News Article | February 24, 2017
A target of both the recreational fishing and shark-fin trade, the global population of the instantly recognizable Great Hammerhead shark is estimated to have declined by ~80% over the last 25 years. The Great Hammerhead has been listed on the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) as endangered since 2007. It has also recently been included in CITES Appendix II, which regulates the international trade of threatened species. Despite recognition of its threatened status, effective protection and management has so far been hampered by a lack of information about the shark's behaviour. However, new research published in Frontiers in Marine Science, gives a ray of hope. By defining the sharks' use of particular areas, this study gives marine management and conservation officials the ability to limit the sharks' interaction with their greatest threat – humans. Importantly, this study looked at the temporal as well as the spatial aspect of the sharks' movements. Dr Tristan Guttridge, who led the study at the Bimini Biological Research Station, Bahamas, explains why this is so vital: "Knowing when the animals are likely to be in certain places will be critical in developing effective management strategies" he said. "For example, our data could be used to create so-called 'time-area closures', where certain areas are closed to particular activities, like fishing, at different times. The aim would be to reduce harmful interactions with the sharks." Dr Charlie Huveneers of the Southern Shark Ecology Group in Flinders University, Australia, agrees. "New information about movements of Great Hammerheads will help managers and regulators to ensure sustainable catches, and to improve international regulation and management" he said. "Thanks to the combination of methods used by the authors, the study has revealed complex movement patterns, with broad-scale migrations across jurisdictions as far North as Virginia, USA, as well as seasonal site fidelity in Florida and the Bahamas." The team of researchers tagged the sharks with both acoustic and satellite tags, and used photo identification and laser photogrammetry. They were able to observe return-migrations of over 3000km. They also discovered that the sharks came "home" after migrating away to find food, pup or mate, and that they returned to the same sites for up to five months. This type of predictable behaviour makes them particularly vulnerable to fisheries. "Recreational fishing in the USA is likely having quite an impact on great hammerheads" explains Guttridge. "We know that hammerheads are the third most common shark reported by Florida recreational fishing charter boats, and great hammerheads specifically are considered one of the most attractive species to catch by clients," he added. This study is the first to provide evidence that Great Hammerheads return to particular areas after migrations, rather than the perhaps more common perception of these sharks as "ocean wanderers." This discovery has great implications for marine management, and the development of MPAs (Marine Protected Areas). However, many challenges remain in securing a safe future for these sharks. Like these highly migratory animals, management strategies will need to cross jurisdictional and international borders in order to be effective. "We have only just scratched the surface of defining key spatial hotspots, but clearly for these highly mobile sharks, we need international cooperation" said Dr Guttridge, "and unfortunately, sharks refuse to acknowledge national boundaries." The implications of the temporal aspect of migrations will also need further investigation. The sharks will be more vulnerable at different times. "For our team, the next challenge is identifying what they are doing in these locations" said Guttridge, "as there are more sensitive life stages, such as pupping/mating sites that are a priority for conservation efforts." Explore further: Study says marine protected areas can benefit large sharks More information: Tristan L. Guttridge et al. Philopatry and Regional Connectivity of the Great Hammerhead Shark, Sphyrna mokarran in the U.S. and Bahamas, Frontiers in Marine Science (2017). DOI: 10.3389/fmars.2017.00003
News Article | January 18, 2017
More than half of the world’s apes, monkeys, lemurs and lorises are now threatened with extinction as agriculture and industrial activities destroy forest habitats and the animals’ populations are hit by hunting and trade. In the most bleak assessment of primates to date, conservationists found that 60% of the wild species are on course to die out, with three quarters already in steady decline. The report casts doubt on the future of about 300 primate species, including gorillas, chimps, gibbons, marmosets, tarsiers, lemurs and lorises. Anthony Rylands, a senior research scientist at Conservation International who helped to compile the report, said he was “horrified” at the grim picture revealed in the review which drew on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list, peer-reviewed science reports and UN databases. “The scale of this is massive,” Rylands told the Guardian. “Considering the large number of species currently threatened and experiencing population declines, the world will soon be facing a major extinction event if effective action is not implemented immediately,” he writes in the journal Science Advances, with colleagues at the University of Illinois and the National Autonomous University of