Category Archives: News

Get the latest news in conservation, from information on endangered species to policy and law, and beyond!

There Are Now More Than 400 Iberian Lynx, One of the World’s Most Endangered Cats

The Iberian lynx was found to be the world’s most endangered cat in 2002. More than a decade later and the population has reached it’s highest number since then.

A census released by the government of Andalusia found the population to be 404, up from 327 in 2014. The survey identified 120 breeding females over five areas of the Iberian Peninsula: Portugal’s Vale do Guadiana and Doñana, Sierra Morena, Montes de Toledo, Valley Matachel, all in Spain. Head of WWF-Spain’s species programme Luis Suarez says:

“WWF welcomes the heartening results of the 2015 Iberian Lynx census. This is a historic landmark that comes with the heavy responsibility of strengthening our commitment and conservation actions to protect this most endangered species.”

Director of WWF’s global species programme Carlos Drews says:

“The increasing numbers and expansion of Iberian lynx show that concerted conservation efforts pay off. This endangered cat is symbolic of the plight of numerous threatened species worldwide that require sustained conservation efforts over several decades. But the job is not completed yet – it’s on the right track, but still distant from a full recovery.”

Despite the rise in population, the Iberian lynx is still threatened by road accidents, with a total of 51 lynx killed on the roads in the last three years. The cat is also threatened by declines in prey species. In particular, a viral disease has caused rabbit populations have dropped over 50% in lynx territory. Suarez says:

“It is essential that all competent authorities take action on the threats to rabbits and begin to implement better monitoring plans and actions for species recovery. Otherwise, we will see a real ecological catastrophe given the key role of the rabbit in Mediterranean ecosystems.”

 
 
Featured image by Steve Slater / CC BY 2.0

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600 Mile Long Coral Reef Discovered in the Amazon River [VIDEO]

The Amazon River is known for its pink dolphins and dangerous piranhas. But now, it will be known for something new: a huge coral reef that spans 600 miles. The reef was discovered in the muddy waters at the mouth of the Amazon by a team of scientists from Brazil and the US. Check out the video to learn more about this amazing discover:

Nepal Celebrates Over 2 Years of Zero Rhinos Poached

While poaching is reaching record highs in Africa, the same can’t be said for Nepal. It has been more than two years since a rhino was last poached in Nepal on May 2, 2014.

This is the first time Nepal has two consecutive years without poaching. And it’s a major factor in the rise of the greater one-horned rhino population to 645 animals, the highest recorded number in the country thus far.

Chief-Planning Division and Spokesperson of the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation Krishna P. Acharya says:

“This exceptional success is based on a combination of high-level political will, and the active involvement of the park authorities, Nepal Army, Nepal Police, conservation partners and local communities.”

Nepal’s success has been achieved by a coordinated national response, involving new approaches and improved protection efforts in national parks and surrounding areas. Nepal is already looking to maintain this success and hopes to launch “Mission 2nd May 2017” to celebrate 3 consecutive years of zero poaching.

Country Representative of WWF Nepal Anil Manandhar says:

“The zero poaching success has allowed Nepal to launch other projects to conserve its rhinos, including the recent translocation of five rhinos from Chitwan National Park to Bardia National Park. Nepal has shown that countries can stop poaching and we are confident that its integrated conservation machinery will ensure that the rhino population continues to grow.”

 
 
Featured image by Ted / CC BY-SA 2.0

The Bison Has Been Named the National Mammal of the US

The bison was once on the brink of extinction. Today, it is the national mammal of the US.

WWF’s Bison Initiative Coordinator for Northern Great Plains program Dennis Jorgensen says:

“The plains bison’s remarkable recovery from near extinction in the 20th century is an important reminder that we can change the course of history when we work together to save an imperiled species.”

The bison received bipartisan support when the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Bison Legacy Act – declaring the bison the national mammal – on April 26 and President Obama signed it into law on May 9.

Historically, there was an estimated 30-60 million plains bison in America’s grasslands. But human expansion and hunting decimated the bison population, leaving just 500 animals at the end of the 20th century.

But the bison, strong and resilient, was able to make a comeback with the help of conservationists, Native American communities, ranchers, industrialists, and other concerned citizens. Their efforts resulted in one of America’s first conservation success stories, as 20,000 or so bison were living in the US by the 1930’s.

