3,200 acres of Giant Panda habitat has been destroyed by loggers.
The logging is occurring illegally in the Sichuan Sanctuaries, a string of protected forest in the highlands of south-central China. Despite the government’s efforts to halt the practice, there are weak forestry regulations that allow the forest to be exploited for profit.
Greenpeace’s report on the issue states:
“Large areas of primary natural forest are a basic condition for the survival and reproduction of giant pandas in the wild. Deforestation further reduces and fragments the already limited natural habitat of the species, and is a direct threat to their feeding and migration zone. It increases the risk that their small and dispersed populations become increasingly cut off, limiting their chances to make contact with each other and reproduce.”
Less than 1,900 pandas still exist in the wild, most residing in the Sichuan province. And although the population has rebounded since 2003, the species is still considered at high risk. Habitat loss from illegal logging only puts them in more jeopardy.
Indonesia’s forests are burning as palm oil companies clear land to plant their cash crop, which is used in everything from cosmetics to food. That very same land is home to wild orangutans and other rare animals.
Satellite photography shows that about 100,000 fires have already burned in Indonesia since July, with thousands of those occurring deep in the forests and national parks across the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. These fires are threatening several animals, which include the rare clouded leopard, the iconic hornbill and as many as one third of the world’s remaining orangutans.
358 fire “hotspots” have been found inside the Sabangau Forest in Borneo, which is home to 7,000 wild orangutans – the world’s largest population. Fires are also occurring in the Tanjung Puting national park where 6,000 of the wild apes reside, the Katingan forest with 3,000 and the Mawas reserve with an estimated 3,500.
These kinds of fires produce an abundance of harmful gases and particulates, causing serious problems for both orangutans and humans. Up to 500,000 people have suffered respiratory infections, in addition to several orangutans. Communications manager for International Animal Rescue, which runs a rehabilitation center for more than 125 injured and orphaned orangutans in Ketapang, Borneo, Lis Key says:
“The problem with fire and smoke is absolutely dire. Wild orangutans and orangutans in centers like ours are badly affected by the smoke,” she said. “Some suffer upper respiratory tract infections, which can even prove fatal. Some of the babies we’ve taken in recently have been suffering not only from dehydration and malnourishment through lack of food but also breathing problems from the polluted air.”
Not only do the fires threaten orangutans with disease and malnutrition, but also with habitat loss. The apes are being pushed out of their homes into areas closer to humans, where they are killed or sold into the pet trade.
The fires have burned out of control from an unusually dry and windy season due El Niño weather patterns. And one of the worst parts of the fires is that they can occur underground, re-emerging away from the initial source. This makes them extremely difficult to extinguish and contain. Unfortunately, the Indonesian fires may not end the rainy season begins mid-November, if then.
Great Horned Owl at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, PA
103 wild tigers were counted in Bhutan this year – a huge jump from the previous estimate of just 75.
The survey was conducted by Bhutanese scientists and spanned habitats from snowy mountains in the north to subtropical forests in the south. World Wildlife Fund (WWF) worked closely with the Bhutan government to provide funds and technical support. The tigers were identified by their stripes, which, like human fingerprints, are unique to each animal.
WWF director of species conservation Barney Long says:
“This is a critical milestone in the global effort to save tigers. Bhutan is one of only 13 tiger range countries, and knowing how many tigers exist is the first step towards effectively protecting them. We applaud Bhutan’s efforts to set this tiger population baseline.”
Like Bhutan, other countries have performed national tiger surveys with India, Russia and Nepal reporting higher numbers than previous estimates. Bangladesh reported lower numbers in its first national survey and Malaysia reported a drastic drop from 500 in 2010 to as few as 250. The numbers for tigers in Indonesia, Thailand and Myanmar are unknown.
Poaching and habitat loss are the major threats to remaining wild tigers in Southeast Asian countries. There could be as few as 3,200 left in the wild and counting them is the first step in protecting and conserving these majestic big cats. Although surveys are expensive, labor intensive and often in difficult climate and weather conditions, the results are more than worthwhile.
29 scarlet macaws were released in the state of Veracruz in Mexico in late August, increasing the wild population by 36%.
The species was almost wiped out 50 years ago from habitat loss and poaching for the pet trade, as the population was reduced from thousands to just 250. Defenders of Wildlife supports the Mexican National University’s Institute of Biology to reintroduce captive-bred macaws into the wild.
All reintroduced macaws are identified by marks on their bills, tags on their wings and transponders they carry that receive radio signals. Some birds also have radio transmitters so that the biologists can track them to see where they go and what locations might be best for future releases. Each of the identifiers and devices also helps prevent poaching of the birds.
