population sizes are not safe from disappearing…. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/16/science/passenger-pigeons-extinction.html
2017-09-25. Pandas Are No Longer Endangered. But Their Habitat Is in Trouble. By Douglas Quenqua, The New York Times. Excerpt: One year after giant pandas graduated from endangered to “vulnerable,” a welcome designation after 28 years, Chinese scientists have sobering news: The animal’s natural habitat in China is in serious danger. In a study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution on Monday, researchers report that suitable panda habitats have significantly and steadily declined since 1990, the year the International Union for the Conservation of Nature first classified the animals as endangered. That could make any gain in China’s wild panda population a short-lived conservation victory. Logging, human encroachment, road construction and agriculture have conspired to divide panda habitats into tiny sections, a process known as fragmentation, the study said…. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/25/science/pandas-habitat-china.html
2017-09-07. Scientists say decline in monarch butterflies brings risk of extinction. By Peter Fimrite, San Francisco Chronicle. Excerpt: Western monarch butterflies, which crowd trees along the California coast every winter and flush them with color, have declined so dramatically since the 1980s that the species will likely go extinct in the next few decades if nothing is done, scientists said Thursday in a population study of the treasured creatures. …according to the report published in the journal Biological Conservation. “We believe there were at least 10 million butterflies in many of the years during the 1980s,” said Cheryl Schultz, an associate professor of biological sciences at Washington State University and the lead author of the study. “It’s gone down from 10 million to 300,000. That’s why we were so shocked. We did not expect it to be that sharp of a decline.” …The decline is similar to that seen among the more abundant eastern monarchs, which spend their winters in Mexico before heading back across the United States and settling as far north as Canada. …Eastern monarchs have declined more than 90 percent since 1996, when scientists estimated there were 1 billion nesting in the trees. Last winter, 78 million eastern monarchs were counted in Mexico, compared with 100 million the year before…. http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Scientists-say-decline-in-monarch-butterflies-12181328.php
2017-09-05. Why eye-popping whale shows off the California coast are the new normal. By Peter Fimrite, San Francisco Chronicle. Excerpt: Humpbacks have put on a show this summer inside and outside the Golden Gate — flopping around, waving their flukes and leaping out of the water — a bonanza for whale watchers in tour boats and on dry land that scientists say will remain a regular thing. The ballet of the behemoths, far from a one-time event, is the result of the humpbacks recovering from near-extinction thanks to an international whaling ban, intense conservation and protection of their breeding grounds. John Calambokidis, a senior research biologist for the nonprofit Cascadia Research Collective, said the giant cetaceans are swimming off the coast of California in numbers equal to their historic population and extending their range into places where they lived long ago. “Their numbers reached carrying capacity in the last five years, and that’s when sightings in unusual areas began to occur,” said Calambokidis, who has been studying humpback and blue whales for 35 years…. http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Why-eye-popping-whale-shows-off-the-California-12172489.php
2017-03-16. Hawaiian biodiversity has been declining for millions of years. By Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley News. Excerpt: Hawaii’s unique animal and plant diversity has been declining on all but the Big Island for millions of years, long before humans arrived, according to a new analysis of species diversity on the islands by University of California, Berkeley, evolutionary biologists. The team concluded that the shrinking land areas of the older islands began putting stress on the flora and fauna several million years after the islands formed. Today, all of the islands except the Big Island of Hawaii – the only island still growing – have experienced a decrease in species diversity, albeit imperceptibly on human time scales, since even before the extinction caused by human activity. They reached this conclusion with a new method for analyzing the species diversity on the different islands in the multiple-island chain, deducing the history of diversification on each island with their new approach for 14 different groups, or clades, of birds, insects, spiders and plants…. http://news.berkeley.edu/2017/03/16/hawaiian-biodiversity-has-been-declining-for-millions-of-years/
2017-01-18. Most Primate Species Threatened With Extinction, Scientists Find. By Carl Zimmer, The New York Times. Excerpt: …In a study of unprecedented scope, a team of 31 primatologists has analyzed every known species of primate to judge how they are faring. The news for man’s closest animal relatives is not good. Three-quarters of primate species are in decline, the researchers found, and about 60 percent are now threatened with extinction. From gorillas to gibbons, primates are in significantly worse shape now than in recent decades because of the devastation from agriculture, hunting and mining. …Taking stock of every primate species on Earth was a huge challenge, in part because scientists keep finding new ones. Since 2000, 85 new primate species have been identified, bringing the total to 505…. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/18/science/almost-two-thirds-of-primate-species-near-extinction-scientists-find.html
