conservation biology

Congo Monkey Spotted Decades After Species’ Alleged Demise

Welcome back, Bouvier’s red colobus monkey. It’s been a while.

The African primate hasn’t been seen since the 1970s and was assumed to have become extinct.

But, in a statement released late last week, the Wildlife Conservation Society says two primatologists working in the forests of the Republic of Congo were successful in a quest begun in February to confirm reports that Bouvier’s is still out there. They returned with a first-ever snapshot of a mother and infant.

“Our photos are the world’s first and confirm that the species is not extinct,” Lieven Devreese, one of the field researchers, was quoted in the WCS statement as saying.

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272-Year-Old Shark Is Longest-Lived Vertebrate on Earth
Greenland sharks also don't reproduce until they're around 150 years old, a new study says.

Yet another reason why sharks are the coolest! 

A new study published in Science from scientists at the University of Copenhagen have estimated that Greenland sharks can live up to be 400 years old! The team used radiocarbon dating and analyzed the ages of proteins built up in 28 female sharks’ eye lenses, and thus was able to estimate their ages. This revealed a life span of at least 272 years. Since they live to be so old, they don’t reach sexual maturity until they’re about 150.

The largest shark in the study was 16.5 feet (five meters) in length and was estimated to be approximately 392 years old. There is some uncertainty with this number though but the researchers did determine with a 95% certainty that this shark was between 272 and 512 years old, and most likely around 390.

Greenland sharks can be found swimming slowly throughout the cold, deep waters of the North Atlantic. They are essentially blind but have a fantastic sense of smell which allows them to hunt. This new finding makes these sharks the longest-living vertebrates on the planet, beating the 211-year-old bowhead whale which was holding the previous record.

You can find the full study in Science.


Overfishing occurs when more fish are caught than the population can replace through natural reproduction. Gathering as many fish as possible may seem like a profitable practice, but overfishing has serious consequences. The results not only affect the balance of life in the oceans, but also the social and economic well-being of the coastal communities who depend on fish for their way of life.

Billions of people rely on fish for protein, and fishing is the principal livelihood for millions of people around the world. For centuries, our seas and oceans have been considered a limitless bounty of food. However, increasing fishing efforts over the last 50 years as well as unsustainable fishing practices are pushing many fish stocks to the point of collapse.

More than 85 percent of the world’s fisheries have been pushed to or beyond their biological limits and are in need of strict management plans to restore them. Several important commercial fish populations (such as Atlantic bluefin tuna) have declined to the point where their survival as a species is threatened. Target fishing of top predators, such as tuna and groupers, is changing marine communities, which lead to an abundance of smaller marine species, such as sardines and anchovies.

Many fishers are aware of the need to safeguard fish populations and the marine environment, however illegal fishing and other regulatory problems still exist. WWF works with stakeholders to reform fisheries management globally, focusing on sustainable practices that conserve ecosystems, but also sustain livelihoods and ensure food security.



A main problem of overfishing is the “open access” nature of fisheries. Because there are no or few property rights there is a lack of incentive for fishermen to leave fish in the water.


A lack of management oversight, government regulations, and traceability of fishing activities has long been a problem in the fishing industry. Current rules and regulations are not strong enough to limit fishing capacity to a sustainable level. This is particularly the case for the high seas, where there are few international fishing regulations, and those that exist are not always implemented or enforced. Many fisheries management bodies are not able to adequately incorporate scientific advice on fish quotas, and customs agencies and retailers cannot always ensure that the fish entering their country is caught legally and in a sustainable way.


One key dimension of the overfishing crisis is illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing. It occurs across all types of fisheries, within national and international waters, and small scale to large industrialized operations. Illegal fishing accounts for an estimated 20% of the world’s catch and as much as 50% in some fisheries. The costs of illegal fishing are significant, with the value of pirate fish products estimated at between $10-23.5 billion annually.


Many governments still continue to subsidize their fleets, allowing unprofitable operations to subsist, and overfishing to occur. Today’s worldwide fishing fleet is estimated to be up to two and a half times the capacity needed to catch what we actually need.

info and photos from WWF
University of Saskatchewan researchers produce world's first wood bison using in vitro fertilization
Project took a decade to complete

Creating bison in a laboratory sounds like a premise for an unusual science fiction movie.

But it’s a fact, and the proof is gambolling about on a U of S campus field.

“The babies look great,” said Gregg Adams, a reproductive specialist with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine.

“They’re keeping up with mom, and I’m really happy about it.”

It took a decade to get the idea from the drawing board to running around in a field, and Adams said its success has enormous implications for the species.

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The Eastern Cougar is officially extinct
Nearly 80 years after it was last seen, the eastern cougar will be officially recognised by US conservation authorities as 'extinct'.

Nearly 80 years after it was last seen, the eastern cougar will be officially recognised by US conservation authorities as ‘extinct’.

