Monthly Archives: September 2007

Workers find innards of endangered moose

 Chronicle Herald Nova Scotia

TRURO — Woods workers found the discarded innards of an endangered mainland moose near Debert on the weekend, prompting a provincewide hunt for its poachers.

Chris Ball, regional enforcement co-ordinator for the Department of Natural Resources in central Nova Scotia, says the moose had already been field-dressed and was gone when workers discovered the remains, he believes on Saturday.

They reported it to the department, prompting an investigation and an appeal for public assistance.

“We’re looking for any information we can get,” Mr. Ball said Thursday, adding there are roughly 1,000 mainland moose left in the province, and more than half are in the Cobequid Hills area where the remains were found.

The mainland moose was killed in the Farm Lake area north of Debert, Colchester County.

“Usually, and in this case, it’s in an area far from houses so there’s no one directly near the area,” Mr. Ball said. Nevertheless, he’s hoping someone saw a suspicious truck or all-terrain vehicle and will report it.

According to the Natural Resources Department, the mainland moose was listed as endangered under the Nova Scotia Endangered Species Act in October 2003.

Anyone convicted of killing one faces a fine of $7,500, a 20-year hunting suspension and confiscation of hunting equipment related to the offence.

A department spokesman said in a news release officers are working hard to enhance the population and distribution of the moose, but the task becomes increasingly difficult when poachers continue to take the lives of these rare animals.

Anyone with information is asked to call 1-800-565-2224.

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Endangered Beauties

 Emporia Gazette

At first glance they may appear a little lost, their delicate orange and black wings surfing the early autumn breeze.

But make no mistake. These little creatures are no dummies. In fact, they may be the most sophisticated of all insects.

And for a very brief time, within the next two weeks or so, thousands and thousands of these monarch butterflies, which originated in Canada and the U.S., will be struttin’ their stuff right through the Emporia area as they make their annual 3,000 mile journey to central Mexico.

Weighing in at less than a half of an ounce, one monarch’s journey south from central and eastern Canada and the eastern and Midwestern U.S. is the human equivalent of running a 6-week marathon.

“It’s a magnificent biological phenomenon,” said Chip Taylor, University of Kansas ecology and evolutionary biology professor and director of Monarch Watch. “There is no other insect that does this.”

But what really sets this butterfly apart from the rest is that each of the 1 billion monarchs on this trek is headed to a place that not one has ever been before. How the monarch’s find their way each year is an unsolved mystery. No one knows exactly how their homing system works, according to monarchwatch.org.

During the late summer and early fall a biologically and behaviorally different kind of monarch emerges from their chrysalides. Unlike their parents and grandparents, great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents, whose lifespan was a mere four to five weeks, this generation of monarch, the “Methuselah generation,” is built to travel — up to 3,000 miles — and to live for up to 7 or 8 months.

Traveling 50 miles a day at 10 mph, the butterflies’ destination is the Transvolcanic Mountains of central Mexico. Clustered under a canopy of fir trees, millions and millions of them will winter in a space equivalent to that of 7 football fields until the end of February when they will begin their journey back north.

This magnificent migration, however, is endangered, according to Taylor. The habitats for the monarch are threatened and declining at a rapid rate.

“We are losing 6,000 acres a day due to development,” he said. “That’s 10 square miles a day.”

Herbicide-resistant corn and soybeans also have resulted in the loss of the milkweeds and nectar sources that are vital to the monarch’s survival on this annual journey.

In an effort to reverse this habitat loss, Monarch Watch was founded in 1992 as an educational and conservational resource. The organization, which is based at KU, provides information on the biology of monarchs for educational use and through a tagging and “waystation” program, is a strong national force in conserving the monarch and its habitat.

Monarch waystations have become a primary tool to preserve the annual migration. According to monarchwatch.org, a waystation is an “intermediate stop between principal stations on a line of travel.” For monarchs, that means resource-rich habitats, in the form of nectar and milkweeds, along their journey south.

Monarch Watch encourages people to create waystations in parks, backyard gardens, the edges of fields and other unused pieces of land. A waystation kit is available for purchase from Monarch Watch. It includes seed kits for the host plants needed by the caterpillars and the nectar sources needed by the adult butterflies.

These plants include butterfly weed, swan plant, nine types of milkweed and nectar plants such as blazingstar, purple coneflower, zinnia and verbena.

