The smooth handfish is declared extinct

September 3, 2020 by  
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The International Union for The Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has officially declared the smooth handfish extinct. This news makes the smooth handfish the first fish species to be declared extinct in modern history. The smooth handfish belongs to a family of fish that get their name from their fins, which are shaped like hands. As opposed to swimming, the smooth handfish crawled with its hand-shaped fins across the seafloor. The handfish is among the most unique types of fish. Besides their bright, multicolored bodies, their awkward movement on their hand-like fins makes them stand out from other fish. According to the IUCN, there used to be 14 species of handfish. But after the organization updated its list of endangered species, the smooth handfish has been listed as an extinct species. The smooth handfish has not been seen since the year 1802, despite searches being conducted around the world. Related: We are in the sixth mass extinction, and it is accelerating The IUCN’s announcement marks the first time a fish species has been declared extinct in modern history, according to National Geographic . The unfortunate news now shifts focus on the other species in the handfish family. Alarmingly, seven types of handfish have not been seen since 2000 or earlier. This might mean that these species are also on the verge of extinction . The handfish is a special family of fish that is characterized by isolation. They do not associate with other types of fish and are usually localized in one place. “They spend most of their time sitting on the seabed, with an occasional flap for a few meters if they’re disturbed,” Graham Edgar, marine ecologist, told Scientific American . “As they lack a larval stage, they are unable to disperse to new locations — and consequently, handfish populations are very localized and vulnerable to threats.” While the fish stay on the seafloor, they are faced with many threats. Some of the threats include industrial runoff that affects the quality of seawater. Further, fishing and dredging along the seabed also threaten many fish, including the handfish. Invasive species also pose a threat to these unique creatures. The recent news of the smooth handfish’s extinction opens our eyes to the possibility of losing more precious species if actions are not taken to protect biodiversity . + IUCN Via Mic , National Geographic and Scientific American Image via Kenneth Lu

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The smooth handfish is declared extinct

Bond Pet Foods develops slaughter-free chicken for sustainable pet food

September 3, 2020 by  
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It’s an ethical conundrum vegetarian pet owners frequently face — isn’t it hypocritical to eschew meat consumption yourself while still supporting animal slaughter by purchasing pet food? Those days of having to choose Fluffy over a nameless abattoir victim may be coming to an end as Bond Pet Foods improves a new lab-grown chicken protein technology. The Boulder, Colorado-based biotech company has figured out how to crack the genetic code of a chicken and replicate it in a lab. In this case, Inga, a farm-dwelling heritage hen from Lindsborg, Kansas, was the blood donor. Food chemists combine the genetic code in a fermentation tank with food-grade yeast, and voilà, they’ve created something identical to animal meat. The fermentation process is similar to one commonly used to make enzymes for cheese. Related: 7 ways to be an eco-friendly pet owner “A new wave of responsible food production is emerging, working with the best that nature and science has to offer, and our team is leading this wave in Pet,” said Rich Kelleman, co-founder and CEO of Bond Pet Foods. “Our team’s continued developments are laying the foundation to bring high-value meat protein and nutrition to dogs and cats, while removing farm animals from the equation.” Don’t race to your local pet food store just yet. Bond aims to have the slaughter-free pet food on shelves by 2023 with support from seed investors. In the meantime, an early test of a dog treat made from the cultured chicken protein was a success with canine consumers. “Our initial tests with dog volunteers have been very promising, and its nutritionals, palatability and digestibility will only improve on our path to commercialization,” said Pernilla Audibert, co-founder and CTO of Bond Pet Foods. “The science team at Bond is also working on production of other cultured meat proteins made through a similar fermentation process. The successful chicken prototype is a demonstration of our technology’s potential to create a complete portfolio of animal proteins for pet consumption, and beyond.” + Bond Pet Foods Via VegNews Image via Bond Pet Foods

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IUCN finds ocean oxygen levels dropping at record rates

