Beth Pratt raised millions for a cougar overpass – Los Angeles Times

www.latimes.com

Louis Sahagún 12 – 15 minutes

MIDPINES, Calif. — 

On a warm spring morning in 1976, when Beth Pratt was 7 years old, she noticed a “For sale” sign posted in the woods near her home just north of Boston.

“I asked my mom what it meant,” she recalled. “She said the land was up for sale and would soon be flattened by bulldozers.”

The next day, Pratt went door to door in her neighborhood of old elms and deep porches asking for donations to save one of her favorite outdoor playgrounds. Then she called the phone number on the sign and made an offer: $5.

After several seconds of silence, the person on the other end of the line said, “Wonderful. Just $40,000 more and that property is all yours.”

Today, Pratt is still raising money for causes she believes in. At 52, Pratt heads the nonprofit National Wildlife Federation’s #SaveLACougars campaign, which seeks to raise funds to build an $87-million bridge that will allow isolated clans of cougars to cross a 10-lane stretch of the 101 Freeway at Liberty Canyon Road in Agoura Hills.

To get a full measure of her dedication to the cause, start with the campaign’s poster puma, P-22. A likeness of the lone mountain lion prowling the chaparral-covered slopes in Griffith Park is tattooed on Pratt’s upper left arm.

Groundbreaking is just around the corner. The thought of it brings a proud smile to her face.

“When I took on this assignment I thought, well, how hard can it be?” Pratt said, shaking her head. “I didn’t dream it would grow into a nearly $100-million project that would consume almost 10 years of my life.”

The Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing is set to break ground in late January.

An artist’s rendering of the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing, set to break ground in late January.

(Living Habitats and National Wildlife Federation)

When it is completed, the 200-foot-long, 165-foot-wide bridge will be the largest and most expensive of its kind in the world — and the only one designed to save a species from extinction.

It is crucial, scientists say, to restoring gene flow among small, isolated populations of cougars trapped south of the freeway that roars with 300,000 vehicles each day in the Santa Monica Mountains and cougars confined to the north in the Simi Hills and Santa Susana Mountains.

Recent scientific studies suggest there’s an almost 1 in 4 chance that Southern California mountain lions, which have the lowest genetic diversity documented for the species aside from the critically endangered Florida panther, could become extinct within 50 years.

The next few months are vital for those cougars and for Pratt, regional executive director in California for the federation. As of early December, the effort still needed $5 million to meet deadlines and contractual obligations.

Beth Pratt works in her office at her home in Midpines, Calif., near Yosemite National Park.

Beth Pratt works in her office at her home in Midpines, Calif., near Yosemite National Park. Her ability to raise considerable amounts of money owes, in part, to a group of connected L.A. Westsiders.

(Gary Kazanjian / For The Times)

Yet Pratt looked pleased on a recent morning, writing grant proposals and soliciting donations over the phone in her home near Yosemite National Park. Her living area is filled with artistic renderings and life-size cardboard cutouts of mountain lions.

She had reason to be pleased. Future historians may look back on the second decade or so of 21st century American architecture as the Age of Wildlife Crossings. Congress in November passed a national infrastructure package that for the first time sets aside $350 million in federal funding for wildlife crossings to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions in all 50 states.

This would not have been the situation most people would have predicted when Pratt took on the tricky fundraising job. Wildlife bridge proposals, she quickly learned, come with a hitch: You need money to get past the blueprints, but you need blueprints to generate donations.

It’s rare these days — and almost impossible — to see a big-bucks urban wildlife project survive such long odds, particularly in a region that is home to unbearable traffic jams, smog and cookie-cutter planned developments.

Her ability to raise money in breathtaking amounts owes, in part, to a group of connected L.A. Westsiders — celebrities, corporate leaders and philanthropists — who have ready cash and enjoy throwing elegant private fundraisers for progressive causes.

Beth Pratt relaxes at her home in Midpines, Calif.

Beth Pratt, a self-described “goofy, loud, middle-class Boston Irish woman” who dresses in blue jeans and worn tennis shoes, relaxes at her home in Midpines, Calif.

(Gary Kazanjian / For The Times)

While the Westside may not be the natural habitat of a self-described “goofy, loud, middle-class Boston Irish woman” who dresses in blue jeans and worn tennis shoes, Pratt learned that she could successfully coax the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio and Barbra Streisand without changing habits.

Pratt carries a backpack instead of a purse. At one Beverly Hills fundraiser, the host asked, “Are you going hiking after this?”

“I discovered that mountain lions are a great icebreaker when you don’t have much else in common,” she said. “For example, when I met my favorite actor, Viggo Mortensen, at a Santa Barbara film festival, I only talked about cougars and not about my 20-year crush on him.” Pratt shoved a furry P-22 figurine under his arm as a reminder.

Her other gifts are patience, energy, ambition and what Cinny Kennard, executive director of the Annenberg Foundation, described as “relentless competence.”

Between solicitations to prospective donors, Pratt has partnered with photographer Robb Hirsch to publish the first in-depth account of the wildlife in Yosemite in almost 100 years.

She also promotes the Liberty Canyon project during visits to local elementary schools and annually retraces the 20-mile odyssey that P-22 braved from the Santa Monica Mountains to Griffith Park. The cat’s route took him over concrete and backyards, commuter traffic and culverts.

A 2014 photo provided by the National Park Service shows a mountain lion known as P-22 in the Griffith Park area near downtown Los Angeles.

(National Park Service )

“Some of her supporters have been moved to tears,” said Paul Edelman, deputy director of natural resources for the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, “seeing Beth emerge from the brush near the carousel at Griffith Park looking bedraggled, dusty and sunburned.”

When asked about her heroes, she quickly gives credit to Outdoor Afro founder Rue Mapp, who wants to bring healing hikes and what she calls the “outdoor Black experience” to more Americans.

Selfie taken by Beth Pratt of herself and Outdoor Afro founder Rue Mapp

A selfie taken by Beth Pratt with Outdoor Afro founder Rue Mapp, right, who wants to bring healing hikes and what she calls the “outdoor Black experience” to more Americans.

(Beth Pratt)

Pratt sensed a kindred spirit in Mapp after they met about a decade ago. They both have great faith in the transformative power of the outdoors, and they both were struggling through personal issues while launching unprecedented projects that would define their careers and nurture new cooperative relationships between the urban and the wild.

“We became professional confidants who bonded in our own brand of sisterhood,” said Mapp, 49, a former Morgan Stanley analyst whose Outdoor Afro has expanded into a nonprofit with chapters in 36 cities across the nation. “For us, it was like Stars Wars’ Yoda says, ‘Do or not do. There is no trying.’”

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The #SaveLACougars campaign kicked off in 2014 after the National Wildlife Federation and the Santa Monica Mountains Fund joined forces to raise money for the project at Liberty Canyon, about 30 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

“Normally, the majority of funding for projects of this scale comes from government agencies and not private donations,” Pratt said. “But the incentive was powerful to act quickly and reach out to visionary private investors or the lions of L.A. County would vanish within our lifetime.”

One of Pratt’s first donors was veteran rocker David Crosby. “This has always been a very uphill project and Beth is a very brave, focused and strong girl,” he said. “I plan to be there when they cut the ribbon on that wildlife bridge.”

Beth Pratt holds a cutout of a mountain lion

Beth Pratt’s home in Midpines, Calif., is filled with artistic renderings and life-size cardboard cutouts of mountain lions.

(Gary Kazanjian / For The Times)

Since 2020, wildlife biologists have discovered the physical manifestations of extremely low genetic diversity among several of the dozen cougars that roam the 275 square miles in and around the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area — a tail kinked like the letter “L,” only one descended testicle and abnormal sperm.

In the face of such a dire prognosis — what biologists call an extinction vortex — conservationists are stepping up calls for construction of the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing at Liberty Canyon.

As envisioned by architects and Caltrans, cougars would move unseen by humans over a reinforced concrete-and-steel wildlife crossing landscaped with native vegetation — including oak and willow trees — and irrigation systems, and shielded with sound walls and light deflectors to dampen the noise and glare of headlights below.

Fencing up to 12 feet high would funnel wildlife including mountain lions, bobcats, deer, coyotes, skunks, badgers, squirrels, mice and lizards over the passage. To reduce roadkill, fencing would also extend several miles in both directions from the project footprint.

Project partners include the California Department of Transportation, the National Park Service, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, and the National Wildlife Federation.

Because the bridge crosses the freeway, Caltrans will oversee design and construction — but the agency is not providing funding. Instead, most of the funds come from more than 3,000 private, philanthropic and corporate donors around the world, including a recent $25-million challenge grant from Wallis Annenberg and the Annenberg Foundation.

Mountain lions as a species are not threatened in California, but the state Fish and Game Commission has granted cougars in six regions from Santa Cruz to the U.S.-Mexico border “candidate status” to be listed as threatened sometime next year.

The action came in response to a petition co-sponsored by the Center for Biological Diversity and the nonprofit Mountain Lion Foundation. It argues that six isolated and distinct cougar clans within those regions make up a subpopulation that is threatened by extinction.

“In car-centric California, what we do with our roads is critical to the future of mountain lions,” said Brendan Cummings, the center’s conservation director. “A new, more hopeful relationship is breaking ground on the side of the 101 Freeway at Liberty Canyon.

“This project is significant not just because it will directly benefit our endangered Southern California cougars,” he added, “but also because of what it represents: the most important step toward reimagining and rebuilding our infrastructure to ensure a continuing place for them and other wildlife in 21st century California and beyond.”

Not everyone is a believer, however. Critics ask why we should willingly share more space in our crowded world with stealthy, 140-pound predators who kill livestock and might menace us if we walk down a trail at night.

Pratt has answers. And there is an edge of impatience mixed with her self-effacing humor as she delivers them.

“I don’t want to see people hurt, but it’s important to put the risk in perspective,” she says. “Over the past century there’ve been less than 20 mountain lion attacks in California, six of them fatal. Yet, 3,000 to 4,000 people die every year on California’s highways.

“So c’mon,” she adds, “ask yourself when was the last time you helped pull an endangered lion back from the edge of extinction?”

There have been tumultuous years. But by perseverance and a generous measure of personal charm, Pratt has become California’s most recognizable promoter of wildlife crossings.

“Beth rocks,” said Fraser Shilling, co-director of the Road Ecology Center at UC Davis. “I’d like to see her apply her considerable organizing powers to other roads driving local lions toward extinction.”

https://www.latimes.com/environment/story/2021-12-11/beth-pratt-raised-millions-for-a-cougar-overpass

Lovely in Solitude

www.earthisland.org

Lovely in Solitude

Haniya Javed 8 – 10 minutes


In Pakistan, a snow leopard in captivity highlights the plight of her species.

Our 4×4 truck bumps over boulders and splashes through streams as it drives further into the deep forest of Naltar Valley in Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan region. This area is popular for its alpine ski slopes, mountain glaciers, green meadows, and vibrant lakes. But today, our guide has promised us a view of one of the Himalaya’s more hidden natural wonders.

We’re on our way to see a snow leopard.

Our bumpy ride comes to a halt in a clearing of trimmed grass scattered with pine cones. Tall trees cast shadows on the hot summer day and wave in an intermittent breeze.

We get out of the car, stretch our limbs, and make our way to a caged enclosure, where a bearded man named Ghulam Rasool greets us. He then turns toward the cage, makes kissing noises, and calls out, “Meri Lovely (My Lovely.)” Lovely, known locally as Lolly, looks away uninterested, her spotted black and white back towards the crowd. “She’s well fed at the moment,” says Rasool. “She growls and responds when she wants food. She’s a good girl.”

As more tourists arrive and the chatter gets louder, Lovely lets out a low rumble. It’s a faintly audible growl from deep within her body — nothing like the roar seen and heard in popular media. She turns her head and briefly scans the commotion, opens her mouth to show sharp canines, and then looks away again, back into her own world.

Lovely is a nine-year-old snow leopard who spends day and night alone, with no other animals of her kind. The only change in her life are her two habitats. In the winter, when snow blankets the valley and snow leopards look for food and mates, their fur keeping them warm and broad paws working as snowshoes, Lovely is kept in a cage near a ski resort. When the snow melts away, she’s brought into the lush green valley where tourists visit her. She has never hunted or mated. Nor will she be able to.

“Lovely’s only utility at the moment is recreation,” said Hussain Ali regional program manager of the Snow Leopard Foundation. “Since she didn’t receive the early days training of hunting and survival from her mother her chances of survival on her own are nil.”

