Monthly Archives: June 2009

Volunteers needed to monitor endangered birds


The Tern and Plover Conservation Partnership seeks volunteers to monitor tern and plover colonies along the Platte River from Columbus to Plattsmouth.

Volunteers will help staff monitor nesting populations, build protective fences and involve communities.

Those interested in volunteering must attend a three-hour training session in 153 Hardin Hall, 3310 Holdrege St. in Lincoln. Dates and times for the training are: May 26, 9 a.m.-noon, 1-4 p.m., 6-9 p.m.; or May 27, 9 a.m.-noon, 1-4 p.m.

The partnership sends volunteers to nesting sites close to their homes, said Chris Thody, volunteer coordinator. The time commitment may be an hour or two, possibly several times during the season.

To register for one of the training sessions, contact Thody, at (402) 472-8741 or, or go to

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Guanacos Could Go Extinct in Peru in 30 Years


LIMA – The less than 3,000 guanacos living in Peru could be extinct in 30 years due to poaching, researcher Jane C. Wheeler said.

Guanacos are completely wild and live at altitudes of between 1,000 meters (3,279 feet) and 3,800 meters (12,459 feet) in remote areas.

The animals are unfriendly because they are constantly being pursued by hunters, who do not want the hair or skin, as in the case of vicuñas, Wheeler, who is president of the South American cameloid research institute, known as Conopa, told Efe.

“If hunting, as it now is in the southern part of the country, continues, (the species) will go extinct in 30 years,” Wheeler said, citing the results of a study she conducted.

The researcher said, however, that the largest group of guanacos is protected at the Calipuy reserve in northern Peru, and there are also “other communities where they are very concerned about protecting them.”

Guanacos and vicuñas – small members of the camel family – live in the wild, unlike llamas and alpacas, which have been domesticated and are raised by peasants for their meat and fine hair, respectively.

Wheeler, who also works as a researcher for the veterinary school at Lima’s San Marcos University, estimates that there are currently some 140,000 vicuñas in Peru, while there are 4 million alpacas in the Andean nation. EFE

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Major brands implicated in Amazon destruction


Brazil — Just as protecting the world’s forests is rapidly becoming a recognized necessity for fighting climate change, we have discovered that major fashion, food and sports brand names are unwittingly driving the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.

Our  three-year investigation into Brazil’s booming cattle industry – the largest source of deforestation in the world and Brazil’s main source of CO2 emissions – has found that some of the brands that we all know and love could be implicated in the widespread deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. The investigation also uncovers how the Brazilian government is bankrolling the destruction and is undermining its own efforts to tackle the global climate crisis.

Dirty Farms

The new Greenpeace report Slaughtering the Amazon tracks beef, leather and other cattle products from ranches involved in illegal deforestation, invasion of indigenous lands and slavery in Brazil back to the supply chains of top brands such as Adidas/Reebok, Timberland, Geox, Carrefour, Eurostar, Honda, Gucci, IKEA, Kraft, Clarks, Nike, Tesco and Wal-Mart.

Greenpeace investigators found that the Brazilian government has a vested interest in the further expansion of the cattle industry; it part-owns three of the country’s cattle giants – Bertin, JBS and Marfrig – which are responsible for fuelling the destruction of huge tracts of the Amazon. That’s right; the Amazon rainforest is being wiped out to make room for the beef in your TV dinner and the leather on your sneakers.  Humans rights abuses, deforestation and climate change seem to us like a pretty big price to pay for the trainers we put on before our morning run.

Lula’s loopholes

Brazilian President Lula’s government forecasts that the country’s share of the global beef market will double by 2018. 2018 seems to be a big year for the Brazilian government as it also claims this is the year by which it will have cut deforestation by 72 percent. The expansion of the cattle sector threatens to undermine the government’s ability to fulfill its pledge. Brazil is the fourth largest climate polluter in the world, with the majority of its climate emissions coming from the clearance and burning of the Amazon rainforest.

“By bankrolling the destruction of the Amazon for cattle, President Lula’s government is undermining its own climate commitments as well as the global effort to tackle the climate crisis,” said Andre Muggiati, Greenpeace Brazil, Amazon campaigner. “If it wants to be part of the climate solution, Lula’s government must get out of bed with cattle industry, and instead commit to ending Amazon deforestation. Otherwise it will be culpable in the global climate catastrophe that will ensue,” he added.

