|Peccary’s disappearance foreboding for other Mesoamerican wildlife|
- A multinational team of scientists met to discuss the current status and future of the white-lipped peccary, a pig-like mammal that lives in Central and South America.
- White-lipped peccaries no longer live in 87 percent of their former range, driven out largely by hunting and habitat loss.
- The scientists say the disappearance of this species, which requires large tracts of unbroken forest, could portend the extinction of other wildlife.
|In the belly of the beast: journalist delves into wildlife trafficking|
- Rachel Nuwer, who has written for Mongabay, Smithsonian, the New York Times and other publications, published a new book in September, “Poached,” which delves deeply into the global wildlife trafficking epidemic.
- Her book looks into the origins of the wildlife trade, its mechanisms, markets, and solutions. It covers charismatic mammals (elephants, rhinos and tigers), as well as the non-charismatic (pangolins and snakes).
- In this exclusive Mongabay Q&A, the author shares some of her most harrowing moments on the trail of global wildlife traffickers. The scariest thing of all: how accepting people can often be to the slaughter of millions of wild animals, and to the extermination of species, so as to be served a rare meat or a bogus cure.
- Still, Nuwer finds hope in the courageous individuals who fight the trade.
|Dress like a polar bear: learning to love muskoxen at 15 below zero|
- Enduring subzero temperatures that make your face freeze, dressing as a bear, and getting chased by an angry male muskox, are all in a day’s work for biologist Joel Berger. His experiences and scientific insights are featured in a new book that focuses on the lives and survival strategies of muskoxen and other cold-adapted animals.
- The autobiographical book, “Extreme Conservation: Life at the Edge of the World,” profiles Berger’s studies of inhospitable ecosystems, ranging from the high latitudes above the Arctic Circle, to the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau.
- Mongabay contributor Gloria Dickie interviews Berger to see what makes a human want to live and work in some of the Earth’s most brutal environments. The quick answer: to see how barely studied Northern and alpine large mammals — especially muskoxen — are adapting, or not adapting, to a rapidly warming world.
- Berger’s findings regarding instinctual and learned behavior, evolution and survival in a globally warmed world turn out to be revelatory not only to cold-adapted animals, but also relevant to wildlife species around the globe — and to the scientists who want to conserve them.
|Hunting, fishing causing dramatic decline in Amazon river dolphins|
- Both species of Amazon river dolphin appear to be in deep decline, according to a recent study. Boto (Inia geoffrensis) populations fell by 94 percent and Tucuxi (Sotalia fluviatilis) numbers fell by 97 percent in the Mamirauá Reserve in Amazonas state, Brazil between 1994 and 2017, according to researchers.
- Difficult to detect in the Amazon’s murky waters, both species are listed as “Data Deficient” by the IUCN. But researchers maintain that if region-wide surveys were conducted both species would end up being listed as Critically Endangered.
- The team noticed scars from harpoon and machete injuries on the dolphins they caught. Interviews with fishermen confirmed the team’s suspicions: dolphins were being hunted for use as bait. The mammals also get entangled in nets and other fishing gear, are hunted as food, eliminated as pests, and suffer mercury poisoning.
- Researchers believe the passage and enforcement of new conservation laws could save Amazon river dolphins, and halt their plunge toward extinction. But a lack of political will, drastic draconian cuts to the Brazilian environmental ministry budget, and continued illegal dolphin hunting and fishing make action unlikely for now.
|Pangolins on the brink as Africa-China trafficking persists unabated|
- Pangolins are the most trafficked mammal in the world, with more than a million snatched from the wild in the past decade, according to IUCN estimates. The four Asian species have been hunted nearly to extinction, while the four African species are being poached in record numbers.
- The illegal trade largely goes to China and other East Asian nations, where pangolin meat is an expensive delicacy served to flaunt wealth and influence. Pangolin is also a preferred ingredient in traditional medicine in Asia and Africa. Traditional healers in Sierra Leone use pangolin to treat 59 medical conditions, though there is no evidence of efficacy.
- In 2016, pangolins were given the highest level of protection under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), a multilateral treaty signed by 183 nations. But laws and enforcement in African nations, along illegal trade routes, and in Asia continue to be weak, with conservationists working hard to strengthen them.
