Taiwanese Leopard Considered Extinct, Spotted For The First Time Since 1983

Mar 04 2019 

Taiwanese Leopard Considered Extinct, Spotted For The First Time Since 1983

With scientists and conservationists saying that the Earth is currently undergoing the sixth mass extinction of plants and animals and species going extinct at up to 1000, to 10,000 the natural, rate, the world is going downhill, fast. However, very rarely, everyone is reminded that it’s perhaps not too late.

One of these rare occasions has just occurred in Taiwan where a rare species of large cat, the Formosan clouded leopard, has just been spotted in the wilderness by a number of people across the archipelago’s southeast region. The leopard has been spotted walking around in the countryside near Taitung County’s Daren Township, where the area’s Paiwan tribal authorities had formed indigenous ranger groups to patrol the region and guard the sensitive areas.

Leopard Formosan Clouded

Species hasn’t been sighted since 1983

This is actually great news because this particular species of Leopard hasn’t been officially sighted since 1983, more than 35 years ago, and 6 years ago, in 2013, it was officially decades as extinct. This gives hope to many other animals that were once thought to be extinct. Maybe they are still out there somewhere. It was first spotted by a group of rangers when it suddenly climbed up a tree and then scrambled up a cliff side to go and hunt for goats. Another group also spotted it when it darted in front of their scooter before quickly claiming another tree and disappearing from sight for good. Even though the group didn’t manage to see it again, at least they know it exists and was able to report back about it.

Tribal members want to stop hunting in the area

As soon as the news was heard, a tribal meeting was held by the locals to discuss how is best to move forward. The tribal members of the village are aiming to stop hunting in the area by outsiders, while village elders are lobbying Taiwanese authorities to end logging and other activities that harm the land, and potentially this rare animal as well. The Formosan is known to be quite agile and vigilant, eluding human attempts to trap or otherwise capture it, so it’s somewhat of a mystery that should probably just be left in its natural habitat.

Taiwan Clouded Leopard

Historical records of the rare cat date back to around the 13th century, when indigenous people brought the leopard’s pelts to trade at the busy markets of port cities like Tainan. Many believe that Japanese anthropologist Torii Ryūzō, in 1900, was the only non-indigenous person to have actually seen a live Formosan clouded leopard.

Why paying for pandas is not so black and white

 This article originally appeared on The Conversation, and is republished under a Creative Commons licence.

Wang Wang and Funi came to Australia from China a decade ago. Their relationship is best described as complicated. Despite considerable medical assistance, they have never managed to produce offspring. It has put a big question mark over whether they will be permitted to remain in Australia.

The fate of the two giant pandas may now depend on the outcome of the federal election on May 18. Keeping the couple at Adelaide Zoo includes paying about A$1 million a year to the Chinese government.

It’s just another chapter in the story of an iconic species where politics, economics and international diplomacyoften eclipse conservation considerations.

Captive breeding programme

China currently has pandas on loan (or hire) to 26 zoos in 18 countries. The most recent zoo to join the select list was Ähtäri, Finland, which welcomed two pandas on a 15-year loan in 2018. Denmark’s Copenhagen Zoo is eagerly awaiting two pandas due to arrive in April.

Officially it’s all part of a captive breeding programme to help save the species from extinction. Though their conservation status is no longer “endangered” (improving to “vulnerable” in 2016), there are still just 500 to 1,000 adult pandas left in the wild, in six isolated mountain ranges in south-central China.

The overseas placements augment China’s own 67 reserves dedicated to panda conservation. Any cubs born overseas are the property of China and typically return to China to continue the captive breeding program.

There are still just 500 to 1,000 adult pandas left in the wild, in six isolated mountain ranges in south-central China

But the number of zoo births has been quite low. As the Smithsonian Institution’s “panda guy” Bill McShea has pointed out, pandas in the wild have fewer problems mating or breeding: “In the wild, aggregations of male pandas form along ridge tops in the spring, and a stream of visiting females in heat keeps the mating activity intense.”

Zoos can’t mimic these conditions. Since giant pandas are solitary animals, they are housed separately except for the few days of the year when the female is ready to mate. Because there is no mate choice in captivity, natural mating is rare. Most captive births are the result of IVF treatments.

(Credit: Getty Images)

Although no longer “endangered” there are still just 500 to 1,000 adult pandas left in the wild, in six isolated mountain ranges in China (Credit: Getty Images)

Trade considerations

This is not to say overseas zoo placements have no conservation value. But other strategic aims, such as improving China’s public image and consolidating trade relationships, loom large.

For example, the new panda enclosure at Berlin’s Tierpark zoo was opened just ahead of the 2017 G20 summit in Hamburg. The opening was attended by German chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese president Xi Jingping. The event was intrepreted as a signal of China’s endorsement of Germany as a competitor to the United States for leadership of the western world.

The event was intrepreted as a signal of China’s endorsement of Germany as a competitor to the United States for leadership of the western world

China’s 2012 announcement that it would send four pandas to Canada’s Toronto and Calgary zoos was linked to successful trade talks, particularly over a Foreign Investment Protection Agreement after almost 20 years of negotiation.

Edinburgh Zoo’s receipt of two pandas in 2011 was linked to trade deals worth billions of dollars.

As for the panda loan to Adelaide Zoo, it was announced by Chinese president Hu Jintao at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Sydney in 2007. On the same day Australian prime minister John Howard and President Hu also announced plans for a yearly “security dialogue”.

(Credit: Getty Images)

Fu Ni the giant panda is treated to specially prepared panda treats for her birthday at the Adelaide Zoo in 2015 (Credit: Getty Images)

Furry ambassadors

Panda diplomacy is believed to date back to the 7th century, when the Empress Wu Zeitan sent a pair as a gift to Japan. In the 20th century Mao Zedong embraced the strategy, gifting pandas to fellow-travelling communist nations. When Richard Nixon went to China in 1972, Deng Xiaoping presented him with two pandas.

Since then the recipients have been well and truly weighted towards wealthy capitalist nations. There are two reasons for this.

This has been aptly described as an exercise in ‘soft cuddly power’

First, China uses the pandas to improve its image and deepen relationships with nations able to supply it with valuable resources and technology. This has been aptly described as an exercise in “soft cuddly power”.

Second, since the devastating 2008 Sichuan earthquake, China has used panda loans to pay for local conservation efforts, mend damaged panda conservation facilities and conduct giant panda research.

(Credit: Getty Images)

Edinburgh Zoo’s receipt of two pandas in 2011 was linked to trade deals worth billions of dollars (Credit: Getty Images)

Financial strings attached

For recipient zoos keeping pandas is an expensive business.

Consider Adelaide Zoo’s costs even with the federal government covering the pandas’ A$1 million annual rental fee. From the outset, the zoo went heavily into debt to build a specialist panda enclosure (at a cost of about A$8 million).

