Tag Archives: conservation

Don’t Take Selfies With Seals, Warns NOAA

The world-renowned scientists at the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have a very important message for those on the east coast of the United States this summer: Dont take selfies with seals.

Its currently seal pupping season in New England, so beaches across the northeastern states are likely to be littered with a fair few seal pups. But as unbearable cute as they might be, you shouldnt approach them, no matter how tempting the Instagram likes may be. The NOAA says that you should try to give seals and their pups at least 45 meters (150 feet) of space. Not only could getting too close to seals give you a nasty bite and stress the animals out, but it alsoleaves the pups at risk of beingabandoned by their parents.

In a recent online statementtitled No Selfies with Seals, the NOAA said It might only take a few seconds for you to snap the photo, but the mother may abandon her pup if she feels threatened. For the seal pup, the consequences can be devastating.

In their words:”There is no selfie stick long enough.”

Furthermore, under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, you could get yourself in trouble with the law if you are considered to be harassing or disturbing a wild marine animal.

But even if your social media narcissism isntstressing out wildlife, remember: Youre more likely to die taking a selfie than you are getting attacked by a shark.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/noaa-warns-people-not-take-selfies-seals

Thousands Of Cameras Capture The Thriving Wildlife In World’s Protected Forests

The worlds tropical forests are thick with trees, rich in life, and dense with humidity. However, high-quality information and expansive data about the biodiversity within these understudiedwildlife hospots is scarce. This makes conservation initiatives all the more difficult to create.

So, to find out how effective protected forests are at helping wildlife, a recent study by the Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring Network (TEAM) has captured an unbelievable amount of images documenting the intense biodiversity of protected sites in 15 tropical forests aroundthe world.

TEAM -a coalition led byConservation International, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute – recently published theirfindings online in PLOS Biology.

For the study, TEAM set up a network of over 1,000 camera traps across forests in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Each site was surveyed for at least three years, creating a total of over 500,000 images per year of 244 ground-dwelling vertebratespecies from African forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis) in the Republic of Congo to giant anteaters (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) in Ecuador.

The images were captured using motion-triggered cameras thatsnapaway if they detectan animal walking through their path. Each site had between 60 to 90 cameras set up, placed around every 1 to 2 kilometers squared (0.38 to 0.77 miles squared).

African bush elephants (Loxodonta africana) in Nouabale Ndoki National Park, Republic of Congo.TEAM Network and Wildlife Conservation Society.

Male Drill (Mandrillus leucophaeus) close-up in Cameroon, with a female and juvenile in the background. Image credit:TEAM Network and Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

The jaguar (Panthera onca) is the largest cat in the western hemisphere and a near threatened species. This individual was photographed at Volcn Barva, Costa Rica. Image credit:Courtesy of TEAM Network and Conservation International

Using the images as data, the researchers created occupancy models of each species over a threeto eightyear period. Overall, the results were remarkably positive: 17 percent of the monitored populations were found to be increasing, 22 percent were remaining stable, and 22 percent showed some decline. The remaining 39 were animals not detected often enough for their population statistics. According to the authors, these results paint a more optmistic pictureabout the success of protected areas, contrasting earlier reports of widespread decline.

It’s hoped that the study will therefore verifythat protected areas are highly effective at preserving and indeed increasing numbers of endangeredwildlife.

“At a time when environmental concerns are taking center stage, these results show that protected areas play an important role in maintaining biodiversity,” said Jorge Ahumada, executive director of the TEAM Network and a coauthor of the study said in a press release.

“Our study reflects a more optimistic outlook about the effectiveness of protected areas. For the first time we are not relying on disparate data sources, but rather using primary data collected in a standardized way across a range of protected areas throughout the world.

With this data we have created a public resource that can be used by governments or others in the conservation community to inform decisions.”

Make sure you check outthe officialTEAM galleryfor more of their incredible photographs.

Two rarely-seen bush dogs (Speothos venaticus) are captured for the first time in YanachagaChemilln National Park, Peru. TEAM Network and Wildlife Conservation Society

Photo Gallery

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/thousands-cameras-capture-thriving-wildlife-worlds-protected-forests

If You Go Down To The Woods Today You’re In For A Big Surprise – Europe’s Bears Are Back

In a rare conservation success story, research has shown that numbers of wild large carnivores in the continent have been steadily increasing and a third of the European mainland now has at least one kind of large carnivore.

There are an estimated 17,000 brown bears, 12,000 wolves, 9,000 lynx and 1,250 wolverines living in Europe – nowhere near historical levels, but a healthy amount all the same. But what’s more surprising is that these populations are found in the same places as people.