As I watch Lovely in her cage, I’m struck by the paradox this big cat represents. Snow leopards belong in the wild, but Lovely’s captivity affords tourists the ability to see a snow leopard up close, to learn about this predator’s plight. This cage is also her blessing, in a region where snow leopards are losing habitat and the mountains they call home are becoming more and more inhospitable. As Ali says, without her captivity, Lovely would likely be dead.

Snow leopards populate the mountain ranges of 12 countries across Central and South Asia. Scientists estimate that fewer than 6,400 snow leopards inhabit an estimated area of 1.8 million square kilometers. Their habitat is threatened by development and land degradation. Snow leopards are also killed by pastoralists who see the big cats as predatory threats to their livestock. According to a report from the World Wildlife Fund, an estimated 450 snow leopards are killed each year.

In Pakistan, as part of a recent habitat sampling, it has been estimated that there could be as few as 40 snow leopards, far fewer than previous estimates of around 420 cats. However, experts believe that more than 70 percent of the world’s snow leopard habitats are still unknown — and many of these habitats may be situated in Pakistan. Either way, saving and conserving every snow leopard is important.

But in Lovely’s case, saving her meant taking her from the wild. In December 2012, volunteers from the Khunjerab Villagers Organization (KVO), a community-based nonprofit working for wildlife conservation, were on a routine stroll around Khunjerab National Park, more than 100 kilometers from Lovely’s present location. Upon reaching the Khunjerab River, the volunteers spotted a female snow leopard perched against the backdrop of the snowy mountains, gazing into the far distance.

The volunteers instantly took out their camera and began to film. After all, these elusive big cats rarely showed themselves. In the footage shared by the volunteers, the snow leopard sits still, her translucent gaze mirroring the breathtaking views around her. She looks below the line of the camera facing her and then switches her gaze upward on her left. Then, for a split second, she looks squarely into the lens of the camera.

While the volunteers watched her make these repeated motions, they heard a low cat-like whimper from below. They looked down to find a cub by the riverbank, its foot stuck in the icy slush. The cub, hardly a month or two old, appeared to be frozen.

“The mother snow leopard was watching the cub from atop,” said Mubat Karim Gircha, office manager at KVO. In the video, the mother snow leopard starts climbing up hill, looks one last look behind, and disappears from sight. “The mother was crossing the river along with her two cubs. One of the cubs made it across and went its way climbing up. The other one, Lovely, was left frozen along the bank,” he said.

After the mother left, torn between her concern for the two cubs in opposing directions, the volunteers, along with representatives from the provincial wildlife department, took the cub to a nearby wildlife check post. A small fire was lit and goat’s milk was fed to the cub.

The next evening, officials from the Snow Leopard Foundation, including Hussain Ali, visited the site and inspected the snow leopard’s condition. “It was in good health,” said Ali. “We scanned the area and tried locating the tracks of the mother. The cub [inside the cage] was left outside for four to five hours in the hopes that the mother may come looking for her,” he said, adding that it didn’t work. “The local community and volunteers were extremely anxious that the cub would die if left on its own in the wild. Hence, there was no option but to keep it in captivity inside a sanctuary.”

Lovely isn’t the only case of a captured snow leopard living a lonely life. One prominent case is Leo, who currently resides in the Bronx Zoo in New York City. In 2005, Leo was recovered from a shepherd in Naltar Valley and moved temporarily to New York as part of a memorandum of understanding signed between the World Conservation Society and the Gilgit-Baltistan administration.

Another case is the tragic tale of snow leopard, Sohni, who died in captivity three years ago in a zoo in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Sohni was originally gifted to the son of Shahbaz Sharif, brother of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and had been living a life of isolation and neglect.

Lovely isn’t neglected, but she could be taken care of in a better way. If anything, her presence is a reminder that we have work to do when it comes to learning how to coexist with these big cats. As excited kids poke their fingers through the cage to get a reaction from Lovely and adults gather against the enclosure to pose for a selfie with her in the background, one can’t help but think about how circumscribed this beautiful creature’s life is here. When the numbers of her species are depleting for so many reasons, and little is known about those very numbers due to unchartered areas of research, Lovely stands as a reminder of the wild leopards we should strive to protect.

Haniya Javed

Haniya Javed is an independent reporter from Pakistan covering the environment, human rights, and labor migrations. She tweets @haniyajaved1.

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https://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/articles/entry/lovely-in-solitude/

The Beauty of Mother Nature

The Norwegian wolf is extinct

World Animals Voice

The wolves that live in Norway and Sweden today are actually Finns, as extensive studies of their genetic make-up have shown.

Hunters wiped out the original Norwegian wolf population in the wild around 1970.

Solitary gray wolf / grey wolf (Canis lupus) hunting in the snow in forest in winter -Norway

“The original Norwegian-Swedish wolves probably had no genetic similarities with today’s wolves in Norway and Sweden,” says Hans Stenøien, director of the University Museum of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).

Stenøien is the lead author of a new report that looks at the genetic makeup of the Norwegian-Swedish wolf population in much more detail than has previously been the case.

“We did the largest genetic study on wolves in the world,” says Stenøien.

This is part of an extensive report on the wolf in Norway commissioned by the Norwegian Parliament (Storting) in 2016.
But by that…

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Onlookers “Tag Along” with Southbound Swallow-tailed Kites

abcbirds.org

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

American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and partners are following the migratory journeys of three Swallow-tailed Kites to gather data that will help inform conservation measures across this bird’s range, to help assure a brighter future for the kites and their southeastern forest habitats. Photo by David Spates

(Washington, D.C., September 17, 2021) Swallow-tailed kite is one of North America’s most beautiful birds of prey, with distinctive black-and-white plumage, narrow wings spanning four feet, and a forked, elongated tail. Although the U.S. population of this migratory raptor is considered stable, it is much-reduced from numbers of the past. American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and partners are following the migratory journeys of three Swallow-tailed Kites to gather data that will help inform conservation measures across this bird’s range, to help assure a brighter future for the kites and their southeastern forest habitats.

ABC collaborated in June with International Paper and the Avian Research and Conservation Institute (ARCI) to successfully capture, tag, and release the three  kites near Georgetown, South Carolina. Other partners included Resource Management Service, Forest Investment Associates, and White Oak Forest Management.

Each bird was fitted with a GPS transmitter that will track its movements throughout the year. Swallow-tailed Kites are long-distance migratory birds, spending their spring and summer months in the southeastern U.S. and wintering in Central and South America.

“Since early spring, these kites were roosting, feeding, and nesting within the same working forest landscape where International Paper and other forest companies produce and procure the wood fiber that goes into many of the products we use every day,” says Emily Jo Williams, ABC’s Vice President for the Southeast Region.

“The data these birds provide will help us ensure that these sustainable working forest landscapes provide society with renewable forest products and critical habitat for Swallow-tailed Kites and a host of other wildlife species,” Williams says. ”We look forward to what the kites can tell us about their wintering grounds over the next few months, and to learn more when they return to the southeastern U.S. in spring 2022.”

A map of the tracked flight paths for three Swallow-tailed Kites that were successfully captured, tagged, and released through ABC’s collaboration with International Paper, Avian Research and Conservation Institute, Resource Management Service, Forest Investment Associates, and White Oak Forest Management.

Over the past two months, the team has been “watching” the three tagged birds, each carrying the name of its nesting location along with its GPS transmitter. As of September 2, all three kites departed breeding areas in South Carolina, traveled through Florida, and successfully crossed the Gulf of Mexico.

According to ARCI, the timing and tracks across the Gulf for these Swallow-tailed Kites are shaped by the prevailing winds of hurricanes and tropical storms that were active in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico at the time. These birds apparently can sense related changes in the atmosphere and respond by using favorable tailwinds to cross the open water as fast as possible.

“Despite all the tropical storm activity in late August and early September,” says Williams, “we have witnessed ‘textbook’ migration pathways used by our tagged Swallow-tailed Kites that have carried them across the Yucatán Channel and western Caribbean.”

The bird known as Carver’s Bay left Florida on August 13, crossed the Gulf for an astounding 41 hours before landing in southern Belize, and last checked in from Honduras on September 5. Big Branch left Florida on August 17, stopped over in Mexico, and is currently also in Honduras. Peters Creek was the last to leave South Carolina on August 30, traveling over Naples and the southern tip of Florida, stopping for a night in western Cuba, and then crossing to the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, where he arrived on September 2 and remains for now. As the birds continue into South America, they will have to traverse the Andes Mountains to finish their journey to wintering areas in Brazil and Bolivia.

You can follow along and keep track of these Swallow-tailed Kites at ARCI’s blog or on their Facebook page.

Read more about ABC’s and partners’ work with Swallow-tailed Kites here.

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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/onlookers-tag-along-with-southbound-swallow-tailed-kites/

New Search for Lost Birds Aims to Find Some of the Rarest Birds on Earth – American Bird Conservancy

Worldwide effort will support expeditions to find 10 birds that haven’t had a confirmed sighting in a decade or more

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

Pictured above are the top ten most wanted lost bird species, as designated by the collaboration that aims to find them. The Top 10 most wanted lost bird species, listed by row from left to right. Top: Himalayan Quail, Negros Fruit-Dove, Itwombwe Nightjar, Santa Marta Sabrewing. Middle: Vilcabamba Brushfinch, Siau Scops-Owl. Bottom: Jerdon’s Courser, Cuban Kite, Dusky Tetraka, South Island Kōkako. Illustrations © Lynx Edicions

(Washington, D.C., December 17, 2021) A new global search effort is calling on researchers, conservationists, and the global birdwatching community to help find 10 rare bird species that have been lost to science. The Search for Lost Birds is a collaboration of Re:wild, American Bird Conservancy (ABC), and BirdLife International, with data support from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and its eBird platform used by birders around the world. It’s an extension of Re:wild’s Search for Lost Species program, which launched in 2017 and has since rediscovered eight of its top 25 most wanted lost plant and animal species. As its name suggests, however, the Search for Lost Birds focuses exclusively on rediscovering enigmas in ornithology.

“During the past five years, since we launched the Search for Lost Species, our list of species that could be considered lost has grown to more than 2,000,” said Barney Long, Director for Conservation Strategies for Re:wild. “We never planned to look for all of them alone, but to encourage others to search and develop partnerships to help. Through this new partnership we’ll be able to get more targeted expeditions in the field. If we can find these lost birds, conservationists can better protect them from the threats they face.”

The Search for Lost Birds is hoping to harness the collective power of the global birdwatching community to help search for species on the top 10 most wanted lost birds list. Cornell’s eBird platform provides an example of what the global birding community can accomplish: eBird currently has more than 700,000 registered users who have collectively submitted more than 1 billion sightings of birds from around the world. However, none of those observations have included any of the top 10 most wanted lost birds.

None of the top 10 most wanted birds have had a documented sighting in the wild in at least 10 years, but they are not classified as “extinct” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The reasons behind their disappearances range from habitat destruction to invasive species. In a few cases, species may have gone missing simply because scientists don’t know where or how to look for them, or don’t have access to their habitats, which may be remote or in places that currently have travel restrictions. Many of the lost birds are native to areas that are rich in biodiversity, but also urgently need conservation efforts to protect their biodiversity.

“By working with partners and collaborators from around the world, the Search for Lost Birds hopes to engage the knowledge and expertise of the global birdwatching community to solve these conservation challenges,” said John C. Mittermeier, Director of Threatened Species Outreach at ABC. “By directly reporting sightings and information through eBird, birdwatchers and citizen scientists from anywhere in the world can help us find and learn more about these lost species.”

The 10 birds span five continents and a variety of groups of species, from hummingbirds to raptors. Some have recently been lost to science, while others have been lost for more than a century. Two species, the Siau Scops-Owl and the Negros Fruit-Dove, have only ever been documented once, when they were originally described in the mid-1800s and in 1953, respectively.

The top 10 most wanted lost birds are:

  • Dusky Tetraka, last documented in 1999 in Madagascar
  • South Island Kōkako, last seen in 2007 in New Zealand
  • Jerdon’s Courser, last seen in 2009 in India
  • Itwombwe Nightjar (or Prigogine’s Nightjar), last seen in 1955 in Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Cuban Kite, last seen in 2010 in Cuba
  • Negros Fruit-Dove, last seen in 1953 in the Philippines
  • Santa Marta Sabrewing, last seen in 2010 in Colombia
  • Vilcabamba Brushfinch, last seen in 1968 in Peru
  • Himalayan Quail, last seen in 1877 in India
  • Siau Scops-Owl, last seen in 1866 in Indonesia

Two expeditions, led by local and national partners and funded under the Search for Lost Birds partnership, are preparing to head into the field during the next year. The expeditions will focus on the Siau Scops-Owl in Indonesia and the Dusky Tetraka in Madagascar. Expeditions for other species are expected to be underway in the coming year as well.

