The Cat that Loves Water:

Determined scientists and photographers finally capture images of the rare and elusive fishing cat

by Morgan Heim

WE KNEW OUR INTENTION TO PHOTOGRAPH FISHING CATS in the wilds of Southeast Asia wouldn’t be easily accomplished. Other than National Geographic Society filmmakers Belinda Wright and Stanley Breeden, who took a few pictures of the cats in the 1990s, few people had seen, let alone photographed, the animals in the wild. In fact, since 2003, Thai biologist Passanan Cutter, founder of the Fishing Cat Research and Conservation Project, has observed only one free-roaming cat.

Science knows little about the fishing cat, which embraces a rather unfeline affinity for water. The animal lives in Southeast Asian swamps, where it swims and hunts fish. Weighing up to 30 pounds, it has adapted to its aquatic environment: It has webbed feet, short legs, tiny ears, spotted, almost water-resistant fur and a muscular tail it uses as a rudder.

Jim Sanderson, a member of the IUCN Cat Specialist Group and founder of the Small Cat Conservation Alliance, believes the species numbers no more than 3,000 individuals, scattered mostly throughout Thailand, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Rampant habitat destruction, persecution and the bush-meat trade have caused an estimated decline in the cat’s numbers of more than 50 percent since those photos taken by Breeden and Wright in the 1990s…

(read more: National Wildlife Federation)

photos by Morgan Heim

Researchers lure Manitoulin Island turtle predators with decoy

Researchers at Laurentian University are hoping a fake turtle will shed some light on a mystery on Manitoulin Island, ON, Canada. 

Jackie Litzgus, a biology professor at Laurentian University, said a decoy Blandings Turtle will be used to determine which predators might be killing these endangered turtles.

Last year dozens of dead turtles were discovered near Misery Bay on Manitoulin Island.

Litzgus said the most likely culprit is some kind of predator. By using a turtle decoy, along with game cameras, researchers hope to capture video of what may be killing the turtles…

(read more: CBC News)

photos by Laurentian University and Markus Schwabe/CBC

Crater Lake National Park - OR, USA
Northern Spotted Owls (Strix occidentalis caurina) prefer the mature forests like the ones that surround Crater Lake with trees that are on average over 200 years old. Habitat loss has caused the Northern Spotted Owl to be listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Another reason why Crater Lake is such an important national park!
 Photograph by S. Hansen

Northern Spotted Owls (Strix occidentalis caurina) prefer the mature forests like the ones that surround Crater Lake with trees that are on average over 200 years old. Habitat loss has caused the Northern Spotted Owl to be listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Another reason why Crater Lake is such an important national park!

Photograph by S. Hansen

Salamanders: The Hidden Jewels of Appalachia

The Appalachian region of the eastern United States is the world’s epicenter for salamander biodiversity. These secretive creatures, ranging in size from two inches to more than two feet, are a keystone species at risk from a perfect storm of threats, including: development, mountaintop mining, climate change, invasive species, disease, transportation corridors, acid rain, pollution, and more. Learn what these declining “canaries in the coal mine” are telling us about the state of our environment.

(via: )

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:  
We have babies at the Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery in South Dakota! 
The fish are spawned at the hatchery and later released to increase or maintain fish populations in the wild. The pallid sturgeon is one of the rarest and largest freshwater fish in North America. It is an endangered ancient fish that can live up to 50 years, grow up to 6 feet long and weigh up to 85 pounds (endangered fish). The hatchery is strategically located on the Missouri River near Lewis and Clark Lake and Lake Yankton. The pallid sturgeon is present in both the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. At this time, there are only an estimated 6,000-10,000 fish in both river systems as populations have undergone a severe decline. Current stocking efforts at Gavins Point and other fish hatcheries, along with habitat restoration efforts, are helping to increase these numbers in the future. The hatchery is open to the public and provides nature hikes and hatchery tours and houses an aquarium for visitors to observe fish. Photo: Wild pallid sturgeon hatching at Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery. (Spencer Neuharth/USFWS)

We have babies at the Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery in South Dakota!

The fish are spawned at the hatchery and later released to increase or maintain fish populations in the wild. The pallid sturgeon is one of the rarest and largest freshwater fish in North America. It is an endangered ancient fish that can live up to 50 years, grow up to 6 feet long and weigh up to 85 pounds (endangered fish).

