Camera-trap footage shows rare, much-debated red wolf in the wild

https://www.earthtouchnews.com/conservation/endangered/camera-trap-footage-shows-rare-much-debated-red-wolf-in-the-wild/

BY ETHAN SHAW NOVEMBER 09 2017

The status of the red wolf – that reddish-brown canid of the American Southeast that’s about midway in size and habits between a coyote and a grey wolf – has been in flux for decades, and these days it’s up in the air on a number of counts. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is reconsidering its strategy for recovering the animal, among the rarest of the world’s wild dogs, and meanwhile taxonomists continue to debate its position on the Canis family tree.

In light of all that political and scientific murkiness, it’s a pleasure to watch red wolves just doing their thing in the wild. Camera traps maintained by the Wildlands Network conservation group have collected some great video in the heart of the wolf’s precarious stronghold on northeastern North Carolina’s Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula.

Ron Sutherland of the Wildlands Network told us all four clips here were taken in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, part of the 1.7-million-acre, five-county red-wolf recovery area that also encompasses Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge and other federally managed holdings, state-owned lands, a government bombing range and private acreage.

Sutherland said the first video showed young wolves or possibly wolf-coyote hybrids, while the other three clips are most likely of the longstanding Milltail Pack.

The red wolf (Wa’ya to the Cherokee) once trotted over most of the American Southeast; where and how the boundaries of its range edged that of the grey wolf is one of many, well, grey areas of canid natural history in pre-Columbian North America. Weighing some 23 to 36 kilograms (50 to 80 lbs), red wolves were historically not only the grizzled chestnut colour that gives them their common name but also frequently black; early naturalists, for example, recognised a “Florida black wolf”.

Just_a_little_closer.jpg

A red wolf in North Carolina’s Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge (US Fish & Wildlife Service)

Wade into the taxonomy of the red wolf – and of the genus Canis in North America, for that matter – at your own risk. It’s a fascinating but thorny topic that’s far from settled, and loosely speaking involves about five canines: the Eurasian-evolved grey wolf (which may have colonised North America in multiple waves) and the New World-derived red wolf, Algonquin (aka eastern or Great Lakes) wolf, coyote, and the so-called “eastern coyote” (frequently referred to as a “coywolf”, though mammalogist Roland Kays takes some issue with that).

The species status of the grey wolf and coyote are firmly established; where the others fall in the Canis lineage is less settled, to say the least. A 2012 review concluded the red wolf, Algonquin wolf and coyote are likely relatives with a common ancestor; a 2016 genetic analysis, in turn, proposed red and Algonquin wolves derive from varying degrees of quite recent grey wolf/coyote hybridisation. Yet another assessment from last year, which scrutinised ancient canid remains from the American Southeast, suggested the red wolf may (a) have evolved from prehistoric coyote-wolf interbreeding, or (b) share a forerunner with the coyote.

Taxonomic inquiries such as this could have bearing on how the US government classifies and treats the red wolf as a conservation priority. (The USFWS continues to regard it as its own species.) But as many of the researchers who’ve lately studied red and Algonquin wolf genetics have pointed out, whether these wolves are hybrids, subspecies or distinct species doesn’t detract from their “ecological authenticity” as apex carnivores in eastern North America. (The eastern coyote, too, certainly seems to be filling a significant ecological role in its freshly colonised range.)

As the authors of the 2016 study suggesting either long-ago hybridisation or unique lineage for the red wolf noted, “If red wolves have an ancient hybrid origin, it would not preclude the species from protection, and furthermore, it emphasises the dynamic nature of canid evolution.”

“Whether these wolves are hybrids, subspecies or distinct species doesn’t detract from their ‘ecological authenticity’ as apex carnivores in eastern North America.”

Genetic fingerprinting of the red-wolf line is complicated because of the very small founder pool. By the early 1800s, the lithe deer-, raccoon- and rabbit-hunting wolves of southeastern forests and swamps were already vanishing. By the mid-20th century they were mainly restricted to the Gulf Coast of southeastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana (earlier strongholds apparently included South Florida’s Big Cypress and the Okefenokee Swamp on the Louisiana-Florida line).

The USFWS declared the red wolf endangered in 1967 and launched a recovery programme in 1973. Subsequently – with the future of the species in the wild deemed unlikely given habitat loss and interbreeding with coyotes – more than 400 wolf-like Gulf Coast canids were rounded up to initiate captive breeding. Only 14 of those several wild dogs were ultimately determined to be genetically “pure” red wolves, and the dozen of those that reproduced in captivity became the founders of today’s population.

In 1987, red wolves were reintroduced to the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge: the first attempt anywhere to reintroduce a large carnivore to its former range. The following spring, biologists documented the first wild-born red-wolf pups in North Carolina since the animal’s extirpation.