The Siau Scops-Owl was last seen 155 years ago, when it was first described by science, but there have been unconfirmed reported sightings and calls of a bird that potentially matches the description of the owl during the past 20 years. Much of the forest where it was originally discovered has been destroyed, but given how challenging it can be to detect small forest owls, conservationists believe that there is a chance that a small and as-yet-overlooked population may still survive.

The Dusky Tetraka was last definitely seen in Madagascar 22 years ago; before that, there had been very few confirmed sightings of the species in the humid understory of the forests of eastern Madagascar.

One species on the list, the South Island Kōkako, has already been the focus of an on-going search. The South Island Kōkako Charitable Trust has been leading a community-driven search for the bird for the past 11 years, following up on possible sightings and reports of people hearing what sounds like the bird’s haunting call. They launched a public search campaign in 2017 that has drawn nearly 300 reports of possible encounters with a South Island Kōkako, which, in addition to historic reports, they have rated and mapped.

“We are optimistic that the Search for Lost Birds will lead to exciting rediscoveries, but ultimately it’s about conservation,” said Roger Safford, Senior Program Manager for Preventing Extinctions at BirdLife International. “We know that with good conservation efforts, species can be rescued from the brink of extinction, but only if we know where the last populations are. We hope these expeditions will capture people’s imaginations and catalyze conservation.”

ABC supports field expeditions to search for these species and works with partners to conserve rediscovered birds. For example, ABC is supporting Brazilian partners’ efforts to recover the population of the Blue-eyed Ground-Dove, rediscovered in Brazil in 2015.

Other recent rediscoveries of bird species have fueled hope that expeditions for the top 10 most wanted lost birds will be successful. An expedition in Colombia in March 2021 seeking the Sinú Parakeet, one of Re:wild’s top 25 most wanted lost species, didn’t find the parakeet, but did document dozens of species that had never before been recorded in Cordóba Department. In Indonesia, the Black-browed Babbler, a bird that had only had one documented sighting, was rediscovered after 170 years in February 2021. The data that expeditions for the Search for Lost Birds collect will be shared with eBird.

The Search for Lost Birds may also help bring to light previously overlooked records of some of the birds on the top 10 most wanted list that have not been fully documented or confirmed. The Search for Lost Birds will work to follow up on records that may have remained in biologists’ field notebooks and memories, and attempt to collect photographic confirmation that the species still exist. If those sightings can be confirmed, it could help conservation efforts for those species.

The rediscoveries of other lost birds have also led to conservation efforts that helped them recover from threats to their survival. The Madagascar Pochard in Madagascar is another example of a lost species that was once lost, but is now increasing in population thanks to conservation efforts following its rediscovery.

ABC would like to thank the Constable Foundation and the estate of Phyllis Brissenden for their support of the Lost Birds program.

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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).

BirdLife International is the world’s largest nature conservation Partnership: a global family of over 115 national NGOs covering all continents, landscapes and seascapes. BirdLife is driven by its belief that local people, working for nature in their own places but connected nationally and internationally through the global Partnership, are the key to sustaining all life on this planet. This unique local-to-global approach delivers high impact and long-term conservation for the benefit of nature and people.

Re:wild protects and restores the wild. We have a singular and powerful focus: the wild as the most effective solution to the interconnected climate, biodiversity and pandemic crises. Founded by a group of renowned conservation scientists together with Leonardo DiCaprio, Re:wild is a force multiplier that brings together Indigenous peoples, local communities, influential leaders, nongovernmental organizations, governments, companies and the public to protect and rewild at the scale and speed we need. Re:wild launched in 2021 combining more than three decades of conservation impact by Leonardo DiCaprio and Global Wildlife Conservation, leveraging expertise, partnerships and platforms to bring new attention, energy and voices together. Our vital work has protected and conserved over 12 million acres benefitting more than 16,000 species in the world’s most irreplaceable places for biodiversity. We don’t need to reinvent the planet. We just need to rewild it—for all wildkind. Learn more at rewild.org.

Copyright 2021 © American Bird Conservancy. All Rights Reserved. American Bird Conservancy is a 501(c)(3) organization. EIN: 52-1501259

https://abcbirds.org/article/top-10-most-wanted-lost-birds-2021/

Rise and Shine

Bald eagles dying ‘senseless deaths,’ Pennsylvania wildlife center says. Here’s why

news.yahoo.com

Julia Marnin

Bald eagles — America’s symbolic bird — are dying “senseless deaths,” a wildlife center in Pennsylvania is warning.

These birds of prey are dying from lead poisoning and have been for years.

“This was a rough year with lead toxicity in our adult bald eagles,” Centre Wildlife Care, a rescue service in Port Matilda in Centre County, wrote in a Dec. 6 Facebook post.

In 2021 alone, eight bald eagles were brought to the center suffering lead poisoning, and seven died.

This problem isn’t exclusive to Pennsylvania; millions of birds are affected each year, including bald eagles, by lead toxicity that is a “leading concern” for many species, according to the American Eagle Foundation.

Poisoning is brought on after birds of prey eat animal carcasses shot with lead ammo by hunters.

“All scavengers and humans are at risk of lead toxicity when consuming meat shot with lead ammo (bullets or pellets) especially the avian scavengers such as eagles, hawks and vultures,” Robyn Graboski, a spokesperson and wildlife rehabilitator for the center, told McClatchy News via email.

“We ask all hunters to use non-lead alternatives when hunting because hunters are our first conservationists.”

One bald eagle brought to the center died on Dec. 5 after it was caught in a leg trap for 10 days, the center said in the news release.

“Sadly, the infection caused by the trap injury complicated by lead poisoning was just too great to overcome. These losses hurt.”

“Simple acts like switching from lead ammo to copper and properly covering traps from aerial view can prevent these senseless deaths,” the center urged.

The bald eagle that recently died “was flying around at least 10 days with a leg hold trap attached to its foot,” Graboski said. “It was caught when it was too weak to fly.”

This eagle died on Dec. 5 after suffering from lead poisoning and infection.
This eagle died on Dec. 5 after suffering from lead poisoning and infection.

“When it arrived, it was thin, weak, dehydrated, anemic, exhausted, lost a toe, had a bacterial infection,” alongside “suffering from lead toxicity,” they added.

Lead poisoning causes a slow death that could last weeks for birds if it goes untreated, the center explains online.

Birds of prey “get lead poisoning through leftover gut piles, un-retrieved carcasses and varmint carcasses left in the field,” according to the center, as fragments of lead ammo “left in the tissue of carcasses” get ingested.

Additionally, the winged creatures can be poisoned from “lead tackle left behind in fish,” the center warns.

“When the lead hits the bird’s acidic stomach, it gets broken down and absorbed into their bloodstream where it can be distributed to tissues throughout their body,” according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

If a bird appears “weak, emaciated, and uncoordinated” and is having trouble walking, flying or moving at all, those are likely signs of lead poisoning, the commission said.

The birds also might suffer seizures, appear blind and refuse to eat anything.

“Bald eagles with lead poisoning often do not respond at all when approached,” the commission added.

It advises hunters to bury an animal’s carcass or gut pile if lead ammo is used.

“If the carcass or gut pile it too large to be removed from the environment, it can be buried or covered with debris to prevent scavengers from accessing the carcass and lead fragments,” according to the commission.

In 2014, Ed Clark, the president and co-founder of the Wildlife Center of Virginia, said in a news release by the American Bird Conservancy that lead poisoning in bald eagles “is not a new problem.”

“The question is not whether or not lead is causing the deaths of eagles and other wild animals; the real question is, what are we going to do about it?”

https://news.yahoo.com/bald-eagles-dying-senseless-deaths-200837291.html?soc_src=social-sh&soc_trk=tw&tsrc=twtr

RIP. Mopane 🦁

Guest opinion: Tester’s actions should reflect the truth on wolves

Wolf
Wolves in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem have stirred passionate debate between supporters and those who would like to see the animals removed from the landscape.

billingsgazette.com

STEPHEN CAPRA

This past year Montana’s governor and the Legislature, led by representative and trapper Paul Fielder from Thompson Falls, passed a series of reckless bills aimed at decimating the wolf population in our state, despite the fact we have record numbers of deer and elk requiring extra-long hunting seasons.

Testimony at the Legislature warned legislators that if they passed wolf slaughter bills, the federal government would intervene. Now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife is undertaking a 12-month review of the wolves’ status to determine relisting the wolves as endangered. Currently the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks — in desperate need of reform — has decided to allow anyone with a license to kill 20 wolves, 10 by shooting and 10 by trapping. Our state is sanctioning the torture and eradication of animals of tremendous intelligence and beauty. Destroying packs, which will lead to more livestock depredation, is designed to make wolves the cultural enemy.

But it’s not just Republicans who can hang their hat on this slaughter. If you examine the process, you can’t avoid seeing the handiwork of U.S. Sen. Jon Tester. It is Sen. Tester who moved to delist wolves and return them to state control in 2011, an effort that has proven to be a disaster. But Tester has long seen his tough reelections dependent on killing wolves, not thriving wildlife. His actions against wolves are a disgrace and deserve more sunshine and less double talk.

Many people I have spoken with believe wolf protection flows through the Interior Department. That is true to a certain extent, but it seems clear that the Interior Secretary would like to reinstate protections for wolves in Montana and Idaho. The problem seems to be coming from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an agency that will soon have as its director a person shepherded by Jon Tester — Martha Williams, former director of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Williams’ reign at FWP showed little support for wolves and more talk than action about moving the agency out of the stone age and into the real world of allowing species to be self-regulating. There was no action to curb the rampant power of the NRA and trophy hunting and trapping organizations that control the agency and directly fund its narrow mission.

Now, thanks to Tester, Williams will be appointed director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after only a few years in wildlife management. The reason is simple; Tester does not want wolves placed back in protection. Tester’s refusal to meet with constituents on this seems based on the mistaken belief that he understands the will of people across Montana on the issue of wolves.

Tester does not understand the love for, emotion and passion that people bring to the table in their support of wolves. His written responses to constituents are tone deaf to concerns. He ignores the financial power wolves generate for Montana.

It’s not easy to be hard on a senator who has done so much for Montana. His votes on infrastructure, health care and many important issues have been bold and important, but his efforts to stop the protection of wolves need to be challenged.

Wildlife is the real treasure of the Treasure State, and wolves are valuable not only economically and environmentally, but also for disease control. Chronic wasting disease and bovine tuberculosis are on the rise. Can we really afford to destroy wolves, the only known defense?

Most Montanans, including ranchers, find the wolf slaughter repugnant. The time has come for leadership that allows wolves to coexist.

Senator Tester, this is your chance to get right with wolves.

Stephen Capra is executive director of Footloose Montana.

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https://billingsgazette.com/opinion/columnists/guest-opinion-testers-actions-should-reflect-the-truth-on-wolves/article_8a9cecf1-109e-56df-9c7e-8390e49133b4.html?utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=user-share&fbclid=IwAR3M_zE_irM-gWLJKWtOqaxXJtzq1bEfY0aqUAfpoY9c7qRv4ZyQYNeLot8

Black-footed Albatross – American Bird Conservancy

abcbirds.org
Black-footed Albatross


Black-footed Albatross map, NatureServeThe Black-footed Albatross is the only one of its kind commonly seen off the North American coastline. It’s rather small as albatrosses go, but still impressive, with a six-foot wingspan. Its species name, nigripes, derives from two Latin words, niger meaning “black,” and pes meaning “foot.”

Although drift nets and longline fisheries remain constant threats, the Black-footed Albatross faces a gauntlet of newer challenges: invasive predators and introduced plants on nesting islands, ingestion of plastics, and climate change.

More than 95 percent of the world’s population of Black-footed Albatross nests in the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, with the largest colonies on Midway Atoll and Laysan Island. (Laysan is also home to the recently introduced Millerbird.) Although these islands are protected, they are vulnerable to the effects of sea-level rise and increased storm intensity.

 


Life over the Ocean

Black-footed Albatrosses are beautifully adapted for a life at sea and can remain airborne for hours, landing only on the water to rest or feed. Their specialized tubular noses (found among many seabirds, including Hawaiian Petrel and Newell’s Shearwater) filter salt, allowing the birds to drink seawater and giving them an excellent sense of smell.

This keen sense helps the albatross locate its prey over vast expanses of ocean. Favored foods include flying fish (both eggs and adults), squid, crustaceans, and offal thrown from ships.


