Monthly Archives: February 2010

Nearly half of primate species face risk of extinction: study


Almost half of the world’s 634 primate species, or 303 species and subspecies, are now on the brink of extinction, mainly due to habitat destruction, and are in need of urgent conservation measures, according to a report jointly released this week by conservation groups.

Russell Mittermeier, chairman of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, said Thursday the crisis of the primates, mankind’s closest living relatives that had been well-adapted to diverse environments, is symbolic of the environmental destruction under way on a global level.

“We want governments to commit to desperately needed biodiversity conservation measures when they gather in Japan in October,” said Mittermeier, referring to the upcoming 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity to be held in Nagoya.

“We have the resources to address this crisis, but so far, we have failed to act,” Mittermeier said.

The report, titled “Primates in Peril: The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates, 2008-2010” and compiled by 85 experts from around the world, specifically highlights the plight of 25 species, including the golden-headed langur in Vietnam, whose number has dwindled to only 60 to 70, and northern sportive lemurs in Madagascar, whose number has dropped to less than 100.

Of the 25 most endangered primates, 11 species are in Asia, including the Sumatran orangutan in Indonesia, whose estimated population has rapidly declined to 6,600 due to habitat conversion for agriculture or oil palm plantations, occasional killing as pests or for food, or capturing them for the pet trade.

Besides Asia, six species are from Africa, five from Madagascar and three from Central and South America, according to the report.

While the assessment by the experts is gloomy, conservationists also point to some successful cases of helping the endangered species recover.

In Brazil, the black lion tamarin and the golden lion tamarin were moved up to a listing of Endangered from Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

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Plants at Risk of Extinction to Be Relocated


Plants at risk of extinction due to climate change will be relocated to other areas, the Korea Forest Service said yesterday.

The agency’s “Adaptation Project for Plants Vulnerable to Climate Change” seeks to preserve endangered plants due to climate change.

Growing conditions at nine preservation areas will be recreated to resemble the environment where vulnerable plants grow naturally. Preservation measures will also include establishing fences around relevant areas.

The agency said it can take systematic measures to preserve and manage rare plants from 2013 by gathering climate data on which endangered plants can survive. It will also provide a zone map that can predict when each species of flower and plant will bloom and shows areas where plants can live.

Korea’s average temperature has increased around 1.5 degrees Celsius over the past century, affecting the habitats of native plants. For example, camellias have recently made their way into Seoul because of warmer weather.

Also, the number of plants and trees usually in cold areas at high altitude has decreased. For example, the number of Korean firs on Mount Halla and Taxus caespitosa on Mount Seorak has fallen.

An official at the Korea Forest Service said, “If Korea’s average temperature increases 1.5 to 2.5 degrees Celsius, 20 to 30 percent of animals and plants face the risk of extinction. Accordingly, our preservation project to protect plants vulnerable to climate change will greatly help maintain plant diversity.”

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Humans’ closest relatives on the brink of extinction


Last Thursday, a group of the world’s leading zoologists revealed the 25 most endangered members of the primates – the biological order which contains monkeys, tarsiers, lemurs, gibbons and the great apes, including humans.

It is only humans increasing in numbers – the human population will hit seven billion possibly as soon as next year. But this is occurring at the cost of mankind’s primate cousins. Our closest relatives are in need of urgent conservation measures according to ‘Primates in Peril: The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates, 2008-2010’.

The report, compiled by 85 experts from across the world, reveals that nearly half of all primate species are now in danger of becoming extinct from destruction of tropical forests, illegal wildlife trade and commercial bushmeat hunting.

The list includes five primate species from Madagascar, six from Africa, 11 from Asia, and three from Central and South America, all of which are the most in need of urgent conservation action.

Conservationists want to highlight the plight of species such as the golden headed langur, which is found only on the island of Cat Ba in the Gulf of Tonkin, north-eastern Vietnam, where just 60 to 70 individuals remain. Similarly, there are thought to be less than 100 individual northern sportive lemurs left in Madagascar and around 110 eastern black crested gibbons in northeastern Vietnam.

