Monthly Archives: September 2010

Report finds British Colombia wildlife at risk of extinction from inadequate laws


Study finds that 42 percent of all BC species that cross borders at risk

Environmental groups from Canada and the US released a new scientific study today highlighting the inadequate patchwork of laws and policies putting more than 1,900 species at risk of extinction or extirpation in British Columbia. The report reveals that these species need considerably more protection if they are to survive in BC, especially the 96 per cent that are transboundary species that exist in BC and neighbouring jurisdictions. While several of these jurisdictions have strong species protection laws, a species that crosses the border into BC often faces serious perils.

“If a grizzly bear ambles from Alberta or Montana across the border into BC, it goes from being protected by law, to staring down the barrel of a gun,” said Michelle Connolly, David Suzuki Foundation Scientist and report co-author. “This clearly demonstrates the urgent need for BC to pass its own endangered species law — animals shouldn’t need passports to get protection.”

Released today by the David Suzuki Foundation, Ecojustice, and Conservation Northwest, the report details how BC has become one of the last refuges for species like the grizzly bear, lynx, and wolverine. Despite being home to a vast array of wildlife, very few species at risk in BC are protected under law.

“Current laws in BC list only nine per cent of at-risk species in BC, and even for them, protections are woefully inadequate,” said Keith Ferguson, report co-author and staff lawyer with Ecojustice. “Most provinces have stand-alone legislation to protect species at risk, but BC remains a laggard with no such law.”

The report highlights the need for new, strong legislation in BC to protect species and ecosystems at risk. It also recommends BC improve coordination of conservation efforts with its neighbours, including planning for anticipated movements of species ranges in response to climate change, which will require connected corridors across political borders.

“Wildlife does not recognize political boundaries,” said Joe Scott, International Conservation Director at Conservation Northwest. “Species like lynx are seriously endangered in the shared habitats of the US and BC, but are only protected south of the border. Unfortunately protections for such vulnerable wildlife are more like legal dead ends than two-way streets.”

The report, On the Edge: British Columbia’s Unprotected Transboundary Species, is available online.

For more information, please contact:
Joe Scott, Conservation Northwest (360) 671-9950 ext 11
Michelle Connolly, David Suzuki Foundation (604) 732-4228 ext 1265
Keith Ferguson, Ecojustice (604) 685-5618 ext 287

Media Backgrounder

Main findings of On the Edge: British Columbia’s Unprotected Transboundary Species

•BC is the most biodiverse province in Canada with over 4,000 known plant and animal species, the vast majority of which are transboundary (meaning they exist both inside and outside BC).
•Of BC’s 4,373 recognized species, 96 percent share range with at least one of our neighbouring jurisdictions: Washington, Idaho, Montana, Alberta, Alaska, Yukon and Northwest Territories.
•Almost half of these transboundary species are in trouble: 42 percent of the transboundary species in BC are at risk of disappearing from BC.
•An especially high number of species are in trouble in southern ecosystems where many BC residents live, and most such species are transboundary: 71 percent of BC residents live in four regional districts whose biodiversity is predominantly transboundary and greatly at risk, Metro Vancouver, Fraser Valley, Capital and Central Okanagan.
•There is little legislation in BC to protect the vast majority of species at risk in B.C., including the 1,801 transboundary species at risk:
•Only 9 percent of transboundary species at risk have legal protection under the federal Species at Risk Act or BC Forests and Range Practices Act or BC Wildlife Act.
•As a result, the habitat of 1,635 transboundary BC species such as the snowy owl, Badlands tiger beetle and Townsend’s big-eared bat is unprotected by law even though these species have been assessed as being at risk of extinction.
•Without transboundary species, significant parts of BC’s biodiversity would be lost, jeopardizing the healthy functioning of many ecosystems and the provision of critical ecosystem services that sustain the wellbeing of British Columbians.

For high resolution versions of images of species at risk, including the Snowy Owl, Pacific Giant Salamander, Grizzly Bear, Bobolink, please contact Jode Roberts at jroberts@davidsuzuki.orgThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . or visit this gallery.

For more information, please download a copy of the report, On the Edge: British Columbia’s Unprotected Transboundary Species.

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Endangered birds seized at airport


KARACHI: Pakistan Customs officials at Jinnah International Airport on Monday arrested a passenger with three cages registered for Muscat, Oman containing 17 flamingos, 2 cranes and 120 rose-ringed parrots. Officials said passenger Ahmed Bux claimed that he had a permit to export the birds and showed some documents, which were found to be fake. After initial investigation, the case was handed over to the Sindh Wildlife Department (SWD). A source in the SWD informed this scribe that Bux has been frequently exporting protected and endangered birds out of the country with the help of some SWD officials. Flamingos and cranes are migratory birds that arrive from their native countries to Sindh and other parts of Pakistan and are protected under the Sindh Wildlife Ordinance 1972.

