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From India to Indiana, find out what's happening around the globe in the world of travel and animal conservation.

Tropical Kingfishers Under Threat

On Care2.com, Jake Richardson reports there are less than 125 tropical kingfishers left. A particularly colorful bird, the Tuamotu Kingfisher lives on only one small island called Niau in the South Pacific, and its population is severally depleted. At one point in the early 70s, there were reports of as many as 600 of the yellow-bodied, blue-winged birds, but since then their numbers have plummeted. Threats to their survival include rats, feral cats and storms that knock down the trees in which they nest.

There are only about 150 people living alongside the birds on Niau, and they’re being educated as to how to best look out for the birds’ survival. However, as a University of Missouri researcher notes, every year when they return to do data polls “the population is still crashing.”

Possibly translocating a small population of the Tuamotu Kingfisher is being considered, as well as a captive breeding program. Volunteers wishing to help with the efforts can contact BirdLife International.

Rare Ocelot Sighting in Arizona

An ocelot was recently spotted in southern Arizona by a man working in his yard. This is the first confirmed sighting of an ocelot in Arizona since 2009.

Previously, ocelots lived in abundance in the area, but their numbers have been in serious decline since they were once hunted for their fur. Although they have enjoyed protected status since 1972, there aren’t too many of them left: habitat destruction, being killed by dogs and passing cars, and being shot by ranchers and others has made their struggle to survive difficult. And because they require a huge territory in which to move, finding natural habitat for them to live and forage in is all but impossible.

Inbreeding, due to their small population numbers, is another problem. However, the U.S. Forest and Wildlife Service is considering plans to introduce wild ocelots from Mexico into the American population in hopes of expanding their genetic diversity.

Day of the Dolphin

Jake Richardson (Care2.com) has posted an article about the release of a bottlenose dolphin named Louie, found on a Louisiana beach covered with oil following the disaster in the Gulf. At the time, he was given a 5% chance of survival.
Rescued by the Louisiana Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Rescue foundation, he was taken to the Audobon Aquatic Center in New Orleans, where the team cleaned him of the oil. However, “he was so sick he couldn’t float on his own. He had to be held up in the water 24 hours a day in order to breathe properly. He also wasn’t swimming,” writes Richardson. “It took five months and 700 hours of rehabilitation to get him to his current healthy state.” (One wonders if any of the BP executives took the time to hold Louie afloat in his tank, or help in his rehabilitation process.)

After five months, Louie is now healthy enough to be released from rehab. Estimated to be less than two-years-old, he’s incapable of surviving on his own since he was separated from his wild herd and can’t defend himself nor hunt for food. Therefore, he’s been moved to the Dolphin Research Center on Grassy Key, Florida. Even though he remains in captivity, at least he isn’t being returned to the Gulf - where drilling continues.

Monarch Migration Back on the Right Track...At Least for Now

If the signs are right, the North America monarch butterfly might be on the mend. AP reports that the number of monarchs migrating to Mexico from Canada and the U.S. this year has “more than doubled from last year’s record low.” This year, there were 9.9 acres of colonies - which is up from 4.7 acres recorded in 2010.
Still, the uptick in numbers is still far below where it once was. Although reports showed almost 10 acres of the insects for this year’s migration, in 2008, butterflies covered nearly 20 acres; in ’97, it was 45 acres.

Monarchs winter in Mexico, using pine forests as blankets. So the recent deforestation in the Mexican state of Michoacan is being seen as partially to blame for their decline in numbers. However, climate change, pesticides and GMOs (genetically modified organisms) have also played a part. While the numbers for this year are encouraging after 2010’s dismal report, there is still much to be done to help return them to their former, healthier averages.

National Symbol to Receive a Boost

In January 2011, the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department (VFW) announced its Bald Eagle Recovery Plan to restore the species to the eastern state. According to Wayne Laroche, Commissioner of  the VFW, “No eagles were nesting in the state until 2008, when a pair of eagles successfully raised one of their young at a nest in Concord.”

“One pair” is a far cry from the hundreds of thousands of bald eagles that once soared through the skies of North America. However, development, pollution and hunting of the birds led to their precipitous decline so that by the early 1960s, only about 100 birds remained. A concentrated conservation effort was initiated and the eagles were listed under the Endangered Species Act, and today they enjoy protected status in 48 states.

The Recovery Plan is aimed at bringing back the birds to breed in the state (as they do in other states, and Canadian provinces). With any luck, the plan initiated by the VFW will help bring the bald eagle back to Vermont so that once again the symbol of American freedom will fly across the open fields and verdant hills.

Seal-ing the Fate of Canada’s Seal Trade

As anyone who’s every looked at a baby harp seal can tell you, with those coal-black eyes set against their pearl-white fur, they embody the word “adorable.” What isn’t so adorable is the slaughter of those same baby seals for distribution as products meant for human consumption.

Yet Canada - which is the largest exporter of the fur skins that the baby seals are killed for - is still sanctioning the annual slaughter. The Canadian Marine Mammal Regulations governs the hunt, and stipulates that sealers may kill seals with wooden clubs, pick-like clubs and guns. (Most of the killings happen in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and on the northeast front of Newfoundland.) But because the sealskin processing plants won’t pay as much for seal skins with bullet holes in them, the sealers are in essence encouraged to club the seals to death.

Hoping to end the senseless slaughter, the ProtectSeals (led by the Humane Society International/Europe) campaign has enlisted the support of restaurants and grocery stores in the US to ban the purchase of Canadian seafood. What’s the connection? The seals are killed by Canadian fishermen in the off-season. So the logic follows that if you boycott the use of Canadian seafood, the government and the fishermen will take notice.

For more information on the campaign, go to: www.hsi.org/world/europe/protectseals.html

Cyber Conservationists?

Who new conservation was just a mouse click away? Facebook, one of the great social forums of our time, recently introduced a new game, sponsored by Sony called Wildlife Refuge. Similar to Animal Farm, the game allows players the chance to create their own animal habitat by “building” refuges, “exploring” the safari, “taking care” of endangered animals and compiling various collections for their virtual habitat. Sony will donate a percentage of the proceeds generated from Wildlife Refuge (via various purchasable items) to the Cheetah Conservation Fund. The game encourages players to build up their “ecosystem rating,” no doubt enforcing a socially positive view of conservation.

An American Icon Needs Your Support

Bison populations reached near extinction in the 1800’s when they were relentlessly hunted by early settlers. Now, a group of bison in Yellowstone, known as the Yellowstone 60, are in danger of being killed if money is not generated to properly manage them. Defenders of Wildlife has partnered with Native American Indians of the Fort Belknap and For Peck reservations, who have volunteered to maintain the bison if enough money is raised for the building of proper facilities and infrastructure. Thanks to those who have already donated, 27,000 acres of bison habitat has now been secured. What’s next?  Contribute to the future of the American bison by visiting www.defenders.org to learn more about the campaign and to donate.

Protecting Right Whales With All The Right Moves

High above the Southeastern coast of the U.S., EcoHealth Alliance (an organization dedicated to environmental wellbeing) conducts flights on an average of two days a week, which provides conservationists a bird’s eye view of the North Atlantic right whales that migrate from November through April. Far from being a simple joy ride, these flights -sponsored in part by The South Carolina State Ports Authority (SCSPA) - allow researchers to know the endangered whales’ location, breeding patterns and general behavior. In turn, the aerial crews are able to alert captains of both commercial and military ships on the presence of these gentle giants. “Alerting shipping officials about the whereabouts of these slow moving mammals keeps them out of harm’s way,” explains Cynthia R. Taylor, Associate Vice President of the Aquatic Conservation Program at EcoHealth Alliance. “The biggest threats to right whales are from ship collisions and entanglement in fishing gear, so we immediately alert rescue crews when we see whales that are in trouble.”

Invasive Florida Fish Threatens Native Ecosystem

The lionfish has adversely affected the native waters it has decided to call home since it was first spotted in the Key West area two years ago. In fact, wildlife officials are sponsoring multiple competitions referred to as “lionfish derbies,” in hopes of cutting the population down. Unfortunately, lionfish breed voraciously, spawning up to 30,000 eggs every four days— spelling out trouble for the native ecosystem. Scientists have studied the stomachs of over 1,000 lionfish and have found more than 50 different species of fish inside, including commercially important species like the grouper, snapper and parrotfish (the latter of which eats the algae that would otherwise suffocate delicate coral reefs.) When invasive species such as the lionfish dominate the natural cycles of native species, the native species are not able to survive like they once did, which in turn has a powerful effect on the environment.

