Monthly Archives: September 2012

Kendalls: Red squirrels on verge of extinction in Northern Italy

PRESS RELEASE

Red squirrels are now “on the verge of extinction” in Piedmont, Northern Italy according to researchers at the Universities of Turin, Genoa and Varese.

LONDON, Sep 25, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) — The information published earlier this month states that the disappearance of the red squirrel, the only native tree squirrel species in Italy, is caused by the grey squirrel, the species native to North America which was introduced into Italy 60 years ago.

“The two species compete for food resource and the presence of the American grey squirrel is causing the local extinction of our European red squirrel which has disappeared from the area of over 1,000 km2,” said Dr Sandro Bertolino from the Department of Entomology & Zoology at the University of Turin.

“Red squirrels are now virtually extinct in a large area between the cities of Turin and Cuneo in Piedmont and they are under threat in most of north-western Italy” he added.

Studies by the Italian researchers have demonstrated that grey squirrels are expanding their range with a consequent negative effect on red squirrels as has been the case in Great Britain and Ireland. Introduced in 1948 to Stupinigi, near Turin the area occupied by grey squirrels has been expanding rapidly. In 1990 their distribution covered an area of approximately 200 km2, in 2000 this area had risen to 900 km2 however recent research by the University shows that in 2012 their distribution extends to an area of more than 2000 km2 and in most of this area red squirrels are no longer present. In an area of 1150 km2 only grey squirrels are present.

“This is devastating news for the European red squirrel,” said George Farr, Chairman of the European Squirrel Initiative.

“This sad news from Italy demonstrates the relentless spread of grey squirrels and is a wakeup call to all those involved to ensure that greys are controlled and removed from Northern Italy to prevent further damage not only to red squirrels but also to the biodiversity of Europe as the grey squirrel continues its relentless territorial expansion,” he added.

The news from Italy comes as a new data catalogue of alien species published by the European Commission. DAISIE (Delivering Alien Invasive Species Inventory for Europe) database gives policy makers and the public access to a comprehensive overview of which alien species are present in Europe, as well as how these non-native species are effecting both the environment and society.

The American Grey Squirrel is categorised within the top 100 “worst” species.

ENDS

Notes to editors

The European Squirrel Initiative was founded June 2002 by a group of concerned conservationists and foresters. The organisation seeks the restoration of the native Red Squirrel and the protection of the natural environment by removing the impact of the alien Grey Squirrel in Europe.

Its role is to:

Persuade conservation bodies and governments of the absolute necessity of ridding Europe of the Grey Squirrel.Continue to commission research into the impact of the Grey Squirrel on local ecosystems.

http://www.europeansquirrelinitiative.org

Issued on behalf of the European Squirrel Initiative by Kendalls.

This information was brought to you by Cision http://www.cisionwire.com

SOURCE: Kendalls

        
        Andrew Kendall 
        telephone 01394 610022.
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Greenback cutthroat trout nearly completely extinct

BOULDER WEEKLY

The Colorado state fish, the greenback cutthroat trout, is not nearly as common as many people thought, a CU-Boulder study has found. Pure greenback cutthroats are almost completely extinct.

CU researcher Jessica Metcalf says greenback cutthroat are only found in a single stream near Colorado Springs. Lots of other trout might appear physically similar to greenbacks but aren’t the same genetically.

See the story at The New York Times Green blog.

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Amur Tiger Heading For Extinction – IFAW

RIA NOVOSTI

Russia’s small population of highly-endangered Amur tigers has almost halved in the last seven years despite attempts to protect them, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said on Thursday, ahead of Sunday’s Tiger Day.

Just 80 of the big cats remain in the wild in the Amur Region in Russia’s Far East, according to monitoring in 16 zones there, down from 120 in the period 2004-5.

Habitat shrinkage and a declining food base continue, despite measures to protect the animals put in place after the 2010 Tiger Summit in St. Petersburg, IFAW says. “Every year there are more orphan tigers, which is a sign of a falling population and the rate of fall in the population today represents a threat to their existence.”