Beyond the conservation implications of making the bison the national mammal, the species embodies many qualities that the US wants represented. The bison, which survived the Ice Age, is the nation’s largest land mammal and is a long-standing symbol of freedom, strength, and self-determination. It is on the Buffalo Nickel as well as the U.S. Department of the Interior’s official seal.

 
 
Featured image by Ethan R / CC BY-ND 2.0

The Declining Bone Health of Larger Rhinos

A rhino’s bones work very hard to support it’s size and activity. And as these mammal’s evolve and grow larger, their bones have to support more and more.

A new study from the Universities of Chicago and Oregon examined the bone health of rhinos and what changes have occurred over the species existence. The researchers found bone degradation, inflammation or infection in several rhino species, including the extinct North American and living African and Asian species.

To examine the issue further, the researchers analyzed the bone health of six extinct and one living rhino species. They looked into bone structure and total body mass changed, and how that has changed over the past 50 million years. They found that bone diseases increase dramatically from 28% to 65-80% as new species evolved. In addition, bone health decreased significantly as body mass increased.

The study’s findings may help in predicting the long-term bone health of these animals, other animals and maybe even humans.

 
 
Featured image by jumblejet / CC BY 2.0

Female Turtles Are Outnumbering Males Because of Rising Temperatures

Climate change is affecting sea turtles in an unusual way: sex. The sex of hatchlings, that is.

According to a study by Florida State University, rising global temperatures are causing a gender imbalance. Scientists researched Brazilian loggerhead turtles and found that the warmer temperatures cause higher incubating temperatures, which leads to more female hatchlings.

Optimal hatching temperatures are between 75.2 to 93.2 degrees Fahrenheit, but temperatures below 85.1 degrees results in more male turtles and temperatures above yield more females.

Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region / CC BY 2.0
Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region / CC BY 2.0

Assistant Professor of Oceanography at Florida State University Mariana Fuentes said:

“We’re concerned we’re going to have a feminization of marine turtles. This study came from the need to understand the current sex ratio being produced at loggerhead nesting grounds to establish baseline parameters as climate change progresses and to identify beaches that produce a higher proportion of males.”

Researchers believe projected increases in temperature will cause gender imbalance in marine turtle populations to worsen. Fuente and her team will move forward trying to identify the best practices to protect the turtles. They will coordinate with government officials and conservationists in Brazil to create conservation plans, working to make sure this imbalance does not negatively impact the species.

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

 
 
Featured image by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region / CC BY 2.0

11 of the World’s Most Jeopardized Forests

Imagine our world without up to 656,000 square miles of forest – an area than twice the size of Texas. Our world would look a lot different.

According to a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report released in April, this could be the case by 2030. The report identified 11 regions around the world with the greatest expected loss of forest over the next 15 years.

These forests are home to countless animals, including rare and endangered species, and such habitat loss would be detrimental to them. And even worse, it could all happen in as little as 15 years from now unless we address major forest threats like mining, illegal logging, agriculture and road construction.

Here are the 11 forests identified in the WWF report:

1. Amazon

/ CC BY-SA 2.0
/ CC BY-SA 2.0
The Amazon jungle is the world’s largest forest, but it’s also projected to have the greatest habitat loss. Over a quarter of the forest will be gone if current trends persist, especially today’s cattle ranching and agriculture in the region.

 
2. Atlantic Forest/Gran Chaco

Photo by Alex Popovkin / CC BY 2.0
Photo by Alex Popovkin / CC BY 2.0
The Atlantic forest spans parts of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina and is one of the richest rainforests in the world, with more biodiversity per acre than the Amazon. But 75% of the Brazilian population lives there, causing deforestation in both the Atlantic forest and the neighboring dry forest Gran Chaco.

 
3. Borneo

 Photo by Col Ford and Natasha de Vere / CC BY 2.0

Photo by Col Ford and Natasha de Vere / CC BY 2.0
In 2030, there could be as little as 33% of the lowland Borneo rainforest left. Weak government and instability only exacerbate deforestation as more and more people create palm oil plantations in the region.