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Endangered Species Act Protection Sought for Rare Forest Carnivore Once Believed Extinct


ARCATA, Calif.— The Center for Biological Diversity and the Environmental Protection Information Center today petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the Humboldt marten under the Endangered Species Act. The Humboldt marten is a cat-sized carnivore related to minks and otters that lives only in coastal, old-growth forests in Northern California and southern Oregon. Because nearly all of its old-growth forest habitat has been destroyed by logging, the Humboldt marten is so rare that it was believed extinct for 50 years.

“The Humboldt marten was once common in old-growth, coastal forests in California and Oregon, but now fewer than 100 are known to exist,” said Tierra Curry, a biologist at the Center. “These martens are in dire need of Endangered Species Act protection if they’re going to have any chance at survival.”

“Logging of old-growth forests has driven the marten to extinction across 95 percent of its historic range,” said Scott Greacen, executive director of EPIC in Arcata. “To rebuild a viable marten population, we need to restore old forest conditions, which requires moving beyond short-rotation clearcut logging.”

The historic range of the marten extends from Sonoma County in coastal California north through the coastal mountains of Oregon. The Humboldt marten was rediscovered on the Six Rivers National Forest in 1996. Since that time, researchers have continued to detect martens using track plates and hair snares. In 2009 a marten was detected at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park by remote-sensing camera, the first to be photographed in recent times. Martens are 1.5 to two feet long and have large triangular ears and a long tail. They eat primarily small mammals, including voles and squirrels.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has 90 days to decide whether the petition presents substantial information indicating that protecting the marten under the Endangered Species Act may be warranted.

For Immediate Release, September 28, 2010

Contact: Tierra Curry, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 522-3681
Scott Greacen, EPIC, (707) 822-7711

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Study May Help Predict Extinction Tipping Point For Species


What if there were a way to predict when a species was about to become extinct—in time to do something about it?

Findings from a study by John M. Drake, associate professor in the University of Georgia Odum School of Ecology, and Blaine D. Griffen, assistant professor at the University of South Carolina, may eventually lead to such an outcome—and that is only the start. Their study also has implications for understanding drastic, even catastrophic, changes in many other kinds of complex systems, from the human brain to entire ecosystems.

The paper, “Early warning signals of extinction in deteriorating environments,” published in the early online edition of the journal Nature, describes a study of the fluctuations in experimental populations of water fleas (Daphnia magna) undergoing environmental stress until they reach a tipping point beyond which they do not remain viable. The study is unique in its careful comparison of these stressed populations with other, healthy populations in the context of new theories about dynamic systems undergoing transitions at a tipping point, particularly a phenomenon known as “critical slowing down.”

“This is the first experimental demonstration of critical slowing down in a biological system,” said Drake. He explained that critical slowing down is a term used to describe a pattern in data that has previously been observed in physics and the Earth sciences, but until now has been only a theoretical possibility in biology. It describes the decreasing rate of recovery from small disturbances to a system as it approaches a tipping point. When a system is close to a tipping point, it can take a long time to recover from even a very small disturbance. “The theory was originally used to describe drastic changes in other kinds of systems—everything from epileptic seizures to regime shifts in the earth’s climate system,” Drake said. “But these attributions of CSD primarily have been after-the-fact explanations of anomalous observations without clear controls.”

This also is the first time the theory has been applied to extinction.

The experiment featured populations of water fleas that were assigned to either deteriorating environments (in this case, declining levels of food) or stable environments (the control group). The experiment lasted for 416 days, when the last population in the deteriorating environment group became extinct. Depending upon the amount of food they received, populations in the deteriorating environment group reached the population viability tipping point after approximately 300 days. Populations in the control group never reached it; those populations persisted.

The researchers next looked at a variety of statistical indicators, early warning signals that could detect the onset of CSD and thereby predict the approach to a tipping point. They compared the indicators with the timing of the decrease in food and with the achievement of the tipping point, mathematically referred to as a “transcritical bifurcation.” They found that each of the indicators—some more strongly than others—showed evidence of the approaching tipping point well before it was reached.

According to Drake, what is even more important is the generality such statistical indicators are expected to exhibit. That is, although precise quantitative models are required to predict most natural phenomena—in any domain of science—with any degree of accuracy, the theory of critical slowing down applies qualitatively anytime a bifurcation is in the vicinity. “You don’t have to know the underlying equations to use the theory,” Drake said, “and this is important in biology, where the dynamics are typically sufficiently complex that we often do not know which equations to use. In fact, we may never come to such a complete understanding, given the range of biodiversity out there and the fact that species are evolving all the time.”

