Masai giraffes declared endangered

Scientists have declared a subspecies of giraffe endangered.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the global authority on the conservation status of wild animals and plants, announced Thursday that Masai giraffes, a subspecies spread throughout Kenya and Tanzania, are now endangered, primarily because of poaching and changes in land use.

There are an estimated 35,000 Masai giraffes remaining, but their population has fallen by nearly 50 percent in the last three decades. Africa’s overall giraffe population has decreased by up to 40 percent in that same timeframe.

a group of giraffe standing on top of a field: There are 35,000 Masai giraffes left in the wild today. Their population has fallen by nearly 50 percent in the last 30 years.
© Photograph by Sergio Pitamitz, Nat Geo Image Collection

There are 35,000 Masai giraffes left in the wild today. Their population has fallen by nearly 50 percent in the last 30 years.

Masai giraffes are iconic, says Tanya Sanerib, international legal director for the Center for Biological Diversity. Given that they’re one of the largest subspecies of giraffes, they’re the “quintessential” animal you likely think of when you think giraffes. For this subspecies to be declared endangered is a wake-up call, Sanerib says.

“This was devastating news…It really sounds the alarm bell,” she says. “It really indicates that we need to be doing more for giraffes internationally and with whatever tools are available.”

Increased threats

This is the first time the Masai subspecies (Giraffa camelopardalis ssp. tippelskirchi) was assessed on its own—previously, it was included as part of the IUCN Red List’s general giraffe listing (Giraffa camelopardalis), which considers giraffes “vulnerable,” a step further away from extinction than “endangered.” Of the nine subspecies of giraffes, Masai and reticulated giraffes are endangered, and Nubian and Kordofan giraffes are critically endangered.

Related Slideshow: Close to extinction – Critically endangered animals (Provided by Photo Services)

Hunting giraffes is illegal in both Kenya and Tanzania, but they are poached for their hide, meat, bones, and tails. An estimated 2 to 10 percent of the population is hunted illegally every year in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, according to the IUCN. Poaching has increased because of civil unrest and emerging markets for giraffe parts, including tail-hair jewelry and bone carvings. There’s even a belief among some that giraffe bone marrow and brains can cure HIV and AIDS, Tanzanian media have reported. (Learn more about how giraffes in central Africa are being poached for their tails.)

Giraffe deaths have also increased because human populations have grown and expanded into what used to be wildlands, leading to increased incidents of crop damage and vehicle strikes. Hunting for bushmeat is also a threat.

“The forgotten megafauna”

Giraffes historically have been understudied compared to other threatened species. While thousands of scientific papers have been written on white rhinos, only about 400 cover giraffes, according to giraffe researcher Axel Janke. There are fewer giraffes than elephants left in Africa.

“They’re the forgotten megafauna, so to speak,” says Julian Fennessy, co-director and co-founder of the nonprofit Giraffe Conservation Foundation. “They’ve sort of slipped away, sadly, while more attention has been given to elephant, rhino, lion, and other species.” (See more photos of how scientists are working to save giraffes.)

We have so much to learn about giraffes, Sanerib says, it would be a shame to lose them. For example, they have complex circulatory systems that could have implications for understanding human’s high blood pressure. Researchers have also found that they hum at night, and they have no idea why.

“We have this species that’s going extinct, and we have these phenomenal, really fascinating things about them that we don’t know the answers to,” she says enthusiastically.

Although for years there’s been a consensus that there’s one species of giraffe with nine subspecies, evidence of genetic differences has emerged in recent years, suggesting that there are actually four species of giraffe and that the Masai is its own species. Though Masai giraffes aren’t widely recognized as a unique species, Fennessy says categorizing them as their own could reap more conservation benefits. For example, the United States’ Endangered Species Act grants protections to animals at the species level, which means giraffes are not considered endangered by U.S. standards, even though several subspecies clearly are.

But overall, Fennessy says this new assessment shines a light on the plight of these animals.

“By identifying that they are endangered, hopefully now collaboratively with governments and partners, we can turn the tide before it’s too late,” Fennessy says.