Looking after each panda also costs many hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Pandas are the most expensive animal to keep in a zoo, costing about five times as much as an elephant.

Food alone is a logistical headache. Giant pandas are not biologically herbivores but for some reason they developed a taste for bamboo about 6,000 years ago and stopped eating a varied diet, including meat. Bamboo, however, is low in nutrients and difficult to digest, which means pandas have to eat a lot and then rest. Each day an adult panda can munch through about 12 kilograms of fresh bamboo – and because they’re fussy eaters, they need to be given more than double that amount.

All of this means a panda must be treated like a business proposition. Will there be a return on investment? Will their cost be justified by the extra visitors they draw to the zoo?

Adelaide Zoo had high expectations that were quickly dashed. Like other zoos, there was a large initial spike in zoo visits, but by 2010 visitor numbers had returned to pre-panda levels. It was clear Funi and Wang Wang would not add A$600 million to the South Australian economy over a decade as predicted. In their honeymoon year, research suggests, they brought in just A$28 million. Adding a baby panda would improve their attraction value considerably.

Beyond financial value

It’s therefore easy to see why some some call pandas white elephants.

But let’s not overlook the important contribution the panda diaspora has made to pandas moving off the “endangered” list. Part of this is due to the loan fees paid to China. The money has funded panda conservation research and projects at Bifengxia and Wolong, in China’s Sichuan province.

Let’s not overlook the important contribution the panda diaspora has made to pandas moving off the “endangered” list. Part of this is due to the loan fees paid to China

There is also value in Australian zoo keepers, veterinarians and scientists being part of a global knowledge network.

We still know so little about panda behaviour and the environmental effects that endanger them. We have made a small contribution with our own research into strategies to reduce stress in captive giant pandas. If Funi and Wang Wang remain in Adelaide, the zoo has the potential to provide for further valuable insights.

As scientists who care about animals and animal welfare, we believe it is important to also remember Funi and Wang Wang have helped connect hundreds of thousands of children and adults alike to nature.

These two giant pandas have their own personalities and close bonds with people who care for them everyday. Nature is not just an economic commodity but vital for our survival. If you have not yet visited Funi and Wang Wang, take the opportunity while you can.

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The Misplaced Fears About the United States’ Declining Fertility Rate

SETH WENIG / AP
America’s fertility rate is in steady decline: In 2018, it dipped to an all-time low, down 2 percent from the year before, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report published Wednesday. American women are now predicted to have an average of 1.73 children over their lifetime. The absolute number of births has also fallen to a historic low: Roughly 3.8 million babies were born in the United States last year, the smallest tally since 1986, when the country was just starting to emerge from a recession.

Some observers are worried that the ongoing decline will have grim economic consequences in the not-so-distant future. Without enough new babies, the theory goes, America’s demographic makeup will tip further toward older generations, whose members will grow needier and less productive with age. A shrinking workforce could, over time, make this imbalance all the more unsustainable.

If the trend holds fast over the next few years, those fears may prove valid, Karen Benjamin Guzzo, a demographer and sociology professor at Bowling Green State University, told me. But, she says, the trends revealed by the new report are more complex than just the declining fertility rate, and it contains some hopeful news as well: The teen birth rate dropped by 7 percent from 2017 to 2018, according to the CDC’s analysis. Meanwhile, the rate for women ages 30 through 34 was virtually unchanged, and their counterparts in their late 30s and early 40s experienced a slight uptick in birth rates, up 1 percent and 2 percent, respectively. Generally speaking, the older a woman is when she has her first child, the better that child’s socioeconomic outcome.

Against this backdrop, Benjamin Guzzo argues, using that 1.73-children-per-woman stat to predict catastrophe doesn’t make sense. The common measure of a country’s fertility rate is known as its total fertility rate, or TFR. The TFR predicts the expected number of children an average American woman will have in her lifetime. Importantly, it isn’t some ongoing tally—rather, it gathers the actual fertility rate of, say, U.S. women in their 40s and extrapolates from that number to assert what the rate for women currently in their 20s will be two decades from now. TFR is a useful metric because it’s simple and enables apples-to-apples comparisons globally, Benjamin Guzzo says. But in a country and an era in which more and more women are delaying motherhood, she argues, TFR is an estimate that is bound to be skewed.

That’s especially true because, by and large, the rate at which American women of childbearing age express an interest in starting a family hasn’t changed much in the past decade, suggests research presented at a recent meeting of demographers. Nor have notions of the ideal number of children in a family. Meanwhile, a growing body of research challenges traditional assumptions about the risk factors of so-called geriatric pregnancies. Women, Benjamin Guzzo notes, have long had children in their 40s—it’s just that, in the past, they were often having their third or fourth kid.

While some of this apparently declining fertility rate may be attributable to delay, notably, a woman’s decision to delay a baby does increase the likelihood that she won’t end up ever having one. “We need to be changing how we talk about this from mostly a story about delayed births to, increasingly, a story about births that these women are simply never going to have,” Lyman Stone, a researcher at the Institute for Family Studies, told me in an email.

Whatever’s going on, people decide not to have children, or to delay having them, for all sorts of reasons, not always because they’re not interested. For instance, a 2018 study surveying healthy, egg-freezing women in the United States and Israel on their motivations found that “lack of a partner” was the primary driving force. Specifically, the study participants pointed to a “massive undersupply” of men who are university-educated and committed to fidelity, marriage, and/or parenthood.

Other would-be parents are likely putting off kids because of insufficient resources, or a sense that their environment is too unpredictable. “Economic instability and unaffordable care could be factors for people deciding to have children later in life, or not at all,” said Josie Kalipeni, the policy director of the caregiving advocacy organization Caring Across Generations, in an email. Numerous studies have attributed the growing desire to delay motherhood to financial stressorseconomic uncertainty and overwhelming student debt, for example, or job instability and limited access to health insurance. Meanwhile, anecdotal evidence suggests that societal problems such as climate change—which may eventually affect some women’s ability to procreate—could discourage some prospective parents from becoming parents after all.

All of which is to say: The record-low fertility rate likely isn’t a sign that the United States’ younger generations are rejecting having children. Rather, the way Benjamin Guzzo and many other observers see it, it’s a sign that the country isn’t providing the support Americans feel they need in order to have children.

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And here’s a letter to the editor from a friend in response to the above:

 

I understand the author is seeking to assuage fears being reported about our country’s declining fertility rate but I strongly object to both this professed fear and the need to mitigate it. Grim economic consequences because people aren’t populating fast enough to become working drones? It’s hard not to laugh at the absurdity of such a thought when everything indicates the opposite is actually the cause for grim writing on the wall. If humans don’t change our global industrial economic model, and soon, human civilization will be collapsing in our lifetimes. And we’re taking just about everything else out the door with us! This Great Extinction Event we’re experiencing is begging human civilization to live differently—breed less, consume less, harm less. This should be the mantra guiding us all right now.