Russia, China and DiCaprio Unite to Save an Endangered Species

Only a century ago, the word’s wild tiger population was 100,000—today it is only 3,200. This sad truth has prompted “tiger nations” such as Russia and China to take action. Recently, diplomats from 13 countries agreed to co-op projects that will double the species’ population by 2022. The Tiger Summit was hosted by Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg. Delegates of the summit issued the following statement: “The tiger is one of the most important indicators of a healthy ecosystem…we vow to do everything possible to effectively manage, preserve, protect and enhance tiger habitats.”

In addition to summit leaders, tigers also have a friend in a famous actor, “Leo”nardo DiCaprio, who attended the meeting in St. Petersburg, donating $1 million of his own to the cause. Besides this recent donation, DiCaprio has already helped raise $20 million for the World Wildlife Fund.

Sharks Score A Victory

Just in time for Christmas comes some good news: After much backing-and-forthing, Congress has finally passed the Shark Conservation Act. This is a monumental bill (originally introduced by Senator John Kerry) in that it seeks to protect a vast array of shark species from being hunted solely for their fins. Worldwide, an estimated 73 million (yes, that is “million”) sharks are taken from the ocean every year to feed the demands in Asian countries for shark fin soup - apparently a sign of wealth in those societies. The shark-fin trade even has its own mafia that has moved into various places around the world where there are little to no safeguards in place.

Although the bill seeks to protect sharks in U.S. waters (save for the smooth dogfish, which escaped protection), the wording of it also promises that there will be increased pressure on other countries with whom the U.S. has trade agreements to enact similar laws. As noted by Matt Rand, director of the Pew Environment Group’s Global Shark Conservation Campaign, “The Shark Conservation Act would once and for all end the practice of shark finning in U.S. waters and give the United States the credibility to persuade other nations and international fishery managers to follow suit.”

Not Monkeying Around

Jake Richardson of Care2.com has reported that in the Amazon forest of Columbia, a new titi monkey species has been discovered by Universidad Nacional de Colombia Professors Thomas Defler and Marta Bueno, with the help of undergraduate student Javier Garcia.

Of note is the fact that Garcia is from the area called Caqueta, where the species was discovered. Until recently, the area has been overrun with insurgents so exploration of the dangerous area was unpredictable at best.

“This discovery is extremely exciting because we had heard about this animal,” says Dr. Defler. “But for a long time we could not confirm if it was different from other titi (monkeys). We now know it is a unique species.”

Discoveries such as this (the monkey has a red, bushy beard with grayish-brown hair and a long tail) make conservation of the Amazon all the more important. “World leaders  must commit to the creation of many more protected areas if we want to ensure the survival of threatened creatures like this in the Amazon and around the world,” noted Jose Vicente Rodriquez, head of science at Conservation International - a group that supported the research project which eventually led to the species’ discovery.

Albino Whale Reappears in Australia

In another Care2 posting by Jake Richardson, the world’s only known documented albino humpback whale - named Migaloo - is being seen once again near Green Island. Migaloo has been a regular visitor to the coast of Australia. Quite the celebrity, his skin has been described as “iridescent.”

Migallo’s name is aboriginal and translates to “white fellow.” He’s believed to be between 22 and 24 years old. (The life span of a humpback is between 30-50 years.)

Humpback whales are endangered and as such Australian laws carry heavy fines for anyone found closer than 500 meters in a boat. (The stiff penalty is $16,000 AUS.) With all of the attention surrounding the “white fellow,” it’s admirable that the Australian government is doing their part of help keep him - and other whales - safe from harassment or injury.

Red Fish, Blue Fish, She fish, He-She fish?

According to the Prairie Post, University of Calgary researchers have found that certain chemicals composed of estrogen (man-made as well as naturally occurring) have been linked to the feminization of fish in Canadian waters. These chemicals were present along nearly 600 km of river and have a major potential to harm fish. Tests conducted on male minnow known as longnose dace showed elevated levels of a protein called hepatic vitellogenin, normally only found in the blood of females and used by females to produce eggs. Therefore the fish had been exposed to estrogen (or estrogen like chemicals) including birth control pill compounds and hormone therapy drugs.

Bisphenol A, which is used in making plastics and certain types of natural and synthetic steroids and are by-products of agricultural run-off and cattle production, have also been found in the water. In some sites, up to 44% of the male fish had eggs in their testes, no doubt affecting reproduction rates. Fewer male fish able to reproduce means fewer fish born into the population in the future. Researchers hope to use this information to find ways to decrease the harmful chemicals in these waters, as well as educate nearby businesses about their responsibility to better manage waste.

Nepal and India Work Together to Save Tigers

According to the Daily News & Analysis, Nepal and India have joined forces to conserve tiger populations within their borders while simultaneously combatting the illegal trade in the wild animals. The first International Tiger Conservation Day marked this joint effort, as both Nepal and India want to show the rest of the global community they are serious about conserving their tigers, especially since half the world’s tiger population resides within these two regions. Experts believe the joint effort will prove to be a success as both countries have a good past record of working together.

Red Kites Soar Again over the UK

Over the next three years, 90 red kites (reddish-brown birds weighing only 2-4 lbs. with a wing span of around 5ft) will be released in the Grizedale Forest in Lake District in England, according to nature writer Jake Richardson. Unfortunately, red kites were exterminated in several parts of the United Kingdom, as they were considered to be pests and a major threat to agriculture. (In the 16th century, the birds were even listed under the Vermin Acts which required their populations to be demolished.) However, with the assistance of conservation experts, the future for the red kite looks much brighter. Wales now has about 600 breeding pairs, a promising number for conservationists.

Penguins Receive Protections Under Endangered Species Act

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced in August that five species of penguin have been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. The yellow-eyed penguin, white-flippered penguin, Fiordland crested penguin, Humboldt penguin, and erect-crested penguin have seen steady decline in their populations over the last several years, which leaves Service Director Rowan Gould praising the United States’ "continued efforts to promote global conservation” at a recent press conference. These endangered penguins are found in New Zealand, Chile and Peru and are often killed as the result of accidental catching by commercial fisherman, as well as loss of habitat. The new protections will prohibit the import or export of the species for their parts, products or sale.

Power Company Proves to be Hero for Osprey Chicks

The utility company Minnesota Power has been an unexpected hero for osprey raptor chicks (not to be confused with hawks or eagles) over the past ten years, according to conservation writer Jack Richardson. How might you ask? By kindly relocating chicks south to Iowa where they are relocated to wild areas, far from the dangers of urban areas and the utility transmission structures where they are found. This year 12 chicks were relocated. Sixty-seven total chicks were counted in the survey area, which means there are still plenty remaining in northern Minnesota. The chicks enjoy the many Iowa lakes, where they are able to enjoy their favorite meal: fresh fish.

A "Zedonk" Charms Animal-Lovers

In late July, officials at the Chestatee Wildlife Preserve in Georgia were surprised when one of their animals birthed an extremely unusual baby girl: a "zedonk." The mammal is a cross between a zebra and a donkey, and it's amazingly adorable: she's got black stripes like a zebra, and a slender face like a donkey.

The mating of the preserve's male zebra and female donkey - who were thought to be merely friends, but are no longer denying their relationship - is unusual, especially given that in 40 years it's the first time it's happened at the facility. Additionally, although the baby crossbreed is extremely popular with visitors to the preserve (and no doubt will be welcomed into the herd by animals on either side of her heritage), she won't be able to have babies of her own: zedonk hybrids are born infertile.

Gorillas in the Midst

Staring in September 2011, the Dublin Zoo will begin construction on a rainforest habitat that will feature dense vegetation, streams, rocks and small hills for a more realistic habitat for the gorillas who live there. Paths through the new habitat will be featured, allowing visitors to observe the five gorillas that will be housed there.

"This development has been a few years in the planning and when completed will be the envy of zoos everywhere," notes zoo director Leo Oosterweghel in the Independent.

