Eleven U.S. Bird Species Soon to be Declared Extinct, Including Eight Hawaiian Birds

The Kiwikiu is one of several critically endangered bird species at risk of extinction in Hawai’i. Photo by Zach Pezzillo (MFBRP, 2019).

abcbirds.org

Media Contact: Jordan Rutter, Director of Public Relations| jerutter@abcbirds.org | @JERutter

(Washington, D.C., September 29, 2021) Eleven U.S. bird species are on their way to being declared extinct — and “eight of them are in Hawai’i,” noted Mike Parr, President of American Bird Conservancy (ABC), commenting on news announced today by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Many news stories about this announcement have focused on the demise of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, an iconic bird of the southeastern U.S. “The loss of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker is tragic,” said Parr, “and could have been prevented if action to conserve its habitat was taken sooner. We at ABC are focused on the place where the next round of  imminent bird extinctions is likely to happen — Hawai’i — and taking action to prevent losing those birds.”

Hawai’i is the bird extinction capital of the world. It’s home to several bird species that are found nowhere else and are teetering on the edge of oblivion, including the Kiwikiu

“I still have hope that we can prevent the extinction of the Kiwikiu and other Hawaiian birds,” said Parr. “If we act now, and decisively, we can ensure a different outcome.”

“The number one-threat to Hawaiian birds is avian malaria, transmitted by non-native mosquitoes,” said Brad Keitt, ABC’s Oceans and Islands Director. “This threat is exacerbated by warming temperatures associated with climate change, which allow mosquitoes and the lethal diseases they carry to move into higher elevations — the last refuges of the remaining Hawaiian forest birds.”

ABC is helping to coordinate the design and implementation of a strategy that will disrupt the mosquitoes’ breeding cycle. Under the plan, a secure lab is rearing male mosquitoes containing a strain of naturally occurring Wolbachia bacteria that will make them unable to successfully reproduce with wild females in Hawai‘i.

“We’re working urgently with our partners in Hawai’i to deploy this solution and prevent the tragedy of future Hawaiian bird extinctions,” said Keitt.

The eight Hawaiian bird species presumed already extinct — including the Kauaʻi ʻōʻō and the Large Kauai thrush — are joined in today’s USFWS announcement by 15 other species, including fish and mussels. The total of 23 species listed in the announcement will be removed from the Endangered Species Act due to extinction.

“Sadly, the majority of these species were listed under the Endangered Species Act too late,” said Steve Holmer, Vice President of Policy for ABC. “The longer conservation efforts continue, the better the results. The Kirtland’s Warbler, delisted in 2019, is an excellent example of a species recovering, slowly but surely, over decades. It is essential that species be listed for protection under the ESA before they are in crisis — and that the ESA remain strong to guard against future extinctions.”

American Bird Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving wild birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on abcbirds.org, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (@ABCbirds).

https://abcbirds.org/article/eleven-bird-species-extinction

Help Beach-Nesting Birds | American Bird Conservancy

abcbirds.org

Beach-nesting bird populations in the Gulf Coast have seen a steady decline since the days John James Audubon fell in love with its abundant birdlife. For the Fab Four of beach nesting birds, the Wilson’s Plover, Least Tern, Black Skimmer and Snowy Plover, nesting on the beach can be a huge challenge. Coastal development, off-road vehicles, beachgoers, and pets equal a perfect storm of threats and endanger their very existence. But, you can help beach-nesting birds.

Help Beach-Nesting Birds

Every year, these birds are the first to arrive at the beach and lay claim to a spot with the purpose of hatching their young safely. Natural and unnatural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, set back beach-nesting bird populations dramatically. It takes years for population recovery and as competition for space on the beach increases, they can’t do it without our help.

Help Beach-Nesting Birds

Snowy Plover with chick by Michael Wharton

These coastal birds will be setting up camp at popular beaches such as East Beach, Bryan Beach and Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie’s Pasture in Texas, Holly Beach, Rutherford Beach, Grand Isle State Park and public beaches in Louisiana, St. Pete Beach and Treasure Island in Florida and Bon Secour in Alabama. The time to help beach-nesting birds is now. Spring and fall represents a critical time for these birds and together we can help them thrive.

Fish, Swim, and Play from 50 Yards Away

By donating today, you can make a difference. Your support will: provide fencing and warning signs around sensitive nesting areas, help staff and our volunteer bird stewards educate people to stay away from nesting sites and provide beachgoers information about how to avoid disturbing beach-nesting birds via the “Fish, Swim, and Play from 50 Yards Away” educational campaign. Learn more about our coastal bird program in the gulf.

Help Beach-Nesting Birds

A sign raising awareness and protecting a Least Tern nest by Kacy Ray

“Fish, Swim, and Play from 50 Yards Away” has proven to be a successful approach to protect beach-nesting birds. This educational campaign raises awareness among beach-goers of the recreational impacts on beach-nesting birds. Educational, media-based campaigns such as this, are a major strategy identified in most conservation plans to recover shorebird populations in decline. To date, the only Gulf program for beach-nesting birds that combines the use of media marketing with protection, monitoring, and on-the-ground outreach is the Fish, Swim and Play from 50 Yards Away campaign.

Funds from this campaign will help ABC and our partners increase nest and fledging success and further the stewardship of Wilson’s Plovers, Least Terns, Snowy Plovers, Black Skimmers and other species of concern across the Gulf Coast. If we do not protect their nests, their numbers will continue to decline. Please make a gift today to protect beach-nesting birds.

BE A PART OF THIS CAMPAIGN BY MAKING A CONTRIBUTION

American Bird Conservancy is the Western Hemisphere’s bird conservation specialist—the only organization with a single and steadfast commitment to achieving conservation results for native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With a focus on efficiency and working in partnership, we take on the toughest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on sound science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation.

Audubon Louisiana mission is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity.

Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program mission is to involve a representation of a broad base of people to support the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program (BTNEP). This includes supporting the mission of stewardship of the cultural, economic and ecological resources of the Barataria and Terrebonne Basins.

Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program (CBBEP) is dedicated to protecting, researching and restoring the bays and estuaries in the 12-county region of the Texas Coastal Bend. As part of the National Estuary Program, CBBEP works with local governments, conservation groups, teachers, students and the public to raise awareness of our natural surroundings through research, restoration and recreation projects.

Eckerd College mission is to challenge students to embark on a journey of development through the coordination of service to the college, to the Church, and to the community.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission mission is the managing fish and wildlife resources for their long-term well-being and the benefit of people.

Florida Shorebird Alliance  is a statewide partnership of government and non-government organizations committed to advancing shorebird and seabird conservation in Florida through coordinated and collaborative work that helps identify and address important needs with regard to research, management, education, outreach, and public policy.

Gulf Coast Bird Observatory mission is to protect the birds and their habitats around the Gulf of Mexico. They are recognized as an innovative organization, which has designed and conducted a significant number of large conservation projects, including migration studies, habitat enhancement, land acquisition, regional habitat mapping, and others.

Houston Audubon is dedicated to the creation of a healthier natural environment and more beautiful place to live by leading and nurturing a community that values and supports birds. Their mission is to advance the conservation of birds and positively impact their supporting environments. They own 17 sanctuaries in five counties, including the internationally known High Island and Bolivar Flats sanctuaries.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department mission is to manage and conserve the natural and cultural resources of Texas and to provide hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation opportunities for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) mission is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.

https://abcbirds.org/help-beach-nesting-birds/

Pattern Energy Makes Significant Contribution to Protect New Mexico’s Imperiled Bird Species

New Mexico landscape

Washington, DC March 3, 2021

Pattern Energy, an independent renewable energy company, entered into an agreement to fund extensive new research by Bird Conservancy of the Rockies to study birds associated with piñon-juniper woodlands in New Mexico.  Pattern Energy’s $80,000 contribution will support scientific monitoring of the potential impacts from management activities on the pinyon jay and other declining birds associated with piñon-juniper woodlands. 

Pattern Energy is developing the Western Spirit Wind Projects, collectively the largest single-phase wind project in the United States, in central New Mexico, where the landscape is typified by a mosaic of piñon-juniper woodlands and savannas.  The contribution comes from financial agreements for four wind energy projects:  Clines Corners Wind Farm LLC, Duran Mesa LLC, Red Cloud Wind LLC, and Tecolote Wind LLC (collectively, the “Western Spirit Wind Projects”).  

“The pinyon jay has suffered an 85% decline in population since the 1960s and is predicted to lose an additional 50% of its population by 2035. This research will be absolutely vital to protecting this vulnerable species and its habitat,” explained Carol Beidleman with Defenders of Wildlife in Santa Fe.  

“Along with the loss of over a million pinyon jays, many other bird species dependent on piñon-juniper woodlands, such as the juniper titmouse, have also declined significantly. The situation is dire, but thanks to strong support from Pattern Energy there will be reliable science to guide land management projects to better protect this vulnerable habitat and the bird species that are dependent on it,” added Beidleman.  

