Scientists Figure Out How To Count Whales … FROM SPACE!!!

by Jonathan Amos

Scientists have demonstrated a new method for counting whales from space. It uses very high-resolution satellite pictures and image-processing software to automatically detect the great mammals at or near the ocean surface.

A test count, reported in the journal Plos One, was conducted on southern right whales in the Golfo Nuevo on the coast of Argentina. The automated system found about 90% of creatures pinpointed in a manual search of the imagery.

This is a huge improvement on previous attempts at space-borne assessment, and could now revolutionise the way whale populations are estimated. Currently, such work is done through counts conducted from a shore position, from the deck of a ship or from a plane. But these are necessarily narrow in scope.

An automated satellite search could cover a much larger area of ocean and at a fraction of the cost…

(read more: BBC News)

A New Day for the Nēnē
Once lost, now found: the Hawaiian goose is rediscovered on Oahu.
by Purbita Saha
After being absent for nearly 300 years, Hawaii’s state bird the nene goose has finally come home to roost in Oahu.

The Associated Press was the first to break the news of this development. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a family of nene geese has taken up residence at the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge. The parents arrived on their own, before settling in and hatching three chicks. Fish and Wildlife says that human intervention was not a factor in bringing the endemic birds back to the island.
The nene goose was once omnipresent in Hawaii; scientists estimate that the population numbered 25,000 in 1778. But as the islands became colonized, the geese began to disappear. Currently, only 2,000 nenes remain in the wild. The birds can be found in small numbers on Kauai, Maui, and Molokai, though they’ve had the most success at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where they were reintroduced in the ’70s. That effort presented a variety of challenges. There were mass casualties of geese and goslings due to feral cats, mongoose, cars, and even stray golf balls…
(read more: Audubon Magazine)
photograph by Brenda Zaun/USFWS/Flickr

A New Day for the Nēnē

Once lost, now found: the Hawaiian goose is rediscovered on Oahu.

by Purbita Saha

After being absent for nearly 300 years, Hawaii’s state bird the nene goose has finally come home to roost in Oahu.

The Associated Press was the first to break the news of this development. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a family of nene geese has taken up residence at the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge. The parents arrived on their own, before settling in and hatching three chicks. Fish and Wildlife says that human intervention was not a factor in bringing the endemic birds back to the island.

The nene goose was once omnipresent in Hawaii; scientists estimate that the population numbered 25,000 in 1778. But as the islands became colonized, the geese began to disappear. Currently, only 2,000 nenes remain in the wild. The birds can be found in small numbers on Kauai, Maui, and Molokai, though they’ve had the most success at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where they were reintroduced in the ’70s. That effort presented a variety of challenges. There were mass casualties of geese and goslings due to feral cats, mongoose, cars, and even stray golf balls…

(read more: Audubon Magazine)

photograph by Brenda Zaun/USFWS/Flickr

libutron
astronomy-to-zoology:

"Blind Velvet Worm" (Tasmanipatus anophthalmus)
…a species of velvet worm (Phylum: Onychophora) that is endemic to north-eastern Tasmania. True to its common name T. anophthalmus lacks eyes and is completely blind. Like other velvet worms the blind velvet worm is terrestrial and typically inhabits dry eucalyptus forests. Also like other velvet worms it is nocturnal and a predator, feeding on small invertebrates, which are caught via the ejection of sticky fluid from appendages on its head.
Currently Tasmanipatus anophthalmus is listed as Endangered, this is likely to to its small range.
Classification
Animalia-Onychophora-Onychophora-Onychophora-Peripatopsidae-Tasmanipatus-T. anophthalmus
Image: Robert Mesibov

astronomy-to-zoology:

"Blind Velvet Worm" (Tasmanipatus anophthalmus)

…a species of velvet worm (Phylum: Onychophora) that is endemic to north-eastern Tasmania. True to its common name T. anophthalmus lacks eyes and is completely blind. Like other velvet worms the blind velvet worm is terrestrial and typically inhabits dry eucalyptus forests. Also like other velvet worms it is nocturnal and a predator, feeding on small invertebrates, which are caught via the ejection of sticky fluid from appendages on its head.

Currently Tasmanipatus anophthalmus is listed as Endangered, this is likely to to its small range.

Classification

Animalia-Onychophora-Onychophora-Onychophora-Peripatopsidae-Tasmanipatus-T. anophthalmus

Image: Robert Mesibov

Lawsuit Could Save Thousands of Sea Turtles

by Amanda Keledjian

On March 1, the sea-turtle nesting season officially began in Florida, with the wondrous appearance of leatherback sea turtles returning to lay their eggs. Later this spring, loggerhead and green sea-turtles will follow suit, flocking to Florida’s beaches in large numbers. The state is an important destination for these marine reptiles; of the seven different sea-turtle species in the world, five call these warm waters home at some point during their migrations. In fact, Florida’s beaches host more nesting turtles than any other state.

