Monthly Archives: August 2010

Lampung deer on the brink of extinction


LIWA, Lampung: Unchecked hunting is feared to wipe out the deer population in Liwa regency within the next 10 years, residents and government officials said Monday.

“In the past, the animal could be easily spotted in droves. Now, because they are hunted every day, they are rarely sighted,” Edi Susanto, a local resident, said.

He said the decreasing deer population has tipped the environmental balance as seen from the increasing incidence of predators, such as tigers, encroaching on residential areas and preying on domesticated animals.

“The government should stop poaching deer so that the ecological balance remains well-checked,” Adi said as quoted by Antara news agency.

West Lampung regent Mukhlis Basri has appealed to the public to stop hunting deer but he is yet to issue a regulation.

“I always remind people of the need to stop hunting now,” he said. “The public has fallen victim of poaching.”

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Endangered Stephens’ Kangaroo Rat to Keep Protection


LOS ANGELES— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will continue to protect the imperiled and declining Stephens’ kangaroo rat (Dipodomys stephensi) as an endangered species, as disclosed in a decision to be published tomorrow. The species is still jeopardized by development projects in Southern California that the Center for Biological Diversity is fighting.

“Habitat loss has only gotten worse for the Stephens’ kangaroo rat,” said Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center. “The Fish and Wildlife Service made the right call on keeping protections for this classically Southern California rare mammal. Now instead of keeping it teetering on the brink of extinction, they need to step up protections to recover the kangaroo rat.”

The Service drafted a recovery plan in 1997 for the species, but never finalized it. In the meantime, development pressure has continued to eliminate the kangaroo rat’s habitat. One habitat reserve on the old March Air Force base was proposed for development, but this decision is being challenged in court by the Center and others. In addition, another key linkage between wildlife reserves is being threatened by two different industrial development projects, both of which are also being challenged in court. If the linkage is severed, the viability of the reserves is highly compromised.

First protected in 1988, the Service’s review of the status of the Stephen’s kangaroo rat stems from a petition originally submitted by the Riverside County Farm Bureau in 1995. Of the 16 population areas inhabited by the diminutive animal, four are considered either “non-viable,” meaning the populations will eventually die out in those areas, or are not protected.

The Stephens’ kangaroo rat — not a true rat but a member of the heteromyid family, like all kangaroo rats — is a small, large-eyed, hopping mammal with powerful hind legs, found in open grasslands and coastal sage scrub habitats that are fast disappearing. The rat is uniquely adapted to the arid Southern California climate: It can meet all its water needs by consuming small seeds of native plants. This extraordinary little animal manufactures its own water through a highly efficient metabolic process. Like other small mammals, it’s essential to the larger web of life. Stephens’ k-rats spread seed, keep the land open and sparsely vegetated, and create burrows that other small animals use to escape the heat and cold above ground. The species is found nowhere in the world but western Riverside County and a small portion of northern San Diego County.

For Immediate Release, August 18, 2010

Contact: Ileene Anderson, Center for Biological Diversity, (323) 654-5943

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Court upholds protections for Calif wild steelhead


SAN FRANCISCO—A federal appeals court has upheld protections for wild steelhead trout in California rivers, rejecting a challenge by Central Valley farmers to the fish’s endangered status.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that federal fisheries regulators acted within the law by protecting the steelhead under the Endangered Species Act.

Farmers argued that National Marine Fisheries Services officials should have to consider rainbow trout in its count of the steelhead population. Rainbow trout are steelhead that do not migrate to the ocean.

The court found that the Act did not require the agency to consider the fish as the same species even if they interbreed.

The decision upholds a 2008 ruling by the U.S. District Court in Fresno.

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Wildlife Officials Consider Listing Rare Plant As Endangered


Federal wildlife officials have begun a review of whether a rare San Francisco plant discovered in the Presidio last year should be listed as an endangered species.

The Franciscan manzanita was thought to be extinct in the wild since 1947, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

However, last October a specimen was discovered during the clearing of vegetation to make way for the replacement of Doyle Drive south of the Golden Gate Bridge.

