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Today, on World Ranger Day, we honor the men and women who risk their lives to protect great apes and other endangered wildlife around the world. We are deeply grateful for your dedication and sacrifice. (Image courtesy of Virunga National Park.)
source 

Today, on World Ranger Day, we honor the men and women who risk their lives to protect great apes and other endangered wildlife around the world. We are deeply grateful for your dedication and sacrifice. (Image courtesy of Virunga National Park.)

source 

One year ago today, orphan mountain gorilla infant Matabishi was rescued by the Congolese Park Authority and Gorilla Doctors when he was found alone in a cornfield outside of Virunga National Park, DRC. Little Matabishi has come a long way from the injured and malnourished youngster he was at the time of his rescue. He is now apart of a surrogate family of 4 mountain gorilla orphans at the Senkwekwe Center, and watched over by the adult females (Maisha, Ndeze and Ndakasi) as well as their caregivers. You can read more about his rescue here: http://gorilladoctors.org/orphan-guardianship/matabishis-story.html

from Gorilla Doctors

One year ago today, orphan mountain gorilla infant Matabishi was rescued by the Congolese Park Authority and Gorilla Doctors when he was found alone in a cornfield outside of Virunga National Park, DRC. Little Matabishi has come a long way from the injured and malnourished youngster he was at the time of his rescue. He is now apart of a surrogate family of 4 mountain gorilla orphans at the Senkwekwe Center, and watched over by the adult females (Maisha, Ndeze and Ndakasi) as well as their caregivers. You can read more about his rescue here: http://gorilladoctors.org/orphan-guardianship/matabishis-story.html

Albino Kingsnake and 6 Other Invaders Wreaking Havoc

Posted by Liz Langley 

Invasive albino kingsnakes are expanding throughout the Canary Islands, representing a huge threat to biodiversity, say experts who met this week to try to figure out how to stop the reptile.

With no natural predators, the kingsnakes—which are native to California—are growing bigger and badder, decimating local animal populations, including juvenile Gran Canaria giant lizards, which live only on the Canary Islands (map), a territory of Spain.

“Where the snakes are, most of the [young] lizards are missing,” said Robert Fisher, a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) researcher who’s taking part in the  discussions on the Canary Islands. (Read more about invasive species.)

With its offspring absent, Fisher now calls Gran Canaria giant lizards “the living dead”—a population doomed to extinction.

Albino kingsnakes originally came to the islands as pets about 10 to 15 years ago and either escaped or were set free by their owners.

But there is hope: The reptiles aren’t yet entrenched in the environment, Fisher said, and governments are actively trying to find a solution. “You often don’t get that level of commitment until it’s too late,” he said.

As the world warms, the spread of such invaders is becoming increasingly common. For instance, adaptable species—including many weeds and pests, as well as cold-sensitive, invasive species like the Burmese python in Florida—are expanding their ranges, said Peter Alpert, a program director in environmental biology at the U.S. National Science Foundation(NSF).

Here are some more invaders that have gripped other parts of the globe.

Brown Tree Snakes

Guam’s native species had no snake predators before these Southeast Asian and Australian snakes were inadvertently introduced to the Pacific island after World War II.

read more from Nat Geo

Overfishing occurs when more fish are caught than the population can replace through natural reproduction. Gathering as many fish as possible may seem like a profitable practice, but overfishing has serious consequences. The results not only affect the balance of life in the oceans, but also the social and economic well-being of the coastal communities who depend on fish for their way of life.

Billions of people rely on fish for protein, and fishing is the principal livelihood for millions of people around the world. For centuries, our seas and oceans have been considered a limitless bounty of food. However, increasing fishing efforts over the last 50 years as well as unsustainable fishing practices are pushing many fish stocks to the point of collapse.

More than 85 percent of the world’s fisheries have been pushed to or beyond their biological limits and are in need of strict management plans to restore them. Several important commercial fish populations (such as Atlantic bluefin tuna) have declined to the point where their survival as a species is threatened. Target fishing of top predators, such as tuna and groupers, is changing marine communities, which lead to an abundance of smaller marine species, such as sardines and anchovies.

Many fishers are aware of the need to safeguard fish populations and the marine environment, however illegal fishing and other regulatory problems still exist. WWF works with stakeholders to reform fisheries management globally, focusing on sustainable practices that conserve ecosystems, but also sustain livelihoods and ensure food security.

CAUSES

OPEN ACCESS FISHERIES

A main problem of overfishing is the “open access” nature of fisheries. Because there are no or few property rights there is a lack of incentive for fishermen to leave fish in the water.