2016-12-30. Cheetahs in Danger of Extinction, Researchers Say. By James Gorman, The New York Times. Excerpt: The cheetah, as swift as it is in the hunt, will not be able to outrun the threats to its survival without new conservation efforts, according to an international team of researchers who reported their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They found that the threat to cheetahs, which now number about 7,000 worldwide, had been underestimated because of a focus on groups of the cats living in protected areas like parks and refuges. The team called for the International Union for Conservation of Nature to change the cheetah’s status from vulnerable to endangered, indicating the serious danger for the species…. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/30/science/cheetahs-endangered-species.html
2016-09-06. The Giant Panda Is No Longer Endangered. It’s ‘Vulnerable.’ By Liam Stack, The New York Times. Excerpt: The giant panda has long languished on the endangered species list, but an international monitoring group finally had some good news for it over the weekend. The pandas were removed from the endangered list, along with the Tibetan antelope. But the monitors issued a grim warning about the fate of the eastern gorilla, which has moved one step closer to extinction. It also said that the plains zebra has become “near threatened” because of hunting. The new designations were announced on Sunday in a report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, a leading environmental group that tracks the status of plant and animal species…. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/07/science/giant-panda-endangered-vulnerable.html
2016-09-06. Most humpback whales removed from endangered list, but threats remain. By Peter Fimrite, San Francisco Chronicle. Excerpt: The vast majority of the world’s humpback whales, famous for putting on spectacular displays of leaping and splashing that this year have extended into San Francisco Bay, are being taken off the endangered species list in what one federal official called a “true ecological success story.”… http://www.sfgate.com/science/article/Most-humpback-whales-removed-from-endangered-9206222.php 0
2016-04-27. Monarchs Need Better Pit Stops on Their Epic Journeys. By Susan Cozier, Natural Resources Defense Council. Excerpt: Projects across the Midwest are trying to bring milkweed and nectar-filled flowers back to the landscape. …In the past 25 years, monarch numbers have taken a nosedive, plummeting more than 90 percent due primarily to habitat destruction. The butterflies migrate back and forth across North America, fluttering south to Mexico for the winter and north as far as Canada in spring and summer. The round-trip journey spans three butterfly generations or more, and to make it, they need plants: those that provide nectar to fuel them and those that help them make more monarchs. Milkweed is the only plant on which monarchs lay eggs and is crucial to the species’s survival. …[Mary] Galea’s project, part of the Pollinator Partnership, is just one of many looking at how we can revive monarch populations across the United States. The plants Galea and others are growing could prove critical to monarch populations in Ohio. Real success, however, won’t rely only on the greenery in our backyards, parks, and roadsides; we’ll also have to address what chemicals we spray on farm crops. Once upon a time, milkweed grew naturally on farms, between fields of corn and soybeans. But farmers, under pressure to increase their yields, plowed fallow fields and started growing genetically modified crops designed to resist the powerful herbicide glyphosate (marketed as Roundup). Knowing these “Roundup ready” crops could withstand widespread application of the herbicide, farmers would spray entire fields with the chemical instead of targeting their crops directly. Now, native plants, such as milkweed, die right along with the unwanted weeds. As the milkweed went, so went the monarchs. By some estimates, the amount of milkweed along the monarchs’ midwestern path fell nearly 60 percent between 1999 and 2010. And we’re still losing one to two million acres of habitat a year, thanks to development, over-mowing, and pesticides, says Chip Taylor, a prominent monarch researcher at the University of Kansas and head of Monarch Watch…. https://www.nrdc.org/onearth/monarchs-need-better-pit-stops-their-epic-journeys
2016-01-14. Articles from OnEarth. Natural Resources Defense Council. Il Primo Piatto – As the bushmeat trade drives the Bioko drill monkey toward extinction, some West Africans are realizing these animals are worth more in the woods than on the plate…. http://www.onearth.org/earthwire/bioko-island-endangered-drill-monkeys-bushmeat
Elephants Win as Hong Kong’s Leader Says It Will Ban Ivory Trade – Shutting down the world’s largest legal ivory market would be a conservation milestone. [Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying announced plans to ban ivory imports and exports, phase out the local trade, and crack down on the smuggling of endangered species of all kinds.] National Geographic http://www.onearth.org/earthwire/hong-kong-plans-end-its-legal-ivory-trade – http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/01/160114-Hong-Kong-ivory-ban/
2015-12-20. After Cecil Furor, U.S. Aims to Protect Lions Through Endangered Species Act. By Erica Goode, The New York Times.