I’m one of many U.S. child-free women who opted out of child-bearing and -rearing intentionally—not only because I wanted to spend my professional years serving others not of my own making, but also because our world’s burgeoning and exponentially increasing human population is well past sustainability. I actually considered the personal act of bringing a child into the world immoral, given the state of affairs of our current world and the ecological crisis that is mounting. In short, I concur with one of the author’s theories: dropping fertility rates do in part reflect women like myself who are looking at climate doom & gloom and choosing not to procreate. For Earth’s sake, I’m just grateful I’m not alone.

 

Climate Change and the New Age of Extinction

People easily forget “last of” stories about individual species, but the loss of nature also threatens our existence.

The first documented extinction of 2019 occurred on New Year’s Day, with the death of a Hawaiian tree snail named George. George, who was about an inch long, had a grayish body, grayish tentacles, and a conical shell striped in beige and brown. He was born in captivity, in Honolulu, and had spent his unassuming life oozing around his terrarium, consuming fungi. Researchers with Hawaii’s forestry department had tried to find a partner for him—George was a hermaphrodite, but he needed a mate in order to reproduce—and when they couldn’t they concluded that he was the last of his kind, Achatinella apexfulva. A few days after he went, presumably gently, into that good night, the department posted a eulogy under the heading “farewell to a beloved snail . . . and a species.” “Unfortunately, he is survived by none,” it observed.

George’s passing prompted a spate of headlines, and then, it seems safe to say, was forgotten. Americans have, by now, grown inured to “last of” stories, which appear with the unsurprising regularity of seasonal dessert recipes. (George the snail was named for Lonesome George, a Pinta Island tortoise from the Galápagos, also the last of his kind, who died in 2012.) In February, the Australian government declared a ratlike creature known as the Bramble Cay melomys to be extinct. The melomys, found on a single low-lying island between Australia and Papua New Guinea, appears to have been done in by climate change, which has shrunk its habitat and brought ever more damaging flooding. Then, in April, Chinese state media reported that the last known female Yangtze giant softshell turtle had died. “Her species might die with her,” the Washington Post noted.

Last week, an international group of scientists issued what the Times called “the most exhaustive look yet at the decline in biodiversity.” The findings were grim. On the order of a million species are now facing extinction, “many within decades.” “What’s at stake here is a liveable world,” Robert Watson, the chairman of the group, Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, told Science.

The U.N.-backed I.P.B.E.S. is to flora and fauna what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is to the atmosphere. Based in Bonn, it is funded by a hundred and thirty-two member nations, including the United States. More than three hundred experts contributed to its latest assessment, which runs to more than fifteen hundred pages.

The authors trace two diverging trend lines: one upward-sloping, for people, and one sloping downward, for everything else. During the past fifty years, the planet’s human population has doubled. In that same period, the size of the global economy has quadrupled, and global trade has grown tenfold. If hundreds of millions of people around the world are still mired in poverty, there are many more people living in prosperity today than ever before.

To keep nearly eight billion people fed, not to mention housed, clothed, and hooked on YouTube, humans have transformed most of the earth’s surface. Seventy-five per cent of the land is “significantly altered,” the I.P.B.E.S. noted in a summary of its report, which was released last week in Paris. In addition, “66 per cent of the ocean area is experiencing increasing cumulative impacts, and over 85 per cent of wetlands (area) has been lost.” Approximately half the world’s coral cover is gone. In the past ten years alone, at least seventy-five million acres of “primary or recovering forest” have been destroyed.

Habitat destruction and overfishing are, for now, the main causes of biodiversity declines, according to the I.P.B.E.S., but climate change is emerging as a “direct driver” and is “increasingly exacerbating the impact of other drivers.” Its effects, the report notes, “are accelerating.” Watson wrote last week, in the Guardian,that “we cannot solve the threats of human-induced climate change and loss of biodiversity in isolation. We either solve both or we solve neither.”

How long can the two trend lines continue to head in opposite directions? This is the key question raised by the report, and it may turn out to be the key question of the century. Many documented species have already disappeared—to take the example of Hawaiian tree snails, Achatinella apexfulva is just one of hundreds of species that have been lost—and probably even more vanished before they could be identified. Many others, like the Yangtze giant softshell turtle, are functionally extinct.

So far, it could be argued, the casualties haven’t slowed us down. The I.P.B.E.S. report cautions, however, against assuming that this pattern will continue. Nature, it succinctly observes, “is essential for human existence.” The report points to pollinators as one group of organisms that humans can’t readily do without. Ninety per cent of flowering plants and seventy-five per cent of all types of food crops rely on pollination by animals—birds, bats, and (mostly) insects. Cash crops including coffee, cocoa, and almonds are pollinator-dependent. In many regions, important pollinators, like native bees, are in decline. It’s not clear exactly why, but probably one of the major factors is an increasing reliance on synthetic pesticides, which don’t distinguish between insects that are useful and those that are unwanted. These chemicals are supposed to prevent crop failures; the danger is that they may end up causing them.

As much as six hundred billion dollars’ worth of annual agricultural production “is at risk as a result of pollinator loss,” the I.P.B.E.S. warned. In an earlier report, on pollinators and the food supply, the group predicted that “total pollinator loss” would decrease production of the most important dependent crops “by more than 90 per cent.”

We would, it seems, be well advised to shift course, if only for our own, species-centric reasons. And, according to the I.P.B.E.S., there is still time for “transformative changes” in the “production and consumption of energy, food, feed, fibre and water.” Regrettably, though, all signs point to more of the same. In 2018, carbon-dioxide emissions from the energy sector rose to a new high of thirty-six billion tons. Also in 2018, nearly thirty million acres of tropical forest were lost—an area the size of Pennsylvania. As the Web site InsideClimate News noted, this destruction occurred “even as more corporations and countries made commitments to preserve tropical forests.” As long as we continue to tear through the biosphere, expect the losses to continue to mount. ♦

Extinction Rebellion want to get arrested to fight climate change

An Extinction Rebellion protester blocking Blackfriars Bridge, in London, November 2018.

London (CNN)Earlier this month a group of climate change activists stripped down to their underwear in British parliament and glued their hands to the glass of the House of Commons’ public gallery.

Why? To get arrested.
Extinction Rebellion, a grassroots environmental group based in the UK, is responsible for a series of stunts that deliberately break the law to highlight the threat of climate change.
Since launching last year they have caused disruption by holding a “Funeral for our Future” outside Buckingham Palace, which led to 14 arrests, poured200 liters of fake blood outside Downing Street, and brought London to a standstill by shutting down five bridges.
So far Extinction Rebellion has counted 222 arrests — and thousands have declared they are willing to be arrested, or even go to prison, to demand action on climate change.

