27 Oct 2015 10:13 AM PDT
On October 19, we Canadians went to the polls, in large numbers, to vote in the federal election. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, after holding that position for nine years, went down to a stunning defeat. Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party won a majority of the seats in parliament, giving them power that may help to partly undo the truly horrific environmental record of the Conservative Party. To what degree they do so, the future will determine.
But, things could not be much worse for the environment and wildlife than they were under the steadily more authoritarian Harper regime. He did not want to be factually informed and, in 2008, eliminated the Office of the National Science Advisor. In 2010, Harper prevented scientists from talking directly to the media, or to people like me, who seek information in order to help us protect wildlife. (The “war on science” waged by Harper is far too long to list here.)
Friends of long standing who were on the federal payroll were suddenly afraid to talk to me about work they were doing with funding from my taxes! The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) scientists were not allowed to publish research without screening it to assure it did not counter government policy. Unbelievably, in 2010, geologist Scott Dallimore was not allowed to talk to media about a paper he published in Nature about a flood that had occurred 13,000 years ago. I never even got a response from a scientist about what species co-existed with a long-extinct, ice age camel!
The 25-year existence of the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy, critical of Harper’s policies, was axed in 2013. In 2014, seven (of nine) research libraries of the DFO, many containing unique, century-old baseline data of previous fish population sizes, were closed, and irreplaceable documents were trashed or burned. Yes, book-burning in 21st century Canada… with scientists blindsided.
And, the following January, Environment Canada tried to stop an investigation into whether tailing ponds in oil-rich Alberta were contaminating fish habitat, contrary to the Federal Fisheries Act. Fishery scientists whose findings indicated certain environmental problems were continually thwarted, often not allowed to speak about their own findings, with Harper’s government media even keeping close to Environment Canada scientists at the International Polar Year Conference in 2012, lest they say the wrong thing. Work was impeded that indicated infectious salmon anemia and parasites could spread from “farmed” salmon to wild stocks, researchers muzzled. DFO scientists working on a shared Canadian-U.S. Arctic research endeavor had to promise confidentiality.
But, worse things happened, including Canada being the first nation to leave the Kyoto Protocols and its greenhouse gas emission targets. And, in 2012, Canada repealed key parts of the Fisheries Act, leaving previously protected fish habitat vulnerable to destruction by oil and other economic interests. Harper greatly weakened both the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the once-effective Species at Risk Act (the Canadian equivalent of the U.S. Endangered Species Act). The Harper government was particularly opposed to legislation requiring public consultation and independent assessment of any project that might benefit short-term economic interest at the expense of wildlife and the environment.
By 2012, emboldened, Harper slashed some $222.2 million out of the Environment Canada budget, cutting 1,211 jobs—thus weakening many prior endeavors to protect the environment. For me, a dangerously low blow came early in 2012, when Public Safety Canada said that environmentalists were identified as “issue-based domestic terrorists” in its counter-terrorism strategy, as Harper sought to conflate many existing crimes as “terrorism” while also seeking harsher penalties for conviction. We seemed to be heading toward an authoritarian state with divisive and mean-spirited decisions coming out of Ottawa almost daily.
I could go on and on, but the bottom line is that Harper is now gone. As a peculiarity of our parliamentary system, his party never did win the majority of votes from Canadians; Canada never did fully share his values; and, finally, after a campaign long enough to allow even naïve Harper supporters to understand what was happening, it was all over.
It is not that I have great expectations of Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party—but, the bar is low. I have little doubt that we will be able to again communicate with government employees, partake in communicating our views, perhaps undo some of the damage Harper did, and provide fact-based information without being labeled enemies of the state. It is a new chance for Canada, for the Canadian environment, and for Canadian wildlife… and we intend to make the most of it!
Yesterday was a bad day—news wise. It’s not like World War III broke out—yet—but with Russian jets flying over our ships off Syria, and with headlines like, “China naval chief says minor incident could spark war in South China Sea,” it sounds like we’re getting a couple of steps closer.
Meanwhile, unless you were tucked away safely under a rock somewhere, you probably heard that bowhunter Paul Ryan is the new Speaker of the House (just two heartbeats away from the White House). Funny, I didn’t get a chance to vote for him, not that I would have. What’s this we hear about democracy? Is this how Nazi Germany got its start? (Hopefully this means he’ll be too busy to wait in his tree stand for a passing deer to recreationally-impale.)