Only 18 red wolves left

From Defends.org

She never had a chance.

The man who shot and killed a mother red wolf knew he could slay her and no one could stop him. In fact, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) gave him the permit to shoot her!

At the time she was one of only 10 breeding female red wolves in the wild. It’s likely she was nursing pups the day she was shot. Pups who likely starved to death after their mother was gunned down.

Help save red wolves and other imperiled animals with your gift, and now through June 30th, your gift will be matched 2-for-1 up to a total of $100,000!

That killing was only one of the many outrages that have occurred on FWS’s watch. Red wolf recovery was once widely celebrated as a success story – but now the FWS is neglecting these wolves to the point that they’re about to go extinct.

Each time Defenders has taken the FWS to court to protect red wolves, the court has ruled in the wolves’ favor. And now the FWS is continuing to let red wolves die by not implementing a desperately needed recovery plan.

Don’t let the FWS get away with abandoning red wolves to extinction.

Enough is enough. Just last week, Defenders filed a formal notice of intent to sue the FWS and force them to protect red wolves. Your gift will help this fight by giving us the resources to go to court as many times as it takes, until red wolves are finally safe.

Once, red wolves roamed all over the southeastern U.S. Then they were all but exterminated as vermin. Today, there are as few as 18 red wolves clinging to survival in a remote area in eastern North Carolina.

After nearly going extinct, Washington’s pygmy rabbits need room to grow

Recovering the endangered rabbits will test society’s willingness to let nature reclaim a landscape.

In the rolling hills of the Columbia Basin in central Washington, a tractor kicked dust from a wheat field as an early May breeze filtered down from the Cascade Mountains rising in the west. In a patchwork of sagebrush and bunchgrass, Jon Gallie searched for the newest generation of North America’s smallest rabbit, the state and federally endangered Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit.

When not moving by memory through this reclaimed farmland, Gallie, an endangered species project leader for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, traced his footsteps to dots on his phone marking den sites. In a city, he could easily pass for a Pokémon Go player, chasing fictional creatures in an imaginary digital realm. But the grapefruit-sized animals he was seeking are real, though elusive; after more than two hours of searching, all we found were empty burrows and an abundance of scat.

Wildlife biologist Jon Gallie searches for traces of pygmy rabbits at their den sites.
Rajah Bose for High Country News

Still, the salmon egg-sized droppings were an encouraging sign. That’s because a century of farming, development and increasingly frequent and intense wildfires has fractured the habitat of the Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit; by the late 1990s, just a handful were left. In 2001, biologists captured 16 of the last few dozen rabbits. Nearly two decades of direct human intervention followed, a multi-pronged effort that saved the animals from being banished to stories, screens and natural history textbooks. Pygmy rabbits now number in the hundreds in the Columbia Basin — but they remain far from a resilient and healthy population.

The rabbits have shown that they can rebound, however, as long as they have enough habitat to call home. The efforts to save these diminutive mammals illustrate a hard lesson: Even when scientists can breed an endangered species back to healthy numbers, protecting land and building bridges between dispersed populations remains a continuing challenge for recovery. For central Washington’s pygmy rabbits, humans have been the agents of both destruction and salvation. Now, the challenge is to also play the role of nurturer, giving the rabbits — and other endangered species — the space they need to reclaim a place on the landscape.

WE LIVE IN AN AGE OF EXTINCTION, driven by human contributions to climate change and habitat destruction. Facing these crises has meant making compromises that save some species, but also change them. Hundreds of vertebrates have blinked out in just the last century. When biologists captured the last known wild Columbia Basin pygmy rabbits in 2001 to start a captive breeding program, they hoped to keep the species from joining their ranks. And in a sense, they’ve succeeded, as the burrows and scat in the sagebrush show.

But early on, inbreeding produced sickly offspring and low reproductive rates. In 2004, the scientists — part of a collaborative effort between universities, zoos and state and federal agencies — had to breed them with a closely related population, the Great Basin pygmy rabbit. This was a matter of “genetic rescue,” explained Stacey Nerkowski, a University of Idaho doctoral student who leads a team studying pygmy rabbit genetics.

