In a handy stroke of luck, scientists have rediscovered a “lost” African species: the Bururi long-fingered frog. Last seen in 1949, the 1.3-inch-long amphibian was found during a December 2011 biodiversity survey in the small central African country of Burundi scientists announced last year.
Thwarted by decades of political conflict, few biologists have so far been able to explore Burundi’s ecosystems.
"The last time this species was seen was the first time this species was seen—that’s the state of our knowledge in this little corner of Africa," said team member David Blackburn, a herpetologist at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.
During the recent survey, scientists collected one male specimen of the frog, which—like all male Bururi long-fingered frogs—has an elongated “ring” finger on each hand. “It’s one of the few bluish frogs in Africa—a beautiful little animal,” Blackburn added.
The frog’s original discoverer, a Belgian biologist, did not describe exactly where in Burundi he’d found the animal, so Blackburn and colleagues were “shooting in the dark” when they began their search for the frog.
Blackburn figured that frogs of the same genus in Cameroon—the closest relatives of the Bururi frogs—would have similar mating calls, so he kept his ear attuned for those sounds. Sure enough, the researcher located the right sounds in a thickly forested area.
"I happened to take my stick and push aside some vegetation, and lo and behold, sitting on the log was this species that hadn’t been seen since 1949," Blackburn said. "It was a great moment."
Little is known about the long-fingered frog’s biology or its numbers, Blackburn noted. For instance, the exact purpose of the animal’s namesake digits remains a mystery. What’s more, he said, a growing human population is moving into the Burundi mountains, where people often eat wildlife and cut down large swaths of forests for firewood.
As of right now, it seems the frog may exist only in small patches, and “if the forest goes, these frogs will go.” The rediscovery of the long-fingered frog is part of a larger study on the evolution of Africa’s animals that’s currently in progress.
(Source: National Geographic)
The Northern Quoll (sasyurus hallucatus), also known as the Northern Native Cat, is the smallest of four native Australian quoll species. A carnivorous marsupial that resembles a possum with large white spots, it is remarkable in that the male dies after mating, leaving females to raise youngsters on their own.
Once found north of Brisbane and right across the Continent to the Western Australian coastline, the Quoll is now listed as endangered, reduced to small pockets in the Northern Territory, Cape York and the Kimberley and Pilbara regions.
The prime culprit is the cane toad, introduced to Australia in 1935 to rid the nation’s then-vital sugar cane industry of the cactoblastis beetle. Not only do toads compete with the quoll for food and shelter, but also they posthumously eradicate the cats via poisonous glands that are fatal to native species that eat them.
To help stem the tide, a University of Sydney project is trying to teach quolls to avoid eating toads. “We offer the quolls a small toad that we’ve infused with a chemical that induces nausea. So the next time they smell or taste a toad, they associate it with illness and reject it,” says research fellow Jonathan Webb.
“We have reintroduced 50 toad-trained quolls to Kakadu, where they are almost wiped out, and after two years 20 of them are still there –- and reproducing. We’re optimistic this approach is working.”
Philippine government workers used a backhoe and an incinerator Friday to crush and burn more than five tons of smuggled elephant tusks worth an estimated $10 million in the biggest known destruction of trafficked ivory outside Africa.
The government said that the destruction of the stockpile, gathered from seizures since 2009, demonstrates its commitment to fighting the illegal ivory trade. It also eliminates any opportunity for corrupt officials to resell the ivory, as was the case in 2006 when the largest single shipment of 3.7 tones vanished from the inventory, according to an international network that tracks the illegal trade.
The U.S. Agency for International Development and the anti-wildlife-trafficking Freeland Foundation said that they were assisting the Philippine government in conducting DNA analysis of elephant tusks at the Center for Conservation Biology of the University of Washington so that law enforcement agencies will have information on the origin and transit points of the smuggled ivory. It will also help to dismantle criminal syndicates responsible for poaching in Africa.
"This not only sends a message to wildlife traffickers that the Philippine government is taking firm action against the illegal ivory trade, but also takes a stand against corruption by burning their ivory stockpile so it cannot be stolen then sold into the black market," said Steven Galster, director of Bangkok-based Freeland Foundation.
