March 31, 2010

Endangered Strangers: Namaqua Dwarf Adder

You can not resist me and my matching sand I am hiding in.........
You will make me famousss Endangered Ssstranger...

I am the Namaqua dwarf adder.
I may be dwarf but I will poison your ass big time...

Little is known about this secretive serpent who is most active at night. True to name, Namaqua dwarf adders reach a maximum length of just 11 inches. They have long, hollow fangs. When not injecting poison into victims these hinged fangs can fold back and rest against the roof of the mouth.

Mining on the coasts of South Africa and Namibia threaten the Namaqua dwarf adder's existence. This adder is also heavily collected for the pet trade. Reptile collecting is limited by a strict permit in South Africa and the regulation is well enforced, even for cases of biological study. Illegal collecting, however, is difficult to control.

Remember humans- you bred dogs and cats to be your pets and now there are many, many homeless dogs and cats. In the US hundreds of these potential pets are euthanized each year because nobody wants them. So please leave the Namaqua dwarf adder in the sand, the chameleons in the forests, the seahorses and corals in the oceans. Go adopt a dog or cat from the shelter.

*Two interweb blurbs report that the Namaqua dwarf adders bite is not fatal to humans...but, well it hasn't bitten too many people (yet) the first bite on record was just in 1981.... and we here at ESPPblog are fans of big boasts from small animals.

Yeah! You try make me pet, I try make you dead.
Eye for eye, thatsss how I roll.

P.S. Hey! Click on that box to peep my sidewaysss roll.

March 25, 2010

Endangered Strangers: The Lined Seahorse

We invoke thee, oh dark lord!

We, The Lined Seahorses...Whoops!

Oh hai...hoomanz! What you doin' down here?
No, no we're just pretending at being diabolical.
Why you make ring of salt and say evil triad?
Hmph, well maybe we are evil triad...maybe.
You don't know what goes down on ocean floor.
And if you did, we'd have to kill you.
No, no we're kidding- just a little seahorse humor.
We're weird.

Infact all seahorses could be considered a bit weird. Of all the known male animals in the entire animal kingdom, only seahorse males have a true pregnancy. Seahorses have a prehensile tale which they use to anchor themselves to sea plants, each other for mating, or coral alters for seances and the like.

They even have eyes that can rotate independently of each other! That is all rather unusual for a fish. Infact they don't even have scales as other fish do.

Lined seahorses vary in color and are named for the pearl white lines along the contour of the neck.The live in the Western Atlantic.

Lined seahorses are among the most commonly caught seahorse. They are threatened by habitat degradation due to coastal development and pollution, targeted catch and incidental capture by fisheries. Lined seahorses are sold into the aquarium trade, for Chinese medicine, and dried as curios/decorations (sadly I purchased one of these as a child). The Lined seahorse is quite popular in the North American aquarium trade and thousands are collected each year in Florida.

Seahorses are monogamous for life and even perform greeting dances each morning to strengthen their bond. Since you've been dying to know more about this male pregnancy thing, here is how it goes- The female sprays eggs into the male's brood pocket on the lower side of his tail. There the eggs are incubated for about 21 days. After the eggs hatch they will ride around in the male's pouch until they are sufficiently capable of swimming on their own. Below you can view a real life example of male pregnancy.

Take that Inside Edition /World News Weekly /People Magazine/ Stupid fake-dramatic stuff!

March 22, 2010

Which Countries Have the Most Endangered Species?

Our friends over at the Mother Nature Network let us know about their fascinating, though sobering, 'infographic' on which countries are host to the most endangered species. I was surprised at some of the results, though others, like the US and Madagascar rate in the top tiers where I expected to see them.

Check it out at full size, here --- and props to MNN for the clear and stylish design of the piece. I'd love to see this as a poster!

Also be sure to explore the rest of the MNN site, it's a great resource for everyone who cares about the health of our planet...a green CNN if you will.

The Last Wolverine in the Wolverine State

photo: Jeff Ford/Detroit Free Press

The 28-pound female wolverine (pictured above) found dead last weekend was first spotted in 2004, the first Michigan wolverine sighting since the early 1800s. Years of monitoring failed to document any other wolverines in the area. Most North American wolverines are now found in Alaska and Canada.

March 18, 2010

Mixed Environmental News

Today's New York Times piece "UN Rejects Export Ban on Atlantic Bluefin Tuna" is generally discouraging...but also slightly promising.

It's discouraging to read, because the news is bad:
"A U.S.-backed proposal to ban the export of Atlantic bluefin tuna prized in sushi was rejected Thursday by a U.N. wildlife meeting, with scores of developing nations joining Japan in opposing a measure they feared would devastate fishing economies. It was a stunning setback for conservationists who had hoped the 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, would give the iconic fish a lifeline. They joined the proposal's sponsor Monaco in arguing that extreme measures were necessary because the stocks have fallen by 75 percent due to widespread overfishing.

