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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Easing Florida Panthers' Migration

Conservation groups have protected over 1200 acres near the Florida Everglades, with the purpose of easing the migration of the critically endangered Florida panther. The panthers have been moving with increased frequency from the Everglades into Central Florida. Even though very few of the creatures are presumed to live and travel among the protected area, there are so little of the animals (especially females) left that their preservation is considered a top priority to many.

The Florida panther is perhaps most notably Florida's state animal.  As with all cats, the animal is a carnivore, subsisted primarily on rabbits, birds, and deer. Habitat loss due to human's development is the main cause of the stark population decrease. The panthers require about 200 square miles of habitat per breeding group of one male and three females.

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.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Cute Spotlight: Numbat

The numbat is a little-known marsupial native to Western Australia. The endangered creature, also called the Banded Ant Eater, actually doesn't eat ants at all! They instead feed exclusively on termites, utilizing their long, sticky tongues when the termites crawl out of their mounds. They are quite different from most other marsupials because of their diurnal nature, they are active during the daytime. They put themselves in danger to predators during the daytime because it is the most active time for their termite prey as well.

The numbat was perhaps most affected by the introduction of feral cats, red foxes and rabbits into their territory. The rabbits have overpopulated areas where the numbats had previously dwelled. The foxes and feral cats prey upon the numbats while they sleep in hollow logs, the cover being the only way they protect themselves while they sleep at night. The importance of the log shelters has made the numbat population dependent upon the existence of wooded areas. As Australian populations and development have increased, the number of forests, and their logs have decreased. Current conservation efforts include protection for the numbat under Australian threatened species law, and fox population control.

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.