“The system of protection for them is complex and incoherent, with different agencies having overlapping responsibilities, all on insufficient money, and the result of all this is that there is almost no-one out working in the taiga. There is an anti-poaching program and also a return to the wild scheme for young tigers found there – programs funded by IFAW for many years – but the population is still falling,” IFAW Russia director Maria Vorontsova said.

“Russia must strictly protect the tiger’s habitat, stop the barbaric and illegal destruction of the forest and implement a rigorous anti-poaching campaign, both against tiger-hunters and those hunting their prey,” she said. Russian law does not punish poachers caught in possession of tiger pelts, or other animal parts, she added.

In August 2012, Primorye police confiscated eight tiger skins from the head of a band of poachers but could only prosecute him for arms possession offences, she explained.

“The effort and means is there, but we need to add the state’s will and responsibility. Or Tiger Day risks becoming a day when we will have tears in our eyes,” she said.

Since 2000, Tiger Day has been marked annually on the last Sunday of September in the Far East city of Vladivostok, and is supported by the city and regional authorities and IFAW.

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Endangered hornbill confiscated in Boracay

PHILSTAR

BORACAY ISLAND, Philippines (Xinhua) – Environment officials confiscated today a writhed-billed hornbill put on display in a mini zoo owned by a German national.

“The colorful writhed-billed hornbill has been considered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to be one of the critically endangered species in the Philippines,” said Dr. Enrique Sanchez Jr., national president of the Philippine Initiative for Conservation of Environment and the People Incorporated (Philincon).

Sanchez said the German national, a resort owner in Boracay, voluntarily surrendered the hornbill to the environment department after weeks of negotiation.

“Upon confiscation, we will document first the hornbill and we expect to release the same bird to the forest of Antique hoping that it would grew its numbers,” he said.

The writhed-billed hornbill, locally known as “dulungan” or ” kalaw” and found in central Philippines, has been hunted down by poachers who sell them to private collectors.

Some resort owners in this island have mini zoos, using them to attract tourists.

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NSW announces shark protection moves

SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

Measures to protect the critically endangered grey nurse shark have been announced by the NSW government.

Minister for Primary Industries Katrina Hodgkinson introduced regulations that include banning baited hook fishing in key breeding areas for the species along the NSW coastline.

“Our overall goal is to protect the grey nurse shark,” she told reporters at Manly Sea Life Sanctuary today.

“They are the puppies of the ocean – they’re not Jaws.

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“They are very gentle creatures but we’re down to the last 1500 or so.”

Bait fishing presents the biggest risk for grey nurse sharks, the minister said.

Recreational fishers will still be able to use other methods such as spinning, jigging and hand gathering.

The moves “strike a balanced approach” to protect the sharks while allowing fishing and scuba diving to take place, Ms Hodgkinson said.

“Because the population is so low, before protection they’re on a pathway to extinction,” said Dr Geoff Allan, executive director of Fisheries NSW.

Critical habitat scuba diving regulations are being replaced by a code of conduct as part of the protection moves, developed over the past 14 months.

Other changes include delisting the Bass Point critical habitat site in Shellharbour and protecting a site near Mermaid Reef, off Crowdy Head.

An educational campaign will promote the rules and there will be a 12-month compliance advisory period while they are phased in.

Responding to the new measures today, Greens MP Cate Faehrmann said protection zones around aggregation sites needed to be larger.

“When you are desperately trying to save a critically endangered species from extinction, half-hearted compromises are not the way to go,” she said.

AAP

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Kill‐at‐will Policy for Wyoming Wolves Challenged by Conservation Groups

INFOZINE

Bozeman, MT – Conservation groups, represented by Earthjustice, served notice that they will file a court challenge to the federal government’s removal of Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for Wyoming wolves. Earthjustice is representing Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Sierra Club in this action.

This announcement by the conservation groups comes on the heels of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to turn wolf management in Wyoming over to state officials, despite the fact that Wyoming’s wolf management policies open the door to unlimited wolf killing throughout most of the state and provide inadequate protection for wolves even where killing is regulated. The Fish and Wildlife Service publicly announced the ESA delisting of wolves in Wyoming on August 31, 2012, but the agency’s delisting rule was not officially published in the Federal Register until this morning.

