Monthly Archives: July 2008

Eagle eater faces 12 years in jail


A FARMER faces 12 years in prison if found guilty in the Philippines of killing and then eating one of the world’s largest and rarest eagles, the government said today.

The three-year-old juvenile male Philippine eagle, which weighed more than four kilograms, was shot with an air rifle on the northern slope of the country’s fourth highest mountain, on July 10.

Brian Balaon, 22, will be charged for violating the wildlife protection act after he confessed to shooting the giant raptor and then eating its meat with his friends, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Joselito Atienza said.

“The killer of the rare eagle must suffer the consequences of his dastardly act to serve as a notice to everyone that we are serious in enforcing environmental laws,” Atienza said in a statement.

The government considers the shooting of the bird as a major setback in attempts to save the critically endangered species from extinction.

Just 250 such eagles are estimated to remain in the wilds of Mindanao island. The slain bird had been a fledgling with a pellet wound on its neck and kept in a cage as a pet when it was rescued by wildlife officials near 2,899m Kitanglad mountain in September 2006.

The bird was nursed back to health, fitted with satellite and radio transmitters, and in March released near the towering peak where it was shot.

The farmer who attacked it 12 days ago told police he did not know the bird was one of the country’s endangered eagles. It had perched on a tree at his upland farm.

Wildlife officials tracked him down six days later through the transmitters, which he buried on his land.

As well as a possible 12-year prison sentence, Balaon faces a fine of up to one million pesos ($23,035) if found guilty.

Leave a comment

Filed under wildlife

Many birds left flying close to extinction


PESTICIDES were last night blamed for a dramatic drop in the numbers of the nation’s birds.

A report reveals that almost half are struggling to breed, with a marked decline in species inhabiting farmland and woodland.

Species such as curlews, willow warblers, skylarks and pied flycatchers are among those deserting the Welsh terrain.

John Wilson, chairman of the Glamorgan Bird Society, said breeds such as skylarks, reed buntings and lapwings were in peril in farmland areas and pied flycatchers and spotted flycatchers in woodland.

He added: “Lapwings used to be a reasonably common breeding species in Glamorgan. I’m not sure there are any breeding pairs now. They breed on rough ground and with brownfield sites being developed, they are being pushed out.

“We’ve put out 30 nest boxes in Coed y Bedw, at the base of the Garth Mountain, and only one pied flycatcher used them last year. I don’t think there have been any this year.

“For farmland birds, it’s down to cleaner farming, using pesticides and herbicides to kill off weeds. There are not enough weeds going to seed for the birds to feed on and insecticides kill off the insects the birds rely on to feed their young.

“If you affect the bottom of the food chain, it has a knock-on affect on everything else.”

The Welsh Assembly Government report, using surveys by the British Trust for Ornithology and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, found that out of 124 bird species in Wales over the last 40 years:

16.9% had increased in number;

40.3 % had remained stable;

42.7% had fallen.

Over half the species of farmland birds had decreased in range over 20 years. The report said: “In Wales, the short-term abundance of all groups has declined from 2005 to 2006. The indicator shows no sign of recovery for those groups with long-term declines in range.”

But it added: “The loss of biodiversity has been halted and we can see a definite recovery in the number, range and genetic diversity of wildlife, including those species that need very specific conditions to survive.”

Agri-environment initiatives such as Tir Gofal were put in place to help farmers maximise populations, protect sensitive areas and continue running viable businesses. But they only represent 29.7% of the land in Wales.

Approximately 121,000 hectares of Welsh woodland were certified – managed to agreed environmental standards – in March 2008; 42.5 % of the total woodland area, which is a slight decrease from a peak of 43.6% in March 2005. But the report says woodland has remained fairly stable over the last few years.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said, “Farmland birds continue to decline in the short-term and their range declines over the long-term. Evocative birds such as yellow- hammers and curlews have declined markedly.”

Leave a comment

Filed under animals, biodiversity, conservation, endangered, environment, environmentalism, extinction, nature, wildlife, zoology

Newly Discovered Monkey Is Threatened With Extinction


Just three years after it was discovered, a new species of monkey is threatened with extinction according to the Wildlife Conservation Society, which recently published the first-ever census of the endangered primate. Known as the “kipunji,” the large, forest-dwelling primate hovers at 1,117 individuals, according to a study released in the July issue of the journal Oryx.

ding to a study released in the July issue of the journal Oryx.


