Monthly Archives: February 2012

Government ‘stalling’ on endangered koalas decision


The Federal Government has been urged to act sooner rather than later after delaying for another 10 weeks its decision to add the koala to the list of nationally-threatened species

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke hinted in a statement that a listing is being considered, but only on dwindling koala populations in specific parts of the country.

Mr Burke has asked the Threatened Species Committee for more precise boundaries detailing areas where koala populations are in trouble.

In the Gunnedah local government area in northern New South Wales, only 6,000 hectares out of a possible half-a-million is considered primary koala habitat.

Australian Koala Foundation chief executive officer Deborah Tabart says a Senate inquiry document is telling Mr Burke that he should act now and not wait another 10 weeks.

“I think it’s basically said the koala is in serious trouble and that it’s just declining, so unless you get this federal protection there’s nothing in place that will stop it going into extinction at some point in the future,” she said.

“So I think it’s time our Federal Minister stepped in and said ‘look, we’ve got to bite the bullet, protect the koalas and all those industries who are fearing this just get on the program’.

“Minister Burke has delayed this decision, I think, twice and Minister (Peter) Garrett prior to that, I think, three times.

“I’m just hoping that the Senate inquiry document, which is now firmly on his (Mr Burke’s) desk, should persuade him that, if nothing else, he should protect the koala under a precautionary approach.”

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4 Chinese men kill more than 40 endangered tortoises for meat


HARARE – Four Chinese men face deportation from Zimbabwe after they were arrested for killing more than 40 tortoises for meat, a state daily reported Saturday, citing a statement by an animal rights group.

The Herald newspaper said Zhang Hong Yuan, Chen Caijan, Lin Guibin and Shi Jiahua were arrested in a village in Bikita in southeastern Zimbabwe on Thursday, following a raid by the Zimbabwe National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ZNSPCA), the police and parks and wildlife authorities.

“When we raided the Chinese homestead, we also recovered 13 live tortoises, meat together with skeletal remains of a further 40 tortoises,” the newspaper quoted SZSPCA chairman Ed Lance as saying.

“Officers were dispatched to Bikita in order to undertake investigations into the matter and charges of cruelty were laid against the four. The four men are now detained pending deportation.”

The animals were kept in steel drums without water or food, the Herald said.

The tortoise is listed as an endangered species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Villagers who gave statements to the police said the tortoises were dropped alive in boiling water to separate the shell and the flesh.

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Australian Parrot Species Close to Extinction

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Endangered species short-shrifted in federal budget


Entire endangered species program gets less money than the cost of a single F-14

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY— These are tough times for the federal budget, with all sorts of competing demands for scarce funds, but endangered species will suffer disproportionately under President Barack Obama’s proposed budget. Obama has proposed a $1.5 million cap on what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can spend on responding to citizen listing petitions. By comparison, a single F-14 fighter jet costs $38 million.

Since the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973, 24 at least 24 species have gone extinct while awaiting protection, and this proposed budget could push a few more plants and animals into oblivion.

Overall, the budget would boost funding for the Fish and Wildlife Service slightly, to about $1.3 billion, with $22 million for the endangered species program, about the same as last year.

“Instead of asking for enough money to protect endangered plants and animals, the administration is again asking Congress to limit the amount it can spend,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This will ensure that hundreds of species that need Endangered Species Act protection will be left in the waiting room rather than receiving the emergency care they need.”

Under President Obama’s proposal, the total requested budget for the “listing program,” which is charged with identifying species as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, is capped at $22,431,000. Within this amount, the administration is requesting limits on the amount that can be spent on designation of critical habitat ($7.4 million), listing species in response to petitions ($1.5 million), and listing foreign species ($1.5 million).

Last year, the Center for Biological Diversity reached a settlement agreement with the Fish and Wildlife Service that moves protection forward for hundreds of species, including roughly 250 species that have been stuck on a candidate list for an average of 20 years and will receive final decisions on their protection over the next five years. Decisions on protections for many other endangered species outside of the agreement will also need to be made in the coming years.

The Center, for example, petitioned to protect 404 species dependent on the beleaguered rivers of the southeastern United States. In accordance with the agreement, the Fish and Wildlife Service issued an initial decision on the petition last year, finding that 374 of the species may warrant protection, but with the administration’s proposed cap on spending, these species are unlikely to receive final protection decisions in the next several years.

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Pangolins threatened with extinction


Pangolins, also known as “scaly anteaters,” look like a prehistoric animal. They are nocturnal and highly secretive in nature. They livepredominantly on a diet of ants and termites, for which they have a voracious appetite, locating nests using their highly developed sense of smell and extricating the insects with an extraordinarily long sticky tongue.

Aside from being a very unique, insectivorous creature, they provide earth with all-natural pest control and are fantastic tenders of the soil through their digging. One adult pangolin can consume more than 70 million insects annually!

Poaching for illegal wildlife trade and habitat loss have made these incredible creatures one of the most endangered in the world. In Africa, Pangolins are poached mainly for their body parts which are used in various traditions, rituals and especially in ‘muti’, traditional medicine.

In East and South East Asia, predominantly China and Vietnam, they are also highly sought after for medicinal purposes.

Recently, acting on a tip-off, authorities arrested three men in Bulawayo and retrieved a frightened pangolin from the boot of their car. They were charged and sentenced for being in possess of a pangolin, which they apparently intended to use in superstitious rites to improve their mining business. They admitted guilt and were fined of $300 or six months in prison.