In a new study in the journal Science containing the most exhaustive data set ever collected on large carnivores in Europe, Guillaume Chapron and colleagues found that not only are all four species surviving in human-dominated landscapes, but their populations are generally stable or even increasing.


Move over Hugh Jackman, this is a real wolverine. NH53, CC BY


The results could be considered surprising. With its dense human population and highly developed landscape, Europe isn’t exactly the place you would expect to find healthy populations of wolves and bears. But the study has confirmed that Europe has actually has a higher density of wolves than the lower 48 states of the US.

Europe Success Story

So what is Europe doing right? The paper identifies several combining factors. Key legislation – such as the Bern Convention and the Habitats Directive – has given these animals at least some legal protection across Europe.

In addition, the large numbers of herbivores such as deer and bison needed to sustain carnivore populations have made a comeback. And large numbers of people have moved to cities, lowering human impact on wildlife in the countryside.

But Europe’s conservation model is the real key to its success. Europe has developed a model of co-existence of people with predators – and sustainable populations of large carnivores are now reappearing in places where people live.


The lynx is Europe’s largest cat. Miha Krofel


“In the US conservation is based on the principle of wilderness”, says Chapron, “which is the idea that wild animals such as large carnivores are supposed to be out there far away in unspoiled, undisturbed areas.”

But if this model was applied in Europe, the continent wouldn’t have any large carnivores; the protected areas are simply too small to allow for self-sustaining populations.

“In the past there was a big push for conservationists to use the protected area approach, where they believed that wildlife could only really exist away from humans,“ said Niki Rust, a researcher in human-wildlife conflict. “But the study clearly shows even species that might seem annoying – such as large carnivores – are coexisting with people.”

What About Britain’s Bears?

So with mainland Europe witnessing a shining conservation success story, will the UK – currently home to no wild large carnivores at all – be next? It’s tricky. Though people may be largely supportive of reintroducing wild predators, there are several serious concerns.

Fear is a big factor, says Robert Young, a wildlife conservation expert at the University of Salford. Says Young: “It doesn’t matter where you go in the world, people are scared of having large carnivores nearby.”

Young thinks this fear, escalated by the headlines any attack by a wild animal inevitably brings, makes people lose perspective. “The road system is probably thousands of times more dangerous than co-existing with these carnivores and yet we don’t have people saying we must fence off the roads,” said Young.

There are also differences from mainland Europe. Britain has an extremely high human population density and also eradicated its large carnivore population far earlier than many places in mainland Europe.

Says Rust: “People have lived without them for so long that they don’t know how to exist with them. I don’t think that in the next 50 or 100 years we will see large carnivores come back to the UK.”

But Young is more optimistic: “Many countries in the world deal with livestock and with having these carnivores around so I don’t think these problems are insurmountable.”

And there could be advantages to reintroducing these animals in the UK. Deer can have a big impact on native forests due to their selective browsing on young trees. As well as helping to control numbers of deer, the presence of wolves may encourage deer to steer clear of forested areas where they are more vulnerable to wolf attacks.

New Questions Raised

Now we know modern Europe can sustain populations of large carnivores, the inevitable question then becomes: how many are actually wanted? Is the minimum amount to provide a sustainable genetic pool ideal? Or should it be as many as possible?


No bears in Britain – distribution of Europe’s large carnivores in 2011. Sciencemag, Author provided


“Obviously it will be different for different groups of people,” said Rust. “So trying to work out how many we want is going to be very tough.”

Large carnivores can be costly to sustain. In an effort to gain sometimes reluctant acceptance of them, governments have set up various schemes, such as compensation for livestock killed or financial rewards for the number of predators in an area. Between 1992 and 1998, the European Union paid out €1.37m in compensation for livestock damage by predators.

“Carnivores can be troublesome neighbours,” said Chapron. “So we have conflict: we have conflict with livestock farming, hunters – it can be difficult to co-exist with predators.”

The study raises another question: the abandonment of agricultural land in parts of Europe may be good for carnivores – but, as Young says, the continent’s increased reliance on imported food suggests that: “as agricultural land increases in developing countries, it’s obviously going to reduce the capacity of animals such as carnivores in those countries to survive.”

So maybe the comeback in carnivores in parts of Europe is coming at a cost to wild animals in other parts of the world. But the key message of the study remains a promising one: there’s no need to choose between humans and wildlife – you can have both.

The Conversation

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/if-you-go-down-woods-today-you-re-big-surprise-europe-s-bears-are-back

Critically Endangered Corals Grown In The Lab, Reproduce In The Wild

Since the 1970s, the worlds corals have been declining at an alarming rate. Rising temperatures, acidification from carbon emissions, disease, and pollution have all played their part. While statistics may offer a bleak outlook, scientists are showing us its not necessarily all doom and gloom. For the first time, a group has managed to successfully rear a critically endangered species of coral to sexual maturity. These developments suggest that it may be possible to use this novel nurturing method to rehabilitate coral populations that have suffered losses.