“We have learned from years of conducting extensive avian surveys that state and federal agencies, as well as conservation stakeholders, have expressed a lack of robust data on the current status and vulnerabilities of pinyon jays and we wanted to resolve that,” said Adam Cernea Clark of Pattern Energy. “Given the iconic nature of the pinyon jay and its role as a keystone species in a delicate ecosystem, Pattern Energy wants to build our collective understanding of the species and its habitat in New Mexico.”   

Of the iconic landscapes in New Mexico, the most familiar is probably that of the piñon-juniper woodlands.  Covering a significant portion of the state, this habitat has always been important to humans, as a source of firewood and the nutritious piñon “nuts,” but also for birds and other wildlife. Without the pinyon jay, however, there would be few new piñon pines. Theirs is a symbiotic relationship, with this beautiful blue jay being the primary consumer, and disperser, of the seeds. It “caches” or buries the seeds, allowing for more successful germination.  Many other bird species associated with this habitat are therefore dependent on the pinyon jay, just as we are.  

Through a collaboration with Defenders of Wildlife, Audubon Southwest, and The Nature Conservancy of New Mexico, Cernea Clark saw an opportunity to support a new research project focused on piñon-juniper woodlands and their associated bird species in New Mexico.  “What I learned from the conservation community is that the pinyon jay, with its caches of seeds, is the primary means for the piñon pine to expand its distribution,” said Cernea Clark.  “We know that ecosystems themselves are migrating in elevation and latitude in response to climate change and piñon-juniper woodlands need this bird to adapt to a changing climate. Pattern Energy’s mission is to transition the world to renewable energy, which we need to mitigate the intensity of climate change. There is an eloquent parallel in this bird’s role in the environment and the role of renewable projects like the Western Spirit Wind Projects.”

Some threats to the pinyon jay are known. Climate change and drought, accompanied by insect outbreaks, have killed many piñon trees.  But, less is known about how large landscape management projects, such as thinning for wildfire mitigation and clearing for rangeland improvements, affect this rapidly disappearing bird. 

“The National Audubon Society’s 2019 Survival by Degrees Report predicts a range loss in New Mexico for the pinyon jay of 19% (+2.0° C) to 30% (+3.0° C) due to climate change,” according to Jonathan Hayes, executive director of Audubon Southwest, “But we don’t have enough information on the effects of large-scale management of the bird’s habitat.”  

Fortunately, there are many bird conservation partners in New Mexico collaborating to learn more about the status and needs of the pinyon jay and to better understand the threats facing this species and associated birds.  Peggy Darr, co-chair of the New Mexico Avian Conservation Partners (NMACP), helped initiate this research project with the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies to evaluate the response of New Mexico avian Species of Greatest Conservation Need to mechanical thinning treatments in piñon-juniper woodlands.  

It started as a subcommittee of the NMACP, and then partners came on board to help us learn more about how to protect this high-priority species in New Mexico.  In addition to Pattern Energy, Defenders of Wildlife, Audubon Southwest, and The Nature Conservancy of New Mexico, this project partnership includes Santa Fe County, the Bureau of Land Management, State Land Office, Los Alamos National Labs, and U.S. Forest Service.

“Partners in Flight has recently identified the pinyon jay as one of 39 ‘Species on the Brink’ in the U.S. and Canada, and the species most dependent on public lands management,” said Bryan Bird, Defenders of Wildlife Southwest program director. “This new research will be critical to protecting one of New Mexico’s highest priority birds. Pattern Energy is demonstrating that renewable energy and wildlife can co-exist and flourish together.”

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With over 1.8 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit defenders.org/newsroom and follow us on Twitter @Defenders.

CONTACT US

1130 17th Street NW
Washington, DC 20036
1-800-385-9712

© 2021 Defenders of Wildlife

https://defenders.org/newsroom/pattern-energy-makes-significant-contribution-protect-new-mexicos-imperiled-bird-species?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=newsroom-PatternEnergy-030521

This dog can sniff out a bacterial infection called American Foulbrood that kills bees

A Declining Population

Researchers Still Don’t Know Why So Many Birds Died This Fall

www.sierraclub.org

It was midnight in Velarde, New Mexico, and graduate student Jenna McCullough was in search of dead birds.

She had driven two hours to a site where on the previous day, September 13, journalist Austin Fisher had stumbled upon a mass of deceased birds and posted a video of the grisly scene on Twitter.

When she saw the video, McCullough—who is studying avian genetics and evolution at New Mexico University—thought, “Oh my god, this is such a massive die-off here, just in one little spot.” She had to go investigate herself.

Now in the darkness picking up carcasses, McCullough felt the lightness of the birds. Of course, birds are light—an adaptation that enables flight—but these ones were particularly boney. And there were hundreds of them.

“It was really incredible. I work with dead birds. I see them all the time. But I had never seen just piles and piles of dead birds in one spot,” McCullough said.

Unfortunately, McCullough was not alone in witnessing such a scene this fall. Across New Mexico, similar swaths of dead birds were discovered as part of an unusual mass mortality event that has baffled researchers. Were the mortalities caused by the drought conditions in the Southwest? A recent cold snap? The smoke from wildfires raging in California? Or some other unknown peril?

Each autumn, billions of birds soar south from Canada and Alaska, passing over the southwestern US on their way to overwinter in Central and South America. While migration is always a risky journey, for thousands of birds this year, it was far deadlier than usual.

Birds literally fell from the sky. Others exhibited strange behavior, with species that normally swoop among trees and bushes seen huddling together on the ground, moving slowly as they searched for insects. There were bright-yellow warblers, shimmering swallows, brown sparrows, and other migratory species. Many were insectivores, or insect-eating birds.

The first recorded incident occurred on August 20, when hundreds of birds were found dead at the White Sands Missile Range military facility in New Mexico. Incidents all over the state followed in mid-September and into October. Whether all these events are related or separate remains unclear.

I work with dead birds. I see them all the time. But I had never seen just piles and piles of dead birds in one spot.

Researchers have sent carcasses to US Fish and Wildlife laboratories in Oregon and Wisconsin for testing, though results will likely take months. They also put out a PSA for the public to log found dead birds on the iNaturalst app, of which there are currently 980 observations across the western US and into Mexico.

That night in Velarde, McCullough and another graduate student identified 305 dead birds, 258 of which were violet-green swallows. They decided to collect some data for themselves. After weighing the carcasses back at the lab, they found that the average weight of the swallows was 9.5 grams. The birds usually weigh about 14 grams, on average.

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The low weight, indicative of starvation, would have made the birds far more vulnerable to the unusual weather event that struck New Mexico between September 8 and 9, when temperatures dropped over 50 degrees and wind and snow whipped through parts of the state.

“If a lack of food contributed to the mortality event, birds would have less fat and no protection against hypothermia. Indeed, of the hundreds of birds we assessed, none had fat stores on their bodies,” wrote McCullough on the American Birding Association website.

Cold also limits the availability of insects, particularly insects flying through the air, which are the primary food source for aerial insectivores like violet-green swallows.

That’s enough evidence for McCullough to pinpoint weather as the culprit. “Birds with extreme weather events during the height of migration are more susceptible to something like this,” she said. “It’s not a sexy story to sell to newspapers that birds died of something that they routinely die of.”

Yet others suspect that different or additional causes are afoot. The thick wildfire smoke that blanketed California and western states throughout late summer and autumn could have harmed the birds’ lungs. Smoke also decreases visibility for birds. One theory suggests that species may have altered their flight paths away from historically food-rich areas and instead went through the food-scarce Chihuahuan Desert of New Mexico.

Additionally, this year the Southwest experienced its worst drought in decades and possibly centuries. Such dry conditions could have limited insect availability. That’s on top of the fact that insect populations are already declining globally at perilous rates, a looming extinction that no doubt spells trouble for insect-eating birds.

Or it could be all of the above. Martha Desmond, an ornithologist at New Mexico State University, told the Las Cruces Sun News that “we saw a large number of mortalities leading up to it and following” the September cold snap, “which indicates that there might be multiple stressors coming together.” Rather than distinct events with distinct causes, these multiple stressors may have created the “perfect storm” of perilous conditions for migratory birds this fall.

Until the US Fish and Wildlife autopsy information is available, however, it is impossible to say conclusively what caused the avian deaths. Mass mortality events are not unheard of for migratory birds and are typically due to extreme weather. Yet with one in four bird species having disappeared from North American in the past 50 years, it’s hard not to feel existential dread about the fate of birds in 2020.

https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/researchers-still-don-t-know-why-so-many-birds-died-fall?suppress=true&utm_source=greenlife&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter

This is a Vaquita. With Less than 10 Left, It’s the Rarest Marine Mammal on Earth

rarest mammal on earth vaquita cover This is a Vaquita. With Less than 10 Left, Its the Rarest Marine Mammal on Earth

The Vaquita (Phocoena sinus), literally “little cow” in Spanish, is a species of porpoise endemic to the northern end of the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez, Vermilion Sea). Averaging 150 cm (for females) or 140 cm (for males) in length, it is the smallest of all living cetaceans.