And the last piece of bad news announced yesterday was that China coincidentally is ending its one-child policy. The media cited numerous reasons but stopped short of telling us that their population has decreased since the 1970s when they implemented the policy.
Having their population increase from 818 million in 1970 to 1.36 billion and counting (even under the one-child policy), it seems a strange time to decide to double their allowable birth rate. Of course, you need a lot of replacement babies if you want to be a major player in the world market—or declare World War III.
Overconsumption Pushing Earth Into Overshoot Earlier Each Year
TUCSON, Ariz. – Today is Earth Overshoot Day, the day humanity exhausts the resources the planet can replenish in a year. This year overshoot comes four and a half months too soon and a week earlier than last year. The Center for Biological Diversity is partnering with the Global Footprint Network to raise awareness about overshoot and the impact of unsustainable overconsumption on the planet.
“As we continue to clearcut trees, burn fossil fuels and consume wild animals, the Earth can’t keep up,” said Leigh Moyer, the Center’s population organizer. “We see evidence of this in shrinking habitat, the global climate crisis and crashes in wildlife populations. We’re blowing through nature’s capital, and wildlife and the planet are suffering for it.”
Overshoot takes into account the amount of resources used by the Earth’s human population and the waste we produce, particularly carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere. The Global Footprint Network calculates Earth Overshoot Day by dividing the amount of ecological resources the planet generates each year by humanity’s ecological footprint (the amount of land and water needed to produce the resources we consume and absorb the waste we create), then multiplying by 365, the number of days in a year. The result is the number of days that the Earth’s resources will last at humanity’s current rates of consumption. This year the planet’s resources lasted 224 days, or until Aug. 13. The rest of the year is in “overshoot.”
“We’re currently using more than the equivalent of one and a half Earths every year,” said Moyer. “And if everyone lived like Americans, we’d use four and a half Earths. Since we only have one Earth, this clearly isn’t sustainable.”
In addition to raising awareness about overshoot, the Center is launching a public petition urging the Target retail chain to discontinue use of single-use plastic shopping bags from its stores nationwide. Target positions itself as a sustainable retailer with goals to reduce waste and cut back on greenhouse gas emissions, but continues to give away a billion plastic bags a year, many of which end up in landfills, as litter or as ocean pollution.
The Center’s Population and Sustainability program promotes a wide range of solutions to address overshoot, including reducing meat consumption, developing wildlife-friendly renewable energy sources, and universal access to birth control and family planning.
At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature – to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.
Morrissey Says ‘The Only Perfect World For Animals Is A World Without Humans’
Morrissey thinks you are an evil pest, but don’t take it personally. He thinks all humans are evil pests, and “the only perfect world for animals is a world without humans.”
“If humans disappeared tomorrow, the world would thrive and prosper,” he wrote to The Huffington Post in an email. “Humans destroy everything, and for the most part they actively enjoy torturing animals.”
“The fact that the slaughterhouse or abattoir exists is the most obvious example of human evil,” he continued, explaining why he has used his platform to be a voice for animal rights. (Note: Abattoir is a fancy/Morrissey-esque word for “slaughterhouse.”)
Morrissey has been speaking out on the issue for over 30 years, if you count the February 1985 release of “Meat Is Murder” as the debut of his activism. He’s continued to spread awareness through his music and a number of collaborations with PETA.
“The slaughterhouse is the dead end for humanity, and as long as it exists we can’t possibly have any hope for the human race,” he said. “If you’ve seen abattoir footage then you cannot possibly think that humans are anything other than evil pests.”
Of course, this is not the most radical thing Morrissey has said in regard to the cause. In January of last year, he participated in a Q&A on the fan site True To You, inciting backlash when he compared eating meat to pedophilia. “They are both rape, violence, murder,” he said.
Now, before you, evil human pest, accuse dear Morrissey of ranting, know that you would be wrong. “If your views threaten any form of establishment interests, you are usually ignored or silenced or said to be ‘ranting,'” he told HuffPost. “I have never ranted in my life.”
