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News Article | May 10, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

In this April 30, 2017 photo released by Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF), an albino orangutan sits in a cage as it's being quarantined at a rehabilitation center in Nyaru Menteng, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. The conservation group is asking the public to suggest names for the rare albino orangutan that was rescued from villagers in the Indonesian part of Borneo last month, hoping it will become an inspiring symbol of efforts to save the critically endangered species. (Indrayana/BOSF via AP) JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — A conservation group is asking the public to name a rare albino orangutan that was rescued from villagers on Borneo island last month, hoping it will become a symbol of efforts to save the critically endangered species. The 5-year-old female great ape is being kept in a dimly lit quarantine enclosure with round-the-clock veterinarian care after being rescued in the Indonesian part of the island on April 29, Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation spokesman Nico Hermanu said Wednesday. She's the first albino orangutan to be encountered by the foundation in its 25 years of conservation work. The foundation said in a statement that the orangutan has become an ambassador for her species and it wants a "meaningful" name for her that will reflect the significant conservation challenges that orangutans face in the wild. It said she is sensitive to sunlight due to a complete absence of pigmentation and physically fragile, which is common for rescued orangutans, but gradually improving. "Understandably, she still has a long way to go in her recovery following the trauma of losing her mother and her illegal capture," the statement said. Hermanu said villagers in Central Kalimantan province on Borneo had the orangutan for two days and claimed it had strayed out of the forest. Other villagers reported its capture to police and a government conservation agency that asked the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation to intervene. Hermanu said she may only have survived in the wild due to a protective mother that she apparently became separated from. Whether she can ever be returned to her natural habitat is still uncertain, he said. Orangutans, known for their gentle temperament and intelligence, live in the wild only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra and on Borneo, which is divided among Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. The International Union for Conservation of Nature estimates the number of Bornean orangutans has dropped by nearly two-thirds since the early 1970s and will further decline to 47,000 by 2025. Bornean orangutans were declared critically endangered by the IUCN last year due to hunting for their meat and conflicts with plantation workers, which kills 2,000 to 3,000 a year, and destruction of tropical forests for plantation agriculture. The only other orangutan species, the Sumatran orangutan, has been critically endangered since 2008. Suggested names for the rescued orangutan can be sent to name@orangutan.org.id or by using the hashtag #albinoorangutan on social media until May 14. The group, known as BOS, plans to announce its selection the next day. It and several other conservation groups specialize in rehabilitating captured orangutans and returning them to the wild.


