Monthly Archives: September 2011

Hector’s dolphins on course for extinction



The world’s most endangered dolphins are swimming towards extinction, with at least 23 killed in New Zealand fishing nets each year.

Hector’s dolphins are found only in New Zealand, where new research shows fishing bans are failing to stop the species’ decline.

Experts are calling for better protection for the dolphins before it is too late.

The Hector’s dolphin population has fallen from 30,000 to around 8000 since nylon nets came into use in the 1970s.

The North Island population, a separate subspecies known as Maui dolphins, is thought to have fewer than 100 individuals.

Dr Liz Slooten from Otago University and Dr Nick Davies from the Oceanic Fisheries Programme in New Caledonia examined data from observers on commercial gillnetting boats during 2009 and 2010 and – in separate studies – came to the same conclusions.

Each year 23 Hector’s dolphins are drowned in gillnets on the east coast of the South Island, with the same number estimated to be dying in trawling nets.

“The sustainable limit for this area is about one dolphin a year,” Slooten said. If the bycatch from gillnets continued, the population would decrease by another 14% by 2050, she said.

It was unknown how many dolphins drowned in other areas.

Slooten said when a dolphin swims into a gillnet – a wall of net normally anchored to the ground – it cannot swim backwards, so becomes stuck.

Hector’s dolphins can only dive underwater for around one-and-a-half minutes and if they can’t get to the surface, they drown.

Before the fishing net bans were introduced in some parts of New Zealand in 2008, it was estimated around 110 to 150 dolphins were drowned each year, with about 40 of those off the east coast of the South Island.

“We would hope that the population would at least be stable since the bans were introduced or wouuld be recovering – but they are still in decline,” Slooten said.

“It shows the protection models are not enough.”

Currently, there are differing bans on fishing nets and trawlers in various parts of the country.

However areas such as Tasman Bay, Golden Bay and Taranaki are not included and in some areas the bans are seasonal or only pertain to shallow water.

Slooten said the first thing the Minister of Fisheries should do is ensure the dolphin’s safe passage between the north and south islands by creating a bigger protected area on the North Island’s west coast.

Without fishing, it is believed dolphin numbers could double to 15,000.

The research from both Slooten and Davies will be presented to researchers from all over the world attending the World Conference on Marine Biodiversity in Aberdeen this week.

It will be presented by Dr Barbara Maas, the Head of Endangered Species Conservation with NABU International – Foundation for Nature.

It will also be published by the Royal Society of New Zealand.


Hector’s dolphin facts

* Hector’s dolphins prefer shallow waters up to 100m deep and are therefore highly vulnerable to fishing nets.

* Hector’s dolphins are classified as Endangered by the Red List of Endangered Species. This means that they are “facing a high risk of extinction in the near future”.

* Numbers have declined from 30,000 in the 1970s to less than 8000 today.

* Females only have one calf every 2-4 years and do not reach breeding age until they are 7-9 years old. Their potential for recovery is therefore extremely slow.

* North Island Hector’s dolphins, also called Maui’s dolphins, are classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species. This means that they are “facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the immediate future”.

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374 Southeast Species Move Toward Endangered Species Act Protection

For Immediate Release, September 26, 2011

Contact:  Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

374 Southeast Species Move Toward Endangered Species Act Protection

Florida Sandhill Crane, Alabama Map Turtle, Streamside Salamander Among Hundreds of
Freshwater Species in 12 States That May Get New Protection

WASHINGTON— In response to a 2010 scientific petition from the Center for Biological Diversity and other groups, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today found that protection of 374 freshwater species in 12 southeastern states may be warranted under the Endangered Species Act. The decision was made in accordance with a historic settlement agreement reached this summer between the Center and the government to push 757 of the country’s least protected, but most imperiled, species toward Endangered Species Act protection.

“With today’s finding that 374 southeastern freshwater species will be considered for Endangered Species Act protection, it’s clear the Fish and Wildlife Service is finally taking action to help hundreds of American species that desperately need a lifeline,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center. “Like so many species in our ever-more crowded world, these 374 species face a multitude of threats to their survival — habitat destruction, pollution, climate change and pressure from invasive species.”

