Meet the Waved Albatross, the most endangered Albatross out of the twenty one species within the genera known. Identified back in 1883, listed as [critically endangered] the species is known scientifically as Phoebastria irrorata. Since 2007 the Waved Albatross has been bordering complete extinction throughout its range. Endemic to Chile; Colombia; Ecuador (Galápagos); and Peru the bird is also a vagrant in Panama too. populations are still decreasing – and fast! On Española, the breeding population was estimated at c. 12,000 pairs in 1970-1971, 15,600-18,200 pairs in 1994 and at least 34,694 adults in 2001. On Isla de la Plata, there are probably fewer than 10-20 pairs. Unfortunately its now highly likely we may see yet another bird extinction occur within the next 5-8 years should conservation efforts not improve and threats decline rapidly.
Recent studies indicate lower adult annual survival during 1995-2005 than estimates from the 1960s, as the species is suffering mortality within some inshore fisheries through intentional harvesting for human consumption and incidental bycatch. This is supported by reports, which suggest that the level of harvesting by fishers to supply food and feather markets has increased dramatically in recent years. Around the Galápagos Islands, the transition from traditional to more modern fishing techniques such as longlining may pose a threat, as there is recent evidence of an increasing propensity for the species to follow fishing vessels. Longline fishing operations along the Peruvian and Ecuadorian coasts may therefore also threaten the species.
Rates of bycatch incidence in the artisanal fishing communities off the coast of Ecuador have been estimated at 0.11 albatrosses/1,000 hooks. Analysis of birds caught as intentional and incidental take in inshore fisheries has revealed that a disproportionate number of males are taken, and this appears to be at least partly responsible for a female-biased sex ratio (1.188 females per male) in adults. The tiny population on Isla de la Plata is threatened by nest-predation by rats and cats, as well as the illegal collection of eggs and young. Movement of eggs by parents (frequently resulting in death of the egg) and mass desertions of eggs are yet to be fully explained. An oiled albatross was found on Española during 2001 too.
The species has shown susceptibility to El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events, perhaps owing to increased adult mortality or increased negative interactions with fisheries under these conditions. Plastic ingestion appears to be a relatively minor threat in comparison with some other albatrosses. Increased abundance of mosquitoes during warm El Niño events has caused the mass abandonment of eggs in the past. Two hillside colonies disappeared entirely by 1994 due to dense vegetation, and overall declines in populations in other inland areas have also been attributed to habitat loss associated with vegetation regrowth since goats were eradicated in 1978. During the breeding season the species is affected by introduced mosquitoes.
If you would like to help save this species from extinction please donate to the Galapagos Conservation Organisation or contact them via their website below.
Alternately you can also contact them on Facebook here > Galapagos Conservation Trust
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The massive die-offs that left Alaska beaches coated with tens of thousands of murre carcasses in 2015 and 2016 also took a big toll on the birds’ next generation when survivors failed to breed.
There was a near-total reproduction failure last year at all of the monitored breeding sites in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea, federal biologists report.
At about 20 of the rocky outcroppings where common murres nest, lay eggs and hatch chicks, almost no fledglings were found, said Heather Renner, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Murres are black-and-white seabirds related to puffins and auks, are better at diving than flying, and look a bit like penguins. They are plentiful in Alaska’s waters, normally numbering about 2.8 million, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.
“All of the colonies that I’m aware of in the Gulf of Alaska had complete failures, and also the Bering Sea,” said Renner, who is based in Homer and works at the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.
Biologists had never documented such a widespread reproductive wipeout for common murres in Alaska, she said. Exactly why such a failure occurred is not yet known but is believed to be linked to lack of food connected to the “long, extended period of warm water,” she said.
Normally, about half of common murre nests successfully fledge chicks, she said. And murres in the Aleutian Islands and Chukchi Sea reproduced normally last year, despite the problems in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea, she said.
The grim news about the Gulf and Bering Sea murres’ reproductive failures was reported last week at the Western Alaska Interdisciplinary Science Conference and Forum held in Unalaska.
The common murre die-off of 2015 and 2016, linked to unusually warm conditions in the marine environment, was the biggest on record in Alaska. Nearly 42,000 carcasses were collected, and far more dead birds went uncollected, Renner said. Starving but still-alive murres were found in inland spots, far away from their marine habitat, an indication of fruitless searches for food.
The die-off coincided with the presence of a large mass of warm water in the North Pacific that lingered from late 2013 to 2016. Nicknamed “the Blob,” it combined with another phenomenon that also warmed the region’s waters, one of the most powerful El Nino systems on record.
Several other animal die-offs during that period were also linked to the warm conditions. Dozens of large whale carcasses were found floating or beached in the Gulf of Alaska, and toxins from warm-water-stimulated algal blooms are leading suspects in those deaths, now classified as an “unusual mortality event” being investigated by scientists. Hundreds of emaciated puffins turned up dead on St. Paul Island in the Bering Sea last year, and warmth-related lack of food is considered the likely cause.
Mass strandings of starving sea lions and seals occurred on the U.S. West Coast, a phenomenon also blamed on warm water. Hundreds of dead and dying sea otters were found in Kachemak Bay off the Kenai Peninsula during the period, though the cause of that die-off remains unknown.
As for Alaska’s common murres, they are now making their spring return to Alaska from southern wintering grounds, Renner said. Murres flew into Kachemak Bay about two weeks ago and they appear to be healthy, she said.