The list has been drawn up by primatologists working in the field who have first-hand knowledge of the causes of threats to primates.

Christoph Schwitzer, head of research at the Bristol Conservation and Science Foundation, said: “This report makes for very alarming reading and it underlines the extent of the danger facing many of the world’s primates. We hope it will be effective in drawing attention to the plight of each of the 25 species included. Support and action to help save these species is vital if we are to avoid losing these wonderful animals forever.”

Almost half (48 per cent) of the world’s 634 primate species are classified as threatened with extinction on the Red List of Threatened Species managed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The main threats are habitat destruction, particularly from the burning and clearing of tropical forests (which results in the release of around 16 per cent of the global greenhouse gases causing climate change), the hunting of primates for food, and the illegal wildlife trade.

Russell Mittermeier, Chair of the IUCN Primate Specialist Group and president of Conservation International, said results from the most recent assessment of the world’s mammals indicate that primates are among the most endangered vertebrate groups.

“The purpose of our Top 25 list is to highlight those that are most at risk, to attract the attention of the public, to stimulate national governments to do more, and especially to find the resources to implement desperately-needed conservation measures. We have the resources to address this crisis, but so far, we have failed to act,” Dr Mittermeier added.

Despite the gloomy assessment, conservationists point to the success in helping targeted species recover. In Brazil, the black lion tamarin was down listed to ‘endangered’ from ‘critically endangered’ on the IUCN Red List, as was the golden lion tamarin in 2003, as a result of three decades of conservation efforts involving numerous institutions, many of which were zoos.

Populations of both animals are now well-protected but remain very small, indicating an urgent need for reforestation to provide new habitat for their long-term survival.

‘Primates in Peril: The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates, 2008-2010’ was compiled by the Primate Specialist Group of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission and the International Primatological Society, in collaboration with Conservation International.

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3 California condors die of lead poisoning


Flagstaff, Ariz. – Three rare California condors in northern Arizona died last month because they ingested lead pellets while feeding on the carcasses of dead animals, according to test results released Monday.

The deaths from lead poisoning are the first in three years among condors in Arizona and Utah. The Peregrine Fund recovered the bodies of a female condor and her year-old chick from the Grand Canyon, and that of a young male from the Arizona-Utah border.

Birds foraging in southern Utah present a challenge for recovery program officials, who must persuade hunters there to stop using lead ammunition.

“We have to remain optimistic because we’ve seen such progress in Arizona, and I guess what it means is we have more work to do,” said Chris Parish, who oversees the release of condors in Arizona for the fund.

Utah is educating hunters about the effects that lead ammunition has on condors. The birds feed on dead animals, often big game killed by hunters or the entrails left behind when they are field-dressed.

High levels of lead can shut down a condor’s digestive system, causing the bird to starve to death.

Utah’s program is modeled after one in Arizona, which asks hunters to voluntarily use lead-free ammunition. Utah plans to give coupons for free non-lead ammunition to hunters in certain areas.

California requires lead-free ammunition.

Condors once numbered in the thousands across North America but were nearly extinct by the early 1980s from the effects of hunting, lead poisoning and habitat encroachment. The final 22 were captured in California and a breeding program started.

There are about 350 condors alive today, with about half in captive breeding programs in California, Arizona and Mexico.

Since the reintroduction program began in Arizona in 1996, 45 condors have died — 15 of them from lead poisoning.

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82 Corals, Threatened With Extinction Due to Climate Change and Ocean Acidification


SAN FRANCISCO— The National Marine Fisheries Service has announced that it is launching a full status review to determine whether 82 corals, threatened with  extinction by global warming and ocean acidification, warrant the protections of the Endangered Species Act. The decision comes in response to a scientific petition submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity seeking protection for the corals, followed by a notice of intent to sue for failing to respond to the petition.

“The status review is an important step forward in protecting coral reefs, which scientists have warned may be the first worldwide ecosystem to collapse due to global warming,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Endangered Species Act protection can provide a safety net for corals on the brink of extinction.”