A botanist driving in the area made the unusual find, spotting the plant near the 19th Avenue exit, according to the Wildlife Service.

The plant has since been moved to a new location, and cuttings and seeds have been taken from it, the Wildlife Service said.

On Monday, wildlife officials announced they will begin a full review for possible listing of the Franciscan manzanita under the federal Endangered Species Act.

A 60-day public comment period, during which the Wildlife Service is soliciting information about the plant’s biology, genetics, habitat needs, history and current range and populations, ends Oct. 12.

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Bats facing regional extinction from rapidly spreading disease: study


A new infectious disease spreading rapidly across the northeastern United States has killed millions of bats and is predicted to cause regional extinction of a once-common bat species, according to the findings of a University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) researcher.

The disease, white-nose syndrome, first discovered near Albany, New York, in 2006, affects hibernating bats and has caused millions to perish, writes lead author Winifred Frick, in a study to be published Friday in the journal Science.

Dr. Frick, now a post-doctoral researcher in UCSC’s Environmental Studies department, said the disease is spreading quickly across the northeastern U.S. and Canada and now affects seven bat species.

If death rates and spread continue as they have over the past four years, this disease will likely lead to the regional extinction of the little brown myotis, previously one of the most common species in North America, she said.

“This is one of the worst wildlife crises we’ve faced,” Dr. Frick said. “The bat research and conservation communities are trying as hard as possible to find a solution to this devastating problem.”

Dr. Frick notes that “bats perform valuable ecosystem services that matter for both the environments they live in and have tangible benefits to humans as well. Bats affected by this disease are all insect-eating species, and an individual bat can consume their body weight in insects every night, including some consumption of pest insects,” Dr. Frick said.

“The loss of so many bats is basically a terrible experiment in how much these animals matter for insect control,” she said.

White-nose syndrome is associated with a newly discovered fungus that grows on the exposed tissues of hibernating bats.

Dr. Frick and her colleagues analyzed bat population data collected over the last 30 years, from 22 caves and other hibernating sites, in five states throughout the northeastern United States.

The serious population declines of the little brown myotis were recognized based on surveys made by officials from state departments of natural resources going back to 1979. Surveys in the winter of 2006-2007 revealed evidence of white fungal growth on bats’ noses, ears, and forearms, aberrant behavior, and an unusually high number of dead bats. As many as 500,000 bats may occupy a single cave.

Decreases in the number of bats counted range from 30 percent to 99 percent compared with earlier counts before the disease struck. Since its discovery four years ago, white-nose syndrome has now been confirmed in at least 115 bat hibernating locations in the U.S. and Canada, and as far west as Oklahoma.

Current research suggests that the fungus disrupts the bats’ hibernation, causing them to awake early, behave oddly, and lose critical fat reserves, resulting in death.

The researchers predict a “99 percent chance of regional extinction of little brown myotis within the next 16 years” if mortality and spread continue unabated.

They said it is possible the deadly fungus came from Europe from human trade or travel based on evidence that the same fungus has been observed on hibernating bat species in Europe.

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Groups Intervene to Protect the Endangered Cook Inlet Beluga Whale

Lawsuit filed by the state of Alaska ignores science

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – August 4 – Seeking to uphold the federal protections necessary for the recovery of the endangered Cook Inlet beluga whale, a coalition of conservation groups today moved to intervene in the case filed by the State of Alaska against the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Recent NMFS surveys only found 321 Cook Inlet beluga whales, a drop from 1,300 historically.

Trustees for Alaska represents Alaska Center for the Environment, Center for Biological Diversity, Cook Inletkeeper, Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council and North Gulf Oceanic Society as intervenors in the State of Alaska’s lawsuit.

“The Cook Inlet beluga whale population will not recover without protection. The Governor is using precious state funds and staff resources to block conservation efforts for the beluga. We’re disappointed but not surprised,” said Karla Dutton, Alaska Director of Defenders of Wildlife.