Its great news that the method is working, study author and SECORE coral reef ecologist Valrie Chamberland told IFLScience. But we now have to start researching how to apply this in concert with other coral reef management techniques. If the conditions arent good enough on the reef, our technique wont work. We need to make this a more holistic approach with other methods.

Described in Bulletin of Marine Science, the research has focused on Caribbean reefs that, over the past four decades, have witnessed an 80 percent decline in coral, prompting the instigation of various management and restoration projects. The species targeted is elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata), an ecologically important reefmember that helps defend against damage from storms and provides a haven for an abundance of marine life. Unfortunately, it was almost wiped out by an outbreak of disease in the mid-70s and subsequently earned critically endangered status under the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species.

The researchers therefore wanted to develop a viable technique to aid the recovery of this species. While other projects throughout the Caribbean have generally focused on a method called coral gardening, which involves pruning small fragments of coral, growing them in nurseries and then returning them, this isnt an ideal solution because it reduces the genetic diversity of the reef. Populations with limited gene pools struggle to adapt to change, such as rising temperatures or disease, making it more difficult for them to survive in the longterm.

To overcome this, in collaboration with the University of Amsterdam and the Carmabi Research Station, SECORE scientists began by collecting sex cells (gametes) released by numerous different elkhorn coral colonies located near the island of Curaao. These were then returned to the lab and fertilized in a test tube. Successful embryos were then allowed to settle on clay tiles and reared in a land-based nursery for a year, before being planted back on the reef and monitored.

Nets used to capture coral gametes. Credit: SECORE

Encouragingly, seven out of nine colonies survived and continued to grow on the reed, reaching the size of a soccer ball in just four years. Importantly, two of these colonies were observed releasing gametes, showing that in this short period the corals are able to reach sexual maturity. This is important, because it not only suggests that the technique could be used for reef population, but the possibility of sexual reproduction represents a way to maintain coral genetic diversity.

The work is certainly not over yet. Chamberland points out that the next stage involves working out a way to do this on a largerscale. Mass production of coral babies hasnt been done yet, so we need to find a method to rear and outplant large numbers in a non-time-consuming way, she added. The team is also working on applying this method with other species, and has already had encouraging results for the slower-growing brain coral.

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Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/environment/critically-endangered-corals-grown-lab-reproduce-wild

Facebook Is Being Used To Sell Endangered Animals

The illegal trade in wildlife is one of the largest black markets in the world, thirdonly to those in drugs and arms. The Internet has massively facilitated this trade, allowing sellers to connect with buyers quickly and cheaply, and with over one billion users, it might come as no surprise that Facebook is being used by some traffickers as an online marketplace.

After a five month investigation by the wildlife monitoring group Traffic, in which they spent around half an hour a day checking 14 Facebook groups, investigators found a roaring trade in iconic and often threatened animals. From sun bears and gibbonsto otters and tortoises, the organization recorded over 300 wild,caught, live animals from 80 species being illegally sold over the social media site.

Traffic say that this trade and its scale has taken them by surprise because, unlike many other Southeast Asian countries, Peninsular Malaysia doesnt actually have open wildlife markets. The rise of social media appears to have enabled the creation of a thriving marketplace for wild animals as pets where one previously didnt exist in Malaysia, explains Kanitha Krishnasamy, Programme Manager for Traffic in Southeast Asia and coauthor of the new report published by the organization.

Despite only monitoring 14 groups, they contained a total of nearly 68,000 active members, with 106 identified unique sellers offering the animals up for sale. All of these groups were closed, meaning that members require an invite to join them which then allows the user to view and trade within. The majority of the species (93 percent) found for sale within these groups have legal protection in Peninsular Malaysia, and 25 of the species are protected under international law.

Image in text: Critically endangered radiated tortoises from Madagascar were also seen forsale. Traffic

A baby white handed gibbon, sun bear cubs, and banded langur all for sale in the Facebook groups. Traffic

The most common species for sale was the leopard cat, used in both traditional medicine and kept as pets, with other frequentlysold species offered includingthe Sunda slow loris and the crested serpenteagle. While some endangered non-native species were being trafficked, notably the critically endangered radiated tortoise from Madagascar, many of the animals up for sale were native, suggesting that there is a previously unknown thriving market for local wildlife within Malaysia.

Being made aware of the report, Facebook issued a statement: We are committed to working with Traffic to help tackle the illegal online trade of wildlife in Malaysia. Facebook does not allow the sale and trade of endangered animals and we will not hesitate to remove any content that violates our Terms of Service. The wildlife organization also shared their findings with Malaysias Department of Wildlife and National Parks, who have already arrested at least 53 illegal traders, saving 67 species from being trafficked.

