Category Archives: china

White-handed Gibbons Now Presumed ‘Extinct’ In China, Forest Survey Shows

PRESS RELEASE – UNIVERSITY OF ZURICH (via sciencedaily.com)

ScienceDaily (May 22, 2008) — China’s fauna exhibits a unique diversity of apes. Unfortunately, the apes are more seriously endangered by extinction in China than in any other country. A research team assembled by anthropologists of Zurich University now conclude that another ape species has just become extinct in China’s Yunnan province.

A scientific team, consisting of members of the Gibbon Conservation Alliance based at Zurich University and the Kunming Institute of Zoology, as well as staff members of the Nangunhe National Nature Reserve, carried out a survey in all Chinese forests that had been reported as supporting white-handed gibbons (Hylobates lar) during the last 20 years.

The species was last observed in 1988 in the Nangunhe Nature Reserve in south-western Yunnan province, and their loud, melodious calls were last heard in 1992. After two weeks of field work, the 14 member Swiss-Chinese team realized that as a result of continued forest destruction, fragmentation and deterioration, as well as hunting, this gibbon species is no longer part of the Chinese fauna.

“This loss is particularly tragic”, says anthropologist Thomas Geissmann, “because the extinct Chinese population was described as a distinct subspecies, the so-called Yunnan white-handed gibbon.” This subspecies (Hylobates lar yunnanensis) is not known from any other place. Geissmann now hopes, that the subspecies may have survived in neighbouring Myanmar, but so far, he has no evidence for this.

“The extinction of the Chinese white-handed gibbons is an urgent alarm signal, because several other ape species in Chinas are also endangered by extinction”, says Geissmann. For instance the white-cheeked crested gibbon (Nomascus leucogenys) has not been sighted in China since the 1980s. Of the Cao-Vit crested gibbon (N. nasutus) in the provinces Guangxi (China) and Cao Bang (Vietnam) there are less than 50 individuals, and of the Hainan crested gibbon (N. hainanus) on the South-Chinese island of Hainan less than 20 individuals, to mention just the two most endangered species. Therefore, the scientists warn that the loss of the Yunnan white-handed gibbons may only be the beginning of an unprecedented wave of extinctions which threatens to terminate most, if not all, Chinese ape species.

“We hope that our research results will alarm the Chinese government as well as international conservation agencies and encourage them to initiate immediate efforts to save China’s last surviving apes”, says Geissmann.

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Chinese police seize endangered pangolins from home

 Reuters

BEIJING, Jan 19 (Reuters) – A foul stench led Chinese police to a home where they found 16 protected pangolins in cages and plastic bags, and another 37 dead ones in the refrigerator, the Xinhua news agency said on Saturday.

The rescued pangolins, an endangered scaly ant eater sought for their skin and for use in Chinese medicine, ranged in size from the palm of a human hand to four kilograms, Xinhua said, citing the local Forest Police Station.

One bear paw was also found in the fridge in the house in southern China’s Guangdong Province.

Four suspects were arrested, Xinhua said.

The solitary and nocturnal pangolin is found only in Asia and Africa. Its meat is considered a delicacy for some, its scaly skin can be made into handbags and shoes, and its scales and blood are used in Chinese medicine to treat allergies and sexually transmitted disease.

All international trade in the animals was banned in 2000.

Earlier this month, two men in the southern city of Xiamen received suspended death sentances for smugging 17 containers of pangolin meat and scales worth 23 million yuan ($3.2 million) into China. ($1 = 7.242 Yuan) (Reporting by Lucy Hornby; Editing by David Fogarty)

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Chinese Crested Terns Heading for Extinction

 China.org – Yang Xi

The Chinese Crested Tern is the most endangered bird to date in China. This bird’s common name indicates its close relationship with China. In 1863 scientists gave the bird a Latin name – “Sternabernsteni” but Chinese also call the animal “Shenhua Zhinao” or the “Mythical Bird”, because it is rare and mysterious.

“There are less than fifty Chinese Crested Terns in China,” Chen Shuihua, deputy curator of Museum of Natural History of Zhejiang Province and also the most authoritative expert on Chinese Crested Terns research, said. He did not disclose the exact number. The number of Chinese Crested Terns around the world has reduced by half in the past three years, according to a survey.

The earliest record of the Chinese Crested Terns in China dates from 1863. In 1937, Chinese scientists collected 21 specimens of the birds, including 15 females and 6 males near Qingdao in Shandong Province. Few similar records were made in the following sixty-three years. Some scientists only kept minimal records without photos in the Beidaihe Region in Hebei Province (1978) and in the Yellow River Delta of Dongying in Shandong Province (1991). Many ornithologists believed that the birds were extinct.

Big surprise

Surprisingly, in June 2004 an avian photographer from Taiwan, Liang Jiede, took pictures and unexpectedly found four adult pairs of Chinese Crested Terns and four juvenile birds in his photos after developing his film.
 