The hatchery is strategically located on the Missouri River near Lewis and Clark Lake and Lake Yankton. The pallid sturgeon is present in both the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. At this time, there are only an estimated 6,000-10,000 fish in both river systems as populations have undergone a severe decline. Current stocking efforts at Gavins Point and other fish hatcheries, along with habitat restoration efforts, are helping to increase these numbers in the future.

The hatchery is open to the public and provides nature hikes and hatchery tours and houses an aquarium for visitors to observe fish.

Photo: Wild pallid sturgeon hatching at Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery. (Spencer Neuharth/USFWS)

The American Bison Is Returning to Its Home on the Range
The U.S. government wants to restore the once nearly extinct buffalo to its historic habitat.
by Todd Woody
The Bison is Back!
Numbering 40 million strong when Europeans arrived in the American West, the bison were hunted to near extinction by settlers, with just 25 animals remaining in the wild by 1902. Today some 10,000 bison are managed by the U.S. Department of Interior on federal land in 12 states. (Another 200,000 are in private hands, 51,000 of them owned by media mogul and conservationist Ted Turner.)
Extinction no longer is a threat for an animal that can stand six feet tall and weigh more than 2,000 pounds. But if the bison is to thrive as more than a tourist attraction, it needs to retake its place in the larger ecosystem. On Tuesday, the Interior Department released a plan for repopulating the bison beyond national parks…
(read more: Take Part)
Photograph by Rick Wilking/Reuters

The American Bison Is Returning to Its Home on the Range

The U.S. government wants to restore the once nearly extinct buffalo to its historic habitat.

by Todd Woody

The Bison is Back!

Numbering 40 million strong when Europeans arrived in the American West, the bison were hunted to near extinction by settlers, with just 25 animals remaining in the wild by 1902. Today some 10,000 bison are managed by the U.S. Department of Interior on federal land in 12 states. (Another 200,000 are in private hands, 51,000 of them owned by media mogul and conservationist Ted Turner.)

Extinction no longer is a threat for an animal that can stand six feet tall and weigh more than 2,000 pounds. But if the bison is to thrive as more than a tourist attraction, it needs to retake its place in the larger ecosystem. On Tuesday, the Interior Department released a plan for repopulating the bison beyond national parks…

(read more: Take Part)

Photograph by Rick Wilking/Reuters

New Oregon Marine Preserves Protect Birds and Fish

The Pacific Northwest takes a major step toward safeguarding its marine habitat.

By Purbita Saha

Paul Engelmeyer knows what’s at stake if the schools of herring and eulachon were to dramatically decline off the Oregon coast. Forage fish like these are the crux of the marine ecosystem here, supporting dozens of seabird species, including tufted puffins, rhinoceros auklets, and the endangered marbled murrelet.

Engelmeyer, manager of Portland Audubon’s Ten Mile Creek Sanctuary, says the fish are also a staple for salmon, halibut, and other species. Still, as important as they are, many of them are caught for fishmeal or even just as bycatch.

To protect this vital resource and prevent declines in local populations of all kinds, Engelmeyer helped hatch an ambitious plan nearly a decade ago to safeguard marine areas critical to birds and fish alike. Audubon Portland and other conservation groups successfully rallied the public and convinced politicians to take action.

Now the state has a 38-square-mile network of protected waters. Since January fishing and development has been prohibited in four of the five marine reserves, though most include at least one less-restrictive marine protected area. Harvest bans for the fifth site take effect in 2016…

(read more: Audubon Magazine)

photographs by USFWS and John Chao

Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris)

… is a pine tree native to the southeastern United States, found along the coastal plain from eastern Texas to southeast Virginia, extending into northern and central Florida. It reaches a height of 30–35 m (98–115 ft) and a diameter of 0.7 m (28 in). Longleaf Pine is highly pyrophytic (resistant to wildfire). Periodic natural wildfire selects for this species by killing other trees, leading to open Longleaf Pine forests or savannas.

