Monthly Archives: December 2011

Timber traffickers targeted by forest management body


HA NOI — The forest management sector is planning stricter measures to fight timber trafficking following a recent spate of illegal activities.

In a meeting in the capital on Tuesday, the Director of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD)’s Department of Forest Management, Nguyen Huu Dung, said that the country annually lost nearly 32,000ha of forest due to informal deforestation.

This year alone, more than 1,960ha of forest had been destroyed, an increase by 15 per cent compared to last year.

Hot spots included northern Bac Kan Province alongside Central Highlands provinces and coastal southern provinces, he said.

“Timber traffickers utilise sophisticated measures in transporting timber,” he added.

Early last month, forest managers apprehended 15 train coaches transporting different kinds of rare timber from the south to Gia Lam Station in Ha Noi and northern Bac Ninh Province’s Tu Son District.

On December 7, an official from central Nghe An Province’s Pu Huong Forest Management Unit was charged with abetting truck loads of timber headed from Tuong Duong District to Quy Hop District. The trucks involved eventually overturned, killing 10 people and injuring four others.

Pham Van Cong, a representative from the Ministry of Public Security, said that some forest managers assisted in forest destruction due to low and insufficient salaries.

To resolve the problem, MARD should re-adjust salaries to ensure worker satisfaction, he said.

Ha Cong Tuan, deputy director of the Viet Nam Administration of Forestry, said that in the future, more investigations would be carried out to bust traffic rings.

Meanwhile, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat called for better management of timber processing and border trading.

Timber imported from Cambodia and Laos will be required to obtain certificates from forest management offices to pass through Viet Nam’s border gates.

The ministry would use State funds to support organisations and individuals in preventing illegal deforestation, Phat said.

During the dry season next year, the central steering committee on forestry will set up six inspection teams to regulate forestry management and fire prevention in cities and provinces. — VNS

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UN launches Decade on Biodiversity to stem loss of ecosystems


UN launches Decade on Biodiversity to stem loss of ecosystems

The United Nations marks its Decade on Biodiversity 2011-2020

17 December 2011 –

The United Nations today launched the Decade on Biodiversity with Secretary-GeneralBan Ki-moon urging humanity to live in harmony with nature and to preserve and properly manage its riches for the prosperity of current and future generations. 

“Ensuring truly sustainable development for our growing human family depends on biological diversity and the vital goods and services it offers,” Ban said in his message to the launch event delivered on his behalf by Kiyo Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, in the Japanese city of Kanazawa.


“While the poor suffer first and worst from biodiversity loss, all of society stands to lose from this mass extinction. There are also the opportunity costs what cures for disease, and what other useful discoveries, might we never know of because a habitat is destroyed forever, or land is polluted beyond all use?”


The General Assembly previously declared the period 2011-2020 as United Nations Decade on Biodiversity to promote the implementation of a strategic plan on biodiversity and its overall vision of living in harmony with nature.


The main goal is to mainstream biodiversity at different levels. Throughout the Decade, governments are encouraged to develop, implement and communicate the results of national strategies for implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity.


In his own statement at the launch of the Decade, Mr. Akasaka stressed that stable ecosystems have the capacity to create jobs.


“Sustaining them sustains job growth,” he said. “With the world undergoing a youth bulge, sustainable use of biodiversity is not an isolated ‘ecological’ green approach, but an indispensable pillar of sustainable development for future generations,” said Mr. Akasaka.


Human activities have caused the extinction of plants and animals at some hundreds or thousands of times faster than what the natural rate would have been, Mr. Akasaka pointed out.


“We cannot reverse extinction. We can, however, prevent future extinction of other species right now. For the next 10 years our commitment to protecting more than eight million species, and our wisdom in contributing to a balance of life, will be put to a test,” he said.

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New Study: 75 Percent of U.S. Animals Internationally Recognized as in Peril Lack Protection of Endangered Species Act

For Immediate Release, December 15, 2011

Contact: Bert Harris, 61 451852859,
Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

New Study: 75 Percent of U.S. Animals Internationally Recognized as in Peril
Lack Protection of Endangered Species Act

Highlights Need for More Funding, Faster Process Under Act

PORTLAND, Ore.— A study published in the international journal Conservation Letters this month found that nearly 75 percent of U.S. animals, or about 531 species, that are classified as imperiled by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature are not protected under the Endangered Species Act. The study highlights the need for more funding for the Act as well as an expedited protection process.

“Our study found that hundreds of imperiled animals are not receiving the protection they need to survive,” said Bert Harris, lead author of the study and a graduate student at the University of Adelaide in Australia. “The Endangered Species Act is the world’s most effective law for saving species, but it can only work if species are protected as threatened or endangered.”

Many of the animals identified in the study have been under consideration for protection for years, but got caught in a large backlog of species needing protection at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Under a settlement agreement reached in July between the agency and the Center for Biological Diversity, many of these species will get protection decisions in the next five years, including the Gunnison sage grouse, Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog, Florida bonneted bat, Kittlitz’s murrelet, Jollyville plateau salamander and Oregon spotted frog.