The new genes staved off the complete loss of the population. While the last pure Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit died in 2008, unique genes that arose over millennia live on in the rabbits now munching sagebrush in central Washington. On average, about 25% of each rabbit’s genome comes from the wild rabbits collected in 2001. Nerkowski said the resilience of those genes — they continue to show up, generation after generation, because they help the rabbits survive there — shows the value of recovering local rabbits, rather than simply transplanting other pygmy rabbits into the Columbia Basin. “This isn’t just a rabbit we picked up in Wyoming; it has the unique genetics of this area,” Nerkowski said.

A pygmy rabbit seeks shelter under sagebrush within a protective enclosure.The few hundred wild Columbia Basin pygmy rabbits are the descendents of 16 that were captured and bred by biologists.
Rajah Bose for High Country News

AFTER TROMPING THROUGH UNFENCED stands of sagebrush for most of the morning, Gallie and I hopped in his truck and headed south to another rabbit recovery area, in the Beezley Hills west of Ephrata, Washington. Here, sagebrush and bunchgrass, flourishes of wildflowers, wheat fields and the dreaded invasive cheatgrass all intermix. In the Beezley Hills, land protected by The Nature Conservancy and a private landowner who has dedicated his property to pygmy rabbit conservation provide habitat for reintroductions.

Biologists have been trying to re-establish the rabbits on the landscape since 2007, when wild reintroductions failed. After that unsuccessful attempt, the recovery team turned to semi-wild enclosures in 2011, to ease the transition from captivity to the starker realities of the rabbits’ natural habitat. Solid fences, irrigation systems, artificial burrows and supplemental food provided the animals the amenities project leaders thought they needed to survive. The rabbits proliferated, but then, in the confined and artificial space, disease did as well, and in 2016, reproduction in the enclosures dropped by about 75%.

For the last two years, the recovery team has been using different enclosures, more mobile and spartan in nature, both to avoid disease transmission and better prepare the rabbits for life outside the fences. No supplemental feeding is offered, and other than some water laced with medicine to fight off an intestinal disease, the sagebrush-blanketed hillside is left in its natural state. As we walked through the main enclosure at Beezley Hills, both adults and baby rabbits scattered in blurs of fur, zig-zagging through the chest-high sagebrush. When caught against a fence line, the rabbits froze, blending into the gray bushes and light brown soil.

The changes have produced kits that survive better in the wild, allowing the recovery team to distribute them across the landscape. That’s vital to bringing back the rabbit, with the risk of population-decimating fires haunting its future — and its recent past. In the summer of 2017, the 30,000-acre Sutherland Canyon Fire wiped out the majority of rabbits in the area. As strong winds pushed the blaze over ridges and through draws, Gallie and his team quickly reconfigured the irrigation system in the Beezley Hills enclosure. They were able to save about one-third of the hundred-plus rabbits living there. But the threat to each of the three recovery areas remains in the fire-prone sagebrush, showing how important maintaining a wider swath of habitat is for the animals.

Gallie points out known den locations on a map in his office.
Rajah Bose for High Country News

FIRE DOESN’T JUST SCORCH pygmy rabbit colonies; it also imperils the ecosystem they depend on. Repeated fires that both propel and are fueled by the spread of invasive species like cheatgrass deliver a one-two punch of destruction to native species in sagebrush habitat.

Corinna Hanson manages more than 30,000 acres in central Washington for The Nature Conservancy with an eye toward preserving native habitat. That’s a constant challenge now, as summers get hotter and fires occur twice a decade instead of less than twice a century, the historical norm. “When I think about restoration, it’s almost like we can’t keep up,” she said. “But we’re not going to give up.” In talking about endangered species recovery, the focus is usually on the species itself. But, she said, “when you work to conserve a species, it always comes down to habitat management.”