News Article | May 10, 2017
Site: www.theguardian.com

Just a few years ago this place had no name. And in fact its new moniker – Hadabaun Hills – is the sole creation of Indonesian conservationist Haray Sam Munthe. Hadabaun means “fall” in the local language – Munthe suffered a terrible one in these hills while looking for tigers in 2013. But Hadabaun or Fall Hills remains unrecognised by the Indonesian governments and is a blank spot on the world’s maps – though it may be one of the last great refuges for big mammals on the island of Sumatra. Last year a ragtag, independent group of local and international conservationists, led by Munthe and Greg McCann of Habitat ID, used camera traps to confirm Sumatran tigers and Malayan tapirs in these hills. Next month they hope to uncover a lost population of Sumatran orangutans. “I’d call it a Noah’s Ark for endangered and critically endangered species amidst an ocean of palm oil plantations,” said Greg McCann, the Project Coordinator for Habitat ID. McCann, an American who lives in Taiwan, spends much of his time swashbuckling Indiana Jones-style across south-east Asia’s last remaining – and highly threatened – rainforests. It’s a passion with a purpose: McCann’s group, Habitat ID, is working to document rare species in a bid to convince governments, NGOs and the public to care about long-overlooked forests. “Not so long ago nearly the entire island of Sumatra was blanketed in tropical rainforest. Today the mountain ranges that are too steep for big plantations are the default wildlife refuges, relics of the once great forests that were never documented by science,” McCann said. “This is where wildlife makes its last stand.” Sumatra has changed remarkably in the last few decades, from an island of villages and wilderness to one of vast monoculture plantations of pulp and paper and palm oil. Since 1985 the island has lost more than half its lowland forest, and it continues to have one of the highest deforestation rates on the planet. Its large mammals – many of which are found nowhere else in the world – have undergone a severe contraction, leaving them at risk of total extinction. McCann first visited the Hadabaun Hills in 2016 after being invited by Munthe. In a short trip the pair saw siamang (the world’s biggest gibbons), lar gibbons, rhinoceros hornbills, Oriental pied hornbills and Argus pheasant, among other species. But it was the two camera traps – just two – that they left behind that really proved the promise of Hadabaun Hills. In just one month they photographed their first Malayan tapir, a species categorised as endangered on the IUCN Red List with its population believed to have dropped by more than half in the last 36 years. And in three months’ time a Sumtran tiger posed for the camera. Fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers are believed to survive in the wild today and the species continues to be decimated by deforestation, snaring and poaching. Munthe runs the Sumatran Tiger Rangers, a group working to protect the top predator by removing snares, and working to mitigate human-tiger conflict. This is Indonesia’s last tiger: the Javan went extinct in the 1970s. The team’s camera traps also photographed golden cat, sun bear, Malayan porcupine, Sumatran porcupine, wild pig and pig-tailed macaque, proving the area is bursting with threatened Sumatran mammals. This year McCann and Munthe plan to trek far further into a mountaintop forest dubbed the “extreme area” by Munthe. First they will take a boat to the bottom of the hills and then cut their way through the forest to reach a little village where they hope to convince a local to guide them to the top of the mountains. “We’ll be likely bushwhacking to this hamlet and startling the local residents with a small contingent of bu-lays [the local name for foreigners] emerging wet and muddy from nearby jungle for the first time ever,” McCann said. “I expect to see children scattering in every direction and to hear Siamangs and hornbills in the forest beyond. After the hamlet we are in terra incognita.” They plan to spend seven days trekking into and through the “extreme area”. Beyond local people, few – if any – have ever been here, but it’s this high-altitude forest that may be home to an undiscovered population of Sumatran orangutans. These great apes – a different species from those in Borneo – are classified as critically endangered and have a total population of around 14,000. Since Sumatran orangutans rarely, if ever, touch down from the trees, McCann and Munthe don’t expect to catch them on camera. Instead they hope to find orangutan nests, photograph them, and bring back the images for confirmation by experts. The team also hopes a new army of camera traps will document the Sunda clouded leopard, dholes, the helmeted hornbill, the Sumatran striped rabbit and the Sumatran muntjac, a type of small deer that McCann describes as so rare as to be “ near-mythical”. “There’s even a very slim possibility of finding Sumatran rhinoceros,” McCann said. “Last year we camped on a plateau at about 600 metres that went by the name of Rhinoceros Hill. Historically, there were rhinos in this region. When did the last one get poached out? Probably nobody knows.” Pretty much every big mammal in Sumatra is threatened, but Sumatran rhinos have the terrible honour of being one of the rarest mammals on the planet: less than 100 survive today. And a subspecies found in Borneo is on the verge of total extinction. Munthe said that