2010 Briefs : January - March

Tracking Puffins with Geolocation Technology

January 1, 2010  www.ceh.ac.uk

The puffin population on the Isle of May has declined by 30% in recent years, and could be due to worsening conditions within the North Sea, according to new findings published in the scientific journal Marine Biology. The study used geolocation technology to track puffins from the Isle of May National Nature Reserve, home to the largest colony of puffins in the North Sea. Recently-developed miniature logging devices weighing 1.5g were deployed during the 2007/2008 winter on 50 puffins from the Isle of May Reserve. Data was downloaded from thirteen of these geolocators with the records showing that over three-quarters of the birds made excursions lasting between one and four months into the Atlantic between successive breeding seasons, before returning to their home waters in the North Sea.  Previous studies have shown that puffin numbers at the two largest colonies on the east coast of Britain declined by 30% between 2003 and 2008 following rapid population increase over the previous 40 years. Further counts in 2009 confirmed this decrease and also recorded a decrease at two other colonies. Most seabird mortality occurs during the winter when food abundance is depressed, weather conditions are poor and shorter days restrict foraging opportunities.

Scientists Discover Origin of a Cancer in Tasmanian Devils

January 1, 2010  www.nytimes.com   By CARL ZIMMER

Australian scientists have discovered how the deadly facial cancer afflicting the Tasmanian devil originated. The finding, reported in the journal Science, sheds light on how cancer cells can sometimes liberate themselves from the hosts where they first emerged. Devil’s facial tumor disease is transmitted when the animals bite one another’s faces during fights. It grows rapidly, choking off the animal’s mouth and spreading to other organs. The disease has wiped out 60 percent of all Tasmanian devils since it was first observed in 1996, and some ecologists predict that it could wipe out the entire wild population within 35 years. When the tumor disease was discovered, many scientists assumed that it was caused by a rapidly spreading virus. Viruses cause 15 percent of all cancers in humans and are also widespread in animals. But studies failed to turn up a virus. Instead, Anne-Maree Pearse and Kate Swift, of the Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment in Tasmania, discovered something strange about the tumor cells. The chromosomes looked less like those in the animal’s normal cells and more like those in the tumors growing in other Tasmanian devils. In 2007, Katherine Belov, a geneticist at the University of Sydney compared DNA from 26 sick and healthy Tasmanian devils with DNA from the tumors. They found that cancer cells from different animals shared distinctive genetic markers not found in the animals themselves. A team of Australian and American scientists has now followed up on Dr. Belov’s study, using more powerful gene-sequencing technology. To trace the origin of the tumors, the scientists looked at individual cancer cells, recording which genes were active. They found a set of genes normally active only in a type of nerve cell known as Schwann cells. They argue that a single Schwann cell in a single animal was the progenitor of all the devil facial tumor disease cells. “The lack of genetic variation suggests that the tumors are young,” said a co-author of the study, Tony Pappenfuss, a bioinformatician at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Australia. Scientists have found only one other case in which cancer cells naturally spread like parasites, a disease in dogs known as canine transmissible venereal tumor. Comparisons of tumors collected from dogs around the world indicate that they descend from a single ancestral cell that existed several thousand years ago. Ever since, the tumor cells have evolved to move among hosts and avoid their immune systems. Dr. Pappenfuss and his colleagues are now studying how the tumor cells have evolved from Schwann cells into such successful parasites. Their research may help in the development of a vaccine that could prime Tasmanian devils to fight invading cancer cells.

60 Minutes: Language of Elephants

January 1, 2010  www.cbsnews.com  By Bob Simon

For two decades, a group of wild African elephants has been watched and studied by American scientist Andrea Turkalo. Her base is a forest in the Congo Basin along the border between Cameroon and the Central African Republic. She lives in a compound that she and a group of Pygmies built, and the Pygmies help her run it. Her research has revealed that elephants communicate in a complicated, sophisticated language, and she and other scientists are trying to decipher and compile the world's first elephant dictionary. From an observation deck on the edge of the clearing, she collects scientific data for Cornell University and the Wildlife Conservation Society. She watches elephants almost every day, for hours, counting their numbers and monitoring their health and observing their social behavior. Collaborating with Cornell University professor, Peter Wrege, the dictionary is still in its early stages. Until a few years ago, scientists had no idea that most of what elephants are saying can't be heard by the human ear. "The base of their vocalization is infrasonic. In other words, the frequency on which their call is built is below what we can hear," according to Wrege. The elephants use those low sounds to find one another in the dense forests. Their vocalizations have a reach of about two or three kilometers. The Elephant Listening Project grew out of an accidental discovery made by its founder, Katy Payne, one of the world's leading experts on elephant communication. To figure out what the calls mean, the Cornell team spends more time looking than listening. Using computer-generated spectrograms, they can see the low-frequency sounds.

Oklahoma City Zoo Elephant Exhibit - On Time & On Budget

January 2, 2010  www.newsok.com   By Carrie Coppernoll

Construction of the $22.7 million Expedition: Asia is going smoothly, according to Dwight Scott, executive director of the Oklahoma City Zoo, and will be ready for the first elephant birth at the zoo. The Zoo's two elephants, Asha and Chandra were moved to Tulsa in June 2008 as part of the AZA's Elephant Species Survival Plan. Neither had ever bred, and Tulsa's bull Sneezy doesn’t have any living offspring. Asha successfully bred with Sneezy this summer. So far, Asha is having a healthy, normal pregnancy, said Dr. Jennifer D’Agostino, director of veterinary services at the Oklahoma City Zoo. To minimize stress on the animal, keepers hope to move her during the middle third of her 22-month pregnancy. The soonest the elephants could travel is August, when their new exhibit will be completed. The latest they could travel is January 2011, 18 months after Asha conceived. Zookeepers are working to help the younger sibling conceive. Chandra has about three more opportunities to get pregnant with Sneezy, said Mike Connolly, assistant curator of elephants at the Tulsa Zoo. Connolly said though Asha’s pregnancy happened quickly, both zoos will be able to coordinate the elephants’ return smoothly. Ideally, they’ll both go home pregnant. Read more at www.newsok.com.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Rescues Frogs

January 3, 2010  www.denverpost.com   By Colleen O'Connor

The chytrid fungus has already wiped out nearly 100 frog species and as many as half of the world's amphibian species could become extinct if there is no progress against the deadly chytrid fungus. A team from the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs were part of the first expedition of the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project (PARC) last November. The international science rescue team traveled six hours on pack horses from Panama City,  to a base camp at the Cerro Brewster rain forest in the Chagres National Park. PARC's goal was to collect living specimens of frogs not yet affected by the fungus for captive breeding. They gathered about 20 harlequin frogs and 20 tree frogs. Scientists previously believed that the fatal fungus, quickly moving south through Central America, would be slowed by the barrier of the Panama Canal for as much as five years. But lab results showed that the disease had already jumped the canal, so the scientists went back this month for a second rescue mission. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo also houses a breeding population of Wyoming toads, which in 1994 were extinct in the wild. But they were rescued by zoos including Cheyenne Mountain — which bred more than 1,000 tadpoles and released them to the wild in their former habitat at Lindzey Ranch near Centennial, Wyo. So in 2008, the zoo signed up as a founding member of PARC, which has eight partner organizations, including the Smithsonian's National Zoo. The Cheyenne Mountain conservation team is now looking for qualified volunteers to stay at Summit Municipal Park and do husbandry, do the baths, and the cleaning of the containers each day. Volunteers, who must be trained in animal husbandry and have experience in field conservation work, will perform rescue efforts that include anti-fungal baths for the 200-400 frogs daily for 10 days. The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo team keeps in touch via the "Frog Blog" on the zoo's website.

Where The Action Is on Climate

January 3, 2010  www.nytimes.com

American cities and states have quietly been making serious commitments to curb emissions. According to a recent study by Environment America, an advocacy group, about half of the states have broad plans and specific regulations aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions. When fully realized, these actions would cut emissions by over 7 percent between now and 2020 — a sizable distance toward the 17 percent reductions President Obama promised at Copenhagen. California’s goal of cutting greenhouse gases by one-quarter by 2020 is plausible partly because the state has been so successful in improving the efficiency of its power plants and buildings, promoting renewable energy and insisting on fuel-efficient vehicles. The state recently approved strict new energy-efficiency requirements for television sets, which now account for 10 percent of the average household’s energy use but are largely unregulated. The rules will save consumers $1 billion in energy bills and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by three million tons each year. Though that is just under 1 percent of current emissions, it is small steps like these that will take California to its overall goal.

Naples Zoo Hosts Wild Weddings Bridal Show

January 3, 2010  www.naplesnews.com   By Katherine Albers

NAPLES, Florida -- The Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens will host the first Wild Weddings Bridal Show from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 10. The wedding show, which will take place in the RainForest Grove events area at the zoo, will give brides up-close encounters with exotic animals, the opportunity to speak with a number of wedding vendors and a chance to win a “Wild Wedding” valued at more than $17,000. “We have done weddings at the zoo for years and years, but people didn’t realize it,” said Courtney Herrell, director of group sales for the Naples Zoo. “And the trend now is for brides to look for a unique venue." At the show, Herrell said brides and other guests can expect to see a variety of exhibitors, including florists, wedding planners, rental companies and photographers. There will be a disc jockey spinning tunes as zoo personnel allow the brides to encounter some of the animals.  “We have 39 vendors. The first 50 brides to pre-register will receive a special gift," Herrell said. Brides also get free admission to the show, while grooms, bridesmaids and everyone else pays $5. There will also be door prizes and the chance to win the $17,000 wedding package, which includes the ceremony, reception, photos and more for 40 guests. “We’re for the green bride, the exotic bride."

Rise in Disease Transmission Between Humans and Animals

January 4, 2010  www.telegraph.co.uk

Climate change and environmental disruption are spawning a host of new diseases being passed from animals to humans. At least 45 such diseases have been reported to UN agencies over the past two decades and more are expected to be identified in coming years. Dr Montira Pongsiri, an environmental health scientist at the EPA, says, “We appear to be undergoing a distinct change in global disease ecology." He and eight colleagues examined five emerging and re-emerging diseases – malaria, lyme disease (spread by ticks), Hantavirus (spread by mice and rats), West Nile disease (spread by mosquitoes), and schistosomiasis (spread by freshwater snails). The researchers said that the number of people who succumbed to infectious diseases dropped in the developed world during the industrial revolution. However, the rise of manufacturing and pollution levels increased the incidence of chronic diseases including cancer, allergies and birth defects. They believe we are now experiencing another transition driven by the destruction of plant and animal habitats, the loss of species and changes that have brought more humans into closer contact with animals than at any stage in human history. David Murrell, lecturer in ecology at University College London, said, "Since 1940, over 300 new diseases have been identified, 60 per cent of which crossed to humans from animals and 70 per cent of these came from contact with wildlife. I would expect the emergence of new diseases from contact with animals to continue in this century." Urbanisation has been a key factor, and globalisation has compounded the problem because newly emerging diseases are transmitted faster and more widely than in the past.

Erupting Volcano Threatens Congo Wildlife

January 4, 2010  www.timesoftheinternet.com    By AFP

GOMA, DR Congo (AFP) -- Lava flows from erupting Mount Nyamulagira has "roughly doubled" that of the start of the eruption Saturday, according to Goma Vulcanological Observatory director Karume Katcho. The lava was also increasing speed as it hit steeper ground in the Virunga National Park, he said. Katcho estimated by the weekend it had burnt about 25 acres of the forest. The extent of the damage will need to be evaluated by satellite imagery. The park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to around 200 of the world's last 750 mountain gorillas but they are east from the volcano, near the border with Rwanda. It also contains large numbers of other species, including elephants, hippopotamus and buffalo, along with a range of reptiles and birds. The eruption is not considered a threat to people as they can protect themselves from its hot ash and volcanic fibres. However these substances are considered harmful to animals as they can pierce their stomachs and intestines.

Forensic Test May Stop Ivory Trade

January 4, 2010  news.bbc.co.uk

The European Union only allows the sale of antique ivory from before 1947, but there has been no accurate way of distinguishing it from modern ivory. Dr. Ross McEwing, director of the Trace Wildlife Forensics Network at Edinburgh Zoo has now come up with a testing method. By looking at its level of carbon isotope, which rose following nuclear testing in the 1950s, it is possible to determine the age of the ivory. Widespread nuclear weapons testing during the post-war period caused a rise in the levels of the chemical in the atmosphere. The amount of a carbon isotope known as carbon 14 doubled by 1965 and can be found in the bones and tusks of animals. If an ivory sample shows a high level of the matter then it proves it came from an animal alive after the introduction of nuclear testing in the 50s and is therefore being sold illegally. Dr McEwing has received funding from the UK government to develop the test, which will be distributed to EU countries.

10 Giant Pandas Head to Shanghai World Expo

January 4, 2010  news.xinhuanet.com
YA'AN, Sichuan, -- Ten giant pandas, 6 females and 4 males, will head for Shanghai, host city of the 2010 World Expo, Tuesday on a chartered plane for a year-long display, said an expert with the China Wolong Giant Panda Protection and Research Center. The pandas were all born in the Ya'an Bifeng Gorge Breeding Base of Sichuan after the Wenchuan earthquake on May 12, 2008, and brought up in groups of three or four, Li said. In order to enhance the intimacy between them, workers have allowed them to live together about 20 days before their departure, he said. "They've had a happy time together." The pandas will go on display in the Shanghai Zoo in the first half of 2010 and on display in the Shanghai Wildlife Zoo in the second half, he said. The zoos have built new or renovated existing exhibition areas and established bamboo supply bases to ensure sufficient food for the pandas, said Cai Youming, deputy head of the Shanghai municipal forestry bureau. There are about 1,600 
giant pandas living in China's wild, mostly in Sichuan and the northwestern provinces of Shaanxi and Gansu. China has built 62 giant panda nature reserves that cover 3.2 million hectares and are home to 70 percent of the animals in wild.

Judge Rejects Lawsuit Over Circus Elephants

January 4, 2010  www.nytimes.com  

In a case involving the treatment of circus elephants, a federal judge has ruled that the Animal Protection Institute does not have the legal standing to sue the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus under the Endangered Species Act. The Animal Protection Institute, along with Tom Rider, a former Ringling animal trainer, had accused the circus of abusing its Asian elephants by using bull hooks — tools with a sharp steel hook at one end used to control the animals during performances — and of leaving the elephants chained for long periods to punish them for bad behavior. During a six-week trial last year in Washington, held without a jury, Feld Entertainment, which owns Ringling Brothers, said that these things didn’t hurt the elephants, and that they were necessary measures to control them and ensure public safety. “This ruling represents a victory for the elephants and a win for the United States Constitution,” said Michelle Pardo, a lawyer representing Feld, “because it reinforces that the federal court is no place to entertain a philosophical debate about whether elephants should be in the circus.”

Southern White Rhino Poached in Kenya

January 4, 2010  www.nytimes.com  

NAIROBI, Kenya -- The total population of southern white rhinos is estimated at just 17,500. A group of poachers killed one living in a privately owned ranch in central Kenya on Dec. 28. Julius Kipng'etich, the director of the Kenya Wildlife Service said rangers tracked down the suspected poachers and suspected buyers on Sunday and caught them with two rhino horns weighing more than 7 kilograms (16 pounds) and 647,000 Kenyan shillings ($8,500) in cash, which is believed to be part of the money the poachers were paid for the horns. He said 12 suspects, all of them Kenyans, have been arrested. Other suspects escaped and rangers are still tracking them. Rhino horns sell for more than gold on a per-weight basis, and have been the reason for a huge poaching problem against the species. The horns are used to make dagger handles in the Middle East and for medicinal purposes in Asia. In the late 1970s and 1980s poachers decimated Kenya's rhinos, of which there are only two species in the country, white and black rhinos. Before the rampant poaching Kenya had an estimated 20,000 black rhinos in 1973. Today, black rhinos number only 610. White rhinos are even more endangered in Kenya with only 240 in the country. The white rhino's name comes from the Dutch word ''weit,'' meaning wide, which refers to its wide, square muzzle, adapted for grazing. The white rhino, whose real color is gray, has a pronounced hump on the neck and a long face. The black, or hook-lipped, rhino has a thick, hairless, gray hide. Both species have two horns, the longer of which sits at the front of the nose.

Macaques Share Human Ecology & Toxicants

January 4, 2010  www.eurekalert.org

Testing hair from Asian monkeys living close to people may provide early warnings of toxic threats to humans and wildlife, according to a study published online this week in the American Journal of  Physical Anthropology. In parts of South and Southeast Asia, macaques and people are synanthropic, which means they share the same ecological niche. They drink from identical water sources, breathe the same air, share food sources, and play on the same ground. "Macaques are similar to humans anatomically, physiologically and behaviorally," according to authors, Lisa Jones-Engel, and Gregory Engel. A team of primatologists, physicians, epidemiologists, veterinarians and toxicologists decided to test urban macaques as a potential early indicator that their human neighbors, especially the children, are being exposed to lead and other toxic metals. They took hair samples from three groups of free-ranging macaques at the Swoyambhu temple overlooking Kathmandu, Nepal. Hair lead levels differed among the three groups of macaques, and were much higher in younger macaques. The researchers' data did not support the idea that these lead levels were from basic differences in the animals' diet, and instead suggested that, in this population of macaques, behavioral or physiological factors among young macaques might play a significant role in determining exposure to lead and subsequent tissue concentration.

Off-Road Vehicles Restricted from Desert Tortoise Habitat

January 4, 2010  www.mercurynews.com

LOS ANGELES — The Bureau of Land Management’s decision to open two off-road vehicle routes in desert tortoise habitat in eastern Kern County has now been reversed. The Bureau’s decision was tied to the flawed West Mojave Plan, which was struck down in federal court last year. The two routes at issue in the Rand Mountains Management Area, an area of critical environmental concern, had been closed in 2002 to protect the imperiled desert tortoise from destructive off-road vehicle use that was destroying the fragile desert habitat. The Bureau’s 2008 decision was based on an inadequate education and permit program that provided no education and no permit tracking and merely required riders to obtain and carry a map of the Rand Mountain Management Area with information on the back. The Bureau’s own monitoring over the past year has documented repeated cases in which off-roaders illegally cut fences and drove off designated routes into sensitive habitats. The routes are directly adjacent to the Desert Tortoise Natural Area, private conservation lands set up to protect desert tortoise in the wild. Having survived tens of thousands of years in California’s deserts, desert tortoise numbers have declined rapidly in recent years. The crash of populations is due to many factors, including disease, crushing by vehicles, military and suburban development, habitat degradation, and predation by dogs and ravens. Because of its dwindling numbers, the desert tortoise, which is California’s official state reptile, is now protected under both federal and state endangered species law. Population genetics studies have recently shown that the desert tortoise in the western Mojave desert, including the Rand Mountain tortoises, is distinctly different from its relatives to the north, east, and south. This finding sheds new light on why increased conservation is more important than ever for the animals in the western Mojave.

Solar-Energy Project vs. Endangered Desert Tortoise

January 4, 2010   latimesblogs.latimes.com

On a strip of California's Mojave Desert, two dozen rare tortoises could stand in the way of a sprawling solar-energy complex in a case that highlights mounting tensions between wilderness conservation and the nation's quest for cleaner power. Oakland, Calif.-based BrightSource Energy has been pushing for more than two years for permission to erect 400,000 mirrors on the site to gather the sun's energy. It could become the first project of its kind on U.S. Bureau of Land Management property, leaving a footprint for others to follow on vast stretches of public land across the West. The construction would come with a cost: Government scientists have concluded that more than 6 square miles of habitat for the federally threatened desert tortoise would be permanently lost. The Sierra Club and other environmentalists want the complex relocated to preserve what they call a near-pristine home for rare plants and wildlife, including the protected tortoise, the Western burrowing owl and bighorn sheep. The dispute is likely to echo for years as more companies seek to develop solar, wind and geothermal plants on land treasured by environmentalists who also support the growth of alternative energy. In an area of stark beauty, the question will be what is worth preserving and at what cost as California pushes to generate one-third of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. The Bureau of Land Management has received more than 150 applications for large-scale solar projects on 1.8 million acres of federal land in California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah. In California alone, such projects could claim an area the size of Rhode Island, transforming the state into the world's largest solar farm. BrightSource Energy wants permission to construct three solar power plants on the site that together would generate enough power each year for 142,000 homes, potentially generating billions of dollars of revenue over time. In November, federal and state biologists reviewing the plan proposed that the company catch and move the tortoises and preserve them elsewhere on 12,000 acres, a proposal that could cost BrightSource an estimated $25 million. John Kessler, a project manager for the California Energy Commission, said there is disagreement with BrightSource over what the company would pay for long-term maintenance for the land that would be purchased, and the company also believes the cost of buying it should be less.

The Sierra Club wants regulators to move the site closer to Interstate 15, the busy freeway connecting Los Angeles and Las Vegas, to avoid what it says will be a virtual death sentence for the tortoises. Estimates of the population have varied, but government scientists say at least 25 would need to be captured and moved. The group argues that the reptiles are the "most genetically distinct" of all of California's desert tortoises and point to a 2007 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report that found the tortoise population is dropping in parts of a four-state region that includes California. "The project must not contribute to additional loss of habitat," the Sierra Club said in government filings. Except for the tortoise, no other federal or state threatened or endangered animal or plant is on the site, the company said. In 1994 the federal government designated 6.4 million acres as "critical habitat" for the tortoise in California, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah, but the BrightSource site was not included "and is by no means in an area critical to the survival  of this species," the company concluded.

Frog Disposal System

January 5, 2010  www.nature.com

Plant thorns, spiny insects and even radio transmitters don't stick around for long inside tree frogs. Researchers have discovered that these amphibians can absorb foreign objects from their body cavities into their bladders and excrete them through urination. The finding will be of interest to field researchers, who often implant tiny radio transmitters into frogs to track them. It also helps to explain how these little creatures survive a life leaping around in thorny forests and consuming spiny insects. In 2003, researcher Christopher Tracy and colleagues from Charles Darwin University began a project to find out how frogs regulate their body temperature. They surgically implanted temperature-sensitive radio transmitters in the abdominal cavities of tree frogs of three species (Litoria caerulea, Litoria dahlii and Cyclorana australis). When they set out to recapture the frogs several months later to log the data and replace the transmitters' batteries. But out in the field they found three of the transmitters lying on the ground. And even stranger, when the researchers opened up dozens of animals they pulled transmitters not from the body cavity, but from the urinary bladder. "That's when we started thinking about trying to pin down exactly what was going on," Tracy says. In 2008, Tracy and his colleagues decided to look into the phenomenon. They kept tree frogs and cane toads in the lab and surgically implanted beads in their body cavities. Within 2–3 weeks, the beads appeared on the floor of the frog cage. Only one cane toad out of five excreted a bead, but Tracy opened some other toads after the surgery and caught them in the act of enveloping the beads into their bladders. In just two days, the bead was surrounded by a transparent tissue devoid of blood vessels, which subsequently became vascularized and muscular. Although the study is the first to show an animal using its bladder to expel foreign objects, researchers have observed similar phenomena in other vertebrates. Several species of fish and snake absorb objects into their intestines from the body cavity and expel them by defecation, for instance. For reptiles and amphibians, moving objects from one part of their innards to another doesn’t seem to pose a problem

S. California Scrub Oak Clones Itself

January 5, 2010  www.nytimes.com  By HENRY FOUNTAIN

In Southern California, a scrub oak has been cloning itself for at least 13,000 years. A low thicket of about 70 stem clusters, it covers 2,000 square feet in a gulch in the Jurupa Hills of Riverside County. It cannot reproduce by sexual means, but reproduces vegetatively, after a fire, with new sprouts growing from the base of burned stems. That means all the plant tissue is genetically identical. The thicket, of the species Quercus palmeri, or Palmer’s oak, was found about 10 years ago by scientists conducting a survey of plant diversity in the region. Jeffrey Ross-Ibarra, a professor in the department of plant sciences at the University of California, Davis, is senior author of the PLoS ONE paper describing the clone. Most oaks need pollen from a different genetic individual to produce fertile acorns. But the Jurupa oak “is the only individual of the species for many miles around,” Dr. Ross-Ibarra said. When the oak first grew thousands of years ago, near the end of the epoch of glaciation called the Pleistocene, it most likely had neighbors. But as the climate grew warmer and drier, only it survived, protected in its spot between two large granite boulders. As for determining the plant’s age, Dr. Ross-Ibarra said, the plant tissue at the site is at most a few hundred years old, any original stems having long since vanished to decay or, more likely, termites. So the researchers estimated the age by measuring annual growth rates in stems and factoring that in to the size of the thicket. They estimated that the clone is 13,000 to 18,000 years old. That makes it one of the oldest known clones, although not the oldest. Among others, there is a quaking aspen in Utah that dates to at least 80,000 years ago.

New Strawberry Crab Species from Taiwan

January 5, 2010  www.nytimes.com 

TAIPEI, Taiwan  -- A marine biologist says he has discovered a new crab species off the coast of southern Taiwan that looks like a strawberry with small white bumps on its red shell. National Taiwan Ocean University professor Ho Ping-ho says the crab resembles the species living in the areas around Hawaii, Polynesia and Mauritius. But it has a distinctive clam-shaped shell about 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) wide, making it distinct. Taiwanese crab specialist Wang Chia-hsiang confirmed Ho's finding.

Fertility Bank for Rare Breeds

January 5, 2010  www.nytimes.com  By BARRY ESTABROOK

Located on a 45-acre estate in Newport, SVF is the only organization in the country dedicated to conserving rare heritage livestock breeds by freezing their semen and embryos. About 45,000 semen and embryo samples from 20 breeds of rare cattle, sheep and goats are preserved there in liquid nitrogen chilled to minus 312 degrees — essentially a frozen ark. Each time the foundation freezes a batch of embryos from a new breed, it thaws a few and transplants them into surrogate animals for repeat testing. The collection includes fainting goats, Cotswold sheep and Devon cattle - a collection of misfit breeds that no one wants now, but may in the future. Dr. George Saperstein, the foundation’s chief scientific adviser, who is chairman of the Department of Environmental and Population Health at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University said, “If there was a disaster, if something like the potato famine of livestock ever hit, these frozen embryos would be made available, and in one generation we would be back in business." That possibility is not altogether remote. For all their efficiency and high output, modern livestock breeds have become a weak, inbred bunch. Fifty years ago there were a half-dozen popular dairy breeds in this country. But today, according to Lindsey Worden of Holstein Association USA, the country’s 8.6 million Holstein cows make up 93 percent of America’s dairy herd. Fewer than 20 champion bulls are responsible for half the genes in today’s Holsteins.

The foundation, a nonprofit group, was founded by Dorrance Hill Hamilton,  82, one of the country’s wealthiest women, according to Forbes magazine. An avid preservationist, she was visiting Britain in 2001 when millions of farm animals were destroyed to prevent the spread of foot-and-mouth disease, and she thought that something had to be done in case a similar outbreak happened here. “I didn’t have enough land to maintain herds of animals, so I realized that cryopreservation was where we should go,” she said. Before SVF, the preservation of heritage livestock was through natural reproduction and largely the purview of dedicated amateur and professional breeders and organizations like the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy and Slow Food USA, as well as organizations promoting specific varieties. “On-the-hoof conservation is important,” Mr. Borden said. “But used in conjunction with it, cryopreservation is a great long-term solution.”

Congo Volcano Threatens Tonga Chimps

January 5, 2010  www.independent.co.uk  By Daniel Howden

Believed to be the most active volcano in the world, Mount Nyamulagira erupts every 3-4 years with the last blast being in 2006. It erupted again in the early hours of Saturday morning, affecting an area that is home rare chimpanzees, okapi, and critically endangered mountain gorillas. The eruption has been "very destructive" to the chimpanzee range on the western slope of the vast Nyamulagira volcano, according to Virunga park director, Emmanuel de Merode. "The population there was already heavily depleted by years of fighting."  The so-called "Tonga group" of chimps most directly affected by the eruption is estimated to have been reduced to as few as 40 animals prior to the latest threat.

Critical Habitat for Leatherback Sea Turtle

January 5, 2010  Federal Register

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), proposes revising the current critical habitat for the leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) by designating additional areas within the Pacific Ocean. Specific areas proposed for designation include two adjacent marine areas totaling approximately 46,100 square miles (119,400 square km) stretching along the California coast from Point Arena to Point Vincente; and one 24,500 square mile (63,455 square km) marine area stretching from Cape Flattery, Washington to the Umpqua River (Winchester Bay), Oregon east of a line approximating the 2,000 meter depth contour. The areas proposed for designation comprise approximately 70,600 square miles (182,854 square km) of marine habitat. Other Pacific waters within the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) were evaluated based on the geographical area occupied by the species, but it was decided to exclude those areas from the critical habitat designation because the potential costs outweighed the benefits of critical habitat designation and exclusion would not result in the extinction of the species. We are soliciting comments from the public on all aspects of the proposal, including information on the economic, national security, and other relevant impacts. We will consider additional information received prior to making a final designation. Comments and information regarding this proposed rule must be received by March 8, 2010 via the Federal Rulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov .

Endangered Species Permit Applications

January 5, 2010  Federal Register

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, invite the public to comment on the following applications for permits to conduct certain activities with endangered species. The Endangered Species Act requires that we invite public comment on these permit applications. Written data, comments or requests must be received by February 4, 2010. Documents and other information submitted with these applications are available for review, subject to the requirements of the Privacy Act and Freedom of Information Act, by any party who submits a written request for a copy of such documents within 30 days of the date of publication of this notice to: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Management Authority, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Room 212, Arlington, Virginia 22203; fax 703-358-2281.

Applicant: Chelonian Conservation Center, Ojai, CA, PRT-217124. The applicant requests a permit to import up to 10 angulated tortoises (Astrochelys yniphora) which were previously illegally removed from the wild in Madagascar. The import would be for the purpose of enhancement of the survival of the species. This notification covers activities to be conducted by the applicant over a 1-year period.

Applicant: Zoological Society of San Diego, CA, PRT-223447. The applicant requests a permit to export biological samples from Western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) to Cambridge University, Department Of Veterinary Medicine, Cambridge, United Kingdom, for the purpose of enhancement of the species through scientific research. This notification covers activities to be conducted by the applicant over a 1-year period.

Applicant: Metro Richmond Zoo, Moseley, VA, PRT-228022. The applicant requests a permit to import two captive-bred female cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) from the DeWildt Center, South Africa, for the purpose of enhancement of the survival of the species.

Applicant: Wildlife Conservation Society, Bronx Zoo, New York, NY, PRT-231585.  The applicant requests a permit to export up to 1000 captive hatched Kihansi spray toads (Nectophrynoides asperginis) to their range state at the University of Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, for the purpose of enhancement of the survival of the species. This notification covers activities to be conducted by the applicant over a 5-year period.

Applicant: Jarrell W. Martin, Jacksonville, FL, PRT-235302.  The applicant requests a permit to import the sport-hunted trophy of one male bontebok (Damaliscus pygargus pygargus) culled from a captive herd maintained under the management program of the Republic of South Africa, for the purpose of enhancement of the survival of the species.

Atlantic Commercial Shark Management Measures

January 5, 2010  Federal Register

This final rule establishes the annual quotas and opening dates for the 2010 fishing season for sandbar sharks, non-sandbar large coastal sharks (LCS), small coastal sharks (SCS), and pelagic sharks based on any over- and/or underharvests experienced during the 2008 and 2009 Atlantic commercial shark fishing seasons. NMFS needs to take this action to establish the 2010 adjusted fishing quotas and to open the commercial fishing seasons for the Atlantic sandbar shark, non-sandbar LCS, SCS, and pelagic shark fishery based on over- and underharvests from the 2009 fishing season. This action is expected to affect commercial shark fishermen in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions.The 2010 Atlantic commercial shark fishing season for the shark research, blue sharks, porbeagle sharks, and pelagic sharks (other than porbeagle and blue sharks) in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, will open on January 5, 2010. The non-sandbar LCS in the Gulf of Mexico region will open on February 4, 2010. NMFS will keep the SCS fishery closed until the effective date of the final rule for Amendment 3. NMFS will open the non-sandbar LCS fishery in the Atlantic region on July 15, 2010.  For further information contact: Karyl Brewster-Geisz or Gu[yacute] DuBeck by phone: 301-713-2347, or by fax: 301-713-1917.

Parasite Infections Can Threaten Captive Bred Animals

January 5, 2010  www.physorg.com  

Endangered animals bred in a sheltered captive environment suffer the double jeopardy of having a restricted diversity at their immune genes to combat parasitic infections and less exposure to natural pathogens. Researchers from Cardiff University and the University of Hull are investigating this problem in the guppy, a small tropical freshwater fish, to understand how the risk posed by parasites in release programmes can be alleviated. In controlled laboratory conditions, the researchers showed that pre-exposure to parasites made subsequent outbreaks of parasite infection less severe. These experiments suggest that by pre-exposing fish prior to release, conservation managers can reduce their susceptibility to parasite infection and increase survival. Drs Cable, Faria and van Oosterhout said, “Parasites form a natural part of the ecosystem, and by pampering endangered vertebrates with medication in captivity, we do not give them a chance to develop disease resistance that they would naturally acquire in the wild. To increase the success of reintroductions, we may need to challenge captive-bred individuals to natural parasites, and only select the most resistant individuals for release into the wild.” The research, funded by the European Union Framework 6 programme, is published in the journal Biological Conservation.

Massive Die-Off Of Olive Ridley Turtles

January 5, 2010  www.kalingatimes.com
Between 671- 5,000 Oilve Ridley sea turtles have died in several strategic locations - beaches at Satabhaya, Pentha, Agarnasi and Barunei. Wildlife activists believe that unlawful trawling operation along the Gahirmatha marine sanctuary is to blame. The bloated bodies are sporadically dispersed along the stretch of beach from Dhamra to Paradip. Turtles are getting hit by trawl propeller and are getting killed. The animals are getting entangled in the mono-filament nets that are being used by fishing trawls. "The mute species are dying of asphyxiation,” said Sudhansu Parida, an activist of people for animals.

Female Cane Toads Inflate to Reject Small Suitors

January 5, 2010  www.physorg.com  

The female cane toad can pump herself up to mega-size to throw off smaller males striving to mate with her, according to Australian biologists reporting in the British journal Biology Letters. Female cane toads (Bufo marinus) are typically choosier than males when it comes to reproduction. They discriminate among potential mates by approaching the toad with the best call. But, as they head to mate with the male with the mightiest ribbit, they also have to run the gauntlet of excited rival males. An unwanted suitor will seek to climb on the female's back, grasping her tightly in the armpit or groin, waiting until she starts laying her eggs in order to fertilise them. By inflating sacs in her body, the female is able to loosen the grip and the unwanted suiter slides off her body. Fertilisation among cane toads is most successful when males and females are similar in size. The paper suggests that females in other species may similarly use a defence mechanism to help them choose a mate. Many of the traits that enable a female to repel a predator also allow her to repel unwanted suitors, and hence facilitate mate choice. Cane toads are a notorious pest in Australia. The species, indigenous to Central and Latin America, was introduced in 1935 to help control beetles that threatened sugar-cane crops.

WWF’s List of Top 10 Endangered Species

January 5, 2010  www.telegraph.co.uk

WWF’s top 10 endangered list includes: Tiger, Polar Bear, Pacific Walrus, Magellanic Penguin, Leatherback Turtle, Bluefin Tuna, Mountain Gorilla, Monarch Butterfly, Javanese Rhino and Giant Panda. Because this will be the Chinese year of the Tiger, it has been placed at the top of the list. Only 3,200 tigers are left in the wild – the vast majority of them in India. Tigers occupy less than 7% of their original range, which has decreased by 40% over the past ten years.

Listing Foreign Bird Species in Peru and Bolivia

January 5, 2010  Federal Register

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, proposes to list the following six South American bird species (collectively referred to as "species'' for purposes of this proposed rule) as endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973: ash-breasted tit-tyrant (Anairetes alpinus), Junin grebe (Podiceps taczanowskii), Junin rail (Laterallus tuerosi), Peruvian plantcutter (Phytotoma raimondii), royal cinclodes (Cinclodes aricomae), and white-browed tit-spinetail (Leptasthenura xenothorax)--all native to Peru. The ash-breasted tit-tyrant and royal cinclodes are also native to Bolivia. This proposal, if made final, would extend the Act's protection to these species. The Service seeks data and comments from the public on this proposed rule. We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before March 8, 2010. You may submit comments before February 19, 2010 at the Federal eRulemaking Portal at  www.regulations.gov.

Listing 6 Foreign Birds Throughout their Range

January 5, 2010  Federal Register

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service propose to list the following six foreign species found on islands in French Polynesia and in Europe, Southeast Asia, and Africa: Cantabrian capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus cantabricus); Marquesan Imperial Pigeon (Ducula galeata); the Eiao Polynesian warbler (Acrocephalus percernis aquilonis), previously referred to as (Acrocephalus mendanae aquilonis); greater adjutant (Leptoptilos dubius); Jerdon's courser (Rhinoptilus bitorquatus); and slender-billed curlew (Numenius tenuirostris) as endangered, pursuant to the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. This proposal, if made final, would extend the Act's protection to these species. We seek data and comments from the public on this proposed rule on or before March 8, 2010.  Submit comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal: www.regulations.gov. In the Keyword box, enter Docket No. FWS-R9-ES-2009-0084, or by U.S. mail to Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R9-ES-2009-0084; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

London Zoo Keepers Make Annual Animal Count

January 5, 2010  www.nytime.com

LONDON (AP) --  The zoo's large population -- more than 14,500 animals, including thousands of insects -- means it will take keepers about a week to complete the census, which started Tuesday. Other new additions include a pair of aardvarks and the first lion cubs born at the zoo in a decade. The zoo says it hopes 70-year-old Galapagos tortoise Dirk and the Komodo dragon, a 7-year-old female called Rinca from South Africa, will mate -- each with its own kind -- and help boost the numbers further this year.

Listing of the Galapagos Petrel and Heinroth's Shearwater

January 5, 2010  Federal Register

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, have determined threatened status for the Galapagos petrel (Pterodroma phaeopygia) previously referred to as (Pterodroma phaeopygia phaeopygia); and the Heinroth's shearwater (Puffinus heinrothi) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. This rule implements the Federal protections provided by the Act for these two foreign seabird species. This final rule becomes effective February 4, 2010 and may be accessed from www.regulations.gov.  For more information contact: Nicole Alt, Chief, Division of Conservation and Classification, Endangered Species Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Room 420, Arlington, VA 22203; telephone 703-358-2171

Animal Vocalizations Have Common Denominator

January 5, 2010  www.eurekalert.org  

Compiling data from nearly 500 species, scientists from the University of Florida and Oklahoma State University have found the calls of crickets, whales and other creatures are ultimately
controlled by their metabolic rates — their uptake and use of energy. "Very few people have compared cricket chirps to sounds made by whales and monkeys to see if there were commonalities in the key features of acoustic signals, including the frequency, power and duration of signals," said James Gillooly, "Our results indicate that, for all species, basic features of acoustic communication are primarily controlled by individual metabolism, which in turn varies predictably with body size and temperature. So, when the calls are adjusted for an animal's size and temperature, they even sound alike."  The finding appears in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, and will help scientists understand how acoustic communication evolved across species. The results also provide insights regarding common energetic and neuromuscular constraints on sound production, and the ecological and evolutionary consequences of producing these sounds. Alexander G. Ophir, of Oklahoma State, began compiling data on animal calls in hundreds of different species while a postdoctoral student at UF. "This seems to provide unifying principles for acoustic communication that can be applied to virtually all species. In terms of producing sounds, we use vocal cords, but other mechanisms of sound production exist, such as insects that rub their legs together. Until now, these sounds have been treated differently.  But by providing a general mathematical framework — a baseline — we have a reference point to compare differences. We can provide a predictive reference point to say whether it is truly loud when compared with other animal sounds," he said. That common reference point can even predict what extinct animals like Tyrannosaurus rex may have sounded like.

New Plans for Privatized Dallas Zoo

January 5, 2010  www.dallasnews.com  By DAVID FLICK

OAK CLIFF, Texas – The Dallas Zoo has endured financial crisis and political controversy. Perhaps the biggest blow to the zoo's image occurred in March 2004, when Jabari, a 13-year-old western lowland gorilla, escaped his enclosure by making a running leap over a 14-foot wall. He mauled three zoo visitors before being killed by Dallas police, and the story attracted global attention. Controversy erupted again in 2008, after zoo officials announced plans to move Jenny, then the zoo's last remaining elephant, to a wildlife park in Mexico. Celebrities – most notably comedian Lily Tomlin – protested the plan. Zoo officials rethought their plans – and decided to keep Jenny and expedite long-range plans for a larger facility in Dallas. Current plans call for the zoo to keep up to eight elephants. Another elephant, Gypsy, was added last July. An internal study following the Jabari incident called for new leadership, leading to the 2006 hiring of executive director Gregg Hudson. And last summer, Dallas City Council voted to turn over management of the municipal zoo to the private Dallas Zoological Society making the culture more entrepreneurial and more responsive. 2010 will see more entertainment-friendly features such as camel rides and goat feeding in the children’s zoo. Scheduled to open in late spring is the 11-acre Giants of the Savanna habitat that seeks to replicate the African grasslands, populated with elephants, giraffes, lions, cheetahs, ostriches and zebras. The aging Cat Row will be converted into a Texas Predators exhibit that will feature ocelots and mountain lions. And the process of closing the "top of the hill" exhibits will begin, with some of the marquee animals, such as rhinos and cheetahs, moved to more prominent settings.

Dolphin Intelligence

January 6, 2010  www.physorg.com   By Lin Edwards

Research by Diana Reiss, professor of psychology at the City University of New York, showed that dolphins could recognize themselves in a mirror, and could use it to inspect other parts of 
their bodies, an ability previously only demonstrated in humans and a few animals such as apes, elephants and pigs. In another study Reiss was able to teach captive dolphins a rudimentary language based on symbols.  In anatomical studies of the dolphin, zoologist Lori Marino and colleagues from Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia in the US, used MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans to map the brains of dolphins and compare them with the brains of primates. She found the ratio of dolphin brain mass to body size to be second only to the human brain, which means dolphin brains are relatively larger than those of chimpanzees. The neocortex and cerebral cortex of the bottlenose dolphins were particularly large and the cortex had similar convoluted folds to those found in human brains and strongly associated with intelligence. Cortical folds increase the volume of the cortex and its capacity for interconnections to form. Marino said the findings on brain anatomy and intelligence of dolphins mean we should re-examine the treatment of dolphins, especially when their treatment results in suffering. Reiss and Marino say their behavioral and anatomical findings and our new understanding of dolphin intelligence mean it may not be ethical to keep dolphins in aquatic amusement parks for our entertainment, or to kill them for food. Around 300,000 whales, dolphins, and porpoises die each year,  with some being killed for food, such as the annual killing of thousands of dolphins and small whales in Taijii, Japan, or even to prove the manhood of those killing them, such as the slaughter of  Calderon dolphins at Faroe Island, in Denmark. Reiss and Marino will present their findings at a conference in San Diego, California next month.

Yun Zi Makes His Public Debut at San Diego Zoo

January 6, 2010  www.sdnn.com

Five-month-old giant panda cub, Yun Zi, made his official debut Wednesday at the San Diego Zoo.  Yun Zi was born Aug. 5, 2009, to mother Bai Yun and father Gao Gao. He weighed 19.4 pounds during the last veterinary checkup Dec. 29.  The San Diego Zoo is home to five giant pandas: the cub Yun Zi, mother Bai Yun, father Gao Gao, 4-year-old sister Su Lin and 2 year old sister Zhen Zhen. Yun Zi is the fifth cub born to Bai Yun. Video at www.sdnn.com

Wildlife Photo Exhibit at Detroit Zoo

January 6, 2010  www.romeoobserver.com

The 2009 Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, a collection of images from the world's largest and most prestigious wildlife photography competition will be making its North American premiere at the Detroit Zoo through April 26, 2010. The exhibition is open during Zoo hours and is free with regular Zoo admission. The exhibition features 95 photographs dramatically displayed as illuminated large-format color transparencies. The winning images, chosen from a record 43,135 entries, represent 83 photographers from  24 countries. An educational and interactive family learning guide corresponding to the exhibition can be downloaded and printed from the Zoo's Web site to aid visitors in interpreting the exhibition. A hardback commemorative portfolio book of the 2009 Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition is available for sale in the Detroit Zoo's Zoofari Market. London's Natural History Museum and BBC Wildlife Magazine have organized this annual exhibition for more than 40 years to showcase the finest wildlife pictures taken by photographers worldwide.

Jane Goodall Institute Gets $5.5 Million Grant from USAID

January 6, 2010  www.enn.com 

ARLINGTON, Virginia -- The Jane Goodall Institute has announced receipt of a four-year grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for work beginning January 4, 2010. The grant, totaling more than $5.5 million will enable the Institute-in partnership with the Tanzanian District Councils of Kigoma and Mpanda, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the Frankfurt Zoological Society-to expand its existing community-centered conservation programs in western Tanzania, home to important populations of chimpanzees and other endangered species. Since 2003, with the support of USAID and other major donors, JGI and its local and international partners have invested more than $7 million into landscape-scale community-centered conservation projects focused on the Greater Gombe Ecosystem (GGE) around Gombe National Park and the Masito-Ugalla Ecosystem (MUE) directly to the south. These resources supported JGI's efforts to collect baseline biological and socio-economic data; develop detailed Conservation Action Plans; help villagers develop land-use plans; assist communities in implementing conservation-friendly methods of farming, cooking and other practices; and employ threat abatement initiatives that support the conservation of endangered species, particularly chimpanzees, and their habitat.

Jane Goodall Institute Receives $2.7 Million from Norway

January 7, 2010  www.enn.com 

ARLINGTON, Virginia -- The Royal Norwegian Embassy in Tanzania recently awarded more than $2.7 million (USD) to the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI)-Tanzania. The three-year grant will enable JGI to provide local community-based organizations and district governments with the training, equipment and other materials needed to protect their forestland and" ultimately" benefit from income earned through the sale of carbon credits through the financing mechanism known as Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD). The funds provided by the Norwegian Embassy will support JGI's work in the Masito-Ugalla Ecosystem, one of the least developed areas of the world. JGI's REDD project will produce a model demonstrating that traditional rural communities can lead actions to reduce carbon emissions and sequester carbon through sustainable management of their forest resources. The lessons learned from JGI's efforts can guide other communities in Tanzania and elsewhere that wish to replicate the REDD process. The project will primarily conserve approximately 70,000 hectares of pristine forests and woodlands found in one of the last large expanses of intact forest in Tanzania, enhancing biodiversity and ecosystem functions such as providing habitat for chimpanzees. Communities will be eligible to earn credits for the carbon stored in their protected forest areas. They will then have the opportunity to sell these credits in the international marketplace in order to raise funds to support forest management efforts and improve community living conditions. In addition, participating communities will benefit from secondary products obtained from the protected forests, including sales from wild honey, medicinal plants, fuel wood and tourism. JGI will develop methodologies and provide technical training to communities and local and national government partners to help inventory, monitor and manage the forest. JGI will utilize a number of cutting-edge technologies in partnership with Google, ESRI and DigitalGlobe such as mobile Android/ODK and web-based mapping systems along with GIS and high-resolution satellite imagery. JGI will also work to strengthen management practices among participating organizations and improve communication between the government, community-based groups and local residents.

Tigress and Cubs Caught on Tape in Sumatra

January 7, 2010   www.eurekalert.org

JAKARTA, Indonesia – A specially designed video cameras installed by WWF-Indonesia's researchers in the Sumatran jungle has captured a mother tiger and her cubs on film as they stopped to sniff and check out the camera trap. There are as few as 400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild and they are under relentless pressure from poaching and clearing of their habitat. After five years of studying tigers using wildlife-activated camera traps, these are the first images of a tiger with offspring, according to Karmila Parakkasi, the leader of WWF-Indonesia's Sumatran tiger research team. WWF plans to launch a campaign on 14 Feb. 2010, to coincide with the start of the Year of the Tiger in the Chinese calendar. The year-long, Tx2: Double or Nothing campaign aims to raise the bar for tiger conservation by securing high-level political commitment at a Heads of State Tiger Summit in September in Vladivostok, Russia to be hosted by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, and supported by WWF and other partners of the Global Tiger Initiative, including the World Bank. Mike Baltzer, leader of WWF's global Tiger Initiative said they hope to double tiger numbers by 2022. The wild tiger number is as low as 3,200. WWF's tiger research team set up four of the video camera traps in known tiger routes in a forested "wildlife corridor" that allows animals to move between two protected areas in central Sumatra – Rimbang Baling Wildlife Reserve in Riau and Bukit Tigapuluh National Park in both Riau and Jambi provinces. "With this clear scientific evidence of tiger presence, WWF calls for formal establishment of the area between Rimbang Baling and Bukit Tigapuluh forests as a protected wildlife corridor," Kosasih said. WWF is also urging the paper companies operating in the area – Sinar Mas/APP and APRIL – as well as palm oil plantations to help protect all high conservation value forests under their control that are the habitat of tigers and other endangered species. The video footage and high-resolution photos can be downloaded from: http://www.vimeo.com/8351982  For more information, visit www.SaveSumatra.org .

Polar Bears Changing Habitat in Response to Climate Change

January 7, 2010  www.eurekalert.org

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- A long-term study showing the changes in habitat associations of polar bears in response to sea ice conditions in the southern Beaufort Sea has implications for polar bear management in Alaska. Karyn Rode, a polar bear biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Anchorage, Alaska says data collected between 1979 and 2005 show that polar bears in the region are occurring more frequently on land and in open water and less frequently on ice during the fall. This means there are increased chances for human/bear interaction. The paper was published in the December issue of Arctic – the journal of the Arctic Institute of North America. Between 1979 and 1987, 12% of bear sightings were associated with no ice. Between 1997 and 2005 however, 90% of bear sightings were associated with no ice.

Changes In the Regulations Governing Falconry

January 7, 2010  Federal Register

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a final rule in the Federal Register on October 8, 2008 to revise our regulations governing falconry in the United States. With this action, we make
several changes to those regulations to correct inconsistencies and oversights and make the regulations clearer. This regulations change will be effective on February 8, 2010. For more information contact Dr. George T. Allen, Division of Migratory Bird Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 703-358-1825.

Listing of Hawaii Species

January 7, 2010  www.kauaipubco.com

LIHU‘E — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has picked up the pace in federally registering 48 endangered Kaua‘i species in light of a lawsuit filed earlier this week in federal court by environmental activists. The new ecosystem-based approach to the listing and critical habitat designation process is designed to protect multiple species that occur in shared ecosystems and experience common threats, according to a Sept. 30, 2008 press release from Foote when the process first began. Hawai‘i is already home to some 25 percent of the nation’s federally listed species with more than 390 plants and animals registered as either endangered or threatened, Foote said. In addition to those which are legally protected, more than 300 species have been candidates for nearly 15 years and only 30 of those are on the current list, said Jay Tutchton, a lawyer representing WildEarth Guardians, the organization filing suit against U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, who is responsible for FWS. After the deadline to publish the list had passed, WildEarth Guardians “formally notified the secretary of its demand that he finalize the proposed rules at issue, but ... failed and continues to fail to do so,” according to court documents. Once the final list is published, the species will receive federal protection and a recovery plan will be developed within five years to ensure their continued survival success, Foote said. Lists for O‘ahu and Maui are forthcoming.

Grevy Zebra Born at Denver Zoo

January 7, 2010  www.9news.com

Lakota, an endangered Grevy's zebra was born at the Denver Zoo on Nov. 27. He is the second foal of Topaz. The Denver Zoo says Grevy's zebras are endangered with less than 2,000 in the wild. The endangerment is due to loss of habitat, competition with livestock and poaching.

Conserving Jaguars in the U.S.

January 7, 2010  www.enn.com

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Thirty-seven conservation organizations from throughout the United States have asked Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to designate critical habitat and develop a recovery plan for endangered jaguars in the United States. Under the Bush administration, the Fish and Wildlife Service maintained that the jaguar's extensive range in Mexico and Central and South America made development of a recovery plan impractical, and that U.S. habitats are marginal for jaguars. A federal judge in Tucson, however, found that these positions were not supported by the science and ordered the agency to reconsider. According to a 1997 rule listing jaguars as endangered, jaguars once had an extensive U.S. range, including parts of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Louisiana. The great cats were eliminated by a combination of habitat loss and human persecution. In recent years, jaguars have crossed the border into Arizona from Mexico. The last known wild jaguar in the United States, a male called Macho B, was killed in 2009 after a bungled trapping effort by the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Jaguars need critical habitat and the scientific oversight of a recovery team that develops a plan. Species with critical habitat designated for them have been found to be twice as likely to be making progress toward recovery than those without, such as the jaguar.