The Huffington Post will run a longer interview with Morrissey after his June 27 show at Madison Square Garden. If you’re a fan looking to share why you love Moz or what his impact has been on you, please contact Lauren Duca at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jun 19, 2015
That is the bad news at the center of a new study by a group of scientists including Paul Ehrlich, the Bing Professor of Population Studies in biology and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. Ehrlich and his co-authors call for fast action to conserve threatened species, populations and habitat, but warn that the window of opportunity is rapidly closing.
“[The study] shows without any significant doubt that we are now entering the sixth great mass extinction event,” Ehrlich said.
Although most well known for his positions on human population, Ehrlich has done extensive work on extinctions going back to his 1981 book, Extinction: The Causes and Consequences of the Disappearance of Species. He has long tied his work on coevolution, on racial, gender and economic justice, and on nuclear winter with the issue of wildlife populations and species loss.
There is general agreement among scientists that extinction rates have reached levels unparalleled since the dinosaurs died out 66 million years ago. However, some have challenged the theory, believing earlier estimates rested on assumptions that overestimated the crisis.
The new study, published in the journal Science Advances, shows that even with extremely conservative estimates, species are disappearing up to about 100 times faster than the normal rate between mass extinctions, known as the background rate.
“If it is allowed to continue, life would take many millions of years to recover, and our species itself would likely disappear early on,” said lead author Gerardo Ceballos of the Universidad Autónoma de México.
Using fossil records and extinction counts from a range of records, the researchers compared a highly conservative estimate of current extinctions with a background rate estimate twice as high as those widely used in previous analyses. This way, they brought the two estimates – current extinction rate and average background or going-on-all-the-time extinction rate – as close to each other as possible.
Focusing on vertebrates, the group for which the most reliable modern and fossil data exist, the researchers asked whether even the lowest estimates of the difference between background and contemporary extinction rates still justify the conclusion that people are precipitating “a global spasm of biodiversity loss.” The answer: a definitive yes.
“We emphasize that our calculations very likely underestimate the severity of the extinction crisis, because our aim was to place a realistic lower bound on humanity’s impact on biodiversity,” the researchers write.
- Land clearing for farming, logging and settlement
- Introduction of invasive species
- Carbon emissions that drive climate change and ocean acidification
- Toxins that alter and poison ecosystems
Now, the specter of extinction hangs over about 41 percent of all amphibian species and 26 percent of all mammals, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which maintains an authoritative list of threatened and extinct species.
“There are examples of species all over the world that are essentially the walking dead,” Ehrlich said.
As species disappear, so do crucial ecosystem services such as honeybees’ crop pollination and wetlands’ water purification. At the current rate of species loss, people will lose many biodiversity benefits within three generations, the study’s authors write. “We are sawing off the limb that we are sitting on,” Ehrlich said.
Hope for the future
Despite the gloomy outlook, there is a meaningful way forward, according to Ehrlich and his colleagues. “Avoiding a true sixth mass extinction will require rapid, greatly intensified efforts to conserve already threatened species, and to alleviate pressures on their populations – notably habitat loss, over-exploitation for economic gain and climate change,” the study’s authors write.
In the meantime, the researchers hope their work will inform conservation efforts, the maintenance of ecosystem services and public policy.
More information: Accelerated modern human–induced species losses: Entering the sixth mass extinction, Science Advances, advances.sciencemag.org/content/1/5/e1400253
Provided by Stanford University
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JOHANNESBURG — Mozambique’s rhinoceros population was wiped out more than a century ago by big game hunters. Reconstituted several years ago, the beasts again are on the brink of vanishing from the country by poachers seeking their horns for sale in Asia.
A leading expert told The Associated Press that the last rhino in the southern African nation has been killed. The warden of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park – the only place where the horned behemoths lived in Mozambique – also says poachers have wiped out the rhinos. Mozambique’s conservation director believes a few may remain.
Elephants also could vanish in Mozambique soon, the warden of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, Antonio Abacar, told AP. He said game rangers have been aiding poachers, and 30 of the park’s 100 rangers will appear in court soon.
“We caught some of them red-handed while directing poachers to a rhino area,” Abacar said.
A game ranger arrested for helping poachers in Mozambique’s northern Niassa Game Reserve said on Mozambican Television TVM last week that he was paid 2,500 meticais (about $80) to direct poachers to areas with elephants and rhinos. Game rangers are paid between 2,000 and 3,000 meticais ($64 to $96) a month.
