Category Archives: Wildlife Reserves & Refuges

A Koala Baby So Adorable, It Will Instantly Make Your Day [VIDEO]

Meet Imogen, a 10 month old baby koala at the Symbio Wildlife Park in Australia. It is her first photo shoot and she is darling. Watch her overwhelming cuteness as she eats greens, plays, and, well, simply exists. Fun fact — a baby koala is called a “joey.” Watch the little video and this joyful joey will surely make you smile:

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Kronos Reef Shark

Photo by Wyland, USFWS Endangered Species / CC BY 2.0

Kronos Reef Shark

Record Numbers of Endangered Green Sea Turtles Return to Florida to Nest

All seven species of sea turtles are at risk of extinction. But there is hope for one sub-population in Florida.

In 2015, researchers counted 14,152 turtle nests in the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, the principal green sea turtle nesting habitat in North America. This number broke the previous record of just under 13,000 in 2013 and completely shattered past yearly totals, ranging from slightly below 200 in 2001 to slightly over 6,000 in 2011.

Executive director of the Sea Turtle Conservancy David Godfrey says:

“From any spot on the beach during the peak of nesting, we might just within eyesight see see maybe 10 turtles. And imagine, all these turtles are approaching 300 pounds each…That’s a phenomenon we have not seen before in Florida.”

Photo by Florida Fish and Wildlife / CC BY-ND 2.0
Photo by Florida Fish and Wildlife / CC BY-ND 2.0

Green sea turtles lay between 75 and 200 eggs per nest, so this past season may have produced as many as 3 million babies. However, because of all the threats they face, such as hungry gulls and fishing nets, only a fraction of these nestlings will likely survive to maturity.

Fortunately, this should still be enough for future viable nesting seasons. In fact, the 2015 turnout was so significant that the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is preparing to downgrade the turtle’s conservation status on the federal list from “endangered” to “threatened.”

Photo by Keenan Adams, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region / CC BY 2.0
Photo by Keenan Adams, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region / CC BY 2.0

The Archie Carr refuge was established in 1990 and since then, the green sea turtle nesting numbers have steadily risen. Lending to this increase are the efforts of conservationists, government officials and residents to reduce pollution and other human effects.

Godfrey says:

“We’re really seeing the fruits of all that work now with the exponential growth in green turtle nesting. That is what it takes with sea turtles in particular, because they grow so slowly. Those hatchlings from 30 years ago are reaching adulthood and coming back.”

 
 
Featured image by Keenan Adams, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region / CC BY 2.0

New Zealand To Create One of the Largest Marine Protected Areas in the World

Spanning almost 240,000 square miles, New Zealand’s new Kermadec ocean sanctuary will be one of the largest and most significant fully protected ecosystems in the world.

The sanctuary will be located approximately 620 miles north-east of New Zealand in the South Pacific Ocean and will expand over an existing protected marine area surrounding the Kermadec Islands. It will be 35 times bigger than the combined area of New Zealand’s existing 44 marine reserves, twice the size of New Zealand’s landmass and will cover 15% of its exclusive economic zone.

This area is considered critical for biodiversity with 150 kinds of fish, 35 species of whales and dolphins, three of the world’s seven endangered sea turtles, more than six million seabirds from 39 different species and many creatures unique to the area such as corals, shellfish and crabs.

Additionally, the area is geologically significant, housing the world’s longest chain of underwater volcanoes and the second deepest ocean trench at over 6 miles.

One of the most important protections for the ocean sanctuary will be a ban on commercial and recreational fishing, along with oil, gas and mineral prospecting, exploration and mining. New Zealand plans to monitor the protected are via navy and satellite technology. The government hopes to establish the sanctuary next year. New Zealand prime minister John Key said:

“The Kermadecs is a world-class, unspoiled marine environment and New Zealand is proud to protect it for future generations. New Zealanders value our coasts and oceans, which are an important part of our culture, economy and environment and we are committed to managing them sustainably. Creating protected areas will support not only our own fisheries, but those of our Pacific neighbors, adding to New Zealand’s efforts to help grow Pacific economies through the responsible management of their ocean resources.”

The new Kermadec sanctuary will join three other key areas in the Pacific ocean, protected by the U.S., U.K. and Australia.

Kermadec Map

 
 
Featured image by Joanna Penn / CC BY 2.0

Bison Silhouette

Photo by Larry Smith / CC BY 2.0

Bison Silhouette

What Does It Mean For Every Chimp, Even the Ones in Captivity, to be ‘Endangered’?

All chimpanzees – both in the wild and in captivity – are officially protected as “endangered species” under the Endangered Species Act.

This means it is now against the law to harm, harass, kill or injure any chimp, wild or captive. It brings an end to decades of exploitation and abuse, from using chimps in biomedical research and lab testing to using them as props for entertainment and selling them in the wildlife trade. All chimps will be sent to sanctuaries and rescue centers to spend the rest of their years in much better living conditions.

Photo by Ryan Summers / CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo by Ryan Summers / CC BY-SA 2.0

The rule follows a petition filed in 2010 by Dr. Jane Goodall, The Humane Society of the United States and other groups, to eliminate the distinction between the legal status of captive and wild chimps. Before, the former were listed as “threatened” while the latter were “endangered.” But the change became official on June 16 and went into effect on September 14, after a 90-day grace period.