While gorillas would undoubtedly be happier living in their natural environment in Africa, the danger of poaching and loss of habitat has resulted in the decrease in their numbers worldwide, with zoo homes at least providing a safe place for them to live.

The Dublin group of Western Lowland Gorillas is part of a breeding population of approximately 400 that are kept in European zoos. The new habitat that will house the group will also feature a larger area for the confined gorillas to get exercise - an important component of their daily routine, as the large primates are especially vulnerable to heart disease due to their mainly sedentary lifestyle.

Frog Fungus Threatens

Nature News has reported that a "mysterious, frog-killing fungus" is making its way through Central America, wiping out entire species as it continues on its deadly path.
The fungus, known as Batrochochytrium dendrobatidi causes a disease that attacks the frogs' skin, thickening it to the point that they have trouble breathing and absorbing electrolytes. In Panama, researchers have spent the past ten years surveying the Omar Torrijos National Park in an effort to document its biodiversity before the fungus destroys it. The bad news is that of 11 new species discovered, five have since been lost to the fungus. At the start of their research, biologists discovered 74 species within the park; 30 of those have since completely disappeared. As an expert in fungus-type diseases notes, "Part of what's so alarming is that these long-term survivors are dropping off the face of the earth."

Divers Diverted in Malaysia

As most divers know, damage to coral reefs can be devastating for the marine ecosystems that surround them. In light of the fact that record numbers of coral reefs are being killed off by global warming and the intrusion of human activities into their fragile environment, several major dive sites in Malaysia are being closed to divers. A total of 12 reefs are being closed in order to reduce the stress they’re experiencing so that they can be provided with a chance recuperate.

According to the news source Telegraph, as much as 90% of the coral under question is turning white - a devastating sign of impending doom. Rising sea temperatures is one of the causes for coral bleaching, which is a difficult factor to control; but the reduction of human dive traffic - which is a controllable factor - will help to reduce added pressures on the living organisms.

“In Malaysia,” notes Yeap Chin Aik of the Malaysian Nature Society, “corals are facing a vast variety of threats - even without the coral bleaching.” The Department of Marine Parks has claimed that it is solely due to the rising of sea temperatures, but nevertheless the country has chosen to give its reefs a break and disallow diving at the sites at least until October.

The Pain in Spain

Catalonia has officially become the first major region in Spain to outlaw bullfighting.
The ban, which passed by a margin of 68 to 55 votes, will go into effect this year. Although only one Barcelona bullring is currently operating, animal rights activists are nevertheless pleased.

Jose Ramon Mallen, an animal rights representative working with Fundacion Equanimal, was quoted as saying, “This is a historic day for all those who have worked to promote animal rights in a modern society like ours... This is not about politics and Catalan identity but about ethics and showing that it’s simply wrong to enjoy watching an animal getting killed in public.”

The bullring in Barcelona doesn’t draw the number of spectators that the one in Madrid does, so the victory was perhaps easier to accomplish in the coastal city. However, animal rights groups are now focusing their attention on Madrid as well. Recently, a petition against the practiced garnered 50,000 signatures - an encouraging sign for the abolition of the sport in yet another major Spanish city.

Catch Her in the Rye

A hotelier named Hugh Davie of Strand House in Rye, England, came to the rescue of a local sheep that had fallen into the Brede river and couldn’t get out. Davie apparently jumped into the river himself to assist the flailing livestock, grabbed it by its neck and towed it ashore - then pushed it onto the bank. After the animal was retrieved, Davie phoned the sheep’s owner (a local farmer) and she was collected from a nearby pub. Later, upon hearing the story, the farmer returned with a bottle of whiskey by way of a grateful ‘thanks.”

The Fates of Magellans

During a two-week time span, hundreds of dead Magellan penguins washed ashore in Brazil, confounding biologists. Over 500 birds turned up on three different beaches in the area of Sao Paulo, and when autopsies were performed their stomachs turned out to be completely empty.

Experts are speculating that the birds starved to death during their migration from Argentina, Chile and the Falkland Islands. Rafael Ramos, a veterinarian at the Periube Aquarium, says that the penguins come in on the currents looking for food. “Many of them are young and inexperienced, and when they don’t find food they keep coming with the currents and eventually find themselves in Brazilian waters.” Normally, however, only about 10 birds are found dead - so this recent discovery has some frightening undertones. As another biologist notes, “Overfishing may have made the fish and squid scarce.”

Rhinos Return Home After an Extended Stay Abroad

Over the next two years, a $7 million conservation plan headed by The Grumeti Community and Wildlife Conservation Fund will return over 30 black rhinos to Tanzania from South Africa. So far, five 2,000 lb. rhinos have been flown to the Serengeti, Ngorongoro and Maasai Mara National Parks, while the others are soon to arrive in groups of six. In order to protect the homebound travelers, rangers have been assembled to guard them against greedy poachers seeking to capitalize on their horns and body parts (which are falsely believed to contain healing and aphrodisiac substances). In related news, a large group of poachers were arrested in Nepal’s Chitwan National Park, with one man receiving 15 years after reportedly killing nine rhinos.

Wild Horse Count in Question

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is working in conjunction with Forest Service officials to calculate a new count of wild horse populations in Nevada and Oregon. The census is to include four million acres of federal land, primarily the areas around Sheldon and Hart Mountain National Wildlife Refuges. In the past, the BLM has been criticized for overestimating wild horse populations in an effort to remove large numbers from the area, oftentimes selling them to slaughterhouses for overseas consumption while publicly claiming an interest in the region’s “environmental health” and wildlife species. In order to prevent an exaggerated count, conservation organizations are urging for a independent census to also be taken.

Threatening Disease Jeopardizes Siberian Tiger Population

As if the endangered Siberian tiger didn’t have enough to contend with already (think habitat loss and poaching), a mysterious disease is currently effecting the tiger population in eastern Russia. Experts believe the disease is neurological as it causes bizarre behavior in the animals, such as a total loss in their ability to hunt food in the wild - which in turn causes them to drop most of their body weight and roam into
human communities in a desperate attempt to locate food.  Wildlife officials in Eastern Russia recently killed a ten-year-old tigress named Gayla, who had been monitored by researchers for years, as they were ultimately unable to control her since she had lost her fear of humans. Gayla was the fourth radio-collared tiger to die in the past ten months, and all four of the tigers had been in contact with a male tiger who is thought to be a carrier of the disease. Although poaching is still the Siberian tiger’s biggest threat (responsible for nearly 75% of deaths) this strange new ailment could be the ultimate downfall of the species. The Wildlife Conservation Society of Russia reported in 2009 that there were only 252 adult tigers in the wild. Furthermore, experts fear that if more than 22 females die, the species could be in immediate danger of extinction.

Bluefin Tuna Numbers Plummet

Bluefin tuna have been fished throughout the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Mediterranean Sea almost to the point of extinction, and now, with the recent oil spill off the Gulf coast, have it even harder. Crude oil wreaked havoc on the region’s delicate spawning grounds this season, reducing already low tuna populations. However, environmental groups are using the dismal BP disaster to ask the federal government to consider the bluefin an endangered species, which would provide increased protections for the fish. On a broader level however, a proposal at a global wildlife conference in Qatar earlier this year to consider the bluefin eligible for endangered-species protections was strongly opposed by Japan, where the fish is commonly used in sashimi.  

Precious Acreage to be Protected

On June 4th, 2010, a judge  responded to a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and its allies, ruling against a grazing plan in Oregon’s Malheur National Forest in order to protect 500,000 acres of sensitive land. In his ruling, the judge acknowledged the 300 miles of  “critical habitat” that had already been damaged by cattle grazing - a clear violation of the Endangered Species Act (which aims to protect the area’s threatened steelhead trout population). The judge criticized the Forest Service for ignoring damage to particular areas essential to the steelhead’s survival, failing to meet with the National Marine Fisheries to discuss the plan’s effects on the fish , and making “empty promises” while utilizing a plan void of any real enforcement measures.