Greenpeace is calling for developed world governments to provide USD 140 billion a year to tackle the climate crisis, to fund both mitigation and adaptation measures in developing countries. Approximately USD 40 billion a year of this should be designated to forest protection. The funds would be provided in return for a commitment to stop deforestation by 2015 in the Amazon and globally by 2020.

World leaders must take personal responsibility to agree strong global deal at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen in December 2009 in order to avert catastrophic climate change. Tropical deforestation accounts for approximately 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than the world’s entire transport sector, so any deal must effectively tackle deforestation.

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Nearly 60% of Malta’s shark species threatened with extinction


Shark Alliance calls on EU Commissioner Joe Borg for stronger finning ban

The Shark Alliance marked Global Ocean Policy Day by calling on EU Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg to strengthen one of the EU’s most important and far-reaching policies for sharks: the ban on “finning”, the slicing of fins and tossing the body at sea.
The Shark Alliance is a coalition of 70 conservation, scientific and diving organisations dedicated to improving EU shark policies, including the ban on finning.
The EU is the lead supplier for the global shark fin trade, which is driven by demand for the Asian delicacy, shark fin soup, and the EU finning ban is currently among the weakest in the world.
Species that dominate the Asian shark fin trade, such as thresher, hammerhead and blue sharks, are taken by Maltese fishermen. In 2008, scientists reported population declines of 97-99% for Mediterranean populations of these species.
“Ten years ago, Malta took bold action to protect the great white shark, giant devil ray and basking shark, and it is high time to show such leadership again,” said Sonja Fordham, Shark Alliance Policy Director.
“We encourage Malta to champion protection for all the region’s endangered and critically endangered sharks and prompt implementation of the EU Shark Plan, starting with a stronger finning ban, before it’s too late,” Fordham continued.
Nearly 60% of Malta’s 35 species of sharks are considered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as threatened with extinction. The main shark targeted in Malta, spiny dogfish, is classified as endangered in the Mediterranean.
Maltese fishermen also take critically endangered porbeagle and angular rough sharks.
The European Commission released in February 2009 the Community Plan of Action for Sharks, which sets the stage for sweeping improvements in EU shark policies, including the finning ban.
“It’s up to the Commission to promptly deliver a legislative proposal to close loopholes in the finning ban and up to Mr Borg to provide the leadership needed for Commission’s follow through on this and other key commitments to shark conservation,” continued Fordham.
“The Shark Alliance appreciated the pledge to strengthen the EU finning ban that Mr Borg made when releasing the EU Shark Plan, added Fordham. Since then, however, the Commission has been reluctant to commit to making the amendment of the ban a top priority, as urged by many EU Member States, scores of NGOs, and tens of thousands of European citizens.
“As a leader among EU Member States in national shark species protection and the home of EU Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg, Malta is in a good position to encourage much needed improvements in EU and Mediterranean policies for these exceptionally vulnerable species.”

Shark fishing in Malta
The Maltese fishing fleet is mainly small scale and coastal with a few large vessels operating far offshore. Primary target species include swordfish, tuna and dolphinfish (lampuka). Longline fishing gear has been used to target dogfish sharks and blue sharks. Bottom nets are used to catch dogfish, as well as skates and rays, and, at one point, angel sharks. A variety of sharks and rays are taken incidentally, as “bycatch,” in Maltese fisheries. For example, Malta’s mixed trawl fisheries for shrimp and groundfish also take marketable bycatches of dogfish and rays. Most of the shark meat is consumed fresh, locally.
Dogfish are the main shark species targeted by Maltese fishermen. In 2006, Malta reported 20 tonnes of spiny dogfish catch. In 2005, spiny dogfish ranked 6th in Malta’s total marine fish landings and first in 1st quarter bottom longline catches.
In recent years, Malta also reports commercial catches of blue sharks, nursehounds, catsharks, threshers, six-gill sharks, porbeagle, gulper sharks, smoothhounds, longnose dogfish and angular rough sharks, as well as the recently protected angel shark and a variety of skates and rays. In the past, landings of seven-gill sharks and smooth hammerheads have also been recorded. In 1987, the landing of an enormous great white shark made news in Malta; reports of its length ranged from 5.5 to 7 metres.
Each year, tens of thousands of divers come to Malta; because of overfishing, few get to see sharks.
In 1999, Malta became the first EU country in the Mediterranean to protect the great white shark; that year Malta also protected the basking shark and giant devil ray. Malta is still the only EU country to provide national protection for the giant devil ray.
Most Mediterranean sharks remain completed unprotected from overfishing. The only sharks to receive EU level protection in the Mediterranean are basking, great white and angel shark. Spiny dogfish, porbeagle and gulper shark fisheries are regulated in Atlantic EU waters, but not the Mediterranean.
There are no Malta, EU or international catch limits for blue sharks, makos, threshers, catsharks, smoothhounds, nursehounds, rough sharks, six- or seven-gill sharks.
“Finning” is prohibited for all EU vessels and waters, but enforcement methods are lenient.

