Archive | Conservation

Zoo Rhino Set to Give Historic Birth

CINCINNATI, Aug. 30 (UPI) — A female rhino at the Cincinnati Zoo will make history by giving birth to the first Indian rhino calf conceived by artificial insemination, zoo officials say.

Mother-to-be Nikki has added 60 pounds to her 4,120-pound figure since June and is expected to deliver in October, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

For zoo scientist Monica Stoops the birth will be the culmination of eight years of work as reproductive physiologist at the zoo’s Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife.

“Everything looks great,” she said.

The zoo is known for its pioneering work in reproductive technology.

“They’re writing new chapters in reproductive books,” Randy Rieches, curator of mammals at the San Diego Wild Animal Park, said.

“There have only been a couple of rhinos reproduced by artificial means,” and those were not Indian rhinos, he said.

“To a lot of people, a rhino is a rhino is a rhino,” Rieches said. “But each (of the five) species is so different behaviorally, reproductively. It’s a learning experience with each one.”

Captive breeding is vital, Susie Ellis, executive director of the International Rhino Foundation, said, to provide an “insurance policy for the wild population. So if something catastrophic happens, there’s a good reservoir of genes from which the wild can be repopulated.”

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Florida Coral Reefs Damaged by Cold Water

PALM BEACH, Fla., Aug. 30 (UPI) — A rare series of cold-water upwellings from the deep ocean has severely damaged coral reefs in Florida already stressed by pollution, scientists say.

The blasts of cold water hit the reefs in July, fatally bleaching large areas of coral, already under siege from sewage, fertilizers, pesticides and algae, The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post reported.

Much of the damage hit staghorn coral, an endangered species.

The impact is not just environmental; there an economic cost as well because marinas, boat-sellers, bait shops and fishing and dive charters depend on the health of the reefs.

Thomas Goreau, president of the Global Coral Reef Alliance in Cambridge, Mass., said 70 percent of a patch of staghorn coral off Palm Beach, the area’s largest, was dead or dying.

“There are records of cold water bleaching kills, but they all happened in the winter,” Goreau said.

Upwellings, upward flows of water, are impossible to predict, Goreau said.

“What is really exceptional about this event is it happened in the hottest time of the year.”

The upwellings in July subjected the corals to quickly alternating lethally high and lethally low temperatures, another expert said.

“It would be the equivalent of a human being jumping into the Bering Sea, where hypothermia would kill the individual in minutes to hours,” said Rob Ruzicka, a coral researcher with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “Exposure to extreme cold water like this would have acute impacts.”

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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Battle on to Claim 'honor' of Snail Name

LONDON, Aug. 26 (UPI) — A battle royal is on in England between two of the country’s historic country houses, as each seeks the honor of having a snail named after it, observers say.

The tiny snail with a corkscrew pink and brown shell has been found on the stonework of Cliveden House in Buckinghamshire and Brownsea Castle in Dorset, and although it’s an imported Mediterranean species, naturalists now consider it a resident snail and want to give it an English name, The Daily Telegraph reports.

The Papillifera bidens snail was “accidentally imported” into Britain during the late 19th century when it hitchhiked on statues from Italy and Greece brought back to England by the Victorians, the newspaper said.

When the snail was discovered at Cliveden House in 2004, it was suggested the species be named the Cliveden snail.

But Brownsea Castle claimed to have spotted the snail back in the mid 1990s and demanded that it be called the Brownsea snail.

Few of the 300 land and fresh water slugs or snails in Britain have English names, Matthew Oates, National Trust Nature conservation adviser, said.

If the new resident species is given a name, he suggested the final call could be up to the public.

“We now have two National Trust properties vying for ownership of the same snail,” he added. “One calls it the Cliveden Snail and the other the Brownsea Snail. Either should be acceptable at this stage.”

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One of World's Tiniest Frogs Discovered

KUCHING, Malaysia, Aug. 25 (UPI) — One of the world’s tiniest frog species has been discovered in the forests of the island of Borneo, researchers say.

