Archive | Conservation

New Mammal Found in Madagascar

LONDON, Oct. 12 (UPI) — British wildlife conservationists say they’ve identified a new carnivorous mammal species in Madagascar in the wetlands of the country’s largest lake.

A team from the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust has named the mongoose-like creature Durrel’s vonstira after Gerald Durrell, the trust’s founder, the BBC reported.

With its marshy home under threat from invasive species and pollution, team members say the animal may be one of the world’s most threatened mammals.

After a first sighting in 2004, one of the creatures was captured in 2005 for detailed measurements and blood and tissue samples, which were sent to the Natural History Museum in London along with one dead specimen.

Museum zoologists compared it to its closest relative, the forest-dwelling brown-tailed vontsira, and confirmed it was a new, separate species.

“It was indeed a distinct new species and the specimen we have in the museum is now recognized as the holotype (the specimen from which the species takes its name) so it is available to scientists for research in the future,” the museum’s Paula Jenkins said.

A discovery of a new mammal species is not common and finding a new carnivore species is “particularly unusual,” she said.

“Durrell’s vontsira is incredibly rare,” she said.

“We know of only two animals in the wild. It has only been found in the wetlands of [Lake] Alaotra in Madagascar, so it lives in a very small area and is consequently vulnerable to the pressures on this threatened habitat.”

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Ground Splits Open in Michigan

ESCANABA, Mich., Oct. 11 (UPI) — A 600-foot-long fissure that opened in the ground in Michigan may be the result of fractured rock deep below the surface, a state official says.

When the fissure erupted last week in Menominee County, local residents reported feeling vibrations and hearing a loud bang, with one neighbor comparing the sound to blasting, the Daily Press of Escanaba (Mich.) reported.

The fissure was discovered when a resident went into the local woods to cut a pine tree, the newspaper said.

An official said the phenomenon is not unusual in the state’s Upper Peninsula.

“There are fractured rock formations in some areas of the Upper Peninsula, and where there are these fractured rock formations, fissures such as the one described occur,” said Rory Mattson, executive director of the Delta Conservation District in Gladstone.

In areas where there are fractured rock formations, the annual freeze-thaw creates pressure and can lead to the formation of fissures or even sink holes, he said.

It was the release of the pressure that would have sounded very much like an explosion or someone blasting nearby, he said.

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Deforestation Examined in U.N. Report

UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 5 (UPI) — Deforestation continues to threaten the world’s biodiversity, but there are positive signs of conservation in many countries, a United National report says.

Globally, some 32 million acres of forests were converted to other uses, including agriculture, or were lost through natural causes each year from 2000 to 2010, according to the findings of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization report.

The FAO’s Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010 says the rate of forest loss has declined from around 40 million acres per year in the 1990s.

More than a third of all forests are classified as primary, defined as showing no visible signs of human intervention.

Primary forests account for 36 percent, or 3.5 billion acres, of the world’s forest area but their area has decreased by more than 98 million acres — at a rate of 0.4 percent annually — in the past 10 years.

South America accounted for the largest proportion of the loss in primary forests, followed by Africa and Asia.

Legally established protected areas, such as national parks, game reserves and wilderness areas, now cover more than 10 percent of the total forest area in most countries and regions, the report said.

“The world’s forests represent a vital source of forest biological diversity. This biodiversity is an important treasure, especially as forests will not just have to adapt to climate change but are also expected to help mitigate it,” FAO Assistant Director General Eduardo Rojas said.

“Greater investments in sustainable forest management are urgently required to better conserve and manage forest biodiversity,” he said.

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Non-native Snakes Found in Newfoundland

ST. JOHN’S, Newfoundland, Oct. 1 (UPI) — Snakes, which aren’t native to Newfoundland, have been found breeding on the island, a provincial wildlife official has confirmed.

Bruce Rodriguez of the provincial department of environment and conservation said a pregnant garter snake was recently found in St. David’s on southwestern Newfoundland, Canadian Broadcasting Corp. News reported.

Introduced species such as garter snakes can cause problems, Rodriguez said.

