Monthly Archives: August 2012

Birds face extinction in mountainous north

GULF TIMES

Many species of birds, both resident and migratory, are threatened with extinction in Chitral valley, Pakistan’s scenic mountainous north, according to experts.
Masood Ali, a local biodiversity specialist, said yesterday that the tally of endangered species was fast getting bigger and the situation could worsen if they weren’t conserved without delay. He said Chitral district stretched over 14,850 square kilometres, nestled between Hindukush and Karakoram mountain ranges, and had a wide variation in altitude (1,094 metres in the south to 7,726 metres in the north).
The biodiversity specialist said the Chitral valley provided an ideal habitat for resident and migratory birds.
He said birds migrating from Siberia to Pakistan’s plains in winter season passed through Baroghil Pass area of Chitral, the starting point of the River Indus. Ali said not a single district of the country supported such species of birds totalling 195 and which includes chukar, Himalayan snow-cock, monal pheasant and snow partridges. He blamed the birds’ extinction on rampant hunting, deforestation, environmental degradation and inefficiency of wildlife staff.
The expert said many species of falcons, including peregrine falcon and saker falcon, had been declared the most endangered ones due to excessive hunting for trade.
According to him, several noted species of waterfowls migrating from Siberia to Chitral in the early days of spring season and ruthlessly hunted in the district are also in danger of extinction.
Ali said locals had developed artificial ponds along a local river to hunt these waterfowls. He said  scavenger vulture, Eurasian woodcock, Himalayan Griffon vulture, snow pigeon, bar-headed goose, graylag goose, marbled teal, tufted duck and pallid harrier were also among the endangered species of birds.
He said there were certain species of small-sized birds, which played havoc with wheat and barley crops, and vegetables, but the declining number of falcons had increased the population of such birds bringing misery to the farmers. Internews

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Gangetic Dolphins face extinction in Chambal river

DAILY BHASKAR

Bhopal: The most endangered Gangetic dolphins are sliding towards extinction from Chambal river in Madhya Pradesh in the face of damaging fishing methods and sand mining , reveals the 2012 census report. The count will be zero in next five years if proper steps are not initiated, warn experts.
According to a joint survey carried out by the MP forest officials, their Rajasthan counter part, Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and World Wildlife Federation (WWF) in February, May and June this year, only 58 Dolphins were found in Chambal river this year compared to 65 in the 2011.
Officials figure claims sighting of 175 dolphins in 2006, later it declined to 91 in 2007, 86 in 2008, 84 in 2009 and 69 in 2010.
“It’s alarming. We have submitted our report to the state headquarters with threat analysis and necessary recommendations,” says Dr Rishikesh Sharma, expert on aquatic animal species posted at Morena. He was a key member of the survey team.
The officials had to face inter-state issues while surveying the 435-km stretch of Chambal river passing through MP, Rajasthan and Utter Pradesh (UP).
While forest officials in MP and Rajasthan got along, their UP counterparts expressed lack of concern. The UP rangers cautioned surveyors to stay away entering the area falling under their jurisdiction.
Following which survey of 30-km stretch in UP (Chakan Nagar to PanchNagar) had to be abandoned. Surprisingly, two dolphins were found dead under mysterious circumstances in the same region in UP after the survey was over. A 134-cm long Gangetic dolphin was found dead in a rivulet in Chakan Nagar (Sahson area) close to Chambal River in UP’s Etawah district in August.
Principal Chief Conservator of forest (PCCF) PC Shukla said that he has not come across the latest census report for any comment on the issue. Asked whether any conservation project would be initiated, he said “I don’t think so. We have hundreds of dolphins”. The officer was hardly aware of the actual status of Gangetic Dolphins. “We had been too busy with the tiger issue,” he explained.
The Gangetic dolphins have been declared as the National Aquatic Animal of India in the first meeting of the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on October 5, 2009.
It had been included in the Schedule-I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, thereby giving them the highest degree of protection.
A proposal to study of dolphin population dynamics in Chambal and its tributaries, identification and study of their breeding pocket and yearly status review study of resident dolphin population in river Chambal is still under consideration.

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WWF launches fight against wildlife crime

WWF

In response to record poaching rates, WWF today is launching a global campaign calling governments to combat illegal wildlife trade and reduce demand for illicit endangered species products. Demand for ivory, rhino horn and tiger parts from consumer markets in Asia is driving wild populations dangerously close to extinction.

“Governments are largely ignoring the crisis affecting our endangered species. Throughout our global campaign, countries will hear directly from their constituents that the people expect better from them. The time to act is now while we can still save rhinos, tigers and elephants,” said Lasse Gustavsson, Executive Director of Conservation for WWF-International.