in his explorations he has found rhino dung in the Hadabaun Hills. Confirming rhinos there would be a major boon to a species so close to vanishing. Indeed, Hadabaun Hills remains a land so removed it’s full of rumours. Munthe said locals claim to run into a “large black monkey” in the hills. There is also talk of a mythical tribe of humans known as the Suke Mante in this area. Munthe was also told by a local that at the top of the mountain lives a “black-furred, orangutan-like creature walks on two legs”. Historically there have been numerous reports of an unidentified ape in Sumatra called the “orang pendek”, which is similar to an orangutan but smaller with brown-to-black fur and a penchant for walking on the ground. But no one has brought back any real proof of his legendary animal – and many believe that even if such an animal ever existed it has likely been wiped out in Sumatra’s ecological catastrophe. None of the Hadabaun Hills is formally protected. About half the area is considered community forest and the other has no status, according to McCann. On the ground, he said, it didn’t matter what was community-run and what remained without any formal status. “It’s all under threat from agricultural encroachment, logging, road building, snaring – all the usual suspects.” McCann and Munthe asked that the exact location of the Hadabaun Hills remain unpublished due to concerns that such information could lead to an increase in poachers. Munthe said he feared poachers were already entering this lost world. “I have mentioned the Hadabuan Hills and its scarce animals to the forestry minister and the head of the district administration. Until now there is no help to protect [the Hadabaun Hills] from the government,” Munthe said. Most of the world’s biggest conservation groups have a presence in Sumatra – such as WWF, WCS, and Conservation International – but none of them have explored this particular forest. “Funding for new conservation projects seems difficult to come by, and in the past the large NGOs poured their time and money into places like Gunung Leuser National Park and Kerinci National Park – and with good reason,” McCann explained. “Those places are so important, so magical, and they need urgent protection.” But still McCann worries about a “curiosity crisis” in conservation today, pointing to the lack of interest in the Hadabaun Hills as an example. “Why aren’t scientists and conservationists seeking out these last holdouts?” he asks, noting tantalisingly that Hadabaun Hills isn’t the only unexplored area of Sumatra. “Sumatra is one of the last places where you can use Google Earth, zoom around on the map and wonder: ‘What might be lurking in there? It’s not a national park or a protected area. What’s in there?’ Nobody knows except the locals.” But McCann’s organisation, Habitat ID, almost had to cancel the expedition due to a lack of funding. Instead these rogue conservationists have decided to press ahead by paying for most the trip out of pocket and scaling back initial plans. All this despite the fact that the team had already documented tapirs and tigers in Hadaban Hills. McCann said the team was close to securing funding for the expedition until the donor asked to see government data on Hadabaun Hills. But, of course, there is none. “That’s the reason why we want to explore it – it’s an empty page for wildlife surveying,” said McCann. Without more funding, the team is left self-funding the bulk of the trip and missing out on the potential of bringing more camera traps to increase their chance of documenting rare or even new species. A struggle to secure funding is not new to McCann, who ran into the same issue when trying to document wildlife in Virachey National Park in Cambodia. McCann was able to prove that Virachey was home to many threatened mammals, including elephants, even though big conservation groups had largely abandoned the park. “I think that money will only go where money is,” McCann said. “Few want to go it alone; it’s seen as being too risky … if another NGO is already working there and you can collaborate and share, then your chances of landing funding shoot up. So places that enjoy some level of NGO support will get more support, and ones that don’t will languish.” But such shortsightedness means that exploratory expeditions have trouble getting off the ground and small NGOs like McCann’s – with far less overhead and often a larger penchant for risk-taking – struggle to find the funds to survive. “We really had the wind taken out of our sails on this when we didn’t get the funding and it almost killed the project,” McCann said. But he is now turning to crowdfunding in a bid to raise some extra funds for more camera trapping on their trip. In our age there are fewer and fewer places like Hadabuan Hills – newly named, wholly unexplored – yet that’s the draw for adventurers and conservationists like McCann and Munthe. “When you trek up into the inmost heart of the mountains like we will be doing, and in an untrodden area such as this, mysteries may reveal themselves,” McCann said. It sounds like language out of another time, another age: but for all our hubris our little planet – third from the sun – remains full of mysteries. Most of the species on Earth have never been documented or named by scientists and there are places – even on an island like Sumatra which has one of the highest deforestation rates in the world – where every turn, every snapshot of a camera trap, could reveal a new world.