POOR FISHERIES MANAGEMENT

A lack of management oversight, government regulations, and traceability of fishing activities has long been a problem in the fishing industry. Current rules and regulations are not strong enough to limit fishing capacity to a sustainable level. This is particularly the case for the high seas, where there are few international fishing regulations, and those that exist are not always implemented or enforced. Many fisheries management bodies are not able to adequately incorporate scientific advice on fish quotas, and customs agencies and retailers cannot always ensure that the fish entering their country is caught legally and in a sustainable way.

One key dimension of the overfishing crisis is illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing. It occurs across all types of fisheries, within national and international waters, and small scale to large industrialized operations. Illegal fishing accounts for an estimated 20% of the world’s catch and as much as 50% in some fisheries. The costs of illegal fishing are significant, with the value of pirate fish products estimated at between $10-23.5 billion annually.

SUBSIDIES

Many governments still continue to subsidize their fleets, allowing unprofitable operations to subsist, and overfishing to occur. Today’s worldwide fishing fleet is estimated to be up to two and a half times the capacity needed to catch what we actually need.

info and photos from WWF

Can Long-Distance Migrating Shorebird Survive?

Ben Jervey

for National Geographic

PUBLISHED OCTOBER 3, 2013

Twice a year, the rufa red knot performs one of the planet’s most amazing migrations. After wintering in the southern reaches of Argentina and Chile, the red knot will fly roughly 9,300 miles (15,000 kilometers) north, eventually reaching the Canadian Arctic for a summer of mating and breeding. Come fall, it will return south, this robin-size bird with a mere 20-inch (51-centimeter) wingspan flying without rest for stretches of up to 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers).

For this incredible voyage, Calidris canutus needs fuel, and a lot of it. As it happens, one of its main food supplies, the eggs of horseshoe crabs in the Delaware Bay, where the birds recharge for the final leg of their journey, has become scarce, and red knot populations are suffering.

The population declines are bad enough that last Friday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) officially proposed “threatened” status for the rufa red knot under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

In a press conference, FWS director Dan Ashe explained that in some areas surveyed, red knot populations “have declined by about 75 percent since the 1980s, with the steepest declines happening after 2000.”

Experts from the Fish and Wildlife Service and from the American Bird Conservancy (ABC), a nonprofit advocacy group that has petitioned for the bird’s protection under the ESA for eight years now, all point to the scarcity of horseshoe crabs in the Delaware Bay region as a primary factor in the red knot’s decline. As Fish and Wildlife spokesperson Meagan Racey explained, “Delaware Bay is the only area in which knots feed on horseshoe crab eggs, and it hosts the largest concentration of knots in the world during the spring stopover that lines up with horseshoe crab spawning. “

Eggs and Knots

How crucial a fuel are these eggs to the red knot? According to Steve Holmer, senior policy analyst for ABC, the horseshoe crab binge lasts a few days, during which the birds “accumulate body fat for the long continuing journey to their Arctic breeding grounds.”

Holmer points to the FWS listing proposal itself, which describes actual “physiological changes” that take place in the birds while they feast on the eggs. “Before takeoff, the birds accumulate and store large amounts of fat to fuel migration and undergo substantial changes in metabolic rates,” the proposal states. “In addition, leg muscles, gizzard (a muscular organ used for grinding food), stomach, intestines, and liver all decrease in size, while pectoral (chest) muscles and heart increase in size.”

