Monthly Archives: February 2011

Sumatran Rhinos Not Extinct But Face Bleak Prospects


TUARAN, Feb 9 (Bernama) — Despite all the odds against the Sumatran rhinoceros, the species “stubbornly refuses to go extinct”, an official here said.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Dr Laurentius Nayan Ambu said this was the main good news derived from the first day of the Sumatran rhinoceros Global Management and Propagation Board meeting held here.

He said there were still Sumatran rhinos in the same protected areas which were their strongholds in 1995, namely in Bukit Barisan Selatan, Way Kambas and Gunung Leuser in Sumatra, Indonesia, and Danum Valley and the Tabin Wildlife reserve, both in Sabah.

“Also potentially a good news is we can confirm that the Sumatran and Borneo rhinos are genetically close. We may be confident that mixing the two for breeding does have scientific backing.

“In any case, we know that pregnancy in the Sumatran rhino is likely to be the best way to prevent the reproductive tract pathologies which afflict this species,” he said at dinner in conjunction with the meeting here, Tuesday night.

The two-day meeting from Tuesday, is the first GMPB meeting to be held in Malaysia, and represents the first international meeting of Sumatran rhino experts to be held in Sabah since 1995.

Laurentius said however that the prospects for the Sumatran rhino remain bleak, where their population in the wild appeared to continue to decline or at best, not increasing despite the best efforts to protect their habitat as well as the rhinos.

He highlighted that there have been no recent Sumatran rhino births in captive conditions.

“It seems that in order to make the best use of the Sumatran rhinos in captive conditions, at least two measures have to be considered — one is to get few more rhinos in wild conditions to boost the genetic diversity and to try boost prospects for successful natural breeding in captive population.

“We are pursuing this option in Sabah, and since April 2010 we have been targeting capture of a specific young female rhino from the wild,” he added.

The Sumatran rhinoceros once inhabited rainforests, swamps and cloud forests in India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and China, but now they are critically endangered, with only six substantial populations in the wild — four in Sumatra, one in Borneo and another in Peninsular Malaysia.



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Circle hooks can save endangered marine turtles in the Coral Triangle


THOUSANDS of endangered marine turtles could be saved in the Coral Triangle region if the fishing industry started using innovative and responsible fishing gear, a WWF analysis shows.

Towards the Adoption of Circle Hooks to Reduce Fisheries Bycatch in the Coral Triangle Region makes a strong case for governments, fishing organizations and fisheries to start implementing Circle Hooks. 

“All it takes is a simple change in fishing gear to help reduce marine turtle bycatch while upholding more efficient and responsible fishing practices,” says Keith Symington, WWF Coral Triangle Bycatch Strategy Leader.

Circle Hooks are simple yet innovative fishing gear that are sharply curved back in a circular shape and have demonstrated a significant reduction in the hooking rate of marine turtles in longline fisheries by as much as 80 percent compared to traditional hooks. Because of its round shape and inward-pointing sharp end, Circle Hooks are found to be less harmful to turtles if swallowed and do not cause much internal damage once pulled out, as opposed to currently used slimmer hooks with a more exposed pointed end that can cause severe damage to turtles when accidentally ingested. 

Studies show that shifting to Circle Hooks maintains previous catch rates of target species at the very least or generates an even higher catch rate of target species in the majority of cases.

Due to their tendency to hook in the mouth, Circle Hooks also increase post-hook survival of fish, leading to harvesting fresher and better quality seafood.

Despite its proven efficacy, Circle Hooks have yet to be standardized and broadly accepted in the region. The continued application of tariffs and import tax on eco-friendly fishing gears poses as one of the obstacles hindering its mainstream use.

“This slow transition to Circle Hooks is as surprising as it is unacceptable,” says Symington. “We need the support of governments and regional bodies to ensure that such readily available and proven effective tools are made accessible to help put a stop to this easily preventable problem.”

Bycatch or the indiscriminate catch of non-target species in fisheries remains to be one of the most critical marine conservation issues in the Coral Triangle today, threatening marine biodiversity and the delicate ecological balance of oceans. In this region alone, tens of thousands of marine turtles are estimated to be accidentally killed each year by longline fishing operations.