They forage by seizing prey at the surface, up-ending to reach underwater, or diving short distances with wings partly spread.

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Faithful Partners, Devoted Parents

Like other albatross species, including Laysan and Waved, this bird is slow to mature, not breeding for until five years or older. It also has a low reproductive rate and mates for life.

Males are the first to arrive on the breeding grounds, where they re-claim the nest site that the bird and its partner may have used for many years. The strong pair bond shared by these birds is established and maintained through elaborate displays, including bowing, mutual preening, and head-bobbing.

The Black-footed Albatrosses’ nest, rebuilt each year, is a simple scrape in the sand, usually at or above the high-tide line in an open or sparsely vegetated area. Both birds build the nest and take turns incubating their single egg. If this egg is lost—whether to a predator or some other threat—the birds will not attempt to breed again until the following year.

Black-footed Albatross, Greg Lavaty

Black-footed Albatross in flight, showing its impressive six-foot wingspan. Photo by Greg Lavaty

For about 18 to 20 days after hatching, one parent broods and guards the nestling while other forages for food, switching off every day or two. The chick is fed by regurgitation by both parents until it fledges, at four to five months old.
Advocating for Black-footed Albatross

The Black-footed Albatross is included on the Watch List in the State of North America’s Birds 2016 report, which highlights species most in need of immediate conservation action.

ABC continues to advocate for Black-footed Albatross and other seabirds impacted by commercial fisheries. We also support legislation to ratify the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) by the United States. And we recently launched an interactive web-based tool to help fisheries avoid accidentally catching seabirds: fisheryandseabird.info.

ABC has also collaborated with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other partners to secure predator-free breeding habitat for seabirds on islands in Hawaii.

Donate to support ABC’s conservation mission!

Our weekly bird profiles provide an inside look at captivating species with video, birds calls, and fast facts dashboards.

https://abcbirds.org/bird/black-footed-albatross/

Hearing Update – Wild Horse Education

Wild Horse Education

EFFECTIVE ADVOCATES FOR PUBLIC LANDS, PUBLIC HORSES

Sunday, November 14th, 2021|

Hearing Update

By Laura Leigh on

This article is an updated version of the action we asked you to begin last February; push for a real hearing into The BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program to address the underlying corruption that continues to derail any attempt at actual management.

We have gotten word that it is very likely we will see some type of Congressional hearing into the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program. 

A “hearing” is only as effective as what Congress “hears” and from whom.  We must delve into the corruption the program sits on, the same corrupt hands will drive the program.

We continue to INVITE you to read the following action item and, if you agree with what we are asking for, send it to your representatives. We are asking that a real hearing, not one stacked with those that participated in “Ten Years to AML,” give testimony. (Always read the actual action item you are signing. Many “sign-on letters” use lead in lines that mislead you on what you are actually sending. A lead in might talk about abuse at roundups, low population levels, livestock damage. However, the action item might just say “increase immunocontraception” without including any of the items in the lead-in. Read all action items before you sign.)

The letter is a simple click and send.  You can participate CLICK HERE.

After you send your letter, call your representatives. 

Pigeon fever in holding, 2021. Sick young colt in the stud pen trying to hold his own and survive disease. 

Until we begin to address the flagrant and intentional minimization of the wild horse/burro as a public resource to suit industry, nothing will change. Industry will accept any form of population growth suppression from removal, fertility control, slaughter. They wont even accept actual terminology for management of a living creature like ” preserving critical habitat.”

Will that hearing be hijacked by the “Path Forward” participants as it was before? (you can read the original “Ten Years to AML” HERE, later renamed “Path Forward”). It is highly probable that the hearing will again be populated with the same big dollar faces as the last hearing; many of whom claim to be on-ground, involved in fights they never participated in but observed from afar, and misleading Congress and the public that fertility control diminishes need for capture. In fact, in some areas it increases the “chopper in the air” to capture simply to retreat wild horses with a substance. (Owyhee is an example of an operation to “maintain AML and increase immunocontraception.” At Owyhee 2021, 27 wild horses died.)

Since that hearing, BLM incorporated the “Path Forward” into the 2020 plan. Congress increased funding. In 2021, we saw additional funding proposed for “grants” to fund capture, fertility control. (We wanted to do water and range improvements and were told they were accepting proposals for capture, fertility control and “adoptions.”)

We have seen the year that includes the largest number of wild horses/burros captured since the 1971 Act was passed. This was done following the 2020 plan to maintain AML and increase fertility control. Places like Surprise, that have not been captured in a decade, were also on the list to “maintain AML and increase immunocontraception;” 21 died at Surprise.

Electric shock used to speed up loading. Wild horses do not like the cattle chute with overhead bars used by this contractor (not an equine chute). Instead of BLM requiring this contractor use equipment designed for equines, wild horses face the “hot shot.”

While fertility control may be a valid tool of management, only after it is actually justified by range data evaluated in as Herd Management Area Plan (HMAP), it is not management. Skipping a Herd Management Area Plan (HMAP) and jumping right to a “gather plan” is gutting the public out of any conversation surrounding management and making a mockery of the pretense of actually managing wild horses as part of a system of interlocking management plans. Wild horses are simply removed to an AML created, employed, purported, based on the management plans for everyone BLM actually serves.

The following is from the article we published at the beginning of this legislative session to explain why we are asking you to ask for a hearing. This information can also aide you as you address your legislators. PLEASE remember asking for “more immunocontraception” first (or only) might be an easy thing to do, but it solidifies the notion in the minds of your reps that “overpopulation” is the problem. Doing that? buys you another year like just 2021. We will also see an acceleration of everything you have seen in 2021, in 2022. Congress is set to throw additional funding into the “2020 plan” to increase, essentially, what you have just seen at Owyhee, for the 2022 budget. The 2023 budget debate begins in about 45 days. 

The following article explains why we are asking you to take the action asking for a hearing and the type of hearing we want you to ask for. Info taken from an article published with the original alert. 

Wild horses are a multifaceted public lands resource, creating the necessity for a multifaceted approach to advocating for them. 

When dealing with legislators (when you call or write a letter) and asking for them to vote on a bill, like it or not, you have entered the ring of politics. Just like commenting on an EA for a proposed roundup, you need to know the terrain and be specific in the words you choose.

click to download pdf

A good place to start educating your legislators (for the next budget debate beginning in January) is the “BLM Report to Congress from 2020.” (If you have not read that report you can see it here.)

In 2018 Congress rejected what BLM had presented and requested a new report. The 2020 report did not get as much “push back” as the 2018 report as those urging Congress to obligate the taxpayer to buy a single substance (PZP) were very effective at getting the public to push simply for that substance. In 2020 Congress gave BLM a bit over 15 million  in additional funds to implement “non-lethal” population growth suppression tools in 2021. In 2021 they have added another $11 million.

The 2020 report (plan) still stands as the agency baseline for the budget debate today. The debate has essentially ended for 2022. The 2023 debate begins January 2022.  (please remember the federal government works on a fiscal year that begins in Oct; fiscal 2022 begins Oct 2021).

Page 1-8 of the “BLM 2020 plan” is essentially a press release that repeats the copy/paste of their interpretation of their authority, a copy/paste of the beginning of almost every roundup that repeats assertions of range data and incorporates the “Ten Years to AML” backdoor deal with large corporate interests that was run, without public input or scrutiny, since 2015.

Not until we get to page 9, does BLM begin to present any assertion of a report based on how they prioritize and fund the program:

  1. Removals (2.5 pages)
  2. Population Growth Suppression, including sterilization (3 pages)
  3. Private Care Placement, the new name for adoption/sale (2 pages)
  4. Euthanasia (1 sentence)
  5. Sale Without Limits, slaughter (1 sentence)
  6. Off-Range Corrals, or Long-Term Holding (4 pages)
  7. Resource Monitoring (1/2 page)
  8. Population Survey (1/2 page)
  9. Herd Management Area Plan Development (1/2 page)
  10. Research (1/2 page)
  11. Rangeland Restoration and Rehabilitation (1/2 page)
  12. Oversight (2 sentences)

Then, on page 24, we are presented with a couple of paragraphs in a “Conclusory” statement that continues to present photos without context. If you had the context of every single picture BLM uses in this report you would see the failures run deep in field offices that have used “blame the horse and remove” for 50 years.

When you get “push back” talking to you representatives aides? we suggest you bring up the report. 16 pages. 16 pages is what BLM presented to Congress on the entire workings program wide. 16 pages is what this administration is continuing to base “management” practices on. 16 pages written by multi-million dollar corporate lobbyists in an “agreement.” 

However, without even reading any of the content you can see why the program has failed. Roundups, and population growth suppression, are the last phase of on-range management, yet, BLM always prioritizes remove and stockpile.  Oversight and management planning for our herds should come first and  provide the most in-depth information to base every other item on this list. Management planning creates the baseline for all other actions and oversight of planning and executed actions makes sure that the agency operates with transparency and inclusivity.

Simply changing the order of current priorities, making Oversight and HMAPs the fist step, the program could begin to move out of the mistakes of the past that have led to an absurd program that is fiscally irresponsible to the taxpayer and morally bankrupt to the public interest and resource (wild horses are a public resource under law, not a permitted use for private profit).

As a result of this report, and those “in the deal,” for 2021 spending Congress simply awarded BLM an additional $15 million to utilize “non-lethal” population growth suppression.

Video we did to help you understand a bit about why the HMAP sitting at the bottom of the current priority list, is absurd. Without a plan, the rest is based on assertion, highly corruptible and bound to fail. (more here)  https://videopress.com/embed/MnrO8O0P?hd=1&cover=1&loop=0&autoPlay=0&permalink=1

There was no hearing on the merits of the report, nothing. We did not have a hearing because the big corporate groups had the public bombarding Congress as they simply asked for more funding for fertility control. All of he funding was based on the assertions in the 2020 report and those assertions solidified as the focus became “population suppression tools.”

The debate for spending in 2022 has already kicked off. That debate leaves off where the last one stood; all of it begins with accepting the assertions and lack of actual data in the 2020 report. 

When the Department of Interior handed Congress a report on two National Monuments in New Mexico, Senator Martin Heinrich grilled BLM on that report.

The report was not about the entire National Monument system, as the report on wild horses and burros is. The report on wild horses is not about a couple of HMAs, it is about the entire program.  https://www.youtube.com/embed/ljW9R_4qNoA?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en-US&autohide=2&start=4&wmode=transparent

John Ruhs, former NV State Director now serving as the Deputy Director of BLM, says he was not involved with crafting the report on the two monuments when pressed by Senator Heinrich.

However, Ruhs was deeply involved with the “Ten Years to AML” crowd, the off-limits to the public “Utah Summit” and both the 2018 and 2020 reports on the Wild Horse and Burro Program.

When Ruhs was quickly whisked out of the Deputy chair after this hearing, and sent to be the Director of BLM in Idaho, former Chief of Chris Stewart, Brian Steed, took his place. Stewarts office ran the “Ten Years to AML” (later called Path Forward) backdoor corporate deal with Steed as his Chief of Staff.

Wild horses are tied DIRECTLY to the National Monument Agenda. In fact, they appear first on the “wish list” of those pushing the agenda. (you can read the timeline of the context of the above schedule memo in an article we wrote in 2019, HERE.)

Why didn’t anyone in Congress grill BLM over their report on wild horses? The factual errors are just as egregious as those in the report on the 2 National Monuments. The public deserves more from Congress than simply bending to the will of well-funded corporate lobbyists that all benefit from the subsidized programs created by the agency.

We INVITE you to read the following action item and, if you agree with what we are asking for, send it to your representatives. We are asking that a real hearing, not one stacked with those that participated in “Ten Years to AML,” give testimony. 

The letter is a simple click and send.  You can participate, CLICK HERE.

After sending your letter, we urge you to call your Congressional representative HERE.

We need real change. We can not get real change if we base it in fiction or simply create change to suit what industry will accept. This is not management, it is politics. Politics that are destroying the range and your wild horse and burro herds. 


Help keep us in the field, in the courts and in the fight. Our teams need your support. 

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Our WHEStorefront added a new collection, including a calendar, in time for the holidays. You can see the new collection HERE.  

You can support WHE on Amazon Smile as you shop by choosing Wild Horse Education as your charity of choice.

You can get your ticket for our virtual Zoom event; including a special guest and a “question and answer” portion. More HERE. https://videopress.com/embed/LiwYskrU?hd=1&cover=1&loop=0&autoPlay=0&permalink=1


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Piping Plover

Piping Plover map, NatureServe

abcbirds.org

The small, sand-colored Piping Plover, named for its melodic, plaintive whistle, is a bird of beaches and barrier islands, sharing this habitat with Least Terns, Black Skimmers, and Wilson’s Plovers.