The Southeast Asian nation has been used as a transit route between Africa and the rest of Asia. Ivory can fetch up to $2,000 per kilogram ($910 per pound) on the black market and more than $50,000 for an entire tusk.
The Elephant Trade Information System, which tracks the illegal trade on behalf of the 1989 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, says that the Philippines is among nine countries and territories identified as being most heavily implicated in the illegal trade. The others are Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Malaysia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, China and Thailand.
Iceland has resumed its commercial hunting of fin whales after a two-year suspension by landing the first of an expected 180 whales in Hvalfjördur. The first kill prompted protests from environment and animal welfare groups that the hunt is “cruel and unnecessary.”
Undercover pictures taken aboard the Hvalur 8 by Greenpeace show the harpooned whale being cut up for meat that is likely to be exported to Japan. Fin whales are the second largest animal on earth after the blue whale and are listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list of threatened species.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) condemned the Icelandic whaler Kristján Loftsson who has resumed fin whaling after a two year break. “It is a very sad day seeing these images and knowing that this endangered animal has suffered a cruel death, only to be cut up for meat that nobody needs,” said Robbie Marsland, UK director of IFAW.
Iceland cancelled fin whale hunts in 2011 and 2012 partly because Japan, the largest market, was suffering an economic downturn after of the devastating tsunami in March 2011. Seven fin whales were killed in Iceland’s waters in 2006, 125 in 2009 and 148 in 2010.
Loftsson’s company Hvalur plans to hunt up to 180 fin whales in the 2013 season. The International Whaling Commission has banned commercial whaling but its authority is not recognized by Iceland. More than 1 million people from around the world signed a recent online petition against the trading of Icelandic fin whale meat amid revelations that some of it has ended up in dog food products in Japan.
"Whaling is brutal and belongs to a bygone era not the 21st century," said John Sauven, director of Greenpeace UK. "It is deeply regrettable that a single Icelandic whaler backed by the government is undermining the global ban on commercial whaling which is there to secure the future of the world’s whales."
Brunei has become the first Asian country to adopt a nationwide shark fin ban. With his June 7 announcement, Sultan Hossanal Bolkiah’s decree officially banned the catch and landing of all shark species from the waters of Brunei Darussalam, as well as shark fin sales in the domestic market, and the importation and trade of shark products.
The continent of Asia is the largest market for shark fins in the world, and Brunei’s decision to ban shark fins is a huge step towards regional change across Asia. Conservation groups around the world have their fingers crossed that this victory will inspire more countries in Asia, and especially China, to ban the sale and trade of shark fins. Today, China is the world’s largest consumer of shark fin soup, but the government has already taken steps to stop serving the delicacy.
Shark finning is a brutal practice – the shark is hauled onto a boat, its fins are sliced off, and the shark is thrown back into the ocean, often still alive, to drown or bleed to death. Since shark meat is less desirable compared with other fish and the bodies take up precious cargo space, sharks are finned around the world and their meat is discarded. This cruel practice is also incredibly wasteful; shark finning only utilizes one to five percent of the shark’s body weight.
Approximately 100 million sharks are killed each year, primarily to support the demand for shark fin soup. Tens of millions of sharks are needlessly slaughtered each year, all for a tasteless product that translates to “fish wing” and adds no nutritional value to the broth. At the rate of one hundred million sharks killed every year, humans will wipe sharks out entirely in the coming decades if we don’t change something.
Brunei’s decision to ban both shark fishing and the sale, trade, and import of shark fins is a strong, definitive stand against shark slaughter, and one that has not been fully achieved in many countries, including the U.S.
“We applaud Brunei officials for taking this step as the first Asian country to ban shark fishing and the fin trade. This paves the way for other countries to step up for sharks,” Oceana Marine Scientist Amanda Keledjian explained.“It is important that the ban prohibits both shark fishing and the trade and import of processed shark fins nationwide – something we have not yet been able to accomplish in the United States. While shark fins are still harvested, processed, and traded on a monumental scale around the world, every country closing its doors on this cruel practice means a better future for sharks in our oceans.”
The hooded seal is a fin-footed mammal found only in the central and western North Atlantic. They live on the drifting pack ice and in the deep waters. From April until June, this species travels long distances to feed and from June through August, they gather again on separate moulting areas of the ice. In biology, moulting is described as being the shedding of the outer layer of the body. Moulting can involve the skin, fur, wool, feathers, etc of the given animal. After moulting, they return to feeding in the late summer months and return to breeding areas in the winter. There are four major breeding areas: the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the “front” east of Newfoundland, Davis Straight, and the West Ice.
