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

Truly Amazing Animal Camouflages

Tawny Frogmouth- courtesy of Listverse.com

Tawny Frogmouth- courtesy of Listverse.com

From Listverse.com:

The Tawny Frogmouth (Podargus Strigoides) is a type of owl (in case you’ve been trying to spot a frog for a few minutes) native to Australia. Although they are, unsurprisingly, nocturnal, they have developed a sophisticated method of daytime camouflage: they sit still, close their eyes, stretch their neck and compact their feathers, making them look like a broken tree branch. This is used as a defense mechanism, not for hunting, like some of the other entries. Ironically, the biggest threat to the Tawny Frogmouth is their method of hunting. They mainly eat insects, and since they are nocturnal, insects are most visible in lit up areas. Unfortunately, the most lit up area is often directly in front of a moving car, where many of these birds will probably wish they were easier for us to spot.

See this animal and 9 others who almost disappear into their environments using natural camouflage.

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

“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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