Every month, Mongabay brings you a new episode of Candid Animal Cam, our show featuring animals caught on camera traps around the world and hosted by Romi Castagnino, our writer and conservation scientist.
The Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica), also known as the Malayan or Javan pangolin, is a unique mammal native to Southeast Asia. Pangolins are covered by many rows of overlapping scales, which are made from keratin, the same protein that forms human hair and fingernails. The scales never stop growing and are constantly filed down as the animals dig burrows and forage for insects. Pangolins use their acute olfactory senses to find insects and their powerful claws to dig into the ground in search of ant nests or to tear into termite mounds. To collect the insects, they use their extremely long and thin tongues, capable of extending about 25 cm, which are covered with sticky saliva. To protect themselves from ant or termite attacks, pangolins have special muscles that can seal their nostrils, ears, and mouths.
These solitary and nocturnal animals are predated by many animals like tigers, leopards, clouded leopards, wild dogs and pythons. When threatened, they roll into a ball, like armadillos do, hiding their vulnerable belly and other parts not covered by the tough scales. Pangolins are the most trafficked mammal in the world. The Sunda pangolin is listed as critically endangered by the IUCN and there is a complete international ban on commercial trade in the species. Watch the video to learn more about this species!
Special thanks to Mr Jonathan Moore and Dr Matthew Luskin for sharing their camera trap footage. Dr Luskin conducts wildlife sampling in Southeast Asia to study the impacts of oil palm on wildlife communities and Mr Moore’s research focuses primarily on animal-plant interactions. You can follow them on Twitter @Jonatha81270041 and @matt_luskin.
Banner image of a Sunda pangolin at a rescue center in Cambodia. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.
NAIROBI (Reuters) – One of the world’s last two northern white rhinos, a mother and her daughter, is being retired from a breeding programme aimed at saving the species from extinction, scientists said on Thursday.
Najin, 32, is the mother of Fatu who is now the only donor left in the programme, which aims to implant artificially developed embryos into another more abundant species of rhino in Kenya.
There are no known living males and neither of the two remaining northern white rhinos can carry a calf to term.- ADVERTISEMENT -https://s.yimg.com/rq/darla/4-6-0/html/r-sf-flx.html
Northern white rhinos, which are actually grey, used to roam freely in several countries in east and central Africa, but their numbers fell sharply due to widespread poaching for their horns.
A Biorescue team led by researchers from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Germany has been racing against time to save the world’s most endangered mammal.
“The team has reached the decision to retire the older of the two remaining females, 32-year-old Najin, as a donor of egg cells,” Biorescue said in a statement, citing ethical considerations.
Najin’s advanced age, and signs of illness, were also taken into account, they said.
Scientists hope to implant embryos made from the rhinos’ egg cells and frozen sperm from deceased males into surrogate mothers.
“We have been very successful with Fatu… So far we have 12 pure northern white rhino embryos,” David Ndeereh, the acting deputy director for research at the Wildlife Research and Training Institute, a Kenyan state agency, told Reuters.
“We are very optimistic that the project will succeed.”
The team hopes to be able to deliver its first northern white rhino calf in three years and a wider population in the next two decades.
(Reporting by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Nick Macfie)
1 of 12Jessie the scent detection dog and her team are searching for De Winton’s golden mole, a tiny mammal lost to science for 84 years. The mole is part of conservation group Re:wild’s top 25 ‘Most Wanted Lost Species’ list. South Africa’s Endangered Wildlife Trust partnered with Re:wild to use new detection techniques to hunt for the creature, including DNA analysis and dogs like Jessie. Click through to learn more about De Winton’s mole and other rediscovered species.Nicky Souness
The killing of red wolf 11768f was the beginning of the bad times for this country’s most critically endangered canid. It was mid-2015, and 11768F was a six-year-old matriarch with a mate and a large family. She’d already given birth several times before, and the evidence suggests she may have been caring for more newborns in the wet coastal forests that flourish near North Carolina’s Outer Banks. She and her family were supposed to be safe, thanks to the strong protections of the Endangered Species Act, which makes it a crime to harm or harass listed animals like red wolves. But then, in a foreshadowing of events to follow, the federal government issued her death warrant: It gave a private landowner permission to gun her down. By late June, she was dead. She was the first-ever federally listed red wolf shot and killed by a private individual with explicit government consent.
This article was written with the support of the Alicia Patterson Foundation.
“The cause of death in this well-nourished adult female red wolf was multiple gunshot wounds,” a government autopsy, obtained by The Nation, determined. If she did have a batch of new babies, no one knows what happened to them.
