Monthly Archives: April 2012

Survival doubtful for local elephants


DAK LAK — Wild elephants could disappear from Viet Nam’s Central Highlands permanently as deforestation has destroyed their habitat and source of food needed for survival.

Their survival in the country remains doubtful as plans for a preservation project remain only on paper and forests continue to be cut down for rubber, coffee and cassava plantations.

In 2006, the Prime Minister approved an action plan for elephant conservation in the three provinces of Nghe An, Dong Nai and Dak Lak.

In the Central Highland province of Dak Lak alone, around 100 wild elephants live in districts of Buon Don and Ea Sup.

The province’s People’s Committee signed a project in 2010 to preserve elephants in the province through 2015, with the total budget of VND61 billion (US$2.9 million).

Nevertheless, between March 26 and 31, police and forest-protection forces from the province’s Ea Sup District found three dead elephants.

A 150-kg elephant was found in Cu M’Lan commune, and six days later, the bodies of two other elephants, one weighing 400-500 kg and the other two tonnes, were found in the same commune.

Vice director of the province’s Agriculture and Rural Development and head of Forest Protection Division, Y Rit Buon Ya, said that several elephants in the area had been hunted as food, and others had died of accidents or eaten inappropriate food.

The illegal killing of wild elephants for their tusks and tails is common in some provinces.

Y Rit said that last year, the Dak Lak Elephant Conservation Centre was established as part of a protection plan expected to assist local people with nursing their domesticated elephants, as well as to oversee and protect wild ones.

However, so far, the projects has yet to provide any intervention.

Huynh Trung Luan, director of the centre, said that a budget and staff shortfall have delayed the project.

The centre received VND350 million ($16,800) out of the VND61 billion ($2.9 million), but the money is not enough to pay the salaries of the centre’s six officials, according to Luan.

The centre was planned to be built on 200ha, including 100ha for breeding the animal and planting food for them. The other 100ha would contain an elephant medical centre.

The province has asked to use 163ha of Yok Don National Park to build the centre, but the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development rejected the proposal.

According to the ministry, the land located in the area needs to be strictly protected.

The province is considering using 200ha of protected forest in Don Village to develop the centre.

Central Highland University’s associate professor and Dr Bao Huy, a consultant in the elephant preservation project, said that conservationists and authorities should be aware of their responsibility for elephant deaths regardless of the cause.

According to a survey by the project consultancy group, in 2009, the province had 61 domesticated elephants and about 80-110 wild elephants. The project targets three main pillars: healthcare and reproductive health assistance to domesticated elephants, preservation and expansion of the wild elephant population, and conservation of elephant culture in Central Highland.

Huy said that besides complicated administrative procedures and fund shortages, insufficient human resources posed a difficulty to project implementation.

Moreover, nearly all the urgent actions recommended in the project study had not yet been carried out, Huy said.

“A drastic measure to protect wild elephants would be to make the forests where elephants live completely protected conservation areas,” he said, adding that the elephants needed huge spaces to live and grow.

Meanwhile, domesticated elephants should be taken in for medical assistance and for male and female elephants to breed, rather than live separately and over-serve local tourism. — VNS

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Extinction concerns over China ‘river pig’


Shanghai – China says 16 endangered finless porpoise have been found dead since the beginning of the year, due in part to what experts suspect is water pollution and climate change, state media reported.


The freshwater porpoise – which is known in Chinese as the “river pig” – mainly lives in China’s Yangtze River and two lakes linked to the waterway, and the deaths have raised concern the rare animal is headed for extinction.


Since March, authorities have discovered 10 dead porpoises in Dongting Lake in the central province of Hunan, the official Xinhua news agency said late on Wednesday.


Another six porpoise bodies have been found in Poyang Lake in the eastern province of Jiangxi since the beginning of the year, it said.


“The recent deaths brought the mortality rate of the finless porpoise [to] between 5% to 10%, which means the species will be functionally extinct in 15 years,” Xinhua quoted experts as saying.


