Monthly Archives: December 2010

Rare Bird Protected by Groundbreaking Land Deal in Peru


For the first time in Peru, conservationists have purchased privately owned lands within a national protected area and then donated them to the national government. Twenty-nine privately owned properties totaling 1,196 acres within Peru’s Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve were donated on December 1 to SERNANP, the government agency that administers national protected areas. The donated lands are home to the Iquitos Gnatcatcher, a Critically Endangered bird first described in 2005.

The 143,500-acre Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve is located only 15 miles from the city of Iquitos in northern Peru, protecting rare white-sand forests that are home to rare and unique plants and animals.

“This Reserve is one of the most important places for birds in Peru,supporting a community of 19 white sand forest specialists, and is the only home for the Critically Endangered Iquitos Gnatcatcher,” said Dr. Daniel Lebbin, Conservation Biologist with American Bird Conservancy (ABC), the leading U.S. bird conservation organization and one of the key supporters of the acquisitions.

When the Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve was created, much of the land remained under private ownership. Continued timber extraction, charcoal production, and land clearance for agriculture on privately owned in-holdings within the reserve continue to damage the reserve’s forests and reduce habitat for its threatened wildlife. The protected area was first declared as a Reserve Zone in 1999, and elevated to a National Reserve in 2004.

With support from ABC, ConocoPhillips, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), and the Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust, ProNaturaleza (a leading Peruvian conservation organization) purchased the land from willing sellers in the eastern portion of the Reserve where Iquitos Gnatcatchers live.

“The donation of this land to SERNANP allows us to better manage it for conservation,” said Carlos F. Rivera Gonzales, the head of Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve.

To achieve this success, ProNaturaleza worked in cooperation with a coalition including SERNANP and other environmental groups, such as Friends of Allpahuayo Mishana (ACAAM) and CANATURA (a group conducting environmental education), among others.

“This experience is a clear example of joint work between public and private institutions benefiting the management of the Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve, the pride of Iquitos,” said Martin Alcalde, Executive Director of ProNaturaleza, “We hope to build on this success to purchase more in-holdings to later donate to SERNANP if additional funds become available.” ACAAM also purchased private property along the reserve’s border, which will help protect additional forests.

The Iquitos Gnatcatcher was only first scientifically described in 2005, and is currently ranked as Critically Endangered under IUCN-World Conservation Union criteria due to its restricted range (less than 8 square miles or roughly 4,950 acres), tiny population (perhaps fewer than 50 pairs), and the threat deforestation poses to its remaining white-sand forests habitat. The Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve is recognized by the Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) as one of 587 sites worldwide where conservation is critical to prevent species extinctions. AZE is a global initiative of 68 biodiversity conservation organizations in 18 countries, which aims to prevent extinctions by identifying and safeguarding key sites where species are in imminent danger of disappearing. Because of its extremely high levels of endemism, Peru has the world’s third highest number of AZE sites (36) after Mexico (68) and Colombia (46).

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Endangered Species Review and Interim Protections Sought for Little Brown Bats

For Immediate Release, December 16, 2010

Contact: Dr. Thomas H. Kunz, Center for Ecology and Conservation Biology, Boston University, (617) 353-2474
Mollie Matteson, Center for Biological Diversity, (802) 434-2388 (office); (802) 318-1487 (cell)
Ashley Fuller, Bat Conservation International, (512) 327-9721 x 25
Judy Rodd, Friends of Blackwater Canyon, (304) 345-7663

Endangered Species Review and Interim Protections Sought for Little Brown Bats
Bat Disease Could Cause Regional Extinction of Once-common Species

BOSTON— Scientists and conservation groups filed a formal request today asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine if little brown bats, once the most common bat species in the Northeast, need protection under the Endangered Species Act because of a fast-spreading, lethal disease called white-nose syndrome. The disease has already killed more than a million bats in the United States and scientists say it could wipe out little brown bats in the Northeast within the next two decades.

“The little brown bat is in imminent danger of extinction in its northeastern core range due to white-nose syndrome, and the species is likely in danger of extinction throughout North America,” said Dr. Thomas H. Kunz, a leading authority on bats at Boston University who coauthored a study earlier this year on the impacts of white-nose syndrome on the little brown bat.