Following a four-year review, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) will next month remove the eastern cougar from its list of endangered and threatened species — where it has been for the last 43 years.

The big cat, which once roamed North America from Canada to South Carolina, will no longer receive Endangered Species Act protections.

Cougars - along with their cousins panthers and pumas - were once the most widely distributed land mammal in the western hemisphere, but have been driven out from two-thirds of land that they once occupied, wildlife biologists have said.

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New episode! - An introduction to: Insect Orders 

We’ve all seen insects, right? Scuttling along the forest floor, buzzing between flowers, or simply basking in the sun. But what are the different types and how are they classified? Phil gets to grips with taxonomy and illustrates some common critters you might see on your travels.

In a major development, the world’s main consumer of shark fins, China, has announced that it will ban shark fin soup from all official banquets. The Government Offices Administration of the State Council announced that it will take up to three years to implement the ban, but given the right circumstances this could happen quicker. While bans on the sale and consumption of shark fins have been picking up momentum around the world recently, this is the first such legislation in China. Over 95 percent of the annual harvest of shark fin worldwide is consumed on the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

While cutting down on spending on lavish public banquets has been cited as a major reason for the ban, awareness in China about the negative effects of shark fin consumption on the global shark population has slowly been rising thanks in part to a WildAid ad campaign featuring Chinese basketball star Yao Ming, which Save Our Seas Foundation helped fund.

Nevertheless, enforcement of the ban may prove to be problematic in a vast country where Beijing’s directives often go unheeded by local officials.

As many as 73 million sharks are killed each year to supply the global shark fin trade, and of the shark and ray species assessed by scientists for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 30 percent are threatened or near-threatened with extinction.

All-women ‘army’ protecting rare bird in India

On a cloudy day in July, in a remote village in northeastern India, Charu Das excitedly imitates the awkward movements of a stork with her hands.In a few months, the greater adjutant stork—called hargilla, which means “swallower of bones” in Sanskrit—will descend on this hamlet, situated in Assam’s Brahmaputra Valley, to breed in large numbers.

Thanks to the efforts of the Hargilla Army, a conservation brigade of 70 local women, the region is now “the biggest greater adjutant nesting colony in the world,” says Purnima Devi Barman, a wildlife biologist with Aaranyak, a conservation nonprofit in Assam.

      A “winged puppies” - these cute little creature are crucial in our ecosystem. How can people afford to kill bats.? Please STOP inhumane culling of bats.

     Flying foxes here in Philippines had already suffered much from habitat degradation, they don’t deserved to suffer more from human persecution. Bats are also natural inhabitants of this planet of which we don’t owned, let’s not take away their right to live peacefully and freely.


      SAVE BATS.

(Photo credit: babyanimalzoo. 2012)
B.C. Plans to Cull Wolves for Next Decade While Failing to Protect Caribou Habitat From Industry

B.C. will continue to kill wolves for at least a decade in an attempt to save endangered caribou according to government documents released this week — but new research re-confirms that caribou declines are primarily caused by industrial development.

The province recently finished the first year of its province-wide wolf cull, which resulted in the killing of 84 animals. But documents released to the Globe and Mail indicate the B.C. government is aware habitat destruction is at the root of declining caribou populations.

“Ultimately, as long as the habitat conditions on and adjacent to caribou ranges remain heavily modified by industrial activities, it is unlikely that any self-sustaining caribou populations will be able to exist in the South Peace [region],” the document says.

New research published in the journal Biological Conservation re-enforces that view.

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India’s Tigers May Be Rebounding, in Rare Success for Endangered Species

More money has been spent on tiger conservation than on preserving any other species in the world, yet wildlife biologists have been seemingly unable to stop the decline of the iconic big cat in the face of poaching and habitat loss.

That appeared to change Tuesday, when the government of India—the country is home to most of the world’s wild tigers—announced preliminary results of the latest tiger census that reveal a surge in the number of the big cats in its preserves over the past seven years.

India’s environment minister, Prakash Javadekar, announced that its scientists had counted 2,226 wild tigers in the country, up from 1,411 seven years ago, a rise of nearly 58 percent. The country now hosts about 70 percent of the world’s wild tigers, Javadekar said, calling the increase “a great achievement … the result of the combined efforts of passionate officers, forest guards, and community participation.”

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The struggle to save the ‘Congolese unicorn’

In the DRC, the Okapi Wildlife Reserve is faced with poaching, human encroachment and armed rebels

Elaisha Stokes

EPULU, Democratic Republic of Congo — Deep in the jungle, Col. Lucien Gedeon Lokumu is rallying his troops. About 50 men stand in mismatched uniforms while Lokumu attempts to inspire them with a pitch-perfect sermon: We’ve got to stabilize the forest, but not at the expense of the people who call it home.

“We are not businessmen. We are not politicians,” he declares to a rapt audience. “We are soldiers. We must do the work because these rebels are killing the country.”

