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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

List of Unique and Threatened Mammals Announced

Earlier this month, the Zoological Society of London announced its picks for the most distinct and endangered mammals. Topping its list were several species of echidna, all three of which are considered to be critically endangered. The list is comprised of animals that the ZSL considers to be "evolutionarily distinct," "represent[ing] a huge amount of mammalian genetic diversity." The other animals on the top of this list include the aardvark, platypus, monito del monte (resembling a mouse-monkey cross), two types of Solendons (which resemble large elephant shrews), and the dugong.

The echidna, also called the spiny anteater, is one of only two species of egg-laying mammals (monotremes). Although babies, called puggles, are born from an egg, they hatch inside of their mother's pouch and return to her for breast-feeding. They primarily eat insects, using their long snout and sticky tongue to collect their dinner from anthills and logs. They live exclusively in Papau New Guinea, where they have been hunted to critical endangerment. Some designated areas exist where the echidna cannot be harmed, but more conservation is needed to protect these and all unique and endangered species from extinction.

For a complete listing of the 100 most endangered and unique mammals, visit EDGE.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Extinct-in-the-Wild Pygmy Rabbits Attempt Reintroduction to Nature

The US Fish and Wildlife Service recently completed a five-year study on the status of the Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit. Perhaps the country's most endangered lagomorph, the Washington state rabbit has been on a watchlist of endangered species since 1993. Wild populations of the animal have been extinct since 2004. These tiny creatures, weighing less than one pound in adulthood, have been bred in the Oregon Zoo, Northwest Trek, and Washington State University since that time, although they have not fared well in captivity. To prevent inbreeding, the rabbits have recently been bred with other species of pygmy rabbits, but diseases hidden in their burrows' soil have extinguished many of the new lives.

In 2007, twenty of the captive-bred rabbits were released into the wild in an area where the species was previously known to dwell. Unfortunately, because of the small size of both their bodies and the size of the released population as a whole, it is believed that none survived very long after their release. Further releases into the wild are being considered, but it is unlikely that the next round of pygmy rabbits will do any better against predators this time around.