London Zoo are appealing to fish keepers worldwide to try and find a mate for a critically endangered, tropical, and perhaps lonesome, species. With only three left in captivity, the search is becoming desperate.
Entries in endangered (12)
19% of the world’s reptiles are currently threatened with extinction according to a paper published by the Zoological Society of London last week. More than 200 experts looked at the extinction risk of 1,500 randomly selected reptiles from around the world.
A new report, ‘Spineless’, by the Zoological Society of London and IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) has found that one fifth of invertebrates are at risk of extinction. The report looked at 12,621 that are known and threatened to find these statistics. These make up the IUCN’s Red List of threatened species. The threat to the invertebrates is similar to that of other endangered creatures but the smaller less noticed often receive less consideration.
Indonesia’s dense but nevertheless critically threatened population of orangutans face a new threat in the form of massive waves of forest fires which are clearing large tracts of peat swamp forest in the Indonesian island Sumatra.
The Javan slow loris is found in South Asia and is the only primate that is poisonous. The slow loris produces a pungent, thick brown oil like substance from a gland under their arms which when mixed with their saliva creates a deadly venom. This cuddly creature is currently classified as endangered on the IUCN (International Union for conservation of Nature) and is rapidly being driven to extinction by the pet trade and habitat loss.
Photo courtesy of Tashiya
The Bornean orangutan, Pongo pygmaeus, native to the island of Borneo, can live to the age of 35 in the wild and up to the age of 60 in captivity. The Bornean orangutan has a distinctive body shape and red/brown shaggy coat with long arms reaching up to two meters in length. These great apes are highly sexually dimorphic, male apes are distinguished by their large size, throat poaches and facial cheek pads or ‘flanges’.
A new study suggests that these beautiful animals are under great threat from local villagers in the Kalimantan region of the island’s rainforest, it’s estimated that between 750 and 1,790 Bornean orangutans are killed each year for their meat or to eliminate their threat to crops. These survey results are based on 18 months of interviews with nearly 7,000 people across 687 villages and are significant enough to pose a considerable threat to the Bornean orangutan’s continued existence in Kalimantan.
The Red List of Threatened Species, drawn up by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), has declared that both species of orangutan, the Bornean and the Sumatran orangutan are endangered. Many Bornean orangutans are residing in unprotected areas of forest that are rapidly being fragmented by anthropogenic pressures; however, the highest incidences of hunting are being reported in relatively undamaged forest areas.
Scientists now estimate that if one percent or more of females in a given population are killed each year, that population will become extinct. If it is assumed that females are killed in equal numbers to male orangutans, the current rate of mortality is seeing between 0.9 and 3.6 percent of Kalimantan's total female orangutan population disappearing annually. "These mortality rates caused by hunting alone are higher than the theoretical maximum mortality for population viability, suggesting that unless they can be reduced most Kalimantan populations will go extinct," they say.
The data infers that orangutans residing outside of Kalimantan’s protected area are unsafe, whether it is from the degradation and destruction of their forest habitat or from the local villagers actively hunting the great apes to alleviate potential crop damage or simply for bushmeat.
With last week marking the annual Orangutan Awareness Week, it is of paramount importance that the public are aware of the terrible plight of the orangutan and that a real focus on their conservation is further underscored in Borneo.
For more information and details of how to get involved please visit the Orangutan Foundation.
By Lucas Lowe
In a competition for the world’s unluckiest bird, the spoon–billed sandpiper would undoubtedly be a leading contender for 1st prize. However, a last ditch breeding programme might be just enough to bring this species back from the edge of extinction.
From a distance the brown and white markings of the spoon–billed sandpiper make it seem like any of the other 200 or so species of wading bird found worldwide. Yet, closer inspection reveals that in fact, this is no ordinary wading bird. This is primarily due to its unique spatula shaped bill.
The breeding ground of the sandpiper is along the coast of Chukotka province in eastern Russia where predators, flooding and snow may prevent successful reproduction occurring in the short window of time available.
Any chicks that survive this ordeal then travel 8,000km (5,000 miles) to their wintering grounds in Myanmar and Bangladesh on a journey that is possibly the most perilous of any migratory bird. During this journey they pass through the world’s largest industrial powers – Japan, China and South Korea where coastal development (particularly in wetland areas) is proceeding at an exponential rate. To top it all off, if the sandpipers do reach their wintering grounds, they then become targets for poor local communities intent on trapping them for food.
The population size of sandpipers has never been large. In the late 1970s they were estimated at 2,400 breeding pairs but by 2000 numbers had declined to 1,000 pairs. Currently scientists estimate that only 100 breeding pairs are left in the wild suggesting a 90% drop in the last decade. Unless a radical solution is found, the extinction of this species in the wild is inevitable within the next 10 years.
