Eight critically endangered black rhinos die after drinking saltier water than they were used to when they were moved to a new reserve in Kenya

  • Tragic loss of endangered black rhinos thought to be caused by salt poisoning
  • Operation aimed to boost species population, but eight of 14 died in transit
  • Translocation of endangered animals is risky and involves putting them to sleep
  • Conservationists in Kenya demand responsibility be taken after sad news broke
  • Death toll is ‘unprecedented’ in more than a decade of such animal transfers

Eight out of 14 critically endangered black rhinos died after being moved to a new reserve in southern Kenya, wildlife officials admitted on Friday.

The Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife said salt poisoning may have caused the rhinos to perish as they struggled to adapt to saltier water in their new home.

It has suspended the ongoing move of other rhinos with the surviving ones being closely monitored.

Eight critically endangered rhinos died of suspected salt poisoning while being moved from Nairobi and Lake Nakuru in Kenya

Eight critically endangered rhinos died of suspected salt poisoning while being moved from Nairobi and Lake Nakuru in Kenya

The black rhinos were being translocated to Tsavo East National Park in the hope of boosting species population

The black rhinos were being translocated to Tsavo East National Park in the hope of boosting species population

The relocation of endangered animals involves putting them to sleep for the journey and then reviving them in a process which carries risks.

But the loss of more than half of them is highly unusual.

Prominent Kenyan conservationist Paula Kahumbu said officials must take responsibility and should have explained what went wrong sooner.

‘Rhinos have died, we have to say it openly when it happens, not a week later or a month later,’ she said.

‘Something must have gone wrong, and we want to know what it is.’

It was hoped moving rhinos to the newly created Tsavo East National Park from Nairobi would boost the population there, AP reported.

The wildlife ministry said ‘disciplinary action will definitely be taken’ if an investigation into the deaths indicates negligence by agency staff.

14 black rhinos were moved in all.

The death toll while moving from the capital to a national park hundreds of kilometres away has been labelled ‘unprecedented’ by the government.

‘Moving rhinos is complicated, akin to moving gold bullion, it requires extremely careful planning and security due to the value of these rare animals,’ Kahumbu added.

‘Rhino translocations also have major welfare considerations and I dread to think of the suffering that these poor animals endured before they died.’

In transit from two separate locations, eight out of 14 of the endangered black rhinos died while moving to Tsavo East National Park

In transit from two separate locations, eight out of 14 of the endangered black rhinos died while moving to Tsavo East National Park

There are an estimated 5,500 black rhinos in the world, a figure that has rebounded from just 350 that existed when the species was on the brink of extinction in 1983

There are an estimated 5,500 black rhinos in the world, a figure that has rebounded from just 350 that existed when the species was on the brink of extinction in 1983

In May, six black rhinos were moved from South Africa to Chad, restoring the species to the country in north-central Africa nearly half a century after it was wiped out there.

Kenya transported 149 rhinos between 2005 and 2017 with eight deaths, the wildlife ministry said.

Save the Rhinos estimates there are fewer than 5,500 black rhinos in the world, all of them in Africa.

Kenya’s black rhino population stands at 750, according to the Worldwide Fund for Nature.

According to KWS figures, nine rhinos were killed in Kenya last year.

In May, three more were shot dead inside a specially-protected sanctuary in northern Kenya and their horns removed, while in March the last male northern white rhino on earth, an elderly bull named Sudan, was put down by Kenyan vets after falling ill.

The black was on the brink of extinction after a dramatic 98 percent decline in population from 20,000 in 1970 to about 350 in 1983, says WWF.

The decline was caused by escalating illegal poaching for illegal markets in the Middle East and Asia.

Black rhinos are considered critically endangered but its population has rebounded, although the species remains threatened due to poaching and habitat loss.

They’re fighting for their lives…

 

Right now bulldozers are clearing a tiny speck of rainforest where Earth’s last 800 Tapanuli Orangutans cling to survival.

It’s all to build a hydropower dam that could push them to extinction.