Until that troubled summer, red wolves had been the protagonists of a stunning, if controversial, conservation success story. A lithe, long-legged carnivore endemic to the woodlands of the southern and eastern United States, red wolves were once on the doorstep of extinction. Extirpated from most of their range by varied forms of persecution—poisoning, shooting, trapping, and the destabilizing impacts of development—they had been like dinosaurs watching the asteroid arrive. There were fewer than 20 true red wolves left in the wild when the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which oversees the Endangered Species Act, swooped in to save them in the 1970s. From that meager remnant, a decades-long federal reintroduction effort boosted the wild population about tenfold, all of which lived in or around the 152,000-acre Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge on the North Carolina coast. The first major experiment in large carnivore restoration in US history, the red wolf program would ultimately help inspire and inform the successful reintroduction of the gray wolf to Yellowstone National Park in 1995. The red wolf program offered hope that these keen animals, with their strong family bonds and fascinating social behaviors, might have a future on this continent.Top ArticlesREAD MOREDeath by Disinformation: GOP Accomplices toCovid Apocalypsehttps://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.473.0_en.html#goog_984259724https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.473.0_en.html#goog_394525050https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.473.0_en.html#goog_1440519931
But those achievements are now in ruin. This is the story of how and why the FWS, our country’s eminent conservation agency, walked away from its red wolf reintroduction program and let the wild wolf population collapse. The retreat started during the presidency of Barack Obama and continued under Donald Trump. Today there are maybe nine, maybe 10, maybe 20 true red wolves left rambling across the landscape.
“It is unacceptable for an important recovery program to be allowed to wither on the vine,” says Mike Phillips, a renowned wildlife biologist and former FWS official who helped launch the red wolf recovery program, helped lead the reintroduction of western gray wolves, and served for many years in the Montana state legislature. “I can’t think of a more irresponsible discharge of the public trust. Really, it shocked me.”
But it shouldn’t be a big surprise. The story of the red wolf comes with a broader context: It is emblematic of an FWS that is increasingly loath to govern, all too often folding under pressure from powerful interests. Indeed, despite the agency’s duty to protect and recover imperiled species, its top leaders sometimes appear determined to turn their back on the Endangered Species Act when political expediency suggests it. And when it comes to wild wolves, the politics are particularly treacherous.
For reasons ranging from the obvious to the almost mystical, the agriculture industry, certain well-heeled hunting groups, and the lawmakers who represent them have long harbored a profound antipathy toward these animals. Collectively, these groups and others like them have pushed an anti-wolf agenda that has increasingly taken on the tones of a broader culture war—one that sees many wildlife conservation programs as the embodiment of overzealous environmental regulation and creeping government tyranny. Wild red wolves have been some of the most significant casualties to date, but the trouble won’t stop with them.
Within the United States, red wolves are among the roughly 2,300 species granted protection under the Endangered Species Act. The growing extinction crisis, which threatens as many as 1 million species globally, means that many more plants and animals will need federal protection in the years to come. It also means that bold efforts will be required to reverse their declining numbers. If the government is already failing to stand up for iconic creatures like wolves, if it is already failing to hold the line against anti-conservation sentiment, how will it handle the daunting future?
Born to be wild: A very young red wolf near Manteo, N.C. (AP Photo / The News & Observer, Ken Jenkins)
In Wildlife in America, a magisterial mid-20th-century account of the decline of animal populations in North America, Peter Matthiessen foresaw a bleak future for wolves, both gray and red. He believed that the scattered bands of wolves left on the continent would “not long survive.” “Oblivion” was their imminent destination.
By 1959, when Matthiessen was writing, wolf populations across the United States had crumbled as the result of a decades-long campaign in which the federal government, bounty hunters, and American settlers trapped, shot, poisoned, and otherwise annihilated wild canids wherever they could find them. The killing was driven in part by an almost mythic fear of wolves, one that disparaged them as bloodthirsty beasts intent on harming humans and gobbling up livestock and wild game. Barry Lopez, in his book Of Wolves and Men, describes this slaughter as an “American pogrom” in which untold numbers of wolves perished. Red wolves were among them.
Joey Hinton, a red wolf expert with a doctorate in wildlife ecology, told me that in the late 1920s and early ’30s, “there were probably several thousand red wolves killed in east Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana,” a killing spree that “blew a big hole” in one of the species’ last strongholds. Red wolves were eradicated earlier in other probable parts of their range, like New York and New England, “long before anyone was paying attention.”