Today, the species is on the brink of extinction. Recent research estimates the population at fewer than 10 individuals. The steep decline in abundance is primarily due to bycatch in gillnets from the illegal totoaba fishery. [source]

The vaquita is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. Today, this is the most endangered marine mammal in the world. VaquitaCPR are trying to save the species but the outlook is bleak. You can learn more about their conservation efforts here.

https://twistedsifter.com/2020/10/rarest-marine-mammal-on-earth-the-vaquita/#like-136667

Sheriff’s office investigating social media photo showing man kneeling on child’s neck

 

whio.com

WHIO Staff

CLARK COUNTY, Ohio — A social media photo of a man kneeling on the back of the neck of a child is currently under investigation by the Clark County Sheriff’s Office.

A picture of the post was sent into News Center 7 Tuesday, showing the man with his knee on the back of a child’s neck, who appears to be crying. A second person in the photo is holding the child’s hands behind their back. The caption of the photo reads “Blm now.”

A version of the the photo, which some might find disturbing, is available at the bottom of this news story, with the faces of the child and man blurred out.

The photo resembles the action taken by Minneapolis police officers during the arrest of George Floyd May 25 that resulted in his death.

Investigators in Clark County said they are investigating the post, however no arrests have been made and charges have not been filed.

“We are looking into this case, however it is still an active investigation. At this point we are actively looking into it and we are VERY early on into this investigation,” Maj. Chris Clark said in an emailed statement.

According to emergency scanner traffic, deputies, police, and medics were called to two different addresses Tuesday morning in Clark County as a part of the investigation.

We’ll continue to update this story with new details as they become available.

Contributed photo, provided to News Center 7
Contributed photo, provided to News Center 7

© 2020 Cox Media Group

https://www.whio.com/news/crime-and-law/sheriffs-office-investigating-social-media-post-showing-man-kneeling-childs-neck/7GREMQGUZNC6DBZAFQCVDVZXKI/

 

North Atlantic Right Whales Now Listed as ‘Critically Endangered’

smithsonianmag.com

A North Atlantic right whale off the coast of Massachusetts, blowing water through its blowhole

SmartNews Keeping you current

Just about 400 of the whales survive in the wild, and they continue to die at an alarming rate

A North Atlantic right whale off the coast of Cape Cod in 2015 (Photo by David L. Ryan / The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

smithsonianmag.com

By Nora McGreevy
July 16, 2020

North Atlantic right whales are facing a crisis. Just 409 survive in the world, according to data from the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium, and the whales continue to die at an alarming rate.

Last week, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) moved the species from “Endangered” to “Critically Endangered” on their “red list” of threatened and endangered species, Jamey Keaten and James Brooks report for the Associated Press.

Most right whale deaths in the last three years have been linked to interactions with vessels and fishing operations along the coast of the United States and Canada, per the IUCN. Right whales swim with their mouths open to catch copepods, tiny zooplanktons, and other small sea creatures that make up the majority of their diet.

As they swim with mouths agape, they can easily become entangled in the fishing lines that connect lobster and crab traps to the ocean’s surface, as Tom Cheney reported for Smithsonian magazine in 2018. Ships can also strike and kill the whales, who often feed close to the surface. Entanglement and deadly collisions can cause massive, devastating injuries to the animals.

Many scientists believe that climate change is partly to blame for the uptick in right whale deaths. The whales typically migrate in the summer from their calving grounds in Georgia and Florida to the Gulf of Maine and Bay of Fundy. As the ocean warms, however, copepod populations have shifted north, causing the whales to follow their food source further north to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, reports Lisa Friedman for the New York Times.

Estimates in 2018 showed that without a substantial turn for the better, the whales could be “functionally extinct” in 20 years, reported Cheney at the time.

“It’s devastating,” Regina Asmutis-Silvia, the executive director of Whale and Dolphin Conservation North America, told the Atlantic’s Ed Yong in June 2019. “There’s now more people working on right whales than there are right whales left.”

Scientists suspect that an average of 17 calves per year need to be born for the population to grow, as Brigit Katz reported for Smithsonian magazine last year. However, studies show that birth rates for female right whales have declined dramatically over the last few years. Fewer than 250 sexually mature right whales were estimated to exist in the wild in 2018, according to the IUCN.

In 2017, the NOAA Fisheries declared an “Unusual Mortality Event” as right whale deaths ticked up to even higher numbers. In the last three years, 31 right whales off the coast of the U.S. and Canada have died and 10 have been seriously injured, nearly all the result of crashing into vessels or entanglement in fishing gear.

On June 25 this year, the carcass of a six-month-old calf—the first observed earlier this breeding season—was discovered floating off the coast of Elberon, New Jersey. He had likely been hit by two separate vessels, NOAA Fisheries said in a statement.

Recently, President Donald Trump vowed to defend the U.S. lobster industry, which means the administration will likely not advocate for measures to protect the whales at the expense of fisheries in the area, reports Friedman.

Right whales were severely threatened by hunting in the 19th and 20th centuries—at one point, their numbers dropped to an estimated 60 mature individuals, reports Cheney. The whales even got their names from hunters: slow and easy to kill, they were known as the “right” marks because they would float to the surface after dying. At the turn of the 21st century, right whale numbers were estimated at about 500, due in part to serious protection measures against hunting. Now, the population is once again on the decline.

“For nearly a century, North Atlantic right whales have been protected from the commercial whaling that pushed them to the brink of extinction, but they continue to be killed by human activities,” says Jane Davenport, the senior attorney for conservation nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife, in a statement. “…This status change is a call to arms: unless we act decisively to turn the tide, the next time the right whale’s Red List status changes it will be to ‘extinct.’”

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/right-whales-now-listed-critically-endangered-180975315/

Protect Right Whales Petition

defenders.org

North Atlantic right whales are one of the most endangered large whale species in the world.

Hundreds of years of commercial whaling decimated the species by the early 1900s. The species got its name as the “right” whale to hunt: these animals swim slowly close to shore and are so blubber-rich they float when dead. They have a stocky, black body, no dorsal fin and bumpy patches of rough skin, called callosities, on their heads.

These massive marine mammals migrate each year between their northern feeding grounds in coastal Atlantic Canada and New England to their calving grounds in the warm waters off South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, and back. It is a journey fraught with danger as the whales navigate waters where they encounter vessel traffic, millions of fishing ropes and other hazards associated with human activity. 

Defenders’ Impact

Defenders is building support in Congress to enact the SAVE Right Whales Act, to provide much-needed funding for develop technologies to protect the species from fishing entanglements and vessel strikes. We are also fighting in court to protect right whales from deadly entanglements.

In January 2018, Defenders and our conservation allies filed suit against the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for violating the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act by failing to protect North Atlantic right whales from entanglements in the American lobster fishery.

We advocate for right whales as a conservation member of the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Team, a stakeholder group under the Marine Mammal Protection Act that advises NMFS on how to implement fishery management measures to minimize or avoid the risk of deadly entanglements. We are also litigating to stop seismic blasting in the Atlantic and working to promote responsible wildlife- and whale-friendly offshore wind development. 

Threats

North Atlantic right whales are threatened by entanglement, ship strikes and offshore oil and gas exploration and development. 

Protection Status

Endangered Species Act

IUCN Red List

CITES

 Endangered

 Critically Endangered

 Appendix I

What You Can Do

Tell your members of Congress to support the SAVE Right Whales Act.

Facts

Latin Name

Eubalaena glacialis

Size

about 50 feet long and weigh about 70 tons (140,000 pounds), with females larger than males

Lifespan

Under ideal circumstances, 50 -100 years; however, most adult whales are killed by human actions by the time they are 30-40 years old.

Range/Habitat

North Atlantic right whales are found from Atlantic Canada to the southeastern United States and migrate along the length of the east coasts of the United States and Canada. 

Population

Only about 400 North Atlantic right whales remain and of those, only 85 are reproductively active females.

Behavior

Right whales are slow swimmers, averaging just six miles per hour. They are known to make brief shallow dives in succession before submerging themselves underwater for up to 20 minutes at a time. They usually travel solo or in small groups.

Reproduction

Females usually give birth to their first calf at 10 years. Although usually they give birth every 3-5 years thereafter, their calving intervals are now approximately 10 years because of the energy demands of dragging entangled fishing gear around. Right whale calves are 13-15 feet long at birth.

Mating season: winter
Gestation: 1 year
Litter size: 1 calf

Diet

North Atlantic right whales eat zooplankton and krill larvae. They take large gulps of water and then filter out their tiny prey using baleen plates.

News

North atlantic right whale

IUCN: North Atlantic Right Whale Now “Critically Endangered”

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) announced today that it is changing the status of the North Atlantic right whale from “endangered” to “critically endangered” on its Red List of Threatened Species, recognizing that the species faces an extremely high risk of extinction. The IUCN Red List is the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of species.