While guilty rangers will lose their jobs, the courts serve as little deterrent to the poachers: killing wildlife and trading in illegal rhino horn and elephant tusks are only misdemeanors in Mozambique.
“Their legal system is far from adequate and an individual found guilty is given a slap on the wrist and then they say `OK. Give me my horn back,'” said Michael H. Knight, chairman of the African Rhino Specialist Group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Species Survival Commission.
A meeting of the group in February reported there might, possibly, be one white rhino left in Mozambique and no black rhinos at all, Knight said.
According to Abacar: “We have already announced the extinction of the rhino population in Limpopo National Park.”
But Bartolomeu Soto, director of Mozambique’s transfrontier conservation unit, told the AP, “We believe we still have rhinos, though we don’t know how many.”
Mozambican news reports have said the last 15 rhinos in the park were slaughtered in the past month, but park officials said those reports were wrong. Soto said the misunderstanding had arisen over Abacar’s statement to journalists that he had not seen a rhino in the three months since he was put in charge of the large park.
The only official figure available for rhino deaths is that 17 of their carcasses were found in the park in 2010, Soto said. He said officials believe poaching must be taking place because rhino horn and elephant tusks carried by Asian smugglers are regularly seized at Mozambique’s ports, although at least some of the contraband could be from animals killed by Mozambican poachers in neighboring South Africa. This week a person was arrested at the airport of the capital, Maputo, in possession of nine rhino horns, Soto said.
The price of rhino horn has overtaken the price of gold as demand has burgeoned in Asian countries, mainly China and Vietnam, where consumers wrongly believe that the horn – made of the same substance as fingernails – has powerful healing properties. Chinese traditional medicine prescribes it for everything from typhoid, infant convulsions and fever to an antidote for poison and to relieve arthritis and cure possessions by the devil. Syndicates from Vietnam, China, South Korea and Thailand have been identified as being involved in the trafficking.
Knight said rhinos first vanished from Mozambique around the turn of the last century, in the age of the big white hunters, when the animals also nearly disappeared in South Africa, now home to 90 percent of Africa’s estimated 20,000 white rhinos and 4,880 black rhinos.
In 2002, leaders of Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe agreed to establish a transfrontier park straddling their borders and covering some 35,000 square kilometers (13,514 square miles) of the best established wildlife areas in southern Africa with South Africa’s famed Kruger National Park and Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park. It is funded by several international wildlife organizations and the European Union.
Soto said some 5,000 animals of various species were moved from South Africa to Mozambique, including the first 12 rhinos to roam in Mozambique in a century.
In 2006, South Africa removed some 50 kilometers (30 miles) of fence between Kruger and Limpopo National Park. Soto said the entire 200 kilometers (125 miles) of fence was not removed because Mozambique still is working to resettle some 6,000 people living in the park.
A second phase was to include two other Mozambican parks, allowing the transfrontier park to extend over 100,000 square kilometers (39,000 square miles) that would make it “the world’s largest animal kingdom,” according to the South African Peace Parks Foundation.
Those plans now are in danger, as is the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park. Knight said South African officials are even discussing rebuilding their fence with Mozambique.
South African officials say their country has lost 273 rhinos to poachers so far this year. They say most have been killed by Mozambicans who cross into Kruger Park. Poachers killed 668 rhinos in South Africa last year.
The slaughter continues with the number of deaths increasing even though South Africa has declared war on rhino poachers and for two years has deployed soldiers and police in Kruger, a vast park which is the size of Israel.
Soto said Mozambique’s government has been working since 2009 on a comprehensive reform of environmental laws involving consultations with all stakeholders. He said he expects the draft legislation to be presented to parliament soon. It includes criminalizing the shooting of wildlife and would impose mandatory prison sentences on offenders.
But it will come too late to save the last of the rhinos in Mozambique.
Associated Press writer Emmanuel Camillo contributed to this report from Maputo, Mozambique.
This week a study published in Science Advances has suggested that the extinction of some of the world’s most beloved animals is a clear and present danger. Fourty-four of the 74 largest terrestrial herbivores are now threatened with extinction, 12 of them “critically endangered” or extinct in the wild. Many of the species in decline, suggests the study, “are poorly known scientifically, and [are] badly in need of basic ecological research.” Not only will they die unless we do something, we’ll never know what they are all about in the first place.