In 2003 Chen Shuihua began to lead an investigation into propagating sea birds along the coastal areas of Zhejiang Province, while putting emphasis on Chinese Crested Terns.

Chen Shuihua led a group out to sea to start another investigation in June 2004 because he wanted to set a new record. “None of the ornithologists had gone to sea to do their investigations due to the danger and expense, so little investigation into sea birds in China has ever been carried out,” Chen said. Unfortunately, his investigation did not have a happy ending.

Chen Shuihua set out to the sea several times in 2004 during the sea birds’ breeding season from June to August. Chen’s group found almost twenty Chinese Crested Terns on August 1, 2004 in the central coastal areas of Zhejiang Province.

The main reason for the sharp decrease of Chinese Crested Terns is due to rampant collecting of sea bird eggs. These rare birds will go extinct in five years if such illegal practices are not forbidden, according to an article published by the Bird Life International.

Chen Shuihua has identified the Chinese Crested Tern as a flagship specimen of the marine ecosystem. He believes that the extinction of this bird would mean the destruction of the entire marine ecosystem, so he strongly advocates protecting all sea birds.
  
Bird Life International has suggested that the mainland and Taiwan should cooperate in rescue efforts directed at Chinese Crested Terns.

This July in Taiwan Chen Shuihua was invited to participate in a meeting that focused on how to create a cooperative effort to protect Chinese Crested Terns. Chen has worked out a five-year plan for their protection. “I hope that efficient measures can be enforced within five years to ensure the successful breeding and survival of these birds and that we can make more detailed investigations in order to obtain greater understanding about these birds,” Chen said.

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Taiwan, China join to save rare sea bird from extinction

GMA News (AP)

TAIPEI, Taiwan – Taiwanese and mainland Chinese conservationists are joining hands to save an endangered sea bird from extinction by urging fishermen to stop collecting and eating the birds’ eggs, a Taiwanese birdwatcher said Monday.

The Chinese crested tern – white with a black-and-white crest – migrates to eastern Chinese coasts between May and September, Taiwanese conservationists say. It’s thought the birds fly there to escape the heat in South Asia, although they have not been seen outside of China or Taiwan.

The sea bird was spotted for the first time in 2000 on the Taiwan-controlled Matsu island – just 1 kilometer (0.6 mile) from China’s southeastern coast. Matsu authorities have since stepped up monitoring the bird and set aside several locations in the island group as sanctuaries.

Taiwanese have stopped eating sea birds’ eggs in recent years, but Chinese fishermen often sneak onto Matsu to collect the eggs, which are prized as a delicacy in parts of China, said Chang Shou-hua, head of the Matsu Birdwatching Society.

”Sea birds’ eggs are smelly and infected with parasites, and when fishermen collect the eggs in the grass they disrupt the birds’ breeding habitats,” Chang said.

A Chinese survey conducted over recent successive breeding seasons found that the number of crested terns had fallen to 50 birds, about half the population found three years ago, according to Birdlife International, a conservation group based in Cambridge, England. The group warns that the crested tern could become extinct in five years if protection efforts are not stepped up.

Taiwanese birders recently sought to collaborate with mainland conservationists after learning the bird has appeared along the coasts of China’s Zhejiang and Fujian Provinces, said Chang.

A group of conservationists from Jiushan islands off east China visited the Matsu sanctuary two months ago and agreed to strive for the bird’s preservation, first by seeking legislation to bar fishermen from collecting the sea bird’s eggs, Chang said.

The Chinese and Taiwanese have also agreed to begin a joint survey next summer – during the birds’ migration period – to determine the size of their population, he said.

Taiwanese conservationists are studying whether to use global positioning system to track down the sea bird’s mysterious migration routes, Chang said.

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Bird, monkey species in Cambodia added to critically endangered list

Xinhua

Two types of birds and one species of monkey native to Cambodia have had their survival prospects worsen significantly in the past year, according to the World Conservation Union’s 2007 “Red List”, the most comprehensive annual assessment of the world’s endangered animals and plants, local media reported Wednesday.

The red-headed vulture and the Bengal florican, once abundant in Cambodia, have been re-classified as critically endangered, meaning they face an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future, the Cambodia Daily newspaper said.

Meanwhile, the douc monkey has also been elevated to endangered status worldwide, according to the World Conservation Union, or IUCN.

Recent worldwide declines in the population of red-headed vultures are believed mainly to have been caused by the pharmaceutical Diclofenac, which is used to treat livestock but toxic to vultures that feed on their carcasses, the IUCN report said, adding that there could be as few as 300 of the vultures remaining in all of Southeast Asia.

The Bengal florican has declined to as few as 900 birds in Cambodia and could be extinct in the country within five years, the report stated.

The douc monkey also faces a very high risk of extinction in the near future, it said.

Tom Evans, technical adviser for the Wildlife Conservation Society, said the decline of the red-headed vulture in Cambodia was mainly due to less carrion on the ground than poisoning.