The 374 include 89 species of crayfish and other crustaceans; 81 plants; 78 mollusks; 51 butterflies, moths, caddisflies and other insects; 43 fish; 13 amphibians; 12 reptiles, four mammals and three birds. They are found in 12 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

Included among the 374 species are the Florida sandhill crane, streamside salamander, Alabama map turtle, beautiful crayfish, clam-shell orchid, cobblestone tiger beetle, frecklebelly madtom and the Canoe Creek pigtoe.

“The Southeast is home to more freshwater species than anywhere else in the world. Tragically, the region has already lost many of them to extinction,” Greenwald said. “Endangered Species Act protection for these remaining species will help stem the tide of extinction and herald the beginning of a new era of species protection in the Southeast.”

As documented in the petition, southeastern freshwater species are threatened by many forces that have altered, and continue to alter, the region’s waterways, such as dams, pollution, sprawl, poor agricultural practices, invasive species and a warming climate.

“Protecting these species will also protect rivers and streams that are a source of drinking water and recreation for Southeast communities,” said Greenwald. “Endangered Species Act protection will not just save these species from extinction but benefit millions of people.”

Groups that joined the Center on the petition included Alabama Rivers Alliance, The Clinch Coalition, Dogwood Alliance, Gulf Restoration Network, Tennessee Forests Council and West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.

Additional Information
For a copy of today’s finding, more information on our campaign to address the Southeast freshwater extinction crisis, a copy of the petition, a list of species by state and a slideshow of a sample of the species, please visit:

For more information on our landmark settlement agreement, please visit:

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Endangered pangolins rescued in Thailand


BANGKOK, Thailand — Authorities in Thailand have rescued nearly 100 endangered pangolins worth about $32,000 that they say were to be sold and eaten outside the country.

Customs Department Director-General Prasong Poontaneat said the scaly anteaters were seized from a truck Sunday evening in the southern province of Prachuap Khiri Khan after a driver fled a checkpoint. Prasong says the driver was detained.

Prasong said Monday that the mammals might have come from Malaysia or Indonesia and were en route to either Vietnam or China, where many believe they can cure ailments and boost sexual prowess.

The animals are protected by a convention on international trade in endangered species of which Thailand is a member.

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No substitute for untouched tropical forests – U of Adelaide


Thursday, 15 September 2011

South-East Asia has suffered the greatest losses of biodiversity of any tropical region in the world over the past 50 years, according to new research involving the University of Adelaide.

Researchers found that South-East Asia has the lowest remaining forest cover, highest rates of deforestation, and the highest human population densities among all of the major tropical regions.

The study, published today in the journal Nature, highlights the importance of natural forests undisturbed by humans – known as ‘primary forests’ – in sustaining tropical wildlife.

“The study compares human impacts on biodiversity across the world’s key tropical forested regions, and the conclusion is very clear: undisturbed primary forests are the only ones in which a full complement of species can thrive,” says Professor Corey Bradshaw, Director of Ecological Modelling with the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute and one of the co-authors of the study.

“Much has been made in recent years of the potential conservation value of disturbed and degraded forests – what we call ‘secondary forests’,” says co-author Professor Barry Brook, also of the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute.

“Until now, some have believed that revegetation and other conservation programs in these secondary forests will be enough to help preserve or bring back the majority of species. However, this study shows that the impact of human interference in those forests is too strong. We’re kidding ourselves if we think the damage can be reversed,” he says.

“It’s not that secondary forests have no biodiversity value, they are just less valuable than primary forests,” Professor Bradshaw says. “We should be focused on protecting primary forests as much as possible.”

One of the leaders of the study, PhD student Luke Gibson from the National University of Singapore, says: “There’s no substitute for primary forests. Our comprehensive assessment shows that all major forms of disturbance, with one possible exception, invariably reduce biodiversity in tropical forests.”

That exception is selective logging, which had a relatively small – but still negative – impact on biodiversity.

The other leader of the study is PhD student Tien Ming Lee from the University of California, San Diego, who says South-East Asia “consistently emerged as a conservation hotspot and must be one of our top priority regions”. “This does not mean, however, that we can ignore other regions,” he says.

To protect the world’s remaining primary tropical forests, the authors suggest a number of strategies, including the expansion and enhanced enforcement of protected areas.