Coastal North Carolina (as well as several southeastern islands where wolves are acclimated for release) has remained the outpost for wild red wolves in modern times; a 1990s reintroduction attempt in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the Southern Appalachians was abandoned after wolves dispersed outside park boundaries.

Last year, the USFWS announced a shift in its red-wolf strategy: restricting recovery efforts in the wild to publicly owned acreage in a single North Carolina county while attempting to double the captive population to 400. A number of conservation groups decried the announcement, and in September 2016, a judge barred the agency from removing red wolves that aren’t directly threatening pets or livestock from private lands.

Earlier this year, the USFWS solicited public feedback on the changes it was proposing. An analysis of the 55,000-odd comments received, conducted by the Wildlands Network and several other conservation organisations, suggested 99.8% supported efforts to restore wild red wolves in North Carolina. The conservation coalition noted in a press release from this August that this support extended to the local level.

“Zooming in to northeastern North Carolina, more than two-thirds (68.4%) of the comments from the current five-county recovery region were supportive of the Red Wolf Recovery Program, undermining claims that local residents oppose red wolf restoration,” they wrote.

You can read more about the USFWS’s approach to red-wolf recovery here.

The presence of red wolves makes the Alligator River and Pocosin Lakes refuges especially impressive expressions of North Carolina’s wild heart. To fully appreciate it, be sure to browse the camera-trap galleries of the Wildland Network’s Flickr page: a rich cast of other characters from the Albemarle-Pamlico backcountry – including white-tailed deer, bobcats, and lots and lots of black bears – make cameos.

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Powerful lawmaker who wants to ‘invalidate’ the Endangered Species Act is getting close

http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/powerful-lawmaker-who-wants-to-invalidate-the-endangered-species-act/article_2594bbab-476b-5bd5-9e6a-93b087db0c8f.html

  • By Darryl Fears | The Washington Post
 The congressman who said he “would love to invalidate” the Endangered Species Act is closing in on his goal.

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, recently shepherded five bills out of the Natural Resources Committee he chairs that would dismantle the law piece by piece. Many Republicans on the panel say the proposals are necessary changes that would modernize the 1973 law. Democrats and conservationists say the bills would whittle away the law’s ability to save wildlife from extinction.

One measure would force the federal government to consider the economic impact of saving a species rather than make a purely scientific call. Another would require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which administers the act along with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to defer to data collected by states as the “best scientific and commercial data available,” although state funding related to the act accounts for a small fraction of that supported by the federal government.

Under a third proposal, citizens and conservation groups would be stripped of a powerful tool that allows them to file court claims against the government when they believe its protections fall short. Among other actions, the remaining bills would also remove protections for gray wolves in Midwestern states and block courts from ruling on the validity of the government’s decisions.

The legislation is setting up a titanic clash over a law that forms the foundation of American wildlife protection and has been copied around the world.

“This will be a battle royal,” said Bob Dreher, vice president for conservation programs at Defenders of Wildlife, a nonprofit group in Washington, D.C. “You’re going to see a strong, strong movement opposing cuts to the ESA. I don’t want to sound overly confident or cocky that we’re going to defeat this. It’s going to be the fight of my conservation career.”

Unlike earlier GOP attempts to weaken the act, Bishop is poised to realize his ambition because of Republicans’ control of both chambers of Congress and the White House. A Senate committee that previously held hearings on modernizing the act is preparing companion legislation, and a president who favors oil-and-gas development on federal land is more likely to sign it into law.

Bishop, who declined requests to comment for this story, exuded confidence about the bills’ prospects before the committee acted in July. “Hopefully, working with our colleagues in the Senate and the administration, we can lay a foundation for ESA reform that will do us well,” he said.

All of the measures, approved almost completely along party-line votes Oct. 4, are awaiting consideration by the full House.

Their passage would mark Bishop’s most significant legislative victory since the former high school teacher and debate coach entered politics in Utah, where he served as a charismatic leader of the state Republican Party and co-founded the Western States Coalition. The eight-term congressman has long been an opponent of the law, which is credited with saving the bald eagle, humpback whale, grizzly bear, California condor and the Florida manatee.

“It has never been used for the rehabilitation of species. It’s been used for control of the land,” Bishop said this year. “We’ve missed the entire purpose of the Endangered Species Act. It has been hijacked.”

Bishop’s disdain was clear in the hearings, Democrats say. On witness panels, they charge, farmers, dam operators, state wildlife managers and others opposed to the act got their say about its supposed shortcomings, without comparable opportunities for scientific and federal government experts to check those claims. The Interior Department even barred Fish and Wildlife staff members from meeting with the minority caucus’ staff members as they attempted to gather information for hearing preparations, according to lawmakers such as Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, Ariz.

