Newly Discovered Mekong Region Monkey Endangered Already

January 29, 2022News EditorLatest NewsRSSWildlife Comments Offon Newly Discovered Mekong Region Monkey Endangered Already

VIENTIANE, Laos, January 29, 2022 (ENS) – On the steep hillsides of the dormant volcano that is Myanmar’s sacred Mount Popa, live more than 100 monkeys of a newly discovered species, just described and identified but already considered critically endangered. They are threatened by hunting and loss of habitat to agriculture and logging.

The Popa langur, Trachypithecus popa, is just one of 224 new species documented by the World Wide Fund For Nature, WWF, in its latest report from the Greater Mekong region.

The region takes its name from the great Mekong River, Asia’s sixth largest, that runs from its source high on the Tibetan Plateau through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam to enter the South China Sea through a complex delta system.

Hundreds of scientists from universities, conservation organizations and research institutes around the world contributed their discoveries of 224 previously unknown species to the WWF report. They identified 155 new plants, 35 reptiles, 17 amphibians, 16 fishes, and one mammal – the Popa langur.

There are an estimated 159 species of langurs in the world. The unique Popa langur was identified based on genetic matching of recently gathered bones with specimens from Britain’s Natural History Museum collected more than a century ago, the WWF report said. The Popa langue is distinguished by the broad white rings around its eyes and its front-pointing whiskers.

The WWF, working with the British NGO Fauna and Flora International, FFI, caught images of Popa langurs using camera traps in 2018. FFI reported the discovery late last year.

The WWF report features just the latest list of newly discovered species in the Greater Mekong. During the quarter-century since 1997, scientists have found 3,007 new species in the region.

“With over 3,000 new species in the past 24 years, the Greater Mekong region is no doubt a world heavyweight contender for species discoveries,” said K. Yoganand, WWF-Greater Mekong’s regional wildlife lead for wildlife and wildlife crime.

“These species are extraordinary, beautiful products of millions of years of evolution, but are under intense threat, with many species going extinct even before they are described,” Yoganand said. “They require our greatest respect, utmost attention and urgent actions to protect their habitats and minimize exploitation.”

New species from the WWF report include:

• An orange-brown knobby newt from Thailand, Tylototriton phukhaensis, has horns and a racing stripe. It was originally noticed in a 20-year-old photograph from a travel magazine, sparking researchers’ interest in discovering if it still exists.

• Amomum foetidum, a plant from the ginger family, was discovered in a plant shop in eastern Thailand and emits a pungent odor. It’s often used as a substitute for stink bugs in a popular chili paste.

• Leptobrachium lunatum is a big-headed frog from Vietnam and Cambodia threatened by ongoing deforestation and harvesting of its tadpoles for food.

• Thailand’s San Phueng rock gecko, Cnemaspis selenolagus, is yellow-orange on its upper body and gray halfway down its back, for camouflage.

• A newly discovered bamboo species from Laos, Laobambos calcareus, is the first ever documented case of succulence in bamboos. That means its stem can inflate and deflate during the wet and dry seasons, a survival skill.

• A mulberry tree species from the mountains of southern and central Vietnam that is related to jackfruit and breadfruit, Artocarpus montanus. It was first discovered in 70-year-old specimens at the Missouri Botanical Gardens, and DNA analysis confirmed it as a new species in 2020.

The Greater Mekong region is already considered a biodiversity hotspot inhabited by tigers, Asian elephants, and saola, some of the world’s rarest large mammals, native to the Annamite Range in Vietnam and Laos.

Many species go extinct before they are even discovered, due to habitat destruction, diseases spread by human activities, predation and competition brought by invasive species, and the devastating impacts of illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade.

In his foreword to the WWF report, Dr. Thomas Ziegler, curator for herpetology, ichthyology and invertebrates with Germany’s Zoological Garden Cologne, noted the extreme threats faced by these species. “To record this treasure trove of biodiversity before it is completely lost, we must accelerate our work and strengthen international cooperation,” he wrote.

“The Covid-19 crisis has made it very clear that humans cannot intervene in nature, its networks, food chains and biodiversity with impunity,” Ziegler said. “We must all learn to be more careful and coexist with all the other creatures on our planet, instead of just exploiting and extirpating them.”

To conserve all these unique species, many found nowhere else on earth, WWF partners with the wildlife trade monitoring network and works with governments in the region to detect and stop illegal trade in endangered species.