“We have already invested substantially in setting up parks, so expanding them and making them more effective might be practical,” says Tien Ming Lee.

The co-authors include researchers from Singapore, Australia, the United States, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

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Court asked to reverse Congress on Rockies wolves


BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Wildlife advocates are urging a federal appeals panel to restore endangered species protections for wolves.

The Alliance for the Wild Rockies, WildEarth Guardians and other groups argue the judicial branch needs to “zealously guard” against a move by Congress that lifted protections in defiance of earlier court rulings

They sued the government after Congress in April approved a budget rider taking wolves off the endangered list in five states.

The filing of their briefs in the case comes as wildlife agencies on Friday reported hunters have killed 11 of the predators since wolf seasons opened in Idaho and Montana last week.

Initial attempts to stop the hunts were denied last month by a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. A November hearing in the case is expected.

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Lanka, UK bid to protect Loris


Researchers from Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom have launched ways to save the red slender Loris that is threatened with extinction from habitat loss.

The Horton Plains slender loris was believed possibly extinct until recently. In 2009, after 200 hours of surveying, ZSL EDGE researchers rediscovered this sub-species and took the first ever photographs and measurements of a specimen.

The principal threat facing the slender loris is habitat change, resulting from nearly two centuries of over exploitation for, tea, rubber and cinnamon.

Combined with the fact that the species is unique to central and south-western Sri Lanka, and is typically found in the southern “wet zone” of the island upto the central “intermediate zone”, the picture is bleak. The ZSL EDGE programme is engaged in a collaborative project with the University of Colombo and the Open University of Sri Lanka to bring conservation focus to this species and its remaining habitat. Dr. Craig Turner, EDGE Conservation Biologist from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Sri Lankan zoologist, Saman Gamage, called on the British High Commissioner, John Rankin, recently to brief him about the work being done to protect the red slender loris.

A key part of this has been undertaking an assessment of loris ‘occupancy’ in over 100 different forest patches, with nearly 1,000 surveys completed.

Led by the project’s Sri Lankan field team, this has provided the first spatial data on loris at this scale in Sri Lanka, allowing questions regarding habitat use, forest preferences and distribution to be answered finally. This information is fundamental in informing a conservation action plan which is being drafted. The group recently launched a small reforestation project supported by the BBC Wildlife Fund in the Nuwara Eliya area.

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Rare wild yaks under protection in Tibetan nature reserve


LHASA, Sept. 9 (Xinhua) — About 170 critically-endangered golden wild yaks, a species once believed to be extinct, roam in a nature reserve in southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region thanks to adequate protection, forestry officials said Friday.

The yaks are in Changtang Nature Reserve, a 200,000-square km area in Tibet’s Ngari Prefecture where more than 400 wild animal species live in the wild, including critically endangered Tibetan antelopes, wild Tibetan donkeys and wild yaks.

The golden wild yak, known for its golden fur, is the rarest of wild yaks and unique to the Changtang reserve.

“It’s very difficult to spot a golden wild yak because the animal is extremely sensitive and runs away very fast whenever they detect the smells of human beings or other animals,” said Tendar, a forestry police officer in the Changtang reserve.

Unlike other wild yak species which are dark or brown and often confront human beings, these golden animals are tame and move around gracefully, he said.

The rare yaks were believed to be extinct until forestry workers found a group of 40 roaming in the wilderness of Ngari Prefecture’s Rutog County in 2006.

“Today, its population has increased to about 170, thanks to our effective protection and fight against illegal poaching,” said Tendar, who heads a team of 10 forestry policemen that patrol the wilderness.

The populations of many other wild animal species are also on the rise in the reserve, he said.

The number of Tibetan antelopes in the Changtang Nature Reserve has increased to 120,000, twice as much as its population in the 1990s.

The reserve has more than 80,000 wild Tibetan donkeys, compared with 50,000 in the 1990s.

China has more than 2,000 nature reserves that cover a combined 1.5 million square km.

In Tibet alone, 47 nature reserves have been set up covering 400,000 square km, said Xu Zhihong, chairman of the Chinese National Committee for UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB), at the 13th China Biosphere Reserve Network Convention that opened in Lhasa on Thursday.0 The MAB has been working for 40 years in the areas of ecosystem conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.