The smallest frog in the Old World — Africa, Asia and Europe — the minuscule amphibian is a species of microhylid, composed as the name might suggest of miniature frogs smaller than half an inch, ScienceDaily.com reported Wednesday.

The discovery was made by researchers from the Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation at the University Malaysia Sarawak and the Museum of Hamburg.

“I saw some specimens in museum collections that are over 100 years old,” Indraneil Das of the Sarawak University said.

“Scientists presumably thought they were juveniles of other species, but it turns out they are adults of this newly discovered micro species.”

The mini frogs — Microhyla nepenthicola — are just a half inch long, and finding them proved a challenge for the researchers.

The frogs were tracked by their calls and then collected for study.

The discovery was published in the taxonomy journal Zootaxa.

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 Biodiversity, Conservation, Other0 Comments

Groups Urge Serengeti Protection

LONDON, Aug. 25 (UPI) — British wildlife groups say they are urging the government of Tanzania to reconsider plans to build a highway through the heart of Serengeti National Park.

The Wildlife Conservation Society and the Zoological Society of London recommend that alternative routes be used that can meet the transportation needs of the region without disrupting the greatest remaining migration of large land animals in the world in world’s best-known wildlife sanctuary, a WCS release said Wednesday.

At issue is the proposed Arusha-Musoma highway slated for construction in 2012 that would bisect the northern portion of the park and jeopardize the annual migration of wildebeest and zebra, a spectacle comprising nearly 2 million animals.

“The Serengeti is the site of one of the last great ungulate migrations left on Earth, the pre-eminent symbol of wild nature for millions of visitors and TV viewers, and a hugely important source of income for the people of Tanzania through ecotourism,” Dr. James Deutsch, Executive Director of the WCS’s Africa Program, said.

“To threaten this natural marvel with a road would be a tragedy. We implore the Tanzanian government — known around the world for its commitment to conservation — to reconsider this proposal and explore other options.”

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 Animals, Conservation, Ecotourism, Other, Transportation0 Comments

Report: Grand Canyon Park at 'risk'

PHOENIX, Aug. 24 (UPI) — The Grand Canyon, one of America’s iconic national parks, is under threat from without and within, a report from a conservation group says.

The National Parks Conservation Association report says pollution, tourism, mining, changes in the Colorado River and chronically under-funded budgets compromise efforts to protect resources and present a threat to the park, The Arizona Republic reported Tuesday.

“When you look at all of the challenges, you find out that the Grand Canyon is at risk, at grave risk,” David Nimkin, the group’s Southwest regional director, said.

“We made a deal when we created the national parks, that we would support them, and we need to do that.”

The non-profit group, founded in 1919 by the first National Park Service director, aims to protect national parks by lobbying Congress and government agencies, often to stop policies and legislation that could harm resources, the Republic said.

To fix the issues raised would require significant amounts of money, changes in state and federal policies, and concessions by private businesses, but if left unchecked the very nature of the park could change forever, the association’s report said.

Future visitors could find the most majestic views obscured, and habitats for native species could vanish, the group 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.

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Pollutant Levels Threaten Chesapeake

WASHINGTON, Aug. 20 (UPI) — A U.S. study of a Maryland river that flows into Chesapeake Bay has found worryingly high levels of nitrogen and copper, researchers say.

Water tests in the Choptank River, a major tributary of the bay, registered high levels of both pollutants, a U.S. Department of Agriculture release said Friday.

The study was conducted as part of the Conservation Effects Assessment Project. The project, started in 2004, focuses on the effects of conservation practices and Farm Bill conservation programs on 37 watersheds nationwide, the USDA said.

Sampling the water every two months for three years, the scientists found nitrate concentrations in the river often exceeded levels that can cause algal blooms.

Nitrate concentrations were highest at the headwaters where farming is concentrated, suggesting that agricultural fertilizers are primary sources.

