GOOD NEWS FOR SEA TURTLES

by Editor on December 19, 2014

Leatherback Sea Turtle. Photo: USFWS

Leatherback Sea Turtle. Photo: USFWS

Though They’re Still Endangered, YOUR Concern is Helping Some Species Recover

Make no mistake: Sea turtles of all species continue to face the threat of extinction. Until relatively recently, people the world over thought nothing of taking their eggs wherever and whenever they found them, and they also killed adult turtles for food. In addition, development along tropical and subtropical beaches has damaged and destroyed nesting areas, as have rising sea levels brought on by global climate change. Sea turtles also are accidentally caught and drowned in commercial fishing gear, killed by oil spills, and die from intestinal blockages after ingesting floating plastic that they mistake for something to eat.

Scientists estimate that the populations of most sea turtle species declined by 95 percent over the course of the 1900s—with the race toward extinction accelerating dramatically during the century’s final two decades. For example, in 1980, the worldwide population of the leatherback sea turtle—one of AAW‘s Top 10 Endangered Species—was thought to include around 120,000 breeding-age females. But just 15 years later, that estimate had dropped to between 20,000 and 30,000 breeding-age females.

Aside from the leatherback—the world’s heaviest reptile, capable of reaching an adult weight of close to a ton—other endangered sea turtle species include green sea turtles, loggerhead sea turtles, Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, and hawksbill sea turtles. All face the same daunting set of manmade environmental problems. [click to continue…]

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ENDANGERED SPECIES LIST 2015

by Editor on December 1, 2014

Critically Endangered Species: The Western Lowland Gorilla. Photo:Jack Hynes

Critically Endangered Species: The Western Lowland Gorilla. Photo:Jack Hynes


Our Ten Most Endangered Animals For 2015

We’ve made two important changes to All About Wildlife‘s Top 10 List of Endangered Species for 2015. Our updated Ten Most Endangered Animals list is now available for your viewing.

The first change is that we’ve replaced the Siberian tiger with . . . the tiger. In other words, while the Siberian tiger is still on our list, it now must share its spot with all the other remaining tiger subspecies: the Bengal, Indochinese, Malayan, and Sumatran tigers. We made this decision because all of the five subspecies are in deep trouble due to illegal hunting to satisfy demand for tiger body parts in China and Vietnam. Together they number fewer than 3,000 individual wild tigers—and it’s possible that as few as 2,500 remain in the forests of Asia. There are now so few tigers that it may be getting difficult for breeding-age animals to find one another in order to mate.

In addition, tiger conservationists tell us that, in spite of all the measures taken to protect tigers, illegal hunters continue to kill a couple of them every week. At this rate, we think it’s probable that within five years—by 2020—the only wild tigers remaining will be a handful in Siberia, and another handful in India, with the Indochinese, Malayan, and Sumatran tigers having slipped into functional extinction.

Based on the above, it seemed almost misleading to continue spotlighting one of the two tiger subspecies most likely to survive—at least for a little while—beyond the second decade of the 21st century. [click to continue…]

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HOW LONG UNTIL TIGERS ARE GONE?

by Editor on October 31, 2014

A Captive Malaysian Tiger Swimming. Photo: Hans Stieglitz

Not Wild: A Captive Malayan Tiger In A Zoo Swimming Pool. Photo: Hans Stieglitz

Words And Worry Won’t Stop The Endangered Cat’s Virtual Extinction In The Wild By 2020

BY PAUL GUERNSEY
Of course the tiger will never go extinct as a species. It’s actually a silly question because people are breeding them in pens like livestock in order to eat them and brew wine from their bones. Estimates of the tiger population in Chinese tiger farms stand at over 6,000 animals—double, or perhaps nearly triple, the number that are left in Asia’s shrinking, exploited, and abused wilderness areas.

The real uncertainty concerns whether there will be any endangered tigers remaining in the wild by 2020—a mere five years from now. A reasonable guess would would be that no, there won’t be wild tigers left. Not in any meaningful sense.

In 1900 there were nine tiger subspecies roaming Asia from the rainy jungles of the Indonesian islands to the icy forests of Chinese Manchuria and the Amur region of easternmost Siberia. About 100,000 of the animals existed in all. Now, just over 11 decades later, three subspecies are officially extinct: the Javan and Balinese tigers native to two of Indonesia’s islands, along with the huge Caspian tiger from the mountains of western Asia. A fourth subspecies, the South China tiger, hasn’t been seen in years. It is doubtlessly extinct, but seemingly has been “kept on the books” for political reasons. The remaining five subspecies consist of ragged remnants fast dwindling to the point at which the few mature breeding animals among them will have great difficulty finding one another. [click to continue…]

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RHINOCEROS EXTINCTION

by Editor on October 22, 2014

The Northern White Rhino Is Sliding Toward Almost Certain Extinction

The Northern White Rhinoceros: Only A Handful Remain

The Northern White Rhino Is Almost Certain To Go Extinct—With Other Species To Follow

With the death last week of a 34-year-old male named Suni, the world’s population of northern white rhinoceroses dropped to six, and the rhino subspecies lumbered closer to the abyss of extinction. Suni was one of two breeding males at the Ol Pejecta Conservancy in Kenya. He appears to have died of natural causes. Even before Suni’s death, many scientists were skeptical that the small number of remaining northern whites could produce enough offspring with sufficient genetic diversity to allow the subspecies to survive.