The hooded seal gets its name thanks to their enormous elastic naval cavity, also known as the “hood”, that males can inflate and extend from the front of their face to the top of their head. This “hood” is a symbol of “manliness” and is used to get the attention of a female during breeding season. Males that see each other as a threat to “win the prize”, will compare hoods and whoever is able to inflate their nostrils the largest, will breed with the female. The hooded seal is an unsocial creature and is more aggressive and territorial than any other seal species.
Hooded seals, like all marine mammals, are protected under the MMPA. The MMPA prohibits the take of marine mammals in U.S. waters. However, in 2010, the IUCN listed the hooded seals as vulernable for extinction.
The orange-bellied parrot is one of Australia’s most endangered species. This small, broad-tailed parrot is endemic (defined to a geographic location) to southern Australia and is one of only two species of parrot known to migrate. While all orange-bellied parrots have a blue frontal band and blue outer wing feathers, the male is distinguished by bright green upperparts, yellow underparts and an orange belly patch. The female is not as bright, and therefore is duller in color.
Orange-bellied parrots are being bred in a captive breeding program with other parrots in Tasmania, Melbourne Zoo, Priam Parrot Breeding Centre, and in other zoos and sanctuaries in surrounding areas in Tasmania and Australia. The orange-bellied parrot is listed as critically endangered because there are only 36 wild birds known to be alive after the 2011/2012 breeding season. In 2010/2011, 21 wild birds were captured as “insurance” against this species’ extinction. In captive breeding programs across Australia, there are 208 orange-bellied parrots. It is expected that this species will become extinct in the wild within the next five years.
Seventeen heavily armed suspected poachers entered the Dzanga-Ndoki National Park, a World Heritage site, in the Central African Republic (CAR) on Monday, May 6, 2013. WWF-supported researchers working in the area confirmed hearing automatic weapon shots coming from a large clearing known as Dzanga Bai, or “village of elephants.”
This area has become familiar to American audiences through programs like the CBS News program 60 Minutes story on elephant language, National Geographic specials and features on many other news outlets.
WWF sources working in the area confirmed hearing automatic weapon shots coming from a large clearing known as Dzanga Bai. They reported on Thursday that they had counted at least twenty-six elephant carcasses in and around the Bai. Bai is known as the “village of elephants,” where between fifty and two hundred elephants congregate daily to drink mineral salts present in the sands. Since the poachers arrived no elephants have been seen at the Bai, which was described as an “elephant mortuary.”
Swift and Urgent Action
WWF has confirmed other instances of elephants being slaughtered in the violence-ridden country, where the new government in place since the military coup is struggling to gain control over the situation. Given the size of the force witnessed, this most recent incursion into a protected area may result in one of the biggest elephant massacres in recent history.
WWF has been working in the CAR since the 1980s and is urging the government to immediately act on their commitment to mobilize troops to end poaching in the region and to safeguard the area’s people and wildlife. They are also calling on the international community to help restore peace and order in the Central African Republic, which recently underwent a chaotic coup.
WWF seeks to ensure a stronger local and global response to stop wildlife crime that is threatening whole populations of elephants, rhinos and tigers.
Learn more about what you can do to help stop wildlife crime by clicking the link below.
The little koala wandered back to his home in New South Wales, Australia last week only to find it had been cut down and chipped by logging operations. A volunteer with WIRES, a rescue operation licensed by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, said the koala had been sitting on top of the wood pile for over an hour looking confused, the Daily Telegraph reported.
He was later taken to a local veterinarian and released near an established colony, but the heartbreaking photo shows some of the hardships faced by the animals over the past few years.
Severe habitat destruction and the spread of a deadly chlamydia outbreak have decimated populations and the Australian government declared the species threatened in some areas for the first time last year.
Black rhinoceros listed as extinct
Several species of rhino have been poached into extinction or to the point of no return, according to an update of the Red List of Threatened Species. Several species of rhino have been poached into extinction or to the point of no return, according to an update of the Red List of Threatened Species, the gold standard for animal and plant conservation.