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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Finless Porpoise at Greater Risk

The finless porpoise has long been considered to be a vulnerable species, with only a few thousand individuals in the wild. A new study has found, however, that there are actually two separate species of finless porpoise, cutting the number of individuals down by half for each type. One lives in the Yangtze River, making it the only porpoise to survive in fresh water. This species is very rare, with approximately 1,000 porpoises living. The other lives in sea water, dwelling in the Yellow Sea and South China Sea. This revelation is hoped to cause more conservation efforts, as each type of finless porpoise has been found to be closer to extinction than previously thought.

The finless porpoise is a midsized marine mammal found primarily in coastal Asian waters. Their name stems from their lacking of a dorsal fin, a small ridge in its place, extending from its blowhole to its tail. They weigh between 65 and 100 pounds, and can grow to over five feet long. Although related to whales and dolphins, their behavior is more subdued, as they tend to be more shy of boats and do less playing in the waves.

The finless porpoise is currently considered to be an endangered species only in China. Their main threats are habit degradation, being caught in fishing nets, and enduring the after-effects of dredging lakes. Pollution has also been considered a dangerous threat, as are boat accidents. Hunting the porpoises has never been popular, as most have an aversion to eating the rare species, but when they are accidentally killed by becoming entangled in nets, or as byproducts of illegal electric fishing, they are sometimes sold as food.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Red Panda Cub Born at Smithsonian Zoo

The first Red Panda cub to be born to the Smithsonian National Zoo in the last fifteen years came into the world on June 16, 2010. It was love at first sight for the cub's parents, who began breeding behavior almost immediately after introduction. Neither of them had previously birthed children. The Red Panda exhibit is currently closed to give the first-time mom and her new cub ample time to bond.

Red Pandas, unlike the panda bears they are named after, are not a type of bear at all. Their closest relatives are actually raccoons and weasels, although there has been ongoing controversy over their correct scientific classification. They are found in the forests of the Himalayas, from Nepal to China, and in India and Myanmar. They primarily eat bamboo and their bodies have evolved to better adapt to foraging for their food of choice. They have retractable claws curving inwards to better grasp bamboo and narrow tree branches.

Because of their beautiful coloration, Red Pandas have been victim to hunting and poaching. As with most, if not all tree-dwelling species, the Red Panda has also been suffering from habitat loss and deforestation. While they are currently only deemed to be vulnerable by the IUCN, but other organizations estimate that the population is smaller than the IUCN has calculated, and believe that the Red Panda should be considered endangered. Despite the fact that it is not technically considered to be endangered, the Red Panda is protected in every country that it dwells. Some areas where they reside have also found conservation status, hoping to protect the population, but the areas can be hard to police. Continued captive breeding programs are recommended by conservationists to keep a healthy strain of the animal alive, as fewer Red Pandas in the wild have led to some inbreeding. Protecting larger areas of land and properly enforcing existing legal protections are also recommended to rescue the Red Panda.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Conservation Protection Sought for Bumblebees

A petition was filed by the Society for Invertebrate Conservation to add several species of bumblebee to the endangered species list. The Rusty Patched, Western, and Yellow Bumblebees have all seen a drop in population in current years, in addition to the Franklin's Bumblebee which is already considered a critically endangered species. The society hopes that the US Department of Agriculture will approve actions to measure and regulate commercial bumblebee movement between states. Diseases are killing off the bumbles, with two species (Franklin's and Rusty Patched) nearing extinction. The petition asks that bumblebees receive certification that they are disease-free in order to be moved to non-native areas in the country.

Bumblebees are most known for their transmission of pollen between plants, vibrating its flight muscles to shake pollen out of oddly-shaped plants, and later to disperse the pollen. Also, the furry hairs on their backs, called pile, accumulates electrostatic charges as they fly, making the pollen attracted to their pile. Only the queen and the worker bees have the ability to sting, while the small male drone bumblebee do not. They are not aggressive insects though and will not sting unless necessary, as the worker bees will die after stinging a human and losing its barb in our muscle tissue. Bumblebees do produce honey, as their honey bee cousins are known for, but they only produce it in quantities to feed their young.