Before European settlement, the Longleaf Pine pine forest dominated as much as 90,000,000 acres (360,000 km2) stretching from Virginia south to Florida and west to eastern Texas. Its range was defined by the frequent widespread fires that occurred throughout the southeast. In the late 19th century, these virgin timber stands were “among the most sought after timber trees in the country.”  This rich ecosystem now has been relegated to less than 5% of its pre-settlement range due to clear cutting practices…

(read more: Wikipedia)

photos by Chuck Bargeron, University of Georgia

AUSTRALIAN ENDANGERED: Lord Howe Island stick insect
The Lord Howe Island phasmid is the world’s rarest insect and lives only on a remote sea stack
by Becky Crew
FOR AN INSECT to be otherwise known as a ‘land lobster’, you know it’s got to be seriously big. The Lord Howe Island stick insect (Dryococelus australis) is a flightless, nocturnal insect that stretches up to 12cm long, and weighs 8-9g.
During the 19th century, this large insect prowled Lord Howe Island in such numbers that fishermen would use them as bait.
But then mice were introduced to the island, followed by black rats in 1918, and they made such a meal of these insect that by 1920 not a single one was recorded on the island. By 1960 they were officially proclaimed extinct.
But in the late 1960s, sightings of stick insect remains were reported on Ball’s Pyramid - a volcanic remnant that sits 20km away. Said to be the tallest volcanic stack in the world, Ball’s Pyramid is about 550m high, around 300m wide andikm long. It’s so narrow that there’s no way anyone can land a boat on it…
(read more: Australian Geographic)
photograph by GraniteThighs/Wikimedia

AUSTRALIAN ENDANGERED: Lord Howe Island stick insect

The Lord Howe Island phasmid is the world’s rarest insect and lives only on a remote sea stack

by Becky Crew

FOR AN INSECT to be otherwise known as a ‘land lobster’, you know it’s got to be seriously big. The Lord Howe Island stick insect (Dryococelus australis) is a flightless, nocturnal insect that stretches up to 12cm long, and weighs 8-9g.

During the 19th century, this large insect prowled Lord Howe Island in such numbers that fishermen would use them as bait.

But then mice were introduced to the island, followed by black rats in 1918, and they made such a meal of these insect that by 1920 not a single one was recorded on the island. By 1960 they were officially proclaimed extinct.

But in the late 1960s, sightings of stick insect remains were reported on Ball’s Pyramid - a volcanic remnant that sits 20km away. Said to be the tallest volcanic stack in the world, Ball’s Pyramid is about 550m high, around 300m wide andikm long. It’s so narrow that there’s no way anyone can land a boat on it…

(read more: Australian Geographic)

photograph by GraniteThighs/Wikimedia

Endangered Turtle Conservation at the Virginia Zoo

Our critically endangered bog turtles have laid eggs! Bog turtles are native to this region and their numbers have declined drastically over the last several decades due to habitat loss. As their name suggests, these turtles live in swampy, marshy habitats away from large bodies of water. They can live up to 30 years, but don’t reach maturity until around 6 years of age. Females only lay about 4 eggs each year, so increasing (and even maintaining) populations can be very difficult. This is local conservation in action!

For more info about bog turtles: IUCN Redlist

(via: The Virginia Zoo)

Wood Stork Protection Status Downgraded: 
Audubon of Florida Opposed
by John Davis
The Wood Stork protection status has been downgraded from ‘endangered’ to ‘threatened.’
Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced the decision Thursday.  Federal officials are touting the downgrade as proof the species is rebounding, but South Florida wildlife advocates say the stability of the birds’ population remains in question. 
The decision to downgrade the wood stork’s protection status comes largely from gains that have been made in coastal wetlands in Georgia and South Carolina. 
A multi-year review of the birds’ status by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finds as many as 9,000 nesting pairs exist today.  In a statement, Sec. Jewell said, ““The down-listing of the wood stork from endangered to threatened demonstrates how the Endangered Species Act can be an effective tool to protect and recover imperiled wildlife from the brink of extinction.”…
(read more: WGCU/NPR - SW Florida)
photo: Carmen Villaronga - Lopez via Flickr

Wood Stork Protection Status Downgraded:

Audubon of Florida Opposed

by John Davis

The Wood Stork protection status has been downgraded from ‘endangered’ to ‘threatened.’

Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced the decision Thursday.  Federal officials are touting the downgrade as proof the species is rebounding, but South Florida wildlife advocates say the stability of the birds’ population remains in question.

The decision to downgrade the wood stork’s protection status comes largely from gains that have been made in coastal wetlands in Georgia and South Carolina. 

A multi-year review of the birds’ status by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finds as many as 9,000 nesting pairs exist today.  In a statement, Sec. Jewell said, ““The down-listing of the wood stork from endangered to threatened demonstrates how the Endangered Species Act can be an effective tool to protect and recover imperiled wildlife from the brink of extinction.”…

(read more: WGCU/NPR - SW Florida)

photo: Carmen Villaronga - Lopez via Flickr