Kunz and another bat scientist, Dr. Jonathan D. Reichard, conducted their own status review of the species that was submitted along with today’s request to the Fish and Wildlife Service. The review found that the little brown bat is at grave risk of disappearing from the region because of the impacts of white-nose syndrome, a disease first documented in upstate New York in 2006 that has already spread throughout the eastern United States as well as Quebec and Ontario. In some affected bat colonies in the Northeast, mortality rates from white-nose syndrome have been nearly 100 percent.

“The little brown bat desperately needs protection under the Endangered Species Act,” said Mollie Matteson, conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity. “Losing this species would be a tragedy that would have disastrous consequences for people and other wildlife.”

The bat die-off has caused significant concern among biologists and conservation groups, not only because of potential extinction of one or more species but also because the night-flying mammals play a critical role in keeping insect populations in check. Based on earlier work by Kunz and others, scientists estimate that the loss of bats due to white-nose syndrome has, to date, meant approximately 700 fewer tons of insects consumed per year, including many pests that attack farm crops and commercial timber. One consequence of fewer bats may be greater use of pesticides.

Based on the dire threat to the little brown bat from white-nose syndrome, the scientists and conservation groups today recommended that the Fish and Wildlife Service place the little brown bat on the federal endangered species list as an emergency measure until the agency can complete its own assessment and make a final ruling.

“If the little brown bat, one of America’s most common and widespread bats, is facing regional, and possibly total, extinction, imagine the threat to less-adaptable and far-reaching species,” said Nina Fascione, executive director of Bat Conservation International. “More than half of the 46 U.S. bat species are potentially susceptible to white-nose syndrome. We must protect the survivors before time runs out.”

Meanwhile, the Fish and Wildlife Service is, until Dec. 26, accepting public comments on its draft plan for addressing white-nose syndrome. And the Service is due to decide on a petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity to provide Endangered Species Act protections for the northern long-eared bat and the eastern small-footed bat, two other species seriously affected by white-nose syndrome.

Groups signing on in support of the status assessment request are Kunz and Reichard’s Center for Ecology and Conservation Biology at Boston University, Friends of Blackwater Canyon, Wildlife Advocacy Project, Bat Conservation International and the Center for Biological Diversity.


The Center for Ecology and Conservation Biology at Boston University was founded in 1996, and promotes an understanding of ecology and conservation biology through research, education, and outreach.

Friends of Blackwater Canyon is a West Virginia organization with over 10,000 members, devoted to preserving the state’s wilderness and wildlife.

Wildlife Advocacy Project assists grassroots activists in achieving long-term protection of wildlife and the environment, and in stopping the abuse and exploitation of animals held in captivity.

Bat Conservation International is devoted to conserving the world’s bats and their ecosystems in order to ensure a healthy planet. Founded in 1982, the organization emphasizes sustainable uses of natural resources that benefit both bats and people.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 315,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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Plant and animal extinctions are detrimental to your health

Plant and animal extinctions are detrimental to your health.

That’s the conclusion of a paper published in this week’s issue of the journal Nature by scientists who studied the link between biodiversity and infectious diseases.

Species loss in ecosystems such as forests and fields results in increases in pathogens, or disease-causing organisms, the researchers found.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF)-National Institutes of Health (NIH) Ecology of Infectious Diseases (EID) Program.

The NSF contribution to the EID Program is supported primarily by its Directorates for Biological Sciences and Geosciences; at NIH, by the Fogarty International Center.

The research was also funded by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“Global change is accelerating, bringing with it a host of unintended consequences,” says Sam Scheiner, EID program director at NSF. “This paper demonstrates the dangers of global change, showing that species extinctions may lead to increases in disease incidence for humans, other animals and plants.”

“A better understanding of the role of environmental change in disease emergence and transmission is key to enabling both prediction and control of many infectious diseases,” says Josh Rosenthal, EID program director at NIH. “This thoughtful analysis is an important contribution toward those goals.”

The species most likely to disappear as biodiversity declines are often those that buffer infectious disease transmission.

Those that remain tend to be the ones that magnify the transmission of infectious diseases like West Nile virus, Lyme disease and hantavirus.