Genetic diversity becomes a problem for any population that is close to extinction or extirpation because in order to produce young, individuals must mate with close relatives. This is called inbreeding. Eventually, inbreeding causes every member of the population to end up being a genetic near-duplicate of every other member, making the entire group vulnerable to illness and birth defects. [click to continue…]

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ANOTHER GREAT EXTINCTION?

by Editor on October 10, 2014

Extinct, Of Course. Model OF A Woolly Mammoth At The Royal British Columbia Museum. Photo: WolfmanSF

An Extinct Animal: A Woolly Mammoth Model At The Royal British Columbia Museum. Photo: WolfmanSF

Are Large Numbers Of Our Earth’s Animal Species Going To Go Extinct?

It may already be happening. Many scientists believe that the earth likely is spinning on the verge of a mass extinction of animal species—something that has occurred five times since life originated on the planet. The most famous mass extinction is also the most recent—it was the one that swept dinosaurs from the face of the earth more than 65 million years ago.

Each mass extinction has destroyed well over half—up to 90 percent—of all the earth’s species. There have also been many lesser extinction events, including the one that carried off the woolly mammoth and many other ice-age species 10 to 15 thousand years ago.

While the planet’s biodiversity—its total number of species—probably has never been higher, human activity has been squeezing a large percentage of these organisms toward the edge of existence. Problems related to humans such as widespread habitat loss, illegal hunting, and climate change are having a particularly strong impact on the world’s large mammals—everything from elephants to polar bears. This is because large animals produce fewer young and need to range over larger areas in order to survive. But all sizes of animals are being affected. According to biologists at Stanford University, as many as one-third of the world’s vertebrate species currently are Threatened or Endangered. [click to continue…]

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EXTINCT FOR A CENTURY

by Editor on September 21, 2014

The Passenger Pigeon Has Been Extinct For A Century. Photo: A Memorial At The Cincinnati Zoo

The Passenger Pigeon Has Been Extinct For A Century. Only Stuffed And Mounted Specimens Remain.

One Hundred Years Ago This Month The Passenger Pigeon Vanished From The Earth

The fate of the passenger pigeon stands as a strong reminder that any species, no matter how numerous, can slip into extinction within a short period of time—and that being extinct means that a unique piece of creation is gone forever.

The passenger pigeon was a North American bird that in size and color looked quite a bit like the mourning dove. As late as the 1860s they were probably the world’s most numerous species of bird: They traveled in flocks estimated at over a billion, and when they were on the move they darkened the skies for hours. When they roosted in trees at night, the combined weight of birds would sometimes shear off a limb and send it crashing to the ground.

But people shot and netted them because they were good to eat—uncountable numbers were harvested for sale in the markets of Eastern US cities—and also because they ate the grain crops of Midwestern farmers. By the 1890s they were already becoming scarce, with hunters actually having to look for them in the woods rather than standing in one spot and firing away as thousands flew over. [click to continue…]

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HELP THE MONARCH BUTTERFLY

by Editor on August 27, 2014

Monarch Butterflies Are Getting Increasing Scarce. Photo: Keenan Adams, USFWS

Monarch Butterflies Are Getting Increasing Scarce. Photo: Keenan Adams, USFWS

These Beautiful Flying Insects Are In Major Trouble. Here’s What You Can Do.

All across North America and Mexico, the numbers of monarch butterflies are dwindling. A conservation organization called the Xerces Society estimates that the monarch population has declined by 90 percent over the last 20 years. There are several reasons for this decline including global climate change and habitat loss, but the biggest factor seems to be a decrease in the amount of milkweed available to the butterflies. Milkweed is a plant that grows in open areas—on the edges of fields and in fields that have become overgrown. Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed, and the young caterpillars that hatch out of those eggs feed on its leaves.

During recent decades, large commercial farms across the continent have been spraying their fields with chemicals that kill weeds such as milkweed without harming the crops. Less milkweed has meant many fewer butterflies. Commercial farmers and Monsanto, the chemical company that manufactures one of the most widely used weed-killing chemicals, are unlikely to stop destroying milkweed without a lot of pressure from the American people and government, and time may be running out. [click to continue…]

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