“Our settlement agreement is a good first step toward protecting animals that desperately need the lifeline of the Endangered Species Act,” said Noah Greenwald, the Center’s endangered species director. “But even with our settlement, this study shows, there are hundreds of species not even being considered for protection under the Act. It would be a tragedy if America’s incredible heritage of native wildlife vanished from the Earth just because we were too cheap and bureaucratic to protect it.”

In total, the study identified 18 mammals, 25 birds, 44 amphibians and 444 invertebrates that are considered imperiled by IUCN — the foremost international authority on the conservation status of animals and plants — and may need protection under the Endangered Species Act.

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Indonesia to probe beheadings of farmers



JAKARTA, Indonesia – Indonesia’s president has ordered an investigation into the videotaped beheadings of two men — allegedly by security forces hired to secure the borders of a palm oil plantation.

Six suspects — five plantation workers and a farmer — already have been arrested for their alleged role in the deaths, national police spokesman Col. Boy Raffli Amar said Friday. Eight other suspects are at large.

Indonesia is one of the world’s largest producers of palm oil — used to make everything from lipstick to biscuits to biofuel — and the rapid expansion of plantations across the sprawling archipelagic nation of 240 million has led to many violent disputes with local communities.

Land is often forcibly seized — also by timber, pulp and paper companies — without any offers of compensation. But the allegations by farmers from South Sumatra province, if confirmed, would be by far the most shocking so far.

A dozen men, accompanied by a retired general, traveled to the capital, Jakarta, earlier this week to present their case before Parliament’s human rights commission.

They told its members at least 30 farmers have been killed by security forces and men hired by a palm oil company in Mesuji district since 2009 — two of them beheaded in April.

They presented two video clips as evidence, though one appears to be unrelated to the dispute.

In the first, a decapitated corpse is shown hanging from an electricity pole in Mesuji, according to witnesses. Then it jumps to another headless body on the ground, masked men, some toting assault rifles, milling about in the background.

Next, two bloody heads are shown on the roof of a truck, also in Mesuji.

The other clip appears to be unrelated, however, possibly from the separatist insurgency in southern Thailand, judging from the dialect and words of the assailant.

It shows a man dressed in camouflage standing in the woods, an assault rifle slung over his shoulder, holding onto a freshly severed head by the hair. “Fathoni Darussalam,” he says triumphantly, using the cry of Pattani separatists in southern Thailand. “Freedom! Freedom!”

Ifdhal Kasim, who heads the National Commission on Human Rights, condemned the killings.

But the details, he said, remain very murky.

There appear to have been several, separate deadly clashes in the last year between farmers and three palm oil companies in Mesuji — which straddles South Sumatra and Lampung provinces.

As concession sizes grew, he added, thousands of people were driven from their homes.

Facing protests, one of the companies formed an integrated security team, consisting of civilian guards, members of an elite police unit and military troops to protect their plantation, he said.

“It’s not clear who was behind the beheadings or the other killings,” he said. “But if there’s even a hint that security forces were involved, they should be investigated first.”

Farmers also appeared to have killed at least five plantation workers and security guards in retaliation for the beheadings, he said.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, meanwhile, said he was shocked by the claims.

He immediately sent a task force made up of officials from the Ministry of Security and the national police to investigate, according to his spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha.

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UN book highlights benefits of Amazon plants and foods to improve livelihoods


20 December 2011 – A United Nations book releasedtoday aims to provide people in the developing world with accessible knowledge of Amazon plants and foods they can use to improve their livelihoods.

The book, Fruit Trees and Useful Plants in Amazonian Life, is written in easy-to-grasp language and incorporates the folklore and customs of rural villagers so they can easily put the book’s recommendations into practice.

“Some 80 per cent of people living in the developing world rely on non-wood forest products such as fruits and medicinal plants for their nutritional and health needs,” said Eduardo Rojas-Briales, Assistant Director-General for Forestry at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Some 80 per cent of people living in the developing world rely on non-wood forest products such as fruits and medicinal plants for their nutritional and health needs.

“This new book provides comprehensive information on Amazon fruits and plants, and is a perfect example of how to make our knowledge accessible for poor people to help them maximize the benefits from forest products and services and improve their livelihoods.”

FAO estimates that 25 per cent of people in developing countries are functionally illiterate, and that in rural areas this figure can be of up to 40 per cent. The layout of the book takes this into account and allows readers who lack formal education to extract knowledge using pictures and numbers.

“Some 90 Brazilian and international researchers who were willing to present their research to rural villagers in alternative formats – including jokes, recipes and pictures – collaborated in the production of this book,” said Tina Etherington, who managed the publication project for FAO’s forestry department.