Shoebill Stork Born at Tampa Zoo

January 7, 2010  www2.tbo.com 

TAMPA – A pair of African shoebill storks became parents on Christmas Day when the chick started to break through its shell. It was a textbook hatching, taking about 24 hours to fully emerge. The parents, who spent nine months learning how to build a nest and who accidentally crushed another egg in October, have been natural caregivers. "We are amazed at how by-the-book they've been," aviary assistant curator Julie Tomita said. "They know when to do everything and how to do everything."  Lowry Park Zoo is only the second wildlife establishment in the world to have a successful live birth of this large bird. Most of the data about them comes from field studies in Africa. Now researchers are watching this new family from dawn to dusk. Dr. Larry Killmar, the zoo's director of collections, said, "We're pretty close, and are able to document the frequency of feeding, the amount of food and that will again help the other holders of other birds in captivity."  There have already been a few surprises. Experts thought the incubation period for the egg was between 30 and 40 days. This chick took 45 days to begin emerging. And the cold doesn't seem to be a problem. Most of the time the chick is burrowed beneath a parent, nestled deep in the nest that has 1.5-foot walls made out of grass. There are only 12 of these large birds in North American zoos; four of them live at Lowry Park Zoo. Killmar hopes this pair's successful parenting will inspire the other pair to have their own family soon. A picture is at www2.tbo.com.

The Great California Condor Comeback

January 7, 2010  www.independent.com  By Matt Kettmann

California condors still face tremendous challenges more than 30 years after the campaign to rescue them from near-extinction was launched. Even though the species -- which bottomed out at 22 total birds in 1987 -- has rebounded to more than 360 birds today, the popular mindset remains divided on the revival's true trajectory. Depending on one's point of view, the California condor recovery program exists as either one of the brightest imaginable triumphs of an endangered species over all-but-certain extinction or the most misguided and expensive boondoggle in American history, requiring more than $5 million -- or roughly $13,000 per bird -- in annual costs. Condor optimists contend progress is steady and certain, but critics say the bird is just one of many species that's outlived its time on this Earth, unable to adapt to modern development and unlikely to ever survive without human intervention. Today, there is more hope for California condor recovery than ever before. More wild-born chicks are fledging, fewer birds are dying from lead poisoning, and young birds are learning from old birds where to forage for dead flesh, making the human-provided food increasingly supplemental. As the experts begin to better understand the curious ways of the condor and rethink past assumptions, the goal of three distinct populations -- one captive, one wild in California, and one wild in Arizona, each with 150 birds and at least 15 breeding pairs -- actually seems attainable. But the condor is not yet in the clear: lead poisoning persists, why parents feed their chicks microtrash remains a mystery, and it is unknown whether the remaining wildlands can produce sufficient carrion. On top of that, the politics of protection, which continue to alienate factions of the hunting community, have not led to the best long-term legislation. But for the first time in decades, almost everyone seems optimistic. This 10-page history continues at www.independent.com.

Zoo Scientists Study H5N1

January 7, 2010 www.economist.com

Mark Schrenzel and Bruce Rideout, two experts on wildlife diseases who work at San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research, have just shown the value of having a wide range of animals on hand for study. They have been looking at which species might act as reservoirs for influenza viruses and — worse, from the human point of view — which might act as “mixing vessels” in which new strains of virus are generated. Their work revolved around an analysis of complex carbohydrates found on the surface membranes of cells. These molecules can act as “receptors” for influenza viruses, permitting them to lock onto a cell’s surface and thus infect it. They focused on species likely to encounter waterfowl such as geese and ducks, which are known to be particularly vulnerable to H5N1. Dr Schrenzel and Dr Rideout analyzed the receptors of 60 species, ranging from bears and lions to skunks and marsupials. They found that some which were once of considerable concern because they are often around water birds—the European otter, the polar bear, the raccoon and the bald eagle—are unlikely to be infected because they do not carry the necessary receptors. However, several species of small carnivore, such as the arctic fox, the Chinese wolf and the corsac fox, along with the opossum, do have the receptor that H5N1 uses, making these animals potential targets for the virus. Most worryingly, the researchers also found several animals, including the Persian leopard, the North American striped skunk and a handful of other small carnivores, that carry both receptors and are thus likely to be dangerous when it comes to viral mixing. See www.economist.com for more.

Multi-State Salmonella Outbreak Due to Aquarium Frogs

January 8, 2010  www.cdc.gov
In August, the CDC began a multistate outbreak investigation to determine the source of Salmonella typhimurium infections. As of December 30, 85 S. Typhimurium human isolates were identified with the outbreak strain from 31 states, extending from Massachusetts to California. Exposure to frogs was found to be significantly associated with the illness (63% of cases versus 3% of controls). 14 case-patients had exposure to the African dwarf frog. Preliminary trace back information has indicated these frogs likely came from the same breeder in California. Reptiles (e.g., turtles) and amphibians (e.g., frogs) have long been recognized as Salmonella carriers but this is the first reported multistate outbreak of Salmonella infections associated with amphibians. Among the patients, 16 (34%) had been hospitalized; no deaths were reported. Aquarium water should be changed regularly and aquariums should be cleaned frequently. However, in this investigation, in 30% of patient households, aquariums were cleaned in the kitchen sink, posing a risk for cross-contamination with food preparation areas (2). CDC has published guidelines for consumers on how to reduce the risk for Salmonella infection from amphibians and reptiles (available at www.cdc.gov).

Woodland Park Zoo Will Close Nocturnal House

January 10, 2010 seattletimes.nwsource.com  By Susan Gilmore

Because of budget troubles, the zoo plans to close the popular Nocturnal House, which houses 61 animals, from bats to sloths and even armadillos. The closure date is expected to be announced in the next month. About a dozen people gathered near the entrance to the exhibit Sunday to protest its closure. Organizer Scott Gifford posted the closure on Facebook (The page has been visited 13,000 times), and he hopes his organized effort will prompt the zoo to change its mind. Zoo President and CEO Deborah Jensen said the zoo had to make tough financial decisions to cut $800,000. It plans to lay off 12 employees and close the Nocturnal House. The exhibit was one of the biggest energy users at the zoo and the animals will be easy to move when the exhibit closes. Some of the animals will remain at the zoo, and some will go to other zoos. Closing the exhibit will save the zoo $300,000, said zoo officials. The zoo's operating budget is $30 million a year.

National Zoo Hopes for Panda Pregnancy

January 10, 2010  www.washingtonpost.com By Michael Ruane

Mei Xiang, the National Zoo's female giant panda, went into heat around noon, Saturday, mating with the zoo's adult male, Tian Tian. Female pandas are in heat for about 48 hours, typically in spring. But this is the second consecutive January that Mei Xiang has gone into heat. In past years, natural mating has not been successful between the two, and Tian Tian fathered the zoo’s 4-year-old cub, Tai Shan, via artificial insemination. Artificial insemination results in a pregnancy about half the time, and will probably be used again. Once a panda is pregnant, the gestation period lasts 90 to 185 days. China owns all giant pandas in U.S. zoos, and the National Zoo’s 10-year loan expires this year. Tai Shan, born at the zoo in 2005, was scheduled to be sent to China two years ago, but the Chinese granted an extension, and he will leave in the next few weeks. Mei Xiang and Tian Tian are also scheduled for return later this year.

Living Desert Celebrates 40th Anniversary

January 10, 2010  www.mydesert.com  by K Kaufmann

Karen Sausman was raised in inner-city Chicago, and came to the Coachella Valley in the 1960s looking for warm weather and open spaces. She started at The Living Desert in 1970 as the park's first “resident naturalist,” a seven-day a week job that paid $7,500 a year. “After two years, I negotiated a day off,” she recalled. Sausman's job title changed, from resident naturalist to executive director to president — and since her retirement in 2008, president emeritus. Her 40-year mission remains the same: create a zoo, botanical garden and education center in the desert. “I envisioned all three working together, interrelated,” she said. In a recent interview with The Desert Sun, Sausman talked about the early days of the park, her role as a pioneer for women in the field of zoo management and the challenges still ahead. “If I had said to people in 1969 that we're going to have a multimillion-dollar zoo and botanical garden out there in the sand,” she said, “I would probably have been fired me for drinking or smoking something I shouldn't have been. We kept our sights rather modest but always moving forward. That way people didn't think it was a crackpot idea.”

Global Warming May Kill Leaf-Eating Monkeys & Gorillas

January 11, 2010  news.nationalgeographic.com   By Christine Dell'Amore

Global warming-induced indigestion could be a danger to mountain gorillas and other leaf-eating primates. Annual temperatures are predicted to rise 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) by mid-century in some climate models. Leaves that grow in hotter air contain more fiber and less digestible protein, meaning leaf-eaters would take longer to process their food. "A two-degree temperature increase is not a very farfetched idea," said Amanda Korstjens, a biological anthropologist at Bournemouth University in the U.K. "Animals can adapt ... and maybe primates will find another way of coping.” Korstjens and colleagues compared climate models with previously published data on primates' behavior, diets, and group sizes worldwide. Based on the data, the team created global maps that show where primates exist now and where climate change is predicted to cause die-offs. The data revealed that the expected higher temperatures shouldn't affect most South American primates, which eat highly digestible fruit. Also, South American primate habitats are less fragmented by agriculture and encroaching deserts than most primate habitats in Africa. Around the world, fruit-eaters—such as baboons and vervet monkeys in Africa—would also be better off. They occupy a wider range of habitat than leaf-eaters, which are confined to a narrow belt near the Equator. Mountain gorillas are in particular trouble because they have little access to fresh fruit in their high-altitude habitats, and they're on top of mountains with nowhere else to go. Colobines could eat some fruit, but their highly leaf-adapted stomachs aren't equipped for all-fruit diets, Korstjens said. The study was published December 8 in the journal Animal Behaviour.

Canada’s Langley Zoo Ordered to Install Heaters for Giraffes

January 11, 2010  www.theglobeandmail.com   By Karen Moxley

VANCOUVER, B.C. -- A private zoo in Langley has installed heaters in the barn that houses its Masai giraffes, under orders from the B.C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals after two giraffes died just days apart during a cold spell in early December. “We've kept giraffes in that barn for 10 years without any heat, and they've been fine in much colder winters,” said Gordon Blankstein, founder of Mountain View Conservation Centre. A necropsy report released last week cited inadequate diet and cold conditions as the cause of death of an adult giraffe that died at the center in December. It showed the giraffe suffered from peracute mortality syndrome. Bruce Burton, a veterinarian for Mountain View, describes PMS as a sudden, inexplicable death in giraffes maintained in temperate climates, such as the Lower Mainland. “In this case, it appears the animal was choosing not to eat the protein-rich alfalfa hay, and was instead eating only grains,” Dr. Burton said. “This changes the bacterial composition in the animal's stomach, and disables them from properly laying down fat.” Dr. Burton explained that animals with PMS can die suddenly from any stress, such as temperature changes. The necropsy for the baby giraffe, which also died at the facility in December, has not yet been released.  The Vancouver Humane Society is calling for a formal investigation into the case by the BC Ministry of Environment. It is also calling for stricter regulations for zoos and conservation centres in the province.

Palm Beach Zoo Earns GOLD LEED Award

January 11, 2010  www.wpbf.com

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The Palm Beach zoo has earned national recognition as the first zoo in the country to achieve LEED (leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold Certification by the United States Green Building Council. The zoo paired up with Florida Power and Light to install 80 solar panels on the roof of the animal care center on Monday. The panels will offset more than 13% of the building's energy use.

Columbus Zoo Breaks Attendance Record

January 11, 2010  www.columbuslocalnews.com

2,218,511 people visited the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium in 2009, almost 20 percent more than in 2008, easily breaking that year’s record of 1,862,433. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium opened its waterpark, Zoombezi Bay, that year. In January, the USA Travel Guide named the zoo and aquarium as the No. 1 zoo in the country. Later, it saw the birth of an Asian elephant and three lion cubs, opened its Animal Encounters Village and debuted its Animals on Safari show.
In June, Jeff Swanagan, the zoo's executive director, died. He was replaced in November by Dale Schmidt. In December, the zoo celebrated the 53rd birthday of one of its gorillas, now the oldest in captivity. The zoo plans to open several new exhibits in 2010: Polar Frontier will bring polar bears back to the zoo for the first time in 20 years this spring. The zoo and aquarium plans to offer 50 percent off of admission now through February to show its appreciation for visitors' support in 2009.

U.N Proclaims International Year of Biodiversity

January 11, 2010  news.bbc.co.uk

The UN has launched the International Year of Biodiversity.  Eight years ago, governments pledged to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010, but the pledge will not be met. The expansion of human cities, farming and infrastructure is the main reason. Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), urged governments and their leaders to renew their commitment to curbing biodiversity loss even though the 2010 goal will be missed. "The urgency of the situation demands that as a global community we not only reverse the rate of loss, but that we stop the loss altogether and begin restoring the ecological infrastructure that has been damaged and degraded over the previous century or so," he said. The UN says that as natural systems such as forests and wetlands disappear, humanity loses the services they currently provide for free. These include purification of air and water, protection from extreme weather events, and the provision of materials for shelter and fire. With species extinctions running at about 1,000 times the "natural" or "background" rate, some biologists contend that we are in the middle of the Earth's sixth great extinction - the previous five stemming from natural events such as asteroid impacts. The UN has been pursuing new ways of raising public awareness on the issue. Many environment organizations will be running special programs and mounting events during the year. "The big opportunity during the International Year of Biodiversity is for governments to do for biodiversity what they failed to do for climate change in Copenhagen," said Simon Stuart, a senior science advisor to Conservation International and chair of IUCN's Species Survival Commission. "They have the chance to make a major difference; and key to this will be halting species extinctions, the most irreversible aspect of biodiversity loss." WWF is highlighting 10 species it considers especially threatened, ranging from commercially significant ones such as bluefin tuna to the Pacific walrus and the monarch butterfly. In the UK, the national IYB partnership - hosted from the Natural History Museum (NHM) - is asking every citizen to "do one thing for biodiversity" in 2010.

Arctic Tern's Pole-to-Pole Migration Tracked

January 11, 2010  news.bbc.co.uk  by Jonathan Amos

The Arctic tern's extraordinary pole-to-pole migration has now been detailed by an international team of scientists. A team from Greenland, Denmark, the US, the UK and Iceland attached small (.05 oz) "geo-locators" to the birds to find out exactly where they went on this 43,000 mile round trip. The devices record light intensity, giving an estimate of the local day length, and the times of sunrise and sunset; and from this information it is possible to work out a geographical position of the birds. The study found they fly down either the African or Brazilian coasts and return in an "S"-shaped path up the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The study is described in the journal PNAS. Carsten Egevang of the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, said, "We've tracked a full year of migration, from the breeding grounds to the wintering grounds and back again." Albatrosses, godwits, and sooty shearwaters all make epic journeys. But none can quite match the Arctic tern's trip. Starting in August and September, this small bird - which weighs little more than 3.5oz - will head away from Greenland with the intention of getting to the Weddell Sea, on the shores of Antarctica. It will spend about four or five months in the deep south before heading back to the far north, arriving home in May or June. 

$15.6 million in State Aid for Brookfield Zoo

January  11, 2010  www.mysuburbanlife.com

BROOKFIELD, IL —Brookfield Zoo has been promised $15.6 million in state funding to prevent exhibit closures and dozens of layoffs. The funding, part of a state-wide job creation program, will go toward repairs and upgrades at the zoo, and is intended to create 370 construction jobs. The work will likely take place over the course of six years. Stuart Strahl, the CEO and president of the Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo, said the zoo would be using the money to improve maintenance in many of its aging structures. “With the funding, the elephant facility will be able to get a new roof,” Strahl said. “The HVAC system in the barn and in the children’s zoo will be replaced, and the stainless steel mesh in the snow leopard exhibit will be replaced. Four roofs total will be repaired in 2010, and another 14 are set to be repaired in 2011. We have about 80 structures in the park, and some of the roofs are original. We’ll also be replacing old boilers and electrical systems. There are a host of capital maintenance issues with a 75-year-old facility.” Without the state funds, the zoo would have had to lay off about 100 employees, Strahl said.  “Pinniped Point, our seal exhibit, would have probably had to close,” Strahl said. “Our big cat walk would have also probably had to close — the exhibits that were in the most need of repair would have had to shut down.”

Language in Monkeys and Chimps

January 11, 2010  www.nytimes.com  

Vervet monkeys were found in 1980 to have specific alarm calls for their most serious predators. The calls were recorded and played back to them. The biologists who analyzed the calls, Robert Seyfarth and Dorothy Cheney of the University of Pennsylvania, detected another significant element in primates’ communication when they studied baboons. Baboons are very sensitive to their society’s hierarchy. If played a recording of a superior baboon threatening an inferior, and the latter screaming in terror, baboons will pay no attention. But when researchers concoct a recording in which an inferior’s threat grunt precedes a superior’s scream, baboons will look in amazement toward the loudspeaker broadcasting this apparent revolution in their social order. Baboons evidently recognize the order in which two sounds are heard, and attach different meanings to each sequence. They and other species thus seem much closer to people in their understanding of sound sequences than in their production of them. “The ability to think in sentences does not lead them to speak in sentences,” Drs. Seyfarth and Cheney wrote in their book “Baboon Metaphysics.”

Dr. Klaus Zuberbühler, a psychologist at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, reported last month that Campbell’s monkeys, which live in the forests of the Ivory Coast, can vary individual calls by adding suffixes, just as a speaker of English changes a verb’s present tense to past by adding an “-ed.” The Campbell’s monkeys give a “krak” alarm call when they see a leopard. But adding an “-oo” changes it to a generic warning of predators. One context for the krak-oo sound is when they hear the leopard alarm calls of another species, the Diana monkey. The Campbell’s monkeys even distinguish between leopards they have observed directly (krak) and those they have heard others observe (krak-oo).  And the Campbell’s monkeys can combine two calls to generate a third with a different meaning. The males have a “Boom boom” call, which means “I’m here, come to me.” When booms are followed by a series of krak-oos, the meaning is quite different, Dr. Zuberbühler says. The sequence means “Timber! Falling tree!”  Dr. Zuberbühler has observed a similar achievement among putty-nosed monkeys that combine their “pyow” call (warning of a leopard) with their “hack” call (warning of a crowned eagle) into a sequence that means “Let’s get out of here in a real hurry.”

Monkeys and apes hear and interpret sequences of sounds much like people do. They have good control over their vocal tract and could produce much the same range of sounds as humans. But they cannot bring it all together. This is particularly surprising because language is so useful to a social species. Monkeys have been around for 30 million years without saying a single sentence. Chimps, too, have nothing resembling language, though they shared a common ancestor with humans just five million years ago. Drs. Seyfarth and Cheney believe they lack a “theory of mind”; the recognition that others have thoughts. Since a baboon does not know or worry about what another baboon knows, it has no urge to share its knowledge. At some point in human evolution, people developed the desire to share thoughts. All the underlying systems of perceiving and producing sounds were already in place as part of the primate heritage, and natural selection connected these systems with thought. Marc D. Hauser, an expert on animal communication at Harvard, sees the uninhibited interaction between different neural systems as critical to the development of  language. “For whatever reason, maybe accident, our brains are promiscuous in a way that animal brains are not, and once this emerges it’s explosive,” he said. In animal brains, each neural system seems to be locked in place and cannot interact freely with others. Dr. Hauser and Ansgar Endress reported last year that cotton-top tamarins can distinguish a word added in front of another word from the same word added at the end. Dr. Hauser thinks it is just the ability to recognize when one thing comes before another and has little to do with real syntax. Yet, as is evident from Dr. Zuberbühler’s research, there are many seemingly meaningless sounds in the forest that convey information in ways perhaps akin to language.

Climate and Development Affect California Butterfly Populations

January 11, 2010  www.news.ucdavis.edu 

California butterflies are suffering from climate change and land development, according to an analysis led by UC Davis butterfly expert Arthur Shapiro scheduled to be published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The results are drawn from Shapiro's 35-year database of butterfly observations made twice monthly at 10 sites in north-central California from sea level to tree line. The Shapiro butterfly database is unique in science for its combination of attributes: one observer (which reduces errors), very long-term, multiple sites surveyed often, a large number of species (more than 150), and attendant climatological data.Their most significant findings: 1.Butterfly diversity (the number of different species) is falling fast at all the sites near sea level. It is declining more slowly or holding roughly constant in the mountains, except at tree line. 2. At tree line, butterfly diversity is actually going up, as lower-elevation species react to the warming climate by moving upslope to higher, cooler elevations. 3. Diversity among high-elevation butterflies is beginning to fall as temperatures become uncomfortably warm for them. The study, titled "Compounded effects of climate change and habitat alteration shift patterns of butterfly diversity," was funded by the National Science Foundation. The Shapiro database is online at butterfly.ucdavis.edu. The database was made public in 2007.

Tilapia Feed on Fiji's Native Fish

January 12, 2010  www.eurekalert.org  

Tilapia used for sustainable fish farming are actually an invasive species harmful to the native fish of the islands of Fiji, according to a new study by researchers from WCS, Conservation Intl. and Wetlands International-Oceania. The scientists suspect that tilapia introduced to the waterways of the Fiji Islands may be gobbling up the larvae and juvenile fish of several native species of goby, fish that live in both fresh and salt water and begin their lives in island streams. The study appears in Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems. The researchers surveyed the fish species and other denizens of 20 river basins on the major islands of Vitu Levu, Vanua Levu, and Taveuni. The team found that streams with tilapia contained 11 fewer species of native fishes than those without; species most sensitive to introduced tilapia included the throat-spine gudgeon, the olive flathead-gudgeon, and other gobies. In general, sites where tilapia were absent had more species of native fish.

Jaguar Will Get Critical Habitat in U.S.

January 12, 2010  www.nytimes.com   By Leslie Kaufman

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico -- Jaguars, the largest cats native to the Western hemisphere, live primarily in Mexico, Central and South America. They once inhabited an extensive area that spanned California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Louisiana, but were considered eliminated from the country until two were spotted in 1996 near the Arizona-New Mexico border. From 1996 through 2009, four or possibly five jaguars have been documented in the U.S. All the sightings have been limited to southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona. Most recently, a snare captured a jaguar last year in southern Arizona. The cat, nicknamed Macho B, was eventually euthanized after falling ill, sparking criticism over jaguar recovery efforts. The USFWS has now decided to set aside critical habitat for the jaguar based on the information it has received over the last three years. It acknowledged that there are ''physical and biological features'' in the Southwest that can be used by jaguars. Eva Sargent of Defenders of Wildlife said, ''What the jaguar really needs is protected corridors where it can move between Mexico and the U.S., " causing some concern over how construction of a wall between Mexico and the U.S. could impact the jaguar population. Some landowners in southern New Mexico and Arizona have voiced concerns about how critical habitat may impact grazing permits and recreation in the area. The agency said it has no plans to reintroduce jaguars into the United States. Any cats that might be found north of the border will be those that wander up from Mexico. There are nearly 5,000 jaguars in Mexico, and more ranging as far south as Argentina and Paraguay. The cats can range over hundreds of square miles to hunt prey, and ranchers have fiercely opposed protection.

Critical Habitat for the Florida Manatee

January 12, 2010  Federal Register

After a thorough 12-month finding on a petition to revise critical habitat for the Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finds that revisions to critical habitat are warranted. However, sufficient funds are not available due to higher priority actions such as court-ordered listing-related actions and judicially approved settlement agreements. We intend to initiate rulemaking when we complete the higher priorities and have the necessary resources to do so. For further information contact: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Attn Manatee CH Review, at the above address, by telephone at 904-731-3336.

We originally listed the Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris), a subspecies of the West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus), as endangered in 1967. This listing incorporated West Indian manatees into the list under the Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1969 and encompassed the species' range in the Caribbean and northern South America, thus including both Antillean (T. m. manatus) and Florida manatees in the listing. The West Indian manatee is currently listed as an endangered species under the Act and the population is further protected as a depleted stock under the Marine Mammal Act.  Critical habitat was designated for the Florida manatee on September 24, 1976. This designation delineated specific waterways in Florida that were known to be important concentration areas for manatees at that time. On December 19, 2008, we received a petition from Wildlife Advocacy Project, Save the Manatee Club, Center for Biological Diversity, and Defenders of Wildlife, requesting that critical habitat be revised for the Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) under the Act and the Administrative Procedure Act. We published our 90-day finding regarding the petition to revise critical habitat for the Florida manatee on September 29, 2009 (74 FR 49842). We determined that the petition presented substantial information indicating that revising critical habitat for the Florida manatee under the Act may be warranted, thus initiating this 12-month finding. Accordingly, we asked the public to submit information relevant to the finding by October 29, 2009. We have fully considered all information available and received in response to information requested in our 90-day finding.

Listing the Eastern Population of the Gopher Tortoise

January 12, 2010  Federal Register

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), is reopening our request for information related to our September 9, 2009, 90-day finding on a petition to list the eastern population of the gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. All interested parties may continue to submit information and materials on the status of the gopher tortoise throughout its range during the period of the status review. Information previously submitted need not be resubmitted as it has already been incorporated into the public record and will be fully considered in the 12-month finding.  Information must be received on or before March 15, 2010. You may submit information via the Federal eRulemaking Portal or via U.S. mail to: Public Comments Processing,  Attn: FWS-R4-ES-2009-0029; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203.
We are seeking information regarding:
    (1) The species' historical and current status and distribution, its biology and ecology, and ongoing conservation measures for the species and its habitat;
    (2) Information relevant to the factors that are the basis for making a listing determination for a species under section 4(a) of the Act, which are:
    a) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of the species' habitat or range;
    b) Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes;
    c) Disease or predation;
    d) The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or
    e) Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence and threats to the species or its habitat; and
    (3) Information related to the genetics, status, distribution, and threats to the gopher tortoise in the eastern portion of its range. Please note that submissions merely stating support for or opposition to the action under consideration without providing supporting information, although noted, will not be considered in making a determination.

Critical Habitat for Cook Inlet Beluga Whale

January 12, 2010  Federal Register

The National Marine Fisheries Service, is extending the date by which public comments are due concerning the proposed rule to designate critical habitat for the endangered Cook Inlet beluga whale, Delphinapterus leucas, under the Endangered Species Act. We published a proposed rule to designate critical habitat for this species in the Federal Register of December 2, 2009. The original due date for receipt of public comments was scheduled to end on February 1, 2010, and today we extend the public comment period to March 3, 2010.

Brookfield Zoo’s New Great Bear Wilderness

January 12, 2010  www.dailyherald.com  By Samantha Nelson

Brookfield Zoo’s new $27.3 million Great Bear Wilderness opens May 8, with three new 9,000-square-foot habitats, which will alternately house two grizzly and three polar bears. Only four of the bears will be on display at a time unless there's breeding or the polar bear mom has a cub. (There is a new maternity den -- an igloo-like structure, where a mother bear will be able to stay for months and cameras will help provide new information on birthing and the interaction between mother and newborn cub. After she emerges with a cub, the mother will move to a cub training area with its own 5-foot-deep pool.) The spaces are 3 times larger than the present area and are designed to make the bears more active. Moving bears between habitats lets them explore new areas, and the scents of previous occupants should prove stimulating to them. The exhibit features three enlarged swimming pools and cascading waterfalls, since grizzly and polar bears both enjoy water. A new filtration system uses ozone to scrub the water of bacteria and viruses and will cool it off during warmer months. An indoor area provides a 21-foot underwater view and a window into a small cave with cooling pipes where visitors will be able to catch find the bears napping on hot summer days. Other amenities include large logs, a 15-foot sandbox and pockets in the hand-sculpted rocks where keepers can hide enrichment items. Staff members have been working on training the bears so they can encourage them to move between the exhibits and off-viewing areas and get them to display different natural behaviors as part of "zoo chats" with visitors. Using a whistle that only the bears can hear and rewards like meatballs on a stick, trainers can get the bears to show off their teeth and stand up in front of huge windows from behind which visitors can safely watch. Murals and signs will provide additional information about the animals and how guests can help with conservations efforts.

In Defense of Animals – 10 Worst Zoos for Elephants

January 12, 2010  yubanet.com

SAN RAPHAEL, Calif. -- For the 6th consecutive year, “In Defense of Animals” (IDA), has released its personal list of the “Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants” :
1. San Antonio Zoo (Texas)
2. Toronto Zoo (Canada)
3. Honolulu Zoo (Hawaii)
4. Reid Park Zoo (Arizona)
5. Houston Zoo (Texas)
6. Topeka Zoo (Kansas)
7. Oregon Zoo
8. Bronx Zoo (New York)
9. Toledo Zoo (Ohio)
10. Brookfield Zoo (Illinois)

Worst Zoos for Elephants – Hall of Shame: Los Angeles Zoo (California), Woodland Park Zoo (Washington)

New Species of Spider In Israel Sand Dunes

January 12, 2010 www.newswise.com

A new species of spider has been discovered in the Sands of Samar in the southern Arava region by a team of scientists from the University of Haifa-Oranim. A member of the Cerbalus genus, it has been named Cerbalus aravensis. Unfortunately, its habitat is endangered, according to Dr. Uri Shanas, who headed the team. The Sands of Samar are the last remaining sand dune in Israeli territory in the southern Arava region. In the past, the sands stretched across some 7 square kilometers, but due to the rezoning of areas for agriculture and sand quarries, the sands have been reduced to fewer than 3 square kilometers. The researchers say that this spider's leg-span can reach up to 14 cm., which makes it the largest spider of its type in the Middle East. Even though details are still lacking to enable a full analysis of its biology and of its population in the sands, the scientists know that this is a nocturnal spider, mostly active in the hottest months of the year, and that it constructs an underground den which is closed with a "lifting door" made of sand particles that are glued together to camouflage the den.

New Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan

January 12, 2010  www.latimes.com  

BILLINGS, Mont.— Wildlife officials from the United States and Canada plan to encourage conservation groups to buy key parcels of grizzly bear habitat in order to gauge how climate change is affecting them. The change is among those proposed on Tuesday for future grizzly restoration efforts in the Northern Rockies and North Cascades. There are an estimated 1,500 endangered bears in the region's four states and two provinces. Idaho Fish and Game spokesman Gregg Losinski says the new recovery plan must be finished by the end of 2012.  It is being drafted this week in Missoula by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, composed of federal officials and representatives of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Washington, Alberta and British Columbia.

U.S. Jaguars Get Critical Habitat & Recovery Plan

January 12, 2010 www.ens-newswire.com

TUCSON, Arizona, - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it will designate critical habitat for endangered jaguars in the United States and develop a jaguar recovery plan. The Service will propose areas for critical habitat designation by January 2011, according to an announcement in the Federal Register. Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity, says a critical habitat designation will result in protection for large areas of the Southwest, a region that jaguars used to inhabit but where they are now rarely found. Globally, jaguars are listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. An estimated 5,680 jaguars remain in the wild from South America to southern Arizona and New Mexico, with the greatest density in Belize, according to the Federal Register notice.

In 1972, the jaguar was listed as endangered under the precursor to the Endangered Species Act. At that time, the jaguar was believed to be extinct in the United States, so the jaguar was only included on the foreign species list. On July 22, 1997, the Service published a final listing rule that extended endangered status for the jaguar into the United States but determined critical habitat designation "was not prudent." In today's announcement the Service explained that because the greatest threat to the jaguar was from individuals killing them, publishing "detailed critical habitat maps and descriptions in the Federal Register would likely make the species more vulnerable..." Since then, documentation of specific and general locations of jaguar sightings have been posted online by the Jaguar Conservation Team, Arizona Game and Fish Department nonprofit groups and others, the Service decided disclosure of their locations would not make jaguars more vulnerable. From 1996 through 2009, four or possibly five male jaguars have been documented in the United States. Of those, two jaguars were photographed in 1996: one in the Peloncillo Mountains along the Arizona-New Mexico border and another in the Baboquivari Mountains of southern Arizona. In February 2006, a third jaguar was observed and photographed in Hidalgo County, New Mexico. Camera traps caught one and possibly two more on tape. No females or kittens were found. A recovery plan for the jaguar will provide a road map for recovery of jaguars to the United States, whether through natural migration or reintroduction, said Robinson.

Today's decision is a setback for the Arizona Game and Fish Department, which Robinson says has advocated for greater authority over jaguar management and against development of a recovery plan and designation of critical habitat. "With today's decision, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reasserting its authority over jaguar management," said Robinson. "Given mismanagement of the jaguar by Arizona Game and Fish, including the death of Macho B, today's decision is a welcome turn toward real, meaningful protection."

Detroit Zoo May Accept Exotic Rescues

January 13, 2010  www.freep.com by Tammy Battaglia

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Last Dec.15, 27,000 animals were seized from U.S. Global Exotics, an international exotic animal dealer. The city of Arlington carried out the raid based on evidence from a 7-month investigation by PETA that found the animals to be confined in cramped and filthy cages and denied necessary food, water and veterinary care. An Arlington municipal judge ruled last week the animals should not be returned to U.S. Global Exotics, and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Texas will work to place the animals with zoos and sanctuaries to ensure that they are not put back into the pet trade or released into the wild. Six Detroit Zoo curators and supervisors have been in Dallas for four weeks helping to care for the animals and Scott Carter, Detroit Zoo’s chief life sciences officer said the Detroit Zoo may be the new home for five wallabies, four sloths, three agoutis, two ring-tailed lemurs, two coatis, two kinkajous and hundreds of reptiles, spiders and amphibians.

Endangered Species Permit Applications

January 13, 2010  Federal Register               

The following applicants have applied for scientific research permits, or the Fish and Wildlife Service is amending their existing permit, to conduct certain activities with endangered species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.  We invite public comment on these permit applications on or before February 12, 2010.  Written comments should be submitted to the Chief, Endangered Species Division, Ecological Services, P.O. Box 1306, Room 6034, Albuquerque, NM 87103. Documents and other information submitted with these applications are available for review, by appointment only, during normal business hours at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 500 Gold Ave., SW., Room 6034, Albuquerque, NM. Please refer to the respective permit number for each application when submitting comments. For further information contact: Susan Jacobsen, Chief, Endangered Species Division, P.O. Box 1306, Albuquerque, NM 87103; (505) 248-6920.

Permit TE-233201. Applicant: Amistad National Recreation Area, Del Rio, Texas. Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys for interior least tern (Sterna antillarum) within Texas.

Permit TE-227505. Applicant: Thomas D. Bonn, Lockhart, Texas. Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys for golden-cheeked warbler (Dendroica chrysoparia) and black-capped vireo (Vireo atricapilla) within Texas.

Permit TE-841353. Applicant: Loomis Partners, Inc., Austin, Texas. Applicant requests an amendment to a current permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys for northern aplomado falcon (Falco femoralis septentrionalis) within Texas.

Permit TE-045236. Applicant: SWCA Inc., Albuquerque, New Mexico. Applicant requests an amendment to a current permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys for Virgin River chub (Gila seminuda) and woundfin (Plagopterus argentissimus) within Arizona.

Permit TE-232639. Applicant: Dixie Environmental Services Co., LP, Magnolia, Texas.  Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys for red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis) and white bladderpod (Lesquerella pallid) within Texas.

Permit TE-227505. Applicant: Kathleen O'Connor, Georgetown, Texas. Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/ absence surveys for northern aplomado falcon (Falco femoralis septentrionalis) within Texas.

Permit TE-821577. Permittee: Arizona Game and Fish Department, Phoenix, Arizona. The Service is amending Arizona Game and Fish Department's current permit for research and recovery purposes for the range of activities they undertake; including, but not limited to, presence/absence surveys, research, and reestablishment of the following species: Kanab ambersnail (Oxyloma haydeni kanabensis), lesser long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris curasoae yerbabuenae), Mexican long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris nivalis), masked bobwhite (Colinus virginianus ridgwayi), bonytail chub (Gila elegans), Gila chub (Gila intermedia), humpback chub (Gila cypha), Colorado pikeminnow (Ptychocheilus lucius), Quitobaquito pupfish (Cyprinodon eremus), Virgin River chub (Gila seminuda), woundfin (Plagopterus argentissimus),Yaqui chub (Gila purpurea), Yaqui topminnow (Poeciliopsis occidentalis sonoriensis), California condor (Gymnogyps californianus), northern aplomado falcon (Falco femoralis septentrionalis), thick-billed parrot (Rhynchopsitta pachyrhyncha), black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes), southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus), California least tern (Sterna antillarum browni), jaguar (Pathera onca), jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi tolteca), ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), Sonoran pronghorn (Antilocapra americana sonoriensis), desert pupfish (Cyprinodon macularius), Yuma clapper rail (Rallus longirostris yumanensis), Sonoran tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum stebbinsi), Mount Graham red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus grahamensis), razorback sucker (Xyrauchen texanus), Gila topminnow (Poeciliopsis occidentalis), Hualapai Mexican vole (Microtus mexicanus hualpaiensis), gray wolf (Canis lupus), Kearney's blue-star (Amsonia kearneyana), Arizona hedgehog cactus (Echinocereus triglochidiatus var. arizonicus), Brady pincushion cactus (Pediocactus bradyi), Nichol's Turk's head cactus (Echinocactus horizonthalonius var. nicholii), Peebles Navajo cactus (Pediocactus peeblesianus var. peeblesianus), Pima pineapple cactus (Coryphantha scheeri var. robustispina), Arizona cliff-rose (Purshia subintegra), Canelo Hills ladies'-tresses (Spiranthes delitescens), Holmgren milk-vetch (Astragalus holmgreniorum), sentry milk-vetch (Astragalus cremnophylax var. cremnophylax), and Huachuca water umbel (Lilaeopsis schaffneriana var. recurva).

Lowry Park Zoo Goes Solar

January 13, 2010  www.83degreesmedia.com  By B.C. Manion

65 solar photovoltaic (PV) cells have now been attached to the shade structure and night house in the elephant quarters at the Lowry Park Zoo. This $800,000 project was funded by Tampa Electric Co. and a grant from the Florida High Tech Corridor. It is part of a project with the University of South Florida’s Power Center for Utility Explorations to develop, design and test a renewable solar energy system, including electricity grid, at the zoo. Currently, the PV panels create enough energy to power the zoo’s Treetop Skyfari sky ride, creating 15 kilowatts of electricity from solar energy. The next step in this project will be to create an interactive learning center to educate the million guests the zoo welcomes each year about solar power and renewable energy sources. This project, designed in part by students at USF’s School of Architecture and Community Design, is set to start in the coming months.

Ten PV cells are attached to the shade structure's roof and 55 PV cells are fastened to frames on the roof of the nearby elephant night house. Combined, the PV cells collect enough solar energy to produce around 15 kilowatts of electricity – enough to power the zoo's Treetop Skyfari, a sky ride that gives visitors a bird's-eye view of the animal park. While the PV cells atop the shade structure are stationery, the ones on top of the elephant night house are mounted to frames with adjustable legs – so they can be moved to capture the maximum amount of sunlight at different times of the year. The solar array is one part of a two-part collaboration involving the zoo, the University of South Florida's Power Center for Utility Explorations and Tampa Electric Co. The $800,000 project, funded by TECO and a grant from the Florida High Tech Corridor, gives USF researchers and TECO a chance to learn more about the technical, economic and environmental impacts of using smart grid technologies to connect consumer solar array systems to the regional electrical grid.

The second part of the project involves creating an interactive learning center which will give the zoo's estimated 1.1 million annual visitors a chance to gain a deeper understanding of potential uses for renewable energy sources. Based partially on design ideas from students at USF's School of Architecture and Community Design – it is expected to be constructed in coming months. The center is envisioned as a portable kiosk, with interactive features, that can be stationed in different parts of the park. From a practical standpoint, TECO hopes the zoo's example will inspire individuals and businesses to tap into solar power to generate electricity. By developing smart grids, the country can maximize the efficiency and reliability of the power system, says Alexander Domijan, director of USF's Power Center for Utility Explorations. A smart grid uses bi-directional electric meters to allow power to flow into and out of the power grid, Domijan explains. The goal is to supply power where it is needed, from the closest source of generation, rather than relying solely on power plants at a distance.

Leafy Sea Dragons at Minnesota’s Discovery Bay

January 13, 2010  www.twincities.com  By Jessica Fleming

APPLE VALLEY, Minnesota -- The Minnesota Zoo has a new 800-gallon tank in Discovery Bay with two species of sea dragons — leafy and weedy. The tank cost about $25,000, according to aquarist Dan Peterson, and the animals an additional $25,000. The zoo previously had weedy sea dragons but displayed them in a much smaller tank. Sea dragons live off the southern coast of Australia, where they are listed as being near-threatened. Because of their status, one person in Australia is authorized to collect a pregnant male (like seahorses, male dragons carry the young) weedy sea dragon once a year. After the eggs are hatched, the adult is returned to the wild. The babies are then distributed to aquariums and zoos on a waiting list to receive them. Each leafy sea dragon costs about $3,500 plus shipping. When the new dragons first arrived, they would eat only fresh mysid shrimp. Zoo workers had to train them to eat much less expensive frozen food. "For what it costs to feed them live shrimp for two weeks, we can feed them frozen for the whole year," Peterson said. Their tank is kept at a chilly 58 degrees. There's an alarm on it in case the cooling system should fail, Peterson said. Zoo workers also have to siphon their tank daily to minimize the risk of disease. Peterson said he hopes the dragons eventually will breed. Weedy sea dragons have been bred in aquariums in Long Beach, Calif., and Tennessee, but no leafy dragon has bred in captivity.

Geico’s Gecko Exhibit Comes to Phoenix Zoo

January 13, 2010  www.earthtimes.org

PHOENIX, Arizona -- GEICO’s traveling Gecko Exhibit will be coming to the Phoenix Zoo on Saturday, January 16, and GEICO will be giving away free passes to the first 100 children who arrive at the Zoo on opening day. The exhibit, which features giant day geckos, one of the largest of all geckos, is part of a three-year partnership between GEICO and the AZA. The GEICO Gecko costume character will also appear at the Zoo on select weekends throughout the nearly two month stay. A schedule of the Zoo’s hours and events can be found on the Zoo’s Web site at www.phoenixzoo.org. After Phoenix, the tour will continue to San Francisco to visit the Aquarium of the Bay.

Dog Genome Analyzed

January 13, 2010  www.nytimes.com  

Although domestication of dogs began over 14,000 years ago, according to Dr. Joshua Akey, University of Washington (UW), the spectacular diversity among breeds is thought to have occurred during the past few centuries through intense artificial selection of and strict breeding for desired characteristics. There are more than 400 distinct breeds. Akey is the lead author of the effort to map canine genome regions that show signs of recent selection and that contain genes that are prime candidates for further investigation. Those genes are being examined for their possible roles in the most conspicuous variations among dog breeds: size, coat color and texture, behavior, physiology, and skeleton structure. The researchers performed the largest genome-wide scan to date for targets of selection in purebred dogs. The genomes came from 275 unrelated dogs representing 10 breeds that were very unlike each other: Beagle, Border Collie, Brittany, Dachshund, German Shepherd, Greyhound, Jack Russell Terrier, Labrador Retriever, Shar-Pei, and Standard Poodle. The canine genome, the product of centuries of strong selection, contains many important lessons about the genetic architecture of physical and behavioral variations and the mechanisms of rapid, short-term evolution. The findings appeared Jan. 11 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, in the article "Tracking footprints of artificial selection in the dog genome."

Genetics of Mammalian Coat Color and Patterns

January 13, 2010  www.eurekalert.org  

A new research report published in the January 2010 issue of GENETICS demonstrates that at least three different genes are involved in the emergence of stripes, spots, and other markings on domestic cats. Author Eduardo Eizirik, from the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, said, "From these studies, we hope to understand how the different coat patterns have evolved in different mammalian groups, and to be able to investigate their roles in adaptation to different environments, such as their importance for camouflage in wild cat species."  His team crossed domestic cats with different coat patterns, such as stripes and blotches, and tracked the inheritance of these patterns among their offspring. Genetic samples were collected and used to type various molecular markers. Results showed that specific markers were inherited by a kitten every time a given coat pattern appeared, suggesting that the marker and the gene causing the coat pattern were located in the same region of the genome. Using statistical procedures called linkage mapping, scientists determined the genomic location of two genes involved in these traits.

Understanding Local Cultures Key Needed to Protect Species

January 13, 2010  www.eurekalert.org  

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – According to Melissa Remis, a Perdue University professor of anthropology who studies gorillas, "Conservation isn't just about protecting wildlife, you also need to consider the human dimension such as how local hunting technologies or even migration can change how land is used." Remis, and Rebecca Hardin from University of Michigan's School of Natural Resources, focused on issues specific to animal species, forest fragmentation, ecotourism, local culture and industry in the Dzanga-Sangha Dense Forest Reserve in the Central African Republic. The forest is known for western lowland gorillas and a clearing that attracts up to 100 elephants at a time. The reserve is a multi-use zone that was created in 1991 and includes areas designated for research, tourism, local hunting, safari hunting and logging. Bayanga is the local town with a population of 5,000. "Better integration of basic research in the ecological and social domains would really improve conservation strategies and outcomes, but it also would improve goodwill for the communities that often feel resentment toward protecting wildlife," Remis said. For example, researchers found that selective logging opens light gaps in the forest that result in new herbaceous vegetation growth. This food source helps sustain local duikers. These antelope, whose populations are declining, are the primary food source for most people in the area, and some local residents have been hunting gorillas as a substitute as for duiker, Remis said. "This is an example where logging at certain low levels could actually help people sustain higher yields for hunting." The Dzanga-Sangha Dense Forest Reserve was created in 1991 as an integrated conservation and development project by the Central African Republic government and World Wildlife Fund. This research was supported by the National Geographic Society, Purdue University, University of Michigan, Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, and World Wildlife Fund.

Breeding Area of Large-Billed Reed Warbler Found

January 13, 2010  www.eurekalert.org  

Researchers for the Wildlife Conservation Society have discovered the breeding area of the large-billed reed warbler in the remote Wakhan Corridor of the Pamir Mountains of north-eastern Afghanistan. Using a combination of field observations, museum specimens, DNA sequencing, and the first known audio recording of the species, researchers verified the discovery by capturing and releasing almost 20 birds earlier this year, the largest number ever recorded.  A preliminary paper on the finding appears in the most recent edition of BirdingASIA. The first bird of this species was discovered in India in 1867, with more than a century elapsing before a second discovery of a single bird occurred in Thailand in 2006. Colin Poole is Executive Director of WCS's Asia Program. WCS is currently the only organization conducting ongoing scientific conservation studies in Afghanistan—the first such efforts in over 30 years—and has contributed to a number of conservation initiatives and activities in partnership with the Afghanistan Government, with support from USAID (United States Agency for International Development). In 2009, the government of Afghanistan gazetted the country's first national park, Band-e-Amir, established with technical assistance from WCS's Afghanistan Program. WCS also worked with Afghanistan's National Environment Protection Agency (NEPA) in producing the country's first-ever list of protected species, an action that now bans the hunting of snow leopards, wolves, brown bears, and other species.

Polar Bear Feces Analysis for Superbugs

January 13, 2010  www.eurekalert.org  

Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Microbiology found little sign of antibiotic-resistant superbugs in the feces of polar bears that have had limited or no contact with humans, suggesting that the spread of antibiotic resistance genes seen in other animals may be the result of human influence. Trine Glad, from the University of Tromsø, Norway, led a study that examined feces samples from five polar bears and rectal swabs from another five polar bears between 2004 and 2006. She said, "The presence of antibiotic resistance genes has previously been described in bacteria taken from the feces of deer, foxes, pigs, dogs and cats. The Barents Sea population of polar bears is located in an area that is sparsely populated by humans. This enables us to study an ecosystem with little human impact and should allow us to determine whether these genes are naturally occurring or are caused by exposure to human antibiotics." The researchers found that there was scant evidence of antibiotic resistance genes in the bacteria taken from these isolated bears. Overall, the bacterial diversity in the bears' feces was low. Speaking about these results, Glad said, "Our analysis of polar bear feces showed a homogenous microbial flora dominated by Clostridia, most of them well characterized as they are also dominant in the human gut. These findings fit nicely with previous studies of the gut microbial ecology in mammals, indicating that bacterial diversity is lower in carnivores, such as polar bears that feed mostly on seals, than herbivores".

Stillborn White Rhino at Indianapolis Zoo

January 13, 2010  www.indystar.com   By Cathy Kightlinger

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana -- A pregnant white rhino, Gloria, gave birth to a stillborn calf Tuesday night at the Indianapolis Zoo. Staff members at the zoo had been keeping 24-hour watch on Gloria, and were on-hand when she delivered the calf. Despite the stillbirth, the 30-year-old rhino is healthy and able to have another pregnancy. So far, Gloria has had nine pregnancies and given birth to six live calves. Adult rhinos weigh more than two tons. Their calves weigh about 100 pounds at birth but gain about 30 pounds a week.

Birds Spread Lyme Disease

January 13, 2010  www.yaledailynews.com

Researchers at the Yale School of Public Health have shown that birds have helped spread Lyme disease across North America.  Researcher Maria Diuk-Wasser analyzed studies on 71 bird species that host the black legged tick, the main carrier of Lyme disease. They found that 58.6 percent of the bird species can infect the tick with the bacterium that is responsible for Lyme disease. The literature review was published online in December in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. Traditionally, scientists thought small mammals such as white-footed mice, chipmunks and shrews were the main carriers of ticks, but the study shows that the expansion of the range of Lyme disease in the Northeast and Midwest over the past 20 to 30 years can also be attributed to birds. Nearly 70 percent of brown thrashers, a ground-dwelling species, carried the tick. Because the bacterium that is responsible for Lyme disease has a lot of genetic variation, the researchers said the next step for scientists is to determine if birds carry the same strains that infect humans. Some strains are more infectious than others. Lyme disease was first reported in the United States in Old Lyme, Conn., in 1975. Lyme disease may result in skin rash, flu-like symptoms, arthritis and neurological symptoms.

Detroit Zoo Attendance up 14% in 2009

January 14, 2010  www.zandavisitor.com    By Patricia Janeway

ROYAL OAK, MI -- Detroit Zoo attendance was 1,271,663 in 2009, compared to 1,114,221 in 2008, a 14 percent increase. This represents the fourth consecutive year-to-year increase in attendance – which has exceeded one million since 2006 – and the second-highest recorded attendance. In addition, membership increased by more than 11 percent year to year, ending 2009 with 56,064 member households compared to 50,306 in 2008. "In 2009, Dinosauria, lots of new animals and our Vitamin Z advertising campaign helped drive attendance,” said Executive Director Ron Kagan. “We’re grateful to tri-county voters for passing the Zoo millage, which has allowed us to make continued improvements to facilities and guest service.” The Zoo’s “Vitamin Z Part of a Complete Childhood” advertising campaign highlights immersive experiences at the Detroit Zoo, including the Arctic Ring of Life, Australian Outback Adventure, Butterfly Garden and Giraffe Encounter. The Zoo plans to create another immersive experience in 2010 with a habitat makeover for the lions, featuring glass viewing panels that will bring the big cats and visitors nose to nose.

San Diego Zoo Gorilla Moves to N.C. Zoo

January 14, 2010  www.news-record.com  

ASHEBORO — Jamani, a 10-year-old female gorilla, arrived at the North Carolina Zoo Wednesday from the San Diego Zoo. Jamani is the first of two female gorillas that will be moved to the N.C. Zoo this year. Acacia, a 15-year-old from the Oklahoma City Zoo, will arrive in early February. The N.C. Zoo lost three female gorillas to medical problems during 2009, including two to cancer in late December. The two new females will eventually join 18-year-old male Nkosi in the zoo’s outdoor Forest Glade gorilla habitat.

Alexandria Zoo Expansion

January 14, 2010  www.thetowntalk.com   By Bret McCormick

ALEXANDRIA, La. -- The Alexandria Zoo can finally move ahead with one of the biggest expansion and renovation projects in its history. The City Council has approved a zoo contract with Torre Design Consortium of New Orleans for the "Land of the Jaguar" project, which will renovate the South American exhibit, which makes up approximately one-third of the zoo and is the oldest portion of the zoo. The South American project will cost nearly $3 million and is expected to be completed by late 2011. Alexandria Zoo Director Lee Ann Whitt said Torre Design has done exhibits at 25 other zoos and brings an extensive amount of experience to the project. Whitt said the expansion project will allow the zoo to bring in a pair of breeding jaguars -- currently, the zoo has just one jaguar for display; some giant anteaters; and "quite a few" smaller animals and bird species. Much of the work on the project actually won't be seen by visitors to the zoo, Whitt said, as it features moving electrical lines underground and improving some sewer lines. However, there will be some structure removal and rebuilding in the area because some of the exhibits have been in existence for more than 30 years. "We want to make a bold statement as soon as people walk into the gates," Whitt said. "You'll see the Mayan ruins so you'll know you're getting into Central America and South America."

