Giant tortoise believed extinct for 100 years is rediscovered

February 27, 2019 by  
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A member of a giant tortoise species once thought extinct was recently spotted on a remote island in the Galapagos. Scientists discovered the female adult tortoise, commonly referred to as a Fernandina giant tortoise, off the island of Fernandina. They believe she is well over 100 years old. The group removed the tortoise from the island and brought her to a customized breeding facility on Santa Cruz Island. The scientists were part of a collaborative expedition funded by the Galapagos National Park and an environmental group called Galapagos Conservancy. According to  The Guardian , the Fernandina giant tortoise is on the  endangered species  list and was thought to have gone extinct. The team believes there are more endangered species of tortoises on the island based on feces and tracks they uncovered, though exact numbers remain elusive. Related: Iguanas reintroduced to island after 200 years The last time a member of this species was spotted in the wild was way back in 1906. Since then, scientists have discovered traces of the giant tortoise on the island but were unable to spot one in its natural habitat. If they can find more individuals, the conservationists hope to breed them on Santa Cruz to boost population numbers. “They will need more than one, but females may store sperm for a long time,” Duke University’s Stuart Primm noted. “There may be hope.” Being the third largest island in the Galapagos, Fernandina is host to the La Cumbre volcano, which remains highly active to this day. In fact, experts believed that giant tortoises on the island were killed off because of the recurring lava flows from the volcano , which almost blankets the island in its entirety. There is no telling if scientists will discover more giant tortoises in the years to come, but the recent sighting is promising. The Galapagos islands, of course, are famous for their diversity of wildlife and were labeled a World Heritage Site in the late 1970s. Hopefully, the team will uncover additional giant tortoises to help get the species back on the map. Via The Guardian Image via Garrondo

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Giant tortoise believed extinct for 100 years is rediscovered

Monarch butterfly conservation groups fight to conserve the species

February 20, 2019 by  
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Monarch butterfly conservation is in full effect as numerous organizations have shared concerns for the beautiful butterfly. The number of monarch butterflies observed at 97 sites in 2018 was dramatically lower than ever before, according to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation , an organization that monitors monarch butterfly populations. In fact, the numbers dropped as much as 86 percent. That’s a startling statistic and is much higher than scientists expected it be. Worse yet, looking back twenty to thirty years, the records showed a population around 4.5 million, which means the rate has been rapidly declining for decades. The numbers have plummeted so dramatically, that it has now become a race to save the vanishing species. Fortunately for the Eastern and Western monarch butterfly, there are several groups fighting for their survival. When it comes to increasing numbers and monarch butterfly conservation, the focus is splintered, working simultaneously to improve natural habitat alongside evaluating the health of the butterfly population. Here are some notable organizations and a highlight of their efforts to help the monarch butterflies. Related: California’s Monarch butterfly population hits ‘potentially catastrophic’ low in 2018 Southern Oregon Monarch Advocates (SOMA) The largest monarch habitat restoration projects in the western U.S., beginning in 2017 and continuing today, is taking place in the backyard of SOMA and they’ve played a key role in its success. Covering over 300 acres across Southern Oregon, the Southwest Oregon Pollinator Collaborative Project is working towards rebuilding pivotal habitats for the insects . For their part, SOMA placed over 7,000 plants over 40 acres in the Sampson Creek Preserve in the hopes of attracting and populating the butterflies. This project was one of the most recent of several, representing nearly five years of hands-on habitat restoration and community education. In 2015, the group began developing waystations for the butterflies — the largest of which is located at an appealing creekside location at Coyote Trails School of Nature in Medford, Oregon. Relying on the suggestions of published experts in the field, the SOMA group establishes plants well known as butterfly attractants, such as milkweed and other nectar-bearing plants . They also distribute seeds to encourage backyard planting and offer community outreach to several organizations with similar interests. Monarch Watch Based out of the University of Kansas, Monarch Watch promotes education pertaining to the monarch butterfly. They strive to inform the public about the life cycle and breeding of the species in an effort to encourage public involvement in the cause. In addition, the group also engages in research to better understand their biology and migration patterns. Monarch Watch also promotes the protection of known habitats and assists with the development of potential new habitats for the species . The website offers resources for the community and classrooms, such as a list of research projects that students can undertake along with information on how to rear monarchs. Monarch Watch feels that in order for the public to help, they need to have a better understanding of the issues so they provide information about how human activities such as infrastructure development decimates the natural habitat of the butterfly. They report that both overwintering and summer habitats are at risk due to human activities such as logging trees (known to aid the monarch) and building within the few known migration sites through Mexico and California. Journey North Journey North is another organization focused on saving the monarch butterfly. For twenty five years, Journey North has worked to maintain reliable resources for educators and the public. As an online citizen science program, they encourage teachers, scientists, members of the community and nature centers to report sightings so they can maintain a realtime database of monarch locations and numbers. This information is then mapped as waves of migrations move across the continent. The more people they involve, the more information they can gather. With a focus on “ecologically- sustainable relationships between people and the land through integrative, innovative, and collaborative science, stewardship, education, and public engagement,” community involvement is at the core of their mission. Monarch Joint Venture (MJV) The Monarch Joint Venture is an example of private and governmental organization coming together in an effort to conserve the monarch butterfly. More than 70 partners are part of the joint venture, all with the goal of “implementing science-based habitat conservation and restoration measures” to protect the migration of the butterfly. With a vast network of resources from all levels of stakeholders, the Monarch Joint Venture culminates all the information gathered and produces an annual report called the Monarch Conservation Implementation Plan that outlines the best conservation and habitat planning techniques for organizations making the effort to protect nesting grounds, build habitats and work to better understand the species and their needs. To further coordinate the efforts of this diverse group of like-minded organizations, the MJV maintains a visual map database of ongoing projects so people can connect with others in their area. Financially, the MJV also allocates funds to different conservation projects across the lower 48 states. As with all monarch conservation organizations, MJV works to provide information about the species, including their needs, biology , habitat, habits, migratory patterns, etc. so they facilitate an organized webinar series on the topic. Reports across the board support the knowledge that the monarch butterfly has become dangerously threatened. Organizations like those above agree that saving the species will require a coordinated effort of educators, scientists and the public from Mexico and up the west coast to Canada. Via Monarch Joint Venture , Journey North , Monarch Watch , SOMonarchs Image via elleo , eliza28diamonds , lauralatimer