Bumblebees populations have been decreasing because of habitat destruction and the use of pesticides. Bees are estimated to have lost 90% of their population in the last 50 years, with Africanized bees taking over some areas. Bumblebees are especially vulnerable where cotton is grown, as the crop tends to be sprayed with insecticide many times over the growing season. Even in typical lawns, bumblebees are losing ground, as homeowners treat dandelions and clovers as weeds, stripping the bees of necessary nutrients. Other types of development of property and destruction of natural weeds and flowers are just as harmful. Conservationists are hoping to restore wildlife areas and encourage diversifying landscapes with bee-friendly plants.

Indonesian Authorities Rescue Baby Orangutan


Indonesian authorities carried out a successful raid today, rescuing a six-month old orangutan who would have been destined for the underground pet market. Three suspects were arrested, connected to the plan to illegally sell the primate. Indonesia has had many cases of illegal animal trading, but authorities have begun cracking down on suspects, arresting over 20 people for possessing or trading endangered wildlife. The baby is now being cared for by the International Animal Rescue facility in Indonesia. As with most orangutans, it is hoped that it can be reintroduced to the wild after rehabilitation.

While the type of orangutan rescued was not mentioned, all species are at least considered endangered, with the Sumatran orangutan being critically endangered. The word orangutan stems from the Malay words for "man of the forest," which is suiting considering that they live in rainforests and are the most tree-dwelling of the great apes. They are ordinarily solitary animals, coming together primarily for reproduction. They subsist mostly off of fruits, but will find and eat a variety of other foods on their foraging expeditions. Interestingly, orangutans are the only type of primate who have two separate groups of males, with different physical and social characteristics. One group grows to be the twice the size of the females, has long, dark hair, a facial disk, and are very aggressive towards other males. The others grow only to be the size of the females, and are not particularly aggressive. It is believed that they can change from the first type to the second at any point during their lifetimes, seemingly following currently unknown social cues.   

In addition to the illegal pet trade, orangutan populations are threatened by habitat destruction, both natural and man-made. Their rainforests are susceptible to forest fires, as well as being cultivated into plantations, depleting the areas of trees. Orangutans are strictly protected under Indonesian law, but conservationists hope to expand the areas where their habitat is protected. It has been documented that the majority of orangutans live outside of the borders of the protected areas.  

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Invasive Shrub Eradication Halted for Endangered Bird

An effort to kill tamarisk, a salt-cedar shrub, has been stopped as it was found that the trees are used by an endangered bird, the southwestern willow flycatcher. The trees were planted by the millions in the 1930s as a way to fight soil erosion. It was later found that they have a tendency to overtake areas, replacing other plants, sucking up moisture, and increasing the frequency and intensity of fires. Several western and midwestern states had begun releasing many tamarisk leaf beetles, which eat the plants, in order to control the population. It came to the US Department of Agriculture's attention that the southwestern willow flycatcher uses the shrubs to nest in.

The southwestern willow flycatcher is an insectivorous bird, who also sprinkle their diets with fruit. They live and migrate throughout the southwestern US, Mexico, and northern South America. Because of the previously mentioned risk of fire to the tamarisk shrubs, fire is one of the main threats to the species, along with the recent killing off of the tamarisks.
via CBS

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

10 Year Plan to Save Eastern Chimps

The Wildlife Conservation Society and IUCN announced yesterday that they have developed a new plan to help preserve the eastern chimpanzee population. The plan would protect 16 areas where eastern chimpanzees are known to live, containing 96% of their known populations. The "Eastern Chimpanzee: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan; 2010-2020" focuses on eradicating illegal hunting and trafficking, conserving the forests where the chimps reside, and researching chimpanzee health risks.

The eastern chimpanzee is an endangered subspecies of the common chimpanzee. They reside in forests in Africa, ranging throughout Uganda, Tanzania, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo. The primates share 98% of the genes with humans and have fascinated people because of our similarities. Because of this, they have been kept as pets and used for scientific experimentation, as they are susceptible to many of the same diseases as we are. They are omnivores, but subsist mostly off vegetation. Even though they are smaller than people, weighing less than 150 pounds in adulthood, they have five to six times our strength, having far more effective muscles than we do.