- Pangolins don’t thrive in captivity, but the Tikki Hywood Foundation in Zimbabwe and Save Vietnam’s Wildlife have succeeded in rescuing confiscated pangolins and restoring them to the wild. Six U.S. zoos are trying to raise pangolins as part of the controversial Pangolin Consortium project — only 29 of 45 imported individuals remain alive.
|Sharp-eyed Mongabay readers spot a jaguarundi (commentary)|
- Last Monday, in an article about Brazil’s Cerrado, this Mongabay editor mistakenly identified an animal in a photo as a puma (Puma concolor).
- Within hours multiple readers corrected that mistake, properly identifying the animal as a jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi).
- Curiosity aroused, this editor went to work learning more about jaguarundis.
- Most interesting find: these small cats of North, Central and South America, were until recently on track to be reintroduced to Texas, but a new president and his plan for a U.S. / Mexico border wall has put those plans in limbo.
|Beyond polar bears: Arctic animals share in vulnerable climate future|
- The media has long focused on the impacts of climate change on polar bears. But with Arctic temperatures rising fast (this winter saw the warmest October to February temperatures ever recorded), a wide range of Arctic fauna appears to be at risk, though more studies are needed to determine precise causes, current effects on population, and future projections.
- Diminishing Arctic snow, especially in the spring, may leave wolverines without ideal places to den. Caribou and reindeer populations have been in serious decline due to natural population fluctuation, but scientists don’t know if their numbers will recover under changed climate conditions.
- Lemmings are also being impacted by diminishing snow, often leaving the rodents without cover in spring and autumn. Their decline could impact the predators that prey on them, including Arctic foxes, red foxes, weasels, wolverines, and snowy and short-eared owls.
- Snowy owls have raised concerns because the seabirds they hunt in winter, which congregate around small holes in the Arctic ice, could become more widely dispersed in broader stretches of open water and therefore be harder to prey on. Scientists say more study of Arctic wildlife is urgently needed, but funding and media attention remains sparse.
|Audio: Meet the ‘Almost Famous Animals’ that deserve more conservation recognition|
- The Almost Famous series was created in the hope that familiarity will help generate concern and action for under-appreciated species. Glenn tells us all about how species get selected for coverage and his favorite animals profiled in the series.
- We also feature another installment of our Field Notes segment on this episode of the Newscast.
- Luca Pozzi, an evolutionary primatologist at the University of Texas, San Antonio, recently helped establish a new genus of galagos, or bushbabies, found in southeastern Africa. We play some of the calls made by galagos in the wild, and Luca explains how those recordings aid in our scientific knowledge about wildlife.
|The Spirit of the Steppes: Saving Central Asia’s saiga|
- The Critically Endangered saiga (Saiga tatarica) once numbered in the millions. This large antelope was perhaps best known for making one of the last of the world’s remaining great mammal migrations — a trek sweeping twice per year across the steppes of Central Asia.
- Saiga populations declined more than 95 percent by 2004, according to the IUCN. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan banned hunting in the 1990s, but the horns of male saiga are highly valued in traditional Chinese medicine, and illegal trafficking is a major threat; if not curtailed the trade could doom the species.
- In the 21st century, international NGOs and regional organizations such as the Saiga Conservation Alliance (SCA) and Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan (ACBK) formed partnerships with Central Asian nations to better conserve the species. And their work was paying off, until 2015.
- That’s when disease killed over 200,000 adult saiga of the Betpak Dala population in Central Kazakhstan. At the end of 2016, the Mongolian herd was hit hard by a new viral infection, with 4,000 saiga carcasses buried so far. But the saiga is reproductively resilient, and could be saved, if the species receives sufficient attention, say conservationists.
|The clouded leopard: conserving Asia’s elusive arboreal acrobat|
- The clouded leopard is not closely related to the leopard, but has its own genus (Neofelis), separate from the big cats (Panthera). In 2006, the single species of clouded leopard was split in two: Neofelis nebulosa is found on the Asian mainland, while Neofelis diardi, the Sunda clouded leopard, occurs only on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo.
- Another subspecies native to Taiwan (Neofelis nebulosa brachyura) is believed to be extinct, after none were found in a camera trapping survey conducted between 1997 and 2012.