In fact, Diclofenac is not used in Cambodia, which could mean there is a good chance for the species to begin recover its numbers here, he said.

Included on the “Red List” are 26 animals, fish and plants found in Cambodia, which are listed as critically endangered, and some 36 species listed as endangered.

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Chinese Seabird on Verge of Extinction

Associated Press 

BEIJING (AP) — The Chinese crested tern, a rare sea bird whose eggs are prized by some as a delicacy, is likely to be extinct in five years if authorities do not step up protection efforts, a conservation group said Friday.

The bird looks set to be the latest ecological victim of China’s rapid 30-year economic expansion and industrialization, which has raised the standard of living for hundreds of millions of Chinese but ravaged the environment. Late last year, scientists declared that a rare Chinese river dolphin was effectively extinct after conducting a fruitless six-week search for the creature in its Yangtze River habitat.

A survey by a team of Chinese experts conducted over recent successive breeding seasons found that the number of crested terns had fallen to 50 birds, about half the population found three years ago, said a statement from BirdLife International, a conservation group based in Cambridge, England.

“Without urgent action conservationists have given the bird less than five years before disappearing completely from its two remaining breeding areas,” the statement said.

It quoted head of the Chinese survey team Chen Shuihua as saying the bird was “on the verge of extinction.”

The biggest threat to the birds was the collection of eggs by local fisherman in the bird’s breeding areas, the Jiushan islands and Matsu island off China’s east coast, the statement quoted Chen, a researcher from the Zhejiang Museum of Natural History, as saying.

The tern eggs, which locals believe are more nutritious than poultry eggs, were found at sidewalk snack booths in the Chinese coastal provinces of Zhejiang and Fujian for about $5 each and also in markets in Matsu, which is controlled by Taiwan, the statement said.

Authorities need to stop the collection and sale of the eggs, step up monitoring of the birds and do more to protect their breeding habitats, it said.

The baiji, or white flag dolphin, survived for millions of years but was declared extinct in December. Around 400 baiji were believed to be living in the Yangtze in the early 1980s, but their survival was made impossible by dramatic increases in ship traffic, overfishing and the degradation of their habitat.

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World’s species to be ‘barcoded’

Preserving their information for posterity?

Scientists are already working on hand-held barcoders to access a barcode data bank [AFP:: Al Jazeera]

A group of Canadian scientists is hoping to raise $150 million to fund an initial five-year stage of what they describe as the biodiversity equivalent of launching a rocket to the moon.

The technology could help remove illegal fish and timber supplies from global markets, get rid of pests such as mosquitoes and even reduce the numbers of collisions between birds and planes.

“Like in the film of Star Trek, anything scanned by such devices could display its image, name and function”


Allen Chen, Academia Sinica, Taiwan

“We’re now trying to launch in Canada the International Barcode of Life Project, which has a five-year life span,” Paul Hebert, head of the Canadian Centre for DNA Barcoding, who is spearheading the project told AFP at a three-day seminar on DNA in Taipei.

“We hope to put $150 million into this through a 25-nation alliance.”

“The idea is collectively we would gather five million specimens and 500,000 species within that five-year period,” Hebert added, saying the entire project could take 15 years.

The seminar in Taipei has brought together 350 scientists from 45 countries to debate the “barcoding of life” concept.

Scientists estimate that while nearly 1.8 million species have already been identified, there may be another 10 million that are not known.

But DNA barcoding technology has progressed so rapidly that scientists predict that science fiction-style powers to recognise previously unfamiliar creatures could become reality in a decade.

“Like in the film of Star Trek, anything scanned by such devices could display its image, name and function,” said Allen Chen from Taiwan’s Academia Sinica, Taiwan’s top academic body and one of three main organisers of the conference.

“This could be done 10 years from now after a global barcoding data bank is set up,” said Chen, an expert in corals.

Scientists are already working on hand-held barcoders that would enable users to access a barcode data bank using a global positioning system, said Taiwan’s Shao Kwang-tsao, one of the conference chairs.

Hebert said the alliance would invest heavily in the development of such technology.

This week’s conference is being held by the Washington-based Consortium for the Barcode of Life, which was set up in 2003 in response to Hebert’s initiative and now includes some 160 organisations.

At its first conference in London in 2005, the consortium’s data banks collected some 33,000 DNA references belonging to some 12,700 species.

Increasing attention

Today it counts more than 290,000 DNA samples from some 31,000 species, including about 20 per cent of the world’s estimated 10,000 bird species and 10 per cent of the 35,000 estimated marine and freshwater fish species.

The “barcoding of life” projects have drawn increasing attention, particularly from the US, Canada and Europe, as scientists explore the technique’s applications, which range from food safety and consumer protection to the identification of herbal plants.

One British scientist is working on a project to barcode 2,800 species of mosquito, or 80 per cent of those known to the world, within two years.

The project is aimed at reducing the scourge of malaria, which infects some 500 million people a year and is spread by some mosquitoes.

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