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Monarch butterfly conservation groups fight to conserve the species

Deforestation could wipe out over 50 percent of species in Haiti

January 16, 2019 by  
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According to new research from Temple University scientist Blair Hedges, the Caribbean island nation of Haiti is undergoing a mass extinction event, and the country is close to losing its rich biodiversity. Hedges — who has spent decades in Haiti’s rain forests — says that the results of his latest study are shocking. In a paper recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Hedges and his co-authors revealed that Haiti , which was once full of lush trees and teeming with wildlife, has now lost almost all of its virgin forests because of deforestation, and is at risk of loosing more than half of its species by 2035. “Up until this analysis, nobody had any idea it was that bad,” Hedges said. “Haiti is in the middle of a mass extinction, and it’s already lost a large number of species because entire areas where unique species exist are no longer present.” Hedges and his colleagues used NASA satellite imagery to analyze Haiti’s current landscape and found that the country has about one percent of its primary forest left since people have resorted to cutting trees down in order to make way for farming and charcoal production needed for cooking. Related: Deforestation in South America causes extinction of 8 bird species He also explained that no one on his research team expected the forest to disappear so quickly. The team of researchers realize that Haiti is at a forefront of a global mass extinction as the country’s species are disappearing at the alarming rate of 100 to 1,000 times the normal rate. Haiti’s loss of wildlife and forestry is largely due to habitat destruction (cutting down trees), but that is just one component in worldwide mass extinction. Other factors across the globe include climate change , invasive species and other human-related activity. Hedges says people often associate deforestation as just removing plants and trees, but in reality everything is being removed. Stuart Pimm, professor of conservation ecology at Duke University, says that Hedge’s study is a “tragic and brutal” instance of the lengths of human destruction. Primm added that Haiti’s story should resonate, and should be a lesson that everyone should heed when managing wild areas, watersheds and rivers. Via Whyy.org Image via 753tomas

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Deforestation could wipe out over 50 percent of species in Haiti