One of world’s two remaining live specimens — female Fatu who lives with her mother Najin on Kenya’s 90,000-acre Ol Pejeta wildlife conservancy — provided the eggs for the project, while the sperm used was from two different deceased males. https://www.dianomi.com/smartads.epl?id=3533
Scientific consortium Biorescue described in a press release late Thursday how the eggs were collected from Fatu in early July before being airlifted to a lab in Italy for fertilisation, development and preservation.
Neither Fatu nor Najin is capable of carrying a calf to term, so surrogate mothers for the embryos will be selected from a population of southern white rhinos.
Ol Pejeta director Richard Vigne told AFP on Friday that he believed in the project’s chances of success, while emphasising the high stakes.
“No one is going to pretend that this is going to be easy,” he said.
“We are doing things which are cutting-edge from a scientific perspective and we a dealing with genetics, with the two last northen white rhinos left on the planet,” said Vigne.
“There are many, many things that could go wrong,” he said. “I think everybody understand the challenges that remain.”
Since 2019 Biorescue has collected 80 eggs from Najin and Fatu, but the 12 viable embryos all hail from the younger rhino.
The project is a multi-national effort with scientists from the German Leibniz Institute backing the Kenya Wildlife Service and Ol Pejeta, and the Italian Avantea laboratory providing fertilisation support.
Kenyan Tourism Minister Najib Balala welcomed the news.
“It is very encouraging to note that the project has continued to make good progress in its ambitious attempts to save an iconic species from extinction,” he said in the press release.
Rhinoceroses have very few natural predators but their numbers have been decimated by poaching since the 1970s.
Modern rhinos have roamed the planet for 26 million years and it is estimated that more than a million still lived in the wild in the middle of the 19th century.
The saiga has seen a dramatic turnaround in fortunes. But even with the current boom, numbers will never return to the millions estimated in Soviet times due to looming threats, including the impact of state infrastructure projects and oil and gas development, said Albert Salemgareyev.
The latest survey, carried out in April, shows not only a big increase in the total numbers, but that one particular population in Ustyurt in the south of the country, has made a dramatic recovery.
In 2015, there were barely more than 1,000 animals left in the area, but there’s been a big increase to 12,000 in this year’s census.
The UK-based non-profit organisation, Fauna & Flora International, has been involved in efforts to protect the Ustyurt population by establishing a new anti-poaching ranger team and using satellite collaring to monitor saiga movements.
David Gill, FFI senior programme manager for Central Asia, said the new census was the best evidence yet that decades of conservation efforts to protect the saiga were paying off.
But he warned against complacency, saying saiga migrate across huge areas, so future development and infrastructure projects that might fragment its habitat remain a concern.
“But this new data is cause for celebration,” he added. “There are few truly vast wildernesses, like the steppes of central Asia, left on the planet. To know that saiga herds are still traversing them in their thousands, as they have done since prehistoric times, is an encouraging thought for those of us who want those wildernesses to remain.”
The International Union for Conservation of Nature classes the saiga among five critically endangered antelope species.
Numbers of the species, which goes by the scientific name Saiga tatarica, have plunged by more than 90% in the late 20th Century, coming close to extinction several times.
Kazakhstan is home to a majority of the world’s saiga, although the antelope also can be found in southern Russia and Uzbekistan.
In the decade after Kazakhstan’s independence the animal was pushed to the brink through poaching for its horns, which are prized in Chinese medicine.
Recent years have seen measures taken by the Kazakh government to protect the saiga population, including a crack down on poaching, with penalties of up to 12 years in prison, and the establishment of nature reserves.
Stephanie Ward, Altyn Dala conservation initiative international coordinator at the Frankfurt Zoological Society, said the antelope is among very few living creatures to have run freely among both Neanderthal humans and the humans of the 21st Century.
“It’s exciting to see their numbers start to recover to levels nearing 1,000,000 individuals, and it speaks volumes about the Government of Kazakhstan’s commitment to their protection,” she said.
The die-off of 2015 was blamed on a bacterium previously present in the saiga which turned into a deadly killer due to excess humidity and higher-than-average daily temperatures on the steppes.
The Biden administration announced plans on Friday to reverse policies implemented under President Donald Trump that weakened the Endangered Species Act, a half-century-old law credited with the recovery of the bald eagle, humpback whale, grizzly bear and dozens of other species.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service under President Biden are moving to undo much of the Trump administration’s work that altered the ways habitats of plants and animals on the verge of extinction are kept from total collapse.
The decision to bolster the federal government’s power to protect vanishing plants and animals comes as the world finds itself in the midst of what United Nations scientists say is a worldwide decline in biodiversity that threatens to erode food systems and other key parts of the global economy.
Martha Williams, principal deputy director at the Fish and Wildlife Service, said in a statement that her agency will work with both industry and Native American tribes “to not only protect and recover America’s imperiled wildlife but to ensure cornerstone laws like the Endangered Species Act are helping us meet 21st century challenges.”