“Wyoming’s wolf management plan is poor policy, weak in its protection of wolves, and is based on flimsy science,” said Franz Camenzind, a retired Ph.D. wildlife biologist who lives in the Jackson Hole area. “Wyoming’s plan sets a very disturbing precedent for other states by abdicating management responsibility of a native wildlife species over nearly 90 percent of the state.”

The conservation groups who plan to challenge the federal government’s abandonment of wolf protection in Wyoming offered the following statements on today’s action:

“Wyoming’s anti‐wolf policies take the state backward, to the days when wolf massacres nearly wiped out wolves in the lower‐48 states. Our nation rejected such predator extermination efforts when we adopted the Endangered Species Act,” said Earthjustice attorney Jenny Harbine. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has turned its back on Wyoming wolves, but we intend to ask the federal courts to make sure that wolves on the border of Yellowstone—our nation’s first national park—have the protections they need to thrive.”

“We will not stand by while the Obama administration allows Wyoming to eradicate wolves through an extreme shoot‐on‐sight predator policy across most of the state,” said Mike Senatore, vice president of conservation law for Defenders of Wildlife. “It’s extremely disheartening to watch the Obama administration unravel one of our country’s great Endangered Species Act success stories by turning over the conservation of wolves to states such as Wyoming and Idaho that treat these animals like unwanted vermin.”

“Removal of Endangered Species Act protections for Wyoming’s wolves is a disaster for the state’s wolf population and for recovery of wolves to Colorado and other parts of the west,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Like past versions of Wyoming’s wolf plan that were rejected by the Fish and Wildlife Service, the current plan fails to ensure the long-term survival and recovery of the state’s gray wolves. Today’s decision to remove protections for Wyoming’s wolves fails to rely on best science and represents the worst kind of political intrusion by Secretary Salazar into management of an endangered species.”

“This plan allows Wyoming to manage wolves at the razor’s edge of an already low number of wolves,” said Sylvia Fallon, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “It fails to adequately regulate the kill‐on‐sight practices that drove wolves to endangerment in the first place. And it stands as yet another lost opportunity on the part of Fish and Wildlife Service to provide the leadership necessary to secure a legally and scientifically defensible delisting plan for wolves.”

“Wyoming’s plan is a wolf killing plan, not a management plan. It is essentially the same plan that has been rejected before because of the devastating impacts it would have on wolves in Wyoming and throughout the Northern Rockies. Allowing it to move forward now for political reasons could reverse one of the greatest endangered species recovery success stories of all time,” said Bonnie Rice of the Sierra Club’s Greater Yellowstone Resilient Habitats Campaign. “We need a return to the sound, science-based management practices that have for decades brought iconic animals back from the brink of extinction.”

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Hope fades for endangered cave bugs in Vietnam

HIMALAYAN TIMES/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Cave invertebrates are pollinators and the base of food chains that support a rich web of life‚ scientists say.

HON CHONG: Hundreds of species live in the limestone caves of Hon Chong in southern Vietnam, and many of them are found nowhere else on Earth. Yet their habitat is being blown apart, chunk by chunk, in the name of making cement.

One reason, biologists lament, is that these are creatures no one would want to hug, and many would want to stomp.

Spiders. Mites. Millipedes.

People who have been trying to save them from extinction for more than 15 years have found few allies in government, industry or among local residents.

“The problem is that limestone caves do not (have) any charismatic animals or plants that would melt people’s hearts if they died out,” Peter Ng Kee Lin, a biologist at the National University of Singapore, said by email.

The degradation of Asia’s vast but fragile limestone ecosystems is continuing apace as the region’s demand for cement grows along with its economies. Limestone is a key ingredient in cement, the second-most consumed substance on Earth after water, and is used to build desperately needed houses, roads and bridges.