Mysterious Disease Kills A Million Bats

One of nature’s number one pest control agents is in trouble, big trouble. A strange disease called white- nose syndrome is infecting bats in fourteen states, from New Hampshire to Oklahoma and has killed an estimated 1 million bats since it was first discovered in New York in 2006. Furthermore, many endangered bats including Indian and gray bats have died as a result of the mysterious fungus that covers the wings and faces of the helpless animals, causing their sleep to be disturbed, in turn affecting their fat reserves. This sudden loss in fat causes many bats to prematurely leave their caves in search of food (often resulting in starvation and death). What’s scarier is the level of severity scientists are placing on the issue, stating that several bat species could be wiped out in a few years. Unfortunately there is no known cause or treatment for the disease. The Center for Biological Diversity is asking congress to  give $5 million to combat the disease in 2011.

Misery Under the Sea Thanks to BP

The aftermath of the late April BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill off North America’s Gulf Coast is almost unfathomable as more is being understood about the sea creatures effected by the catastrophe. Although large numbers of animals visible by land such as dolphins, pelicans and otters have been reduced by the oil’s monstrous reach, plenty of deep-dwelling fish populations are also struggling to survive. The large and small tooth sawfish are a type of ray known for their unique chainsaw-like snouts, and are listed as critically endangered. According to experts, these fish are two of the region’s most “vulnerable victims,” and have already lost a considerable amount of range - forcing their numbers to dwindle; so the recent oil leak is just exacerbating the situation. Plenty of other organisms (such as coral) are also threatened by the oil, which harms sea life by poisoning organisms internally, coating their bodies in a suffocating layer, or attracting dangerous bacteria that remove life-sustaining oxygen from the water.

Bye Bye Birdy: The Alaotra Grebe Goes Extinct

A small water fowl known as the Alaotra Grebe (or the Rusty Grebe) once found in the wetlands of Madagascar is now considered extinct, according to the conservation group Birdlife International. The bird has not been seen since 1985 and was driven to extinction by natural causes (such as interbreeding with similar species) as well as by other, less natural causes. Nylon fishing nets (which accidentally caught and drowned many birds) were another culprit in the disappearance of the Rusty Grebe, but so was a carnivorous fish known as the snakehead murrel. The snakehead, which can grow to be three feet in length, is an invasive type of fish not native to the grebe’s waters, but is capable of eating large quantities of  birds and generally disrupting delicate ecosystems by competing with native species for food and resources. Although it’s unclear exactly how the fish got into the grebe’s waterways, it’s believed they were introduced by people who purchased them for consumption but became discouraged when the fish grew too large to remain indoors. A staple of many Asian recipes, the fish are brought (often illegally) into countries and sold on the black market - which may explain how these fish mysteriously found their way into foreign waters.

New Indian Tree Frog Discovered

A new species of frog, known scientifically as Raorchestes, has been discovered at the summit of India’s highest peak, Anamudi (which means elephant’s forehead). The orange and black amphibian is unique in the sense that it has very short limbs, and is the only member of the tree frog group to have what researchers call “macro glands.” Although the purpose of these glands is still unclear, a study is underway in hopes of better understanding their purpose and function. Because of their extremely small range and high elevation (a staggering 8,800 feet) the East Indian frogs are already considered to be in danger of extinction and therefore require an immediate conservation plan. 

Southern California Wolf Sanctuary is Howling for Help
Wolf Mountain Sanctuary (WMS) is home to a dozen or more wolves that have been rescued and provided with a safe place to roam. Located in the high desert of San Bernardino County, WMS is run by a woman of Apache ancestry named Tonya Littlewolf. A true labor of love, the sanctuary has been in existence since the early 1980s, but recently it's come under the microscope of county officials who appear determined to undermine its efforts. Apparent code violations and incorrect permits are the reasoning behind the county's interest in the property, but sources close to the sanctuary are claiming it's due to the lack of revenue in county's coffers as the State of California continues to struggle under mounting pressure to find any means necessary of securing additional monies.

Littlewolf and her staff are trying to figure out what is best for the animals, and are considering relocating to another county to escape the problems with San Bernardino officials (which have been ongoing since 2008). Donations are being asked for to help feed the wolves and provide for their upkeep, as the county has temporarily bared the sanctuary from allowing paying visitors to enter the property. If you would like to donate to the Wolf Mountain Sanctuary, visit: www.wolfmountain.com or phone (760) 248-7818 for more information on what you can do to help.

One Smart Kitty
Cosmic Log and e!Science News are reporting the discovery of a species of wild cat in the Amazon rain forest that's been observed "luring its victims out into the open by speaking their language." Much like birds who can imitate the sounds of human spoken languages, or humans who've mastered the art of imitating animal sounds, the Amazon's margay cat is legendary among Amazonian tribes due to their ability to outsmart "birds, rodents and even monkey(s)" - the latter of which they lure to their demise by making noises similar to a baby monkey in distress.

Scientists are particularly impressed by the cat's vocal abilities and cleverness, since they've been used to not only fool their intended victims, but also because they appear to be able to decipher different components of the other animals' languages. Notes one of the researchers: "Cats are known for their physical agility, but this vocal manipulation of prey species indicates a psychological cunning which merits further study."

Anthrax Virus Makes Another Appearance at Ugandan Wildlife Park
The AFP Global Edition is reporting the deaths of 30 hippos at a popular game park in Uganda. Tom Okello, conservation area manager at Queen Elizabeth National Park, said that 10 of the 30 rhinos were found dead over a half-day period alone.
"This was something that we had seen before," he is quoted as saying. "So I knew immediately that we had to get the blood samples tested."

Okello is referring to a similar outbreak in 2004 of the deadly anthrax virus that claimed around 300 hippos who drank from a small lake in the park.

"When anthrax is involved, the blood doesn't clot," Okello explained. "That is the reason we have to act very fast."

AFP states that: "Anthrax emanates from spore-forming bacteria in soil around a lake shore. It can be contracted by wildlife through open wounds; flesh-eating vultures and big cats in the park can also spread the illness.

Sections of the park frequented by tourists are unaffected."

Butterflies Brave Their Way Back
Four years ago, there were only 45 endangered Lange's metalmark butterflies left in the world.
(What's astounding is that a century ago, there were more than 25,000 of them.) But in a sure sign that miracles happen everyday, the butterfly is fluttering its way back from the edges of extinction.

As reported by Carolyn Jones, a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, the tiny butterfly's only habitat on earth is "a 50-acre strip of sand on the San Joaquin River in Antioch."
Due to the diligence of members of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service, and a $500,000 allocation of funds to aid in its recovery, the insect's population in the area has grown from the low of 45 to 131 (in 2008), with this year's expected to be far greater. Notes a biologist in the article, "It's astounding. A few years ago we were ready to throw up our hands, but now it looks like we're climbing out of the hole."

Bye, bye Birdie
Care2.com is reporting that the Alaotra Grebe (also known as the Rusty Grebe) has gone extinct. According to Birdlife International, the species has suffered dire consequences as a result of several events: the introduction into their habitat of a carnivorous fish, and the use of nylon gill-nets by fishermen which have ensnared and drowned the birds. Another contributing factor, according to the Care2.com posting, is the “interbreeding between the now extinct bird and similar grebes.”

“No hope now remains for this species,” writes Dr. Leon Bennum, Birdlife International’s Director of Science, Policy and Information. “It is another example of how human actions can have unforeseen consequences. Invasive species have caused extinctions around the globe and remain one of the major threats to birds and biodiversity.”

The Alaotra Grebe is restricted to a tiny area of east Madagascar, where the last known bird sighting was in 1985, and the possibility of discovering another population in a different location is improbable. “Sadly,” notes writer Jake Richardson, “we have yet another example of the devastating consequences resulting from the introduction of non-native species.”

Florida’s Plan to Reclaim the Everglades Meets Yet Another Obstacle
Florida’s ambitious crusade to save the everglades, first introduced by Governor Jeb Bush and more recently taken up by new Governor Charlie Crist, has run into more sticky legal problems. A federal judge recently announced that state water managers must first restart construction on a $700 million reservoir in Palm Beach County that was abandoned in 2008 before Florida may purchase the 73,000 acres of everglades from U.S. Sugar.  With officials already struggling to pay for Crist's grand project, and with the recent unfolding of the BP oil fiasco that’s hitting the state’s tourism revenues, the additional $700 million cost for the reservoir could now make Crist’s vision for the Florida everglades a mere pipe dream.