Winner of Seoul Grand Park International Design Competition

January 14, 2010  www.exhibitoronline.com

The design firm Thinkwell has won Seoul Grand Park’s International design competition to revitalize the Park and showcase Korean heritage. The 30-year-old Seoul Grand Park is a 560-hectare destination with an existing zoo and an amusement park. Thinkwell’s entry won out over 20 other international entries and is titled: "Gaia: The Living World."  It is an integrated entertainment and educational experience. The Seoul Metropolitan Government sponsored the competition to improve the public space for citizens and better position the site as a regional and international tourist destination. Spearheaded by AECOM, the winning team also included Ga-One Landscape Design, Group Han Associates and Bernard Harrison & Friends. Together the group conducted an economic analysis and created a design that combines the amusement park, zoo and botanical garden with new attractions. In addition to botanical gardens and traditional animal exhibits, the new design combines conventionally separate sectors into one comprehensive experience. There are more than 50 rides and attractions such as a simulated flight encounter (soaring across South Korea’s wetlands among a flock of wild geese) and inviting visitors to walk across a treetop canopy amidst animals of the forest.

Topeka Zoo Cited by USDA

January 14, 2010  cjonline.com  By James Carlson

After a 2-day inspection, the U.S. Department of Agriculture cited the Topeka Zoo for seven non-compliance issues. The seven citations included not hammering out a contract for the part-time veterinarian, insufficient medical record-keeping, a cat injured during an attempt to sedate it, an overly loud exhaust fan, a lack of plans for enhancing the environment for primates and not changing out mulch often enough. Numerous flies were present in the porcupine enclosure due to mulch that hadn't been changed since Aug. 30. That issue was particularly pertinent for the facility. The September inspection had faulted the zoo for the deaths of a Pallas cat and a rabbit that were infested with maggots. Zoo interim-director Dennis Taylor has prescribed a regimen that includes oral and written communication of all directives. The zoo also will formalize its agreement with the part-time veterinarian, and the veterinarian will enact a standard veterinarian care plan. The Zoo is also under an independent review by the AZA, scheduled to be available by the end of the month.

Veterinary Scientists Kill Equine Sarcoid Virus

January 14, 2010  www.physorg.com

Sarcoids are skin tumors caused by infection with the Bovine Papillomavirus (BPV). They are the most common type of tumor found in horses. Although the disease is rarely life-threatening, many horses with sarcoids are euthanized because the condition is untreatable or because the horse is unsellable. Currently there is no universally effective treatment for sarcoids. Recently, Prof Lubna Nasir and a group of Glasgow scientists found that by inhibiting the activity of a particular viral protein within sarcoid cells, the amount of viral DNA in the cells is reduced resulting in programmed cell-death (PCD). The researchers believe that PCD occurs because the sarcoid cells become reliant on the virus. The research team inhibited the activity of a viral protein called E2, which is needed by BPV to replicate. They used 'gene silencing' to suppress the activity of the gene that codes the E2 protein. Prof Nasir's research could also have an impact on the treatment of lesions in cattle, which are also caused by BPV. Around 50% of cattle in the UK are estimated to have lesions. It may also help with the treatment of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infections in humans. HPV, which is similar to BPV, can lead to various cancers in humans including cervical and vaginal cancer.

Nutrition Study of Primates in Madagascar & Neotropics

January 14, 2010  www.plosone.org 

Primate communities of the tropical Americas have fewer leaf-eating species (folivores) but more fruit-eating species (frugivores) than tropical regions of the Old World and especially many more fruit-eaters than in Madagascar. San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research scientist Chia Tan participated in a study to determine If Neotropical fruits have higher protein concentrations than fruits from Madagascar. Low fruit protein concentrations in Madagascar would restrict the evolution of frugivores. The study group reviewed the literature for nitrogen concentrations in fruits from the Neotropics and from Madagascar, and analyzed fruits from an additional six sites in the Neotropics and six sites in Madagascar. Fruits from the Neotropical sites did contain significantly more nitrogen than fruits from the Madagascar sites. Nitrogen concentrations in New World fruits are above the concentrations to satisfy nitrogen requirements of primates, while they are at the lower end or below the concentrations to cover primate protein needs in Madagascar. The low nitrogen concentrations in fruits from Madagascar may contribute to the almost complete absence of frugivorous primate species on this island. The article appears in the online journal PLOS One.

New Bird Species Found in Borneo

January 14, 2010  news.bbc.co.uk  By Doreen Walton

Leeds University biologist Richard Webster first glimpsed the spectacled flowerpecker while working in the Danum Valley Conservation Area in Sabah, Malaysia. The small, wren-sized, grey bird, was feeding on some flowering mistletoe in a tree 35m above ground. On one sighting it was heard singing. The bird has white markings around its eyes, belly and breast. It has not yet been given a scientific name because so little is known about it. The bird's description was published in Oriental Bird Club's journal BirdingASIA.

USFWS Realigns Priorities

January 14, 2010  www.nytimes.com  By JESSICA LEBER

FWS is now realigning its policies, priorities and investments to deal with future climate problems. Rising sea levels are threatening many coastal refuges, while invasive species and pests are invading new terrain. A growing number of petitions to list new endangered species are citing global warming as either a primary or a contributing cause. The biggest immediate need is to beef up the agency's scientific capacity, according to FWS Director Sam Hamilton. "We really need to make more informed decisions about how we're spending our money and where we're doing our habitat restoration. This year, $25 million was invested to set up nine "landscape conservation cooperatives," in which federal, state and outside researchers collaborate to tackle regional climate questions. Eventually, the goal is to support a total of 21 centers. With each focused on particular representative species, the centers could help feed FWS the information it needs to make climate-oriented decisions and predictions. By wedding global climate data to regional models specific to a habitat or wildlife population, the agency could predict where a species might migrate as climate warms, and plan how to help it get there. An effort to set up a migration corridor in the Northern Rockies is already under way to deal with threats like climate and habitat fragmentation. There, ranchers are getting payments to keep their lands instead of selling to developers.

John Kostyack, global warming and wildlife conservation director for the National Wildlife Federation says that agency scientists will likely end up having to revise many existing species recovery plans (there are upward of 1,000) to factor in climate concerns. And there are legal questions, as well. The agency will have to decide whether it can designate critical habitat for a species outside of its current occupied range or even outside of its historic range. It could go so far as actually moving species to safer terrain, where snow won't melt or a marsh won't flood in the future. Already, four conservation groups have sued the service because they say climate change was ignored in a critical habitat decision for the Canada lynx. They say the designated habitat couldn't possibly save the reclusive cat, because of snowmelt in its current turf. In the decision, FWS said it would consider climate factors during a five-year review of the species.

National Animal Germplasm Program

January 14, 2010  www.ars.usda.gov   By Chris Guy

The National Animal Germplasm Program (NAGP) was established a decade ago with genetic material from 40 lines of chicken. The center, operated by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Fort Collins, Colo., is now one of the world’s largest germplasm repositories, with more than half a million genetic samples from 12,000 animals. Providing genetic samples to university researchers, and private laboratories for scientific research has become a primary function. Scientists at the ARS National Sedimentation Laboratory (NLS) in Oxford, Miss. have been cataloging 124 species of fish, amphibians, reptiles and mammals to build a baseline sampling of animal diversity, including about 11,000 samples since 1986. During those efforts, scientists documented the presence of one rare species, the Yazoo darter, a fish found only in fresh water and ponds near Oxford.  In Michigan, researchers worked with DNA-based technology to develop 40 distinct lines of chickens at the Avian Disease and Oncology Laboratory (ADOL) in East Lansing. Those studies have revealed tools and techniques to find sources of genetic resistance to diseases such as virus-induced tumors.

Oakland Zoo Reprimanded for Taking City Trees

January 15, 2010  www.sfgate.com

Oakland Zoo crews started harvesting acacias from Oak Knoll in 2001, with written permission from the Navy. After the Navy sold the 167-acre property to SunCal developers in 2005, the zoo kept chopping down trees until neighbors threatened to sue. For seven years, the zoo's elephants, giraffes, camels, zebras and elk enjoyed the tasty snacks. The zoo also took a few trees from a city park, King Estates Open Space, without permission. Irate neighbors of those sites recently alerted the city and threatened to take legal action - and the zoo stopped taking trees a few months ago. The city and the zoo recently worked out a plan in which the zoo will plant 50 native oaks at King Estates park to compensate for the 300 acacia trees zoo crews removed, mostly from Oak Knoll, during the past seven years. Neighbors say 50 trees isn't enough, and the public should have had more say in the process. Joel Parrott, the zoo director said, "I just didn't know they were protected by the city's tree ordinance. For that, we're guilty." Oak Knoll might soon be free of acacia trees anyway. The Oakland Fire Department has recommended the removal of all highly flammable trees in the hills, said Deputy Fire Chief James Williams.

Henry Doorly Zoo Breeds Gentoo Penguins

January 15, 2010  www.zandavisitor.com  By Steph Husman

OMAHA, Nebraska -- Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo has five young Gentoo penguin chicks on display in the Scott Aquarium. The chicks hatched between December 10 and 21, 2009 and are all being cared for by their parents. 2009 was a record year for the number of eggs laid and survivability of the chicks. The hatching of these chicks brings the population at Omaha’s Zoo to 32 Gentoos, 29 Rockhoppers, 24 King and one Macaroni penguin. In addition to the cold weather penguins, Omaha’s Zoo also has warm weather little blue penguins only on display during the summer months. Omaha’s Zoo has one of the largest variety of penguin species in captivity. There have been 27 Gentoo penguins hatched at Omaha’s Zoo since 1999. The hatchings are part of the recommended breeding program in place by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Hattiesburg Zoo Slashes 8 Part-time Jobs

January 15, 2010  www.hattiesburgamerican.com 

HATTIESBURG, Mississippi -- Rick Taylor, executive director of the Hattiesburg Convention and Tourism commissions has announced the lay-offs of 8 part-time zoo employees. The layoffs will save about $75,000 per year. "The zoo has been very faithful on tracking their attendance," Taylor said. "We discovered that zoo visitation is seasonal and there was no need for permanent part-time positions." The cuts leave the zoo with 20 full-time staff positions now, Taylor said. Currently, the zoo generates about $285,000 a year in operational revenue. The city subsidizes approximately $800,000 a year for the zoo. "We don't wish to address admissions fees until we have more to offer," Taylor said. "The admission fee is what it is now because it's appropriate for what we have to offer."

Oregon Zoo’s Silverspot Butterfly Conservation Program

January 15, 2010  www.zandavisitor.com  By Bill LaMarche

PORTLAND, OR -- Each December, conservationists from the Oregon Zoo, Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo, Lewis and Clark College, the Nature Conservancy and the USFWS meet to discuss strategy and assess the past year's work in preserving the Oregon silverspot butterfly. For 10 years, these organizations have been rearing silverspot larvae and pupae, then releasing them into the wild in an effort to stabilize and revitalize the dwindling native populations. It hasn't always been encouraging, but in 2009, a field biologist estimated more than 400 butterflies to be in the area. "This is terrific news and strong evidence that what we're doing is really making a difference in the field," said Oregon Zoo conservation scientist David Shepherdson. "The rearing of plants by our living collections and horticulture staff both to feed larvae and restore habitat has played a critical role in the restoration of this species." The zoo's horticulture department raised thousands of western blue violet (Viola adunca) starts to plant at the release site, providing a crucial food source and allowing the larvae to pupate. Zoo butterfly conservationist Mary Jo Andersen was particularly encouraged by the fact that silverspots released at the site this year developed from the caterpillar stage, a good indicator that the population is sustainable and can return in years to come. Overall, the zoo released more than 2,000 of the rare Northwest butterflies in 2009, including 806 larvae to the site near Yachats, and an additional 600 pupae each to release sites at Cascade Head and Bray Point. The Oregon silverspot butterfly is listed as threatened. It was once found in coastal grasslands from northern California to southern Washington, but has since disappeared from all but a handful of sites along the Oregon coast due to habitat loss and the disappearance of its host plant, the western blue violet.

Fire in Wellington Zoo Chimp Enclosure

January 15, 2010 www.stuff.co.nz

A small fire in Wellington Zoo's chimpanzee enclosure today was put out with no injuries to the animals, the zoo says. Smoke was seen coming from the heated chimp cave shelter in the outdoor section of the enclosure about midday. The Fire Service extinguished the fire in under a minute, the zoo said in a statement on its website. The fire was suspected to have started from an electrical fault in one of the shelter's heating pads, but a full investigation would take place to identify the cause. The 11 chimpanzees are now calmly relaxing inside for the afternoon.

San Diego Zoo Renovates Polar Bear Exhibit

January 15, 2010  www.leisuregrouptravel.com 

The San Diego Zoo's new Conrad Prebys Polar Bear Plunge exhibit, scheduled to open in late March, is designed to educate visitors about what is happening to polar bears in their native habit. The interactive exhibit allows visitors to climb through an Arctic research helicopter, explore a polar snow den and pop their heads through a seal’s breathing hole in ice. Visitors also can measure themselves against the impressive size of polar bears and discover how the bears are adapted to life in the Arctic.

Oklahoma Zoo Lions Move to Texas

January 15, 2010 www.newsok.com  BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL   

Four lions born in November 2007 at the Oklahoma City Zoo will leave next week for El Paso, Texas as part of the AZA’s Species Survival Plan for the African lion population. The cubs are not recommended to breed any time soon, but they are moving to El Paso because of the new exhibit there which will open March 13, according to Rick LoBello, education curator for the El Paso Zoo. The Oklahoma City lions will be the centerpiece of a nine-acre, $17 million Africa exhibit featuring zebras, meerkats, giraffes and other animals. The siblings were hand-raised by Oklahoma Zoo staff and are a favorite among visitors. Aslan, father of the cubs, was brought to the Oklahoma City Zoo to breed with females Tia and Bridget but showed little interest in breeding, until zookeepers discovered a shard of bone stuck in his teeth. After a dentist removed the irritant, Aslan mated with both females the next day, and both delivered a pair of cubs two days apart. Oddly enough, both lionesses had difficult deliveries, and both required emergency cesarean sections. Zoo staff had to hand-raise the cubs. They bottle fed the four until the lions were too large for keepers to be safe with.

Great Ape Trust Eliminates 10 Jobs

January 15, 2010  www.desmoinesregister.com  BY PERRY BEEMAN

The Great Ape Trust is cutting staff and narrowing its scientific focus. A planned restructuring will cut about 10 jobs from its staff of 30. At one time, there were about 40 workers. While the Des Moines primate research center may host the usual 1,500 to 2,000 visitors a year, more of them are likely to be scientists and students. The tightening of public visits is at odds with the work by lead orangutan researcher Robert Shumaker and trust conservation director Benjamin Beck. The two are known for their work at the National Zoo to open research to public view. Shumaker confirmed that he is leaving the center and is considering job offers in Iowa and elsewhere. Another noted orangutan authority, Serge Wich, left earlier for a job at the University of Zurich in Switzerland. He plans to continue to cooperate with the trust on research, said James Aipperspach, the trust's operations director. The trust now will focus on language research, particularly involving the bonobos. The complex is home to six bonobos, including Kanzi, famous worldwide for his ability to communicate through signs and to understand some spoken English.  Aipperspach said the trust operations were largely controlled by the scientists and suffered from competing interests. "It was consensus by exhaustion." William Fields, director of the trust's bonobo research, now will supervise the science and the campus operations. The trust will focus on ape language research, and the Gishwati Area Conservation Program in Rwanda. The new focus will come with an operations budget that is half of what it once was. The trust houses 6 bonobos, 2 orangutans and potentially other apes. Nine of the trust's 11 orangutans are expected to move to another facility — likely the Indianapolis Zoo — in 2013, but details are still under negotiation. Blank Park Zoo officials in Des Moines decided they were not interested in housing them. Five of the orangutans now live in California; six live in Des Moines. Scientists with grants may bring other apes to Des Moines to use the trust's facilities, Setka said. Scientist Karyl Swartz will remain on staff. Setka's assistants, Beth Dalbey and Dana Watson, will lose their jobs. The trust's security force, once eight full-time people, will rely on a chief officer and part-timers. Iowa State University veterinarians now provide care a full-time staff veterinarian once handled.

Fate of Haiti’s Zoo Animals Uncertain

January 15, 2010  news.discovery.com  By Jennifer Viegas

The fate of Haiti's zoo, endangered species and other animals remains uncertain at present, with U.S. animal and veterinary organizations attempting to gather information while also standing by to allow rescuers to focus on human victims of the devastating 7.0 earthquake and its aftershocks. The American Veterinary Medical Association yesterday issued a release stating that veterinarians are on standby to assist with the tragedy, "once the immediate human needs have been met”. Organizations like the Humane Society and the ASPCA are not making large appeals for Haiti's animal population. As with Hurricane Katrina, it may be a few days before animals' agencies can start rescue operations and get personnel and supplies into the area. The International Fund for Animal Welfare is on alert, noting that humanitarian efforts need to be well underway before animal rescue efforts can begin in earnest. Haiti is home to several endangered animals, according to the organization Animal Info. These include the critically endangered Puerto Rican Hutia (Isolobodon portoricensis), the endangered Haitian Solenodon (Solenodon paradoxus) and the "vulnerable" manatee "sea cow" (Trichechus manatus) and Hispaniolan Hutia.

Endangered Species Permit Applications

January 15, 2010 Federal Register

The USFWS invites the public to comment on the following applications for permits to conduct certain activities with endangered species. Written data, comments or requests must be received by February 16, 2010.  Documents and other information submitted with these applications are available for review, by any party who submits a written request for a copy of such documents within 30 days of the date of publication of this notice to: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Management Authority, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Room 212, Arlington, Virginia 22203; fax 703-358-2281. For further information contact: Division of Management Authority, telephone 703-358-2104.

Applicant: Brigham and Woman's Hospital, Boston, MA, PRT-232608.  The applicant requests a permit to acquire from Coriell Institute, Camden, NJ, in interstate commerce DNA and cell line samples from various threatened and endangered Primate species for the purpose of scientific research. This notification covers activities to be conducted by the applicant over a 5-year period.

Applicant: The San Diego Zoological Society, San Diego, CA, PRT-236991.  The applicant requests a permit to export three male and four female captive-born L'hoest's guenon (Cercopithecus lhoesti) to the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, Edinburgh, UK for the purpose of the enhancement of the survival of the species.

Applicant: Virginia Zoological Park, Norfolk, VA, PRT-237536.  The applicant requests a permit to import two captive-born male Siamang (Symphalangus syndactylus) from the Port Lympne Wild Animal Park, Lympne, Hythe, Kent, UK for the purpose of enhancement of the survival of the species.

Applicant: George Carden Circus Intl., Inc., Springfield, MO, PRT-08083. The applicant requests the re-issuance of permits to re-export and re-import two female Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) that were born in the wild to worldwide locations for the purpose of enhancement of the species through conservation education. The permit numbers and animals are: 080731, Jazz; 716917, Betty. This notification covers activities to be conducted by the applicant over a three-year period and the import of any potential progeny born while overseas.

Federal Permits Issued

January 15, 2010  Federal Register

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has issued the following permits to conduct certain activities with endangered species and/or marine mammals. Documents and other information submitted with these applications are available for review



Federal Register notice

Permit issue date


LSU Museum of Natural Science

74 FR 47821; 9/17/09




74 FR 37240, 7/28/09



Atlanta-Fulton County Zoo

74 FR 46222, 9/08/09



Lorenzo J. Ferraro

74 FR 49017; 9/25/09



Jorge L. Medina

74 FR58977; 11/16/09



James C. Faith

74 FR 55062; 10/26/09



Edward D. Pylman

74 FR 58977; 11/16/09



Robert B. Spencer

74 FR 58977; 11.16/09



Alaska Dept Fish & Game

74 FR 46222; 9/8/09



David E. Clapham, M.D., PhD, Department of Cardiology Children's Hospital

74 FR 58977; 11/16/09


Sea Turtle Rescue in Florida

January 15, 2010   www.marinelife.org

JUNO BEACH, Fla. – Officials in Florida helped rescue nearly 3,000 turtles from frigid waters in the past week, plucking them from the ocean, lagoons and rivers as air temperatures dipped into the 30s along the coast. The turtles — which weigh up to 400 pounds — were found across Florida as the unseasonably chilly temperatures sent them into a cold stress, leaving them stunned and largely motionless, the perfect prey for predators. Now after about a week of treatment, including soakings in heated pools and oxygen therapy, turtles by the truckload are headed back into the wild. Tractor-trailer trucks full of turtles arrived Thursday at several Florida beaches, where the animals were hand-placed in the surf for their journey home. More were set to be released Friday. But even as hundreds of turtles were nursed back to health, the state continues to take in more sick ones, with about 500 turtles collected in recent days, said Meghan Koperski of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Koperski said reports of endangered green sea turtles and some threatened loggerheads with a "form of hypothermia" began about a week ago. "All of their energy was going toward just keeping themselves alive, so they literally just floated in the water," Koperski said. Some of the turtles suffered from dehydration, along with injuries from birds and other predators. About 1,000 turtles were released into the ocean earlier this week.

Pinnacles National Monument Gets Argentine Sister Park

January 15, 2010  www.thecalifornian.com

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A formal partnership has been created between the Pinnacles National Monument and Parque Nacional Quebrada del Condorito in Argentina. The sister parks share similar resources, including populations of endangered condors. The partnership creating the “sister park” agreement will promote the information sharing and research efforts on their common biological and geological features, especially those pertaining to condor recovery programs. Both parks are heavily involved with reintroducing endangered condors to the wild. Pinnacles National Monument is home to 22 of just 180 free-flying California condors. Parque Nacional Quebrada del Condorito is leading the conservation effort for the Andean condor. The parks will also coordinate on projects concerning habitat preservation, threatened species, education programs and community involvement. The National Park Service and Argentina’s National Administration for Parks have had an official Memorandum of Understanding since 1997, but this is the first sister park partnership to form under that agreement.

San Diego Zoo Scientists Studies Mycobacteriosis in Birds

January 15, 2010  www.avma.org

Scientists from the Wildlife Disease Lab of  the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research studied infection patterns and identify factors associated with avian mycobacteriosis among zoo birds that were housed with infected enclosure mates. Inventory and necropsy records from all eligible, exposed birds (n = 2,413) were examined across taxonomic groupings to determine disease incidence and prevalence. Identification of risk factors for avian mycobacteriosis will help guide future management of this disease in zoo bird populations. The study appears in the Journal of American Veterinary Medicine.

Endangered Species Permit Applications

January 15, 2010  Federal Register (Volume 75, No. 10)

The public is invited to comment on the following applications for a permit to conduct certain activities with endangered species by February 16, 2010.  For more information contact Division of Management Authority, telephone 7033582104.

Applicant: Brigham and Woman's Hospital, Boston, MA, PRT232608. The applicant requests a permit to acquire from Coriell Institute, Camden, NJ, in interstate commerce DNA and cell line samples from various threatened and endangered Primate species for the purpose of scientific research. This notification covers activities to be conducted by the applicant over a 5year period.

Applicant: The San Diego Zoological Society, San Diego, CA, PRT236991. The applicant requests a permit to export three male and four female captive-born L'hoest's guenon (Cercopithecus lhoesti) to the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, Edinburgh, UK for the purpose of the enhancement of the survival of the species.

Applicant: Virginia Zoological Park, Norfolk, VA, PRT237536. The applicant requests a permit to import two captiveborn male Siamang (Symphalangus syndactylus) from the Port Lympne Wild Animal Park, Lympne, Hythe, Kent, UK for the purpose of enhancement of the survival of the species.

Applicant: George Carden Circus Intl., Inc., Springfield, MO, PRT 080831. The applicant requests the reissuance of permits to reexport and reimport two female Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) that were born in the wild to worldwide locations for the purpose of enhancement of the species through conservation education. The permit numbers and animals are: 080731, Jazz; 716917, Betty. This notification covers activities to be conducted by the applicant over a three year period and the import of any potential progeny born while overseas.

Wild Weather Could Be More Harmful than Warming

January 15, 2010  www.eurekalert.org

Climate scientists predict more frequent storms, droughts, floods and heat waves as the Earth warms. Although extreme weather would seem to challenge ecosystems, the effect of fluctuating conditions on biodiversity actually could go either way. Species able to tolerate only a narrow range of temperatures, for example, may be eliminated, but instability in the environment can also prevent dominant species from squeezing out competitors. Jonathan Shurin, an ecologist at the University of California, San Diego who led a study of zooplankton in freshwater lakes and found fewer species in lakes with the most variable water chemistry. But lakes with the greatest temperature variations harbored a greater variety of zooplankton, they report in the journal Ecology Letters January 21. Environmental variability through time could either promote or reduce biodiversity depending on the pace and range of fluctuations. Shurin said, "If the environment is very unpredictable, that may be bad for diversity, because many species just won't be able to match their lifecycles to that."

New Species Discovered in Ecuador Rainforest

January 15, 2010  www.guardian.co.uk

A team of scientists working in a threatened rainforest in Ecuador have discovered a species of snail sucking snake, 30 varieties of frog, and a gecko so small it can perch on top of a pencil. About 95% of the trees around Cerro Pata de Pájaro – the area of rain and cloud forest in the west of the country where the species were discovered – have been felled for farming, said Paul Hamilton who led the expedition for Reptile & Amphibian Ecology International. Each mountaintop in the region is its own microhabitat, with its own variety of frog, lizard, and other small animal. "In this part of Ecuador, if you go to one spot you can find 20 or 30 species of frog, and if you go to the next site over you will see a different ones," said Hamilton. Important discoveries included a snake with striking red markings with a blunt snout "made just perfectly for jamming into the hole of a snail shell and providing that suction to suck the snail right out of there"; frogs which lay their eggs in trees, rather than in water; salamanders that have dispensed with lungs and breathe entirely through their skin, geckos and least four previously unseen types of stick insect.

Indianapolis Zoo Staff Lead Exotic Tours

January 15, 2010  www.zandavisitor.com 

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - Each year, the Indianapolis Zoo offers several specially designed trips guided by experts from the Zoo to exotic locales around the globe. Each January, the Zoo hosts a Preview Night for the public to introduce upcoming excursions. On Preview Night, January 26, master tour operator Stacy Fiorentinos, president of Classic Escapes travel company, will provide a virtual look at the wilds of Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands – all destinations of Zoo trips in 2010 and 2011. Topics to be covered include the annual migration of the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater and the origins of prehistoric man, the snow-capped peaks of Mt. Kilimanjaro, close encounters with mountain gorillas, chocolate farms, and the ecological wonder of the Galapagos.

Critical Habitat Sought for Black Abalone

January 15, 2010  www.enn.com 

SAN FRANCISCO --  The Center for Biological Diversity has declared its intent to sue the National Marine Fisheries Service for its failure to designate critical habitat for the endangered black abalone. On January 14, 2009, black abalone was listed as an endangered species. With that listing, federal law requires protection of critical habitat for the abalone. Black abalone populations have declined as much as 99 percent since the early 1970s. Experts predict that black abalone will be extinct within three decades, the average life span of black abalone. Once occurring at densities of up to 120 per square meter, the black abalone was among the most common and visible invertebrates in Southern California tidepools and sustained a valuable commercial fishery. Overfishing initially depleted the population, and now the outbreak and spread of a disease called withering syndrome has caused black abalone virtually to disappear from the Southern California mainland and many areas of the Channel Islands. Warming waters due to climate change are causing the disease to spread and become more virulent. Meanwhile, ocean acidification threatens to dissolve the abalone's protective shell and impair its growth and reproduction.  

Avian Flu (H5N1) Associated with Bird Migration in China

January 16, 2010  www.chinaview.cn  by Yan Hao

KUNMING, China -- A research team consisting of Vietnamese, Cambodian, Thai, Indonesian and Chinese scientists has discovered that highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N1) outbreaks were closely related to bird migration in both time and location. Studies on migratory birds of different species in different regions showed that lakes and wetlands along the migration paths were key zones for the influenza viruses. The discovery was revealed at the fifth regional meeting of the Asian Partnership on Emerging Infectious Diseases Research (APEIR),which concluded on Saturday in Kunming, capital of southwest Yunnan Province. Researcher Lei Fumin, Institute of Zoology with Chinese Academy of Sciences, studied avian influenza outbreaks along the bird migration routes in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Dr. Witthawat Wiriyarat from Thailand has proposed to form a regional surveillance network to monitor avian influenza viruses in migratory birds.The APEIR was initiated by Canada's International Development Research Center in 2005 to promote regional research collaboration on H5N1 bird flu.

Female Asian Elephant Born at Melbourne Zoo

January 16, 2010  www.telegraph.co.uk
A 242.5 pound female elephant was born at Melbourne Zoo early Saturday morning, (January 16), conceived via artificial insemination. "The baby was very strong from the beginning, suckling within two hours," said delivering vet Thomas Hildebrandt, from Germany. Mother Dokkoon, a 16-year-old Asian elephant, was impregnated with the sperm of bull Bong Su, 36, who has lived in the zoo his entire life and preferred play to procreating. The calf was the first to be born in the zoo's 147-year history and only the second elephant ever to be born in Australia, following the July delivery of naturally-conceived male infant Luk Chai at Sydney's Taronga Zoo. Taronga Zoo is expecting a second birth in the coming months, with matriarch Porntip due to deliver a calf conceived artificially with Bong Su's sperm. Curators Jan Steele and Dan Maloney are supervising her care. As few as 33,000 Asian elephants are thought to remain outside of captivity across the continent, and only half of all 22-month pregnancies in the wild succeed.

Removing Cars from Balboa Park

January 17, 2010  www.signonsandiego.com  BY ROGER M. SHOWLEY

SAN DIEGO, California -- Balboa Park’ leading support groups and experts in park design want to remove all parking from Plaza de Panama. San Diego’s Plaza de Panama, comprising 2.09 acres, was designed by Clarence Stein under the direction of architect Bertram Goodhue as the ceremonial center of the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition in Balboa Park. It became a parking lot after the expo. Last week, Mayor Jerry Sanders pledged to “remodel ... and reclaim the plaza.”  In 1911, when construction began for the expo, the original plan was to demolish most of the buildings and leave the Central Mesa area of the park — north and south of El Prado, between the Cabrillo Bridge and Park Boulevard — as a European-style series of open spaces and gardens. After the expo closed in early January 1917, the buildings were made available to the Navy for use during World Wars I and II and in the second expo. The “temporary” buildings have been reconstructed over the years. But when there was no expo or Navy, the Plaza de Panama was converted to a parking lot. Repeated city commitments to remove the parking met with objections from park museums and tourist-oriented businesses, who said the convenient parking was indispensable to their success. That’s despite the fact that the 74 spaces in the plaza are usually full by 9 a.m. and motorists invariably circle around before moving on to the park’s other 8,215 spaces. Parking is free, and there’s a three-hour maximum.

In 1961, the City Council adopted a park master plan by Harland Bartholomew & Associates of St. Louis that called for the plaza to be emptied of cars. A 1989 park plan and a follow-up plan by Estrada Land Planning specified that “the Plaza de Panama regain its exposition role as a multi-use pedestrian plaza.” But the Park and Recreation Department never implemented the goal, and subsequent mayors, city councils and city managers never ordered it to do so. The Committee of 100, a 43-year-old civic group, dedicated to restoring the park’s expo buildings has now joined with the Friends of Balboa Park and the Balboa Park Trust at the San Diego Foundation to form the Balboa Park Alliance. A carless Plaza de Panama is their top priority.

Ted Turner & Yellowstone Bison Controversy

January 17, 2010  www.nytimes.com

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) -- With 88 bison from Yellowstone National Park facing possible slaughter, billionaire Ted Turner has offered to hold the animals for five years on his Montana ranch while a new home for them is found. His plan to keep up to 90 percent of their offspring as payment has resulted in controversy with hunters, environmentalists and property law experts. Turner arrived in Montana in 1989, with ambitious conservation plans. He's shielded more than 150,000 acres from development, but in the process put several prized hunting grounds off limits to the public. Those who want to continue hunting on his Flying D Ranch, in the Spanish Peaks foothills south of Bozeman, today must pony up $14,000 to shoot a trophy elk. For $4,000, they can harvest a bull bison out of a herd of more than 1,000 of the animals that Turner has been building up for two decades. His representatives insist the Yellowstone animals are more valuable for their genetics and would be off limits. Turner's plan is expected to be acted on by the end of the month by the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Guernsey State Park in Wyoming has also put in a proposal to the agency for 14 bison.

Genetic Analysis of Galapagos Tortoise

January 18, 2010  www.physorg.com 

A genetic analysis of 156 tortoises living in captivity and museum specimens of the now-extinct Chelonoidis elephantopus, reveals that nine of the captives are descendents of a tortoise species once inhabiting the Floreana Island in the Galapagos. In 2007, Yale researcher Adalgisa Caccone and others discovered genetic relatives to “Lonesome George”, the last known survivor of another species of Galapagos tortoise. The team believes that the similar genetic hybrids living in captivity on the Galapagos were descendents of tortoises that were taken by whalers as future meals but then thrown overboard to make room for the more lucrative cargo of whale blubber. These tortoises then swam to nearby islands and mated with natives there. Floreana’s flat topography made it a popular spot for whalers to stop and snatch tortoises for meals, leading to the extinction of C. elephantopus. Over a few generations, a selective breeding program among these tortoises should be able to revive the C. elephantopus species. However, it will take at least four generations of selective breeding - about 100 years - to bring a genetically identical member of C. elephantopus “back to life.” Caccone calls it the “Lazurus project.” It is described this week in the journal PLoS ONE.

Vienna Zoo Stingray Study

January 18, 2010,  www.physorg.com 

In 2003, Parc Merveilleux Zoo in Luxembourg sent several adult stingrays to the Tiergarten Schonbrunn Zoo in Vienna. One of the females gave birth to six stingrays shortly after their arrival and the young were placed in an 850 liter aquarium covered with layers of duckweed to reduce the ambient light from the room. The plants became very dense, and soon the young stingrays were observed floating on their backs inspecting them. Then, the stings began to spurt water from the tank through the duckweed, all over the floor. Even after a layer of mesh was placed on the tank to limit the mess, the stingrays perfected their aim, and spit water right through the tiny holes in the mesh. Dr. Michael J. Kuba, leader of the stingray project reported, "My interpretation is that small food remnants remained lodged in the duckweed, triggering the "water spouting" behavior. Also, the rays appeared to have learned that humans mean "food" and, therefore, began to spout water as soon as someone approached the aquarium."  Three researchers, including Dr. Kuba and Ruth A. Byrne - both of whom recently worked at the Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research (Altenberg, Austria), now at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem - and Gordon M. Burghardt, University of Tennessee, developed a method for studying problem solving and tool use in stingrays. The challenge was to figure out how to get food out of the pipe. All of them figured out how to get the food quickly. They all used water as a tool to help get their food out of the pipe. (They squirted water into the tube to loosen the food and then sucked the food out of the pipe.) The study appears in the journal Animal Cognition.

Rabies-based Vaccine Protects Monkeys Against SIV

January 18, 2010  www.businessweek.com

A team from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia used highly attenuated rabies virus vaccine vectors to protect monkeys against a type of SIV virus that causes a disease similar to AIDS in humans. Two vaccine strategies were used: a recombinant rabies virus expressing SIVmac239GagPol or a combination of that and a rabies virus expressing SIVmac238ENV. Both strategies triggered production of neutralizing antibodies, CD8+ T-cell responses, and increased protection. The researchers said they were surprised rabies-based vaccinations produced such strong anti-SIV responses in the monkeys. "Although we can't yet block the infection, we showed that we can protect against disease. We also saw significant antibody activity against the virus, which is promising. In addition, this is a very simple approach that only took two immunizations," study leader Matthias J. Schnell, director of the Jefferson Vaccine Center, said in a news release. The study is published in the journal Vaccine.

Calgary Zoo Investigation by AZA/CAZA

January 18, 2010  www.ctv.ca

CALGARY — An independent review into the Calgary Zoo's operations will include a look at what led to the deaths of two mule deer at the end of December. One deer broke its neck after it ran into a fence in its enclosure. Keepers found the other deer one morning with neck injuries, but an investigation has not determined the cause of death. A tipster told Zoocheck Canada four mule deer died due to keeper error, but the zoo says no human error was involved in the deaths. Two other deer died late last year from old age and illness.  A year ago, a Turkmenian markhor got caught in a rope in its enclosure and strangled to death. In May 2008, 41 stingrays died after the opening of an interactive exhibit where people could pet them in the water. The zoo's president admitted that human error was to blame for those deaths. In March 2009, two more stingrays died at the zoo and officials blamed it on a shipping problem. Zoo officials announced last month they would commission an independent review from the AZA and CAZA the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums in Ottawa, the accrediting bodies that set the standards of care for zoos.

Indianapolis Zoo Offers Exotic Trips

January 18, 2010  www.zandavisitor.com  By Maura Giles

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - Each year, the Indianapolis Zoo offers several specially designed trips guided by experts from the Zoo. A Preview Night is held each January to introduce the public to the latest upcoming excursions. Stacy Fiorentinos, president of Classic Escapes travel company, will walk attendees through a virtual look at the wilds of Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands – all destinations of Zoo trips in 2010 and 2011. Topics to be covered include the annual migration of the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater and the origins of prehistoric man, the snow-capped peaks of Mt. Kilimanjaro, close encounters with mountain gorillas, chocolate farms, and the ecological wonder of the Galapagos, among many other fascinating stories. She also gives the latest tips for becoming eco-travelers in today’s green environment.

Platypus Venom is Analyzed

January 18, 2010  www.nytimes.com  By HENRY FOUNTAIN

The platypus is among the few mammals that produce venom (and only the male does). Using high-performance liquid chromatography and other techniques, Japanese researchers analyzed venom samples and identified about a dozen peptides (small chains of amino acids) thought to be responsible for making the venom so painful. The researchers found that crude venom caused cultured nerve cells to take up calcium ions slowly and continuously. This gave a hint as to how the venom acts, since calcium flux into nerve cells is linked to the sensation of pain. One of the peptides identified, called heptapeptide-1, was shown to increase calcium ion flux by itself. That suggests it may be the main component responsible for the venom’s effect. The findings are reported in The Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Webcam Will Record Black Bear Birth

January 18, 2010  news.bbc.co.uk  By Matt Walker

Bear biologist Professor Lynn Rogers has placed a webcam into the den of a pregnant wild black bear living in the woods of northern Minnesota, US. He expects the bear, named Lily, to give birth in the coming days, an event never before seen in the wild. Prof Rogers has spent the past 43 years studying black bears, and is regarded as a leading authority on their behavior and ecology. During that time, he has developed a special relationship with the bears he studies. Rather than tranquilize the bears, he has habituated them to his presence. He was featured in the BBC natural history program Natural World: "Bearwalker of the Northwoods". In that programme, Rogers mostly follows a black bear called June, who is now nine years old. Lily, the star of the new webcam who is almost three years old, is June's daughter. Black bears in North America will dig dens at anytime. But they typically mate in May or June. Bears are one of the few mammals that can delay the implantation of their fertilized eggs, and females often do not implant the eggs until November. During January the mother bears then tend to give birth to cubs. Viewers watching the webcam may likely see Lily give birth to multiple cubs. "The most common litter size here is three cubs," says Prof Rogers. See www.bear.org

Brown & White Panda

January 18, 2010  www.nature.com  By Henry Nicholls

In November 2009, a brown and white panda, approximately 2 months old was spotted at the Foping Nature Reserve in China's Qinling Mountains. This is only the seventh such animal spotted in the region over the past 25 years, says Tiejun Wang, a spatial ecologist in the Department of Natural Resources at the University of Twente the Netherlands, who has worked in Foping for two decades. According to Wang, brown-and-white pandas have only been seen in the Qinling population, one of five mountain regions where pandas still live in the wild. Qinling is home to around 300 animals, roughly one-sixth of the total panda population in the wild. "The habitat in the Qinling Mountains is seriously fragmented and the population density is very high. The brown pandas could be an indication of local inbreeding." The first recorded brown-and-white panda — a female called Dan-Dan — was discovered in 1985. She was taken into captivity, mated with a black-and-white animal and gave birth to a normal black-and-white male. A few years later, another brown-and-white panda was seen in the wild, together with its black-and-white mother. Each panda has two versions, or alleles, of each of its genes, one inherited from its mother and one from its father. Wang suggests that the Qinling pandas carry a dominant gene for black fur and a recessive gene for brown fur. This means that pandas with brown-and-white fur are only possible when they inherit the recessive brown gene from both mother and father.

Sheng-guo Fang, a researcher at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, who has studied the morphology and genetics of the Qinling pandas cautions that there could be other factors at play. Although most of the Qinling pandas appear to be normal black-and-white animals, many of the region's pandas do have touches of brown in their chest fur. This suggests that there could be something specific to Qinling, such as the climate or a particular environmental chemical, that affects one or more pigmentation genes, says Fang. "The Qinling Mountains have shaped brown subspecies of other mammals, such as the golden takin," he notes. The idea of inbreeding in Qinling is also at odds with the most recent genetic analyses, which show that despite a dramatic contraction of the panda's range over the past few thousand years, the remaining giant panda populations seem to have retained a lot of genetic diversity.

Mike Bruford, a molecular ecologist at Cardiff University, UK, who worked on the study that was published online in Nature last month, saw little sign of inbreeding. But the genome is likely to prove invaluable for solving the mystery of the brown pandas of Qinling. "There are over 125 genes known to affect pigmentation in mice," says Hopi Hoekstra, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and an expert on pigmentation in mammals. "There are definitely a good handful of candidate genes you could sequence in the two morphs and look for differences," she says. So far, Jun Wang and his colleagues have studied the sequence of some 50 genes known to be involved in pigmentation. A comparison of brown and black pandas at Qinling and other sites should shed light on the genetic basis of this rare variety, he says.

Sea Eagle Tourism in Scottland

January 18, 2010  www.treehugger.com

Endangered sea eagles have been making a slow recovery in recent years, successfully breeding in the wild after 25 years of aid from conservationists. This has also proved to be quite a boon to the Scottish island of Mull, which is home to nearly half of Scotland's sea eagle population--thanks to interest in the eagles and the birds' recovery. 20 pairs are now nesting on the small Scottish island, and the Mull Eagle Watch Partnership said 10 chicks had fledged from seven nests during last year's breeding season. 6,000 people a year were visiting the island to see the eagles, which had boosted the local economy by £2m. When people come to Mull, they stay visiting a "viewing hide" on Scottish Forestry Commission land, for a fee. My understanding of the arrangement is that half of the money from the fee goes to the Forestry Commission, and half is given directly to the Mull community, through the Mull Eagle Watch program. This is an ideal model of conservation and tourism coexisting with a distinct monetary benefit for successful conservation. It's an interesting model, and one that seems to work mostly because the community is small and largely autonomous. Funds go to conservation and the community. Such a model wouldn't likely work at the moment in a place like Galapagos -- the epitome of conservation and tourism challenging one another. Ecuador is poorer than Scotland and depends on money generated from tourism to bolster its mainland economy, and the tourism industry on Galapagos attracts too many migrant workers to sustainably balance the islands' equilibrium.

WWF Says Only 50 Wild Tigers Left in China

January 19, 2010  www.physorg.com

The Chinese Year of the Tiger begins on February 14. WWF’s conservation director of biodiversity in china, Zhu Chunguan, says, "If there are no urgent measures taken, there is a high risk that the wild tiger will go extinct." It is estimated that only around 50 tigers are left in the entire nation's wilderness. The SFA says around 20 Siberian tigers remain in China's northeast, 20 Bengal tigers in Tibet, and 10 Indochinese tigers in the southwest of the nation. "As for the South China tiger, after the late 1970s, there has been no concrete evidence to show that there are any left," Zhu said. (In the 1950s, there were about 4,000.)  The tiger is one of WWF’s top 10 species to watch in 2010, with possibly 3,200 of the animals left globally in the wild.

Animal Antifreeze Helps Survive Cold

January 19, 2010  www.nytimes.com  By Sean B. Carroll

The threat to life at low temperatures is not really cold, but ice. With cells and bodies composed mostly of water, ice is potentially lethal because its formation disrupts the balance between the fluids outside and inside of cells, which leads to their shrinkage and irreversible damage to tissues. Insects have therefore evolved all sorts of ways to avoid freezing. One strategy is to escape winter altogether through migration (like the monarch butterfly), but most insects remain in their local habitat and evade the ice by crawling into holes or burrows below the snow cover or, as some insect larvae do, by overwintering on the bottoms of lakes and ponds that do not completely freeze. But many insects, and other animals, defend themselves against direct exposure to subfreezing temperatures through biochemical ingenuity, by producing antifreeze.

The first animal antifreezes were identified several decades ago in the blood plasma of Antarctic fish by Arthur DeVries. The ocean around Antarctica is very cold, about 29 degrees Fahrenheit. It is salty enough to stay liquid several degrees below the freezing temperature of fresh water. The abundant ice particles floating in these waters are a hazard to fish because, if ingested, they can initiate ice formation in the gut and then — you have frozen fish sticks. Unless something prevents the ice crystals from growing. That is what the fish antifreeze proteins do. The tissues and bloodstream of about 120 species of fish belonging to the Notothenioidei family are full of antifreeze. These proteins have an unusual repeating structure that allows them to bind to ice crystals and to lower the minimum temperature at which the crystals can grow to about 28 degrees. That is just a bit below the minimum temperature of the Southern Ocean and about two full degrees lower than the freezing point of fish plasma that does not have antifreeze. This small margin of protection has had profound consequences. Antifreeze-bearing fish now dominate Antarctic waters.

Insects must actually survive much colder temperatures on land. Some, like the snow flea, can be found hopping about on snow banks when the temperature is as low as 20 degrees. The snow flea antifreeze proteins have an entirely different composition from those of antifreezes that have been isolated from other insects. Each insect’s antifreeze is a separate evolutionary invention. But insect innovation goes beyond antifreeze. To tolerate freezing, it is crucial that insects minimize the damage that freezing (and thawing) would normally cause. Insects have evolved a variety of cryoprotective substances. As winter approaches, many freeze-tolerant insects produce high concentrations of glycerol and other kinds of alcohol molecules. These substances don’t prevent freezing, but they slow ice formation and allow the fluids surrounding cells to freeze in a more controlled manner while the contents of the cells remain unfrozen. For maximum protection, some Arctic insects use a combination of such cryoprotectants and antifreezes to control ice formation, to protect cells and to prevent refreezing as they thaw. A long-standing challenge in human organ preservation has been precisely the problem that these insects have solved — how tissues can be frozen for a long time and then thawed out successfully. Research teams are now exploring how to apply insights from the animal world to the operating room.

Elephant Odyssey App

January 19, 2010  www.signonsandiego.com  BY MIKE LEE

SAN DIEGO — Elephant Odyssey is an interactive “app” that allows users to create food for elephants, change their environment and even get them to trumpet. It sells for 99 cents, 60 of them benefiting the zoo’s elephant programs in Africa. The goal of the game is to engage more people with the zoo’s newest exhibit — The Harry and Grace Steele Elephant Odyssey, which opened in May. The 7½-acre habitat is home to more than 35 species of animals, including elephants. “Games are an important part of connecting with our family audience,” said Damien Lasater, design manager for the San Diego Zoo. “We wanted to connect … not only through television and personal computers, but also mobile devices.” Go to elephantodyssey.com to learn more about elephant exhibit. Users of the iPhone can review the application at http://ow.ly/TmE3 on the iTunes store.

Gorillas Carry Malignant Malaria Parasite

January 19, 2010  today.uci.edu

The parasite that causes malignant malaria in humans has been detected in gorillas, along with 2 new species of malaria parasites, according to a study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study, lead by UC Irvine researcher, Francisco Ayala, also confirms that human malignant malaria, caused by Plasmodium falciparum, originated from a closely related parasite found in chimpanzees in equatorial Africa. P. falciparum is responsible for 85 percent of malignant malaria infections in humans and nearly all deaths from the disease. The researchers cautioned that increased contact between primates and humans – mostly because of logging and deforestation – creates a greater risk of new parasites being transmitted to humans. It also could further jeopardize endangered ape populations by spreading diseases to them. Finding P. falciparum in gorillas also complicates the challenge of eradicating malaria. “Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent each year toward ridding humans of malignant malaria. But success may be a pyrrhic victory, because we could be re-infected by gorillas – just as we were originally infected by chimps a few thousand years ago,” said Ayala.

The researchers analyzed fecal samples from 125 wild chimpanzees and 84 gorillas in Cameroon and tested blood samples from three gorillas in Gabon. They identified two new closely related species of malaria parasites – Plasmodium GorA and Plasmodium GorB – that infect gorillas. The animals also were found to harbor P. falciparum, previously thought to only infect humans. In August, Ayala and colleagues published a study reporting that P. falciparum had been transmitted to humans from chimpanzees perhaps as recently as 5,000 years ago – and possibly through a single mosquito. Before then, malaria’s origin had been unclear. Chimpanzees were known to carry the parasite Plasmodium reichenowi, but most scientists assumed the two parasites had existed separately in humans and chimpanzees for the last 5 million years. The discovery could aid the development of a vaccine for malaria, which each year causes 2 million infant deaths and sickens about 500 million people, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. It also furthers understanding of how infectious diseases such as HIV, SARS, and avian and swine flu can be transmitted to humans from animals.

Cellphone Philanthropy

January 19, 2010  www.nytimes.com  By STEPHANIE STROM

A push by celebrities, NFL athletes and Michelle Obama encouraging text-message donations for earthquake relief in Haiti has contributed to a fund-raising bonanza for the American Red Cross. As of late Sunday, the organization had collected pledges of $103 million, about $22 million of which came through the text-messaging program. The Red Cross is the biggest relief organization with a system in place to receive such donations, which are sent by cellphone to 90999 and billed at $10 each to the cellphone account. The organization had experimented with mobile fund-raising in the past with limited success, but the State Department stepped in with assistance this time. It was the State Department that initiated the text-messaging program shortly after the earthquake hit, said Tony Aiello, chief executive of mGive.com, which processes the contributions for the program. It normally takes a couple of weeks to get a text- message-based giving program up and running, but after the State Department placed a call to James Eberhard, chairman of mGive’s parent company, the process was streamlined. MGive also waived the fees it would normally charge the Red Cross for processing texted donations. Some mobile carriers are similarly waiving their fees and pledging to forward the money donated right away, rather than waiting until customers pay their bills. “It really has been the quality of the call to action that made a difference,” Mr. Aiello said. “When you’re talking about the government in the form of the State Department and the White House working together with an organization like the Red Cross, they’re able to get so many media outlets and individuals to get behind the program.” Mobile charitable donations have grown as the use of cellphones has expanded. Mobile donations for Hurricane Katrina, for instance, were $250,000, said Jim Manis, chief executive of the Mobile Giving Foundation, a nonprofit that works with wireless companies and charities to set standards for text-message donations. While the growth is generally seen as a boon for charities, there have been some questions about whether it reduces individual donations because of the $10 set amount.

Yasuni National Park – South American Hotspot

January 19, 2010  www.eurekalert.org

AUSTIN, Texas — Dr. Peter English of The University of Texas and colleagues have documented that Yasuní National Park, in the core of the Ecuadorian Amazon, is the most diverse area in South America, and possibly the world. Proposed oil development projects represent the greatest threat to Yasuní and its biodiversity. The study is published in the open-access scientific journal PLoS ONE. "We have so far documented 596 bird species occurring in Yasuni," said English, 150 amphibian species to date, 1,100 tree species and most impressive, a projected 100,000 insect species. According to entomologist Dr. Terry Erwin, that is the highest estimated diversity per unit area in the world for any plant or animal group. At the 1,600-acre Tiputini Biodiversity Station on the northern edge of the park there are 247 amphibian and reptile species, 550 bird species and around 200 mammal species.

Compulsive Behavior Gene in Dogs

January 19, 2010  www.nytimes.com  By MARK DERR

Researchers studied Doberman pinschers that curled up into balls, sucking their flanks for hours, and found that these dogs shared a gene. Dr. Nicholas Dodman, director of the animal behavior clinic at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University and colleagues scanned and compared the genomes of 94 Doberman pinschers that sucked their flanks, blankets or both behaviors with those of 73 Dobermans that did neither. They also studied the pedigrees of all the dogs for complex patterns of inheritance. They identified a spot on canine chromosome 7 that contains the gene CDH2 (Cadherin 2), which showed variation in the genetic code when the sucking and nonsucking dogs were compared. They then determined which protein the gene coded. It produced one of the proteins called cadherins, that are found throughout the animal kingdom and are apparently involved in cell alignment, adhesion and signaling. Cadherins have also been recently associated with autism spectrum disorder, which includes repetitive and compulsive behaviors. Dr. Dodman and Dr. Edward I. Ginns report these findings in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

Rough estimates by Dr. Karen L. Overall, a veterinarian specializing in animal behavior at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, suggest that up to 8 percent of dogs in America — 5-6 million animals — exhibit compulsive behaviors, like fence-running, pacing, spinning, tail-chasing, snapping at imaginary flies, licking, chewing, barking. Males with the problem outnumber females three to one in dogs, whereas in cats the ratio is reversed. Other domestic animals, notably cats and horses, as well as some of the animals at zoos, exhibit compulsive behaviors, including locomotion disorders like stall walking in horses and pacing in captive polar bears, tigers and other carnivores used to ranging across large territories. Although antidepressants, particularly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and clomipramine, a tricyclic antidepressant, and behavior modification have proved effective at controlling compulsive behavior in dogs and people, they do not appear to correct underlying pathologies or causes. Those causes are likely to be as varied as the compulsive behaviors and as complex as the interplay of multiple genes and the environment. “Stress and anxiety, as well as physical trauma and illness, can trigger repetitive behavior that then takes on a life of its own,” Dr. Ginns said. But he believes that in many cases there is an underlying genetic predisposition that responds to environmental stimuli in such a way that once-normal behavior turns into something pathological. Those genetic dispositions may differ markedly between different behaviors.