North Atlantic Right Whale Blog Posts

Read More About the North Atlantic Right Whale

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https://act.defenders.org/page/18283/action/1

In ‘Conservation Disaster,’ Hundreds of Botswana’s Elephants Are Dying From Mysterious Cause

Jul. 02, 2020 07:43AM EST Animals African bush elephants in the Makgadikgadi Pans Game Reserve in Botswana on Nov. 22, 2016. Michael Jansen / Flickr

More than 350 elephants have died in Botswana since May, and no one knows why.

Poaching has been ruled out, because no tusks have been removed from the elephants’ bodies, but it is possible the animals are dying of a disease that could spread to the human population.

“Yes, it is a conservation disaster — but it also has the potential to be a public health crisis,” National Park Rescue Director of Conservation Dr. Niall McCann told BBC News. nullReport Advertisement https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1278329244767137792&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ecowatch.com%2Felephants-dying-botswana-2646313336.html&partner=rebelmouse&siteScreenName=EcoWatch&siteUserId=78361556&theme=light&widgetsVersion=9066bb2%3A1593540614199&width=550px

Botswana’s tourism ministry first said that it was investigating the deaths in mid-May, when 12 dead elephants were found over two weekends in the country’s Okavango Delta, Phys.org reported at the time.

By the end of May, 169 elephants had died, and that number had more than doubled by mid-June, The Guardian reported.

“This is totally unprecedented in terms of numbers of elephants dying in a single event unrelated to drought,” McCann told BBC News.

But despite the scale of the deaths, the government has not yet completed testing of the animals to determine the cause, earning the criticism of conservation groups.

“There is real concern regarding the delay in getting the samples to an accredited laboratory for testing in order to identify the problem — and then take measures to mitigate it,” Environmental Investigation Agency Executive Director Mary Rice told The Guardian. “The lack of urgency is of real concern and does not reflect the actions of a responsible custodian. There have been repeated offers of help from private stakeholders to facilitate urgent testing which appear to have fallen on deaf ears … and the increasing numbers are, frankly, shocking.”

The government, meanwhile, attributed the delay to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have sent [samples] off for testing and we are expecting the results over the next couple of weeks or so,” Dr. Cyril Taolo, acting director for Botswana’s department of wildlife and national parks, told The Guardian. “The Covid-19 restrictions have not helped in the transportation of samples in the region and around the world. We’re now beginning to emerge from that and that is why we are now in a position to send the samples to other laboratories.”

Taolo said the government had confirmed 280 out of 350 reported deaths and is working to confirm the rest.

Local reports indicate that animals of all ages and sexes are dying, with some spotted wandering in circles, a sign of neurological damage. The cause is likely a poison or disease, but experts are not sure which.

More than 100 elephants died in October 2019 in a suspected anthrax outbreak, Phys.org reported, but McCann told BBC News he had tentatively ruled out anthrax as the cause of the most recent deaths. Cyanide poisoning used by poachers is another possibility, but scavengers are not dying after eating the carcasses, The Guardian pointed out.

“It is only elephants that are dying and nothing else,” McCann told BBC News. “If it was cyanide used by poachers, you would expect to see other deaths.”

Botswana hosts the world’s largest elephant population at more than 135,000 animals, about a third of all the elephants in Africa, Phys.org pointed out. The Okavango Delta, meanwhile, is home to 10 percent of Botswana’s total population, or around 15,000 animals. African elephants are considered vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List. Botswana was considered one of the safest countries for elephants until recently, Science Alert pointed out. But the government made a controversial decision to lift its elephant hunting ban in May of 2019, and poaching is on the rise. An Elephants Without Borders study published in Current Biology last year found that new elephant carcasses in northern Botswana had increased by 593 percent between 2014 and 2018 and that at least 385 elephants had been poached between 2017 and 2018.

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

https://www.ecowatch.com/elephants-dying-botswana-2646313336.html?rebelltitem=3#rebelltitem3

Rough start to the year for Mexican gray wolves, cattle

abqjournal.com

FILE - This Jan. 30, 2020, file photo, shows members of the Mexican gray wolf recovery team preparing to load a wolf into a helicopter in Reserve, N.M., so it can be released after being processed during an annual survey. One Mexican gray wolf died after being caught in a trap in April and another was found dead in the wild, bringing the total to more than a dozen of the endangered predators that have died so far this year in New Mexico and Arizona. Environmentalists say a combination of lethal management by U.S. wildlife officials and private trapping is making it difficult to recover the species. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan, File)

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FILE – This Jan. 30, 2020, file photo, shows members of the Mexican gray wolf recovery team preparing to load a wolf into a helicopter in Reserve, N.M., so it can be released after being processed during an annual survey. One Mexican gray wolf died after being caught in a trap in April and another was found dead in the wild, bringing the total to more than a dozen of the endangered predators that have died so far this year in New Mexico and Arizona. Environmentalists say a combination of lethal management by U.S. wildlife officials and private trapping is making it difficult to recover the species. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan, File)

More photos

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — One Mexican gray wolf died after being caught in a trap in April and another was found dead in the wild, bringing the total to more than a dozen of the endangered predators that died in the first four months of the year in New Mexico and Arizona.

Environmentalists say a combination of lethal management by U.S. wildlife officials and private trapping is making it difficult to recover the species.

But ranchers say they face constant pressure from the wolves, pointing to the more than two dozen cattle that were killed just last month.

The latest wolf and livestock deaths come as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service begins wading through the process of revamping a rule that guides management of wolves in the Southwest.

The public has until June 15 to comment on the issues to be considered by officials. So far, nearly 800 comments have been submitted.

Some say it’s shaping up to be a deadly year for the wolf following an encouraging survey that found more wolves in the wild last year than at any time since efforts began more than two decades ago to reintroduce wolves along the New Mexico-Arizona border.

At least 163 wolves were counted during the survey that wrapped up in February. That marks a nearly 25% jump in the population from the previous year and puts wildlife managers about halfway to meeting the goal set for declaring the species recovered.

Monthly reports show 10 wolves have died in the first four months of 2020. That doesn’t include the alpha female of the Prieto Pack of wolves in New Mexico that died after being trapped in late April and four others that were killed in March due to livestock issues.

“It demonstrates the vagaries of the program and how quickly things can turn bad for the wolves,” Bryan Bird, the southwest program director for Defenders of Wildlife, said Tuesday.

He said changes to the management rule now under revision could address these ups and downs by limiting the circumstances in which wolves can be lethally or non-lethally removed from the wild and addressing trapping on public lands in the wolf recovery area.

Michael Robinson with the Center for Biological Diversity said one problem that has been ongoing for years is the wolves feeding on live cattle after being drawn in by the carcasses of cows that die from other causes. He’s among those who have been pushing for a requirement for ranchers to remove carcasses as one way to avoid conflict.

“Though the feds claim they’re looking at the population as a whole, this recurring mismanagement is precisely why the Mexican wolf is in worse genetic shape now than when reintroduction began more than two decades ago,” he said.

Some ranchers say they have tried everything from hiring cowboys on horseback to installing flagging and other devices to scare away the wolves. But they are still having problems.

Last year marked a record year for livestock kills. Several dozen kills have been reported so far this year.

The Arizona House last week passed a Senate-approved measure that would allow a board set up to reimburse ranchers for livestock losses to also compensate ranchers for things like range riders to keep wolves away from their herds.The measure now goes to Republican Gov. Doug Ducey for his consideration.

Federal officials say they conducted 24 days of hazing efforts in April, removed two carcasses, set up several food caches in hopes of diverting the wolves and talked with dozens of ranchers via phone, text and email in an effort to reduce the conflicts.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1459850/rough-start-to-the-year-for-mexican-gray-wolves-cattle.html?amp=1&__twitter_impression=true

Florida’s Long-Lost Blue Bee Has Been Rediscovered – Awareness Act

awarenessact.com

By Gerald Sinclair 5-6 minutes

For those who may not be aware, there is a species of bee known as the Osmia calaminthae. This bee is as you’d expect a bit blue in color unlike your average bee and for a while now has been seemingly gone from anyone’s view.

This kind of bee is so rare to spot that many in the scientific world thought it was gone for good, however, in recent times they’ve popped back up. After being so unsure for a long period about whether or not these interesting little creatures still existed, spotting one is a serious feat. According to Weather.com the plant this kind of bee needs to survive is very rare in Florida as well which means it’s hard for this kind of bee to get by.

This species had for the longest only been recorded in four locations of about a 16 square mile area in Wales Ridge and it seems since Spring a Florida Museum of Natural History has gotten lucky in ‘rediscovering’ these little guys. While it might not sound like much to the average person, this find is remarkable. These been were thought to be gone for good and to begin with we did not know much about them. Now that we know they are still out there we have so much to learn.