Habitat destruction is the number one threat, which is why an emphasis has been placed on it in the creation of the new chimpanzee protection plan mentioned above. Logging, road building, burning forests, and general development of the regions have greatly reduced the places where the chimpanzees can thrive. They are also poached for their meats, captured to be sold as pets, and sometimes intentionally killed to protect a farmer's crops. It is hoped that the ideas set forth by the "Eastern Chimpanzee: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan; 2010-2020" will prove worthwhile in the quest to conserve the eastern chimpanzee species.  

Monday, June 21, 2010

Critically Endangered Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles Rehabbed and Released

Three Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles were released by the National Aquarium on June 19, 2010 after receiving six months of extensive rehabilitation. One of the turtles, later named Marshall, had been found cold-stunned in Massachusetts on December 1, 2009. It is an unfortunate, but common occurrence for turtles who have travelled too far north. After two weeks of slow warming and veterinary services, Marshall was relocated to the National Aquarium, in Baltimore, to receive further treatment. He underwent rehabilitation for pneumonia, a bacterial infection, and many scrapes and cuts. Now that he has been released, fans can still follow the adventures of Marshall, via a transmitter attached to his back, beaming the aquarium information about his current whereabouts.

The Kemp's Ridley is the smallest of the sea turtle species, weighing around 100 pounds when full-grown. They are considered to be critically endangered, the world's most endangered sea turtle, with only 1000 nesting females calculated to exist. The Kemp's Ridley Turtle is the only type of sea turtle to lay its eggs in the daylight hours, when hundreds of females bound up Mexican beaches. Shrimp trawls are the main threat to the turtles, so Turtle Excluder Devices are being put in the nets to keep them from harm's way. Their nesting beaches have been protected as sanctuaries for decades, and conservationists now use the areas as release grounds for hundreds of captive-born hatchlings.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Hope For Beached Fin Whale

For the last three days, a fin whale has been stranded in a Danish fjord. It was thought that the young behemoth was ill and was expected to die in the near future. It had become exhausted after struggling to free itself from the shallow bank. As firemen sprayed it with water, trying to give it a less painful departure from this world, the whale began swimming again today, restoring hope for onlookers. As evening comes, rescuers will try to point the whale in the right direction, back into the high seas.

The fin whale is the second largest animal on the planet (behind only the blue whale), reaching lengths of 88 feet. A newborn weighs 4000 pounds, and an adult can grow to be 150,000 pounds. Because of their size, they, along with the blue whale, produce the lowest-frequency sounds sounds made by any animal.  They live almost exclusively off of krill, an animal similar to a tiny shrimp. Fin whales live to be approximately 100 years old.

Fin whales are currently listed as being endangered, with an estimated 40,000 individuals still remaining in the wild. Fin whale populations are primarily harmed by commercial whalers, seeking their blubber, oil and baleen. In the 1930s, over 28,000 fin whales were caught each year. Hunting of fin whales became illegal in all waters in 1987, though many countries still allow themselves a dozen or so creatures a year to hunt and market. Conservationists continue to push for zero fin whales to be hunted each year.
via AFP

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Zoo Atlanta Giant Panda Artifically Inseminated

A female giant panda was recently artificially inseminated at Zoo Atlanta. It is currently unknown whether the attempt will prove fruitful, as panda births in captivity are rare. Hope is up, however, as two panda cubs have been born to the mother bear in the past. Female pandas are only fertile for two or three days a year, making the insemination that much more difficult. Only time will tell now, hopefully with a cub being born in 90 to 160 days.

The giant panda is an endangered, bamboo-eating bear, indigenous to China. It is interesting that they eat bamboo, which makes up 99% of their diet, as they still have the digestion makeup of a carnivore. They are unable to fully process the vegetation, receiving little energy from it. It is because of this that giant pandas must eat 20 to 30 pounds of bamboo each day, and live relatively solitary, docile lives.