Hippo Returns to Resort in Montenegro

January 20, 2010  www.setimes.com

PLAVNIKA, Montenegro -- Nikica, an 11-year-old, two-ton hippo made international headlines on January 12th when her compound on Skadar Lake flooded and allowed her to swim over the barrier and wander into nearby villages. Authorities in Montenegro, decided not to harm Nikica unless she attacked somebody. "When the water warms up and does not seem so threatened, she will return of her own free will," said one zookeeper. "She loves mud more than life itself." Although able to survive on a diet of grass, she loves bread, and began heading home when she got hungry. Dragan Pejovic, owner of the resort said Nikica has been known to eat as much as 50kg of bread a day. Nine days after her escape, Nikica returned to her pen, walking through the open door.

St. Louis Zoo Asian Elephant is Pregnant

January 20, 2010  www.stltoday.com   By Diane Toroian Keaggy

ST LOUIS, MO -- Asian elephant Rani is pregnant and is expected to deliver in early summer 2011. The Zoo's only bull elephant, Raja, is the father. “Even though her due date is over a year away, we have already begun to prepare for Rani’s delivery,” said mammal curator Martha Fischer. “We will modify Rani’s regular exercise plan and add in stretches and exercises specifically designed to get her ready for the rigorous delivery.” Rani, 14, gave birth to Jade three years ago. Rani lives with Ellie, Jade and the rest of the elephant herd at the Zoo’s River’s Edge habitat. She and her mother Ellie arrived at the Saint Louis Zoo in 2001 from the Jacksonville Zoo, where Rani was born in 1996.

Living Desert Euthanizes Injured Zebra Foal

January 20, 2010  www.mydesert.com  By K. Kaufmann 

PALM DESERT, California -- A Grevy's zebra foal, born October 9, 2009, had to be euthanized Tuesday at The Living Desert after zoo personnel discovered the animal had a severe compound fracture in its right rear leg. When keepers discovered the animal limping, Dr. Kevin Leiske, the park's veterinarian was called in. The decision to euthanize the animal came after the foal was sedated and X-rayed and zoo officials consulted with an equine specialist and two equine surgeons.  Leiske said, “The prognosis for recovery was virtually zero. To prevent further suffering, the decision was made to euthanize him.”  Zoo officials are not sure how the injury occurred. The foal's body is being sent to a regional animal health agency where a necropsy will be performed.

Glenn Goodman is New Gulf Breeze Zoo Director

January 20, 2010  www.navarrepress.com
A former general curator at a zoo in Georgia, Goodman was hired on by Eric Mogensen to be the zoo’s new director of the Gulf Breeze Zoo. Mogensen purchased the former Zoo Northwest Florida from Animal Park Inc., last November. “We’re working to get the place cleaned up so we can open it back up to the public,” Goodman said. “It’s been closed for six months now and we’re doing some cosmetic changes to it.” Such changes included building an 8-foot perimeter fence, remodeling the gift shop, rearranging some animals and working to complete a new Australian outback exhibit. Goodman was a former employee of Mogensen’s prior to working in Georgia, as was the zoo’s new curator of animals, Kate Wanko. Wanko used to be the collections manager at Mogensen’s Reston Zoo in Northern Virginia.

Terry Maple’s Plan for a Green Palm Beach Zoo

January 20, 2010  www.palmbeachpost.com  By ANDREW ABRAMSON 

WEST PALM BEACH — The 23-acre Palm Beach Zoo at Dreher Park is becoming a model of energy sustainability. The new $5 million Melvin J. and Claire Levine Animal Care Complex is the first in the country to be LEED-certified, the top rating from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system. Florida Power and Light provided the zoo with a $100,000 grant for 80 solar panels on the roof that provide about 13 percent of the building's energy use. The zoo is trying to get another $100,000 to double the amount of solar panels, with the goal of raising solar energy use to between 30 percent and 50 percent. Terry Maple, president of the Palm Beach Zoo, said that while writing a book about the environment, he realized zoos needed a green injection. "I began to realize that zoos, while committed to wildlife conservation, had not really discovered the whole environmental issue nor committed to the resolution of certain problems that were posed by the environment. We needed a broader understanding and a broader commitment if we were truly going to be leaders in conservation." In addition to the solar panels, Maple asked the waste management company to outfit the zoo with enough recycling containers so it could have one recycling bin for every garbage can. Previously, the ratio was about 1 to 5. Maple hopes that the zoo's LEED certification is only the beginning of a much larger master plan. He wants to work with the city to revitalize Dreher Park as an eco-park. "We can give it a position in the city where it is the model park working with schools, the city and other stakeholders to try to lead the way to have a more environmentally friendly park," Maple said.

Rain and Tourism in San Diego

January 20, 2010  www.signonsandiego.com  By Jennifer Davies

While many tourists from less-inviting climates treasure San Diego’s weather, January is not a particularly busy month for the tourism business. According to the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau, last January there were about 1.12 million overnight visitors. In July of last year, in the height of the tourist season, there were about 1.67 million overnight visitors. Because January is not a make-or-break month for most hotels, Morrison said the rain shouldn’t hurt them too much. Also, hotels with business travelers are impervious to the weather.

Changsha Plans a Giant Panda Breeding Base

January 20, 2010  www.chinadaily.com.cn

CHANGSHA -- Four young adult giant pandas are expected to arrive in central China's Changsha on May 1, as the first inhabitants of China's fifth giant panda breeding base. Construction of the giant panda facility was completed on Sunday, according to Xie Zhongsan, director of administration office of the Changsha Zoo. "We've already signed a cooperation agreement with Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Base, and we are awaiting the forestry authorities' approval of the new breeding base," Xie said. He said the opening date of the base would be confirmed once the plan was approved. "We plan to arrange for two to three panda experts to take care of the four giant pandas and we'll learn how to help them breed," Xie said. China's four other breeding bases are the Beijing Zoo Breeding Base, Sichuan Wolong Breeding Base, Sichuan Chengdu Breeding Base and northwest China's Shaanxi Qinling Breeding Base.

Arabian Sand Cat Kittens at Cincinnati Zoo

January 20, 2010  www.zandavisitor.com  By Tiffany Barnes

CINCINNATI, OH -- The Cincinnati Zoo’s newest additions - Arabian sand cat kittens - are now on display with their mother in the Zoo’s Cat House. The kittens, a male and female, were born on October 29 to mother, Jala and father, Naji. This is the second litter from the breeding pair from the Al Wabra Reserve in Qatar. The breeding pair was selected as genetically valuable cats from the Species Survival Plan (SSP) and approved for breeding at the Zoo. These are the third and fourth sand cat kittens of this subspecies born at the Cincinnati Zoo. Only 26 Arabian sand cats currently live in captivity in the United States. Also known as the “Sand Dune Cat”, this species is found in arid areas from North Africa to Russia. They have fur on their feet to walk on hot sands and are unique because they dig their own burrows to make nests and avoid the heat of the desert.

Chester Zoo’s £225m Natural Vision Plan

January 20, 2010  www.ellesmereportpioneer.co.uk  by Barry Ellams

As a passionate conservationist committed to the preservation and welfare of countless species and the director of Britain’s second biggest tourist attraction, Professor Gordon McGregor Reid is the force behind a planned £225m expansion of Chester Zoo. Prof Reid just completed his tenure as president of World Aquariums and Zoo Association (WAZA), and is ready to take Chester Zoo into the 21st century. The masterplan will make Chester Zoo an ambassador for the animal kingdom and act as a conservation ark to reclaim lost natural habitat. The zoo aims to expand from 37 hectares to 50 hectares. Phase One, which has been submitted to Cheshire West and Chester Council, is budgeted at £80m and the full plan will cost more than £225m. Phase One will increase visitor numbers by about a third, to 1.7 million, with the total visitor numbers approaching 2.2 million when the masterplan is complete. The zoo’s expansion is expected to create 650 new jobs and create an extra £300m of spending in the region in the next 20 years. Prof Reid said, “Natural Vision will help inform and educate our visitors in major global issues like climate change/deforestation/destruction of habitat/endangered animal and plant life and create a truly world-class wildlife attraction representing the very best animal welfare practice." The Heart of Africa biodome is planned to open in 2014 and the current timetable for the full masterplan is 2024. The biodome will be a third larger in size than the Eden tropical dome, 180 meters long by 90 meters wide and 34m tall at its highest point, and have one mile of footpaths. It will incorporate a river ride that will provide unique internal and external views of the rainforest and the animal exhibits, plus seating and refreshments. “Heart of Africa” will be a world-class, unique animal exhibit that will re-create a Congo Rainforest environment. It will house a large number of mixed species animal exhibits linked to the Congo, including gorillas, chimpanzee, okapi, mandrill, red river hog, pygmy hippo, as well as free-flying birds with internal and external paddocks representing the very best in animal welfare.

Natural Vision aspires to be one of the country’s leading educational tool’s bringing the natural world closer to children than ever before. “The zoo offers emotional engagement. Families can enjoy the sights, the smell, the experience of seeing animals at first hand,” he said. “It engages with children who are becoming increasingly dissociated from the natural world and we need these young minds to help save the planet. The zoo is one of the few places that is as exciting as any fantasy world and we want young people to celebrate and be in awe of nature. Natural Vision will have a strong sustainable and conservation educational message that will link to our international conservation projects.” With 1.3 million visitors annually, Chester Zoo is already the largest wildlife attraction in Britain and the second largest paying attraction in the UK behind the Tower of London.  Reid feels, “Natural Vision will be a major catalyst for Chester to position itself as a destination resort utilizing its other major assets such as Chester Cathedral and other heritage/leisure attractions. We also need to improve the links between Chester and the regional airports to support the Cheshire Resort aspect.”

Origin of Madagascar’s Animals

January 20, 2010  www.purdue.edu  By Greg Kline

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- How did the lemurs, flying foxes and narrow-striped mongooses get to the large, isolated island of Madagascar sometime after 65 million years ago? Professors Matthew Huber of Purdue and Jason Ali of the University Hong Kong say that the prevailing flow of ocean currents between Africa and Madagascar millions of years could have allowed animals to hitch rides on natural rafts blown out to sea. The findings, based on a three-year computer simulation of ancient ocean currents, is published in the journal Nature. Rafting would have involved animals being washed out to sea during storms, either on trees or large vegetation mats, and floating to the mini-continent, perhaps while in a state of seasonal torpor or hibernation. Once the migrants arrived on the world’s fourth largest island, their descendants evolved into the distinctive, and sometimes bizarre forms seen today. Madagascar has more unique species of animals than any location except Australia, which is 13 times larger. The island's population includes 70 kinds of lemurs found nowhere else and about 90 percent of the other mammals, amphibians and reptiles are unique to its 226,656 square miles.

The question has always been how the animals arrived there in the first place. Madagascar appears to have been an island for at least 120 million years, and its animal population began arriving much later, sometime after 65 million years ago. The raft hypothesis, which scientists refer to as “dispersal,” has always presented one big problem: Currents and prevailing winds between Madagascar and Africa flow south and southwest, away from, not toward, the island. But professor Huber was able to show that 20 million to 60 million years ago, when the ancestors of present-day animals likely arrived on Madagascar, currents flowed east, toward the island. Climate modeling showed that currents were strong enough -- like a liquid jet stream in peak periods -- to get the animals to the island without dying of thirst. The trip appears to have been well within the realm of possibility for small animals whose naturally low metabolic rates may have been even lower if they were in torpor or hibernating.

Takahe Has Eyelid Surgery

January 20, 2010  www.odt.co.nz

A young takahe whose eyelid was torn in a fight with an older member of the endangered species has been patched up and is recovering in an animal hospital. Eight-week-old Turnbull, one of about 250 of the flightless alpine birds left in the world, was flown to Massey University's wildlife hospital in Palmerston North after sustaining the injury at the Burwood Bush rearing unit in Te Anau. He underwent surgery today and vets are hopeful of him making a full recovery, so he can be released into the wild.

Mating Call Ringtones for Valentine’s Day

January 20, 2010  enature.com 

ENature has released a special collection of Valentine's Day mating call ringtones. The free ringtones include mating calls from well known species such as the coyote, African lion and elk, as well as appealing lesser-known species such as New Jersey's Pine Barrens Treefrog and the Snowy Tree Cricket. The sounds were recorded in the wild and many then carefully engineered to remove background noise to make the call or song as clear as possible. "We thought people would enjoy learning how various species use sound to find a mate," said Tom McGuire, eNature.com's publisher. Each ringtone on the site is accompanied by interesting details about the animal that produces it, such as:

  • Female elk are attracted to the bull elk with the loudest mating call (or bugle).
  • Lions can mate as much as forty times a day for several consecutive days.
  • Steller seal lion females mate again within two weeks of giving birth.
  • Like a lot humans, chipmunks are more interested in food than sex.
  • Snowy Tree Crickets lay their eggs in their own excrement (ick!).
    Mating calls are the first of a series of ringtones that eNature.com plans to release. Coming ringtone sets include Endangered Species, Dangerous and Poisonous Species and Backyard Birds.

    Recession’s Effects on San Diego’s Nonprofits

    January 20, 2010  www.signonsandiego.com 

    A study by UCSD of more than 125 of the region’s largest nonprofit and philanthropic organizations found that 31 percent reported very negative effects of the recession, and 58 percent somewhat negative. With notable increases in the demand for services that provide shelter and counseling, nonprofits have to do more with less. 43 percent of nonprofits have resorted to layoffs, 48 percent have used hiring freezes and 66 percent have frozen salaries. George Brooks-Gonyer, chief financial officer of the San Diego Natural History Museum, said the museum has had to do all of that to stay afloat. As its leaders saw the recession coming, the museum imposed salary reductions of 15 percent for senior management and 10 percent for the staff. “Staff were loyal to the mission and they understood what we were trying to do,” he said. Not all nonprofits have struggled in recent years. “We had a good year last year,” said Serge Dedina, executive director of Wildcoast, a coastal and marine conservation organization. “We really prepared for it before it happened. We evaluated everything we do and cut costs even more.” Wildcoast is part of the 34 percent of nonprofits and philanthropic organizations that increased revenue in 2009. Dedina said that as a result of planning ahead in 2007, Wildcoast increased programs, staffing and revenue by 10 percent in 2009. The organization got more aggressive in its fundraising and worked to assure donors that they would get good philanthropic value for their dollar. “A lot of the fundraising is really about making sure that our donors really understand that we care about them,” Dedina said. “Every donor gets a callback ‘thank you’ from our staff.”

    Climate Change Threatens Sundarbans Tigers

    January 20, 2010  www.worldwildlife.org

    WASHINGTON, DC, January 20, 2010 – One of the world’s largest tiger populations could disappear by the end of this century as rising sea levels caused by climate change destroy their habitat along the coast of Bangladesh in an area known as the Sundarbans, according to a new study by WWF. The study, entitled “Sea Level Rise and Tigers: Predicted Impacts to Bangladesh’s Sundarbans Mangroves” was published in the journal Climatic Change. The Sundarbans, a UNESCO World Heritage Site shared by India and Bangladesh at the mouth of the Ganges River, is the world’s largest single block of mangrove forest. It provides habitat for between 250 and 400 tigers, as well as more than 50 reptile species, 120 commercial fish species, 300 bird species and 45 mammal species. While their exact numbers are unclear, the tigers living in the Sundarbans of India and Bangladesh may represent as many as 10 percent of all the remaining wild tigers (estimated number is 3,200)  Using the rates of sea level rise projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its Fourth Assessment Report (2007), the study says an 11-inch sea level rise may be realized around 2070, at which point tigers will be unlikely to survive. However, recent research suggests that the seas may rise even more swiftly than what was predicted in the 2007 IPCC assessment.

    Possible Federal Ban on Invasive Snakes

    January 20, 2010  greeninc.blogs.nytimes.com   By JOHN COLLINS RUDOLF

    Responding to growing concern over the spread of Burmese pythons in the Everglades, the USFWS proposed Wednesday to ban both the import and interstate transport of the python and eight other snake species, all large constrictors. The proposal would add four species of python, four species of anaconda and the boa constrictor to a list of “injurious species” regulated by federal law, making their import and their transportation across state lines a misdemeanor. Violators would face fines and up to six months’ imprisonment. The Burmese python poses an enormous threat to native wildlife in the Everglades, and the first ones to enter the area are believed to have been former pets that were released into the wild. Today an estimated 10,000 to 100,000 Burmese pythons live in the Everglades, according to George Horne, deputy executive director of the South Florida Water Management District. The proposed ban would do little to halt the spread of the Burmese python breeding population in Florida, but it would help prevent even more destructive species, like the green anaconda and the northern African rock python (both can grow larger than the Burmese python) from becoming established in the state. The proposal will be published in the Federal Register in February along with an economic and environmental analysis of its impact, and the public will then have 60 days to comment.  

    Yellowstone’s World Heritage Site Status

    January 21, 2010  www.thefederalregister.com

    The National Park Service (NPS) announces the publication of a Draft Progress Report to the World Heritage Committee for Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. Comments must be received on or before February 22, 2010. The draft report summarizes the status of several issues, including threats to bison, threats to cutthroat trout, water quality, and visitor use impacts, which raised the concerns of the World Heritage Committee in 1995 and led to the park's inclusion on the List of World Heritage in Danger that year. The World Heritage Committee removed Yellowstone National Park from the In Danger List in 2003, and at that time requested that the United States submit a report to the Committee on the status of these issues every two years. Persons wishing to comment may mail comments to Suzanne Lewis, Superintendent, Yellowstone National Park, P.O. Box 168, Yellowstone National Park, WY 821900168. They also may comment via email to yell_world_heritage@nps.gov  (include name and return address in the email message). Comments must be received on or before February 22, 2010.

    Riverbanks Zoo’s New Koala Joey

    January 21, 2010  www.thestate.com

    Riverbanks Zoo has a new baby koala named Oliver. The joey was born in April 2009 and spent the first seven months in his mother, Lottie’s, pouch. This is the third joey born at Riverbanks since the koalas arrived in 2003. The first joey arrived in 2004, but died of a respiratory ailment. The second baby, Oz, was born in 2007. Lottie gave birth to all three of Riverbanks’ joeys, with three different fathers. The current adult male at Riverbanks, Jimmy, came from the Los Angeles Lottie and a second Riverbank’s female, Killarney were born in an Australian animal park and sent to Riverbanks to celebrate South Carolina’s sister-state relationship with Queensland, Australia. Few U.S. zoos have koalas in their collection, and most of those are progeny of a successful breeding program at the San Diego Zoo.

    S.F. Zoo Still Trying to Rebound

    January 21, 2010  online.wsj.com  By Ben Worthen

    Over the past six months, the San Francisco Zoo has attracted 401,327 visitors, with the portion of paid visits down 11% from the year-earlier period. The zoo charges $15 for admission, though San Francisco residents get in for $12. Children receive reduced admissions or get in free depending on their age. In contrast, nationwide zoo attendance is up. Zoos in Ohio, Missouri and Oregon all announced a record number of visitors in 2009 as families turned to more affordable trips, he says, though a drop in donations and other revenue sources has caused many zoos to cut expenses. Attendance at the Oakland Zoo was up 5% in 2009 and revenue climbed 9%, says Nancy Filippi, the zoo's director of marketing. Between 2002 and 2007, San Francisco opened cutting-edge natural habitats for lemurs, African plain animals including giraffes, zebras and ostriches, and a pair of orphaned grizzly bears. Largely because of these investments, attendance peaked at 1.1 million visitors in 2007. But after the 2007 tiger attack, attendance dropped. The zoo later spent $850,000 to upgrade animal enclosures, tapping a line of credit to fund the projects. For the zoo's 2008 fiscal year, which ended that June, it lost $2.2 million, or about 10% of its budget. By mid-2008, attendance was rising, but the recession hit and corporate donations, one of the zoo's largest sources of revenue, dropped almost 75% in 2009. The zoo also wasn't able to pay its utility bill. By June 2009, it had amassed a $1.2 million bill, which the city agreed to allow the zoo to repay over several years. Over the past 12 months, the zoo laid off some employees, furloughed others, and offered early retirement packages for some city employees who still worked there. It also made cuts to programs aimed at animal conservation, such as a program that bred bald eagles. In November, the zoo started closing at 4 p.m., an hour earlier than normal, largely because there aren't enough visitors late in the day. Thanks to last year's cuts, the zoo ended its 2009 fiscal year with a slight profit and recently paid off its $1.1 million line of credit. In one positive sign, the zoo has already received four corporate donations this year, ranging from $5,000 to $45,000.

    White-cheeked Gibbon Born at Minnesota Zoo

    January 21, 2010  www.startribune.com  By Paul Walsh

    The white-cheeked gibbon is one of 11 species of gibbon and are critically endangered. Born Dec. 27, the Minnesota Zoo’s new infant is being hand-raised by zoo animal care staff because her mother, Tia, has shown little interest in her since birth. Weighing 18.1 ounces at birth, she now weighs 23.6 ounces thanks to a healthy appetite. Zookeepers are putting mother and infant together twice a day for 30 minutes in hopes that mom will start to show some interest. The yet-to-be-named infant is housed directly next to Tia and father Bailey so they can see each other. This is the 10th gibbon born at the Minnesota Zoo, which is a participating member of the white-cheeked gibbon Species Survival Plan. She is the first female white-cheeked gibbon born in North America since 2006 and the fourth since 2002. Picture at www.startribune.com

    Australia’s Strategy to Save Tasmanian Devil

    January 21, 2010  www.physorg.com  by Talek Harris

    Starting this year, Australia will ship healthy Devils -- known for their fearsome shrieks and wild temperament -- to islands off Tasmania to create a back-up group in case the general population fails. Some 70 percent of Devils have already been lost to the infectious disease, which is spread by biting as they mate and fight over animal carcasses. "It's 100 percent fatal," said Mark Williams, a spokesman for Sydney's Taronga Zoo.  Experts have been gathering healthy Devils and breeding them in zoos for the past six years, developing an "insurance population" of 220. But the species was declared endangered last May, raising pressure for a more drastic approach. Save the Tasmanian Devil Program manager Andrew Sharman said they had weighed the risks of disturbing fragile island ecosystems with the animals, Australia's largest meat-eating marsupial. The program is studying Maria Island off Tasmania, as well as setting up "virtual islands" by fencing off areas untouched by the disease. "There's any number of examples around the world about island introductions that have gone wrong," Sharman said. "There's always going to be some risk involved in putting Devils on an island, but it's a case of the Devils or the island," said Peter McGlone of the Tasmanian Conservation Trust.    

    Eel Populations Crash in River Thames

    January 21, 2010  www.guardian.co.uk

    European eel populations in the river Thames have crashed by 98% in just five years. The eel, which has been a traditional east London dish for centuries, now appears to be vanishing from the capital's river, according to researchers from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL). Each year, ZSL's Tidal Thames Conservation Project places eel traps in a number of the river's tributaries, to catch the fish and allow scientists to record numbers before setting them free. While 1,500 were captured in the traps in 2005, just 50 were recorded last year. The eels are thought to take up to three years migrating as larvae from the Sargasso Sea to European rivers, where they spend up to 20 years before making the 4,000-mile return journey across the Atlantic to spawn and die. European eels and flounders were the first species to re-colonize the Thames estuary after it was considered "biologically dead" in the 1960s, and there are fears the rapid collapse of the eel population could affect other species in the still-fragile ecosystem. Other rivers in the UK are also seeing declines in eel populations, ZSL said.

    Elephant At Dickerson Park Zoo Treated For Mycobacterium

    January 21, 2010  www.news-leader.com  By Cory De Vera

    Ol' C.C., an Asian elephant at Dickerson Park Zoo, was caught in the wild and is about 60 years old. She will be going off exhibit for nine months to undergo treatment for a mycobacterial infection, which could be tuberculosis or bovis. "At this time, she shows no symptoms, only that at some point in her lifetime (perhaps even 20-30 years ago) she has been exposed to this 
    bacterium," said the zoo's veterinarian, Erica Wilson. Staff discovered the infection during a routine saline trunk wash, which is done to monitor for active shedding of various mycobacteria, in addition to blood tests that monitor for the bacteria's presence. Annual testing is required by the USDA at zoos housing elephants. Wilson said, "It is unknown what might cause a latent mycobacteria to move out of a latent stage; it could simply be age." Wilson said her research indicated that elephants that have undergone the antibiotic treatment Ol' C.C. will receive have a high success rate of eventually having blood tests that test negative for the infection.

    Captive Wildlife Safety Act – Proposed Information Collection

    January 21, 2010 Federal Register: Volume 75, Number 13

    The USFWS plans to ask the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to approve the information collection (IC) described below. This IC is scheduled to expire on June 30, 2010. We may not conduct or sponsor and a person is not required to respond to a collection of information unless it displays a currently valid OMB control number. To ensure that we are able to consider your comments on this IC, we must receive them by March 22, 2010.

    The Captive Wildlife Safety Act (CWSA) amends the Lacey Act by making it illegal to import, export, buy, sell, transport, receive, or acquire, in interstate or foreign commerce, live lions, tigers, leopards, snow leopards, clouded leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, or cougars, or any hybrid combination of any of these species, unless certain exceptions are met. There are several exceptions to the prohibitions of the CWSA, including accredited wildlife sanctuaries. There is no requirement for wildlife sanctuaries to submit applications to qualify for the accredited wildlife sanctuary exemption. Wildlife sanctuaries themselves will determine if they qualify. To qualify, they must meet all of the following criteria:

    1. Approval by the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a corporation that is exempt from taxation under section 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, which is described in sections 501(c)(3) and 170(b)(1)(A)(vi) of that code.
    2. Do not engage in commercial trade in the prohibited wildlife species including offspring, parts, and products.
    3. Do not propagate the prohibited wildlife species.
    4. Have no direct contact between the public and the prohibited wildlife species.
    The basis for this information collection is the recordkeeping requirement that we place on accredited wildlife sanctuaries. We require accredited wildlife sanctuaries to maintain complete and accurate records of any possession, transportation, acquisition, disposition, importation, or exportation of the prohibited wildlife species as defined in the CWSA (50 CFR 14, subpart K). Records must be up to date and include: (1) the names and addresses of persons to or from whom any prohibited wildlife species has been acquired, imported, exported, purchased, sold, or otherwise transferred; and (2) the dates of these transactions. Accredited wildlife sanctuaries must:
    5. Maintain these records for 5 years.
     Make these records accessible to Service officials for inspection at reasonable hours.
    6. Copy these records for Service officials, if requested.
    7. Whether or not the collection of information is necessary, including whether or not the information will have practical utility;
    8. The accuracy of our estimate of the burden for this collection of information;
    9.  Ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and
    10. Ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents.
    Comments that you submit in response to this notice are a matter of public record. We will include or summarize each comment in our request to OMB to approve this IC. Before including your address, phone number, email address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment, including your personal identifying information, may be made publicly available at any time. While you can ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

    To request additional information about this IC, contact Hope Grey by telephone at (703) 3582482.

    San Diego Zoo Mapped by Google

    January 21, 2010  www.startribune.com   Posted by Randy Salas

    The San Diego Zoo has become the first U.S. zoo to be "mapped" by Google Maps' Street View tool. Google created the feature by using Trike, a tricycle mounted with cameras and GPS equipment created by Dan Ratner. To see a Street View of the San Diego Zoo, enter "San Diego Zoo" at Google Maps, and then drag the yellow-figure Street View icon in the upper left corner onto the aerial view of the park. Faces of visitors are blurred out in the San Diego Zoo application, but all of the animals and other sights are sharply detailed.

    Improving Access to Research

    January 22, 2010  www.sciencemag.org

    Science journals started publishing online 15 years ago. Last week, the U.S. House Science and Technology Committee's Roundtable on Scholarly Publishing released a report arguing that journal articles derived from federal research funding should be made publicly available as quickly as practicable—generally in a year or less after publication—and in ways that will improve scholarship by maximizing the scope for interoperability across articles, among disciplines, and internationally. Currently, there is no consistency regarding which version of an article is freely available. The report also asserts that any successful scheme for public access must provide methods for permanent public access. The report calls for each U.S. funding agency to develop public access policies that make the best sense in each particular academic niche. The report envisions a coordinating and guiding role for the U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy, through the establishment of an advisory group including researchers, publishers, librarians, university administrators, and the public. It also calls for the development of technological standards that would allow researchers and others to search across distributed networks of information sources, thereby facilitating discovery and the generation of new knowledge.

    Gorilla Games

    January 22, 2010  news.bbc.co.uk

    Dr Joanne Tanner and Professor Richard Byrne watched gorillas play games at San Francisco Zoo over a period of five years. They found that gorillas like to keep games going and even give younger apes a fair chance to play. "An older and more skilled gorilla seeming to realize that if it used all of its potential, the younger one wouldn't be able to compete, so the older gorilla would slow down the pace." The scientists said this kind of shared activity and joint attention with another person begins around nine months of age in humans. Dr Tanner said: "Though the age at which gorilla games begin may be later in gorillas than in humans, and may depend on the challenges and artefacts available in a particular group's habitat, gorillas definitely enjoy the same kind of sporting competition we do."  The research has been published by the journal Animal Cognition.

    New Book - Rewilding the World

    January 22, 2010  www.nytimes.com   By Dwight Garner

    In a new book by Caroline Fraser, conservation is seen as a matter of managing people. Proponents of rewilding, a relatively new ecological idea that stresses the restoration of animal habitats and the importance of migration corridors, argue that healthy ecosystems need large carnivores.  he people who have to coexist with these animals tend to be less enthusiastic about it. The three central requirements of rewilding are sometimes called the 3 "C's": "Cores, Corridors and Carnivores". Cores are national parks and wildlife refuges that already exist. Corridors are links among these cores. (Important because isolation and fragmentation of wilderness erode biodiversity.)  Carnivores are important because large carnivores regulate other predators and prey, exercising an influence on the ecosystem far out of proportion to their numbers, their protection and reintroduction is crucial. One example of a rewilding project is the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, or Y2Y. It proposes to provide corridors between those two areas in the United States and Canada, allowing wolves and other animals to travel freely between them. Fraser's book, “Rewilding the World” examines Y2Y and many other projects, and the human aspect. People are hard-wired to be fearful of large carnivores. What’s more, it’s hard for the poor to see the economic advantage of rewilding. Humans don’t like conservationists telling them what they can and can’t do with the land that surrounds them. As 
    one conservationist points out to Ms. Fraser, “Conservation is about managing people. It’s not about managing wildlife.”

    Pneumonia Outbreak in Montana Bighorn Sheep Herd

    January 22, 2010  www.missoulian.com   By ROB CHANEY

    MISSOULA, Montana -- The deadly pneumonia outbreak in West Riverside's bighorn sheep herd has spread, prompting wildlife officials to increase the number of animals to be culled. "It looks like we'll have to kill about 90 to 95 sheep, rather than the 60 to 65 we were hoping to take," Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokeswoman Vivica Crowser said on Thursday. "Some sheep east of the containment zone boundary were exhibiting symptoms, so we've had to expand that containment zone farther to the east." Between 160 and 180 bighorns lived in the mountains on either side of the Blackfoot River north of Bonner before the outbreak was discovered last week. FWP wardens had killed 60 sheep as of Wednesday. The sheep had become regular visitors to yards and streets in the community about seven miles east of Missoula. The disease usually kills 80 to 90 percent of infected herds, and there is no known vaccine or cure for wild sheep. Hopefully other bighorn herds around Evaro, Rock Creek and the Bearmouth area will avoid infection.

    Federal Inquiry into Arizona Jaguar's Death

    January 22, 2010  www.nytimes.com   by Leslie Kaufman

    In February, 2009, a 118-pound male jaguar nicknamed Macho B was captured in a leg-hold snare in the mountains near Nogales, Ariz. Although he appeared to be in fine health, his canine tooth was broken as a result. He was tranquilized, equipped with a radio collar and released. Days later it was found that Macho B was not moving, and he was recaptured and brought to the Phoenix zoo. Veterinarians there said he was suffering from irreversible kidney failure and euthanized him. Arizona’s Game and Fish Department repeatedly denied that the snare was intended for the jaguar and said it had been set for mountain lions or bears. But the outcry from wildlife advocates and local politicians led to several investigations, including a joint criminal inquiry by the law enforcement arm of the federal Fish and Wildlife Service, which is part of the Interior Department, and the Justice Department. In its report, the inspector general listed several violations by the Arizona employees. It said the trap was set in an area that the employees knew Macho B patrolled. By law they needed to notify the federal authorities before setting the trap and get a permit but did not do so. The employees also had a necropsy performed on the jaguar but not a full one, as would have been appropriate, the report said. Without the full necropsy it is impossible to know whether Macho B’s death was related to his being snared. In describing the jaguar’s capture as intentional, the report did not offer specific evidence. But it said that the United States attorney’s office in Tucson was in possession of the specifics related to the investigation. Tom Buckley, USFWS spokesman, said it was too early to know if any charges would be filed. The jaguar has been listed since 1997 as endangered, the highest level of peril for a wild species. Last week the Fish and Wildlife Service said it would take steps to designate and protect its habitat and draft a recovery plan.

    History and Future of Woolly Mammoth DNA Research

    January 22, 2010  live.psu.edu   By David Pacchioli

    The study of ancient DNA, which began in the mid-1980s, has always dealt with two problems. First, over hundreds and thousands of years, the DNA molecules of an extinct organism inevitably disintegrate, leaving only a mass of fragments. These fragments are then mashed up with other pieces of equally degraded DNA from the plants, animals and microbes that happened to die on, near, or inside the dead body. Using new sequencing technology, Penn State University scientist Stephen Schuster and Webb Miller have been tackling the Woolly Mammoth genome for years. Their first paper together was published in the journal Science in December 2005. Working with Hendrik Poinar of McMaster University, they presented sequence data retrieved from a 28,000-year-old mammoth jawbone that had been frozen in the permafrost of northern Siberia. Using the present-day African elephant for comparison, they were able to identify 13 million DNA base pairs (a tiny fraction of the mammoth’s genome). More importantly, they were able to show that fully 50 percent of what they had gleaned was actual mammoth DNA, and not that of an environmental contaminant.

    Later, partnering with Tom Gilbert of the University of Copenhagen, they proved that DNA from hair, because it is encased in keratin, could be easily decontaminated -- "by shampooing and then soaking in ordinary household bleach." In September 2007, the three researchers, working with a large international consortium, published in Science the complete mitochondrial DNA for 10 woolly mammoths taken entirely from tufts of hair, some of them 50,000 years old. The samples had been stored in institutions, not frozen in ice. One of them came from the famous Adams mammoth, which had been kept at room temperature in a Russian museum for over 200 years.

    Then, last November, Miller and Schuster published in the journal Nature that they had sequenced over 4 billion bases of DNA, roughly 140 bases at a time. By comparing against their elephant guide, they could confirm that 3.3 billion of these bases were mammoth DNA. In all, they estimated they had accounted for 50 to 70 percent of the entire mammoth genome, with the rest waiting only for additional funding. These results, combined with earlier mtDNA study, yielded several new insights into mammoth -- and elephant -- evolution. Woolly mammoths apparently separated into two groups around 2 million years ago, and these groups eventually became genetically distinct sub-populations. One of these groups died out approximately 45,000 years ago, while the other lived on until the last Ice Age, about 10,000 years ago. The data also show a closer relationship between mammoths and modern-day elephants than was previously suspected: "Their genomes are over 99 percent overlapping." In that remaining fraction of a percent, Schuster and Miller have begun to look for the genetic causes of some of the mammoth’s unique traits, including its adaptation to extreme cold.

    In a Penn State press release, Schuster stated, "By deciphering this genome, we could, in theory, generate data that one day may help other researchers to bring the woolly mammoth back to life." Rapid advances in the practice of genetic engineering over the last five years make it inevitable that scientists will one day have at least the capability of cloning a mammoth. "The easiest way to proceed would be to alter the genome of a modern-day elephant by introducing mutations—inserting mammoth DNA at the approximately 400,000 sites (out of 4.5 billion) where elephants and mammoths differ. This hybrid genome would then be injected into an elephant embryo and carried to term in an elephant mother. "You would get what we call a mammothified elephant," Schuster said. "We have no idea what it would look like." A more radical approach would be to use a completely re-assembled mammoth genome to synthesize a set of actual mammoth chromosomes. Schuster points out, genomics pioneer Craig Venter has already succeeded in synthesizing the chromosome of a bacterium. 

    The real benefit of the mammoth genome project will be getting a better handle on just what forces killed off species. The sequencing data already rule out humans, Schuster says, at least for that first big wave of extinction 45,000 years ago. "There were no human hunters in Siberia at that time." The mtDNA data also have revealed a surprisingly low level of genetic diversity across mammoth populations, which may have made the species especially susceptible to environmental threats. "We’re actually thinking about three separate extinction events," Miller said. "The one at 45,000 years ago, the famous one at 10-to-12,000 years ago, and then there were actually some woolly mammoths that survived on isolated islands up until about 3,700 years ago. It could well be that they’re not due to the same causes." Their techniques, they believe, can also work for reptiles and amphibians, "particularly if we can get parts similar to hair that contain keratin, such as scales, horns and claws, ” Schuster says. He and Miller are now considering the Tasmanian tiger. "One of the things we want to see is what a population looks like 10 years before it goes extinct, or 20, or 30 years," explained Miller. "We can’t do that with the woolly mammoth, but we know exactly when the Tasmanian tiger went extinct: Sept. 7, 1936. There are something like 700 known specimens of this animal. We can sequence all of them, and know when they were collected. We can really watch the endgame of a species."

    Frank Buck, San Diego Zoo Director

    January 23, 2010  www.signonsandiego.com   By Richard Crawford

    Frank H. Buck became Director of the San Diego Zoo on June 14, 1923. Signed by the Zoological Society to a three-year contract that paid $4,000 annually, Buck, 41, came to San Diego on the strong recommendation of Dr. William T. Hornaday, director of the Bronx Zoo. But he soon clashed with the board of the Zoological Society, and particularly its president and founder of the zoo, Dr. Harry M. Wegeforth. After only three months, the zoo’s board fired Buck, charging that the man “could not be trusted.” Buck sued the Zoological Society and Wegeforth for breach of contract. Claiming that he had given up his lucrative animal-collecting business to work in San Diego and suffered injury to his reputation, Buck sought damages of $22,500. Buck claimed Wegeforth had interfered with “practically everything” and had conspired with the board to “belittle and disparage” his efforts. He also charged that Wegeforth had killed a sick tiger by dosing the animal with calomel, and had been responsible for the deaths of 150 snakes that had been force-fed with a sausage stuffer. A different story emerged in court from the testimony of board member Thomas N. Faulconer and several others. All witnesses denied Buck’s charge that snakes had been killed by force-feeding, and they suggested the sick tiger had died after a suspicious blow to the head. Wegeforth charged that Buck was incompetent. Business deals with other zoos or animal collectors were mismanaged and undocumented.

    On Feb. 20, 1924, Superior Court Judge Charles Andrews ruled against Buck and ordered him to pay court costs of $24. He soon left San Diego and resumed his career as a “zoological collector.” In 1930, Buck became a best-selling author with his book “Bring ’Em Back Alive.” The film documentary that followed made him an international star. Buck returned to San Diego in 1943, lecturing in the Russ auditorium of San Diego High School on his 30 years as a hunter of wild animals. His brief misadventures at the San Diego Zoo, 20 years earlier, were long forgotten. Buck’s 1941 autobiography, “All in a Lifetime,” would not mention his lawsuit against the San Diego Zoo. But interestingly, “while acting as temporary director of the San Diego Zoo,” he claimed credit for inventing a method for force-feeding snakes — the means he would boast, “by which captive pythons are mainly fed today.”

    San Diego Zoo Mapped by Google

    January 23, 2010  www.signonsandiego.com  By Nathan Scharn

    BALBOA PARK — The San Diego Zoo has become the first in the nation to be explorable on Google’s online street-view feature. The effort is part of a project by Google to use tricycle-mounted equipment to capture images of places the organization deems “interesting and fun” that were not accessible with the cars that were used for street views along roads. The Google application does not label zoo exhibits, so it’s up to the user to explore. Many enclosures don’t show any obvious animals on exhibit. The zoo is not the first San Diego attraction featuring animals to be explorable on Google; street views of SeaWorld were launched in December. The zoo was selected as the first in the nation because it happened to be near other street view projects, including Legoland and San Diego State University. The images were captured in June by a 150-pound tricycle equipped with camera equipment to provide a 360-degree view through much of the park. There were places the tricycle could not fit, however, so panda fans will be disappointed. Though zoo personnel tried to coordinate the tricycle’s trek with times that animals were likely to be active, some were a bit camera shy, such as the lions in the new Elephant Odyssey exhibit, and can be viewed only through physical visitation. Twenty National Trust properties and landscapes can now be explored online, giving people around the world the chance to plan a visit or catch a glimpse of places they might otherwise never see.

    Fighting Tiger Poaching in Thailand

    January 23, 2010  www.nytimes.com 

    HUAI KHA KHEANG WILDLIFE SANCTUARY, Thailand  -- The 6,400-square-kilometer (2,500-square-mile) Huai Kha Kheang and Thung Yai Wildlife Sanctuaries on the Myanmar border represent a rare success in the struggle to save the world's dwindling tiger population. Funded by WCS, increased patrols and technology have scared off poachers and helped stabilize the tiger population of more than 100, along with their prey, the banteng. Elsewhere, tigers are in critical decline because of human encroachment, the loss of more than nine-tenths of their habitat and the growing trade in tiger skins and body parts. From an estimated 100,000 at the beginning of the 20th century, the number today ranges between 3,200 to 3,600, most of them in Asia and Russia. Ministers from the 13 countries with tiger populations (Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam) will hold a first-ever meeting Wednesday through Friday in Hua Hin, Thailand to write an action plan for a tiger summit in September in Russia, where Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has been championing the survival of the tiger. The purpose is to secure more money for conservation and to persuade countries to set tiger population targets. It is being organized by the Global Tiger Initiative, a coalition formed in 2008 by the World Bank, the Smithsonian Institute and nearly 40 conservation groups. It aims to double tiger numbers by 2020.

    But zoologist Alan Rabinowitz, president of Panthera, is skipping the meeting. ''All we have gotten from ministers and heads of state is rhetoric,'' he said. ''Putin loves tigers but (Siberian) tiger numbers are plummeting in the Russian Far East.'' The Wildlife Conservation Society estimates the number of Russian tigers in the wild at 300 -- down from a 2005 estimate of 500. India acknowledged in 2005 that Sariska National Park, a premier tiger reserve, had lost all of its big cats to poachers. Poaching could undermine Malaysia's goal of doubling its tiger population to 1,000 by 2020, and tigers could go extinct in China in the next 30 years, according to WWF. Populations have also crashed in Cambodia and Vietnam.

    The Argument Against Protecting Jaguars in the U.S.

    January 24, 2010  www.nytimes.com  By ALAN RABINOWITZ

    Earlier this month, the USFWS announced it would designate “critical habitat” for the endangered jaguar in the United States and take the first steps toward mandating a jaguar recovery plan. Alan Rabinowitz, president and chief executive of Panthera, who has studied jaguars for nearly three decades, established the world’s first jaguar preserve in Belize. He contends it is bad science, and will weaken the Endangered Species Act. In 1997, the Fish and Wildlife Service put the jaguar on the United States endangered species list, because there had been occasional sightings of the cats crossing north over the U.S.-Mexico border. The agency also ruled that it would not be “prudent” to declare critical habitat for the jaguar (a geographic area containing features the species needs to survive) in the United States. This was the right decision because even though they cross the border from time to time, jaguars don’t occupy any territory in our country, and that probably means the environment here is no longer ideal for them.The facts haven’t changed: there is still no area in the United States essential to the conservation of the jaguar. But the service, now under a new president, claims to have evaluated new scientific information that had become available after the July 2006 ruling, and will now designate critical habitat for the jaguar in the United States.

    This means USFWS must also formulate a recovery plan for the jaguar. And since jaguars have not been able to reestablish themselves naturally over the past century, the government will likely have to go to significant expense to attempt to bring them back — especially if the cats have to be reintroduced. The American Southwest is marginal habitat for the animals, and there are better ways to help jaguars. South of our border, from Mexico to Argentina, thousands of jaguars live and breed in their true critical habitat. Governments and conservation are already working hard to conserve jaguar populations and connect them to one another through an initiative called the Jaguar Corridor. Instead of helping Mexico and other jaguar-range countries conserve the animals’ true habitat, sparse federal funds devoted to protecting wild animals will be wasted on efforts that cannot help save jaguars. It also stands to weaken the Endangered Species Act, because if critical habitat is redefined as any place where a species might ever have existed, then the door is open for many other senseless efforts to bring back long-lost creatures.

    30 Lab Monkeys Get Hard Release in Nepal

    January 24, 2010  www.myrepublica.com  By AKANSHYA SHAH

    KATHMANDU, Nepal -- A group of 30 rhesus monkeys from the Biomedical Research Center in Lele, Lalitpur, have been released into Shivapuri National Park, after the government´s decision to stop monkey breeding and export to the United States for biomedical research six months ago. “A team formed under the park officials will monitor their behaviors,” said Shiva Raj Bhatta, the spokesperson for the DNPWC (Department of National Park and Wildlife Conservation). The small group, from among 200 plus monkeys kept at the Lele lab, was released to see whether they could “adjust” to the wild in Shivapuri and learn to eat wild food and get along with the wild monkeys there. The DNPWC's decision to go ahead with the hard release has been severely criticized by conservationists and animal rights activists in the country, who are accusing it of making a hasty decision. Reintroduction may cause problems to wild populations and ecosystems. Diseases, genetic problems, over-population or fighting with introduced animals are all risk factors. The conservationists have also said that the monkeys have been released without neutering, which increases the chance of reproduction, thereby affecting the accommodation capacity of Shivapuri.

    Brookfield Zoo Conservation Medal Awarded to Polar Bear Expert

    January 25, 2010  www.mysuburbanlife.com  By Laura Bollin

    Robert Buchanan was recently awarded the Chicago Zoological Society’s George B. Rabb Conservation medal. His organization, Polar Bears International, was created in 2001 with the mission of conserving polar bears and their habitats through research and education. PBI’s work will be featured in Brookfield Zoo’s new Great Bear Wilderness habitat, which opens May 8. Some interesting facts about polar bears: Polar bears hunt half of the year in darkness. They can’t see anything. They can pick up the scent of a seal 20-30 miles away without much difficulty. Their paws are covered with fur except for the pads. A 1,000 pound animal can spread its weight and walk on thin ice that a 70-pound child could not walk on. A large male could literally swallow a human head whole. Buchanan says we’re killing polar bears with all of the electricity we use. Electricity is powered by coal burning utility plants. Coal creates a blanket over the earth that sun rays hit, causing CO2 to stay in the atmosphere, as the temperature of the earth gets warmer, the ice melts. As the ice melts, we lose polar bears. He urges people to plant trees to take C02 out of the atmosphere.

    Biodiversity Talks Begin

    January 25, 2010  www.nature.com  By Natasha Gilbert

    The first of a series of conferences debating the next steps for the Convention on Biological Diversity was held in London, from January 18-20. Policy-makers and scientists are preparing for an October session in Nagoya, Japan, where a new strategic plan will be forged. Their draft plan included 20 targets to be reached by 2020, including ensuring that "everyone is aware of the value of biodiversity" and what steps are needed to protect it. Other targets included eliminating funding subsidies that are harmful to biodiversity and ensuring that agriculture, forestry and aquaculture are sustainably managed.

    California ESA Protection Needed To Save Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog

    January 25, 2010  www.biologicaldiversity.org

    SAN FRANCISCO —  The Center for Biological Diversity today petitioned the California Fish and Game Commission to list all populations of the highly imperiled mountain yellow-legged frog as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act. Mountain yellow-legged frogs inhabit high-elevation lakes, ponds, and streams in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and Transverse Ranges of California and are on a rapid trend to extinction. Their rapid decline is due to predation by introduced trout, spread of diseases that may be exacerbated by exposure to pesticides, and habitat alterations caused by climate change, drought, and livestock grazing. Although mountain yellow-legged frogs throughout California should be protected under the federal Endangered Species Act, the USFWS has only listed the Southern California population as endangered. In response to a 2000 petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Service determined that Sierra Nevada mountain yellow-legged frogs also warrant federal listing as endangered, but that such listing is precluded by actions to list other species. Surveys since 1995 at 225 historic frog localities show extinction of 93 percent of the northern and central Sierra populations and 95 percent of southern populations.

    Study of Shark Virgin Births

    January 25, 2010  www.eurekalert.org

    Shark pups born to virgin mothers can survive over the long-term, according to new research published Jan. 25, 2010 in the Journal of Heredity. Dr. Kevin Feldheim, manager of the Pritzker Laboratory for Molecular Systematics and Evolution at the Field Museum, analyzed the sharks' genetic material to rule out any paternal reproduction assistance. Parthenogenesis occurs when an egg or ovum fuses with a cell called a sister polar body, a byproduct of ova production, rather than with male sperm, to promote cell division. The sister polar body is nearly genetically identical to the ovum, said Dr. Demian Chapman of the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University, co-author of the current study and lead author in earlier studies of virgin shark births. The new study confirms the first known case of a virgin female shark producing multiple offspring that survived. Two daughters of the white-spotted bamboo shark are now more than five years old.

    More Zoo & Wildlife Veterinarians Needed

    January 25, 2010  www.prnewswire.com

    SCHAUMBURG, Ill. -- The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has announced its support of newly-introduced federal legislation that will help bolster the nation's supply of veterinarians specializing in the care of wildlife and zoo animals. The Wildlife and Zoological Veterinary Medicine Enhancement Act, introduced January 21 by U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., will fill a critical need in protecting the country's animals, environment and its people. If passed, this legislation will strengthen curriculum in veterinary schools. The bipartisan legislation will create new funded positions for specialized veterinarians in both clinical and research settings. It will help reduce the amount of educational debt veterinary students amass during their education. It will help veterinary schools develop curriculum specializing in health management of wildlife in their natural habitat and in captivity. And it expands the number of educational and training programs in wildlife and zoological medicine for veterinary students.

    BBC’s Chimpcam Project

    January 25, 2010  news.bbc.co.uk  By Matt Walker

    The BBC is set to air a new documentary titled “The Chimpcam Project,” that has been shot entirely by chimpanzees at Scotland’s Edinburgh Zoo. It will provide fascinating clues as to how chimps view the world around them. Over 18 months, primatologist Betsy Herrelko’s introduced video technology to a group of 11 chimps living in a newly built enclosure at the Edinburgh Zoo. The enclosure, which contains three large interlinked outdoor arenas as well as a series of smaller rooms in which the apes can be studied by researchers, is the largest of its kind in the world. First, Ms Herrelko taught the chimps how to use a touchscreen to select different videos. By doing so, Ms Herrelko could investigate which types of images chimps prefer to watch. Then she gave them a "Chimpcam", a recording camera housed in a chimp-proof box. On top of the box was a video screen that showed live images of whatever the camera was pointing at. Over time, some of the chimps learned how to select different videos to watch. For example, the chimps could use a touchscreen to decide whether to watch footage of their outside enclosure, or the food preparation room, where zoo staff prepare the chimps' meals. The results still have to be analyzed. And finally, she investigated what happened when she gave the Chimpcam to the whole group. Gradually, the chimps started playing with the Chimpcam, carrying it around the enclosure. The chimps soon became interested in the camera view screen on the Chimpcam box, watching what happened as they moved the Chimpcam around filming new images. Overall, they were more interested in the Chipcam viewfinder than they were the touchscreen in the research room.