 
4. Cerrado

Photo by A. Duarte / CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo by A. Duarte / CC BY-SA 2.0
The Cerrado is a high plateau region in Brazil that isn’t as well-known as the Amazon but is just as threatened. Cattle ranching and converting forest to soy plantations are the major causes of deforestation.

 
5. Choco-Darien

Photo by Tio Tigre / <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Photo by Tio Tigre / <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Running along South America’s northwestern Pacific coast, these forests face deforestation from roads, power lines, mining and oil exploration. Most damage has occurred in the Ecuadorian Choco, but the regions in Panama and Colombia are also in jeopardy.

 
6. Congo Basin

Photo by Julien Harneis / CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo by Julien Harneis / CC BY-SA 2.0
The Congo Basin is one of the world’s most important wilderness regions, containing 20% of the planet’s tropical forests and the most biodiversity in Africa. These forests are especially threatened because the human population is expected to double by 2030.

 
7. Eastern Africa

Photo by CIAT / CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo by CIAT / CC BY-SA 2.0
This region has the miombo woodlands and coastal and mountain forests, all of which are threatened. The forests are illegally logged, over-harvested for timber and fuel wood or converted to livestock and cash crops. Sadly, the coastal forests of Tanzania and Kenya are already down to 10% of their original area.

 
8. Eastern Australia

Photo by Christoph Rupprecht / CC BY-SA 2.0OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Photo by Christoph Rupprecht / CC BY-SA 2.0OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Although there have been recent reductions in deforestation in the states of Queensland and New South Wales, weak legislation raises concerns about forest loss. Conversion of forest land to pastures for livestock is the main cause of deforestation, but key species are affected, including koalas, possums, gliders and birds.

 
9. Greater Mekong

Photo by Allie_Caulfield / <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Photo by Allie_Caulfield / <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Because of a booming economy, the region’s forest land is being converted for sugar, rice, rubber and biofuels. But as more and more of the forests are converted for economic development, the area’s animals become increasingly threatened and the Greater Mekong forests are rich in species. For instance, in 2011 alone, 126 new species were discovered there, including fish, snakes, frogs and bats.

 
10. New Guinea

Photo by Danumurthi Mahendra / <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Photo by Danumurthi Mahendra / <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
New Guinea and neighboring islands are home to the largest remaining regions of tropical forests in the Asia-Pacific area and home to more than 6% of the world’s species. But with agriculture on the rise, the forests and their inhabitants are in jeopardy.

 
11.Sumatra

Photo by Andrew H / CC BY-ND 2.0
Photo by Andrew H / CC BY-ND 2.0
Indonesia’s palm oil production is now centered in Sumatra, and particularly the Riau province, causing deforestation in the area. It even affects protected forests and national parks, threatening the region’s rhinos, tigers, orangutans, and other wildlife
 
 
What Can We Do?
WWF believes that stopping deforestation now is more strategic and cost-effective than dealing with the consequences later. Deforestation accounts for around 15% of global carbon emissions – more than the total emissions from every single the motor vehicles, airplanes and ships in the world. If we don’t address this issue and take action, we could lose over 600,000 square miles of our planet’s forests. With that, we would lose the benefits those forests provide, including jobs, clean water and wood, and we would lose precious habitat for much of the world’s wildlife and many endangered species.
 
 
Featured image by David Evers / CC BY 2.0

Killing Off Our World’s Predators is Killing Our World

Humans have done a lot of damage to our planet, but some of the worst has been killing off the predators. It’s a crime against nature and here’s why.

Predators are essential to maintaining healthy ecosystems and when these killers are eliminated, it throws things out of balance. It can even cause a “trophic cascade,” which is a series of effects through an entire food chain.

Several studies have shown the negative impact of killing off predators. For example, a 1966 study found that when a predatory starfish was eliminated from a coastal habitat, it caused mussels to move down from the tide line and displace several organisms including barnacles, sea anemones, and other diverse species.

In another study, sea otters were overhunted, which caused sea urchins to multiply and eat entire kelp forests. This was also recently linked to the extinction of the Steller’s sea cow, which used to eat that kelp, in the 18th century. These are just two of many studies that show the effects of killing predators.

Photo by Steve Wilson / CC BY 2.0
Photo by Steve Wilson / CC BY 2.0

So, why do we kill the predators of our world? Part of it is from our evolutionary history, dating back to when our ancestors had to kill predators that posed as both competition and threats to our survival.