But Indonesia’s President can still cancel the dam, and he wants to be seen as the people’s president. So if we build a massive campaign and get huge media coverage — he could do it! Wildlife experts are meeting him in days and will deliver our call — so add your name to the petition below with one click before the diggers destroy their home!

Save the Last Tapanuli Orangutans

To the Indonesian government and President, Joko Widodo:
“As citizens from across the world, we urge you to save the last 800 Tapanuli Orangutans from extinction by cancelling the Batang Toru hydropower dam. The fate of this entire species rests in your hands.”

Save the Last Tapanuli Orangutans — Sign Now!

The Tapanuli Orangutans were only discovered months ago, and with fewer than 800 left, they instantly became the world’s most endangered great ape species. Their only home is one shrinking patch of rainforest in Indonesia — and this hydropower dam would be built right in the middle of where they live! No wonder major development banks won’t touch it.

Orangutans are basically family — we share 97% of our DNA. They laugh at jokes, cry when they’re sad, and can clearly tell what it means when the chainsaws arrive. We can’t leave them to face that alone and be wiped out forever. So we have to stop this — together!

Let’s build a giant campaign to make them famous, help journalists expose the destruction, and take out media ads to push Indonesia’s President to scrap the dam and save these desperate orangutans. Sign now and tell everyone!

Scientists say we’re living through the sixth mass extinction, and it’s mostly caused by humans. But at the same time, we’ve never been more able to respond to the crisis, and there’s no other global movement on earth that can do it quick enough, loud enough. So let’s save them!

With hope and determination,

Mike, Bert, Lisa, Sarah, Spyro, Elana, Samir and the whole team at Avaaz

More information:

World’s newest great ape threatened by Chinese dam (The Guardian)
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/radical-conservation/2018/apr/23/worlds-newest-great-ape-threatened-by-chinese-dam

Scientists urge Indonesian president to nix dam in orangutan habitat (Mongabay)
https://news.mongabay.com/2018/07/scientists-urge-indonesian-president-to-nix-dam-in-orangutan-habitat/

Chinese companies backing megadam threaten survival of new orangutan species (Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation)
https://www.leonardodicaprio.org/chinese-companies-backing-megadam-threaten-survival-of-new-orangutan-species/

Sighting of Tapanuli orangutan twins raises hope for saving species (Jakarta Morning Post)
http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/07/11/sighting-of-twin-baby-tapanuli-orangutans-brings-conservation-optimisms.html

Amendment Defunding Grizzly Transportation To Washington Passes House

This undated file photo provided by the National Park Service shows a grizzly bear walking along a ridge in Montana.

This undated file photo provided by the National Park Service shows a grizzly bear walking along a ridge in Montana.

National Park Service

An amendment to prevent the relocation of grizzly bears to Washington’s North Cascades has passed the U.S. House. The move is opposed by conservation groups, which say more grizzly bears are needed in the state.The amendment, proposed by Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., would deny funding for the U.S. Department of Interior to transport grizzly bears into Washington. Newhouse said this amendment was important to his constituents who are concerned about the possibility of another predator so close to home.

“We saw that (Interior) was determined to move forward, regardless of what the opinions of the people who would be most impacted,” Newhouse said.

Newhouse said he felt it was necessary to “take positive action” to make sure that the Interior Department was not able to bring in grizzly bears.

“I’m hearing from an awful lot of people that are expressing grave concerns about having grizzly bears literally in their backyards,” Newhouse said.

To that end, he said he’s working with officials in the Interior to schedule more public comment opportunities in the Okanogan area. These would be in addition to earlier public comment periods around the state that focused on options the federal government could take to reintroduce grizzlies to the North Cascades.

There are fewer than 10 grizzly bears in Washington’s North Cascades. Biologists say if something isn’t done now, grizzlies will soon be gone from the area. They say grizzlies are important to the area’s ecosystem.

Records from the Hudson’s Bay Company indicate there were once thousands of grizzlies in the state. In the mid-1800s, records indicate trappers traded nearly 4,000 grizzly hides through forts in the area — although all of those pelts may not have come from the North Cascades. Biologists say there was a healthy population of grizzlies at one time. The bears were wiped out from fur trading, hunting and habitat fragmentation.