    Honolulu Zoo Enhancement Plans

    January 25, 2010  www.honoluluadvertiser.com By Sean Hao

    The city is paying $402,000 more than planned for a new Honolulu Zoo entrance in part to compensate the job's contractor for a three-year delay. Construction on the $2.75 million entrance started in October and is expected to take about a year to complete. According to the city, the project was delayed partly because of concerns from the Kapi'olani Park Preservation Society that the project called for the demolition of the current entrance and encroached on park land. The current zoo entrance is a low-rise structure designed by the late architect Alfred Preis, who also designed the Arizona Memorial. Current plans call for the old entrance to be preserved and converted into a visitors center. The zoo's new entrance will also feature a larger gift shop. The city also has been planning to build an expanded elephant exhibit for a decade. Sidney Quintal, director of city Department of Enterprise Services, which operates the zoo, said that delay was caused by a redesign of the planned elephant exhibit to lower project costs. The project also was delayed because of difficulties encountered in disposing of elephant dung. A consultant is expected to submit plans to the city in early February and a call for bids is planned for mid-April. The hope is that a more visible entrance facing Waikíkí — as well as other upgrades such as the elephant exhibit — will generate greater attendance, which could help reduce the facility's city subsidy. The zoo generates about $2 million in revenues a year, but costs about $5.3 million to operate, according to city budget documents. Annual attendance has ranged between 500,000 and 600,000 during the past decade. During the past year, the city raised zoo parking rates and entrance fees but the facility is still a drag on the city's budget.

    Parasite Spreading Between Animals & Zookeepers

    January 25, 2010  news.discovery.com

    A common parasite associated with diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome appears to be spreading among zoo animals, and from animals to zookeepers. The resulting infection, called Blastocystis, has been identified in humans, non-human primates, elephants, giraffes, quokkas (a small Australian mammal), southern hairy nosed wombats and western grey kangaroos at zoos in Australia, Belgium, Japan, Malaysia, The Netherlands and Spain, and scientists believe the bug is prevalent "in most zoos." Bruno Levecke, a parasitologist at Ghent University and the Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp, and his colleagues collected fecal samples from zookeepers and various animals at The Perth Zoological Gardens in Western Australia, the Melbourne Zoo, the Werribee Open Range Zoo in Victoria, Australia, and unidentified zoos from Amsterdam and Antwerp. The study, accepted for publication in the journal Veterinary Parasitology, concluded that the parasite was present in most of the test subjects. Sixty-three percent of zookeepers tested positive and up to 82 percent of certain animal populations were infected with Blastocystis. Prior studies at Osaka Zoo in Japan, Malaysia's Zoo Negara, Spain's Pena Escrita, and zoos in the United Kingdom and Denmark also reported infections with the parasite, some of which were found in birds. Blastocystis is just one of several gastrointestinal parasites and other bugs that scientists are monitoring. Levecke recently led another study that found Giardia duodenalis in non-human primates at a sanctuary and several zoos in Belgium and The Netherlands. Giardia can lead to severe diarrhea and chronic illness if left untreated. "Zoos should encourage staff to undergo routine -- every one to two years -- diagnostic tests for their own well-being."

    Impact of Invasive Species Study

    January 25, 2010  www.birdlife.org

    A new publication coordinated by the Global Invasive Species Programme (GISP) has just been released. The report is entitled “Global indicators of biological invasion: species numbers, biodiversity impact and policy responses”. It was published in Diversity and Distributions, a journal of conservation biogeography. Looking at 57 countries, researchers found there are approximately 50 non-indigenous species per country which have a negative impact on biodiversity. The number of invasive alien species ranged from nine in Equatorial Guinea to 222 in New Zealand. A total of 542 species were documented as invasive aliens, including 316 plants, 101 marine organisms, 44 freshwater fish, 43 mammal, 23 bird and 15 amphibian species. According to Professor Melodie McGeoch, lead author on the publication, these numbers are a significant underestimate. "We showed that regions with low development status and little investment in research have lower than expected numbers of invasive aliens." An increase in the number and spread of alien species, which adversely affect the habitats they invade, is attributed to a substantial rise in international trade over the past 25 years.

    Dolphin and Bat Echolocation Evolved Separately

    January 25, 2010  www.eurekalert.org

    A new study has shown that echolocation evolved separately, but through the same genetic changes, in both dolphins and bats. Writing in the journal Current Biology, researchers from the University of London describe how dolphins and bats have both evolved the same specialized form of inner-ear hair cells that allow them to use sophisticated echolocation: detecting unseen obstacles or tracking down prey by making a high frequency noise and listening for the echo that bounces back. Stephen Rossiter led a team that sequenced the Prestin gene, which describes a key protein found in the inner-ear hair cells of all mammals. The researchers discovered that this gene shows the very same changes in bats and dolphins. The prestin protein is known to drive the vibration of the hair cells in response to sound. It is possible that the genetic changes observed in bats and dolphins allow more rapid vibrations and, therefore, the higher frequency hearing that is needed for echolocation. Rossiter said, "The fact that it is the very same genetic changes that occurred twice in nature suggests that there might be a limited number of evolutionary routes to high frequency hearing in mammals."

    Special AZA Report On Topeka Zoo

    January 26, 2010  cjonline.com  By Tim Hrenchir

    TOPEKA, Kansas -- A team from the AZA conducted a thorough inspection of the Topeka Zoo from Dec. 2 to 4. The independent review was requested by city officials after two USDA inspections faulted the zoo for lax veterinary care and inadequate record keeping in the deaths of animals. (A hippo died after being found in 108-degree water, a leopard died after being administered a medication later found to be fatal, and a Pallas cat and rabbit died after being infested with maggots.) The zoo's director at the time, Mike Coker, has since retired. The AZA inspection was conducted by Thomas Meehan, V.P. of veterinary services of the Chicago Zoological Society; Eric Miller, director of zoological operations at the St. Louis Zoo; and Gary Geddes, director of zoological operations at the Metro Parks in Tacoma, Wash. Findings include:
    1. In the view of many employees, a culture of intimidation appears to exist.
    2. "Transfers appear to be based upon favoritism, not merit," the report said.
    3. Safety infractions that allow "unintended animal escapes" are not objectively evaluated.
    4. Lack of objective performance evaluation and concurrent progressive discipline for critical errors.
    5. Aging infrastructure is ignored while new exhibits get fast-tracked with mediocre quality.
    6. The general curator appears to be too isolated from the day to day activities.
    — The team didn't find specific examples of veterinary care that didn't meet professional standards, though there was evidence of a need for improved communication. City Councilman John Alcala said Monday the report makes it clear the zoo needs an administrative reorganization. In the meantime, Alcala said he thinks the city should find a new home elsewhere for the zoo's two elephants, Tembo and Sunda, who need room to run. The AZA report devoted two sentences specifically to the elephant exhibit, saying, "The elephant barn was completed in October 2007 (a few months after the last inspection). Staff was engaged in the design details of this exhibit, and it appears to be working well and is suited appropriately for 2-4 elephants." Topeka Zoo interim director Dennis Taylor has been asked to review the findings of the inspection and provide a response by Feb. 8. The city has until Feb. 15 to provide a written response to the AZA and plans to meet with AZA officials at the mid-year meeting.

    Oakland Zoo Requests Fallen Trees

    January 26, 2010  www.sfgate.com

    Bay Area residents can donate their trees to the animals. The Oakland Zoo is offering to take any trees off the following list: acacia, alder, almond, apple, bamboo (green only), birch, bird of paradise, blackberry, carob, cotoneaster, deciduous fruit trees, elm, eugenia, hibiscus, oak, palm frond (green only), poplar, plum, roses, mulberry, sweetgum, thistle, and willow. There are some types of trees the animals can't eat, so if you've got a yard full of fallen conifers, eucalyptus, elderberry, horsechestnuts, laurels, olives, myrtles, peperwoods, pittosporums, rhododendrons, walnuts, pears, or junipers, the Zoo won't be able to take those. The zoo can sometimes pick up cut trees in the East Bay but more often donations must be delivered. By delivering to the zoo you will save the fee associated with disposing of tree branches at the dump. Read more at www.sfgate.com.

    Paignton Zoo Has 3 Maned Wolf Pups

    January 26, 2010  www.zandavisitor.com  By Philip Knowling

    PAIGNTON, UK - Paignton Zoo’s South American maned wolves are rearing a litter of three pups. Curator of Mammals Neil Bemment said the pups were born around December 9th. The last litter, with 4 pups, was born in December 2006. The parents are eight years old. Male Smolis came from Gdansk Zoo, Poland and female Maya from Berlin Tierpark, Germany. They came to Paignton Zoo in June 2005. The maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus) is the largest canid of South America. Adults stand almost 3 feet tall at the shoulder and weigh 50 to 55 lbs. They catch small prey such as rodents, hares and birds, but fruit forms a large part of their diet. Extremely shy, you are more likely to smell them than see them. Their urine, which they use to communicate, has a very distinctive smell. It is not closely related to any other canid and may be a survivor from the Pleistocene fauna of large South American mammals. Found in parts of Brazil, Paraguay, and Bolivia, the maned wolf is endangered. Unlike other large canids, the maned wolf does not form packs but lives in monogamous pairs. Gestation lasts 67 days, and a litter may have between 2 and 6 pups. Maned wolves are well represented in captivity and have been bred successfully at a number of zoos. The European Endangered Species Programme is coordinated by Frankfurt Zoo in Germany.

    Managing Ecosystems in a Changing Climate

    January 26, 2010  www.eurekalert.org  By Katie Kline

    In a statement released today, the Ecological Society of America (ESA) outlines strategies that focus on restoring and maintaining natural ecosystem functions to mitigate and adapt to climate change. ESA recommends four approaches to limiting adverse effects of climate change through ecosystem management:
    1. Prioritize low-alteration strategies. Preserving forests is a straightforward way to both reduce and offset emissions.
    2. Management strategies should undergo thorough life-cycle analysis and evaluation prior to implementation
    3. Acknowledge the possibly negative ecological implications of geoengineering.
    4. Develop or apply models to forecast ecosystem responses several decades into the future.
    5. Steps should also be taken to prepare ecosystems to withstand climate change impacts.

    1. Take additional steps to protect water quality and quantity. Freshwater resources are at particular risk
    2. Enable natural species migration across human dominated landscapes. Create and maintain wildlife corridors across jurisdictions and private lands to help species relocate and adapt as habitats shift with climate change.
    3. Improve capacity to predict extreme events.
    4. Manage collaboratively at the ecosystem level. Many natural resources and services, such as fresh water, clean air and crop pollination, are not contained within jurisdictional boundaries;

    The Ecological Society of America's statement is available at www.esa.org [PDF].

    U.S. Windpower Grows 39% in 2009

    January 26, 2010  www.nytimes.com  By JAD MOUAWAD

    The U.S. wind power industry grew 39% more capacity in 2009. The country is close to the point where 2% of its electricity will come from wind turbines. The American Wind Energy Association, in its annual report said the amount of capacity added last year, 9,900 megawatts. The group said the growth of wind power was helped by the federal stimulus package that passed a year ago, which extended a tax credit and provided other investment incentives for the industry, but warned that the growth could slow. Europe gets about 5 percent of its electricity from wind. The European Commission has set an ambitious mandate to achieve 20 percent of electrical production from wind and other renewable sources by 2020. Denmark has essentially achieved that goal already, and sometimes produces more wind power than it can use. Last year, China also outlined plans to more than double the country’s wind capacity by the end of this year by investing $14.6 billion, with rapid growth planned through the end of the decade. Concerns about global warming have sparked interest in renewable power in the United States and spurred the creation of a domestic manufacturing industry that now employs 85,000 people. Today, about half the components used in wind farms are made in the United States, compared with 25 percent in 2004. Last year, Texas consolidated its lead as the nation’s top wind producer, with a total capacity of 9,410 megawatts, about three times more than the second-largest producer, Iowa. They were followed by California, Washington and Minnesota.

    Oldest Zoo Andean Condor Dies

    January 26, 2010  latimesblogs.latimes.com

    BRIDGEPORT, Connecticut -- Thaao (TAY'-oh) arrived at the Beardsley Zoo in 1993 after living most of his life at the Pittsburgh Zoo. Although Andean condors live to about 50, the zoo believes Thaao was one of the original animals to have been tracked using a breeding registry, and he was nearly 80 years old. 

    Endangered Species Permit Applications

    January 26, 2010  Federal Register Volume 75, Number 16

    The USFWS invites the public to comment on the following applications for permits to conduct certain activities with endangered species and/or marine mammals. Written data, comments or requests must be received by February 25, 2010.

    Applicant: Conroe Taxidermy, Conroe, TX, PRT230925. The applicant request a permit to re-export the full mount with bleached skull sporthunted trophy of one male scimitarhorned oryx (Oryx dammah), culled from a captive herd in the Republic of South Africa, for the purpose of enhancement of the survival of the species previously imported under PRTMA2093730 issue May 3, 2009.

    Applicant: Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK, PRT237938. The applicant requests a permit to import biological samples taken from five captive held western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla) from Project Protection des Gorilles, Gabon, for the purpose of enhancement of the survival of the species.

    Applicant: SAAMS, Alaska SeaLife Center, Seward, Alaska, PRT877414. The applicant requests a permit and a letter of authorization for the rescue, rehabilitation and release of unlimited number stranded northern sea otters (Enhydra lutris kenyoni) and walrus (Odobenus rosmarus) in Alaska waters. This notification covers activities to be conducted by the applicant over a 5 year period.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT : Division of Management Authority, telephone 7033582104.

    Deadly Fish Virus Now in All Great Lakes

    January 27, 2010  www.physorg.com 

    A deadly fish virus - viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus - first discovered in the Northeast in 2005, has been found for the first time in Lake Superior. The virus is now in all of the Great Lakes. The virus causes fatal anemia and hemorrhaging in many fish species, but poses no threat to humans, according to Paul Bowser, professor of aquatic animal medicine at Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine. The virus, which has been identified in 28 freshwater fish species in the Great Lakes watershed, has reached epidemic proportions in the Great Lakes and threatens New York's sport-fishing industry, said Bowser, estimated to contribute some $1.4 billion annually to New York's economy. On a worldwide basis, VHSV is considered one of the most serious pathogens of fish, because it kills so many fish, is not treatable and infects a broad range of fish species.

    American Opinion Changes on Global Warming

    January 27, 2010  eagle.gmu.edu  By Tara Laskowski

    FAIRFAX, Va.—A new national survey by researchers at Yale & George Mason Univ. finds that:
    •    Only 50 percent of Americans now say they are “somewhat” or “very worried” about global warming, a 13-point decrease.
    •    The percentage of Americans who think global warming is happening has declined 14 points, to 57 percent.
    •    The percentage of Americans who think global warming is caused mostly by human activities dropped 10 points, to 47 percent.
     “Despite growing scientific evidence that global warming will have serious impacts worldwide, public opinion is moving in the opposite direction,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change. “Over the past year the United States has experienced rising unemployment, public frustration with Washington and a divisive health care debate, largely pushing climate change out of the news. Meanwhile, a set of emails stolen from climate scientists and used by critics to allege scientific misconduct may have contributed to an erosion of public trust.”  The survey also found lower public trust in a variety of institutions and leaders, including scientists. The results come from a nationally representative survey of 1,001 American adults, age 18 and older. The survey was conducted from December 23, 2009, to January 3, 2010 by Knowledge Networks using an online research panel of American adults. A copy of the report can be downloaded from climatechange.gmu.edu.

    Pigments Found in Fossil Dinosaurs

    January 27, 2010  news.nationalgeographic.com  By Chris Sloan

    A team, led by Fucheng Zhang of China's Institute for Vertebrate Paleontology, has identified fossilized melanosomes—pigment-bearing organelles—in the feathers and filament-like "protofeathers" of fossil birds and dinosaurs from northeastern China. The nano-size packets of pigment (one hundred melanosomes can fit across a human hair) were first reported in fossil bird feathers in 2008. The team used a scanning electron microscope to study minute details of feathered birds and dinosaurs found in Liaoning Province, China. The finding may also open up a new world of prehistoric color, illuminating the role of color in dinosaur behavior and allowing the first accurately colored dinosaur re-creations. Some researchers argue that these controversial hairlike filaments, each about the width of a human hair, are fossilized internal collagen and not related to feathers, others believe the filaments are probably the evolutionary precursors of true feathers. "It will definitely help end the debate," said Zhonghe Zhou, director of the Institute for Vertebrate Paleontology and a participant in the study. The discovery of melanosomes in fossil feathers also opens a window onto the previously unknown world of prehistoric color, because melanosomes contain the color-associated pigment melanin. The two most common types of melanin found in modern birds are eumelanin, associated with black and grey feathers, and phaeomelanin, found in reddish brown to yellow feathers. Melanosomes of both types were found during the new study, providing "the first empirical evidence for reconstructing the colors and color patterning" in dinosaurs and Chinese fossil birds, Zhang and his colleagues write. But while melanosomes produce many feather colors, they can't make them all. Many bright feather colors, such as flamingo pink and canary yellow, are related to the foods birds eat. By searching for melanosomes and melanin not only in fossil feathers but also in other melanin-rich tissues, such as skin and hair, scientists, for the first time, won't have to guess at the colors of extinct creatures. The new study was published online today in the journal Nature.

    Officials Fear Another Whooping Crain Die-Off

    January 27, 2010  www.nytimes.com 

    DALLAS -- Wildlife officials fear the world's only remaining natural flock of endangered whooping cranes could be at risk of another winter die-off. The flock suffered a record 23 deaths last year at its drought-stricken winter nesting grounds in southern Texas. Wildlife managers say a scarcity of food in the area could spell disaster this winter too. The rains came too late last winter to produce a healthy population of blue crabs which the cranes eat, and the USFWS fears a significant die-off could result. Only 263 birds remain in the flock, which migrates without human help from Canada every year. One chick has died this season and another has disappeared.

    Philadelphia Zoo Rescues Cobra Bite Victim

    January 28, 2010  www.philly.com  By Sam Wood

    A Maryland woman who was bitten by a cobra over the weekend may owe her life to the quick action of snake specialists at the Philadelphia Zoo. The woman bagged the snake and took it with her to a Baltimore clinic. Clinic staffers called the fire department. Medics took the woman to Johns Hopkins University Hospital as fire department personnel began a frantic search for a source of antivenin. Jason Bell, assistant curator of reptiles and amphibians at the Philadelphia Zoo, responded with 30 vials of South-African made antivenin. State police met him at the zoo and planned to fly the serum by helicopter to Hopkins. But heavy rains had grounded the chopper, so troopers sped the antivenom to Maryland where they delivered it to a waiting ambulance near the state border. Doctors used 10 vials of the antivenin, Bell said. The Zoo stocks 21 varieties of antivenin for snakes that are not indigenous to the United States. The University of Pennsylvania keeps a large collection of antivenin serums to treat domestic snake bites. The stock is available for use by poison control centers and hospitals nationwide.

    Climate Change and Bird Migration

    January 28, 2010  www.physorg.com 

    A new study published in Current Biology on January 28th has found that migrating birds can and do keep their travel dates flexible. Author Christiaan Both, of the University of Groningen in The Netherlands, says, "This study shows that timing of spring migration is flexible and that birds do respond to climate change, although in a rather indirect way: breeding dates have become progressively earlier, and birds are thus born earlier in the spring. We now show that the effect of early birth is also that the birds migrate early, and migration time has advanced over the last 25 years. The reason that the birds did not advance their arrival is thus not due to a failure to start migration earlier, but because circumstances at passage in Southern Europe have not improved." Pied flycatchers are one of the best-studied migratory bird species in the world. With records going back more than 50 years, researchers have been able to investigate the birds' reaction to climate change over time. Pied flycatchers are also forest-dwelling, which makes them particularly interesting because of the strong seasonality in food dynamics in the forest. "Forests are characterized by a short burst of insects rather early in spring," Both explained. "If the birds miss this insect peak for raising their chicks, they do not produce enough offspring to keep up their population sizes." Pied flycatchers spend their winters in Western Africa, anywhere from 5000 to 9000 kilometers from their breeding grounds across Europe and western Siberia. Both's team found that the birds left their wintering grounds and made it all the way to Northern Africa 10 days earlier in the year in 2002 than they did in 1980. Still, they didn't arrive at their European breeding grounds any sooner. The findings imply that "little should be expected in terms of an evolutionary response [to climate change]: any genetic variation in spring departure is likely to be masked by environmental constraints and not translated into earlier arrival. And because climate change often alters temperatures differently at different periods in the year. An adaptive evolutionary response most likely is needed on a whole suite of different traits simultaneously, and it remains to be seen whether evolution can alter species quickly enough to stop their decline."

    Hogle Zoo Investigates Zebra Deaths

    January 28, 2010  www.latimes.com

    SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Officials at Utah's Hogle Zoo are investigating the deaths of two Grevy's zebras. A zookeeper found the first animal, Taji, dead in his exhibit area Tuesday. A necropsy conducted that day identified no obvious cause of death. The second zebra, Monty, was found in distress on Wednesday and treatment was begun. He was later euthanized.
    Associate Director of Animal Health Dr. Nancy Carpenter says staff is now consulting with other veterinary experts to determine what caused the deaths. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has been invited to participate in the investigation. Taji was born in 1995 and Monty in 1997. Taji and Monty came to Utah to a Wichita, Kansas, zoo in 1998.

    Lawsuit Seeks to Limit Pesticides to Save Endangered Species

    January 28, 2010  www.enn.com

    SAN FRANCISCO -- The Center for Biological Diversity today filed notice of intent to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to adequately evaluate and regulate more than 400 pesticides harmful to hundreds of endangered species. More than a billion pounds of pesticides are used each year in the United States, and the Environmental Protection Agency has registered more than 18,000 different pesticides for use. Extensive scientific studies have shown that pesticide contamination is widespread and pervasive in groundwater, drinking water, and aquatic habitat for fish and wildlife throughout the country. Through pesticide drift and runoff, pesticides often travel far from the areas where they're applied and into sensitive wildlife habitats. Some contaminated waterways are regularly subjected to toxic pulses of combinations of pesticides deadly to fish. Pesticides have played a major role in the collapse of many native fish populations and are a leading cause of the loss of native amphibians.

    Some examples of endangered species hurt by pesticides include the Florida panther, coho salmon, California condor, Everglade snail kite, northern Aplomado falcon, mountain yellow-legged frog, California tiger salamander, arroyo toad, Indiana bat, and green sturgeon. Thousands of non-target animals such as mountain lions, bobcats, hawks, and owls are killed or harmed each year by poisoned baits approved by the EPA, as are endangered species such as the San Joaquin kit fox, Utah prairie dog, giant kangaroo rat, and black-footed ferret. Application of pesticides such as carbofuran to crops can result in as many as 17 bird kills for every five acres treated. Numerous pesticides act as endocrine disruptors, chemicals that alter the structure or function of the body's endocrine system, which uses hormones to regulate growth, metabolism, and tissue function. Endocrine disruptors interfere with natural hormone functions, damaging reproductive function and offspring, and cause developmental, neurological, and immune problems in wildlife and humans. Pesticides have caused sexual deformities such as intersex fish (with male and female reproductive parts) that cannot reproduce, and the herbicide atrazine chemically castrates male frogs at extremely low concentrations.

    Bonobo – Chimpanzee Differences

    January 28, 2010  www.eurekalert.org

    Although chimpanzees and bonobos have a very close genetic relationship with each other, the two species display major differences in their physical appearance, behavior, and cognition. Bonobos seem to be much more peaceful and easygoing, retaining juvenile levels of play as adults, exhibiting low levels of aggression towards one another, and being much more likely than adult chimpanzees to share resources. It has been suggested that these differences might be a result of species-specific shifts in the developmental pathways that link infancy with adulthood. "Thus far, there has been no direct test of the hypothesis that certain aspects of behavior or cognition in adult bonobos represent developmentally delayed forms of the traits found in chimpanzees," explains the lead study author, Victoria Wobber of the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. "We tested this hypothesis by comparing skills of semi-free-ranging infant, juvenile, and adult bonobos and chimpanzees in three feeding competition tasks, given the prediction that this area in particular differs between the two species. "Wobber and colleagues observed that as chimpanzees reached adulthood, they became more and more intolerant of sharing food, whereas bonobos retained juvenile levels of food-related tolerance. Furthermore, chimpanzees consistently outperformed bonobos of the same age in tests where the subjects had to figure out which experimenters held a food reward. "Bonobos took longer to develop the same skill level shown even among the youngest of the chimpanzees that were tested," says Wobber. "It seemed as if adult chimpanzees were able to exhibit more social restraint than adult bonobos." The findings support the hypothesis that developmental delays play a role in shaping differences in the social psychology and behavior of chimpanzees and bonobos. The study was published January 28th in Current Biology.

    Singapore Zoo Breeding Program

    January 29, 2010  www.google.com  By Philip Lim

    SINGAPORE —  The Singapore Zoo and its attached Night Safari welcomes more than a million visitors a year. The zoo has more than 2,500 animals and breeding programs for 315 species (one in six of which are threatened with extinction.)  Last year, 142 animals were born in the zoo, 32 of which were threatened species. The latest arrival is a baby Komodo dragon hatched in December -- the first born in an Asian zoo outside the giant lizard's native Indonesia. The hatchling was the culmination of three years of effort by zookeepers watching over every step of its parents' courtship and mating. "It's always supervised contact, we never leave them alone together," said zoologist, Samuel Tay. This interventionist approach is extended to other creatures at Singapore's wildlife attractions, including the Jurong Bird Park, another major tourist draw. Aside from making enclosures look and feel like native habitats, cutting-edge technology and scientific methods are deployed to make sure animals mate with the best possible partners at the most opportune time. They include matching viable females with genetically superior males using semen analysis and monitoring the females' fertility cycles through regular ultrasound tests -- something that not all zoos can afford to do. Senior veterinarian Abraham Mathew said, "You need the manpower and you need the expertise to do this.”  A mobile ultrasound machine used by the zoo costs around 20,000 Singapore dollars (14,200 US) and includes an expensive probe that allows veterinarians to accurately check female animals' fertility out in the field. Zoo staff hope a pair of pandas to be loaned by China will produce offspring in the coming years.

    Oxford University’s Conservation Research Website

    January 31, 2010  www.wildcru.org

    Oxford University’s WildCRU website is dedicated to its Wildlife Conservation Research Unit. Sections include: "Endangered Species", "Invasives", "Land Use & Biodiversity", "Fundamental Biology", "Wildlife Diseases", and "Wildlife as a Resource". The "Publications" link at the top right side of the page contains "Books", "Papers", "Reports", and "Theses" available to read online or find in a physical library. The "Research" link near the top of the page, includes the dozens of research projects WildCRU is involved in, such as "Badger Genetic Research", "Transfrontier Conservation of Andean Cats" and "Towards Reducing the Total Environmental Impacts of Agriculture.”

    Scientists Analyze the Genome of the Duck-billed Platypus

    January 31, 2010   www.nature.com  

    Nature, an international, interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed journal of science, has an impressive website that features interviews with scientists describing their research. Some of the pay videos are available via iTunes, but most are free. When visitors click on a video in the video archive, they will find that they can choose to watch the video in high or low quality and they can download the required Flash Plug-in, if needed. The Genome Analysis of the Duckbilled Platypus is at www.nature.com/nature/videoarchive/platypusgenome

    New NASA Web Site Explains Climate Change to Kids

    January 31, 2010  climate.nasa.gov

    A new NASA Web site can help younger children understand how and why their planet is changing and what they can do to help keep it habitable. This website is called "Climate Kids". It is geared toward students in grades 4 through 6 and has a multimedia rich website with games and humorous illustrations and animations to help break down the important issue of climate change.

    San Diego South Bay Restoration

    January 31, 2010  www.signonsandiego.com 

    Restoration of San Diego bay will cost $7.7 million. The federal dredging and grading process, which started last week, is the largest undertaking of its kind for the bay and marks the first step in a much bigger vision for turning back the clock on tideland development. The setting is a sprawling network of shallow ponds that a company is using to draw bay water for making salt for road de-icing, cattle feed and other industrial purposes. The ponds have existed since the late 1800s and are an integral part of what’s widely recognized as one of the world’s most important shorebird areas. Tens of thousands of migratory birds visit the site each year. Changing the terrain likely will boost populations of some rare birds that live in marshes, such as the light-footed clapper rail. But it threatens to limit foraging areas for sandpipers and terns, which rely on the existing pools, mud flats and berms.  “I foresee a significant reduction in the shorebird population in this county,” said biologist Elizabeth Copper, who studies the region’s endangered waterfowl. She said federal wildlife officials mean well but are “blind to the fact that there is no way we can return to the way it was 150 years ago.”

    “We are going to restore significant portions of south San Diego Bay back to natural coastal wetland habitat,” said Andrew Yuen, project leader for the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Since the mid-1800s, coastal wetlands in Southern California have shriveled from roughly 50,000 acres to about 13,000, federal figures show. Navy activity and commercial development have reduced San Diego Bay’s “near shore” marine habitat.  “We have basically made straight shorelines around the bay,” said Jim Peugh, conservation leader for the San Diego chapter of the National Audubon Society. Federal officials have spent several years developing a long-term management plan for the bay refuge, working with other agencies and looking for money. Nearly $3 million came from federal stimulus funds last year. The biggest piece of the project involves turning 223 acres of salt-production ponds into tidal wetlands that will be connected to the bay instead of being separated by earthen berms. Crews also will regrade parts of the 50-acre Chula Vista Wildlife Reserve and remove trash and nonnative plants from a 25-acre site known as Emory Cove, both operated by the Unified Port of San Diego. In all, roughly 200,000 cubic yards of sediment will be moved to create a mosaic of habitats with different water levels.

    Year of Biodiversity

    January 31, 2010  www.nytimes.com  By TOM ZELLER Jr.

    NEW YORK — Biodiversity is “the variability of all living organisms, of the genes of all these organisms and of the terrestrial, aquatic and marine ecosystems of which they are part.” But in a survey conducted by Gallup in 2007, 64 percent of European Union citizens either had never heard the word (34 percent) or had heard of it but had no idea what it meant (30 percent). A recent survey of the general knowledge of nature among British children ages 5-10 found that 60% could not distinguish between a frog and a toad, and 25% could not identify a beaver. A 2002 British study found that the average 8-year-old could more readily identify characters from Pokemon, the Japanese trading-card game — than native species in their communities, including otters, beetles and oak trees. Last year, the U.S. Forest Service, citing data from the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, reported that American children spent, on average, 50 percent less time outdoors than they did 20 years ago.

    The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (officially adopted by 193 countries), excluding the United States — notes that “at least 40 percent of the world’s economy and 80 percent of the needs of the poor are derived from biological resources. The richer the diversity of life, the greater the opportunity for medical discoveries, economic development, and adaptive responses to such new challenges as climate change. Eight years ago, parties to the accord committed to achieving by 2010 a “significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national level.” The International Year of Biodiversity arises from that goal, and a meeting is planned in Nagoya, Japan, in October to assess international progress toward it. So far, Ahmed Djoghlaf, the executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, says a commonly believed statistic is that for each increase of one degree Celsius (1.8 Fahrenheit) in average global surface temperature there will be a loss of about 10 percent of all known animal and plant species. If that is true, then the climate accord reached in Copenhagen in December, in which world leaders agreed to try to limit human-driven warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius, means “Our leaders have decided to kill 20 percent of all known species on the planet,” he said.

    Efforts are also under way to get the United States to finally ratify the convention, which was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993 and has since gathered dust in the Senate. Last summer, a coalition of international environmental groups sent a letter to the U.S. secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and two members of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, John F. Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Richard G. Lugar, Republican of Illinois, urging them to support the ratification of the 17-year-old convention. It seems unlikely that will happen.

    CDC Reorganization to Create Emerging and Zoonotic Disease Center

    February 1, 2010 www.avma.org 

    A new division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to improve resource allocation, scientific collaboration, and partnership in addressing emerging and zoonotic diseases. The new division includes parts of the National Center for Zoonotic, Vectorborne, and Enteric Diseases and the National Center for Preparedness, Detection, and Control of Infectious Diseases. Other parts of the two older centers will be merged into the Center for Global Health, which was also recently created, and other parts of the CDC. The change is expected to be budget-neutral, and is expected to create a "clear and compelling vision and mission for addressing emerging and zoonotic infections," increase coordination of funding, improve the development and allocation of resources, improve scientific collaboration and communication regarding emerging infectious disease, and help the CDC work with partners on addressing microbial threats to animal and human health.

    Chimps of Goualougo Triangle

    February 1, 2010  news.nationalgeographic.com  By Joshua Foer

    Dave Morgan, 40, a conservation fellow with Lincoln Park Zoo and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS),  and Crickette Sanz, now a professor at Washington University in St. Louis professor, have spent the past ten years living with chimpanzees in the Goualougo Triangle study area, 147-square-miles of pristine lowland forest overlapping the Ndoki and Goualougo Rivers in northern Republic of the Congo. The Goualougo Triangle and the vast, uninhabited Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park,are so remote and inaccessible that they have remained virtually untouched by humanity. The nearest settlement, a 400-person Bantu-Bangombé Pygmy village called Bomassa, is a 30-mile trek away. Originally WCS, which co-manages two of Congo's national parks with the Congolese government, had hoped to leave the Goualougo Triangle completely untouched, off-limits even to the corrupting influence of science. But that calculation changed during Congo's 1997 civil war, when Congolaise Industrielle des Bois (CIB), the forestry company with logging rights in the neighboring Kabo concession, built a levee for transporting lumber across the Ndoki River a few miles south of its confluence with the Goualougo. Since CIB would soon be brushing up against the triangle's natural borders, WCS felt they had to "beat the logging companies in here," says Morgan. In 1999 he hiked out to the Goualougo with a single Congolese assistant and set up one of the most remote great ape research sites in the world. Sanz, came out to the Goualougo in 2001 and has been his partner in both science and life ever since.

    The site offers a unique opportunity to study the behavior of chimps (and other animals) that have never been influenced in any way by man. Morgan and Sanz have watched chimps and gorillas nibble on fruit in the very same tree. They've seen chimps cup their hands and beat their chests, as if mimicking their gorilla neighbors. But the most spectacular finding to come out of the Goualougo is an expanded view of what can only be called chimp culture, a tradition of using complex "tool kits." Morgan and Sanz fear that as their habitat is degraded there will be fewer opportunities for young chimps to learn complex tool techniques from their elders, and chimp culture may slowly disappear. In the next few years, CIB will probably begin logging operations in a sector of forest just east of the Goualougo River dubbed Zone C. In anticipation, the research team has been conducting rigorous line-transect studies in Zone C since 2002 in order to get a clear before-and-after picture of how logging affects chimp behavior.

    Endangered Species Permit Applications

    February 1, 2010  www.thefederalregister.com

    The USFWS announces the following applications to conduct certain activities pertaining to endangered species and invites public comment on the applications by March 3, 2010. Documents and other information submitted with these applications are available for review by any party who submits a request for a copy of such documents within 30 days of the date of publication of this notice to Kris Olsen, telephone : 3032364256. All comments we receive from individuals become part of the official public record.

    Applicant: Alex Buerkle, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming, TE207945. The applicant requests a renewed permit to take Penstemon penlandii (Penland beardtongue) in conjunction with recovery activities throughout the species' range for the purpose of enhancing its survival and recovery.

    Applicant: Mark Czaplewski, Central Platte Natural Resources District, Grand Island, Nebraska, TE100193. The applicant requests a renewed permit to take interior least tern (Sterna antillarum athalassos) in conjunction with recovery activities throughout the species' range for the purpose of enhancing its survival and recovery.

    Applicant: William Wyatt Hoback, University of Nebraska at Kearney, Kearney, Nebraska, TE045150. The applicant requests a renewed permit to take American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus) in conjunction with recovery activities throughout the species' range for the purpose of enhancing its survival and recovery.

    Applicant: James R. Peterson, Kansas Department of Transportation, Topeka, Kansas, TE046929. The applicant requests a renewed permit to take American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus) in conjunction with recovery activities throughout the species' range for the purpose of enhancing its survival and recovery.

    Applicant: Craig Paukert, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, TE136943. The applicant requests a renewed permit to take Topeka shiner (Notropis topeka) in conjunction with recovery activities throughout the species' range for the purpose of enhancing its survival and recovery.

    Applicant: Dave Dean, POWER Engineers, Inc., Hailey, Idaho, TE 237960. The applicant requests a permit to take American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus) in conjunction with recovery activities throughout the species' range for the purpose of enhancing its survival and recovery.

    Applicant: Andrew Burgess, South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks, Pierre, South Dakota, TE00670A. The applicant requests a permit to take Topeka shiner (Notropis topeka) in conjunction with recovery activities throughout the species' range for the purpose of enhancing its survival and recovery.

    Pandas Return to China

    February 1, 2010  www.physorg.com

    On February 4, Tai Shan will have a police escort to Dulles international airport where he will board a 777 FedEx freighter jet with a special 40 foot by 40 foot (12 x 12 meter) panda painted on either side of the cockpit. Tai Shan’s travel partners will be Atlanta panda Mei Lan, and handler Nicole Meese. After his 14-and-a-half-hour flight to Chengdu, Tai Shan will travel 2.5 hours by road to Wolong's Beifengxia nature reserve in Sichuan province, where after spending 30 days in quarantine he will join the breeding program. Tai Shan was supposed to depart for China when he turned two, but they granted Washington an extension, partly because Tai Shan would have been too young, at age two, to enter the panda breeding program in China, but also because of the "huge emotional attachment the American public has for him," said Don Moore, associate director of animal care at the National Zoo. But now at age four-and-a-half, the young panda is showing signs that he would welcome being part of a breeding program, not to mention the chance to sample more than the four varieties of bamboo that are available to him in Washington.

    Animal Rights Groups Sue Edmonton Zoo Over Elephant Care

    February 1, 2010  www.nationalpost.com

    EDMONTON -- Zoocheck Canada and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have filed a court application claiming the City of Edmonton is breaching Alberta's Animal Protection Act by keeping Lucy the elephant, ill, alone and in distress. They are supported by several experts, including former San Diego Zoo veterinarian Dr. Philip Ensley. Dr. Ensley, now retired, says the 34-year-old Asian elephant is overweight and in distress, suffering from ailments including arthritis, respiratory and foot problems. He's also concerned that she isn't living with other elephants, and that Edmonton's cold weather makes it hard for her to exercise properly at her home in the city's Valley Zoo. He based his conclusions on his experience in the field and a review of information about Lucy's condition, although he didn't personally examine her. The decision to keep Lucy in Edmonton has been the subject of controversy, with animal rights groups enlisting celebrities such as Bob Barker and William Shatner to push for her transfer to an elephant sanctuary. In November, Lucy was put on a diet to lose 435 kilograms over a year, as part of a new treatment plan to create a healthier lifestyle that would help control her arthritis and breathing problems. Zoo handlers say Lucy's condition is good and getting better.

    H1N1 Influenza Report

    February 1, 2010  www.eurekalert.org

    HONG KONG SAR, China – Current research reported in the American Journal of Pathology suggests that pandemic H1N1 influenza of swine origin has distinct means of transmission from the seasonal flu, yet does not result in the pathogenic severity of avian flu viruses. The novel H1N1 influenza causes a generally mild respiratory illness, but results in severe disease or death in vulnerable individuals. The World Health Organization reports that "as of 17 January 2010, worldwide more than 209 countries and overseas territories or communities have reported laboratory confirmed cases of pandemic influenza H1N1 2009, including at least 14,142 deaths." High risk groups include the very young and old, people with compromised immune systems, and pregnant women. Unlike seasonal flu, which only infects cells located in the nose and the throat, pandemic H1N1 can replicate efficiently in cells deeper in the lung, similar to the more  pathogenic H5N1 'bird flu'. Researchers led by Drs. Michael C.W. Chan and Joseph S.Malik Peiris at Queen Mary Hospital, Hong Kong found that in contrast to seasonal flu, pandemic H1N1 and highly pathogenic avian flu could infect the conjunctiva, a membrane that lines the eyelids and covers the white part of the eye, suggesting an additional route of transmission as well as differences in receptor binding profile. However, pandemic H1N1 did not differ from seasonal flu either in replication in nose, throat, and lung cells or in induction of an inflammatory immune response, which is dysregulated in high pathogenic avian flu infections. Taken together, these results are consistent with epidemiological data that suggest that while pandemic H1N1 has subtle differences in transmissibility and pathogenesis from seasonal flu, it does not induce as severe disease as bird flu viruses.

    Forests are Growing Faster

    February 1, 2010  www.pnas.org

    A new study in the Feb. 1 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found evidence that forests in the Eastern United States are growing faster than they have in the past 225 years. The study offers a rare look at how an ecosystem is responding to climate change. For more than 20 years forest ecologist Geoffrey Parker has tracked the growth of 55 stands of mixed hardwood forest plots in Maryland. The plots range in size, and some are as large as 2 acres. Parker's research is based at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, 26 miles east of the nation's capital. Parker and Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute postdoctoral fellow Sean McMahon discovered that, on average, the forest is growing an additional 2 tons per acre annually. That is the equivalent of a tree with a diameter of 2 feet sprouting up over a year. Forests and their soils store the majority of the Earth's terrestrial carbon stock. Small changes in their growth rate can have significant ramifications in weather patterns, nutrient cycles, climate change and biodiversity. Parker and McMahon made a list of reasons these forests could be growing faster - increased temperature, a longer growing season and increased levels of atmospheric CO2. During the past 22 years CO2 levels at SERC have risen 12%, the mean temperature has increased by nearly three-tenths of a degree and the growing season has lengthened by 7.8 days. The trees now have more CO2 and an extra week to put on weight. Parker and McMahon suggest that a combination of these three factors has caused the forest's accelerated biomass gain.

    Possible Managed Wolf Populations in National Parks

    February 1, 2010  www.eurekalert.org

    Researchers writing in the February issue of BioScience propose reintroducing small, managed populations of wolves into national parks and other areas in order to restore damaged ecosystems. The populations would not be self-sustaining, and may consist of a single pack. But the BioScience authors suggest that even managed populations could bring ecological, educational, recreational, scientific, and economic benefits. The authors, Daniel S. Licht, of  the National Park Service, and four coauthors, note that research in recent years has shown the importance of wolves to ecosystems in which they naturally occur. For example, the presence of wolves usually leads to fewer ungulates, which in turn generally means more plant biomass and biodiversity. Wolves can also increase tourism. Licht and his coauthors believe that wolves introduced for the purpose of ecosystem stewardship, rather than for the creation of self-sustaining wolf populations, could enhance public understanding and appreciation of the animals. Advances in real-time animal tracking with GPS technology,  as well as the use of contraception and surgery, could help in controlling the growth of introduced populations. This approach might mitigate concerns about depredation of livestock and game, attacks on pets, and human safety, Licht and colleagues maintain. Fences could also play a role. Wolves were introduced to Coronation Island,  Alaska, for ecosystem restoration in 1960, and they successfully controlled deer there before the wolf population grew and subsequently crashed. Licht and his coauthors suggest that with more intensive management this unfavorable outcome could have been avoided, and that desirable results could be expected at many sites in North America and elsewhere, provided there are sufficient prey.

    Creating a Corridor Between Rwanda's National Parks

    February 1, 2010  www.physorg.com

    Expansion of the Gishwati National Conservation Park in Rwanda by 21 percent and begin this year with the development of a 30-mile (50 km) forest corridor to Nyungwe National Park for a group of 14 chimpanzees facing extinction. Organizers will fund reforestation of 647 acres in the Kinyenkanda area of Rutsiro District in Rwanda's Western Province. Those efforts will also stabilize steep hillsides in an area that has been plagued by  landslides and severe erosion into the Sebeya River. Approximately 150 families trying to establish small, intensive household farm plots on very steep slopes had occupied Kinyenkanda. Once cleared of trees and native vegetation, the soil eroded continuously into the Sebeya River, seriously degrading water quality. "The water quality of the Sebeya River is linked to the health of local people and the national economy," said Dr. Benjamin Beck, director of the Gishwati Area Conservation Program. "The Sebeya is not only an important source of drinking water for local residents but it also provides hydroelectric power and water for beverage production downstream."  The Rwandan national government has begun to restore the Sebeya River and the Rutsiro District government has completed resettlement of the 150 Kinyenkanda families. Kinyenkanda is positioned at the start of a 30-mile forest corridor to Nyungwe National Park. Reforestation of the area will represent the initial 4 percent of corridor development. The core of Kinyenkanda will be planted with native trees while a 100 meter buffer zone will be planted with fast-growing non-native trees that can be harvested by local residents for fuel wood and charcoal making. The goal is to establish a local forest protection committee to manage this small buffer forest. The reforestation will be managed by a contractor, and GACP will negotiate that all laborers be hired locally, preferably from among those families that were resettled. GACP will expand its forest monitoring from 4 to 6 ecoguards, with the two additional ecoguards monitoring Kinyenkanda.

    Howler Monkey Born at ABQ BioPark

    February 1, 2010  www.zandavisitor.com  By Terry Axline

    ALBUQUERQUE, NM -- Fifi, a 14-year-old howler monkey, gave birth to an infant on January 16th at the AZA-accredited ABQ BioPark. The BioPark is an accessible facility and a division of the City of Albuquerque’s Cultural Services Department. Same day combo admission to the BioPark’s Zoo, Aquarium and Botanic Garden is $12 for adults; $5 for seniors 65 and older and for children 3-12. New Mexico BioPark Society membership confers FREE general admission to all BioPark facilities and discounts to many special events, including summer concerts. Find out more about becoming a BioPark Society member at nmbioparksociety.org.

    Abilene Zoo Moves to Address AZA Concerns

    February 1, 2010  www.reporternews.com

    In January, an AZA team inspected the Abilene Zoo for two days and issued a list of “continuing concerns”. The inspection was a follow-up to one last year that led to the AZA tabling the zoo’s request for reaccreditation. The city has until Feb.12 to provide evidence the concerns have been addressed. An accreditation hearing is set for March 4 in Virginia Beach, Va., at which time more evidence could be presented, according to Zoo Director Bill Baker.  said. The AZA first accredited the Abilene Zoo in 1985, but is now concerned that the veterinary facilities deemed inadequate during last year’s original inspection continue to be used — and a construction project aimed at remedying the situation has yet to be completed. In addition AZA inspectors expressed worry that the temporary facility still won’t have holding space or separate necropsy (post-mortem examination) facilities. Baker has said that steps are being taken to address the AZA concerns, including locating the necropsy facility in “an existing lab located in our service area” and completing construction of quarantine and holding units adjacent to the veterinary clinic in the next five weeks. The veterinary clinic project should be completed within the next two or three weeks. AZA inspectors also were concerned that no drugs to sedate animals are being kept on-site “in the event of a serious animal escape or treatment.” Baker said the drugs are being ordered. AZA states that a reorganization of management staff resulted in the workload of two curators increasing so much that it became impossible for them to complete their work in a reasonable amount of time, and animal training protocols haven’t been completely implemented because of the amount of work piled on the zoo’s curators.

    Reclaiming Balboa Park Plaza

    February 1, 2010  www.signonsandiego.com  By Steve Schmidt,

    A city report that recommends transforming the parking lot in the Plaza de Panama into a public square could cost between $5-$6 million. Most, if not all, of the money would come from donations raised by Balboa Park preservation groups, which favor reclaiming the plaza for foot traffic in time for the park’s centennial in 2015. The plaza had served as a popular gathering spot until it was turned into a parking lot in the 1940s. The Balboa Park Trust at the San Diego Foundation recently joined with the Committee of 100 and the Friends of Balboa Park to advocate a carless plaza for the park, which attracts 10 million visitors a year. The city’s Balboa Park Committee is set to discuss the proposal Thursday. City Hall continues to battle financial problems, so private fundraising is critical. Stacey LoMedico, the city’s park and recreation director, said the city may seek grant money to cover the cost, which would include drafting plans and specifications for a plaza overhaul, along with removing the asphalt and possibly installing new lights, signs, trees, seating areas and paving. Cars would still be allowed to pass through the area on a two-lane road in the southwest corner of the plaza. The road would include a tram stop and a drop-off point.

    Pneumonia in 4th Montana Bighorn Herd

    February 1, 2010  www.mlive.com

    MISSOULA, Mont. - State wildlife officials have confirmed an outbreak of pneumonia in a fourth herd of bighorn sheep in west-central Montana. The latest occurrence was found in the Upper Rock Creek herd, which had about 340 sheep in May. FWP biologist Ray Vinkey said other recent pneumonia outbreaks affected bighorn sheep in the East Fork Bitterroot late last year and the Bonner area and Lower Rock Creek in January. The agency plans to cull sick sheep from the Upper Rock Creek herd in an effort to prevent the spread of the respiratory disease. A survey of the East Fork range last week found at least 71 healthy-looking sheep and none that appeared sick. FWP had killed 76 diseased or exposed sheep earlier. Removal efforts are winding down in the Bonner area, where 88 diseased sheep have been taken since Jan. 5. FWP is allowing the disease to run its course in the Lower Rock Creek area due to the treacherous terrain.

    Lemur Reserve Gets New Director

    February 1, 2010  www.heraldtribune.com  By Kate Spinner

    MYAKKA CITY, Florida -- Penelope Bodry-Sanders founded the 100-acre Lemur Conservation Foundation in 1996, with $35,000. Today it is a $4 million facility for 40 lemurs, with ties to a sister reserve in Madagascar.  Michael Stern, a Harvard graduate with a degree in biological anthropology will become executive director upon her retirement.  He was chosen by the foundation's board from a pool of 109 applicants, according to a press release issued today. Bodry-Sanders will continue to participate in the foundation as a board member.

    Moa Genome Analysis

    February 1, 2010  news.nationalgeographic.com  By Carolyn Barry

    SYDNEY, Australia -- Scientists previously thought that the ancestors of ostriches, emus, and other flightless birds were flightless too. But a new study says that they only began exploring the ground in earnest after dinosaurs were wiped out about 65 million years ago. The sudden disappearance of dinosaurs opened up new, predator-free niches, where food was plentiful and flight wasn't needed for quick escapes, said study leader Matthew Phillips of the Australian National University in Canberra. The birds then got so plump that they became too heavy to fly, whether they wanted to or not, the study suggests. Using fossil DNA, Phillips and colleagues analyzed the genome of a giant moa, an extinct flightless bird that lived in what is now New Zealand. The team found that the moa's closest relatives were tinamous—small ground-dwelling birds still found in South America that can barely fly. During most of the Cretaceous period (146 to 65 million years ago), South America, New Zealand, Australia, and Antarctica were joined as part of the massive southern continent Gondwana. About 80 million years ago, New Zealand drifted away from Gondwana. The researchers suggest that a moa ancestor may have flown from another location—possibly what would become South America—to New Zealand, where the bird hopped to the ground and eventually evolved into the moa. That flightless birds evolved species by species, as the new research indicates, challenges a previous theory that flightless birds evolved from a common flightless ancestor, the study says.

    Tales of San Diego’s Frozen Zoo from Oliver Ryder

    February 2, 2010  news.mongabay.com  By Mark Szotek

    Oliver Ryder, Director of Genetics, San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research, provides an in-depth interview about the origins and activities of the Frozen Zoo. This cryonic or "cold storage" facility for the long term preservation of animal and plant genetic material such as skin cells, DNA, sperm, eggs, and embryos, was the first facility of its type. It was started by Dr. Kurt Benirschke in 1975, and the collection is as old as the SD Zoo's in-house research programs. Dr. Benirschke was interested in many subjects; in addition to being an MD, he was an avid conservationist, a pathologist, a reproductive biologist, and very interested in the study of chromosomes as it related to "species barriers and definitions."  "No one would have ever predicted that we could turn the cells in our collection into stem cells and that you would be able to clone animals from these (stem) cells; or that you could sequence the genomes of these animals on any kind of scale. At the time when this collection was first banked, the rate of nucleotide sequencing was 10 a year at best. Now nucleotides are being sequenced routinely by my colleagues across the hall." Read the full interview at news.mongabay.com.

    Tanzania's Spray Toad Conservation Program

    February 2, 2010  www.nytimes.com  By CORNELIA DEAN

    Spray toads, Nectophrynoides asperginis, were unknown to science until 1998, when they were found living on less than five acres in an African gorge in the spray of a waterfall on the Kihansi River in Tanzania. Dime-sized, they are unusual in that they do not lay eggs. The baby toads emerge fully formed, each one small enough to fit on the head of a pin. When the toads were first described, there were as many as 20,000, but the government of Tanzania, with a loan from the World Bank, had planned a dam upstream. When the dam opened in 2000, the flow of water fell by 90 percent, and mist-dependent native plants gave way to invasive species. Within months, the toad population plummeted. When the survivors contracted the chytrid fungus disease the population fell again. The Wildlife Conservation Society responded by sending keeper Jason Serle, and Tim Davenport, a field programs director in Tanzania. Collaborating with Tanzanian scientists and conservation officials, they collected 499 toads and put them in plastic bags with damp moss. The bags were placed into coolers and flown back to the Bronx Zoo. Toads were sent to five other zoos in the U.S. [not San Diego] but only one of them, the Toledo Zoo, managed to keep them alive, as did the Bronx Zoo. Jason Wagner, a life-support specialist at the Bronx Zoo, assembled a system of tanks, pipes, filters, aerating vats and other equipment in the warm damp behind the scenes in the reptile house. The system produces 1,500 gallons a day of pure mist to be sprayed into the toad tanks. The system is necessary because the treated city water would be lethal for the toads. The Toledo Zoo figured out that halogen bulbs provided the best light, and Alyssa Borek, a zookeeper in the Bronx, produced a safe food supply by breeding tiny bugs like fruit flies, wood lice and weevils in plastic shoeboxes and other containers filled with cocoa matting, beans and alder leaves that she gathers on the zoo grounds. Ms. Borek raises the insects for several generations to make sure they are disease-free before she feeds them to the toads, who, except for the 60 or so on exhibit, live in 26 aquarium tanks in two clean rooms at the zoo. Even so, she said, an outbreak of chytrid in one of her tanks killed half of that population within days, with the rest dying in less than a week, even with aggressive treatment by the veterinary staff.  4,000 toads now live at the Toledo and Bronx Zoos, and Ms. Borek has written a husbandry guide for the species. The Bronx and Toledo Zoos will offer their 10th course on toad husbandry at the Toledo Zoo in April.