“One species that snakes are known to eat, that can be important in a snake’s diet, is the meadow vole,” Rodriguez said Thursday. “On the island of Newfoundland, the meadow vole is a unique sub-species to the island and, of course, there’s always concerns about introduced animals bringing in disease to the province.”

Rodriguez said wildlife officials have been receiving reports of snakes on the island for more than a year and believe they may be arriving in the province in farm shipments such as hay bales.

“There was a young snake picked up last year, probably one that was just born, and turned over to a pet store in western Newfoundland,” he told the CBC. “With the amount of evidence we have, we can say that there is a population [in western Newfoundland] that has survived at least one winter.”

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Galapagos Frigatebirds Genetically Unique

WASHINGTON, Sept. 28 (UPI) — Galapagos Islands frigatebirds are a genetically distinct species from their mainland counterparts, warranting new conservation status, U.S. scientists say.

The equatorial Pacific Ocean islands boast a number of unique plant and animal species from tortoises to iguanas to penguins, but frigatebirds can fly hundreds of miles across open ocean, suggesting their gene flow should be widespread and their genetic makeup should be identical to those of the frigatebirds on the mainland coast of the Americas, researchers from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute say.

But three different genetics tests all yielded the same result — the Galapagos seabirds have been genetically different from the frigatebirds elsewhere for more than half a million years.

“This was such a surprise,” Frank Hailer, a research associate at institute, said. “It’s a great testimony to just how unique the fauna and flora of the Galapagos are. Even something that is so well-adapted to flying over open oceans is isolated there.”

What is clear is that this small population of genetically unique frigatebirds is a vulnerable group.

Any catastrophic event or threats by humans could wipe out the approximately 2,000 frigatebirds that nest on the Galapagos Islands, researchers say.

“The magnificent frigatebirds on the Galapagos are a unique evolutionarily significant unit, and if the Galapagos population did go extinct, the area will not likely be recolonized rapidly by mainland birds,” Robert Fleischer, head of the institute’s Center for Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics, said. “This emphasizes the importance of protecting this small population of birds there.”

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Malaysia Passes Wildlife Protection Law

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Sept. 28 (UPI) — A Malaysian law intended to deal with animal traffickers and poachers may be too late to save some of the country’s endangered species, wildlife activists say.

After years of wildlife being decimated by human activities, Malaysia finally responded with a wildlife conservation law called “overdue,” Inter Press Service reported Tuesday.

Conservationists, concerned that Sumatran rhinos, orangutans, Malayan tigers and clouded leopards a losing their fight for survival, will be watching how the new law is implemented.

“The tough new measures are probably four decades overdue,” conservationist Mohamed Iris said. “Official neglect and corruption is fueling the international trade in threatened species and the tough new law and action against corrupt officials may be too late for some endangered species.”

The bill, with significantly higher penalties and mandatory jail terms for a wide range of wildlife crimes, is expected to come into force as law in December.

“It all depends how seriously and effectively the government implement the new law,” said one conservationist working to preserve wildlife habitat at a forest reserve in East Malaysia.

“If effectively enforced, the law can give wildlife a respite against open and blatant poaching.”

Some feel the agencies selected to enforce the new bill are not up to the job.

“They are not modern, don’t have modern equipment, they don’t use modern technology and their budget is minuscule compared to the challenges they face in protecting wildlife against poaches,” lawmaker Grosgrain Mirages said. “The law is fine but the implementation part is wanting.”

“We have the law,” he said, “but without the budget the battle is lost.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Report: U.K. Wildlife Efforts Failing

LONDON, Sept. 24 (UPI) — England’s protected habitats are failing in their intended purpose of offering security to endangered wildlife, a government report says.

The country’s protected wild areas are too fragmented and too small, the report said. It called for “corridors” to be established to allow wildlife to move from one area to another, the BBC reported Friday.

Professor John Lawton, chairman of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, was asked by former Environment Secretary Hilary Benn to lead a panel of experts to recommend ways to achieve a “healthy natural environment” in which plants and animals could thrive.

Presenting the findings of the report, Lawton called for a “step change in nature conservation.”

“There is compelling evidence that England’s collection of wildlife sites are generally too small and too isolated, leading to declines in many of England’s characteristic species,” he said. “With climate change, the situation is likely to get worse. This is bad news for wildlife but also bad news for us.

