Monthly Archives: October 2012

Primates need urgent conservation from becoming extinct: Report


Hyderabad: Mankind’s closest living relatives, the apes, monkeys, lemurs and other primates, are on the brink of extinction and in need of urgent conservation measures, according to a report.

These species are in danger of becoming extinct because of destruction of tropical forests, illegal wildlife trade and commercial bush meat hunting, said a report ‘Primates in Peril: The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates, 2012-2014’, released at the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity COP11 being held here.

The report was released by International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Species Survival Commission (SSC) Primate Specialist Group.

The list features nine endangered primate species from Asia, six from Madagascar, five from Africa and five from the Neotropics.

Madagascar tops the list with six of the 25 most endangered species. Vietnam has five, Indonesia three, Brazil two, and China, Colombia, C’te d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Kenya, Peru, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Venezuela each have one.

According to Zoo Outreach Organisation executive secretary Sanjay Molur, India has 21 species and 43 subspecies of primates and seven of them are endangered, which are mostly located in north eastern India.

“Compared to Vietnam and Madagascar, India is in a comfortable position. India is better in terms of protecting the primates. Most of the Indian species face the problem of deforestation. We consider monkey as God and tend to feed them. The situation also endangers them as human-primate conflict widens,” Molur said.

The list of the world’s 25 most endangered primates has been drawn up by primatologists working in the field who have first-hand knowledge of the causes of threats to primates.

Primates are our closest living relatives and probably the best flagship species for tropical rain forests, since more than 90 per cent of all known primates occur in this endangered biome, said Russell Mittermeier, Chair of the IUCN’s Species Survival Commission (SSC) Primate Specialist Group and president of Conservation International.

“We continue to discover new species every year since 2000. Primates are increasingly becoming a major ecotourism attraction, and primate-watching is growing in interest and serving as a key source of livelihood in many local communities living around protected areas in which these species occur,” Mittermeier said.

Primates often serve as seed dispersers and help to maintain forest diversity. It is increasingly being recognised that forests make a major contribution in terms of ecosystem services for people, providing drinking water, food and medicines.

Despite the gloomy assessment, conservationists point to the success in helping targeted species recover.

Due to the efforts of dedicated primate conservationists and underpinned by considerable public and media interest, the world has not lost a single primate species to extinction in the 20th century, and no primate is yet to be declared extinct in the 21st century either, although some are very close to total extirpation, the report said.


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China arrests 11 for poaching endangered animals


CHANGSHA – Police on Monday said they have arrested 11 people for allegedly poaching endangered animals in a central China virgin forest, and they also seized a large number of bear parts and antelope corpses.

A joint operation by police in Hubei and Hunan provinces found that the suspects used electric nets to illegally trap endangered animals in the Shimen Forests near Wufenghouhe Nature Reserve on the border of the two provinces.

Seventeen bear paws, five bear gall bladders and more than 300 kg of bear meat, as well as musk deer skins and antelope corpses, were seized by police. Police are still pursuing five other suspects, Hunan police officials said.

Bear gall bladders and bear paws have been widely used as expensive ingredients in traditional Chinese medicine. While most bears are currently under adequate protection, huge profits drive poachers to break the law. Animal rights activists in recent years have called for alternatives to bear parts in traditional medicines.


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Vultures in South Asia face imminent extinction


Hyderabad: No vultures will be left in India and the rest of South Asia if no immediate steps are taken for their conservation, non-governmental organisations have warned.

South Asia once had millions of vultures but over the last one decade, 99 percent of them have disappeared.

“This is the fastest decline of any bird species ever reported anywhere in the world,” Asad R. Rahmani, director, Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) said.

Rahmani, a scientist with over three decades of experience, said unlike some other bird species which face extinction because of poaching and habitat destruction, vultures were disappearing only because of a drug called diclofenac.

