Monthly Archives: May 2011

Saving wild asses from extinction


Modern horses and donkeys are the descendents of the wild ass, which is now in danger of extinction. Pressure to save the wild ass intensifies as human activities like habitat destruction and hunting continue. Scientists led by the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna in Austria have investigated the factors involved in the loss of the species. Presented in the journal Biological Conservation, the study tackles the question of how to protect this species’ survival.

While it populated many areas in the past, the wild ass currently makes its home in China, India, Iran, Mongolia and Turkmenistan; the Gobi Desert in Mongolia is a critical refuge area for this species. Professor Chris Walzer and colleagues at the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology assessed the distribution of wild asses in the Gobi Desert and found the species in areas where the average production of biomass is below 250 grams of carbon per square metre per year.

While the species were found in more productive regions in the past, human activity has played havoc on the animals’ habitat and survival. They have either been chased away or killed by people to ensure that farmers’ livestock have access to food and water, both of which are scarce in the Gobi Desert. Despite its hardiness, the wild ass still needs water and food to survive in the tough conditions of the desert and steppe, and the species has been forced to move into areas that cannot support it.

For their study, the researchers fitted radio transmitters to almost 20 asses and monitored the animals’ movements until the transmitters fell off (it should be noted that the transmitters were designed to do so). Their results confirmed that individual animals range widely yet steer clear from mountainous or hilly regions.

They say the mountains that cut across the species’ distribution in Mongolia impede the animals’ movement. Genetic tests were used to corroborate information that the animals found on either side of the mountains are, in effect, isolated from each other.

Thanks to efforts made by conservationists, however, the team found no evidence of a recent ‘genetic bottleneck’. To sum up, the species showed a relatively high level of genetic diversity, both within and between the two subpopulations, according to the researchers.

But they point out that the data obtained by the radio transmitters revealed that the wild asses either could not or were unwilling to cross man-made barriers including the Ulaanbaatar-Beijing railway line. Consequently, some 17 000 square kilometres of suitable habitat are unreachable for these animals. Also, a near 40-year-old border fence between Mongolia and China keeps the wild asses separated.

The team says the Gobi Desert-based wild ass would benefit from a coordinated, multinational conservation plan. ‘Opening the border fence, at least in places, would not only help the Asiatic wild ass but would also be likely to benefit other rare mammals, such as Bactrian camels and re-introduced Przewalski’s horses.’

Experts from the Technical University Munich in Germany, the Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography in China, and the Mammalian Ecology Laboratory of the Institute of Biology at the Mongolian Academy of Science and the WWF Mongolia contributed to this study.

For more information, please visit:

University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna:

Biological Conservation:

Category: Miscellaneous
Data Source Provider: University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna
Document Reference: Kaczensky, P., et al. (2011) Connectivity of the Asiatic wild ass population in the Mongolian Gobi. Biological Conservation 144: 920-929. DOI: org/10.1016/j.biocon.2010.12.013.
Subject Index: Social Aspects; Life Sciences; Scientific Research

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Endangered parakeets rescued from bus


NEW DELHI: A joint team comprising law enforcers and animal activists rescued 52 baby Alexandrine parakeets from a Haryana Roadways bus on Saturday. The endangered birds were being brought into the city from Pathankot for sale in Delhi and Meerut.

People for Animals (PFA), which was part of the rescue team, said they received information at 3.30am about two men bringing the parrots to Delhi in a bus. “The bus was headed for Kashmere Gate ISBT, so we waited close to the Timarpur gurdwara. We spotted the bus around 6am and followed it for a few kilometres before the policemen in our team stopped it. One of the men, Shakeel, actually jumped out of the moving bus and managed to escape,” said Saurabh Gupta, a PFA member.

The rescue team found nothing inside the bus, so checked the roof. There they found two tightly packed cardboard boxes, inside which were the fledglings. “Three of the 52 birds were severely ill and most of them were dehydrated. They have been sent to the Sanjay Gandhi Hospital for treatment. The other person, Afzal, was found inside the bus and had sale deeds of the parrots with him. He was arrested. Both he and Shakeel bought the parrots at Bilaspur in Himachal Pradesh for Rs 2,000 per bird and were planning to sell them at the Jama Masjid bird market and in Meerut. The average cost of each bird in the open market is about Rs 10,000,” added Gupta.

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China’s rare bird population grows but challenges remain


BEIJING, May 15 (Xinhua) — China’s efforts to save its endangered birds are paying off as the population of some rare birds living in the wild, such as the crested ibis, are increasing.

But the country’s rare birds are still at risk due to shrinking habitats and increasing human activities, according to the State Forestry Administration (SFA).

Also, poaching and illegal trafficking continue to pose a threat, said Yin Hong, deputy director of SFA, on Friday when she attended a ceremony held in Beijing marking the 30th anniversary of the launch of Bird-Loving Week in China.

According to the SFA, the population of many endangered birds has increased rapidly over the past 30 years, and the number of crested ibis has risen from merely seven to more than 1,600 over the three decades.

The wild population of 100 rare and endangered species, including cranes, pheasants and plovers, is gradually increasing, according the SFA.

The SFA has also released human-bred crested ibis, red-crowned cranes and yellow-bellied tragopans, all endangered species, into the wild.

Yin said the SFA would extend the protection network for birds and wild animals in the future by building more natural reserves and setting up more monitoring stations for animals in the wild.

China has upped its efforts to protect wildlife in recent years by dealing with poachers more severely.

Earlier this month, a man in northeast China’s Liaoning Province was sentenced to 10 years in prison for hunting protected wild birds in a nature reserve — the heaviest penalty for poaching since the reserve was established 20 years ago.