Below you’ll see a set of two maps. The map at the top shows areas where large herbivore species exist. The cool colors show places where large herbivores exist, but only a handful of species.
The warmer the color, the more species of large herbivore exist.
The second map shows where large herbivores are threatened. Save South America, most areas with very few large herbivore species seem to be less threatened.
The following species are currently threatened:
• African elephant (VU)
• Asian elephant (EN)
• Hippopotamus (VU)
• Pygmy hippopotamus (EN)
• Eastern gorilla (EN)
• Western gorilla (EN)
• Malayan tapir (VU)
• Baird’s tapir (EN)
• Lowland tapir (VU)
• Mountain tapir (EN)
• Philippine warty pig (VU)
• Oliver’s warty pig (EN)
• Visayan warty pig (CR)
• Palawan bearded pig (VU)
• Bearded pig (VU)
• Indian rhinoceros (CR)
• Javan rhinoceros (CR)
• Sumatran rhinoceros (CR)
• Black rhinoceros (CR)
• Grevy’s zebra (EN)
• Mountain zebra (VU)
• African wild ass (CR)
• Przewalski’s horse (EN)
• Asiatic wild ass (CR)
• Sambar (VU)
• Barasingha (VU)
• Père David’s deer (EW)
• White-lipped deer (VU)
• Bactrian camel (CR)
• Indian water buffalo (EN)
• Gaur (VU)
• Kouprey (CR)
• European bison (VU)
• Wild yak (VU)
• Banteng (EN)
• Takin (VU)
• Lowland anoa (EN)
• Tamaraw (CR)
• Mountain nyala (EN)
• Scimitar-horned oryx (EW)
• Mountain anoa (EN)
• Sumatran serow (VU)
• Walia ibex (EN)
This study shows three of the best-known species whose populations are contracting as we speak. These herbivores are the African Elephant, the Common Hippopotamus (not common for long), and the Black Rhinoceros.
The most recent range polygons for the rhino are not shown here because of “recent poaching pressure.”
The change in population and possibility of extinction in all of these areas is due largely to one (or more) of four elements. Exploitation (hunting), Livestock (problems therein), Land-use change, and Conflict – as in Civil Unrest between warring human factions.
Above you’ll see the percentages of large herbivore species threatened based on these four major threat categories.
NOTE: The total here adds up to more than 100% because each large herbivore may have more than one existing threat.
Photo Credits: Elephant and hippopotamus (K. Everatt), rhinoceros (G. Kerley).
You can see the full study in Science Advances 01 May 2015: Vol. 1, no. 4, e1400103. Code DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1400103. Authored by William J. Ripple, Thomas M. Newsome, Christopher Wolf, Rodolfo Dirzo, Kristoffer T. Everatt, Mauro Galetti, Matt W. Hayward, Graham I. H. Kerley, Taal Levi, Peter A. Lindsey, David W. Macdonald, Yadvinder Malhi, Luke E. Painter, Christopher J. Sandom, John Terborgh, and Blaire Van Valkenburgh.
The title of the paper this information comes from is “Collapse of the world’s largest herbivores”. This paper is available now for further review – again, from Science Advances.
Harvard archeologist Steven Le Blanc writes in “War or Peace for the Future,” the final chapter of his book, Constant Battles; Why We Fight (pg. 224), “…let’s examine the myths of a peaceful past and of humans living in ecological balance and contrast them with a careful assessment of reality that turns the more traditional view on its head. These myths assume that for long periods of time the earliest humans were simple foragers [hunter-gatherers] who lived in harmony with nature, had few wants, and were able to control their populations. When agriculture was developed, populations grew, but farmers managed to remain inherent environmentalist and continued to avoid the environment. Then finally, but not until the rise of complex societies, we humans lost our ability to live in ecological balance. At that point, the appealing story of millions of years of peaceful coexistence with nature turns ugly, and violent, environmentally threatened societies—in particular Western European society—command a starring role. As Western societies spread or affected much of the planet, the myth continues, warfare and environmental degradation spread like an infectious disease, engulfing most of the world—except where vestigial remains of this peaceful, ecologically balanced existence survived among such groups as the !Kung [bushmen], Australian aborigines, Eskimos, Siriono, and the like. In other words, noble Cro-Magnon humans were replaced by warlike, modern imperialists.