- Originally, researchers found it difficult to breed the animals in captivity, since mates tended to kill each other. A variety of breeding techniques have however allowed zoos around the world to begin mating the animals successfully, to create and maintain a genetically viable captive population.
- Clouded leopards are incredibly elusive, and only with the advent of new technology, including camera traps and radio collars, have scientists been able to begin defining clouded leopard ranges, distribution, populations and threats. Public outreach is also helping build awareness around the plight of these Vulnerable wild cats.
|Resurrected Jeypore ground gecko faces second death sentence|
- In India — a land that’s home to the regal tiger, the majestic elephant and the flamboyant peacock — gaining the Endangered Species spotlight can be difficult. Equally challenging in a land with 1.3 billion mouths to feed, is the conservation of habitat that is vital to threatened species.
- The Jeypore ground gecko (Geckoella jeyporensis) was first noted in India’s Eastern Ghats in 1877, then not seen again and presumed extinct. Rediscovered by scientists in 2010, it exists in just two known areas covering a mere 20 square kilometers (7.7 square miles) of degraded habitat threatened by development.
- Conservationists are working with the public and private sectors, and with local communities, urging the creation of “gecko reserves” to protect G. jeyporensis as well as the golden gecko (Calodactylodes aureus). But whether these little reptiles will inspire enough public enthusiasm is anyone’s guess.
|Bright lights, big city, tiny frog: Romer’s tree frog survives Hong Kong|
- Discovered in the 1950s, Romer’s tree frog has so far been declared extinct, rediscovered, immediately declared Critically Endangered, been seriously threatened by an international airport, and become the focus of one of the first ever successful, wholesale population relocation projects conducted for an amphibian.
- At just 1.5 to 2.5 centimeters (0.6 to 1 inch) in length, this little brown frog lives at just a few locations within the sprawl of Hong Kong Island, as well as on a few outlying islands. It lives in moist forest leaf litter on the forest floor, and depends on temporary fish-free pools of water for breeding.
- When Hong Kong planned a major new international airport within the shrinking habitat of the Romer’s tree frog, scientists responded quickly, studying the animal’s lifestyle, eating and breeding habits; they then instituted a captive breeding program at the Melbourne Zoo, and launched a restoration program. It worked.
- While some restoration site populations have since failed, others continue to thrive. And with new protections now in place, scientists hold out some hope that Romer’s tree frog may be a Hong Kong resident for many years to come.
|Newscast #9: Joel Berger on overlooked ‘edge species’ that deserve conservation|
- We’re also joined by Andrew Whitworth, a conservation and biodiversity scientist with the University of Glasgow, who shares with us some of the recordings he’s made in the field of a critically endangered bird called the Sira Curassow.
- Plus: China to close its domestic ivory markets, Cheetah population numbers crash, and more in the top news.
- Happy New Year to all of our faithful listeners!
|All I want for Christmas… a wildlife researcher’s holiday wish list|
- They are some of the world’s most unique, beautiful (though sometimes, really ugly), little known, but always seriously threatened species. They’re among the many Almost Famous Asian Animals conservationists are trying to save, and which Mongabay has featured in 2016.
- The examples included here are Asia’s urbane fishing cat, Vietnam’s heavily trafficked pangolin, Central Asia’s at risk wild yaks and saiga, and Indonesia’s Painted terrapin. All of these, and many more, could benefit from a holiday financial boost.
- Mostly these creatures need the same things: research and breeding facilities; educational workshops; and really cool, high tech, high ticket, radio collars and tracking devices. These items come with price tags ranging from a few hundred bucks, to thousands, to tens of thousands of dollars.
|Vanishing point: Bumblebee bat is world’s smallest; it’s also at risk|
- Asia boasts 442 bat species, more than a third of the globe’s 1,200 species total. While many of these bats haven’t even been assessed by the IUCN, 7 are known to be Critically Endangered, 15 are Endangered and 44 are Vulnerable.
- The bumblebee bat roosts in caves in Thailand and Myanmar. While population estimates have risen recently due to the discovery of new populations, this small bat is Vulnerable. Its roosting caves and forest habitat are being disrupted by people.