The Kids Book Company Publishes Conservation Focused Travel Adventure Book for Children Which Has Proven to Educate More Deeply Through a Unique Personalized Approach Newly released personalized kids book, My Way Home inspires a love of travel, curiosity in our world and sense of achievement through discovery while learning about places and the endangered creatures within. Orlando, FL, May 09, 2017 --( Written by Jessica Stall and illustrated by Juan Chavetta, across the collection of books there are 21 countries visited by kids as they find their way home. In these countries, the child meets, interacts with and helps out a character from that place. Many of these are creatures that are endangered or under threat. The endangered species featured include some of the well known species in peril such as the Bengal Tiger or Polar Bear, but also include some little known species facing extinction. One such species is the Ohrid Trout – a declining population of ‘living fossils’ facing extinction in the crystal clear 3 million year old Lake Ohrid, which runs between Albania and Macedonia. It’s extreme depth allowed ice age species to survive in this unique habitat. Another is the Cascabel Rattlesnake. One of the world’s rarest rattlesnakes, the Aruba Island Rattlesnake (locally known as Cascabel) is critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. This pink, blue and brown snake is found only on Aruba, in a habitat now reduced to the southern end of the island. “Growing up in New Zealand, conservation has always been a big part of the ‘clean green kiwi ethos’. When researching the countries for the book, it became apparent how many untold conservation stories were out there. Telling a story that included those unique and not as well publicized creatures is an important way to create awareness and inspire action in both generations,” explains author Jessica Stall. “If you don’t know they exist – you can’t do anything to help. Kids – and through them their parents – learn about these creatures, often for the first time and dig deeper to find out more,” she adds. The coded facts throughout the book often give information about the plight of these animals. Educating through discovery in this way creates a stronger connection with the kids and aligns with the Kids Book Company ethos of ‘educate on the sly’. “Having Jack’s name in the book made him instantly connect with it. We read it (too) often and have talked a lot about polar bears having their home melt away,” says, Elena Fitzgerald, Jack’s mom. Customer of My Way Home. Kezia Evans says, “My six year old daughter loves this book ‘her book she calls it’. After the third or fourth night she began to ask me about the Casabel rattlesnake. I’d never heard of it. We Googled it together and found out all sorts about Aruba, and the habitat it lives in. She was so fascinated by the ‘pink snake’, she did a study on them for her school project.” My Way Home is currently available as 12 personalized titles in English: for boys and girls from six countries; The United States, England, Australia, Canada, New Zealand & Ireland with Scotland and Singapore coming soon. Currently only available on Etsy or Amazon Currently only available on Etsy or Amazon Etsy: etsy.com/nz/shop/TheKidsBookCompany Amazon: http://a.co/9h2FkPz myway-home.com Image library available - please contact jess@thekidsbookcompany.com Images & Brand elements for My Way Home available at: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B-yxNukmvcdrTWZlemJvMHFJSTQ About the Kids Book Company: The Kids Book Company exists to educateon the sly, to inspire wonder in our world, to pique a child’s curiosity. We create phenomenal personalized stories for kids that adults love to give. Founded in 2016 by Argentinian Fernando Hurtado & New Zealander Jessica Stall, The Kids Book Company is a publishing house – in a unique market segment. We publish & distribute personalized, educational & inspiring children’s books, one at a time. Orlando, FL, May 09, 2017 --( PR.com )-- My Way Home, a personalized conservation & education focused travel adventure is now available. The literary journey is proving to give children a sense of ownership of both the story and the many endangered characters within it.Written by Jessica Stall and illustrated by Juan Chavetta, across the collection of books there are 21 countries visited by kids as they find their way home. In these countries, the child meets, interacts with and helps out a character from that place. Many of these are creatures that are endangered or under threat.The endangered species featured include some of the well known species in peril such as the Bengal Tiger or Polar Bear, but also include some little known species facing extinction.One such species is the Ohrid Trout – a declining population of ‘living fossils’ facing extinction in the crystal clear 3 million year old Lake Ohrid, which runs between Albania and Macedonia. It’s extreme depth allowed ice age species to survive in this unique habitat.Another is the Cascabel Rattlesnake. One of the world’s rarest rattlesnakes, the Aruba Island Rattlesnake (locally known as Cascabel) is critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. This pink, blue and brown snake is found only on Aruba, in a habitat now reduced to the southern end of the island.“Growing up in New Zealand, conservation has always been a big part of the ‘clean green kiwi ethos’. When researching the countries for the book, it became apparent how many untold conservation stories were out there. Telling a story that included those unique and not as well publicized creatures is an important way to create awareness and inspire action in both generations,” explains author Jessica Stall. “If you don’t know they exist – you can’t do anything to help. Kids – and through them their parents – learn about these creatures, often for the first time and dig deeper to find out more,” she adds.The coded facts throughout the book often give information about the plight of these animals. Educating through discovery in this way creates a stronger connection with the kids and aligns with the Kids Book Company ethos of ‘educate on the sly’.“Having Jack’s name in the book made him instantly connect with it. We read it (too) often and have talked a lot about polar bears having their home melt away,” says, Elena Fitzgerald, Jack’s mom. Customer of My Way Home.Kezia Evans says, “My six year old daughter loves this book ‘her book she calls it’. After the third or fourth night she began to ask me about the Casabel rattlesnake. I’d never heard of it. We Googled it together and found out all sorts about Aruba, and the habitat it lives in. She was so fascinated by the ‘pink snake’, she did a study on them for her school project.”My Way Home is currently available as 12 personalized titles in English: for boys and girls from six countries; The United States, England, Australia, Canada, New Zealand & Ireland with Scotland and Singapore coming soon.Currently only available on Etsy or AmazonCurrently only available on Etsy or AmazonEtsy: etsy.com/nz/shop/TheKidsBookCompanyAmazon: http://a.co/9h2FkPzmyway-home.comImage library available - please contact jess@thekidsbookcompany.comImages & Brand elements for My Way Home available at: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B-yxNukmvcdrTWZlemJvMHFJSTQAbout the Kids Book Company:The Kids Book Company exists to educateon the sly, to inspire wonder in our world, to pique a child’s curiosity. We create phenomenal personalized stories for kids that adults love to give.Founded in 2016 by Argentinian Fernando Hurtado & New Zealander Jessica Stall, The Kids Book Company is a publishing house – in a unique market segment. We publish & distribute personalized, educational & inspiring children’s books, one at a time.