Chase Kimmel a postdoctoral researcher told Florida Museum as follows about this find:

“I was open to the possibility that we may not find the bee at all so that first moment when we spotted it in the field was really exciting,”

“We’re trying to fill in a lot of gaps that were not previously known,”

“It shows how little we know about the insect community and how there’s a lot of neat discoveries that can still occur.”

These researchers hope to study this specific kind of bee and get a better understanding of how it interacts with other insects, forages, and things of that nature. Lots of questions are being brought forth and perhaps in time, we will have our answers.

Weather.com wrote as follows about this marvelous find:

On March 9, Kimmel and a volunteer went to put out traps to see if they could find the bees. That’s when “we saw a blue bee bopping its head,” Kimmel said. They caught it and examined it and saw that it met all the qualifications for the ultra-rare blue calamintha bee.

Currently the bee does not have any protection status. It is considered a “species of greatest conservation need,” but has neither state nor federal protection. The main host plant that the bee utilizes, Calamintha ashei, is a state threatened species. In 2015, there was a petition to have the bee included, but it still lacks the status as there is not enough known about it for it to qualify for the endangered species list.

According to Kimmel, it is too early to know if the bee will be registered on the endangered species list, because more research needs to be done. There’s still much to learn about the blue calamintha bee. Not much is known about the bee’s biology. Does it prefer sun or shade? Such information is what Kimmel’s team will be looking into.

Kimmel added that “in an ideal world, it would be great to look at how management choices impact the plant and the population of this bee.” For example, the Florida Scrub Jays are an endangered species, and as such, conservationists and governments have tried to protect them, which includes managing wildlife to enable them to flourish. However, these management methods, which includes burning vegetation including the flowers that support the blue calamintha bees, could be damaging to the bee population, Kimmel explained. “Is the management for that bird the same as the management for this bee?” he poses. Other questions include how quickly does a bee return to an area that’s been burned, and how quickly does a plant regenerate to have the blossoms to support that bee.

The ongoing research is funded by a Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission grant through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This research falls under the grant’s qualifications to conserve important wildlife habitat and/or preventing species extinctions. “There was a lack of scientific information regarding the occurrence and life history of the bee[, and more] information was needed to make an informed determination regarding the classification status for this species under the Endangered Species Act,” according to a spokesperson at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

What do you think about this find? I for one think it is monumental for a number of reasons. It’s always a huge feat when we find something that was previously thought to be gone forever.

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https://awarenessact.com/floridas-long-lost-blue-bee-has-been-rediscovered/?fbclid=IwAR0pDeClHeGa-5CdKv4Ga7SNCfjIeJeNWOHFeDP0j5VA3_BWZz3AitnZLtA

Sign Petition: We Could See This Country’s Entire Rainforest Disappear in Our Lifetime

thepetitionsite.com

Sign Petition: We Could See This Country’s Entire Rainforest Disappear in Our Lifetime 10-12 minutes by: Care2 Team recipient: The Government of Madagascar

But a new report from Nature Climate Change found that the cumulative effects of global warming and deforestation within that time will be enough to eliminate 100% of Madagascar’s rainforest. Every last inch of the island country’s rainforest will be gone. Many folks alive today would see this heartbreaking eventuality happen in their lifetime. Sign the petition today and urge the Government of Madagascar to take the strictest possible measures to protect its rainforests! While Madagascar alone is not responsible for human-induced climate change, its government can certainly take action against the potential massive loss of plant and animal life from deforestation. Contributing researchers to the shocking study suggest that “protected areas will help to mitigate this devastation while environmentalists work toward long-term solutions for ending runaway greenhouse gas emissions and resulting climate change.” To make the situation even more alarming, 80-90% of animal and plant species in Madagascar exist in its rainforest. If we fail to save this habitat, there will be a subsequent massive, irreversible loss of diversity and life. Of Madagascar’s 101 different lemur species, only 5% are not are not at risk of extinction in the near future. The ruffed lemur, described as a “cornerstone species” because of the critical role they play in bolstering the survival of other animals and plants, is critically endangered. As daunting as this may seem, we must use this study as an incentive. Please sign the petition and make the Government of Madagascar hear us – they must impose strict deforestation protections on their rainforest before it’s too late!

https://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/949/176/865/?z00m=32272359&redirectID=3003092278

Groups Warn CA Desert Tortoise On Path to Extinction

publicnewsservice.org

The desert tortoise is losing ground to off-road vehicles, development, disease, drought and animal grazing. (Kurt Moses/National Park Service) The desert tortoise is losing ground to off-road vehicles, development, disease, drought and animal grazing. (Kurt Moses/National Park Service) March 25, 2020 MOJAVE DESERT, Calif. — The desert tortoise is dangerously close to extinction in California, according to a petition filed this week by conservation groups. Advocates are asking the California Fish and Game Commission to upgrade the species’ status from threatened to endangered. Pamela Flick, California program director for Defenders of Wildlife, said California’s state reptile may move slowly but its decline in the wild has been a lot faster. “Adult tortoise population numbers have dropped by over 50% in some recovery areas just since 2004,” she said, “and by as much as 80% to 90% in some habitat since approximately 1980.” Research has shown the animals are falling victim to a variety of threats including uncontrolled off-road vehicle use, livestock grazing on wildlands, the spread of contagious disease, disruption from highway and utility projects, and extended droughts likely associated with climate change. Flick said inadequate protective measures taken over the past few decades have failed. “Despite 30 years of federal and state protections as a threatened species,” she said, “the desert tortoise is closer to extinction than it was in 1990 when it was first listed.” Last year, the Trump administration moved to relax restrictions on off-road vehicles on federal land in the California desert, and has signaled plans to loosen them even further by amending the Obama-era Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan. If the commission accepts the petition, it would trigger a 12-month review of the tortoise’s threatened status. More information is online at defenders.org.

https://www.publicnewsservice.org/2020-03-25/endangered-species-and-wildlife/groups-warn-ca-desert-tortoise-on-path-to-extinction/a69674-1

Disclosure: Defenders of Wildlife contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species & Wildlife, Energy Policy, Public Lands/Wilderness. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here. Suzanne Potter, Public News Service – CA

No Bees, No Food Send a Message to Your Governor to Save Our Bees

environmentamerica.webaction.org
No Bees, No Food
Send a message

Subject: Save our bees

Your Letter:

Millions of bees are dying off, with alarming consequences for our environment and our food supply.

It’s urgent we protect our bees. Ask your governor to restrict bee-killing pesticides.

By Nancy Posted in Uncategorized Tagged

End Trophy Hunting of Vulnerable Puffins – ForceChange

The puffin is rapidly moving towards extinction, in part due to trophy hunting. Tours, advertised primary to British hunters, boast that one hunter can kill up to 100 puffins at a time. Ban importation of these vulnerable birds as trophies.

Source: End Trophy Hunting of Vulnerable Puffins – ForceChange

Demand Harsher Penalties for Killing Endangered Species – ForceChange

There are more than 100 endangered species in North America, and many are at a very high risk of extinction. Current penalties for harming these creatures are not strong enough. Demand that anyone who hurts or kills an endangered species gets a far harsher penalty.

Source: Demand Harsher Penalties for Killing Endangered Species – ForceChange

Scientists scramble to learn why monarch butterflies are dying so quickly

EVANSVILLE, Ind., July 22 (UPI) — Scientists across the country are scrambling to understand why monarch butterflies are disappearing at such an alarming rate as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considers listing the butterfly as endangered.

North America’s largest population of monarchs, which migrate between Mexico and the Midwest, has fallen 80 percent, from a billion in the 1990s to 200 million in 2018.

A smaller monarch population in the western United States that migrates between California and the Pacific Northwest is disappearing even faster, dropping from 1.2 million in the 1990s to just 30,000 last year — a 98 percent drop.

“That is a catastrophic decline,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, which is based in Arizona. “They might not be able to bounce back.”

Faced with those numbers, the Fish and Wildlife Service is several years into a massive review of North America’s butterflies to determine if they qualify for federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.

“We have a species status assessment team that is modeling threat evaluations,” said Georgia Parham, a spokeswoman for the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Midwest office, which is leading the review.

“We’re are also soliciting evaluations from monarch experts, and we’ve also launched a monarch database that anyone can enter information into,” Parham said.

The agency plans to announce its findings in December 2020.

But many scientists say conservation efforts cannot wait that long. Groups like the Center for Biological Diversity, which petitioned the service to list the monarchs as endangered in 2014, and the Monarch Joint Venture are spearheading conservation programs based on the latest available science.

That science, they are quick to admit, is incomplete.

Scientists cannot say for certain why monarchs are dying. Several unrelated phenomena could be killing them.

“There are several hypotheses for the decline, all of which are probably contributing to some degree,” said Andrew Myers, a doctoral student at Michigan State University’s Department of Entomology who studies monarchs.

Finding precise causes are difficult, in part because monarchs are migratory insects.