The plan is to continue releasing macaws every three or four months for the next five years to build a stable population of 300-500 birds. Once these numbers have been achieved, Veracruz will be home to the largest wild population of scarlet macaws in Mexico.
Releases are just one part of recovery efforts, though, as there is also an intense reforestation program to slowly bring back lost habitat. In addition, there are quick bird identification guides to promote bird watching that will provide tourist income to local communities and prevent poaching.
Defenders of Wildlife has also created educational materials – including posters, children’s coloring books, and comic books for youths and adults – to teach the local communities about the importance of these birds and restoring the species to the wild.
There hasn’t been a wild gray wolf sighting in California since 1924. Until this year.
The wolves were spotted in August in the woods in the northern part of the state, near Mount Shasta, and consisted of two adults and five pups – believed to be only a few months old.
Officials learned of the pack, called the Shasta Pack, from cameras posted around the area after speculation of its existence. In May, nearby cameras captured images of a large, dark-colored animal that experts thought could be a wolf. And then in June, researchers studying a deer saw tracks from either a wolf or a dog.
Director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife Charlton H. Bonham said in a statement:
“This news is exciting for California. We knew wolves would eventually return home to the state, and it appears now is the time.”
Gray wolves were hunted to near extinction in western U.S. They are now protected in California under the Endangered Species Act, which is contributing to the wolf’s slow rise in numbers. The presence of this Shasta Pack may indicate a comeback for gray wolves in California.
Images of the Shasta Pack from California Department of Fish & Wildlife:
Since 1995, half of Ghana’s bird population has been wiped out. Deforestation, on the other hand, has risen by 600%.
Researchers have found that poaching and illegal logging has destroyed Ghana’s wildlife, with studies showing dramatic declines in mammals and now birds. A paper by several researchers including Nicole Arcilla, a postdoctoral researcher at Drexel University who studied in Ghana’s forests counting the birds, found that the number of forest birds there has dropped by more than 50% since 1995.
The researchers also found that several species had disappeared altogether. They counted 46 forest bird species, compared to 71 from 20 years ago. And of the species they did observe, some of the numbers had declined by as much as 90%.
On the other hand, legal and illegal logging in the Ghana forests has increased by 600%, a number at which the forest will be gone if it continues. 80% of the logging is still illegal, which directly decimates the bird’s habitat but also gives more access to poachers. Arcilla says:
“The logging is so intense that it’s literally deforestation. Within a generation they’re all going to be gone. It’s just a terrible tragedy if we let it happen…Everywhere we went there were wire snare traps, which are completely banned in Ghana, but they’re everywhere. Even the smallest amount of law enforcement could change that, but there isn’t any.”
The good news is that even with the decline in bird numbers, the forests still housed many of the species from before. They can recover, if we allow them to. This means action must be taken to protect Ghana’s forests and the species that still dwell there, including forest patrols, roadblocks and eco-tourism. Arcilla says:
“These problems can be solved. Ghana is a resilient, vibrant country. There are a lot of people in Ghana who will help solve these problems if they are supported by the international community.”
Featured image by Francesco Veronesi / CC BY-SA 2.0
The Sumatran rhino population has been gone from tens of thousands two centuries ago to 100 or less today.
Also known as the “hairy rhino” for its unique brown fur coat, the Sumatran rhino is the smallest and rarest species of rhino. Most recently, the species was declared extinct in Malaysia in late August.
The researchers who conducted the population study found that poaching, habitat loss and underfunded anti-poaching efforts were the main culprits of the animal’s extinction in the region. The scientists were from University of Copenhagen’s Center for Macroecology and partners of the study included WWF, the International Rhino Foundation and IUCN.
Only two Sumatran rhino females were sighted in Malaysia in 2011 and 2014, but both were taken to be bred in captivity in the hopes of raising the species’ numbers. But sadly, the captive breeding program has proven mostly ineffective as the 45 rhinos captured since 1984 have resulted in only four babies.
The population study’s lead author Rasmus Gren Havmøller says:
“It is vital for the survival of the species that all remaining Sumatran rhinos are viewed as a metapopulation, meaning that all are managed in a single program across national and international borders in order to maximize overall birth rate. This includes the individuals currently held in captivity.”
Indonesia and its surrounding areas are now the only wild home of the Sumatran rhino. In a different research study by scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, three steps that could help save the animal from extinction were established.
The scientists began by identifying five critical areas of forest in in Borneo that must be protected and then formulated the three steps around these areas:
- Establishing strong environmental and anti-poaching protections in these forests;
- Stopping plans to build roads that would disturb these forests;
- Condensing the rhino population, currently scattered across about 11,583 square miles land, into smaller regions
If there is any hope for the species to survive, these three crucial steps must be implemented