Shark populations in Malta
At least 35 species of sharks and 27 species of rays are found in the waters off Malta. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has assessed 42% of 71 Mediterranean shark and ray species as threatened with extinction (classified as Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List). This percentage is higher than those for other assessed regions.
Shark and ray species categorised by IUCN as critically endangered in the Mediterranean include the porbeagle shark, three species of skates (including the endemic Maltese skate), angular rough shark, shortfin mako, sand tiger shark and three species of angel sharks. The Mediterranean smalltooth sand tiger, sandbar shark, spiny dogfish, giant devil ray, and great white shark are considered endangered. Basking sharks, smooth hammerheads, gulper sharks, threshers, blue sharks and two species of smoothhounds are considered Vulnerable.
In 2008, scientists reported population declines of 97-99% for Mediterranean populations of hammerheads, threshers, porbeagles, makos and blue sharks.

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Many species of birds, fish face extinction


Number of many species of birds, fishes, insects and some animals has been reduced alarmingly causing concern to ecology, bio-diversity and the overall environment in the country’s northern region as elsewhere in recent decades.

Besides, many indigenous species of birds, fishes, beneficial insects and animals have already been extinct and some others facing extinction threat following adverse impacts of climate change, experts and aged people in the rural areas said.

Side by side, the number of migratory birds has also been reducing every year and their duration of stay was also shortening in the water bodies as those are being dried up much earlier before the end of the winter season, they said.

According to experts, many species of birds, sweet water fishes, animals and useful insects have already been extinct from the region as those are not being seen in recent years.

The process still continues due to reduction of forest areas, drying up of water bodies, indiscriminate use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, change in soil properties and other reasons caused by the adverse impacts of climate changes, they said.

Environmentalist and RDRS expert MG Neogi said many species of birds are not being noticed in the rural areas and shrinking water bodies that created imbalance in the nature and the villagers are being deprived of the melodious songs of birds as it was few decades ago.

Many species of migratory birds had to visit the country every year during the winters months since the ancient times when adequate number of water bodies, ponds and canals and forest and hilly sanctuaries remained undisturbed, he added.

Editor of the Weekly Janopran at Chilmari in Kurigram Nurul Amin and elderly citizen Araz Ullah, 75, and Abdul Jalil, 70, said that the number of the migratory birds from the Himalayas and Siberia had reduced alarmingly in recent years.

“We had observed only a fewer number of migratory birds for a shorter period this year along with the local people in the vast char areas on the Brahmaputra basin and other places though their number was very high even a decade ago,” they said.

The experts blamed indiscriminate felling of trees, encroachment of forest lands, drying up and shrinking water bodies and lack of management of the rivers, beels, haors and ponds for declination of the number of various indigenous species of birds.

District Fisheries Officer Abdur Rouf told BSS that drastic reduction of the flood plains, open water bodies, breeding and grasing fields and drying and silting up of the rivers and tributaries caused disappearance and extinction of many native sweet water fishes.

Besides, the experts said that many beneficial insects have been extinct following indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides by the farmers while combating the harmful ones due to lack of adequate knowledge of pest managements.

Rangpur Divisional Forest Officer Muhammad Abu Yusuf told BSS that the ecological degradations due to climate change and other reasons have caused imbalance in the nature and scarcity of animal foods in the forests reducing animal populations.