read more from Nat Geo

U.S. place white rhino on endangered species list
The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has listed the southern white rhinoceros as an endangered species protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The agency said the move will protect not only the white rhino, but may save four other high-risk rhino species from extinction.
The FWS took the action in response to the what has become the unrestrained and widespread poaching of wild rhinoceros populations. It comes after South Africa, home to four-fifths of the world’s rhinos, reported a dramatic surge in white rhino killings in that country over the last year and a half. In 2012, South Africa recorded that 668 white rhinos were poached as compared to 448 killed in 2011 and 333 slaughtered in 2009, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
The southern white rhino was the last unprotected species of rhinoceros. By including it under the ESA’s umbrella of protection, the FWS is “closing a loophole in the law that has been exploited by unscrupulous poachers and traffickers seeking to cash in on global demand for rhino horn,” according to an agency news release.
Because it’s impossible to distinguish, without genetic testing, the horns of the southern white rhino from the endangered Javan, Sumatran, Indian, and black rhinos, traffickers have been able to pass off the horns of these latter protected species as white rhino horn in an effort to skirt sale and transport restrictions, the FWS said. The northern white rhinoceros became extinct in 2006.
The sharp increase in rhino poaching is fueled by a growing demand for rhino horn, which is ground up and used for its supposed medicinal properties. The belief that rhino horn–composed of keratin, like fingernails–can cure disease is completely unfounded, according to the FWS. The other contributing factor to the uptick in demand is an economic boom in Asia as more and more people are able to buy rhino horn.
“Historically, the horn has been used as a fever reducer in Asia. But that’s not new. What is new is that rhino horn has suddenly become the cool thing, particularly in Vietnam, for things like a hangover cure or a cancer cure–none of which is grounded in any research or scientific fact,” Craig Hoover, head of the FWS’s wildlife trade and conservation branch, told the Monitor.
Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe noted that the US is a hub for the trade in illegal rhino products, saying that this country plays a crucial role in curbing poaching and criminal wildlife trafficking.
“Along with extending protection to the southern white rhino, we’re evaluating additional regulatory and policy options in an effort to strengthen our ability to investigate and prosecute poachers,” Ashe said, adding: “We have a long history in working to curb the illegal wildlife trade, and are committed to working with international law enforcement agencies to address current and emerging challenges.”
Today, a kilogram of rhino horn costs between a whopping $60,000 and $65,000–more than its weight in gold, according to the FWS.
Read more: http://www.sciencerecorder.com/news/u-s-place-white-rhino-on-endangered-species-list/#ixzz2f3kIhLk7

U.S. place white rhino on endangered species list

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has listed the southern white rhinoceros as an endangered species protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The agency said the move will protect not only the white rhino, but may save four other high-risk rhino species from extinction.

The FWS took the action in response to the what has become the unrestrained and widespread poaching of wild rhinoceros populations. It comes after South Africa, home to four-fifths of the world’s rhinos, reported a dramatic surge in white rhino killings in that country over the last year and a half. In 2012, South Africa recorded that 668 white rhinos were poached as compared to 448 killed in 2011 and 333 slaughtered in 2009, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

The southern white rhino was the last unprotected species of rhinoceros. By including it under the ESA’s umbrella of protection, the FWS is “closing a loophole in the law that has been exploited by unscrupulous poachers and traffickers seeking to cash in on global demand for rhino horn,” according to an agency news release.

Because it’s impossible to distinguish, without genetic testing, the horns of the southern white rhino from the endangered Javan, Sumatran, Indian, and black rhinos, traffickers have been able to pass off the horns of these latter protected species as white rhino horn in an effort to skirt sale and transport restrictions, the FWS said. The northern white rhinoceros became extinct in 2006.

The sharp increase in rhino poaching is fueled by a growing demand for rhino horn, which is ground up and used for its supposed medicinal properties. The belief that rhino horn–composed of keratin, like fingernails–can cure disease is completely unfounded, according to the FWS. The other contributing factor to the uptick in demand is an economic boom in Asia as more and more people are able to buy rhino horn.

“Historically, the horn has been used as a fever reducer in Asia. But that’s not new. What is new is that rhino horn has suddenly become the cool thing, particularly in Vietnam, for things like a hangover cure or a cancer cure–none of which is grounded in any research or scientific fact,” Craig Hoover, head of the FWS’s wildlife trade and conservation branch, told the Monitor.

Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe noted that the US is a hub for the trade in illegal rhino products, saying that this country plays a crucial role in curbing poaching and criminal wildlife trafficking.

“Along with extending protection to the southern white rhino, we’re evaluating additional regulatory and policy options in an effort to strengthen our ability to investigate and prosecute poachers,” Ashe said, adding: “We have a long history in working to curb the illegal wildlife trade, and are committed to working with international law enforcement agencies to address current and emerging challenges.”

Today, a kilogram of rhino horn costs between a whopping $60,000 and $65,000–more than its weight in gold, according to the FWS.



Read more: http://www.sciencerecorder.com/news/u-s-place-white-rhino-on-endangered-species-list/#ixzz2f3kIhLk7

Coast Guard helps release 500 baby sea turtles


BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) — More than 500 sea turtle hatchlings were gently released by hand Thursday onto sea beds off Florida’s Atlantic Coast, where the turtles have a better chance to survive.

The U.S. Coast Guard assisted with the release about six miles off the coast of Boca Raton because it is committed to protecting endangered species, officials said in a statement.

"I’m very passionate about the environment," said Chief Cannon Schider-Heisel with the U.S. Coast Guard. “And my job affords me the chance to do that sometimes, where I get to help educate the public about the environment. It’s a facet of my job that I love.”