“The State of Alaska continues to waste taxpayer money by filing frivolous lawsuits when it should be supporting the science needed to help the beluga population recover,” said Bob Shavelson, Executive Director of Cook Inletkeeper.

On June 4, the State of Alaska brought a lawsuit to vacate NMFS’s October 2008 decision to list the Cook Inlet beluga whale as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Alaska’s lawsuit drew a sharp rebuke from the scientists and conservation groups alike.

“This is clearly a case where science and the rule of law should prevail,” said Taryn Kiekow, staff attorney with NRDC. “Prior to being listed as an endangered species, the number of Cook Inlet belugas had declined dramatically. It is now absolutely critical that we protect their designation as an endangered species and their habitat if the population is to survive.”

“While Sarah Palin may be gone, her successor is continuing the State of Alaska’s irrational war on wildlife,” said Rebecca Noblin, Alaska director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Alaska should be working to protect its greatest assets – its wilderness and wildlife – not suing to overturn protections for endangered whales.”

“It seems the Parnell Administration only likes one kind of science – the kind it agrees with,” said Craig Matkin, an Alaskan marine mammal expert with the North Gulf Oceanic Society. “Every objective expert who’s looked at this small and isolated population agrees it should be listed.”

While there are four other beluga whale populations in Alaska, Cook Inlet belugas are a genetically unique and geographically isolated population of whales that live in Alaska’s Cook Inlet. The whale’s population decline has been so severe that, in 2006 the World Conservation Union (IUCN) placed the Cook Inlet beluga on its Red List of endangered species. The U.S. Marine Mammal Commission repeatedly requested that NMFS list the species under the ESA.

“Our thousands of Alaskan members are deeply concerned about the plight of these whales,” said Toby Smith, Executive Director of Alaska Center for the Environment. “The State’s decision is simply not aligned with the public’s interests.”

“With the alarming decline of the Cook Inlet beluga whale, its endangered status is essential to protect the whale’s critical habitat and move toward recovery,” said Brian Litmans, staff attorney for Trustees for Alaska. “It is clear that continuing down the current path in Cook Inlet will not reach that result.”

August 4, 2010
3:47 PM

CONTACT: Conservation Groups

Karla Dutton, Defenders of Wildlife, (907) 276-9420

Brian Litmans, Trustees for Alaska, (907) 276-4244

Jessica Lass, NRDC, (310) 434-2300

Craig Matkin, NGOS, (907) 299-0677

Bob Shavelson, Inletkeeper, (907) 299-3277

Rebecca Noblin, CBD, (907) 274-1110

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Habitat Protection Sought to Save Endangered San Joaquin Kit Fox From Extinction


The Center for Biological Diversity and Los Padres Forest Watch today petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to establish critical habitat for the endangered and declining San Joaquin kit fox. While the species has been protected under the Endangered Species Act for more than 40 years, it continues to decline in the face of habitat loss.

Establishing critical habitat will protect the limited areas where kit fox still persist and provide additional areas for the animals to spread to, making recovery possible.
“Establishing critical habitat for the kit fox is absolutely key to stopping its spiral toward extinction,” said Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center. “Existing conservation mechanisms are clearly not working. The Fish and Wildlife Service has the obligation to protect crucial lands so kit foxes can survive and recover.”
The San Joaquin kit fox, the smallest member of the fox family at about five pounds, used to range throughout California’s San Joaquin Valley. Conversion of natural grassland and shrubland habitats to agriculture, oil and gas production, and other development has eliminated much of the fox’s living space. Currently the animals are clinging to a tenuous existence along the edges of the San Joaquin Valley, with only three remaining core habitat areas: western Kern County, the Carrizo Plain and Ciervo-Panoche Valley.
In addition to habitat destruction, kit foxes suffer from rodenticide and pesticide poisoning. Recently proposed, poorly sited industrial solar developments also threaten some of the last remaining core habitat zones. A recent Fish and Wildlife Service review of the status of the fox found population declines and local extirpations with no signs of recovery.
A recent study shows that species with critical habitat designations for two or more years are more than twice as likely to have an improving population trend and less than half as likely to be declining.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, 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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