Out of a total 1,629 waystations registered with Monarch Watch, 68 are in Kansas. There are none in Lyon County.

F For more information on the monarchs and the Monarch Watch program go to monarchwatch.org.

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U.S. Report Shows Decline in Loggerhead Sea Turtles

New York Times (AP)

WASHINGTON, Sept. 22 (AP) — After encouraging gains in the 1990s, a federal report now shows populations of loggerhead sea turtles dropping, possibly as a result of commercial fishing.

The report, a five-year status update required under the Endangered Species Act, did not change the turtles’ status to endangered from threatened, but scientists and environmentalists said it was a cause for concern.

“As a biologist you’re always trying to find that point at which we really have to start doing something drastic if we want to maintain loggerhead populations on our beaches,” said Mark Dodd, a state biologist in Georgia, where the loggerhead nesting count in 2006 was the third lowest since daily monitoring began in 1989.

The Southeast, particularly Florida, is one of the two largest loggerhead nesting areas in the world — with eggs laid and hatched along beaches from Texas to North Carolina. Oman is the other major nesting area.

The report showed nestings in the United States dropping about 7 percent a year on the Gulf of Mexico. In southern Florida, nestings were down about 4 percent a year, and populations in the Carolinas and Georgia have dropped about 2 percent a year.

The decline among the loggerheads was a turnaround from the 1990s. In South Florida, nesting studies had shown gains of about 4 percent per year from 1989 to 1998.

Researchers were puzzled by the change, but some said it might be a result of expanded commercial fishing operations. The federal report called fisheries the “most significant man-made factor affecting the conservation and recovery of the loggerhead.”

The loggerhead, believed to be one of the world’s oldest species, can grow to more than 300 pounds and lives most of its life in the sea, migrating vast distances.

Females leave the water only to dig nests on the beach, lay their small white, leathery eggs, and cover them with sand. Then they return to the sea. In nesting season, they can lay hundreds of eggs.

The eggs hatch after about two months, and the young turtles crawl to the ocean.

Environmental groups and government agencies have worked to raise awareness of the nests, opposing the construction of sea walls and other beachfront obstructions and urging property owners during nesting season to reduce or eliminate beachfront lights, which can disorient the hatchlings.

The report was compiled from various sources by the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service, which jointly have jurisdiction over protecting the turtles. The agencies also issued updates on five other sea turtles from around the world, with mixed results.

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Endangered coral’s wake up call

City News

THIS year’s “Red List of Threatened Species” features corals as endangered for the first time.The annual list of threatened species, produced by IUCN (the World Conservation Union), includes 16,306 species threatened with extinction.

Vice-President of IUCN, Greens Senator Christine Milne, said the inclusion of corals on this list, and specific reference to climate change as a threat to their survival, should serve as a wake up call to all Australians.

“The direct threat to the Great Barrier Reef and Ningaloo Reef, which hold special places in our hearts, should be a wake up call to Australians that the global extinction crisis will hit our country hard,” she said.

Australia holds particularly large numbers of threatened species, with 2027 animals listed as under threat, including 38 extinct species, and 61critically endangered. A further 507 are endangered or vulnerable. And a total of 171 plants are under threat.

Worldwide, one in four mammals, one in eight birds, and one third of all amphibians and 70 per cent of the world’s assessed plants are in jeopardy.

“Ninety nine per cent of threatened species are at risk due to human activities. We are causing this crisis and we are the ones who can stop it. But it is clear that, despite growing concern and the existing local, regional and global work to save biodiversity, far more concerted action is needed if we are to stem the loss of species around the globe,” said Senator Milne.

In Canberra, habitat destruction is threatening a number of endangered plants and animals. The proposal to develop parts of the Molongolo Valley for housing may destroy 600 hectares of Yellow Box Woodland and take with it the hunting grounds for myriad animals, many of them threatened, rare or regionally declining species, including the Diamond Firetail, the Crested Flame Robin and the Little Eagle.

The valley links to the open lands and woodland corridors to the west and south of Canberra, as well as to the larger Murrumbidgee River corridor, and on into the rural Naas Valley and the Brindabella Ranges. These corridors provide vital connectivity for migrating birds and other animals, and for fish spawning upstream. The riverine areas also provide an important winter refuge for birds and animals from the more exposed, open treeless grasslands and grassy woodlands.