The federal government is in the middle of drafting options for restoring grizzly bears to the North Cascades. The controversial plans range from doing nothing to transporting varying numbers of bears from areas like Canada and Montana.

“(The North Cascades) is the only place outside the Northern Rockies that wildlife officials have said is wild enough for grizzly bear restoration in the Lower 48 — the only place,” said Chase Gunnell, spokesman for Conservation Northwest. “If we’re going to have grizzly bears into the future, we can’t just have them around Yellowstone or Glacier National Park. We need to diversify the population. And the Cascades are it.”

Gunnell said this amendment wouldn’t necessarily prevent the federal government from continuing to study the various options for grizzlies in the North Cascades — it would only prevent funding to the Interior Department for transporting grizzlies.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke speaking on March 23, 2018, about the restarted re-introduction process for grizzly bears in Washington’s North Cascades. Looking on is Karen Taylor Goodrich, the superintendent of the North Cascades National Park Service Complex.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke speaking on March 23, 2018, about the restarted re-introduction process for grizzly bears in Washington’s North Cascades. Looking on is Karen Taylor Goodrich, the superintendent of the North Cascades National Park Service Complex.

Eilís O’Neill/KUOW/EarthFix

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said during a surprise visit to Washington that he was “in support of the great bear” and moving forward with a careful process to decide what to do with grizzlies here.About that process, Zinke said, “I’m not going to make a prejudgment, but I can tell you the winds are very favorable,” Zinke said.

Gunnell said Newhouse’s amendment is skirting an open, public process, which is expected to present a draft decision by the end of this year. Gunnell said he’s concerned about the precedent this would set, with Congress members “pulling on the purse strings” of wildlife officials.

“Our Fish and Wildlife Service, National Parks Service and other wildlife professionals are the ones best suited to address endangered species issues,” Gunnell said.

The bill includes funding for the U.S. Department of Interior, Environmental Protection Agency and Forest Service. It also includes measures to:

– Remove gray wolves from the Endangered Species List in the Lower 48 by 2019;
– Fund wildland firefighting and prevention programs at $3.9 billion, with an additional $500 million for Forest Service fire suppression operations. It also includes $655 million for hazardous fuels management;
– Urge the Forest Service to find funding for upgrades to facilities at the North Cascades Smokejumper Base in Winthrop;
– And encourage the Forest Service to better monitor grazing permits near riparian streams that could affect threatened or endangered species.

The Interior Department funding bill now heads to the U.S. Senate.

Hawaiian monk seal pup rescued from Molokai

https://apnews.com/e46cc6a32b7e4b26844e3156ec61ed24/Hawaiian-monk-seal-pup-rescued-from-Molokai

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii (AP) — A Hawaiian monk seal pup found malnourished on Molokai is now in the care of the Marine Mammal Center’s hospital on the Big Island.

The pup named Sole is in stable condition at the Ke Kai Ola facility in Kailua-Kona after it was rescued last week.

The male pup born in late June was prematurely weaned from its mother earlier this month, the center said. The short nursing time caused the pup to have low body weight and minimal reserves, creating concern for wildlife officials.

“After several consultations with the patient-residents and the Kalaupapa community, the decision was made to rescue the animal,” said Eric Brown, Marine Ecologist at Kalaupapa National Historic Park.

Center veterinarians, supported by the U.S. Coast Guard, the National Park Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, rescued the pup and flew it from Molokai to the Big Island animal hospital.

“With only a few hundred monk seals living in the main Hawaiian Islands, the survival of each individual is critical to the recovery of the population,” said Claire Simeone, the center’s hospital director. “Conservation takes a village. We are so grateful to our partners for their support in achieving our mission, and ensuring this pup made it safely to Ke Kai Ola.”

The pup is now feeding on a blended fish mash, and it will transition to eating whole fish as it grows stronger, Simeone said. The center plans to keep minimal human contact with the seal, so it can have the best chance of survival in the wild.