Ms. Etherington also highlighted that farmers, midwives, hunters and musicians contributed insights and their experiences to the publication, making it an “innovative way of presenting science and how those techniques can be transferred to other areas in the world.”

Some of the foods spotlighted in the publication that provide nutrients, minerals and anti-oxidants that keep the body healthy include the Buriti palm fruit, which contains the highest known levels of vitamin A of any plant in the world and the açaí fruit, which is hailed as a “superfood” for its high antioxidant and omega fatty acid content.

The publication was co-produced by FAO, the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and People and Plants International, and was unveiled in a ceremony in Rome marking the end of the International Year of Forests.

The Amazon is the largest contiguous tropical forest remaining in the world, with 25 million people living in the Brazilian Amazon alone. However, deforestation, fire and climate change could destabilize the region and result in the forest shrinking to one third of its size in 65 years.

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Endangered Woodland Caribou Win Critical Habitat

For Immediate Release, November 29, 2011

Contacts: Mike Leahy, Defenders of Wildlife, (406) 586-3970
Mark Sprengel, Selkirk Conservation Alliance, (208) 448-1110
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495
Mike Petersen, Lands Council, (509) 209-24


Endangered Woodland Caribou Win Critical Habitat
Federal Wildlife Agency protects more than 375,000 acres in Idaho and Washington for at-risk species

PRIEST LAKE, Idaho— In response to a petition and lawsuit from Defenders of Wildlife, Lands Council, Selkirk Conservation Alliance and the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today designated 375,562 acres of protected critical habitat in the Selkirk Mountains of northern Idaho and northeastern Washington for the endangered woodland caribou.

“Christmas has come early for America’s only reindeer relative,” said Mike Leahy, Rocky Mountain director for Defenders of Wildlife. “Critical habitat is an essential tool for recovering endangered species like the woodland caribou, and they deserve our best efforts. The only way to protect endangered animals is to protect the places they live.”

The woodland caribou is perhaps the most endangered species in the continental United States. The southern Selkirk herd of the caribou, which is the only one to occur in the United States, consists of about 45 animals. The southern Selkirk herd belongs to a unique mountain-dwelling form of caribou known as the “mountain ecotype” that, unlike other woodland caribou, do not form large herds or make large migrations. Instead, these caribou migrate between low and high elevation forests.

“The woodland caribou of the Selkirk Mountains are highly endangered and need this habitat protection to survive,” said Mark Sprengel, executive director of the Selkirk Conservation Alliance. “Protecting the caribou means protecting the old-growth forests and wild places of the Selkirks, which are cherished by many.”

Thousands of woodland caribou once roamed the northern United States but were eliminated from all of their habitats except the Selkirk Mountains by a combination of logging of their old-growth forest habitats, hunting and poaching, and roads. They continue to be threatened in their last habitat in the U.S. by disturbance from snow mobiles and other winter recreation.

“With today’s designation of critical habitat, the woodland caribou has a shot at survival,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Woodland caribou are one of the many hidden treasures of the Idaho Panhandle and are definitely worth saving.”

The conservation groups petitioned for critical habitat in 2002 and sued for the critical habitat designation in 2009. In 2005, the groups challenged grooming of snow-mobile trails into caribou habitat on the Idaho Panhandle National Forest and obtained an injunction on snow mobile travel and trail grooming in a small portion of the forest that is essential for the caribou. Much of that habitat has now been designated as critical habitat, ensuring these protections will be maintained.

Read more about the lawsuit that triggered the critical habitat designation.

Read the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposed critical habitat designation.

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Sixty per cent of local market timber is illegal


Accra, Dec. 2, GNA- Over 60 per cent of all timber products available on the domestic market is illegal, causing a lot of loss of revenue to the State, Mr David Kpelle of the Forestry Commission (FC)said in Accra on Thursday.

He said these timber products were mainly brought to the market by chain-saw operators who do not follow laid-down procedures nor paid any form of royalties.

Mr Kpelle disclosed this at a stakeholder’s workshop on Environmental Sustainability and Policy for Cocoa Production attended by stakeholders in the cocoa industry.

He said though the annual allowable cut of timber was two million cubic metres presently, four million cubic metres were being cut creating over harvesting.

Mr Kpelle indicated that the situation needed to be curtailed since it could affect “our export market should it be detected at the international level in the face of finding global solution to deforestation”.

He said though the FC had put up measures like setting up a task force to monitor and arrest culprits, they could not perform effectively since they were understaffed.

The situation, Mr Kpelle said was more compounded since the task force was only mandated to arrest offenders only on the road (transit point) but not on the market where they sell the timber.

He therefore urged the authorities to join forces to arrest the situation.

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Species with Small Geographic Distributions at Risk in Canada


Collared Pika (CNW Group/Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada)

False Hop Sedge (CNW Group/Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada)

OTTAWA, Nov. 28, 2011 /CNW/ – At the recent COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada) meeting in Ottawa, Ontario, November 21-25, 2011, the conservation status of 23 Canadian wildlife species was assessed and species with small geographic ranges were most at risk. Several species of plants, a moss, a mollusc, two arthropod, a fish, an amphibian, two bird, and two mammal species were assessed as Extirpated, Endangered, Threatened, or Special Concern in Canada and illustrated the particular vulnerability of species with small geographic ranges.