Mexico. The most dramatic impact on primates has come from agricultural growth. From 1990 to 2010 it has claimed 1.5 million square kilometres of primate habitats, an area three times the size of France. In Sumatra and Borneo, the destruction of forests for oil palm plantations has driven severe declines in orangutan populations. In China, the expansion of rubber plantations has led to the near extinction of the northern white-cheeked crested gibbon and the Hainan gibbon, of which only about 30 or animals survive. More rubber plantations in India have hit the Bengal slow loris, the western hoolock gibbon and Phayre’s leaf monkey. Primates are spread throughout 90 countries, but two thirds of the species live in just four: Brazil, Madagascar, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In Madagascar, 87% of primate species face extinction, along with 73% in Asia, the report states. It adds that humans have “one last opportunity” to reduce or remove the threats facing the animals, to build conservation efforts, and raise worldwide awareness of their predicament. The market for tropical timber has driven up industrial logging and damaged forest areas in Asia, Africa and the neotropics. Mining for minerals and diamonds have also taken a toll. On Dinagat island in the Philippines, gold, nickel and copper mining endanger the Philippine tarsier. In the DRC, hunters working around the tin, gold and diamond mine industry are the greatest threat to the region’s Grauer’s gorilla. The industries at work in tropical forest areas are expected to be served by an extra 25m km of roads by 2050, further fragmenting the primates’ habitats. While some species are resilient and adapt to the loss of traditional habitats, survival in patches of forest and urban areas is unlikely to be sustainable, the authors write. One of the more unusual threats facing lemurs and chimps who come into contact with humans is infection with diarrhoea-causing bugs. Another major force driving primates to extinction is commercialised bushmeat hunting, which has expanded to provide food to the growing human population. The report cites accounts that claim 150,000 primates from 16 species are traded each year in Nigeria and Cameroon. In Borneo, between 2,000 and 3,000 orangutans are killed for food each year, a rate that is far from sustainable. Russell Mittermeier, another Conservation International scientist and co-author of the study, said that it was crucial to target conservation on the most threatened forests and species. “Clearly we need to deal with the drivers of extinction, from commercial agriculture to mining and logging. But if we focus all of our efforts on that, by the time we have had an impact, there won’t be anything left. So we must first protect the last remaining pieces of habitat and if no protected areas exist, we must create them. “I’m an optimist and I believe we can come up with solutions, but we have to be very targeted now to make sure we don’t lose anything,” he said. Writing in the journal, the authors add: “Despite the impending extinction facing many of the world’s primates, we remain adamant that primate conservation is not yet a lost cause.”
News Article | February 21, 2017
As darkness descended over the Peruvian Amazon in 2006, my wife and I listened spellbound while our guide told us the grisly story of the jaguar and giant anteater. Eyewitnesses, our guide insisted, had found the two foes dead together, embracing like lovers but in mutual destruction – the jaguar’s jaw still drooped around the anteater’s neck where it had pierced its prey’s artery and the anteater’s ten-centimeter-long claws still embedded in the big cat’s flanks. Later, after the spell – and liquor – wore off, I thought it was probably a tall tale, something to tell tourists after the sun sets over the world’s greatest jungle and you’ve all had a few too many. But an incredible new camera trap video proves I may have been wrong to doubt. The video captures 12 hair-raising seconds of a giant anteater going toe-to-toe with a jaguar – a battle rarely, if ever – seen by human eyes. Taken in Gurupi Biological Reserve in the state of Brazilian state of Maranhão as a part of a survey on jaguars, it shows just how agile and deft a giant anteater can be, like a gangly martial arts master. “I was in the office, sorting out thousands of camera trap videos, which is really cool but can get a bit boring after the umpteenth time,” Elildo Carvalho Jr., a researcher with the Brazilian National Research Centre for Carnivore Conservation (CENAP). said. “And then, this insane image suddenly jumps out of [the] screen... I felt captured by the incredible [video]. I watched it again and again…Then I called my colleagues, proudly announcing that they would see something [they’d] never seen before.” In the video we can see the raw physicality – and danger – of such an encounter for both of these threatened and declining species. But, according to Carvalho, we’ll never know how it turned out. “There were no clues on site, besides we retrieved the camera a month after the event and only saw the footage long after.” Carvalho believes the two animals probably sized each up and then went on their way, neither willing to test the others’ mettle. Scientists have long known that jaguars prey on giant anteaters, but it’s thought that they usually target small or young giant anteaters to avoid a potentially fatal mistake. One study in 2010 found that giant anteater made up only 3.2 percent of jaguar prey in