Channel Island Foxes Rebound

Fifteen years ago, the foxes on the Channel Islands were on the verge of extinction. Today, thanks to conservation efforts, the population is recovering far faster than expected. Efforts to assist the foxes included relocating golden eagles that feasted on the foxes and replacing them with bald eagles, which more commonly feed on fish. In addition, officials killed more than 5,000 pigs on Santa Cruz Island because they served as another prey source that attracted golden eagles. To keep the recovery trend going, officials will have to continue vaccinating the foxes against distemper and keep an eye out for bald eagles adapting their hunting patterns and shifting their focus from seafood to the foxes. But conservationists are optimistic. Lotus Vermeer, director of the Nature Conservancy’s Santa Cruz Island Preserve, is quoted in The Ventura County Star as saying, “The rapid recovery of island foxes may be one of the most successful recoveries of an endangered species to date.”

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Welcome to the New Site

Welcome to the new home of Every Creature. We’ll be continuing to tweak the design and add more content over the coming days and weeks. Thanks go out to my husband for taking care of all the domain logistics and designing the site for me.

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New hope for Galapagos’ ‘Lonesome George’ – life – 30 April 2007 – New Scientist

New hope for Galapagos’ ‘Lonesome George’ – life – 30 April 2007 – New Scientist

Pinta tortoise Lonesome George may not be as lonely as previously thought. DNA tests have revealed that a tortoise on nearby Isabela Island has Pinta ancestry. Although the tortoise is also a male, the discovery raises the possibility that conservation scientists might be able to find a female with Pinta genes that would make a suitable mate for George.

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Pictures: "Rarest of the Rare" Species Named

Pictures: “Rarest of the Rare” Species Named

National Geographic has a nice profile on some of the most endangered species in the world. The animals profiled are from a Wildlife Conservation Society report entitled “Rarest of the Rare.”

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Endangered Species Success Stories

One of my favorite magazines, New Scientist, has an interesting gallery of five species that were saved from extinction by conservation efforts. Check it out here.

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Recovery Plan for the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker?

Nature‘s news feature has an article on the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s development of a recovery plan for the ivory-billed woodpecker. The recovery plan will include a strategy for preserving key habitat in order to save the species. The problem is that ornithologists disagree about whether the bird is already extinct in the United States or not. And even Ron Rohrbaugh, a biologist at Cornell University who was a member of the team that reported sightings of the bird in eastern Arkansas in 2005, is quoted in the news article as saying he doesn’t believe a recoverable population exists. Skeptical ornithologists believe that the Cornell team didn’t spot an ivory-billed woodpecker on the 2004/2005 expedition at all, instead letting ivory bill fever get the better of them when they saw the similar, but quite common, pileated woodpecker. I do have to say that it seems rather arrogant to assume that trained Cornell ornithologists couldn’t tell the difference between a woodpecker that most of us have seen many times in our backyards with one as rare and remarkable as the ivory bill. And I personally found the sound recordings of the distinctive double-knock drumming and the kent-like calls to be even more convincing than the videotape. But no one enjoys fighting and personal attacks more than scientists, so the rebuttals and enthusiastic mudslinging began, with doubters like Jerome Jackson labeling belief in the evidence as “faith-based ornithology.” GrrlScientist has also seized on this idea in her blog post titled “Faith-Based Birding 201: Fraudulent Photos and Federal Funding.” She says that the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is “unable to distinguish reality from hysteria” and says that the reason they won’t admit that their video identification was wrong is “testosterone poisoning.” Nice. I’m sure the female co-author of the Science report appreciates that one. I do greatly respect Jerome Jackson (I bought a copy of his book In Search of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh and was thrilled to discover that it was autographed by him), but I think this kind of dismissal and labeling of top ornithologists goes too far. I’m fine if people disagree on whether the evidence is convincing or not. But I don’t understand why detractors have to resort to name-calling. And I do think that whether the population is recoverable or not, the resulting habitat conservation from a recovery plan will be a positive step regardless. The ivory-billed woodpecker isn’t the only creature in the old growth swamps, even if it is the most polarizing.

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New Hope for Tasmanian Devils


Tasmanian Devil
Originally uploaded by mrdehoot

The New York Times reports that scientists have discovered the origin of the facial cancer ravaging the Tasmanian devil population. The cancer spreads from animal to animal when the marsupials fight, and has killed 60 percent of the population since it was first seen in 1996. Some fear it could cause extinction of the species within 35 years. Many scientists had assumed that the disease is caused by a virus, but recent research suggests instead that the tumors all originated from a single Schwann cell in a single animal. From that progenitor, the tumors have spread like parasites. This new study, published in the journal Science, could lead the way for a vaccine to protect the remaining animals and save the species from extinction.

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IUCN Launches Endangered Species of the Day

Every day in 2010, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) will feature a different endangered species on its website to raise awareness on the importance of biodiversity and the mounting threat of extinction. The profiles will focus on the animals, plants, and even fungi that are the most threatened. To view the PDF profiles, go to http://www.iucn.org/about/work/programmes/species/red_list/ and click on “Red List Species of the Day” in the top right corner.

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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.

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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.

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