“I’ve seen them arriving at the right time and looking normal, so fingers crossed,” she said.
Although the North Pacific has cooled back to about normal, the possibility of more warm water next winter still remains. The National Weather Service, in a report updated on Monday, says there is about a 50 percent chance that another El Nino system will develop by this fall.
COURTESY OF WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE
OLYMPIA — The Washington Senate and House have approved legislation to withhold records that name ranchers who report that wolves are attacking livestock or sign agreements to prevent depredations.
House Bill 1465 stems from threats ranchers and public employees received last summer as the Department of Fish and Wildlife shot wolves preying on cattle in the Colville National Forest in northeast Washington.
The region’s senator, Shelly Short, R-Addy, said she hoped holding back the identity of ranchers would encourage producers to work with WDFW.
“I don’t take lightly that this bill allows this information to be exempt from the Public Records Act,” she said. “What this bill doesn’t do is (prevent) folks from having access to department decisions.”
The Senate passed the bill 40-7 on Friday after making minor changes to a version the House passed last month.
Ranchers along with state and local officials reported being harassed and receiving death threats from people angry with the shooting of seven wolves in the Profanity Peak pack. No suspects were identified or arrested.
The bill originally proposed withholding records that would identify state wildlife managers or contractors connected with responding to depredations.
The original bill also would have allowed WDFW to withhold where wolves were attacking livestock, beyond citing the pack’s territory. Washington wolfpacks range over territories as large as 635 square miles, according to WDFW. The department now reports the township where attacks occur. Townships are normally 36 square miles.
The bill was narrowed to focus on withholding WDFW records that identify ranchers who report depredations or have signed agreements specifying how they will prevent conflicts between livestock and wolves. The agreements make ranchers eligible for state funding.
WDFW reported entering into 54 agreements with livestock producers in 2016 and spending $410,000 to help them guard their animals.
Some ranchers who work informally with WDFW to prevent depredations say they’re concerned that signing an agreement implies they’re satisfied with the state’s policy of encouraging wolves to recolonize the state.
WDFW estimates the state has at least 115 wolves and anticipates the population will grow by about one-third a year. Most wolves are in Ferry, Okanogan, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties.
Short said lawmakers whose constituents support having a stable and widespread wolf population should back the bill.
“I believe this bill becomes an important tool to increase the willingness of folks who are dealing with recovering populations,” Short said. “It will encourage them to work more directly with the department.”
SAYLYUGEMSKY NATIONAL PARK, Russia — If you fly to the most remote corner of Siberia, drive for nine hours, cross another 60 miles of ice and hills in a sturdy Soviet jeep and climb a mountain, you just may see a snow leopard. Or maybe its footprint.
The endangered snow leopard is one of the most elusive and understudied of all big cats on the planet.
But this may change, thanks to a pioneering survey launched last month that aims to compile an exact headcount of all snow leopards in Siberia, down to the last cub.
It could be a crucial step in saving the felines, which are threatened by shrinking habitats, poachers’ snares and guns and Asian traditional medicine.
“All of us like cats, of course. But it’s not just a cat, it’s an indication of the health of an ecosystem,” said Dmitry Burenko, director of development at WWF Russia, speaking to NBC News in the Saylyugemsky National Park in the Altai mountains.
If that’s true, the ecosystem of Altai — a Russian republic in southern Siberia — is definitely in trouble.
Its arid, windswept ridges host a population of 200,000 people in an area the size of Indiana. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and one million tourists flock here every year to ride horses, kayak or hike.
But between winter temperatures of minus 40 degrees, cutting winds and elevation of up to 14,000 feet, it’s an inhospitable place for humans — which is exactly how the snow leopard likes it.
“The leopard favors hard-to-reach areas,” said Alexander Karnaukhov, a leading expert with the World Wildlife Fund Russia.
The big cat is found in 12 countries but there are only an estimated 3,000-6,000 worldwide. The biggest populations are in China and Mongolia. Russia, the northernmost edge of the habitat, is thought to have no more than 60-70.
“No exhaustive surveys are held, and many countries exaggerate their numbers,” Karnaukhov said.
The Science of Poop
Conservationists have been complaining for years about the lack of reliable leopard numbers. Countries use different counting methodologies, including the counting of traces which are easy mixed up with lynx and wolverines, and the figures are never compatible.
The Russian method being tested in the Altai starts with careful computer modeling of potential habitats.
Rangers, who know area well, place cameras on game trails. This is far more dangerous than it sounds: The snow leopard prefers the tops of mountain ranges, from which it can see its prey — ibex and argali sheep.
An NBC News crew following a ranger to one camera location had to scramble 700 feet up a frozen mountain river where one misstep would send climbers sliding down to the steppe on the horizon.
The most important part is not pictures, but poop. Leopard excrement collected and placed into “zip bags” on game trails is analyzed for DNA that identifies not only individual leopards but their kinship.
The method is not entirely unique — it is being used in another form to track tigers in India — but Russian scientists hope to perfect it so that it can be used for all snow leopard surveys from China to Tajikistan.
“We’ll hold an international meeting on this method in May, and hope that other countries will adopt it,” WWF’s Karnaukhov said.
Humans have been killing off snow leopards for a century, though not always deliberately.
Climate change affects some habitats and hunting remains a problem, though poaching is low in Russia, said Denis Malikov, deputy director of the Saylyugemsky National Park.
Leopards can also incur the wrath of sheep herders if the