Conservationists Protest Proposed Mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay
A British-owned mining company called Anglo American is currently working out plans to dig Pebble Mine, an enormous 2,000 foot deep, 2-mile long open-pit right in the heart of Alaska’s beautiful Bristol Bay. If the company’s plans go through, this piece of Alaskan wildlife may be lost forever. As activists from the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) warn, the proposed mine would burden the local ecosystem, causing the permanent destruction of over 60-miles of salmon habitat and result in the effacement of native communities that have depended on salmon for centuries. Other wildlife that would be affected by the pit include bears, seals and whales. To make matters worse, NRDC claims that Anglo American’s mining past is littered with countless examples of careless waste and environmental hazard issues.

Wolf Hunts in Montana and Idaho End for the Season; Conservationists Strive for Future Protections
Since being removed from the federal Endangered Species List last spring, the American wolf of the Northern Rockies has faced a difficult season. The main culprit? Humans. Over the past year, 260 wolves have been slaughtered as a result of wolf hunts in Idaho and Montana. The hunts were instituted in an effort to keep wolf populations down near farms and livestock herds, but are viewed by many animal conservation groups as cruel and unnecessary.

Although hunts have ended for the season, the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) and Defenders of Wildlife are currently in the midst of fighting legal battles against the Interior Department (as well as the states of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho) in an attempt to once again provide wolves with Endangered Species protections- a move they hope will encourage population recovery that were further hampered by last year's massive killlings.
In a hearing scheduled for June 15, both sides will present oral arguments in a Montana federal court as to why the wolf should - or should not - be placed back on the Endangered Species List. For now, the wolves' best hopes lie with legal representatives who can only plead on their behalf.

Froggy Knows Best
A new study published in the Journal of Zoology shows that common toads can sense earthquakes before they occur, giving them ample time to leave their colonies before the ground starts trembling. Based on a study located in L’Aquila, Italy in April 2009, scientists observed a population of breeding toads that unexpectedly deserted their colony three days before a magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck the region. Such behavior is unusual, especially for male toads, which generally stay active at breeding sites until spawning has finished. Spawning had barely commenced before the L'Aquila quake, yet 96% of the colony's male toads had vanished five days before any seismic activity began, and two days later, there were no breeding pairs left in the region. Although it is unclear exactly how the toads were able to sense the impending quake, biologists who made the discovery suggest the toads may have been tipped off by gases released from the ionosphere before the earthquake.

2010 Marks a Busy Year for Whale Activists
A delegate of conservationists from the United States, aimed at ending rogue whaling by Japan, Iceland and Norway, recently met in Washington D.C. to discuss a plan which supporters believe may protect up to 5,000 whales from being killed over the next ten years. The plan is to allow Japan, Iceland and Norway to continue breaking a 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling in exchange for greater catch limits. Conservationists believe the plan, although controversial, will encourage transparency. On a similar note, the Sea Shepherd Society, a group of individuals dedicated to preserving the ocean’s largest marine animals, is hailing the 2010 whaling season as a “spectacular success.” The anti-whaling activists spent just over 30 days harassing Japanese fishing boats stationed near Antarctica, resulting in one of the lowest kills on record. Although the Japanese site scientific research as their main reason for whaling, it has long been known that whale meat from their catch ends up in restaurants, fueling a growing black market. The sixth Sea Shepherd voyage severely damaged Japan’s fishery revenue (costing them about $132M USD). With continued success, activists believe that loses such as this may eventually spur the Japanese whaling industry to come to a permanent halt.

Missing Pet Sparks Petition to Delta Airlines
According to a posting on care2.com, a Canadian couple is asking for signatures to send to Delta Airlines to compel them to “Find Paco.”

Paco is the name of the Jack Russell/dachshund stray dog that the couple found and adopted while on vacation in Puerto Vallarta. Decided to keep the dog (who’d been seen by locals on the streets scrounging for food all over town), they took him to a vet who gave him shots treated an eye infection, bathed him and had him cleaned of ticks, and took them into their hearts.

Buying a vet-approved pet carrier, they paid to transport Paco back to Canada. However, when they arrived in Detroit (a stop along their route) the dog and his carrier failed to show up. Delta employees have given the couple conflicting stories as to his whereabouts, finally settling on the story that the dog somehow escaped captivity and ran away. The dog’s owner, Josiah, has responded to this claim by writing: “I do not believe for a second that Paco escaped from his carrier. It was a very secure hard plastic pet carrier with two locks and a metal wire door, and there is no way a small dog could scratch or break his way out of it.

If indeed he did somehow manage to escape from the carrier, why would I not have been informed of this in the first place? I was told that he was accounted for and being cared for in Mexico City, then that no one had any idea where he was, and then that he had escaped from the carrier.”

By means of “compensation” for the missing dog, Delta offered the couple $200.

If you wish to view the petition being sent to Delta Airlines, go to: www.thepetitionsite.com/1/tell-delta-airlines-to-please-find-paco

Ongoing Concerns about the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico
As of May 13, dead sea turtles have been found along the Mississippi shoreline. Necropsies will reveal whether or not they died as a result of eating oil-coated fish in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has posted a Q&A with leading experts about the effects of the recent (and ongoing) BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and it’s effects on local wildlife and marine animals who frequent the area. The following is an excerpt from those postings:

EDF: What is at stake here?

STACY SMALL (staff Ph.D. biologist): Some of our most important migratory bird flyways cross the Gulf Coast. The coastal refuges and wetlands are nurseries for fish and birds. Tens of thousands of birds have their nests on Breton Island National Wildlife Refuge, and the oil has now reached the Chandeleur Islands there. They are at risk of being oiled or exposed to the toxic effects of oil while fishing or foraging.

Oil itself is highly toxic; external contact, inhalation or ingestion can kill fish and wildlife. Fish-eating birds could be at risk of getting oiled when they dive for fish, or consume oil along with the fish. The toxins also may bio-accumulate up the food chain.

EDF: What about the timing of the spill?

SS: The spill could not have come at a worse time. It is now nesting season for many species, such as shorebirds and sea turtles that lay their eggs in the beach sand. It’s also the peak of spring bird migration.

As many as 20 coastal wildlife refuges could be in harm’s way, as well as pristine beaches and state wildlife areas. If this oil makes its way to Florida, the state’s precious coral reefs also could be threatened.

EDF: Regardless of when or whether the visible slick makes landfall, the effects on creatures that live on and under the Gulf’s surface are already at potentially catastrophic levels. What’s happening right now on the water?

DOUG RADER (staff scientist and coastal ecologist): Several things: creatures caught directly in the spill zone, especially those that live on or near the surface of the water, are directly affected.  Sea turtles face multiple threats, with adults being directly poisoned. We’re especially concerned about the Kemp’s Ridley turtle, whose recent comeback from the brink of extinction has come at great effort and expense.

EDF: What about beneath the surface?

DR: Potentially serious impacts - rarely discussed in the press - are taking place deep under the surface. For instance, the spill zone sits on top of a unique and biologically rich ancient deepwater coral reef, called Viosca Knoll. The species diversity of this ecosystem is extraordinary. As the oil breaks up or attaches itself to small bits of ocean detritus, a toxic rain falls from the surface down to the reefs below. The impact on these reefs is an open question right now.

The Gulf down-current also contains probably the most important pupping grounds in the Western hemisphere for many shark species. Shark numbers have already declined drastically in recent years, and it’s unclear how this additional pressure might affect them.

California Wildlife Claims Victory
The National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) is celebrating on behalf of central California’s wildlife as their appeal was granted, saving the Modoc National Forest from a plan that would have incorporated 331 miles of roads created illegally by off-road vehicles. Furthermore, the appeal halts the opening of another 513 miles to dirt bikes and ATVs. NRDC believes that not only will the win will be beneficial for wildlife, but water quality will improve, and a quieter, less intrusive recreation experience will be provided for forest visitors.

World Heritage Cite Damaged by Stray Ship
Earlier this month, a Chinese freight ship called Shen Neng 1 drew attention to itself as it hovered above Australia’s famous Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. After veering more than seven miles outside its authorized shipping lane, it then crashed into Douglas Shoals, located inside the park. The unfortunate crash resulted in a two-ton, two-mile long oil spill. Many Australian fishermen believe those on board the ship were trying to use the area as a short cut, which drew concern from Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Australian investigators are interrogating the ship’s crew, while Queensland State Premier Anna Bligh has said the ship’s owner, Shensen Energy Group, could be fined up to $920,000 for straying into the World Heritage site.