- Bats worldwide are understudied and also unloved, partly due to poor public perceptions perpetuated by hundreds of horror movies with their portrayals of bloodsucking bats. The truth is that bats are incredibly beneficial to humans, eating prodigious amounts of insect pests.
- One of the most fascinating facts about the bumblebee bat is that its two geographically separated populations in Thailand and Myanmar might currently be undergoing speciation, a process scientists would like to observe. Of course, that won’t happen if nothing is done to keep this tiny mammal from going extinct.
|From loathed to loved: Villagers rally to save Greater Adjutant stork|
- The Greater Adjutant stork (Leptoptilos dubius) could once be found from India to Southeast Asia in the hundreds of thousands. Long despised and treated as a pest, this giant, ungainly bird is Endangered by habitat loss, with just 1,000 remaining by the 1990s.
- Purnima Devi Barman fell in love with the species. But with most of the remaining birds living on private property, how to save it? She launched a one-woman campaign to teach local villagers in India’s Assam to value L. dubius, showing them it can enhance their livelihoods.
- Arvind Mishra transformed another Indian community’s disgust for the huge storks into a strong desire to preserve them. With a Bihar community’s help, he’s established a rescue and rehabilitation center devoted exclusively to the care of downed Greater Adjutant chicks.
- Barman and Mishra both serve as vibrant examples of how the unflinching commitment of just one person to a species can make the difference between conservation and extinction, and how engaged local communities can make the difference.
|A dam shame: the plight of the Mekong giant catfish|
- Southeast Asia’s Mekong giant catfish (Pangasianodon gigas) is the world’s largest freshwater fish, with the biggest among them weighing an astonishing 650 pounds (300 kilograms), and growing to a length of 10 feet (3 meters).
- Species numbers are thought to have crashed by 80 percent in recent decades, although there are no reliable population estimates for the fish. A sudden escalation in the construction of hydroelectric dams on the Mekong could seal the fate of the species.
- A host of dams, both under construction and planned, threaten to block the catfish’s natural migration patterns, potentially driving it to extinction. The Xayaburi dam, which is already being built, poses the most immediate threat.
- Radio telemetry and environmental DNA techniques are crucial to the study and monitoring of this elusive creature in the wild. Conservationists working at Cambodia’s proposed Sambor Dam hope to help the government design a project that might vastly improve aquatic connectivity.
|Silent soldiers of the extreme, or why I’m glad I’m not a wild yak|
- They are big mammals — wild yaks, muskoxen, saiga, takin and more — possessing a multitude of wildly ingenious evolutionary adaptations that allow them to live at the margins, in Asia’s coldest, toughest habitats. But they lack defenses against us and are at risk.
- While some of these magnificent animals have received scattered attention from conservationists and the media across the years, most do not benefit from the publicity boon — or budgets — accorded to rhinos and snow leopards.
- They are unsung, mostly unstudied, existing in the shadows — hidden by high elevations, deep snow, daunting deserts, and in our lack of knowledge and indifference. Scientist Joel Berger asks us to look at why we love only thin slivers of the natural world, while ignoring much of the bounty and beauty at the margins that could provide us hope and inspiration.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
|Where have all the lutungs gone? Mystery monkeys fast disappearing|
- Asia boasts 16 species of lutung, in two ranges, one in south central and Southeast Asia (northeast India, southern China, Taiwan, Borneo, Thailand, Java and Bali), and the other at the southern tip of India and on Sri Lanka.
- Lutungs are tree dwellers, threatened by a rapid loss of tropical forests due to oil palm plantations, logging, and human population growth; the animals are also illegally hunted for bushmeat, traditional medicine and the pet trade.
- Like so many Almost Famous species, lutungs suffer from a lack of publicity, research, funding and local concern. Except for a few species, most are protected accidentally, when a forest in which lutungs live is preserved by a government or NGO trying to protect charismatic megafauna.
- Of the 16 lutung species, the IUCN assesses 4 as Vulnerable, 2 as Near Threatened, 7 as Endangered, 2 as Critically Endangered, and one as suffering from insufficient data for a conservation assessment. While surveys are lacking, all lutungs are known to be in decline, some alarmingly.
|Asia races to save the Critically Endangered helmeted hornbill|
- The helmeted hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil) is one of Southeast Asia’s most unique large bird species, but its numbers have plummeted since 2012 as organized crime trafficking rings trade in the “red ivory” of the birds’ casque, an enlargement of its beak, which can sell for $4,000 per kilo.