    Last November, the IUCN declared the spray toad extinct in the wild and WCS is hoping to reintroduce the toads to the wild. The World Bank has established an artificial mist system at the dam, and workers have dug out invasive plants, but it is unknown whether these efforts will be enough. Jennifer B. Pramuk, the curator of herpetology at the Bronx Zoo said efforts to breed other amphibians in captivity and reintroduce them had met with some success, with 13 of 21 species reintroduced into the wild breeding for multiple generations. Of the rest, five showed some breeding, and three have at least survived after being released. The toads destined for Tanzania must be screened, to make sure they will not bring alien pathogens with them. Meanwhile, scientists at the zoos and the University of Dar es Salaam are developing ways to keep the reintroduced toads in pens in the gorge to track their mortality and monitor their reaction to their new environment. Dr. Pramuk said researchers would gather in Tanzania later this month to develop guidelines for this work with colleagues at the University of Dar es Salaam and the Sokoine University of Agriculture.

    China Seeks "Language Teacher" for U.S. Panda

    February 2, 2010  news.xinhuanet.com

    CHENGDU -- Three-year-old Mei Lan from Zoo Atlanta will be flown to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Sichuan Friday along with National Zoo’s Tai Shan, a 4-year-old male panda. "Mei Lan has been living in the United States since she was born, and she must be unfamiliar with Chinese, especially the Sichuan dialect," said Huang Xiangming, director of the base's animal management department. "So we will find a Chinese language teacher for her, in addition to an exclusive keeper, and help her adapt to her new life faster," he said. Meanwhile, the base is asking the public to choose a "boyfriend" for Mei Lan. "We have created web pages on popular Internet portals to post images…and are inviting panda fans to vote for the best 'boyfriend' for Mei Lan according to their physical appearance, character, living habits and experts' suggestions on the match," he said. Mei Lan will change her diet habits gradually. "We have asked the American zookeepers to bring Mei Lan's favorite biscuits, but we will gradually use Chinese 'wotou' (steamed bread of corn, sorghum and others) and fresh bamboo to replace biscuits," Huang said. Mei Lan has been living at Zoo Atlanta since she was born in September 2006. Her parents Lun Lun and Yang Yang arrived in Atlanta in November 1999.

    Newspaper Executive Will Head Lehigh Valley Zoo

    February 2, 2010  www.mcall.com  By Arlene Martinez

    Rick Molchany, 51, a former vice president of operations for The Morning Call and a lifelong Lehigh Valley resident, has been named president and CEO of the Lehigh Valley Zoo, which was on the edge of bankruptcy in 2008. Molchany plans to widen the scope of grant-writing, reach out to more Lehigh Valley individuals and businesses and aggressively market the zoo as a place for residents in surrounding counties to visit. Molchany replaces Stacey Johnson, who left in June to become director of the Living Desert zoo in Palm Desert, Calif. The Lehigh Valley Zoo's budget is just under $2 million, and the nonprofit finished the fiscal year, which ended Oct. 31, with a $400,000 surplus. That included $525,000 from Lehigh County, which agreed early last year to continue subsidizing the zoo through 2013. Molchany, whose salary will be $90,000 a year, has no direct experience with the caretaking of animals but that wasn't a negative in the board's eyes, said Jan Creeden, Lehigh County's director of general services and a society board member. Last year, nearly 100,000 people attended the zoo, and about 1,500 families have season passes.

    ZSL Keepers Run for Elephant Conservation

    February 2, 2010   www.prlog.org

    Three elephant keepers from the Zoological Society of London’s Whipsnade Park will be running in the Brighton Marathon on Sunday 18th April 2010, in an effort to raise money for the worldwide conservation work of ZSL. They have been training for the run with the help of their elephants. The keepers take the elephants on a daily walk around the grounds of ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, covering an impressive 600 acres of land. The walks gave their fitness levels a great boost, as keeping up with the elephants on a five-mile walk is no easy task. To help the keepers raise money for the Zoological Society of London, visit www.justgiving.com/elephantkeepers  

    Indonesia – Biodiversity Hotspot

    February 2, 2010  news.mongabay.com

    With 17,000 tropical islands, Indonesia is one of the world's richest areas of biodiversity. However, according to the Jakarta Post, over half of this biodiversity remains unrecorded with only 20 of the more than 400 regencies in the country recording species. Rampant deforestation for tropical wood, oil palm plantations, mining, and fuel have taken a great toll on Indonesia's environment. Fifty years ago 82 percent of Indonesia was covered with forests. As of 2005 that percentage has dropped to 48 percent. Illegal logging is a huge issue in the nation: even its protected areas have been infiltrated in the past. Indonesia is home to over 30,000 recorded species of plants and over 3,000 mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Its number of recorded mammals—515—is second only to Brazil.  Indonesia is the world's third largest emitter of greenhouse gases (after China and the United States) largely due to the deforestation of its rainforests and the destruction of its peatlands.

    Humboldt Squid Explosion in S. California

    February 2, 2010  www.latimes.com

    More than 1,000 of 4- to 5-long Humboldt squid have invaded Southern California waters since Thursday night last week. The voracious predators have been showing up increasingly off San Diego and Orange County beaches, expanding their range northward from the tropical Pacific from Peru to Baja California. Overfishing of sharks and swordfish — the species' main predators — is believed to the factor allowing them to expand their range. Climate change and el Niño may also play a role. Eddie Kisfaludy, a marine biology collector at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, said, "That is a very, very small sample of the amount of squid that is out there now." The creatures have been hanging around San Diego shores for more than a month. Scientists at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute first spotted the squid during the El Niño storms of the late 1980s and began documenting the squid's life cycle. Scientists say the squid inhabit an oxygen-poor zone that tends to start about 1,000 feet below the water's surface during the day, feeding off krill and fish. Because of climate change, that zone is rising into shallower waters, bringing the squid closer to the surface, Kisfaludy said.

    Insurance Against Asian Elephant Destruction

    February 3, 2010  english.people.com.cn

    Eighty-three farmers in southwest China have claimed an estimated 55,000 yuan ($8,052 U.S.) in insurance for damage caused by wild Asian elephants last month. They are the first claims filed since the establishment on Jan. 1 of a new insurance cover for losses caused by elephants, the first of its kind to protect the endangered species from people whose lives and properties they threaten. The farmers in Dai Autonomous Prefecture of Xishuangbanna, Yunnan Province, reported crops, cars and homes damaged by the wild Asian elephants in January. The administration of Xishuangbanna Natural Reserve and China Pacific Insurance Group Xishaungbanna branch signed a contract in November 2009 to start the insurance scheme in the region, to ease the long-standing conflict between the wild animals and local residents. Maximum compensation is 30 million yuan. Wild Asian elephants are under the national level protection and only about 250 live in the wild in China, mainly in the extreme southwest of Yunnan Province's Xishuangbanna Natural Reserve.

    Mosquito Scent Receptors Discovered

    February 3, 2010  www.nature.com 

    Yale University researchers have discovered more than two dozen scent receptors in malaria-transmitting mosquitoes (Anopheles gambiae). These olfactory receptors detect compounds in human sweat, a finding that may help scientists to develop new ways to combat malaria. The article published online Feb. 3 in the journal Nature. Senior author John Carlson says, "Some of these receptors could be excellent targets for controlling mosquito behavior….Compounds that jam these receptors could impair the ability of mosquitoes to find us. Compounds that excite some of these receptors could help lure mosquitoes into traps or repel them. The best lures or repellents may be cocktails of multiple compounds." Carey says that more knowledge about mosquito behavior and odor reception will help develop more effective traps and repellents.

    Wolverine Decline in North America Due to Climate Change

    February 3, 2010  news.bbc.co.uk  By Matt Walker

    Research shows wolverine numbers are falling across North America. Their decline has been linked to less snow settling as a result of climate change according to a study published in the journal Population Ecology. The wolverine lives in boreal forest across Scandinavia, northern Russia, northern China, Mongolia and North America, where it ranges mostly across six provinces or territories of western Canada. This largest member of the weasel family eats carrion and hunts hares, marmots, smaller rodents and young or weakened ungulates. It has evolved for life on the snowpack, having thick fur and outsized feet. Wildlife biologist Dr Jedediah Brodie and Eric Post of Pennsylvania State University gathered data on snowpack levels across six provinces or territories of Canada: Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, the Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan and the Yukon Territory. In all except for the Yukon, he found that snowpack depth declined significantly between 1968 and 2004. Other studies have shown corresponding rising temperatures and declining precipitation across much of the western US. Fortuitously, Canada has good records of both snowpack trends over time as well as trends in the harvest of all sorts of fur-bearing animals, and in provinces where winter snowpack levels are declining fastest, wolverine populations tend to be declining most rapidly.

    Biodiversity Law Could Stymie Research

    February 3, 2010  www.nature.com 

    Signatories to the Convention on Biological Diversity, commonly referred to as the Biodiversity Treaty (CBD) begin negotiating ways to strengthen the treaty's legal framework and goals, which include conserving biodiversity and promoting the sustainable use of natural resources. A crucial part of that effort, discussed last week at a meeting in Montreal, Canada, is the reform that is generally regarded as the least effective aspect of the CBD: deciding who can exploit valuable genetic resources, such as plants that produce potential pharmaceuticals, and who should benefit financially. The negotiators aim to produce a legally binding framework to ensure that countries are paid fairly if commercial products are developed from their resources, and how genetic resources are used. But tougher regulation could come with a cost. In some cases, it can take at least two years and reams of paperwork to agree to the terms on which research can be conducted, specimens exported and profits shared. "You could go through a field season collecting specimens and then the government says they are going to hold on to them because you don't have the right permission," he says. "The specimens sit on a dock, rot and are lost." Other key sticking points in the negotiations include defining exactly what a genetic resource is, and whether the regime should be restricted to plants or should also include animals and pathogens.

    Cheetahs Come to Brevard Zoo

    February 4, 2010  www.myfoxorlando.com

    MELBOURNE, Florida -- On February 13, Brevard Zoo will open a new Cheetah Complex in Expedition Africa. The permanent exhibit will house two young female cheetahs, Basil and Pepper, as well as an older cheetah, Sasha. The cheetah complex consists of three yards. The first yard is the front exhibit area where patrons can see cheetahs on exhibit. The two additional yards exist behind the exhibit yard and are available for training purposes, future breeding programs, as well as serve as retirement home for older cheetahs. The Zoo plans to begin training Basil and Pepper to run. Down the road, the Zoo expects to offer guests a daily cheetah run experience at the end of the day. All three cheetahs come from the White Oak Conservation Center in Yulee, Florida. Basil and Pepper were born November 8, 2008 as part of a litter of five females at White Oak. Sasha was born at Memphis Zoological Garden and Aquarium on January 6, 1996. Since 2000 Brevard Zoo has supported the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) in Namibia by creating four Environmental Teaching Suitcases for their outreach education programs and funds to support the care and feeding of 52 orphan cheetahs at their site in Namibia.

    Americans Support Strong Climate, Energy Policies
    February 4, 2010  eagle.gmu.edu  By Tara Laskowski

    FAIRFAX, Va. — Despite a sharp drop in public concern over global warming, Americans support the passage of federal climate and energy policies, according to the results of a national survey released today by researchers at Yale and George Mason universities.

    Sixty percent of Americans, however, said they have heard “nothing at all” about the cap-and-trade legislation currently being considered by Congress. Only 12 percent had heard “a lot.” When cap and trade is explained, 58 percent support the policy, but this support drops to approximately 40 percent if household energy costs increase by $15 a month, or 50 cents a day. Sixty-six percent support cap and trade, however, if every household were to receive a yearly bonus of $180 to offset higher energy costs. In addition, 59 percent of Americans said they would likely spend the bonus on home energy efficiency improvements. This increases to 71 percent likely if the government offered to double the bonus, if it was spent on energy efficiency improvements. Sixty-two percent said the United States should make a “medium-” to “large-scale” effort to reduce global warming, even if doing so has “moderate” or “large” economic costs. This represents, however, a 12-point decline since the fall of 2008. Sixty-nine percent said global warming should be a “medium” priority to “very high” priority of President Obama and Congress, while approximately half want local, state, and federal officials to do more to address the issue. Both of those results represent 10- to 15-percentage-point declines since the fall of 2008. “Most Americans continue to want their elected leaders at all levels of government to get on with the job of developing solutions to global warming,” “Two out of three also want to see ordinary citizens like themselves doing more about global warming.”  A copy of the report is at: environment.yale.edu [PDF]

    Saving Species for Economic Reasons

    February 4, 2010  www.bworldonline.com  By Alister Doyle

    Numbers of leatherbacks emerging onto this Costa Rican beach fell to 32 in the 2008-2009 season from 1,500 two decades ago -- due to factors such as nearby hotels, poaching of eggs, accidental snaring in fishermen’s nets and global warming. In 2010, the International Year of Biodiversity, the UN wants the efforts to slow the pace of extinctions to reach beyond nature lovers, to companies and economists. Shifting emphasis from emotional images of polar bears or pandas to stress the fragility and beauty of nature, the focus is on a pragmatic assessment of how the natural world is a key to economic growth and new products. For example, the turtle’s fast-clotting blood might stem bleeding in humans after surgery, or the way they regulate buoyancy might inform submarine design. A 2009 U.N. study estimates that a hectare of intact coral reef can be worth up to $1 million a year for tourism, up to $189,000 for protecting coasts from storms, up to $57,000 as a source of genetic materials and up to $3,818 for fisheries. Scientists developed the malaria drug artemisinin from sweet wormwood, while the Madagascan periwinkle and Pacific yew tree have both yielded treatments for cancer.

    Beyond medicines, firms are looking to "biomimicry," tricks evolved by nature, although only three biomimicry products have actually secured annual turnover over €100 million ($144.3 million). These are Velcro (Swiss inventor George de Mestral was inspired in the 1940s by plant burrs trapped on his dog’s fur), Hypodermic needles which Terumo Corp. modeled on the jab of a mosquito, and paints derived from a self-cleaning trick by the lotus plant, sold by US Sto Corp. There are a lot of ideas to explore. The "Copenhagen Accord" of 2009, will also seek to promote the use of tropical forests to soak up greenhouse gases, a new source of income for poor nations. And the IUCN is seeking corporate sponsors to slow losses of species after the world failed to reach a UN goal, set in 2002, of slowing the rate of extinctions of animals and plants by 2010.

    New Gecko Species in Vietnam

    February 4, 2010  english.vietnamnet.vn

    A new gecko species, Gekko takouensis (discovered by Ngo & Gamble) is the second endemic gecko species found on Ta Cu mountain. The other is bent-toe gecko named Cyrtodactylus takouensis (discovered by Ngo & Bauer). According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Ta Cu Nature Reserve has 751 floral species and at least 15 species are very rare. It is also the home to around 178 species of terrestrial spinal animals. Recent discoveries include francolin, mountain hawk, Truong Son silver douc and black-legged monkey (Pygathrix nigripes). Dr. Vu Ngoc Long, Director of the HCM City Institute of Tropical Biology‘s Bio-diversity and Development Centre, there are at least 25 species of endangered animals at the Ta Cu Nature Reserve. Photo is at english.vietnamnet.vn

    Prairie Dog Language Complexity

    February 4, 2010  www.physorg.com

    The Gunnison's prairie dog (Cynomys gunnisoni) is actually a rodent belonging to the ground squirrel family, but like the other four prairie dog species (Utah, white-tailed, black-tailed, and Mexican) it gained its name because of its bark-like call. It lives in semi-desert grasslands and prairies in northern New Mexico and Arizona and southern Utah and Colorado, where it lives in colonies of hundreds of animals. Professor Con Slobodchikoff, from the Northern Arizona University, has been studying and recording the calls of the Gunnison’s prairie dog for three decades. The calls contain varying numbers of frequency modulations, barks, squeals and squeaks, and each animal has unique tonal qualities. The same “words” can be understood by all the members of the colony. Slobodchikoff believes they may have evolved a complex language because they have a complex social structure and live in large colonies in vast and complicated burrow systems. Their vocalizations may be more complex than that of dolphins, whales, and non-human primates. Professor Slobodchikoff describes his vocal experiments in a BBC natural history TV program called Prairie dogs, talk of the town.

    Nonessential Population of Sonoran Pronghorn in SW Arizona

    February 4, 2010  www.thefederalregister.com

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), proposes to reestablish the Sonoran pronghorn, a federally listed endangered mammal, into its historical habitat in King Valley, Kofa National Wildlife Refuge (Kofa NWR), in Yuma County, and to the Barry M. Goldwater Range--East (BMGR-E), in Maricopa County, in southwestern Arizona. We propose to reestablish the Sonoran pronghorn under section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act), and to classify that reestablished population as a nonessential experimental population (NEP). This proposed rule provides a plan for establishing the NEP and provides for allowable legal incidental taking of Sonoran pronghorn within the defined NEP area. We have prepared a draft environmental assessment (EA) on this proposed action. Please submit comments on this proposal by April 5, 2010, or at the public hearing. Submit comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal or U.S. mail to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R2-ES-2009-0077; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203. Copies of Documents: The proposed rule and draft EA are on our Website. For further information contact: Curtis McCasland, Refuge Manager, Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, 1611 North Second Avenue, Ajo, AZ 85321; by telephone (520-387-6483) or by facsimile (520-387-5359).

    We listed the Sonoran pronghorn subspecies (Antilocapra americana sonoriensis) as endangered throughout its range on March 11, 1967 (32 FR 4001), under the Endangered Species Preservation Act of October 15, 1966, without critical habitat. This subspecies was included as an endangered species when the Act was signed into law in 1973. The Act among other things, prohibits the take of endangered wildlife. "Take'' is defined as harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or attempt to engage in any such conduct.

    Based on the best scientific and commercial data available, we must determine whether the experimental population is essential or nonessential to the continued existence of the species. The regulations (50 CFR 17.80(b)) state that an experimental population is considered essential if its loss would be likely to appreciably reduce the likelihood of survival of that species in the wild. All other populations are considered nonessential. We have determined that this experimental population would not be essential to the continued existence of the species in the wild (see Status of Proposed Population section below). Therefore, the Service is proposing to designate a nonessential experimental population (NEP) for the species in this area.

    Sonoran pronghorn used to establish an experimental population would come from a captive-rearing pen on Cabeza Prieta NWR, provided appropriate permits are issued in accordance with our regulations (50 CFR 17.22) prior to their removal. The donor population is a captive-bred population derived primarily from wild stock at Cabeza Prieta NWR and from a wild Sonoran pronghorn population in northwestern Sonora, Mexico. The purpose of the captive population is to provide stock for augmenting existing U.S. and Mexican populations of Sonoran pronghorn, as well as supplying founder animals for establishment of an additional U.S. herd(s), in accordance with recovery actions 2.1-2.4 of the Sonoran Pronghorn Recovery Plan [PDF] (USFWS 2002). The proposed population establishment would involve two phases: (1) Construction and operation of a captive-breeding pen at Kofa NWR, with subsequent releases to establish a second herd; and (2) relocation of excess Sonoran pronghorn from the existing breeding pen at Cabeza Prieta NWR to the eastern portion of the BMGR-E, east of Highway 85 and south of Interstate 8, with the intent of establishing a separate herd in that area, as well. We have not designated critical habitat for the Sonoran pronghorn. Section 10(j)(2)(C)(ii) of the Act states that critical habitat shall not be designated for any experimental population that is determined to be nonessential. Accordingly, we cannot designate critical habitat in areas where we establish an NEP.

    Endangered Species Permit Applications

    February 4, 2010  www.thefederalregister.com

    The following applicants have applied for scientific research permits to conduct certain activities with endangered species.  We invite public comment on these permit applications on or before March 8, 2010.  For additional information contact:  Susan Jacobsen, Chief, Endangered Species Division, P.O. Box 1306, Albuquerque, NM 87103; (505) 2486920.

    Permit TE00284A
    Applicant: Stephanie Rainwater, Collinsville, Oklahoma. Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct resence/absence surveys for American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus) within Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, Arkansas, and South Dakota.

    Permit TE00294A
    Applicant: Jeanette Larsen, Cherokee, Texas. Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct resence/absence surveys for the following species: Texas blind salamander (Typhlomolge rathbuni), San Marcos salamander (Eurycea nana), Barton Springs salamander (Eurycea sosorum), Peck's Cave amphipod (Stygobromus pecki), Comal Springs dryopid beetle (Stygoparnus comalensis), Comal Springs riffle beetle (Heterelmis comalensis), Coffin Cave mold beetle (Batrisodes texanus), Helotes mold beetle (Batrisodes venyivi), Kretschmarr Cave mold beetle (Texamaurops redelli), ground beetle (Rhadine exilis), ground beetle (Rhadine infernalis), Tooth Cave ground beetle (Rhadine persephone), Robber Baron Cave meshweaver (Cicurina baronia), Madla Cave meshweaver (Cicurina madla), Braken Bat Cave meshweaver (Cicurina venii), Government Canyon Bat Cave meshweaver (Cicurina vespera), Government Canyon Bat Cave spider (Neoleptoneta microps), Tooth Cave spider (Leptoneta myopica), Tooth Cave psuedoscorpion (Tartarocreagris texana), Bee Creek Cave harvestman (Texella reddelli), Bone Cave harvestman (Texella reyesi), and Cokendolpher Cave harvestman (Texella cokendolpheri) within Texas.

    Permit TE151216
    Applicant: Lawrence Stevens, Flagstaff, Arizona. Applicant requests an amendment to a current permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys for Virgin River chub (Gila seminuda) within Arizona.

    Permit TE00599A
    Applicant: Frank Holland, Willow Park, Texas. Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys for goldencheeked warbler (Dendroica chrysoparia) and blackcapped vireo (Vireo atricapilla) within Texas.

    Permit TE00975A
    Applicant: Osage Nation, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Pawhuska, Oklahoma. Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys for American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus) within Oklahoma.

    Permit TE022190
    Applicant: Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson, Arizona. Applicant requests an amendment to a current permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys for southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax taillii extimus) within Arizona.

    Permit TE01690A
    Applicant: Aaron Corcoran, Winston Salem, North Carolina. Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys of lesser longnosed bat (Leptonycteris curasoae yerbabuenae) within Arizona.

    USFWS Won’t Protect Pika from Global Warming

    February 4, 2010  www.oregonlive.com

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has decided that while some pika populations in the West are declining, others are not, so it will not extend Endangered Species Act protections to this species. Although potentially vulnerable to climate change in some parts of its range, pikas will have enough high-elevation habitat to survive, the agency said. The pika would have been the first animal in the continental United States listed because of the effects of global warming. The pika lives mostly in high, rocky mountain slopes in 10 Western states (California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming). The animals are well-suited for alpine conditions, but as temperatures warm they're forced to move up-slope. In some places, scientists said the pika has run out of room to run and populations have disappeared. Even brief exposure to temperatures of 78 degrees or warmer can cause death. A study in 2003 found six of 25 previously known pika populations had disappeared. "This is species is a poster child of species that are targeted by global warming," said Stuart Pimm, a professor of conservation ecology at Duke University.

    Cheetahs Escape Exhibit by Swimming Moat

    February 4, 2010  www.nytimes.com

    WELLINGTON, New Zealand  -- Three cheetahs swam a moat and crawled through a hole in a rusty fence to escape their enclosure and then briefly roamed inside a wildlife park in New Zealand. Orana Wildlife Park rushed visitors to a secure area while rangers rounded up the big cats Thursday, park chief executive Lynn Anderson said Friday. ''Our cheetahs, just like a domestic house cat, they all hate swimming, so if you had asked me yesterday would any of our cheetahs swim I would have said no,'' Anderson told National Radio. ''They proved us quite wrong.'' The cats, three youngsters who had been bred at the park, crawled through a fence hole that was exposed recently when greenery was cut back, she said. The breakout at the park near Christchurch lasted about a half hour. The whole fence around the cheetahs' enclosure will now be replaced, Anderson said.

    Japanese Giant Salamander and the Chytrid Fungus

    February 4, 2010  news.bbc.co.uk  By Richard Black

    The Japanese Giant Salamander is scientifically important because 1. It is a “living fossil” and 2. its apparently peaceful co-existence with the chytrid fungus. Known as the hanzaki (Andrias japonicus) in Japan, it has only two close living relatives: the Chinese giant salamander (A. davidianus), and the much smaller hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis) of the south-eastern US. Creatures like these were around when dinosaurs dominated. "They are thought to be extremely primitive species, partly due to the fact that they are the only salamanders that have external fertilization," says Don Church, a salamander specialist with CI. The fertilization ritual occurs in a riverbank den that is usually occupied by the dominant male (the "den-master"). Several females, and also a few other males enter the den and the den-master and the females release their sperm and eggs, turning incessantly to stir the gametes. When the waters still, everyone but the den-master leaves; and he alone guards the nest and its juvenile brood. Research shows that genetic diversity among the hanzaki is smaller than it might be, partly as a result of the repeated polygamy.

    When the chytrid fungus was identified just over a decade ago, its discovery on museum specimens of the African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis), pointed to an African origin with spreading by humans. But last year, a team of researchers led by Koichi Goka from Japan's National Institute for Environmental Studies discovered that certain strains of chytrid were present on Japanese giant salamanders, and only on Japanese giant salamanders, including museum specimens from a century or so back; and that the relationship seemed benign. The hanzaki-loving strains of chytrid appear to differ from those that are proving so virulent to amphibians now. Unravelling all this, says Don Church, might tell us something about the origins and spread of chytrid.  There is so much diversity among Japanese chytrid strains that Japan is now being touted as a possible origin, as diversity often implies a long evolutionary timeframe. More importantly, the discovery might also provide options for treating the infection. "In the case of the North American salamanders, what was found was that they have bacteria living on their skin that produce peptides that are lethal to the amphibian chytrid fungus," says Dr Church. "And those bacteria might be able to be transplanted to other species that can't fight off the fungus."  It now appears that studies of the Japanese giant salamander can expand the number of chytrid-fighting bacteria known to science, and so extend the options for developing treatments for an infection that currently cannot be controlled in the wild.

    Houston Zoo’s Test for Elephant Herpes Virus

    February 4, 2010   www.chron.com

    Thursday, Houston Zoo officials staged a maternity “boot camp” to ensure live births and the survival of two expected Asian elephant calves. In 25 years of zoo breeding efforts, all 14 calves died before or relatively soon after birth. Six of the calves — most recently Max, who died at age 2 in November 2008 — succumbed to a disease caused by a herpes virus. “We have lots of concerns,” said Daryl Hoffman, the zoo's large mammal curator. “As we learn more, our success rates should improve. Every one that we lost was under different circumstances.” Last year, the Houston Zoo and Baylor College of Medicine joined forces to develop a vaccine to protect against the herpes illness, which causes blood vessels to leak and can lead to heart failure. Dr. Paul Ling, associate professor of molecular virology and microbiology, said an effective vaccine still may be five years away. But researchers have created a successful test for the virus, thereby allowing for treatment of infected animals before the deadly disease develops. Four of the zoo's five Asian elephants, including Shanti and Tess, have tested positive for the virus. The virus is most dangerous to elephants younger than 10 years, and Shanti, 19, and Tess, 26, are well past that age. It is not known whether they can transmit the virus to their young in the womb. As virus carriers, however, they can transmit it after the calves are born. The pregnant elephants' bodily fluids are tested weekly for virus and hormone levels. As their delivery dates approach — Shanti is expected to give birth this spring, Tess in the fall — testing will be conducted twice weekly, then daily. The animals' blood pressure will be checked through cuffs attached to their tails. As the big day approaches, the mothers-to-be will be subjected to ultrasound scans to determine the fetuses' position. As many as 40 volunteers will become involved before and after the births as the animals are monitored 24 hours a day, Hoffman said. Hoffman said the zoo's goal is to create a self-sustaining elephant population. At this stage of the pregnancies, Hoffman said, both Shanti and Tess are being placed on stringent dietary and exercise regimens to help them shed their extra “baby weight.”

    Brookfield’s Elephant Plans

    February 4, 2010  www.chigagotribune.com  

    There are 290 African and Asian elephants living in 78 accredited North American zoos : 147 African elephants and 143 Asian elephants, said John Lehnhardt, of Disney World's Animal Kingdom in Florida. Lehnhardt is vice chair of the AZA's elephant taxon group or TAG, that tracks the location, health, status and genetic history of all 290 zoo elephants. If a zoo wants to add, subtract or breed its elephant collection, it has to get the TAG's approval and input. Brookfield has asked the elephant TAG for companion candidates for Joyce, their lone 27-year-old African elephant. This is Brookfield's second search in less than a year. Last May, 40-year-old Affie died. She was the fourth-oldest African elephant in North America and companion to Christy for 25 years. Joyce took her place at Brookfield last August. Born in the wild, Joyce had lived in a circus before moving to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in California. Then Christy, 28, died from a congenital kidney defect in December. The two deaths have made Brookfield a target for animal rights groups. One group, California-based In Defense of Animals, put Brookfield on its annual "Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants" list, demanding that Joyce be moved to a warmer climate and a place with more elephants. Stuart Strahl, Brookfield's director, said it is more crucial now than ever that people can continue to see elephants in zoos. In the last 30 years, the wild African elephant population dropped from 1.6 million to fewer than 500,000, mainly because of ivory poaching and loss of traditional elephant territory to human settlement. “Brookfield is committed to keeping elephants,” Strahl said, and in recent years has nearly doubled the size of its elephant habitat and installed other new amenities. Now an entirely new 3-5 acre elephant habitat is planned – room for a breeding herd with a male and five or more females. Brookfield is also one of more than 70 zoos putting money and expertise into building a 350-acre National Elephant Center in central Florida. "It will provide space for elephants on a short- or long-term basis. It could house young male elephants, who are harder to place, in bachelor groups," Lehnhardt said.  "It will be a place for zoo elephants while their zoos renovate facilities. It will focus on training our next generation of elephant managers in how to do the very best for elephants that we can," he said.  The first elephants are scheduled to begin arriving at the new facility this year.

    Toad Survival Secrets

    February 4, 2010  www.livescience.com

    Toads (Bufonidae) originated in the tropics of South America, but fanned out across most of the world in about 10 million years. The roughly 500 known toad species are incredibly diverse, both in characteristics and in habitat type and range. Evolutionary biologist Ines Van Bocxlaer of Belgium's Vrije Universiteit Brussel retraced their evolutionary history and various traits to identify the following reasons for their success:
    1. The ability to live on partly dry land.
    2. Large body size – As toads balloon in size, they have a greater volume to hold onto water and relatively less surface area from which they lose water
    3. Parotoid glands – Large bulbous lumps behind toads' eyes that secrete poisonous chemicals They may help toads to rehydrate.
    4. Inguinal fat bodies – Allows toads to store more fat and hold onto extra energy reserves
    5. Ability to lay eggs in all kinds of water bodies
    6. Large clutch size – Thousands of eggs, rather than just a handful.
    7. Exotrophous larvae – Some toad larvae feed off of nutrients from their mother (these are called endotophous), but exotrophous larvae feed off nutrients from their environment. Since exotrophous larvae don't suck mom dry of resources, toads with this trait can have more young that can then take up residence all over the place. "When we linked all these traits with their distribution, we could see that ancestral toads with these traits were the ones that expanded their range to conquer the world," Van Bocxlaer said. The findings appear in the Feb. 5 issue of the journal Science.

    Webcam Viewer Alerts Keepers to Rhino Birth

    February 5, 2010  www.nytimes.com

    EDINBURGH, Scotland  -- Keepers at the Blair Drummond Safari and Adventure Park in Scotland were able to witness the birth of a white rhinoceros thanks to a woman viewing the webcam over the internet. Keepers said the unidentified woman saw that Dorothy's water had broken on Dec. 21 and telephoned the Park. The female calf, named Ailsa after the park's only female keeper, was introduced to the public Thursday. She now weighs 330 pounds (150kg) at the age of five weeks according to park manager Gary Gilmour. Ailsa was one of eight southern white rhinoceros born in captivity in Europe last year. About 11,000 of the endangered animals roam across southern Africa, according to the IUCN. The park set up the webcam because staff feared they would miss the birth, which for rhinos usually happen in the early morning. Staff have now installed a second outdoor webcam allowing viewers to watch Ailsa explore her new home.

    Co-Evolution of Two Butterfly Species

    February 5, 2010  www.physorg.com 

    Heliconius, or passion-vine butterflies, live in the Americas - from the southern United States to southern South America. Although they cannot interbreed, H. melpomene and H. erato have evolved to mimic one another perfectly. According to Dr Chris Jiggins of the University of Cambridge, "The similarity is incredible - even down to the spots on the body and the minute details of the wing pattern." And it is due to predation by birds. "The birds will try anything that looks different in the hope that it's good, so they learn that certain wing patterns are unpalatable and avoid them, but anything that deviates slightly from what they've experienced before is more likely to be attacked," he explains. According to Jiggins, "It tells us how flexible evolution is. If you get the same wing pattern evolving independently in different populations, do you expect the same genes to be involved?" Because there are thousands of genes in the butterflies' genome, most scientists felt it was unlikely that the same genes should be involved. But the results of this study suggest that this is, in fact, the case. The new results - published February 5th in PLoS Genetics show that the regions of the genome associated with the wing patterns are very small - akin to genetic "hotspots".

    Detroit Zoo Takes in Rescued Animals

    February 5, 2010  www.freep.com  BY BILL LAITNER

    The Detroit Zoo received hundreds of rescued animals Thursday night from among the nearly 27,000 animals seized Dec. 15 by federal authorities from an exotic-animal importing firm in Texas. It is believed to be the largest exotic animal rescue effort in U.S. history. Their arrival followed a judge’s ruling that the animals were mistreated and will not be returned to U.S. Global Exotics. The zoo is providing sanctuary for many of the exotic mammals, including five wallabies, four sloths, three agoutis, two ring-tailed lemurs and two coatis, as well as hundreds of reptiles, spiders and amphibians. In addition, the Detroit Zoo is helping to place hundreds more animals in other accredited zoos and sanctuaries throughout the country. Several curators and supervisors from Detroit’s staff have spent seven weeks since the raid caring for the animals, many of which were seriously ill, at a temporary rescue facility in Dallas. The amphibians will be cared for at the Detroit Zoo’s National Amphibian Conservation Center, considered a national leader in amphibian exhibition, conservation and research; the wallabies will join the zoo’s wallabies and red kangaroos at its Australian Outback Adventure exhibit, and “appropriate habitats are being prepared for the other animals.”  The raid followed an undercover investigation by PETA. An Arlington, Texas, municipal judge ruled that the animals suffered from neglect and cruel conditions, and an appeal by the company’s owners to a higher court was denied last weekend.

    Record Sea Turtle Rescues in January

    February 5, 2010  www.news-journalonline.com  By DINAH VOYLES PULVER

    FLORIDA -- A massive rescue of cold-stunned sea turtles in January sent more than 3,600 to rehabilitation centers and left 948 dead but yielded valuable research information that could benefit the species for years to come. The turtles were measured, tested, treated and tagged. That information will be shared with many scientists. Studies are planned looking at just about every aspect of turtle biology, said Brian Stacy, a veterinarian with the University of Florida and the National Marine Fisheries Service. "We're really trying to make the most of an unfortunate event."  Genetic researchers, for example, will analyze skin samples taken from "a very large number of turtles," said Blair Witherington, a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "The genetics will help us understand the population and where they were hatched." Scientists also are gathering information about fibropapilloma, tumors spread among turtles by a virus. Researchers previously relied on a study of just 30 tumor-affected turtles. Statewide, about 100 sea turtles remain in rehabilitation centers.

    Turtles Affected by January Cold : Total - 4,591
    Green -- 4,369
    Loggerhead -- 93
    Kemp's Ridley -- 72
    Hawksbill -- 57
    Turtles that died -- 948
    Turtles released -- about 3,500
    Turtles still in rehab -- about 100
    Source: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

    USFWS To Establish Second Sonoran Pronghorn Population

    February 5, 2010  www.fws.gov  By James Atkinson and Jeff Humphrey

    Sonoran pronghorn originally ranged widely throughout the Sonoran Desert in southwestern Arizona and northern Mexico, but now an estimated 68 animals in the U.S. are limited to Barry M. Goldwater Range, Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and two Mexican populations totaling 400 animals. “Establishing additional U.S. populations of Sonoran pronghorns will be a tremendous benefit to recovering one of the most endangered land mammals in North America,” said Benjamin Tuggle, Regional Director of the Service’s Southwest Region. The USFWS’s draft environmental assessment establishes a second U.S. population for the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge in Yuma County. The Service and its Sonoran pronghorn recovery partners (conservation biologists, numerous federal land managers, Native American tribes and Arizona Game and Fish Department) are proposing to establish a Sonoran pronghorn breeding enclosure on Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, moving 11 breeding-age pronghorn to the enclosure next winter, and as early as 2012-13, annually releasing up to 20 offspring from the facility into suitable adjacent habitat.  An additional holding pen is being proposed on Barry M. Goldwater Range-East.  Offspring reared at the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge captive-breeding facility would be moved to the Goldwater-East for acclimation prior to release to establish a new population east of State Route 85.

    The Service is proposing to designate any reestablished Sonoran pronghorn populations as an “experimental, nonessential population” – a designation that allows for greater management flexibility in reintroducing new populations within the species’ historical range. Input into both proposals is being sought through April 5, 2010. The Service is seeking comments on both the draft environmental assessment and proposed experimental population rule.  Both documents are available at www.fws.gov or by contacting the Refuge Manager, Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, 1611 N. Second Ave., Ajo, AZ 85321 (520-387-5359).  Written comments can be mailed to the Refuge Manager, emailed to James_Atkinson@fws.gov, posted at www.regulations.gov (FWS-R2-ES-2009-0077).

    Battle Over Possible Elephant Ivory Sales

    February 5, 2010  www.science.org  By Erik Stokstad

    International trade in ivory is banned by CITES, but Tanzania and Zambia have asked CITES for a special sale of 112 tons of ivory. The proposals will be considered when members  from 175 nations meet 13 to 25 March in Qatar. The current trade ban was put in place in 1989, after massive losses of elephants during the 1970s and '80s. In East Africa, poachers reduced populations by 50% to 80% and probably by even more in Central Africa. The ban worked: After 1989, populations in East Africa began to recover. Meanwhile, other countries, such as South Africa, had been amassing stockpiles of ivory collected from elephants that died naturally or nuisance animals that had been killed, and they wanted to sell the ivory and use the proceeds for conservation. In 1997, CITES allowed three countries—Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe—to sell a total of 50 tons of ivory. Because of fears that the sale would stimulate demand for ivory and encourage poachers, CITES created monitoring networks to keep tabs on illegal killings of elephants and seizures of ivory. These official studies indicated that poaching had declined in the years after the sale. After getting permission in 2002, these three countries and South Africa sold another 106 tons of ivory. As part of that agreement, CITES put a 9-year moratorium on further sales (Science, 22 June 2007, p. 1678). But a loophole was added at the last minute: The moratorium would apply only to countries that had previously sold ivory.

    Last November, Tanzania asked CITES for permission to sell 90 tons of ivory, and Zambia asked to sell 22 tons, all from natural deaths and culling. The two countries argue that the ivory trade is "essential to the conservation of elephants," because it will help resolve the growing conflicts between humans and elephants in their countries. "Elephant products such as ivory picked up from the wildlife-management areas could increase the value of elephants to those communities," the delegations claim. Opponents, including a coalition of 23 African countries, say the proposal violates the intent of the 2007 agreement. Further, CITES requires adequate law enforcement to prevent poaching and to stop illegal trade before a sale can be allowed. According to the monitoring networks, people in both Tanzania and Zambia are still "heavily involved" in the movement of large shipments of illegal ivory.

    Daniel Stiles, an expert on wildlife trade based in Diani Beach, Kenya, reported in the  April 2005 issue of Environmental Conservation, there was no sign of increased demand after the 1997 sale. But everyone agrees that poaching is now on the rise. The number of illegally killed elephants found has increased from 47 to 232 over the past 3 years in Kenya, a country with relatively good management and enforcement. TRAFFIC, a network run by the WWF and IUCN, says that CITES needs to focus on improving enforcement in the three countries "most heavily implicated" in the ivory trade, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, and Thailand. Momentum appears to be building against the proposed sales. The United Kingdom announced last week that it is opposed. And the coalition of 23 African countries sent representatives to Brussels last week to lobby the European Union. The coalition has its own proposal for CITES: a 20-year moratorium on ivory sales in order to put better controls in place and to study the impact of legal sales.

    Preserving New Zealand’s Grand Skinks

    February 6, 2010   www.odt.co.nz

    A select group of grand skinks living in the Lindis Pass is part of a New Zealand Department of Conservation breeding program to preserve the endangered species. Six juvenile skinks were recently recovered from the Lindis area by a team of Doc rangers. Doc captive breeding specialist Lesley Judd said the skinks in the Lindis area are particularly vulnerable because of the small number living there. A few juveniles will be removed over a period of several years to establish the captive breeding program. Juvenile offspring from the captive lizards will then be repatriated back into the wild after 3-4 years. A special captive facility has been built at Peacock Springs Wildlife Park near Christchurch. Grand skinks are one of New Zealand's largest lizards, reaching up to 30cm in length and living more than 18 years. The lizards were once spread across most of Otago but now are largely restricted to a small area of eastern Otago, near Macraes Flat. Some small, genetically distinct populations remain in the Lindis area.

    Florida Wildlife Succumbs to January Cold

    February 6, 2010  www.miamiherald.com   BY CURTIS MORGAN

    The aftermath of the frigid Florida weather in January:

    "What we witnessed was a major ecological disturbance event equal to a fire or a hurricane,'' said wildlife ecologist Frank Mazzotti, from University of Florida.   

    U.N. Report on Dolphins and Porposes

    February 7, 2010  news.mongabay.com  By Jeremy Hance

    A new report from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) finds that almost 9 out of 10 toothed whales—including dolphins and porpoises—are threatened by entanglement and subsequent drowning from large-scale fishing operations equipment, such as gillnets, traps, longlines, and trawls. Lack of food and changes in diets due to overfishing by humans currently threatens 13 species, while 14 species are threatened by collisions with ships. The ingestion of plastic and other pollutants have been reported in a total of 48 species (nearly 70 percent). Currently six species are considered on the edge of extinction. The most threatened is the vaquita with only 100-150 individuals left in the Bay of California. The baiji, once abundant in the Yangtze River, is considered extinct. 41 of the known 71 toothed whales are so little-known that researchers are not certain if they are threatened of not.

    Maryland Zoo’s New Projects

    February 8, 2010  www.baltimoresun.com  By Patrick Maynard

    BALTIMORE, Maryland – The Maryland Zoo staff is working on several capital projects during the offseason, including replacing the kiddie train, retired in 2005, with a replica of the 1863 C.P. Huntington train. The new $2.6 million project includes a slightly larger train and new one-mile track with a 105-foot-long bridge. It is scheduled to be erected next week. Drainage and fire-alarm upgrades, necessary to maintain the zoo's national accreditation, have also been completed. Zoo President and CEO Don Hutchinson says that while the Zoo’s financial situation has stabilized, the lack of a reserve fund means that small, unanticipated problems could become emergencies. Future plans include renovation of the zoo's historic Maryland Building; upgrades to the polar bears' environmental filtration system; construction of a new sitatunga barn; and the installation of a new X-ray system for the animals. The blackfoot penguin collection, for which the zoo is nationally known, will need a new exhibit within five years.

    Columbus Zoo Helps 1,000 Confiscated Parrots

    February 8, 2010  www.zandavisitor.com  By Jennifer M. Wilson

    POWELL, OH -- More than 1,000 endangered African grey parrots were delivered to the Limbe Wildlife Center in Cameroon last week after being confiscated as part of a $1.5 million illegal shipment destined for Kuwait. This is the third major bust of African grey parrots in Cameroon in the past two years. The Last Great Ape Organization (LAGA), in conjunction with Cameroonian law enforcement officials, coordinated the bust. Limbe staff members are scrambling to treat the parrots, many of which are injured or ill. Forty-seven parrots were found dead at the bottom of the crates upon arrival and another 30 did not survive the first day. Because of an Emergency Conservation Fund established several years ago, the Columbus Zoo reacted quickly, providing a grant for medical care, and to build additional enclosures. In the months to come, the healthy strong birds with undamaged wings will be released back to the wild. The other birds will stay at Limbe until completely rehabilitated. In 2009, the Zoo’s Conservation Grants Program and Partners in Conservation awarded more than $1 million in program support for 70 conservation projects in 35 countries. Over the past five years, the Zoo has distributed $4 million in support. This money is raised from restricted donations, conservation fundraisers, and coins donated by Zoo visitors.

    Fewer Than 50 Wild Tigers in China

    February 8, 2010  www.reuters.com

    BEIJING -- China has an estimated 50 or fewer tigers now live in the wild. According to Xie Yan, China Country Program Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society, about 10 still live in the southwestern province of Yunnan, some 15 in Tibet, and about 20 in northwestern Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces. Xie said the Tibetan and Yunnan tigers have the bleakest futures, as their populations are both tiny and isolated. The northeast tigers, though small in number have stabilized in China, and are far more numerous just across the border in Russia, where around 500 still live. "We think this population is the best hope for wild tigers because it is connected to the bigger population.”  The South China tiger is probably already extinct, and the Indochinese tiger is also on the brink of extinction, with fewer than 1,000 left in the forests of Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar. Barely 3,500 tigers are estimated to be roaming wild across 12 Asian countries and Russia, compared with about 100,000 a century ago. Conservationists say the trade in skin and bones is booming in China, which has banned the use of tiger parts in medicine but where everything from fur and whiskers to eyeballs and bones are still used. Skins sell for up to $20,000 on the black market.

    Cleveland Metroparks Zoo New “Scoop on Poop” Exhibit

    February 8, 2010  www.zandavisitor.com

    Cleveland Metroparks Zoo presents “The Scoop on Poop,” a one-of-a-kind exhibit that teaches visitors of all ages about excrement. Featuring colorful graphics, three-dimensional models and interactives, The Scoop on Poop takes a tactful approach to the topic, carefully using both science and humor. As part of their education in defecation, Zoo visitors can listen to a grizzly bear’s digestion, test their No. 2 IQ in “stool school” and hop on a scale to see how long it’d take an elephant to defecate their body weight. Animals use poop to build their homes, hide from enemies, attract mates, and even nourish themselves. Humans use it to make fertilizer, fuel power plants and diagnose medical conditions. The Scoop on Poop, based on the popular book by Dr. Wayne Lynch, is a traveling exhibit designed by Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland in Allenwood, Pennsylvania. It will sit on several thousand square feet of Zoo grounds, including The RainForest, the Exhibit Hall and the Primate, Cat & Aquatics Building. The exhibit runs from May 22 through September 12.

    Gorilla Born at Louisville Zoo

    February 8, 2010  www.whas11.com

    Louisville Zoo’s 20-year-old western lowland gorilla Mia Moja gave birth to her second baby on Saturday, February 6. It is the first gorilla baby born in North America this year and the second gorilla ever born in the Zoo’s 41-year history. (The first was male Azizi born to Makari on December 4, 2003, a year after Gorilla Forest opened in May of 2002.) Louisville Zoo Director John Walczak said, “Mom and baby are doing great and appear to be very healthy.” The father is 22-year-old silverback Mshindi. It is Mshindi’s first offspring and Mia Moja’s second. She proved herself a good mother with the birth and subsequent raising of Olympia, who was born in 1996 at Zoo Atlanta and still resides there. Since there are only 353 western lowland gorillas in 52 zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, each birth is a celebration of life and a step toward preserving the species. Western lowland gorillas are a critically endangered species and the wild population has declined rapidly over the past decade. According to the World Wildlife Fund, there are approximately 100,000 western lowland gorillas in the wild. Female western lowland gorilla Kweli is also housed with the baby, Mia Moja and Mshindi. She arrived at the Louisville Zoo in 2008 from Cincinnati.

    New Mouse Species Discovered in Venezuela

    February 8, 2010  news.mongabay.com  by Jeremy Hance

    Researchers from the City College of New York have discovered a new species of spiny mouse that lives on four mountainous forests in the Cordillera de la Costa mountain range, which runs along Venezuela's northern coast. Dr. Robert P. Anderson and Eliécer E. Gutiérrez have named the new spiny mouse Heteromys catopterius, which means the 'height that commands the view'. The mouse has come to be known as the Overlook Spiny Pocket Mouse. The mouse's closest relative is the Caribbean spiny pocket mouse, but the new species is darker and longer with a wider skull and less rounded ears. It also inhabits mountainous forests (between 350 to 2,450 meters above sea level), whereas the Caribbean spiny pocket mouse is found in lowlands. The discovery was published in the Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, and the research was funded by the National Science Foundation.

    California Wildlife Rescue Groups Lack Adequate Funds

    February 8, 2010  www.signonsandiego.com

    January storms that pounded the West Coast have wreaked havoc on California wildlife. San Diego’s “Wildlife Assist” and about 2 dozen others as far north as Astoria, Ore., have been swamped with hundreds of sick pelicans, egrets, herons, cormorants and other species during the past two weeks. They consider the ~ $500 per bird for food and medical attention as charity work. Expenses have mounted so quickly that Paul Kelway, spokesman for the nonprofit International Bird Rescue Research Center in San Pedro and colleagues in Huntington Beach, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara have appealed for assistance from state and federal wildlife agencies. SeaWorld pays for its wildlife-rehabilitation work with admission revenue, but most of their partners in the statewide network rely on donations to aid storm rescues. Contributions are down lately because people have directed their charitable giving to earthquake-relief efforts in Haiti. Kelway said the number of birds at his facility has escalated in the past two or three years because of various factors, including algae poisoning. Last week, the center housed about 150 pelicans that ate a combined 400 pounds of fish per day. “We are much busier with these non-oil-related events,” Kelway said. As long as wildlife rescue and rehabilitation can be tied to an oil spill, the state can seek reimbursement from the responsible organization. This has helped make California’s Oiled Wildlife Care Network one of the most sophisticated animal-recovery programs in the world, according to officials who manage it at U.C. Davis. The operation includes three primary-care facilities — in San Pedro, Santa Cruz and Fairfield — to allow wildlife experts to care for hundreds of animals at once. SeaWorld typically sees an influx of distress calls during the pelican breeding season in the summer. Some young birds aren’t good at finding food and end up starved and dehydrated, said Stephanie Costelow, curator of birds at SeaWorld. She also fields requests for help from Arizona when tropical storms off Baja California blow birds into the desert. SeaWorld can accommodate about two dozen injured pelicans at a time. The care involves giving them food and medicine, using X-rays to look for broken bones and fitting them with splints or soft casts when needed. Despite the efforts of Costelow’s team, only about 40 percent of the birds brought to SeaWorld in the past two weeks have survived.

    China Welcomes Pandas Home

    February 8, 2010  www.china.org.cn

    China welcomed American-born giant pandas Mei Lan and Tai Shan, in a ceremony at the Chengdu airport in Sichuan on Feb. 5. They will become part of a breeding program in their native land. Mei Lan, 3, will go to Chengdu Panda Breeding Research Center, where zookeepers are looking for a "Chinese language teacher" to help her adapt to China more quickly. She has lived at a zoo in Atlanta since she was born in September 2006. Tai Shan, born in July 2005 at the National Zoo will live at Bifeng Gorge Breeding Base. The two were treated as pop idols in the U.S., with crowds of fans and television viewers watching as they were loaded onto a special cargo jet dubbed the FedEx Panda Express. After a month of quarantine, the two pandas will be allowed to mix with other pandas and available for public viewing.