After a similar case only months ago, the need for stiffer penalties for pangolin poachers has become apparent. A conservation group, TikkiHywood Trust, has been lobbying government to increase fines for pangolin crimes.“At long last we have managed to persuade National Parks to increase the poaching fine for pangolins from the current $500 to $5000,”reports Lisa Hywood.

Environment Africa has collaborated on conservation issues with TikkiHywood over many years with one of their current joint projects being WEPU, Wildlife Environment Protection Units. –

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Critically endangered plover on Motutpau Island


One of our rarest and most endangered native birds, the New Zealand shore plover has been released on pest free Motutapu Island to increase its chances of survival.

The total population of New Zealand shore plover -Tuturuatu- in the wild is around 200.

The Department of Conservation released 17 of these critically endangered native shore birds on Motutapu Island in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park yesterday (Sunday February 19).

Motutapu and neighbouring Rangitoto Island were declared pest free sanctuaries for threatened native wildlife and plants six months ago by Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson. This marked the removal of nine animal pests – ship rats, Norway rats, stoats, possums, mice, wallabies, feral cats, hedgehogs and rabbits – from both islands.

Shore plover were once widespread around the coast of the North and South Islands. They were wiped out on main land New Zealand by Norway rats and feral cats. These predators reduced the shore plover population to a single island, Rangatira, in the Chatham Islands, which is free of animal pests.

Twenty years ago there were only 130 shore plover left, all living on Rangatira Island. In the early 1990s shore plover eggs from Rangatira were successfully hatched at the Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre in northern Wairarapa. This led to a captive breeding programme being established at the wildlife centre.

Shore plover are also bred by the Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust at Peacock Springs in Christchurch. This is where the 17 birds released today were bred. A further 15 shore plover bred at Pukaha Mt Bruce will be released on Motutapu in early March.

DOC began moving captive bred shore plovers onto islands to establish new populations in the wild in the mid 1990s. Shore plover are now living and breeding on Mana Island, north of Wellington, and on a privately owned island off the East Coast of the North Island.

“Shore plover remain critically endangered,” says DOC ranger Hazel Speed.

“We need to establish more new homes for them on pest free islands like Motutapu where they’re safe from rats, feral cats and other animal predators and their numbers can grow.”

Shore plover are the latest at risk native species to be released by DOC onto Motutapu and Rangitoto since the islands were declared pest free sanctuaries on August 27 last year.

T�eke- saddleback – released on Motutapu and Rangitoto, have successfully hatched a number of chicks on both islands.

Critically endangered takah� have also been released on Motutapu along with two freshwater species – koura (freshwater crayfish) and redfin bullies – which have declining populations.

“It’s wonderful to be see shore plover joining the other threatened species we’ve released on Motutapu and Rangitoto since we rid the islands of animal pests,” says Hazel Speed.

“Motutapu and Rangitoto are a valuable addition to the network of pest free islands in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park that provide safe homes for threatened native wildlife.”

“We’re asking people to keep an eye out for these critically endangered birds as they may fly to beaches on Auckland’s mainland. If anyone sees a shore plover at an Auckland beach please let DOC know.”

“Releasing shore plover on Motutapu provides an opportunity for the birds to establish a breeding population on other pest free islands in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park such as Motuihe, Rakino and Motukorea,” say Hazel Speed

Motutapu and Rangitoto are managed by DOC. The department is working with iwi, the Motutapu Restoration Trust and the Rangitoto Island Historic Conservation Trust to restore the natural and cultural heritage of the islands.

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Researcher Finds Surprisingly Low Fish Biodiversity in the Earth’s Oceans

Released: 2/7/2012 3:30 PM EST
Embargo expired: 2/7/2012 7:00 PM EST
Source: Stony Brook University

John J. Wiens studied the relative paucity of species diversity in the oceans in an upcoming paper in the ‘Proceedings of the Royal Society

Newswise — STONY BROOK, N.Y., Embargoed for release on Tuesday, February 7, 2012 at 7pm EST – A Stony Brook University researcher has found that, contrary to popular belief, there are not plenty of fish in the sea.

In an article entitled “Why are there so few fish in the sea?,” published on-line this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, John J. Wiens, Ph.D., an Associate Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at Stony Brook University, addresses why the oceans contain only 15-25 percent of all of Earth’s species even though they cover about 70 percent of Earth’s surface.

Dr. Wiens and student Greta Carrete Vega examined the evolutionary and ecological causes of the low species numbers of marine environments by studying the biodiversity of ray-finned fish, the most species rich group of marine vertebrates, containing 96 percent of all fish species. They performed analyses using evolutionary trees based on molecular data and fossils, and using a large database on the habitats of nearly all living fish species.

The study found a surprising difference in diversity between freshwater and saltwater habitats.

“There are more fish species in freshwater than in saltwater habitats, despite the much greater area and volume of the oceans,” he said, noting that freshwater environments occupy only about 2 percent of the Earth’s surface. “More remarkably, our results suggest that most marine fish alive today are descended from freshwater ancestors (even though fish and animals in general first evolved in the oceans).”

The authors hypothesized that extinctions in marine habitats, hundreds of millions of years ago, may help explain the low present-day diversity of marine fish.

“Our results suggest that ancient extinctions in the marine environment may have wiped out the earliest ray-finned fishes living in the oceans, that the oceans were then recolonized from freshwater habitats, and that most marine fish species living today are descended from that recolonization (leaving less time for biodiversity to build up in the oceans),” he said. “This pattern of ancient extinction and more recent recolonization may help explain why the oceans are now so species-poor, even for fish.”

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