10 species at risk of extinction under the Trump administration

January 2, 2019 by  
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The Endangered Species Coalition has released a report titled  Extinction Plan: Ten Species Imperiled by the Trump Administration , which outlines the possible impact of the current administration’s anti-wildlife policy stances. The report highlighted the 10 species that are in the most danger because of proposed new regulations as well as the specific changes that put these animals at risk. California Condor The California Condor has a 10-foot wingspan, making it one of the largest land birds in North America. These birds can reach altitudes of 15,000 feet and speeds up to 55 miles per hour. They are a critically endangered species, with fewer than 500 left, after flying in the skies of the western U.S. and Mexico for thousands of years. Most California Condors die in the wild from lead poisoning, and when the population shrank to less than 30 back in 1982, survivors were captured and put in breeding facilities. By 2017, more than 290 were flying free in the wild, with another 173 in the breeding program. However, on his first day in office, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke rolled back legislation from the Obama administration that banned the use of lead ammunition in critical condor habitat. This could be a catastrophic action that might lead to the end of the California Condor. Leatherback and Loggerhead Sea Turtles Both of these sea turtles can swim for thousands of miles, and they help maintain balance in their ocean habitat while providing essential nutrients to the beaches where they nest. Both types are protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA), but they are also vulnerable to human activity. Each year, thousands are snared in fishing nets and die, and climate change is hitting their homes hard. Related: Study finds microplastics in sea turtles around the world The Trump Administration’s proposed new regulations give leeway when it comes to how a habitat is or isn’t protected. If those regulations do kick in, the Fish and Wildlife Service can ignore protections in that habitat altogether, and the leatherbacks and loggerheads could lose their fragile beach nesting grounds entirely. Red Wolf Red wolves were declared extinct in the wild back in 1980. But after a successful experimental breeding program, they were reintroduced in North Carolina in 1987. The red wolf is on the edge of extinction again, with fewer than 30 left in the wild. The only place in the world that you can find red wolves is in a five-county area in North Carolina. Under proposed regulations from the Trump Administration, the delisting of the red wolf could be justified, even though scientists are still investigating their genetics. This would be a fatal blow to the species. Hellbender This ancient salamander is slimy and mud-brown or speckled gray, like a river rock. It has flappy skinfolds on the entire length of its body, lidless eyes that keep it from seeing much of anything and chubby toes for clinging to the river bottom. It also has a superb sense of smell. Hellbenders live solitary lives under a single boulder, and they never relocate. They do not pose any threat to humans and are a vital indicator of water quality, because they thrive in clean streams but deteriorate when their habitat does. Because the Trump Administration’s proposed regulations include economic analysis in their listing decisions, it could mean the end for the hellbender. The economics of mining, logging and fossil fuel extraction could cloud a listing for this species, and those businesses could also damage the hellbender’s habitat beyond repair. Giraffe The world’s tallest animal with 6-foot-long legs and a 6-foot-long neck, the giraffe is a highly social animal that roams in groups called towers. Their patterned coats are unique, just like fingerprints, and the animal is emblematic of Africa’s savanna. Hunting and habitat encroachment have reduced the population by 30 percent in the last three decades, and the animal appears to have gone extinct in seven countries. The two biggest threats are a growing trade in giraffe parts and trophy hunting; however, this animal is not protected internationally or by the Endangered Species Act. Related: Trump administration wants to allow “extreme and cruel” hunting methods in Alaska To make matters worse, Zinke created an International Wildlife Conservation Council full of NRA members that is promoting and expanding international trophy hunting. President Trump has not responded to a request to add the giraffe to the Endangered Species list. At this point, fewer than 100,000 are left. Humboldt Marten Related to the mink, the Humboldt marten is the size of a kitten. It is a stealthy hunter that lives deep in the forests of Northern California and Southern Oregon. This animal is so secretive, there is only a handful of photos in existence, and they were taken by remote-sensing cameras. At one time, the species was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 1996. But only four separated populations remain, and humans have put them at risk by trapping them for their fur and logging in their rainforest habitat. Fewer than 400 are left, but it is not on the endangered species list and receives no federal protection. The Trump Administration finally proposed to list the Humboldt marten under the ESA but only to classify it as threatened. Under the new proposed regulations, a species classified as threatened no longer receives the same protections as those classified as endangered. There is also a special rule that exempts logging operations, which means the Humboldt marten population could vanish entirely. Rusty Patched Bumble Bee This species was the first bee in the continental U.S. to be listed under the ESA. That was a challenge all its own, because the paperwork was delayed on President Trump’s first day in office when his administration put a hold on the protections just before the bee was supposed to be listed. It finally made the list in 2017, but the Trump Administration’s proposed regulations prioritize the protection of habitat currently occupied by the species. This is a problem, because the rusty patched bumble bee has vanished from nearly 90 percent of their historic range due to disease, habitat degradation and use of pesticides . The bee needs that historic habitat to recover. If there are no safeguards for the habitat these bees once called home, it could have deadly consequences. West Indian Manatee This fully-aquatic, plant-eating mammal has some interesting relatives. At one end there is the elephant, and at the other, there is the hyrax. Manatees weigh around a thousand pounds and can live up to 60 years old. They have no natural enemies … except for humans. Manatees get hacked by propellers, smashed in watercraft collisions, drowned in canal locks and tortured and killed when they eat fish hooks, litter and lines. The biggest threat to the manatee is habitat loss thanks to red tides, algae blooms and pollution . But this didn’t stop the Trump Administration from downlisting the West Indian Manatee from endangered to threatened. The new rules also ignore impacts to habitat unless those impacts occur across the entire habitat and affect the whole species. With the manatees having such a scattered population, their habitat won’t get necessary protections. San Bernardino Kangaroo Rat This little rodent has specialized fur-lined face pouches that allow them to cache seeds in their cheeks until their face almost bursts. The San Bernardino Kangaroo Rat is about four inches long, and its tail is longer than its body. Their survival depends on natural cycles of wet and dry, and they never have to take a drink. They get all of their moisture from food, which comes from plants that mature at the perfect time and produce seeds at the right rate. Green vegetation stimulates their reproduction, but it has to be in moderation. There is a fragile wet/dry balance that human activities have messed up with mining, dam building and residential and commercial development. The new regulations from the Trump Administration would require less consultation between agencies, which means they can ignore the impact of what they do to their surroundings. Something as simple as a new road can mess up the rat’s wet and dry life, leading to extinction. Western Yellow-Billed Cuckoo This bird loves where the water meets the woods, and they often avoid detection even when they are out hunting caterpillars and other prey. One researcher once watched a Western Yellow-Billed Cuckoo for an entire hour waiting for him to budge, but he didn’t. In addition to hiding in plain sight, this bird is disappearing altogether. There are only about 2,000 left, and the species was listed under the ESA in 2014. But the bird needs habitat protections. It is now being reviewed for delisting, and the new regulations from the Trump Administration could kill the recovery plan. This could end up being a fast-track to extinction . + Endangered Species Coalition Images via U.S. Department of State , U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 ), Red Wolf Recovery Program , Brian Gratwicke , Charles J. Sharp , Nbonzey and Mark Linnell / U.S. Forest Service