Expanding open space to connect the reintroduction areas, which are spread over about 40 miles and divided by roads, fields, sheer cliffs and houses, would be the ultimate sign of success for the project, Gallie said. Tools to stitch together the fractured landscape include land preserved for habitat protection by The Nature Conservancy, and U.S. Department of Agriculture grant programs that pay farmers to take land out of production so wildlife can use it instead.

Gallie said communicating the goals of the recovery effort and building trust between people in town, farmers in the country, nonprofits and government partners is key to the program’s success. “You can have the best scientists and the best habitats and the best approach in the world, but if everyone out here is skeptical and oppositional, it’s going to make things very difficult.” When he appears at community events and at farmers’ doors, Gallie said, the familiarity and trust he’s built show locals that the pygmy rabbit program isn’t some big government overreach happening in a faraway office. “It’s just me, the same guy you wave to everyday, with the same dirt on my boots.”

COLUMBIA BASIN PYGMY RABBITS are far better off today than they were two decades ago, but their future remains tenuous. One fire could wipe out most of the population. And until they inhabit continuous corridors, where they can meet new mates and be less vulnerable to catastrophic fires, they’ll remain on the precipice of extinction.

Still, the species is gaining ground in a time when conservation is pervaded by stories of loss. The world is losing species. It’s losing habitat. And humanity is losing time to try to save the current biome from the worst impacts of climate change. But perhaps our biggest deficit, and greatest challenge, is our apathy toward that loss.

“When I get asked — ‘Why do we need pygmy rabbits?’ — I don’t always have the best answer,” Gallie said, as fine dust kicked up with each step we took through the sagebrush. “You either value biodiversity or you don’t, and if you don’t, there’s pretty much nothing I can say that’s going to make you go, ‘Oh, now I agree.’ ”

As a society, it’s often hard to agree on which species to save, which organisms are necessary to make an ecosystem whole, or if it even makes sense to try to prevent extinctions. In all of those debates, Gallie pointed out that we often forget the current moment is a blip in evolutionary history, and, regardless of human interventions, nature will continue to shape this landscape. In the end, he said, “Life always wins. It’s more our loss.”

https://www.hcn.org/issues/51.10/endangered-species-after-nearly-going-extinct-washingtons-pygmy-rabbits-need-room-to-grow?utm_source=wcn1&utm_medium=email

Credit River watershed home to dozens of species at risk of extinction

Credit Valley Conservation ecologist Laura Timms says the number of at-risk species in the Credit River watershed is increasing.

There are 65 species of plants and animals living in the Credit River watershed that are at risk of extinction.

Earlier this month, United Nations (UN) agency Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) released a critical report assessing 1 million species threatened with extinction across the world. It was compiled by 145 experts from 50 different countries based on a review of 15,000 scientific and government sources.

The report blamed the stark rise of at-risk species on human land and sea use, direct exploitation of organisms, climate change, pollution, and invasive alien species. It also made recommendations for governments to act in response to the “unprecedented” species extinction in human history.

“We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health, and quality of life worldwide,” IPBES chair Sir Robert Watson said.

In Brampton and Mississauga, that might not appear to be the case at first glance, but assessments from the Committee of the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, and confirmed by Credit Valley Conservation, show that there are a significant number of at-risk species in our own backyard.

Credit Valley Conservation ecologist Laura Timms says the numbers are higher than what’s expected for “baseline extinction” — species that go extinct because of natural processes.

“The number of species going extinct now is way higher because of human activity,” she said. “There’s a lot of evidence for it.”

An example from the watershed is the Jefferson Salamander. It’s a salamander that lives in the wetlands and forests that has been threatened by development and land conversion in Brampton and Mississauga.

“They’re a symptom of this problem of wetland loss,” Timms said.

She explained Ontario has lost around 85 per cent of its wetlands since European settlement and that the loss of wetlands not only threatens species, but flood attenuation.

“Wetlands are like sponges,” Timms said. “They soak up the water, collect it, and prevent it from spilling over and creating floods.”

With the rise of floods in cottage country this year, the threat of wetland loss is visible, she added.