Driven by an incredible instinct to return to the same beaches where they themselves were born, these turtles might not know that they are swimming into waters used by shrimp trawlers, one of sea turtles’ most dangerous and deadly obstacles.

Shrimp trawlers in the Gulf of Mexico and the U.S. southeast Atlantic kill or injure an estimated 53,000 sea turtles — every year — as the ships tow huge nets the width of football fields slowly through the water, trapping almost everything in their wake.

These nets pose a significant danger to the sea turtles, a vulnerable population. Sadly, all five sea-turtle species are considered threatened or endangered with extinction in the United States. This is why, last month, Oceana and three other groups filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. federal government, urging it to accurately analyze the impacts of shrimp trawls on sea turtles…

(read more: Live Science)

photos:  Projeto Tamar Brazil/ Marine Photobank and NOAA

Feds List Lesser Prairie Chicken as ‘Threatened’
by Associated Press
The Obama administration said Thursday it is placing a grassland grouse known as the lesser prairie chicken on a list of threatened species, a move that could affect oil and gas drilling, wind farms and other activities in five central and southwestern states.
The decision by the Fish and Wildlife Service is a step below “endangered” status and allows for more flexibility in how protections for the bird will be carried out under the Endangered Species Act.
Dan Ashe, the agency’s director, said he knows the decision will be unpopular with governors in the five affected states — Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico — but said the agency was following the best science available.
“The lesser prairie-chicken is in dire straits,” Ashe said in an interview. “The bird is in decline and has been in decline for more than a decade.”…
(read more: Washington Post)
photo: Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept., Jon McRoberts/AP

Feds List Lesser Prairie Chicken as ‘Threatened’

by Associated Press

The Obama administration said Thursday it is placing a grassland grouse known as the lesser prairie chicken on a list of threatened species, a move that could affect oil and gas drilling, wind farms and other activities in five central and southwestern states.

The decision by the Fish and Wildlife Service is a step below “endangered” status and allows for more flexibility in how protections for the bird will be carried out under the Endangered Species Act.

Dan Ashe, the agency’s director, said he knows the decision will be unpopular with governors in the five affected states — Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico — but said the agency was following the best science available.

“The lesser prairie-chicken is in dire straits,” Ashe said in an interview. “The bird is in decline and has been in decline for more than a decade.”…

(read more: Washington Post)

photo: Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept., Jon McRoberts/AP

zacharge

zacharge:

San Francisco Gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis tetrataenia) - San Mateo County, CA

The San Francisco Gartersnake is an endangered subspecies of the Common Gartersnake (T.sirtalis) found in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Habitat loss, commercial collecting (although it is illegal to posses and sell this subspecies in the United States, they are available outside the country), as well the introduction of non-native, invasive bullfrogs (which prey on young snakes, as well as consume native species that provide prey for these snakes) are all contributing factors to the decline of San Francisco Gartersnakes.

San Francisco Gartersnakes are only found within San Mateo County, California (with some reports in extreme northern Santa Cruz County, along the coast).

As these snakes are a federally protected species, it is against the law to handle, touch, or manipulate these snakes.

Good News:  Endangered Whooping Crane Population Could Be on the Rise
by Sara Sneath
The final numbers for the 2013-14 winter whooping crane survey show an increase in the endangered bird population.
An estimated 304 cranes from the Aransas-Wood Buffalo population wintered in the primary survey area of 154,000 acres on and around the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service news release.
Last year’s wintering survey estimated there were 257 birds, said Wade Harrell, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service whooping crane recovery coordinator. The confidence interval, a population parameter that describes the reliability of the estimate, narrowed to less than 10 percent this year as a result of more experienced observers, he said…
(read more: Victoria Advocate)
photograph courtesy: American Bird Conservancy

Good News:  Endangered Whooping Crane Population Could Be on the Rise

by Sara Sneath

The final numbers for the 2013-14 winter whooping crane survey show an increase in the endangered bird population.

An estimated 304 cranes from the Aransas-Wood Buffalo population wintered in the primary survey area of 154,000 acres on and around the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service news release.