Method to the madness

Extinction Rebellion claims their actions are based on research into how to use “non-violent civil disobedience to achieve radical change.”
An Extinction Rebellion protester, London, November 2018

They estimate that significant numbers of people will have to get arrested and cause disruption for the government to pay attention to their demands. These include the UK government declaring a climate change emergency, reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025 and starting a citizen’s assembly.
“People making decisions have to pay attention to a mass of people that come out on to the streets to demand action in the face of this crisis we are in,” said Roman Paluch-Machnik, an Extinction Rebellion activist who has been arrested more than once.
“You put the police in a dilemma,” explained Nuala Gathercole Lam, another protester. “If you have got thousands of people refusing to move, they either have to let you do it, which is hugely economically disruptive, or they have to arrest you.”
According to the group, research shows that non-violent uprisings involving 3.5% of the public participating in acts of civil disobedience force a political response because they cannot be ignored.
“Every non-violent uprising since 1900, if it achieves that threshold, succeeds in its aims,” said Paluch-Machnik. “One of our main principles is to get this 3.5% mobilized.”
That would need about 2 million people to get involved in the UK.

Willing to get arrested

Almost 10,000 people worldwide have signed up as “willing to get arrested,” as of April 8, 2019, according to the group. Around 3,000 are based in the UK.
Of those people, over 80% are also “willing to go to prison.” The group holds prison workshopsand training sessions to prepare people for what to do if they end up at a police station.
Pictured, a protest outside Downing Street, March 2019.

“Nothing has been achieved after 30 years of regular environmental campaign,” said Paluch-Machnik. “People are so motivated by what is happening right now because there is not really another option.”
“I’ve always been very worried about continuous news about the government not addressing the situation,” said Alanna Byrne, an activist for Extinction Rebellion. “I felt very isolated in the way that I felt.”
Along with 25 others, Paluch-Machnik, Lam and Byrne have quit their jobs to work for Extinction Rebellion full time.

How far are you willing to go to demand action?

Since the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned last year that the planet only has 11 years before it reaches disastrous levels of global warming, Extinction Rebellion isn’t the only group to launch radical climate activism.
Extinction Rebellion activists threw 200 liters of fake blood outside Downing Street in March 2019.

School students around the world have been skipping school to demand that world leaders take action on climate change.
The movement has spanned more than 100 countries and 1,500 cities, with teenagers missing out on their education to show how worried they are about the threat to their future.
In response to critics, who say Extinction Rebellion is causing unnecessary disruption and wasting police time, the activists say the “climate and ecological emergency” demands their actions.
“I think that any suffering that is caused as a result of a few hours sitting in a traffic jam is incomparable to what is going to happen in a few years” said Paluch-Machnik.
London’s Metropolitan Police Service told CNN that it is aware of a number of Extinction Rebellion demonstrations and protests planned over the coming weeks, and that “Appropriate policing plans are in place.”
It added: “We will always provide a proportionate policing plan to balance the right to a peaceful protest, while ensuring that disruption to communities is kept to a minimum.”
This Monday, the group plans to shut down London in their biggest action yet. They plan to meet at five London locations and block traffic by playing music, hosting discussions and refusing to move from the street.
Demonstrators blocked Waterloo Bridge by bringing trees and solar panels.
Extinction Rebellion  demonstrating on Waterloo Bridge, London, April 15, 2019.

The group says hundreds of people have taken time off work to camp for as long as it takes get their demands heard by the government. Read more coverage of the protest.

Ancient whales walked on four legs and moved like giant otters — seriously

This illustration shows an artistic reconstruction of two individuals of Peregocetus, one standing along the rocky shore of nowadays Peru and the other preying upon sparid fish. The presence of a tail fluke remains hypothetical.

(CNN)The whales we know today look nothing like they did millions of years ago.

Instead, cetaceans, the group including today’s whales and dolphins, evolved 50 million years ago from small four-legged animals with hooves.
Rather than being one of the largest creatures on Earth, as they are now, they came from creatures that were the size of an average dog.
Paleontologists have discovered skeletons of these early creatures in India and Pakistan, but this new find, as discussed in Thursday’s edition of the journal Current Biology, was found in the Pisco Basin on the southern coast of Peru.
The 2011 find by Mario Urbina and his international team contained several surprises.
“As this is the first four-legged whale skeleton for South America and the whole Pacific Ocean, the discovery in itself was a major surprise,” study co-author Olivier Lambert wrote in an email. Lambert works at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences. “We were also surprised with the geological age of the find (42.6 million years ago) and with the preservation state [of] so many bones from most parts of the skeleton, even including a patella (kneecap), some small ankle bones, and the last phalanges with marks of tiny hooves.”
This is the oldest known whale found in this part of the world, and it is the most complete skeleton anyone has ever found outside India and Pakistan. This particular creature would have been up to 4 meters long, or 11 feet, tail included.
The team that found it named it Peregocetus pacificus. It means “the traveling whale that reached the Pacific.”
Scientists had known that the whales’ body shape had changed over the years, making the creatures better adapted to life in the water; however, they didn’t know how the creature had moved from South Asia to South America. Early whale ancestors were not fully aerodynamic like whales are today.
“Four-legged whales, the ancestors of nowadays whales and dolphins, have been previously found in three main regions: the geologically oldest come from India/Pakistan, somewhat younger taxa [the plural of taxonomy] were described from North and West Africa, and even younger ones from the east side of North America,” Lambert said. “Based on the available evidence, and on the fact that the postcranial skeleton is poorly known in species from both Africa and North America, several questions remained debated: When did quadrupedal whales reach the New World? Which path did they take? And what [were their] locomotion abilities during that long travel?”
This 2011 discovery confirmed that the animals were probably good swimmers and good at getting around on land.
Unfortunately, scientists did not find the last part of the tail section of this creature, but the first vertebra connecting this section of the bones was similar to what modern-day beavers and otters have.
This figure shows the bones of Peregocetus, including the mandible with teeth, scapula, vertebrae, sternum elements, pelvis, and fore- and hind limbs.

The ancient whales also had long toes that were most likely webbed, meaning they moved a lot like today’s otters. That’s probably how they crossed the Atlantic Ocean, researchers said. Today, a giant otter-type creature would have to swim a long way to migrate, but at that time in the Earth’s history, the distance between Africa and South America was two times shorter and the currents were strong.
From South America, they probably migrated to North America, as well. They probably didn’t become fully marine animals until about 12 million years after this creature roamed the Earth, scientists think.
There are many intermediary stages of this “spectacular evolutionary history” that have been found over the years, “but we still miss elements, so we should keep searching in other parts of the world, especially in the Southern Hemisphere, for skeletons of these strange four-legged whales, to make the whole scenario better understood,” Lambert said.
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Scientists will continue to dig in this area in Peru. They hope to find bones that may be even older so that they can fill in more pieces of this puzzle about how the whale evolved over time.
“A skull would be great, as well as the tip of the tail,” Lambert said.

