It is not a well-known fact that India plays home to a population of lions as usually lions are associated with the African savannah and not the scrub forests of the subcontinent. The Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica) is a sub-species which can only be found in a single location in the wild - the Gir forest in Gujarat, India. Although genetically distinct from the African lion, the difference is not large.
Recently the Supreme Court of India ruled that Gujarat a portion of the lion population is to be shifted to Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno-Palpur wildlife sanctuary. This proposal has been discussed since 2009 and it is only now that this decision has been made…
Scientists Discover Secrets to Salamander Limb Regeneration
by Tanya Lewis
Salamanders can regrow entire limbs and regenerate parts of major organs, an ability that relies on their immune systems, research now shows.
A study of the axolotl (Ambystomamexicanum), an aquatic salamander, reveals that immune cells called macrophages are critical in the early stages of regenerating lost limbs. Wiping out these cells permanently prevented regeneration and led to tissue scarring. The findings hint at possible strategies for tissue repair in humans…
Scientists Capture One of the World’s Rarest Big Cats on Film
by Jeremy Hance
Less than a hundred kilometers from the bustling metropolis of Jakarta, scientists have captured incredible photos of one of the world’s most endangered big cats: the Javan leopard (Panthera pardus melas). Taken by a research project in Gunung Halimun-Salak National Park, the photos show the magnificent animal relaxing in dense primary rainforest. Scientists believe that fewer than 250 mature Javan leopard survive, and the population may be down to 100…
(read more: MongaBay) (photos: Age Kridalaksana/CIFOR)
20 sea turtle nests have so far been found on South Padre Island and Boca Chica Beach! The first nest is estimated to hatch the week of June 9th. For more information about attending a public sea turtle hatchling release…
Gabon steps in to help protect elephants from ivory poaching at Central African Republic
by mongabay.com staff
Gabon has agreed to help battle poaching in protected areas in the Central African Republic following an elephant massacre at a renowned World Heritage site, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
According to the conservation group, Michel Djotodia, acting president of the Central African Republic (CAR) transitional government, and Gabon President Ali Bongo Ondimba met on May 14 to discuss a variety of issues, including the worsening ivory poaching situation in CAR. Earlier this month at least 26 elephants were killed at Dzanga Bai, a site that lies in CAR’s portion of Dzanga-Ndoki National Park and is famed for its high density of endangered forest elephants. The slaughter occurred after rangers abandoned their post due to violence in the area.
After the meeting, Gabon dispatched a group led by Mike Fay, a legendary conservationist who led an epic walk across the Congo rainforest in 1999-2000, to CAR to work with the government to secure Dzanga Bai and resume conservation activities. Conservation staff have now returned to the site, according to WCS…
Endangered Ocean Creatures Beyond the Cute and Cuddly
by Emily Frost
Our oceans are taking a beating from overfishing, pollution, acidification and warming, putting at risk the many creatures who make their home in seawater. But when most people think of struggling ocean species, the first animals that come to mind are probably whales, seals or sea turtles.
Sure, many of these large (and adorable) animals play an important part in the marine ecosystem and are threatened with extinction due to human activities, but in fact, of the 94 marine species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), only 45 are marine mammals and sea turtles. As such, these don’t paint the whole picture of what happens under the sea. What about the remaining 49 that form a myriad of other important parts of the underwater web?
These less charismatic members of the list include corals, sea birds, mollusks and, of course, fish. They fall under two categories: endangered or threatened. According to NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (pdf), one of the groups responsible for implementing the ESA, a species is considered endangered if it faces imminent extinction, and and a species is considered threatened if it is likely to become endangered in the future. A cross section of these less-known members of the ESA’s list are described in detail here…
The last cat on our list is the world’s fastest land animal — but it still can’t outrun the impacts of humans on its environment. The Cheetah has been listed as vulnerable to extinction, and has disappeared entirely from many of its former ranges. Once found throughout Africa and the Middle East, the cheetah is now primarily relegated to one small patch in Iran and fragmented areas of Africa.