Economic growth


Wang Kexiong, a researcher at China’s Institute of Hydrobiology, said water pollution, shipping, sand dredging and illegal fishing were all possible causes of the recent deaths.


Many waterways in China have become heavily contaminated with toxic waste from factories and farms – pollution blamed on more than three decades of rapid economic growth and lax enforcement of environmental protection laws.


Climate change, which has caused water levels to drop and make it more difficult for the porpoises to find food, is another possible factor, the report said.


Tests have shown that some of the porpoises are believed to have died of starvation, it said.


In 2006, China was estimated to have only 1 200 finless porpoises left. That same year, the Baiji – a freshwater dolphin also native to the Yangtze River – was declared extinct.


Earlier this year, a survey found just 65 “river pigs” in Dongting Lake and 300 to 400 in Poyang Lake, the report said.


The finless porpoise has been classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, a global environment network which groups governments and NGOs.


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Two Southwest Springsnails, Critical Habitat Protected Under Endangered Species Act

For Immediate Release, April 16, 2012

Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495         

Two Southwest Springsnails, Critical Habitat Protected Under Endangered Species Act

TUCSON, Ariz.— In accordance with a landmark settlement agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today protected two tiny Southwestern springsnails under the Endangered Species Act and protected 19 acres of critical habitat for their remaining springs. The Three Forks springsnail is found at only one spring complex, in Arizona’s Apache County on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in the White Mountains, and had its federal protection petitioned for by the Center for Biological Diversity in 2004. The San Bernardino springsnail occurs at only two or three springs on a private ranch in Cochise County, Ariz., as well as at several recently discovered springs in Mexico.

“We’re very glad these two springsnails are finally getting the Endangered Species Act protection they need to survive,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center. “The Endangered Species Act is our best tool for saving species like these unique springsnails. The Act has saved more than 99 percent of species under its protection and is recovering hundreds more.”

Until 2003, there were two known populations of the Three Forks springsnail, but one has since gone extinct. The remaining population was severely affected by the Wallow fire in 2010. Two of the three populations of San Bernardino springsnail are also perilously small. The snails are threatened by groundwater depletion, pollution from fire-retardant chemicals and pesticides, damage to springs from elk, and predation by nonnative crayfish.

“These two unique springsnails are getting protection in the nick of time,” said Greenwald. “Saving these springsnails will save the unique character of the springs they live in. They’re also an important indicator of water quality and an important part of their ecosystems’ food web.”

The Three Forks springsnail is less than one-fifth of an inch long and lives in very shallow, high-elevation springs in open mountain meadows. The San Bernardino springsnail is less than one-tenth of an inch long, with a narrow conic shell, and occurs in fast-flowing springs with rocky bottoms. The critical habitat for the Three Forks springsnail is 17.2 acres on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Apache County; the critical habitat for the San Bernardino springsnail is two acres on a private ranch in Cochise County.

The snails were protected as part of a 2011 agreement between the Center and the Fish and Wildlife Service that is speeding up protection decisions for 757 species around the country.

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Blue swallows face extinction


The Endangered Wildlife Trust is trying to reverse the rapid decline and likely extinction of South Africa’s Blue Swallow population.

The local blue swallow population faced certain extinction if their breeding habitats could not be secured, Beeld newspaper reported on Wednesday.

According to Dr Ian Little, programme manager of the EWT’s Threatened Grassland Species Programme, loss of suitable habitat was the primary cause of the blue swallow’s decline, but the causes for recent continued declines were uncertain.

“Four known regional populations of blue swallow have already gone extinct in South Africa in the past decade. This includes a breeding population that was in the Kaapsehoop region, which was once recognised as a blue swallow natural heritage site.”

The South African population now consisted of fewer than 38 known breeding pairs, with fewer than five remaining in Mpumalanga and 35 in KwaZulu-Natal, Little said.