Fighting Illegal Wildlife Trafficking

WWF explains that growing wealth among the middle class across the Greater Mekong and in neighboring China means demand for wildlife is accelerating. Illegal wildlife trading occurs across the region, from remote corners of Myanmar and Laos, to markets in Bangkok and Hanoi. Both domestic and international consumers are involved.

WWF Greater Mekong is implementing a regional program to combat the illegal wildlife trade in all Greater Mekong countries. From improving cross border cooperation between wildlife enforcement agencies in the Golden Triangle, to implementing targeted demand reduction campaigns, WWF Greater Mekong is using a multi-faceted approach to fight the illicit trade in wild animals and their parts.

By building partnerships with governments, NGOs, and intergovernmental organizations working on wildlife trafficking, WWF Greater Mekong is aiming to leverage commitments to close illegal wildlife markets. At the same time, WWF specialists provide the information, skills, and tools needed for effective action to stop what conservationists call “the staggering global decline in species.”

Yellowstone bison species decision questioned by US judge

Mon, January 17, 2022, 1:36 PM·1 min read

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (AP) — A federal judge has ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to revisit part of its decision not to protect Yellowstone National Park’s bison as an endangered species.

The Buffalo Field Campaign and Western Watersheds Project groups have been fighting since 2014 to have Yellowstone’s bison declared endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

They have argued that two separate groups of bison in the park are genetically distinct. Rather than set a population limit of 3,000 animals for the entire park, they said, the limit should be 3,000 for each herd, or 6,000 overall.

The Fish and Wildlife Service, citing a different study, has argued that the herds are not genetically distinct and rejected the listing petition in 2019, the Billings Gazette reported.

The federal agency failed to articulate why it chose one study over the other, District of Columbia U.S. District Judge Randolph D. Moss wrote in an opinion last week.

Moss set no deadline for the Fish and Wildlife Service to respond but will require both sides to update the court on the case within 90 days.

How a Texas songbird and its endangered status became the center of a fight over the Hill Country

The golden-cheeked warbler's habitat in Central Texas has shrunk due to expanding suburban development.
The golden-cheeked warbler’s habitat in Central Texas has shrunk due to expanding suburban development. (Steve Maslowski/U. S. Fish And Wildlife Service, Steve Maslowski/U. S. Fish And Wildlife Service)

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When a group of researchers at Texas A&M’s Natural Resources Institute published the first peer-reviewed study that surveyed the presence of a brightly colored Texas songbird across a huge swath of Texas, the results were astounding: The population of the endangered golden-cheeked warbler in the state was estimated to be 10 times larger than previously thought.

The 2012 study did not advocate changing the species’ endangered status, nor did it imply that conservation measures to protect its habitat were no longer necessary, researchers said at the time.

“Rather,” said Heather Mathewson, the lead researcher, “this study is one of many necessary steps in our evolving knowledge of the golden-cheeked warbler.”

“[It] is not intended as the final word on the matter,” she added.

Nonetheless, the data point — without indicating whether the warbler’s population was increasing or decreasing in Texas — has fueled an almost decade-long legal battle over the bird with a bright yellow face and striking black marks. In 2015, the Texas Public Policy Foundation and Susan Combs, a Republican state leader who had served as Texas’ Comptroller, Commissioner of Agriculture and as a state representative, petitioned the federal government to remove the warbler from the endangered species list. The petition used Mathewson’s study as primary evidence that the bird no longer needed such stringent federal protections.

“The time has come to remove the golden-cheeked warbler from the endangered species list,” the petitioners argued. “Delisting this species is now compelled by today’s best available science.”

The latest lawsuit to remove the bird from the endangered species list was filed last week, part of a heated legal battle for which the 2012 study and its fundamental research question — how many golden-cheeked warblers exist in Texas? — has become a lightning rod. The ongoing fight comes as Central Texas faces enormous demand for new housing developments as the state’s population surges.

The federal government, in rejecting attempts to delist the bird, attacked the research methods of the biologists. Meanwhile, the TPPF — and eventually, the Texas General Land Office — characterized the study’s findings beyond what they actually suggested, arguing that the bird’s population had recovered and did not face any current significant threats.

“This really shouldn’t be controversial,” said Michael Morrison, a professor of wildlife and fisheries sciences at Texas A&M and one of the wildlife biologists who worked on the 2012 study. “You would think we should be celebrating the fact that … the bird is far better off than we thought.”