2014-09-25. Gray wolves back on the protected list in Wyoming. The resurgence of gray wolves, especially in Yellowstone National Park, is often held up as a great success in conservation. Indeed, so successful was the effort that in 2012 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared the wolf population to be stable enough for the species to be delisted. However, since that time, 219 wolves have been killed out of an estimated 1600 in the state of Wyoming, The Dodo reports, thanks to a state-enacted “kill-on-sight approach to wolf management.” In response, a U.S. district judge ruled this week that the endangered species protections for gray wolves would be reinstated—a decision praised by conservationists. http://news.sciencemag.org/sifter/2014/09/gray-wolves-back-on-the-protected-list-in-wyoming. Science.
2014-02-26. Two Death Valley plants saved by the Endangered Species Act. Excerpt: Eureka Dunes, a towering expanse of shifting slopes wedged between weathered mountains in the Mojave Desert, had a reputation as a campground, an off-road vehicle course and a home to a few plant species found no place else on Earth. In the late 1970s, the dunes earned a reputation as an area where the Eureka Valley evening primrose and Eureka dune grass were listed as federally endangered species to protect them from being driven to extinction by off-road vehicle recreation. On Wednesday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed that the plants be removed from the list because their populations have stabilized in a region that became part of Death Valley National Park in 1994….Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, said, “This is an example of what can happen when off-road vehicles are no longer crushing rare desert plant species and habitat under their wheels.”…. http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-death-valley-plants-saved-20140226,0,7595235.story#ixzz2uvOX3STM. Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times.
2014-02-20. Peru’s Manu National Park Home to Most Amphibians and Reptiles on Earth. Excerpt: …Amphibian and reptile biodiversity is greatest in the world at Peru’s Manu National Park, according to a new study…published in the journal Biota Neotropica, identifies 287 reptiles and amphibians in the park, which encompasses high-altitude cloud forests, lowland Amazonian rainforest and Andean grasslands. …Manu National Park’s collection includes 155 amphibian and 132 reptile species, … more than 1,000 bird species and more than 1,200 butterfly species. The park was recognized as a UNESCO Biosphere Preserve in 1977 and a World Heritage Site in 1987. …The researchers attribute Manu National Park’s remarkable species diversity to its large area and steep topographic variation. The park only represents an estimated 0.01 percent of the Earth’s land area, but is home to 2.2 percent of all amphibians and 1.5 percent of all reptiles known worldwide, the biologists said. The park’s biodiversity is threatened, however, by the chytrid fungus, which has caused a decline in the number of frogs there, …. Deforestation for subsistence living, gold mining and oil and gas drilling are encroaching on the buffer zone around the park, the researchers said in a statement, noting that these pose threats not just to wildlife, but to the indigenous tribes that call the park home. http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/6113/20140220/perus-manu-national-park-home-amphibians-reptiles-earth-video.htm.[VIDEO] By James A. Foley, Nature World News.
