Monthly Archives: March 2010

Berry Cave Salamander Faces Extinction, Victim of Parkway


WASHINGTON (CN) – The Berry Cave Salamander can be found in just five caves in eastern Tennessee where it may face extinction from the build-up of silt released by development, according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 90 day finding on a petition to list the salamander under the Endangered Species Act.
According to the petition, filed by Dr. John Nolt of the University of Tennessee – Knoxville, the construction of an interchange for the James White Parkway directly above the main complex of caves where the salamander is found would further threaten the population by disrupting the salamander’s food chain.
The petition also argues that run-off of from existing developments, including irrigation from a local golf course, stirs up excessive amounts of silt in the stream system that feeds the caves where the salamander is found.
The agency now will begin a comprehensive status review of the Berry Cave salamander for which the agency requests scientific and commercial data. At the conclusion of the status review the agency will issue a 12-month finding that will determine if listing under the act is warranted.


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CITES: Shark Trade Regulations Denied


The UN wildlife trade group shot down bids on Tuesday to regulate trade on two species of sharks threatened with extinction from overfishing, setting off backfire from angry conservation activists.

Millions of hammerhead and white-tip sharks are taken from their ocean habitats every year, mainly for the growing demand for sharkfin soup, a delicacy in Chinese communities around the world.

The Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) rejected the US-sponsored proposals at the 13-day conference held in Doha. Supporters of the proposals are hoping for a second hearing on one or both proposals on Thursday, the final day of the conference.

Both species of shark were among the most common of the semi-coastal and open-water sharks just a few decades ago.

But overfishing of the sharks has led to an 80 percent global decline in hammerhead species and as much as a 90 percent drop in the Indian and Pacific oceans alone, according to experts.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the white-tip shark as critically endangered in the northwestern Atlantic, and vulnerable globally.


China voted against the hammerhead proposal, saying that even their well-trained fisheries officials had been unable to distinguish between fins once they were cut off. A Chinese delegate said that experience has shown that control of the species at borders would likely be unenforceable.

Japan was against both measures, arguing that management of shark populations should be left up to regional groups and not CITES.

Conservationists argue that fishing for sharks is not currently regulated. “The problem today is not there is serious mismanagement of trade in sharks, as for tuna, but that there is no management at all,” Sue Lieberman, policy director for the Washington-based Pew Environment Group, told the AFP news agency.

Another point they argue is that sharks are especially vulnerable because most species take years to mature and have very few young.

The proposals sought for a listing on CITES’ Appendix II which would require countries to monitor and report all export activity, and to prove that fishing is done in a manner that is sustainable.

Although the proposals were supported by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, as well as the secretariat of CITES, the bill lost due to a narrow margin on votes, angering conservationists.

“We see clearly now the Japanese motivation for opposing all these marine species proposals,” Anne Schroeer, an Madrid-based economist with Oceana, told AFP’s Marlowe Hood. “For the whales they say we are catching it traditionally. For the bluefin tuna, they say we are eating it. But for the sharks, there is nothing but pure economic interest.”

A proposal on Bluefin tuna regulation last week was voted down for Appendix I status, which would impose a total ban on cross-border trade. The fight was mainly between commercial interests and conservationists.

With sharks, there is business on both sides of the issue. Small island nations, and some bigger ones, rely on revenue from scuba-related tourism.

Two more species are scheduled for Appendix II listing votes on Tuesday: the porbeagle and spiny dogfish. Of the 64 species of open water shark species, almost a third face extinction, according to a report issued last June by the IUCN Shark Specialist Group.

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Rhino Poacher Killed by Guards at Orang National Park


Forest guards at Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park finally prevailed after a 30 minute gun battle with a gang of three rhino poachers.

Although two poachers fled the scene, one of the men was shot and killed. Authorities also recovered five rounds of .303 ammunition, along with an axe, a torch, and liquor.

Sushil K. Daila, Orang’s divisional forest officer, said via The Telegraph that his team had acted on intelligence input.

This is the third attempt on the Jhaoni camp this year and all the attempts were made on Sundays. There were intelligence inputs that poachers might strike.