the Pantanal. But some jaguars – it seems – may be giant anteater specialists. A study in Brazil’s vast grasslands, known as the cerrado, actually found that an astounding 75 percent of jaguar prey was giant anteaters. Jaguars and giant anteaters actually share three ecosystems – the Amazon, the cerrado and the Pantanal – and how they interact may well depend on the habitat and other prey availability. “The frequency and outcome of [jaguar and giant anteaters] encounters are unknown,” Carvalho said. “Fighting a dangerous prey is always undesirable, so it is reasonable to assume that the jaguar will prefer to attack giant anteaters by surprise and from behind to avoid any trouble.” He said that battles like the one captured by his camera trap probably only occur when the jaguar messes up its attack or the two animals run into each other unsuspectingly. But there is at least one camera trap photo of a jaguar carrying a large-bodied, slain giant anteater – not a juvenile – in its maw, proving that sometimes these encounters do end in at least one fatality. The photo isn’t from the Amazon rainforest, but the cerrado. It’s also not difficult to believe that a giant anteater could actually slay a jaguar. An adult giant anteater can weigh over 40 kilograms – about the size of a small female jaguar – and they will not hesitate to fight when attacked. Like a velociraptor – whose fossilized bones were once discovered in a death grip with a protoceratops – giant anteaters know how to use their spectacular claws. Only the anteater’s are nearly twice as long as the famed dinosaur’s. Despite it’s somewhat awkward appearance, Carvalho said a giant anteater was “not something to mess with on a dark night.” In 2012, a man hunting with his two sons and their dogs cornered a giant anteater in Amazonian Brazil. The anteater went into defensive mode, standing with forelimbs and claws splayed. “The hunter did not fire his rifle because of concern about accidentally shooting his dogs,” reads a report published in Wilderness and Environmental Medicine. “He approached the animal armed with a knife, but was grabbed by its forelimbs.” Pierced by the long claws, the man bled to death at the scene, while one of his sons, who was also injured, shot the giant anteater five times in order to kill it. Still, such incidents are notable because they are so rare. “In Brazil there are no aggressive wild animals, they are not used to [attacking] humans,” said Danilo Kluyber, Head Veterinarian with the Giant Armadillo Conservation Project and Research Associate at Naples Zoo, said. He should know. Kluyber spends his days capturing and sedating giant anteaters and giant armadillos in order to put tracking collars on them to better understand these little-studied megafauna. “The capture is the most stressful moment to any wild species, because it means death for them and they will fight for it spending all their energy to survive,” he explained. “During this moment giant anteaters can cause severe injuries to human with their sharp and big claws, their only way to defend themselves. During the giant anteaters capture procedures we use two nets and a safe anesthetic protocol applied right after the individual is immobilized with the nets.” He said that animals like giant anteaters are only dangerous when cornered and such events usually only occur when humans are trying to hunt them. Jaguar attacks on humans are also incredibly rare. Jaguars have never been known to become so-called ‘man-eaters’ like some tigers and lions that begin to specialize on hunting people. A jaguar could easily kill humans – it has the strongest bit force of any cat on the planet – it just prefers to avoid us at all costs. As with pretty much every species on the planet (aside from arguably malarial mosquitoes), humans are far more dangerous to giant anteaters and jaguars than they could ever be to us. The IUCN Red List catgorises the jaguar as Near Threatened with extinction while the giant anteater is Vulnerable. Since these two wide-ranging species share many of the same ecosystems, they also share many of the same existential threats. Number one is habitat destruction. Humans have destroyed about a fifth of the Brazilian Amazon in the last forty years. And the current Brazilian government is in the process of eroding protections that actually helped Brazil dramatically slow deforestation over the last 15 years. The cerrado, a lesser-known grassland that covers 20 percent of Brazil, is in even worse shape. Half of the ecosystem has been lost to vast soy farms and cattle ranches. At the same time, little of the cerrado has actually been set aside as protected areas. Meanwhile, a study in 2012 estimated that humans have deforested 15 percent of the Pantanal – the world’s largest wetland – for cattle ranching and intensive agriculture. Jaguars also face a drastically depleted prey base as many forests and ecosystems are overhunted. The big cats are commonly persecuted as pests on ranches, and, although rarely killed for their skins anymore, they are still poached for their body parts – paws and teeth – to be sold illegally. In contrast, giant anteaters – considered one level more threatened than jaguars – are hunted as bushmeat throughout their range. Scientists are also just realizing how imperiled the species – and other Brazilian wildlife – are by collisions with cars. “Shockingly, giant anteaters are among the top species killed on these roads, and road mortalities pose a serious threat to long-term