Adoptable Pets Get a Stamp of Approval
The United States Postal Service (USPS) released stamps on April 30 in celebration and support of adopting pets from animal shelters. Photographer Sally Anderson-Bruce found the ten gorgeous models in her hometown of New Milford, CT. Each of the animals in the stamp collection (five dogs and five cats) were adopted from animal rescue shelters and are now living the good life with loving families. Comedian Ellen DeGeneres - an animal advocate and co-owner of Halo pet foods - is promoting the sale of the stamps, a portion of which will be donated to help feed sheltered pets awaiting adoption.

On the Wings of Love
Over the past 17 years, a male stork named Rodan has been making the demanding 8,000 mile flight from South Africa to Croatia every spring for one particular reason: to visit his lifelong love Marlena, a disabled stork that is unable to fly. Marlena, shot by a hunter in 1993, lives on the roof of the Vokic family, where she has beaten the odds and survived even the harshest conditions. Each spring, on exactly the same day, locals in the small Croation town of Slavonski Brod keep an eager eye out for Rodan. Like clockwork, the pair were reunited once again last week, and have been spotted taking care of their young, of which they have produced 32 so far. This time, local news crews and onlookers rejoiced as a tired Rodan arrived two hours earlier than usual to see his Marlena - demonstrating that once again, true love knows no bounds.

Polar Bear Protections Denied
A proposal on behalf of animal activists worldwide to end the trade of polar bear body parts and strengthen the regulation of international trophy hunting was defeated at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITIES) meeting on March 18th. The protections would have defended polar bears that are currently being hunted. The National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) sponsored the campaign, and gathered more than 56,000 pro-protection messages directed towards Canadian officials. NRDC plans to widen the polar bear campaign in order to bring the bears other protections in the future.

'Tree of Life' for Western Wildlife Needs Protections, Too
The white bark pine tree, an important staple for many animals in the west, provides habitat, food, and shelter for several species. The tree is a valuable food source for Yellowstone grizzly bears, whose numbers are in a steady decline. The National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) is filing suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after they missed a 90-day deadline to consider a petition requesting protection for the tree under the Endangered Species Act.

Grand Plans For the Everglades: Fact or Fiction?

An ongoing campaign spearheaded by Florida’s Governor Charlie Crist to save Florida’s Everglades seems to be getting weaker as the months go by. Crist’s large scale plan to reclaim the famous grasslands and wetlands that have become one of America’s most notable treasures started off hopeful enough, but two years later some critics believe Crist has not followed through with his plan. Originally, Crist focused on implementing a  $175 billion deal that would “save” the Everglades by buying out  United States Sugar (allowing vast areas to be reserved as a national park). Unfortunately, conservation plans were routinely downsized, as the sugar company became the major cardholder in the expensive deal. Some argue that conservation was not the main motivator in Crist’s mind when he introduced the plan, arguing that the new governor may have been looking to establish his national and environmental qualifications. However, many optimistic conservationists believe the Governor’s plan is still the Everglade’s best hopes for preservation, even if the end result isn’t as grand as originally hoped for.

Bamboo replaces the “Moo” in Animal Friendly Cars
In the market for a new car but want to make sure your decision is environmentally informed? Perhaps you should check out the 2010 and 2011 versions of the Karma Eco Chic made by Fisker Authomotive (the world’s first luxury plug-in hybrid). Not only does the Karma Eco Chic look like one of the coolest sports cars you’ve ever seen, but it also utilizes environmentally-savvy features. The car’s interior is composed of bamboo fabric (vs. leather), and some versions also feature wood that has been collected from fallen trees, or that have been burned in forest fires or brought up from lake bottoms. Pricing for the Karma Eco Chic luxury models start at $80,000.

Spawning a New Generation
In the April 2010 issue of National Geographic Traveler, it's reported that salmon are returning to the Seine River, "including a stretch that flows through Paris." Apparently, other species of fish (such as shad and sea trout) have also been making appearances in the once-troubled waters. The speculation is that clean-up efforts (though not formalized) are responsible for the return of the fish. And, notes the article, "with salmon a threatened species in Europe, the comeback is merveilleux."

11 Rare Siberian Tigers Die in Chinese Zoo
Shortly after passing into "The Year of the Tiger" in February, Chinese tigers are dying in record numbers. But this time they aren't being hunted or poached; instead, they are dying a slow and painful death - via starvation - at the hands of their keepers.

In Shenyang Forest Zoo, 11 rare Siberian tigers starved to death after being fed only chicken bones and the meager scraps of meat tourists would hold out to them via metal tongs through their cages. Siberian tigers are one of the rarest of all the world's species, and their numbers (approximately 300) are severely threatened in the wild. So it's a sore spot indeed for conservationists when they discover negligent practices such as those being lauded against the Shenyang facility. Wu Xi, a spokesperson for the zoo, is claiming that the animals died of "various diseases," but wouldn't specify what they were. Additionally, he said that of the 30 tigers now remaining at the zoo, some were still at risk of illness.

One thing is for certain: if the zoo can't feed or properly treat its resident tiger population, local animal rights activists might be their only hope for survival.

Left to Its Own Devices
National Geographic Traveler is reporting that the island of Cyprus, located in the Mediterranean Sea, is experiencing a resurgence of plants and animals. The magazine notes that since 1974, when the island was divided into two parts by the UN into Turkish and Greek territories, there's been a 'no-man's-land' that buffers the two zones, and nature has "filled the vacuum with flora and fauna." Observers on the island have so far "counted 358 plant species, 100 bird species, and 18 mammal species." With that good news, it's hoped that the islanders will continue to leave nature well-enough alone.

Endangered Cat Strikes a Pose
Scientists conducting research in Borneo’s Dermakot Forest Reserve recently captured footage of an endangered Sundaland clouded leopard, a species never before seen by the human eye. The 3-foot-long, 90- pound cat was uncharacteristically outgoing as it sauntered past researchers who eagerly filmed the thrilling event with cameras and powerful spot lights. The unexpected encounter with Borneo’s largest predator gives researchers the chance to learn more about the elusive cat since little is known about the species, including their population throughout the Malaysian rainforest. Unfortunately, the clouded leopard faces various threats to his existence, such as poaching and habitat loss due to high speed forest devastation.

National Desert Gem in Need of Protections
New Mexico’s precious Otero Mesa, the largest spread of Chihuahhuan Desert grasslands in the United States, is currently facing a crisis as the Obama administration debates whether to grant the area permanent protections. Over the past several years, the beautiful wildlife mecca has been threatened by industrialization. Furthered protections are crucial as 1,000 animal species call Otero Mesa home, including mountain lions, deer, bald eagles, prairie dogs and antelope. An additional feature of Otero Mesa’s grand landscape is the thousands of ancient petroglyphs and archaeological sites situated among the volcanic Cornudas Mountains. Lastly, the Salt Basin Aquifer located in Otero Mesa is perhaps the largest untapped water source left in New Mexico, making Otero Mesa protections essential.

Help the California Sea Otter Without Leaving Your Desk

This year as you fill out your taxes, don’t forget to make a donation that will benefit animal research, helping scientists from the University of California and Monterey Bay Aquarium better understand the devastating effects that chemical pollution has on otter populations. This year’s tax option is made possible by Defenders of Wildlife, the California Department of Fish and Game, the California Coastal Conservancy and Earth Echo International, organizations which have (since 2006) encouraged taxpayers to use the California Sea Otter tax check-off. When filling out your 540 form, simply look for line 410 which is labeled CA SEA OTTER FUND (this can be found under contributions). Fill in the amount you wish to donate, and if you’re owed money by the state, specify the amount you want to give to the fund and it will be deducted from your refund. If you owe taxes, just add the amount you want to donate to the check you make out to the state.

Upcoming Convention May Influence Fate of African Elephants
Zambia and Tanzania are proposing a temporary lift on the international ivory trade ban, a proposal that has conservationists worried. Representatives from the two countries are set to present their case to CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) at the Doha convention in Qatar on March 13th. Zambia and Tanzania have a combined ivory stock pile of 113 tons, which they have not been able to sell due to strict trade bans. The two countries hope to sell the ivory in the global market in order to generate income for development projects. However, other African countries such as Kenya and Mali fear any breach in the current bans would put endangered elephant populations at risk and encourage more poaching. There are currently estimated to be just over 500,000 wild elephants in Africa, and despite the current ivory ban, some experts believe as many as 38,000 elephants are killed by poachers world wide every year.