The federal government typically places the population of male warblers at about 27,000, based on a 2007 estimate by SWCA Environmental Consultants for the Texas Department of Transportation. Mathewson and her colleagues estimated the actual number is closer to 263,000. In a five-year review of the bird’s status published in 2014, the Fish and Wildlife Service wrote that the differing estimates underscored the need for more information.

A separate assessment of the bird’s population conducted in 2018 by Jim Mueller, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service scientist, estimated that there may be about 233,000 male warblers in Texas; those results are still undergoing peer-review for publication in a journal, he wrote in an email to the Tribune.

“The current population size is much larger than was estimated,” Mueller said in a comment. “That is fantastic news.”

“On the flip side, threats to the species continue, such as loss of habitat,” he said.

Human habitat encroaching on warbler country

The golden-cheeked warbler’s habitat ranges across a 35-county region of Central Texas from west of San Antonio up to the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area. It follows and expands northwest of the Interstate 35 corridor, a rapidly growing region of Texas where the population of humans has grown by 50% between 1990 and 2010. The bird was first listed as endangered in 1990; the primary considerations were the rapid decline of habitat and its small estimated population size.

The migratory songbird breeds in Texas between late February and the end of April before heading south to Central America in the late summer. Its breeding range extends across 67,000 square kilometers, or roughly 25,900 square miles, of Texas, Mueller said. But, only about 4% of that area is suitable woodland habitat since the bird relies on Ashe juniper bark to nest, he added.

The federal government has previously rejected Texas’ attempts to delist the bird based on new population estimates alone. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service argues that there isn’t evidence to suggest threats to the bird’s existence have been reduced. In fact, the opposite has been found: Destruction of the bird’s habitat has only accelerated across Central Texas as suburbs expand around San Antonio, Austin and Dallas. One 2013 study found that between 2001 and 2011, the golden-cheeked warbler’s habitat shrunk by 29%. Scientists have found that the primary drivers of its habitat loss are rapid suburban development outside of Austin and San Antonio.

The Texas General Land Office manages state-owned lands and mineral rights totaling 13 million acres, according to the agency. After the federal government rejected its first attempt to delist the bird, the Texas General Land Office joined a 2017 lawsuit to delist the bird by the TPPF, arguing that the agency leases lands to benefit the Permanent School Fund, and endangered species restrictions lowered property values.

On appeal, a fifth circuit judge in 2020 ordered the Fish and Wildlife Service to reconsider Texas’ petition, stating that the federal agency had used an incorrect legal standard to evaluate whether the bird’s endangered status should be reconsidered. The federal agency issued another finding in July, again rejecting the attempt to begin a process that could delist the bird.

“These efforts represent new estimates rather than indicators of positive trends in warbler habitat and population size, and thus do not imply recovery,” the Fish and Wildlife Service wrote of the 2012 population study.

But Ted Hadzi-Antich, a senior attorney with the Texas Public Policy Foundation and lead counsel on the warbler case, argues to the contrary.

“To my mind, it’s pretty clear that [the population] is increasing, and that the habitat fragmentation, predation and urbanization have not been adversely impacting the warblers,” he said.

Hadzi-Antich said that the state’s General Land Office is likely the single most impacted entity by the continued listing of the golden-cheeked warbler. For example, he said about 85% of a 2,300-acre parcel of land between Bexar and Kendall counties is considered warbler habitat; GLO estimated that the endangered species protections on that specific site have decreased its property value by 35%.

“They wanted to develop that property, but with this diminution in value, that became problematic,” he said. “Nobody wants to see species become extinct. The problem is, you’ve got palpable adverse impacts on humans from some of these requirements.”

“The [Endangered Species Act] is intended to protect species from extinction, not protect species from the supposition that there may be a threat,” he added.

George P. Bush, the Texas land commissioner and a candidate for Texas attorney general, has long fought against Endangered Species Act protections that block urban development. In 2015, he led an alliance of state land commissioners challenging how species are listed. On Wednesday, Texas and the TPPF sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service again, arguing that the federal government refused to abide by the judge’s instructions.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Fish and Wildlife Service said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

Conservation advocates, meanwhile, generally agree with the federal government that the threats still exist to the warbler’s population.

“Scientists from around the world are ringing the alarm bells that we’re in an extinction crisis,” said Noah Greenwald, the endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit advocacy group. “The golden-cheeked warbler challenges us to protect woodlands in an area that’s being rapidly developed.”