Trail-Building: Habitat Destruction by a Different Name

Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.
September 2, 2017

“Impacts on and along trails result from the trampling of hikers and pack stock and the effects of trail construction and maintenance. … These impacts include the loss of vegetation and shifts in plant-species composition, exposure of bare mineral soil, soil compaction, and changes in microhabitats, including changes in draining and erosion. Where trail construction is carefully planned, most of these changes are of little concern; although pronounced. Most changes are localized and deliberate.” Dawson and Hendee, 2009, pp. 423-4

“The study revealed that almost 80% of extinction research in the country focused on cute marsupials such as kangaroos and koalas, whereas not-so-adorable critters such as bats and rodents held only 11% of research time, despite making up almost half of the species examined.” https://mygoodplanet.com/selective-fashion-going-extinct/

Scientists are generally honest, in what they say – but not in what they choose to study. Despite a diligent search in one of the world’s best libraries (the University of California, Berkeley), I wasn’t able to find a single book or article on the harm done by trail-building. I notice that whenever I see a picture of a trail, I think “Oh, a trail – so what?” It takes an effort of will to think about the wildlife habitat that was destroyed in order to build the trail. And the habitat destruction isn’t restricted to the trail bed. As Ed Grumbine pointed out in Ghost Bears, a grizzly can hear a human from a mile away, and smell one from five miles away. And grizzlies are probably not unique in that. In other words, animals within five miles of a trail are inhibited from full use of their habitat. That is habitat destruction! If there were no trails, we would be confronted by our own destructiveness every time we entered a park. It is only because the habitat has already been destroyed for us, that we can pretend that we are doing no harm.

So why do we build trails? It doesn’t take much experimenting with cross-country travel to see that it is extremely difficult. There are many kinds of hazards – biological (e.g. poison oak, poison sumac, poisonous snakes, etc.) and physical (e.g. blackberry thorns, cliffs, rivers, volcanos, etc.). It is extremely difficult to find a passable-, much less an efficient, route. It would be very difficult to communicate our location to emergency personnel, without trails. So it is unlikely that we will eliminate trails in the near future, except from areas designated off-limits to humans.

That leaves only one option compatible with wildlife conservation: minimizing the construction, extent, and use of trails. For example, banning the use of off-road vehicles, such as bicycles, skateboards, and motorcycles would greatly reduce the use of the trails, the distance that people travel, and the harm done to the soil and the small animals and plants found on, under, or near the trails. Mountain bikers complain about being thereby “denied access”, but of course they can still walk. They just can’t easily travel as far as they can on a bike. On public land, especially, all trail construction should be thoroughly studied, and should be built only when officially authorized by the land manager, and only by thoroughly educated, authorized builders.

By far the greatest threat to wildlife habitat in so-called “protected” areas would appear to be mountain biking. Motorized vehicles are generally not allowed in natural areas. The most destructive use of trails is mountain biking. Knobby tires are perfectly designed to rip up the soil. Mountain bikers, with rare honesty, call their riding “shredding”. They also have a much greater range than hikers, and probably also equestrians. They also frequently ride illegally – where bicycles are not allowed.

All of this is well known. But what isn’t so well known or understood is the mountain bikers’ drive to build ever more trails. All park users seem to have a need for a certain amount of stimulation. A hiker or equestrian can satisfy that need on a relatively short trail, because they experience it fully, through all of their senses. They can stop instantly, and turn 360 degrees, seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, or tasting anything they choose. Mountain bikers, on the other hand, tend to ride fast, often as fast as they can, seeking what they call an “adrenaline rush”. But even when riding slowly, the very nature of a bicycle requires one to focus almost 100% of his or her attention on the trail immediately in front of their front tire, or they will crash. The consequence is that they have to travel several times as far as a hiker, to have the same quantity of experience. And after riding the same trail a few times, they get bored with it and want to ride a new trail. And when they’ve ridden all their local trails, they begin demanding more trails to be built. Or, if their demands aren’t met, they begin secretly building illegal trails, or building illegal “trail features” (jumps, berms, log bridges, teeter-totters, etc.). The rain-forests of North Vancouver are the iconic example (which destruction continues to this day), but it has been emulated by mountain bikers all over the world.

If this were a matter of a few sites or a few trails, it wouldn’t be too significant. But it’s not restricted to one area. Mountain bikers, apparently ignorant of conservation biology, have destroyed thousands of square miles of wildlife habitat, and show no signs of slowing down or recognizing the harm that they are doing. IMBA (the International Mountain Bicycling Association) has been promoting mountain biking tourism, claiming that mountain biking brings economic benefits to communities that embrace it, of course ignoring the economic value of the intact ecosystems they are destroying. The mountain biking infrastructure is called “epic trails”, “ride centers”, “bike parks”, etc. They bait their demands with offers of volunteer trail-building and trail maintenance. (But, of course, their vision of a good trail (lots of humps, twists, and turns) is quite different from what the other trail users want.)

In the San Francisco Bay Area, projects were created to build two huge trails – the Bay Trail and Ridge Trail – each several hundred miles long, circling the bay near the water and along the ridgetops. The community enthusiastically voted for these projects, waxing poetic about all the “new opportunities” to “connect to nature”. Actually, no new habitat was created, and the trail construction (which still continues) destroyed an enormous amount of habitat. Nevertheless, I never heard anyone complain about this. People seem to think that trails somehow thread their way through the wilderness harmlessly, without touching it.

Haven’t we already destroyed far too much wildlife habitat? Isn’t it time we started telling the truth about trails and our construction and use of them?

Here are a few examples of the destructiveness of trail construction and use (for an online copy of this paper, where you can click on the links and won’t have to type them, see https://mjvande.info/scb9.htm ):

100 Seconds of Trail Destruction with Matty Miles:
https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-adk-adk_sbnt&hsimp=yhs-adk_sbnt&hspart=adk&p=mountain+biking+destruction#id=5&vid=b8f9aa6796e6a78ebd127bca34017f48&action=click
(Can you imagine what would happen to you if you happened to be on this trail?!)