The EWT had initiated a project that aimed to microchip blue swallow chicks, in an effort to get more clarity on exactly why this species had declined so drastically over the past few years.

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Endangered porpoises dying in China


YUEYANG, China, April 18 (UPI) — Chinese wildlife officials say the corpses of 12 endangered finless porpoises, including a pregnant one, have been found around Dongting Lake in Hunan province.

The discoveries have raised concerns finless porpoises, which have lived in the Yangtze River and adjacent lakes for more than 20 million years, could become extinct within 15 years, scientists said.

“Apparently the prolonged drought and low water level due to climate change and increasing offshore human activities are reducing the living space for finless porpoises, accelerating its extinction,” Wang Kexiong, an expert of the Institute of Hydrobiology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told China Daily.

Scientists estimate the number of Yangtze finless porpoises has decreased to around 1,000.

The porpoises may have died due to starvation, poisoning or infectious disease, Xie Yongjun, a professor of animal husbandry at Yueyang Vocational and Technical College, said.

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Endangered Species Act Protection Finalized for Miami Blue Butterfly

PRESS RELEASE For Immediate Release, April 5, 2012

Contact:  Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681

Endangered Species Act Protection Finalized for Miami Blue Butterfly

MIAMIThe U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a final rule today protecting the Miami blue butterfly under the Endangered Species Act. The tiny, bright-colored butterfly once occurred across coastal South Florida but has disappeared from 99 percent of its range and is now facing extinction. Today’s rule finalizes protections for the rare Florida butterfly and is in accordance with a landmark settlement agreement reached between the Center for Biological Diversity and the Fish and Wildlife Service speeding up protection decisions for 757 species.

“The Miami blue butterfly is on the very brink of extinction, and this finalized protection gives it a real shot at survival and recovery,” said Tierra Curry, a biologist at the Center. “The Endangered Species Act is 99 percent effective at preventing the extinction of the species it covers, so we do have a hope, under the safety net of the Act, of stopping the loss of this beautiful butterfly.”

The world’s total surviving population of Miami blues is estimated by the Service at only a few hundred individuals. During surveys in 2010, fewer than 50 adults were observed; 2011 surveys yielded similar numbers. The Service is funding a study to search remote areas for additional populations, but none have been detected to date. Attempts to reintroduce the butterfly have been unsuccessful.

The Miami blue, whose adults live for just a few days, was believed extinct after Hurricane Andrew in 1992, but in 1999 an amateur lepidopterist discovered a population in Bahia Honda State Park. In 2010 this population was found to have disappeared; the species survives only as scattered individuals in another population in the Marquesas Keys in Key West National Wildlife Refuge. The butterfly has declined severely due to urban sprawl, fire suppression, mosquito-control pesticides, loss of host plants due to iguana herbivory, severe weather events and rising sea levels from climate change. The Miami blue is about one inch long, and females are drab compared to males.

The Miami blue was first made a candidate for protection in 1984; the North American Butterfly Association sought emergency protection for the butterfly in 1999; then the Center filed a notice of intent to sue the Service in 2005 for failing to protect the butterfly followed by another petition seeking emergency protection for the Miami blue in January 2011. In August 2011 the Service enacted emergency protections for the butterfly.

The Service today also finalized Endangered Species Act protection for the cassius blue, ceraunus blue and nickerbean blue butterflies, three species found in the same habitat as the Miami blue, because of their similarity in appearance to the Miami blue.

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Poachers kill endangered black buck in Berasia forest


BHOPAL: Nine days after the killing of a spotted deer, a black buck was reportedly shot by poachers in Berasia forest range near here, officials said on Saturday.

Though the forest department flying squad members reached the spot on getting the sniff of the poachers, they couldn’t save the black buck that had gone down to Deghapur village under Beraisa range to quench its thirst at a water body. The endangered animal was shot at by around 10 unidentified poachers at that time.