Another example of an at-risk species in the watershed is the Bank Swallow. This bird, an aerial insectivore, is in decline, which inadvertently increases the number of mosquitoes — their prey. Timms added that there are indeed “more mosquitoes around these days.”

In the watershed, land development is the primary cause of creating at-risk species, Timms identified.

UTM associate professor of political science and geography Andrea Olive says the IPBES report coincides with new changes to the Endangered Species Act.

Olive says when it comes to environmental matters in the watershed, they’re a provincial responsibility.

“Ontario’s Endangered Species Act was seen as the best one in Canada,” Olive said. “But now, you can pay to get out of protecting a species.”

Olive is referring to changes to the act proposed through Bill 108, which would allow developers to pay a charge or a mitigation fee to build in areas where there are endangered species. The money would be collected into a fund that is intended to be used for conservation and other services.

“You can never pay enough,” she said. “You’ll never be able to replace the habitat.”

At-risk species in the Credit River watershed:

Amphibians:

Jefferson Salamander

Blue-spotted Jefferson Salamander

Western Chorus Frog

Birds:

Acadian Flycatcher

American White Pelican

Bald Eagle

Bank Swallow

Barn Swallow

Black Tern

Bobolink

Canada Warbler

Cerulean Warbler

Chimney Swift

Common Nighthawk

Eastern Meadowlark

Eastern Whip-poor-will

Eastern Wood-pewee

Evening Grosbeak

Golden Eagle

Golden-winged Warbler

Grasshopper Sparrow

Henslow’s Sparrow

Horned Grebe

Least Bittern

Loggerhead Shrike

Louisiana Waterthrush

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Peregrine Falcon

Prothonotary Warbler

Red-headed Woodpecker

Rusty Blackbird

Short-eared Owls

Wood Thrush

Yellow-breasted Chat

Fish:

American Eel

Atlantic Salmon

Deepwater Sculpin

Lake Ontario Kiyi

Lake Sturgeon

Redside Dace

Shortnose Cisco

Insects:

Eastern Persius Duskywing

Monarch Butterfly

Mottled Duskywing

Rapids Clubtail

West Virginia White

Mammals:

Eastern Small footed Myotis (bat)

Little Brown Myotis

Northern Myotis

Tricolored Bat

Woodland Vole

Plants:

American Chestnut

American Ginseng

Black Ash

Butternut

Common Hop-tree

Eastern Flowering Dogwood

Hart’s-tongue Fern

Hill’s Pondweed

Kentucky Coffee-tree

Reptiles:

Blanding’s Turtle

Eastern Milksnake

Eastern Ribbonsnake

Midland Painted Turtle

Northern Map Turtle

Credit Valley Conservation ecologist Laura Timms says the number of at-risk species in the Credit River watershed is increasing.

Snapping Turtle

Ali Raza is a reporter for Mississauga News and Brampton Guardian. Reach him via email: aliraza@metroland.com

Malaysia’s last surviving male Sumatran rhinoceros in poor health

image: data:image/gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAAAAACH5BAEKAAEALAAAAAABAAEAAAICTAEAOw==

Tam Rhinoceros Malaysia

Tam is the last surviving male Sumatran rhino in Malaysia. (Photo: Facebook/WWF-Malaysia)

KOTA KINABALU: The health of Malaysia’s last surviving male Sumatran rhinoceros is deteriorating, said Sabah’s Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Christina Liew on Sunday (May 19).

“Tam’s appetite and level of activity have dropped suddenly since the end of April, and he is now given medicine daily because some of his internal organs are not functioning well,” she added.

If Tam dies, it would leave Iman as the last surviving female Sumatran rhinoceros in Malaysia, after another female rhinoceros Puntung was euthanised in June 2017.

“Hopes to find a mate for him were dashed when Puntung was found to have multiple cysts throughout her uterus,” Ms Liew was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times.

“Iman, on the other hand, was found to have massive uterine fibroids,” she added.

Puntung was captured in 2011, while Iman was captured in 2014.