Mountain bike trail building: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TtZaUS8YreU

Illegal mountain bike trail construction, Hop Ranch Creek Squamish BC May 27,2014:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tcwfT68fV0U&feature=youtu.be

IMBA promotes trail-building:
“Saturday is National Public Lands Day
Get connected with your local IMBA chapter or club to see if it is hosting a volunteer trail day this Saturday. Trails don’t build themselves…show some love for the places you love to ride!
Dig In Applications Open Through October 6
IMBA is currently accepting applications for its new Dig In Campaign – a grant program that directly supports local IMBA chhapters [sic] with actionable trail projects. The project list will be published in early October so stay tuned to see what’s happening near you.”
Vancouver’s North Shore – All Built Illegally! (The video is 51 minutes long, but every minute is worth watching. Very enlightening!):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mB_gOzG7Oc

IMBA wants to create 500 more miles of trail!:
https://www.imba.com/news/imba-launches-dig-in

669 miles of mountain biking trail:
https://oregontimbertrail.org/

San Francisco Bay Trail: 500 miles: http://baytrail.org/

Bay Area Ridge Trail: 375 miles, growing to 500 miles: http://ridgetrail.org/

Long-distance trails in the United States: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long-distance_trails_in_the_United_States

Examples of Destructive Trail-Building:
Illegal Trail Building in Whistler (I am in no way implying that legal trail building is acceptable! They both destroy wildlife habitat!):
https://www.piquenewsmagazine.com/whistler/wb-incorporates-dark-crystal-into-its-trail-system/Content?oid=4537412

Glorification of illegal trail building:
https://www.revelstokemountaineer.com/the-spokin-word-treading-the-high-seas/

IMBA: “IMBA is currently accepting applications for its new Dig In Campaign, a grant program that directly supports local IMBA chapters with actionable trail projects. We are committed to growing access for mountain bikers and increasing the pace of new builds in the U.S.” “It takes a village: that statement of wisdom is particularly true in the mountain bike community, where volunteers, experts and funders must come together to make great places to ride happen. In Wausau, WI, the Central Wisconsin Offroad Cycling Coalition (CWOCC), an IMBA chapter, recently completed a multi-year project that resulted in a pumptrack, four bike-optimized downhill trails of varying difficulty and a beginner-friendly loop, all designed by IMBA Trail Solutions.”

“How To Build A Legit DH Bike Trail”:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPoSchTxSs8&feature=youtu.be

Glorifying trail-building and mountain biking:
https://www.facebook.com/globalcivic/videos/1437735176244789/

Day in the life of a Trail Builder: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MekS557BEUo: the upbeat background music clearly indicates the mountain bikers’ attitude: trail building – legal or illegal – is fun and has no moral implications

Building a Mountain Bike Flow Trail:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ufswp1ABCLU
https://www.imba.com/resources/trail-building/10-most-common-trailbuilding-mistakes
https://mmbhof.org/north-shore-trail-builders/
https://www.singletracks.com/blog/mtb-trails/mountain-bike-trailbuilding-101/

10 Ways to Make Your Mountain Bike Trail Awesome! – Part 1: https://bikefat.com/10-ways-to-make-your-mountain-bike-trail-awesome-1/

10 Ways to Make Your Mountain Bike Trail Awesome! – Part 2: https://bikefat.com/10-ways-to-make-your-mountain-bike-trail-awesome-2/

Build a Mountain Bike Trail: http://www.instructables.com/id/Bulid-a-Mountain-Bike-Trail/
Trail Building: https://www.pinkbike.com/forum/trail-building/

OUR DIRT: Mountain Bike Trail Building Documentary: https://vimeo.com/65738812 no speed limit, will hit anything in the trail; too fast to appreciate anything; no knowledge of biology or conservation.
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10203947520996337.1073741831.1471603969&type=1&l=df5b117fa3

Don’t forget this one. This is what “rock armored” mountain bike trails turn into during heavy rains:
https://youtu.be/pOXYaYFfLyo
Because of all the damage done to our mountain slopes from too much trail building, they are building debris flow basins in our creeks, here — but the authorities won’t stop the mountain biking… It is costing us millions of dollars….

Here is more from British Columbia:

Delta, BC…
https://youtu.be/7q67O7r60fY (Illegal trail damage to riparian area)
This trail build was legitimate, but shows the damage done by too many people trail building, and pulling huge roots out, in a stupid kind of challenge race to see which team can build the most trail in the shortest time. Pure mayhem at work here (all through pristine area of forest, destroying the ground cover, and digging borrow pits to collect dirt and rocks to pack on the trails):
https://youtu.be/muicHp5kaKs (at the .24 mark, you can see a guy just tear out a large tree root…) “When Arc’teryx challenged MEC to a trail building competition, we jumped at the chance to get dirty… plus we couldn’t resist a little friendly competition. So on November 17, dozens of MEC staff and supporters met up with the NSMBA to dig, grub and mine for gold on the North Shore. Our goal was to build more trail than Arc’teryx over a few hours.”

Unauthorized bike trail damages “pristine habitat” in Forest Park:
https://bikeportland.org/2010/02/23/unauthorized-bike-trail-damages-pristine-habitat-in-forest-park-29920

Tracking the environmental impact of mountain biking in bushland:
http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/offtrack/tracking-the-environmental-impact-of-mountain-biking/6559202

Mountain bikers are also degrading forests and thereby contributing to global warming:
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/sep/28/alarm-as-study-reveals-worlds-tropical-forests-are-huge-carbon-emission-source

The damage mountain bikers do on Fromme Mtn. Seems one builder, MW, who left the NSMBA hasn’t gone away (still digging on the North Shore) — and the NSMBA continues to give a thumbs up to this sort of digging and building:
http://www.pictame.com/media/1472817891010303069_435668765

More trenches dug in the name of “sustainable” mountain biking…:
http://www.pictame.com/media/1553816771487873049_435668765

and this is what they dug up the forest to build (video of the jump structure in action):
http://www.pictame.com/media/1555623388244116041_435668765

How many buckets of gold dirt [mineral soil] and borrow pit digging was required to pack all that dirt on the eroded mtb trail on Mt. Fromme?:
http://www.pictame.com/media/1493117981432213889_435668765

This is what the NSMBA bragged about last year… How much more this year? For your trail building files/paper to show how devastating this all is:
https://twitter.com/MECraver/status/890267891144081408

Pleasanton Ridge Illegal Trails – Park Ranger Helicopter Incident 1-27-12 (NICA coaches taking high school mountain bikers on an illegal ride, in violation of their own “rules”; note the nasty comments from the mountain bikers):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJQJeB3hruA

Robert Moor: Only a single sentence negative on trails: “[W]e leave the most destructive trails, I think, of any group of animals” p.160

Proof That High School Mountain Bike Racing Is Environmentally Destructive:
https://norcalmtb.smugmug.com/2017-Race-4-Granite-Bay-Grinder-Folsom/i-WQ2zCCG
https://norcalmtb.smugmug.com/2017-Race-4-Granite-Bay-Grinder-Folsom/i-mxvW2BD
https://norcalmtb.smugmug.com/2017-Race-4-Granite-Bay-Grinder-Folsom/i-mVDCGbF

Trees are falling, due to erosion exposing their roots:
http://www.pictame.com/media/1657084424238301428_2237726428

Intact forests are the key to fresh water:

https://news.ok.ubc.ca/2017/12/07/forests-are-the-key-to-fresh-water/

http://www.euanforresterphotography.com/evidence-of-trail-fairies (click on each photo with cursor to see the story behind the illegal trail building…. some of it at night time, hiding under darkness.) This is now celebrated and applauded….wrong became a right, overnight… This is how mountain bikers won CMHC… This is the sordid history of mountain biking on our North Shore…