2013-10-15. Moose Die-Off Alarms Scientists. Excerpt: …Across North America — in places as far-flung as Montana and British Columbia, New Hampshire and Minnesota — moose populations are in steep decline. And no one is sure why. …Several factors are clearly at work. But a common thread in most hypotheses is climate change. Winters have grown substantially shorter across much of the moose’s range. In New Hampshire, a longer fall with less snow has greatly increased the number of winter ticks, a devastating parasite. “You can get 100,000 ticks on a moose,” said Kristine Rines, a biologist with the state’s Fish and Game Department. In Minnesota, the leading culprits are brain worms and liver flukes. Both spend part of their life cycles in snails, which thrive in moist environments. Another theory is heat stress. Moose are made for cold weather, and when the temperature rises above 23 degrees Fahrenheit in winter, as has happened more often in recent years, they expend extra energy to stay cool. That can lead to exhaustion and death. …Unregulated hunting may also play a role in moose mortality. So may wolves in Minnesota and the West…. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/15/science/earth/something-is-killing-off-the-moose.html. Jim Robbins, The New York Times.
2013-06-10. A Glamorous Killer Returns. Excerpt: … about seven feet long, nose to tail, and weighed up to 160 pounds. Given a dietary choice, they preferred deer, but would eat almost anything that moved: elk, bighorn sheep, wild horses, beaver, even porcupines. Left free for an evening, they were capable of killing a dozen domestic sheep before dawn, eating their fill and leaving the rest for the buzzards. They were also known to attack humans on occasion. Long ago the Inca called them puma, but today — though they belong to only one species — they have many names. In Arizona they are known as mountain lions; in Florida they are panthers, and elsewhere in the South they are called painters. When they roamed New England, they were called catamounts. In much of the Midwest they are known as cougars, …. All but exterminated east of the Rockies by 1900, they were treated as “varmints” in most Western states until the late ’60s and could be shot on sight. In Maine, the last catamount was killed in 1938. But today Puma concolor is back on the prowl. That is one of the great success stories in wildlife conservation, but also a source of concern among biologists and other advocates, for their increasing numbers make them harder to manage — and harder for people to tolerate. No reliable estimate exists for the cougar population at its lowest point, before the 1970s, but there are now believed to be more than 30,000 in North America. They have recolonized the Black Hills of South Dakota, the North Dakota Badlands and the Pine Ridge country of northwestern Nebraska. …And as cougars migrate eastward, they are likely to wear out their welcome. People in states unaccustomed to these outsize prowlers will have to answer unpleasant questions: How many livestock and game animals are people willing to lose? How dangerous are cougars to pets and children? How much disruption is a small community willing to endure?…. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/11/science/cougars-glamorous-killers-expand-their-range.html. Guy Gugliotta, New York Times.
2013-06-07. Gray wolves to be removed from endangered species list. Excerpt: Gray wolves no longer face the threat of extinction, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Calling the recovery “one of the most remarkable success stories in the history of conservation,” FWS Director Dan Ashe announced today the agency is proposing to remove all of the nation’s wolves from the endangered species list, turning management over to states. Federal protection will remain for the Mexican wolf. …in most states they’ll still be under state-level endangered species protection. “No one suggests that gray wolves don’t require management,” Ashe said in a teleconference on Friday. “The issue is whether gray wolves still require federal protection under the endangered species act, and we believe quite clearly they do not.” Friday’s de-listing proposal is already being questioned by some environmentalists who view the move as premature. “Wolves currently inhabit only a fraction of their former range, and this proposal will cut off wolf recovery from vast areas of suitable habitat out west where the species can still thrive,” Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of Defenders of Wildlife, said in a press release. But Ashe firmly told reporters at the teleconference that for wolves to be considered recovered, they do not need to occupy most or all of their historic range. He also said he expected to see wolves continue to expand into northern California, Utah, Nevada and Colorado under state management. Center for Biological Diversity’s endangered species director, Noah Greenwald, worried states would kill too many wolves under their management plans. …Officials need to keep the total number of wolves around 140, with at least 10 breeding pairs, to avoid a re-listing…. http://www.hcn.org/blogs/goat/gray-wolves-to-be-removed-from-endangered-species-list. Emily Guerin, High Country News.