READ: Scientists warn a million species at risk of extinction

READ: UN kicks off major climate change effort

“These illnesses are a reflection of too few rhinoceros and insufficient breeding success during the last decades of the 20th century,” said Ms Liew.

Tam was captured by a wildlife team in August 2008 at the Kretam palm oil plantation in Tawau, which was previously a jungle area.

To gain his trust, the team from the Sabah Wildlife Department, SOS Rhino and WWF-Malaysia fed and befriended Tam for a week, before coaxing him into a crate, the New Straits Times reported. He was thought to be in his mid-20s when he was taken to Tabin Wildlife Forest Reserve, Ms Liew said.

Since 2011, Malaysia’ efforts to save rare animal species from extinction have been focused on reproductive technology, such as in-vitro fertilisation and collaboration with Indonesia, she added.

Read more at https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/tam-sumatran-rhinoceros-malaysia-rare-species-extinct-wildlife-11546952

North Atlantic right whales are on the brink of extinction

North Atlantic right whales are on the brink of extinction, and still President Trump’s administration recklessly authorized five companies to harm marine life while seismic airgun blasting – used to search for oil and gas deposits beneath the ocean floor – in the very waters where these whales give birth.

Seismic airguns shoot extremely loud blasts of air into the ocean floor as often as every 10 seconds, 24 hours a day, for weeks on end. The blasting can disturb all marine life in its path from whales to zooplankton. Airgun blasts can impair whales’ ability to hear, communicate, search for food, ward of sickness and care for their young.

Allowing companies to subject whales to this unnecessary harm in pursuit of oil and gas is wrong – plain and simple. We won’t stand for it. Along with our allies, we are suing the Trump administration to stop seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic, 

Letter: Renewed hunting of gray wolves would endanger them again

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US plans end to wolf protections; critics say it's premature
FILE – In this Sept. 26, 2018, file photo, provided by the National Park Service, a 4-year-old female gray wolf emerges from her cage as it released at Isle Royale National Park in Michigan. U.S. wildlife officials plan to lift protections for gray wolves across the Lower 48 states, a move certain to re-ignite the legal battle over a predator that’s rebounding in some regions and running into conflicts with farmers and ranchers, an official told The Associated Press. (National Park Service via AP, File)

After reading “The U.S. plans to lift protections for gray wolves” (March 10), I believe that the future for the gray wolves is bleak. Part of the reason gray wolves are endangered is that they were hunted and poisoned as if they were pests. Allowing them to be hunted once again will most likely put them back on the endangered species list.

Wolves eat deer, which are pests across the U.S. If the number of wolves were to decrease, the number of pests would most certainly go up. Even though the wolf population has improved, it is still not functional enough to live completely unprotected in the wild.

As a 12-year-old, I am concerned that many of the wonderful animals that are around now will not be when I am older. Truly when it comes to conservation, the impact of bad decisions can affect generations.

Cameron LeGros • University City

Increase wolf cull, pen pregnant cows to save endangered caribou: study

Endangered mountain caribou. (D. Craig/Alberta Wilderness Association)

An extensive study of caribou herds across British Columbia and Alberta suggests a way to reverse a long and steady decline of the endangered species — kill more wolves and moose and pen pregnant cows.

“It’s go hard or go home,” said Rob Serrouya, a University of Alberta biologist and lead author of the study released Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Unfortunately, it’s that black or white.”

Another study released within days of Serrouya’s suggests another way. And wildlife advocates worry Serrouya’s findings could be misused, illustrating the complexity of what he calls the “toughest conservation challenge in North America.”

Improvement with managed herds

Serrouya and his colleagues looked at 18 caribou herds ranging over more than 90,000 square kilometres. At the study’s start in 2004, 16 herds were declining.

Restoring habitat damaged by oil, gas and forestry activity is too slow, said Serrouya. Herds don’t have the decades that takes.

The scientists compared four government-run management programs — killing wolves, protecting pregnant cows, moving caribou between ranges and culling moose that attract predators. Six of the herds were not managed.