    How To Adopt A Panda In China

    February 8, 2010  www.china.org.cn

    The Chinese government has set up more than 30 reserves, but habitat destruction and poaching continues to pose a threat to pandas living outside them. Currently, with the support of China government and donors all over the world, the population of the wild giant panda increased to 1,590. China's top two panda research centers, The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding and The Wolong Panda Club demonstrate adoption procedures. There are 60 pandas now living in Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. At an average, each one panda needs 50,000 yuan per year for basic feeding, illness protection etc. There are 4-6 newly born giant pandas in Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. Therefore, and addition of six giant pandas will need an extra sum of 300,000 yuan for them. One panda needs 1250,000 yuan in the whole life (counting based on the average of 25 years). Along with the elevation of the research abilities and increase of breeding number, the gap of funds for the fostering of pandas is getting bigger and bigger. Therefore, the program of adopting and naming pandas is put forward towards all the society.
    Independent Adoption for 1 Year - Donation of US$ 6,800 per year
    Life-long Independent Adoption   - Donation of US$ 68,000
    Contact: Tel:86-28-8350-7901, 8350-5318, 8350-5513
    Full article is at www.china.org.cn

    History of Giant Pandas Outside of China

    February 8, 2010  www.china.org.cn

    The founding of the People's Republic of China ended the history of foreign plundering of giant pandas. As friendly ambassadors, 23 giant pandas were sent as state gifts to nine countries from 1953 to 1982:
    In 1957, giant panda Ping Ping was sent to the former Soviet Union, the first sent overseas as a state gift; in 1959, An An followed suit. Between 1965 and 1980, five giant pandas, including Dan Dan, Sang Xing, and Ling Ling, were sent to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. In April 1972, a couple of giant pandas, Ling Ling and Xing Xing, were sent to the United States. In October 1972, Lan Lan and Kang Kang were sent to Japan, but the female, Lan Lan, died in 1979. In 1980, another female, Huan Huan was sent. But, in the same year, the male, Kang Kang, died, and was replaced by Fei Fei iIn 1982. Fei Fei is the last giant panda sent overseas as present by the Chinese government. In December 1973, Yan Yan and Li Li were sent to France. In April 1974, Jia Jia and Jing Jing were sent to Britain. In December 1974, Tiantian and Baobao were sent to Germany. In September 1975, Ying Ying and Bei Bei were sent to Mexico. In September 1978, Shao Shao and Qiang Qiang were sent to Spain.

    In addition, an Austrian animal businessman exchanged three giraffes, two rhinoceroses and other animals, including hippo, zebra, with Beijing Zoo for a female giant panda in 1958. The panda, Ji Ji, lived in London Zoo later, but died in 1972. From that moment, the Chinese government prohibited the transaction and exchange of giant panda, and the animal became a priceless treasure in the world. Up to 1992, those 23 giant pandas have produced eight offspring, including five in Mexico, two in Tokyo, and one in Madrid. Meanwhile, 15 giant pandas in the above list have died, but eight remain. Whether an overseas giant panda population can be set up depends on those "gift" pandas and their descendants. In the 1990's, the China Wildlife Conservation Association (CWCA) and China Zoological Association reached an agreement with the International Wildlife Conservation Agency to loan giant pandas in pairs to overseas countries for 10 years for cooperative research with Chinese scientists; these pandas and their offspring remain the property of China during the loan period; annual fees of US$ 1 million should be paid to China.

    Pairs of giant pandas have been sent since the project came into effect to Kobe in Japan in 1994, Seoul in South Korea in 1995, and San Diego and Atlanta in the United States in 1996 and 1999 respectively. Among them, Shi Shi and Bai Yun in the San Diego Zoo produced a baby on August 21, 1999. Mr. Li Zhaoxing, former Chinese Ambassador in the United States, named it "Hua Mei" meant China-American. It played a critical role in improving the relationship between China and the United States. In December 2000, giant pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian arrived at the Washington National Zoo. Mei Xiang, two and a half years old, a female whose name means "beautiful fragrance," and Tian Tian, three and a half years old, a male whose name means "more and more," were taken to zoo on a Federal Express flight dubbed "Panda One." Mei Xiang and Tian Tian were born at the Research and Conservation Center for the Giant Panda in Wolong, in south China's Sichuan Province. Under a deal meant to foster conservation, the center will loan the pandas to the zoo for 10 years for US$10 million.

    Oklahoma Gorilla Moves to North Carolina

    February 8, 2010  www.zandavisitornews.  By Rod Hackney

    ASHBORO, NC — “Acacia,” a 15-year-old female gorilla, arrived at the North Carolina Zoo Saturday evening from the Oklahoma City Zoo, the second new gorilla to be transferred to the state zoo in the past month. “Jamani,” a 10-year-old female, arrived in Asheboro January 14, from the San Diego Zoo. Both gorillas were transferred to the N.C. Zoo as part of the Gorilla Species Survival Plan (SSP). The N.C. Zoo lost three female gorillas to medical problems during 2009, including two to cancer in late December. The transfers of Jamani and Acacia were approved earlier by the Gorilla SSP and are not related to the loss of the other animals. The two new females will eventually join 18-year-old male “Nkosi” in the zoo’s outdoor Forest Glade exhibit. 

    Portable Solar Power for Field Work

    February 9, 2010  www.nytimes.com  By LIZ GALST

    A growing number of business travelers use portable renewable energy devices — primarily portable solar panels, but also hand-cranked electricity generators known as dynamos or freeplay devices — to power up their electronics when they work in places that offer little or no access to electricity. A portable solar charger, for example, can be propped up in the window of a plane to recharge a cell phone. Generally speaking, portable renewable energy devices cannot power large equipment, like desktop computers or printers. But they can generate enough electricity to operate laptops, satellite telephones, movie and still cameras, sound-recording equipment, GPS equipment and camp lighting, said Stuart Cody, owner of Automated Media Systems in Allston, Mass. The company customizes portable solar arrays and battery backup systems for business travelers and adventurers. The devices are used by the tree kangaroo conservation program, administered by the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle at its field sites in Papua New Guinea. Lisa Dabek, the zoo’s director of field conservation said fuel-powered generators are “very heavy. And to hike uphill with them for two days is not really an option.” Moreover, generators “make a lot of noise that would scare away the tree kangaroos.”

    Mr. Cody said, “People who are starting from scratch don’t realize that solar panels don’t always put out a consistent stream of energy. The sun comes and goes. There’s a shadow that reduces the current flow.” As a result, Cody suggested using the devices to charge internal or external batteries, rather than to run electronics directly. Martin J. Graber, a doctor and international development consultant who works in the Narok district of southwest Kenya uses a solar-powered lantern when he goes to the outhouse at night. “I want to make sure there are no animals.” Dr. Graber said he also used the lanterns in the clinics he helped to develop. “We have a new clinic that has no electricity at present,” he said recently. “There was a young man who came in who had a finger almost entirely amputated. We used the light from the lantern to take care of his finger.”

    L.A. Zoo May Lose More Jobs

    February 9, 2010  online.wsj.com   By TAMARA AUDI

    LOS ANGELES — Officials in Los Angeles are considering cutting 1,000 city jobs and rolling back services as they struggle to plug a $200 million budget. Even if they manage to balance this year's books, Los Angeles could face a nearly $500 million deficit for 2010-11. "If we don't move quickly, we will be bankrupt before summer," said City Council Member Greig Smith. "And we could still be facing financial ruin later in the year." City expenses—especially pension costs—are soaring. Three years ago, the city contributed $200 million to the employee pension fund, which is tied to the stock market. This year, the city contributed $560 million to the fund to make up for the fall in the market. The projected contribution for next year is $980 million. This week, city departments are preparing layoff lists. City Council President Eric Garcetti said Monday those jobs may not be eliminated if the council can find other ways to balance the budget, such as selling its garages and privatizing the city zoo.

    6,000 Captive Tigers in China

    February 9, 2010   news.yahoo.com

    BEIJING – Amid mounting worldwide concern over dwindling numbers of the great cats, Yin Hong, of the State Forestry Administration, announced that, "There are close to 6,000 tigers that have been artificially bred and raised in China. These tigers can breed over 1,000 baby tigers every year." Yin's comments came as China begins the Year of the Tiger, on February 14. Yin said there were just 50 to 60 wild tigers left in China. There are four varieties of wild tigers in China, and one of them -- the South China tiger -- has not been spotted in the wild since the late 1970s. In the 1950s, there were around 4,000 of the subspecies. In the 1980s, China set up tiger farms to try and preserve the tigers, intending to release some into the wild. But experts warn it will be difficult for captive tigers to re-adapt to the wild, and the sheer number of the animals kept in farms now poses a challenge. "The government realizes it's a problem but they haven't figured out how to deal with the tigers yet," said Xie Yan, director of the China program for the Wildlife Conservation Society. In July, Keshav Varma, leader of the World Bank's Global Tiger Initiative, called for tiger farming to be phased out, saying there was a danger this could hasten the extinction of the species. Xie said farms in China make little money, apart from tourists, and some are pushing for a 1993 ban on the trade in tiger parts and related products to be reversed so they can profit from the animals once they die. Experts, however, say this would encourage poaching.

    Top Philanthropists Cut Back In 2009

    February 9, 2010  www.signonsandiego.com  By Dean Calbreath

    The nation’s top 50 philanthropists reduced their contributions by 73% in 2009, according to a report in The Chronicle of Philanthropy. They gave $4.1 billion to charity, compared with $15.1 billion in 2008. The high was in 2006 which included a major gift by Warren Buffett- $50.7 billion. Last year’s total tied with 2005 as the lowest in the decade. San Diego’s Irwin and Joan Jacobs, who ranked 40th on the list, gave $24.3 million last year, mostly to the San Diego Symphony, UCSD’s Jacobs School of Engineering, the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and UC San Francisco’s School of Medicine. The total was less than half the $49.5 million the Jacobses gave in 2007. The Jacobses were the only San Diegans last year to make the top 50 list, which over the past decade has featured Joan Kroc’s $1.9 billion bequest to the University of San Diego and other groups, which rated a first-place ranking in 2003; Jean Jessop Hervey’s $80 million bequest in 2000; Ernest Rady’s 2004 gift of $30 million to UCSD’s Rady School of Management; and $33 million in donations to UCSD and the San Diego Zoo in 2000 from John and Rebecca Moores. A study released last month by Dunham+Company, a religious charity adviser, projected that charitable giving this year will be relatively flat.

    Bighorn Cull in Washington State

    February 9, 2010  news.opb.org  BY ANNA KING

    Washington State's fish and wildlife officials plan to kill about 85 bighorn sheep from two pneumonia-infected herds. Pneumonia in bighorn sheep is nearly always fatal. Those that survive often pass the disease on to their vulnerable lambs. Sometimes sickened herds can go more than a decade without having any surviving offspring. In Washington, wildlife officials are scrambling to cull pneumonia-sickened bighorns before lambing season starts in late March. Nearly 20 bighorns have already died from the disease this winter in the river canyon area between Yakima and Ellensburg. The sheep will be shot by state and federal wildlife officials over the next six weeks.

    Disney Parks Affected By Recession

    February 10, 2010  www.nytimes.com

    Disney’s theme parks division remains particularly fragile. Operating income for the first quarter fell 2 percent, to $375 million, on flat revenue of $2.7 billion. The results were misleadingly high, however, because the recent quarter benefited from an extra week of peak holiday business. Aggressive marketing promotions have kept attendance high. In the first quarter, attendance at Disney’s North American parks increased about 4 percent, led by Disneyland in California. Disney recently introduced a promotion called “Give a Day, Get a Disney Day” that awards free park tickets for volunteer service.  But per capita spending at the parks decreased by 4 percent, and hotel room occupancy at Disney’s Florida and California resorts fell. Disneyland Paris also showed weakness in the quarter. For the second quarter of 2010 to date, Mr. Rasulo said room reservations at the Florida and California resorts were 10 percent behind the same period last year.

    New Mountain Gorilla Census Begins Next Month

    February 10, 2010  allafrica.com

    KIGALI, Rwanda -- The International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP), has announced that Rwanda will collaborate with Uganda's Wildlife and National Park Authorities as well as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to conduct the census of the mountain gorilla population in the Virunga Volcanoes. The Census will begin March 1 and end in April. The count will help determine the genetic variability and health status of the gorilla population as well as measure the effects of the recent history of conflict in the region on such a small population of critically endangered animals. According to Eugene Rutagarama, the director of IGCP, the census will enable partner-states to assess the impact of conservation efforts carried out by all gorilla conservation stakeholders. It is supported by the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (a coalition of AWF, WWF and FFI), the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. Virunga Volcanoes is one of only two habitats where mountain gorillas live, whose total numbers are currently estimated at 680 individuals. The last Virunga Volcanoes census that was done in 2003 resulted in an estimate of 380 individuals, with the remaining individuals living in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park of Uganda.

    USFWS Budget Plans

    February 10, 2010  www.nytimes.com  By PATRICK REIS AND ALLISON WINTER

    Climate change is the theme for the agency's $1.65 billion discretionary budget plan for fiscal 2011. Chris Nolin, head of the USFWS's budget division said, "Our primary focus is reorienting the agency so we can address climate change. We need to start looking at climate change in everything we do. That was really the focus of this budget."  The Obama administration has proposed redirecting cash and personnel toward climate research and acquisition of land that would become corridors for wildlife moving as temperatures rise and habitat changes. Some wildlife biologists and environmental groups have welcomed the change, but the agency's budget worries other environmentalists who are concerned the agency may lose ground on endangered species protection. Director Sam Hamilton said he wants the agency's 9,000 employees to make climate change planning central in their work of protecting endangered species. The heart of the effort is a new program, "landscape conservation cooperatives," which is aimed at uniting federal agencies, states, nonprofits and universities to advise on the service's regional management decisions. They will help design strategic regional conservation plans that consider the impact of rising temperatures, water scarcity, disease and invasive species on plants and animals. The agency plans to launch eight cooperatives this year and to expand the initiative later to cover 21 landscape regions. The budget includes $29 million for climate change planning and science, a 45 percent increase over levels in fiscal 2010, when the program launched. Much of that money would go to the landscape cooperatives. The budget also makes a significant deposit on land acquisition, $106 million, a boost of nearly 12 percent above last year's levels. After years of diminished funding for buying land, Hamilton said he wants to restore land-purchasing programs with a eye toward creating refuges for species being driven out of their native ranges by climate change. With President Obama proposing a freeze on discretionary spending, the service's new climate effort's funding must be balanced by cuts and freezes elsewhere in the budget.

    Kenya Relocates Thousands of Animals to Game Park

    February 10, 2010  www.nytimes.com

    SOYSAMBU, Kenya -- The Kenya Wildlife Service is currently relocating 4,000 zebras from different parts of the country to Amboseli National Park. In March, after the wildebeests have finished giving birth, the service plans to move 3,000 of them to the same park. A recent drought has destroyed the park’s predator-prey balance, and the hungry lions have been forced to hunt the goats and cattle kept by the nearby Maasai herdsmen. Dr. Frances Gakuya of the Kenya Wildlife Services says the relocation process will cost $1.3 million, which will cover transport costs as well as the upkeep of the 22-member team working to move the animals. Amboseli is among the top revenue earners of Kenya's more than 40 national parks and reserves. Charles Musyoki, a senior scientist at the Kenya Wildlife Service said the decline in Amboseli's zebra and wildebeest populations has been as high as 90 percent compared to a peak recorded in 2007. That year there were an estimated 10,000 zebras. KWS scientists did a count on Feb. 6 and found only 982. Similarly in 2007, there were 7,100 wildebeests compared to 143 on Feb. 6. Musyoki said such a devastating drought has never been recorded before in Amboseli and elders in surrounding areas have told him they do not remember anything like it.

    Ivory-billed Woodpecker Recovery Plan

    February 10, 2010  www.nature.com

    In 2005, a team reported videotaping an ivory-billed woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) in eastern Arkansas, in what seemed to be the first documented sighting of a bird thought to have become extinct at least 50 years earlier. Other experts have challenged the claim, although the team members maintain that they spotted one bird. After five years of fruitless searching, hopes of saving the species have faded. "We don't believe a recoverable population of ivory-billed woodpeckers exists," says Ron Rohrbaugh, a conservation biologist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, who headed the original search team. USFWS has spent $14 million trying to document and conserve the ivory-billed woodpecker throughout the southeast United States, including $8 million for habitat preservation and $2 million for search-associated costs. The hunt was suspended last October after it ran out of money. Still, the USFWS is on the verge of approving a final recovery plan to manage the species. The plan will lay out a conservation strategy, including what habitat should be preserved

    Asian Affluence Endangers Tiger

    February 10, 2010  www.nytimes.com   By Reuters

    Crawford Allan, Director of TRAFFIC-North America, which monitors illicit commerce in animal products, said, "Some of the spending of (new Asian) wealth is on symbols of status and traditional products that were previously out of reach, and some of those include endangered species like the tiger. Tiger bone tonic wine has become a fashionable cocktail to serve among these nouveau riches, particularly in countries like China." For the last 12 years, experts in traditional Chinese medicine have been campaigning against the use of tiger parts, said Lixin Huang, president of the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine. "Traditional Chinese medicine does not need tiger bones to treat patients or to save lives," Huang said. "Saving tigers means saving their disparate environments around Asia, which can also mean saving the human communities that depend on the same environments, said Sybille Klenzendorf, Director of WWF-US Species Conservation Program. In the case of the Sumatran tiger, its peat swamp habitat acts to sequester climate-warming carbon dioxide. However this is being threatened by logging and the rise of palm oil plantations where there used to be swamps and forests. Demand in Europe for products made from palm oil, such as lipstick, ice cream, biofuels and detergents, helps drive the destruction of tiger habitat in this region, the conservationists said.

    2 Gorillas Move From Texas To Busch Gardens

    February 10, 2010  www.miamiherald.com

    TAMPA, Fla. -- The Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville is sending 22-year-old mother Mary and her 8-year-old daughter Iwa Pele Rafiki to join six other Western lowland gorillas in the Myombe Reserve at Busch Gardens in Tampa for a species breeding program. Chimpanzees also live at the reserve.

    Honolulu Zoo Director Resigns

    February 10, 2010  www.bizjournals.com

    Stephen Walker has resigned as director of the Honolulu Zoo for personal reasons and is moving back to the Mainland. He held the position for about a year, replacing longtime director Ken Redman. The zoo’s assistant director, Tommy Higashino, will assume Walker’s responsibilities until a replacement is found. International applications are being accepted for the position, which pays around $100,000. The Honolulu Zoo, located near Waikiki, is the seventh-most-visited attraction in Hawaii. A new entrance to the zoo is under construction at a cost of $2.75 million. Work is expected to be completed by October.

    Houston Zoo’s Eco-Learning Lab Opens

    February 10, 2010  www.zandavisitor.com  By Brian Hill

    HOUSTON, TX -- On February 13, the Houston Zoo will inaugurate a new conservation education pilot program, WATER CONSERVATION, at the Houston Zoo Eco Learning Lab. Working with Houston ISD teachers, the Houston Zoo’s Eco Learning Lab is designed to create citizen conservationists and raise awareness about our critical water conservation needs. The curriculum is designed around hands-on, practical lessons with real world applications both in the classroom and at the Houston Zoo, specifically focused on water quality and the effects of pollution on wetland populations. During Phase One, 10 teachers representing 9 Houston ISD Title One schools will attend a “Teach the Teachers” day. In addition to lesson plan training and a walk through of demonstrations and activities for students, the educators will also experience an ecology field study at the Houston Zoo’s Duck Lake led by Zoo education staff. In Phase Two, educators will take the curriculum back to the classroom, performing in-class demonstrations and leading students through the hands-on activities and activity workbook assignments. In Phase Three, students will take what they learned in the classroom back home and encourage their family members to take a “Green Pledge” to get involved in water conservation. In Phase Four, teachers and students will visit the Zoo for a field trip the week of May 10, 2010 applying what they learned in the classroom to field work at the Zoo’s Duck Lake, sea lion pool and Kipp Aquarium.

    Year-Old Circus Elephant Has Herpes Virus

    February 10, 2010  www.upi.com

    POLK CITY, Fla. -- A 1-year-old elephant has been pulled from the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Baily circus. Barack, born Jan. 19, 2009, went on sick leave soon after being brought into the show two weeks ago. His role was to wave and extend his trunk into the air. His trainers noticed he was exhausted after his first shows. Blood tests showed the Asian elephant had herpes, said Danielle Graham, a circus veterinarian. The disease kills 85 percent of the elephants who contract it, and scientists do not understand how they become infected. Barack was treated with anti-viral medication at a Polk City facility and reunited with his mother. He is now convalescing, going for runs in the fields and eating apples by the dozen. Graham hopes he can return to performing but says he will remain in Polk City until he is completely recovered.

    WWF Promotes Tiger Conservation

    February 10, 2010  www.worldwildlife.org

    WASHINGTON, DC – The Chinese Lunar New Year of the Tiger, starts on Sunday and WWF has released a new interactive map of the top 10 tiger trouble spots for the world’s tigers. WWF’s new campaign is called Tx2: Double or Nothing to support tiger range states in their goal of doubling wild tiger numbers by the next Year of the Tiger in 2022. Three tiger sub-species have gone extinct since the 1940s and a fourth one, the South China tiger, has not been seen in the wild in 25 years. Tigers occupy just seven percent of their historic range. But they can thrive if they have strong protection from poaching and habitat loss and enough prey to eat. In the U.S., the government does not track how many tigers are in captivity within its borders, where they are, who owns them, or what happens to their body parts when they die. In many states, there are no controls on individuals keeping tigers as pets. Current estimates indicate that there are more than 5,000 tigers in captivity in the United States, more than exist in the wild (3,200). A registration scheme for all captive tigers and a means to monitor disposal of dead tigers is urgently needed to ensure they aren’t exploited for the illegal trade. The impending Vladivostok Summit, will be co-hosted by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and World Bank President Robert Zoellick. All 13 tiger range countries recently committed to the goal of doubling tiger numbers by 2022 at a ministerial meeting in Hua Hin, Thailand. They will be helped in this goal by WWF and other members of the Global Tiger Initiative.

    Lowry Park & Disney Save Wood Rat

    February 11, 2010  www2.tbo.com

    TAMPA -- Seven Key Largo wood rats born in captivity were released at Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge last week. Seven more will be taken to the refuge Feb. 22. The wood rats are put in individual enclosures with nests designed and built by refuge volunteers. Each animal will be fed for about seven days until the enclosures are removed. Then the wood rats must learn how to find food on their own. "We expect them to cache food in the nest structures which will hold them over as they learn to find native food," said Sandra Sneckenberger, a biologist at the wildlife service's South Florida office. "Transitioning to native leaves, fruits and seed will be a critical step." The Lowry Park Zoo started its breeding program in 2002 after researchers determined that fewer than 90 wood rats remained in the Key Largo area. Disney's Animal Kingdom started its breeding program in 2005. The rodents' natural habitat is the tropical hardwood hammock forests from Key Largo south to Tavernier. The mammal was placed on the federal endangered species list in 1984. Development, Burmese pythons and other animals are to blame for the wood rats' population decline. Because of the breeding program, veterinarians at Lowry Park Zoo have learned that wood rats are not social creatures and that females tolerate the presence of males only for breeding. When breeding is successful, females typically produce only two litters per year, with one to three pups per litter.

    Great Ape Trust Ape Ownership Decided by Court

    February 11, 2010  www.chicagotribune.com

    DES MOINES, Iowa -- The Great Ape Trust in Des Moines has asked a federal court to sort out who owns two apes in the middle of an international tug-of-war. The case involves two bonobos -- 40-year-old Matata, and her 9-year-old son, Maisha. Matata was born in the wild in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo. The trust expected the apes to stay in Des Moines. But AZA has asked that they be sent to the Milwaukee Zoo as part of a breeding program. Others who could claim rights include Zoo Atlanta, the Democratic Republic of Congo, a monkey institute in Japan, and a former scientist at the trust. The trust has asked the U.S. District Court in Des Moines to determine ownership. The trust owns four bonobos, but not these apes.

    Lions Rescued From Romanian Zoo

    February 11, 2010  www.doncasterfreepress.co.uk

    A pride of 14 lions rescued from a Oradea Zoo in Romania have been flown to the U.K. They will now be taken to Yorkshire Wildlife Park in Warning Tongue Lane, Branton, where they will be nursed back to health and permanently housed. Yorkshire Wildlife Park launched an appeal to raise £150,000 to rescue the lions from the Romanian Zoo, where they were kept in cramped conditions. Following Romania's entry into the EU the zoo would have had to carry out major repairs which it could not afford. If the pride had not have been rescued they faced being put down. So far, £126,030 has been raised. To donate visit www.justgiving.co.uk/lionrescue

    Long-Distance Migration Shapes Butterfly Wings

    February 11, 2010  www.uga.edu

    ATHENS, Ga. – A University of Georgia study has found that monarch butterflies that migrate long distances have evolved significantly larger and more elongated wings than their stationary cousins, differences that are consistent with traits known to enhance flight ability in other migratory species. Andy Davis and Sonia Altizer compared migratory monarchs from the eastern and western U.S. to those in Hawaii, Costa Rica, South Florida and Puerto Rico that do not migrate. They also measured the wings of lab-grown monarchs to rule out environmental causes of differences in size and shape, and to demonstrate a genetic basis for variation in wing traits among individual monarchs. The team also found that monarchs from the 2 migratory populations in the U.S. differed in body size, suggesting that each population could have adapted to the demands of migration in subtly different ways. Larger bodies might help eastern monarchs, with their much longer migration, carry fat deposits to fuel the long journey and 5-month overwintering period in Mexico. Davis has published previous research indicating that female monarch butterflies are on a 30-year decline in the eastern U.S. Furthermore, monarchs from this population are prone to periodic population crashes from storms at the Mexican overwintering site. Although monarchs worldwide are not threatened, Altizer said, those with the larger wingspan are. Altizer and Davis’ findings were recently published in the online edition of the journal Evolution.

    Zimbabwe Security Forces Accused of Poaching

    February 11, 2010  www.sun-sentinel.com  By CHENGETAI ZVAUYA

    HARARE, Zimbabwe — Willem Wijnstekers, secretary-general of the U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, has charged that security forces in Zimbabwe have killed about 200 rhinos over the past two years, putting that population on the verge of extinction in Zimbabwe. He did not give a figure on elephants. "This leaves us with no option but to recommend that the country be brought before the CITES board to explain the poaching. If they fail to do that they risk being banned to trade in ivory." Restoring the rule of law was one of the goals of a coalition government formed last year between longtime opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe. Tsvangirai has made little headway in changing the character of the government. Mugabe, who has led the country since 1980, is accused of buying the loyalty of his security forces by allowing them to engage in criminal activities.

    Review of Endangered Coral Species

    February 11, 2010  www.nytimes.com 

    SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The National Marine Fisheries Service has begun a review to determine if dozens of coral species off Florida, Hawaii and island territories of the Caribbean and Pacific should be listed as "threatened" or "endangered." Currently, only reef-building staghorn and elkhorn corals are listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act, the first corals to receive such protection based on dramatic declines. Among the list of 83 to be considered for protection is the mountainous star coral, once considered the dominant reef-building coral in the Atlantic. The majority of coral species included in the review belong to either the wider Caribbean or Indo-Pacific regions. Miyoko Sakashita, a lawyer at the Center for Biological Diversity, said dozens of corals face a growing threat of extinction from rising ocean temperatures and more acidic water. All of the species under consideration have seen population declines of at least 30 percent over 30 years, according to the center. Unusually warm waters in recent years have caused the animals that make up coral to expel the colorful algae they live with, creating a bleached color. If the problem persists, the coral itself dies — killing the environment where many fish and other marine organisms live. The federal register announcement is at: edocket.access.gpo.gov [PDF]

    Saving South Africa’s Cape Penguins

    February 11, 2010  www.sciencedaily.com

    The population of the Cape penguin Spheniscus demersus (the only African penguin) declined 60% between 2001 and 2009. This decline can be attributed to displacement of the banks of sardines and anchovies which these birds feed on. Competition with the fisheries around the South African penguin colonies exacerbates the threat to the species. Working with researchers and the South African fish industries, the South African Marine and Coastal Management agency closed a 20-km radius ocean area around the largest Cape penguin colony (on the island of St Croix, Algoa Bay) to fishing in January 2009. A "witness" zone around another penguin colony (Bird Island), 50 km east of St Croix in the same bay, has remained open to fishing in order to compare penguin feeding behaviors. The researchers studied the food-seeking behavior of 91 birds in these two colonies in 2008 and 2009 with GPS recorders. The miniature recorders, in watertight hydrodynamic boxes, were attached to the feathers at the base of the birds' backs with adhesive. The goal was to record the latitude and longitude of the birds every minute, and the hydrostatic pressure (diving depth) every second. These data made it possible to calculate the effort each bird expended in searching for food, in terms of the length of time spent traveling, the distance covered, the number, depth and location of dives. In 2008, before the area was closed to fishing, the St Croix penguins mainly fished more than 20 km from their colony, covering up to 150 km in two days in their search for food. In 2009, on the other hand, only 3 months after the area had been closed to fishing, 70% of dives were less than 20 km away, within the protected marine area. The time devoted to searching for food also decreased by 30%, which reduced their daily energy expenditure by 40%. The study appears online in the February 10 edition of the journal Biology Letters.

    No Official Critical Habitat for Florida Panther

    February 11, 2010  www.heraldtribune.com   By Kate Spinner

    Several environmental groups petitioned the USFWS to designate land as being critical to the panther's survival. The designation, required for any endangered species listed after 1978, makes development within those critical areas more difficult by requiring more research on how the development could harm the species. The wildlife service maintains that it does not need to designate critical habitat for the panther because it was listed before 1978 and the service is taking other steps to ensure the animals' survival, including conservation banks, habitat restoration projects and building panther crossings. Approximately 100 Florida panther are thought to live in the wild.

    Tokyo Will Receive Two Pandas in 2011

    February 12, 2010  www.washingtonpost.com

    TOKYO -- In 1972, Tokyo's Ueno Zoo’s first pair of pandas arrived to mark the signing of a peace treaty between Japan and China. Ling Ling, a panda who came to Tokyo in 1992, died in April 2008. Now, city officials have agreed to borrow a pair of pandas from china for $950,000 a year. Tokyo officials bargained to get $50,000 off the original $1 million price tag. The payments will help rebuild a panda sanctuary in China's Sichuan province and fund joint breeding projects between Japan and China, according to Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara. The pandas are expected to arrive early next year.

    Privatization Study Ordered for L.A. Zoo

    February 12, 2010  www.presstelegram.com  By Dana Bartholomew

    This week, the Los Angeles City Council ordered a feasibility study on ways to transform the city zoo into a public-private partnership. The study may take a year. If approved, the financially strapped city would sign over operations of its Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens to a non-profit entity such as the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association. Los Angeles currently spends $5 million a year of its $17 million budget to support the zoo. The remainder is raised through ticket sales and other income. Some of the nation's top zoos are now run by private zoological associations, including those in San Diego, Chicago and New York, industry analysts say. City-owned zoos in Santa Barbara, Fresno and San Francisco, as well as the Long Beach Aquarium, are also privately run. Of the 180 zoos accredited AZA zoos, half are privately run. Of those, between 50 and 60 percent receive some city money to help support operations. For cities, one advantage of such partnerships is to transfer hundreds of public employees off their payrolls, freeing up millions in operating costs.

    Toronto Zoo Fights with Animal Activists Over Elephants

    February 12, 2010  www.theglobeandmail.com  By CAROLINE ALPHONSO

    TORONTO — An animal rights group has brought in Joyce Poole, a leading expert on elephant behavior, in its attempt to remove the elephants from the Toronto Zoo. In a letter sent on behalf of Zoocheck Canada, Dr. Poole said the health of these animals is at risk because of Toronto's cold climate and the fact that they remain confined indoors for long stretches. "The Toronto Zoo should close its elephant exhibit and allow the three remaining elephants to live out the remainder of their lives in a warmer climate in a setting where they are free to roam outdoors and have the possibility of establishing normal healthy relationships among a larger social group," wrote Dr. Poole, who has a PhD in zoology from the University of Cambridge. But Councilor Giorgio Mammoliti, who sits on the zoo board, said that while Toronto is open to receiving suggestions on improving its animal habitat, it will not shut down the exhibit. "We're one of the best and well-kept zoos around the world. The accreditations are always there for us, and people have always taken the lead from the Toronto Zoo. We're not going to let an organization like this demean us or discredit us at all. I won't let that happen."

    Four Top Topeka Zoo Managers Removed

    February 12, 2010  cjonline.com  By James Carlson

    Last fall, two critical federal inspection reports citing the Topeka zoo for numerous animal deaths and insufficient record keeping preceded the departure of zoo director Mike Coker and veterinarian Shirley Llizo. The reports also prompted the Topeka city manager to call for an independent review by AZA in early December. The AZA team’s report released last month raised several issues, including a subpar education program, an inadequate job evaluation process and poor exhibit planning. It was particularly critical of management, which it said fostered "a feeling of fear, intimidation and lack of trust." The report singled out curator Merle Miller as appearing "too isolated from the day to day activities and thus from the capacity to offer the effective support often needed by the zoological department." Miller, who worked at the zoo for 17 years, was one of three top managers fired. The others were Dennis Maxim, the business manager with 16 years at the zoo, and Terry Gingrich, the operations manager with 17 years at the facility. Education specialist Stephanie Workman was the fourth zoo employee laid off. She had been with the zoo for eight years. The layoffs, part of city-wide cost-cutting, leave the zoo with no permanent director, veterinarian, animal curator, business manager or operations manager. Fawn Moser is in charge of animal care. Interim zoo director Dennis Taylor said he planned to implement other changes but wouldn't specify. City officials hope the removals could bolster their argument for retaining accreditation when the city goes before an Association of Zoos and Aquariums panel March 3.

    Barbary Lions at the Austin Zoo?

    February 12, 2010  www.businesswire.com

    AUSTIN, Texas -- The Barbary Lion Project is a program of WildLink International in conjunction with Oxford University, to resurrect the Barbary lion population and ultimately release the lions into a national park in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. While believed to be extinct in the wild, strains of the Barbary Lion DNA still exist in about 100 captive lions. The Barbary Lion Project plans to isolate the strongest candidates for breeding to ensure the comeback of the Barbary lion. Although the Austin Zoo is not a breeding zoo (their mission has always been to rescue and rehabilitate), they recently rescued a mated pair – Cleopatra and Cesar – that may be Barbary lions, and Cleopatra recently gave birth to cubs. Patti Clark, executive director of Austin Zoo said, “As we are not a breeding zoo, the arrival of the cubs was a rare but exciting event. We are doing all we can to assist the Barbary Lion Project in determining whether these cubs, as well as Cleopatra and Caesar, will be eligible to help renew the Barbary lion in the wild." Austin Zoo has been the most recent zoo to participate in the project and has submitted their lion DNA samples to Dr. Burger at the lab in Germany

    Sundaland Clouded Leopard Study

    February 12, 2010   www.timesonline.co.uk

    Scientists came across the Sundaland clouded leopard while working in the Dermakot Forest Reserve in Malaysia. It was discovered to be a distinct type of big cat only two years ago, in 2008. It is known as Neofelis diardi borneensis on Borneo and Neofelis diardi diardi on Sumatra. It is considered a separate species from its close continental cousin Neofelis nebulosa, because of significant genetic differences between the two. Both Bornean and Sumatran subspecies are classified as endangered by the IUCN. The rare cat is thought to have been filmed once before by a tourist, although the footage has never been released. New film was recently released by a team which included Andreas Wilting of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin and the Malaysian field scientist Azlan Mohamed. Their encounter with the cat is published in the latest issue of Cat News, the newsletter of the Cat Specialist Group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). "For the first 11 months we had not seen a single clouded leopard during night surveys," Mr Wilting said. "So every one of our team was very surprised when this clouded leopard appeared. Even more surprising was that this individual was not scared by the light or the noises of the truck. For over five minutes it was just roaming around the car. Most species are scared and run away after we have spotted them." The clouded leopard is the largest predator on Borneo, but its numbers within the reserve, a commercial forest that is logged for wood and which contains all five Bornean cat species, are thought to be low. Lengthy video is at www.timesonline.co.uk

    Elephant Gait Analysis – Running vs Walking

    February 12, 2010  www.eurekalert.org

    At a first glance, fast-moving elephants look as if they are walking, according to John Hutchinson from the Royal Veterinary College, UK. But closer analysis of their footfall patterns suggest that elephants' front legs walk while their hind legs may trot. Norman Heglund from the Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium, decided to measure the immense forces exerted on the animals by the ground as they move and found that elephants run in some senses, but not in others. They publish their results on 12 February 2010 in The Journal of Experimental Biology.

    To measure these forces, Heglund had to construct and calibrate an 8m long, elephant-sized force platform from sixteen 1m2 force plates; shipping them with cameras and to the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre in Lampang, Thailand. A reinforced concrete foundation was built and the force platform assembled to measure the enormous ground reaction forces generated by the animals. Encouraged to move by their mahouts, 34 elephants ranging from a baby up to a 4 tonne adult moved over the force platform at speeds ranging from a 0.38m/s stroll to a 4.97m/s charge. Researchers  found that the elephant's movements are extremely economical. Consuming a minimum of 0.8J/kg/m, an elephant's cost of transport is 1/3 that of humans and 1/30 that of mice. The elephant's cost of transport is low because the animal's step frequency is higher than expected and they improve their stability by keeping an average of two feet on the ground even at high speeds, and three at lower speeds. Combining these approaches, the elephant's centre of mass bounces less than other animals', reducing the energy cost of transport.

    Next the team calculated the way that each animal recycles potential energy into kinetic energy to find out whether they run. Running animals continually recycle potential energy stored in tendons and muscles into bouncing kinetic energy – just like a pogo stick – while walking animals convert potential energy at the start of a stride into kinetic energy as they step forward – much like an inverted swinging pendulum. By tracking how elephants cycle potential energy into kinetic energy over the course of a stride, the team could distinguish whether the high-speed animals were running or walking. Plotting the potential and kinetic energy of the elephants' centers of mass over the course of many strides at different speeds, the team could see that the elephants were walking like an inverted pendulum at low speeds, but as they moved faster, the kinetic and potential energy plots shifted to look like those of runners. However, when the team analyzed the movements of the elephant's center of mass, they could see that it almost maintained a constant level as the animal shifted its weight from one side to the other, but bobbed down and up like a runner's during the second half of the stride.  So the elephants were running by one measure but not by another and it seems that the forelimbs trot while the hind limbs walk at higher speeds. 'High-speed locomotion in an elephant doesn't fall nicely into a classic category like a run or a trot. It really depends on your definition of "run",' says Heglund.

    Koala Vocalization Study

    February 12, 2010  www.sciencemag.org  By Elizabeth Pennisi

    With a few cell phones and Global Positioning System (GPS) collars, the koala's secretive life is slowly being revealed. During mating season, females make midnight sojourns to visit bellowing males, William Ellis, an ecologist at the University of Queensland in Australia, reported at Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology Meeting in Seattle, Washington. Males sometimes bellow, emitting a deep groaning noise that lasts about a half a minute, and the conventional wisdom was that their vocalizations are communicating territory information to other males. "But there are no reports that have systematically recorded bellows from within a natural group," says Ellis. Since 1998, he and his colleagues have been studying koalas at a remote island in the Whitsunday Islands, 1100 kilometers north of Brisbane. In one area, 25 animals wear GPS collars that track their movements, and three cell phones are powered by car batteries attached to solar chargers to listen in on koala conversations. With help from the Queensland University of Technology, the researchers program the phones via text messaging to turn on at specific times to record for certain lengths of time. "The way they have set up the cell phones is very innovative," says Abraham Miller, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Tampa in Florida.

    To study bellowing, Ellis's team turned the phones on for 4 minutes every hour and recorded the night sounds. They found that "a lot of the conventional wisdom about koalas didn't stack up," says Ellis. For one, males were supposed to have larger home ranges than females, but the GPS tracking revealed that the sexes actually had about the same size territories—important information for conservation planning, Ellis points out. The ranges overlap with a half-dozen other koalas and tend to shift in location over time; but no two koalas wind up in the same tree at the same time, Ellis reported. "This suggests koala behavior is much more complex than previously thought," says Miller. Male and female activity was similar, except that sometimes during the mating season, a female would abruptly leave her tree, head off, and then usually return several hours later. The cell phones indicated that bellowing takes off right before the breeding season, October through February, and most often occurs at about midnight. When the researchers matched the GPS and sound data, they realized that males don't move in response to bellows. However, "unusually large movements from females occur when we also hear most bellows," says Ellis, "so we think that the females are responding." He is now comparing females' excursions with the timing of conception to see if indeed the bellow is a mating call. Miller would like to see more koalas included in the study. But he says Ellis is on the right track. "It is necessary to have an understanding of [koala] life history as well as behavior to effectively manage and protect the species."

    Tiger Gene Study Reveals Ancestry

    February 12, 2010  news.bbc.co.uk  by Matt Walker

    Five species of big cat: the tiger, lion, leopard, jaguar and snow leopard, belong to the Panthera genus, and the two species of clouded leopard, are more closely related to each other than to other smaller cats. Now a new genetic analysis reveals that the tiger’s closest living relative is the equally endangered snow leopard. Scientists Brian Davis, Gang Li and William Murphy conducted an analysis of the DNA of all these species. Their data strongly suggests that lions, leopards and jaguars are most closely related to each other. Their ancestor split from other cats around 4.3 to 3.8 million years ago. About 3.6 to 2.5 million years ago, the jaguar began to evolve, while lions and leopards split from one other about 3.1 to 1.95 million years ago. The ancestor of tigers and snow leopards also branched off around 3.9 million years ago. The tiger then began to evolve into a unique species toward the end of the Pliocene epoch, about 3.2 million years ago. That makes the tiger and snow leopard "sister species", the researchers report in the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution.

    Toledo Zoo Receives Confiscated African Elephant

    February 13, 2010  www.toledoblade.com  By Jennifer Feehan

    TOLEDO, Ohio – The Toledo Zoo has taken possession of a 25-year-old female African elephant that was confiscated by USDA agents from a private circus owner in Indiana. Twiggy will join 6-year-old bull Louie and his 29-year-old mother Renee. Twiggy, who at 5,500 to 5,600 pounds is "thin," also has pitted feet, indicating she's been subjected to rough surfaces and didn't receive proper foot care. Toledo Zoo director Anne Baker said, "She has some pretty significant stereotypic behaviors. She does a lot of head swinging, in a very repetitive manner. She also has a habit of lifting up her one leg very, very high, repeatedly. USDA spokesman Dave Sacks said the agency's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service routinely visits and inspects zoos, circuses, and other facilities with animals protected by the Animal Welfare Act. He said it's "highly unusual" to confiscate a large animal. Julius von Uhl, the elephant's previous owner, said he rescued Twiggy 15 years ago and trained her to perform in his traveling circus. He claims his elephant was stolen from him just as he had made plans to retire and sell Twiggy to the Pittsburgh Zoo. Tracy Gray, a spokesman for the Pittsburgh Zoo, confirmed that zoo officials had spoken with Mr. von Uhl but said no agreement was in place.

    Gorilla Briefly Escapes Dallas Zoo Enclosure

    February 13, 2010  www.wfaa.com  by Jonathan Betz

    DALLAS — Tufani, a female gorilla, who came to Dallas from the Cincinnati Zoo in 2008, escaped from a gorilla "dayroom" and climbed on top of the cage but never left the building. “She was nervous,” said Lynn Kramer, the zoo’s deputy director of animal conservation and science. “She wanted to get in her cage with her mate, and was looking for a way back in.”  The zoo was closed at the time and employees put the zoo’s emergency plan into action, working for more than an hour to corner and eventually sedate the 19-year-old animal. A SWAT team, armed with rifles rushed to the zoo but was not needed. The zoo stays in command, unless people are in danger. That is when police can shoot an animal, if it poses a threat.  “It was a great example of how an emergency response team should work,” said zoo director Gregg Hudson. This escape was nothing like the 2004 incident when a 13-year-old gorilla named Jabari cleared a 14-foot wall and mauled three people before he was killed by police. Changes were made at the zoo after Jabari's escape, and the zoo bought more tranquilizer guns. The gorilla exhibit was closed for two years following the incident and underwent a $2.5 million makeover. A 25-year-old zookeeper was mauled by a gorilla at the Dallas Zoo in November 1998 after the door to the animal's cage was left open. Hercules, a 340-pound male silverback gorilla, was tranquilized with a dart gun after the woman escaped. The attack lasted more than a half-hour, leaving her with more than 30 puncture wounds. In that attack, zoo guests were not in jeopardy.

    Giraffe Conservation Project in Niger

    February 15, 2010  www.guardian.co.uk

    There are nine African sub-species of giraffe, differentiated by the color, pattern and shape of their spots. The Niger species has large orange-brown spots, fading into pale white legs. They are concentrated mainly in an area to the east of Niger's capital, and roam from areas of alternating open land and vegetation in Kouré to the Niger river's Dosso reserve. Some have recently been spotted in new areas, including close to the border with Mali. Last week, eight giraffes were fitted with GPS-tracking collars as part of a £25,000 research project funded by the British Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF). Despite being listed as endangered by the IUCN, the West African giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis peralta) has been a rare wildlife success story in western Africa, with conservation efforts restoring their numbers from 50 in the late 1990s to around 200 today. However, their increasing numbers are causing greater competition between individuals, and leading some to roam further afield for food. The task of fitting the collars is unusually challenging due to the giraffe's long neck. It means anaesthetizing the animals, but if their hearts are slowed for more than around half an hour, then not enough blood reaches the brain, and the giraffe could die. To fit the collar – which looks like a large leather belt camouflaged with giraffe markings – a team of seven researchers holds down the animal and puts a hood over its head. Andy Tutchings, co-founder and trustee of GCF, is leading the team. Julian Fennessy, a Kenya-based expert working on the satellite-collaring project, said, "This data will help us to understand the expanding population better and the extent of their range as they move into new frontiers. In turn, this will enable us to educate the local communities and help them to understand the importance of preserving the giraffe." He believes the species' numbers need to reach 400 for a viable population. The GPS data will be downloaded daily by the scientists and conservationists and will provide a better understanding of the species' range and movements.

    African Elephant Born at Wild Animal Park

    February 15, 2010  latimesblogs.latimes.com

    A male African elephant was born about 2 a.m. on Valentines Day at the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park. He weighed 224 pounds and is the 6th calf born to a herd that was brought to the park in 2003 from Swaziland. Zookeepers thought the birth would be later in the month, so they had not yet set up a 24-hour watch. They learned about the birth after campers participating in the “Roar and Snore” sleepover program heard the elephants trumpeting after the birth. The calf was born in the presence of most of the Swazi herd, now numbering 14, including the calf’s father and the mother’s older offspring, Vus’musi, 6. He and his mother Ndlula are doing well. For more, watch the ZSSD elephant cam or YouTube video “Baby Elephant Runs With Herd”.

    Future of Sequoia Park Zoo on November Ballot

    February 15, 2010  www.times-standard.com  By Allison White

    EUREKA, California -- Eureka City Councilman Larry Glass wants to put the Eureka Zoo's funding on the ballot as the city looks for ways to cut $2.5 million in midyear budget adjustments. Glass stated last week that city staff and residents needed to discuss the potential end of Eureka's support for the zoo. Last year, the zoo's operational budget was $630,000 and the zoo's revenues generated $110,000 of that, netting about 54,000 visitors, said Zoo Manager Gretchen Ziegler. They've only been charging admission for a little more than a year, and that is where there is more potential revenue. Ziegler is sure they can raise attendance, even if the prices were not what the zoo staff had originally proposed. According to the zoo manager, only a handful of the roughly 220 accredited zoos in the nation are completely self-sustaining financially, and the trend is moving away from being 100 percent subsidized. However, if put to the voters, Ziegler said she has confidence the 100-year-old zoo will stay. Councilman Glass thinks the zoo is a luxury the city cannot afford.

    Lincoln Park Zoo Offers 30 Camp Scholarships

    February 15, 2010  www.chicagotribune.com

    CHICAGO - Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo is taking applications for 30 scholarships to its summer camp program. The zoo says the scholarships will allow 30 children to attend a week of its summer Conservation Camp for free and those same children can register for a second week at half price. Children entering first through eighth grades can apply. The application deadline is Feb. 22. The first week of Conservation Camp is titled "The Web of Wildlife" and the second week is called "Nature and You."

    California’s Brown Pelican Health Crisis

    February 15, 2010  www.presstelegram.com  By Joe Segura

    The California Department of Fish and Game has joined the probe into the brown pelican health crisis all along the California coastline, including Long Beach and San Pedro areas. Since mid-January - especially after winter storms - an estimated 500 pelicans have been rescued in various conditions, from merely confused to dead. Veterinarians, wildlife rescue and rehabilitation groups, Sea World, the USFWS and others, are pooling resources to pinpoint the health hazards. The San Pedro-based International Bird Rescue Research Center has more than 200 sick and injured pelicans, and its San Francisco Bay Oiled Wildlife Care and Education Center has received more than 100 pelicans. Other wildlife rescue centers along the state's coastline are also providing emergency treatment. Preliminary research results show that many of the insulating properties of the pelicans' feathers have been compromised - most likely by polluted runoff water, according to scientists. Most of the rescued birds are suffering from hypothermia. Necropsies have found that pelicans are eating unusual prey items, which is indicative that they are having trouble finding or accessing their normal prey of anchovies and sardines.  Results of various tissue and organ analyses are not yet available to help determine the cause of the die-off. The El Niño condition in the marine environment may be a factor. IBRRC is feeding the captured birds with more than 1,000 pounds of fish per day between its two centers, but Fish & Game has no funds to contribute. It has sent biologists to assist with pelican care in Cordelia and volunteers in southern California to assess the number of dead pelicans on beaches.

    Tracking Gir Lions

    February 15, 2010  beta.thehindu.com

    AHMEDABAD, India – Last week the Supreme Court declined to give Gir Lions to Madhya Pradesh for their relocation in Kuno-Palpur sanctuary. The Gujarat government plans to use high-tech GPS devices, an automated sensor grid and night vision devices to track the lions and prevent poaching in the Gir National Park. In April 2007, eight lions were poached in the park, causing the state government to form a task force to suggest ways to protect the remaining 359 Asiatic lions. Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, Pradeep Khanna, said, “We have identified technology partners for development of communication systems based on GPS.” The task force hopes that all field level subordinates (foresters), supervisory staff and senior officers will be equipped with hand-held devices capable of voice, data and geo-coordinate transmission. Such devices would be networked to a central server. Long-term data generated from the network would increase our understanding about the dispersal dynamics of large cats. The task force suggests that 10 per cent of the lion population should be fitted with GPS collars. Coupled with surveillance tracking and geographical record of sightings, it could generate excellent spatio-temporal models of the lion’s dispersion.

    The task force has also suggested establishing of automated sensor grid, which would consist of unattended, miniaturized, weatherproof, concealable sensors that are networked via a radio gateway and which when triggered would generate alarms in a predefined manner. The sensors should be capable of detecting motion and metal. It is proposed that such sensors should be placed at strategic points in an array so as to minimize false alarms and maximize coverage, the task force report said. The sensors would have a built in processor which would use intelligent algorithms to classify the type of intrusion and its location. In order to enhance surveillance capability in darkness, the task force has proposed to equip all the mobile patrolling squads with one long range night vision equipment. The detection range of such equipment should be 700 to 800 meters and the recognition range should be 300 to 500 meters, the report said.

    The Oregon Zoo’s New Red Ape Reserve

    February 16, 2010  www.swcommconnection.com

    The Oregon Zoo's primate building, constructed in 1959, has been renovated significantly in the past five years. The indoor gibbon exhibit is a milestone in the construction of Red Ape Reserve. At the center of the exhibit is an artificial tree that provides the gibbons with several natural resting places, in private or close to the viewing glass. “Gibbons are naturally curious and love observing people,” said Mike Marshall, the zoo’s primate keeper. The exhibit also incorporates movement into its climbing structures, allowing the gibbons to move among the vines with ease. Structures in the new exhibit include naturalistic, flexible vines coated with a soft rubber, creating an easy grab-and-release surface for the gibbons. The exhibit is at the end of an earlier Red Ape Reserve construction milestone, the enormous log tunnel pathway. Nearly 60 feet long and 8 feet wide, the log tunnel cuts directly through what will be Red Ape Reserve’s outdoor animal area. Once the exhibit is complete, orangutans and gibbons will be able to climb freely around the log while visitors watch from inside. Until then, it allows visitors to walk through the construction site and see progress as workers complete the outdoor exhibit. The faux log is made of concrete and painted to look like wood. Lights set inside it illuminate the pathway, while nine large portholes let visitors see through the top and sides.

    Big Cat Sanctuary Near San Diego

    February 16, 2010  www.signonsandiego.com  By Anne Krueger

    ALPINE — Bobbi Brink operates the “Lions Tigers & Bears” sanctuary on her 93-acre property in Alpine. Brink has proposed building a $250,000 enclosure at the sanctuary that would allow her to house up to four more mountain lions. The 4,300-square-foot enclosed area would include a pond, and would be designed to educate the public about mountain lions and other California wildlife. One mountain lion, three African lions, four tigers, three bobcats, a leopard and a serval have homes at Brink’s refuge. The animals were brought there because they can no longer live in the wild. Brink said state Department of Fish and Game officers captured the mountain lion and brought him to her about two and a half years ago because he was spotted near an elementary school in Redlands and had attacked dogs. She said she has gotten calls from Fish and Game asking her to house other captured mountain lions, but she hasn’t been able to do so because she doesn’t have enough fenced-in space available.