Beaches are also popular with people, and their impacts have caused serious declines in Piping Plover populations. Shoreline development and stabilization projects, free-roaming cats and other predators, poorly sited wind turbines, gas/oil industry operations, and global warming are some of the biggest threats to this species.

Beach Sprites

Piping Plovers resemble wind-up toys as they dart along the beach in search of food, taking a wide variety of insects, marine worms, and crustaceans. They nest in small depressions in the sand called scrapes and often nest in the same area with Least Terns.

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Like many other plover species, adult Piping Plovers employ a “broken wing display” when threatened to draw attention to themselves and away from their chicks and nest.

Piping Plover chick, Venu Challa

Piping Plover chick by Venu Challa

Saving the Piping Plover

The Piping Plover is federally listed as Endangered in the Great Lakes region and Threatened in the remainder of its U.S. breeding range; it’s also listed as Endangered in Canada. The Great Lakes population is on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List.

Critical Piping Plover nesting habitats are now protected to help the species during its breeding season. Populations have seen significant increases since the protection programs began, but the species remains in danger. For example, at popular Jones Beach near New York City, nesting Piping Plovers are threatened by a colony of feral cats. ABC is urging authorities to remove the cats for the safety of this federally protected species.

ABC is also leading a Gulf Coast conservation effort that is working to identify and implement protective measures for vulnerable beach-nesting birds and other birds, such as the Piping Plover, that winter there. Strategies include preservation of plover habitats; public education; limiting off-road vehicle (ORV) traffic; and limiting predation of free-roaming cats and dogs.

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https://abcbirds.org/bird/piping-plover/

Hawaiian Common Gallinule (‘Alae ‘Ula)

abcbirds.org

Like the ‘Io (Hawaiian Hawk) and ‘Ua‘u (Hawaiian Petrel), the Alae ‘Ula, or Hawaiian Common Gallinule, is revered in folklore. According to legend, this bird brought fire from the gods to the people, burning its white forehead red in the process. In fact, its Hawaiian name, Alae ‘Ula, means “burnt forehead!”

The ‘Alae ‘Ula is one of 12 subspecies of Common Gallinule, which is found worldwide. (It differs slightly from the more familiar Common Gallinule in having a reddish blush on the front of its legs and a more extensive facial shield.)

The Hawaiian Common Gallinule was once found throughout the Hawaiian archipelago, but now occurs only on the islands of Kaua‘i and O‘ahu—mainly due to loss of habitat and invasive species such as domestic cats.

Hawaiian Common Gullinule map, ABC
Surveying a Subspecies

‘Alae ‘Ula are territorial and defend an area of wetland ranging from a quarter-acre to a half-acre. Although not as secretive as other members of the rail family, such as the elusive Black Rail, this gallinule’s preferred habitat—dense aquatic vegetation—can complicate efforts to accurately estimate its population size.

Both sexes appear similar, although males are larger, and both give voice to chicken-like cackles and croaks. The birds cannot fly for about 25 days each year during their molting period, usually from June-September, which increases their vulnerability to predation.


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Feeding Behind a Shield

The ‘Alae ‘Ula’s striking red frontal shield is thought to protect its face as the bird forages through dense vegetation for grasses, seeds, mollusks, and aquatic insects and their larvae. The shield may also be used in courtship display and territorial defense.

‘Alae ‘Ula are opportunistic feeders. They may take food from the water’s surface, dip or dive underwater, or turn over aquatic vegetation as they seek prey.

Platform Nesting

‘Alae ‘Ula can nest year-round, but the majority of nesting occurs from March to August and may depend on suitable water levels. This bird’s platform-style nest is built from twigs, stems, and leaves, with the male collecting materials and the female arranging them at the nest site. The parents frequently incorporate a ramp on one side to allow chicks to easily clamber in and out.

Hawaiian Common Gallinule, Michael Walther

Hawaiian Common Gallinule by Michael Walther

Female gallinules lay a clutch of around five eggs, which hatch after two to three weeks of incubation by both sexes. Like Wilson’s Plover and Piping Plover chicks, ‘Alae ‘Ula hatchlings are precocial: They can walk and swim within a few hours of hatching. However, they depend on their parents for protection and food for several more weeks.

Rekindling the Fire-bringer

The Hawaiian Common Gallinule was listed as Endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1967; it’s also listed as endangered at the state level. The filling, dredging, and draining of wetlands in Hawai’i has greatly reduced the amount of habitat available for the gallinule, limiting their distribution and abundance.

Introduced predators such as cats, mongooses, bullfrogs, and turtles are another problem for the ground-feeding birds. And climate change, particularly rising sea level, threatens the  species’ low-lying coastal habitat.

ABC recently joined with several partner groups to ask Congress to support a new conservation effort in Hawai‘i that would provide increased funding for endangered endemic birds. Together with our partners, we’re undertaking many other conservation efforts to help prevent extinction of Hawaiian birds.


https://abcbirds.org/bird/hawaiian-common-gallinule/

A Win For Animal Protection

Senate Drops Rider Exempting Greater Sage-Grouse from Endangered Species Act – American Bird Conservancy

Bald Eagle, Agustin Esmoris, Shutterstock

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

Today, the Senate approved removal of a rider that had stifled conservation efforts for rapidly declining Greater Sage-Grouse. Photo by Vivek Khanzode

(Washington, D.C., October 18, 2021) The Senate FY 22 Interior Appropriations bill released today excludes a provision exempting protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for the once-abundant but now rapidly declining Greater Sage-Grouse. The House of Representatives has already passed an Interior bill without the rider. Conservation groups are urging that the rider remain out of the final spending agreement.

“Our thanks to Senators Jeff Merkley and Patrick Leahy for showing exemplary conservation leadership by excluding the sage-grouse rider from the Interior bill,” said Steve Holmer, Vice President of Policy for American Bird Conservancy (ABC). “This exemption has been in place for nearly seven years. It’s time to once again give the grouse the possibility of ESA protection and the safety net it deserves.”

The Greater Sage-Grouse is the keystone species of sagebrush habitat in the American West. Conserving the grouse also supports 350 other species of conservation concern, including the Pronghorn, Pygmy Rabbit, Mule Deer, native trout, and nearly 200 migratory and western bird species.

As many as 16 million Greater Sage-Grouse once occurred across 297 million acres of sagebrush grasslands in the West. Today, the sagebrush biome and grouse populations continue to decline. Sage-grouse habitat is less than half of what it once was, diminished by invasive species, roads, overgrazing, mining, energy development, agricultural conversion, and fires. The grouse’s populations have declined 80 percent range-wide since 1965 and nearly 40 percent since 2002.

“A recent U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) study provides an excellent resource to understand the magnitude of Greater Sage-Grouse loss, as well as the likelihood that grouse populations will continue to decline,” said Holmer. “It also shows that the species’ range will continue to contract absent substantial new conservation measures.”

The USGS report indicates that current management plans and other regulatory mechanisms are not sufficient to arrest the grouse’s ongoing decline, and that additional conservation measures are needed to stabilize the population.

“Efforts to revive the National Greater Sage-Grouse Planning Strategy can best be accomplished, and will have a greater chance of success, if the Endangered Species Act listing moratorium is ended,” said Holmer.

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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).

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https://abcbirds.org/article/sage-grouse-rider-dropped-by-senate/

Ojibwe tribes, conservationists suing state over November wolf hunt

www.weau.com

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) – November is two weeks away, and with the new month comes the start of Wisconsin’s wolf hunt. But this hunt comes as a concern to conservationists and indigenous people after hunters exceeded the established wolf hunting quota last year.

In February, Wisconsin hosted its first legal wolf hunt in decades after gray wolves were removed from the endangered species list. But in the first several hours of the hunt, hunters killed nearly 100 more wolves than they were allotted. Now, the Ojibwe and conservations are suing the state to stop this year’s hunt all together.

Both groups allege the state Department of Natural Resources does not know the exact population of gray wolves, making it impossible to set a kill quota.

“There’s too much uncertainty in the wolf population count to be able to proceed,” said Michelle Lute, a National Carnivore Conservation Manager for Project Coyote — one of the conservation groups involved in the lawsuit.

The Natural Resources Board originally approved a quota of 300 wolves for the November hunt, but the DNR has the final say. On Oct. 5, the DNR approved a quota of 130 wolves for the hunt. But given last year’s runaway killings, the tribes and conservationists want to stop thsi year’s hunt all together.

“We have filed a motion for preliminary injunction,” explained Gussie Lord, a managing attorney for Earthjustice — who is representing the six Ojibwe tribes in Wisconsin. “We are asking the federal court to stop the federal wolf hunt.”

Not only is the hunt a violation of the tribes’ off-reservation treaty rights, Lord says the Ojibwe also have a cultural and spiritual interest in protecting the state’s wolf population.

“The Ojibwe believe that what happens to the gray wolf happens to the Ojibwe,” Lord said. “What happens to the wolf happens to humanity. And so it’s important for the wolf to be healthy and regain its place in the landscape in Wisconsin.”

NBC15 reached out the DNR twice for an interview, but they declined to comment on the lawsuits.

According to the Associated Press, the DNR policy board voted not to hire outside attorneys during a closed session meeting.

https://www.weau.com/2021/10/19/ojibwe-tribes-conservationists-suing-state-over-november-wolf-hunt/

Victory for owls, plus new climate advocacy

Great gray owl
WELC Logo

Victory for great gray owls and forests in Oregon!
We won a recent victory for forests and great gray owls in Oregon. The Griffin Half Moon timber project would have logged more than 900 acres home to perhaps the largest and most well-known population of great gray owls in southwest Oregon. We successfully argued the Bureau of Land Management’s assessment did not consider the effects of logging on this at-risk owl. We are elated to have protected not only the forest, but also this iconic owl.

Colorado

Opposing the Biden administration’s plans to offer 734,000 acres of public lands to oil and gas
We filed formal legal objections to the Biden administration’s plans to offer 734,000 acres of public lands for oil and gas leasing. Oil and gas in the proposed leases contain up to 246 million tons of climate pollution, as much as 62 coal-fired power plants emit in one year. Public lands should be off limits for leasing because of the government’s failure to assess and avoid harm to land, water, communities, and endangered species from the fossil fuel industry’s climate pollution. In January, the Biden administration paused new oil and gas leasing pending a review of the program, yet since then has approved more than 2,800 new permits to drill. Learn More

NewMexico

Fossil-fueled hydrogen in New Mexico is a climate threat, not a solution
WELC and other New Mexico community, environmental, and justice organizations warned state and federal lawmakers of the risks of diving head-first into fossil-fueled hydrogen projects. Our letter provides guidance on the safeguards that must be enacted before hydrogen projects are considered in the San Juan Basin, and New Mexico more broadly. Hydrogen from fossil gas presents significant climate and health dangers. New Mexico must prioritize climate legislation to light the pathway to benefit all of New Mexico’s workers and families. We cannot drill our way out of the climate emergency. Further, hydrogen is a risky bet of taxpayer resources that would further entrench the power of fossil fuel corporations. Learn More Your support makes all our work possible. Thank you!

Donate Now

Western Environmental Law Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to defending the western U.S. Donations are tax-deductible as allowable by law. WELC does not rent, sell, or trade your contact information. Photo credits iStock.com: Owl by /mirceax, Colorado by /AndrewSoundarajan, New Mexico by /Dean_Fikar.

https://myemail.constantcontact.com/Victory-for-owls–plus-new-climate-advocacy.html?soid=1102253797647&aid=Doj9SNIdI1k

Biden administration defends Wildlife Services’ killing of eight wolf pups in Idaho

Wolf pups. Photo by Carter Niemeyer.

wildearthguardians.org

BOISE, IDAHO—The Biden administration has defended the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services’ actions in Idaho after the agency preemptively killed eight wolf pups from Idaho’s Timberline pack in response to complaints from a rancher grazing livestock on public lands.

“Killing these wolf pups was inhumane, unscientific, and indefensible,” said Joe Bushyhead with WildEarth Guardians. “Wolves face enough persecution in Idaho already at the hands of the state. The Biden administration should not be using federal resources to make a bad situation even worse.”

“We are shocked that the Biden administration condones the slaughter of weeks-old wolf pups on public lands at the behest of private livestock interests,” said Talasi Brooks of Western Watersheds Project. “Wolves–especially wolf pups–pose no significant threat to livestock.”