News Article | May 10, 2017
Site: www.bbc.co.uk

The historic site of Buddha's birthplace in Nepal faces a serious threat from air pollution, scientists and officials have warned. Recent data collected from air quality monitoring stations in five places across the country show Lumbini is highly polluted. The warnings have come amid expanding industrialisation near the sacred site. It is already located in a pollution hotspot on the Gangetic plains. For the month of January, fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in Lumbini, in southwest Nepal, was measured at 173.035 micrograms per cubic metre. The reading for the neighbouring town of Chitwan was 113.32 and the capital, Kathmandu, which is known for its high pollution levels, was at 109.82. The World Health Organization (WHO) safe limit for the pollutant is 25 micrograms per cubic metre and the Nepal government has set the national standard at 40. Scientific studies have also highlighted the increasing levels of pollution in and around the historic site. "The combined effect of trans-boundary transport from the pollution rich Indo-Gangetic Plain region and trapped local industrial pollution due to temperature inversion is responsible for severe winter pollution," says a study done by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in collaboration with the WHO. "For other seasons, local emissions are largely responsible for bad air quality." It found that levels of PM 2.5 fine particles, which can enter human blood vessels, were more than 10 times above the WHO safe limit. Another study conducted by the IUCN and Unesco found that the pollution had begun to threaten the Lumbini World Heritage site. "The expansion of the carbon emission industries within the Lumbini Protected Zone has caused several problems such as threats to biodiversity, health hazards to local residents, archaeological properties, social and cultural values." An IUCN study on three monuments of the historic site concluded that the sacred garden - the core place - was polluted by air dispersed gaseous and solid compounds. "On the samples of the Ashoka pillar (that was established in 249 BC by Emperor Ashoka to mark the birthplace of Buddha) gypsum, calcite, dolomite and magnesite are present in the form of fine powder that deposits on the surface," says the report authored by Italian archaeologist Constantino Meucci of the University of Rome. "All compounds are part of the cement production cycle." A government body had designated 15km aerial distance from the north east and west boundary of the historic site as the Lumbini Protected Zone. Adjoining the LPZ is an expanding industrial corridor that has cement, steel, paper and noodle factories and brick kilns. Several of these factories are well within the LPZ and environmentalists say that is in clear violation of the government regulation. Tourists and monks visiting the site have told the BBC they felt uneasy while breathing in the air. "At times I have difficulty in breathing properly and I have to cough," said Monk Vivekananda who runs an international meditation centre in Lumbini. He and a few others were meditating with their face masks on near the Mayadevi temple that marks the exact spot where Gautam Buddha was born more than 2,600 years ago. "We had at our meditation centre certain [people] who have had asthma conditions and during their stay here in Lumbini, it has badly affected them," he told the BBC. "In at least three cases, [they] had to cut their retreat short and go back because they could not tolerate the conditions here any more." Health workers in the area said the conditions were getting worse. "When the wind brings more pollution, we see many monks meditating here with their masks on," said Shankar Gautam, who has just retired after working as a health official for 30 years. "Studies have shown that in the past 10 years the number of people with lung related diseases has gone up. "The dust coming in here has also led to a huge increase in skin-related diseases." A major pilgrimage for Buddhists, Lumbini is also a major tourist destination. Last year it saw one million visitors and the government plans to develop it as a global tourism destination. "My feeling at this time is that it is more polluted than seven or eight years ago," said Nguyen Duy Nhan, a Vietnamese tourist. "I can see a lot of dust on the leaves and trees on the way we were coming in here." His friend Victor Vlodovych nodded in agreement and said: "Maybe if I stay longer it will affect [me] a lot, I can feel that there is a lot of construction and manufacturing around [this place]." Factory operators say they are reasonably far away from the sacred site. "Yes certainly this is very near to the birthplace of Lord Gautam Buddha," admitted Ajay Ajad, a manager with the biggest cement factory in the area. "Obviously cement factories emit some dust but we are at a reasonably safe distance and therefore the deposition of our dust particles on the sacred site is minimised. He says dust is not a problem confined to Lumbini: "It is all over Nepal and even at places where there are no cement factories." Government officials are aware of the problem. "Based on recent data, we know that Lumbini is more polluted than Kathmandu," said Shankar Prasad Poudel, chief of the air pollution measurement section at the environment department. "We plan to detect the sources of the pollution using a drone in the near future and hopefully this will help minimise the problem."