“We knew of specific cases like West Nile virus and hantavirus in which declines in biodiversity increase the incidence of disease,” says Felicia Keesing, an ecologist at Bard College in Annandale, N.Y ., and first author of the paper.

“But we’ve learned that the pattern is much more general: biodiversity loss tends to increase pathogen transmission and infectious disease.”

The finding holds true for various types of pathogens–viruses, bacteria, fungi–and for many hosts, whether humans, other animals or plants.

“When a clinical trial of a drug shows that it works,” says Keesing, “the trial is halted so the drug can be made available. In a similar way, the protective effect of biodiversity is clear enough that we need to begin implementing policies to preserve it now.”

Global biodiversity has declined at an unprecedented pace since the 1950s. Current extinction rates are estimated at 100 to 1,000 times higher than in past epochs, and are projected to rise dramatically in the next 50 years.

Expanding human populations are already increasing contact with novel pathogens through activities such as land-clearing for agriculture, and hunting for wildlife.

In one case, Lyme disease, says co-author Richard Ostfeld of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y ., “strongly buffering species like the opossum are lost when forests are fragmented, but white-footed mice thrive.

“The mice increase numbers of both the blacklegged tick vector [transmission pathway] and the pathogen that causes Lyme disease.”

Scientists don’t yet know, Ostfeld says, why the most resilient species–“the last ones standing when biodiversity is lost”–are the ones that also amplify pathogens.

Preserving natural habitats, the authors argue, is the best way to prevent this effect.

Identifying the variables involved in infectious disease emergence is difficult but critical, says co-author Andrew Dobson of Princeton University.

Biodiversity is an important factor, as are land-use change–converting forest to agricultural land–and human population growth and behavior, he says. “When biological diversity declines, and contact with humans increases, you have a perfect recipe for infectious disease.”

The authors call for careful monitoring of areas in which large numbers of domesticated animals are raised.

“That would reduce the likelihood of an infectious disease jumping from wildlife to livestock, then to humans,” says Keesing.

For humans and other species to remain healthy, it will take more than a village. We need an entire planet, the scientists say, one with its biodiversity thriving.

Other co-authors of the paper are: Samuel Myers of Harvard Medical School; Charles Mitchell of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Kate Jones of the Zoological Society of London; Anna Jolles at Oregon State University; Peter Hudson of Penn State University; Robert Holt of the University of Florida at Gainesville; Drew Harvell of Cornell University; Peter Daszak and Tiffany Bogich of the Wildlife Trust in New York City; and Lisa Belden of Virginia Tech

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Endangered Banff snail threatened by dry springs

The Banff Springs snails are facing a tough 2011, with the hot springs slowly drying up where the rare mollusks live.

The snails live in an area fed by the Upper Hot Springs, one of the resort town’s most popular tourist attractions. Most of them live where the water gurgles up from the ground.

But that source is drying up, and there are predictions next spring will be particularly hard on the snails.

“I’m not sure we actually can do anything to deal with the drying up. I think if it’s a result of things like climate change, or a lack of snow, we certainly can’t do anything with respect to that,” said Charlie Pacas, an aquatics specialist with Parks Canada.

One option is to temporarily evacuate one group of the snails to an aquarium, but that’s not seen as desirable because moving them could actually change the species.

The Banff Springs snail, which is about half the size of a kernel of corn, isn’t found anywhere else in the world.

It’s been estimated they became their unique selves about 10,000 years ago, when glaciers retreated from the Banff area and prehistoric lake levels dropped.

The Banff Springs snail has a shell that spirals to the left, whereas most snails have shells that spiral to the right, according to Parks Canada.

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Poachers threaten mainland wild goat with extinction


ANA-MPa/A wild goat subspecies native to northern Greek mountain ranges, Rupicarpa rupicarpa balcanica, is now threatened with extinction, mostly because it is the most sought after trophy for local and Albanian poachers who cross the border along Mt. Grammos in the northwest to hunt the specific animal, biologist Haritakis Papaioannou told the ANA-MPA.

A study on local hoofed animals entitled “Monitoring of fauna species on Grammos Mountain range”, conducted within the framework of a research by Arcturos environmental organization, has showed that the wild goat population in the region is very small made up of roughly 50 members expected to be further reduced in numbers due to poaching practices. The entire wild goat population across Greece is roughly 700 individuals. ANA-MPA

A small population increase is being recorded in just four regions, the Vikos-Aoos National Park, the mountains Olympus and Giona and the Fraktos Forest. However, this trend can be reversed easily unless an effective preservation mechanism and a National Action Plan for the wild goat are set up.