- Yokyok Hadiprakarsa, Executive Director of the Indonesian Hornbill Conservation Society, has worked with R. vigil for seventeen years. At first he was interested in its biology; then, as he watched the bird vanish from his nation’s forests, he became a crusader for its preservation.
- A 2013 investigation revealed that in Indonesia’s West Kalimantan province 6,000 helmeted hornbills were killed for their red ivory in a single year. The birds’ casques are carved into ornaments, jewelry and belt buckles, or are turned into pills with dubious curative powers.
- While the species is protected under CITES, and has been declared Critically Endangered by the IUCN, trafficking enforcement efforts have largely been a failure so far across the region. Only a redoubled effort by Asian countries is likely to save it.
|What is a binturong?|
- The binturong, or bearcat (Arctictis binturong) inhabits a range stretching from northeast India and Bangladesh to the Malay Peninsula, Borneo and the Philippines. It is found more rarely in Nepal, South China, Java, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.
- This tree-dwelling species occupies its own unique genus: it possesses a prehensile tail (like a monkey), purrs and cleans itself like a cat, and has a territory-marking scent that smells exactly like buttered popcorn.
- The binturong is threatened by habitat loss due to logging and agribusiness, especially the oil palm industry. It is also hunted for bushmeat, traditional medicine and the pet trade. A local coffee, made from beans that pass through a binturong’s digestive system, is also valued.
- Binturongs have been little studied and their numbers in the wild are unknown. It is known that they eat prodigious amounts of strangler fig fruit, and that they are important seed spreaders. More study is urgently needed to determine how the species can be conserved.
|The Myanmar snub-nosed monkey: discovered and immediately endangered|
- Discovered in 2010 and promptly listed as Critically Endangered, the Myanmar snub-nosed monkey lives only in the remote high forests of Northeast Myanmar, and across the border in China’s Gaoligong Mountain Natural Reserve. There are as few as 260-330 left in the wild.
- Hunting, illegal logging and proposed hydropower development, taking place within the context of a simmering civil conflict, threaten to push the species to extinction.
- On the plus side, conservationists have already gone a long way toward winning over local communities, getting them to stop hunting the animals; while the government’s approval of a newly proposed national park offers hope that the Myanmar snub-nosed monkey can be preserved.
|Philippine Bleeding-heart doves flutter at the brink, but NGOs respond|
- The Republic of the Philippines ranks among the 17 most mega-biodiverse nations on earth, with huge numbers of endemic species. Among birds, for example, 40 percent of all species found there are endemic — 226 out of 569 species.
- Five Bleeding-heart dove species are endemic to the Philippines, with three classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN. Massive deforestation, which has been going on for decades, is the primary threat to these birds.
- The Negros Bleeding-heart dove (Gallicolumba keayi) is the focus of a decade-long conservation initiative by the Bristol Zoological Society (BZS), UK. The NGO is using multiple conservation strategies, including captive breeding, but is most focused on local engagement, working to lift people out of poverty to reduce forest pressures.
- The Mindoro Bleeding-heart (Gallicolumba platenae), with a population in the low hundreds, is a focus of the Haribon Foundation (BirdLife International’s Philippines partner). The group is focused on education and community empowerment, plus “rainforestation” — the restoration of forests using native species of trees.
|Black, white and unique: the Malayan tapir struggles for recognition|
- The endangered Malayan tapir (Tapirus indicus) is the world’s biggest tapir, and the only one found in Asia. It ranges today from the Malaysian Peninsula to Myanmar and Thailand, and the island of Sumatra; it is threatened chiefly by habitat loss and habitat fragmentation, and by hunting, road-kills and bi-catches by snare hunters.
- Though the Malayan tapir has been largely neglected in the past by conservationists and by the Malaysian public, the tide is slowly turning in its favour and interest in conserving the species is growing.
- The Malay Tapir Conservation Project (MTCP), along with other scientific programs, are actively researching tapir behaviors, so as to develop more effective conservation plans.