There are an estimated 2000 pandas in the wild and about 250 in captivity. While these numbers have increased recently, the survival of the species remains unsure. Pandas have been victims of poaching since ancient times, but have been less threatened by this in recent times. Increased penalties on poachers, including the death penalty, have demotivated most interested in the money from their skins.The main threat however remains the degradation of their habitat. Because of their love of bamboo, giant pandas have limited options of where to live. As China has expanded development into the hills and mountains where the bamboo grows, giant pandas have had fewer places to roam. Now that captive breeding programs are becoming more successful, the problem is becoming more apparent, as locations simply do not exist in the wild to support the current number of pandas. Panda reserves have been created in the hopes of protecting some land for the pandas, if their numbers return to normal.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Harsher Penalties for Hawaiian Monk Seal Harm

A bill recently became Hawaiian state law, increasing penalties for those caught intentionally harming Hawaiian endangered animals, including the Hawaiian monk seal. Doing so could result in up to a $50,000 fine and five years in prison, as hurting endangered animals has been raised to a class C felony. The Hawaiian monk seal was targeted to be the primary beneficiary of the bill.

The Hawaiian monk seal is currently considered to be critically endangered, with an estimated 1,000 individuals remaining. They are endemic to the Hawaiian Islands and prefer living on islands mostly uninhabited by humans. They eat fish, octopus, eel, and lobster, which they dive as deep as 600 feet to obtain. They have the ability to slow their heart rate down to 10% of the norm when they are diving, reducing their need for oxygen, and increasing the amount of time they can stay underwater, up to 20 minutes.

Because of their aversion to human activity, Hawaiian development is a major factor in the animal's decline. Also, the seals have been historically hunted for their meat and skin, as have the animals that they prey upon, leading to a decrease in available food for the species. Becoming entangled in fishing nets and predation from sharks also have reduced the seal's numbers. Conservation efforts, in addition to the increased penalties mentioned previously, include cleaning marine toxins from their habitat, disallowing humans from certain parts of certain islands (to minimize interaction), removing sharks from areas that the Hawaiian monk seals dwell, and changing fishery regulations to design more seal-friendly methods of gathering fish.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Growing Concern Over Status of African Birds

Three African birds recently had their species survival outlooks lowered. The African Penguin changed from vulnerable to endangered. The Ludwig's Bustard changed from least concern to endangered. The Southern Ground Hornbill was moved from least concern to vulnerable. All three live primarily in southern Africa, where habitats are growing smaller for these and other birds.

The Southern Ground Hornbill (above) is losing its nesting habitat, as large areas in South Africa are cleared naturally by African elephants, and unnaturally for agricultural use. It is the largest species of hornbill, most noted for the large red patches of skin on the face and throat.

African penguins, also called Jackass Penguins for their donkey-like braying, have seen a 60% decrease in population over their last three generations. Their numbers have dwindled for a variety of reasons. Their eggs have long been considered a delicacy, and into the mid-nineteenth century, eggs were smashed after a few days to ensure that only fresh ones reached the public. When the iron ore tanker, MV Treasure, sank in 2000, 19,000 adult penguins were covered in oil. While almost all were rehabilitated and released, the year's breeding season was largely unsuccessful. African penguins are facing even more strife, as nearly 500 individuals have died because of the cold winter weather in South Africa in the last few days.

Ludwig's Bustard has been shown to have a particular problem with South Africa's development. Because of their large size, they are prone to collide with power lines and a solution has not yet been proposed. Visual deterrents have been added to some power lines, but have so far proven unsuccessful.

301 Critically Endangered Tortoises Seized

On June 8, 2010, officials at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport noticed strange movements in a passenger's bag. Upon inspection, 301 tortoises were found taped inside the bag, amidst shredded paper. 285 radiated tortoises, 15 spider tortoises and one Madagascar tortoise were confiscated. In addition to the smuggled turtles, 4.5 pounds of marijuana were discovered. The perpetrator unfortunately escaped, but at least all of the tortoises are being returned to Madagascar.

All three of the species of tortoise confiscated are critically endangered species. The Madagascar tortoise is a particularly rare animal, with only 200 adults estimated in the wild. Illegal pet trade has been a primary cause of the animal's decline, and was apparently going to spirit away one more of the few remaining individuals were it not for the airport's intervention.