'Let's take science and throw it out the door,' said Susan Lieberman, director of international policy with the Pew Environment Group in Washington. 'It's pretty irresponsible of the governments to hear the science and ignore the science. Clearly, there was pressure from the fishing interests. The fish is too valuable for its own good.'"
The report is also slightly promising, however, because the United States has again positioned itself as a proponent of conservation measures.
"Only the United States, Norway and Kenya supported the proposal outright. [...] The tuna defeat came hours after delegates rejected a U.S. proposal to ban the international sale of polar bear skins and parts, suggesting that economic interests at this meeting were trumping conservation.

The Americans argued that the sale of polar bears skins is compounding the loss of the animals' sea ice habitat due to climate change. There are projections that the bear's numbers, which are estimated at 20,000 to 25,000, could decline by two-thirds due by 2050 due to habitat loss in the Arctic."
The end result, then, is by no means a happy one...but what a welcome policy change from the days of Bush & Company!?

Note: A version of this post also appears on Hungry Hyaena.

Endangered Strangers: The Kagu

"Darlene. Darlene! Check this out. Darlene!"

"Check it out, I'm one of those alien guys from the end of The Dark Crystal! You know, when the two races of good and bad unite into one? You know, that cool end part with the special effects? Fer reals, right?! Darlene!"

"Oh give it a rest Frank."

"Come on Darlene, you gotta hand it to the guy. He does really look like me."

The Kagu (Rhynochetos jubatus) is a almost flightless bird that dwells only in the thick forests of the island of New Caledonia, a French territory that lies off the east coast of Australia. Because of its rarity and remote habitat, much is still an mystery about this enigmatic avian. Scientists are not even sure which major category of birds to place it with, and intense debate continues today...

The Kagu is the only living member of it's family Rhynochetidae, and possesses several other unusual traits, such as it's very visible light-gray coloration, which is unusual for a floor dwelling forest bird. It also has a feature, interestingly called 'nasal corns' possessed by no other bird (hence its scientific name: rhis = nose, chetos = corn), as well as having only 1/3 the red blood cells and 3 times the hemoglobin as other avians.

However, this rare bird may be threatened with extinction before we even understand its unusual features.

The Kagu builds a nest on the ground, in which it lays a single egg. Because of this, its eggs and nestlings are very vulnerable to introduced predators. New Caledonia had no mammals, save bats, before the arrival of human beings --- but since then, dogs, cats, rats and pigs have been brought to the island, all of which would happily snack on a lone egg or nestling. Initially subsistence hunting and capture for pets initiated the species' decline, but today, predation of eggs and young, as well as habitat loss due to the mining and forestry industries plays a larger part.

In recent years however, the situation has become more hopeful. The Kagu occupies a place of high regard on New Caledonia, being considered an emblem for the territory, with the bird's distinctive call even being played every night as the local TV station signs off. The Kagu is now the subject of highly dedicated conservation projects, as well as captive breeding, both of which are proving to be successful. If only we could tie more species' survival to the image of their respective host nations (see the recovery of the Bald Eagle), all endangered species might have a better chance!

So, at least for the strange and wonderful Kagu, for now, things are looking (crests) up!

March 10, 2010

Endangered Strangers: The Scimitar Oryx

Zzzz...snort! Oh, hum, uh! Who goes there?

Oh, it's you, a huuuuman....Well, I'm an Oryx...a Scimitar Oryx to be precise. Sounds quite fearsome, no? Well it should. My razor sharp horns can kill in an instant! Kill dead, I tell you!

Hum. I say, do you mind getting this pesky itch behind my ear? Oh yes, right there, ummmmmm. My, that feels good. Well, I suppose I'll spare your life in this case.

Now do the other ear.

The Scimitar Oryx, sometimes called Scimitar-Horned Oryx, (Oryx dammah) is a species of large antelope which was once one of the most common large animals in Northern Africa. They inhabited sub-desert areas and were amazingly able to go without drinking for 9-10 months!

Scimitar Oryx populations rapidly declined throughout the 20th century, initially due to drought, with losses increasing dramatically as Europeans colonized the areas and hunted the Oryx for their meat, hides, and horn-trophies. WWII and the civil war in Chad probably also accounts for many more animals being killed for meat. By 1999, the species sadly had to be classed as Extinct in the Wild. Because Scimitar Orxy no longer inhabit their wild range, but individuals still remain in captivity, this species, while endangered, is given the special designation of "Extinct in the Wild."