Erin Zwiener, a Democrat state representative who has advocated for conservation of natural areas and represents District 45, west of Austin — which includes a large swath that serves as habitat for the golden-cheeked warbler — said the increased costs to developers from the endangered species protections don’t entirely block growth, and the current rules help to protect natural areas in the Texas Hill Country.

“Warbler habitat is largely in some of the most desirable places to build in the state,” Zwiener said. “We are still experiencing rapid growth despite the protections.”

“Honestly, I don’t know many people around here who would complain about development being slightly slower,” she added.

Science caught in the middle  

Evolving science — better surveys, better models, more testing — provided the ammunition for the hotly contested legal battle over the development of Central Texas. Morrison, the biologist who worked on the 2012 study, said he’s frustrated by the way researchers and the science supporting their findings have been characterized along the way.

“We’ve been accused by environmentalists that somehow, we as the scientists want [the warbler] to not be [on the] endangered [list],” Morrison said.

The Fish and Wildlife Service sought in part to discredit Morrison and his colleagues, arguing that the estimate of land occupied by the birds used in the study was not reliable and that it may have led to an inflated estimate of the total population. But Roel Lopez, director of Texas A&M’s Natural Resources Institute, said that researchers used robust methodology, the most current technology available and random sampling to determine potential habitat and the population estimate.

“The methods back then [in 1990, when the warbler was first listed as endangered] may not have been as robust, or there wasn’t a lot of information,” Lopez said. “Through time, there may be an increased effort to survey and sample more, so it’s not uncommon for us to work on a species and — through an increase in effort — actually find more of them.”

On the other hand, the assertion by the TPPF that the bird’s population has ballooned since 1990 is very unlikely and not supported by research, experts said. Scientists may never know how many birds there were in 1990 or how much the population has declined since then.

But, Morrison said that misses the larger problem, which is how to ensure enough warbler habitat remains in Texas Hill Country.

“We need to be focusing on working with landowners to maintain large continuous tracts of habitat, give them tax breaks, and reasons to maintain that,” Morrison said. “Fighting over whether or not there’s 100,000 or 200,000 [male birds], to me, is kind of not the point.”

Federal plans would gut essential protection for endangered Florida panthers, Key deer

Elise BennettView Comments

A Florida Key deer stands on the side of a highway in Big Pine Key.

Taking a page straight out of the Trump administration’s anti-conservation playbook, late last year the Biden administration quietly pushed forward a plan that would put two of Florida’s most beloved and endangered animals on the fast-track to extinction.

Despite President Biden’s directive that all federal agencies follow the best available science, buried in the administration workplan that sets the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s priorities is a proposal to strip protections for the Key deer and the Florida panther.

This proposal flouts the undeniable reality that these animals face an escalating loss of habitat that threatens their existence. The best-available scientific information makes clear both species need more protection, not less. 

More:Panther listing status may change as FWS expected to release population review soon

With only an estimated 200 individuals left, Florida panthers are considered among the most endangered big cats on Earth. Their limited habitat in southwest Florida is hemmed in and fragmented by highways and sprawling residential development, leading to 21 being killed by vehicles in 2021.

And in just the first 9 days of 2022, two more panthers have been struck and killed by vehicles this year – one in Glades County last Sunday; another in Collier County on Jan. 2.

A female Florida panther trips a camera trap set up by USA TODAY NETWORK - FLORIDA photographer Andrew West at the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed on Tuesday, March 26, 2019. The panther likely has kittens, said Dave Onorato, Florida panther research scientist for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. There is a teat visible in the photo. How the notch came to be in her ear is unknown.

Panthers also face the prospect of industrial oil development in their largest contiguously intact habitat in Big Cypress National Preserve and the looming approval of habitat-destroying residential and commercial development in an area scientists have determined must be preserved to protect the species from extinction.

The threats to Florida’s Key deer are just as troubling.

Scientists have noted that the United States’ tiniest deer — found only on the Florida archipelago — are under severe threat of extinction from disease, vehicle strikes and sea-level rise that will flood their home within decades.

The proposal to gut protections for the two animals exposes an alarming push by federal wildlife regulators to achieve a predetermined, politically driven outcome rather than one based on science and commonsense.

In the case of the Florida panther, a Fish and Wildlife Service email reveals a carefully choreographed plan to weaken or entirely eliminate protections for the panther, giving staff scientists marching orders to reach a prearranged outcome, which has been shamelessly prioritized by the Biden administration.

The politicization of key deer management is just as bad.