By 2018, the unmanaged herds remained unchanged.

But eight of the 12 managed herds improved. Half of them had either stabilized or begun increasing. One almost doubled over three years to 67 from 36 animals.

Herds with the best growth rates were linked to both maternity pens to protect pregnant cows during calving, and the extensive wolf kills. (MacNeil Lyons/National Park Service)

“That’s almost unprecedented,” Serrouya said. “It doesn’t mean recovery, but it means some of these herds have turned around. It’s the first study to show management has turned around sharp declines of caribou on such a broad scale.”

Herds with the best growth rates were linked to both maternity pens to protect pregnant cows during calving and extensive wolf kills. Ranges with the best herd growth had the most intense cull.

Those five ranges saw a total of 144 wolves killed every year, mostly by aerial gunning and strychnine. A cull that large over the entire study area would result annually in nearly 650 carcasses, although Serrouya said that’s not being recommended.

Removing moose at the same time would allow managers to kill up to 80 per cent fewer wolves, he said. Still, moose numbers in any one range would have to be reduced by up to 83 per cent.

Alternative: Reduce wolf-caribou encounters

Jonah Keim, an independent biologist and consultant, offers a different solution. In research published in the British Ecological Society’s journal, he suggests caribou can be adequately protected by making it tough for wolves to get to them.

“What we need to do is reduce the encounters between wolves and caribou,” he said. “You can do that without reducing the number of wolves.”

Between 2011 and 2014, Keim studied what would happen if it weren’t so easy for wolves, deer and moose to follow cutlines and forestry roads into caribou habitat. Over an 800-square-kilometre area, researchers dropped 200 cubic metres of tree debris every 200 metres.

The rate at which wolves stopped using the paths dropped 70 per cent, the study found.

“It was unbelievably effective at reducing wolf use,” said Keim.

Serrouya applauded Keim’s paper, but questioned its practicality on a landscape with 350,000 kilometres of linear disturbance.

“To block 350,000 kilometres would take years and years,” he said. “What would happen in the meantime?”

Four herds vanished between 2004 and 2018.

‘War on wildlife’

Keim said efforts could be focused on where they’d do the most good. He suggested that snowmobile trails could be designed to draw wolf packs away from caribou. It wouldn’t be that hard, he said.

“That type of work can be done in the summer or winter by somebody on foot.”

Carolyn Campbell of the Alberta Wilderness Association fears Serrouya’s findings could be used to declare “a war on wildlife.”

“These findings could be used by industry and government to prolong unsustainable forest exploitation while endlessly harming wildlife species,” she said.

She urged governments to keep restoring habitat.

Serrouya said drastic measures will be needed into the foreseeable future.

“Society would have to change the way it values natural resources. Society would have to decide to reduce the rate of resource extraction.”

Bramble Cay melomys: Climate change-ravaged rodent listed as extinct

The Bramble Cay melomysImage copyrightIAN BELL/EHP
Image captionThe Bramble Cay melomys lived on a tiny island in Australia’s far north

It was described in 2016 as the first mammalian extinction caused by human-induced climate change.

Now the eradication of the Bramble Cay melomys has been officially recognised by Australia, its only known home.

The rodent lived solely on a tiny sand island in the Torres Strait, near the coast of Papua New Guinea (PNG). The species has not been seen since 2009.

Scientists say there is a chance that an identical or similar species could yet be discovered in PNG.

But they’re uncertain because PNG’s nearby Key River region has been little documented by research.

Australia has one of the world’s highest rates of animal extinction, says the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

‘Our little brown rat’

The Australian government’s decision to list the species as extinct comes after the Queensland state government made an identical determination in 2016.

A state government report said it was almost certainly caused by “ocean inundation of the low-lying cay, very likely on multiple occasions, during the last decade, causing dramatic habitat loss and perhaps also direct mortality of individuals”.

It added: “Significantly, this probably represents the first recorded mammalian extinction due to anthropogenic climate change.”

Map

The loss of an animal that was hardly known in the public mind has generated sadness in Australia and abroad.

