Protecting the Northern River Terrapin

Our next field report comes from the Bhawal National Park in Bangladesh where the Northern River Terrapin (Batagur baska), one of the rarest turtles in the world, is having another good year!

Five of the six known females in the area have already nested, laying a total of 101 eggs! TSA is hopeful that the sixth female, which was discovered in a local pond and joined the breeding program in October 2013, will also produce eggs. All nests have been moved to a caged protected area on the beach for incubation, and temperatures are being carefully monitored in an effort to produce more females.

As in some other reptile species such as crocodiles, river terrapin sex is determined by environmental temperature after fertilization (Temperature dependent sex determination). Lower temperatures produce male hatchlings while a higher temperature will usually result in females. More females mean more eggs and a brighter future for this critically endangered species…

(read more: Turtle Survival Alliance)

Help Us Help Monarchs:  PROJECT MILKWEED
Returning Essential Wildflowers to America’s Landscapes
Milkweeds (Asclepias spp.) are the required host plants for caterpillars of the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) and thus play a critical role in the monarch’s life cycle. The loss of milkweed plants in the monarch’s spring and summer breeding areas across the United States is believed to be a significant factor contributing to the reduced number of monarchs recorded in overwintering sites in California and Mexico. Agricultural intensification, development of rural lands, and the use of mowing and herbicides to control roadside vegetation have all reduced the abundance of milkweeds in the landscape.
To help offset the loss of monarch breeding habitat, the North American Monarch Conservation Plan (published in 2008 by the tri-national Commission for Environmental Cooperation) recommends the planting of regionally appropriate native milkweed species. However, a scarcity of milkweed seed in many regions of the United States has limited opportunities to include the plants in regional restoration efforts.
To address this seed shortage, the Xerces Society launched Project Milkweed, with support from the Monarch Joint Venture, a USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Innovation Grant, and private foundations. In collaboration with the native seed industry, the USDA-NRCS Plant Materials Program, and community partners, Xerces is producing new sources of milkweed seed in areas of the monarch’s breeding range where seed has not been reliably available: California, the Great Basin, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Florida…
(Read more/Take action:  Xerces Society for Invert. Conservation)
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photo of Monarch Butterfly on the flowers of the Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) by Derek Ramsey

Help Us Help Monarchs:  PROJECT MILKWEED

Returning Essential Wildflowers to America’s Landscapes

Milkweeds (Asclepias spp.) are the required host plants for caterpillars of the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) and thus play a critical role in the monarch’s life cycle. The loss of milkweed plants in the monarch’s spring and summer breeding areas across the United States is believed to be a significant factor contributing to the reduced number of monarchs recorded in overwintering sites in California and Mexico. Agricultural intensification, development of rural lands, and the use of mowing and herbicides to control roadside vegetation have all reduced the abundance of milkweeds in the landscape.

To help offset the loss of monarch breeding habitat, the North American Monarch Conservation Plan (published in 2008 by the tri-national Commission for Environmental Cooperation) recommends the planting of regionally appropriate native milkweed species. However, a scarcity of milkweed seed in many regions of the United States has limited opportunities to include the plants in regional restoration efforts.

To address this seed shortage, the Xerces Society launched Project Milkweed, with support from the Monarch Joint Venture, a USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Innovation Grant, and private foundations. In collaboration with the native seed industry, the USDA-NRCS Plant Materials Program, and community partners, Xerces is producing new sources of milkweed seed in areas of the monarch’s breeding range where seed has not been reliably available: California, the Great Basin, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Florida…

(Read more/Take action:  Xerces Society for Invert. Conservation)

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photo of Monarch Butterfly on the flowers of the Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) by Derek Ramsey

Protecting the Burmese Roof Turtle

Exciting field report from Myanmar where one of the world’s most critically endangered turtles is making a remarkable recovery!

Nesting season is in full swing for the Burmese roof turtle (Batagur trivittata). This species was feared extinct until it was “rediscovered” in 2002 when three individuals were found in a temple pond. Until then, scientists hadn’t seen the Burmese roof turtle since the 1930s.

Now, thanks to the collaborative field efforts of TSA and Wildlife Conservation Society there are 700 turtles thriving under the watchful eye of conservationists in the region. Due to a comprehensive program which includes nest protection, head-starting young turtles for future release and breeding in protected settings, this delicate species has been brought back from the brink.