Conservation groups learned that Wildlife Services started pursuing the pack in May when an agent killed the first three pups at the densite. The agency killed five more pups over the next two months. Conservation groups urged USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to stop Wildlife Services from slaughtering weeks-old wolves on public lands. In yesterday’s letter, Secretary Vilsack rejected the request, responding that killing wolf pups is a “humane management option.”

“The mission of Wildlife Services ‘to improve the coexistence of people and wildlife’, not killing defenseless puppies in their den, especially when there are so many effective nonlethal alternatives,” said Suzanne Asha Stone, director of the International Wildlife Coexistence Network based in Idaho. “We are deeply disappointed in this administration’s response.”

High school students at Timberline High School in Boise were devastated when they learned that Wildlife Services killed the Timberline pack’s pups. The school adopted the pack as its mascot when the school was founded in 1998.

“It’s disheartening to see the USDA justifying killing our pack’s innocent pups as ‘humane management.’ The data from Idaho’s Wood River Wolf Project study should’ve been enough to persuade politicians of the efficacy of nonlethal methods, yet the USDA and Biden administration continue to practice inaction”, said Michel Liao, Timberline High School student. “It’s this very passivity that’s allowing people to eradicate all the pups from Timberline High School’s wolf pack this year on our public lands. It must stop.”

“We tell our students that science is key in wildlife management, yet scientific evidence tells us that killing or disturbing stable wolf packs leads to more livestock conflicts, not less and it undermines our native ecosystems,” said Dick Jordan, Timberline High School science advisor. “We expect more from the Biden administration and our Department of Agriculture. Killing wolf pups is not humane by any sense of the word. And doing so while Idaho is working to eradicate its wolf population is supporting the state’s new war on wolves.”

Yet, the Secretary’s letter yesterday confirms that Wildlife Services will continue these unscientific and inhumane activities.

“All wolf killing is predicated on a lie that wolves cause significant livestock deaths,” said Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense.  “They don’t. Wolves cause only a fraction of a percent of livestock deaths.  And here Secretary Vilsack is compounding the travesty of this misnamed USDA program called ‘Wildlife Services’ by defending the killing of even pups. It is painfully obvious that Wildlife Services has fully embraced the cruel and self-serving demands of ranchers in Idaho. Americans should be outraged.”

“It’s disturbing to see state and federal officials openly supporting the killing of wolf pups. There is no scientific rationale for such barbaric measures,” said Andrea Zaccardi, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “With its new laws clearly intended to decimate our wolf population, it seems that with Idaho’s war against wolves, there are no limits to the state’s cruelty.”

“The Biden’s Administration’s response to our groups’ concerns was alarming, and the action that the administration stands behind is hideous,” said Katie Bilodeau with Friends of the Clearwater. “There are non-lethal wolf-predation deterrents that scientific testing has shown to be effective. Instead, federal and state officials chose the extreme and dubious alternative of killing pups in hopes that the parents would leave. We are grieved at the inhumane violence that federal and state officials dealt towards a social, family-based species like the wolf.”

https://wildearthguardians.org/press-releases/biden-administration-defends-wildlife-services-killing-of-eight-wolf-pups-in-idaho/

I guess one is too many because they’re endangered!

The Majestic Duo

Great News! New Jersey’s Bear Hunt is Cancelled!


Black bears have been spared from violent deaths in New Jersey! The bloody, highly controversial annual hunts will not take place this year, and signs point to non-lethal management techniques moving forward.  

The ​​New Jersey Fish and Game Council updated the state’s Comprehensive Black Bear Management Plan (CBBMP), which required a signature of approval from the Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner, Shawn M. LaTourette. Without his signature on the updated plan, the Fish and Game Council could not schedule a bear hunt. The updated CBBMP expired on June 21, 2021, therefore no bear hunts are allowed in the state in 2021. 

DEP Commissioner LaTourette was appointed by Gov. Phil Murphy, who has publicly denounced the killing of bears for sport, and has emphasized “developing a new black bear policy that promotes public safety and welfare while protecting important wildlife with a focus on non-lethal management techniques.”

We applaud New Jersey for this shift toward the humane treatment of bears, and hope this decision serves as an example for additional states. Congratulations, New Jersey!

https://www.idausa.org/campaign/wild-animals-and-habitats/latest-news/new-jersey-bear-hunt/

‘Like nothing in my lifetime’: researchers race to unravel the mystery of Australia’s dying frogs

A white-lipped tree frog

Show captionA white-lipped tree frog. Scientists are trying to unravel the cause of thousands of frog deaths in eastern Australia. Photograph: Liam Driver/Newspix / Rex FeaturEnvironmental investigations

amp.theguardian.com

Lisa Cox

After asking for public help with their investigations, scientists have received thousands of reports and specimens of dead, shrivelled frogs

In the middle of Sydney’s lockdown, scientist Jodi Rowley has been retrieving frozen dead frogs from her doorstep.

Occasionally one will arrive dried and shrivelled up in the post.

She’ll pack them in ice in an esky to be taken to her lab at the Australian Museum, where even more samples – green tree frogs, striped marsh frogs and the invasive cane toad among them – are waiting in a freezer for genetic testing.

Rowley and her team, along with scientists at the Australian Registry of Wildlife Health at Taronga zoo and a forensic unit in the NSW department of planning, industry and environment, are trying to solve the mystery of what is killing Australia’s frogs.

Since late July, they’ve collected 1,200 records of dead or dying frogs, about 70% of them in New South Wales and 22% in Queensland.

“I know we’re dealing with our own pandemic but frogs are also dealing with a pandemic and whatever is going on right now is awful,” Rowley said.

“It’s like nothing in my lifetime that I’m aware of.”

One of the shrivelled frogs Jodi Rowley has been sent

One of the shrivelled frogs Australia Museum researcher Jodi Rowley has been sent. Photograph: Carly Earl/The Guardian

‘It’s really broken our hearts’

Rowley, a conservation biologist specialising in amphibians, is the lead scientist at the Australian Museum’s FrogID, a citizen science project that for the past four years has focused largely on recording the calls of Australia’s many frog species.

But its work shifted after Rowley did an ABC radio interview in late July to talk about dead green tree frogs that were being found around Scotts Head on the NSW mid north coast.

After that, Rowley started receiving emails about frogs in similar condition being found in other parts of the country.

A week later she and Karrie Rose, the head of Australian Registry of Wildlife Health, wrote a piece for the Conversation that asked people who spotted sick or dying amphibians to make a report through the FrogID email.

They received 160 emails in 24 hours. That’s grown to more than 2,000 since.

“It’s been quite devastating to be at the receiving end of some of these emails. I can only imagine how hard it is for the people out there who are seeing these frogs.”

Rowley at work in her lab

Rowley at work in her lab. Photograph: Carly Earl/The Guardian

One of those reports came from Yvonne Hulbert, who runs a bed and breakfast on an acreage on Macleay Island near Brisbane, where there is a thriving frog population.

Over the past few months they’ve found browning and dead frogs along their properties.

“They go a fawny beige colour then turn brown. They seem to get dry and they become emaciated and then shrivel and become skeletons,” Hulbert said.

“We recognise the same frogs and they just decline in health and size and eventually their eyes dull and they just die. It’s really sad.”

Gail Wilson-Lutter and her husband have lived in Meerschaum Vale in the NSW northern rivers for 36 years. Every night frogs would come into the kitchen via a gap in the roof.

“We keep what we call the frog-cuzzi, a little pool for them to swim in, and we love having them here because they kill spiders and pests.”

But in recent months, Wilson-Lutter noticed frogs were leaving loose skin in their little pool and others were changing colour or turning up dead.

“It’s really broken our hearts, because we love our frogs,” Wilson-Lutter says.

Too early to draw conclusions

Over the past two-and-a-half months, the scientists have collected reports of 31 different species affected in almost every state and territory.

Of those, 30 species are native – including endangered frogs such as green and golden bell frogs, southern bell frogs and the giant barred frog. The one invasive species is the cane toad.

Sixty per cent of the frogs found are green tree frogs, something likely explained by the fact they are a common species found in and around people’s homes.

The frogs that are found alive are often lethargic and emaciated, with red bellies and coloured patches on their skin.

When frogs die, they shrivel up quickly, so many have been found dark brown and withered.

Jane Hall at the Australian Registry of Wildlife Health at Taronga zoo

Jane Hall at the Australian Registry of Wildlife Health at Taronga zoo. Photograph: Carly Earl/The Guardian

“It’s exquisitely difficult to work with frogs because they decompose so quickly and are a cryptic species – meaning they’re difficult to find,” says Jane Hall, who works with Rose at the Australian Registry of Wildlife Health at Taronga zoo.

The two scientists have been conducting necropsies on frog carcasses at a pathology facility at Taronga zoo that acts as a morgue and a lab.

They dissect the frogs, looking for any indicators of disease, and take samples from their liver, kidneys, blood and stomach content if they have any.

Over at the Australian Museum, Rowley and her team are looking at the animals on a molecular level.

Much like a Covid-19 test, they swab the frogs – usually on their belly and legs – and also take a small skin sample. They then run DNA tests looking for pathogens that might indicate a virus or a fungus.

At present, the number one candidate for what has caused the mass mortality event is chytrid fungus, which has been responsible for declines of more than 500 amphibian species globally.

It is more likely to take hold during winter months, when frogs’ immune systems slow down.

Some of the tests have returned a positive result, but Rowley and Hall both say it is too early to draw conclusions.

Covid-19 lockdowns have also hampered the ability to do investigations in the field.

The freezer containing some of the samples Jodi Rowley has been sent

The freezer containing some of the samples Jodi Rowley has been sent. Photograph: Carly Earl/The Guardian

The researchers are working with a network of vets around Australia, some of whom are storing frozen frogs until they can be delivered after the lockdowns.

Others will conduct a basic necropsy and keep the rest of the carcass in a fixative to be examined microscopically later on.

Friends and family members are also storing frozen frogs that have been dropped in mailboxes by people from their communities.

Separately, a forensic team is running toxicology tests looking for things like pesticides, heavy metals or other environmental toxins.

There has been widespread pesticide use as a result of the recent mouse plague. Hall says it is unlikely to be the cause, but it needs to be ruled out.

When the lockdowns end, the scientists will have more access to more samples and locations to expand their work, do targeted surveys, and build a larger syndromic picture to work out what the common threads are.

If it is chytrid fungus, Rowley says it would be the largest such mortality event in Australia in more than a decade.

“The question then becomes why would it be impacting so much more now?” she says.

“Whether it’s to do with climate, the very cold winter, or it’s interacting with another stressor such as not enough food or pollution. It could be a new strain or something from overseas.”

Hall says there is no better example of how a pathogen can change than the current pandemic.

“Pathogens are always looking for ways they can improve how they work and move in animals,” she says.

“Chytrid can change, so we want to see if it’s the chytrid our frogs are used to being exposed to or if it’s a different kind of chytrid.”

She says another important and still to be answered question is whether the animals are dying of or withthe disease – that is, if it is just a contributing factor and other environmental stressors of recent years such as droughts, fires and climate change have played a role. Alternatively, the cause could be something else entirely, like a novel pathogen.

“Once we get more of an understanding of these things we can go to the next level and see how far it’s spread and what long-term effect it might have on vulnerable amphibian populations across Australia,” she says.

“They’re probably the best indicator of environmental health. It’s important we don’t ignore them.

“They absorb the environment through their skin so if something is off … the frogs will let us know.”

Anyone who spots an unwell or dead frog is encouraged to contact the FrogID project email on calls@frogid.net.au with the location and photos if possible.

https://amp.theguardian.com/environment/2021/sep/19/like-nothing-in-my-lifetime-researchers-race-to-unravel-the-mystery-of-australias-dying-frogs?__twitter_impression=true

Coalition proposes to scrap recovery plans for 200 endangered species and habitats

The Tasmanian devil

amp.theguardian.com

Lisa Cox

Show captionThe Tasmanian devil is among 200 endangered species and habitats that would lose their recovery plan under Coalition proposal. Photograph: Michal Čížek/AFP/Getty ImagesConservation

The Morrison government has proposed scrapping recovery plans for almost 200 endangered species and habitats including the Tasmanian devil, the whale shark and the endangered glossy-black cockatoo populations on Kangaroo Island, one of the worst-affected areas in the 2019-20 bushfires.

Environment groups have decried the move as a backward step less than 12 months after a statutory review of Australia’s national environmental laws found successive governments had failed to protect the country’s unique wildlife.

Recovery plans are documents that set out actions needed to stop the extinction of species. Ministers are legally bound not to make decisions that are inconsistent with them.

Since changes were made to legislation in 2007 they have been increasingly replaced with what’s known as a conservation advice, a similar document but which does not have the same legal force under national law.

