Tag Archives: endangered wildlife

Wildlife photographs of the year awarded

Every year, the Natural History Museum awards several prizes in wildlife photography: elephants, dugogns, gavials, mushrooms, mice and many, many more were captured on film by extremely talented photographers of all ages. Here are just a few of the best pictures and their stories.

Iberian lynx mother and cub.

World’s most endangered wild cat embryos frozen and stored in hope of restoration

Iberian lynx mother and cub.

Iberian lynx mother and cub.

The Iberian lynx is the only wild cat listed as  critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), numbering no more than 200 specimens, all of whom are entirely confined to southern Spain. Researchers from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) in Berlin recently salvaged embryos and egg cells from a pair of captive Iberian lynxes before the animals were sterilized for their own safety. These life carrying eggs were then frozen and stored to this day in hopes that sometime they’ll be able to foster life once more in a surrogate parent.

Azahar, one of the two Iberian lynxes, recently  underwent two emergency Caesarean sections in two consecutive pregnancies, so the researchers decided not to put her up for breeding anymore due to health hazards. Before Azahar was sterilized, though, the cat’s ovaries were removed by castration.

Now, castration might seem like an odd-ball idea considering it’s the opposite of conservation efforts, however right after surgery, the researchers managed to extract embryos and ovarian pieces from the feline through an adapted process the German institute had pioneered for domestic cats.

“Seven days after mating we expected to flush embryos from the uterus,” Katarina Jewgenow, a specialist from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) in Berlin, said in a statement.

Saliega, the other female lynx also held in captivity, already gave birth to 16 cubs and at an age of twelve was too old to mate anymore. From Saliega, the researchers extracted a batch of unfertilized egg cells.

“The next step we are discussing right now is to implant these embryos into a foster mother, which might be an Eurasian lynx female,” said Jewgenow.

The closet related cat is the Eurasian lynx, which the researchers hope to use as a foster mother for the Iberian lynx eggs currently stored in liquid-nitrogen vats at Madrid’s Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales de Madrid.

The news comes only days after a highly publicized TEDx event in Washington D.C. called TEDxDeExtinction – a forum where ethical and practical questions related to reviving extinct animals were discussed and highlighted.

source

Salmon versus Gold clash in Alaska

It’s the already a clichee: the big, international company wants to do some highly profitable operations, threatening the native wildlife and environment.

 

This time, the corporate behemoth is Northern Dynasty Minerals, of British Columbia, who teamed up with other companies, and now name themselves the Pebble Partnership. In the other corner lies native groups, commercial fishermen, village councils, local residents, outfitters, conservationists, and other communities, convinced that the environmental risks, especially those addressed to salmon greatly outweigh the benefits.

Pristine, roadless and wild, the Bristol Bay watershed is host to the largest population of wild salmon in the world – over 30 million salmons. Unfortunately for them, quite close to their natural habitat, there’s also a huge ore deposit, estimated at 36 billion kilograms of copper and 3 million kilograms of gold – quite easy to understand why big mining companies would want to be all over it.

After numerous legal skirmishes and petitions from both sides, the big battle is finally closing in – and it promises to be a turning point for Alaskan exploitation of resources. Either way it will go, it’s going to set up a precedent that will be hard to avoid in future cases.

Back in May, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a draft assessment of the potential consequences of a Pebble Mine-like development, and according to them, even under the best conditions, the most optimistic prognosis, which is never going to happen, is that 90 to 140 kilometers or pristine streams will be contaminated, as will 1,000 hectares of wetlands. But even more worrisome is the possibility of a catastrophic failure of one of the mine’s tailings ponds, which would have devastating consequences.

Guess what happened then? The Pebble Partnership went to state officials to blame these results and complain. Not surprisingly for Alaska, state officials agreed with the money company, dismissing the results. Soon after that, the EPA gathered another committee of independent researchers. Care to take a guess, again? This new committee concluded that if anything, the initial study underestimated the risks.

“Given the extremely long-term nature of the project,” one reviewer wrote, “the risks seem, if anything, understated.”

It’s once again, a battler of money versus wildlife

 

Then, nine Bristol Bay tribal governments made quite a bold move – bypassing the state officials, fearing that they don’t understand or don’t care enough about these findings and went straight to the federal government. Citing a provision of the U.S. Clean Water Act, which governs dumping waste in streams, they had a pretty strong case, and went to the EPA for help. Following this approach, both the governor of Alaska and the Pebble Partnership have made pressures on the EPA, accusing it of overreach and threatening legal action. Back in the day, sadly, this would have done the job. The state could have just ignored the scientific facts, or just dismiss then as inaccurate and establish its own puppet committee; but this time, it seems, something has changed in the heart of Alaskans: the public opinion is heavily against mining in the Bristol Bay.

They fought for their natural treasures, trying to make the rest of the country that this is a national treasure, and should be guarded as such. What do you think, should the Pebble Partnership be allowed to start mining in the Bristol Bay?

Via Nat Geo

Ecuador will receive 3.6 billion $ not to drill for oil in a historic pact

The race for oil drilling is tougher than ever, and the effects are quite often extremely damaging for the environment (I’m sure pretty much everybody knows about the BP oil spill already). However, the UN has come up with an initiative, the first of its kind, that promises to protect at least a handful of special environments. Such is the case with the Yasuni National Park, in Ecuador.

The Park is one of the most biologically diverse parts of the Amazon rainforest, and the Ecuadorian government signed not to destroy this pristine landscape at least for a decade, in the exchange of 3.6 billion dollars. The deal finalized, and U.N. Development Program associate administrator Rebeca Grynspan issued this statement:

We are witnessing the inauguration of new instruments of cooperation, which will act as a basis for supporting other national and international efforts directed toward the search for economies that are in harmony with society, nature and the planet.