So much digging for dirt to pour over their ever eroding and compacted trails. The riding style seen in the last part of this video is the reason why the trails become that way, eroded and compacted. Anyone who tries to paint this MTB sport as benign as hiking, etc. needs to watch this until their eyes pop out!:
https://www.facebook.com/nsmba/videos/10155414065825036/

Illegal trail building a vexing problem for public land managers:

https://durangoherald.com/articles/214352-illegal-trail-building-a-vexing-problem-for-public-land-managers

An example of how a mountain biker role model rides:
https://nsmb.com/articles/trail-destruction-matty-miles/

Illegal mountain biking on Mount Royal is damaging its ecosystem, experts say. Repeatedly crossing the mountain’s soil loosens tree roots, affects Laurentian flora: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/mount-royal-mountain-biking-1.4675779

North Shore Mountain Biking Association Rationalizes Its Illegal Trail-Building:
https://nsmb.com/articles/bc-warns-illegal-building-could-bring-jail-time-10k-fine/

Illegal trail-building in Kelowna, BC: http://www.kelownadailycourier.ca/life/article_3c900d9e-8c75-11e8-9837-7b4caec74090.html

Endangered bees caught in middle of plan to add mountain biking trails in Minnetonka, MN:http://www.startribune.com/endangered-bees-caught-in-middle-of-plan-to-add-mountain-biking-trails-in-minnetonka/490114431/

Habitat destruction by mountain bikers using heavy equipment on Bowen Island, BC:https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/goldendirttrails/?hl=en https://www.instagram.com/goldendirttrails/?hl=en

Photo showing the extra habitat destroyed by a winding vs. straight trail: https://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/110050760/nelson-mountain-bike-club-comes-of-age-as-a-big-cog-on-nz-landscape

A 2,000-km biking trail set to open in the Balkans:

https://www.thejakartapost.com/travel/2019/01/28/a-2000-km-biking-trail-set-to-open-in-the-balkans.html

Profiting from habitat destruction (trail-building):
https://www.bcbikerace.com/resources-to-recreation/
https://vimeo.com/278210701

Mountain bikers build illegal trails first, then ask permission only if they get caught!:
https://www.northamptonchron.co.uk/news/mountain-bikers-who-built-ramps-at-northampton-park-accused-of-vandalism-by-borough-council-1-8845649 The same thing happened in both Victoria, BC and LaSalle, Ontario. Kids built dirt jumps in parks without permission. The cities razed them and the mtb kids whined…

It’s not trails that disturb forest birds, but the people on them
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181112082417.htm
“We believe protected areas with forbidden access are necessary and important, and that new trails into remote forest areas should not be promoted. Visitors to existing forest trails should be encouraged to adhere to a ‘stay on trail’ rule and refrain from roaming from designated pathways.”

https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/anarchistic-mountain-bikers-threaten-inner-city-park-s-rare-plants-20190205-p50vt3.html : “Mountain bike riders are currently the park’s most destructive user group.”

References:

Dawson, Chad P. and John C. Hendee, Wilderness Management – Stewardship and Protection of Resources and Values. Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing, 2009.

Ehrlich, Paul R. and Ehrlich, Anne H., Extinction: The Causes and Consequences of the Disappearances of Species. New York: Random House, 1981.

Errington, Paul L., A Question of Values. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, 1987.

Flannery, Tim, The Eternal Frontier — An Ecological History of North America and Its Peoples. New York: Grove Press, 2001.

Foreman, Dave, Confessions of an Eco-Warrior. New York: Harmony Books, 1991.

Grumbine, R.E., Ghost Bears. Covelo, CA: Island Press, 1992.

Knight, Richard L. and Kevin J. Gutzwiller, eds. Wildlife and Recreationists. Covelo, California: Island Press, 1995.

Louv, Richard, Last Child in the Woods — Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2005.

Moor, Robert (robertmoor.ontrails@gmail.com), On Trails. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2016.

Newsome D., C. Davies, “A case study in estimating the area of informal trail development and associated impacts caused by mountain bike activity in John Forrest National Park, Western Australia”. Journal of Ecotourism. 2009 Dec 1; 8(3):237-53.

Noss, Reed F. and Allen Y. Cooperrider, Saving Nature’s Legacy: Protecting and Restoring Biodiversity. Island Press, Covelo, California, 1994.

Reed, Sarah E. and Adina M. Merenlender, “Quiet, Nonconsumptive Recreation Reduces Protected Area Effectiveness”.Conservation Letters, 2008, 1–9.

Stone, Christopher D., Should Trees Have Standing? Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects. Los Altos, California: William Kaufmann, Inc., 1973.

Vandeman, Michael J., https://mjvande.info, especially https://mjvande.info/ecocity3.htmhttps://mjvande.info/india3.htmhttps://mjvande.info/mtbfaq.htmhttps://mjvande.info/scb7.htmhttps://mjvande.info/sc8.htm, and https://mjvande.info/goodall.htm.

Ward, Peter Douglas, The End of Evolution: On Mass Extinctions and the Preservation of Biodiversity. New York: Bantam Books, 1994.

“The Wildlands Project”, Wild Earth. Richmond, Vermont: The Cenozoic Society, 1994.

Wilson, Edward O., The Future of Life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002.

[NOTE: This paper can be found at https://mjvande.info/scb9.htm, where you can follow the above links without having to type them.]

‘Extinct’ Taiwanese Leopard Spotted for the First Time Since Disappearing in 1983

Our world has become a very rough neighborhood in recent years, with scientists and conservationists saying that the Earth is currently undergoing the sixth mass extinction of plants and animals and species going extinct at up to 1,000 to 10,000 times the natural rate.

However, on rare occasions, we’re reminded that perhaps it’s not too late for everyone—perhaps the reports of an animal species’ demise were premature, even if that species remains in grave danger.

Such is the case in Taiwan, where a rare species of large cat, the Formosan clouded leopard, has been spotted in the wilderness by a number of people across the archipelago’s southeast, according to Taiwan News.

The Formosan clouded leopard hadn’t been officially sighted since 1983 and was declared extinct in 2013.

The leopard had been spotted prowling in the countryside near Taitung County’s Daren Township, where the area’s Paiwan tribal authorities had formed indigenous ranger groups to patrol the region and guard sensitive areas.

According to Taiwan News, the rangers spotted the leopard–known as Li’uljaw and holding a sacred status for locals–suddenly climbed a tree before scrambling up a cliff to hunt for goats. Another group witnessed the Asian cat dart past a scooter before quickly climbing a tree and disappearing from sight.

The significance of the find is striking for locals, who held tribal meetings in Alangyi Village to determine how best to move forward.

Tribal members of the village hope to halt hunting in the area by outsiders, while village elders are lobbying Taiwanese authorities to end logging and other activities that harm the land.

The Formosan is known to be quite agile and vigilant, eluding human attempts to trap or otherwise capture it.