“The bias and the setup begins at the hearing,” said Grijalva, the Natural Resources Committee’s ranking Democrat. “We get one witness, they get three or four, and the drumbeat begins with the onerous things that are wrong with the act: It’s too cumbersome, it allows too many radical lawsuits, the states can do a better job, let them make the scientific and biological opinion of when wildlife should be listed.”

The law was essentially 73 years in the making. It followed the Lacey Act of 1900 that was passed to conserve wildlife after carrier pigeons that once filled America’s skies went extinct and bison nearly disappeared. Other conservation acts that preceded it were the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1929 and Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966.

Seven years later, that preservation act was strengthened to become the Endangered Species Act. The new legislation was approved by overwhelming and bipartisan margins — 355 to 4 in the House and 92 to 0 in the Senate. President Richard Nixon made it official with his signature that December.

The law gives the federal government control over regulating use of land that serves as habitat for endangered species, with assistance from states. It specifies that decisions should be based on only science, without consideration of the economic effect. The law also helps people sue for the protection of animals or plants through the Equal Access to Justice Act, which pays the attorney fees of individuals and organizations that take the government to court and win.

Today, more than 2,000 species are listed as endangered or threatened, including Loggerhead sea turtles in parts of the Atlantic Ocean, whooping cranes in the West and the Texas golden gladecress.

Over time, some lawmakers began to argue against the law’s species management and protection. Protecting animals such as the spotted owl and blue whale cordoned off enormous chunks of forest, ocean and desert. Private landowners were sometimes restricted or blocked from certain activities on their property, from logging and oil or gas drilling to cattle grazing and housing development.

This year, Sen. James M. Inhofe, R-Okla., noted that of the total species listed since 1973, only about 3 percent have been delisted. “As a doctor, if I admit 100 patients to the hospital and only three recover enough to be discharged, I would deserve to lose my medical license,” he said.

Peter S. Alagona, author of “After the Grizzly: Endangered Species and the Politics of Place in Southern California,” says some concerns about the law have never been sufficiently addressed. He thinks it is due for “an update,” but he disagrees with what he calls Republicans’ “false pretenses.”

 “If the complaint is [that] the recovery of a species takes too long, the question is for whom,” he said. The agencies responsible for the effort “have lacked resources” to address critical issues, “and part of the reason is they have been starved by the politicians who are now claiming it takes too long.”

GOP lawmakers argue that states better understand species within their borders and should take a leading role in protecting them. But Alagona and others say animal populations have withered over the decades because of neglect by states.

A 2016 study by the University of California at Irvine showed that state spending to protect endangered and threatened wildlife over the 10 years ending in 2014 was “negligible” compared with federal spending — a collective $57 million vs. more than $1.1 billion.

Most state regulations cover fewer species than the federal government does, and 17 states do not bother to protect plants. West Virginia and Wyoming have no legislation protecting species, the study said, although Wyoming allocates more than most states on species management. Half of the states do not require any scientific evidence as a basis to list species or remove them.

Conservationists are worried about the ESA bills now before the House, but they are especially concerned about the proposal that would require federal wildlife officials to consider the “likelihood of significant, cumulative economic effects” of listing an animal or plant. Its author, Rep. Pete Olson, R-Texas, who has characterized the act as “a political weapon for extreme environmentalists,” said potential revenue and job losses as a consequence of species protection can no longer be ignored.

Olson’s bill would demolish a tenet that historically set U.S. species protections apart from those of other countries: Science should be a much stronger factor than money.

Dan Ashe, a Fish and Wildlife director under the Obama administration who is now president and chief executive of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, warns that putting economic interests first would be a serious blow to the law. The 2008 protection of polar bears under the George W. Bush administration, he said, is just one example of action that probably would not have happened.

“What a hard decision that was,” Ashe said. “If [agency officials] were required to consider the economic impact of the polar bear listing, would they have listed it? I think not.”

The drive to weaken the Endangered Species Act is coming at a crucial time, Ashe said. “Wide scientific consensus is that we’re living amid another great extinction crisis — people are calling it the sixth mass extinction,” he said. “Looking at these five bills, I see no sign that there’s a concern for improving the implementation of the Endangered Species Act.”

Tigers use corridors to traverse India-Nepal border

http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/science/tigers-use-corridors-to-traverse-india-nepal-border/article19650835.ece

17DFR Tiger who crossed the line   | Photo Credit: 17DFR Tiger who crossed the line

At least 11 tigers have re-colonised Nepal

Borders don’ faze these tigers: over a decade, at least 11 tigers moved from India into Nepal’ protected areas through the Terai, a landscape comprising agricultural areas and protected forest-grasslands in the Himalayan foothills. This reaffirms that tiger conservation requires not just protected areas but corridors too — especially across large landscapes — to ensure habitat connectivity and in turn, population growth.