So now, all chimps have the same protections under the Endangered Species Act, making Goodall – founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, UN Messenger of Peace and one of the biggest chimp-advocates – very happy. In a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service press release, Goodall said:

“I was so pleased to hear about the proposed rule. This is exceptional news for all chimpanzees and for all the petitioners, especially the Humane Society of the United States, who have worked so hard on this issue. This decision gives me hope that we truly have begun to understand that our attitudes toward treatment of our closest living relatives must change. I congratulate the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for this very important decision.”

 
 
Featured image by Rod Waddington / CC BY-SA 2.0

India’s Asiatic Lion Population on the Rise

India’s population of endangered Asiatic lions has increased by 27% since 2010, a great victory for the species.

Found only in the Gir forest of Gujarat, the Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica) is the smaller cousin of the African lion and has a fold of skin along its stomach. They were once critically endangered but have steadily increased.

Asiatic Lioness
Image credit: Shaunak Modi / CC BY 2.0

Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel stated that this year, officials tallied 523 lions total, over five days in May in the 7,700 square mile or 20,000 square kilometer sanctuary and surrounding forest. Patel states:

“There are 109 male lions, 201 females and 213 cubs in the Gir sanctuary and nearby forest areas of Junagadh district.”

2,500 people, including wildlife experts from India’s top universities, used direct sightings, photographs and GPS tracking to document the lions and avoid double counting.

Asiatic Lion
Image credit: Shaunak Modi / CC BY 2.0

The census showed 359 in 2005 and 411 lions in 2010, making this year’s 523 a triumphant 27% population increase over the last five years. However, while the rise in numbers is a victory for the lions, it poses new challenges managing habitat and conflict with humans. World Wildlife Fun India director Diwakar Sharma says:

“This is good news on the conservation front but bigger populations in bigger areas increases the challenge of managing land, human and animal conflict.”

There is a great deal of international scrutiny over India’s conservation efforts because it is home to several endangered species. Fortunately, conservation in India is being recognized today, as various populations have experienced increases in the recent years, including a 30% increase for tigers since 2010.
 
 
Featured Image: Shaunak Modi / CC BY 2.0

Rangers Are Protecting the Last Remaining Male Northern White Rhino in the World

There are currently seven remaining Northern White Rhinos in the world. The species has been hunted to the brink of extinction by poachers, hoping to make money by selling the animal’s horns.

After losing the only other two males in 2014, there now exists just one living male Northern White Rhino. The animal, named Sudan, currently lives at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, 200 kilometers north of Nairobi in Kenya. Sudan moved to the conservancy from the Czech Republic Dvur Kralove Zoo on December 20th, 2009, along with three female Northern White Rhinos, Najin, Fatu and Suni.

Ranger and caretaker Mohammed Doyo feeds Najin (center), a 25-year-old female northern white rhinoceros, and her companion.
Ranger and caretaker Mohammed Doyo feeds Najin (center), a 25-year-old female northern white rhinoceros, and her companion.

But the rhinos do not live at Ol Pejeta Conservancy alone. They are accompanied by a team of experienced rangers who monitor the 90,000 acres of conservation land, guarding the rhinos against dangerous poachers.

To protect these giants, the rangers work with local law enforcement agencies and use GPS trackers, radio houses, surveillance aircrafts and dogs trained to detect humans and security breaches.

Two rangers patrol the conservancy on foot and point out a human footprint.
Two rangers patrol the conservancy on foot and point out a human footprint.

A computer screen showing GPS-tracked anti-poaching patrol units is monitored by a radio operator in the radio room at Ol Pejeta.
A computer screen showing GPS-tracked anti-poaching patrol units is monitored by a radio operator in the radio room at Ol Pejeta.

The rhino horn black market is extremely lucrative. One horn can bring in more than $75,000 per kilogram or 2.2 pounds, which is the reason poachers have nearly wiped out the entire species.

These four rhinos were moved to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy to provide the most favorable breeding conditions, in the hopes of bringing the species back from the edge of extinction. It’s believed that the climate, diet and security of the conservancy gives them the best chance for repopulation.

Conservationists and scientists are also considering artificial insemination or cross-breeding the females with similar rhino sub-species and then breeding the next generation back into pure Northern White Rhinos.

Last remaining male Northern White Rhino named Sudan feeding at Ol Pejeta.
Last remaining male Northern White Rhino named Sudan feeding at Ol Pejeta.

Ranger and caretaker Mohammed Doyo with female rhino Najin.
Ranger and caretaker Mohammed Doyo with female rhino Najin.

Rangers preparing to patrol at Ol Pejeta Conservancy.
Rangers preparing to patrol at Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

Rangers go into a radio room while patrolling Ol Pejeta Conservancy.Rangers go into a radio room while patrolling Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

Ranger and caretaker Mohammed Doyo gesturing to a southern white rhino.
Ranger and caretaker Mohammed Doyo gesturing to a southern white rhino.

A giraffe walks in the distance at Ol Pejeta Conservancy as a ranger patrols on foot.
A giraffe walks in the distance at Ol Pejeta Conservancy as a ranger patrols on foot.

Image credits: Dai Kurokawa/European Press Agency

American Bison in Wichita, Oklahoma

Wichita Mountain Sunrise
American Bison in Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, SW Oklahoma
Photo by Larry Smith / CC BY 2.0

Wichita Mountain Sunrise

Happy Weekend!