“It is imperative for the fishing industry to start adopting more responsible fishing methods if they are to benefit from the growing demand for more responsibly-caught seafood; the use of Circle Hooks provides a win-win solution for all,” adds Symington.

An increasing number of seafood companies and individual fishers have already caught on to the market benefits of using Circle Hooks and have been fully on board WWF’s Circle Hook programme, attesting to the economic and environmental effectiveness of this tool and seeing it as a crucial step towards sustainability.

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As World’s Human Population Approaches 7 Billion, Global Species Extinction Crisis Accelerates

For Immediate Release, February 11, 2011

Contact: Randy Serraglio, (520) 784-1504

As World’s Human Population Approaches 7 Billion, Global Species Extinction Crisis Accelerates

TUCSON, Ariz.— The number of people on Earth is expected to hit 7 billion later this year, a deeply troubling milestone in the human overpopulation crisis that’s contributing to widespread extinction of plants and animals, overconsumption of our natural resources, climate change, and other environmental problems. February is Global Population Speak Out month, one of the best opportunities for citizens to take action on this crucial environmental issue.

“Every day, this planet has to deal with an additional 250,000 people that weren’t there the day before, and it simply can’t sustain the strain that puts on species, food and water, and natural ecosystems,” said Randy Serraglio, overpopulation campaign coordinator for the Center for Biological Diversity.

Wildlife have already paid a price in the United States. Once-prominent species such as the eastern woodland bison and the Southwest’s Merriam’s elk were hunted to extinction, while scores of others disappeared because of dams, lost habitat, pollution and cattle grazing. Today’s global extinction crisis threatens other charismatic species like polar and grizzly bears, beluga whales and gray wolves, as well as other smaller, lesser-known species. As the human footprint on the planet grows, scientists estimate we’re losing species at 100 to 1,000 times the natural rate. Without help, 30 to 50 percent of all species could be on the path to extinction by 2050.

“At its root, the loss of so many species is directly related to unsustainable human population growth,” Serraglio said. “Unfortunately, overpopulation and overconsumption rarely find their way into the conversation about solving the biggest environmental problems we face today. If that’s going to change, it’s crucial that citizens and community leaders begin holding elected leaders accountable for how their decisions contribute to overpopulation and overconsumption.”

In 2010, the Center distributed 350,000 Endangered Species Condoms to thousands of volunteers around the United States and beyond as a way to raise awareness about the connection between human overpopulation and species extinction. The Center is also joining in this year’s Global Population Speak Out and is urging its supporters to sign the GPSO pledge to make their voices heard on this important issue.

There are several ways to reduce the human population to an ecologically sustainable level, including the empowerment of women, education of all people and universal access to birth control.


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Sharks facing extinction due to over fishing


Shark catching is driving the animals to the brink of extinction, with one in three species critically endangered and around 73 million sharks caught and killed each year.

Sharks have been portrayed in popular culture as man-eating killing machines, leading to a substantial lack of public support for their protection, in comparison to the controversy surrounding whale or seal hunting.

Yet sharks accounted for just 6 deaths in 2010, meaning that humans kill around 12 million sharks for every human killed by one.

Advocacy groups are now calling for great protection for sharks, warning that the lack of an international law will see all shark species decimated within just a few decades.

“Some say we’ve past the turning point; I hope that is not the case,” says Matt Rand, director of the Pew Environment Group’s Global Shark Conservation Campaign.

Sharks are critical to the balance of the world’s marine eco systems, Matt Rand told CNN, pointing out that sharks have developed their role over the last 400 million years, making them essential to the preservation of the oceans.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, as many as 70% of all fishing areas may have now been over-utilised, rendering shark populations devastated in those areas.

A sustainable management plan has been in place for the past ten years, but it has had little to no effect because international law requires that each country manage its own sustainability measures, which leaves many countries, such as India, Indonesia and Taiwan, open to do nothing.

Those countries that have implemented the management plan, such as Palau, Honduras and the Maldives are seeing growth in shark populations, which has led to a thriving shark tourism market in many coastal communities.