National Taitung University’s Department of Life Science professor Liu Chiung-hsi told Focus Taiwan News Channel:

“I believe this animal still does exist.”

Professor Liu also noted that in past investigations of the leopard’s whereabouts, he encountered hunters from the indigenous Bunun people who admitted capturing the animal on several occasions in the late 1990s. However, they burned the bodies for fear of violating Taiwan’s Wildlife Conservation Act.

From 2001 to 2013, a team of Taiwanese and U.S. zoologists surveyed the region but failed to sight the animal once, prompting the declaration that the Formosan clouded leopard had officially gone extinct.

Historical records of the rare cat date back to around the 13th century, when indigenous people brought the leopard’s pelts to trade at the busy markets of port cities like Tainan. It is believed that Japanese anthropologist Torii Ryūzō, in 1900, was the only non-indigenous person to have actually seen a live Formosan clouded leopard.

https://themindunleashed.com/2019/03/extinct-taiwanese-leopard-spotted.html?fbclid=IwAR1OWgulHvsfDdS_lbjX1jDTilb97DJKRxs_JHXbwRGjruk7UK-GXSY7Rec

 

Fin whales and mountain gorillas back from the brink of extinction thanks to conservation efforts

‘With sustained, long-term conservation action, we can not only prevent extinctions, but also achieve considerable population recoveries’

Anti-poaching efforts have helped boost mountain gorilla numbers by hundreds in recent decades

Anti-poaching efforts have helped boost mountain gorilla numbers by hundreds in recent decades ( Getty )

There is hope for the survival of fin whales and mountain gorillas after conservationists announced both species have been pulled back from the brink of extinction.

After decades of persecution by whaling vessels and poachers, modern efforts to protect these mammals appear to be working as their numbers have started to recover.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) maintains a “red list” to monitor the status of the world’s wildlife, and in its latest update both whales and gorillas have shifted one step further away from becoming new entries on the long list of species wiped out by humanity.

After a recent WWF report revealed 60 per cent of monitored animal populations had been obliterated in the space of decades, the announcement shows concerted international action can yield results.

Previously listed as endangered, fin whale numbers have roughly doubled since the 1970s when an international ban on commercial whaling was introduced. The population now stands at 100,000 mature individuals.

There has also been a marked improvement in western populations of grey whales, which are no longer considered critically endangered.

Fin whales numbers have doubled since an international ban on whaling was introduced (Aqqa Rosing-Asvid)

Dr Randall Reeves, chair of the IUCN cetacean specialist group, said it was “a relief” to finally see these populations on the rise.

“These whales are recovering largely thanks to bans on commercial hunting, international agreements and various protection measures. Conservation efforts must continue until the populations are no longer threatened,” he said.

In central Africa, anti-poaching patrols and the concerted removal of snares has helped boost mountain gorilla numbers from 680 individuals a decade ago to over 1,000 now, the highest figure ever recorded.

The IUCN has therefore reclassified the apes from critically endangered to endangered, crediting this small but significant victory to collaborative efforts that have spanned the nations where they reside.

However, they noted that despite the success of this subspecies, the eastern gorilla species to which it belongs remains critically endangered, and the future survival of these apes is still on a knife edge.

“Coordinated efforts through a regional action plan and fully implementing IUCN best practice guidelines for great ape tourism and disease prevention, which recommend limiting numbers of tourists and preventing any close contact with humans, are critical to ensuring a future for the mountain gorilla,” said Dr Liz Williamson of the IUCN primate specialist group.

However, the good news from the IUCN was tempered by reports that overfishing and illegal logging are sending species in parts of the developing world spiralling into decline.

Lack of sustainable fisheries and a boom in demand mean that 13 per cent of the world’s grouper fish are now threatened with extinction, and 9 per cent of the fish in Lake Malawi, according to the IUCN’s latest assessment.

Meanwhile illegal logging has fuelled a 15-fold increase in trade in the Vene timber tree, which the IUCN says is now endangered.

With some nations still holding out on a total whaling ban, and companies accused of fuelling the destruction of rainforests home to orangutans, tigers and rhinos, conservationists are clear that despite some successes urgent international action is needed to end the mass extinction of wildlife.

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WWF has called for a “global deal” in the mould of the Paris climate agreement to save nature, and an ongoing UN biodiversity summit in Egypt presents an opportunity for decisive action.

“The recovery of species like mountain gorilla, fin whale and Rothschild’s giraffe demonstrates once again that with sustained, long-term conservation action, we can not only prevent extinctions, but also achieve considerable population recoveries,” said Dominic Jermey, director general of the Zoological Society of London.

“As the world’s governments convene in Egypt to continue discussions around forging a new and ambitious strategic plan for biodiversity, we hope that these examples will embolden countries to make strong commitments that will put the world’s wildlife on a path to recovery.”

U.S. House Prepares for Radical Assault Against Endangered Species Act

Legislation led by Rep. Sean Duffy Would Enable Trophy Hunting, Snaring of Small, Recovering Population of Wolves

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives will conduct floor debate on H.R. 6784, the so-called “Manage our Wolves Act” led by U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI-07). The legislation would short-circuit multiple federal court rulings against premature de-listing by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and put Congress in the position of cherry-picking the species it wants off the endangered species list. The measure, which may likely pass the lower chamber, is scheduled for a vote of the full House on Friday morning and the debate can be viewed here.

Gray wolves, virtually eradicated between 1850 and 1920 during westward expansion, have had a slow walk back from near extinction. For decades, federal and state governments executed ruthless and effective predator control programs – a slaughter that stands alongside the massacre of bison as the most wanton chapters in the history of American wildlife management, and they’ve only recently began to recover.

“We’re shocked and dismayed that Congress would return to work and make killing endangered wolves its first order of business,” said Marty Irby, executive director at Animal Wellness Action. “It has half a dozen animal welfare bills with 218 cosponsors, but instead chooses to act on a special-interest bill with four cosponsors that is a priority for a handful of trophy hunters and ranchers. It’s so disappointing to see my fellow Republicans in the House show such disregard for animal welfare and to leave such a merciless legacy.”

Wolves now occupy habitat in about 10 states with an estimated population of only 5,000 in the lower 48 states – covering millions of square miles of space. These endangered icons play a critical role in their native ecosystems, in checking the growth of prey populations, restoring stream flows, and reducing flooding and bank erosion. Wolf predation helps maintain healthy deer populations, lowering the frequency of deer-auto collisions and prevalence of crop losses. They mitigate impacts on vegetation and bring vitality to entire ecosystems that saves private citizens and governments tens of millions of dollars a year, while also generating millions in tourism yearly.

https://mailchi.mp/animalwellnessaction.org/us-house-prepares-for-radical-assault-against-endangered-species-act-2197737?fbclid=IwAR3drDS-zGvW9EJUVE3vmOK2Nh4BBbKqRiO4tFjRd1MtxS1_ttsEvyZPZ3c