The center has rehabilitated 23 monk seals and returned them back to the wild since the facility opened in 2014.

Marijuana farms are driving this adorable forest creature to extinction

A furry, cat-size carnivore called the Humboldt marten is struggling to survive in an area sprouted with marijuana farms, and now California wants to protect the adorable creature by declaring it an endangered species.

The state’s declaration would apply only within state lines and wouldn’t offer federal protections.

A member of the weasel family, the Humboldt marten (Martes caurina humboldtensis) lives deep inside the redwood forests of the Pacific Northwest, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. The elusive animal was once thought to be extinct, but it was rediscovered in 1996. The Center for Biological Diversity estimates that 95 percent of the marten’s habitat has disappeared due to deforestation. [In Images: 100 Most Threatened Species]

There are two populations of Humboldt martens remaining: a group of about 100 in Oregon, and another group of about 200 in northern California, right where cannabis cultivation is booming, The Guardianreported. In Humboldt County, California, where the martens are found, there are an estimated 4,000 to 15,000 cannabis cultivation sites, The Guardian reported. That’s in addition to the illegal operations and “trespass grows” on public or tribal lands, The Guardian reported.

Cannabis cultivation is likely the biggest reason for the Humboldt marten’s decline, The Guardian reported. Not only are forests cleared to make room for farming, but many cannabis farmers also use rodenticides that make their way into the forest food chain, killing anything that eats rodents, including the martens. Live Science reported on a similar story in January about spotted owls (Strix occidentalis) in this same region of California that are dying after eating prey killed with toxic rodenticide left out by marijuana farmers.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) reviewed a petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and the California-based Environmental Protection Information Center asking the state to list the animal as endangered. The marten is currently classified by California as a species of special concern, but a status review from the CDFW found that listing the species as endangered is warranted, The Mercury News reported. The final determination is expected to be made in August, The Mercury News reported.

Original article on Live Science.

North Cascades Grizzly Letter

Dear Editor,

Bushwhacking through a trail-less valley in the heart of North Cascades, I came across some enormous tracks and a huge pile of scat that, having not seen their maker, I attributed to either Bigfoot or a grizzly bear. But that was over 35 years ago and I haven’t seen hide nor hair, nor heard of many sightings of either of them since then.

I hate to tell Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, but a “conservation ethic” is something we should have before a species is hunted and trapped practically to extinction and is in need of augmentation—as is the case with Washington’s grizzly bears. Now that would be a real success story. And the few hundred specimens in the Greater Yellowstone area do not add up to a recovered species for the lower 48.

Yet, no sooner did our current Administration remove the imperiled bears from the Threatened Species List did the state of Wyoming set a plan to hunt 24 grizzlies this fall season. Meanwhile, Idaho, with an even lower population of grizzly bears, felt they could sacrifice one to five of them to trophy hunting, if only to get their goose-stepping foot in the door on the issue.

It’s worth noting that B.C. recently banned trophy hunting of grizzlies, and Montana has not yet made plans for a sport hunt on that species. The question for Washington is, which neighbors will we emulate now that the bears have lost their ESA protections?

And what’s next for the Northwest, a trophy hunt on Sasquatch? Believe me, you don’t want that smelly hominid hide hanging on your wall—not if you ever want to have house-guests.

Jim Robertson

 

Endangered Science

2016-05-30-1464631104-7599176-StandingUpForScienceWolfBanner.jpg

As Americans enjoy this long weekend of remembrance, many will find their way to a national or state park hoping to see wildlife in their natural habitats. Last year over 300 million people visited the national parks alone, the highest number on record. Tourists photographed bears and bobcats, bison and moose, foxes, wolves, prairie dogs, coyotes, eagles, owls, and more.

What most visitors didn’t see is the work that goes on behind the scenes to make sure that our wildlife is protected, and species on the brink of extinction don’t disappear. Project Coyote is just one of many organizations committed to protecting our public lands and public trust, ensuring that the wild animals visitors hope to see receive the protections they deserve, as outlined in the Endangered Species Act (ESA) decades ago.