“The damage to nature also means our natural environment is less able to provide many of the services upon which we depend,” he said. “We need more space for nature.”

But Lawton said the panel’s findings were “not all bad news”.

“Targeted conservation efforts have turned around the fate of many species and extensive new areas of habitat have been created,” he said in the report’s foreword.

“In other words, given resources, determination and skill, we know what to do and how to do it.”

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Conservationists Oppose Laos Dam Plans

VIENTIANE, Laos, Sept. 24 (UPI) — Laos says it rejects calls for a dam moratorium on the Mekong River because it wants cheap power to develop its economy despite threats to fish habitats.

The Southeast Asian nation moved this week to secure regional approval for the first major hydropower plant on its stretch of the lower Mekong in the face of protests from international conservation groups, Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported Friday.

The country’s proposed hydropower plant threatens the habitat of the giant Mekong catfish, which can weigh up to 650 pounds, the newspaper said.

Catfish as long as small cars and stingrays that weigh more than tigers are threatened by the proposed 2,600-foot dam, but the government said the economic benefits outweigh the environmental risks.

“We don’t want to be poor anymore,” Viraphone Viravong, director general of the country’s energy and mines department, said. “If we want to grow, we need this dam.”

In a submission to the Mekong River Commission, Laos said it wants to build a hydropower plant at Sayabouly in northern Laos to generate foreign exchange income.

If approved, about 90 percent of the electricity would be sold to neighbors Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Sayabouly is the first of 11 proposed dams on the lower reaches of the Mekong, a river already heavily dammed upstream in China, the Guardian said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Cars, Conservation, Electricity, Fish, Other0 Comments

New List of World Plant Names Prepared

LONDON, Sept. 20 (UPI) — A catalog of the world’s plants has cut the list by 600,000 species, as names are pared down for many plants given multiple names, British researchers say.

With so many species having been named more than once, scientists have spent two years streamlining the old list into an accurate record of the world’s plants, the BBC reported Monday.

British and U.S. researchers say the ongoing effort should yield a final global Plant List of around 400,000 species.

The list, aimed at helping plant conservation, will be published this year.

“Without accurate names — authoritatively determined — understanding and communication about global plant life would descend into inefficient chaos,” Stephen Hooper, director of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, said.

In partnership with the Missouri Botanical Gardens, researchers at Kew have been taking records of existing plant databases and removing duplications and errors to produce a single, global inventory.

“It’s been a rollercoaster of a project, and the results will be far from perfect but it will be the most comprehensive list to date,” Kew’s head of science policy and co-ordination, Eimear Nic Lughadha, said.

“It will include almost all scientific names at species level that have been published for plants.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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EU Business Lobby Eyes Pollution 'permits'

BRUSSELS, Sept. 16 (UPI) — A European business lobby group says extra “permits” to pollute the atmosphere should be given to corporations investing in areas near tropical rainforests.

Plans aimed at preserving tropical ecosystems will be one of the topics for the United Nations’ climate change summit in Cancun, Mexico, during November and December. One such plan is the Clean Development Mechanism, under which rich countries can buy “credits” allowing them to avoid reducing emissions of carbon dioxide at home by financing environmental projects in poorer parts of the world, Inter Press Service reported Thursday.

Until now, forestry projects have for the most part been excluded from the CDM and similar CO2 “credit” plans.

BusinessEurope, the region’s largest confederation of private sector firms, is trying to convince policy makers to view forest credits more favorably. Greater use of forest credits “would be the way to go to save the world,” Folker Franz, a specialist on environmental policy for BusinessEurope, said.

A market-based approach could have environmental benefits, he said.

“If we’ll see people profit from this, then let them profit, so long as it stops deforestation in Indonesia and Brazil,” he told Inter Press Service.

Jutta Kill of the forest conservation group Fern said using forest projects in South America or Asia to “offset” emissions in Europe or the United States “would be a very bad idea … carbon offsetting is a big distraction from tackling climate change.”

Magda Stoczkiewicz, Brussels director of Friends of the Earth, said “very often projects don’t reduce CO2 but in reality just become trading and marketing tools.” She said BusinessEurope’s “main aim is turning the projects into a money machine.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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