No reasonable person, let alone independent scientist, could ever conclude that an imperiled, miniature deer found only on low-lying islands could survive in the face of rising seas and recommend that it should have its Endangered Species Act protections stripped.Your stories live here.Fuel your hometown passion and plug into the stories that define it.Create Account

The Service’s proposal here is so far outside accepted science that it begs the question: Why is the agency doing this? Is it bowing to developers in South Florida who wish to destroy habitat, build more wildlife-killing roads and develop fossil fuel resources in wilderness? Or is it part of the reckless, unscientific plan by Fish and Wildlife Service southeast regional director Leo Miranda to delist or downlist 30 protected species every year?

This proposal indicates that these are not innocent mistakes by the Service but signs of deeply rooted, systemic problems in an agency that is demonstrating its willingness to manipulate science and on-the-ground facts to achieve political, predetermined outcomes.

Above all, the Service’s proposal reminds us that extinction is a choice.

Elise Bennett is a Florida-based senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.

Large quantities of saiga horn exported from Ukraine after a breeding facility is launched

11 January 2022

Attempts to establish breeding populations of saiga in zoos have been largely unsuccessful. However, Ukraine’s Askania-Nova Biosphere Reserve, where animals from around the world are kept in semi-wild conditions on the virgin steppe, has managed to breed a small population of saiga that now numbers around 700 animals. The saiga breeding program in Askania-Nova started in the 1970s when 70 wild animals were brought to the reserve.

In 2018, reports appeared in Ukrainian press that a Chinese company, quoted as Shizhen Tan Pharmaceutical Company (in the original Russian – Шичжень тан фармасьютикал компани) launched a venture with Askania-Nova to breed saiga commercially for their horn.

Reports claimed that the Chinese side leased almost 100 hectares of land in Kherson Region near the village of Kamysh. The lease was for 7 years and the Chinese invested over 40,000 US dollars in the infrastructure. The saiga stock for the breeding facility was bought from Askania-Nova.

Ukrainian news portal Noviy Den’ reported that in 2018 the same Chinese company also bought saiga skins and skulls of saiga from Askania-Nova. The body parts reportedly came from animals that had died of natural causes on the reserve. The report mentioned 30 skulls sold and 130 more being prepared to be sent to China. “Several dozens” of skins were also sold. The prices were quoted as 400 US dollars per skull (it was not mentioned if the skulls had horns or not), and 200 dollars for each skin. CITES trade database shows that in 2018, 30 skins and 220 skulls were exported from Ukraine to China.

Noviy Den’ quoted the director of Aslkania-Nova, Viktor Gavrilenko, as to how the reserve’s saiga are turned into a source of revenue: “Our main herd is kept in semi-wild conditions and does not let people anywhere near them. We prepared the animals for captivity … by raising them from birth. This is how they became accustomed to people and at times do not object to being approached and stroked. These are the antelopes that we rehoused into the new breeding facility.”

In August 2020, Kherson regional news portal reported that although 25 saiga were originally “rehoused” to the “breeding facility” in 2019, the number of saiga there has increased to 200. The report claims that in order to harvest the horn, the antelopes will not be slaughtered, but “the horns will sawn off from males under the general anaesthetic, and (the horns) regrow in two years.”

Wild male saiga with horns. (Credit: Andrey Gilijov / Wikimedia Commons.

It is biologically inconceivable that in one year 175 saiga could be born in captivity from an original stock of just 20 animals. If the claims of 200 animals in the breeding facility are correct, then almost a third of Askania-Nova’s total saiga population may now be marked for horn harvesting.

The 2019 CITES zero-quota on wild saiga means that only captive bred animals can be legally traded. However, CITES records showed export of almost 1,500 saiga horns – equivalent to 750 male saiga (only males of the species have horns), in a single shipment, from Ukraine to China in 2019.

For this to have been legal, the horns shipped out of Ukraine would need to have come from dead captive-bred animals kept in storage in a breeding facility. Alternatively, the legal horn could have come from Ukraine’s live captive-bred saiga – “sawn off under general anaesthetic”.

However, the number of horns in the shipment – almost 1,500, is equivalent to more than double the entire captive-bred population of saiga, males and females included, of Askania-Nova. The numbers simply do not add up.

There are no wild saiga in Ukraine – the species went extinct there in the 19th century.

The Species Victim Impact Statements (SVIS) Initiative have provided information to the Hong Kong government on the extent of saiga horn smuggling into Mainland China and the saiga poaching crisis in Kazakhstan that led to murders of wildlife rangers by poachers. Timely access to robust biological data is essential to government departments seeking to effectively counter illegal wildlife trade.