After being hit by bullets, the black buck ran to some distance before collapsing. Though the poachers too followed it, on seeing some local persons around, they fled the spot leaving behind a big knife and other articles. Before the flying squad reached, poachers melted in the jungle.

After post-mortem, the endangered animal’s body has been disposed of. It died due to the gun shot injury, Bhopal sub divisional officer (Forest) S C Jain said. “We are investigating the matter to find out the poachers,” he said.

About spotted deer killing of April four in Berasia, the SDO said 11 people have been rounded up.

It appears that due to the rise in temperature, deforestation and drying up of water bodies inside the forests around the city, animals were straying into human habitat and falling prey to poachers.

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Global Effort Launched to Save Turtles from Extinction


ScienceDaily (Apr. 11, 2012) — The Wildlife Conservation Society announced on April 11 a new strategy that draws on all of the resources and expertise across the institution — from its Zoos and Aquarium, Global Health Program, and Global Conservation Programs — to take direct responsibility for the continued survival of some of the world’s most endangered tortoises and freshwater turtles (collectively referred to as turtles). The strategy involves preventing the extinction of at least half of the species appearing in a 2011 report by WCS and other groups that listed the 25 most endangered turtles and tortoises on the planet.

WCS will breed and reintroduce some species, develop assurance colonies (captive groups of animals maintained so that no genetic diversity is lost) for others, and protect another subset with field work. WCS will use its four zoos and aquarium, its health program, and conservation field program to meet this challenge.

Dr. Elizabeth Bennett, Vice President of Species Conservation at WCS, said: “Only by garnering the vast knowledge and resources from across the whole of WCS can we successfully address the threats to the world’s endangered turtles. WCS’s long history and current broad and deep expertise position us to rise to this challenge, and to conserve the threatened species across this ancient, diverse, and fascinating lineage.” WCS will strive to alleviate threats to highly endangered turtles by working closely with relevant governments to react rapidly in nations that are centers of turtle diversity, including Cambodia, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Indonesia, Myanmar, and Vietnam. More than half of the world’s approximately 330 species of freshwater turtles and tortoises are threatened with extinction due to illegal trade and habitat loss. Most of the world’s turtle trade is driven by demand from China, specifically for human consumption, traditional medicines, and the pet trade.

“WCS is a leading organization in the development of comprehensive strategies that combine field and zoo conservation to save this major taxonomic group from an extinction crisis,” said WCS President and CEO Dr Steve Sanderson. “We have the expertise in our parks, in our health program, and in our global conservation field program to meet this challenge.”

WCS will implement threat mitigation programs for four top-priority Critically Endangered species and begin reintroduction and population supplementation programs. Species include: the Burmese starred tortoise (Geochelone platynota), the Burmese roofed turtle (Batagur trivittata), the Southern River terrapin (Batagur affinis), and the Central American river turtle (Dermatemys mawii). These programs will focus on reducing the numbers of turtles caught for the commercial turtle trade and, for the three aquatic species, reducing mortality caused by incidental drowning in fishing nets.

WCS has plans to begin recovery of other species suited for zoo breeding programs within the U.S. Offspring produced through this effort will be quarantined at a biosecure facility at WCS’s Bronx Zoo, then transferred to holding facilities in their range countries in the initiation phase of re-introduction programs.

Assurance colonies for additional species will be developed across WCS’s zoos and aquarium in New York, as well as with partners such as Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), Turtle Conservancy (TC), and the Asian Turtle Program (ATP). Species are currently being evaluated for that purpose.

Finally, WCS will establish a captive breeding and head-starting program for imperiled turtle species native to New York State. Off-exhibit, outdoor enclosures will be constructed at the Bronx Zoo for several species, including the spotted turtle (Cyclemys gutatta), Eastern box turtle (Carolina terrapene), and wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta). This head-starting program for New York’s imperiled native turtles will supplement remaining wild populations at a sustained rate.