Scott Henderson of Conservation International believes that the over-fishing of sharks will have a hugely detrimental effect on the world’s oceans, disrupting the balance of many key marine species.

“Whether you care about sharks themselves, or the oceans they regulate, it’s in everyone’s interest to curb the massive overfishing of sharks that is putting oceans at risk,” he told CNN.

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WATERBURY, Vt. (AP) — Vermont’s secretary of Natural Resources is being urged to add two species of once-common bats to the state’s endangered species list.

On Tuesday Vermont’s Endangered Species Committee recommended that little brown bats and northern long-eared bats be added to the list because their populations have been decimated by white nose syndrome. Being on the list will help protect the species.

Experts say the populations of little brown bats has declined 75 percent and some surveys failed to find any northern long-eared bats.

The mysterious white nose syndrome began decimating bat populations in the Northeast five years ago.

The Burlington Free Press says that the committee met Tuesday, chairwoman Sally Laughlin hand-carried the recommendation to Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz, who will make the decision.


Information from: The Burlington Free Press,

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Endangered crocodiles released to fight extinction


MANILA, Philippines (AFP) — Nineteen of the world’s most critically endangered crocodiles have been released into the wild in the Philippines as part of efforts to save the species from extinction, conservationists said.


The freshwater crocodiles, which had been reared for 18 months at a breeding centre, were set free in a national park in the remote north of the country that is one of just two remaining natural habitats for the reptile.


If they survive, the number of known Philippine crocodiles in the wild will increase by roughly a fifth, according to Marites Balbas, spokeswoman for the Mabuwaya Foundation that is behind the conservation program.


“The Philippine crocodile is the world’s most severely threatened crocodile species with less than 100 adults remaining in the wild. It could go extinct in 10 years if nothing is done,” Balbas said.


The International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists the Philippine crocodile as “critically endangered,” just one step away from being extinct in the wild.


The Philippine crocodile has plunged to the verge of extinction due to destruction of its habitat, dynamite fishing and killings by humans who consider it dangerous, said Balbas.


However the released crocodiles — which are only 35 to 50 centimeters (14 to 20 inches) long — will be safe in the park, according to Balbas.


“There is enough food and people are educated on how to protect them. We actually have groups in the local community who guard the sanctuary. They are aware that killing crocodiles is prohibited,” she said.


The crocodiles can grow up to 2.7 meters (nine feet) long.


The events continue a program that began in 2005 in which dozens of captive-raised Philippine crocodiles have been released back into the wild in the Sierra Madre Natural Park in the northern province of Isabela.

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Endangered Mexican Wolves Increase in Southwest

For Immediate Release, February 2, 2011

Contact:  Michael Robinson, (575) 534-0360

Endangered Mexican Wolves Increase in Southwest

SILVER CITY, N.M.— Fifty Mexican gray wolves, including two breeding pairs, were counted in the wilds of New Mexico and Arizona at the end of 2010, according to a new census conducted by federal and state agencies. The 50 wolves are eight more than the 42 wolves found a year ago, representing the first increase in numbers in four years.

“We are relieved that the trend line is up, but these wolves are still highly imperiled,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The increase is in large part due to the cessation of federal shooting and trapping, which destroyed wolf families, orphaned pups and removed genetically valuable wolves that were more productive breeders.”

Between 1998 and 2007, federal agencies shot 11 Mexican wolves, and an additional 18 wolves died as a result of capture. Thirty-two other wolves trapped from the wild are in long-term captivity.

The year 2007 turned out to be the last for wolf “control,” after New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson called for a halt to removals, and with revelations that a ranch hand had baited a wolf pack with a pregnant cow brought near the wolf den in order to effect the pack’s destruction. No wolves were removed from the wild in 2008, 2009 or 2010, allowing the population to finally begin to bounce back.

In January, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released into the wild two wolves that had been captured as pups with their packs in 2007, the first such releases of captured wolves since February 2009.

“We are pleased that these wolves are finally back in the wild, and we hope they will be the first of dozens more to be released this year,” said Robinson.

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