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10 species at risk of extinction under the Trump administration

Migratory barnacle geese threatened by rapidly rising Arctic temperatures

July 20, 2018 by  
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Migrating barnacle geese that lay their eggs in the Arctic zones of northern Russia are becoming confounded by earlier springs in their traditional nesting grounds, according to a study published in Current Biology . The rising temperatures in the Arctic circles caused by global warming are threatening the survival of this species, which travels more than 3,000 km, or 1,800 miles, to reach their nesting territory. The research , released in May 2018, noted that the geese habitually make the month-long journey from parts of northern Germany and the Netherlands based on a biologically coordinated schedule now jeopardized by human activity. Rapid environmental changes have caused the animals to speed up their flight plans. Related: Arctic shipping routes could threaten “unicorns of the sea” Bart Nolet, member of the research team from the Netherlands Institute of Ecology and the University of Amsterdam, told NPR , “They actually depart from the wintering areas around the same date regardless of whether it’s early or late spring in the Arctic ,” because they “cannot predict what the weather is or what the season is up there from 3,000 kilometers distance.” This causes the geese to speed up their inherent migration pattern mid-flight, after they realize that the temperature is too warm. They complete the arduous expedition in only a week, leaving them exhausted. Originally, the birds used to arrive and lay their eggs just as the winter snow melted. By the time their goslings hatched, plants began to grow, resulting in a “food peak” for the animals. Now, both adult and baby barnacle geese must bear the hardships of malnourishment. Despite rushing their migration and flying “nearly nonstop from the wintering areas to their breeding grounds,” according to Nolet, the 10 days needed after migration to find food and recover from exhaustion still puts the birds behind schedule. The geese cannot lay their eggs straightaway. Instead, after their expedited journey, they must rest and forage for food to ensure their own survival and the vitality of their offspring — ultimately the determining factor in the continuance of their species. + Current Biology Via NPR Images via Gennady Alexandrov