Drake pointed out that potential applications, such as predicting extinctions based on evidence of CSD, are still in the future. “This is the first step in the fundamental research that would underlie such an application,” he said. “We have shown that CSD can happen in populations—that is all. The real world is a lot ‘noisier’ than the lab. Using early warning signals to predict approaching tipping points could eventually be a powerful tool for conservation planning, though, and for better understanding a host of other kinds of systems as well.”

John Gittleman, dean of the Odum School of Ecology, agreed. “This study fits into one of the core missions of the Odum School by developing a predictive science of ecology,” he said. “We now have clear, predictive research programs dealing with extinction, conservation, and disease, all critically important areas for a more robust science of ecology.”

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Proposes Endangered Status for the Ozark Hellbender


Washington, D.C. – infoZine – Citing threats that could lead to extinction of one of the world’s largest salamanders, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed to protect the Ozark hellbender as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. The Ozark hellbender, which grows to lengths up to 2 feet, inhabits the White River system in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas.

Under the ESA, an endangered species is any species which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. Ozark hellbender populations have declined an estimated 75 percent since the 1980s, with only about 590 individuals remaining in the wild. Most likely, numbers have dropped because of habitat loss resulting from impoundments, ore and gravel mining, sedimentation, nutrient runoff, and nest site disturbance due to recreational uses of the rivers. Heightening concern is the discovery of a fungal disease, chytridiomycosis (chytrid) in all remaining wild populations of the Ozark hellbender. Researchers are finding chytrid to be fatal to an increasing number of amphibian species worldwide, and it has been proven to kill Ozark hellbenders in captivity. Researchers view chytrid as one of the most challenging threats to the survival of this subspecies.

In addition, biologists are finding that the average age of Ozark hellbender populations is increasing and few young are being found, which indicates that there are problems with reproduction or juvenile survival. This, and the multiple threats from disease and habitat loss, could lead to extinction of the Ozark hellbender within 20 years.

The Ozark hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis bishopi) if found in rivers and streams in northern Arkansas and southern Missouri. Photo by Jeff Briggler

“The low number of Ozark hellbenders, along with the increasing threats posed by the chytrid fungus and habitat loss, are cause for concern for this species,” said Tom Melius, the Service’s Midwest Regional Director. “Through our proposal to list the Ozark hellbender as endangered, we will take a close look at its status and threats, and gather as much information from the public as we can to help us determine whether it should be protected by the Endangered Species Act.”

The Service is also proposing to include the hellbender (including both the Ozark and eastern subspecies) under Appendix III of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Collection and trade of hellbenders within the United States and internationally is of growing concern, particularly as hellbenders become rarer and, consequently, more valuable. CITES is an international agreement between governments to ensure that international trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. CITES listing of the hellbender would aid in curbing unauthorized international trade of hellbenders.

Hellbenders are salamanders with large tails and tiny eyes. Adult Ozark hellbenders may reach lengths up to 2 feet, and their flattened bodies enable them to move in the fast-flowing streams they inhabit. Hellbenders are habitat specialists that depend on constant levels of dissolved oxygen, temperature, and flow in their aquatic environment. Even minor alterations to stream habitat are likely detrimental to hellbender populations.

The Endangered Species Act makes it illegal to kill, harm or otherwise “take” a listed species. The ESA also requires all federal agencies to ensure actions they authorize, fund, or undertake do not jeopardize the existence of listed species, and directs the Service to work with federal agencies and other partners to develop and carry out recovery efforts for those species. Listing also focuses attention on the needs of the species, encouraging conservation efforts by other agencies (federal, state and local), conservation groups, and other organizations and individuals.

The Service’s proposal to list the Ozark hellbender as an endangered species appears in the September 8, 2010, Federal Register. The proposal is also available on the Service’s Midwest Region website at external link The Service is accepting comments on the proposal through November 8, 2010. Send comments to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: external link . Follow the instructions for submitting comments. Comments may also be mailed or hand-delivered to Public Comments Processing, Attn: RIN 1018- AV94; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203.

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Conservationists Race Against the Clock to Save Critically Endangered Javan Rhinos


An international partnership is racing against the clock to ensure the survival of the last 48 Javan rhinos on earth by carving out a safe haven in the dense jungles of Indonesia’s Ujung Kulon National Park. The species’ entire viable population, living on the island of Java, is quite literally stuck between a rock and a hard place.

In 1883, Ujung Kulon and the surrounding areas were decimated by the eruption of Krakatau, one of the most violent volcanic events in modern times. Anak Krakatau (“son of Krakatau”) remains active in the area causing great concern for conservationists.

“Having ‘all the eggs in one basket’ isn’t a good thing for any species,” said Dr. Susie Ellis, executive director of the International Rhino Foundation (IRF). “With the help of the Rhino Foundation of Indonesia, the Worldwide Fund for Nature, Save the Rhino, and the Indonesian government, we have committed to improving the available habitat for Javan rhinos to increase and spread out the population.”