Holcim Vietnam — a joint venture of the Switzerland-based company Holcim and a state-owned Vietnamese construction company — began quarrying 200 hectares (490 acres) of Hon Chong limestone in 1997. It is licensed to quarry about 91 million tons of limestone at three hills over 50 years.

Hon Chong has among the few limestone outcroppings in southern Vietnam and lies about 250 kilometers (155 miles) west of the southern economic hub of Ho Chi Minh City.

Its isolated cave ecosystems are among the world’s most biodiverse, according to Louis Deharveng, a biodiversity specialist at the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris.

Letters from scientists and a biodiversity study obtained by The Associated Press show that Holcim Vietnam and a key donor have received repeated warnings in recent years about the threats the company’s quarries pose to Hon Chong’s cave-dwelling invertebrates. Three respected European scientists have accused the company of ignoring red flags over two decades and provoking an ongoing “ecological disaster.”

“It’s rather like a company going in to mine the Galapagos just before Charles Darwin arrives,” said one of the scientists, Tony Whitten, a former biodiversity specialist at the World Bank who is now regional director for Asia-Pacific at the UK-based conservation group Fauna & Flora International. “How many species is a company prepared to eliminate from a planet we are supposed to be managing and sustaining?”

Holcim Vietnam says its operations meet the highest international standards for social and environmental responsibility and that it is working to offset the damage it causes to Hon Chong’s limestone.

It partners with the Switzerland-based International Union for Conservation of Nature to relocate rare monkeys living near the caves, and has also donated $30,000 toward a wetland-based crane conservation project managed by the U.S.-based International Crane Foundation, according to the groups.

Holcim and the Swiss conservation group also are working with provincial authorities to create two protected areas of about 2,000 hectares each near the Hon Chong quarries — one for grasslands and the other for limestone.

Holcim is also working with the International Union for Conservation of Nature to develop a “biodiversity action plan” for Hon Chong that is expected to be finalized in October. Jake Brunner, Mekong program coordinator for the conservation group, said Holcim does not have a perfect environmental record but is an “island of excellence” when compared to Vietnam’s state-owned cement companies.

Holcim’s critics, however, said that while the company is helping to mitigate the damage done to monkeys and cranes, it is slowly killing off the small cave dwellers that play an undervalued but important role in the ecosystem.

Cave invertebrates are pollinators and the base of food chains that support a rich web of life, scientists say. Because limestone hills have rugged terrain and have largely been spared from agricultural development, their interior caves are now “islands” of tropical biodiversity, and most of the organisms living inside those caves are unknown to science.

Ng, the Singapore biologist, said the destruction continues in part because caves do not house “sexy” animals that galvanize the general public’s sympathies.

“Our disregard for them speaks volumes of human wisdom,” he said.

Nguyen Cong Minh Bao, Holcim Vietnam’s sustainable development director, said ecological factors couldn’t be considered independent of economic ones.

“That’s the reality where we are living,” he said in an interview at company headquarters in Ho Chi Minh City.

Holcim declined a request by the AP to visit its Hong Chong quarries and cement production plant, saying it did not have enough advance notice to arrange a tour. But in July, AP reporters interviewed local residents who said they were grateful for the jobs, infrastructure and social welfare programs the company assists in.

“Holcim has done a good job protecting the environment,” said provincial environmental official Vo Thi Van. “It’s not right to say the quarries have caused an ecological disaster.”

Holcim’s plant was built with help from the International Finance Corporation, the private-sector arm of the World Bank. It arranged financing of $97 million for the project, though Deharveng warned the corporation in 1995 that “no comparable ecosystem exists elsewhere in Vietnam.”

The decision to go through with the loan was made based on an environmental impact assessment by Vietnamese scientists that did not specifically address threats to Hon Chong’s cave biodiversity, said Richard Caines, one of the finance corporation’s principal environment specialists.

The corporation later commissioned a biodiversity survey that in 2002 reported “wide species diversity” in Hon Chong’s limestone hills. The loan was paid off in 2003, but Caines said the corporation continued to work with Holcim Vietnam after that, in part because the quarrying operations posed a “reputation risk” to both parties.

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