Animal Documentary Receives Oscar
The Cove, a startling cinematic portrayal of the horrors of Japanese dolphin hunting in the fishing village of Taiji, picked up an Oscar for Best Documentary on March 7th at the Academy Awards. The American film was created in order to generate awareness and alert Japan’s citizens of the brutality of dolphin hunting, and will most likely receive more buzz thanks to the recent recognition.

Killer Whale Drowns Expert Trainer
A 30-year-old orca named Tilikum recently killed his trainer, Dawn Brancheau, at Sea World Orlando in Florida. A shocked audience looked on as the whale grabbed Brancheau in his jaws, thrashing her body under water, eventually drowning her. Although there are many conflicting eyewitness reports, police say the trainer accidentally slipped into the tank, possibly confusing or irritating Tilikum. Brancheau, one of the park’s most experienced trainers, was only one of about a dozen trainers authorized to work with Tilikum who has a sketchy past (having now been linked to three deaths.) The first death associated with the whale was that of another trainer who fell into his pool in 1991, while the other was that of a man who had apparently snuck into the park at night and whose body was found floating in Tilikum’s tank. Upon Brancheau’s recent death, SeaWorld has temporarily suspended all orca shows at its parks in order to review procedures.

Two and a Half Chicks
Although homosexuality exists in a wide range of species within the animal kingdom, one pair of lesbian albatrosses in New Zealand is redefining the typical notion of what it means to be a family in the avian community. The two seabirds, which live at the Taiaroa Head Royal Albatross Center, incubated their chick since the father “flew the coop” after impregnating one of the females. The females took turns sitting on the egg before it hatched and are now successfully raising their chick, a feat that has only happened one other time in the last 70 years at the center.
New Jaguar Protections Encourage Population Growth by Leaps and Bounds
Thanks to the efforts of Defenders of Wildlife, who won a lawsuit in March 2009 against the Fish and Wildlife Services, the American Jaguar of the southwest may soon find an increase in roaming territory in areas they once populated before hunting and habitat loss drove them to near extinction. The new jaguar protections include a recovery plan for the animal, which conservationists have argued is “essential” to the jaguars’ comeback. Furthermore, the plan will protect some of the northernmost regions of the cats’ range which has in the past, been destroyed in order to implement housing and agriculture.

Mating for Life Is for the Birds - or Is It?
A bit of a scandal has taken roost at the Wildlife and Wetland Trust in Gloucestershire England: a resident pair of Bewick’s swans have decided to call it quits. Swans normally mate for life and don’t entertain ideas of romance with other swans unless their previous mate has died. However, when this particular pair returned to spend the winter at the preserve, they were not in the same company they departed with- both swans returned home with a new partner. In 40 years and with over 40,000 pairs of swans, folks at the preserve say this type of “re-coupling” has only happened one other time. Reasons for the split? Experts suggest that similar to the human world, when swan couples have trouble bearing children, it can cause stress within the relationship, occasionally resulting in separation. 

Invasive Species Devastate Indigenous Habitats
What do you get when invasive animal species begin strangling delicate ecosystems, while simultaneously crushing native ecology? The answer: one giant (and expensive) mess. Over the last several decades, the United States’ federal government has been faced with a persistent problem concerning animals (the Asian carp and Burmese pythons, for example), which are not native to the U.S. but have (through trade or illegal releasing) found their way into America’s waterways and forests. In doing so, they’ve adversely affected the habitats they’ve invaded.

The Asian and silver carp are two of the most aggressive invasive species currently wrecking havoc on the multi-billion dollar Midwestern fishing industry as they consume and compete with indigenous fish. Because these non-native species have a wide range of food types, grow and reproduce rapidly and thrive in various conditions - they adapt extremely well to their new environment. Unfortunately, they disrupt natural ecosystems, eating indigenous plants and animals that would have otherwise remained unharmed. Often, endangered animal populations are the first to be crushed by the alien species, a major concern for conservationists. Researchers estimate invasive species cause an annual economic loss to the U.S. of a staggering $120 billion.

Atrocious Crime Is Committed Against Endangered Florida Panther 
Although the panther is Florida’s state animal (with approximately 100 alive in Florida’s wilds), that didn’t stop someone from committing a shocking crime against one of these beautiful cats. On January 18, 2010, a two-year-old male panther was struck by car in Lee County, Florida and then beheaded (probably in order to mount in a home). This horrific act against one of the world’s most endangered animals is currently under investigation; if the responsible party is found and convicted, the panther killer could receive a felony for slaughtering the state animal as well as serving up to five years in jail and a $15,000 fine. Several animal rights organizations have posted rewards for information leading to the panther slayer’s arrest. 

Oil Spill Threatens Endangered Species in Texas
A recent oil spill near Port Arthur, Texas on January 24, 2010 has sent crews scrambling to contain the staggering 462,000 gallons of oil that seeped into the ocean when an oil tanker crashed into two barges. The incident is complicated by the fact that the spill occurred near a wildlife-protected area. The mess is being managed by cleaning teams using 45,800 feet of plastic walls along with “oil-sucking” boats to contain the mess before it harms animal preservation areas, some of which shelter endangered species. An 18-mile stretch of waterway has been temporarily closed in order to facilitate a faster clean-up, and to make sure oil does not creep closer to sensitive animal refuges.

Trophy Hunting Threatens Canadian Polar Bear Population
The Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) is urging animal lovers around the globe to make a tax-deductible donation that would benefit the endangered polar bear by putting an end to Canada’s polar bear trophy hunting season set to open February 15th. Donations would allow NRDC to carry out an expensive global campaign against the sport of polar bear hunting by demanding protections for the endangered animal under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. If passed, the proposal would not only ban Canada’s polar bear hunting, but would also outlaw the trade of polar bear body parts, used to adorn private trophy rooms. To make a donation visit: www.nrdc.org/joingive

Defenders of Wildlife Scramble to Save America’s Polar Bears
If the U.S. Global Change Research Program is correct, there will be no wild polar bears living in Alaska in 75 years. Currently there are plans being made in the Senate and Congress to negate various polar bear protections, which has Defenders of Wildlife worried. In Washington, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) is coodinating an amendment that would hinder the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from fighting global warming, while Alaska’s Governor Sean Parnell and other officials are cultivating a staggering $1.5 million to hire lawyers and lobbyists in order to banish essential polar bear protections. Defenders is hoping to pass legislation restricting greenhouse gas emissions, while sponsoring programs that will help the bears. To donate, visit www.defenders.org/donate or call 1-800-385-9712.

Petition Aimed at Protecting North American Jaguar
The elusive jaguar populations of North America continue to dwindle as government agencies such as the Department of Fish and Game state that they have the right to trap jaguars in areas where they once roamed freely. Care2 is spreading the word about a petition drive to stop the killing of these jaguars that inhabited regions from the San Francisco Bay area to the Appalachian Mountains. Care2 insists the American jaguar’s future depends on establishing a federal recovery and protection program that would provide jaguars with a designated habitat in order to promote population recovery. To sign the petition, visit www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction

Defenders of Wildlife Says 2009 was a Positive Year For Wolf Conservation
In the spirit of giving during the holiday season, 2009 proved to be a successful year for Defenders of Wildlife (DOF)), an organization dedicated to the protection of plants and animals in their natural habitats. During the last week of 2009, over 7,000 supporters had made direct donations that allowed the group to attain their yearend fundraising goals, while almost 4,000 new members joined the organization’s Campaign to Save America’s Wolves.