“Reality paints a different picture, one with many opportunities for peace and ecological harmony, but it is a portrait of opportunities lost. Looking back through history, several radical changes in human societies occurred, and each change provided, in theory, an opportunity to improve the population-ecological balance and usher in a new era of peace. Each time one of these dramatic changes took place, peace and ecological balance remained elusive.
“The first of these transformations was becoming human. As proto-humans became fully human beings and gained superior intelligence, language, and cultural norms, these initial human foragers were hardly peaceful. Greater intelligence did not result in greater peacefulness. Although some ecologically benign behaviors did develop, they were never effective enough to regulate population growth and to establish a peaceful, stable system. Except in the harshest environments, forager populations grew, reaching the carrying-capacity limit, and then competed for resources. For more than a million years, humans lived in a precarious balance between population growth and the limitations and variability of the environment. Periodic population increases that could not be sustained by an ever-changing resource base lead to chronic starvation, infanticide, and warfare. These early people modified the environment by such means as fire and were no more ‘environmentalists’ than their short-term goals dictated. Since their numbers, by necessity, low, and their technology limited, the impact of the first foragers was relatively minor.
“Beginning around ten thousand to twelve thousand years ago, people began to farm in the Middle East, China, and later in Africa and Central and South America. This new situation might have resulted in a peaceful world. Farmers were able to get far more food from an acre of land than had ever before been possible, and there was potential for plenty for all—but the balance was not maintained. Farmers could reproduce at rates far beyond those of foragers, and they spread quickly over much of Earth. In spite of its potential, farming itself solved no problems. The benefits of every new plant domesticated, every new animal tamed, and every new technology invented were quickly consumed by the growing number of people such advances could additionally support. Horticulture and domestic animals caused environmental degradation that went way beyond the effects of just the higher population numbers. More people translated into more degradation. In any given region, in spite of efforts to control growth or to develop new foods and technologies, the population soon grew to stress the resources once again. Malnutrition, if not starvation, and even more intense and chronic warfare were common among the early farmers.
“Once again, a major social transformation occurred. Complex societies developed. The leadership in these societies had the mechanisms and potential ability to control population growth and to force people to be more ecologically sensitive. Along with more complex societies came complex technologies. The chiefdoms and early states had developed enough technology to harm the world’s environment at levels and rates not seen before. The result was even more degradation of the environment. Although some efforts were made to control population growth, such mechanisms were always far from fully successful, and resource stress was as common as ever.” etc…
LONDON (CNN) — Africa’s western black rhino is now officially extinct according the latest review of animals and plants by the world’s largest conservation network.
The subspecies of the black rhino — which is classified as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species — was last seen in western Africa in 2006.
The IUCN warns that other rhinos could follow saying Africa’s northern white rhino is “teetering on the brink of extinction” while Asia’s Javan rhino is “making its last stand” due to continued poaching and lack of conservation.
“In the case of the western black rhino and the northern white rhino the situation could have had very different results if the suggested conservation measures had been implemented,” Simon Stuart, chair of the IUCN species survival commission said in a statement.
“These measures must be strengthened now, specifically managing habitats in order to improve performance, preventing other rhinos from fading into extinction,” Stuart added.
The IUCN points to conservation efforts which have paid off for the southern white rhino subspecies which have seen populations rise from less than 100 at the end of the 19th century to an estimated wild population of 20,000 today.
Another success can be seen with the Przewalski’s Horse which was listed as “extinct in the wild” in 1996 but now, thanks to a captive breeding program, has an estimated population of 300.
The latest update to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species reviews more than 60,000 species, concluding that 25% of mammals on the list are at risk of extinction.
Many plants are also under threat, say the IUCN.
Populations of Chinese fir, a conifer which was once widespread throughout China and Vietnam, is being threatened by the expansion of intensive agriculture according to the IUCN.
A type of yew tree (taxus contorta) found in Asia which is used to produce Taxol (a chemotherapy drug) has been reclassified from “vulnerable” to “endangered” on the IUCN Red List, as has the Coco de Mer — a palm tree found in the Seychelles islands — which is at risk from fires and illegal harvesting of its kernels.
Recent studies of 79 tropical plants in the Indian Ocean archipelago revealed that more than three quarters of them were at risk of extinction.