He pointed out that though the Indian government banned the drug for veterinary use in 2006 to save vultures, it was still being used. The pain killer for humans is being diverted for veterinary use.

Demanding that the government make it a prescriptive drug, Rahmani said vultures feeding on carcasses of cattle given diclofenac die in three to 10 days. “The study by Indian Veterinary Research Institute has shown that kidney failure occurs in such vultures and they don’t recover,” he said.

“For vultures, this drug is as lethal as cyanide,” he stressed.

India had once had four to five million vultures but only a few thousand of them are left now. South Asia’s all three Gyps species of vulture are listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

The BNHS, a 128-year-old NGO engaged in conservation of biological diversity, is also involved in captive conservation and breeding of vultures. “We will release these birds once diclofenac is completely phased out,” said Rahmani, one of the first to raise the issue in India.

Saving Asia’s Vultures from Extinction (SAVE), a consortium of 10 national and international NGOs headed by the BNHS, is highlighting the problem during the ongoing United Nations Conference on Biodiversity here.

SAVE is spearheading efforts to phase out diclofenac, launch conservation breeding programmes and create “vulture safe zones” – 100 km radius areas in which intensive efforts are made to remove diclofenac, in preparation for future vulture releases.

The IUCN has also taken an initiative to develop a South Asia Regional Vulture Recovery Project for submission to Global Environment Facility (GEF).

The governments of India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan adopted a regional declaration in May this year for co-ordination and collaboration in vulture conservation.

The NGOs described the loss of the vultures as the loss of a critically important ecosystem service. Animal carcasses are now being left to rot, leading to an enormous waste disposal problem and to a number of health concerns. Feral dogs, dog attacks and the risk of rabies have all increased, they said.

The loss of vultures has also had social impacts on some communities, such as the Parsis, who traditionally offered their dead to the vultures in “Towers of Silence”, and the Jains, whose “Panjrapores” (animal shelters) also relied on vultures.


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Global bird extinctions are increasing warns new research


The rate of bird extinctions is accelerating at an alarming rate according to a new paper by BirdLife International and Charles Darwin University.

Global Patterns and Drivers of Avian Extinctions at the Species and Subspecies Level, published in PLoS One, reveals 279 bird species and subspecies from across the globe have become extinct in the last 500 years. The study shows that species extinctions peaked in the early 20th century, then fell until the mid-20th century, and have subsequently accelerated.

“Until this study it had been hoped the rate of extinction was slowing”, said lead author Dr Judit Szabo of Charles Darwin University.

“Historically most extinctions have occurred on islands, particularly those in the Pacific, but most of the really susceptible species are long gone.”

The study shows that the destruction of native habitat for agriculture is currently the main cause of extinctions. Unsustainable hunting and the introduction of alien species, such as cats and rats, have been the main causes of extinctions in the past.

“Humans are directly or indirectly responsible for this loss”, Dr Szabo said.

The world’s nations had agreed through the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to slow biodiversity loss by 2010, and having failed to reach this goal, the target has now been adjusted to 2020.

Report co-author Dr Stuart Butchart, BirdLife International’s Global Research Coordinator, said many species survive only because of conservation interventions.

“This list would have been much longer were it not for the work being done around the world to stop extinctions. But we need to scale up our efforts substantially to avoid further human-induced extinctions”, said Dr Butchart.

“Our analysis provides the most detailed picture to date of recent extinctions and will help us identify strategies to tackle the loss of biodiversity and halt future human-induced extinctions. The Conference of the Parties of the CBD that starts today in Hyderabad, India will need some firm action to achieve its target of achieving this by 2020.”