- The Malaysian government too is working to protect the animal. It has earmarked funds for the animal’s conservation as part of the current ten-year economic development plan. But the key to the Malayan tapir’s survival lies in a stronger commitment to forest habitat protection.
|Pet trade’s “cute” and “adorable” label endangers the slow loris|
- The slow loris includes all the species of the genus Nycticebus, which range from Northeast India to Southeast Asia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Much still isn’t known about the genus, including the numbers of animals remaining in the wild. Not even the number of species is certain (the IUCN is raising the count from 8 to 9 this fall).
- These nocturnal primates are highly threatened by trafficking. Lorises are hunted for sale as pets, for traditional medicine, and for photo prop opportunities with tourists. Habitat loss is another leading cause of decline, though lorises have proven to be adaptable. They like forest edges, so can live near human communities successfully if left alone.
- The loris is unusual in that it is a venomous mammal, and its bite is toxic, and can be dangerous to humans. For that reason, traffickers pull the animal’s teeth when captured without use of anesthetics or antibiotics. Many captured for the pet trade die in transit.
- Dr. Anna Nekaris and the Little Fireface Project in Java, Indonesia, are leaders in the underfunded slow loris research and conservation effort. Rescue centers have arisen across Asia to protect the animals. Education is a key tool: Nekaris, for example, suggests not “liking” viral loris youtube videos, but instead offering conservation-related comments.
|Pulling the stunningly unique painted terrapin back from the brink|
- The Critically Endangered painted terrapin (Batagur borneoensis) is one of the 25 most endangered tortoises and freshwater turtles on earth, according to the Turtle Survival Coalition — with surviving numbers in Indonesia and Malaysia unknown.
- The species is under tremendous pressure from poaching for eggs and by agroindustry which is degrading and converting its river and ocean beach and mangrove habitat for fish and shrimp aquaculture and oil palm production.
- Joko Guntoro and the Satucita Foundation — with help from the UK’s Chester Zoo, the Houston Zoo in Texas, and the Turtle Survival Alliance — have built a head starting facility in Indonesia and successfully incubated more than six hundred hatchlings which are scheduled for release this autumn.
- A mysterious species, scientists know next to nothing about painted terrapin migration, juvenile and adult behaviors — key to conservation. Unfortunately, under-funded researchers lack the money for satellite tracking of the species.
|Out of sight, out of mind: Asia’s elusive Fishing Cat in trouble|
- Fishing cats have a broad but discontinuous range, including wetland areas of mainland Asia (India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and perhaps Malaysia), as well as the islands of Sri Lanka and maybe Java. But these small nocturnal wild cats are rarely seen. Habitat loss has caused a drastic decline, and as few as 3,000 may remain in the wild.
- Fishing cats are prestigious swimmers, love the water, and eat mostly fish, but they also eat just about anything that they can catch, including birds, snakes, frogs, insects, terrestrial mammals such as civets and rodents, along with domestic livestock such as ducks and chickens.
- While primarily wetland species, Fishing cats have recently proven to be quite adaptable, and the animals have been discovered making night time raids on fishponds in the highly urbanized city of Colombo, Sri Lanka, population 650,000+.
- The major block to Fishing cat conservation is that it is almost unknown to the public and to funders. The animals are almost never seen in the wild, but researchers who have spent time with Fishing cats say that this species’ time in the public limelight could be on the verge of occurring.
|Malayan Sun bear: bile trade threatens the World’s smallest bear|
- The Malayan Sun bear (Helarctos malayanus) is listed as Vulnerable to Extinction by the IUCN, and is threatened by habitat loss and hunting for traditional medicine. Its range once extended across mainland Southeast Asia, to Sumatra and Borneo, but the animal now occurs only patchily throughout.
- Sun bears are a keystone species, vitally important to seed dispersal, pest control and nutrient cycling, so their extinction would likely bring major, though largely unstudied, impacts to tropical forests.
- Killing Sun bears is prohibited under international and national wildlife protection laws, but these laws are often poorly enforced, while international trade in bear bile to serve the traditional medicine industry continues to boom.