population viability,” Kluyber said, pointing to a not-yet published study that recorded 135 giant anteaters killed by car collisions in the cerrado. The species was one of the top three animals killed by cars and made up over 10 percent of all mortality. Habitat in the cerrado is “highly fragmented,” Kluyber said, which forces animals to move long distances and frequently cross numerous roads. But even as populations of jaguars and giant anteaters decline, we are seeing more of them than ever before – we are learning more than we ever knew. All thanks to the invention of a camera that takes pictures or video when an animal triggers an infrared sensor, the modern day camera trap. “Camera-traps are revolutionizing our understanding of cryptic rainforest animals,” Carvalho said. “They are allowing us to get information on the distribution, abundance, activity patterns and behaviour of these species which would be impossible to obtain otherwise.” But camera traps may prove good for more than science. They could also be a largely-untapped, but potentially huge, resource to get the public to see species anew and to actually care about their survival, especially those cryptic, rarely-seen in person species. For example, it was only using camera traps that Planet Earth II was able to get its stunning videos of snow leopards. For many species, the first time they’ve ever been caught on film was because of a camera trap hidden in a forest somewhere. “With a little luck, [camera traps] also give us beautiful photos or amazing videos such as this one,” Carvalho said. The opportunity now is for conservationists to somehow use their photos and videos to raise awareness as well as gain supporters and funds. Scientists have proven endlessly creative in using camera traps to gather data, but using them as PR tools for saving species has not jumped into the mainstream. Indeed, camera traps are revealing lost worlds – hundreds-of-thousands of lost worlds – to scientists. The images and videos coming from the uncountable number of camera traps sitting around the world every day are as incredible and impressive as anything coming out of NASA. For, in an age in which we think we know everything, they prove just how little – how very little – we know about the planet we actually inhabit, how much there remains to learn and discover, and how much we have to lose.
News Article | February 15, 2017
NEW YORK (February 13, 2017) - A team of scientists reporting in the journal Nature Climate Change say that negative impacts of climate change on threatened and endangered wildlife have been massively underreported. In a new analysis, authors found that nearly half of the mammals and nearly a quarter of the birds on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species are negatively impacted by climate change, with nearly 700 species affected. Previous assessments said only seven percent of mammals and four percent of birds on the Red List were impacted. The paper reviewed 130 studies, making it the most comprehensive assessment to date on how climate change is affecting our most well-studied species. Impacts for mammals are wide ranging and include a lower ability to exploit resources and adapt to new environmental conditions. For example, primates and marsupials, many of which have evolved in stable tropical areas, are vulnerable to rapid changes and extreme events brought on by climate change. In addition, primates and elephants, which are characterized by very slow reproductive rates that reduce their ability to adapt to rapid changes in environmental conditions, are also vulnerable. On the other hand, rodent species that can burrow, and thus avoid some extreme conditions, will be less vulnerable. For birds, negative responses in both breeding and non-breeding areas were generally observed in species that experienced large changes in temperatures in the past 60 years, live at high altitudes, and have low temperature seasonality within their distributions. Many impacted species inhabit aquatic environments, which are considered among the most vulnerable to temperature increase due to habitat loss, fragmentation, and harmful algal blooms. In addition, changes in climate in tropical and subtropical forest areas, already exacerbated by habitat degradation, may threaten forest-dependent species. Said lead author Michela Pacifici of the Global Mammal Assessment Program at Sapienza University of Rome: "It is likely that many of these species have a high probability of being very negatively impacted by expected future changes in the climate." Said co-author Dr James Watson of the Wildlife Conservation Society and University of Queensland: "Our results clearly show that the impact of climate change on mammals and birds to date is currently greatly under-estimated and reported upon. We need to greatly improve assessments of the impacts of climate change on species right now, we need to communicate this to wider public and we need to ensure key decisions makers know that something significant needs to happen now to stop species going extinct. Climate change is not a future threat anymore." The authors recommend that research and conservation efforts give greater attention to the `here and now' of climate change impacts on life on Earth. This also has significant implications for intergovernmental policy fora such as the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, and the revision of the strategic plan of the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change.