Trish Harrup, director of the Conservation Council, explains that the mosaic mix of the different habitats also allows a unique range of birds of prey to occur very close to a major city.

Sub-coastal south-east Australia has less than 10 per cent of its original woodlands left. In the ACT, we have more left than most, and their proximity to our city means we also have more opportunity than many Australians to connect with our natural environment.

Ms Harrup believes that as Australia’s bush capital we have a responsibility to uphold Australia’s heritage.

“Many people in Canberra know what a treasure we have there, but some do not. I’d advise them to go and see for themselves,” she said.

She also suggested contacting the Minister for Planning or the Conservation Council to protest the area of the development that would encroach upon these lands.

Greens MP for Molongolo Dr Deb Foskey recently called for a statue of the Grassland Earless Dragon on Northbourne Avenue, as a reminder of another threatened species. The lizard, which is only found in the ACT, has only two habitat areas left. A portion of one of these areas, in Symonston, is being handed over to a property developer in a land swap for the Narrabundah Long Stay Park.

Dr Foskey said: “The statue will either mourn a lost species or celebrate our ability to care for the grasslands this unique creature lives in.”

Preferably the latter, because, as Senator Milne points out, extinction and localised loss of species is not simply about the tragedy of that loss.

“Loss of biodiversity has a tremendous impact on our human societies that we cannot ignore,” she said.

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Endangered albatross chicks to be moved to safer island

 Yoimuri Online

Ten short-tailed albatross chicks will be relocated in February from the birds’ breeding ground on Torishima island, south of Tokyo, to Mukojima island in the Ogasawara island chain–about 300 kilometers away–in an attempt to protect the endangered species from dangers such as a volcanic eruption, an Environment Ministry investigative commission has formally decided.

The ministry and other bodies carried out an experiment earlier this year in which 10 black-footed albatross chicks–a closely related species with a larger population–were moved to Mukojima to see what risk would be involved in relocating the short-tailed albatross chicks. Nine of the 10 chicks left their nest safely, prompting to the government to make its final decision.

If the relocation is successful, 10 chicks a year will be taken to the island by helicopter for the next five years.

Three experts from the Yamashina Institute for Ornithology will be permanently stationed on the island and will artificially feed the chicks.

Only chicks that are about 40 days old will be relocated as they cannot remember their birthplace at this age–an important point as short-tailed albatross instinctively want to return to the island where they were raised.

Short-tailed albatross decoys will be placed on Mukojima and their calls will be broadcast in an attempt to have the chicks recognize the island as their birthplace.

The bird is a government-designated special natural monument.

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Something Can Be Done

It goes without saying that major changes need to be made in the way we live in order to prevent the ongoing and quickening extinction event is already underway. The chart here (roughly) shows the instances of mammal extinction in the last few hundred years. If you made the same graph for this century alone you would find the vast majority of extinctions in the latter half of the century and it would be speeding up.  

mammals_extinct1.png

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Two arrested with dead mountain gorilla in DRCongo

AFP

NAIROBI (AFP) — Rangers in Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday arrested two men with a dead mountain gorilla near Virunga National park amid fears over the fate of the endangered species, an official said.

The suspected traffickers were seized with the female infant gorilla around 10 kilometres (six miles) from the edge of the park, where renewed fighting has blocked rangers from tracking 72 gorillas, said Samantha Newport, spokeswoman for Wildlife Direct.

“The suspects said the gorilla was taken from DR Congo’s gorilla sector … and they were aiming to get 8,000 dollars for the infant. The cause of death is unknown and the infant died about one week ago,” Newport said in a statement.

“It is thought that another gorilla is being held by the same group,” the statement said.

This brings to 10 the number of gorillas killed in the park in 2007. Two others are still missing.

Local and foreign militias as well as Congolese soldiers, poachers and illegal miners regularly cross the same area of the Virunga park, one of Africa’s largest and a UNESCO world heritage site. Sometimes parts of it are occupied.

The mountain gorillas are a major tourist attraction in the Virunga park, where poaching is widespread.

Only around 700 endangered mountain gorillas remain in the wild, all of them living in the mountains of Rwanda, Uganda and the eastern DRC.

Since fighting erupted last month between the DRC army and forces loyal to cashiered general Laurent Nkunda, rangers’ efforts to track the rare species have been paralysed, Newport said.

She expressed concern that fresh clashes on Monday, which ruptured an 18-day truce in the volatile region, could further endanger the gorillas.

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