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The sad state of biodiversity

— Out of 63,837 species on the “Red List” updated annually by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 19,817 are at risk of extinction.
— Of these, 3,947 are critically endangered, 5,766 endangered and 10,104 considered vulnerable. Sixty-three species have become extinct in the wild and 801 have been completely wiped out.
— Threatened groups include 41 percent of all amphibian species, 33 percent of reef-building corals, 25 percent of mammals, 20 percent of plants and 13 percent of birds.
— Last year, scientists wrote in the journal Nature that Man may have unleashed the sixth known mass extinction in Earth’s history—the last having wiped out the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago. — About 1.75 million species of plants, insects and microorganisms have so far been identified by researchers, with scientists estimating there are between three million and 100 million species on Earth.
— Indian economist Pavan Sukhdev, in a report in 2010, estimated that biodiversity loss came at a cost of between 1.35 trillion and 3.1 trillion euros ($1.75 trillion and $4 trillion) per year.
— Countries pledged under the Millennium Development Goals to achieve a “significant reduction” in the rate of plant and animal loss by 2010, a goal the UN has admitted was badly missed.
— The last CBD conference in Nagoya, Japan in 2010, adopted a 20-point plan to turn back biodiversity loss by 2020.
— Its targets include halving the rate of habitat loss, expanding water and land areas under conservation, preventing the extinction of species currently on the threatened list, and restoring at least 15 percent of degraded ecosystems. (c) 2012 AFP

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Ganges dolphins face extinction threat


The dolphin population in the Ganges river has declined by nearly 10-15 per cent per year, taking the number from 6,000 in 1982 to less than 1,800 this year, said World Wildlife Fund on Wednesday.

“The reason is construction of dams and water pollution caused by pesticides and fertilisers more than industrial effluents,” said Sandeep Behara, associate director, river basins and diversity programme, WWF, India.

The Ganges river dolphin was declared India’s National Aquatic Animal in 2009 and since these are fresh water dolphins they cannot survive in a polluted environment.
WWF India is launching a three-day awareness programme ‘My Ganga, My Dolphin’ campaign in and around Uttar Pradesh from October 5 to 7 to survey the number of Gangetic river dolphins present across 2,800 km stretch of the River Ganga and its tributaries including Yamuna, Son, Ken, Betwa, Ghagra and Geruwa.

During the campaign, a team of 150 members will go around in 18 boats to determine the number of dolphins which will be announced by Akhilesh Yadav, Uttar Pradesh chief minister on October 7.

Ravi Singh, CEO of WWF, India said the threatened ecosystem is posing a danger to the existence of fresh water dolphins in the country.

“Their evolution dates back to 400 million years. All difficulties are largely man-made which are making the species die every year,” he said.

He added that the forest department does not have adequate manpower and modern equipment to conduct surveys and take corrective measures.

“The three-day campaign is our first effort which we plan to take forward to other parts of the country where we have spotted dolphins. We would like to make this exercise work for every three years so that at the end of nine years we have a comprehensive study on the number of dolphins in India,” said Singh.

Dolphins have been listed in the Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and categorised as endangered by the World Conservation Union.

“In India, everything is still largely on paper since 2010. A lot needs to be done to save the species which will be possible with only community participation,” said Beheria.

“Another threat to dolphins is that they are being caught by mistake in nylon nets which are being used by fishermen which lead to their death,” Beheria added.
He said that locals in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan know more about Dolphins than anybody else does but they need to
be warned about the danger and conservation of the species.



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Rare Alabama Fish Proposed for Endangered Species Act Protection


HUNTSVILLE, Ala.–(ENEWSPF)–October 1 – In response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity and fisheries biologist Mike Sandel, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed Endangered Species Act protection for Alabama’s spring pygmy sunfish. The agency also proposed designating eight stream miles and 1,617 acres of protected critical habitat in Limestone County, Alabama. The spring pygmy sunfish survives only in Beaverdam Creek, where it continues to be threatened by urban sprawl from metropolitan Huntsville, poor agricultural practices and loss of streamside vegetation.

Today’s decision was made in accordance with a 2011 settlement with the Center requiring the Fish and Wildlife Service to make protection decisions on 757 plants and animals, including hundreds in the Southeast.