Guardian Australia has previously reported that fewer than 40% of listed threatened species have a recovery plan. A further 10% of all those listed have been identified as requiring a recovery plan but those plans haven’t been developed or are unfinished. Even more plans are out of date.

The federal environment department revealed last year it had not finalised a single recovery plan for threatened species in nearly 18 months and more than 170 were overdue. All listed species, including those requiring a recovery plan, have a conservation advice.

This year, the government asked the independent threatened species scientific committee (TSSC), which advises it on endangered wildlife, to review recovery plans for 914 threatened species and habitats to determine which should continue to have a recovery plan and which could just have a conservation advice.

The committee provided advice that 676 no longer required a recovery plan.

The government is responding to the committee’s recommendations in stages and on Friday published for public consultation the first tranche of 157 animals and plants and 28 ecological communities for which it proposes scrapping recovery plans.

They include the vulnerable green and golden bell frog and the spectacled flying-fox, which had its threat status upgraded to endangered after heatwaves in 2019.

Among the ecological communities is the critically endangered Cumberland plain woodland, one of the most under pressure woodlands in the country as a result of urban development in western Sydney.

It has been identified as requiring a recovery plan since 2009 but no plan has ever been finalised.

Labor’s environment spokeswoman, Terri Butler, said on Friday “Scott Morrison has given up on saving iconic Australian species.”

“The 2019-20 bushfires killed or displaced 3 billion animals and his response now is to cut 157 recovery plans.”

The Greens’ environment spokeswoman, Sarah Hanson-Young, said the government was seeking to rewrite its obligations and was “putting up the white flag on saving our wildlife and native plants”.

“Downgrading the level of obligation on the minister is downgrading the protection of our native animals and species,” she said.

“This is all about letting the minister off the hook – the Morrison government has dropped the ball on protecting our environment and wildlife and now they want to change the rules and responsibilities.”

Helene Marsh, the chair of the threatened species scientific committee, told Guardian Australia that the species and habitats the committee had assessed were those for which recovery plans had expired, were due to expire or were overdue.

She said the committee had carefully considered every plant, animal and habitat and determined that overall about 13% of the country’s wildlife required a recovery plan.

Marsh said recovery planning had been ineffective, with plans often unfunded and actions not implemented.

She said a conservation advice could be as detailed and useful a tool, could be developed more quickly, and rapidly updated after an emergency such as the bushfire disaster.

“We’ve looked at whether a recovery plan will make a difference or not and we’ve looked at every single one in great detail,” she said. “A conservation advice can be updated and in these times of fires and climate change is a much more nimble instrument.”

Marsh told Guardian Australia that the most important reforms the government could make for Australia’s wildlife would be to implement legally binding and detailed national environmental standards that were recommended by the former competition watchdog head, Graeme Samuel, in his review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

She said the committee’s recommendations on which species and habitats should not have recovery plans were based, in part, on whether they were regularly affected by development and therefore triggered the need for a development to be assessed under Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

She said the committee had recommended that species that regularly triggered the act retain a recovery plan.

However, the Cumberland Plain woodland, the golden sun moth and the striped legless lizard, which all regularly trigger the need for assessment under the act, all appear on the list of proposed habitats and animals that would no longer require a recovery plan.

Samantha Vine, of Birdlife Australia, said a conservation advice was a good foundational document but was not a robust plan to get species off the path to extinction.

The organisation is concerned about the 19 threatened birds that may no longer require a recovery plan, including the glossy black cockatoo populations of Kangaroo Island and South Australia, the northern masked owl and the Abbott’s Booby.

“We completely see where the threatened species scientific committee is coming from because they are overwhelmed,” Vine said. “But walking away from recovery plans because they’re not functioning as well as they should be is not the right approach in an extinction crisis.”

Brendan Sydes, a lawyer and policy adviser at the Australian Conservation Foundation, said recovery plans were not working as well as they should but the answer was not to abandon them all together.

“Conservation advices are not an adequate replacement for recovery plans, as they are much less rigorous in what they require and don’t have the same legal clout,” he said.

“To virtually give up on recovery planning would be a terrible admission that there is no political will to tackle Australia’s extinction crisis.”

A spokesperson for the environment department said the recommendations were based on “the best planning outcome for the individual threatened entity, and are subject to public consultation prior to any final decision being made”.

“This is the first tranche of public consultation which invites the public to provide feedback on proposed subsequent recovery plan decisions for 185 species and ecological communities,” the spokesperson said.

“Subsequent public consultation periods for lists of other species and ecological communities will be held.”

A spokesperson for the environment minister, Sussan Ley, said: “The proposed changes have been recommended by the independent Threatened Species Scientific Committee and are now available for public consultation.”

https://amp.theguardian.com/environment/2021/sep/18/coalition-plans-to-scrap-recovery-plans-for-200-endangered-species-and-habitats?__twitter_impression=true

President Biden never fails to disappoint

Identify Raptors in Flight

www.audubon.org

By Alisa Opar

Raptors are on the move. Now is a great time to get out and see the birds of prey as they migrate south for the winter (click here for a list of 10 awesome places to watch the spectacle).

Seeing the birds on the wing is thrilling—particularly when there are large numbers of them—but it can also be frustrating to try and identify them at various angles and distances.

The challenge: Identify and age these common raptors. Some species appear more than once. Scroll down for a list of all of the species shown, and keep going for the answers.

HINT: Below are all of the species pictured.

American Kestrel

Bald Eagle

Broad-winged Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

Merlin

Northern Harrier

Osprey

Peregrine Falcon

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Turkey Vulture

SCROLL DOWN FOR ANSWERS

ANSWERS​

1. Sharp-shinned Hawk, immature: Note short, stocky wings and body, long slim tail that is short for an accipiter, and small head. Plumage is difficult to see on distant birds, but 1st-years lack a rufous tone underneath.

2. Bald EagleVery distinct white heads and tails and dark overall. Very large with long, broad wings and yellow legs and bill.

3. American Kestrel: Note pale underside with orangey chest, black spots on belly two black “sideburns” on head, and blue upperwing coverts, orange tail with black tip.

4. Northern Harrier: Very distinct brilliant white underside with a black border on flight feathers. Note long, slim wings and tail, and small head.

5. American Kestrel: Note pale underside with orangey chest, black spots on belly two black “sideburns” on head, and blue upperwing coverts, orange tail with black tip.

6. Turkey Vulture: Blackish overall; reddish head can be difficult to see at a distance but white bill usually glows. Note long, broad, squared-off wings, broad tail, and modified dihedral when gliding.

7. Sharp-shinned Hawk, adult: Note short, stocky wings and body, long slim tail that is short for an accipiter, and small head.

8. Broad-winged Hawk, immature: Stocky pointed wings, large head, and short, narrow tail. Pale underside with dark streaking on sides of breast, and indistinct tail pattern with darker tip denote 1st-year. Some (like this bird) have streaks on belly similar to red-tailed.

9. Red-shouldered Hawk, adult: Note somewhat stocky squared-off wings with translucent “commas” along the primaries. Adults have bold black and white bands on wings and tail and a warm reddish underside.

10. Red-shouldered Hawk, immature: Note somewhat stocky squared-off wings with translucent “commas” along the primaries. Pale underside with buffy underwing coverts, and dark, evenly spaced streaking on body denote 1st-year.

11. Northern Harrier: Very distinct brilliant white underside with a black border on flight feathers. Note long, slim wings and tail, and small head.

12. Merlin, adult: Merlin has stockier, more sharply pointed wings, broader, shorter tail, and is “chesty” compared with kestrel. Juvenile and adult female are pale below with heavy, dark streaking, heavily “checkered” underwings, and distinct tail bands. 

13. Northern Harrier, immature: Pale underneath mostly brown flight feathers. Note long, narrow wings and tail (showing bands when spread). Head is small with owl-like facial disc.

14. Red-tailed Hawk: Quintessential broad-winged, short-tailed buteo shape. Plumage is pale underneath with dark patagial bars and bellyband. 

15. Cooper’s Hawk, immature: Pale underneath with dark streaks throughout underbody, and brown head denote 1st-year. Note long wings for an accipiter, large head, and long tail with white tip.

16. Cooper’s Hawk, immature: Pale underneath with dark streaks throughout underbody, and brown head denote 1st-year. Note long wings for an accipiter, large head, and long tail with white tip.

17. Peregrine Falcon, adult: Pale underneath with heavily streaked body, heavily “checkered” underwings, and dark head. Note very long, pointed wings, heavy body, and broad tail and head. Wingtips are less sharply pointed in a full soar.

18. Osprey: Note the dark stripe through the eye, long, dark brown wings, white underside, and a black bill with sharp hook.

19. Sharp-shinned Hawk, adult: Note short, stocky wings and body, long slim tail that is short for an accipiter, and small head.

https://www.audubon.org/news/identify-raptors-flight?ms=digital-eng-email-ea-newsletter-engagement_20210915_eng-kids-newsletter_raptors&utm_source=ea&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=engagement_20210915_eng-kids-newsletter&utm_content=raptors&emci=d6c26761-2b16-ec11-981f-501ac57ba3ed&emdi=6679296b-3116-ec11-981f-501ac57ba3ed&ceid=89005

Leopards on special this week: Get ’em while they’re fresh! – BEN TROVATO

bentrovato.co.za

Ben Trovato 4 – 6 minutes

Dear Brian Roodt, Owner of Quality Hunting Safaris, Purveyor of Fine Animals,

I read in the Sunday Mirror that you have rhinos and leopards on special. That’s fantastic news. There’s a special on braai packs at my local Spar, but your deal sounds way better. I could do with a juicy leopard kebab right now!

You told the paper that the idea behind the promotion is to lure hunters back to Namibia. Windhoek must be overrun with animals since global travel fell off the back of the bakkie. Can I shoot them from my hotel window? More importantly, is the 20% discount just for overseas hunters or can anyone with a weapon take up your generous offer? I only have a speargun but if I can get close enough it shouldn’t be a problem. I might need help reeling in a buffalo.

You told the Mirror that hunting is vital if Namibian wildlife is to be protected from poachers. This makes perfect sense. I bet animals often run towards you begging to be shot by a decent, God-fearing white man rather than some swarthy heathen from Mozambique.

You also said the animals always have a chance of “escaping the sights” of the shooter. It’s very kind of you to give them that option. And those that can’t dodge a bullet fired from 500m away by a man disguised as a silwerbossie only have to outrun the Land Cruiser until it runs out of fuel. Can’t get fairer than that.

You say on your website that “leopard hunting is largely an exercise in patience and can last as long as 12 days”. That can’t be right. I’m not courting a woman, you know. I’d want to get in, shoot one in the face and be back in the bar for sundowners. Couldn’t you just tie one to a tree for me? Oh, right. You say you practice “ethical hunting”.

Actually, twelve days might not be so bad. I thought it involved walking. “This time is spent quietly waiting inside the pop-up blinds located near the bait drop.” Is the bait ethically sourced? Never mind. If you left the bait right outside the hide, we could just grab him while he’s snout down, bring him back to the lodge and kick him to death around the braai. Would something like that cost extra?

“If you have what it takes,” says your website, “bagging your monster tom will be an experience you won’t soon forget.” By “what it takes”, do you mean a good aim, a high-powered rifle or the requisite sociopathic tendencies? I love that you refer to a leopard as a “monster tom”, as if he’s some huge murderous ginger tomcat with an impressive set of testicles and a penchant for roaming the neighbourhood looking for fights and casual sex.

I do like the look of your rhino special. Even though your prices are only in dollars and euros, I have a good brain and with a little help managed to convert everything into rands. So, R337 000. I don’t know what this comes to after you factor in the 20% discount. I’m not that clever. Do you do returns? I might find my rhino has a grumpy face and then I’d like to shoot another at no extra cost.

I see the fee includes five days’ accommodation in the lodge. Are drinks included? I can easily finish off a quarter of a million rand’s worth of beer in five days and wouldn’t want to be charged for that as well.

Your leopard special is a bit steep at R366 000, but if it comes with chips and a complementary cocktail, I’m in. It would mean travelling to Namibia, though, so maybe not. At least the rhino special is available in South Africa.

My favourite, though, is your combo deal. I’m a big fan. When I go to a seafood restaurant, I always have the hake and prawn combo. Your hippo and croc combo sounds delicious. Do you pair it with Jägermeister? At R242 000, it’s a pretty good deal for these violent water-based creatures, even though a visually impaired toddler would be able to shoot a croc. It’s their own fault for being so lethargic. Would I be responsible for cutting off their heads and shipping them back to my place? I hope not. It looks like messy work.