News Article | February 15, 2017
An environmental group is suing U.S. President Donald Trump for the delay in an action that would protect the rusty patched bumblebee through an endangered species designation. The Natural Resources Defense Council, filing the suit Tuesday, said the listing proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service back in September has been delayed until March 21 as part of a bigger freeze imposed by the White House. The rule formalizing the listing was published in the Federal Register Jan. 11 and was supposed to take effect last Friday. The rusty patched bumblebee is the first bee species to be classified as endangered in the continental United States. It once buzzed on the East Coast and a large portion of the Midwest, until the 1990s and today when only scattered groups are spotted in 13 states. "The science is clear — this species is headed toward extinction, and soon. There is no legitimate reason to delay federal protections," said the group’s senior attorney Rebecca Riley in a statement, as reported by Reuters. According to the lawsuit filed in New York, the federal wildlife managers had violated the law when they abruptly suspended the bumblebee’s listing without notifying the public or seeking comment. Technically, the rule is already final given it was published in the Federal Register, it added. The suit urged that a judge declare the USFWS’s delaying of the listing an unlawful one, as well as order the agency, which falls under the Interior Department, to rescind the said move. Officials from the Interior Department and USFWS could not be reached for comment. In declaring the bumblebee endangered last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service harped on the species’ environmental importance, stressing that they contribute to food security and healthy ecosystem functioning as pollinators. “Bumble bees are keystone species in most ecosystems, necessary not only for native wildflower reproduction, but also for creating seeds and fruits that feed wildlife as diverse as songbirds and grizzly bears,” the agency’s website stated. Featuring a striped black and yellow marking on its back as well as a long black tail, the rusty patched bumblebee has been historically found in 28 states in the East and upper Midwest, along with parts of Canada. Its crash took place so rapidly that few scientists took special notice, with the number and range of its colonies dropping by about 87 percent since the late ‘90s. In fact, it disappeared from about 90 percent of its historical range in recent years, the lawsuit contended. The plummeting numbers of the bee species has been linked to factors including loss of prairies and grasslands, increased pesticide exposure, and climate change. It is among the 47 varieties of bumblebees native to the United States and Canada, and it’s not alone in this challenge: over a quarter of those species also face the threat of extinction, warned the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In related news, scientists in Japan have explored insect-sized drones, featuring horsehairs on their backs and a special gel for picking up and releasing pollen grains, as a potential aid of bees in pollination. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
News Article | February 16, 2017
Yet in four relatively small reserves in India's wildlife-rich Western Ghats region, WCS researchers have found that they are co-existing, despite competing for much of the same prey, including sambar deer, chital, and pigs. Using dozens of non-invasive camera traps for sampling entire populations, rather than track a handful of individuals, the research team recorded some 2,500 images of the three predators in action. The authors found that in reserves with an abundance of prey, dholes, which are active during the day, did not come in much contact with the more nocturnal tigers and leopards. But in Bhadra Reserve where prey was scarcer, their active times overlapped, yet dholes still managed to avoid the big cats. In Nagarahole, a park teeming with all three carnivores and their prey, leopards actively to avoid tigers. Overall, the authors say that these carnivores have developed smart adaptations to coexist, even while they exploit the same prey base. However, these