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Thai customs seizes thousands of endangered animals


BANGKOK, September 14, 2011 – Nearly 2,000 monitor lizards, hundreds of turtles and 20 snakes were among a huge haul of live endangered animals found hidden in a truck by Thai authorities, a wildlife group said Wednesday.

The vehicle is believed to have been on its way across Thailand to Laos when it was intercepted by customs officers at a checkpoint in Pranburi, central Thailand, on Tuesday evening, Freeland Foundation said.

The creatures, valued at $132,000 on the black market, were being transported on a well known route, the wildlife group said, adding that it was the second seizure at the checkpoint this year.

“These seizures highlight the urgent need for regional cooperation to stop the criminal gangs behind the transport of wildlife along this route,” a statement from the wildlife counter-trafficking organisation said.

In total, officers found 1,940 monitor lizards, 717 turtles, 44 civets — a small mammal — 15 cobras and five pythons. The statement said the driver of the van was arrested.

Thailand’s fisheries department will release the turtles back into the wild and the other animals will be sent to a government park centre, Freeland said.

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Study rings alarm bells for Amazonian wildlife


The Amazon is currently experiencing the highest absolute rate of forest loss globally. Yet the proportion of Amazonian species assessed as ‘threatened’ with extinction on the IUCN Red List is below the global average. This list is used to set conservation priorities, and contributes to assessments of the state of the planet’s biodiversity. A new study is changing this picture.

A group of authors from the BirdLife International Partnership used an existing model that predicts where in the Amazon deforestation is projected to take place in the coming years under different scenarios to reassess the Red List status of all 814 forest-dependent Amazonian bird species. Their findings have been published today in the journal Diversity and Distributions.

Using this model, the number of species qualifying as threatened rises substantially from just 24 (3% of species assessed) to 64–92 (8–11%), depending on different forest loss scenarios. The number of species ‘of conservation concern’ (threatened plus Near Threatened species) increases from 60 to 117–172 species. Of particular concern are the species that appear to qualify for uplisting (i.e. at greater risk of extinction than thought) to Critically Endangered or Endangered, such as Hoary-throated Spinetail Synallaxis kollari and Varzea Piculet Picumnus varzeae, as these are the species projected to decline fastest because they will lose suitable habitat most rapidly.

Incorporating projected deforestation into assessments provides a more accurate reflection of the extinction risk facing species in the region. The revised estimates of extinction risk to Amazonian birds brings them closer in line with the global average of 12% of birds considered threatened.

By overlaying distribution maps for these apparently threatened species, the authors identified ‘crisis areas’ (areas of forest that are projected to be lost, but which support the highest numbers of threatened species) and ‘refugia’ (areas projected to retain forest, but which support the highest numbers of threatened species). Over half of the most important areas for threatened species are currently legally protected, including two thirds of refugia. But the unprotected areas should be priorities for new protected areas, particularly the ’crisis’ areas where important forest will be lost imminently, such as those in the Brazilian states of Rondonia, Mato Grosso and Para.

“It is clear that until now we have underestimated the risk of extinction that many of the Amazon’s species are facing”, said lead author Jeremy Bird of BirdLife International. “Now we have a better understanding, not only of the species that are threatened with extinction, but also the most irreplaceable and imperilled pockets of the Amazon’s remaining forest that we must protect in order to conserve its wildlife.“

“As far as we are aware, no Amazonian bird species has been driven to extinction by human activities yet”, he added. “To ensure that none are, and that other groups of wildlife survive too, further investment is needed to protect effectively the priority areas of remaining habitat.”

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Wilderness group says sage-grouse on verge of extinction in Alberta


CALGARY – A wilderness group says the sage-grouse bird is on the brink of extinction in Alberta and blames the oil and gas industry.

Nigel Douglas with the Alberta Wilderness Association says there are just 13 male birds left in the province.

He says the birds are very sensitive to industrial disturbance in their habitat.

Douglas says the Alberta government needs to ensure there isn’t any more development in the sage-grouses’ environment.

He also says the province should phase out developments where the endangered birds have disappeared from.

The group is holding an emergency summit with leading North American sage-grouse scientists on Wednesday and Thursday to develop recommendations to halt the demise of the species.


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