Canada’s Global Responsibility for Two Northern Species

The Yukon Draba, a small plant in the mustard family, and Collared Pika, a pint-sized herbivorous mammal related to rabbits and hares, are survivors from glacial times. The Yukon Draba, which is found only in Canada, occupies less than five square kilometres in southwestern Yukon. The habitat for this plant comprises ancient beaches formed by retreating glacial lakes. These habitats are threatened by degradation from road construction associated with mining, logging, and recreational activities. As a result of these threats, COSEWIC assigned a status of Endangered to Yukon Draba. While more widespread, the Collared Pika also occurs in a restricted habitat type – scattered small boulder fields in alpine meadows of mountainous regions of Yukon, Northwest Territories, and northern British Columbia. The effects of climate change on Collared Pika threaten its persistence and resulted in a status of Special Concern.

More than half of the global population of the Collared Pika occurs in Canada; hence, and as with the Yukon Draba, the persistence of this species depends on its protection in Canada.

Distinctive Beetle Lost from Canada

The American Burying Beetle is recognizable because of its large size and striking orange-black colouration. This beetle is also remarkable because adults care for their offspring by burying and defending an animal carcass that serves as a food for young beetles. This species was once found in southern Ontario and much of eastern North America, but has now disappeared from most of its former range. This species has not been seen in Canada since 1972; consequently, COSEWIC assessed American Burying Beetle as Extirpated.

Threats Faced by Multiple Plants Exacerbated by Their Small Geographic Distributions

Three species of plants, Eastern Baccharis in Nova Scotia, Bluehearts in Ontario, and False Hop Sedge in Ontario and Québec have extremely limited geographic distributions in Canada, each occupying less than 100 square kilometres of habitat. These small distributions, coupled with relatively small population sizes, make each species especially vulnerable to ongoing threats such as habitat loss and degradation and invasive plants. For example, threats to False Hop Sedge include land drainage from agricultural activities, and the invasive Reed Canary Grass. Consequently, COSEWIC assessed Eastern Baccharis as Threatened and Bluehearts and False Hop Sedge as Endangered.                                                                                       

Member of Ancient Line of Frogs is Another Amphibian at Risk

The Coastal Tailed Frog is one of only two species within a distinctive family of frogs whose closest relatives live in New Zealand. In Canada, the species is found only in coastal mountain ranges of British Columbia and requires cool, clear streams for breeding. COSEWIC assigned a Special Concern status to Coastal Tailed Frog because it is susceptible to the effects of logging and road construction, it produces few offspring, and because a fungal disease that has been linked to global declines in frogs has recently been discovered in Coastal Tailed Frogs.

Rare Grassland Mammal Facing New Threats

The Black-tailed Prairie Dog is a burrowing and colony-forming member of the squirrel family and is confined to only 12 square kilometres of grassland habitat in southern Saskatchewan. Initially assessed as Special Concern by COSEWIC in 2000, increasing threats posed by droughts and a bacterial disease could rapidly eradicate this species. The recent re-introduction of another species at risk, the Black-footed Ferret, into Grasslands National Park adds an interesting twist. The ferret preys on Black-tailed Prairie Dogs, and the fates of the two species are therefore intertwined. For the Black-tailed Prairie Dog, the combination of its restricted distribution and such serious threats resulted in an assessment of Threatened.

North Pacific Spiny Dogfish: Another Example of Worldwide Threats to Sharks

Up to one-third of the world’s shark species are at some level of risk, largely from overexploitation. The North Pacific Spiny Dogfish joins eight other species of sharks already assessed as at risk in Canada. This species, found in coastal waters of British Columbia, is a distinctive looking small shark notable for its extraordinarily long pregnancies of up to two years. The existence of a commercial fishery, continuing uncertainty about population trends, and low population recovery potential motivated a status designation of Special Concern for the North Pacific Spiny Dogfish.

Survey Efforts Reveal New Records and a Brighter Outlook for a Lichen and Plant

The Ghost Antler Lichen and Hairy Prairie-clover were previously assessed by COSEWIC. Expanded survey efforts spurred by these assessments resulted in the discovery of additional sites for Ghost Antler Lichen, and a population size ten times larger than previous estimates for the Hairy Prairie-clover. This new survey information was a key factor that led to improved status designations of Not at Risk for Ghost Antler Lichen and Special Concern for Hairy Prairie-clover. Threats such as climate change, habitat alterations, and invasive species remain important concerns for the latter species.

Next Meeting

COSEWIC’s next scheduled wildlife species assessment meeting will be held in Kananaskis, AB, in April 2012.


