Tell Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell: Stop Delisting Wolves

Photo courtesy of thekarbancycle.files.wordpress.com

Photo courtesy of thekarbancycle.files.wordpress.com

 

From Our-Compass.org:

Our worst nightmare is now a reality. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has formally proposed to remove all Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection for nearly all gray wolves across the United States.

Please send an urgent message to Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell — demand that she provide oversight during the official review period and urge her to re-think the official proposal before it becomes final.

To read more and to sign the petition to help save wolves, go to Our-Compass.org.

Hummingbirds On The Brink Of Extinction

Ann Novek( Luure)--With the Sky as the Ceiling and the Heart Outdoors

I have been fascinated by hummingbirds ever since I was given a pack of wild animal cards in hospital while my tonsils were removed and fell in love with Heliothrix aurita, a speck of fire and jade. And also wine-red Topaza pella, perched in a jungle whisking a crimson tail.

I still have those cards. Their pictures seem crude now, but when I was eight I was enraptured. The Aztecs said the Earth’s first flower was fathered by the god of poetry in the shape of a hummingbird; and everything about hummingbirds seems tailor-made for a poet.

Birds see ultraviolet light, and female hummingbirds have a taste for iridescence, so males have turned themselves into flying jewels. Their metallic sheens, glancing as soap bubbles, are reflected in equally iridescent names for which taxonomists have plundered all the shimmer in the lexicon.

There are more than 300 species: words such as…

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The Red Panda: A Species in Need of Protection

Photo courtesy of RedPandaNetwork.org

Photo courtesy of RedPandaNetwork.org

 

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is currently keeping a close eye on red pandas and their habitat across India, Nepal and Bhutan to better understand and help this adorable, but declining species.

The WWF describes the red panda:

“Most people don’t know that China’s famous black and white bear has a little red cousin. The red panda is slightly larger than a domestic cat with a bear-like body and thick russet fur. The belly and limbs are black, and there are white markings on the side of the head and above its small eyes.

Red pandas are very skillful and acrobatic animals that predominantly stay in trees. They use their long, bushy tails for balance and to cover themselves in winter, presumably for warmth. Primarily an herbivore, the name panda is said to come from the Nepali word ‘ponya,’ which means bamboo or plant eating animal.”

Almost 50% of the red panda’s habitat is in the Eastern Himalayas. Because its survival depends on such a limited area, it is extremely vulnerable to any alterations in its habitat. That’s why the loss of nesting trees and bamboo, which provides their main source of food, is causing a decline in red panda populations across much of their range.

Photo courtesy of images.NationalGeographic.com

Photo courtesy of images.NationalGeographic.com

One of the ways that the WWF is trying to help red pandas is by working with yak herders and other community groups to reduce human impact on its habitat. Fines and/or jail time for people caught hurting or killing the animals have also been instituted. This punishment is meant to deter poaching- red panda fur caps and hats have been found for sale in Bhutan.

For more info about these beautiful but vulnerable animals and how you can help them, visit worldwildlife.org.

 

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.

The Arctic Fox: Another Possible Casualty of Global Warming/Climate Change

Photo courtesy of imagecache6.allposters.com

Photo courtesy of imagecache6.allposters.com

Arctic foxes are beautiful animals, perfectly adapted to their climate. Although their looks are cute and almost delicate compared to other foxes,  their home range is quite large and encompasses the coldest places in the world- the entire Arctic tundra, Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Russia, Norway, Scandinavia, and even Iceland. These animals are so tough that they are the only native land mammal in their area of Iceland, according to Defenders of Wildlife. 

Of their several ingenious adaptations that make it possible to survive in such extreme conditions is deep, thick fur which allows them to maintain a consistent body temperature, as well as compact bodies which minimize the surface area that is exposed to the cold air.

Unfortunately for this amazing creature, it is under threat of extinction due to a variety of factors. They are prime targets of the fur trade and have fallen victim to diseases spread from domestic dogs.

Then, of course, there’s global warming. The Defenders of Wildlife webpage about the arctic fox explains:

“The Arctic fox is losing ground to the larger red fox. Arctic foxes are specially adapted to thrive in the far north. Where conditions are less extreme, however, this highly specialized species is generally out-competed by its cousin, the more adaptable red fox.

As climate change takes its toll and the snow-line continues to recede further and further north, the range of the Arctic fox shrinks, too, giving way to the northward advance of the red fox.”

The longer we humans take to acknowledge that the scientific proof of global warming is certain and irrefutable, the less time we will have to halt the extinctions of animals such as the arctic fox- animals which are very dependent on the specific conditions of their home habitats. Conditions that, as we argue and argue, will continue to shift and change.