Habitat loss

With protected areas becoming isolated due to habitat loss and conversion, large mammals including tigers have to now traverse human-dominated areas to disperse to new territories. North India’ Terai Arc Landscape, which shares a 700-km border with Nepal, spreads across more than 50,000 sq. km and has one of the world’s highest human population densities. Apart from agricultural fields and rural settlements, it also comprises 16 protected areas (five in Nepal and 11 in India) and six major trans-boundary corridors which connect Indian wild habitats with Nepal’s.

To test how effectively these corridors aid tiger movement, scientists from WWF-India and WWF-Nepal camera-trapped tigers for 38,319 days in the protected areas, covering an area of more than 9,000 sq. km in multiple surveys between 2005 and 2016. Identifying individual tigers, they found that at least 11 tigers used these corridors to re-colonise Nepal, thus aiding the recovery of tiger populations which had declined drastically in the mid 2000s due to severe poaching pressures.

Growth rates of the tiger population in Nepal’s Suklaphanta and Bardia national parks show that tiger numbers were far higher than would have been possible from just reproduction by the existing population. Connecting the locations that individual tigers were photographed from, the team found that one tiger had moved across an area of 248 sq. km, as opposed to the usual 20-sq. km-area in the Terai.

“This speaks volumes about the need to protect large landscapes, even agricultural ones which serve as crucial corridors,” says Pranav Chanchani, National Coordinator for Tiger Conservation, WWF-India. “Till the 1930s and 1940s, the now-fragmented protected areas were contiguous. But with increasing human settlement large parts of the Terai were cleared and patches that would have been corridors destroyed.”

Planned development near the protected areas — including two roads — could endanger the already-fragmented habitat, say the authors. They suggest that the tiger populations need to be conserved as a ‘metapopulation’, that is, populations that are physically separate, but interact with one another as animals migrate between them, helping populations persist over the years.

Protect our national monuments

From HSUS.org

Jim, the protection of millions of acres is under review by the Trump administration. The lands and waters being reconsidered were designated as national monuments or marine sanctuaries by previous administrations and a public comment period is underway to gather input on whether to keep or remove these protected area designations.

Those under review include eleven marine national monuments and marine sanctuaries that are important feeding and breeding areas for fish, birds, endangered turtles and marine mammals. Several of these protected areas contain unique species of corals and marine animals found nowhere else on earth. Continuing their protection ensures that the animals dependent upon these habitats will survive to be enjoyed by future generations.

Such a proposal is unprecedented; no president has ever revoked a national monument designated by his predecessors. You can use the sample copy below.

Please submit a comment by July 10, stating:

I oppose revising or removing protection for the national monuments under review, including the five island and undersea areas currently designated as Marine National Monuments.

Camera-trap research paves the way for global monitoring networks

Climate change playing a role in growing list of species at risk

‘The North is one of the areas facing the greatest potential risk from climate change,’ officials say

By Nicole Riva, CBC News <http://www.cbc.ca/news/cbc-news-online-news-staff-list-1.1294364> Posted: May 10, 2017 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: May 10, 2017 5:00 AM ET

One herd of the Atlantic walrus is already extinct and two other herds could have the same fate, according to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. <https://i.cbc.ca/1.4107280.1494368091%21/fileImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/16x9_620/atlantic-walrus.jpg>

One herd of the Atlantic walrus is already extinct and two other herds could have the same fate, according to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. (J. Higdon/Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada)

The list of species at risk of extinction in Canada has grown to 751, and the effects of climate change may put those species even more at risk — especially the 62 species in the North.

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada recently completed a meeting on at-risk species — which include animals, plants and lichen — adding another five to its list <http://www.cosewic.gc.ca/default.asp?lang=en&n=03E6BEA6-1> , and reassessing the status of several others.

“The North is one of the areas facing the greatest potential risk from climate change, many of these species are already behind the eight ball,” according to committee chair Eric Taylor.

Two species that live in the North that Taylor highlighted are the Atlantic walrus and eastern migratory caribou, both of which reside in the North and have had “significant changes” in their populations.

“Particularly the caribou,” Taylor told CBC News. “Part one of the large herds, the George River herd, that one had a precipitous decline up to about 99 per cent over three generations.”

The Eastern migration caribou, has seen a 99 per cent decline in its population in three generations, the committee reports. (Submitted by Katrina Noel)

The massive decline is partly from hunting and also because of a destruction <http://cbc.ca/1.4038199> of habitat in part because of climate change.