In the oceans, the IUCN reports that five out of eight tuna species are now “threatened” or “near threatened,” while 26 recently-discovered amphibians have been added to the Red List including the “blessed poison frog” (classified as vulnerable) while the “summers’ poison frog” is endangered.
“This update offers both good and bad news on the status of many species around the world,” Jane Smart, director of IUCN’s global species program said in a statement.
“We have the knowledge that conservation works if executed in a timely manner, yet, without strong political will in combination with targeted efforts and resources, the wonders of nature and the services it provides can be lost forever.”
by Tribune Staff
Montana’s verified wolf population declined by 73, or 12 percent, last year while livestock depredations by wolves continued to decline, dropping about 46 percent from 2013.
The minimum number of wolves counted by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks at the end of 2014 was 554 compared to a minimum of 627 wolves counted at the end of 2013 according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Park’s annual wolf conservation and management report.
Montana’s minimum wolf packs were counted at 134, compared to 152 last year, while breeding pairs increased to 33 from 28 counted last year.
The minimum wolf count is the number of wolves actually verified by FWP wolf specialists. The actual number of wolves is estimated to be 27 percent to 37 percent higher than the minimum count. FWP’s complete report is available online at fwp.mt.gov.
Overall, FWP Director Jeff Hagener said Montana’s wolf population continues to be very healthy and far above federal recovery goals.
“Among the best news is that confirmed wolf depredations on livestock again took a significant drop in 2014,” Hagener said.
Confirmed livestock depredations because of wolves included 35 cattle, six sheep and one horse in 2014, down 46 percent from 2013 losses of 50 cattle, 24 sheep, three horses and one goat. Cattle losses in 2014 were the lowest recorded in the past eight years.
The decline in wolf depredations continues a general downward trend that began in 2009.
“For FWP, and we hope for others, it reinforces the fact that we not only have more tools for managing wolf populations, but that we’re applying them effectively,” Hagener said. “One of our top priorities is to minimize livestock losses, and we think we’re continuing to make a positive impact there.”
The continuing decrease in livestock depredations over the past four years may be a result of several factors including targeted wolf depredation responses in cooperation with USDA Wildlife Services, and the effects of wolf harvest by hunters and trappers.
In the 2014 calendar portion of the 2014-15 hunting/trapping season, 213 were taken by hunters and trappers compared to 231 taken in the 2013 calendar portion of the 2013-14 season.
The total number of known wolf mortalities during 2014 was 308, down from 335 in 2013, with 301 of these mortalities being human-related, including 213 legal harvests, 57 control actions to further reduce livestock depredations (down from 75 in 2013), 11 vehicle strikes, 10 illegal killings, six killed under the newly-enacted Montana State Senate Bill 200, two capture-related mortalities, one euthanized because of poor health and one legal tribal harvest. In addition, one wolf died of natural causes and six of unknown causes.
“Montana’s wolf management program seeks to manage wolves just like we do other wildlife — in balance with their habitat, with other wildlife species and with the people who live here,” Hagener said.
For the purpose of reporting minimum counts to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Montana is divided into three areas that reflect the former gray wolf federal recovery zones. The three zones cover the entire state and include more than one FWP region. Following is a summary of the 2014 minimum counts verified for those areas:
•In the “Northwest Montana” area, counts showed a minimum of 338 wolves in 91 verified packs and 17 breeding pairs, compared to 412, 104, and 16, respectively, in 2013.
•In the Montana portion of the “Central Idaho” area counts verified a minimum of 94 wolves in 20 packs, with six breeding pairs, compared to the 2013 counts of 123, 26, and seven respectively.
•The Montana portion of the “Greater Yellowstone” counts include a minimum of 122 wolves in 23 packs, and 11 breeding pairs, compared to 132, 22, and five, respectively in 2013.
The recovery of the wolf in the northern Rockies remains one of the fastest endangered species comebacks on record. In the mid-1990s, to hasten the overall pace of wolf recovery in the Northern Rockies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released 66 wolves into Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho. FWP began monitoring the wolf population, and managing livestock conflicts in 2004. After several court challenges wolves were taken off the Endangered Species list in 2011.
The delisting of wolves in 2011 allows Montana to manage wolves in a manner similar to how bears, mountain lions and other wildlife species are managed, which is guided by state management plans, administrative rules and laws.