They clump together on tree branches in the mountains of Mexico to hibernate during the winter — turning those forests orange. When it warms, they fly north to lay their eggs on milkweed plants growing throughout the Midwest.

They can then travel as far north as Canada in search of the nectar from flowering plants. And when the weather turns cold, they return to Mexico.

Climate change might be disrupting their long migrations, Meyers said. Urban sprawl could be choking out flowering plants. And the Mexican forests in which the insects overwinter are being logged, which undoubtedly is a threat to their survival.

“Any one of those things is enough to wipe out the monarch population,” Curry said.

But the timing of the eastern population’s decline could be the most telling, she said, because it seemed to begin around the same time as the first herbicide-resistant crops were introduced to U.S. agriculture.

These crops were genetically engineered to survive the application of certain herbicides, allowing farmers to spray those chemicals on their fields and kill off other plants without harming their crops.

One of the plants these herbicides are especially effective at killing is milkweed — the sole food monarch butterfly larvae can eat.

“What happens to milkweed in the Midwest is incredibly important to the monarch population,” said Ian Kaplan, a professor of entomology at Purdue University.

Researchers at Iowa State University and the University of Minnesota in 2013 estimated nearly 60 percent of the milkweed had disappeared from the Midwest landscape since 1999. That decline coincides with an increase in herbicide resistant crops.

Monsanto introduced the first herbicide-resistant soybean plant, called RoundUp Ready soybean, in 1996, followed by a RoundUp Ready corn in 1998. Today, about 90 percent of the corn and 94 percent of the soybeans grown in the U.S. are herbicide resistant, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“The monarch butterfly did fine in croplands before RoundUp Ready crops,” Curry said. “That allowed more RoundUp to be sprayed, and that killed more milkweed in agricultural fields.”

Many of the monarch conservation efforts revolve around planting more native milkweed in public spaces, parks, private lands and on the edges of agricultural fields in hopes those plants replace those lost to agriculture.

But it is unclear how big of an impact that is having because scientists still don’t understand how other factors — like pesticide use — contribute to the insects’ decline.

With that in mind, entomologists like Kaplan are devising new studies every year to obtain a more detailed picture of what is happening to monarch larvae in their shrinking habitat.

Kaplan recently conducted a study at Purdue that measured the volume of pesticides present on wild milkweed growing near Midwestern agricultural fields.

“In Indiana, it’s hard to get very far from a corn field,” Kaplan said.

His study found pesticides on wild milkweed throughout Indiana, and although the amount tended to decline the farther from an agricultural field the researchers got, they still found pesticides on milkweed plants more than a mile away.

“Some of these pesticides are very hard to escape from,” Kaplan said.

Kaplan is now studying the impact the various pesticides he found on native plants have on the monarch larvae. He hopes to complete that study sometime this fall.

Elsewhere, researchers at Michigan State University are looking at monarch larvae predators, like lady beetles, ants and spiders.

“Since monarchs have lost their milkweed host plants in agricultural fields, they are now relegated to milkweed growing in grasslands in places like roadsides, fallow fields and agricultural field edges,” Meyers said.

“These areas have more diverse and abundant communities of predators, which results in naturally low survival of monarch eggs and caterpillars to adulthood. I am trying to determine which predators contribute most to monarch egg and caterpillar mortality and specific ways that these interactions take place,” he said.

“The work could eventually lead to grassland management practices that reduce predation pressure on monarchs.”

More work needs to be done, scientists say, but it is possible early conservation efforts are yielding results.

Last year, for this first time since scientists started tracking the butterfly more than 20 years ago, the eastern Monarch’s population increased.

It is impossible to know if that was because of efforts to plant more milkweed in the Midwest, or if other unrelated conditions helped the insect.

“We’re waiting to see if it is a trend, or a one-year thing,” the Fish and Wildlife Services’ Parham said.

But researchers and conservationists are pushing ahead.

“People can help right now by planting native milkweed,” Curry said. “That’s only one of the problems. It’s milkweed loss, it’s urban sprawl, it’s climate change, it’s insecticide use. It sounds really big and overwhelming, but we have to start somewhere.”

https://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2019/07/22/Scientists-scramble-to-learn-why-monarch-butterflies-are-dying-so-quickly/6961563481223/

Iconic desert-adapted elephant ‘Voortrekker’ killed by trophy hunter in Namibia – Africa Geographic

africageographic.com

Voortrekker the desert-adapted elephant before his tusks snapped off © Ingrid Mandt

In yet another blow to big elephant genes, the iconic desert-adapted elephant bull known by millions of fans worldwide as ‘Voortrekker’ was killed by a trophy hunter after being declared a ‘problem-animal’ by Namibian authorities. The surgical removal of Africa’s big-gene animals by trophy hunters continues, and Namibia’s desert-adapted elephants now rely on a small population of mature bulls after two were killed in 2016.

In their announcement on Facebook, Namibia’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) said “the elephant bull concerned was put down after it was declared a problem. The animal alongside others have been destroying properties and infrastructure in the area of Omatjete.” On the issue of whether this bull was the legendary Voortrekker, MET responded to Facebook questions by refusing to name the hunted elephant. Several conservation charities have confirmed that the bull in question is indeed Voortrekker. ‘Voortrekker’ is Afrikaans for ‘pioneer’.

MET spokesperson Romeo Muyunda Lee advised that the price paid was N$120,000 (+/- US$ 8,500), but it is unclear at this stage whether this was the total price paid or the portion paid to communities.

A study published in Ecology and Evolution in 2016 found not only that the Namibian desert-adapted elephants were different from their savannah cousins, but that their adaptations are also not genetically transferred to the next generation, rather through the passing on of knowledge by mature individuals. Morphological differences, like the adapted elephants’ thinner bodies and wider feet, also distinguish them from typical savannah elephants.

Voortrekker the desert-adapted elephant before his tusks snapped off © Ingrid Mandt

WAS THE WRONG ELEPHANT KILLED?

A Facebook post, written by Informante reporter Niël Terblanché, asks whether it was in fact Voortrekker who was causing problems for inhabitants of the Omatjete area.

Terblanché reports that an urgent letter addressed to MET official Christoph Munwela by management of conservancies neighbouring the Ohungo Conservancy in the area of Omatjete to prevent the killing of Voortrekker, suggests that a flagrant error was made when the hunting license was issued. The letter points out that Voortrekker is in fact not part of the herd that has been bothering the community of the Ohungu Conservancy in the area of Omatjete.

MET responded publically that “The communities who objected to the hunt were not affected by the elephants as the elephants were mainly causing problems in the Omatjete area.”

Prior to the hunt, the management committees of the Otjimboyo, Sorris Sorris and Tsiseb conservancies asked Munwela for a meeting to discuss ways to avoid the killing of Voortrekker, one of the oldest living bull elephants in Namibia. Their letter said: “Our people are in general accepting of the elephants’ presence and want them to remain in the area … it is our belief that the shooting of elephants does not solve the problem. In fact, this only makes it worse. We want to keep our communities safe and to do this we need to ensure that our elephants are calm and relaxed when entering villages. It is our belief that the shooting of elephants or scaring them off with gunshots, screaming or chasing them off results in aggressive animals and this cannot be tolerated.”

ELEPHANT DAMAGE

MET published photographs that they feel illustrates damage caused to property and infrastructure by Voortrekker, to justify the issue of the hunting license. Some of the images appear to show poorly neglected fences and other infrastructure, but some easily-replaced water pipes and tanks do appear to reflect damage.

Damage to infrastructure by Voortrekker the desert-adapted elephant, as per MET © MET

VOORTREKKER WAS PREVIOUSLY SAVED FROM TROPHY HUNTERS

In 2008 Voortrekker fans donated US$12 000 to MET in an effort to save him from professional hunters who had their eyes on his trophy tusks. At the time, six hunting permits were issued and only Voortrekker was saved from trophy hunter guns – the remaining five elephants were killed.

According to Johannes Haasbroek of Elephant Human Relations Aid, in the period since then, “the hunting outfitters and their sick clients conspired to get this gentle giant declared a problem to justify a hunt”. He went on to say: “We remember Voortrekker as an incredibly gentle, peaceful and magnificent elephant. His presence has often calmed other inexperienced elephants around him. He was known locally as the ‘Old Man’, that was always welcome because he never caused any problems or induced fear.”

Voortrekker the desert-adapted elephant after his tusks snapped off. This photo was taken 7 weeks before his death © Aschi Widmer

VOORTREKKER’S STORY

According to respected safari guide Alan McSmith, Voortrekker was a pioneer elephant for the desert-adapted elephant population in the Ugab and Huab rivers region. This giant elephant was one of the first to venture back to the region after populations were decimated during the turbulent warfare years in southern Africa. A small group of these uniquely desert-adapted elephants took refuge during the war in the remote and desolate gorges of Kaokaland in the north.