The walrus population in the Atlantic has already lost one herd to extinction, Taylor said, while the two others are listed as special concern, which means if things don’t improve they are also at risk of becoming extinct.

The committee identifies species at risk and advises the Canadian government on what needs to be added to the official list <https://www.registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/sar/index/default_e.cfm> , which brings protective measures and recovery plans, Taylor said, but it all takes a long time.

‘That could take years’

It can take years for a species to land on the official list, he said, which is concerning for species with fast population decline such as the caribou.

“Who knows what’s going to happen in the time it takes to actually consider their listing and design a recovery strategy that could take years,” Taylor said.

He acknowledges that there are many challenges such as resources and Canada’s vast landscape in helping at risk populations, but “we’ve got to get moving.”

“The longer we delay doing something about these plants and animals the greater is the risk that what we do won’t be effective,” he said.

Climate change adds an element of the unknown for the protection of these species, he said.

“Climate change presents sort of a moving target. It’s hard to know what the extent will be and how that might impact our recovery actions right now.”

Another big unknown is how different species will adapt to changes in climate, especially if climate changes or other activities destroy a species’ habitat, Taylor said.

“It’s all intertwined, which adds to the enormous complexity,” he said.

The five newly identified at-risk species, not all of which live in the North, are the Ord’s kangaroo rat, some populations of lake sturgeon, the butternut tree, Harris’s sparrow and shortfin mako sharks.

Harris’s Sparrow <https://i.cbc.ca/1.4107282.1494366195%21/fileImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/original_620/harris-s-sparrow.jpg>

Harris’s Sparrow, a northern songbird breeding only in Canada, was among the new species added to the committee’s list. (G. Romanchuk/Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada)

http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/cosewic-climate-change-at-risk-species-1.4107238

Giraffes Are in Trouble—the U.S. Endangered Species Act Can Help

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/giraffes-are-in-trouble-mdash-the-u-s-endangered-species-act-can-help/

The African mammal’s population numbers in the wild have dipped below 100,000

Credit: John Hilliard Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The following essay is reprinted with permission from The Conversation, an online publication covering the latest research.The Conversation

On April 19 of this year, five major wildlife protection groups petitioned the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to list the giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) as an endangered species. As the petition asserted, “the giraffe has suffered a major reduction in population size across its range primarily due to habitat loss, commercial overutilization, and severe poaching, and such decline continues unabated.”

If the Fish and Wildlife Service agrees to list the giraffe, a set of legal tools will become available to protect this iconic species. But how would listing in the U.S. help this African mammal, whose population numbers in the wild have dipped below 100,000?

EXTINCTION IS FOREVER

While extinction can be a natural process, the current rate of extinction is anything but. Scientists estimate that at least 99 out of 100 species extinctions in the world today are the result of human action. Although people rarely intend to drive species into oblivion, as with the giraffe, they do so through the destruction of habitat, poaching and legal hunting. As the petition notes, “[g]iraffes once occupied much of the savanna and savanna woodlands of Africa…. [It] has undergone a 36 to 40 percent population decline over the past 30 years.”

More than a century ago, scientists began to notice the disappearance of once prominent species around the world. TheAmerican passenger pigeon, the Carolina parakeet and the Great Auk—once well-established in North America—disappeared. Other species like the American bison and many kinds of whales had once played central roles in important ecosystems but had been reduced to small remnant populations.

The existence of species is important to people for many reasons. Sometimes species provide clues for the development of medicines. Often they play a fundamental role in maintaining the functioning of ecosystems on which people depend. As Aldo Leopold—perhaps America’s most famous naturalist—noted,

“If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.”

What would you say to a child who saw a giraffe in a book and asked where giraffes lived? Would you be comfortable saying they’re all gone?

ROOTS OF REGULATION

In 1964, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) began tracking the conservation status of species on its “Red List.” Although the IUCN provides information only about the status of species, this is the first step in helping to limit extinction because it allows conservation efforts to be directed where they’re most needed.

A few years later in the United States, the federal government began keeping an official list of species in danger of extinction—what we call endangered species—and species likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future—threatened species.

The Endangered Species Act (ESA), passed in 1973, goes further than just identifying imperiled species. Under its terms, listed species are protected from actions “authorized, funded or carried out” by the federal government that may jeopardize their continued existence or adversely affect their essential habitat. Species members are also protected from direct harm by any person. Commerce in species protected by the ESA is generally a crime.

The purpose of the ESA is the “conservation” of protected species. In practice, that means bringing the species back to the point where it no longer requires the protection of the ESA. The law’s goal is not to preserve tiny populations on the brink of extinction but to recover species populations that are resilient enough to survive the bad luck which is so often part of living on the planet.