One of the fundamental requirements of the ESA is that decisions about protecting wildlife are based on the best available science. This sounds obvious, but in order for science to be credible, it must be independent, which means free of political or commercial interests.

Unfortunately, respect for independent science within wildlife management ranks is as endangered as the animals we try to protect. One of many examples includes the Department of Interior’s alarming decision in 2014 to declare gray wolves recovered nationwide because the Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) claimed the wolves occupied most of the remaining suitable habitat in the U.S. In truth, nearly two-dozen states in the historic range were, and still are, vacant. The FWS declared them unsuitable on grounds that human tolerance for wolves was low there and that wolves would be poached by citizens or killed by government agents seeking to protect livestock interests. This is the same year we witnessed wolves returning to their native home of California where they had not been seen since 1924. If FWS policy had been implemented, California might not have seen this important and historic return.

The fact is that none of the available science supported the FWS claim, and what evidence there was actually showed that tolerance for wolves was even higher outside their current range.

According to the ESA, our federal wildlife managers are supposed to address threats that may push a species to extinction, not circumvent the threat by redefining “suitable habitat.” It is required to combat threats and recover listed species, as the ESA states, “across all or a significant portion of range.” (ESA 16 USC § 1531)

Instead, FWS pointed to a non-peer-reviewed analysis suggesting the northeastern U.S. was not gray wolf habitat because a new species had lived there. The criticism that followed eventually led to an independent scientific review process that “unanimously decided that the FWS’s earlier decisions were not well supported by the available science.”

Project Coyote Science Advisory Board members Adrian TrevesJeremy BruskotterJohn Vucetich, and Michael Nelson co-authored this study refuting these assumptions, and there are more examples of FWS ignoring science, including the department’s recent delisting decisions about wolverines and grizzlies that not only omitted independent scientific review, but rejected the recommendations of agency biologists.

If we look at the history of decisions about carnivores under the ESA, we see similar disregard for the best available science. Since 2005, the FWS has lost nearly a dozen federal court cases trying to remove protections for wolves, grizzly bears, and wolverines. In each case, the courts sided with plaintiff’s claims that the Department of the Interior misinterpreted the ESA or did not follow the ESA mandate to base its decisions on the best scientific data available.

Which is why the recent Endangered Species Day was the perfect occasion for me to join with members of Project Coyote’s Science Advisory Board in collaboration with the Union of Concerned Scientists, to compel Interior Secretary Jewell and Commerce Secretary Pritzker to enforce the ESA and serve the public trust by using the best available science. We submitted a petition with the signatures of nearly 1,000 US scientists and scholars, and our request was simple: respect the law and put the independent scientific community back in charge of determining the best available science.

All Americans can be proud of the cooperative vision that produced the Endangered Species Act in 1973, and protects the abundance of wildlife and beautiful landscapes that our federal agencies are charged to steward. Let’s not be the generation that allowed standards to slip so far that, for some species, it’s beyond recovery. When independent science is threatened, so are our keystone species, and the healthy ecosystems we all depend on to survive and thrive.

Learn more about the ways scientists are working for wildlife by visiting Project Coyote’sScience and Stewardship Program and Notes from the Field blog.

This is the World’s Last Male Northern White Rhino — And He’s Sick

https://www.livescience.com/61900-last-male-northern-white-rhino-is-sick.html

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This is the World's Last Male Northern White Rhino — And He's Sick
Sudan, the last Northern White Rhino

Credit: Glyn Edmunds/REX/Shutterstock

The last male northern white rhinoceros is sick.

Sudan, a 45-year-old rhino and the last male of his subspecies (Ceratotherium simum cottoni), is ailing in the wake of two infections on his back right leg, according to Ol Pejeta Conservancy, the wildlife sanctuary in Kenya where the last three northern white rhinoceroses on the planet live.