WWF will engage its constituents in online activities to educate, empower and activate them on behalf of the campaign. Supporters will have the opportunity to join the conversation, provide their campaign ideas, and undertake direct advocacy with world leaders.

Already this year, 339 rhinos have been killed by poachers in South Africa in order to supply consumer markets in Viet Nam, where the animal’s horn is touted as a hangover tonic and cure for terminal illness. Rhino poaching has increased over 3000% in the past five years.

Last year witnessed the highest recorded rates of elephant poaching in Africa. Tens of thousands of elephants are believed to be killed each year for their ivory tusks, the most in Central Africa. China and Thailand have been identified as the biggest consumer countries for illegally-trafficked ivory.

In the last 100 years, the world has lost 97 per cent of its wild tigers, including four sub-species to extinction. There may be as few as 3,200 of the endangered animals remaining. Illegal killing for trade is the biggest factor in their decline. The skins of eight tigers were seized in Russia Saturday, including four from cubs estimated to be less than two months old.

Illegal wildlife trade is one of the most lucrative international organized crimes, yet is not treated seriously by many governments. “The criminal syndicates involved in illegal wildlife trade have also been implicated in murder, drug trafficking, arms proliferation, and even terrorism,” Gustavsson said. “This campaign is more than just saving species from extinction, it is about promoting the rule of law, protecting rangers and bringing end to an illegal trade that has countless times proven to destabilize national security.”

WWF and partner TRAFFIC will mobilize millions of supporters to take action to help kill the trade that kills. Join us on the frontline in the battle against illegal wildlife trade at facebook.com/WWF and at panda.org/killthetrade.

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Giant kelp forests granted endangered status

AUSTRALIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION

The Federal Government has listed the giant kelp forests near Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia as endangered.

Under the listing, the giant kelp are considered an endangered ecological community.

Any projects which could impact on the forests will now require assessments under national environment law.

Giant kelp are mainly found from Eddystone Point in north-east Tasmania, and along the state’s east coast as far down as Port Davey in the south-west.

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke says the move will ensure better protection for the forests, which are being threatened by warming oceans, invasive species and human activity on coastlines.

Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson has warned the marine forests will remain under threat unless further action is taken to address climate change.

“Everything helps in a situation like this but my understanding is that global warming and rising sea temperatures are the key problems for kelp,” he said.

“So unless we address the gases that cause global warming and take effective action on climate change, no listing in the world is going to help kelp forests.”

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Sea life facing major shock

UNIVERSITY OF QUEENSLAND

Life in the world’s oceans faces far greater change and risk of large-scale extinctions than at any previous time in human history, a team of the world’s leading marine scientists has warned.

The researchers from Australia, the US, Canada, Germany, Panama, Norway and the UK have compared events which drove massive extinctions of sea life in the past with what is observed to be taking place in the seas and oceans globally today.

Three of the five largest extinctions of the past 500 million years were associated with global warming and acidification of the oceans – trends which also apply today, the scientists say in a new article in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution.

Other extinctions were driven by loss of oxygen from seawaters, pollution, habitat loss and pressure from human hunting and fishing – or a combination of these factors.

“Currently, the Earth is again in a period of increased extinctions and extinction risks, this time mainly caused by human factors,” the scientists said.

While the data is harder to collect at sea than on land, the evidence points strongly to similar pressures now being felt by sea life as for land animals and plants.

The researchers conducted an extensive search of the historical and fossil records to establish the main causes of previous marine extinctions – and the risk of their recurring today.

“We wanted to understand what had driven past extinctions of sea life and see how much of those conditions prevailed today,” said co-author Professor John Pandolfi, of the
ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and The University of Queensland.

Professor Pandolfi is an authority on the fate of coral reefs in previous mass extinction events.

“It is very useful to look back in time – because if you forget your history, you’re liable to repeat it,” he said.

Marine extinction events vary greatly.

In the ‘Great Death’ of the Permian 250 million years ago, for example, an estimated 95 per cent of marine species died out due to a combination of warming, acidification, loss of oxygen and habitat.

Scientists have traced the tragedy in the chemistry of ocean sediments laid down at the time, and abrupt loss of many sea animals from the fossil record.

“We are seeing the signature of all those drivers today – plus the added drivers of human overexploitation and pollution from chemicals, plastics and nutrients,” Professor Pandolfi said.

“The fossil record tells us that sea life is very resilient – that it recovers after one of these huge setbacks.

“But also that it can take millions of years to do so.”

The researchers wrote the paper out of their concern that the oceans appear to be on the brink of another major extinction event.