The radiated tortoise is known for being the breed of the oldest reptile ever recorded, Tu'i Malila, and for the beautiful star pattern on the plates of their shells. The spider tortoise has been exploited for its meat for decades, partially because of the decline of the preferred radiated tortoise. While all three of these species are protected by Madagascan law, little is done legally to keep the tortoises protected.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Cute Spotlight: Bilby

The bilby is a vulnerable marsupial, indigenous to Australia. As they are a member of the bandicoot family, they are sometimes known as Rabbit-Eared Bandicoots. They are omnivores, eating a variety of fruits, insects, and seeds every night. They obtain nearly all of their water through their food and do not have to regularly drink. They have excellent hearing and smelling senses, but cannot see well. This serves them well though, as they spend most of their time in their burrows.

Through the 1980s and the early 1990s, bilbies were considered to be an endangered species, but since 1994, they have bumped their numbers up to the "vulnerable" level instead. The proliferation of rabbit populations throughout Australia has been a significant factor in bilby decline. Rabbits eat some similar foods as bilbies and live and burrow in similar areas. Foxes, dingos and feral cats are also threats to the bilbies, as are shrinking habitats and the danger of vehicles.

Save the Bilby campaigns and Easter Bilby advertising have brought this critter back from the brink of extinction. The Easter Bilby campaign has been established to raise awareness and appreciation of of the bilby. Because of the effort, bilby-shaped chocolates have become an Australian Easter staple, oftentime with chocolate bilby profits going towards the animal's conservation. Bilbies are still a protected animal all throughout Australia.

Malaysia Plans to Trap and Breed Bornean Rhino

The world's smallest rhinoceros, the Bornean Rhino, a breed of Sumatran Rhino, is dangerously close to total extinction in the wild. IUCN has categorized it as being critically endangered. Approximately 40 individuals remain, leading many to predict that current conservation methods are not aggressive enough to save the species. Malaysian officials are planning a new course of action, constructing a trap for a solitary female with the hopes to breed her with a previously rescued male. Researchers have been watching the female for several years and, without viewing a pregnancy, fear she may not be getting enough natural interaction with other rhinos to produce offspring. The trap, a concealed hole in the female's territory, has been constructed. Now it is just a matter of time, waiting for the female to become trapped and introduced to what will hopefully become her new mate.

As previously mentioned, the Bornean Rhinoceros is the world's smallest rhino, reaching only four to five feet tall at the shoulder. It has recently been proposed that it may be a relative of the Woolly Mammoth. Rhinos are herbivores, gnawing on tree saplings and enjoying salt licks. Sumatran Rhinos are the most vocal of the rhinoceros species. Like all rhinos, they have poor vision and enjoy wallowing in mud. Wallowing has proven to be incredibly important to the rhinoceros, as deprivation of mud pools in captivity has lead to many deaths.

Poaching is a major problem for all rhinoceroses, with Sumatran Rhino horns fetching up to $30,000 per kilogram on the black market. According to traditional medicine, their horns can help protect against poison and their meat can be used to cure leprosy and tuberculosis. Aside from poaching, logging of the rhino's habitat is also a substantial threat. The types of wood that rhinos typically live amongst tend to be particularly expensive. Also, because of the small number of surviving animals, breeding is becoming more rare, as rhinos do not often come into contact with each other.

Conservation is often difficult, as Sumatran Rhinoceroses do not tend to thrive in captivity. Most notably, from 1984 to 1996, 40 Sumatran Rhinos were transplanted into zoos and reserves in an attempt to breed them and preserve the species. By 1997, more than half of the captured rhinos had died. In 2004, all but eight died from a surra outbreak. In all of this time, no calves had been born at all and the project was fully deemed a failure. More research is needed to determine how the population can best be helped, although another large-scale capture-and-breed initiative seems unlikely.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Great Bustard Chicks Born in UK

Four great bustard chicks were recently spotted in the UK wild. This is an important event for conservationists, who began reintroducing this bird to Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, six years ago. The Great Bustard Group has been taking eggs from Russia, breeding them, and releasing their young in the UK. This is the second year that the group has seen chicks being hatched in the wild. 