December 12, 2019 by  
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Marine life is in serious trouble if ocean oxygen levels continue to plummet. A new report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reveals that ocean oxygen levels have decreased by about 2 percent since the middle of the 20th century, and continued deoxygenation will put wildlife and human survival in danger. The report, which involved work from 67 scientists in 17 countries, was released Saturday at the COP25 UN Climate Change Conference in Madrid. “Urgent global action to overcome and reverse the effects of ocean deoxygenation is needed,” said Minna Eps, director of the IUCN Global Marine and Polar Program. “Decisions taken at the ongoing climate conference will determine whether our ocean continues to sustain a rich variety of life, or whether habitable, oxygen-rich marine areas are increasingly, progressively and irrevocably lost.” Related: IPCC landmark report warns about the state of the oceans, polar ice content and the climate crisis Both the climate crisis and nutrient pollution cause ocean deoxygenation. Nutrient pollution includes nitrogen from fossil fuels and run-off from agriculture and sewage. This depletes oxygen by encouraging too much algae growth. However, scientists have recently realized that rising ocean temperatures are also lowering ocean oxygen levels. Scientists say that these higher temperatures are probably responsible for about half of the oxygen loss in the ocean’s top 1,000 meters, which is the highest in biodiversity . While reversing nutrient pollution is relatively easy, reversing oxygen loss from climate change isn’t. “To curb ocean oxygen loss alongside the other disastrous impacts of climate change, world leaders must commit to immediate and substantial emission cuts,” Dr. Grethel Aguilar, acting director general of IUCN, said in a tweet. Larger fish that require more energy, such as tuna, sharks and marlins, are especially threatened by dropping ocean oxygen levels. Changing oxygen levels have already pushed them closer to the surface, where they face greater risk of overfishing . Recent massive fish die-offs may also be caused by oxygen loss. Scientists predict that lowered ocean oxygen may have far-reaching effects, such as changing the Earth’s phosphorus and nitrogen cycles on land. + IUCN Via EcoWatch Image via Jeremy Bishop

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These 5 animals are being consumed into extinction

March 12, 2019 by  
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Humans have a long history of wiping out animal populations, and we continue to do so even to this day. According to a new study published in the Royal Society Open Science journal, people around the world are eating hundreds of animal species into extinction. If we don’t make some changes, the authors of the study warn that the food security of hundreds of millions of people could be threatened. Currently, we are in the middle of mass extinction that rivals the wiping out of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. But this time, it isn’t a giant meteorite doing all the damage — it’s humans. Over the past century, we have accelerated extinction rates 100 hundred times greater than what would naturally occur without human impact. As we continue to destroy habitats with construction and invade wild areas for hunting, 301 species of land mammals are now critically endangered and have made their way to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List. The list includes 168 primates, 73 hoofed animals, 27 bats, 26 marsupials, 21 rodent species and 12 carnivores. There are also 1,414 species of fish on the Red List. “There are plenty of bad things affecting wildlife around the world, and habitat loss and degradation are clearly at the forefront, but among the other things is the seemingly colossal impact of bushmeat hunting,” said David MacDonald, professor at the University of Oxford and part of the international research team. Bushmeat is a traditional food source for rural people in societies across the globe. That is starting to change because of large-scale commercial hunting and road construction in remote areas. MacDonald said that the number of hunters continues to increase, and the roads are being built in the most remote places, so there is no place left for wildlife to go. Not only does this mass extinction threaten food security, but it also upsets ecosystems. To reverse this problem, the researchers in this new study have a few ideas. They recommend greater legal protection for the endangered species, empowering local communities to prioritize wildlife conservation , providing alternative foods and family planning to reduce the rate of population growth. The list of endangered animals is long, but here are a few highlights. Bluefin tuna One of the fastest fish on Earth, bluefin tuna can hit speeds around 40 miles per hour when they are hunting, can grow up to 15 feet long and weigh as much as 1500 pounds. However, with the growing demand for sushi, overfishing is becoming a huge problem, and the bluefin tuna numbers are dropping. Related: Endangered bluefin tuna sold for $3.1 billion to sushi tycoon Whale shark The largest fish in the sea, the whale shark has been on the critically endangered list for three years, because the population has dropped more than 50 percent in the last 75 years thanks to both legal and illegal fishing. According to National Geographic, fishing for whale sharks is extremely lucrative, because they can be “harvested for their meat, fins and other parts used in traditional medicinal products.” Of course, they are also in great demand for shark fin soup. Pangolin These nocturnal mammals have keratin scales, emit a harmful chemical like skunks and eat ants and termites. In Africa, they are a major source of food and medicine, but in China and Vietnam, they are a delicacy. This has led to the pangolin becoming the most trafficked animal in the world. Related: Zimbabwe hopes to bring attention to trafficking endangered species with the Pangolin Project There is an international trade ban on all pangolin species, but this has only resulted in rising prices as the population declines. Chinese giant salamander As the largest amphibian on Earth, the Chinese giant salamander has been around for more than 170 million years, and it can grow to be 6 feet long and weigh over 100 pounds. The species is currently on the critically endangered list, because it is a Chinese delicacy. It is also used in traditional Chinese medicine. In just three generations, the population has plummeted by 80 percent. Sturgeon With fossil records dating back 200 million years, we know that sturgeon have survived two — maybe three — mass extinctions . This time, the species might not be so lucky. The beluga sturgeon is being overfished, because the eggs are needed for caviar. They take 20 years to reach maturity, but we are killing them to harvest the eggs at massive rates. You can learn more about the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species on the organization’s website. Images via Danilo Cedrone / UN Food and Agriculture Organization , Aruro de Frias Marques , A.J.T. Johnsingh / WWF-India , Petr Hamerník , USFWS and National Marine  Sanctuary