News Article | May 10, 2017
Site: phys.org

The 5-year-old female great ape is being kept in a dimly lit quarantine enclosure with round-the-clock veterinarian care after being rescued in the Indonesian part of the island on April 29, Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation spokesman Nico Hermanu said Wednesday. She's the first albino orangutan to be encountered by the foundation in its 25 years of conservation work. The foundation said in a statement that the orangutan has become an ambassador for her species and it wants a "meaningful" name for her that will reflect the significant conservation challenges that orangutans face in the wild. It said she is sensitive to sunlight due to a complete absence of pigmentation and physically fragile, which is common for rescued orangutans, but gradually improving. "Understandably, she still has a long way to go in her recovery following the trauma of losing her mother and her illegal capture," the statement said. Hermanu said villagers in Central Kalimantan province on Borneo had the orangutan for two days and claimed it had strayed out of the forest. Other villagers reported its capture to police and a government conservation agency that asked the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation to intervene. Hermanu said she may only have survived in the wild due to a protective mother that she apparently became separated from. Whether she can ever be returned to her natural habitat is still uncertain, he said. Orangutans, known for their gentle temperament and intelligence, live in the wild only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra and on Borneo, which is divided among Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. The International Union for Conservation of Nature estimates the number of Bornean orangutans has dropped by nearly two-thirds since the early 1970s and will further decline to 47,000 by 2025. Bornean orangutans were declared critically endangered by the IUCN last year due to hunting for their meat and conflicts with plantation workers, which kills 2,000 to 3,000 a year, and destruction of tropical forests for plantation agriculture. The only other orangutan species, the Sumatran orangutan, has been critically endangered since 2008. Suggested names for the rescued orangutan can be sent to name@orangutan.org.id or by using the hashtag #albinoorangutan on social media until May 14. The group, known as BOS, plans to announce its selection the next day. It and several other conservation groups specialize in rehabilitating captured orangutans and returning them to the wild.


The Web app enables the comparison between maps drawn from both extensive databases for the global distribution of sea animals as seen here by the example of the Atlantic white-sided dolphin. Credit: Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg An international research team has compared global distribution maps of marine species and has developed recommendations for how to further improve the two extensive databases providing publicly available delineations of marine species occurrence. Information about species' occurrences is the crucial basis for ecological studies as well as for policy decisions required to ensure the survival of endangered species. The researchers also developed a Web app that people can use to overlay the maps from both databases in order to compare them – around 250 species have been recorded in the app. University of Freiburg biologist Dr. Kristin Kaschner was involved in the work that the team published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE. Currently, research and policy predominantly rely on two sources for the large scale distribution of marine species: the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) creates the maps based on experts' knowledge for the individual species while AquaMaps, a tool and online marine atlas developed by Kaschner, generates occurrence maps fusing a predictive modelling approach. Together the databases include 24,586 species: 22,889 are in AquaMaps and 4,027 are in IUCN, with an intersection of only 2,330 species included in both. Due to the varying methodologies, the delineation of a specific species' distribution can differ greatly. For many of the well-studied species, the maps produced by both databases aligned very well. But for others, however, there are irregularities: in the IUCN maps, for instance, the presence of coral in deep waters is overestimated. Some of the computer-generated AquaMaps maps, on the other hand, of which only 5.7 percent have been checked by experts, show breaks on the edges of the prognosticated distribution areas, indicating a possible need for improving the algorithm. "With our results we want to offer an impulse to deepen the cooperation between species experts and species distribution modelers," says Kaschner. "The goal is to offer scientists, policy-makers and representatives in civil society the best possible basis for decision-making when it comes to protecting endangered species and biodiversity in our planet's oceans." Explore further: Extinction risk for many species vastly underestimated, study suggests More information: Casey C. O'Hara et al. Aligning marine species range data to better serve science and conservation, PLOS ONE (2017). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0175739