- Conservationists in Indonesia and elsewhere are studying Sun bear behavior to improve rescue and restoration efforts. Others want to eliminate commercial bear farms where bear bile is extracted, and end trafficking by creating strong national legislation, improving enforcement, and raising public awareness.
|Unknown, ignored and disappearing: Asia’s Almost Famous Animals|
- Asia is home to a vast array of primates and other mammals, amphibians, reptiles, birds and fish — all fascinating, all uniquely adapted to their habitats. Many are seriously threatened, but little known by the public.
- One conservation argument says that protecting charismatic species like tigers, rhinos and orangutans and their habitat will also protect lesser known species such as pangolins, langurs and the Malayan tapir. But this is a flawed safety net through which many little known species may fall into oblivion.
- Over the next six months, Mongabay will introduce readers to 20 Almost Famous Asian Animals — a handful of Asia’s little known fauna — in the hope that familiarity will help generate concern and action.
- In this first overview article, we rely as much on pictures as on words to profile some of Asia’s most beautiful, ugly, strange, magnificent and little known animals.
|Local and global forces unite to save Madagascar’s Radiated Tortoise|
- Numbering an estimated 12 million as recently as 2005, Madagascar’s Radiated Tortoise has experienced a drastic decline, and is currently listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, with a projected extinction in the wild possible within 20 years.
- The continued survival of Astrochelys radiata, “the star tortoise radiating light,” is further imperiled by continued political unrest and economic upheaval in one of the world’s poorest nations.
- Local economic deprivation drives a brisk illegal trade in the species for food and pets, as global demand tempts betrayal of tribal traditions that once kept the animals safe from harm.
|Trouble in Paradise: saving the endangered Turks & Caicos Rock Iguana|
- About 30,000 adult Turks and Caicos Rock Iguanas remain today, scattered over 50 to 60 small islands and cays, causing the species to be listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN.
- Though small in size, these reptiles play a big ecological role: they are a keystone species, acting as indispensable browsers and seed dispersers in their dune habitat.
- A team of scientists from the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research, led by Dr. Glenn Gerber, has been instrumental in studying the species and working with government, NGOs and the public to conserve it.
|The Maned wolf: saving South America’s unfortunately-named canid|
- • The Maned wolf mostly inhabits Brazil’s Cerrado, a vast grassland threatened by rampant conversion to croplands and often forgotten by conservationists.
- • The species may be adapting to its rapidly changing, and increasingly human influenced habitat, but more must be done to protect the savanna — which has suffered far worse agricultural clearing than the Amazon.
- • Ingrained cultural beliefs and misconceptions regarding wolf behavior will also need to be challenged and changed to protect populations in the wild — ending retaliatory killings and hunting.
|Chinese Giant Salamander: millions farmed, nearly extinct in the wild|
- The Chinese Giant Salamander can grow to as much as a meter in length, but it is a mysterious and enigmatic creature threatened by over-exploitation, disease, and habitat loss.
- Millions are being raised on farms, but the vast majority of breeding stock for those farms are either wild-caught, or first generation offspring of wild-caught animals. The wild salamander’s extinction would also likely spell doom for the farming industry.
- Conservation programs are underway to save wild Chinese Giant Salamanders, and along with them, the remaining watersheds and wild river habitats in which they live.
|The Black-faced Spoonbill: Asia’s beloved wading bird fights for space|
- The Black-faced Spoonbill, with its fascinating feeding behaviors, has won the hearts of birders and the Asian public, making it a signature umbrella species for establishing coastal preserves that protect many other less charismatic bird species.
- The long-term conservation of this migratory species will require a commitment to protecting summer nesting grounds and winter roosting grounds, plus resting areas along the coasts of Korea, China, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines.
- Rapid population growth and coastal development for homes, recreation, industry, aquaculture and agriculture are the major threat to the species, and their preservation depends on ongoing human attention and intervention.
|The Long-beaked Echidna: can we save the earth’s oldest living mammal?|
- The Long-beaked Echidna is genetically and physically like no other animal alive on earth today, and it embodies traits not seen commonly since the dawn of mammals.
- These species also happen to make a favorite meal for the more than 800 distinct tribal cultures that continue to rely heavily on hunting for protein.
- The last of these wildly unusual but docile animals now hold out in New Guinea’s most remote, rugged mountains, but innovative local and international partnerships could help rescue them from extinction.