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Migratory barnacle geese threatened by rapidly rising Arctic temperatures

The world’s last male northern white rhino has died in Kenya

March 20, 2018 by  
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Devastating news for wildlife enthusiasts: Sudan, the world’s last male northern white rhino , has died. Ol Pejeta Conservancy and the Dv?r Králové Zoo announced the 45-year-old rhino was euthanized at the 90,000-acre non-profit wildlife facility Kenya on March 19 after being unable to overcome age-related muscle and bone degeneration or debilitating skin wounds. “His condition worsened significantly in the last 24 hours; he was unable to stand up and was suffering a great deal,” Ol Pejeta wrote on their Facebook page . Ol Pejeta says Sudan escaped extinction of his kind when he was first moved to the zoo in the 1970s, and then sired two females, significantly contributing to the survival of his species. Before he was euthanized, they collected his genetic material in anticipation of advanced cellular technologies they might be able to use in future reproductive efforts. Related: The last male northern white rhino suffers declining health “We on Ol Pejeta are all saddened by Sudan’s death. He was a great ambassador for his species and will be remembered for the work he did to raise awareness globally of the plight facing not only rhinos, but also the many thousands of other species facing extinction as a result of unsustainable human activity,” said Richard Vigne, Ol Pejeta’s CEO. “One day, his demise will hopefully be seen as a seminal moment for conservationists world wide.” With Sudan’s death, the only remaining northern white rhinos are Sudan’s daughter Najin and her daughter Fatu, according to Ol Pejeta. In their statement, the conservancy said, “The only hope for the preservation of this subspecies now lies in developing in vitro fertilisation (IVF) techniques using eggs from the two remaining females, stored northern white rhino semen from males and surrogate southern white rhino females.” While Sudan died of old age, it’s worth noting that humanity is a main driver of the sixth mass extinction, which, according to a news report released last year, is killing off wildlife 100 times faster than normal . + Ol Pejeta Conservancy All images via Ol Pejeta

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The world’s last male northern white rhino has died in Kenya

Poaching robs elephant herds of valuable matriarchal wisdom and leadership

January 14, 2016 by  
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Elephants never forget. They pass down wisdom from one generation to the next, creating what should be a long legacy based on ancestral experiences and attitudes. With poaching on the rise, increasing numbers of elephant families are losing their elders , and with them, they also lose knowledge about finding food and avoiding danger, further threatening the survival of the species. Researchers are particularly concerned about the lasting effects on matriarchal herds who lose their eldest members . Those older matriarchs are known to be better at leading herds, especially in times of crisis. In fact, calves have a better chance at survival during a drought if they belong to a herd led by an older matriarch. Younger female elephants are stepping into those vacant leadership roles and elephant families continue making their way, but the path of the species has been forever altered by poaching and the effects may never truly be known. The Atlantic published an in-depth article on the changing dynamics of matriarchal elephant herds, and we encourage readers to click through to read the full report on this troubling situation. + The Atlantic: Can elephant daughters fill the holes left by their poached mothers? Image via Shutterstock

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Poaching robs elephant herds of valuable matriarchal wisdom and leadership

HOW TO: Use Naturemill’s Metro Composter to compost indoors without the odor

January 14, 2016 by  
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HOW TO: Use Naturemill’s Metro Composter to compost indoors without the odor

The only Sumatran rhino in the U.S. is headed to Indonesia to save his species

August 31, 2015 by  
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The Cincinnati Zoo has been home to the only breeding project in the United States for the critically endangered Sumatran rhino, but this year marks the end of an era. 8-year-old Harapan is the last rhino of his kind in the U.S., and so in a effort to help save his species Harapan is being moved to the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary, in the Way Kambas National Park of Indonesia, where it is hoped he will breed with a female resident and help ensure the future of the species. Read the rest of The only Sumatran rhino in the U.S. is headed to Indonesia to save his species

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Chevrolet is using old batteries to save … bats?

June 29, 2015 by  
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As the bat population around the world is sharply declining, Chevrolet and NASCAR look to use old parts to help preserve the species.

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Chevrolet is using old batteries to save … bats?

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