2013-05-08. Who Would Kill a Monk Seal?. Excerpt: The Hawaiian monk seal has wiry whiskers and the deep, round eyes of an apologetic child. …The seals can grow to seven feet long and weigh 450 pounds. … Monk seals are easy targets. After the Polynesians landed in Hawaii, about 1,500 years ago, the animals mostly vanished, slaughtered for meat or oil or scared off by the settlers’ dogs. But the species quietly survived in the Leeward Islands, northwest of the main Hawaiian chain — a remote archipelago, …. There are now about 900 monk seals in the Leewards, and the population has been shrinking for 25 years, making the seal among the world’s most imperiled marine mammals. The monk seal was designated an endangered species in 1976. Around that time, however, a few monk seals began trekking back into the main Hawaiian Islands — “the mains” — and started having pups. These pioneers came on their own, oblivious to the sprawling federal project just getting under way to help them. Even now, recovering the species is projected to cost $378 million and take 54 years. …The animals have been met by many islanders with a convoluted mix of resentment and spite. This fury has led to what the government is calling a string of “suspicious deaths.” …. Jon Mooallem, New York Times Magazine. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/12/magazine/who-would-kill-a-monk-seal.html?ref=magazine&_r=1&
2013-03-05. Conservationists say online ivory trade poses threat to African elephants | Associated Press. Excerpt: BANGKOK — Conservationists say there’s a new threat to the survival of Africa’s endangered elephants that may be just as deadly as poachers’ bullets: the black-market trade of ivory in cyberspace. Illegal tusks are being bought and sold on countless Internet forums and shopping websites worldwide, including Internet giant Google, …“The Internet is anonymous, it’s open 24 hours a day for business, and selling illegal ivory online is a low-risk, high-profit activity for criminals,” Tania McCrea-Steele of the International Fund for Animal Welfare told The Associated Press …IFAW found 17,847 elephant products listed on 13 websites in China. …illegal ivory trading online is an issue within the U.S., including on eBay, and it is rife on some websites in Europe, particularly nations with colonial links to Africa. It is often advertised with code words like “ox-bone,” ‘’white gold,” ‘’unburnable bone,” or “cold to the touch,” and shipped through the mail. Another conservation advocacy group, the Environmental Investigation Agency, said Tuesday that Google Japan’s shopping site now has 10,000 ads promoting ivory sales. About 80 percent of the ads are for “hanko,” small wooden stamps inlaid with ivory lettering that are widely used in Japan to affix signature seals to official documents; the rest are carvings and other small objects. The trade is legal within Japan…. The EIA said hanko sales are a “major demand driver for elephant ivory.” …About 70 years ago, up to 5 million elephants were believed to have roamed the African continent. Today, just several hundred thousand are left. See full article at http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/conservationists-say-online-ivory-trade-poses-threat-to-african-elephants/2013/03/05/597217e2-8611-11e2-a80b-3edc779b676f_story.html.
2013 February 27. Tusk tracking will tackle illegal trade. By Daniel Cressey, Nature. Excerpt: International treaties meant to protect elephants are not working. Researchers estimate that tens of thousands of African elephants are now being killed by poachers each year, from a total wild population of around 400,000… Nearly 39,000 kilograms of illegal ivory were traded worldwide in 2011, more than at any other time in the 16-year history of the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS), which tracks the ivory trade for CITES. Another CITES programme, Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants, will report at the meeting that between 3.5% and 11.7% of the total African elephant population was killed by poachers in 2011 — the worst year for illegal killing since the programme began collecting data in 2002….Poachers in Samburu are also switching focus from males to older females and killing entire social groups, says Wittemyer….Scientists argue that an international drive to trace seized ivory back to its origins is urgently needed, so that authorities can curb poaching before elephant populations collapse. There are few reliable estimates of regional elephant numbers, and counting corpses is inaccurate because many are likely to be lost in the vast forests and savannahs of Africa. A team led by Wasser has developed a map of DNA samples collected across Africa1, 2 — often from elephant dung — which it uses to pinpoint the probable origins of seized ivory samples (see ‘Hunting the poachers’).….