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Mass poaching in Botswana leaves behind 90 tuskless elephants

September 5, 2018 by  
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Ninety elephants have been poached in Botswana in what is being considered one of Africa’s grimmest mass poaching sprees. The majority of the creatures poached for their valuable ivory were large bull elephants who carry heavy tusks, according to a statement by Elephants Without Borders on Tuesday. The group had been conducting an aerial survey of the animals over several weeks in tandem with Botswana’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks when it made the discovery. “We started flying the survey on 10 July, and we have counted 90 elephant carcasses since the survey commenced,” said Mike Chase, director of Elephants Without Borders. “Each day, we are counting dead elephants.” It is clear that the elephants were hunted for ivory, despite the recent revocations of new ivory imports by large markets. The killing is supplying still-open routes to Asia, where a demand for fresh ivory is bankrolling poachers up to $1,000 per kilo. The carcasses were found mutilated with their skulls “chopped open by presumably very sharp axes, to remove their tusks” according to Chase, who also noted that in some cases the trunks of the animals had also gone missing. Related: The world’s largest ivory market just banned ivory Botswana is widely considered an elephant sanctuary compared to neighboring Zambia and Angola, where the creatures “have been poached to the verge of local extinction,” Chase said. It is no surprise that poachers are now turning to Botswana, as the previous “shoot-to-kill” policy against poachers has gone out the window. Moreover, rangers have been disarmed under the government of Mokgweetsi Masisi after former-President Ian Khama, who was vehement in his protection of wildlife , stepped down. Jason Bell, vice president for the International Fund for Animal Welfare , said, “Until now, Botswana’s elephant herds have largely been left in peace, but clearly Botswana is now in the cross-hairs.” Tourism Minister for Botswana, Tshekedi Khama also weighed in on the coinciding ranger disarmament and mass slaughter. “I am very concerned, it’s a huge worry … because we had been spared poaching for a long time, I think now we are realizing the sophistication of these poachers,” Khama said. “Unfortunately, sometimes we learn these lessons the hard way.” Botswana is home to the largest population of elephants in Africa , with nearly 135,000 of the majestic beasts roaming its lands. These numbers account for almost a third of all the elephants in Africa since numbers have plummeted to about 415,000 in the past decade,  according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature . “The scale of elephant poaching is by far the largest I have seen or read about in Africa to date,” Chase said. Related: The Trump Administration decides to allow the import of elephant trophies after all With rhinos also being targeted in Botswana — six white rhinos having been found butchered and stripped of their horns in recent months — a change in policy must be made. Government officials have declined to comment on any future plans to rectify the ranger policies or prevent future incidents. Via The Guardian Image via Letizia Barbi

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Mass poaching in Botswana leaves behind 90 tuskless elephants

Dropping the ball: how the sports industry affects biodiversity

June 1, 2018 by  
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A Q&A with Giulia Carbone of IUCN on how she works with key stakeholders to turn challenges in the sports industry into sustainable opportunities.

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Dropping the ball: how the sports industry affects biodiversity

IUCN warns giraffes are in the process of a ‘silent extinction’