COSEWIC assesses the status of wild species, subspecies, varieties, or other important units of biological diversity, considered to be at risk in Canada.  To do so, COSEWIC uses scientific, Aboriginal traditional and community knowledge provided by experts from governments, academia and other organizations.  Summaries of assessments are currently available to the public on the COSEWIC website ( and will be submitted to the Federal Minister of the Environment in late summer 2012 for listing consideration under the Species at Risk Act (SARA).  At that time, the full status reports and status appraisal summaries will be publicly available on the Species at Risk Public Registry (

There are now 640 wildlife species in various COSEWIC risk categories, including 281 Endangered, 158 Threatened, 177 Special Concern, and 24 Extirpated (i.e. no longer found in the wild in Canada).  In addition to these wildlife species that are in COSEWIC risk categories, there are 14 wildlife species that are Extinct.

COSEWIC comprises members from each provincial and territorial government wildlife agency, four federal entities (Canadian Wildlife Service, Parks Canada Agency, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the Canadian Museum of Nature), three Non-government Science Members, and the Co-chairs of the Species Specialist and the Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge Subcommittees.

Definition of COSEWIC Terms and Status Categories:

Wildlife Species: A species, subspecies, variety, or geographically or genetically distinct population of animal, plant or other organism, other than a bacterium or virus, that is wild by nature and is either native to Canada or has extended its range into Canada without human intervention and has been present in Canada for at least 50 years.
Extinct (X): A wildlife species that no longer exists.
Extirpated (XT)*: A wildlife species that no longer exists in the wild in Canada, but exists elsewhere.
Endangered (E)*: A wildlife species facing imminent extirpation or extinction.
Threatened (T)*: A wildlife species that is likely to become Endangered if nothing is done to reverse the factors leading to its extirpation or extinction.
Special Concern (SC)*: A wildlife species that may become Threatened or Endangered because of a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats.
Not at Risk (NAR): A wildlife species that has been evaluated and found to be not at risk of extinction given the current circumstances.
Data Deficient (DD): A category that applies when the available information is insufficient (a) to resolve a wildlife species’ eligibility for assessment or (b) to permit an assessment of the wildlife species’ risk of extinction.

*denotes a COSEWIC risk category

Image with caption: “Collared Pika (CNW Group/Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada)”. Image available at:

Image with caption: “False Hop Sedge (CNW Group/Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada)”. Image available at:

For further information:


Dr. Marty L. Leonard
Department of Biology
Dalhousie University
Halifax  NS    B3H 4R2
For general inquiries:

COSEWIC Secretariat
Canadian Wildlife Service
Environment Canada
351 St. Joseph Blvd, 16th floor
Gatineau  QC    K1A 0H3
Telephone: (819) 953-3215
Fax: (819) 994-3684

For inquiries on terrestrial mammals:
(Black-tailed Prairie Dog, Collared Pika)

Dr. Graham Forbes
Telephone: (506) 453-4929
Fax: (506) 453-3538

For inquiries on birds:
(Yellow-breasted Chat)

Jon McCracken
National Programs
Bird Studies Canada
Telephone: (519) 586-3531 ext. 115
Fax: (519) 586-3532

For inquiries on amphibians and reptiles:
(Coastal Tailed Frog)

Dr. Kristiina Ovaska 
Biolinx Environmental Research Ltd.
Telephone: (250) 727-9708

For inquiries on marine fishes:
(Atlantic Halibut, North Pacific Spiny Dogfish)

Alan F. Sinclair

For inquiries on arthropods
(insects and related taxa):
(American Burying Beetle, Okanagan Efferia)

Dr. Paul Catling
Research Scientist and Curator
Agriculture Canada
Telephone: (613) 759-1373
Fax: (613) 759-1599

For inquiries on molluscs:

Dr. Dwayne Lepitzki 
Telephone:  (403) 762-0864

For inquiries on plants:
(Bearded Owl-clover, Bluehearts, Buffalograss, Eastern Baccharis, False Hop Sedge, Hairy Prairie-clover, Heart-leaved Plantain, Hoary Mountain-mint, Large Whorled Pogonia, Yukon Draba)

Bruce Bennett
Yukon Conservation Data Centre
Telephone: (867) 667-5331
Fax: (867) 393-6263

For inquiries on mosses and lichens:
(Ghost Antler Lichen, Haller’s Apple Moss)

Dr. David H. S. Richardson 
Environmental Studies
Saint Mary’s University
Telephone:  (902) 496-8174
Fax: (902) 420-5261

For inquiries on Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge:

Dr. Donna Hurlburt 
Telephone: (902) 532-1341
Fax: (902) 532-1341

Further details on all wildlife species assessed, and the reasons for designations, can be found on the COSEWIC website at:

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‘Extinction is forever’: Scientists’ letter to Minister


More than 100 scientists have protested to the Government over fears for the future of New Zealand’s wilderness and endangered native species due to proposed job cuts.