With the sum being quite significant for Ecuador, they would probably made twice as much (or even more) from exploiting the oil located beneath the Yasuni Park – but at a huge cost. Currently, the U.N. are trying to work out similar arrangements with countries who plan on drilling in such areas.

Siberian tigers face dramatic decline, drawing near extinction

The Siberian tiger is the biggest feline to walk the face of the Earth at the time, but if today’s trends continue, that will change in the not so distant future; and not because other species will grow bigger, but because the Siberian tiger can become extinct.

siberian-tiger

Hey guys. I don’t wanna be extinct :(

There were around 300 tigers living in Eastern Russia just 4 years ago (which is a dramatically small number), but the WCS (World Wildlife Conservation Society) estimates that the population has decreased significantly due to habitat loss (logging) and poaching. WCS say they have done this estimate in order to warn Russian authorities about what has to be done in order to protect this majestic creature.

siberian-tiger2

Really, I don’t. But there’s nothing I can do.

“The sobering results are a wake-up call that current conservation efforts are not going far enough to protect Siberian tigers,” said Dr. Dale Miquelle, of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Russian Far East Program. “The good news is that we believe this trend can be reversed if immediate action is taken.”

“Working with our Russian partners we are hopeful and confident that we can save the Siberian tiger,” Dr. John G. Robinson, WCS Executive Vice President for Conservation and Science added. “The Siberian tiger is a living symbol for the people of Russia.”

siberian tiger

The remaining habitat of the siberian tiger half a decade ago

Siberian tigers are powerful predators that hunt alone, sometimes searching for prey for many miles. However, despite their reputation and killer traits, they avoid humans as much as they can. In the extremely rare cases when they do attack, it’s because they have nothing to eat.

siberian-tiger-grooming

The main problem is deforestation. The Siberian tigers requires vast territories to survive, and so does it’s prey and other numerous animals from the ecosystem. However, due to (legal and illegal) logging, its habitat decreased greatly, leaving it without food and hope. However, this is not the only hurdle they face.

Poaching is another major threat. Whether it’s for the fur, for medicinal purposes (tiger organs are very valuable in Chinese “traditional” medicine), or just for a big trophy, tigers are threatened from all directions – and this just has to be controlled more strictly. Hopefully, the Russian authorities will be able (and willing) to understand what they have to do and will take the necessary measures so we won’t have to explain to our grandchildren why there are no more Siberian tigers.

West got dusty because of people

dusty west

Think of the territory which was once cald the wild west; what’s the first image that pops up in your head? For most, it will probably be a dusty scenery, with some bush rolling about, an image of solitude. If you thought about that, then you were pretty close to the truth.

During the last centuries, The West has become a much dustier place. In fact, the westward “invasion” of humans have made the West five times dustier in the past two centuries than it had been in the past 5,000 years. This was pointed out by a study of lakebed sediments finds.

“There seems to be a perception that dusty conditions in the West are just the nature of the region,” said lead researcher Jason Neff of the University of Colorado at Boulder. “We have shown here that the increase in dust since the 1800s is a direct result of human activity and not part of the natural system.”

“From about 1860 to 1900, the dust deposition rates shot up so high that we initially thought there was a mistake in our data,” Neff said. “But the evidence clearly shows the western U.S. had its own Dust Bowl beginning in the 1800s when the railroads went in and cattle and sheep were introduced into the rangelands.”

The damage could be great here. Dust contains nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and calcium — by-products of ranching, mining and agricultural activity — that can modify ecosystems and could also cause respiratory problems for humans. I guess it’s just nature’s way of punishing us for causing this expansion of dusty areas.

Saving a plant that could save your life

endangered plant
There is (or at least there should be) a lot of attention focused around endangered wildlife and protecting a number of species from the damage which we as humans bring to them more or less directly. The animals most definetly deserve it. But most people don’t think of plants as being endangered, but the thing is that they are.

This has happened mostly because of three major reasons:

  • The first and probably the worst is that man is cutting down and destroying rain forests and other habitats. This has been talked about for ages so we are not going to cover that here.
  • Another is that human activities and the expanding of the cities off road traffic and pesticide use reduce habitat.
  • The center of our focus is the fact that we need some herbs to make medicine. Some estimates indicate that 15,000 of the 50,000 – 70,000 plant species used for medicinal purposes and mostly collected from the wild may be threatened, many as a direct result of an unsustainable collection.
  • It should also be noted that numerous underwater species are already extinct due to the destruction of the coral reef and they probably could have helped medicine a lot. But we should not moan about the past but rather learn from it and then think what we could do at the present moment.

    Three years of collaboration in which World Wide Fund for Nature played a very important role have led to the first set of principles and criteria for the sustainable wild collection of plants.

    “This important effort will benefit the health and well-being of both the ecosystems they are part of, and the local people who depend on them for their livelihoods,” stresses Dr. Susan Lieberman, Director of WWF’s Species Programme.

    The concern over the issue has grown significantly in the past years and new standard addresses requests from industry, governments, organic certifiers, resource managers and collectors for a means of assessing the sustainability of wild collection.

    This thing is huge as beside giving much needed help to the the people involved in the harvest, management, trade, manufacture and sale of wild-collected medicinal and aromatic plant resources it also provides potential frameworks for addressing a rising consumer concern and the drug market needed this a lot. This of course involves an international, multi-stakeholder advisory group representing industry, independent certifiers, organizations working on fair trade, sustainable livelihoods and sustainable agriculture and forestry which hopefully are going to find the right way to develop this so that it would be to the benefit of the plant and the human species as well.