“The spring pygmy sunfish is only found on one place on Earth,” said Mike Sandel, a fisheries scientist who has done the primary research on the species. “And that one place is severely threatened by urban sprawl, pollution and poor management.”

Discovered in 1937, the sunfish was twice presumed extinct during the 70 years it has been known to science. It is limited primarily to headwater springs and historically occurred in three small disjunct spring complexes (Cave, Pryor and Beaverdam springs) separated by up to 65 miles. Two of the three populations have disappeared. The Cave Springs population was extirpated in 1938 due to inundation by the formation of Pickwick Reservoir; the Pryor Springs population disappeared by the late 1960s, most likely due to dredging and chemical contamination. The single remaining native population occupies just five river miles of the Beaverdam Springs complex. Critical habitat was designated both on Beaverdam Springs and Creek, where the species survives, and on the Pryor and Branch Spring complex.

“The Endangered Species Act is the last hope for the spring pygmy sunfish,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Hundreds of freshwater species in Alabama and the Southeast are staring extinction in the face. Without help, we risk losing species like the spring pygmy sunfish forever.”

A recent study by the U.S. Geological Survey found that North American fish species are going extinct at a rate 877 times the fossil record and that this rate may double between now and 2050. Alabama is at the center of this fish extinction crisis with 124 species recognized by scientists as being imperiled. Of these, only 14 are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

“There’s still time to save the spring pygmy sunfish, but only if we act fast to protect its habitat from careless development and unsustainable agricultural practices,” said Sandel.

In 2010 the Center petitioned for 404 other southeastern aquatic species, including fish, mussels and crayfish. In 2011, Fish and Wildlife determined that 374 of these may warrant protection and is now taking a closer look at these species.

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature – to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.


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Fears for endangered parrot as numbers drop


This year’s winter conservation count for one of Australia’s rarest birds has returned the lowest number of sightings since counting began.

It is estimated there are only about 50 orange-bellied parrots left in the wild.

About 20 parrots were seen in last year’s winter counts across South Australia and Victoria, but this year only one bird was spotted.

Count coordinator Bob Green says there could be a number of reasons for the decline.

“Numbers were down generally this year. The birds were a lot harder to find,” he said.

“Conditions were pretty good so there was a lot of seed out there and I think that just because of that, the birds had a lot bigger areas they could choose to feed in.

“We’ve always found it really hard to get a good population estimate from the winter counts.”

Mark Holdsworth from the Orange Bellied Parrot Recovery Program says the focus is now on bolstering the insurance population in captivity.

Once that happens birds will be released into the wild, but he says the wild population needs to hold on.

“Those captive birds need to learn from the wild birds, learn how to migrate, learn how to forage,” he said.

“We’ve got over 200 birds in captivity at the moment and ultimately those birds will be used to repopulate the wild.

“So we’ll be building the population up to 350 over the next year or two and we’ll be releasing hopefully large numbers of birds back into the wild.”

Wild birds are due to migrate to Tasmania for the breeding season within the next few weeks.

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Endangered Indiana Bats Battered by Bat-killing Disease


La Crosse, WI – infoZine – A new study finds that one of the first bats ever listed as endangered lost 10 percent of its population every year between 2006 and 2009 to white-nose syndrome, the bat disease that has already wiped out nearly 7 million bats in North America. The Indiana bat had made modest population gains in recent years prior to the onset of the disease, but a report recently released by the U.S. Geological Survey says white-nose syndrome has reversed that trend in some areas. In recent winters, the disease spread into the core midwestern range of the species, which could result in even more dramatic declines.

“Indiana bats are beginning to slip away from us,” said Mollie Matteson, a bat specialist with the Center for Biological Diversity, which this spring petitioned the White House for national action on the disease outbreak. “At this point, every remaining Indiana bat is a precious survivor. We need to take every possible step to save them from threats, including white-nose syndrome.”