The population estimate was the result of more than 2,800 hours of field work by WCS scientists in the Southern Highlands and Udzungwa Mountains in Tanzania where the kipunji was discovered. The team found that the monkey’s range is restricted to just 6.82 square miles (17.69 square kilometers) of forest in two isolated regions.

The authors also discovered that much of the monkey’s remaining habitat is severely degraded by illegal logging and land conversion. In addition, the monkey itself is the target of poachers. Because of these combined threats, WCS proposes that the kipunji should be classified by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) as “critically endangered” – which means it is threatened with extinction in the wild if immediate conservation action is not taken.

“The kipunji is hanging on by the thinnest of threads,” said Dr. Tim Davenport, Tanzania Country Director for the Wildlife Conservation Society. “We must do all we can to safeguard this extremely rare and little understood species while there is still time.”

Along with the IUCN designation, WCS is investing in the protection and restoration of the kipunji’s remaining habitat and local conservation education of local people to help safeguard remaining populations.

The kipunji first made headlines in 2005 when a team of scientists led by WCS announced its discovery. Then in 2006, the monkey made news again when DNA analysis revealed that the species represented an entire new genus of primate—the first since 1923.


The Wildlife Conservation Society is working throughout Tanzania to save wildlife and wild lands.

The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world’s largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth. Visit:

Adapted from materials provided by Wildlife Conservation Society, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

1 Comment

Filed under animals, biodiversity, endangered, environment, environmentalism, extinction, nature, wildlife, zoology

Endangered Gangetic dolphin sold in market


A Gangetic dolphin, which got entangled in a fisherman’s net, was sold at a local market in Behrampore on Tuesday. This in complete violation of the Wildlife Protection Act since the Gangetic dolphin is an endangered species.

During fishing in Bhagirathi river, Naresh Haldar found the dolphin in his haul. Instead of releasing it back into the water, Haldar took it to the local Gorabazar market. Locals alleged that the police did not take timely action against Haldar.

“When the policemen arrived at the market, the dolphin was still alive. They did not do anything and even failed to arrest the fisherman. The dolphin may have survived had the police intervened on time,” a local said.

Later, forest department officials also reached the spot. A case has been registered against Haldar, who is absconding. The dolphin’s body has been sent for the postmortem.

Leave a comment

Filed under wildlife

Rare Plants And Endangered Species Such As Tigers At Risk From Traditional Medicine


Two reports from TRAFFIC, the world’s largest wildlife trade monitoring network, on traditional medicine systems in Cambodia and Vietnam suggest that illegal wildlife trade, including entire tiger skeletons, and unsustainable harvesting is depleting the region’s rich and varied biodiversity and putting the primary healthcare resource of millions at risk.

The results of field studies carried out between 2005 and 2007 found a significant number of Cambodians and Vietnamese rely on traditional medicine. Relaxation of international trade barriers, the impact of free market economies and complex national government policies have led to an increase in the demand and supply for flora and fauna used in traditional medicine. The growing illegal wildlife trade in the region is fuelled by the difficulty of sourcing prescribed ingredients, including parts, from globally threatened species.

“The supply of many wild animals and plants for medicine in Cambodia and Vietnam is becoming scarce due to overexploitation,” said Crawford Allan, TRAFFIC’s director in North America. “Some of the trade is illegal and threatening endangered species. In Vietnam, we estimate between 5-10 tiger skeletons are sold annually to be used in traditional medicine. With each skeleton fetching approximately $20,000, there is a strong incentive to poach and trade tigers that we must address from the grassroots up.”

“An overview of the use and trade of plants and animals in traditional medicine systems in Cambodia” examined the use of wildlife products in Traditional Khmer Medicine and its possible impacts. Over 800 types of plants–approximately 35 percent of the country’s native species–are used in Traditional Khmer Medicine. Eight of those plants species are considered high priority for national conservation.

The second report “An overview of the use of plants and animals in traditional medicine systems in Vietnam” presents the findings of traditional medicine market surveys conducted in north and south Vietnam where more than 3,900 species of flora and 400 species of fauna are used in traditional remedies. Seventy-one of the animals traded and used for medicinal purposes in Vietnam are listed on the IUCN Red List of globally threatened species.