Last year’s wintering survey estimated there were 257 birds, said Wade Harrell, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service whooping crane recovery coordinator. The confidence interval, a population parameter that describes the reliability of the estimate, narrowed to less than 10 percent this year as a result of more experienced observers, he said…

(read more: Victoria Advocate)

photograph courtesy: American Bird Conservancy

Refuge Officials Say Discovery of baby Ocelot ‘Hugely Important’

by Melissa Montoya, The Brownsville Herald

As Sihil, an ocelot from the Cincinnati Zoo, was traveling through South Texas last week, rangers at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge made their own discovery: an ocelot kitten, and it could be a female. 

The kitten, estimated to be 3 to 5 months of age, was first seen by rangers last week but it was photographed by a remote trail camera on Valentine’s Day, said Hilary Swarts, wildlife biologist at the refuge.

Ocelots live mostly in South and Central America, but small populations have reached as far north as the Rio Grande Valley.

Swarts estimated that with the sighting the local population of small cats was 12. Each cat has a distinctive pattern of spots, and the one on the kitten was never seen before, she said…

(read more: Brownsville Herald)

photos: USFWS - Laguna Atascosa NWR

Good News:  Endangered Panda Lemur Makes a Comeback
by Jeremy Hance
One of the world’s biggest populations of greater bamboo lemurs (Prolemur simus)—sometimes known as the panda lemur—has doubled in just three years, giving conservationists new hope that the species can be kept from extinction. 
With the recent arrival of twenty babies, a community conservation project run by the Aspinall Foundation has boosted the local population to over 100 individuals in Andriantantely, one of Madagascar’s only surviving lowland rainforests. Greater bamboo lemurs are currently categorized as Critically Endangered, though they were once believed extinct until hidden populations were uncovered in the 1980s…
(read more: MongaBay)
photo: Hery Randriahaingo

Good News:  Endangered Panda Lemur Makes a Comeback

by Jeremy Hance

One of the world’s biggest populations of greater bamboo lemurs (Prolemur simus)—sometimes known as the panda lemur—has doubled in just three years, giving conservationists new hope that the species can be kept from extinction.

With the recent arrival of twenty babies, a community conservation project run by the Aspinall Foundation has boosted the local population to over 100 individuals in Andriantantely, one of Madagascar’s only surviving lowland rainforests. Greater bamboo lemurs are currently categorized as Critically Endangered, though they were once believed extinct until hidden populations were uncovered in the 1980s…

(read more: MongaBay)

photo: Hery Randriahaingo

Texas Nature Trackers:  Whooping Crane Watch
In 1942, there were only 16 Whooping Cranes left in what was to be the last flock in the world, a small group of birds that wintered on the central Texas coast near Rockport and nested in northwestern Canada. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, this last remaining band of Whooping Cranes still precipitously clung to existence with numbers in the 20s and 30s. Slowly, over time, with habitat conservation and protection from shooting, numbers climbed. In 2012, the Texas-Canada flock approached 300 birds, and now Whooping Cranes also exist in several experimental flocks and captive breeding facilities…
(read more and get involved:  Texas Parks & Wildlife)

Texas Nature Trackers:  Whooping Crane Watch

In 1942, there were only 16 Whooping Cranes left in what was to be the last flock in the world, a small group of birds that wintered on the central Texas coast near Rockport and nested in northwestern Canada. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, this last remaining band of Whooping Cranes still precipitously clung to existence with numbers in the 20s and 30s. Slowly, over time, with habitat conservation and protection from shooting, numbers climbed. In 2012, the Texas-Canada flock approached 300 birds, and now Whooping Cranes also exist in several experimental flocks and captive breeding facilities…

(read more and get involved:  Texas Parks & Wildlife)

TSA Turtle Tuesday:  Reeve’s Turtle aka Chinese Pond Turtle
The adult Chinese pond turtle (Mauremys reevesii) has a rectangular shell and three distinct ridges that run down its length. This shy endangered turtle from Asia is commonly found in shallow ponds, streams and canals with sandy bottoms. It is an omnivorous, semi-aquatic species which feeds on plants and fruits as well as worms, aquatic insects, frogs and fishes. In Japan, newly hatched young, like the one pictured above, are believed to spend the winter in the nest before emerging when the weather warms up the following spring. 
Photo: James Harding
(via: Turtle Survival Alliance)

TSA Turtle Tuesday:  Reeve’s Turtle aka Chinese Pond Turtle

The adult Chinese pond turtle (Mauremys reevesii) has a rectangular shell and three distinct ridges that run down its length. This shy endangered turtle from Asia is commonly found in shallow ponds, streams and canals with sandy bottoms. It is an omnivorous, semi-aquatic species which feeds on plants and fruits as well as worms, aquatic insects, frogs and fishes. In Japan, newly hatched young, like the one pictured above, are believed to spend the winter in the nest before emerging when the weather warms up the following spring.

Photo: James Harding

(via: Turtle Survival Alliance)