And this season is turning out to be a bumper crop for nesting. To date, as many as 150 eggs from eight clutches have been recorded! A huge thanks to SOS - Save Our Species for their continued support of our work with this incredible species. Stay tuned for more reports from the field!

(via: Turtle Survival Alliance)

Unlike other palm oil giants that have recently made strong commitments to eliminating deforestation and social conflict from their supply chains, Malaysia-based Kuala Lumpur Kepong (KLK) continues to source palm oil associated with forest destruction and community conflict, argues a new report published by the Rainforest Action Network (RAN)…

Should We Close Part Of The Ocean To Keep Fish On The Plate?

by Alastair Bland

For lovers of fatty tuna belly, canned albacore and swordfish kebabs, here’s a question: Would you be willing to give them up for several years so that you could eat them perhaps for the rest of your life?

If a new proposal to ban fishing on the open ocean were to fly, that’s essentially what we might be faced with. It’s an idea that might help restore the populations of several rapidly disappearing fish – like tuna, swordfish and marlin — that we, and future generations, might like to continue to have as a food source.

The novel conservation plan, introduced recently in a in the journal PLoS Biology, would close international waters – where there’s currently pretty much a fishing free-for-all — to all fishing and restrict commercial fishermen to coastal areas managed by individual nations. The authors, and , suggest turning the open ocean into a worldwide reserve for the migratory species that travel huge distances…

(read more: NPR)

images: Alex Hofford/EPA /LANDOV and PLoS Biology

W. L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge in OR turns 50 today  
Species like the dusky Canada geese, the Oregon chub and the common yellowthroat, pictured here, have much to be thankful for. So do visitors, who can take the Cheadle Marsh and Pigeon Butte trails, which opened again on April 1 now that the “sanctuary” season for wintering waterfowl is officially over. As the weather warms, you’ll get to hear pacific chorus frogs and red-legged frogs calling. Songbird migration peaks in May. 
For more about the refuge: USFWS

W. L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge in OR turns 50 today

Species like the dusky Canada geese, the Oregon chub and the common yellowthroat, pictured here, have much to be thankful for. So do visitors, who can take the Cheadle Marsh and Pigeon Butte trails, which opened again on April 1 now that the “sanctuary” season for wintering waterfowl is officially over. As the weather warms, you’ll get to hear pacific chorus frogs and red-legged frogs calling. Songbird migration peaks in May.

For more about the refuge: USFWS

A Call For Backyard Biodiversity 

Common suburban landscapes consist of manicured lawns and nonnative ornamental plants, which provide little nourishment to local fauna.

Acclaimed author and ecologist Douglas Tallamy explains the reasons behind the decline of native flora and fauna, and how we can work to reverse it from our own backyards.

Photos and story by Douglas Tallamy

You have probably never thought of your property as a wildlife preserve representing the last chance we have to sustain plants and animals that were once common throughout the US. But that is exactly the role our suburban and urban landscapes are now playing – and will play even more in the near future.

If this is news to you, it’s not your fault. We were taught from childhood that the plantings in our yards are made mostly for beauty; they allow and encourage us to express our artistic talents, to have fun, and to relax. And whether we like it or not, the way we landscape our properties is seen by our neighbors as a statement of our wealth and social status.

But no one has taught us that we have forced the plants and animals that evolved in North America (our nation’s biodiversity) to depend more and more on human-dominated landscapes for their continued existence. We have always thought that biodiversity was “happy somewhere out there in nature”: in our local woodlot, or perhaps our state and national parks. We have heard nothing about the rate at which species are disappearing from our neighborhoods, towns, counties, and states. Even worse, we have never been taught how vital biodiversity is for our own well-being…

(read more: American Forests)

Bringing Bison and Biodiversity Back to the Prairie
A Montana-based nonprofit is moving to preserve 3.5 million acres of the Great Plains.
by Sarah Kuck
The American Prairie Reserve (APR), a Montana-based nonprofit, is well on its way to preserving 3.5 million acres of the Great Plains. Once complete, the reserve would become a veritable Serengeti for the States, with enough space, conservation biologists say, to restore a fully functional ecosystem and bring back resilient populations of species like bison, bighorn sheep, elk, and wolves.
The organization is working to secure 500,000 acres of private land to connect three million acres of land already in public ownership in northeastern Montana. The Prairie Reserve states that they have already acquired nearly 274,000 acres of land and a quarter of the $500 million needed for land management, purchasing costs, and permanent endowments. Approximately 250 purebred bison currently live on 60,000 acres of the reserve…
(read more: Yes!)
Photo by Ryan O’Hara / Flickr