Great bustards are currently deemed to be vulnerable to eradication, with approximately 35,000 birds calculated to exist. Most bustard species are considered either endangered, or at least with populations dwindling in size. They had been hunted to extinction in the UK during the 1800s, partially because of the bird's enormous size-- it is the world's heaviest flying bird, weighing up to 45 pounds. They also make beautiful trophy birds, with their colorful, large plumage. They are omnivores, eating a diet of seeds, insects, frogs, and beetles. The great bustard is the national bird of Hungary.

Hunting is no longer as dangerous to the species as it once had been. Now, as with most birds, their real threat comes from  habitat loss and development. In particular, electricity lines pose a risk to the birds, who despite their size can fly quite quickly, becoming entangled and electrocuted by wires. 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Four Endangered Tajik Markhors Born

The Los Angeles Zoo has announced the recent birth of two pairs of Tajik markhors--two boys and two girls. These are the first markhors to be born at the LA Zoo. The parents and kids will soon be on display for the public. 

Markhors are a type of large wild goat. Their name is Persian for "snake eater," despite the fact that they are herbivores. They dwell in Middle Eastern mountains, spanning Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. While adult males are mostly solitary creatures, most markhors have been found to live in groups of nine. It is believed that modern, domesticated goats are a cross between wild goats and the markhor. The markhor is the national animal of Pakistan.

They are considered to be endangered creatures, number only in the thousands. Hunting is the primary reason for the population decline, as their beautifully cork-screwing horns are seen as excellent trophies for huntsmen. The horns are also used for medicinal purposes in traditional Asian medicine, and can bring up to $2200 per pound. In India, Afghanistan and Pakistan, it is illegal to hunt markhors, with the exception of trophy hunts in Pakistan, using the money from the very expensive markhor permits towards their conservation and towards the local communities.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Pygmy Hippo Born in African Conservation Center

A rare pygmy hippo was born in the Mokopane Biodiversity Conservation Centre on May 28, 2010. The newborn is especially important to hippopotamus conservation efforts because male babies are particularly uncommon. The baby's name is Oxo.

Pygmy hippos are considered an endangered species by IUCN. Estimates suggest that there are currently fewer than 3000 pygmy hippos. While smaller than its relative, the common hippopotamus, pygmy hippos still clock in between 400 and 600 pounds when fully grown. They are herbivorous mammals that enjoy being submerged in a marsh, resting, by day, and feeding on forest vegetation by night.

The biggest threat to pygmy hippo populations is the deforestation occurring in Africa. Hippos are relatively territorial and solitary, so the decreased size of their grazing land cannot support a more tightly packed group. Collecting the hippos and breeding them in captivity is currently the only hope for conservation of the species.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Released Regent Honeyeaters Doing Well

44 captive-bred Regent Honeyeaters were released mid-May by an Australian National Park. At least 36 of them have been spotted in the wild and appear to be blending in with their wildborn counterparts. Birds Australia has put together a National Regent Honeyeater Recovery group, hoping to boost the populations of these beautiful creatures. Most of the released birds have remained within park boundaries, but some have sought greater freedom. Monitoring their behavior and tracking the individual honeyeaters will continue through mid-July.

The Regent Honeyeater has been considered endangered since 1994. It is found exclusively in south-east Australia, but had once been found throughout southern Australia when the population was larger. Honeyeaters differ from the American hummingbird in many ways besides the obvious size. Honeyeaters do not have the ability to hover as hummingbirds do, but instead perch themselves on flowers or nearby branches. They do eat some small insects and fruits, but subsist primarily off of nectar. The Regent Honeyeater is thought to be the only bird who mimics the calls of other, closely-related bird species.

It is currently estimated that 1500 Regent Honeyeaters remain. Development of their habitats and destruction of flowering plants are considered the main threats to these birds. Conservation efforts include breeding more Regent Honeyeaters in captivity, replanting habitat trees and the flowers from which they eat. It is hoped that certain portions of land may be protected to rehabilitate the area the honeyeaters call home.

