conservation-biology

Thresher Sharks are my new favourite shark! They are so adorable with their big eyes and tiny mouths.

That tail though can be intimidating. They use it to whip and stun their prey!

This is a screenshot from Alberto’s Philippines video of our adventure. Coming to you soon!

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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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.

CAUSES

OPEN ACCESS FISHERIES

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.

POOR FISHERIES MANAGEMENT

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.

ILLEGAL FISHING

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.

SUBSIDIES

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

The 6th Mass Extinction on Earth has Begun

Troubling evidence recently released by a group of scientists including Paul Ehrlich, the Bing Professor of Population Studies in biology, has  show a large increase in the number of species lost over the last century. The numbers above each bar represent the estimated values for extinct vertebrates. The image above shows that since the industrial revolution, species diversity has been rapidly declining in response to human activity including:

  • Destruction of habitats
  • Introduction of invasive species
  • Climate change
  • Destruction of ecosystems because of pollutants

Erlich and his colleagues do offer hope for the future. If rapid conservation efforts are undertaken now, then  such a dramatic ecological event can be avoided. It is more than likely that if such an even were to occur, the human race would suffer itself.

Source: ScienceAdvances

desmog.ca
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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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.

independent.co.uk
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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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.

      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.

BATS GREATLY NEED OUR HELP AND WE EMINENTLY NEED THEM AS WELL!

      SAVE BATS.


(Photo credit: babyanimalzoo. 2012)

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

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.

Seven Distinct African Crocodile Species, Not Just Three, Biologists Show

Dec. 18, 2013 — African crocodiles, long thought of as just three known species, are among the most iconic creatures on that continent. But recent University of Florida research now finds that there are at least seven distinct African crocodile species

The UF team’s latest discovery, led by then-doctoral candidate Matthew H. Shirley, is that what had been believed to be a single species of slender-snouted crocodile, is actually two. The findings, which have major implications for policy-makers and conservationists, are outlined in a paper published online last week by Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The results emphasize how little is known about crocodile biogeography, or how species are distributed geographically over time, in Western and Central Africa, said Jim Austin, a co-author on the paper and Shirley’s doctoral adviser at UF. In the paper, Shirley and his team describe that West African populations of the slender-snouted crocodile do not share the same genetic or specific physical features as those populations in Central Africa – and they estimate the two populations have been separated from each other geographically for at least 7 million years. Biologists and conservation agencies need to know the precise taxonomy of animals and plants to avoid allocating precious conservation funding and effort working to protect species that may be more plentiful than believed, or – as in this case – ensuring that those resources can be directed toward species whose numbers are lower than believed.

Now that researchers know the West African slender-snouted crocodile is not the same species as its Central African cousin, Shirley said, that changes its standing. “The West African slender-snouted crocodile is actually among the three or four most endangered crocodiles in the world,” Shirley wrote in an email last week. “By finally recognizing that it is a unique species, we are in a much better position to advance its conservation and ensure its future.” Shirley likened the plight of the West African slender-snouted croc to the American alligator, which was on the cusp of extinction in the 1960s, but because it was protected, can now be easily observed in nature, be legally harvested at times, and helps drive Florida’s tourism economy.

In Africa, crocodiles are traded and consumed as bush meat, making them a significant protein source for residents. They also play a major role at the top of the food pyramid, with significant influence on fish and crustraceans, much as lions control antelope populations. “If we remove them from the ecosystem, then there may be profound effects on fisheries resources in the future,” he wrote. Crocodile species are often difficult to identify by physical characteristics alone. Most non-scientists can barely tell the difference between an alligator and a crocodile, in fact. So to bolster their genetic sleuthing, the UF team also looked at skull characteristics of slender-snouted crocodiles from museum collections and were able to find consistent differences between the species, Austin said.

Austin is a faculty member in UF’s Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, part of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. The other team members were Kent Vliet, laboratories coordinator with UF’s biology department, and Amanda Carr, an undergraduate in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation. Austin said the team’s work is leading to helpful information for American zoos and aquariums by decoding the correct identification and taxonomy of African crocodiles housed in these facilities.

Without the correct species identification, zookeepers could interbreed these hard-to-distinguish species, rendering them ineffective as founder animals for conservation purposes. And captive breeding efforts may be wasted when individuals of different species simply won’t breed. “We’re doing the work to see which species they actually have,” Austin said.

Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131218130150.htm

Lake Oku clawed frog saved from brink of extinction

One of the world’s most critically endangered frogs, which lives in just one African lake, has been bred for the first time in captivity.

The Lake Oku clawed frog is 35th on the list of the world’s most at risk animals and was in danger of becoming extinct within the next decade because of invasive fish and disease.

However the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) said it had successfully bred the frogs for the first time, which should ensure the future survival of the species.

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