For thousands of years, cheetahs were tamed as hunting animals and pets, and some kings or emperors would keep a thousand cheetahs at a time. But because cheetahs need large stretches of open land to be able to hunt, the impact of human encroachment, as well as hunting by humans for their furs, has taken its toll. Only around 12,400 cheetahs remain in the wild in twenty-five African countries, and cheetahs may be well on their way to the endangered species list.
Cats on the Brink - Endangered Felids: Black-footed Cat
by Jaymi Heimbuch
Could this little guy be any cuter?? Or be any more easily mistakable for a house cat? But be assured, this is a very wild cat — and also one that is vulnerable to extinction. The Blackfooted Cat is the smallest African cat, and is endemic in the south west arid zone of southern Africa. These cats are strictly nocturnal, and hide at the slightest disturbance, and so are hardly ever seen.
They are most unusual in that the almost never climb trees, but instead find shelter by digging burrows. They are also known for being incredibly fierce if cornered — they would give lions and tigers a real run for their money if there weren’t such a size difference. Though it is not persecuted by farmers, its cousin the African wildcat is, and so falling victim to poisons and traps set for other animals — including the poisoning of carcasses to control jackals — is the most significant threat to this tiny species.
Cats on the Brink - Endangered Felids: Marbled Cat
by Jaymi Heimbuch
This is the Marbled Cat. Native to South and Southeast Asia, it has been listed as vulnerable to extinction since 2002 with fewer than 10,000 mature individuals left in the world. It is about the size of a house cat and is a tree dweller where it hunts birds, squirrels and reptiles. It is considered sort of a miniature version of the clouded leopard.
However, it is often victim to snaring by humans, as its bones, meat and fur are valued. Thankfully, hunting it is prohibited in many countries which may help to slow its decline — but only if deforestation is slowed as well. A loss of habitat is a serious threat to this arboreal species.
Cats on the Brink - Endangered Felids: African Lion
by Jaymi Heimbuch
You wouldn’t think the king of the jungle would be in danger of disappearing but indeed, even this most iconic animal, the African Lion, is listed as vulnerable to extinction. Thankfully, it is not yet endangered but it is rapidly approaching that status. Because of habitat loss and conflict with humans, most lions are now found in eastern and southern Africa, with their numbers in serious decline.
Between 30-50% of lions have been lost in the last two decades alone, and there are now only around 47,000 (at the very highest estimates) still living in the wild. Conservation groups are working to not only preserve habitat so that lions have enough room to hunt and roam, but also to provide people with tools and knowledge for how to coexist with these big cats and reduce the number of deaths due to snaring. Hopefully we can keep this cat from making it onto the endangered species list.
Tigers are perhaps the most iconic cat species in the world, next to the African lion, and one of the most loved animal species worldwide. And yet, despite the respect, admiration and fear it inspires, it is endangered and disappearing from the wild at a rapid clip. There are six subspecies of tiger, including the more familiar Sumatran Tiger and Bengal Tiger, and some are more threatened than others. But the tiger as a species is in danger everywhere.
Threats include a loss of habitat, but also they are hunted for their skins, and for parts of their bodies used as pain killers and aphrodisiacs (though there is zero scientific evidence that any part of a tiger has any medicinal properties). Though protected through CITIES, the black market trade in tigers (both alive and in pieces) is thriving. Today, the captive tiger populations for several subspecies outnumber the wild populations. Without more stringent protections and better enforcement, these big cats may disappear from the wild entirely.
Cats on the Brink - Endangered Felids: Clouded Leopard
by Jaymi Heimbuch
The Clouded Leopard has been in the news recently because it has been declared extinct in its native Taiwan. After over a decade of searching, researchers couldn’t find a shred of evidence that the cat still lives in the country.
Thankfully, the species still exists in other areas of Southeast Asia, though total numbers are estimated to be less than 10,000. Because of this, they have been listed as vulnerable to extinction (not endangered, but close to it), since 2008. The main threats against them, of course, are human-made — habitat loss from large–scale deforestation, and commercial poaching for the wildlife trade.