“At the advanced age of 45, his health has begun deteriorating, and his future is not looking bright,” Sudan’s caregivers posted on Ol Pejeta’s Facebook pageRhinos usually live between about 30 and 40 years, according to a follow-up comment by the caregivers, and Sudan’s problems are age-related. [In Photos: The Last 5 Northern White Rhinos]

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https://www.facebook.com/OlPejetaConservancy/posts/10160033482610324&width=500Sudan’s problems started with an infection on his back right leg near the end of 2017, according to Ol Pejeta. His veterinary team treated him, and he was back to normal in January. But since mid-February, vets have discovered that there is a deeper infection underlying the original one, and Sudan is not responding as quickly to treatment this time.

“We are very concerned about him — he’s extremely old for a rhino and we do not want him to suffer unnecessarily,” Ol Pejeta caretakers wrote on Facebook.

Even before this health setback, the chances of Sudan fathering new northern white rhinoceroses in his lifetime were basically nil. This subspecies of rhinoceros used to roam across Uganda, Chad, Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to Ol Pejeta, but poaching and chaos from years of civil war in the region sent the population plummeting. The last time a northern white rhinoceros was seen outside of captivity was 2007, and the subspecies is presumed extinct in the wild.

Since then, the population of captive white rhinos has been falling one by one, largely due to old age. In 2014, after the deaths of a male named Suni at Ol Pejeta and a male named Angalifu at the San Diego Zoo, Sudan became the sole surviving northern white rhino male.

Sudan is one of only three northern white rhinoceroses left in the world, period. A female, Nola, died of old age and infection at the San Diego Zoo in November 2015, leaving only Sudan and two females, named Fatu and Najin, at Ol Pejeta. Najin is Sudan’s daughter, and Fatu is his granddaughter; both have conditions that make carrying a pregnancy impossible. What’s more, in 2015, Sudan’s sperm count was discovered to be very low, making him unlikely to father offspring naturally.

Conservationists are using artificial measures in attempts to save the species. For example, they’re using sperm and eggs extracted from northern white rhinoceroses, including Sudan and recently deceased individuals, to try to develop rhinoceros in vitro fertilization (IVF). This strategy depends on managing to fertilize a northern white rhinoceros egg in a lab and successfully implant it in a surrogate mother from the southern white rhinoceros subspecies (Ceratotherium simum simum), which was once at the edge of extinction but made a comeback thanks to intensive conservation efforts.

Borneo has lost half its orangutans due to hunting and habitat loss

‘Their forests homes have been lost and degraded, and hunting threatens the existence of this magnificent great ape’

Borneo has lost more than 100,000 orangutans in the space of just 16 years as a result of hunting and habitat loss, according to a new report.

Logging, mining, oil palm, paper, and linked deforestation have been blamed for the the diminishing numbers.

However, researchers also found many orangutans have vanished from more intact, forested regions, suggesting that hunting and other direct conflict between orangutans and humans continues to be a chief threat to the species.

The report published in the Current Biology Journal found more than 100,000 of the island’s orangutans vanished in the period of 1999 to 2015.

“Orangutans are disappearing at an alarming rate,” said Emma Keller, agricultural commodities manager at the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).

“Their forests homes have been lost and degraded, and hunting threatens the existence of this magnificent great ape.

“Immediate action is needed to reform industries that have pushed orangutans to the brink of extinction. UK consumers can make a difference through only supporting brands and retailers that buy sustainable palm oil.”

Around half of the orangutans living on the island of Borneo, the largest island in Asia, were lost as a result of changes in land cover.

Researchers said the Bornean orangutan’s survival is dependent on forging successful alliances with logging companies and other industries and raising public awareness of the issue.

Looking at predicted future losses of forest cover and the presumption orangutans are ultimately not able to stay alive outside forest areas, the researchers predict that over 45,000 more orangutans will be lost in the space of the next 35 years.

The report comes after an orangutan was shot at least 130 times with an air gun before it died earlier in the month, according to police in Borneo.

