Leatherback Sea Turtle No Longer Critically Endangered
by Jeremy Hance
The leatherback sea turtle—the world’s largest turtle and the only member of the genus Dermochelys—received good news today. In an update of the IUCN Red List, the leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) has been moved from Critically Endangered to Vulnerable. However, conservationists warn that the species still remains hugely endangered—and in rapid decline—in many parts of its range.
The new assessment found that the population of leatherback turtles in the northwest Atlantic Ocean (along the US and the Caribbean) is on the road to recover due to conservation actions. While scientists aren’t sure how the southeast Atlantic population (mostly in Gabon) is faring, it remains the world’s largest population.
However, the situation in the Pacific is far more bleak. The east Pacific population has dropped by 97 percent in three leatherback generations, while the west Pacific population has fell by 80 percent during the same period…
Strange mouth-brooding frog driven to extinction by disease
by MongaBay staff
An unusual species of mouth-brooding frog was likely driven to extinction by the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), making an unusual example of ‘extinction by infection’, argue scientists writing in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.
A team of researchers led by Claudio Soto-Azat of the Universidad Andres Bello in Santiago and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) took samples from hundreds of preserved specimens of Darwin’s frogs (the northern Darwin’s frogRhinoderma rufum and the southern Darwin’s frogRhinoderma darwinii) that were collected from the wild between 1835 and 1989 and looked for the presence of Bd, a fungus that causes the disease chytridiomycosis. They also collected samples from surviving wild populations of Rhinoderma darwinii from Chile and Argentina.
The researchers found high prevalence of Bd at sites that had experienced Rhinoderma extinction or severe population declines, indicating a likely link between the disease and population collapse…
On the occasion of the Universal Children’s Day, we would like to introduce to you this week Axolotl. Axolotl (A. mexicanum) is known only from central Mexico, on the southern edge of Mexico City, in canals and wetlands. Although the axolotl is colloquially known as a “walking fish”, of course, it is not a fish, but an amphibian, a salamander.
The surviving wild population is very small. The desiccation and pollution of the canal system and lakes as well as the traditional consumption of the species by local people are threatening the survival of this species. The species is also captured for medicinal purposes. It used to be captured for the international pet trade too, although it is likely that all animals in the international trade are now of captive origin.
Axolotl was included in CITES Appendix II in 1975. It is currently under the process of “Periodic Review of species included in CITES Appendices”.
Red Knots Need Protecting Under the Endangered Species Act
Red knots (Calidris canutus) have seen their population plummet by more than 75 percent in North america. A threatened or endangered listing would make critical resources available for red knot protection. There is no time to lose as this bird plunges toward extinction.
Though once nearly wiped out of the lower 48 states for their thick fur, today Canada lynx are rebounding in key areas across the country. Learn more about how these gorgeous animals are coming back, and what’s in store for them next…
America’s Largest Land Animal: Building Fences for Wood Bison
by Karla Dutton
We initially could not find the newly-made, small road to the U.S. Forest Service property. We were traveling an hour or so from Anchorage, past the town of Girdwood, to Portage, at the head of Turnagain Arm, part of Cook Inlet. The actual town of Portage was wiped off the map during a massive tsunami surge that took place during the 9.4 magnitude earthquake in 1964. Today, stands of salt-infused silvery weathered trees remain in areas along the coast, frozen in time from that massive and earth-changing event.
We met other hardy Alaskan volunteers and staff from the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC), which occupies the once coastal town of Portage. AWCC is dedicated to Alaska’s wildlife through conservation, education and quality animal care. We came to help erect miles of fencing to provide new pasture areas for wood bison. Wood bison are the northern cousin of the Plains bison that roam the lower 48 states.
They are bigger than the Plains bison; a mature bull can weigh 2,250 pounds, versus 1,900 pounds for the smaller Plains bison. Wood bison are in fact the largest land animal found in North America. Wood bison were previously listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and as of last year are listed as threatened.