We are keeping up the fight and this is the third poacher killed in the past five months.

Orang National Park is part of the International Rhino Foundation’s Indian Rhino Vision, which aims to increase the greater one-horned rhino population to 3,000. The park’s target population goal under IRV is 100, although after the recent bout of poaching, the park currently holds approximately 58 – 60 rhinos.

Perhaps this latest incident is a good sign for Orang’s rhino population – let’s hope that forest guards keep up the war on rhino poachers.

Rhino poaching fueled by Asian superstitions about rhino horn

Although scientific analysis has determined that rhino horn does not have any medicinal effects on humans, rhinos in Asia and Africa are still killed illegally for their horns, which are manufactured into “medicines” by Chinese pharmaceutical companies. Rhino populations have been decimated by demand for rhino horn in China, and increasingly Vietnam, due to primitive, centuries-old superstitions that rhino horn is a “remedy” for common ailments, such as fever, pain, and acne.

Image: CC BY-SA 2.0

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Common English species face extinction


The names alone should cause anyone whose heart still beats to stop and look again. Blotched woodwax. Pashford pot beetle. Scarce black arches. Mallow skipper. Marsh dagger. Each is a locket in which hundreds of years of history and thousands of years of evolution have been packed. Here nature and culture intersect. All are species that have recently become extinct in England.

I cannot claim that I’ve been materially damaged by their loss, any more than the razing of the Prado would deprive me of food or shelter. But the global collapse of biodiversity hurts almost beyond endurance. The sense that the world is greying, its wealth of colour and surprise and wonder fading, is so painful that I can scarcely bear to write about it.

Human welfare, as measured by gross domestic product, is doubtless enhanced by the processes that drive extinction. Human welfare, as measured by the heart and the senses, is diminished. We have no use for most of the world’s natural exuberance; it cannot be commodified or reproduced. Biodiversity does not belong to us: that is why it is worth preserving.

In Doha today, governments are engaged in their annual festival of frustration: the endless arguments over the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. They are struggling against what often looks like an inexorable assault by technology, economic growth and sheer bloody idiocy. The latter is exemplified by the battle over the Atlantic bluefin tuna. Many governments want to ban the trade in this species for several years, but Japan is resisting furiously. Whether or not a ban is imposed, the effect on Japanese industry will be roughly the same, as the species is likely to become commercially extinct next year if fishing continues. But the government would prefer one more year of raw exploitation rather than indefinite supplies in the future. There is no reasoning with this madness.

But it’s the new report by Natural England that hit me hardest. English plant and animal species are still disappearing at the rate of two a year. All the goodwill, the billions of pounds and millions of hours poured into conservation work, the global treaties and concordats seem to be no match for the amplification of our presence on earth. If we can’t even get this right in England, where the two biggest membership organisations are both conservation groups, where does hope lie?

There were several shocks in the report, but it was a different set of names that hammered into my mind. Some of the most endangered species have very ordinary – even, if I might be so rude, common – names. The common frog, common gull, common skate and common smoothhound are all in trouble. The common eel is now listed as critically endangered everywhere.

I remember, years ago, sitting beside a chalk stream whose entire bed was a writhing black conveyor belt of eels moving upriver. The eel was a universal, indestructible species. It can live almost anywhere, even stagnant water in which no other fish can survive; it can eat any old carrion, and travel overland between ponds on dewy nights. Nobody valued them because they were everywhere. Had someone told me, on the bank of that river, that within my lifetime they would be threatened with extinction, I would have laughed out loud. If the common eel is now critically endangered, is any species safe?

Beside the clanking rigours of commerce and technology, our concerns about biodiversity sometimes appear almost effete. That there are payoffs here is undeniable. The major cause of extinction in most countries is habitat loss. Most of this is caused either by clearing land for farming or by intensifying farming methods, in both cases to increase production. Even in the UK, where hundreds of millions have been spent on schemes to make farms hospitable to wildlife, Natural England blames changes in farm practices – cutting grasslands early, ploughing in winter stubble, the replacement of mixed farms with arable deserts – for many of the losses.