Illegal wildlife trade has now become a grave threat to species and ecosystems. Species Victim Impact Statement (SVIS) Initiative have drafted Species Victim Impact Statements for over a hundred most trafficked species of animals and plants. Species Victim Impact Statements help the judges and the prosecutors understand the harm done when species are taken from the wild. This harm is not limited to the suffering of individual animals, but also includes harm to the ecosystems, as well as to the resources and services that these ecosystems provide to people.

Scientists step up hunt for ‘Asian unicorn’, one of world’s rarest animals

The saola is so elusive that no biologist has seen one in the wild. Now they are racing to find it, so they can save it

This image of a captive saola was taken in Vietnam in 1993
The saola has only been captured on camera a handful of times. Photograph: WWF/AP

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About this contentVeronika PerkováFri 7 Jan 2022 02.30 EST

Weighing 80-100kg and sporting long straight horns, white spots on its face and large facial scent glands, the saola does not sound like an animal that would be hard to spot. But it was not until 1992 that this elusive creature was discovered, becoming the first large mammal new to science in more than 50 years.

Nicknamed the “Asian unicorn”, the saola continues to be elusive. They have never been seen by a biologist in the wild and have been camera-trapped only a handful of times. There are reports of villagers trying to keep them in captivity but they have died after a few weeks, probably due to the wrong diet.

It was during a survey of wildlife in the remote Vũ Quang nature reserve, a 212 square mile forested area of north central Vietnam, in 1992, that biologist Do Tuoc came across two skulls and a pair of trophy horns belonging to an unknown animal.

Twenty more specimens, including a complete skin, were subsequently collected and, in 1993, laboratory tests revealed the animal to be not only a new species, but an entirely new genus in the bovid family, which includes cattle, sheep, goats and antelopes.

Initially named Vu Quang Ox, the animal was later called saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis) – meaning “spindle horns”, the arms or posts (sao) of a spinning wheel (la) according to Lao-speaking ethnic groups in Laos and neighbouring Vietnam.

A wild saola photographed by camera trap in Laos in 1999.
A saola photographed by a camera trap in Laos in 1999. Photograph: William Robichaud


The discovery was hailed as one of the most spectacular zoological discoveries of the 20th century but less than 30 years later the saola population is believed to have declined massively due to commercial wildlife poaching, which has exploded in Vietnam since 1994. Even though the saola is not directly targeted by poachers, intensive commercial snaring that supplies animals for use in traditional Asian medicine or as bushmeat serves as the primary threat.

A giant stingray fish in the Mekong River near the Cambodian and Vietnam border.

Despite efforts to improve patrolling of nature reserves in the Annamite mountains, a major mountain range extending about 680 miles through Laos, Vietnam and into north-east Cambodia, poaching has been intensifying. “Thousands of people use snares, so there are millions of them in the forest, which means populations of large mammals and some birds have no way to escape and are collapsing throughout the Annamites,” says Minh Nguyen, a PhD student at Colorado State University, who studies the impact of snares on critically endangered large-antlered muntjac.

In 2001, the saola population was estimated to number 70 to 700 in Laos and several hundred in Vietnam. More recently, experts have put the number at fewer than 100 – a decline that led to the species being listed as critically endangered on the IUCN red list in 2006, the highest risk category that a species can have before extinction in the wild. The animal was last camera-trapped in 2013 in the Saola Nature Reserve in central Vietnam. Since then, villagers continue to report its presence in areas in and around Pu Mat national park in Vietnam and in Bolikhamxay province in Laos.

We stand at a moment of conservation history. We know how to find and save this magnificent animal. We just need the world to come together

William Robichaud, Saola Foundation

In 2006, William Robichaud and Simon Hedges, a biologist and specialist on wildlife conservation and countering the illegal wildlife trade in Asia and Africa, co-founded the Saola Working Group (SWG) with the aim of finding the last saolas in the wild for a captive breeding programme, in order to reintroduce the species back into the wild in future, in a natural habitat that is free from threats.