But still, too little is being done to control this online trade. A recent paper published in Conservation Biologylooking into the scale of the trade in wildlife on the darknet, the underground Internet often used to sell drugs and weapons, found surprisingly few animals being sold, and concluded that since the sale on the regular Internet was so easy and laws never enforced, that there was no need to hide the trade.

Image in text: Sunda slow loris were the sixth most common animal being sold on Facebook. Traffic

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Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/facebook-being-used-trade-illegal-wildlife-malaysia

Report Reveals Over Half The World’s Primates Are Endangered

More than half of the worlds species of primates are on the brink of extinction, according to the latest report from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Compiled by more thanexperts from around the planet, the report also contains a list of the 25 primate species considered to be at the highest risk of extinction, and therefore most in need of urgent conservation action.

TheLac Alaotra bamboo lemur, of which only around 3,000 survive, lives in reed beds surrounding a single lake in Madagascar.Jotaguru/Wikimedia Commons

The report, titled Primates in Peril: The Worlds 25 Most Endangered Primates, is released every two years and aims to highlight the threats faced globally by primates. The list comprises somewell-known species, such as the Sumatran orangutan and Javan slow loris, but also highlights many lesser-known and often more endangered primates.These include the Kashmir grey langur, of which there are currently an unknown number, andthe Cat Ba langur, of which there areonly around 60 surviving in the forests of Vietnam.

This years list includes five primate species from Madagascar, five from Africa, 10from Asia, and five from Central and South America. How endangered the animals are is not based purely on how many of the primates exist, but also takes into account the level and intensity of the threats they face and general population trends. The main dangers facing the species are fairly predictable: habitat destruction, and hunting for both the food and illegal pet trade.

The Roloway monkey, which is native to the Ivory Coast and Ghana, has experienced a population decline of80 percent over the last three generations.Hans Hillewaert/Wikimedia Commons

This research highlights the extent of the danger facing many of the worlds primates, says DrChristoph Schwitzer, director of conservation at Bristol Zoological Society, who helped compile the list. We hope it will focus peoples attention on these lesser known primate species, some of which most people will probably have never heard of, such as the Lavasoa Mountains dwarf lemur from Madagascar a species only discovered two years ago or the Roloway monkey from Ghana and Ivory Coast, which we believe is on the very verge of extinction.

There are currently 703 recognized species of primates, though this number is frequently growing. In just the last 15 years,researchers have described animpressive 75 new species of primates, manyof which are from the island of Madagascar. With only10 percent of the country’s forests still in existence, asignificant numberof these species require critical support to ensure their long-term survival, something the report is trying to muster by bringing attention to these often overlooked species. You can see which other primates have made the worlds 25 most endangered list here.

Main image: Peter Nijenhuis/Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/over-half-worlds-primates-are-endagered

The Pressure’s On To Save Our Rarest Primate

Hainan, an island located in the South China Sea, is home to the world’s rarest primate – the Hainan gibbon (Nomascus hainanus). The pressure is on China to up its conservation efforts before this animal goes extinct and becomes the first known primate species to do so because of human actions.

The Hainan gibbon, or Hainan black crested gibbon, can only be found in a very small area of forest in Hainan. In the 1950s over 2,000 Hainan gibbons were present all across the island; now only 23 to 25 remain in a 20 square kilometer area of forest. Despite legal protection, the numbers have dropped due to lack of enforcement which has allowed continued habitat loss from illegal logging and paper plantations. According to a report from Greenpeace International, in 2011 the forests in Hainan were being wiped out at a rate of 200,000 square meters a day. Hainan gibbon numbers are also decreasing due to poaching.

An emergency meeting was held in Hainan last month in order to formulate a plan to save these animals from extinction. The first stages of the plan involve modeling the gibbon population; preliminary models suggest that while the gibbon may be safe from extinction for the next couple of decades, a single blow such as an outbreak of disease is all that may be needed to dramatically change their fate. Another problem to add to the list is a loss of genetic diversity due to inbreeding, which could cause health problems in offspring. Researchers are also concerned that their restricted habitat may mean that they no longer have access to the foods they need.

The Hainan gibbon situation is problematic since researchers face monitoring difficulties as such a small number of animals remain, and also because there is so little forest left for the animals to expand into. This is also not the first example of a devastating loss to occur in China; back in 2007 the Yangtze river dolphin was classed as extinct. But the government has started to take conservation more seriously in recent years; let’s hope a continued effort may turn around the bleak outlook for this beautiful primate. 

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/pressures-save-our-rarest-primate