The rightwing thinktanks that demand a further intensification of farming argue, as they always do these days, that their real concern is not the welfare of the rich (the businesses and bosses who pay them to develop these arguments) but the welfare of the poor. If we were to farm with wildlife rather than only profit in mind, the decline in productivity would raise the price of food, at an intolerable cost to the poor.

There is some truth in this, as far as it goes. But I have never heard these people argue on the same grounds against unregulated urban sprawl, which every year takes millions of acres of good farmland permanently out of production. Far from it: they demand the scrapping of planning rules. Nor do I see them making the case for reducing the rich world’s consumption of meat, to release grain for feeding humans. The immediate choice we have to make is not between biodiversity and feeding the world, but between biodiversity and blithering stupidity.

As a child I watched chalk downlands – where rare orchids and wild strawberries, adonis blues and marbled whites, whitethroats and hobbies, flint pits and burial mounds, had survived since the Neolithic – being wiped clean by ploughs, to produce grain that fed nothing but the subsidy mountains. Now I watch the remaining scraps of our collective memory erased to grow biofuels that produce more greenhouse gases than the petroleum they replace.

This week’s issue of Fishing News tells us that around 2m tonnes of the fish sold in Europe are used for feeding other fish or terrestrial livestock, and a further million tonnes of edible fish are dumped back into the sea, dead, as they are over-quota catches. Much of this bycatch consists of species like the once common skate and once common smoothhound, which are now in danger of extinction. Japanese fishing policy might be stark raving mad; ours is scarcely saner.

So where does hope lie? I’m often struck by the strength of national feeling when an artwork – even one that scarcely anyone has seen – is stolen or damaged or bought by a foreign collector. Yet our animals and plants slip away unknown and unmourned. This country’s wildlife groups are admirable in many ways, but they have somehow failed to ignite our interest in most of the species threatened with national extinction, many of which are small and unobtrusive.

It seems to me that one of the handicaps conservationists suffer is that few of these species have common names. It is hard to persuade people to care about something they can’t pronounce. Nature is most valued when it intersects with culture. I would love to see a body like Natural England launch a public competition to name the country’s nameless species: the micromoths and creeping mosses, the bashful beetles and unassuming mushrooms known only in Greek or Latin. It need simply list their characteristics, habits and locations and let the public do the rest. But it should set one condition: don’t call any of them common.

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Endangered Iberian Lynx Facing New Threat


Conservationist groups are reporting that the world’s top endangered species of feline is facing a new challenge — Chronic Kidney Disease (CDK).

In a statement released on March 9, 2010, the Lynx Conservation Program states that three of the 72 Iberian Lynx raised in breeding centers in Spain have succumbed to the illness, and more than a third of the animals housed at the country’s two breeding centers have shown symptoms of CDK.

According to the AFP, veterinarians at the centers say that they are “working and consulting with experts to try to find the possible origin of the CKD, as well as trying to put in place measures that could prevent the emergence of new cases.” Their main focus right now, however, is “on maintaining and providing palliative care to the high percentage of the population affected by this disease.”

The Iberian Lynx, sometimes also referred to as the Spanish Lynx, is native to the Iberian Peninsula in the southern part of Europe. This feline’s coat is usually light gray or brownish-yellow, and it has a spotted coat not unlike a leopard. It is usually 33 to 43 inches long (not including the tail) and boasts four sets of whiskers — two on the chin and two more on the ears.

There are believed to be less than 200 Iberian Lynx left worldwide. According to information attributed to the conservation group SOSLynx and published in an April 2002 article, if the Iberian Lynx becomes extinct, it would be the first member of its animal family to die out since prehistoric times.

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Help save Gloucestershire’s threatened wildlife


GARDENERS are being urged to weigh in to stop wildlife being lost from the county for good.

A list of extinct and endangered animals and plants has been published to draw attention to species most at risk.

The biggest threat is to the Duke of Burgundy butterfly, which could die out in Gloucestershire if numbers continue to decline.

Paul Hackman, Natural England conservation officer for Gloucestershire, said: “If we don’t act now it could be gone in another 20 years.

“In the 1950s we had 150 grassland sites in Gloucestershire with this species. We did a recent survey and are probably down to 12 sites now.”