The SWG connects conservation organisations in Laos and Vietnam to raise awareness, collect information from local people, and search for saola. But the animals continue to elude the team. Between 2017 and 2019, the SWG carried out an intensive search using 300 camera traps in an 11 square mile area of the Khoun Xe Nongma national protected area in Laos. Not one of the million photographs captured saola.Advertisement

According to the IUCN, only about 30% of potential Saola habitat has had any form of wildlife survey and potentially as little as 2% has been searched intensively for the species. Technologies limit the capabilities – camera traps are not good at detecting individual animals that are spread across a large area, especially in the damp, dense forest of the saola range. In August this year, the IUCN Species Survival Commission called for more investment in the search for the saola. “It is clear that search efforts must be significantly ramped up in scale and intensity if we are to save this species from extinction,” said Nerissa Chao, Director of the IUCN SSC Asian Species Action Partnership

Saola eating leaves by the author Veronika Perková for her podcast How to save saola
A drawing of a saola eating leaves. Photograph: Veronika Perková

One organisation, the Saola Foundation, is raising money for a new initiative that would train dogs to detect saola signs such as dung. Any samples would then be studied onsite using rapid saola-specific DNA field test kits being developed in conjunction with the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Molecular Laboratory in New York. Should the kits return a positive result within an hour, expert wildlife trackers will start searching for saola in the forest.

If successful, captured saolas will be taken to a captive breeding centre being developed by the SWG and the Vietnamese government at Bạch Mã national park in central Vietnam.

“We stand at a moment of conservation history,” says Robichaud, who is president of the Saola Foundation. “We know how to find and save this magnificent animal, which has been on planet Earth for perhaps 8m years. We just need the world to come together and support the effort. It won’t cost much, and the reward, for saola, for the Annamite mountains, and for ourselves, will be huge.”

Find more age of extinction coverage here, and follow biodiversity reporters Phoebe Weston and Patrick Greenfield on Twitter for all the latest news and features

Critically endangered male red wolf now at WNC Nature Center in hopes of reproducing

by Brittany WhiteheadSunday, December 5th 2021

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Ben, a red wolf, is seen at the Wolf Conservation Center in New York. Ben was transferred to the WNC Nature Center on Nov. 20, 2022. (Photo credit: Wolf Conservation Center)

3VIEW ALL PHOTOSBen, a red wolf, is seen at the Wolf Conservation Center in New York. Ben was transferred to the WNC Nature Center on Nov. 20, 2022. (Photo credit: Wolf Conservation Center)

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WLOS) — A critically endangered red wolf was flown to Asheville on Nov. 20 and now resides at the WNC Nature Center.

Male red wolf “Ben” was born at the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, New York in 2018, and since then lived there with his mother, father and siblings.

He came to the WNC Nature Center to join red wolves Karma and Garnet there, who arrived at the nature center in 2018 but did not successfully reproduce during their time there.

WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA NATURE CENTER OFFERS FUN FOR ENTIRE FAMILYBen, a red wolf, is seen at the Wolf Conservation Center in New York. Ben was transferred to the WNC Nature Center on Nov. 20, 2022. (Photo credit: Wolf Conservation Center)

Because red wolves are critically endangered, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan program recommended that a new breeding pair of red wolves be transferred to the WNC Nature Center.

Garnet, a male, was transferred to the Endangered Wolf Center in Eureka, Missouri, in September. Karma, a female, will be leaving the WNC Nature Center in the spring 2022 to be transferred elsewhere. Until she leaves, however, Ben will be placed with Karma for companionship.

“Ben is a favorite at the Wolf Conservation Center,” said Rebecca Bose, curator at WCC in New York. “We’re excited to be able to fly him down here first class where he will meet his new mate, start a new life, and hopefully have some puppies of his own!”

Ben’s transition will take place over the coming months as he acclimates and after he successfully quarantines.


In October, US Fish and Wildlife estimated that there are only 15 to 17 red wolves living in the wild in Eastern North Carolina. And there are 241 red wolves living under human care in places like the WNC Nature Center. The WNC Nature Center has been involved with the American Red Wolf Recovery Program since 1990, when it began exhibiting red wolves for the first time.

Between 1996 and 2014, 13 pups have been born at the Nature Center.

While there is a long road ahead for the species’ ultimate recovery, Oldread is cautiously optimistic about the Nature Center’s role. “We’re proud to be part of the Species Survival Plan program for red wolves, and we’re hopeful that our new red wolves will be able to reproduce successfully in the future to have offspring that could potentially be released in the wild and help grow the population.”

California condors: Virgin births discovered in critically endangered birds

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A California condor seen in Grand Canyon National Park
Image caption,The study’s co-author said it is “truly an amazing discovery”

US wildlife researchers have discovered that two California condors, a critically endangered bird, gave birth without any male genetic DNA.