An open letter from 107 conservation biologists and scientists from universities and institutes around the country was released to the Minister of Conservation MP Kate Wilkinson today, mid-way through the 25th International Congress for Conservation Biology 2011 being held in Auckland this week.

They say the loss of nearly 100 jobs over the next six months will damage the department’s efforts in conservation management and planning, as many species and ecosystems on the edge of extinction.

“We have the expertise to prevent this from happening but the experts require funding, support and job security,” said the letter.

Signatories, including professors from several universities were also upset that access to mine public conservation land was not considered for public consultation.

The reduction in support and funding for New Zealand conservation undermining the work of passionate staff who have helped save species such as the kakapo, takahe, saddleback and Chatham Island robin from extinction.

“The loss of positions coupled with those who chose to leave an under-resourced and uncertain future within the department is to the detriment of New Zealand Conservation and ultimately to New Zealanders.”

“Recessions come and go: extinction is forever,” the letter concluded.

To live up to its ‘100 % Pure New Zealand’ slogan the country needs a well-funded Department of Conservation, said the scientists.


By APNZ staff

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Top 10 U.S. Endangered Species Threatened by Overpopulation

For Immediate Release, October 28, 2011

Contact:  Amy Harwood, (520) 623-5252 x 313

Top 10 U.S. Endangered Species Threatened by Overpopulation

As Global Population Hits 7 Billion, Panthers, Polar Bears, Sea Turtles Being Crowded off Planet

TUCSON, Ariz.— With the world’s human population poised to hit 7 billion on Oct. 31, the Center for Biological Diversity today released a list of the top 10 plants and animals in the United States facing extinction from pressure caused by overpopulation.

“There’s a cost that comes with having 7 billion people on our planet, especially when it comes to species already on the brink of extinction,” said Amy Harwood, the Center’s 7 Billion and Counting campaign coordinator. “The polar bear, Florida panther and bluefin tuna are just a few of the species being pushed toward extinction by the world’s rapidly growing population. People have taken away habitat for plants and animals, sucked up their water, and surrounded them with pollution, causing a global mass extinction crisis.”

As the human population grows and rich countries continue to consume resources at voracious rates, we are crowding out, poisoning and eating all other species into extinction. With the world population hitting 7 billion, the Center is marking this milestone by releasing a list of species in the United States facing extinction caused by the growing human population.

The 10 species represent a range of geography, as well as species diversity — but all are critically threatened by the effects of overpopulation. Some, like the Florida panther and Mississippi gopher frog, are rapidly losing habitat as the human population expands. Others are seeing their habitat dangerously altered — like the small flowering sandplain gerardia in New England — or, like the bluefin tuna, are buckling under the weight of massive overfishing. Still others, like the polar bear, are facing extinction because of fossil fuels driving catastrophic global warming.

“Human overpopulation and overconsumption are simply taking away the land, air and water other creatures need to survive,” Harwood said. “The world population is expected to hit 10 billion by the end of this century. Left unchecked, this massive population growth will have a disastrous effect on biodiversity around the globe — biodiversity we need to maintain the web of life we’ve always depended on.”

The Center launched its 7 Billion and Counting campaign last month to raise awareness of global population growth and its connection to the accelerating extinction of species. As part of the campaign, the Center is giving out 100,000 of its hugely popular Endangered Species Condoms this year to more than 1,200 volunteer distributors around the country.

Top 10 U.S. Species Being Driven Extinct by Overpopulation

Florida panther: The Florida panther once ranged throughout the southeastern United States, but now survives in a tiny area of South Florida representing just 5 percent of its former range. It was listed as an endangered species in 1967 because of habitat destruction and fragmentation through urban sprawl. Large numbers of panthers died as the expanding network of roads connecting Florida’s rapidly growing human population spread throughout its range. As of 2011, there are only 100 to 120 panthers left.

As Florida’s panther numbers plummeted, the state’s human population nearly doubled over the past 30 years. Recent development patterns pose extreme threats to panthers. As the Florida coasts approach full buildout and have become unaffordable to most people, development has moved inland to the same places panthers retreated to as safe havens decades ago.

A recent study concluded that current conditions “provide just enough space to support a [panther] population that is barely viable demographically as long as the habitat base remains stable.” Unfortunately, the habitat is anything but stable: The five counties containing the last remaining panther population are projected to grow 55 percent in the next 30 years. A single proposed development among many, Big Cypress, would destroy 2,800 acres to make way for 9,000 new homes.

Atlantic bluefin tuna: Marine fish provide 15 percent of all animal protein consumed by human beings. Fisheries management, however, has been outpaced by our population growth, causing global fisheries to collapse under the unsustainable pressure. A 2009 assessment found that 80 percent of global fish stocks are either overly and fully exploited or have collapsed. Though a catch reduction of 20-50 percent is needed to make global fisheries sustainable, the demand for fish is expected to increase by 35 million tons by 2030.

