After a California condor pair's egg went mysteriously missing in the middle of the night, the duo is back on track, raising a foster chick that biologists surreptitiously slipped into the birds' mountain nest. The family affair began with condors #111, a 22-year-old female hatched at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and #509, a 7-year-old wild male. The two began courting in 2014, and nested together near the Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge in southern California, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Before long, #111 laid an egg. A team of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) biologists snuck into the nest on March 2 to set up a bird cam and check the egg's viability with a candle test, in which a bright light is used to check the growing fetus inside. They reported that everything looked good, and estimated that the egg would hatch between April 4 and April 6. [10 Species You Can Kiss Goodbye] But then, the egg went missing. On the night between March 20 and March 21, it disappeared. In order to save battery power, the bird cam does not record during the night, so there's no proof of what happened to the egg. But, in all likelihood, a predator made off with it, leaving only a few eggshell fragments behind, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which runs the cam. This development was worrisome to scientists, as the California condor (Gymnogyps californianus) is critically endangered, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In 2010, there were only 104 adult California condors of breeding age in the wild, and just 44 had produced surviving offspring, the IUCN said. After the egg vanished, USFWS biologists devised an action plan: On March 21, they rappelled into the nest and replaced the missing egg with a dummy egg. Condor #111 entered the nest cavity just as they left, and — to everyone's relief — began incubating the fake egg. Her partner, #509, incubated the dummy egg, too. In the meantime, the recovery team called the Los Angeles Zoo, which was raising eggs that condors had laid in captivity. The zoo gave one of its eggs to the USFWS scientists, who furtively rappelled into the nest again and swapped the dummy egg for the new foster egg on April 3. The swap worked. The adults — which look a bit like hunchbacked, black umbrellas — incubated the egg, and it hatched on April 4, making it the first time that a condor chick had hatched live on a bird cam, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It's unclear whether the 9-ounce (255 grams) chick is a male or female, but a blood test within its first year of life will clear that up. Once the chick turns 4 months old, biologists will tag it so that they can track it when it starts flying, at about 6 months of age. For now, both #111 and #509 are taking turns keeping the chick warm and feeding it. Bird enthusiasts can watch the chick grow up on the California condor bird cam, and follow it on Twitter: @CornellCondors. The biologists hope that the mystery thief responsible for the first egg's disappearance will leave the new chick alone. "Sometimes, condors select nest cavities that are accessible to terrestrial predators that are skilled climbers, such as bobcats, black bears and mountain lions," the Cornell Lab of Ornithology said. "We will continue to closely monitor the condor nestling via the live streaming camera and newly placed motion activated Bushnell game camera that is capable of taking nighttime images." Condor chicks remain dependent on their parents for more than a year, so birdwatchers will have plenty of time to watch the little chick grow up, the lab said. Copyright 2016 LiveScience, a Purch company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
A wolverine walks across the snow in this U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) photo taken March 16, 2009. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2013 proposed an endangered species listing for the estimated 300 wolverines believed to still inhabit the Lower 48 states, most of them in the snowy peaks of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. The Interior Department agency said then that human-caused global warming was lessening mountain snows needed by wolverines for building dens and storing food. But the Fish and Wildlife Service abruptly reversed itself in 2014, deciding against special protections for wolverines on grounds that it lacked sufficient evidence that climate change was harming the animals. Conservationists challenged the decision in court and accused the agency of ignoring scientific data that supported a listing for the wolverine, a large cousin of the weasel known for a feisty disposition and ferocious defense of its young. U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen on Monday sided with conservationists, finding the Fish and Wildlife Service decision unlawfully "arbitrary and capricious" and ordering the agency to reconsider. "No greater level of certainty is needed to see the writing on the wall for this snow-dependent species standing squarely in the path of global climate change," Christensen wrote. He added that the nation's landmark wildlife protection law demands action early to prevent further loss of biodiversity, noting: "For the wolverine, that time is now." The judge said resistance by states such as Idaho likely played a role in the federal agency's decision not to protect wolverines. Listing would have banned trapping of wolverines, which are prized for their fur, and imposed restrictions on such winter activities in the high country as snowmobiling. Christensen pointed to "immense political pressure brought to bear on this issue, particularly by a handful of Western states," and added: "The listing in this case involves climate science, and climate science evokes strong reaction." The Fish and Wildlife Service, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday, has a year to re-examine the climate-based threats to wolverines and issue a new decision. "Wolverines are incredibly tough animals, but they will need our protection to survive climate change," said Bethany Cotton of WildEarth Guardians.
