Archive for 2009

Lessons from Lost Species

Interesting article in the Cornell Chronicle on species that are so rare they are rarely or almost never observed. What do these lost species have to teach us about conservation biology? Ron Rohrbaugh, who leads the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s research on the ivory-billed woodpecker, offers his perspective on this question.


Persian Leopard Spotted in Iran

Continuous photos taken with cameras fitted with telephoto lenses have confirmed that the Persian leopard is still roaming national parks in Iran. The cats had not been seen in Iran since 2002. The Persian leopard is one of only two big cat species remaining in Iran, the other being the Asiatic cheetah. Read the article at Press TV. The article includes a photo, but it is clearly of a sleek cheetah, and not a leopard.


Mark of the Endangered Beast

Tuna sushi
Originally uploaded by adactio

A technique known as DNA barcoding is helping investigators identify mislabeled endangered species to help keep them in the oceans and off our dinner plates. Conscientious consumers want to enjoy sushi from sustainable sources, but doing so is difficult when restaurants and markets mislabel species or are not specific in their labeling. Researchers from the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics at the American Museum of Natural History studied tuna sold at restaurants in New York City and Denver, Colorado. Their results, published in the open access journal PLoS One, reveal that almost half of the restaurants did not accurately label the tuna and that nearly a third of the tuna was bluefin, which due to over-fishing is currently being considered for CITES protection. The long-term application for the research would be a hand-held scanner that wildlife management teams could use to correctly identify species before they wind up in your bento box. Read more at Discovery News.


Endangered Crocs Hiding Right Under Everyone’s Snout

An unknown population of one of the world’s most critically endangered crocodiles was recently found hiding in an unexpected place–a Cambodian wildlife rescue center. DNA samples taken from 69 of the reptiles at the rescue center showed that 50% of them were Siamese crocodiles, which were at one time believed to be extinct in the wild. The Siamese crocodile population has been decimated by poaching and habitat loss. The remaining wild crocodiles, believed to number around 250, live in Cambodia, Indonesia, and Vietnam, where they are threatened by new hydropower dams being built in their habitat. The discovery of this captive population of Siamese crocodiles is important because it opens up new possibilities for breeding and releasing animals into areas not threatened by the dams. Read the full story at USA Today.


Brown Pelicans Fly Off Endangered Species List

Brown Pelican Flight Lines
Originally uploaded by Fort Photo

The brown pelican population has now rebounded to the point where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced its removal from the Endangered Species list. At one time, the brown pelican was decimated by the effects of pesticides such as DDT and Endrin, which were banned in the early 1970s. Pelican numbers have soared from around 10,000 in 1970, the year the birds were declared endangered, to an estimated 650,000 today that are spread across Florida, the Gulf and Pacific coasts, and the Caribbean and Latin America. Read more about this triumph at The Daily Reveille or


Inventor Responsible for Famous Nessie Fin Photo Dies at 87

Inventor Robert H. Rines, an inventor and pioneer in the area of sonar technology (among many other accomplishments) has died of heart failure at the age of 87. The sonar systems developed by Dr. Rines, who held more than 80 patents, helped find the wrecks of the Titanic and the Bismarck. But in cryptozoology circles, he is equally famous for his underwater photos of the Loch Ness Monster, including one that seems to show the fin of the creature. The underwater photographs hang in the American Inventors Hall of Fame. Dr. Rines became interested in the Loch Ness Monster after seeing the creature for himself in the early 1970s during a tea party at a friend’s house. He described the creature as being about 45 feet in length and looking like a plesiosaur. Detailed obituaries (showing the fin photo) can be found at U.S. News and World Report and The Daily Mail.


I Don’t Come to Your Job and Kill Your Research Subjects

A hunter has had a sporting good time in killing the alpha female of Yellowstone National Park’s famed Cottonwood pack during Montana’s recent legalized wolf hunt. Known to researchers as wolf 527F, the radio-collared female had been studied for 5 of her 7 years on this Earth. According to Douglas Smith, leader of the Yellowstone wolf project that has been studying the animals since their 1995 reintroduction to the park, the death of 527F has caused irrevocable damage to the study. Edward Bangs of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service counters that claim, however. He was quoted in Science magazine (subscription required) as saying, “It doesn’t make any difference to wolf conservation or wolf research, although it will cost Doug [Smith] more money to collar another wolf.” As if Smith’s main concern is the $1,500 it will cost him to collar a new wolf, not the loss of a wolf whose life, genealogy, and behavior had been chronicled for half a decade. At the time of her death, 527F was raising her third litter, the fate of which is unknown. Five other members of her pack were also shot to death by hunters. Because the study was intended to study wolves that lived and died under natural conditions, Smith says the data on 527F and her pack is now worthless. The project is also adding a new category to its database–that of harvested wolf.


Nessie Relative in England’s Lake District?

According to Big Pond News, investigators are searching England’s Lake District after two people reported seeing something in the water. The eyewitnesses, who initially thought they were seeing the Windermere ferry, caught the strange ripples on camera. Some investigators believe that the sighting is evidence that a cousin of Nessie is living in the lake and are planning to return with sonar equipment.


Judge Restores Protection for Grizzlies

Saying that the Fish and Wildlife Service ignores its own evidence when making decisions, a federal judge in Montana restored protections for the grizzlies in and around Yellowstone Park. In his ruling, the judge said the bears are at risk because populations of whitebark pine trees, the nuts of which are an important food source for the bears, are declining due to forest fires and global warming. The ruling will protect almost 600 bears in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. Stories about the ruling can be found in the Los Angeles Times and at ABC News.


British Explorers on Search for Orang Pendek

A group of scientists and explorers from the Centre for Fortean Zoology is embarking on an expedition to Indonesia to search for the orang pendek, a powerful ape that walks upright. The four-man team will also be looking for the nagas–30-foot-long horned snakes–and a golden cat with a stubby tail known to the locals as the cigau. Read the full story in the North Devon Gazette, and also check out the story on Cryptomundo.