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

EXTINCT: Three South Florida Butterfly Species

Skipper Butterfly- courtesy of HuffingtonPost.com

Skipper Butterfly- courtesy of HuffingtonPost.com

From HuffingtonPost.com:

By Barbara Liston (Reuters) – After six years of searching, an entomologist has concluded that three varieties of butterflies native to south Florida have become extinct, nearly doubling the number of North American butterflies known to be gone.

“These are unique butterflies to Florida. This is our biological treasure. Each unique species that we lose, we won’t ever get that back again,” Marc Minno, who conducted the survey for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, told Reuters on Monday.

The disappearance of butterflies should serve as a warning about the degradation of south Florida’s environment, he said.

“It’s indicating there are major problems, environmental harm to Florida. And this is an indication that quality for people is also degrading and people should be worried about that,” Minno said.

Before Minno’s survey, only four varieties of North American butterflies, all from California, were presumed to be extinct, and the last one added to the list was 55 years ago. Besides the three varieties which Minno concluded are extinct, two more native butterflies no longer exist in Florida but are living in the Caribbean, and two more are heading toward extinction, he said.

Miami Blue Butterfly- courtesy of LiveScience.com

Miami Blue Butterfly- courtesy of LiveScience.com

What is happening to the Florida butterflies remains an unanswered question. The Schaus’ Swallowtail, found only in the upper Florida Keys, became in 1976 one of the first insects ever given legal protection under the federal Endangered Species Act. Minno said only six of the swallowtails were sighted in 2012.

Scientists began noticing a general decline in the butterfly populations in the 1980s, and Minno, like many scientists, assumed the spraying of pesticides to kill mosquitoes might be at fault. But his survey suggested otherwise.

In urban areas, such as Key West which has little natural habitat remaining and is routinely sprayed, Minno said, “There are so many butterflies flying you can hardly keep track of them all. There are just swarms of butterflies sometimes. You just wonder what the heck is going on. It’s just the opposite of what you would think.”

By contrast, Minno said he found few butterflies in vast conservations lands without mosquito control, such as the million-acre Everglades National Park and Biscayne National Park.

One of his theories is that mosquito spraying might bolster butterfly populations by killing off native and non-native parasitic wasps which feast on butterfly larvae and caterpillars. Another theory is that invasive predatory ants, such as the Mexican twig ant and fire ants, which were introduced to the area in the 1970s and are unrestrained by pesticides in conservation areas, might be overwhelming butterfly populations there.

Minno said the three butterflies that were found only in southern Florida and are now extinct are the Florida Zestos Skipper, the Rockland Meske’s Skipper, and the Keys Zarucco Skipper. In addition, the Bahamian Swallowtails and the Nickerbean Blues are gone from Florida but alive in the Caribbean. Minno also expects the Schaus’ Swallowtail and the Miami Blue, both of which continue to decline despite formal recovery plans, to become extinct soon. Of 120 varieties of butterflies documented in the Keys, Minno said 18 have become imperiled since the 1970s.

Minno said no state, federal or private agency has funded research to find out what is causing the decline. (Editing by Tom Brown and Phil Berlowitz)

Amazing Animals- The Sand Cat

Sand Kitten- courtesy of environmentalgraffiti.com

Sand Kitten- courtesy of EnvironmentalGraffiti.com

I found a wonderful website with pictures and info about animals that are native to deserts. It’s amazing that any animal can survive such harsh climates.

This cat might look a lot like an ordinary domestic cat, but it was born to live in the desert. In fact, sand cats (Felis margarita) can survive in the kind of testing environments most house cats couldn’t endure for more than a couple of days. For one thing, they have extra tufts of fur on their feet to protect them from the scorching sand. They can also go for months without drinking water, getting all the moisture they need from their food.

Zooborns.com says of the species:

“Specially adapted for desert life, sand cats can thrive in some of the world’s driest areas, beyond the range of any other feline. Much like the fennec fox, sand cats sport big furry pads between their toes to dance along the hot sand and oversized ears, which act like radiators to disperse heat. The sand cat’s oversized ears help to dissipate heat and detect prey scurrying along the sand, also like fennec fox.”

Isn’t it amazing how evolution can create such unusual life simply by tweeking an existing body design (the wild cat) to handle novel/extreme conditions? I would’ve never thought that a cat species could be native to a desert.

Sadly, though, this cat is endangered. But there are people at a zoo in Tel Aviv that are trying to save them. Check out the zoo’s website to see the work they are doing.

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