2012 October 07. State learns sad lesson with Wedge Pack wolf hunt. By Nicholas K. Geranios, The Seattle Times. Excerpt: …The Wedge Pack of wolves has killed between 40 and 50 head of cattle on his Diamond M Ranch, located near the Canadian border north of Kettle Falls, Stevens County, in Northeastern Washington. That prompted a huge effort by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to wipe out the pack, less than a year after adopting a plan to recover wolf populations in the state. The Wedge Pack needed to be wiped out because the wolves appeared to have switched from preying on deer, elk and moose and instead were focusing on cattle, state officials said. The expensive hunting effort — which included shooting wolves from helicopters — concluded last week…The hunt was expensive, although the costs have not been tallied yet, Ware said. They include four days of helicopter use, plus weeks of overtime for various state employees, Ware said. He said any future wolf hunts probably will not have to be on this scale….
2012 August 15. Blue iguana breeding program succeeding | by Associated Press, San Francisco Chronicle. Excerpt: Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands. The blue iguana has lived on the rocky shores of Grand Cayman for at least a couple of million years, preening like a miniature turquoise dragon as it soaked in the sun or sheltered inside crevices. Yet having survived everything from tropical hurricanes to ice ages, it was driven to near-extinction by dogs, cats and cars.
Now, though, a breeding program some see as a global model has worked better than any had hoped to dream for a species that numbered less than a dozen in the wild just a decade ago, preyed upon by escaped pets and struggling to survive in a habitat eroded by the advance of human settlement…. Read the full article: http://www.sfgate.com/science/article/Blue-iguana-breeding-program-succeeding-3791959.php#ixzz23jK5mFRP
2012 Jun 07. 100 Amazon birds risk extinction, group says. By Jenny Barchfield, Associated Press. Excerpt: The list of Amazon bird species facing danger of extinction has risen sharply because their rainforest habitat is being slashed to make room for cattle ranching and agriculture, a conservationist group said Thursday. BirdLife International said that globally, 1,331 types of birds, or 13 percent of the world’s 10,064 total bird species, were listed as at risk on this year’s Red List of Threatened Species…The biggest jump came in the Amazon, where 100 Amazon avian species are now on the Red List, three of them in the highest-risk, “critically endangered” category. Only 10 were listed last year. The sudden jump is due to new models of future deforestation, which predicted accelerating destruction over the coming decade. “We have previously underestimated the risk of extinction that many of Amazonia’s bird species are facing,” said Leon Bennun, BirdLife’s director of science, in a news release…”Given the weakening of Brazilian forest law, the situation might be even worse than recent studies have predicted,” he said, referring to Brazil’s new Forest Code, which loosens protections on the Amazon and is expected to take effect in the coming months.…
2012 May 27. To Save Some Species, Zoos Must Let Others Die. By Leslie Kaufman, The NY Times. Excerpt: As the number of species at risk of extinction soars, zoos are increasingly being called upon to rescue and sustain animals, and not just for marquee breeds like pandas and rhinos but also for all manner of mammals, frogs, birds and insects whose populations are suddenly crashing. To conserve animals effectively, however, zoo officials have concluded that they must winnow species in their care and devote more resources to a chosen few. The result is that zookeepers, usually animal lovers to the core, are increasingly being pressed into making cold calculations about which animals are the most crucial to save. Some days, the burden feels less like Noah building an ark and more like Schindler making a list….
2011 November 11. Western black rhino declared extinct. By Matthew Knight, CNN News. 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 latest update to the IUCN [International Union for Conservation of Nature] Red List of Threatened Species reviews more than 60,000 species, concluding that 25% of mammals on the list are at risk of extinction. …Recent studies of 79 tropical plants in the Indian Ocean archipelago revealed that more than three quarters of them were at risk of extinction. In the oceans, the IUCN reports that five out of eight tuna species are now “threatened” or “near threatened”…
2011 April 25. A Passion for Nature, and Really Long Lists. By Nicholas Wade, The New York Times. Excerpt: Jesse H. Ausubel, a Rockefeller University environmental researcher who is also vice president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation of New York…writes and thinks about the environment. Under his foundation hat, he has so far started four major international programs to survey the planet and catalog its biological diversity.
…Mr. Ausubel explained his view that the environment will be protected, not harmed, by technology. Over the long run, he notes, the economy requires more efficient forms of energy, and these are inherently sparing of the environment.