Have an interesting conservation story? Want to request an adorable animal to be spotlighted?

E-mail ConservationCute@gmail.com

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tiger Conservation Summit Planned

Thirteen countries are planning to meet to discuss improving tiger populations worldwide. The meeting will take place in Bali, Indonesia, scheduled for September 15-18, 2010. The Bali Tiger Forum has been constructed to plan the global summit, which will focus on how to double the tiger population by 2022. In addition to the thirteen senior government officials, the summit will also be attended by tiger experts and NGOs.

Tigers are the largest of the big cat species, weighing in at over 600 pounds for some males. There are nine tiger subspecies in the world today, dwelling throughout Asia, with three known species that have become extinct. Almost half of all tigers in the wild are Bengal tigers, as are most in captivity. Another subspecies, the South China Tiger is the most critically endangered of the tigers, being considered one of the ten most endangered animals in the world. All tigers are strong swimmers, and have recently been found to even do some hunting from water. They are almost exclusively carnivores, hunting animals as small as fish, and as large as buffalo, who commonly weigh six times more than the tiger. Interestingly, their distinctive striped pattern is not just on their fur, but can be found on the tiger's skin, visible even if shaved. The stripes appear to be useful in camouflaging the animal among shadows of tree branches and grasses.

Wild tigers are becoming incredibly endangered. While an estimated 12,000 tigers are kept as pets in the USA alone, only between 3,000 and 5,000 adult tigers exist in the wild, globally. Poaching of tigers, for their beautiful fur and for use of their body parts as part of traditional medicine, is one of the main causes of the population decline, alongside habitat degradation. Conservationists hope to increase penalties against poachers and those who illegally farm tigers for their parts. It is hoped that the large captive population of tigers can one day be reintroduced into the wild.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Toledo Zoo to Release Endangered Butterflies

Tomorrow, July 8, 2010, at 11am, the Toledo Zoo will be releasing endangered Karner blue butterflies in Spencer Township, Ohio. The release is in conjunction with Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Toledo Zoo was the first to breed Karner blues for reintroduction to the wild and have since released over 5,000 of the species into Ohio locations. In the past, the Toledo Zoo has also released hundred of purplish copper butterflies, which are endangered in the state. The breeding techniques utilized in rearing Karner blue and purplish copper butterflies are being used to one day help release other, even more endangered butterflies into the wild.

The Karner blue butterfly is the official state butterfly of New Hampshire, although they are spotted occasionally in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, and New York. They are dependent upon a type of blue-purple flower called the wild lupine, as it is the only source of food for the larvae. While it takes between 30 and 60 days for the butterfly to emerge, from egg through pupation, as an adult, the butterfly typically only lives about four days. Interestingly, the Karner blue butterfly shares a distinct relationship with several ant species. The ants will tend the butterfly larvae (and occasionally eat some of them), and the larvae will emerge as an adult faster, and will have gained more weight.

The Karner blue butterfly is currently considered to be an endangered species. It has been eliminated from five of the states where it used to dwell. Use of herbicides that kill the needed lupine plant, increased deer populations, and mowing or plowing important plants are all leading to the destruction of the Karner blue habitat. Because of their beauty, this species has also been victim to collection by uninformed butterfly enthusiasts. Continued efforts such as the Toronto Zoo's in breeding and releasing butterfly populations is one of the main ways conservationists hope to improve their numbers. Protecting their habitat and increasing awareness about the vulnerability of the species and the importance of the lupine plant are also hoped to increase the population of this blue beauty.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Disney Reveals Plight of Cottontop Tamarins

Disney's Animal Kingdom conservation biologists, headed by Dr. Ann Savage, have determined an accurate population estimate of the critically endangered cottontop tamarin. Dr. Savage reports in the journal Nature Communication that approximately 7,000 individuals remain in the wild. Prior to the study, a reliable way of calculating the population size had not been known. What Dr. Savage discovered is that the cottontop tamarins are attracted to the sound of other tamarin voices. Recorded tamarin vocalizations were played in the cottontop's habitat, as the researchers counted the number of individuals who came to determine the noise's source.

The cottontop tamarin is a small monkey living exclusively in the wild in the rain forests of Columbia. They are small creatures, weighing less than a pound in adulthood, and measuring only six inches from head to start of the tail. They eat a varied diet of natural vegetation and small animals such as lizards and insects. They have an advanced communication system, using 38 different sounds and adhering to grammatical rules. The cottontop tamarin females are especially nurturing, oftentimes forgoing their own fertility to care for other tamarins' young as needed, even sharing food with non-related juveniles.

Forest loss is the main cause for the cottontop tamarin's decline. Even in protected areas, forests have been shrinking. Although they have been protected in Columbia since 1969, the animal was often taken for use in the medicinal, pet trade and zoo industries. It is currently illegal to export the monkey. The cottontop tamarin has been especially sought after by the medicinal community, as it is the only species outside of humans that spontaneously develop colon cancer. Tens of thousands of tamarins were imported into the US in the 1960s and 1970s for research into treatment of the cancer. Dr. Savage's previously mentioned study is the first of its kind, researching the cottontop tamarin. Otherwise, little has been done to protect or research the species. Training local populations to respect the tamarin and the rain forests, and continuing to breed cottontop tamarins in captivity are currently the main conservation efforts being utilized.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Goodfellow's Tree Kangaroo Joey Makes Appearance

A Goodfellow's Tree Kangaroo joey has made its first appearances, six months after its birth. The joey has not yet been named, despite it being approximately 25 weeks old. The baby should emerge fully from its mother's pouch in the next few weeks.

Goodfellow's Tree Kangaroos are currently considered to be endangered, but it is expected that they will be downgraded to the status of critically endangered soon because of their waning populations. Dwelling only on the island of Papau New Guinea, they are solely herbivores, primarily eating the leaves of the Silkwood tree. As can be seen from the above pictures, they are marsupials. They are awkward walkers, but excellent climbers and hoppers. They have been said to hop from standing on the ground to heights of 30 feet.

Tree kangaroos, of which there are approximately 12 species, live exclusively in New Guinea and Australia. Most of them are considered to be either endangered or critically endangered. Logging and other development of rain forests have lead to much of their population decline, as well as being hunted for their fur and meat by the islands' indigenous people. Increasing protected areas and local awareness are recommended to preserve what remains of the species.