Over the next two years, the Javan rhinos’ habitat at the Park will undergo improvements to help protect the species from extinction caused by a single natural disaster or introduced disease. IRF and its partners are creating 9,884 acres (4,000 ha) of expanded habitat for Javan rhinos in Ujung Kulon, which should encourage population growth.

IRF has launched Operation Javan Rhino to help raise the remaining $300,000 needed to complete this effort. Donations will be used to plant rhino food plants, create water sources and wallows, construct guard posts and patrol routes, and hire anti-poaching units to patrol the area. IRF will provide field updates of the on-the-ground efforts taking place in Ujung Kulon.

Javan rhinos are difficult to find in their dense rainforest habitat, even for seasoned experts. Over the past 14 years, Rhino Protection Units have kept track of the rhino population daily, usually by following signs such as dung and footprints. This intense monitoring and protection has essentially eliminated losses from poaching.

Rhino experts agree that expanding the usable habitat in Ujung Kulon is the important first step in saving Javan rhinos. The next key step will be translocating animals from Ujung Kulon and establishing a second population elsewhere in Indonesia so that the species can be protected from natural and human-caused disasters, and ultimately extinction.

To learn more about Operation Javan Rhino, visit

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Not Just for Polar Bears: New Climate Report Documents Growing Extinction Risk for Arctic Wildlife

For Immediate Release, September 13, 2010

Contact: Shaye Wolf, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 632-5301

Not Just for Polar Bears: New Climate Report Documents Growing Extinction Risk for Arctic Wildlife

SAN FRANCISCO— A new report offers a dramatic look at Arctic species being pushed toward extinction by rapid climate change. “Extinction: It’s Not Just for Polar Bears” documents 17 Arctic animals, from Arctic foxes to whales to plankton, struggling to survive the effects of climate change and ocean acidification. It was produced by the Center for Biological Diversity and Care for the Wild International.

“The polar bear is the best-known victim of rapid melting in the Arctic, but if we don’t slash greenhouse pollution, many more creatures will follow it down the path to extinction,” said Shaye Wolf, the Center’s climate science director and lead author of the report.

Some Arctic species have already experienced widespread die-offs and population declines after losing key habitats and food sources; others face extreme weather events or suffer new pressure from predators and pathogens moving northward.

Today’s report comes as Arctic summer sea ice approaches another near-record minimum. Rapid disappearance and thinning of the sea ice is having devastating effects on the many species that depend on it for rearing young, hunting, resting and avoiding predators. Sea-ice loss forces Pacific walrus mothers and calves to come to shore, where young are sometimes trampled to death in stampedes. Early sea-ice breakup prematurely separates ringed and harp seal mothers from their pups before the pups are big enough to survive. Eight of the world’s 19 polar bear populations are declining as they struggle to raise young and hunt for food on shrinking ice sheets.

The oceans have absorbed more than a quarter of all of society’s carbon dioxide emissions, and the addition of this vast quantity of CO2 is changing the chemistry of ocean water, turning it more acidic. The Arctic ocean is becoming corrosive to shell-building creatures like plankton and clams more quickly than temperate waters. It could become lethal to the most sensitive shell-builders by 2050, threatening the marine ecosystem with collapse.

On land, tundra habitat is moving northward, thawing permafrost threatens to drain wetlands, and extreme winter weather events are causing die-offs of Arctic grazers like muskoxen that are prevented from reaching their food. The Arctic fox is disappearing from the southern edge of the tundra as larger, more dominant red foxes move northward and lemming prey grow less abundant as temperatures warm.

”The plight of Arctic species is effectively acting as an early warning system. We need our governments to act now to protect the Arctic ecosystem from collapse,” said Mark Jones, programs director for Care for the Wild International. “If we don’t, the impacts will be devastating, not just for the Arctic, but for the whole planet.”

The report concludes that science-based actions are urgently needed to protect Arctic wildlife. Atmospheric CO2 must be reduced from its current level of 390 parts per million (ppm) to, at most, 325 to 350 ppm to avoid catastrophic impacts from climate change and ocean acidification, and to restore Arctic sea ice to the size it was 25 years ago. Other key actions include curbing powerful, short-lived greenhouse pollutants like black carbon (soot) and methane, preventing new oil and gas development in the Arctic, and reducing threats from overhunting and contaminants.

A link to the report and slideshow can be found here.

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.

Care for the Wild International is a charity dedicated to the conservation and welfare of wildlife around the world. Working with our partners, we aim to protect wildlife and its habitat, rescue and rehabilitate displaced wild animals, and act as a global voice for wildlife protection through campaigns, research and education.

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