“Traditional medicine systems in Cambodia and Vietnam are important components of both national healthcare systems, and are often the only means of healthcare for rural communities,” said Dekila Chungyalpa, manager of the Mekong Ecoregion Program at WWF-US. “Understanding which animal and plant species and products are used and traded, and their underlying trade mechanisms, can provide a useful tool to assess the sustainability of such trade, and provide an ‘early warning’ for species that are threatened.”


Filed under biodiversity, environment, extinction, nature, wildlife, zoology

Vandals hurt endangered frog wetland


Vandals have damaged a sensitive wetland on the New South Wales far south coast that is home to one of Australia’s most endangered frogs.

National Parks and Wildlife Service rangers found the previously pristine area in Ben Boyd National Park, near Eden, churned up by four-wheel drive vehicles.

The wetland is home to the green and golden bell frog.

Ranger George Malolakis describes the damage as “malicious”.

“We’ve had some four-wheel drives come into an area of national park where we’ve got some very important wetlands and they’ve just vandalised it,” he said.

“They’ve driven in and churned up the whole area of wetland, they’ve done donuts, they’ve driven along the edge, damaged vegetation, the area’s green and golden bell frog habitat. It’s also an area which is a unique wetland which is only found in that part of our region.”

1 Comment

Filed under biodiversity, environment, extinction, nature, wildlife, zoology

South China tigers teeter on brink of extinction


YIHUANG, China (Reuters) – Dragging on a cigarette between his wrinkled lips, Hou Fengqi fingered a dusty bamboo bow and rusty iron-tipped arrows, before recounting his days as a “tiger hunting hero” in the rugged hills of southern China.


“The first tiger was the largest, around 150kg, and when we carried it back to the village, everyone ran out and cheered,” said Hou with a gap-toothed grin, casting his mind back to 1959.


Hou, now 69, is one of China’s last living tiger hunters — as rare a breed as the striped beasts he used to track in the misty, bamboo clad forests of Yihuang county in Jiangxi province.


“In the old days life was hard, so killing a tiger made me happy as it helped improve my family’s livelihood,” he said, sitting outside his wooden home beside verdant rice paddies.


While Hou bagged six South China tigers in his youth; hunting and deforestation have driven this keystone Chinese species close to extinction — with none seen or captured in the past 20 years.


Historically revered as an archetypal Chinese cultural symbol, the tiger’s decline was accelerated by poaching for traditional Chinese medicine and “anti-pest” campaigns instigated by Chairman Mao Zedong from the 1950’s, to rid the countryside of the cattle-raiding “vermin.”


Thousands of tigers were killed off with hunters praised by the Communist Party and paid a 30 yuan bounty per tiger pelt.


Now one of the world’s rarest and most elusive of mammals, the South China tiger is fully protected by the Chinese government, with no more than 10-20 wild individuals estimated to remain along the remote border areas of China’s rapidly developing provinces of Guangdong, Jiangxi, Fujian and Hunan.




While the wild status of Chinese tigers remains uncertain, there remain around 70 captive individuals, derived from just six wild-caught founders in the 1950’s.


The last of their kind — these tigers have nevertheless suffered inbreeding, dismal caged conditions, low birth rates and a tainted lineage from hybridization with other tiger subspecies.


In 2003, the sluggish, ill-funded and fragmented tiger conservation scene took an unexpected twist, with a scheme to “rewild” South China tigers in a South African game reserve.


The radical concept of transplanting Chinese tigers to the African bush drew fire at first from experts, but its aim of rehabilitating tigers to hunt wild prey in a secure, fenced off wilderness — has led to the birth of five cubs, three of which have survived — giving the species vital new impetus.


The tigers will eventually be reintroduced back to the wild in China, with a site already earmarked in Zixi county in Jiangxi province.


“We want to release the tigers back into areas where they’ve been roaring for millions of years,” said Quan Li, the head of Save China’s Tigers, the conservation body behind the project.


Tiger conservation initiatives in China however, have never enjoyed much state support, a far cry from the abundance of funding and nature reserves devoted to China’s other flagship indigenous mammalian species — the Giant Panda.


The tiger’s fearsome reputation and its need for extensive territory in which to roam has made reintroduction of the species a major challenge in China’s highly populated south.