According to Greek legislation, the wild goat is a protected wildlife species and its hunting is forbidden.

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Rare Falcons Confiscated at Moscow Airport


MOSCOW, Nov. 22, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Customs officials seized eight rare and endangered falcons yesterday at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport from a passenger who attempted to smuggle them out of Russia, according to IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare).

The birds – called gyrfalcons – were discovered in two cartons being loaded with luggage into the hold of a plane bound for the Middle East. They were swaddled in cloth, hooded, and packed four to a box. The woman who checked the cartons as luggage was removed from the plane and detained. She has been released pending a court appearance.

“It is illegal to kill, capture or trade in these very endangered birds,” said Masha Vorontsova, IFAW’s Russia Director. “But at least 100 wild gyrfalcons are smuggled out of Russia each year, primarily driven by demand from the growing popularity of falconry in the Middle East.”

A wild gyrfalcon can be sold for as much as USD $50,000 on the black market.

Officials believe that the eight gyrfalcons were captured from the wild in the Russian Far East and then transported by plane to Moscow, passing undetected through two security checkpoints and a customs inspection. The birds were discovered while being loaded into the baggage hold of a plane departing for Damascus, Syria.

The birds have been sent to IFAW’s raptor rehabilitation center in Moscow and will be cared for until they are strong enough to be returned to the wild. IFAW ornithologist and bird rehabilitator Sergei Ganusevich said he expects all eight birds to survive; they will likely be transported back to Kamchatka for release sometime next month. IFAW has rehabilitated and released several dozen gyrfalcons and other endangered birds of prey over the past decade; most were victims of illegal trade.

“IFAW’s goal is to protect these rare birds from poachers and smugglers, and to return them to their natural habitat,” said Vorontsova.

Gyrfalcons are native to the Russian Far East. They are the largest and strongest of all falcons and have been highly prized for falconry since the Middle Ages. About 1,000 gyrfalcon pairs remain in the wild in Russia, living mostly around the Polar Circle, from the Kola Peninsula to Chukotka and Kamchatka. Prior to winter, the birds migrate somewhat south to Kamchatka.

The gyrfalcon is listed both in the IUCN Red Book of endangered species and on the CITES Appendix I. The latter designation prohibits any international commercial trade of these birds. IFAW works within Russia to help the government effectively enforce CITES regulations.

The smuggling of rare birds of prey from or through Russia is a growing problem, which endangers many raptor species such as saker falcons and peregrine falcons.

About IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare)

Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats.

SOURCE International Fund for Animal Welfare

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Poachers killing off fruit bats in Negros Oriental


Fruit bats are fast becoming extinct in Negros Oriental as residents there continue to catch and eat them, environmentalists in the province warned this week.

At least two types of fruit bats — chevnous fruit bats and golden flying fox — are being poached in Valencia and Sibulan towns in Negros Oriental, said wildlife advocate Pol Cariño.

Cariño said fried fruit bats have been identified as a most delicious recipe in the two areas, according to a report in news site Visayan Daily Star.

He said the chevnous fruit bats and the golden flying fox can easily be caught through nets or traps locally known as “balag-ong,” especially during the fruit bearing season of fruit trees.

Fruit bats only eat fruits and flower nectar during night time.

Cariño said he learned about the illegal hunting of fruit bats during the lanzones season in Valencia where a kilo of fruit bat meat is sold for P150.

Fruit bats thrive in the area because of the forest and the availability of food like fruits and flowers.

Cariño said he was saddened to learn about the illegal hunting of fruit bats and hoped local police will strengthen monitoring and efforts to protect wildlife.

Other species of wildlife that are nearing extinction include the Negros bleeding heart pigeon, callao, and the Negros forest frog.

Cariño said the Negros forest frog are so tiny and they serve as forest indicator as their presence would proves that the forest is still healthy and considered growing.

Fruit bats are among the largest in the world. The Philippines has at least 56 species of bats among the over 1,000 known species in the world. – JE/KBK/HS, GMANews.TV

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