News Article | May 10, 2017
Site: hosted2.ap.org

Name sought for rare albino orangutan rescued in Indonesia (AP) — A conservation group is asking the public to name a rare albino orangutan that was rescued from villagers on Borneo island last month, hoping it will become a symbol of efforts to save the critically endangered species. The 5-year-old female great ape is being kept in a dimly lit quarantine enclosure with round-the-clock veterinarian care after being rescued in the Indonesian part of the island on April 29, Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation spokesman Nico Hermanu said Wednesday. She's the first albino orangutan to be encountered by the foundation in its 25 years of conservation work. The foundation said in a statement that the orangutan has become an ambassador for her species and it wants a "meaningful" name for her that will reflect the significant conservation challenges that orangutans face in the wild. It said she is sensitive to sunlight due to a complete absence of pigmentation and physically fragile, which is common for rescued orangutans, but gradually improving. "Understandably, she still has a long way to go in her recovery following the trauma of losing her mother and her illegal capture," the statement said. Hermanu said villagers in Central Kalimantan province on Borneo had the orangutan for two days and claimed it had strayed out of the forest. Other villagers reported its capture to police and a government conservation agency that asked the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation to intervene. Hermanu said she may only have survived in the wild due to a protective mother that she apparently became separated from. Whether she can ever be returned to her natural habitat is still uncertain, he said. Orangutans, known for their gentle temperament and intelligence, live in the wild only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra and on Borneo, which is divided among Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. The International Union for Conservation of Nature estimates the number of Bornean orangutans has dropped by nearly two-thirds since the early 1970s and will further decline to 47,000 by 2025. Bornean orangutans were declared critically endangered by the IUCN last year due to hunting for their meat and conflicts with plantation workers, which kills 2,000 to 3,000 a year, and destruction of tropical forests for plantation agriculture. The only other orangutan species, the Sumatran orangutan, has been critically endangered since 2008. Suggested names for the rescued orangutan can be sent to name@orangutan.org.id or by using the hashtag #albinoorangutan on social media until May 14. The group, known as BOS, plans to announce its selection the next day. It and several other conservation groups specialize in rehabilitating captured orangutans and returning them to the wild.


News Article | May 11, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

An international research team has compared global distribution maps of marine species and has developed recommendations for how to further improve the two extensive databases providing publicly available delineations of marine species occurrence. Information about species' occurrences is the crucial basis for ecological studies as well as for policy decisions required to ensure the survival of endangered species. The researchers also developed a Web app that people can use to overlay the maps from both databases in order to compare them - around 250 species have been recorded in the app. University of Freiburg biologist Dr. Kristin Kaschner was involved in the work that the team published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE. Currently, research and policy predominantly rely on two sources for the large scale distribution of marine species: the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) creates the maps based on experts' knowledge for the individual species while AquaMaps, a tool and online marine atlas developed by Kaschner, generates occurrence maps fusing a predictive modelling approach. Together the databases include 24,586 species: 22,889 are in AquaMaps and 4,027 are in IUCN, with an intersection of only 2,330 species included in both. Due to the varying methodologies, the delineation of a specific species' distribution can differ greatly. For many of the well-studied species, the maps produced by both databases aligned very well. But for others, however, there are irregularities: in the IUCN maps, for instance, the presence of coral in deep waters is overestimated. Some of the computer-generated AquaMaps maps, on the other hand, of which only 5.7 percent have been checked by experts, show breaks on the edges of the prognosticated distribution areas, indicating a possible need for improving the algorithm. „With our results we want to offer an impulse to deepen the cooperation between species experts and species distribution modelers," says Kaschner. „The goal is to offer scientists, policy-makers and representatives in civil society the best possible basis for decision-making when it comes to protecting endangered species and biodiversity in our planet's oceans." Casey C. O'Hara, Jamie C. Afflerbach, Courtney Scarborough, Kristin Kaschner, and Benjamin S. Halpern: Aligning marine species range data to better serve science and conservation. In: PLOS ONE. http://journals.


News Article | May 20, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

On April 19 of this year, five major wildlife protection groups petitioned the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to list the giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) as an endangered species. As the petition asserted, “the giraffe has suffered a major reduction in population size across its range primarily due to habitat loss, commercial overutilization, and severe poaching, and such decline continues unabated.” If the Fish and Wildlife Service agrees to list the giraffe, a set of legal tools will become available to protect this iconic species. But how would listing in the U.S. help this African mammal, whose population numbers in the wild have dipped below 100,000? While extinction can be a natural process, the current rate of extinction is anything but. Scientists estimate that at least 99 out of 100 species extinctions in the world today are the result of human action. Although people rarely intend to drive species into oblivion, as with the giraffe, they do so through the destruction of habitat, poaching and legal hunting. As the petition notes, “[g]iraffes once occupied much of the savanna and savanna woodlands of Africa…. [It] has undergone a 36 to 40 percent population decline over the past 30 years.” More than a century ago, scientists began to notice the disappearance of once prominent species around the world. The American passenger pigeon, the Carolina parakeet and the Great Auk – once well-established in North America – disappeared. Other species like the American bison and many kinds of whales had once played central roles in important ecosystems but had been reduced to small remnant populations. The existence of species is important to people for many reasons. Sometimes species provide clues for the development of medicines. Often they play a fundamental role in maintaining the functioning of ecosystems on which people depend. As Aldo Leopold – perhaps America’s most famous naturalist – noted, What would you say to a child who saw a giraffe in a book and asked where giraffes lived? Would you be comfortable saying they’re all gone? In 1964, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) began tracking the conservation status of species on its “Red List.” Although the IUCN provides information only about the status of species, this is the first step in helping to limit extinction because it allows conservation efforts to be directed where they’re most needed. A few years later in the United States, the federal government began keeping an official list of species in danger of extinction – what we call endangered species – and species likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future – threatened species. The Endangered Species Act (ESA), passed in 1973, goes further than just identifying imperiled species. Under its terms, listed species are protected from actions “authorized, funded or carried out” by the federal government that may jeopardize their continued existence or adversely affect their essential habitat. Species members are also protected from direct harm by any person. Commerce in species protected by the ESA is generally a crime. The purpose of the ESA is the “conservation” of protected species. In practice, that means bringing the species back to the point where it no longer requires the protection of the ESA. The law’s goal is not to preserve tiny populations on the brink of extinction but to recover species populations that are resilient enough to survive the bad luck which is so often part of living on the planet. Listing is the public, administrative process whereby a species can become entitled to protection under the Endangered Species Act. It centers around one question: Is this creature or plant in danger of extinction? At the listing stage, the federal government can consider only scientific evidence in making its decision. Anyone can initiate the listing process via petition. Evidence suggests the ESA works. A recent report in the Endangered Species Bulletin noted that of the 78 species first listed under the federal precursor to the Endangered Species Act in 1967, only four have been officially declared extinct after half a century. Many others, such as the California condor, the grizzly bear and the whooping crane, have seen remarkable recovery progress. Some, including the bald eagle, have even been removed from the list.