Wood bison were extirpated in Alaska more than 100 years ago. Thanks to many years and dedicated efforts of the AWCC, the State of Alaska and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, along with various organizations and volunteers, wood bison have returned to Alaska…
Hope on the Prairie: The Black-Footed Ferret Returns to Colorado
by Matt Moorhead, TNC
In many respects, hope defines our work at The Nature Conservancy. In turn, our work fuels that hope.T ake, for instance, my recent experience helping reintroduce black-footed ferrets to their historic home on eastern Colorado’s prairie.
It’s likely that ferrets have been absent from eastern Colorado for more than 100 years.Entirely dependent on prairie dogs for survival, ferrets were largely the unintended victim of widespread prairie dog extermination campaigns and introduced diseases. By 1980, the species was believed to be extinct, lost before it had ever really been understood or appreciated.
But, in 1981, the first glimmer of hope faintly appeared in Meeteetse, Wyoming when a single remnant population was discovered by a rancher who reported it to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.Rampant disease forced their removal from the wild, but a captive breeding program began with the last 18 surviving individuals.
At six facilities around the country, biologists carefully breed the ferrets to maximize genetic diversity.Training programs put young ferrets through prairie dog hunting “boot camps;” if they learn to hunt, they’ll be eligible for release. The breeding and training programs have been successful; hundreds of ferrets are now available for release, awaiting appropriate habitats and the elusive welcome mat for an endangered species…
A new five-year plan calls for restoring wetlands habitat in the San Francisco Bay area and eventually recovering six wetland-dependent endangered species, including the secretive California Clapper Rail.
Longline fisheries in Costa Rica hook tens of thousands of sea turtles every year
by Julia Calderone
Hundreds of kilometers of commercial fishing lines slither along coastal waters in Costa Rica, hooking thousands of mahi-mahi and many other marketable fish. But when scientists scrutinized fishermen’s catch, they were shocked by the staggering number of sea turtles accidentally snagged on the lines.
A study published Aug. 20 in the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology suggests that longline fisheries in Costa Rica unintentionally caught about 700,000 Olive Ridley turtles as bycatch between 1999 and 2010—the second highest catch after mahi-mahi. Other bycatch included silky sharks, pelagic stingrays and Indo-Pacific sailfish…
During the Cabo Cortés Biological Inventory in Baja California, Mexico, conducted by staff of the Herpetology Dept. at the San Diego Natural History Museum, they got to see the work at the local sea turtle refuge.
They observed newly emerged Pacific Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) andOlive Ridley Sea Turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea). Nests were spotted, protective fencing was put up, and if necessary, nests were relocated.
This baby Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica) was rescued by Indonesian police who intercepted 85 endangered pangolins from smugglers earlier this year. This pangolin has now been re-released into the wild.
Jamaican Iguana Conservation Program Marks 20 Years of Success, Faces Worries about Next 20 Years
by John R. Platt
More than a million tourists visited Jamaica last year. The vast majority of them traveled to the famous hotels and beaches of Kingston, the country’s capital city. Few, if any, ventured about 25 kilometers to the west to the rocky limestone shores of Hellshire Hills. If they had, they might have seen something not many other people have ever had the opportunity to observe: the critically endangered Jamaican iguana (Cyclura collei).
But a small group of people gathering in Kingston this week know the Jamaican iguana quite well. The members of the IUCN SSC Iguana Specialist Group have spent the past 20 years working to preserve this rare lizard, which was feared to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 1991. The group’s work since 1993 has been called one of the greatest successes in conservation science, but today the Jamaican iguana faces new threats and government indifference. Questions remain whether the Jamaican iguana will have another 20 years of opportunities…
From the photographer: “Burying beetles have a symbiotic relationship with several species of mites in the genus Poecilochirus. The mites help keep the beetle and its eggs free of the larvae of other insects such as flies commonly encountered in the carrion that these beetles feed on and nest in/under. The largest species of its genus in North America (US Fish & Wildlife Service), the American burying beetle has suffered precipitous population declines in the 20th century.”
Critically endangered insects tend to be very well studied. Check out the Burying beetle’s gallery for adult coloration, larval portraits, and careful 3D reconstructions of their anatomy: Encyclopedia of Life