Listing is the public, administrative process whereby a species can become entitled to protection under the Endangered Species Act. It centers around one question: Is this creature or plant in danger of extinction? At the listing stage, the federal government can consider only scientific evidence in making its decision. Anyone can initiate the listing process via petition.

Evidence suggests the ESA works. A recent report in the Endangered Species Bulletin noted that of the 78 species first listed under the federal precursor to the Endangered Species Act in 1967, only four have been officially declared extinct after half a century. Many others, such as the California condor, the grizzly bear and the whooping crane, have seen remarkable recovery progress. Some, including the bald eagle, have even been removed from the list.

There are now 1,382 species of animals listed under the Endangered Species Act as threatened or endangered; 711 live largely within the borders of the United States. For these species, the federal Endangered Species Act can help preserve habitat, require “consultation” on projects that need federal approval and make most hunting illegal.

AMERICAN LISTING FOR AN AFRICAN ANIMAL

The giraffe, of course, is not native to the United States. How would ESA listing help it? The habitat destruction and overharvesting that threaten the giraffe aren’t happening within U.S. borders.

The answer lies in the role the United States plays in buying and selling giraffe parts. According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service database, over the past decade Americans imported more than 21,000 giraffe bone carvings, more than 3,000 skin pieces and 3,744 hunting trophies. If many people want giraffe parts, the demand can be too high for survival of the species. Heightened demand for giraffe products can encourage people to hunt illegally—for example, taking more giraffes than limits allow or hunting in places where it is not permitted.

An international treaty, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (1973), known by its acronym, CITES, also addresses this problem. Countries that are party to the treaty meet periodically to list species that are threatened due to international trade. The treaty has two appendices for listing species: Appendix I results in an almost complete ban on commercial international trade; Appendix II requires all international trade in that species be monitored and subject to permits. The giraffe is not currently listed on either of the CITES appendices, but this does not prevent individual countries—such as the United States—from deciding to limit imports.

Around the world, markets for species parts are sometimes driven by traditional uses—things like carving ivory or using certain animal parts in traditional medicines. New uses fuel demand too; think of newly wealthy businessmen in Vietnam consuming rhino horn mixed with water or alcohol to show how rich they are. Sometimes, the two can converge: An increase in consumption of shark fin soup has been tied to a traditional celebration dish being served by more people as China’s middle class grew.

Listing on the ESA would require the federal government to limit imports of giraffe parts into the United States and would therefore help curtail global demand. The ESA cannot ensure habitat protection or require other countries to take affirmative conservation action to protect the giraffe. But listing in the U.S. would limit one important threat in which Americans do play a role.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

TSUNAMIS COULD WIPE OUT THE REMAINING 62 JAVAN RHINOS

Javan rhinos used to roam widely throughout southeastern Asia, but poaching and habitat loss has reduced their numbers and range immensely. Today, they are only found in Ujung Kulon National Park, on the Indonesian island of Java. New research suggests they may be even more vulnerable to extinction than thought.

In the largest survey to date, researchers placed motion-activated cameras at nearly 200 locations throughout the park. After analyzing the large amount of video collected, they determined that only 62 Javan rhinos remain in the wild. These few live in low-lying areas that could be inundated by a tsunami, researchers write in a study describing their findings, published in the journal Conservation Letters .

By virtue of their location, such an event is likely in the not-too-distant future; The rhinos happen to live in a tectonically and volcanically active neighborhood. Just to the south of Java, the Australian plate slides beneath the southeastern corner of the Eurasian plate, creating a deep trough called the Javan (or Sunda) trench. This area is prone to earthquakes, like the one that created the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Researchers calculate that if the same size wave hit western Java, which could’ve happened if the tsunami occurred slightly to the southeast, it would “have put most, if not all, rhinos at risk from drowning,” write the authors.

And a tsunami of this size—reaching a maximum “run-up” of 48 meters (155 feet) above sea level—would not be necessary to cause serious damage. The researchers conclude that a tsunami that made it to 10 meters, or 33 feet, above sea level would threaten 80 percent of the rhinos’ territory. Such a tsunami will probably occur in the next 100 years, says corresponding author Brian Gerber, a postdoctoral researcher at Colorado State University.

The park also happens to sit about 50 miles from one of the world’s most fearsome volcanoes: Anak Krakatoa. It is the “offspring” of the Krakatoa volcano which erupted in 1883, the most cataclysmic in modern history, the reverberations of which were felt around the world. Anak Kratoa, which means “childs of Krakatoa,” has been growing from the destroyed remnants of this volcanic island ever since. If it erupts before 2040 scientists estimate it could create tsunamis that reach up to nearly 70 feet above sea level. If it erupts after then, the waves could rise to heights of almost 100 feet.