Of greatest concern is the western Atlantic bluefin tuna that spawns in the Gulf of Mexico and has declined by more than 80 percent since 1970 due to overharvesting. Prized as a sushi fish around the world, it has become more valuable as it has become rare. One fish in 2011 sold for $396,000. The large, warm-blooded bluefin tuna is a common, upscale sushi menu item and has been severely overfished. The Atlantic bluefin, like so many other ocean species, is threatened by humans’ ravenous appetites: Demand far exceeds sustainable fishing levels.

Loggerhead sea turtles:  More than half the world’s 7 billion people live within 150 miles of the coast, putting tremendous pressure on species trying to find space to live and reproduce among the crowds. Among them is the loggerhead sea turtle, which was listed as a federally threatened species in 1978 owing to destruction of its beach nesting habitat, harassment while nesting, overharvesting of its eggs, and bycatch death via commercial fishing gear.

Ninety-five percent of the U.S. breeding population of loggerheads nests in Florida, whose human population has doubled in the past 30 years. Thanks to careful management, the species’ population increased 24 percent from 1989 to 1998, but under intense pressure from development and recreational beach use, it declined dramatically thereafter, raising concerns it should be uplisted to “endangered” status. The population has increased in recent years, but is still highly vulnerable to nesting habitat destruction and disruption. Just 42,000 nesting attempts were made on Florida beaches in 2011.

Sandplain gerardia: As the human population has increased, it has consumed remote landscapes with houses and other structures. The natural disturbances caused by fire, flood, drought and storm patterns, are suppressed despite playing essential roles in ecosystem health. In conflict with the permanence of human development, these disturbances create an ever-changing blend of meadow and forest, young and mature vegetation patterns. By controlling, limiting and often stopping these essential natural processes, we have changed ecosystems across America, eliminating habitat for rare and endangered species that depend on open habitats.

In New England and the Atlantic coast, brush fires once thinned out dense pine forests and created a constantly moving mosaic of grasslands and prairies. The fires have been suppressed to protect human structures, causing open habitats to be permanently replaced by forest and brush. This nearly caused the extinction of the sandplain gerardia, a coastal plant in the snapdragon family.

The sandplain gerardia was listed as an endangered species in 1998 when just 12 populations remained. Several were in historic cemeteries on Cape Cod as these made up some of the only open areas not covered by roads or development. Twenty-two populations exist today throughout the species’ range from Massachusetts to Maryland. Many are threatened by development and fire suppression, needing constant, active habitat maintenance.

Lange’s metalmark butterfly: Many endangered species are endemics, meaning they naturally have very small ranges and populations sizes, and usually require very particular soil, vegetation or climate conditions to survive. These species are especially vulnerable to human encroachment. Among them is Lange’s metalmark butterfly, protected as endangered in 1976.

Lange’s metalmark lives only in the Antioch Dunes at the southern end of San Francisco Bay. This unique ecosystem harbored many unique species, and many species have gone extinct as its dunes were hauled away in massive increments. After the 1906 fires, the city of San Francisco was rebuilt using brick-building material removed from the dunes.

Lange’s metalmark is one of the most endangered species in the United States. It declined from some 250,000 in historic times to just 154 in 1986. It improved a bit, but then declined to just 45 butterflies in 2006. Today the species is still on the knife edge of extinction, with about 150 individuals remaining.

To save Lange’s metalmark and two other endemic dune species, 55 of the remaining 60 acres of its habitat were purchased and turned into a national wildlife refuge — the first of its kind devoted entirely to endangered species. Under siege in one of the most densely populated regions in the country, however, the tiny refuge is surrounded by mining, oil and gas facilities. Recreationists have also taken a toll, causing several devastating fires; they trampled much of the butterfly’s habitat in 1986. Such is the fate of an extremely rare, highly endemic species trying to eke out an existence in a highly urbanized landscape.

Mississippi gopher frog: The Mississippi gopher frog lives in stump holes and burrows dug by other animals, laying its eggs in ponds so shallow they dry up for several months of the year, keeping them free of fish that would eat frog eggs. It was placed on the endangered species list in 2001.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to designate 7,015 acres as protected critical habitat for the Mississippi gopher frog in Mississippi and Louisiana in 2011.

Reduced to approximately 100 individuals in the wild, the Mississippi gopher frog exists in just three small ponds just outside the proposed “town” of Tradition, Mississippi. Planned development would have a devastating effect on this rare frog.

White River spinedace: The human population of Nevada grew by 35 percent between 2000 and 2010, nearly four times faster than the national average. Las Vegas was one of the fastest-growing areas of the state. But the city is in the middle of a desert, so accommodating that explosive growth requires securing more water from nonlocal supplies.

The Southern Nevada Water Authority has proposed a massive project to pump billions of gallons of groundwater a year from eastern Nevada and western Utah through a 300-mile pipeline to supply rapidly growing urban areas like Las Vegas. The project will have a disastrous effect on dozens of imperiled species, including the White River spinedace, which was protected as an endangered species in 1985. One population of this rare fish was extirpated in 1991 because of irrigation diversion, and fewer than 50 fish remained in a single population in northeast Nevada.