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Endangered bird shot in Malta, flown to Germany for rehab


A pallid harrier, one of Europe’s most endangered birds of prey, which was shot in Malta, was sent to Germany for rehabilitation last Wednesday by BirdLife Malta.

The bird is one of 26 shot protected birds which BirdLife Malta received during the spring hunting season which started on 13 April. On the list are birds of poor conservation status in Europe including a black kite, a lesser kestrel, the pallid harrier, and a purple heron.

The pallid harrier was recovered on 1 May after a member of the public found it in his garden in the limits of Mosta. The bird had gunshot injuries to the wing and chest that were a few days old, having been shot during the spring hunting derogation period, and was emaciated and unable to fly.

There are an estimated five to 50 breeding pairs of pallid harriers in Europe, excluding the Russian population. Due to large historic population declines pallid harriers are listed as endangered in Europe.

Over the past four years, BirdLife Malta has witnessed several incidents of pallid harriers being shot at. A shot pallid harrier was recovered from Tas-Silġ in 2007, a badly injured bird was seen over Fomm ir-Riħ in 2008, and last year another badly injured pallid harrier was filmed flying over the Foresta 2000 area on Easter Sunday.

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World’s biggest bird on verge of extinction


The Saharan race ostrich, largest representative of its species, has been extirpated across 95 per cent of its range. Within Niger, the bird is extinct in the wild.

There are still roughly 100 pure-bred Saharan race ostriches in small privately-held captive flocks scattered across the country. A land-locked country in Western Africa, the Republic of Niger is exceptionally poor, but with some modest assistance those caring for ostriches can substantially improve the chances of these birds breeding successfully and rearing young.

Given how productive ostrich can be, there is every reason to believe that with the right material and technical support, Niger can breed desert ostrich and return them to the wild in relatively short order.

Appeal for funding

The Sahara Conservation Fund (SCF) is part of a public-private partnership with the Republic of Niger and a consortium of private local breeders (CERNK) that was launched in an effort to breed some of these birds with an eye towards producing chicks for eventual reintroduction. Significant improvements to the ostrich breeding pens in Kellé, Niger, were completed last year.

The SCF is now focusing on improving the diet and promoting natural incubation until such time as Niger has the capacity to manage artificial incubation and chick-rearing operations. SCF, in partnership with the AZA Ratite TAG, has developed its Adopt-an-Ostrich Programme to support the acquisition, care and feeding of pure-bred Saharan ostrich in Niger; to help maintain the ostrich facilities; and to improve capacity for ostrich management.

‘With your help, we can get Saharan ostrich back on the road to recovery in Niger,’ said an SCF spokesman. ‘This is a great opportunity for all of us to make a connection between our interest in the Sahara and the conservation of the largest bird on the planet.’


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Sumatran Tiger Population at Risk of Extinction in Bengkulu


Bengkulu. Sumatran Tigers in Bengkulu province are on the brink of extinction in yet more bad news for the future of the species.

Provincial conservation official Amon Zamora said only 50 tigers remained in six districts, where illegal logging continued on a massive scale.

A similar story is unfolding in Jambi province, which has less than 40 wild tigers surviving in the wild, and neighboring Lampung, with less than 20.

There are as few as 400 Sumatran tigers left in Indonesia, or about 12 percent of the estimated global tiger population of 3,200.

The tiger population is threatened by loss and fragmented habitat, decreasing prey populations, illegal poaching and trading of the tiger and its body parts, as well as human-tiger conflicts.

Amon said tigers often came into conflict with humans on farms bordering rainforest.

Tigers, highly prized in Chinese traditional medicine, were also hunted for their body parts, he said.

Amon said one of the main problems was the lack of forestry police to provide security.

Antara, JG

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Lawsuit Launched to Protect Alabama Shad Under Endangered Species Act

For Immediate Release, April 28, 2011

Contact: Noah Greenwald,             (503) 484-7495

Lawsuit Launched to Protect Alabama Shad Under Endangered Species Act

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal notice of intent to sue the National Marine Fisheries Service today over the agency’s denial of Endangered Species Act protection for the Alabama shad. The pending lawsuit will challenge a February decision by the agency that a Center petition to protect the shad did not present sufficient information to warrant a further review of the shad’s status.

“There’s no question that the Alabama shad has undergone dramatic declines and needs Endangered Species Act protection to survive,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center. “The decision not to consider the shad for protection failed to follow either the law or the science.”

The Alabama shad once occurred in rivers from Florida to Oklahoma, but today only a handful of populations survive. The shad was once so abundant that it supported commercial fisheries in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Indiana and Iowa. Dams, pollution and drought have caused widespread decline of the shad and continue to threaten its survival.

“Too many species that desperately need help are being denied protection,” said Greenwald. “We had hoped for better environmental protection from the Obama administration, but so far it has a dismal record on endangered species.”

To date the Obama government has only granted federal protection to 59 species, 48 of which occur on one Hawaiian island, for a rate of 29 species per year. In contrast, the Clinton administration protected 522 species, for a rate of 65 species per year.

Alabama shad spend most of their six-year life in the ocean, returning to freshwater rivers to breed. Juvenile shad remain in freshwater for the first six to eight months of their lives, feeding on small fishes and invertebrates. Populations of the shad are thought to remain in the Apalachicola River, Florida, the Choctawhatchee and Conecuh rivers, Alabama, the Pascagoula River, Mississippi, the Ouachita River, Arkansas, and the Missouri, Gasconade, Osage and Meramec rivers, Missouri.

Learn more about our campaigns to stop the Southeast freshwater extinction crisis and earn protection for all the candidate species.

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