Cute Spotlight: Pygmy Tarsier

These wide eyed furballs were actually thought to be extinct since the 1920s! Were it not for the accidental killing of one while scientists were trapping rats in 2000, their existence would not have been known. In 2008, three more pygmy tarsiers were found and have been collared so more research may be done on them. There are still too few creatures for the IUCN to even make a determination as to their current endangered status.

The larger group of tarsiers as a whole are the only primates who are exclusively carnivorous, eating mostly insects and some small birds and lizards. They are dispersed among the islands of Southeast Asia, and pygmy tarsiers are found only in Indonesia. Tarsier conservation is particularly difficult because of their inability to cope with life in captivity. They have never successfully bred in an enclosure, and tarsiers have been known to injure or kill themselves because of the stress of being caged. Since 2008, numerous expeditions to find more pygmy tarsiers have all proved unsuccessful.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Loggerheads Rescued by SeaWorld Orlando

On May 6, SeaWorld Orlando rescued their 303rd sea turtle of 2010. As are many rehabilitated turtles, this large male presented itself covered in barnacles and emaciated. The Animal Rescue Team placed the 270-pound turtle on antibiotics and cleaned him of his barnacles. He has begun eating on his own and is planned to be released in the San Carlos Bay once he has fully recovered. So far (presently June), SeaWorld has rescued 304 turtles and has released 245, in 2010 alone. SeaWorld is currently the leader in endangered sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation.

Loggerhead turtles are omnivorous marine reptiles, living in almost all parts of the world where temperatures remain above 60*F. Florida is a particularly popular destination for the turtles, building up to 67,000 nests each year on the state's coasts. They are most active during the day, dividing their waking hours between resting and searching for food. Sea turtles are one of only a few animals that prey upon jellyfish, although most other marine life is also on their list of edibles (even sponges and corals). They ordinarily only stay underwater for fifteen to twenty minutes before coming to the surface for a breath, but have the ability to stay underwater for up to four hours.

Loggerheads, along with all of their sea turtle cousins, are considered to be an endangered species. Most turtles are harmed as a byproduct of fishing-- becoming entangled in nets. USA shrimpers' mandated Turtle Excluder Devices have reduced the number of sea turtles caught in fishing nets substantially, keeping turtles and other large creatures physically unable to be caught. Turtle nesting areas have also shrunk over time, as their beaches have become developed. Development of cities and the lights they produce have disrupted sea turtles' nests, as newly hatched turtles use the reflection of the moonlight over the ocean to guide them to water. Conservation campaigning has lowered the demand for turtle meat, as it is now almost globally illegal to consume.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Two White-Naped Crane Chicks Hatched

It was recently announced that two White-naped Cranes chicks hatched on May 12 and May 14, 2010. They were born under a crane species survival program at Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. The genes in the two new chicks are incredibly important to the survival of the species. The chicks were conceived via artificial insemination. The chicks' parents were cranes who had been unable to reproduce in captivity before because of behavioral or physical impairments. While this may seem like a bane to the genetic strength of the birds, the diversity that these unused genes can bring to the species is invaluable. There are so few cranes in these breeding programs, having new blood in the mix is a necessity.

White-naped Cranes are currently considered to be vulnerable by IUCN due to their dwindling population. Estimates place the White-naped Crane population to be between 5,000 and 6,500 birds. These cranes are native to much of Asia, inhabiting Japan, China, Russia, Mongolia, and North and South Korea. White-naped Cranes are known for their digging abilities and their dancing during courtship. They are omnivores, living off vegetation and small animals in wetland areas. It is because of the development of the wetlands and the creation of dams that the cranes are thought to be dying. Current conservation efforts include artificially feeding the birds and working to give them protected status in the countries they habituate.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Malayan Tapir Born to Edinburgh Zoo

The birth of the baby, named Kamal (meaning perfection), was announced earlier this week. He was born April 23, 2010 and has recently been put on display.

Tapirs are notoriously hard to breed in captivity, but the parents of this youngster have previously had two other tapir calves. Hopefully, his parents have passed on their receptive nature for reproduction, as Kamal will be transferred to another zoo's breeding program in only 18 months, just as his brother and sister have done before him.

For more information on tapirs, please see the recently posted Cute Spotlight: Malayan Tapir article.