“There may be still time to act,” Professor Pandolfi says.

“If we understand what drives ocean extinction, we can also understand what we need to do to prevent or minimise it.

“We need to understand that the oceans aren’t just a big dumping ground for human waste, contaminants and CO2 – a place we can afford to ignore or overexploit.

“They are closely linked to our own survival, wellbeing and prosperity as well as that of life on Earth in general.

“Even though we cannot easily see what is going on underwater, we need to recognise that the influence of 7 billion humans is now so great it governs the fate of life in the oceans.

“And we need to start taking responsibility for that.”

He said: “The situation is not hopeless.

“In fact we have seen clear evidence both from the past and the present that sea life can bounce back, given a chance to do so.

“For example, in Australia we have clear evidence of that good management of coral reefs can lead to recovery of both corals and fish numbers.

“So, rather, our paper is an appeal to humanity to give the oceans a chance.

“In effect, it says we need to stop releasing the CO2 that drives these massive extinction events, curb the polluted and nutrient-rich runoff from the land that is causing ocean ‘dead zones’ manage our fisheries more sustainably and protect their habitat better.

“All these things are possible, but people need to understand why they are essential.

“That is the first step in taking effective action to prevent extinctions.”

Their paper “Extinctions in ancient and modern seas” by Paul G. Harnik, Heike K. Lotze, Sean C. Anderson, Zoe V. Finkel, Seth Finnegan, David R. Lindberg, Lee Hsiang Liow, Rowan Lockwood, Craig R. McClain, Jenny L. McGuire, Aaron O’Dea, John M. Pandolfi, Carl Simpson and Derek P. Tittensor appears in the online edition of Trends in Ecology and Evolution (TREE).

More information:
Professor John Pandolfi, CoECRS and UQ, +61 7 3365 3050 or (m) +61 400 982 301
Jenny Lappin, CoECRS, +61 417 741 638
Jan King, UQ Communications Manager, +61 (0)7 3365 1120

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Endangered status sought for state’s coral species

JUNEAU EMPIRE

ANCHORAGE – The non-profit Center for Biological Diversity announced Monday that it has filed a petition with the federal government to list 43 of Alaska’s coral species on the Endangered Species Act (goo.gl/RusUk).

The petition was sent to the Secretary of Commerce and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration through the National Marine Fisheries Service.

The non-profit requests the designation of critical habitat “to ensure their survival and recovery,” according to a CBD press release. Climate change and ocean acidification and certain fishing activities are a threat to the 43 species, the release said.

Alaska Exclusive Economic Zone waters are the exclusive home to 40 of the 43 coral species.

Large coral gardens were discovered in the Aleutian Islands in 2002, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (goo.gl/fzZ4G).

“Scientists estimated that as many as 100 species of coral were flourishing 300 to 5,000 feet beneath the surface,” according to the ADF&G website.

For more information visit www.biologicaldiversity.org.

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Endangered species on the menu

FISH NEWS EU

ACCORDING to scientific analysis by Stony Brook University, the shark fin soup served in 14 US cities contains at-risk species, including scalloped hammerhead, which is listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as Endangered globally.

“The DNA testing again confirms that a wide variety of sharks are being killed for the fin trade, including seriously threatened species,” said Dr Demian Chapman, who co-led the DNA testing at the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University in New York. “US consumers of shark fin soup cannot be certain of what’s in their soup. They could be eating a species that is in serious trouble.”

In addition to the scalloped hammerhead, the team found that the 32 samples identified as sharks included smooth hammerheads, school sharks, and spiny dogfish, which are all listed as vulnerable to extinction; and other near threatened species, such as bull and copper sharks.

“This is further proof that shark fin soup here in the United States—not just in Asia—is contributing to the global decline of sharks,” said Liz Karan, manager of global shark conservation at the Pew Environment Group. “Sharks must be protected from overfishing and any international trade in these vulnerable and endangered species must be tightly regulated.”

Dr Chapman’s research combines DNA-analysis with ecological data to better understand the population biology, evolution, and ecology of large marine vertebrates, particularly sharks and their relatives. He worked with the Pritzker Laboratory at the Field Museum in Chicago to modify existing DNA-barcoding techniques to identify shark DNA fragments that had deteriorated in the fin treatment and cooking process. This study represents the first time that shark fin soup has been tested in a large, nationwide manner.

Samples were collected in Albuquerque, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Las Vegas; Los Angeles, New York, Orlando, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington DC.

Shark attack survivors who have become global advocates for conservation of their attackers helped collect some of the samples for the study. The survivors, as well as the soup study, will be featured during Discovery’s show “Shark Fight” at 9 pm on August 15.

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