As a result of today’s decision, the 82 corals will be considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act; the government will decide whether endangered or threatened status is warranted for the corals by the end of the year. The new finding concluded that the corals, all of which occur in U.S. waters ranging from Florida and Hawaii to U.S. territories in the Caribbean and Pacific, faced with population declines of 30 percent or greater combined with large scale threats such as climate change and ocean acidification could cause coral populations to collapse and make it difficult for them to recover.

“Coral reefs are the world’s most endangered ecosystems and provide an early warning of impacts to come from our thirst for fossil fuels,” said Sakashita. “Within a few decades, global warming and ocean acidification threaten to completely unravel magnificent coral reefs that took millions of years to build.”

When corals are stressed by extreme ocean temperatures, they are vulnerable to bleaching and death. Mass bleaching events have become much more frequent and severe as ocean temperatures have risen in recent decades, and scientists predict that most of the world’s corals will be subjected to mass bleaching events at deadly frequencies within 20 years on our current emissions path. Further, ocean acidification, caused by the ocean’s absorption of carbon dioxide, impairs the ability of corals to grow and build their protective skeletons. Therefore, global warming and ocean acidification are an overriding threat to coral reefs that have already experienced population declines from threats such as destructive fishing, agriculture runoff, pollution, abrasion, predation, and disease.

Protection under the Endangered Species Act would open the door to greater opportunities for coral reef conservation, as activities ranging from fishing, dumping, dredging, and offshore oil development, all of which hurt corals, would be subject to stricter regulatory scrutiny. The Endangered Species Act would also require federal agencies to ensure that that their actions do not harm corals, which could result in agencies approving projects with significant greenhouse gas emissions to consider and minimize such impacts on vulnerable coral species.

The National Marine Fisheries Service is soliciting comments on the corals for 60 days.

For more information about the Center’s coral conservation campaign, visit:

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with 255,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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Persian crocodiles poached almost to extinction


An expert in Iran’s Environment Protection Organization says poaching and habitat loss have placed the three-meter Persian crocodile in danger of extinction.

“Persian crocodiles are pushed to the brink of extinction by two factors: poaching and habitat loss. The reason they are hunted almost to extinction in the wild is that their skin is soft enough to produce crocodile skin products,” Mansour Heidari said.

The crocodiles are native to Iran’s southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan. Heidari pointed out that measures are being taken to save the endangered carnivorous reptiles, among them the creation of a crocodile nursery in Dargas district of Chabahar port city.

“Eggs are collected from wild nests to be hatched and reared at the farm. The hatchlings will be released into the wild once they are two years old. The aim of the proposed breeding program is to increase the number of mature animals in the wild so that they would no longer face extinction,” Heidari said.

Persian crocodiles, also know as mugger crocodiles, can be found in the southeastern part of Iran, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh.

The reptiles are found in lakes, rivers and marshes. They are also known to thrive in man-made reservoirs and irrigation canals.

Experts now believe there are between 200 and 300 Persian crocodiles living in the wild in southeastern Iran.


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Fears rare shrub heading for extinction

ABC Australia

The New South Wales Scientific Committee says a shrub, found only in the state’s upper Hunter, needs urgent protection to avoid extinction.

There are estimated to be between 300 and 2,000 pomaderris reperta plants around Denman.

There are three main populations.

The committee says it expects open-cut coal mining will threaten the biggest sub-population.

It wants the plant listed as critically endangered to protect it from mining, land clearing, roadworks and pollution.

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Chinese tiger numbers fall to new low


The population of wild tigers in China has now fallen to just 50 across the entire country, according to a report by the US-based Wildlife Conservation Society.

Twenty years ago the tiger was relatively common in some parts of China. Now there are only 20 Siberian tigers in the northeast, 15 Bengal tigers in Tibet and ten Indonesian tigers in the southwest.

The Southern Chinese tiger may well be extinct – none have been seen in the wild since the late 1970s, while there were around 4,000 in the 1950s.

Last month China and 12 other Asian countries agreed to make efforts to save wild tigers from extinction.

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