Wildlife Organizations Sue Trump Administration for Failing to Protect “El Lobo,” the Mexican Wolf

JOHN SCHLOSSBERG FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Lobo 0131wrp opt(Photo: Joel Cristian / Flickr)Environmental organizations filed a lawsuit on January 30, 2018, in U.S. District Court in Arizona against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), alleging the agency violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by ignoring science relevant to the recovery of the beleaguered Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi), a.k.a. “el lobo.” The legal action comes on the heels of USFWS’ November release of its long-anticipated Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan — a strategy conservation groups say appeases red state ranchers and falls flat in the face of science.

The lawsuit, filed by attorneys at the Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) on behalf of Western Watersheds Project and WildEarth Guardians (Guardians), names Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and USFWS Acting Director Greg Sheehan. The complaint asserts the USFWS, an ancillary arm of the Interior Department, turned a deaf ear to its own scientists’ recommendations for the minimum number of wolves and the amount of habitat needed for recovery and removal from the endangered species list.

“This recovery plan was designed by politicians and anti-wolf states, not by independent biologists,” said Matthew Bishop of the Western Environmental Law Center. “It’s an affront to the ESA and Congress’ directive [is to] make decisions solely on the best available science.”

The Mexican wolf, a subspecies of the endangered gray wolf (Canis lupus), was granted endangered species status in 1976 after being hunted to near-extinction. At one point, el lobo almost blinked out entirely after plunging to a low of only 15 animals remaining in the wild. In 1982, the USFWS initiated the original Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan to determine a course of action for keeping the species alive. It included a captive breeding program, which in 1988, released three distinct lineages of the animal into the ecosystem.

In 2011, the USFWS’ Science and Planning Subgroup of the Recovery Team (the Subgroup), staffed by independent scientists, recommended that delisting only occur after a 750-wolf total is achieved in the wild. Additionally, the Subgroup recommended that lands in eastern Arizona/western New Mexico, the Grand Canyon region of northern Arizona and southern Utah, and the southern Rockies region of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado be allotted as Mexican wolf habitat for recovery efforts.

Despite these recommendations, state governments in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona have set substantial roadblocks in the way of recovery, including a demand that no wolves set foot north of I-40, which runs east-to-west across northern New Mexico and Arizona — meaning no wolves would be allowed to exist in Utah or Colorado whatsoever.

Today, the lobo population in the United States has rebounded slightly, hovering at around 113 animals, with an additional 31 living in Mexico. Yet, instead of following the scientists’ recommendations, the USFWS’ First Revision of the Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan concluded that 320 wolves would be sufficient for recovery, and in terms of habitat, it left out the Grand Canyon and southern Rockies regions for “geopolitical reasons,” a move environmental lawyers say is a fundamental violation of the ESA.

“The ecosystems in this region need wolves and the people in this region want wolves — polls overwhelmingly suggest that. So, to eschew the science-based pathway for recovery and instead implement a politically-driven and extremely flawed plan is an affront to people and place,” said Christopher Smith, Southern Rockies Wildlife Advocate for WildEarth Guardians, in an email to EnviroNews.

Conservation groups are suing on four causes of action they say violate the ESA and APA (Administrative Procedure Act), including having “no reasonable explanation for departure” from the Subgroup’s recommendations, “failure to provide objective, measurable criteria necessary for delisting” the wolf, “failure to utilize the best available science,” and “failure to provide site-specific management actions necessary for conservation.”

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service needs a plan that guarantees a large enough population of Mexican wolves to be viable over the long term, with sufficient habitat [for] wolves to flourish,” said Greta Anderson of Western Watersheds Project. “But the current recovery plan doesn’t do that, and instead the federal government seems more intent on appeasing anti-wolf political interests than in doing its job, which is recovering endangered species to healthy and secure population levels.”

The three aforementioned NGOs, which will be joined in the suit by the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance and the Wildlands Network, want the court to force the USFWS to have another go at the plan, but this time around, they want it to follow the law as stated by the ESA and ensure that science alone, not politics, guides the recovery of the Mexican wolf.

http://www.truth-out.org/buzzflash/commentary/wildlife-organizations-sue-trump-administration-for-failing-to-protect-el-lobo-the-mexican-wolf