High copper concentrations were found in almost all samples at the lower reaches of the Choptank, but not in the upstream areas, suggesting agriculture is not the primary source.

One possible source for copper could be anti-fouling paint used on boat hulls, experts say.

The levels were high enough to be toxic to clams and other aquatic invertebrates that help feed and filter the bay, the study 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.

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58 Stranded Whales Die in New Zealand

WELLINGTON, New Zealand, Aug. 20 (UPI) — Fifty-eight pilot whales have died after a mass stranding on a beach in northern New Zealand, wildlife officials say.

The 15 surviving whales were said to be in poor condition, the BBC reported Friday.

Forty people tried to move the 3,300-pound whales back into the water on Friday but failed. Conservation officials said more attempts would be made.

A plan was under way to move them about a half mile by transporter to a different bay where conditions are better and attempt to re-float them there, Kimberly Muncaster, chief executive of the Project Jonah whale group, said.

The pod is believed to have beached itself on the remote Karikari Beach sometime during the night Thursday.

Over the past 160 years, more than 5,000 whales and dolphins have been recorded stranded along the New Zealand coast.

The beachings are most common in the summer, when whales pass by on their migrations to and from Antarctic waters.

Scientists do not know what causes the phenomenon, the BBC 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.

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Hawaii Frozen Coral 'bank' Established

HONOLULU, Aug. 18 (UPI) — Scientists say they have established the first frozen bank for Hawaiian corals to save them from extinction and preserve their diversity in the islands.

Researchers at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, along with scientists at the Smithsonian Institution, are banking the frozen coral cells at a laboratory at the university’s facilities on Coconut Island in Kanoe Bay, Oahu, a school release said Wednesday.

In Hawaii, pollution and sedimentation from poor land-use practices, nutrient run-off from farms and waste-treatment plants, and destructive practices such as dynamite fishing and trawling affect reefs, researchers say.

The refrigeration effort is vital to the future health of local corals, scientists say.

“Because frozen banked cells are viable, the frozen material can be thawed one, 50 or, in theory, even 1,000 years from now to restore a species or population,” Mary Hagedorn, a research scientist with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, said. “In fact, some of the frozen sperm samples have already been thawed and used to fertilize coral eggs to produce developing coral larvae.”

Over time, coral larvae from the bank could be placed back into ecosystems to infuse new genes and vigor into natural populations, thereby enhancing the health and viability of wild stocks, scientists say.

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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U.S. Bred Toads Returning to Africa

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania, Aug. 17 (UPI) — One hundred of the world’s rarest amphibians have been returned to their African homeland after being carefully raised at two U.S. zoos, officials said.

The Kihansi spray toads are living in a state-of-the-art propagation center in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s commercial capital, after being transported from the Bronx Zoo in New York and the Toledo, Ohio, zoo, a Wildlife Conservation Society release said Tuesday.

Spokeswoman Anna Maembe said the Tanzanian government was “very grateful to the Bronx Zoo and The Toledo Zoo for taking care of these precious toads for 10 years.

“We are very optimistic that they will acclimatize soon and be taken to their homeland in Kihansi Gorge in the near future,” she said.

The Kihansi spray toad was first discovered in 1996 living in a 5-acre micro-habitat created by the spray of nearby waterfalls in the Kihansi Gorge. In 1999, the construction of a hydroelectric dam in the gorge dramatically changed the Kihansi spray toad’s habitat, lessening the mist zone in which the toads thrived.

Scientists and Tanzanian officials collected a colony of 499 Kihansi spray toads from the gorge as assurance of the species’ survival.

The toad was last seen in the wild in 2004, and in 2009 the toad was declared to be extinct in the wild by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

The Toledo Zoo has 5,000 toads and the Bronx zoo has 1,500. Both zoos will continue breeding them, returning additional shipments to Tanzania as their numbers rebound.

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 Amphibians, Art, Conservation, Hydroelectric, Other0 Comments

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