Says McSmith: “Voortrekker, one of the bulls to trek north during the conflict years, returned home in the early 2000’s, commencing a relay of south-bound expeditions, penetrating deeper and deeper into the dry and uncertain landscape before commencing with an epic traverse through to the relative bounty of the Ugab River. It was a marathon across arid plains and ancient craters that would ultimately redefine what we know of elephant endurance, intuition and behaviour. Just how he navigated, or knew where to find water, is anyone’s guess. For over two successive summer seasons he returned north to Kaokaland, returning each time to the Ugab with a small family unit in tow. An elephant patriarch. These elephants are still resident in the region and have formed the nucleus of three distinct breeding herds, making the Ugab/Huab Rivers perhaps the most viable desert elephant habitats in the world. Voortrekker continues as the Godfather, a true legend of the Ugab. His ancestral knowledge has been passed down to a new generation of desert dwellers. What a legacy! For me, all of this addresses one of the most crucial fallacies of elephant conservation, trophy hunting, and the notion of sustainable consumption: that older bulls have no value to an elephant community and can be hunted under the banner of ecological benefit.”

A Facebook page has been set up to ‘actively pursue the truth behind the killing of Voortrekker, the Iconic Desert Elephant, and then decide on appropriate action’

https://africageographic.com/blog/iconic-desert-adapted-elephant-voortrekker-killed-by-trophy-hunter-in-namibia/

Breaking! Golden Eagle Chicks Found In Southern California Mountains For The 1st Time In 30 Years – World Animal News

By WAN –
June 27, 2019
Photos By National Park Service
A pair of golden eagle chicks, a fully protected species in the state of California, have been found in a nest in a remote area of Southern California.
As per the National Park Service (NPS), the last time a nest was confirmed in this remote area of Southern California was in the late 1980s.

The chicks, a 12-week-old male and female, were located several weeks ago when a consultant conducting bird surveys on private property identified the golden eagle pair and notified park biologists. NPS biologists working with biologists from the U.S. Geological Survey and Bloom Biological Inc., confirmed the nest location and activity and tagged them in early May.
Each chick received two bands; one colored and one numbered. The bands are part of the USGS Bird Banding Laboratory to help scientists monitor the status, trends and ecology of resident and migratory bird populations. Biologists also took blood from the chicks for genetic testing.
Loss of habitat for nesting and hunting has reduced their range in much of the state, according to Katy Delaney, an ecologist with the National Park Service.
Delaney is worried about these majestic raptors.
“Humans are the greatest threat to golden eagles,” Delaney said in a statement. “In the past, they were trapped and shot throughout their range, and today, they are vulnerable to habitat loss. Like their mammalian carnivore counterparts, they can die from eating poisoned prey, as well as from lead poisoning, electrocution on power lines and collisions with wind turbines.”
“We haven’t seen them in so many years, though they could have been around and staying away from people.” continued Delaney. “We just went through a huge fire and drought, and we are also not going to experience a decrease in urban development. We not only have mountain lions here, but we have golden eagles, as well.”
Although the chicks recently left the nest, their parents are not total empty nesters, yet. For the next several months, they will continue to rely on the more experienced birds until they learn to successfully hunt on their own, which may be around late fall.
These birds of prey typically feed on rabbits and squirrels, but also take a diverse array of prey species from small birds and snakes, up to mule deer fawns and coyote pups. Carrion is also an important component of their diet. In the case of this family, western gulls were the prey item of choice at the time of banding. There were seven gull wings found in the nest located in a large cave.
Interestingly, golden eagles are thought to form strong pair bonds and exhibit high mate and territory fidelity, meaning they will likely stay with the same partner and return to the same nest each breeding season. Some Southern California adult golden eagles remain on or close to their nest territory throughout the year while others move great distances several counties away. After gaining independence, young eagles generally disperse out of their parents breeding territory traveling between 20 to 1,200 miles away, but usually return when they are four to five years of age to establish their own area for nesting.
The golden eagle, one of the largest birds in North America, is a cousin of the bald eagle. Sightings are extremely rare and both are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Biologists believe the population may be declining in the United States, especially in California.
The golden eagle is one of 11 raptors, birds that hunt and feed on other animals. The most common raptor in the mountains is the western screech owl but red-tailed hawks are seen more often. Dark-colored red-tailed hawks are often mistaken for golden eagles by inexperienced observers.
According to the Chumash Indians, golden eagles had a deep historical connection to Boney Mountain but the last known confirmed nesting there occurred in the early 1800s.
You can help all animals by choosing compassion on your plate. #GoVeg

https://worldanimalnews.com/breaking-golden-eagle-chicks-found-in-the-santa-monica-mountains-for-the-1st-time-in-30-years/

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Protect the Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo and the Endangered Species Act

670864110

Natural History Wanderings

The deadline to tell the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service not to roll back protections for the Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo is next Wednesday, June 26. More than 16,000 Audubon supporters have already sent comments—will you join them?  It’s quick and easy to send your own comments through our Action Center.

Read more at  National Audubon Society

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Lost and starving polar bear seen scavenging in Russian city

dailymail.co.uk

By Will Stewart In Russia For Mailonline 09:07 18 Jun 2019, updated 09:44 18 Jun 2019

Lost and starving polar bear was spotted wandering in amongst traffic in Russia
Motorists in the nickel mining city of Norilsk watched as the beast dodged cars
Bear thought to have walked nearly 1,000 miles from Russian Arctic Ocean shore
Animal appeared too weak to attack humans and was seen scavenging for food

A starving polar bear has wandered into an industrial city in Russia after ‘walking almost 1,000 miles in the wrong direction’.

The lost beast headed south and inland from shore of the Arctic Ocean, far from its natural feeding habitat.

Motorists in the nickel mining city of Norilsk watched in amazement as the bear crossed busy roads.

The bear was scavenging for food and appeared too weak to attack people who were watching the wild animal – but local officials have warned of the threat to human life.

Locals said it is the first time a wild polar bear has been spotted in the city since the 1970s.

The animal is believed to have made a lonely trek of at least 950 miles crossing Arctic islands and frozen sea to reach Norilsk, according to reports.
The emaciated polar bear was seen on the streets of Norilsk dodging in and out of traffic and the animal scavenged for food
It is thought the polar bear walked nearly 1,000 miles from the Russian Arctic shore south to the mining city of Norilsk

Irina Yarinskaya, a photographer of Zapolyarnaya Pravda newspaper, snapped the bear dodging cars in the city’s traffic.

She told local media: ‘He is seriously hunger-bitten, he is hardly able to blink and keep his eyes open, almost unable to walk.

‘He was lying for a long time, having a rest, then he crossed the road and entered the industrial zone.

‘He went towards the gravel and sand factory. Then he crossed one more road and headed to a dump.’

Earlier, the same bear was spotted at Talnakh on the outskirts of Norilsk.

The animal has become a star attraction in a barren area normally populated by brown not polar bears, reported The Siberian Times.
The lost and starving wild animal appeared too weak to attack humans but was being monitored by the authorities as it still posed a threat to life
During the bear’s long walk it was pictured by residents of Norilsk and at one point was seen lying on the ground in the industrial city’s outskirts
The polar bear reportedly walked around 950 miles south from the Arctic shore to Norilsk

The bear had the ‘wrong compass settings’, and walked across the Taymyr Peninsula to reach the Soviet-era nickel city which is normally closed to foreign visitors.

Local police and emergency services are closely monitoring the bear – which poses a threat to residents.

But they are awaiting a decision from Moscow on whether to sedate the beast and return it to the Arctic shoreline – or move it to a zoo in Krasnoyarsk, the regional capital, come 950 miles further to the south.

Initially the local emergency services refused to believe there was a polar bear in the Talnakh district of the Arctic city which is some 350 miles inland.

Anatoly Nikolaychyuk, head of Taymyr department of state hunting control, said: ‘This is a unique and rare case.
The polar bear was seen wandering around industrial area of Norilsk and walking in busy roads looking for food
Norilsk is an industrial city in Krasnoyarsk Krai region above the Arctic Circle, east of the Yenisei River. It is what’s known as a ‘closed city’ as foreigners cannot visit and during the Soviet-era did not appear on maps, road signs or connect to public transport
Residents took videos and pictures of the emaciated polar bear as it made its long journey from its natural habitat over the Taymyr Peninsula

‘There are two options now – either to relocate him to the shore, or, perhaps, some zoo will take him.’

Local campaigners are demanding the bear is returned to its natural habitat.

Oleg Krashevsky – who specialises in tours to the remote Putorana Plateau – posted: ‘I don’t understand how the bear could have walked such distance, across Taymyr and not come across anyone.

‘He must have encountered many hunters. The same thing happened in 1970’s when a polar bear showed up at an explosives warehouse around the same place as this time.’

Polar bears are an endangered species in Russia’s Red Book.