Bringing Bison and Biodiversity Back to the Prairie

A Montana-based nonprofit is moving to preserve 3.5 million acres of the Great Plains.

by Sarah Kuck

The American Prairie Reserve (APR), a Montana-based nonprofit, is well on its way to preserving 3.5 million acres of the Great Plains. Once complete, the reserve would become a veritable Serengeti for the States, with enough space, conservation biologists say, to restore a fully functional ecosystem and bring back resilient populations of species like bison, bighorn sheep, elk, and wolves.

The organization is working to secure 500,000 acres of private land to connect three million acres of land already in public ownership in northeastern Montana. The Prairie Reserve states that they have already acquired nearly 274,000 acres of land and a quarter of the $500 million needed for land management, purchasing costs, and permanent endowments. Approximately 250 purebred bison currently live on 60,000 acres of the reserve…

(read more: Yes!)

Photo by Ryan O’Hara / Flickr

The Wilderness Act – turning 50 in September
… doesn’t just help clean the water for this alligator at Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, GA/FL, which has 354,000 acres of designated wilderness. 
The Wilderness Act helps us all – and gives us a chance to find recreation in places nearly untouched by man. Celebrate the Wilderness Act this year by finding solitude and beauty in wilderness – and maybe getting a chance to see animals like this, in person: 
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service - National Wildlife Refuge System 
Photo by John Reed

The Wilderness Act – turning 50 in September

… doesn’t just help clean the water for this alligator at Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, GA/FL, which has 354,000 acres of designated wilderness.

The Wilderness Act helps us all – and gives us a chance to find recreation in places nearly untouched by man. Celebrate the Wilderness Act this year by finding solitude and beauty in wilderness – and maybe getting a chance to see animals like this, in person:

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service - National Wildlife Refuge System

Photo by John Reed

Monkton Road Wildlife Crossing:

The Race to Save Our Salamanders

As this Indiegogo campaign unfolds, an ancient spring ritual is taking place throughout the Northern Hemisphere – the emergence of amphibians from their winter habitat to their breeding pools.  adly, one of the largest and most diverse amphibian populations in the northeastern United States must cross an increasingly busy road – which makes this site also one of the most threatened in the northeast. 

For years, scores of volunteers have mobilized during peak movement times in the town of Monkton, Vermont in order to assist one of the larger known and most diverse populations of amphibians in the region to cross a busy road.  Despite the dedicated efforts of volunteers, more than 50% of the animals migrating across this stretch of road are getting killed during the annual journey between their upland habitat and vital wetlands where they reproduce. 

As a result, a regionally significant population of amphibians is in peril of extirpation.  Traffic rates on this once-rural road are increasing at a rate that has biologists convinced that, without an infrastructure solution, this population will surely die out… 

(read more)

TSA Turtle Tuesday:  Asian Mountain Tortoise
 Did you know the Asian mountain tortoise (Manouria emys) is one of the only turtle species that provides maternal protection for its eggs? 
After making a nest on the surface of the ground, the female will cover the eggs with vegetation and stand guard! If a potential threat approaches, she will push and bite to ward off the predator. If this doesn’t work, the protective tortoise will place herself over the eggs and hunker down! Both surface nests and nest protection are unique characteristics among chelonians. 
You can read more about this critically endangered species and our ongoing conservation efforts on our website…
Turtle Survival Alliance

TSA Turtle Tuesday:  Asian Mountain Tortoise

Did you know the Asian mountain tortoise (Manouria emys) is one of the only turtle species that provides maternal protection for its eggs?

After making a nest on the surface of the ground, the female will cover the eggs with vegetation and stand guard! If a potential threat approaches, she will push and bite to ward off the predator. If this doesn’t work, the protective tortoise will place herself over the eggs and hunker down! Both surface nests and nest protection are unique characteristics among chelonians.

You can read more about this critically endangered species and our ongoing conservation efforts on our website…

Turtle Survival Alliance