Another reason is for economic interest, where people kill predators as a cautionary way to prevent them from attacking their livestock (which isn’t an overly frequent occurrence). This economic interest also takes shape in poaching and hunting trophies, like in the case of Cecil the lion.

Photo by Yellowstone National Park / Public Domain
Photo by Yellowstone National Park / Public Domain

Humans have already driven several modern-day predators to extinction, including North Africa’s Atlas bear, North America’s short-faced brown bear, the Caspian tiger, a marsupial carnivore in Tasmania called the thylacine, and the Zanzibar leopard.

Furthermore, humans have pushed remaining big predators into a fraction of their old territories. Leopards are gone from 66% of their original range in Africa and 85% in Eurasia. Tigers now have a mere 7% of their original territory and African lions have just 8%. And gray wolves only exist in Minnesota and Alaska now.

Our emotions tell us to eliminate predators, whether because of fear or greed, but in reality, these actions interfere with and destroy ecosystems. Instead, humans should celebrate these animals and what they do for our world, and save our planet by saving the predators.

 
 
Featured image by Chris Parker / CC BY-ND 2.0

Both Puffins and Turtle Doves Face Extinction

Puffin and turtle dove populations have dropped so drastically that they now face the same threat of extinction as the African elephant and lion.

For the first time, Atlantic puffins and European turtle doves have been added to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list. In total, four UK bird species were added, doubling the number of commonly-seen bird species with “vulnerable” statuses. Furthermore, 14 UK species are now considered “near threatened.”

RSPB conservation director Martin Harper says:

“Today’s announcement means that the global wave of extinction is now lapping at our shores. The number of species facing extinction has always been highest in the tropics, particularly on small islands. But now the crisis is beginning to exact an increasingly heavy toll on temperate regions too, such as Europe. The erosion of the UK’s wildlife is staggering and this is reinforced when you talk about puffin and turtle dove now facing the same level of extinction threat as African elephant and lion, and being more endangered than the humpback whale.”

Climate change, gill net fishing, invasive predators and high breeding failures are the major factors in the puffin’s population decline. Atlantic puffin numbers are suffering in Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands, which constitutes 80% of the European population. Numbers are also declining in Fair Isle and Shetland, UK.

Photo by Andy Morffew / CC BY-ND 2.0
Photo by Andy Morffew / CC BY-ND 2.0

The turtle dove has also suffered drastic declines across Europe, with more than a 30% decline in the last 16 years. More than 9 out of every 10 birds have been lost since the 1970s. Potential causes include hunting while migrating, shifts in land-use patterns and climate change. RSPB spokesman Grahame Madge says:

“We are researching a number of different reasons why, including changes in agricultural practice across Europe, which means a struggle to find food and nesting sites…We do know there is strong illegal hunting of turtle dove around the Mediterranean.”

 
 
Featured image by Brian Gratwicke / CC BY 2.0

Trouble for Whales? Their Favorite Food Could Be Disappearing

What is one of the baleen whale’s favorite food? Krill. But as carbon dioxide levels rise, it creates a big problem for these tiny crustaceans.

Studies at the Australian Antarctic Division agency found that krill eggs do not hatch when exposed to higher CO2 levels. In fact, Antarctic Division biologist So Kawaguchi believes there will be a 20-70% decline in Antarctic krill populations by the year 2100 and a complete extinction by 2300. Dr. Kawaguchi says:

“Higher levels of carbon dioxide in the water mean greater levels of ocean acidification. This interrupts the physiology of krill. It stops the eggs hatching, or the larvae developing.”

Although krill are tiny creatures, they are one of the most abundant species on earth and have a massive role in the marine ecosystem. They sit at the bottom of the ocean food chain and serve as sustenance for (or sustenance for the prey of) several animals such as fish, squid, sea birds, seals and whales. If krill die off – or populations diminish significantly – it will have a serious, negative impact on baleen whales and much of the ocean’s ecosystem.

It’s not too late, however, as Kawaguchi suggests a moratorium on fishing in the region until the agency can dive deeper into the effects ocean acidification has on krill.

 
 
Featured image by Jerry Kirkhart / CC BY 2.0