“The Bramble Cay melomys was a little brown rat,” said Tim Beshara, a spokesman for advocacy group The Wilderness Society.

“But it was our little brown rat and it was our responsibility to make sure it persisted. And we failed.”

Conservation efforts

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Australian scientists had found no trace of the animal in recent surveys of Bramble Cay, an island of just five hectares.

A 2008 “recovery plan” had downplayed the risks to its survival, the newspaper reported.

The current government, in office since 2013, has frequently defended its environmental efforts – citing a A$425m (£233m; $300m) investment in threatened species programmes, among other efforts.

But it has also been heavily criticised by conservation groups for not providing greater funding, or additional policies.

Australia is rare among developed countries because it is described as mega-diverse, but experts warn that biodiversity is under threat from environmental upheaval.

The nation is not on track to meet its commitment of reducing emissions by 26-28% on 2005 levels by 2030, according to the most recent government data.

Presentational grey line

How do we decide how endangered a species is?

  • Are they all living in one area – and therefore more likely to be wiped out by a single cause – or are they geographically spread out?
  • How long is their reproductive cycle and so how quickly could their population recover if there were enough breeding pairs?
  • What are the range of threats they face?
  • How genetically diverse is the population?
  • How threatened is their habitat?

The Three Ways The Universe Might End

planet, apocalypse

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The Big Bang marks the starting gun of the greatest race of all time i.e. between gravity and the expansion rate. It began some 13.8 billion years ago from a hot, dense, rapidly expanding state. As it is indeed true that our universe is expanding despite gravity. This shows that a more powerful force must be acting on the universe besides gravity.

Astrophysicists have named it as the Dark energy. Dark energy is invisible, but it is based on how fast everything is expanding. Scientists believe that it exists everywhere in space and could make up almost 70% of the universe. According to astronomers, the Sun’s luminosity increases by about 6% every billion years.

THREE WAYS THE UNIVERSE MIGHT END

1. THE BIG CRUNCH

If Astrophysicists theory about dark energy proved to be wrong then gravity would eventually become the most powerful force in the universe. If this happens then after trillions of years, the rate at which the universe is expanding would decrease and it would start to shrink. Galaxies would crash and merge as the universe starts collapsing on itself. Everything would converge into one mega black hole containing the entire universe, which the scientists have termed as the big crunch-moment.

Related: 7 Expeditions of 2019 that can Reveal Some of Biggest Secrets of the Earth

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2. THE BIG RIP

The big rip will start once the pull of the universe’s expansion gets stronger than the gravity holding the galaxies together. Galaxies would tear apart,  then the smaller black holes, and finally the planets and the stars. Space will start expanding faster than the speed of light. The entire universe would become a void of single particles isolated from everything around them and then drifting aimlessly in a timeless universe.

According to Robert Caldwell, a theoretical physicist from Dartmouth College, if the Big Rip won out over all of the apocalyptic scenarios put forth in this piece, the event would occur in some 22 billion years, when the Sun has already transitioned from a main-sequence star to a red-giant (incinerating Earth as a result) and then into a white dwarf.

Related: NASA’s New Horizons Reaches Most Distant Target in History

3. THE BIG FREEZE

Also termed as the ‘Heat Death’ or the ‘Big Chill’. In this scenario, the universe is believed to be expanding at an ever-increasing speed. As this happens, the heat is dispersed throughout space, due to which galaxies, stars, and planets are all pulled farther and farther from one another. Eventually, planets, stars, and galaxies would be pulled so far apart that the stars would eventually lose access to raw material needed for their formation. And thus, the lights would go out for good inevitably. This will continue to get colder and colder until the temperature in the entire universe reaches to absolute zero. At absolute zero, all movement would stop and nothing will exist in such a case.  This is the point at which the universe would reach a state what the scientists have termed as ‘A maximum state of entropy’.

Related: ISRO to launch 32 missions, including Chandrayaan-2, in 2019

Many scientists believe this is one of the most probable scenarios.

Source: Forbes