The work is Operation Safisha, which, translated from Swahili, means “Operation Cleaning.” And that is exactly what Lokumu intends to do: clean out the rebel groups and illegal miners who are plaguing the interior of the 5,300 square miles of forest that make up the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. Established in 1992, the reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a hot spot for biodiversity. It occupies a fifth of the vast Ituri rainforest, 25,000 square miles of virgin jungle, and is home to elephants, chimpanzees and grey parrots. But it was created in large part to protect the okapi, a shy creature seldom seen by humans and found only in the DRC. During Belgian rule, colonizers often referred to the species as the Congolese unicorn. In fact it is a forest giraffe and looks like a horse with striped legs. Congolese regard the creature as a magical symbol of their nation.

The last census of the reserve suggests that about 5,000 of the last 30,000 okapis live within its boundaries. But the creation of the reserve doesn’t seem to have boosted the okapi population; instead, their numbers have dwindled, with the rate of decline exceeding 50 percent in the last 24 years. Experts say that mining, poaching and increasing encroachment by humans are to blame. The last available census numbers from 2003 estimate that 17,000 people live inside the reserve, and an additional 37,000 are within a few miles of its boundaries. That number is likely much larger today.

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it’s a facinating piece but I’m more worried about the human aspect of conservation in DRC. I am much more concerned about failed state status than conservation and the latter cannot be regulated properly until there is a proper system of governance.


The BBC have produced an interesting article about the purpose of Zoos. Very in-keeping with one of our previous episodes.

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Conservation groups thrilled as B.C. announces plan to protect South Okanagan
A discussion paper on creating South Okanagan parkland is the biggest step yet toward protecting Canada’s most diverse ecosystem, group says.

Conservation groups were celebrating Thursday after the provincial government announced its intention to nominate sensitive South Okanagan land as a new national park.

According to the province’s land protection framework, two areas in the region are worthy of Parks Canada consideration while a third should be designated as a conservancy under the provincial Park Act.

Combined, the diverse areas – home to a desert, grasslands, lakes and more – are home to 30 per cent of the province’s red-listed wildlife species and a tenth of all threatened species in Canada, according to Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society terrestrial director Peter Wood.

Burrowing owl and badger populations are particularly in need of protection, he said.

“This area has the highest concentration of rare and endangered species in Canada, and all in region that’s the relative size of a postage stamp,” said Wood. “We’re really happy. This has been a 10-year campaign for CPAWS, and it’s the first sign of movement [from government] we’ve had in years.”

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Uma Thurman’s Journey to Protect Africa’s Wildlife From Vicious Poachers

Rhinoceros horn is more valuable than gold, can be used as a party drug, and drives poachers to literally cut the animals’ faces off while they’re still alive. And unless people intervene, they will be gone in 10 years.

We have been driving for a half hour along a rutted, sandy path in Timbavati Game Reserve, a private conservancy within South Africa’s Greater Kruger National Park. All around us stretches yellowing early winter grassland dotted with acacia trees and thorn bushes, the so-called lowveld of northeastern Limpopo Province. I’m riding shotgun, squeezing between my feet an open container bristling with bottles, syringes, and vials of potent veterinary drugs, as well as a pulse oximeter, for monitoring the vital signs of rhinoceroses.

In the very back of the Land Cruiser truck, standing next to a spare tire, coils of thick rope, and a four-foot-long dart gun, is actress Uma Thurman. She bounded up there with ease, all five-foot-eleven of her, at the start of the chase—almost, I couldn’t help thinking, the way her badass character in the Kill Bill films would have. “I want to see better!” she said.

In Kill Bill she was bent on revenge. We are now on a mission of mercy—to help prevent “bloody murder.” That’s what Map Ives, Botswana’s biblically bearded national rhino coordinator, riding in the back seat, calls what is happening these days in South Africa (and to some extent in neighboring Namibia): the ruthless slaughter by poachers of black and white rhinos for their horn. The “rhinocide,” as Thurman calls it, has surged since 2008, when the prestige of rhino horn (which has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine) began climbing rapidly among the rising rich in Vietnam, where it is thought to not only cure cancer but enhance virility, and where it also serves, ground to a powder, as a cocaine-like party drug. Approximately 4.5 of the prehistoric-looking animals are being killed every day, up from what seemed an already apocalyptic three per day at the end of 2014. “And that is just the corpses that we find,” says Kester Vickery, who is at the wheel of our truck and whose South Africa–based company, Conservation Solutions, moves large wild mammals throughout Africa from areas of peril to more hospitable environments. “Others are in inaccessible areas.”

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Found these hellbender eggs while surveying for adult hellbenders (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis) yesterday. Hellbender nests typically consist of a few hundred eggs, which are deposited under large rocks. Unfortunately, if a nest rock is lifted, it is unlikely the eggs will survive. In order to avoid destroying nests, large rocks are first “probed” and if eggs are detected (i.e. a small clump is pulled out, as pictured) the rock is left in place.

©Zachary A. Cava