The White River spinedace’s population at the Wayne E. Kirch Wildlife Management Area is directly threatened by the proposed pipeline, which will cut through the management area, draining and destroying critical habitat for the remaining populations. A recent environmental impact statement for the proposed pipeline project disclosed that major vegetation and ecosystem changes would occur on more than 200,000 acres, including wetlands that will dry up and wildlife shrubland habitat converted to dryland grasses and noxious weeds. More than 300 springs would also be hurt, along with more than 120 miles of streams.

Polar bear: A polar bear is fit to swim 100 miles for food, in search of mates or, more recently, just some ice to stand on. With five inches of blubber keeping this enormous bear prepared for subzero temperatures, the largest member of the bear family has adapted to remarkable Arctic conditions. The fat stored in a polar bear carcass becomes essential food for other Arctic species, like the Arctic fox. However, the extreme impacts that human-caused climate change has had on the Arctic is pushing the polar bear closer to extinction.

The rapid growth of the global human population — which has doubled since 1970 — has fed a massive push for more and more polluting fossil fuels and dramatically altered the planet’s atmosphere. A 2009 study on the relationship between population growth and global warming found that the “carbon legacy” of just one person can produce 20 times more greenhouse gases than one person saves by carbon-reducing steps such as driving high-mileage, using energy-efficient applicants and light bulbs. Few animals are bearing more of the brunt of the global climate crisis than the polar bear.

Listed as a “threatened” species in 2008, polar bears are rapidly losing the sea ice they use to hunt, mate and raise their young. Polar bear numbers increased following the establishment of hunting regulations in the 1970s and today stand at 20,000 to 25,000. However, the rapid decline of Arctic sea ice because of global warming has reversed this trend, and currently at least five of the 19 polar bear populations are declining. The U.S. Geological Survey predicts that under current greenhouse gas emission trends, two-thirds of the world’s polar bears, including all those in Alaska, will likely disappear by 2050.

Gulf sturgeon: Lake Lanier, a manmade reservoir in Georgia, feeds several important river systems in the southeastern United States and has been the site of a longstanding conflict between Georgia, Florida and Alabama over water-use rights.

The gulf sturgeon, an anadromous fish, was placed on the threatened species list in 1991. Its most imperiled populations occur in the Apalachicola River, fed by rivers from Lake Lanier. Gulf sturgeon lay eggs on the waterlines along the banks of rivers, and maintaining the right level of water is critical to their breeding success.

Population growth has strained the capacity of Lake Lanier to supply water to Atlanta and other urban areas. A 2009 study explicitly identified explosive population growth as the cause of the ensuing water war between Georgia, Alabama and Florida following a regionwide drought: “…Nineteenth-century droughts, which are perhaps better thought of as a single multi-decadal dry period, are well within the range of historical records and could potentially have had an agricultural effect but probably would not have had an effect on water availability for people given the generally wet climate of the Southwest and the much smaller population then as opposed to now.”

Gulf sturgeon numbers initially declined due to overfishing throughout most of the 20th century. Habitat loss was exacerbated by the construction of water control structures, such as dams, mostly after 1950. Other habitat disturbances such as dredging, groundwater extraction, irrigation and flow alterations also threaten the Gulf sturgeon. Poor water quality and contaminants, primarily from industrial sources, also contribute to population declines. Today the gulf sturgeon remains threatened as the tug-of-war continues over the supplies that feed the river where it lives and the region’s ever-expanding human population.

San Joaquin kit fox: The San Joaquin kit fox was relatively common until the 1930s, when people began to convert grasslands to farms, orchards and cities. By 1958, 50 percent of its habitat in California’s Central Valley had been lost, due to extensive land conversions for agriculture, intensive land uses and pesticides. By 1979, less than 7 percent of the San Joaquin Valley’s original wildlands south of Stanislaus County remained untilled and undeveloped.

The kit fox was listed as endangered in 1967. Today there are fewer than 7,000 scattered among fragmented populations. The four counties with known San Joaquin kit foxes have grown by 60 percent — by another 1.5 million people — since 1983.

Besides habitat loss, the San Joaquin kit fox is threatened by pesticides and rodenticides associated with intensive agricultural use, industrial activities and residential areas in the Central Valley. Kit foxes’ small-mammal prey base has been significantly reduced by rodenticides, which not only kill life-sustaining prey but can also kill kit foxes when they build up in the foxes’ bodies. Kit foxes have adapted to get their water from the prey they eat making them even more dependent on their food source. They also often burrow in other animals’ dens, leaving them vulnerable to other human activities such as fumigants used to kill coyotes.

In addition to impacts from farmland conversion, the San Joaquin kit fox is severely stressed by the changes to annual rainfall caused by climate change.

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