News Article | May 16, 2017
Site: www.sciencedaily.com

Iconic Yellow-eyed penguins could disappear from New Zealand's Otago Peninsula by 2060, latest research warns. Researchers call for coordinated conservation action. In a newly published study in the international journal PeerJ, scientists have modelled factors driving mainland Yellow-eyed penguin population decline and are calling for action to reduce regional threats. According to the researchers' prediction models, breeding success of the penguins will continue to decline to extinction by 2060 largely due to rising ocean temperatures. But these predictions also point to where our conservation efforts could be most effective in building penguins' resilience against climate change. The Yellow-eyed penguin, classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), is a key attraction for New Zealand tourism. Yet, the chances of seeing the penguins in the wild are quietly slipping away, the new research suggests. Lead study author Dr Thomas Mattern of the University of Otago says his team's predictions are conservative estimates and do not include additional adult die-off events such as the one seen in 2013 in which more than 60 penguins died. "Any further losses of Yellow-eyed penguins will bring forward the date of their local extinction," Dr Mattern says. If the recent poor breeding years -- 2013 onwards -- are included in the simulation of the future penguin population, things get progressively worse. "When including adult survival rates from 2015 into the models the mean projection predicts Yellow-eyed penguins to be locally extinct in the next 25 years," adds Dr Stefan Meyer, another of the co-authors. The researchers note that Yellow-eyed penguins are iconic within New Zealand. Dr Mattern says these birds greet visitors to the country on billboards in all major airports, are featured on the NZ $5 note, and are widely used for branding and advertising. "Yet despite being celebrated in this way, the species has been slowly slipping towards local extinction," he says. "It is sobering to see the previously busy penguin-breeding areas now overgrown and silent, with only the odd lonely pair hanging on," says Dr Ursula Ellenberg, who has researched Yellow-eyed penguins for the past 14 years. Increasing sea surface temperatures in part explain the negative trend in penguin numbers. "The problem is that we lack data to examine the extent of human impacts, ranging from fisheries interactions, introduced predators to human disturbance, all of which contribute to the penguins' demise," says Dr Mattern. "However, considering that climate change explains only around a third of the variation in penguin numbers, clearly those other factors play a significant role. Unlike climate change, these factors could be managed on a regional scale," he says. Professor Phil Seddon, Director of Wildlife Management at the University of Otago, says besides shining an alarming light on the state of the Yellow-eyed penguin on the New Zealand mainland, the study also underlines the importance of long-term data sets. "In the current era of fast science, long-term projects have become a rarity. Without more than 35 years' worth of penguin monitoring data we would probably be still at a loss as to what is happening to a national icon, the Yellow-eyed penguin," Professor Seddon says. Despite this urgency, Yellow-eyed penguins continue to drown as unintentional bycatch in nets set in penguin foraging areas, suffer from degradation of their marine habitat because of human activities, and die from unidentified toxins. The authors conclude that "now we all know that Yellow-eyed penguins are quietly slipping away we need to make a choice. Without immediate, bold and effective conservation measures we will lose these penguins from our coasts within our lifetime."

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