Thankfully, the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) along with conservation partners including the RSPB and BirdLife International Russia, have made the controversial decision to take spoon billed sandpiper chicks from the wild and raise them in captivity. However, although captive breeding works in long lived species, it is much more challenging in small migratory waders such as the sandpiper. Many also argue that the limited financial resources available would be better spent on preserving wetland habitats for species that are more likely to survive in the long term.
The view of WWT, RSPB and BirdLife International however, is that these extraordinary birds should be given a chance to succeed before they join others such as the dodo in the history books.
By Anthony Kubale
When somebody mentions big cats in Africa, it normally conjures up images of well-known lions, cheetahs or leopards stalking the savanna. However, the continent is home to a lesser-known cat species, the African golden cat (Caracal aurata). This species is listed as near threatened by the IUCN and its native range extends through the forests of Equatorial Africa.
Very little is known about the species in terms of their biology and behaviour due to their scarcity and reclusive nature. Consequently, they are Africa’s least researched feline with only a few studies having been conducted on their diet. Their prey consists mostly of rodents and squirrels (70 % and 62% respectively) with small antelopes and primates making up a small proportion of their diet. Their coat pattern and colour vary across the population ranging from brown–red to grey and the presence or absence of spots. They are fairly small and stocky wild cats standing at 38 – 55cm shoulder height and a body length of 62 – 101cm.
These cats are so understudied that the first image of the cat was not captured until 2002. Encouragingly, the first ever public video has been recorded in a study conducted by graduate student Laila Bahaa-el-din located in the forest regions of Gabon. Forty still camera traps were set up in locations the researchers considered the cat would frequent to capture the rare footage. The video captures what is believed to be the same immature male grooming himself during the day and chasing a bat the following night.
African golden cats are dependant on sufficient forest cover to hunt and avoid predation from forest leopards. This makes illegal logging the prime threat to the species as well as facing pressures from the fur trade. The study proves promising as Gabon is a controlled logging area, highlighting the biodiversity a managed forest can support.
By Haley Dolton
Wildlife news is dominated by the trials and tribulations of some of the world’s most renowned flagship species, one of the most famous being the largest land mammal on earth; the elephant. Elephants play vital roles in maintaining and shaping the ecosystems in which they live, as well as regularly taking the limelight in media aimed at stimulating support for conservation.
But little is known about the infamous African elephant’s illusive cousin; the forest elephant. This subspecies makes up a large proportion of the elephants in Africa and is increasingly under threat for its harder and more valuable ivory. As the African interstate highways are developing, access to remote areas of forest is becoming progressively easier for hunters. A recent study conducted by The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), concludes that the survival of the forest elephant depends on limiting hunters’ access to Central African rainforests.
According to the study, hunters are finding a growing number of gateways into once remote and inaccessible terrain in the tropics of Central Africa, exasperating Africa’s elephant poaching crisis. Access facilitated by roads, rivers and other entry points means that more hunters than ever are entering the territories of the forest elephant. The lack of security and exploitation of these forest access points is putting the future of Africa's lesser known elephant species at serious risk.
Forest elephants are secretive animals making them difficult to count directly. The research team overcame this problem by counting and mapping the location of elephant dung across five national parks in Central Africa, to get a rough measure of abundance. To further support the data, researchers factored in distances to settlements, roads and rivers to build on previous studies that have solely examined the effect of roads on forest elephant densities. The data was collected with support from the Monitoring of the Illegal Killing of Elephants program set up by CITES.
According to the study, throughout the national parks which have more access routes and greater human activity, there were significantly less dung piles, and therefore significantly less elephants. Findings suggest the negative impacts that arise from the hunting of this majestic species extend far from just human settlements and other access points.
The study's lead author, Dr Charles Yackulic of Princeton University, said “The proliferation of access points to formerly remote, inaccessible areas is devastating to elephants and other wide-ranging species. Forest elephants’ disappearance is the herald of more widespread declines in wildlife which may lead to general ecosystem decay.”
Nearly 800 elephant tusks worth around $1.7 million were seized in Hong Kong recently, amplifying the need for protection plans on both local and national levels. The lack of adequate anti-poaching efforts in the countries where forest elephants live combined with economic and industrial development seriously jeopardizes their future.
According to Dr. Steve Blake of WCS and the Max Planck Institute of Ornithology, and one of the study’s authors, time to do the right thing is running out. He says; “The good news is that there is a tiny window of opportunity still available to develop the central African interstate highway system in a strategic way that maximizes social benefits to people while minimizing ecological impacts like fragmentation and access proliferation.”
Unfortunately the inhibiting problem with such an idea is the cost. Dr Blake voices a widely believed view in the conservation world; “Like so many environmental issues we could have a pretty decent win-win for wildlife and people, if only the world was prepared to pay a little more.”
By Nicki Hollamby