For this reason, a second population of Javan rhinos needs to be established to increase the likelihood of their survival, Gerber says. It also underscores the importance of protecting the animals from being poached for their horns, which are incorrectly thought to have medicinal value. The rhino horn trade is responsible for the depletion of rhinos around the world, including the mainland subspecies of the Javan rhino, the last of which was poached in Vietnam in 2009.

The “study provides good momentum for our efforts to save the Javan rhino, considering that we are racing against time,” says Arnold Sitompul, conservation director of World Wildlife Fund-Indonesia, who wasn’t involved in the paper, in a statement. “We need the social and political will to move things forward and establish additional populations.”

Unprecedented Conservation Efforts Keep Greater Sage-grouse Off Endangered Species List

http://www.audubon.org/news/unprecedented-conservation-efforts-keep-greater-sage-grouse-endangered-species

Today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the Greater Sage-grouse, an iconic bird of the American West, does not warrant listing under the Endangered Species Act.

Conservationists, ranchers, politicians, and industry have been on edge for months in anticipation of the decision, which was announced just days before a court-ordered September 30 deadline. The possibility of a listing had sparked fears of huge economic losses in the sage-grouse’s expansive habitat out West, as it would have restricted energy development, livestock grazing, and residential construction. States and federal agencies that control public lands have scrambled to create updated sage-grouse recovery plans in order to avert a listing. And many conservationists worried that a formal listing could undermine the serious—and pioneering—voluntary efforts taken to protect the bird’s sagebrush habitat in recent years.

Indeed, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell confirmed in a video released on Twitter this morning that a major factor in the determination was the cooperative efforts of federal agencies, states, private landowners, industry, and green groups to safeguard the chubby, chicken-sized bird. That includes the Bureau of Land Management’s 14 new sage-grouse recovery plans—consolidated from 98 distinct land use plans, all of which were officially formalized today—that will conserve 35 million acres of federal lands across 10 states.  In total, the collective plans to protect the bird “significantly reduced threats to the Greater Sage-grouse across 90 percent of the species’ breeding habitat,” enabling the organization to conclude that the bird did not warrant listing, FWS stated in their release announcing the decision.

“This is truly a historic effort—one that represents extraordinary collaboration across the American West,” Jewell said in FWS’s statement. “It demonstrates that the Endangered Species Act is an effective and flexible tool and a critical catalyst for conservation—ensuring that future generations can enjoy the diversity of wildlife that we do today.”

“This is a new lease on life for the Greater Sage-grouse and the entire sagebrush ecosystem,” said National Audubon Society President and CEO David Yarnold. “Unprecedented cooperation by private landowners, states, and the federal government has created a framework for conservation at a scale unique in the world.”

When FWS first announced that the bird would be considered for a federal listing in 2010, regional conservation efforts had already been underway. “This is exactly what Audubon has been working toward for 10 years,” says Brian Rutledge, VP and Central Flyway policy advisor for Audubon. Rutledge and his team helped create a science-based approach to sage-grouse protections that significantly reduces disturbance in core habitat—an approach that’s been adopted in state and federal plans alike. “This is the kind of cooperation the Endangered Species Act was designed to encourage,” he says. “It wasn’t intended to list everything under the sun; it was to motivate conservation before listing became necessary.”

Photo: Daly Edmunds

The Enormous Effort to Stave Off a Listing

The sagebrush steppe is an old-growth forest in miniature, with some species of the fragrant shrubs living for more than a century. Development has cut the habitat to half its historical size, and today it spans 173 million acres across 11 states. The sage-grouse is inextricably linked to this sagebrush ecosystem: The plants provide cover from raptors and other predators, serve as shelter for nesting birds in the summer, and supply the grouse’s sole source of food in the winter—in fact, the birds actually gain weight eating the leaves during the harsh winter months. But as the habitat has shrunk, the birds’ numbers have plummeted, from millions a century ago to between 200,000 and 500,000 today. (Scientists count males at leks, or mating grounds, to extrapolate a rough population estimate; obtaining an exact count is impossible because the birds are essentially invisible in the vast sagebrush sea.)

A sunset view on the sagebrush-covered top of Pinedale Mesa and the magnificent Wind River Range. Sublette County, Wyoming. Photo: Dave Showalter

The Greater Sage-grouse is an indicator species of the health of this entire ecosystem. The desire to keep the bird off the list—and stave off the many restrictions that come with a threatened or endangered status—has generated a rare show of cooperation from those interested in using the habitat for drilling, ranching, or other economic endeavors. In consultation with conservation groups and government agencies, they have made ambitious commitments to protect enough space for the bird while still permitting some development. Today’s announcement is a ratification that the approach is working. “We’re seeing landscape-scale conservation like we’ve never seen before,” says Audubon’s Rutledge.