News Article | January 31, 2016
Right now in China, thousands of tigers, more than are alive in the wild, are sitting in cages, waiting for the day that their bones are turned into wine and their skin is turned into rugs. In fact, for over two decades, the tiger “farming” industry in China has been quietly ballooning, and it’s about to get a lot more legitimate. On Friday, The Washington Post reported that a draft amendment to China’s wildlife protection law would make it legal to breed captive endangered animals. Previously, such farms were unregulated and operated largely outside the law. The new policy will allow the government to track them—but will also legalize and legitimize their activities. The law, which was publicized on January 1 and is currently under review, would apply to captive tigers who are kept as performers, as well as tigers bred to be harvested for their valuable body parts. Besides threatening a major blow to conservation efforts, the proposed policy is a reminder that a massive market for the disembodied parts of rare wildlife continues to thrive—a market that has only grown in recent years. Peter Knights, the CEO of the wildlife conservation organization WildAid said that the law should have been an opportunity to modernize wildlife legislation. Instead, he told Motherboard, “it follows the interest of a small group of traders in promoting captive breeding in often inhumane conditions.” “Tiger and bear farming have been disastrous for China’s international reputation and this was a chance to phase-out, rather than encourage those practices," Knights added. Tiger-based products seized by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Image: USFWS Mountain-Prairie/Flickr With the country’s population of captive tigers jumping from about 20 in 1986 to some 5,000 today, the tiger part trade has been called “industrial-scale” in the past. As of 2013, there were already about 200 documented tiger farms in China, according to a report by the nonprofit Environmental Investigation Agency. While tiger eyeballs, genitals, teeth and whiskers are sometimes used for their purported medicinal properties—as a treatment for problems ranging from alcoholism to epilepsy—tiger bone is where the real money's at. The pricey bones are steeped in rice wine to create a purported aphrodisiac that has been said to help ease ailments like arthritis, and is served as a status symbol at dinner parties and events. A single bottle of the mixture, according to Munchies, can cost between USD $80 to $290, depending on how long it was aged. Animal paws and skins are also a big draw on the international wildlife market—and tigers aren’t the only large animals targeted in China. While bears are often farmed for the valuable bile that can be extracted from their organs while they are living, they are also prized for their claws, which can be dried and easily shipped. The products are used, again, for traditional medicine, though there is little evidence to support any medicinal benefits. With the new law—which was called a “wildlife utilization law,” rather than a protection law, by at least one conservationist—the animals, many of them endangered, will likely become even more valuable to the farming systems that breed them.
News Article | August 22, 2016
Recent media coverage and blog posts have described the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) proposed eagle permit rule revisions, issued on May 6, as a “kill order” and suggested they would “let windmills kill bald eagles by the thousands.”
Take an armchair swim with us to a Florida reserve created specifically to protect endangered West Indian manatees. For Manatee Appreciation Day I took a look at the TreeHugger archives to see what we had on these gentle giants, and it was nothing but bad news. Manatee deaths by boat collision and cold weather and toxic algae blooms and worst of all, stupid homo sapiens trying to ride the poor things. (What is wrong with us? I ask this often.) But it's Manatee Appreciation Day, not Manatee Depression Day, so with that in mind I went to the best place for a manatee pick-me-up, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) flickr site for endangered species, where they have a beautiful set of images from the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. Without further ado, the sweetest "sea cows" around: The watery reserve was established in 1983 specifically for the protection of the endangered West Indian manatee, and is singular in that it preserves the last unspoiled and undeveloped habitat in Kings Bay, which forms the headwaters of the Crystal River. The refuge preserves the warm water spring havens, which provide critical habitat for the manatee populations that migrate here each winter, notes the USFWS. During colder weather manatees prefer to sleep in shallow water for the warmth of the sun. The manatee pictured above is pushing off with his flippers – while sleeping! – to breathe before descending back to the bottom again, where he can remain for 15 minutes before needing another breath. For more images visit the USFWS Endangered Species at flickr ... and remember to appreciate the manatees!