Led by former interior secretary David Bernhardt, an expert on the Endangered Species Act, the Trump administration whittled down several long-standing protections for imperiled plants and animals following complaints from loggers, ranchers and other business interests.
For example, the previous administration allowed wildlife officials to take the economic cost of conserving species into account when deciding whether to put a plant or animal on the endangered species list — a move many environmentalists claimed violated both the letter and spirit of the law.
Trump officials also made it easier to remove protections for threatened species, such as the American burying beetle, which once scurried nearly everywhere east of the Rockies but now lives in only a few parts of the country and is further threatened by climate change. Under Trump, the Fish and Wildlife Service weakened protections for the beetle at the behest of oil and gas drillers who must work around the imperiled insect.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service say they will revise or rescind those rules.
David Henkin, a senior attorney at Earthjustice, which sued the Trump administration over the changes, said the Biden administration’s announcement is “excellent news for critically endangered species.”
“As long as they do it quickly,” he added, “we can avoid bad on-the-ground consequences.”
Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, called the announcement “a good start,” urging the Biden administration to update the regulation in a way that safeguards species threatened by rising temperatures.
“With climate change bearing down on us and no serious doubt remaining about the consequences of inaction, we should take this opportunity to update all federal standards as thoroughly as possible to prevent habitat destruction and biodiversity loss before it’s too late,” he said in a statement.
Republicans criticized the move for potentially undermining any push to rebuild roads, bridges and other infrastructure if opposed by environmentalists.
“Many of the reforms put in place under President Trump were born out of input from local communities and the men and women most affected by the policies created in Washington,” said Rep. Bruce Westerman (Ark.), the top Republican on the House panel. “Yet by reinstating burdensome regulations, this administration has once again opened the door for environmental groups to weaponize the ESA and use it to delay critical projects across the country.”
Jonathan Wood, a research fellow at the Property and Environment Research Center, a free-market think tank focused on environmental issues, cautioned that restrictions on how habitat can be developed by humans “aren’t always better for recovering species.”
“The law’s punitive approach does little to encourage landowners to provide or restore habitat for imperiled species,” he said, adding that the Endangered Species Act “too often makes rare species liabilities that landowners and states understandably want to avoid.”
Historically hailed as a success by the World Wildlife Fund and other conservation groups, the Endangered Species Act has helped keep the vast majority — 99 percent — of protected wildlife from extinction.
Yet many supposedly protected species are still far from thriving. A new study by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution this week, for instance, found that something isn’t right with the North Atlantic right whale.
Although the animal is listed as endangered and protected from harvest, it’s still impacted by deadly contact with humans through boat strikes and becoming entangled in fishing nets. Not all those incidents are lethal, but, according to research published in Current Biology, it has led to a startling finding. Right whales are getting smaller.
“We find that entanglements in fishing gear are associated with shorter whales, and that body lengths have been decreasing since 1981,” the study says. “Arrested growth may lead to reduced reproductive success and increased probability of lethal gear entanglements.”
The researchers used aerial photogrammetry data dating back to the early 2000s to measure whales observed for the study, taking 202 measurements of 129 individuals. Based on the findings, the authors determined that a whale born in 2019 is expected to reach a maximum length that’s one meter shorter than a whale born in 1981, a 7 percent decline.
To further protect some of the hundreds of thousands of plants and animals near extinction, Biden campaigned on a plan to conserve 30 percent of the nation’s land and waters by the end of the decade.
So far, though, his administration has offered few details on how it will achieve that ambitious goal, while weathering criticism from Republican lawmakers who call the plan an example of government overreach.
And plenty of other Trump moves, including a decision to deny protections for the monarch butterfly along the West Coast, still remain on the books.
“It’s disappearing,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It may be gone before 2024.”
Fargo, ND, USA / The Mighty 790 KFGO | KFGOThomson ReutersMay 28, 2021 | 8:29 AM
MADRID (Reuters) – The Iberian lynx population in Portugal and Spain rose above 1,000 last year after 414 cubs were born under a joint breeding programme, in a major leap towards conserving the endangered species, Spain’s Environment Ministry said on Friday.
The initiative was launched in 2002 when the number of Iberian lynx, a wild cat native to the Iberian Peninsula, plunged to just 94 in Spain and none in Portugal, due to farming, poaching and road accidents.
By the end of last year there were 1,111 Iberian lynx living in the wild in the region, including 239 breeding females, the ministry said in a statement. The number was a record high since monitoring of the species began, it said.