Schider-Heisel, who volunteers at the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, where the hatchlings were collected, joined marine scientist Melanie Stadler and other turtle rescue volunteers to release 311 loggerhead and 194 green sea turtles on Thursday.

One by one, the turtles were slowly placed in the water and onto beds of seaweed where “they have more hope to survive,” said Schider-Heisel, who described the sea beds as a La-Z-Boy for the baby turtles, or a safe and comfortable place for them to be released.

The hatchlings, some as young as two days old, came from turtle nests from beaches throughout Florida where the loggerhead, leatherback and green turtles next regularly. Two other species also nest in Florida in very small numbers, the Kemp’s ridley and hawksbill.

The loggerhead is threatened and the green and leatherback are endangered, but all sea turtles are federally protected. It is against the law to touch or disturb nesting sea turtles, hatchlings or their nests. Signs are posted on beaches during nesting season, as adult females emerge to nest on the beach mostly at night. The hatchlings also emerge from their nests mostly at night. Only about one in 1,000 baby turtles survive to adulthood.

"A lot of these I literally pulled out of a nest," said Stadler as she held a baby turtle in her hand to show a Coast Guard crew member. "I have a connection with a lot of them, as do the rest of the turtle specialists. We all rescue these little guys every morning and knowing that we get to release them and they are healthy and ready to go is pretty awesome."

Stadler said the Coast Guard’s assistance with transporting so many baby sea turtles at once was “crucial” for their survival.

Florida’s nesting season runs from March through October on the Atlantic coast, and from May through October on the Gulf Coast.

source 

Top Threat to Penguins: 


Fisheries: Changes in prey availability affect penguins’ breeding success and winter survival. Many of the birds depend on pelagic (open ocean) prey such as krill, squid, anchovy, or herring. Fisheries that target these species, particularly near penguin breeding grounds, could have a negative effect on penguins.
Climate change: According to research, changing ocean temperatures are already a factor in the decline of several penguin species. For example, chinstrap and Adélie populations on the Antarctic Peninsula are decreasing. These penguins eat krill, the small crustaceans that spend the winter under ice feeding on algae. Melting ice decreases krill survival and abundance, however.
Pollution: Petroleum pollution, from oil spills and chronic leakage, can kill penguins. Oil also reduces the ability of their feathers to keep them warm and dry in the water. In South Africa, for example, more than 47,000 African penguins exposed to oil required rehabilitative treatment from 1968 to 2000. Pollution is likely to rise as petroleum development and oil transportation increase around the world.
Habitat degradation, introduced predators, and human disturbance: Coastal development is occurring in many places where penguins live, disrupting important breeding or prey habitat. Penguins must lay their eggs on land and, as a result, are extremely vulnerable. Rats, cats, foxes, dogs, and a variety of other predators—deliberately or accidentally introduced to coastal areas and islands—have endangered many seabird species. Unless well regulated, tourism and other human presence on breeding grounds also can be a problem. Tourism probably will increase as new roads and coastal development make it easier for people to view wildlife.
Disease: Disease is thought to be a moderate or minor factor in most penguin populations. However, this threat may grow as increasing worldwide trade and travel, including rapid transportation, promote the introduction and spread of disease. For example, travel to Antarctica is becoming easier, allowing new potential for introduced infectious parasites or viruses.

see more, including stunning pictures and video here
Top Threat to Penguins: 
  • Fisheries: Changes in prey availability affect penguins’ breeding success and winter survival. Many of the birds depend on pelagic (open ocean) prey such as krill, squid, anchovy, or herring. Fisheries that target these species, particularly near penguin breeding grounds, could have a negative effect on penguins.
  • Climate change: According to research, changing ocean temperatures are already a factor in the decline of several penguin species. For example, chinstrap and Adélie populations on the Antarctic Peninsula are decreasing. These penguins eat krill, the small crustaceans that spend the winter under ice feeding on algae. Melting ice decreases krill survival and abundance, however.
  • Pollution: Petroleum pollution, from oil spills and chronic leakage, can kill penguins. Oil also reduces the ability of their feathers to keep them warm and dry in the water. In South Africa, for example, more than 47,000 African penguins exposed to oil required rehabilitative treatment from 1968 to 2000. Pollution is likely to rise as petroleum development and oil transportation increase around the world.
  • Habitat degradation, introduced predators, and human disturbance: Coastal development is occurring in many places where penguins live, disrupting important breeding or prey habitat. Penguins must lay their eggs on land and, as a result, are extremely vulnerable. Rats, cats, foxes, dogs, and a variety of other predators—deliberately or accidentally introduced to coastal areas and islands—have endangered many seabird species. Unless well regulated, tourism and other human presence on breeding grounds also can be a problem. Tourism probably will increase as new roads and coastal development make it easier for people to view wildlife.
  • Disease: Disease is thought to be a moderate or minor factor in most penguin populations. However, this threat may grow as increasing worldwide trade and travel, including rapid transportation, promote the introduction and spread of disease. For example, travel to Antarctica is becoming easier, allowing new potential for introduced infectious parasites or viruses.