“The panda and man can exist peacefully together, but an element of danger separates the relationship between tiger and man,” said Xu Guoyi, the mayor of Zixi who is seeking financing of around $24 million to build a 20 square kilometer fenced eco-tourism reserve for “rewilded” South China tigers.


“This project is of course more difficult than the panda project, because pandas are a national conservation priority,” Xu added, saying he was now lobbying the government for funding, without which the project might not get off the ground.


“If the (South China) tiger can help preserve wild habitat as opposed to being simply a source of conflict right now … that’s going to be positive for tigers and biodiversity,” said Philip Nyhus, a tiger expert from Colby college in the U.S. who advises the Chinese government on tiger conservation.




Unlike the cuddly Giant Panda, an icon for the upcoming Olympics, the Chinese tiger’s plight had been far less prominent in the public eye, garnering few headlines or attention.


Last October however, public sentiment flared when a poor farmer took what he claimed were the first photos of a wild tiger in decades, his story backed by local forestry officials.


The photos sparked an Internet and public frenzy, as euphoria at the rediscovery turned to anger, with bloggers and citizens dissecting the images to expose them as digitally altered fakes.


Public outrage at the “Tigergate” scandal led to the eventual sacking of 13 provincial officials in a rare show of people power in communist China.


Another recent video of a purported wild tiger in Hunan was exposed as a scam of a domesticated tiger plucked from a circus.


“It’s so gratifying to see so many people paid attention and wanted to contribute money to our fund,” said Quan, who has battled public indifference and bureaucratic redtape for years.


“China needs a tiger, a national symbol to resurrect its cultural value and its biological values,” she added.


Despite the hoaxes, villagers in some of the remoter areas of south China, still believe tigers still exist against the odds.


Hou Fengwen, a teacher in a Jiangxi village, says he heard a growl on a mountain trek with his family two years ago.


“We heard a tiger calling, the sound wasn’t loud, but the three of us felt the ground trembling slightly,” he said, adding a subsequent search of the surrounding hills showed up nothing.


“There are tigers here, we just can’t find them.”


Filed under wildlife

Species extinction threats underestimated


BOULDER, Colo., July 8 (UPI) — A U.S. study finds species extinction threats are underestimated due to a math problem, with extinction risks underrated by possibly as much as 100-fold.

University of Colorado-Boulder Assistant Professor Brett Melbourne said current mathematical models used to determine extinction threat, or the “red-listed” status, of species overlook random differences between individuals in a given population.

He said such differences– including variations in male-to-female sex ratios and size or behavioral variations among individuals — can influence their survival rates and reproductive success, thereby exerting an unexpectedly large effect on extinction risk calculations.

“When we apply our new mathematical model to species extinction rates, it shows that things are worse than we thought,” said Melbourne. “By accounting for random differences between individuals, extinction rates for endangered species can be orders of magnitude higher than conservation biologists have believed.”

The research, funded by the National Science Foundation, is reported in the journal Nature.

Leave a comment

Filed under wildlife

Deer skin seized from minister’s farmhouse


PUNE/SATARA: State forest officials have seized the half-burnt skin, bones and other remains of a chinkara from the farmhouse of state minister for transport and tribal development Dharmarao Baba Atram. The raid on Atram’s farmhouse at Khingar in Mahabaleshwar taluka comes nearly three weeks after the poaching of the chinkara, an endangered species of deer, in the forest area of Purandar taluka came to light.

Government officials, in another simultaneous raid at Atram’s house at Aheri in Gadhchiroli district, recovered two rifles and two trophies with mounted heads of deer. The poaching incident had taken place on June 14, which was reported by local residents.

Following the seizure, the demand for Atram’s resignation has become vociferous. Atram is a member of the Nationalist Congress Party.

The police on Friday night arrested two security guards, Ravindra Tukaram Bidkar, and Suresh Anand Biramne, who were posted at the farmhouse in Panchgani taluka. They have been remanded to police custody till Tuesday.

The officials investigating the poaching case suspected that the meat of the deer had been cooked at the farmhouse of Atram’s close associate Grabial Fernandes, who has reportedly been absconding for the past few days. Fernandes’ farm house is adjacent to the farmhouse of Atram.