“With a 30% increase from 2019, this demographic curve allows us to be optimistic and to draw scenarios that distance the big Iberian feline from critical risk of extinction,” the ministry said.
In 2015, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) downgraded the threat level for the Iberian lynx, a spotted nocturnal wild cat distinguished by its beard and ear tufts, to ‘Endangered’ from ‘Critically Endangered’, which the ministry said was thanks to the ongoing conservation efforts.
The World Wildlife Fund, a partner in the programme, said the data was encouraging.
“This is a great success for conservation in Spain and the world. Few species are able to escape from such a critical situation as the Iberian lynx has been in,” said WWF Spain’s chief Juan Carlos del Olmo.
In order to be classified as non-endangered, the Iberian lynx population would need to be above at least 3,000, including 750 breeding females, the WWF said.
Del Olmo said this could be achieved by 2040, but that much still needed to be done to eradicate threats to the Iberian lynx, such as road accidents and hunting, and to improve prosecution rates for killing lynx.
(Reporting by Michael Susin, editing by Andrei Khalip and Raissa Kasolowsky)
About 30 years ago, the animals used to roam the Mt Kenya forest habitat but due to hunting for game meat and trophy, the numbers got depleted.
In Kenya, the population of bongos living in the Aberdare forest and other conservancies is about 30.
But there is hope: The animals are being bred in zoos in Florida, US and this rare antelope is coming back home, thanks to a project initiated by the Meru county government in collaboration with other conservation stakeholders.
The county government has partnered with Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya Forest Service, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Mt Kenya Trust and two Community Forest Associations (CFAs) to form a trust that will spearhead the project.
Lewa Conservancy, which is offering technical assistance, has already carried out a feasibility study with findings showing that the project is viable, according to Mr John Kinoti, the community development manager.
“The study shows that once reintroduced, the bongo will not face many challenges since this used to be their home,” Mr Kinoti said in an interview.
Last Friday, deputy governor Titus Ntuchiu unveiled the Meru Bongo and Black Rhino Conservation Trust (MBBR-CT), which has been given the mandate to receive the first batch of bongos from a US-based conservation organisation and set up a sanctuary in Mt Kenya forest where the animals will be bred.
“The conservationists identified the Mountain Bongo as faced with extinction and took a few to Florida for breeding. They are now bringing them back in this project that seeks to conserve the endangered animal,” he said.
Last year, governor Kiraitu Murungi launched the first Mountain Run in Africa to promote tourism, support conservation and help fund the establishment of a cancer institute with the mountain bongo and black rhino targeted in the conservation efforts.
The sanctuary is expected to attract tourists with the two CFAs – Kamulu and Ntimaka – benefitting from fees charged to tourists, thus providing members of the community with income.
County executive in charge of Trade, Tourism and Cooperatives Maingi Mugambi said besides conservation, the project is expected to spur tourism growth in the county.
“This is a big step towards achieving world-class tourism standards and the ripple effects of this project will be felt by members of the community since the revenue generated from tourism activities will go to the CFAs which are owned by members of the community,” Mr Mugambi said.
Updated 3:13 PM ET, Sat May 1, 2021The United States has decided to protect the Yangtze sturgeon under the Endangered Species Act.
(CNN)The United States has placed a new fish on its foreign endangered species list.The US Fish and Wildlife Service determined the Yangtze sturgeon warranted listing as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, according to a press release.The freshwater fish is found within the upper and middle Yangtze River system in China — a major fishing ground.
The Act requires the FWS to list species as endangered or threatened regardless of what country the species lives in. That’s to ensure people under US jurisdiction don’t contribute to further decline of the species, according the FWS, which has more than 600 foreign species on its list.
The agency makes determinations based on a few factors. They include natural or man-made factors such as the present or threatened destruction, modification or curtailment of its habitat or range, overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific or educational purposes, disease or predation and the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms.
In a document published to the Federal Register, the agency said overharvesting led to the Yangtze sturgeon’s decline. It said current threats to the fish include dams and bycatch, or unintentional catching that happens when fishing for other species. It’s also affected by industrial pollution, riverbed modification and hybridization with non-native sturgeon.China has imposed fishing bans on the Yangtze sturgeon, but the species is still losing numbers. The FWS said it does not have a population estimate for the species but noted natural reproduction of the sturgeon has not been documented in the wild since 2008.
Local and national authorities have also tried restocking, but those sturgeon are unlikely to survive wild conditions, according to the FWS.Listing foreign species as endangered can increase awareness of the species or prompt research efforts to address their conservation needs, the agency said. The move also prohibits people under US jurisdiction from importing listed species into the US or exporting listed species from the US.