“Sometimes, animals including elephants are coming out of the forests in search of food to the plain areas of the Chittagong Hill Tracts including Bandarban and Cox’s Bazaar districts and other areas in the country for scarcity of their food,” he added.

Deputy Director of the DAE Nur Mohammad and District Livestocks Officer Dr Rousanazzaman said that utility of the cultivable lands has been increased significantly with increased crop intensity to increase crop productions for the growing population in recent decades.

“As result, the lands are almost under crop cultivation throughout the year in all seasons where chemical fertilisers, pesticides and insecticides are being used still on larger scale than the required quantity that further degrades the ecology,” they added.

The experts urged for creating public awareness to protect the country’s ecology, bio-diversity and environment through comprehensive and planned initiatives involving the government and concerned bodies to avoid further disasters in the nature.

They called for arranging proper managements of the water bodies, their excavation and expansion, popularising eco-friendly method of using organic fertiliser and indigenous insecticides, halt of killing birds and expansion of forests instead of destructing those.

They suggested for comprehensive approaches to conserve the indigenous species of birds, fishes, beneficial insects and forest animals in the greater interest of maintaining the country’s bio-diversity and ecological balance for a better future.

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Rare Xmas Island bat ‘facing extinction’


Efforts to save a tiny Christmas Island bat from extinction have hit a setback, with a trial capture program failing.

The Federal Government is considering whether to approve the program for the remaining pipistrelle bats, which are believed to number fewer than 20.

But a trial with similar bats in the Northern Territory found it was nearly impossible to capture them and very difficult to keep them alive in captivity.

Director of National Parks, Peter Cochrane, has told a Senate estimates committee the trial only managed to capture two bats.

“One of those died, so we have one in captivity, which continues to survive but it is being hand-fed,” he said.

Greens Senator Rachel Siewert says the Senate committee was told several other species on Christmas Island are also facing extinction.

“[It] highlights the absolute urgent need for a very significant recovery program,” she said.

“[We need a] multi-species approach, a whole-system approach to Christmas Island.

“Otherwise, we are unfortunately facing extinction of a number of species on Christmas Island.”

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Tree rat facing extinction


THE golden-backed tree-rat could be facing extinction in the Northern Territory after scientists failed to find any trace of the rodent during an expedition to western Arnhem Land.

Weighing about 200g, the rat is listed as vulnerable nationally and endangered in the NT where it has only been recorded three times by Europeans between 1901 and 1969.

It has distinctive features such as a long brush-tipped tail that is partially white, along with white coloured feet.

An elderly indigenous woman told scientists she had spotted the animal crossing a bush track when shown a collection of stuffed animals that were touring Arnhem Land in 2007 as part of an “endangered mammal roadshow”.

“It travelled around many parts of the Top End showing Traditional Owners (TOs) a range of mammals and recording ecological information,” said Warddeken Land Management CEO Peter Cooke.

But a recent seven-day trapping expedition to western Arnhem Land involving TOs from the area has failed to find any trace of the animal.

“That one that we were looking for, we are starting to be a bit concerned,” said senior ranger Dean Yibarbuk.

“We thought these animals (known by the local name of Korberr) were still around but now we can’t find them.”

Biodiversity scientist Carol Palmer said the decline of the golden-backed tree-rat from the NT and drier areas of Western Australia was symptomatic of a more general decline in mammals in northern Australia.

“We didn’t find any sign of the golden-backed tree-rat on this expedition, and would have expected to catch and see a greater diversity of mammals,” she said.

“This most recent survey has confirmed what we already know, that the diversity and abundance of mammals in the Top End are declining rapidly, and any opportunity we have of finding the remaining mammal populations so that we can manage those populations is essential.”

In February this year, over 40 scientists and land managers released research which warned Northern Australia was facing a fresh wave of potentially catastrophic mammal extinctions.

Australia already has the worst extinction record in the world, with 22 mammals becoming extinct in the last 200 years.

“What we are seeing is a reduction, both in the abundance of mammals, but also for some species really catastrophic declines across their range,” Dr Sarah Legge, from the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, said at the time.

Ms Palmer said the patchy nature of food resources and the tree-rat’s susceptibility to disturbance could explain the decline of its population, particular in the more inland areas.

She said that although the animal was not known to be too tricky to trap it was too soon to say if had been wiped out of the NT.

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