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

E-mail ConservationCute@gmail.com

Monday, September 19, 2011

Endangered Species of Australian Dolphin Discovered

It had always been assumed that the dolphins located near Melbourne, Australia were nothing more than a common type of bottlenose dolphin. While it is true that they are bottlenose dolphins, and very closely related to their more common cousins, the newly differentiated Tursiops australis, or Burrunan dolphin, is in fact its own species. This discovery came after DNA and skull samples were scrutinized by academics at the Monash University in Melbourne. Specialists are anticipating that the new species of dolphin "may immediately qualify under Australia's criteria for endangered animals," as they have so far been found to only live in one very small region of the ocean, numbering approximately 150 animals in all.

Bottlenose dolphins are notoriously intelligent creatures, solving problems and communicating in both captivity and the wild. In addition to brains, they are gifted with excellent eyesight, plus their ability to "see" using echolocation. The newly discovered Burrunan dolphin is smaller than the common bottlenose dolphin, coming it around eight feet long. Conservation efforts for the Burrunan dolphin have not yet been considered, as its existence was only recently realized.
via BBC

Friday, September 16, 2011

Four Arrested in Indonesia for Pangolin Smuggling

In July, Indonesian officials discovered twenty boxes filled with illegal pangolin meat and scales being shipped to China. MSNBC reports, "Eight tons of meat and scales, worth $269,000, were found in the boxes at Jakarta airport and at a warehouse raided the following day."

Pangolin parts are considered very valuable in Chinese culture, where they are believed to be aphrodisiacs and cure-alls. Using smoke or dogs to flush the nocturnal animals out of their dwellings, poachers easily collect pangolins, although they are becoming increasingly rare. These toothless creatures offer almost no defense against their predators, simply curling into a ball when threatened. The pangolin is protected in a variety of Asian countries, but conservationists want to push for greater penalties for those caught hunting and exporting the animals. As ant and termite eaters, pangolin survival would also benefit from a decrease in forest destruction.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Endangered Status Delayed for the Pacific Walrus

The US Fish & Wildlife Service recently determined that the Pacific Walrus is threatened enough to warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act. A backlog of vulnerable species is delaying the walrus' addition to the list, however, as there are more threatened animals in need of the law. Climate change is believed to be causing the walruses their recent strife, as they depend on drifting sea ice to rear their young. The Pacific Walrus, along with other animals considered in need of the Endangered Species Act, will have its status reviewed annually to raise the importance of the conservation efforts, if necessary. The Marine Mammal Protection Act currently offers the walruses some protection, as hunting, moving, and selling of walrus or walrus parts is illegal.

The walrus is a member of the pinniped family, being closely related to seals and sea lions. Pacific Walruses can weigh up to 4,400 pounds and are known for collecting into tremendous groups, numbering in the tens of thousands. They are easy to distinguish by their large tusks and "whiskers," which are filled with nerves, making them useful for tactile detection. These "whiskers" (officially called vibrissae) may be especially useful in collecting their favorite food, clams, although their method varies from Lewis Carroll's "The Walrus and the Carpenter."

Aside from the recent climate changes, walruses numbers have been decreasing for centuries. Arctic hunters have treasured their meat and blubber for food and their ivory tusks for decoration. Walrus harvesting is now regulated throughout its habitat, restricted to only a few thousand a year, but tribal people are oftentimes still able to hunt for sustenance. It has been proposed that the current levels of harvesting are unsustainable, especially in combination with climate change.