The small brown and yellow butterfly feeds on cow slips growing in semi shaded conditions.

Natural England is successfully working closely with farmers and landowners to raise awareness.

The organisation is encouraging people with gardens to take action too.

Mr Hackman said: “We’re losing certain species, which means when they are completely extinct they are not going to come back.

“That masks a general decline in more common species, which perhaps people used to see a few years ago and don’t see anymore.

“If people have gardens they can do their bit by making them more attractive to wildlife by putting up bird boxes, stopping using pesticides and creating wild patches.”

Other threatened species include the pasque flower, which has declined in number to just a handful of sites in Gloucestershire – Rodborough Common, Horsleaslow Roughs, Bourton Downs and Barnsley Warren.

Farmland birds across the Cotswolds – including the corn bunting, grey partridge, turtle dove and yellow wagtail are threatened and The Wye Valley is home to some of the world’s rarest whitebeam trees.

Cuckoos have declined in number across the South West by 69 per cent since 1994 and the polecat was driven out by persecution in the 19th century and is only slowly making its way back. Species that have already disappeared from the county include the red squirrel and natterjack toad, which was common in the early 20th century but now absent because of developments and agricultural intensification.

Also extinct in Gloucestershire is the large blue butterfly. Plans are being made to try to reintroduce it by sourcing from other countries.

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California Tiger Salamander Will Be Protected Under California Endangered Species Act


For Immediate Release, March 3, 2010

Contact: Brian Nowicki, Center for Biological Diversity, (916) 201-6938

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— The California Fish and Game Commission today voted 3-2 to designate the California tiger salamander as threatened under the California Endangered Species Act, providing state protected status to the salamander six years after a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity. The decision comes as a result of that petition and lawsuit and a 2008 court of appeals ruling that struck down the Commission’s earlier rejection of the Center’s petition to list the salamander.

“After six years of misguided denial and delay by the California Fish and Game Commission, the tiger salamander is finally getting the protection it deserves and sorely needs,” said Brian Nowicki of the Center for Biological Diversity. “This amazing creature and the highly threatened vernal pools it calls home are precious parts of California’s natural heritage.”

The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the Commission in 2004 to list the California tiger salamander as endangered due to the impacts of urban and agricultural development. The Santa Barbara County salamander population has been listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act since 2000, as has the Sonoma County population since 2003. The central California population has been federally listed as threatened since 2004.

The California Fish and Game Commission had rejected the petition in 2004, falsely claiming the document did not contain all the data necessary to prove the salamander population deserved protection. The Center filed suit, and the Commission was forced by court order and a state appeals-court ruling in September 2008 to accept the petition. The state Supreme Court refused the Commission’s request to review the appeals court ruling. In 2009, the Commission voted 3-2 to designate the salamander a candidate for listing, beginning a one-year review of the species.

The California tiger salamander depends on ephemeral vernal pools for breeding. In recent decades, 95 percent of California’s vernal pools have been lost, and at least 75 percent of the salamander’s habitat throughout the state has been eliminated. In Sonoma County, 95 percent of the fragmented and minimal remaining salamander habitat is threatened by development; the Santa Barbara population is also on the verge of extinction. The Sonoma population survives in only seven viable breeding sites and the Santa Barbara population consists of only six breeding groups.

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

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Less Than one Hundred Asiatic Cheetahs Survive in the World, Today.


Tehran, February 27, 2010 (Hamsayeh.Net) – Iranian wildlife specialist at a protected Cheetah breeding centre in Semnan province say there are only tens of these majestic cats still surviving in the wild today.

The centre boasts about 10 individual Cheetahs in a semi-wild environment protected by a fence wire  all around a large compound, and provides last chances for the revival of this fastest of all creatures on earth.. Cheetahs, once numerous from Africa to Asia have long been listed as a critically endangered specie.

Iran and Russia announced plans to revive both the Cheetah and Amur Tiger species in and around the Caspian region through a joint project in the near future.

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Crackdown on illegal imports of endangered species


Importers who deal in medicines derived from endangered wildlife are being targeted as part of a worldwide crackdown on the trade.