December 8, 2016 by  
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Giraffe populations have plummeted so drastically in the past 30 years, they are now considered vulnerable to extinction. In 1985, 151,702 to 163,452 of the magnificent creatures graced the earth, but in 2015 those numbers dropped to just 97,562, a 36 to 40 percent decline , according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The group has called on governments assembling in Cancun, Mexico at the United Nations Biodiversity Conference to take action now before we lose giraffes forever. IUCN updated the status of giraffes on their red list , an authoritative catalog of animals from Least Concern to Vulnerable. Illegal hunting, civil wars, and habitat loss due to deforestation and farming have all played a part in their altered status. Related: Scientists just discovered there are four separate species of giraffes If you were unaware giraffe populations were plunging, you’re not alone – IUCN’s Giraffe and Okapi Specialist Group Co-Chair Julian Fennessy told The Guardian giraffes are in the process of a “silent extinction,” and many conservationists didn’t even know about giraffes’ plight. ICUN Director-General Inger Andersen said there are over 85,000 species on the red list, with over 24,000 at risk of extinction, but some species are not on the list because they haven’t yet been studied. Andersen fears before they can even be described, they too will be facing extinction. She said, “This red list update shows that the scale of the global extinction crisis may be even greater than we thought. Governments gathered at the UN biodiversity summit have the immense responsibility to step up their efforts to protect our planet’s biodiversity – not just for its own sake but for human imperatives such as food security and sustainable development.” + International Union for the Conservation of Nature Via The Guardian Images via Wikimedia Commons and Daniel Ramirez on Flickr

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IUCN warns giraffes are in the process of a ‘silent extinction’

Bornean orangutans are now ‘critically endangered’

July 18, 2016 by  
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According to a new assessment by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Bornean orangutans are now ‘ critically endangered .’ Habitat destruction , illegal logging , and hunting are all to blame for the dwindling orangutan numbers. But Andrew Marshall, one of the assessment authors, said the fight isn’t over yet. Although many of the forests where Bornean orangutans reside are protected by the Brunei, Indonesian, and Malaysian governments, burning and illegal logging still threatens the orangutan’s homes. Many forest patches that remain are either isolated or degraded, so what land the orangutans do have left may not contain enough resources to support them. Related: Recently captured critically endangered Sumatran rhino dies To make matters worse, orangutans don’t reproduce very often. In fact, they have the ” longest birth interval of any land mammal .” Females reproduce every six to eight years, and only have about three babies during their lives, making it that much more difficult for orangutan populations to rebound. According to the IUCN assessment, “The combined impacts of habitat loss, habitat degradation, and illegal hunting equate to an 86 percent population reduction between 1973 and 2025 which qualifies the species for listing as Critically Endangered.” But hope isn’t lost yet. Marshall told Mongabay , “Although I think things will likely get worse before they get better, it’s not too late for orangutans.” He said some recent studies indicate orangutans adapt better to degraded habitats than we used to think. Also, Indonesian president Joko Widodo recently said he’d work to limit the growth of the palm oil industry , which has long been criticized for destroying animal homes. If the Indonesian government and other governments can stick to their word and protect orangutan habitats, the species has a better chance at recovery. Via The Guardian Images via Wikimedia Commons and Joan Campderrós-i-Canas on Flickr

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Bornean orangutans are now ‘critically endangered’

World’s rarest cetacean could be extinct by 2018 due to illegal gillnetting

December 16, 2014 by  
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The vaquita is the rarest, smallest and most endangered cetacean in the world. It’s estimated that fewer than 100 of the small porpoises remain in their wild habitat in Mexico’s northern Gulf of California. To make matters worse, a surge in illegal gillnetting in the area — including in a marine refuge set up to protect the creatures — is resulting in about 18 percent of the vaquita population dying each year as a result of being caught as bycatch . At this rate, it is estimated the vaquita will be extinct in the wild by 2018. Read the rest of World’s rarest cetacean could be extinct by 2018 due to illegal gillnetting Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: bycatch , cetacean , critically endangered animals , desert porpoise , dolphins , extinction , gillnetting , Gulf of California , illegal fisheries , illegal fishing , illegal wildlife trade , IUCN , IUCN red list , marine mammals , mexico , Phocoena sinus , porpoise , prawn , rarest cetacean will be extinct by 2018 , S.H.R.I.M.P. , sea creatures , smuggling , vaquita , whales

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Africa’s Western Black Rhino is Now Officially Extinct

November 2, 2014 by  
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Africa’s Western black rhino was officially declared extinct in 2011, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The subspecies was last seen in 2006. The Northern white rhino is also “ teetering on the edge of extinction ,” and Asia’s Javan Rhino may not be far behind if strong measures are not taken to stem poaching and improve conservation measures. This news came after the IUCN conducted a review of 60,000 species of animals and plants in order to update the Red List of Threatened Species . Read the rest of Africa’s Western Black Rhino is Now Officially Extinct Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: amphibian , fauna and flora , habitat destruction , IUCN , nature conservation , Northern white rhino , poaching , red list of threatened species , Southern white rhino , Western black rhino , Wildlife conservation

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