see more, including stunning pictures and video here

Tales From A Frozen Zoo

Mark Szotek, special to mongabay.com
February 02, 2010

"No one would have ever predicted that we could turn the cells in our collection into stem cells and that you would be able to clone animals from these (stem) cells; or that you could sequence the genomes of these animals on any kind of scale. At the time when this collection was first banked, the rate of nucleotide sequencing was 10 a year at best. Now nucleotides are being sequenced routinely by my colleagues across the hall."

A “frozen zoo” is a cryonic or “cold storage” facility for the long term preservation of animal and plant genetic material such as skin cells, DNA, sperm, eggs, and embryos. The first facility of this type was developed by San Diego Zoological Society for the study and preservation of genetic material from endangered animal species from across the globe.


The following article is a dialog with Dr. Oliver Ryder, Director of Genetics at the San Diego Zoological Society’s Institute for Conservation Research, home of the San Diego Zoo’s genetics collection. This piece is intended to read as both an interview and a series of vignettes on the background, goals, and highlights of the San Diego Zoo’s genetics collection or “Frozen Zoo”

Read more at http://news.mongabay.com/2010/0202-szotek_frozen_zoo.html#Fgb30WV3MdtTEml3.99

Southern Bear Photograph by Carlton Ward Bears in Florida aren’t just the stuff of Disney—the Sunshine State is home to at least three thousand black bears, including M13, pictured, a male captured in Highlands County (map) in 2006. But due to human activities, bears and other Florida wildlife are increasingly isolated in remote patches of habitat, preventing them from moving freely through their territories and potentially leading to the local extinction of some species. That’s partly why, a year ago this January, a team of explorers set off on a hundred-day, 1,000-mile (1,600-kilometer) expedition to drum up awareness and support for a proposed Florida Wildlife Corridor, a strip of uninterrupted wild and rural land that would link landscapes from the Florida Peninsula all the way to Georgia. (Related blog: “Follow Carlton Ward’s 1,000-Mile Trek Through Florida.”) The corridor would protect wide-ranging species such as the black bear; keep the watershed that drains into the Everglades clean and safe; and also maintain ranches and farms, which house much of the potential corridor land, Carlton Ward, Jr., a National Geographic explorer and conservation photographer who led the expedition, said recently. (National Geographic News is a division of the National Geographic Society.) “Despite very intensive development, we still have a chance to create a corridor that touches millions of acres of high-quality conservation land,” Ward said. The Florida Wildlife Corridor is gaining recognition within state agencies, Ward said, and formal recognition is a near-term goal. Overall, the state’s wild wonders are “really an untold story,” he said. “This is Florida—it’s not just coast, beaches, and amusement parks.” —Christine Dell’Amore

Southern Bear Photograph by Carlton Ward Bears in Florida aren’t just the stuff of Disney—the Sunshine State is home to at least three thousand black bears, including M13, pictured, a male captured in Highlands County (map) in 2006. But due to human activities, bears and other Florida wildlife are increasingly isolated in remote patches of habitat, preventing them from moving freely through their territories and potentially leading to the local extinction of some species. That’s partly why, a year ago this January, a team of explorers set off on a hundred-day, 1,000-mile (1,600-kilometer) expedition to drum up awareness and support for a proposed Florida Wildlife Corridor, a strip of uninterrupted wild and rural land that would link landscapes from the Florida Peninsula all the way to Georgia. (Related blog: “Follow Carlton Ward’s 1,000-Mile Trek Through Florida.”) The corridor would protect wide-ranging species such as the black bear; keep the watershed that drains into the Everglades clean and safe; and also maintain ranches and farms, which house much of the potential corridor land, Carlton Ward, Jr., a National Geographic explorer and conservation photographer who led the expedition, said recently. (National Geographic News is a division of the National Geographic Society.) “Despite very intensive development, we still have a chance to create a corridor that touches millions of acres of high-quality conservation land,” Ward said. The Florida Wildlife Corridor is gaining recognition within state agencies, Ward said, and formal recognition is a near-term goal. Overall, the state’s wild wonders are “really an untold story,” he said. “This is Florida—it’s not just coast, beaches, and amusement parks.” —Christine Dell’Amore