Luckily, conservationists foresaw human beings bad behavior in this case, and a captive breeding program was begin in the 1960's. Captive Oryx now exist in zoos worldwide, as well as reserves in Tunisia, Morocco and have been reintroduced into Senegal and Israel (though this was not in their historic range.) As of 1996, this captive number was around 1,250. An additional 2,145 or so Scimitar Oryx exist on ranches in Texas, which sell the rights to trophy hunt the animals --- presenting an interesting ethical conundrum, where the animals are kept from extinction by virtue of being bred for sport hunting. ESPP would be interested to hear your views on this, so please weigh in in the comments section!

More whale-related news

The producers of "The Cove" -- the Oscar-winning documentary about Japanese dolphin killings -- unveiled their latest marine-mammal sting operation yesterday, exposing a trendy Los Angeles sushi restaurant called The Hump for selling illegal whale meat.

The meat turned out to be from the endangered Sei whale. Read the full article here.

Also- The Cove won an Academy Award- Best Documentary of 2009! Congratulations!!! Very well deserved!

If you aren't familiar with The Cove and the inspiring work of Ric O'Barry - a former dolphin trainer who worked on the popular Flipper TV show and has since decided capturing dolphins and forcing them to perform tricks is simply wrong- visit the website.

Read our 2 recent posts on the state whaling and join in the discussion!

March 5, 2010

Commercial Whaling Could be Making a Comeback

As reported in The Washington Post in February the International Whaling Commission (IWC) has proposed supporting a 10 year "whaling compromise" that would legalize commercial whaling for the first time in 30 years in exchange for reducing the number of whales killed each year.

Although that reduced number has yet to be determined the aim is to reduce the number of whales killed each year to a more sustainable level. The IWC states that nearly 2000 whales die each year to unregulated whaling, and that securing a means for countries to continue the hunt under IWC governance is the most effective way to control and reduce that number. Also on the table is the establishment of a South Atlantic whale sanctuary with more legal rigidity than the so-called "gentleman's agreement" that exists today.

Critics say reopening the door to commercial whaling is a bad move regardless. After a hard fought battle to end commercial whaling, the fact it could be legal in the 21st century seems outrageous to many.

There are three nations: Japan, Norway, and Iceland who claim whaling as an important part of their culture. Japan kills hundreds of whales each year on the grounds that it is "scientific whaling" which is permissible under the IWC rules. I, for one, do not have a clear concept of what all of this "scientific whaling" is contributing to science. ESPP blogged about whaling in Japan last week when the Australian Prime Minister publicly set a November deadline for Japan to cease all whaling. Read that post here.

What does everyone think of this proposal? I'm interested to hear your thoughts. Please comment.

March 4, 2010

Help a lemur out...

Our friends at The Duke Lemur Center are competing in the Pepsi Refresh Project. Pepsi Refresh gives grants to non-profits, business, and regular old people who submit ideas that will have a positive impact on their community. The Duke Lemur Center is hoping to get a grant to improve their facility and grow public awareness about lemurs.
You can vote for the The Duke Lemur Center here.

Blue-eyed lemur
image: Duke Lemur Center

You can also go here to see the ESPP print of the Golden-crowned sifaka by artist Jerstin Crosby, all proceeds from the sale of this print support the Duke Lemur Center.

March 3, 2010

Endangered Strangers: Darwin's Fox

Good day...
I am Darwin's Fox, Pseudalopex fulvipes, also known as Zorro Chilote.
Very pleased to make your acquaintance. Speaking of acquaintances,
did you know my ancestors met Charles Darwin during his voyage on
the Beagle? To mixed reviews, I daresay.

Darwin's fox: A critically endangered species that will approach you for a snack. Yet the interwebs don't seem to know much about him. A most curious little fellow.

Only about 250-300 Darwin's Foxes remain in the wild. This fox is endemic to Chile and is only found in two remaining populations. The mainland population can be found in the coastal mountains near Nahuelbuta National Park. And a larger population on the Island of Chiloé.

One of the smallest fox species in the world at around 20 inches long (plus 6 -10 inches of tail) Darwin's fox has short legs and grizzled fur.

Enjoying an opportunistic diet and dining on what is seasonably available Darwin's fox selects small mammals, reptiles, beetles and invertebrates and fruit. In Chiloé Darwin's foxes have even been known to enter human houses at night in search of food.

Some slight cultural differences exist between the two populations, namely a solitary existence vs family group living.

On the mainland unleashed dogs in Nahuelbuta National Park can attack foxes and spread disease. In the park unregulated feeding of foxes has habituated Darwin's fox to humans. The foxes wait underneath vistior's cars looking for a snack and are easily run over. On Chiloé logging, forest fragmentation, and poaching pose a threat. Darwin's foxes are often under persecution from farmers who accuse them of...what else? Robbing the hen house.