Related: A History of Audubon and the Greater Sage-grouse

See a timeline of Audubon’s involvement in this critical conservation issue.

Rutledge helped create a Wyoming sage-grouse management plan that allows sage-grouse and industry to co-exist. The state is home to 37 percent of the sage-grouse population, and is also a major producer of coal, natural gas, and beef—all of which rely on the same sagebrush habitat. Under Wyoming’s plan, surface disturbance—from roads to wind turbines to gas wells—in areas critical to sage-grouse are limited to a maximum of 5 percent per square mile. Since Wyoming adopted the scheme in 2010, it has successfully protected 15 million acres of sagebrush habitat. Following this success, other states put similar plans in place, thus reducing threats to birds on tens of millions of acres while still allowing for development.

More: http://www.audubon.org/news/unprecedented-conservation-efforts-keep-greater-sage-grouse-endangered-species

Despite extinction crisis, hunters push to kill wolves and sandhill cranes

 by Patricia Randolph

As humanity hurtles toward catastrophe, our legislators turn a blind eye to reality and continue to pander to forces of destruction and death. Instead of caring for the fragile life of this earth, legislators like state Sen. Tom Tiffany and U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson continue to ignore the science of the Endangered Species Act, pushing to kill our endangered wolves.

And the hunters want to kill cranes. They apparently are bored with killing other wildlife. Maybe they want a wolf with a crane in his mouth to hang on their walls.

It is not that difficult to connect the dots between the status quo and certain trajectory toward an unlivable and desolate home planet. The skies are emptying, as are woods and oceans — not through any natural force, but only by the violence of man. Chris Hedges writes in his recent “Reign of Idiots”: “Europeans and Americans have spent five centuries conquering, plundering, exploiting and polluting the earth in the name of human progress. … They believed that this orgy of blood and gold would never end, and they still believe it.”

Tiffany held yet another wolf hate conference, in early April, that was completely skewed to myth, lies, and fearmongering. He should be reminded that Richard Thiel, retired DNR wolf biologist, said on Wisconsin Public Radio, “I have worked with wolves in Wisconsin for 30 years. I have pushed them off of deer carcasses and had them walk right up to me. I never felt the need to carry a firearm and I never did.” Tiffany has been informed that only 2/10ths of 1 percent of livestock deaths can be attributed to wolves, whereas 90 percent of pre-slaughterhouse death is due to horrific farm conditions.

Yet Tiffany, Baldwin, Johnson and many other Republicans are bloodthirsty in pursuit of wolf-hater votes.

The Center for Biological Diversity describes the acceleration of extinction: “Because the rate of change in our biosphere is increasing, and because every species’ extinction potentially leads to the extinction of others bound to that species in a complex ecological web, numbers of extinctions are likely to snowball in the coming decades as ecosystems unravel.”

Yesterday, May 6, the DNR held a Wisconsin hunter education convention “on the future of hunter education with statewide experts in the field of hunter recruitment, retention, and reintroducing people of all ages to the outdoors and hunting.” For years, the DNR has offered $5 licenses to entice new hunters and trappers, especially targeting women and children, to bolster its power base of hunters and trappers.

The DNR has recruited and trained another 10,000 trappers over the past five years, deregulated lead shot and weapons and massively extended and liberalized seasons, shooting ranges, and access to public lands. It is paying for private land access. It is permitting the use of dogs to chase our wildlife without mercy or licenses, anytime, anywhere, with little or no oversight. It is paying $2,500, from the Endangered Species Fund, for each dog killed by wolves or bears defending themselves and their young.

In 2015-16 the DNR’s self-reported survey documented 284,395 wild animals crushed in traps throughout the state. Prices were down in that time period, with prices ranging from 71 cents for possums to $75 for bobcat skins. The total monetary value comes out to $1,258,651 or $4.42 per wild animal killed. Trappers are the only citizens who can destroy unlimited wild animals for profit, indiscriminately, and self-report.

Nonhunters have zero say.

If the 4.4 million voting-eligible citizens each put in 29 cents, we could buy back our 284,395 innocent wildlife and save them from such suffering and needless death. We are not given the option. Only death has a price tag and license.

The Center for Biological Diversity warns, “(C)onserving local populations is the only way to ensure genetic diversity critical for a species’ long-term survival.” That means wolves, bears, bobcats, beavers, coyotes, and all wild life.

As Chris Hedges writes in “Reign of Idiots”: “There is a familiar checklist for extinction. We are ticking off every item on it.”