DOF was also able to secure two major media placements that helped shine a light on America’s dwindling wolf populations: On January 1st, The Washington Post featured an op-ed piece by their Executive Vice President Jamie Rappaport Clark concerning the wolves’ decreasing numbers and chastising Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar; additionally, the organization sponsored a video billboard located in Times Square showcasing the wolves and their plight. The billboard was estimated to have been seen by nearly a million people on New Years Eve. www.defenders.org

New Laws Offer Protection for Porpoise
Recently, the Mexican government has agreed to take measures to protect the endangered Vaquita Porpoise, of which there are only 150 alive today. The vaquita is the smallest species of porpoise and is unique in that it only inhabits the northern Gulf of California. The new mandates come as a welcomed relief to Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) activists who sent nearly 30,000 messages insisting the Mexican government do more to protect the fragile vaquita population. Under the new guidelines, a “no fishing area” has been established as a vaquita refuge, and shrimp trawler activity in the Upper Gulf has been significantly reduced from 400 to 82 trawlers. Furthermore, trawlers will now be required to make provisions in order to guarantee that vaquitas and other “rare marine life” do not inadvertently become trapped in nets.

While overall travel is down in Mexico due to recent crime problems involving various drug cartels, a chance to see the vaquita in its natural environment just might provide a welcome boost in tourism dollars to the area.

Insecticide Pushes African Lions Closer to Extinction
Carbofuran, a deadly insecticide that has been banned in the United States, continues to wreck havoc on the lion population of Africa where it is legal in countries such as Kenya, and available for over-the-counter purchase. Although the poison is effective at killing a wide range of insects that destroy crops, it also harms animal species - including Africa’s great cats. Over the last 50 years the African lion population has been reduced by 95% , with a percentage of this due to carbofuran poisoning. Animal conservationists estimate that if this decline continues at a similar rate, there will not be a single lion left in Kenya by the year 2030. Those wishing to voice an opinion against the distribution and use of carbofuran can sign a petition created by Defenders of the Wildlife. The petition will be sent to Raila Odinga, Kenya’s prime minister, urging him to protect the lions of his country by outlawing the use and sale of carbofuran. A link to the petition can be found online at: www.defenders.org.

Proposal Announces Protection for Endangered Whale
Cook Inlet Beluga Whales who live off the Alaskan coast would have their waters protected under a proposal announced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The whale was listed as endangered earlier this year, and under the new proposal would have more than on- third of their home waters off of the coast of Anchorage protected.

British Columbia Winery Combines Owner’s Brains with Draft Horses’ Brawn

By harnessing the beauty and sheer strength of Meagan and Greta, two Suffolk draft horses, the Working Horse Winery and Farm in British Columbia has cultivated a 22-acre winery in the majestic countryside south of Kelowna. Over the past 30 years, owner Tilman Hainle has incorporated holistic agricultural practices (such as organic farming), so the idea to utilize the brute strength of Meagan and Greta coincided perfectly with his desire to tap into “heritage farming techniques.”

As a member of the endangered species list, the Suffolk draft horse is still rare but is increasing in number thanks to those who recognize their value as work horses. Meagan and Greta, whose ancestors were bred entirely for farming purposes, work tirelessly in order to plow lots of land that eventually accommodate organic varietals. Working Horse Winery and Farm guests can enjoy the sweet and gentle nature of these hard working horses on site, while at the same time appreciating the beautiful vineyards and farm that they’ve helped establish. Guests can also enjoy a stay in the new Working Horse Inn, which boasts vineyard views and the chance to enjoy organic cuisine. www.workinghorsewinery.com

Shark Conservation Act Awaiting Senate Approval
The Shark Conservation Act of 2009, which has already been approved by the U.S. House of Representatives, is now awaiting approval by the Senate. In essence, the Act would end the practice of cutting off the fins of sharks and throwing their bodies back into the water to drown - a practice that’s being fed by the world’s demand for shark fin soup. (The increase in popularity for fin soup has forced some shark populations to decrease by more than 90% in the past 35 years.) In addition to making finning illegal in all U.S. territories, the act would also stop the transfer of fins at sea, as well as make it easier for the U.S. to prosecute countries that have inadequate protections for sharks.

Conservation Community Celebrates as Brown Pelican is Removed From Endangered Species List
Thanks to the efforts of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and other dedicated conservation groups, the Brown Pelican was recently removed from the endangered species list. The news comes as a welcomed relief for the EDF and other organizations that have fought for the Brown Pelican’s recovery over the last thirty years. This recent success is due in part to the National DDT Ban of 1972, in which EDF urged congress to outlaw the use of the popular pesticide, which was used on crops, forest lands, homes and gardens. In turn, the pelican’s population grew as pesticide poisoning decreased. Brown Pelicans are found along the Southern California and Gulf Coasts, but migrate along the Eastern Seaboard and may be seen as far north as British Columbia and Nova Scotia. They are the only species of pelican strictly marine in habit, and are never found more than 20 miles out to sea or inland on fresh water. Their continued success rests in the hands of individuals dedicated to promoting peaceful breeding habitats and the proper disposal of fishing wire.

Animal Lovers Mourn the Loss of a Favorite Yellowstone Wolf
One of Yellowstone Park’s most admired wolves was shot to death during Montana’s first ever public wolf hunt on October 3rd. This comes as sad news to the biologists and wolf watchers who documented her success over the last several years and believed her to be an especially keen animal. Wolf number 527 was much more than just a number to those who knew her, becoming an emblem for nature’s capability and resilience. As one of the leaders of the Cottonwood Creek pack, 527 was known for her sharp survival and adaptation skills which contributed to her pack’s success. Since the hunts began, 156 wolves have been shot, meaning that over the next year the region’s wolf population could be slashed by a devastating 40%. In order to protect these populations, activists are currently rallying for the wolf’s re-inclusion on the endangered species list in order to insure federal protection.

Environmentally Conscious Cruise Line Offers Travelers a Unique Experience
Costa Cruises, one of Europe’s most popular cruise lines, is offering over 200 “eco-excursions” aimed at minimizing the cruise ships’ impact on fragile ecosystems while simultaneously creating economic opportunities for local communities. One such excursion is the Night Safari Tour, which takes place in Singapore and offers guests a chance to view “the world’s first wildlife park built to be viewed at night.” The park covers forty acres and is home to exotic animals like the one-horned rhino, Malayan tigers, blue sheep and Asian elephants. Non-invasive lighting throughout the park allows visitors to view over 1,000 nocturnal animals while simultaneously ensuring the animals' natural habitats and patterns remain undisturbed. Costa is an official partner of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Every ship in its fleet operates under "environmental protection standards,” making the cruise line a smart choice for eco-friendly travelers.

Golden Retriever Adopts Abandoned Tiger Cubs
Thanks to the help of a one-year-old golden retriever named Isabella, three young tiger cubs and the owners of a private zoo are breathing a deep sigh of relief. Tom and Allie Harvey, of the Safari Zoological Park in Kansas, recently shared their amazing story on the Today Show. When the mother of the now seven-week-old tiger cubs mysteriously abandoned her young, Allie Harvey, who had seen a show on the Animal Planet in which a zoo in Australia had used golden retrievers to take care of young tigers, decided it was worth a shot to see if her dog Isabella would take to the cubs. Amazingly, Isabella (who had recently given birth to puppies) began to nurse and care for the young tiger cubs. “Because of the economy, our park was not doing well," said Tom Harvey. "Higher gas prices were keeping visitors away, and Allie and I were praying for a miracle. We decided that if God hadn’t given us a miracle by August first, we would have to get out of the business.”

Apparently that miracle has arrived: as a result of the Harvey’s television appearances with Isabella and the three cubs, business is up.

Elephant Droppings Promote Eco-Savvy Shopping Experience
he Great Elephant Poo Poo Paper Company is more than just an eye-catching business name. The company, whose ethical endeavor is rooted in creating a balance between ecological responsibility and commercial success, prides itself as being “creatively sustainable.” The Great Elephant Poo Poo Paper Company offers over 150 unique gifts (stationary, photo albums, wine bags, bookmarks, etc.) that have their origins, in well, elephant poop.

Dried elephant dung is collected from conservation parks and brought to their paper-making factory where it undergoes a dramatic process of transformation: Once it's gathered, the dung is rinsed - leaving only fibrous materials consisting of grass, bamboo, and fruits. The fibers are then placed in boiling water and cleaned. Desired colors may be mixed in, and subsequently other fibers from banana trees and pineapples are added to make the mixture stronger. Once the dung sheets are dry, they're ready to be made into one-of-a-kind paper products.

Amazingly, one elephant dropping translates into about twenty-five sheets of elephant paper; therefore, about ten journals can be created from a single dropping. A percentage of the profits go to support elephant welfare and conservation. Visit: www.poopoopaper.com for more info.

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