Hold on, I see you also offer five of the Tiny Ten for R136 000. That’s R27 000 apiece for something small enough to fit into a Woolies bag. Now there’s a good deal! My speargun would be perfectly suited to reeling in a steenbokkie or two. This is definitely more my thing. No heavy lifting. A klipspringer will come right up to you and eat out of your hand. You could strangle him without even spilling your drink.

See you on the killing fields, boet.

https://bentrovato.co.za/leopards-on-special-this-week-get-em-while-theyre-fresh/?fbclid=IwAR2EPxCHLygxGgUTY1kLvqNmv8e6A78U3FTUXW2ieva8JotSPiGvnNk-3o8

Nearly Extinct | Five Rediscovered Birds in the Last Five Years

Bird Calls Black-and-White Warbler, Dennis W. Donohue/Shutterstock

Dan Lebbin

Perched on the brink of extinction, lost birds are among the most intriguing enigmas in the bird world. Unseen for decades or more, the existence of these birds — known only from outdated photos, drawings, or a museum specimen or two — remains a source of lingering question and doubt.

Sometimes they remain hidden in unsafe or remote areas. In other cases, the birds are overlooked, considered part of a closely related and more widespread species until scientists, in a taxonomic twist, declare them separate species. Whatever the circumstances, these birds are among the rarest of the rare. In the Western Hemisphere, at least two dozen bird species have been classified as “lost.”

Despite needle-in-a-haystack odds, researchers have rediscovered birds five times in the Americas in the last five years. These finds offer deeper insights into the lives of these mysterious birds — and a fresh opportunity to protect them from the brink of extinction.

Blue-eyed Ground Dove by Ciro Albano.

Blue-eyed Ground-Dove. Photo by Ciro Albano

Number One: Blue-eyed Beauty

In Brazil, a combination of skill and luck led to the July 2015 rediscovery of the spectacular Blue-eyed Ground-Dove, which had been lost for 75 years.

This lost bird was known only from a few scattered records in the Brazilian savanna, referred to locally as the cerrado. Over the 75 years, much of the area’s value as bird habitat was lost due to burning and agricultural encroachment, raising further doubts about the ground-dove’s existence.

That changed when a researcher, Rafael Bessa, heard a bird call he did not recognize while conducting a bird survey far to the east of the dove’s suspected range. By recording the call and playing it back, Bessa was able to photograph the bird and confirm its survival.

The rediscovery launched a race to save the remaining population. ABC partner SAVE Brasil successfully led efforts to create a protected area for the Blue-eyed Ground-Dove in February 2018, and birders can now see the dove in person.

More recently, ABC supported a conservation planning workshop orchestrated by SAVE Brasil to determine the next steps for the ground-dove. Proposed actions include additional searches and studying nesting success with camera traps. SAVE Brasil is also considering starting a captive breeding population.

With fewer than 20 birds in separate areas known, the Blue-eyed Ground-Dove’s future is not yet secure, and sustained conservation efforts are still needed to increase its population.

Táchira Antpitta. Photo by Jhonathan Miranda

Táchira Antpitta. Photo by Jhonathan Miranda

Number Two: Song from the Shadows

Roughly 60 years ago, the stubby, short-tailed Táchira Antpitta was last observed within the forests of South America. Then, in 2016, a search team supported by ABC and the Smithsonian Institution and led by Jhonathan Miranda of the Red Siskin Initiative and Provita, located the lost antpitta in Venezuela.

To find this bird, searchers consulted the notes of the collector who discovered the first one. Those descriptions led the party to the original area of discovery.

They knew the easiest way to find the Táchira, or any antpitta, was to listen for its far-carrying song. But no one knew what the Táchira Antpitta sounded like. It was only known from the collector’s notes and a few museum specimens — making the quest to find this elusive bird even more difficult.

In the field, the team heard what sounded like an antpitta, so they got to work, returning to the area again and again until, elated, they took good photographs and made sound recordings – enough evidence to confirm that this bird remains among the living.

ABC first reported the Táchira Antpitta finding in 2017, and a scientific paper containing full details of the rediscovery is in the process of being published.

Now, with the knowledge of the bird’s vocalizations, researcher Jhonathan Miranda and others hope to find more birds elsewhere in Venezuela and across the border in Colombia.

Blue-bearded Helmetcrest. Photo by Sebastian Ballesteros Caro

Blue-bearded Helmetcrest. Photo by Sebastian Ballesteros Caro

Number Three: Mountaintop Marvel

The flashy Blue-bearded Helmetcrest long languished in taxonomic obscurity, lumped with other helmetcrest species. It was last observed in 1946. During much of the time this bird remained lost, it was considered part of another, more widespread species, which meant less attention from conservationists.

Searches conducted in the 1990s and early 2000s failed to encounter the species in what’s now known to be its small range. In 2013, a scientific paper advocated splitting helmetcrest species. Shortly after, in March 2015, ABC partner Fundación ProAves launched a search and rediscovered this bird.

The Blue-bearded Helmetcrest inhabits high-altitude shrublands known as páramo, where it is closely associated with frailejón plants growing on the high peaks of Colombia’s Santa Marta Mountains.

While this area is remote, it is not untouched. Fires set to manage pastures for cattle frequently degrade the habitat. However, since the bird’s rediscovery, a nonprofit organization called the Amazon Conservation Team, has begun working with local indigenous groups, and has initiated an app-based monitoring system to better understand the distribution of this hummingbird.

Despite its rarity, the Blue-bearded Helmetcrest continues to be seen in the Santa Marta Mountains, including, most recently in January 2018, when it was spotted by a visiting birder.

Number Four: The Biggest Lost Bird Re-found

The turkey-sized, curly-crested Belem Curassow inhabits one of the most deforested regions in Brazil’s Amazon region, and had last been spotted in the wild in 1978.

Thirty-eight years later, the curassow suddenly re-appeared, when three were found in a small Brazilian zoo. The following year, in 2017, something even more exciting happened: Scientists working with local indigenous people found a pair of Belem Curassows — known as the Mytunxi in the local Tupi language — in the wild.

Although curassows are highly vulnerable to deforestation and hunting pressure, their populations can recover — even in degraded forests — if provided relief from hunting. And, fortunately, the rediscovered birds are protected within the Gurupi Biological Reserve in northeastern Brazil.

Researchers used sound recordings and photos to document the rediscovery, as reported online in the Brazilian environmental journal ((o))eco. Check out the curassow’s alarm call, which sounds like a high-pitched, space-movie laser.

The Bahama nuthatch is a rediscovered bird

Bahama Nuthatch. Photo by Tom Benson

Number Five: Bahama’s One-Island Wonder

Grand Bahama island was but one island hit by Hurricane Matthew in October 2016, but it was the only remaining home for a brown-capped passerine, the Bahama Nuthatch, which was last spotted before the hurricane’s arrival. Subsequent searches of its pineland habitat were unsuccessful, and it looked as though the hurricane might have claimed the species.

That changed in May 2018, when a field crew led by Zeko McKenzie, a researcher at the University of The Bahamas-North, found, photographed, and videotaped the lost nuthatch, documenting the species’ continued survival. McKenzie was part of a search team that was supported by American Bird Conservancy (ABC), the Bahamas National Trust, and others. Another team, led by ornithologists from the University of East Anglia, was looking as well. After a short while, both teams confirmed the presence of the nuthatch.

So far, at least five individuals have been counted, and ABC is considering actions to protect the rediscovered Bahama Nuthatch and, hopefully, find more of these rare birds.

Stresemann's Bristlefront. Photo by Ciro Albano

Stresemann’s Bristlefront. Photo by Ciro Albano

UPDATE: “World’s Rarest Bird” Sighted in Brazil

An individual Stresemann’s Bristlefront, one of the world’s most endangered birds, was observed in Brazil in December 2018, after months of searches had come up empty. Sightings of the bristlefront on December 12th and 14th in fragments of habitat in Bahia, Brazil, have renewed hope that there is still time to save this remarkable, ground-nesting songbird from extinction. With only one currently known individual, this may well be the world’s rarest bird — although researchers do hope to find more individuals in the near future.

Coming Soon: Rediscovered Hummingbirds

If you want to read about other rediscovered birds, check back in the coming weeks: I plan to post another blog focused on hummingbird rediscoveries from prior decades.


Daniel Lebbin is the Vice President of Threatened Species at American Bird Conservancy. He completed his Ph.D. dissertation at Cornell University in 2007 on habitat specialization of Amazonian birds. f you have an interest in searching for any of the species mentioned in this blog, or supporting expeditions to look for them, contact Dan at dlebbin@abcbirds.org.

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Baby Ninja Tortoises 🐢

Even A Snow Leopard At The San Diego Zoo Has COVID Now

www.yahoo.com

Maggie Clancy


Who gave the snow leopard at the zoo COVID?!

Just when you thought you knew everything there is to know about COVID-19, the new Delta variant, and ways to keep yourself and your loved ones safe (vaccinate!), this happens. An unvaccinated snow leopard at the San Diego Zoo tested positive for COVID-19. Yes, a snow leopard.

A male snow leopard at the San Diego Zoo is suspected to have contracted SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Wildlife care specialists noticed the snow leopard was coughing and had nasal discharge, prompting the team to test for the virus. Results are pending at this time pic.twitter.com/GWLc6mygmw

— San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance (@sandiegozoo) July 24, 2021

Ramil, a nine-year-old male snow leopard, had caretakers concerned when they noticed he had a cough and a runny nose on Thursday, July 22.

Zookeepers took two separate tests of Ramil’s stool and confirmed the presence of COVID-19, according to a statement made by the zoo the following day.

The snow leopard is being monitored closely and does not appear to have any major signs of illness other than the aforementioned symptoms. The origin of the possible exposure is still being investigated as we continue our contact tracing efforts. pic.twitter.com/pMNJcOfrJp

— San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance (@sandiegozoo) July 24, 2021

Fortunately, Ramil and his habitat-mates — a female snow leopard and two Amur leopards — seem to be doing okay. Ramil’s symptoms haven’t worsened, and so far, the other three animals have remained safe in quarantine. The exhibit is closed as Ramil recovers and the rest of the animals stay in isolation from the rest of the zoo.

In an abundance of caution, the leopard habitat will be closed to Zoo visitors until further notice. We ask that you keep our snow leopard and the incredible team of dedicated wildlife care professionals and veterinarians who serve him in your thoughts during this time. pic.twitter.com/FDDOnZBbpy

— San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance (@sandiegozoo) July 24, 2021

San Diego Zoo is unsure of how the snow leopard contracted the virus in the first place, as staff members are required to wear masks and use other PPE and sanitation precautions. Vaccination, however, is not required for the San Diego Zoo staff.

Ramil isn’t the first animal to contract COVID-19 at the San Diego Zoo. In January, eight gorillas at the zoo’s interactive Safari Park contracted the virus from an asymptomatic zookeeper.

The gorillas’ infection, in conjunction with Ramil’s COVID-19 case, had the zoo again requesting experimental COVID-19 vaccinations for animals most prone to catching the virus — large cats and primates — for emergency use.

A win for science: our partners at @Zoetis, a veterinary pharmaceutical company, developed a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) that we used to vaccinate great apes at the Zoo. The vaccine was created specifically for animals. @NatGeo https://t.co/ZpM5QVD4pl

— San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance (@sandiegozoo) March 5, 2021

Again, the animals made a full recovery, but like humans, we still don’t know all of the long-term effects of contracting COVID-19. Some people who have had the virus have experienced elevated heart rates for months after infection, chronic lung issues, and other ailments associated with what people are calling “Long COVID,” or Post Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 (PASC). Long COVID can affect nearly any organ in the body, have a wide and varying range of symptoms, and testing long after the initial infection doesn’t always link the lasting symptoms to COVID-19.

Great news! Our gorilla troop has made a full recovery from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans. Starting today, our guests can once again connect with these primates and learn ways they can help save this important species. https://t.co/phlrubBPhr pic.twitter.com/Gpjdxy8UAY

— San Diego Zoo Safari Park (@sdzsafaripark) February 13, 2021

Vaccinating can also help keep you and your pets safe from contracting the virus, though Dr. Anthony Fauci explained in a town hall for kids that they shouldn’t be afraid to go near their pets and can still “give your pet a big hug” and not worry about being dangerous to them.

In the meantime, make sure to be wearing a mask in public, whether you are interacting with wild animals or not, because just like Ramil, the people around you can catch COVID-19 from anyone unvaccinated, even if they aren’t showing symptoms. Let’s keep everyone safe, people and animals alike.

See the original article on ScaryMommy.com