Police, customs and specialised units are targeting thousands of illegal traditional medicines smuggled in by plane, boat and mail – mainly arriving from China and Hong Kong, 3 News reported.

Many of the imports contain animals and plants from endangered species such as tigers, bear and turtles, according to One News.

The operation, headed by Interpol, has now netted about $20 million worth of illegal substances in 18 countries.

MAF and Customs said border control agencies now knew what to look for and warned importers to beware.


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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Sued Over Repeated Failure to Protect Endangered Florida Panther


For Immediate Release, February 18, 2010

Contact: Frank Jackalone, Sierra Club, (727) 824-8813
Andrew McElwaine, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, (239) 403-4210
Michael Robinson, Center for Biological Diversity, (575) 534-0360
Jeff Ruch, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, (202) 265-7337
Ann Hauck, Council of Civic Associations, (239) 495-7379

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Sued Over Repeated Failure to Protect Endangered Florida Panther

SARASOTA, Fla.— Five conservation groups, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), and the Council for Civic Associations, filed a lawsuit today in Federal District Court in Fort Myers, Florida against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for its failure to protect the Florida panther.

Fewer than 100 Florida panthers survive in the wild, clinging to less than 5 percent of their historic range within a handful of South Florida counties. It is the last of the eastern cougars which once roamed across the southern United States, and is the last species of large cat east of the Mississippi River.

Although the panther has been listed as an endangered species since 1967, the Service has never designated critical habitat for the species. Critical habitat is a geographic area necessary to help an endangered species recover its population; its designation is a critical tool within the Endangered Species Act. Species with designated critical habitat have been shown to be twice as likely to recover as species without it.

In 2009 the five groups petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to designate critical habitat for the Florida panther. After more than a year of dithering, on February 11, 2010 the Service gave notice to the groups that it was denying their petitions and refusing to designate critical habitat. The groups are now suing to protect the panther’s last remaining habitat before it is irreversibly lost due to sprawl development and climate change.

Currently, large-scale development projects are being planned in the habitat panthers depend on for survival. Over the past two decades the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has approved every development proposal in panther habitat. The last rejection came in 1993.

Said Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club: “We have very few areas of disagreement with the Obama administration, but the failure to designate critical habitat for the Florida panther is one of them. It’s clear that the Florida panther will become extinct unless we immediately move to protect its last remaining habitat – habitat that already under serious threat from the impacts of climate change. The measures taken until now have failed to do so and the Fish and Wildlife Service needs to follow the science and the law and change course in order to prevent this important species from going the way the of the dodo.

Andrew McElwaine, president of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, said: “Florida panthers are nearly extinct. The best available science tells us that we must protect the habitat of the Florida panther to allow these magnificent cats to survive. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a responsibility to protect these animals – and their failure to do so has led to this lawsuit.”

Eric Huber, Sierra Club senior staff attorney representing the groups, said: “The Service completely failed to respond to the science in our petitions to designate critical habitat or to consider the effects of global warming on panther habitat in any way. The Service’s refusal to take all available measures under the Endangered Species Act to protect this beautiful creature is indefensible.”

According to Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity: “The Florida panther and the myriad other rare wildlife that share the unique ecosystem of Southwest Florida will disappear from our world forever unless critical habitat is designated in accordance with the law. We just can’t stand by while the Florida panther goes extinct and the balance of nature that it helps maintain is completely unraveled.”
Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said: “Recent actions by the Obama administration indicate that its efforts to protect endangered species will be as anemic as its predecessor. The Florida panther is a prime example of the federal government ignoring the science and its own scientists due to political factors.”

Said Ann Hauck, president of the Council of Civic Associations: “The Florida panther has lost 95 percent of its historic range. The Council of Civic Associations’ short-term goal is to prevent development in primary panther habitat and to prevent the federal government from piecemeal permitting that does nothing to address cumulative impacts. The current U.S. FWS guidelines are that unless it can be proven that a project will wipe out the entire species then the Service cannot or will not issue a Jeopardy Biological Opinion hence the Service has issued only one jeopardy opinion since 1993 and that was for a critter in Tennessee.”

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