mechanisms vary depending on density of prey resources and possibly other habitat features. Said Ullas Karanth, WCS Director for Science in Asia and lead author of the study: "Tigers, leopards, and dholes are doing a delicate dance in these protected areas, and all are manging to survive. We were surprised to see how each species has remarkably different adaptations to prey on different prey sizes, use different habitat types and be active at different times. Because of small and isolated nature of these high prey densities in these reserves, such adaptions are helpful for conservationists trying to save all three." Both tigers and dholes are classified as Endangered by IUCN; leopards are considered Vulnerable. Understanding these separate yet overlapping species' needs is critical to managing predators and prey in small reserves, which is increasingly the scenario of the future. The authors say that by managing populations of flagship predators, like tigers, carefully overall biodiversity can also be conserved. The study titled "Spatio-temporal interactions facilitate large carnivore sympatry across a resource gradient" authored by Dr. Ullas Karanth, Mr. Arjun Srivathsa, Dr. Divya Vasudev, Ms. Mahi Puri, Dr. Ravishankar Parameshwaran and Dr. Samba Kumar, appeared in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences in February 2017. Explore further: Snow leopard and Himalayan wolf diets are about one-quarter livestock More information: K. Ullas Karanth et al, Spatio-temporal interactions facilitate large carnivore sympatry across a resource gradient, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (2017). DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2016.1860
News Article | February 20, 2017
A new study finds 3 carnivores that usually avoid each other at all costs have found smart ways to peacefully co-exist. There may be no more classic battle than that between cats and dogs. (Accept maybe that between cat lovers and dog lovers.) And in the wild it is no different, though possibly for different reasons. Predators that are in direct competition for prey usually stake out different areas to live and hunt – and in the case of big cats and wild dogs, live in different locations to avoid each other. So it came as a surprise for researchers in India to find tigers, leopards, and dholes (Asian wild dog) living side by side with surprisingly little conflict. A new WCS study describing the research reveals that in four relatively small reserves in India’s Western Ghats region, the unlikely trio are co-existing well, even though they’re competing for much of the same things to eat. Rather than tracking a small group of individual animals, the team employed dozens of eyes in the wild (that is, non-invasive camera traps) to sample entire populations. The prolific cameras snapped some 2,500 images of the predators in action; photos of the three subjects below. WCS notes that that the carnivores have developed “smart adaptations to coexist, even while they exploit the same prey base.” And the animals have proven clever in how they adapt, arriving at mechanisms specific to the density of prey resources and other habitat features of the areas in which they live. “Tigers, leopards, and dholes are doing a delicate dance in these protected areas, and all are managing to survive. We were surprised to see how each species has remarkably different adaptations to prey on different prey sizes, use different habitat types and be active at different times,” says Ullas Karanth, WCS Director for Science in Asia and lead author of the study. “Because of small and isolated nature of these high prey densities in these reserves, such adaptions are helpful for conservationists trying to save all three.” As WCS reports, tigers and dholes are classified as Endangered by IUCN; leopards are considered Vulnerable. “Understanding these separate yet overlapping species’ needs is critical to managing predators and prey in small reserves, which is increasingly the scenario of the future," WCS writes. "By managing populations of flagship predators, like tigers, carefully overall biodiversity can also be conserved.” And not to mention the indirect moral of the story: If felines and canids can get along in the wild, there may be hope for us primates yet.