The discovery that condors are capable of virgin births – formally called parthenogenesis or asexual reproduction – surprised scientists.

Virgin births have been recorded in other bird species, as well as lizards, snakes, sharks, rays and other fish.

Only about 500 California condors remain in the US south-west and Mexico.

In the 1980s, fewer than two dozen birds remained in the wild, but conservation efforts have boosted their numbers in recent years.

The peer-reviewed findings from San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance were published this week in the American Genetic Association’s Journal of Heredity.

The researchers describe how routine genetic screenings of captive birds led to the discovery that two male chicks hatched in 2001 and 2009 were related to their mothers and had not inherited DNA from any father bird. BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

All 467 male condors in the breeding pool were tested. What makes the case even more rare is that it is the first time that any bird species has had a virgin birth when males were present for breeding.

Parthenogenesis is an extremely rare event, but has been recorded in other species before. It happens when a cell in a female behaves like a sperm and fuses with an egg. It normally occurs in animal populations that have few or no breeding males.

“This is truly an amazing discovery,” Oliver Ryder, the study’s co-author and director of conservation genetics at San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, said in a statement.

“We were not exactly looking for evidence of parthenogenesis, it just hit us in the face. We only confirmed it because of the normal genetic studies we do to prove parentage.”

Unfortunately, both of the chicks have since died – one at age two in 2003 and the other in 2017 when it was seven.

Both mother condors previously had chicks that were bred in the traditional way.

One had 11 chicks, while the other, who had been paired with a male for 20 years, had 23 chicks. She reproduced twice more after the virgin birth.

Endangered whale population sinks close to 20-year low

FILE – In this March 28, 2018, file photo, a North Atlantic right whale feeds on the surface of Cape Cod bay off the coast of Plymouth, Mass. The population of North Atlantic right whales has dipped to the lowest level in two decades, according to the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)

PATRICK WHITTLEMon, October 25, 2021, 8:48 AM·2 min read

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A type of whale that is one of the rarest marine mammals in the world lost nearly 10% of its population last year, a group of scientists and ocean life advocates said on Monday.

The North Atlantic right whale numbered only 366 in 2019, and its population fell to 336 in 2020, the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium said. The estimate is the lowest number in nearly two decades.

Right whales were once abundant in the waters off New England, but were decimated during the commercial whaling era due to their high concentrations of oil. They have been listed as endangered by the U.S. government for more than half a century.- ADVERTISEMENT -

The whales have suffered high mortality and poor reproduction in some recent years. There were more than 480 of the animals as recently as 2011. They’re vulnerable to fatal entanglement in fishing gear and collisions with large ships, and even when they survive, they often emerge less fit and less able to feed and mate, said Scott Kraus, chair of the consortium.

“No one engaged in right whale work believes that the species cannot recover from this. They absolutely can, if we stop killing them and allow them to allocate energy to finding food, mates and habitats that aren’t marred with deadly obstacles,” Kraus said.

The whales feed and mate off New England and Canada. They then travel hundreds of miles in the fall to calving grounds off Georgia and Florida before returning north in the spring.

The whale consortium was founded in the mid-1980s by a group of science institutions including the New England Aquarium and today includes dozens of members from academia, industry, government and elsewhere.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the arm of the federal government that monitors and regulates ocean issues, cautioned that the group’s estimate is preliminary and has not yet been peer reviewed. However, the agency shares the consortium’s concern about the loss of right whales, said Allison Ferreira, a spokesperson for the agency.

“North Atlantic right whales are one of the most imperiled species on the planet, and the latest estimate shows that the substantial downward trajectory of right whale abundance documented over the last decade continues,” Ferreira said.

The whales, which can weight 135,000 pounds (61,235 kilos) have been a focus of conservationists for generations. Recently, efforts to save the whales have resulted in new restrictions on U.S. lobster fishing, and pushback from the fishing industry about those new rules.

The rules are designed to reduce the number of rope lines that link buoys to lobster and crab traps, and went into effect this year. However, the rules also resulted in a flurry of lawsuits, and a federal judge ruled this month that fishermen can continue to fish until further notice in an area off the coast of Maine that had been slated for restriction from their gear.

Critically endangered Sunda pangolin caught on camera trap | Candid Animal Cam

by Romina Castagnino on 22 October 2021

  • 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.

Camera traps bring you closer to the secretive natural world and are an important conservation tool to study wildlife. This month we’re meeting the world’s most trafficked mammal: the Sunda pangolin.

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.