Meanwhile, state forest minister Babanrao Pachpute, who had visited the site last week where the poaching took place, had said that no one, however powerful they may be, would be spared. He had praised the forest officials for the thorough enquiry that they had conducted in the case.

Incidentally, Atram was expected to attend a function organised by the Adivasi Vikas Jankalyan Yuvak Samiti, a body of tribal students at government-run hostels, at Sakhar Sankul in Shivajinagar in the city on Sunday. However, he did not turn up for the event.


Leave a comment

Filed under wildlife

Coral Reefs Face Extinction


A third of the world’s coral species are threatened with extinction, according to an international study that revealed rapid and alarming deterioration in the state of coral reefs over the past 10 years.


Many will have disappeared by the end of the century unless global warming, pollution and over-fishing are curbed, warned scientists in the most damning and definitive assessment on tropical corals yet delivered.

Coral reefs, the only living structures that can be seen from space, are often compared with tropical rainforests for the diversity and wealth of wildlife and plants that live in and around them. Their loss could also threaten the 25 per cent of marine species that need them for survival, as well as endangering the livelihoods of the estimated 200 million people who rely on them either for food or as a source of income.

An international team of scientists found that 231 of the 704 reef-building corals the study was able to assess were in such a poor state that they had fallen into the three most-threatened categories of species as defined by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Its Red List of species has seven categories. As of yesterday, the 231 coral species on the Red List have been formally classified as either “vulnerable”, “endangered” or “critically endangered”.

The 39 scientists from 14 countries also investigated the remaining 141 reef-building coral species but could not gather enough information on them to make an accurate assessment. But they believe many of these corals are also highly likely to be threatened with extinction.

What made the study even more urgent was scientists’ ability to calculate what state the corals were in before 1998, when a significant rise in sea-surface temperatures was linked with a worldwide outbreak of coral “bleaching”, when corals as far apart as the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean lost their colour because of heat stress.

The scientists found that only 13 species of reef-building corals before 1998 would have fallen into the three most-endangered categories. This means there has been an almost 20-fold increase in the threat to corals in a decade.

They cited rising sea temperatures, caused by global warming, pollution from such human activities as sewage and agricultural run-off, and over-fishing as the biggest threats. But they warn that all of these may be eclipsed by the threat of rising ocean acidity caused by increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide, which could eventually dissolve the calcium carbonate skeletons of reef-building corals.

Kent Carpenter of the Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, who directed the global coral assessment for the IUCN, said the threat to the corals is probably unprecedented in modern times. “The results of this study are very disconcerting,” Dr Carpenter said. “When corals die off, so do the other plants and animals that depend on coral reefs for food and shelter, and this can lead to the collapse of entire ecosystems. If you are interested in biodiversity I would say this is one of the most alarming findings in terms of marine life.”

The threat of the extinction of corals could match the mass extinction that wiped out almost half of the corals 65 million years ago, along with the dinosaurs, in a geological event known as the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary, he said. “We know that conditions existed on Earth that allowed huge numbers of extinctions. These extinctions that existed in geological times could be mimicked by what is happening on Earth today.

“The sort of changes that we as humans are bringing about could essentially be the same sort of catastrophic event that caused the Cretaceous-Tertiary mass extinctions. That took a while. This is probably faster.”

The study is published in the journal Science and was released yesterday at the International Coral Reef Symposium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The scientists said corals are now rated second only to amphibians as the most threatened group of animals on Earth. “The proportion of corals threatened with extinction has increased dramatically in recent decades and exceeds most terrestrial groups,” they added. Roger McManus, vice president of marine programmes at Conservation International, said that if sea-surface temperatures continue to rise, causing more frequent episodes of coral bleaching, it will be increasingly difficult for corals to survive further environmental insults.

“These results show that as a group, reef-building corals are more at risk of extinction than all terrestrial groups, apart from amphibians, and are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change,” Dr McManus added. “The loss of corals will have profound implications for millions of people who depend on coral reefs for their livelihoods.”

Julia Marton-Lefevre, director general of the IUCN, said: “We either reduce CO2 emissions now or many corals will be lost forever. Improving water quality, global education and the adequate funding of local conservation practices are also essential to protect the foundation of beautiful and valuable coral reef ecosystems.”


Filed under animals, biodiversity, conservation, endangered, environment, environmentalism, extinction, nature, wildlife, zoology