Macaws: Some Species May Be Extinct, Others Are Endangered

Hyacinth, red-fronted, and blue-throated macaws are seriously endangered, and the glaucus and Spix’s macaw may already be extinct in the wild, according to National Geographic.com.

Because of their startling beauty, playfulness and intelligence, these birds are in high demand as pets. Owning one, however, is illegal. But the illegal pet trade is still devastating their populations, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Another problem is that though the vibrant coloring of the macaw’s feathers is suited to life in Central and South American rain forests, the habitats of many of their species are disappearing at an alarming rate.

For more information about the endangered macaw, visit WorldWildlife.org.

Europe Takes Action on Bee Decline While US Does Little

Photo credit: TexasEagle / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Photo credit: TexasEagle / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

It’s a familiar, yet still maddening scenario.

The public, as well as scientists, express legitimate concern about something. The US government reacts more or less by explaining that it will deliberate on potential courses of action once all the facts are responsibly gathered by experts from government-run agencies. Then and only then, will something possibly be done.

It seems Europe often does things a bit differently. The recent collapse of bee populations world-wide, and the question of what to do about it, offers a fresh example of this. In a May 28 online article, The Guardian (a UK newspaper) published this:

“The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) was asked to perform a risk assessment of the insecticide fipronil [by the European Commission], paying particular regard to the acute and chronic effects on colony survival and development and the effects of sub-lethal doses on bee mortality and behavior.”

The EFSA’s official statement about the result of the study was this:

“The insecticide fipronil poses a high acute risk to honeybees when used as a seed treatment for maize.”

What’s particularly interesting is that Europe has acknowledged for years the scientific evidence which shows that pesticides are causing damage to bees and have acted swiftly and decisively on the matter. Science, plus huge public protests, ultimately culminated in the European Commission (EC) imposing a ban recently on three neonicotinoids, chemicals similar to fipronil. The assumption is that the EC will ban fipronil as well.

While it is obviously a good thing that Europe is taking steps to address the problem, Marco Contiero, Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director, thinks even more should be done. According to The Guardian, Contiero said:

“These pesticides have been building up in our environment for a decade, so limited, temporary bans won’t be enough to give bees a breather. The commission should develop a comprehensive plan for the protection of insect pollinators, starting with a solid ban on fipronil and other bee-harming substances.”

So what sweeping, vigorous action has the US government taken? In the words of The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as reported by Food Safety News online, this is it:

“The forces impacting honeybee health are complex, and the USDA, our research partners, and key stakeholders will be engaged in addressing this challenge.”

They’ll be engaged in addressing this challenge. Which is to say that there will be no bans.

The Pesticide Action Network of North America, and the Center for Food Safety have both petitioned the EPA to place bans on these dangerous chemicals. Lawsuits against the EPA are pending, as well. Unfortunately, the odds are against the bees.

Endangered Parakeet Population Grows on Predator-Free Island Reserve

Malherbe’s Parakeet- photo courtesy of ScientificAmerican.com

Malherbe’s Parakeet- photo courtesy of ScientificAmerican.com

From ScientificAmerican.com:

“Malherbe’s parakeets are one of the world’s rarest and least-studied birds, with fewer than 300 wild individuals on Earth and a total population of maybe 1,000. Endemic to New Zealand, the birds were only recognized as their own species in 2000 after many decades of being considered a colorful variant of the orange-fronted parakeet (C. auriceps). Unfortunately, the 10 years leading up to that new taxonomic declaration were devastating to Malherbe’s parakeets, as an invasion of rats and stoats took their toll on the tiny (23-centimeter) birds.

Early this century the New Zealand Department of Conservation brought most of the remaining Malherbe’s parakeets into a captive breeding program. Then, in 2007 they started moving some captive-bred birds to Maud Island, a predator-free 320-hectare island that also serves as a nature reserve for other endemic species.”

For more, go to ScientificAmerican.com

Amphibians in U.S. Declining at ‘Alarming and Rapid Rate’

Yellow Legged Frog- photo courtesy of ScientificAmerican.com

Yellow Legged Frog- photo courtesy of ScientificAmerican.com

 

From ScientificAmerican.com:

“Why the drop in amphibian species matters: Amphibians control pests, inspire new medicines, feed other animals and help make ecosystems work. They are inherently valued by people of all ages—watching tadpoles and listening to frog calls are some of the most accessible interactions we have with the natural world.”

For more, go to ScientificAmerican.com

On Nature and Money…

Photo Courtesy of Grant Simon Rogers

Photo Courtesy of Grant Simon Rogers

“Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realise we cannot eat money.” ~Cree Indian Proverb

“Saving Tigers” Final Lecture of Purchase College Series

Photo courtesy of www.images.nationalgeographic.com

Photo courtesy of images.nationalgeographic.com

 

Article I wrote for a SUNY Purchase College newspaper. 

Joe Walston, Executive Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) Asia Program, gave an impassioned, educational lecture on the current struggle to bring tigers back from the brink of extinction. He spoke in front of a large audience made up of faculty, science majors and others interested in the subject. The talk was held on campus in the Performing Arts Center at 7 p.m.

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