Jim Breheny, WCS Executive Vice President and Bronx Zoo Director, said: “This has been the mission of the Wildlife Conservation Society from the very beginning, to bring its expertise for the achievement of one conservation goal: saving species from extinction. More than a century ago, WCS led the way to save the American bison from extinction in North America by breeding animals at the Bronx Zoo and sending their offspring to wild places in the west. Now our zoos, zoological health program, and field conservationists plan to do the same for some of the world’s most endangered turtles.”

Dr. Paul Calle, WCS Chief Veterinarian, said: “WCS’s zoological health staff will ensure that turtles we breed at our zoos are in the best possible health prior to their release into the wild, and ensure that diseases are not introduced to wild populations during these release efforts. WCS has more than a century of experience caring for reptiles at our zoos and we are confident we can help supplement wild populations with zoo-bred animals.”

WCS continually works with U.S. government agencies in support of turtle conservation. To help promote worldwide turtle conservation, WCS is asking Congress to fully fund the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wildlife Without Borders Program, whose Critically Endangered Animals Conservation Fund supports several freshwater turtle and tortoise conservation projects around the world.

In addition to its efforts on terrestrial and freshwater turtles, WCS continues work on sea turtles in Nicaragua, Gabon, Sulawesi, and Madagascar.

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Charity action to stop two rare wildflowers becoming extinct


CONSERVATIONISTS are fighting to save two of Wales’ most rare wildflowers.

Charity Plantlife Cymru is carrying out urgent work in Pembrokeshire, Monmouthshire and Montgomeryshire to stop the decline of the bastard balm and the spreading bellflower.

Bastard balm is a healing herb used for the treatment of anxiety, wounds and kidneys.

The spreading bellflower is classed as critically endangered and exists on just 11 sites in Wales.

Plantlife Cymru has reported the spreading bellflower appearing at a site in Monmouthshire after an absence of 140 years.

Trevor Dines, of Plantlife Cymru, said: “Spreading bellflower and bastard balm are among the top priorities for conservation in Wales.

“They are both threatened and populations are very small and sporadic, usually being found in neglected patches of ancient woodland and along old hedgebanks.


“These habitats are vulnerable to neglect, with a lack of coppicing and hedge laying leading to overgrowth with coarse herbs and woody plants.

“For spreading bellflower, the situation is especially critical — it’s identified as being in imminent risk of extinction in Wales within five years with less than five plants recorded across all sites in some years.

“In order to save these species, we want to encourage a return of traditional woodland and hedgerow management, with coppicing being used to provide a sustainable source of timber and woodfuel and hedgerows made stock-proof through proper laying.”

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Deforestation threatens endangered bird in Nagaland


Kohima: Deforestation and conversion of land for agriculture has caused habitat loss leading to threat to Blyth’s tragopan, an endangered bird, in Nagaland.

According to the latest annual report of the forest and wildlife department, large-scale hunting and snaring of this enchanting bird by people for food was also a big threat.

It said, excessive human intervention into the pheasant’s habitats was rapidly fragmenting the remaining habitats of this avian species.

The Blyth’s tragopan is listed in Schedule-I of Wildlife (Protection) Act and classified as vulnerable on International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red data list.

The bird is found in the foothills of Saramati mountain bordering Myanmar, Fakim wildlife sanctuary, Dzuku valley, Khonoma, Pfutsero, Meluri, Noklak and Mount Paona and Benreu in Peren district.

The report said the captive breeding project under World Pheasant Association (WPA) was successful in the state.

But though the number of birds increased, it said, its quality and character degenerated due to inbreeding.

Under the agreement, the WPA was obligated to promote the off-site captive breeding of the bird in the United Kingdom and to build up a viable stock in case of future requirement for re-introduction back in Nagaland, it said.

The WPA also assured to train personnel in the technique of tragopan breeding.

Although captive breeding was initially carried out successfully at Kohima Zoological Park, it could not be sustained due to lack of proper infrastructure and technical proficiency.


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