News Article | February 22, 2017
Seven new miniature species of frogs, now listed as some of the smallest known worldwide, have been discovered in India. Typically known as night frogs, the animals from the genus Nyctibatrachus are located in Western Ghats, a mountain range running down western India and teeming with rich biology. They add to the 28 previously known night frog species, over half of which were identified in the last five years. The discovery of the new species — four out of seven of which are tiny frogs measuring up to 15.4 millimeters in length and can sit comfortably on a coin or thumbnail — was made by Delhi University professor and “Frogman of India” Sathyabhama Das Biju along his team, the Times of India reported. Other frogs belonging to the genus predominantly live in streams, but these new finds were found under damp forest leaf litter or in marsh vegetation. They may have been abundant in numbers in the area, but were likely overlooked due to their very small size, insect-like calls, and secret habitats. “It was extremely difficult to locate the calling individuals because they were always hiding under thick ground vegetation and leaf litter,” Garg recalled. “If we went too close, they would stop calling, making it even more difficult.” Other domestic wildlife also got in the way, with the team getting chased by an elephant and having to “run for [their] lives, without the frog or the recording!” In the laboratory, the freshly sampled frogs were confirmed using DNA analysis, detailed studies of their physical characteristics, and bioacoustics. The confirmation brought the total number of known species in the genus to 35, or 20 percent of which are tiny in size. The genus also represents an ancient frog group diversifying on the local landmass about 70 to 80 million years earlier. Biju warned in an email to National Geographic, however, that the newly discovered species need to be protected immediately, as they found that their habitats are usually “highly disturbed by human activities.” Western Ghats, while remaining a biodiversity hotspot, is seeing an increase in human settlement and the building of large plantations in the area. Climate change is another threat it is facing. The warmer the temperatures, the more likely frogs are to move their ranges up when it comes to elevation — a prospect with uncertain consequences, according to Neil Cox of IUCN’s Biodiversity Assessment Unit. Of the 1,581 new amphibian species discussed around the world from 2006 to 2015, the highest numbers were from the Brazilian Atlantic Forest followed by the Western Ghats-Sri Lanka area. Of the estimated 159 described in the Indian biodiversity site, 103 came from the Western Ghats alone. Nearly a third of known amphibian species are facing threats of extinction. New discoveries like this fuel hope for scientists in understanding where the creatures live and how they can be better conserved. The findings were discussed in the journal PeerJ. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
News Article | March 3, 2017
In a birth announcement of sorts, the Smithsonian National Zoo and the Nashville Zoo released a joint statement Thursday saying that a male clouded leopard cub was born on March 1. The cub is the first of his species to be born from artificial insemination using frozen (and then thawed) semen. Clouded leopards have difficulty reproducing outside of their natural habitat and have been listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species since 2008. Tweets from the two zoos have been greeted with delight. The day-old cub has been declared "adorable" — but he is also important, according to the scientists at The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. "This cub ... is a symbol of how zoos and scientists can come together to make positive change for animals and preserving global biodiversity," said Adrienne Crosier, a biologist at the Institute. "Collaboration is the key to conservation of clouded leopards, along with so many other rare and endangered species we care for and study."
News Article | February 27, 2017
A nonprofit aquarium in Niagara Falls is seeking to protect threatened species of Humboldt penguins through a new program, officials said. The Aquarium of Niagara will undergo a major renovation to expand its area and build a habitat for Humboldt penguins, where the animals will be bred and taken care of. This program will rejuvenate the colony of geriatric penguins. The Aquarium of Niagara is currently one of 20 North American institutions that shelter Humboldt penguins. On Feb. 24, officials from the Aquarium of Niagara, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, and Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster all broke ground on the area where the new project will be built. The Humboldt penguin exhibit will be about 3,500 square feet big, and the habitat itself is 1,600 square feet. It is expected to be completed by spring 2018. Once the project commences, the Humboldt penguin exhibit will become four times larger, and it will feature a rock beach modeled after the coast of Peru, as well as an interactive room for visitors. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo approved the $3.3 million project, which was funded by several donors. The list includes the New York Power Authority, which allocated $1.75 million for the habitat, Empire State Development ($400,000), and the City of Niagara Falls ($150,000). The funding is enough to renovate the exhibit and push it to receive accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Howard Zemsky, chief executive, commissioner, and president of Empire State Development, said he is certain the exhibit will be both educational and entertaining for families. "[The exhibit will add] even more to the tourism industry's significant impact on the regional economy," said Zemsky. Mayor Dyster believes the penguin habitat not only adds to the program that the Aquarium of Niagara already offers, but it will also build upon Gov. Cuomo's vision of leveraging the city into a world-class tourist destination. "I am confident that this exhibit will provide yet another exciting experience for visitors to the Aquarium of Niagara," said Dyster. He added that he is looking forward to welcoming the colony of Humboldt penguins to the aquarium. Humboldt penguins are found only in the Pacific Coast of South America from Chile to Peru. Based on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the animals' population has been fluctuating since 1988. As of 2015, counts of individuals revealed an average population of 33,380, officials said. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.