The disease has hit Indiana bats the hardest in the Northeast and in Appalachia. Bat scientists fear the dramatic mortality rates observed in the eastern portions of the species’ range will soon occur in Indiana bat stronghold states, such as Indiana, Kentucky and Missouri.

The Indiana bat was first listed as a federally endangered species in 1967, when people still purposefully killed entire colonies of bats “for fun” or out of a mistaken belief that they were “vermin.” Measures to protect the colonies, such as the gating of important hibernating sites, have helped to reduce those losses. But many threats remain, including logging of summer roosting trees and pesticide spraying of insects that bats depend on for food. In recent years, the boom in oil and gas fracking in the eastern states, as well as wind-energy installations that kill bats with moving turbine blades, have created new hazards for the animals.

“Indiana bats were already struggling to survive — now white-nose syndrome is pushing them headlong into extinction,” Matteson said.

Since 2006, when white-nose syndrome was first discovered in upstate New York caves, the disease has spread to 19 states and four Canadian provinces. Last winter biologists discovered white-nose syndrome in Missouri, marking the first time the disease had been confirmed west of the Mississippi River.

Indiana bats have suffered mortality rates of more than 90 percent in some affected hibernation sites in the Northeast, where the disease has been present longest. The Geological Survey study notes that, so far, subpopulations of the Indiana bat are on variable trajectories, with midwestern Indiana bats holding steady in recent years or even slightly increasing. But the report’s authors say that overall, the fungal bat disease is “stalling and in some cases reversing population gains made in recent years.”

In response to the growing impact of white-nose syndrome, one of the nation’s leading scientific organizations, the American Institute of Biological Sciences, recently called for cave closures to prevent people from spreading the disease.

In the eastern United States, caves on most federal lands, many state lands and some private lands have been closed to nonessential human access the past several years to protect bats. Bat caves in the West, however, remain largely unprotected, including thousands of caves on Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service lands. To date, caves have been closed in only the Rocky Mountain Region of the Forest Service, which includes Colorado and Wyoming, and on federal land in New Mexico, where only about two dozen caves have been closed.

The Center has been a leader in the effort to enact stronger protective measures for bats, calling for cave closures on public lands and petitioning the White House Council on Environmental Quality earlier this year to direct those closures.

“The Indiana bat’s situation is about to get even more urgent,” Matteson said. “When we lose bats, we lose irreplaceable parts of our ecosystems, including the services these animals provide by eating thousands of tons of crop pests every year. And that’s a problem for all of us.”

Related infoZine Article
Caves Must be Closed to Slow Bat Epidemic

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Action crucial to save kea from extinction


Known as a cheeky character and scourge of the skifield, the kea certainly has its own brand of charisma but there are now fewer than 5000 of the endangered mountain parrots left in the wild.

Vulnerable to threats by exotic pests, toxins such as lead, and sometimes human cruelty, the kea has an ally in the Kea Conservation Trust, which aims to protect the species by pinpointing local threats and increasing awareness.

Trust chairwoman Tamsin Orr-Walker says the Watson brothers’ ambitious 21 peaks in 21 days fundraising expedition is a “creative and inspiring” way to address the plight of the kea, which could become extinct in the Nelson Lakes National Park.

“The brothers’ efforts will not only raise awareness of the issues facing kea in Nelson Lakes National Park and throughout the South Island, but will also raise vital funds to help us continue our work to save kea.”

Trust research in the late 1990s showed Nelson Lakes had a stable population but new studies between 2009 and 2012 have shown kea declined by 80 per cent during a decade.

The trust surveyed about 14,000 hectares of the national park and found just three resident pairs, only one of which was breeding at an average of two chicks a year.

In the 1990s there were 11 confirmed pairs over 7000ha producing 10 chicks on average each year.

To combat the alarming decline, the trust is working with the Conservation Department’s St Arnaud branch, by setting up pest control around nests.

Intensive yearly nest monitoring is being done.

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