The bear’s mammoth journey is believed to have started on islands deep in the Arctic either in Krasnoyarsk or Yakutia regions.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7153051/amp/Lost-starving-polar-bear-seen-scavenging-Russian-city-nearly-1-000-miles-natural-habitat.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ico=taboola_feed&__twitter_impression=true

Sign Petition: These Countries Want to Reopen the Ivory Trade and Put Elephants at Risk

thepetitionsite.com
by: Care2 Team
recipient: Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES)more

In the ten years leading up to 2016, Africa lost more than 100,000 elephants to poachers. Some conservationists warn that at that rate, African elephants could go extinct in less than a decade. Yet with that clarion warning, some governments want to roll back the clock and reopen the international ivory market, putting the rest of the remaining herd in danger.

The governments of Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Namibia, as well as Angola, are working together to propose a plan that would turn back the prohibition on the international ivory trade that has been in place for two decades.

Sign to make sure that the ivory ban is never lifted.

Currently, the ivory trade is governed through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) the treaty charged with protecting endangered animals. The presidents of these five countries believe that locals have the right to profit off ivory as a resource. It’s as if ivory could be exploited like oil or minerals and didn’t come from a living animal with a fragile population.

The Southern African governments plan to make their proposal at the next CITES meeting. The most recent event was canceled in Sri Lanka due to the Easter bombings in that country, but a new meeting will surely be scheduled soon and if these five governments get their way, the doors to the ivory market would be opened once more.

We cannot let this happen. Please sign the petition and tell CITES not to cave. Tell them the ivory ban must stand.more

https://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/212/445/021/

By Nancy Posted in Uncategorized Tagged

Florida Manatee Deaths up Almost 50% in 2018

The Jaguar

A Florida manatee looking at the camera.
Florida manatee deaths rose significantly in 2018. Here’s Looking at You Kid – Meet a Florida Manatee by the U.S. Geological Survey. Public Domain.

Here’s a heart-breaking story by John R. Platt and Dipika Kadaba of The Revelator. It turns out that 824 Florida manatees died last year, almost 50% more than in 2017.

Those 824 mortalities (deaths) represent 13% of the Florida manatee population, and many of them were caused by people – either directly or indirectly.

The Revelator released a video that goes into more detail about why so many manatees died last year. Click below to watch it, and be sure to visit this link for the original story.

Video by The Revelator about the dramatic rise in Florida manatee mortalities in 2018.

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Take Action to Help Save the Sunflower Sea Star

takeaction.oceanconservancy.org

Take Action to Help Save the Sunflower Sea Star

A new study has documented that the sunflower star has been virtually eliminated along a 3,000 mile stretch of coast. A “zombie apocalypse” has been underway beneath the waves since 2013, with “sea star wasting disease” (SSWD) literally dissolving more than 20 species of sea stars into puddles of rotting flesh on the seafloor.

The publication documents how this most important of species, the sunflower star, has rapidly declined because of the combined effects of a devastating disease and climate-driven ocean heat waves. As we continue to burn fossil fuels, massive amounts of heat are being absorbed by the ocean, which is driving extreme temperature events that appear to increase the lethality of SSWD. This one-two punch is not only destroying the sunflower star—but also destroying the kelp forests that provide the foundational structure for an entire ecosystem of ocean species.

Saving what we love—including the sunflower star—will take all of us who do have a voice using it.

Congress must act on climate change. The science is clear, solutions are available here and now, and the ocean must be at the heart of climate action.

Congress must debate and move aggressive climate legislation that will ensure communities and ecosystems are spared the most devastating potential impacts from climate change, and are able to successfully adapt to those they can’t avoid.

That work must start now.

But in addition, Congress can and must take action immediately using the tools we already have. This spring Congress will take up appropriations legislation for the next fiscal year. Those bills must prioritize critical funding for the climate research, coastal resilience, and adaptation programs that are already working to tackle our climate challenges.

Take action today.

https://takeaction.oceanconservancy.org/page/38258/action/1?ea.tracking.id=19LPBCBAXX&utm_medium=email&utm_source=engagingnetworks&utm_campaign=20190210ClimateAdvocacy&utm_content=20190210-ClimateAA-Prospects-Email1-19LPBCBAXX&ea.url.id=1856064&forwarded=true

Sign Petition: Instead of Relocating Them, These Cougar Kittens Are Now Dead

thepetitionsite.com
by: Care2 Team
recipient: Colorado Parks and Wildlife

18,848 SUPPORTERS – 19,000 GOAL

A mother and her three kittens. Those are just some of the casualties of urban sprawl in Colorado.

Since the beginning of the year, Glenwood Springs residents had noticed they weren’t alone in their neck of the woods. Over the past several weeks they had seen a family of mountain lions lurking about, and after one neighborhood dog was killed people began to worry.

That’s when they decided to call (CPW). Perhaps residents thought CPW officials would be able to scare the cougars back to the mountains or relocate them to a more remote area where they wouldn’t pose a threat. Unfortunately, officials had another solution in mind. They trapped the mother and her one-year-old kittens and killed them.

Parks and Wildlife defended their action by saying it was their “only option.” But that simply isn’t the case. Colorado is a vast, mountainous state with wide swaths of unpopulated lands where these mountain lions could have been released to live a long and wild life. Instead, officials decided to take the lives of five pumas — a mother, her three cubs, and another adult.

The land these animals were roaming is theirs not ours and they should not be punished simply for being the predators that nature intended them to be.

Obviously, we must take the safety of Glenwood Springs residents into account but euthanization should have never been an option when they could have easily been relocated. Especially since their location could have been monitored with collars.

It’s too late for the five mountain lions that were killed by CPW but hopefully, it won’t be for the next family of pumas that encroach into a Colorado town. Please sign the petition and demand that Colorado Parks and Wildlife stop using lethal methods to deal with animal nuisances and ask them to use relocation instead.

Sign Petition

https://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/698/524/585/

Sign Petition: These Surprise Seal Pups Must Be Protected!

by: Kelsey B.
recipient: Point Reyes National Seashore rangers

70,527 SUPPORTERS – 75,000 GOAL

During the recent government shutdown, Drake’s Beach in Northern California remained closed to visitors. But what was bad news for beachgoers and nature lovers turned out to be great news for a group of elephant seals!

60 elephant seals decided to take advantage of the empty beach and make the spot their birthing place. During those 35 days of the shutdown, about 35 seal pups were born! The problem is that now that the shutdown is over, officials want to open that beach back up.

Sign the petition if you want the beach to stay closed for good so we can give the seals their natural habitat back!

The spate of births was really quick, magical and adorable, but also very fragile. Normally the seals would have given birth elsewhere but experts are speculating that recent storms have forced them to find new places to do it. It’s critical that we don’t scare, harm or overwhelm the animals. Most of the pups are still nursing with their moms so it’s really important they are given time and space to get their pups ready to venture back into the ocean.

And what better way to give them the space they need than to shut down the beach to humans permanently!

We had a good run, but these seals have reclaimed what is rightfully theirs. Please sign the petition to close the beach for good!

https://www.thepetitionsite.com/152/394/001/these-baby-seal-must-be-protected-keep-beach-closed/

Petition: Legal Loopholes Are Giving Poachers Permission to Hunt Protected Birds

by: Margherita B
recipient: Malta

Thousands of birds fly over Malta during the migratory season.

And thousands are killed, both legally and illegally. Illegal killings amount to more than 200,000 birds per year — and these are only the documented ones.

Legally, birds that are protected worldwide (including storks) can be shot and caught in nets in Malta, by taking advantage of loopholes that allow hunters to collect birds for “traditional” and “cultural” practices. The black stork is an extremely rare bird and people have been shooting them, using these loopholes.

Although not as screen-worthy as the slaughtering of dolphins in other countries, what happens in Malta is no different. There is no need to hunt these protected species — they are protected for a reason!

These loopholes must be filled and Malta has to abide by the rest of the EU’s laws. Currently, Malta is considered a true sinkhole for migratory birds — this has to change. Malta, stop this slaughter now!
https://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/790/699/070/

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Sign Petition: This Imperiled Bumble Bee Can’t Wait Any Longer for Help

thepetitionsite.com

The rusty patched bumble bee, which can be identified by a rust-colored patch on its abdomen, was once a commonly seen pollinator from the midwest to the east coast.

Unfortunately, scientists believe that they have disappeared from 87 percent of their historic range since just the 1990s and that their population has declined by more than 90 percent.

While conservation organizations have been working for years to help them, it wasn’t until 2016 that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) agreed that protection was warranted, and it wasn’t until 2017 that they were actually protected.

The listing marked the first time in history a bumble bee species has been federally protected, and the first time any bee has received federal protection in the continental U.S.

Still, this little bumble bee has continued to wait for the help it desperately needs. Under the Endangered Species Act, the FWS is legally required to designate critical habitat for protected species within one year of their listing, but has still managed to miss that date for this bumble bee – even with a one-year extension.

The agency is now facing a third lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council on behalf of this bumble bee, which seeks to compel it to take action to protect their home from further destruction.

You can show your support for protecting the rusty patched bumble bee by signing and sharing this petition urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to take immediate action to designate critical habitat for them.

https://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/198/488/489/