    Based on rough estimates, California has 4,000 to 6,000 mountain lions. There have been 16 verified mountain lion attacks on humans in California since 1890, six of them fatal. The last documented attack occurred in Humboldt County in January 2007. A 10-year-old girl survived an attack in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park in September 1993, and a 56-year-old woman was fatally attacked in the park in December 1994. In 2008, 131 permits to kill a mountain lion were issued by the state Department of Fish and Game. Forty-six lions were killed. The state Department of Fish and Game discourages placing mountain lions in sanctuaries because the animals have a range of up to 100 square miles in the wild. However, Brink said captive mountain lions don’t need a vast range because their food is provided for them. Brink’s facility is licensed by state and federal authorities. Each enclosure is surrounded by a second fence. The nonprofit has two employees, but the rest of the work is done by Brink — who is unpaid — and by volunteers. She said her operating expenses run about $20,000 a month, including 130 pounds of meat each day, insurance and veterinary costs. About 3,000 people are members of Lions Tigers & Bears, but Brink said the recession and charitable giving are down. To bring in more membership and money, Brink is offering members more frequent visits to the refuge and new options such as a night in a suite on the property for a $550 donation.

    Florida Cold Claims 200 Manatees

    February 16, 2010  www.miamiherald.com

    ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The cold weather in Florida has killed close to 200 manatees. And there are so many live ones turning up stressed by the cold that it's putting a strain on the statewide system for caring for the injured marine mammals. By mid-February, 301 manatees had turned up dead from various causes. Martine DeWit of the state Fish and Wildlife Research Institute said Tuesday the average number of deaths for this time of year over the previous five years is just 10. Manatees cannot tolerate water temperatures below 65 degrees.

    San Diego's Baby Panda Gets Ready for Debut

    February 16, 2010  www.sdnn.com  

    The San Diego Zoo’s 6-month-old giant panda cub was moved into a new exhibit today so that he can get used to spending more time in front of the public. Yun Zi and his mother, Bai Yun, were moved into a larger exhibit space at the Giant Panda Research Station. “We wanted to give Bai Yun and Yun Zi a larger and more stimulating exhibit,” said Kathy Hawk, a senior keeper at the zoo. “Yun Zi is growing quickly and has shown us he is ready for bigger things.” Yun Zi  quickly made his way up an elm tree at the exhibit, stumbling a few times before finding a place for a nap. Beginning this week, the cub will be visible until noon. The time will be extended slowly until he can be on exhibit for the entire day. Yun Zi, which means “son of cloud,” was born on Aug. 5. He is the fifth cub born to Bai Yun at the San Diego Zoo. His father is Gao Gao.

    Americans Favor Conservation But Few Practice It

    February 16, 2010  www.eurekalert.org  

    A national survey released by researchers at Yale and George Mason universities reveals that:
    92% of Americans think it is "very important" or "somewhat important" to turn off unneeded lights
    83% think it is “very important” or “somewhat important to lower the thermostat in winter
    73% think it is “very important” or “somewhat important to to use public transportation or a carpool but only 10 percent say they "often" or "always" do.
    88% of Americans say it is important to recycle at home, but only 51% "often" or "always" do;
    81% say it is important to use re-usable shopping bags, but only 33% "often" or "always" do;
    76% say it is important to buy locally grown food, but only 26% "often" or "always" do;
    76% say it is important to walk or bike instead of drive, but only 15% "often" or "always" do; and

    Approximately 33% of Americans in the past year rewarded companies that are taking steps to reduce global warming by buying their products, while slightly less refused buying the products of companies that they perceive to be recalcitrant on the issue. 11% of Americans have contacted government officials in the past year about global warming, with seven in 10 urging officials to take action to reduce it. Concerned Americans are much more likely to take action through consumer purchases rather than as citizens," said Edward Maibach, director of the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University. The results come from a nationally representative survey of 1,001 American adults, age 18 and older. The sample was weighted to correspond with U.S. Census Bureau parameters. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percent, with 95 percent confidence. The survey was conducted from December 24, 2009, to January 3, 2010, by Knowledge Networks, using an online research panel of American adults.

    Elephant Corridor Created in India

    February 16, 2010  www.deccanherald.com  By Shyam Sundar Vattam

    BANGALORE, India -- 23 acres of land in Yedaralli and Dodda Sampige villages was once an important elephant corridor but was taken over by farmers for planting crops. When elephants destroyed crops and villages in their path, the Forest Department paid out yearly compensations to the families. Now the area is being reclaimed by the Forest Department from farmers in Chamarajanagar district, thanks to the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI). The Trust has coaxed and convinced the farmers to sell the land to them, and have handed it over to the forest department. The agricultural land is being leveled and all the obstructions have been removed. The department had built Elephant Proof Trenches (EPTs) all along Dodda Sampige village in order to prevent elephants from venturing out of the forests. Now they are filling them at many places. The elephants have started moving in the corridor freely without any fear of man. Mysore, Chamarajanagar and Kodagu districts have a majority of the elephant population in the state. The population was around 2,500 in the 1980s has now doubled, much to the worry of foresters. The population has increased but the forest cover is shrinking for various reasons. A senior forest officer who has been studying the behavior of elephants for the last three decades said the elephants always move in the same path and never go zig-zag. However, they go astray if the path is occupied by human beings who have converted it into fields.

    Shark Conservation Treaty Signed

    February 16, 2010  www.upi.com 

    NEW YORK -- 113 member countries of the UNEP’s Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals have signed a treaty to prohibit the hunting, fishing and deliberate killing of certain shark species -- the great white, basking, whale, porbeagle, spiny dogfish, and the shortfin and longfin mako sharks. "This first global CMS instrument on commercially exploited species is a decisive step forward in international shark conservation," said UNEP/CMS Executive Secretary Elizabeth Mrema. According to UN estimates, as much as 900,000 tons of sharks have been caught every year for the last two decades, and the actual catch figure is estimated to be at least twice as high. Environmental studies show shark populations collapsed in the Gulf of Mexico and the Mediterranean Sea by 90 percent and by 75 percent in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean during a 15-year span.

    Dallas Zookeeper Suspended After Gorilla Escape

    February 17, 2010  www.dallasnews.com  

    A zookeeper left open a door that allowed a 180-pound gorilla to briefly escape her locked living quarters at the Dallas Zoo over the weekend. The keeper failed to verify the area was empty before stepping away to gather cleaning equipment for the enclosure. Tufani, a 19-year-old gorilla, immediately left her living quarters but remained in the gorilla research center and never reached public areas of the zoo, which was closed at the time. The zookeeper has been suspended.

    Calgary Zoo Requests Audit

    February 17, 2010   www.google.com/hostednews   By Shannon Montgomery

    CALGARY — Calgary Zoo's president Clement Lanthieris wants to restore his zoo's credibility with people. Lanthier requested an independent investigation of all aspects of animal care at the zoo in December, after a capybara was crushed to death when a worker closed a hydraulic door. In May 2008, 41 stingrays died after the opening of an interactive exhibit where people could pet them in the water. Their deaths also were the result of a mistake. The zoo found there was a lack of disolved oxygen in the tank. An attempt to import a six-year-old hippo from the Denver Zoo in October 2007 went bad when the animal died less than a day after its 28-hour transfer. In recent years, a Turkmenian markhor got caught in a rope and strangled to death, and a mule deer broke its neck after it ran into a fence. And in June, a zoo patron snapped a photograph of a gorilla holding a knife that had been accidentally left behind by a keeper, although zoo officials were quick to say the primates don't understand the idea of using weapons and were never in any real danger. The review will include a look at diet, daily care, the zoo's breeding program, veterinary practices, record keeping and the training and role of staff. The inspectors will also look at animal habitats to make sure they're satisfying the animals' physical and social needs. "If there are problems, I want to know about them, I want to fix those problems," he said. The review is led by the AZA, and the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums, based in Ottawa. It's being conducted by experts from the Santa Barbara Zoo, the Seneca Park Zoo, the Toronto Zoo and the Vancouver Aquarium, as well as the dean of the University of Calgary's veterinary program. The review team's leader, Nancy McToldridge, director of the Santa Barbara Zoo, said the inspection will be thorough and fair to protect the reputation of all the zoos across North America. Zoo employees will have the chance to speak their minds without management present.

    Female Gorilla Dies at Toledo Zoo

    February 17, 2010  toledoblade.com

    TOLEDO, Ohio -- A female gorilla who lived for nearly four decades at the Toledo Zoo died Tuesday afternoon of congestive heart failure. The 38-year-old gorilla named Malaika was born at the Toledo Zoo in 1971 and had a daughter and two grandchildren. Her offspring continue to live in the Zoo's Kingdom of the Apes. Malaika lived unusually long for a gorilla kept in captivity. Life expectancy for gorillas in zoo settings is about 31 years, officials said. Keepers noticed a problem with Malaika after she developed a stubborn cough 10 days ago. She was immobilized Tuesday for a complete examination that revealed she had heart and kidney problems. During recovery from the anesthesia, Malaika went into full cardiopulmonary arrest and could not be revived.

    Monitoring Wild Moose Populations in Canada

    February 17, 2010  www.esf.org

    For many centuries the Cree, an indigenous group of people living in the James Bay region of northern Quebec (around 800km north of Montreal), have hunted a variety of animals including beaver, bear, and moose, killing just enough to feed and clothe themselves. By rotating the territories over which they hunt, and only killing adult animals, they ensure that the animal populations always remain stable. Until the mid 1980s the James Bay region, at the southern end of Hudson Bay in Canada, was inaccessible to most, and the Cree were the only people who hunted in the region. However, in the mid 1980s, following pressure from sport-hunting and fishing groups, the Canadian authorities granted access to the region (via a previously locked road, known as the James Bay highway, which had been constructed for a hydro-electric project). To ensure that moose populations remained stable the Canadian authorities relied on aerial surveys to monitor moose numbers in hunting territories. In addition records were kept of the number of moose caught by each hunter, and the time it had taken to catch them. By the late 1980s the Cree people became concerned about the moose numbers, particularly in ‘Zone 17’, one of the hunting territories in the James Bay region, covering an area of several thousand square kilometres. Using their system of monitoring moose populations (based on moose sightings, tracking and faeces) they detected a significant decline in numbers. The Cree people alerted wildlife managers, but they were not taken seriously. Instead the authorities insisted that the moose population must be stable because the ‘catch per unit effort’ (average number of moose caught by hunters in a particular time period) had remained the same over the years.

    But by the early 1990s it became clear that a severe crash in population had occurred, with a drop of more than 50%. “Opening the road had opened up opportunities for the forestry sector as well, enabling them to clear cut the forest and leaving the moose with less cover to hide in,” said Scott. The moose became easy targets and sport hunters became much more efficient. However, because the moose population was declining, their ‘catch per unit effort’ remained stable, lulling the authorities into a false sense of security. In this instance the traditional methods of monitoring and managing moose, used by the Cree hunters, was a better measure of moose population. Today the Canadian wildlife authorities have learned their lesson, and work closely with the Cree.

    Baby Ring-Tailed Lemur Has Leg Surgery

    February 17, 2010  news.yahoo.com

    SOUTHFIELD, MI -- A 10-month-old baby ring-tailed lemur will undergo surgery on her fractured femur at 11 a.m. this Thursday, February 18 at Michigan Veterinary Specialists. Peanut’s handlers at Summer Wind Farms Sanctuary drove her more than one and half hours to see a board-certified veterinary surgeon, Dr. Jennifer Covey, who will repair her limb using steel reinforcements. Peanut’s surgery should take approximately one and half hours followed by an estimated eight weeks of recovery time. Doctors at Michigan Veterinary Specialists regularly provide pro-bono services to the Detroit Zoo and other local rehabilitation centers and sanctuaries. Summer Wind Farms is a 140+ acre facility which houses over 200 exotic animals including bears, tigers and monkeys. These animals have been brought to the sanctuary to have a safe refuge in which to spend the rest of their lives after having zoo or movie careers, or having been illegally owned as pets. The sanctuary is a non-profit organization that is USDA licensed and operates entirely on donations.

    Adelaide Zoo’s “Species Fostering” Program

    February 17, 2010  news.bbc.co.uk  By Andrew Luck-Baker

    Scientists from the Adelaide Zoo and the University of Adelaide are removing babies from the pouches of endangered wallabies and transferring them into the pouches of surrogate mothers of another common species, held in captivity. The young are then raised to adulthood in safety. One of the marsupial species closest to extinction is the brush tailed rock wallaby. Its wild population is estimated to number in a few tens. The brush tailed rock wallaby was the first species to be targeted for preservation using the pouch-swap technique, which is more properly known as cross species fostering. The surrogate mums belong to a species which is plentiful. One of those is the yellow foot rock wallaby which inhabits arid areas of southern Australia. They are housed in captive colonies on the outskirts of Adelaide. The pouch young come from two sources. At the captive facility, there is also a small breeding population of the endangered brush tailed species. After a brush tailed mother has given birth to her tiny joey and it has begun to suckle in her pouch, in come the scientists. They tranquilise her and carefully transfer her baby into the pouch of a surrogate yellow foot mother, where it will happily thrive and grow. Then an unusual aspect of marsupial reproductive biology comes into play. The robbed mother quickly replaces the missing joey with a new one. Wallaby and kangaroo mothers always have a spare in a state of suspended early development in their wombs. Within a month of the joey-knapping act, the ready-to-go embryo has been born as a baby and set up home in mum's pouch. Instead of them producing one young a year, using this technique we can get eight or nine pouch young produced by every female every year. In the last 15 months, the researchers have begun to re-introduce highly threatened wallabies bred this way into the wild and are optimistic that they can bring the animals back from the brink of extinction. Joeys reared by the surrogate mothers do not appear to suffer identity crises once they have left the pouch. David Taggart says that most of their behavior is hard-wired. So they behave like brush tails and mate with them rather than with yellow foots.

    Sumatran Rhino Pregnancy

    February 17, 2010  www.rhinos-irf.org

    CINCINNATI and LOS ANGELES and SUMATRA, Indonesia -- Conservationists are celebrating the pregnancy of female Sumatran rhino Ratu, born in Indonesia, and male Andalas, captive-born at the Cincinnati Zoo in 2001. The breeding occurred at Indonesia's Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary (SRS) in Way Kambas National Park following months of gradual introduction by scent, sound, sight and physical proximity. The calf is expected to be born in May 2011. This is no ordinary pregnancy. Ratu wandered into a village just outside Way Kambas National Park in 2006; Andalas was transferred from the Los Angeles to SRS in 2007. With help from Dr. Robin Radcliffe of the International Rhino Foundation's (IRF) Rhino Conservation Medicine Program, the then-5 1/2-year-old Andalas journeyed more than 10,000 miles on a 63-hour trip by plane, truck and ferry. Dr. Susie Ellis, IRF executive director said, "Sumatran rhino numbers have decreased by more than 50 percent over the last 15 years in the wild." The Sumatran rhino population is estimated at approximately 200 individuals in the wild and 10 currently in captivity worldwide. Dr. Terri Roth, director of Cincinnati Zoo's Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) and vice president for IRF's Asia programs, has used her extensive training in reproductive biology to produce three Sumatran rhinos beginning with Andalas in 2001. "Sumatran rhinos are very solitary by nature and aggressive towards one another except when a female is in estrus," said Dr. Roth. "Through science, we can determine when the female is ready to ovulate so she is paired with a male at the right time and fighting is minimized while the likelihood of conception is optimized. A video is available on Youtube.

    IUCN List : Half of World’s Primate Species Are Endangered

    February 17, 2010  www.cnn.com

    (CNN) -- Nearly half the world's primate species are in danger of extinction, according to a report released Wednesday by the IUCN. The main threat facing primates is tropical forest destruction, illegal wildlife trade and commercial bush meat hunting. Of the world's 634 primate species, 48 percent are threatened with extinction, according to the report. There are just 60 to 70 golden headed langurs, found only on an island in Vietnam's Gulf of Tonkin. There are fewer than 100 remaining northern sportive lemurs, which live in Madagascar, and around 110 eastern black crested gibbons, found in northeastern Vietnam. The report has been issued biannually by the IUCN since 2000.

    Brookfield Introduces 4 Galapagos Tortoises

    February 17, 2010  abclocal.go.com  By Frank Mathie

    Four 6-month old tortoises each about the size of a hockey puck can be seen at the Brookfield Zoo. At full size they should be somewhere around 450 to 500 pounds according to Mark Herbert, senior keeper. For Brookfield Zoo, it's the return of some giants that haven't been around for a long time. And, it'll be years before their genders are known- and even longer before they will reproduce. "They can start reproducing as early as twenty five years and their peak reproductive ages would be between forty and ninety years old," said Herbert. Children ages 11 and under can under submit their names- and a 50 word essay on why the name was chosen- at the zoo or by downloading the form at czs.org/nameatortoise. The form can then be mailed to: Name A Tortoise, Brookfield Zoo, 3300 Golf Road, Brookfield, IL 60513. “The contest starts tomorrow and will run through March 12th.” said Jeff Mitchell, associate curator, Aquatics and Reptiles.

    St. Louis Zoo Won’t Charge Admission Fee

    February 17, 2010  www.examiner.com 

    ST LOUIS, MO – A bill has been introduced in the legislature to allow nonresident admission fees at Zoo-Museum facilities, but officials of the attractions affected — the St. Louis Zoo, the Missouri History Museum, St. Louis Science Center and St. Louis Art Museum — have either rejected or been noncommittal to the idea of charging non-district residents. Zoo president and CEO Dr. Jeffrey Bonner released a statement saying the zoo has no intention of charging admission, and has no idea why the state senate is considering this bill. "The St. Louis Zoo does not intend to charge admission. We are committed to remaining free to all, including non-residents of St. Louis and St. Louis County, consistent with the language of the original legislation.

    Tourism to Save Endangered Birds

    February 17, 2010  www.conservationbirding.org

    WASHINGTON, DC -- The American Bird Conservancy and similar organizations in 12 countries have started a tourism initiative aimed at saving endangered bird species. The international project is called "Conservation Birding," and is designed to help finance bird reserves across the Americas by developing them as birding tourism destinations with lodges, trails and other facilities for visitors. So far they have created 36 reserves, 18 of which can provide accommodations. The reserves provide refuge for more than 2,000 bird species -- nearly half of the total found across all the Americas, the ABC said, noting many of the reserves also provide wintering habitats for migratory song birds. "Visiting birders can provide a source of direct financial support to the reserves, helping them become self-sufficient and sustainable in the long term."

    The Importance of Seed Size in Plants

    February 17, 2010  www.pnas.org

    Helene Muller-Landau, staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute is the author of a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that explains the pros and cons of plant seed size. "Big seeds don’t necessarily do any better than small seeds when conditions are good.  Where big seeds really have the advantage is in stressful conditions like shade or drought—small seeds often can’t make it at all at stressful sites. In contrast, small-seeded species have an advantage at favorable sites, just because they’ve got more seeds in the game."  A coconut palm seed may survive in both stressful and favorable conditions, but the plant can only produce a limited number of seeds due to their size. Fig trees on the other hand produce innumerable tiny seeds. They risk losing all or most of their seeds in stressful conditions, but can  take advantage of favorable conditions in a way a coconut palm never can. Her article, “The tolerance-fecundity trade-off and the maintenance of diversity in seed size” is at www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/pnas.0911637107

    4 New King Penguins at Central Park Zoo

    February 17, 2010  www.nydailynews.com  BY LISA L. COLANGELO

    The Central Park Zoo unveiled its renovated Polar Seabirds exhibit Wednesday  - and introduced four new male King penguins. At 30 inches, the Kings tower over the dozens of Chinstrap and Gentoo penguins. "You don't really know what's going to happen and we were set for anything," zoo director Jeff Sailer said of the Wildlife Conservation Society's decision to add the King penguins to the exhibit. "But it was kind of anti-climactic. The Gentoos came up and formed a little circle around them. Then they walked away." If all goes well, the Wildlife Conservation Society will start hunting for some lady penguins to join them.

    Bison Moved To Turner Ranch

    February 18, 2010  www.bozemandailychronicle.com  By Daniel Person

    CORWIN SPRINGS – For fear of cattle contracting disease, Yellowstone bison -- which are considered some of the most genetically pure bison in the United States -- have largely been confined to the park. In 2005, wildlife officials began capturing bison calves and testing them for brucellosis, which causes cattle and bison to abort. Those that tested negative were put into quarantine. APHIS veterinarians are now confident the herd carries no risk of transmitting brucellosis to cattle. Employees of APHIS and Turner Enterprises herded 80 bison, most of them pregnant, into trailers that would transport them two hours to Ted Turner’s 12,000-acre Green Ranch west of Bozeman. Eight more bison, all of them bulls, were scheduled to be moved today. Once at Turner’s ranch, the bison will roam and breed for five years. Keith Aune, who helped craft the quarantine program while working for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said these would be the first wild bison to roam around Bozeman in more than 120 years. After 5 years, the FWP will take over management of the original group of bison, plus a quarter of its offspring. Turner Enterprises will keep the rest of the offspring, which Miller says will help cover the half-million dollar cost of housing the bison for five years.

    Amid protest that the plan “privatizes” public wildlife, Russ Miller, Turner Enterprises’ general manager has argued that taxpayers are getting a bargain with the Turner deal. Holding the bison at Corwin Springs costs the government between $150,000 and $200,000 a year, according to an APHIS spokeswoman. Miller said no tax dollars will be spent on the 88 bison heading to the Green Ranch. And, while Turner owns the Ted’s Montana Grill restaurant chain, Miller said the Yellowstone bison boarding trailers Wednesday were not destined for buffalo burgers or bison meatloaf. “We’ve got 55,000 other bison. We don’t need these bison for meat. We’re doing this for the conservation of genetics,” he said. “I think it is a step forward,” said Aune, now a staff scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society. “I see this as a blend of public and private ventures. There will be other opportunities. That is what we have to bank on.” A memorandum of understanding between state agencies and Turner Enterprises was signed at 7 p.m. Tuesday night. Officials moved quickly in moving the bison because the animals are already in the second trimester of pregnancy and are expected to begin giving birth in May.

    History of Sumatran Rhino Conservation

    February 18, 2010  news.nationalgeographic.com 

    The Sumatran rhino is the rarest of the five rhino species. Its population is about 200 individuals in the wild and 10 in captivity worldwide. [According to the IUCN:  The total population is estimated between 220 and 275 individuals, with 20 in captivity – mostly in Indonesia and Malaysia] In 1984 a group of reproductive biologists, zoologists and conservationists formed the Sumatran Rhino Trust, involving several countries. The Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary is a 250-acre complex built and funded by IRF. The sanctuary is operated in partnership with the Indonesian Rhino Foundation under an agreement with the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry. Dedi Candra is the animal collection coordinator. The Sanctuary is home to five rhinos that are part of an intensively managed research and breeding program aimed at contributing to the conservation of the species in the wild. The rhinos reside in large, open areas where they can experience a natural rain forest habitat while receiving state-of-the-art veterinary care and nutrition, according to IRF. "The Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary has been encouraged by Cincinnati Zoo's success," said Widodo Ramono, executive director of the Rhino Foundation of Indonesia. "Our staff has adapted the Cincinnati Zoo's methodology to the local environment at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary, particularly ultrasonographic techniques, to achieve this result." 

    Terri Roth, director of Cincinnati Zoo's Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) and vice president for IRF's Asia programs, has used her extensive training in reproductive biology to produce three Sumatran rhinos beginning with male, Andalas in 2001, utilizing hormonal assays and ultrasound techniques to determine the optimal time for introducing males and females. "Sumatran rhinos are very solitary by nature and very aggressive towards one another except when a female is in estrus," Roth said. "Through science we can determine when the female is ready to ovulate so that she is paired with a male at the right time and fighting is minimized while the likelihood of conception is optimized. It is wonderful to see the science developed at CREW help our Indonesian colleagues achieve success in the forest of Sumatra." Captive Sumatran rhinos fill many roles, Roth said. "They represent a valuable resource for learning about the species' basic biology which can facilitate efforts to monitor and protected them in the wild. They serve as ambassadors for their species helping to educate both children and adults about rhinos and the rainforest, and they are becoming increasingly important as a back up to the wild population as the latter continues to decline."

    "The International Rhino Foundation, through its local partner, the Indonesian Rhino Foundation, also operates anti-poaching units in three Indonesian national parks. Thanks to those programs, there has been no rhino poaching in the last five years, and poaching of other large vertebrates which share rhino habitat has decreased significantly."

    Siberian Tiger Dies at Toronto Zoo

    February 18, 2010  www.theglobeandmail.com  By Kelly Grant

    A 17-year-old Siberian tiger, Tonghua is the latest animal to die at the Toronto Zoo. Zoo veterinarians had tranquilized the 400-pound cat to run a battery of tests after he began “acting a bit strange,” staggering and refusing food on the weekend. Dr. Bill Rapley, the zoo's executive director of conservation, education and research, said the initial tests and an autopsy conducted Monday indicated Tonghua had liver disease and possibly cancer. A firm cause of death won't be confirmed for a few weeks. Tonghua was born at the Zurich Zoo in 1993 and came to the Toronto Zoo a year later. He fathered nine cubs with two females. The average lifespan of a Siberian tiger in captivity is 16 to 20 years, Dr. Rapley said. The zoo currently has one other Siberian tiger, a 14-year-old female named Tatiana. The zoo also has four Sumatran tigers: A male, a female and two offspring of that pair. The zoo has been the target of criticism recently because the death of the zoo's matriarch elephant in December has left only three elephants in the zoo – the minimum number considered healthy.

    Controlling Gastrointestinal Nematodes in Ruminants

    February 18, 2010  www.ars.usda.gov

    Gastrointestinal nematodes can cause illness and death in ruminants, but researchers from the Agricultural Research Service in Arkansas have developed a patented formulation of Chinese bush clover (Sericea lespedeza ), that can control the pests. Chinese bush clover was introduced in the United States in the 1930s to minimize soil erosion. Now researchers have found that adding the patented dry hay and pelleted forms of this plant to animal feed thwarts the reproductive cycles of gastrointestinal nematodes that are in the digestive tracts of goats and sheep. It is particularly effective in controlling the barber pole worm (Haemonchus contortus).

    Multi-Species Primate Study

    February 18, 2010  www.york.ac.uk

    An analysis of monkeys living in Tanzania’s Udzungwa Mountains suggests that the impact of external factors, such as human activity, on species numbers is felt in forests as large as 40 square kilometres. Researchers also found that the health of monkey populations is closely related to the type of habitat found between forest fragments, rather than the distance that separates them. Researchers investigated the distribution of seven species living in an area covering 10,000 km2. The study, published in the American Journal of Primatology, was conducted by Dr Andrew Marshall, from the University of York and Director of Conservation at Flamingo Land Theme Park and Zoo, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of York, the University of Copenhagen, the Tremto Museum of Natural History (Italy) and the Udzungwa Ecological Monitoring Centre (Tanzania). The study suggests that while small forest fragments need protecting we should intervene at an earlier stage to protect larger forest areas that are under threat. It also supports the case for working with local communities on practical steps that will help forest species. These could include reducing dependence on bush meat and encouraging the planting of habitat that can form corridors between forest fragments. The research has led to a wider conservation and education project in the area led by Dr Marshall, through Flamingo Land Theme Park and Zoo.

    Study: Facebook As A Marketing Tool

    February 18, 2010  www.rice.edu

    Companies that use Facebook and its fan page module to market themselves to customers can increase sales, word-of-mouth marketing and customer loyalty significantly among a subset of their customers, according to new research from Rice University's Jones Graduate School of Business. The study is featured in the March issue of the Harvard Business Review. Research for the article, "How Effective is Facebook Marketing?", was conducted by Utpal Dholakia, associate professor of management. Customers of Dessert Gallery (DG), a popular Houston-based café chain were surveyed. Prior to the study, DG did not have a Facebook presence. The study, based on surveys of more than 1,700 respondents over a three-month period, found that compared with typical Dessert Gallery customers, the company's Facebook fans:
    Made 36 percent more visits to DG's stores each month.
    Spent 45 percent more of their eating-out dollars at DG.
    Spent 33 percent more at DG's stores.
    Had 14 percent higher emotional attachment to the DG brand.
    Had 41 percent greater psychological loyalty toward DG.
    According to Dholakia, the results indicate that Facebook fan pages offer an effective and low-cost way of social-media marketing. But Dholakia cautioned, "The fact that only about 5 percent of the firm's 13,000 customers became Facebook fans within three months indicates that Facebook fan pages may work best as niche marketing programs targeted to customers who regularly use Facebook. Social-media marketing must be employed judiciously with other types of marketing programs."

    Giant Panda Genome and Bamboo Diet

    February 18, 2010  www.cardiff.ac.uk

    Professor Mike Bruford, of Cardiff School of Biosciences, is studying the panda genome in collaboration with scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Zoology. "The panda is a true bear and is a carnivore, so it possesses the genes necessary for being a meat-eater and yet its diet is almost exclusively herbivorous. Pandas actually lack the genes necessary for compete digestion of this staple food source. This may suggest that it relies on microbes in its gut to digest bamboo rather than on anything in its genetic make-up. "Taste is also important when it comes to the development of dietary habits and the sequencers discovered mutations in the panda's T1R1 gene which may affect its ability to taste meat, one possible explanation for why a potential carnivore would rely on a strict bamboo diet." The study found no signs of low variation that is usually linked to inbreeding and results support the potential for successful survival despite the small population size of the species. In spite of the panda's low reproduction rates, the study also identified nearly all the reproduction genes critical for mammalian gonad function and development.The paper is available online in Nature.

    Restoration of the Klamath River and Salmon Populations

    February 18, 2010  www.nytimes.com  By WILLIAM YARDLEYS

    SEATTLE — Formal agreements have now been signed to remove four hydroelectric dams by 2020, and revise how water is shared in the Klamath River basin in southern Oregon and Northern California. The dams, which have provided power and water for farm irrigation for decades, have caused severe depletions in salmon populations in the 250-mile river, hurting Indian tribes in the area and helping force shutdowns of some West Coast commercial fishing. The expected cost of dam removal and basin restoration is about $1.5 billion. Oregon has already committed about $200 million. California will ask voters to contribute $250 million through a ballot initiative this fall, though supporters say the state could find other means to pay if the measure fails. Congress will be asked to supply the rest. The complete agreement is online at docs.google.com.

    25 Most Endangered Primates

    February 18, 2010  www.ens-newswire.com

    A report, "Primates in Peril: The World's 25 Most Endangered Primates, 2008-2010" has been compiled by the Primate Specialist Group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, IUCN, Species Survival Commission, SSC, and the International Primatological Society, in collaboration with the nonprofit Conservation International. It was introduced today at the Bristol Zoo Gardens, because of the great leadership the institution has taken in primate conservation in some of the world's highest priority regions.

    Greater Bamboo Lemur Prolemur simus
    Gray-headed Lemur Eulemur cinereiceps
    Sclater's Black Lemur, Blue-Eyed Black Lemur Eulemur flavifrons
    Northern sportive lemur Lepilemur septentrionalis
    Silky Sifaka Propithecus candidus
    Rondo Dwarf Galago Galagoides rondoensis
    Roloway Guenon Cercopithecus diana roloway
    Tana River Red Colobus Procolobus rufomitratus
    Niger Delta Red Colobus Monkey Procolobus epieni
    Kipunji Rungwecebus kipunji
    Cross River Gorilla Gorilla gorilla diehli
    Siau Island Tarsier Tarsius tumpara
    Javan Slow Loris Nycticebus javanicus
    Simakobu or Pig-Tailed Snub-Nose Langur Simias concolor
    Delacour's Langur Trachypithecus delacouri
    Golden-headed Langur or Cat Ba Langur Trachypithecus p. poliocephalus
    Western Purple-faced Langur Trachypithecus (Semnopithecus) vetulus nestor
    Grey-shanked Douc Monkey Pygathrix cinerea
    Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkey Rhinopithecus avunculus
    Eastern Black Crested Gibbon Nomascus nasutus
    Western Hoolock Gibbon Hoolock hoolock
    Sumatran Orangutan Pongo abelii
    Central and South America
    Cotton-top Tamarin Saguinus oedipus
    Variegated or Brown Spider Monkey Ateles hybridus
    Peruvian Yellow-tailed Woolly Monkey Oreonax flavicauda

    Gulf Breeze Zoo Re-Opens

    February 18, 2010 www.pnj.com By Kimberly Blair

    The Gulf Breeze Zoo reopened its doors at 9 a.m. today. Kayte Wanko, general curator, says visitors will find more hands-on exhibits, and about 600 to 700 animals, "not counting bats and fish. We have two Indian crested porcupines, Parma wallabies, and there are water buffalo calves in the petting area," Wanko said. The petting zoo also is filled with goats, pot-bellied pigs and a donkey. Formerly known as The Zoo Northwest Florida, the 25-year-old facility closed in August because of financial problems precipitated by damage from Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and Hurricane Dennis the next year. In December, Eric Mogensen bought the zoo from the local owner, Animal Park Inc. Mogensen also owns Virginia Safari Park in Natural Bridge, Va., and Reston Zoo near Washington, D.C.  Pat Quinn, founder of The Zoo Northwest Florida, stayed on as the director of media relations. "We're having a soft opening now, and we're going to have a major grand opening around the first of April, and that will be a big to-do," he said.

    USFWS Sued Over Failure to Protect Florida Panther

    February 18, 2010  action.sierraclub.org

    SARASOTA, Fla. -- Five conservation groups, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), and the Council for Civic Associations, filed a lawsuit today against the USFWS for its failure to protect the Florida panther. Fewer than 100 Florida panthers survive in the wild, clinging to less than 5 percent of their historic range within a handful of South Florida counties. It is the last of the eastern cougars which once roamed across the southern United States, and is the last species of large cat east of the Mississippi River. Although the panther has been listed as an endangered species since 1967, the Service has never designated critical habitat for the species. Species with designated critical habitat have been shown to be twice as likely to recover as species without it. In 2009 the five groups petitioned USFWS to designate critical habitat for the Florida panther. On February 11, 2010 the Service gave notice that it was denying their petitions so the groups are now suing to protect the panther's last remaining habitat before it is irreversibly lost due to sprawl development and climate change. Over the past two decades the USFWS has approved every development proposal in panther habitat. The last rejection came in 1993.

    NSW Platypus Population Study

    February 18,  2010  www.australiangeographic.com.au   BY SCARLETT KEDDIE

    Dr Joanne Connolly, a veterinary microbiologist at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga has conducted the first comprehensive survey into platypus health and population size in the NSW’s Murrumbidgee catchment area. “We are interested to see how the platypus copes with drought and hope to study a few populations further.”  The Murrumbidgee population is important, because it is isolated from coastal populations by the Great Dividing Range. Most populations are found on the eastern seaboard from Cooktown all the way down to Tasmania. The western populations live in the Murray Darling Basin including the Murrumbidgee catchment. “We potentially have different sub-populations of platypus; the east, the west and Tasmanian,” Connolly said. “There is an evident separation of breeding populations.” The researchers have taken body measurements, weight and blood samples from the 28 platypuses.  They also checked for parasites, and infections and tagged them with microchips.

    Snow Causes $1.5M in Damage to Maryland Zoo

    February 19, 2010  www.insurancejournal.com

    BALTIMORE, Maryland -- Two recent snowstorms caused $1.5 million in damage to the Maryland Zoo. Insurance adjusters declared the Maryland aviary a total loss, the African aviary was heavily damaged and more than 60 trees or large limbs fell under the heavy snow. A long-eared owl is still loose. The zoo, which closes for the winter, was scheduled to reopen March 1. But zoo President Donald Hutchinson says the opening will have to be postponed at least two weeks and more snow could push the opening back further. Missing a month in the spring, the zoo's busiest time, could cut revenue substantially for the zoo already struggling with financial difficulties.

    Two Clouded Leopards Born at National Zoo

    February 19, 2010  voices.washingtonpost.com

    National Zoo announced today that two clouded leopard cubs were born at Front Royal, Va., on Valentine's Day. Jao Chu (JOW-chew), a three-and-a-half-year-old clouded leopard, gave birth to the first cub at 6:04 p.m. and the second cub at 6:20 p.m. At birth, the two cubs weighed in at a little more than half a pound each. Officials said they are not certain about the sex of the cubs. This is the third time Jao Chu and the cubs’ father, Hannibal, also three-and-a-half-years-old, have produced offspring. On March 24, 2009, Jao Chu gave birth to two males — Sa Ming (SAH-meeng), “brave warrior,” and Ta Moon (TAH-moon), “mischievous child.” Nearly four months later, on July 9, she gave birth to a female cub, Baylie (BAY-lee). Native to Southeast Asia and parts of China, clouded leopards are listed as “Vulnerable” by the IUCN due to hunting and deforestation. National Zoo scientist Jo Gayle Howard and colleagues have worked with clouded leopards in Front Royal since 1978. In the past 30 years, more than 76 clouded leopards have been born there. The zoo has a clouded leopard cam.

    Cincinnati Zoo’s “Vine Street Village Wins Award

    February 19, 2010  www.wcpo.com

    CINCINNATI -- The company that built the new Vine Street Village at the the Cincinnati Zoo has won the National Pyramid Award for excellence in construction award from the Associated Builders and Contractors group. HGC incorporated lots of energy-efficient features into the village including solar panels, geothermal heat pumps, a solar water heating system and a rainwater collection system.

    New Toronto Zoo Director

    February 19, 2010  www.theglobeandmail.com

    John Tracogna, currently manager of Ontario Place, was hired yesterday as the Toronto Zoo's new chief executive. He will take over the attraction and its stalled $250-million, 10-year fundraising campaign. Before joining Ontario Place in 2008, Mr. Tracogna worked in the city's economic development department, including as head of its international tourism section and part of its aborted bid for World Expo 2015. His strengths are policy development and partnership building.

    California Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog Video

    February 19, 2010  news.bbc.co.uk

    One of the world's biggest conservation zoos is saving a southern California endangered species. San Diego Zoo has taken in a group of 60 mountain yellow-legged frogs - nearly a third of the entire population - to protect them from wildfires, drought and the chytrid fungus that has been wiping out frogs all over the world. The zoo's Herpetological Research Coordinator Jeff Lemm explains how the frogs are cared for to ensure successful breeding.  Video is at news.bbc.co.uk.

    Oregon Zoo Announces “Pollinator Workshop”

    February 19, 2010  www.zandavisitor.com 

    Honeybees alone pollinate more than 130 crops in the United States and add $15 billion in crop value each year. If populations decline further, global food webs (and with them the economy), biodiversity and human health will be significantly threatened. The Oregon Zoo is teaming up with the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation to host a daylong workshop on May 14. Experts will discuss the unique biology of Oregon's native bees, explain how to identify them and present ways of creating habitats that support pollinators around the home, garden or farm. The workshop is intended for land and park managers, landscape architects, golf course managers, conservation groups, biologists, researchers, educators and homeowners who want to create a suitable habitat for pollinators in their back yard. A morning session will provide information about bee ecology and pollinator conservation, and in the afternoon, participants will take a walk outside to look at pollinators and habitats around the zoo. Cost to attend the workshop is $33, which includes lunch, snacks and zoo admission.

    Critical Habitat for the Leatherback Sea Turtle

    February 19, 2010  Federal Register

    On January 5, 2010, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), proposed regulations to revise the critical habitat designation for the endangered leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) by designating additional areas within the Pacific Ocean. Specific areas proposed for designation include two adjacent marine areas totaling approximately 46,100 square miles
    (119,400 square km) stretching along the California coast from Point Arena to Point Vincente; and one 24,500 square mile (63,455 square km) marine area stretching from Cape Flattery, WA, to the Umpqua River (Winchester Bay), OR, east of a line approximating the 2,000 meter depth contour. The areas proposed for designation comprise approximately 70,600 square miles (182,854 square km) of marine habitat. NMFS is extending the comment period on the proposed regulations until April 23, 2010. Written comments on the proposed rule may be submitted, identified by RIN 0648-AX06, and addressed to David Cottingham, Chief, Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Conservation Division, via the Federal eRulemaking Portal or Mail: Chief, Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Conservation Division, NMFS, Office of Protected Resources, 1315 East West Highway, Silver Spring, MD, 20910.

    Seasonal Reproduction in Koalas

    February 19, 2010  www.mammalsociety.org

    A field study on St. Bees Island, Australia, by researchers from the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research and the University of Queensland, has determined that koalas across Australia have a strong seasonal component in the timing of births but that some variation in the timing occurs between northern and southern populations of koalas in Queensland. In some areas, such as inland and Southeast Queensland, annual birth patterns are correlated with rainfall patterns, and in Southeast Queensland male joeys seem to be more common than female joeys. The study appears in the Journal of Mammalogy, 91(1):177–182, 2010.

    Female Giant Panda Chirps Indicate Fertile Phase

    February 19, 2010  rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org
    Researchers from China and the U.S. (Including the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research) have used a combination of hormone measurements and acoustic analyses to determine whether female giant panda chirps have the potential to signal the caller’s precise estrous stage (fertile versus pre-fertile). They then used playback experiments to examine the response of male giant pandas to female chirps produced during fertile versus pre-fertile phases of the caller’s reproductive cycle. Results proved that the acoustic structure of female giant panda chirps differs between fertile and pre-fertile callers and that male giant pandas can perceive differences in female chirps that allow them to determine the exact timing of the female’s fertile phase. These findings indicate that male giant pandas could use vocal cues to preferentially associate and breed with females at the optimum time for insemination and reveal the likely importance of female vocal signals for coordinating reproductive efforts in this critically endangered species. The study appears in the Proc. R. Soc. B (2010) 277, 1101–1106.

    Revised Critical Habitat for Leatherback Sea Turtle

    February 19, 2010  www.gpoaccess.gov

    On January 5, 2010, NMFS proposed regulations to revise the critical habitat designation for the endangered leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) by designating additional areas within the Pacific Ocean. Specific areas proposed for designation include two adjacent marine areas totaling approximately 46,100 square miles (119,400 square km) stretching along the California coast from Point Arena to Point Vincente; and one 24,500 square mile (63,455 square km) marine area stretching from Cape Flattery, WA, to the Umpqua River (Winchester Bay), OR, east of a line approximating the 2,000 meter depth contour. The areas proposed for designation comprise approximately 70,600 square miles (182,854 square km) of marine habitat. NMFS is extending the comment period on the proposed regulations until April 23, 2010. Comments and information regarding this proposed rule must be received by April 23, 2010.  Written comments on the proposed rule may be submitted, identified by RIN 0648-AX06, and addressed to: David Cottingham, Chief, Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Conservation Division, by any of the following methods: via the Federal eRulemaking Portal or US Mail to Chief, Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Conservation Division, NMFS, Office of Protected Resources, 1315 East West Highway, Silver Spring, MD, 20910. The proposed rule and supporting documents, including the biological report, economic report, initial regulatory flexibility analysis, and 4(b)(2) report, are also available electronically. For further information contact Sara McNulty, NMFS, Office of Protected Resources, 301-713-2322; Elizabeth Petras, NMFS Southwest Region, 562-980-3238; Steve Stone, NMFS Northwest Region, 503-231-2317.

    Permit Issued for SeaTurtle Research

    February 19, 2010   www.gpoaccess.gov

    The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Pacific Islands Region, 1601 Kapiolani Boulevard, Honolulu, HI 96814 has been issued a permit to take green (Chelonia mydas), leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), loggerhead (Caretta caretta), olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea), and hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) sea turtles for purposes of scientific research. The esearchers will collect scientific data on sea turtles incidentally captured in the Hawaii Deep-Set Longline Fishery, the Hawaii Shallow-Set Longline Fishery, and the American Samoa Longline Fishery. These data will assist NMFS efforts to understand sea turtle interactions with the fisheries and to mitigate their threat to these species. The applicant will flipper tag, measure, photograph, tissue sample, and attach satellite tags to an anticipated annual take of up to 46 loggerhead, 16 leatherback, 1 green, and 4 olive ridley sea turtles captured in the Hawaii Shallow-Set Longline Fishery; up to 6 loggerhead, 6 leatherback, 12 green, 12 olive ridley, and 6 hawksbill sea turtles captured in the American Samoa Longline Fishery; and up to 6 (18 over three years) loggerhead, 13 (39 over three years) leatherback, 7 (21 over three years) green, and 41 (123 over three years) olive ridley sea turtles captured in the Hawaii Deep-Set Longline Fishery. The research will occur in the Pacific Ocean through the permit's expiration on March 1, 2015. No mortalities are expected from the research. Researchers would also collect sea turtle carcasses of animals killed in fishery activities that occur in the Pacific Ocean. The permit and related documents are available for review upon written request to Permits, Conservation and Education Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, 1315 East-West Highway, Room 13705, Silver Spring, MD 20910; phone (301)713-2289; For further information contact:  Kate Swails or Amy Hapeman, (301)713-2289.

    Elephant Dynamics In “Elephant Odyssey”

    February 21, 2010  www.signonsandiego.com  by Jeanette Steele:

    According to animal-care supervisor Rod Owlett, the San Diego Zoo is trying to merge three elephant groups in their new $45 million exhibit known as “Elephant Odyssey”. The zoo’s longtime trio — Sumithi, Devi and Tembo — must learn to live with 4 elephants from the Wild Animal Park: females Cha Cha, Cookie, and Mary, as well as male, Ranchipur. In addition,  two former circus elephants, Tina and Jewel, were accepted by the zoo in August after the USDA took them away from a private owner in Texas. Elephants build highly evolved communal networks centered on the most confident female, and a larger herd would be the most enriching atmosphere for this very social species. Since the merger started this summer, keepers have witnessed some head-butting, trumpeting and well-placed shots with a trunk. Sumithi drove Tembo across the yard and into the pool. On a recent morning, keepers began the integration by pairing up Sumithi, matriarch of the longtime trio at the zoo, with Cha Cha, the smallest and most docile of the former WAP pachyderms. These two have become buddies, with Sumithi acting as Cha Cha’s protector. When Devi and Tembo were released into the yard, an immediate change came over Cha Cha. Sumithi, Devi and Tembo flapped their ears and waved their tails as they focused on eating tree branches and hay. But Cha Cha grew still, with trunk down and ears flat, she positioned herself between Sumithi and Tembo, a known bully. In the end, keepers are depending on Sumithi to keep the peace for the entire group. An African elephant herd originally from Swaziland remains on exhibit at the Wild Animal Park near Escondido. Elephants aren’t the only challenging animals that keepers have to manage. Otis, a male river hippo from the Los Angeles Zoo was expected to be easily introduced to longtime female resident, Funani. But when he arrived early last year it was a bloodbath. Funani tore chunks from Otis’ hide, and after three days of fighting keepers had to separate them. Months later they were reunited after Funani’s razor-sharp teeth were trimmed and the hippos mated within an hour.

    Cataract Surgery for Pittsburgh Zoo Lemur

    February 21, 2010  www.pittsburghlive.com  By Debra Erdley

    The eight-pound, 25-year-old black-and-white ruffed lemur from the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium was nearly blind, had quit climbing and was tumbling from his platform by the time he entered the Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Care Center in the North Hills for cataract surgery yesterday morning. Two hours later, the microsurgery was proclaimed a success, and Boscoe began his recovery. Boscoe's keeper, Tricia Hartnett, said the animal has had a cataract in his right eye for years. Over the past 10 months, he lost sight in his left eye and had begun to behave fearfully. Dr. Rachel Keller, a veterinarian at the Specialty and Emergency Care Center, and Dr. Kenneth Cheng, a pediatric ophthalmologist from Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, teamed with zoo veterinarian Dr. Stephanie James for the operation. Cheng, who volunteered his services for the procedure, had previously performed successful cataract surgery on a baby orangutan from the zoo. The surgical team used high-frequency ultrasound in the Specialty Hospital's well-equipped operating suite to break up Boscoe's cataracts and then suctioned away the debris that had clouded his vision.

    Training Bases Protect Endangered Species

    February 21, 2010  www.nytimes.com  By Leslie Kaufman

    In addition to conducting round-the-clock exercises to support two wars, Fort Stewart in Georgia spends as much as $3 million a year on wildlife management, grooming its 279,000 acres to accommodate the five endangered species that live here. Last year, the wildlife staff built about 100 artificial cavities and installed them 25 feet high in large pines so the red cockaded woodpeckers didn’t have to spend six months carving the nests themselves. Post commanders have gradually realized that working to help species rebound is in their best interest, if only because the more the endangered plants and animals thrive, the fewer restrictions are put on training exercises to avoid destroying habitat. Today, efforts to save threatened species are in progress at dozens of military sites from Eglin, Fla., where the Air Force has restored and reconnected streams for the Okaloosa darter, to San Clemente Island, Calif., where the Navy has helped bring the loggerhead shrike back from the brink of extinction. At Camp Pendleton, California the Marines restrict amphibious landings during nesting season for shorebirds like the coastal California gnatcatcher. In 2005 the Marines built a desert tortoise research and rearing center at Twenty-Nine Palms, Calif. The military owns some 30 million acres that are often critical habitat for plants and animals. “There is a strong understanding now that land is a limited resource, and that even our military is part of a larger ecosystem,” said L. Peter Boice, the Pentagon’s deputy director of natural resources. From 2004 to 2008, the Department of Defense spent $300 million to protect endangered species — more than it spent in the previous 10 years combined. Now the military plans to broaden those efforts, reaching beyond the 420 officially endangered or threatened species on its land and restoring ecosystems for more than 500 others that are considered at risk. The military began acquiring largely untouched rural expanses in the late 1930s and early 1940s as the country prepared for World War II, and now development is encroaching on these installations, turning them into de facto havens for many threatened animals and plants. To limit this pressure, the military began getting Congress to pay for preservation purchases in 2005. By 2009, the budget had grown to $56 million. The Pentagon does not want to own those lands but organizes multiparty partnerships. Fort Stewart, for example, has formed a partnership with the Georgia Land Trust, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the county government to try to preserve 100,000 acres on the edge of the post. Next door, the Marine Corps’ Townsend Range is working with the Nature Conservancy to protect another 15,000 acres of critical watershed on the Altamaha River. The land is home to threatened species ranging from a rare kind of mint to the gopher tortoise, which lives in sandy underground burrows. The Army wants to prevent the tortoise from being officially listed as endangered, which could impede training.

    Problems With Sage Grouse Listing

    February 21, 2010  www.sfgate.com  By MEAD GRUVER

    Wyoming is believed to be home to at least half of North America's sage grouse. Vast expanses of Wyoming are sage grouse habitat, including the same areas of gas development that supply much of the nation's heat and drive the state's economy. An endangered listing would be "absolutely devastating" by requiring sage grouse to be considered ahead of virtually any development in most of the state, said Ryan Lance, a deputy chief of staff to Gov. Dave Freudenthal. Sage grouse can be found in 11 states and southern Canada. Besides Wyoming, they inhabit large portions of Nevada, Montana, Oregon and Idaho, and smaller areas in Colorado, Utah, California, Washington and the Dakotas. Loss of the birds' sagebrush habitat is their biggest problem by far, said Pat Deibert, a Fish and Wildlife biologist in Cheyenne who's been closely involved in the listing decision. West Nile virus also has taken a heavy toll on sage grouse. The birds have little immunity to the disease and in northeast Wyoming, coal-bed methane development has pumped millions of gallons of groundwater to the surface, creating breeding grounds for mosquitoes that transmit West Nile, Deibert said. USFWS faces a Friday deadline to announce whether to pursue listing sage grouse as threatened, endangered, not threatened or endangered, or endangered but precluded by higher priorities from listing.

    Elephant 'Secret Language' Clues

    February 22, 2010  news.bbc.co.uk  By Pallab Ghosh

    Matt Anderson of San Diego Zoo's Institute for Conservation Research has been studying what has been described as the "secret language" of elephants. In addition to their trumpeting calls, elephants also emit growls. Their growls, however, are only partly audible; two-thirds of the call is at frequencies that are too low to be picked up by our hearing. To learn more about the inaudible part of the growl, the team attached a microphone sensitive to these low frequencies and a GPS tracking system to eight of the zoo's female elephants. The researchers could then correlate the noises the animals were making with their behavior. Project leader, Anderson, said, "We're excited to learn of the hierarchy within the female herd and how they interact and intercede with one another." The team has already learned that pregnant females use this low frequency communication to announce to the rest of their herd that they are about to give birth. "After their long gestation of over two years, in the last 12 days we see a manipulation of the low part of the growl, the low part that we can't hear, and we believe this is to announce to the rest of the herd that the baby is imminent.“ The researchers believe that this also warns the elephants to look out for predators. Video at news.bbc.co.uk

    Marine Park Success Requires Local Involvement

    February 22, 2010  www.coralcoe.org.au

    The involvement of locals is a key ingredient in the success of marine parks which protect coral reefs and fish stocks, according to the largest-scale study to date of how coastal communities influence successful outcomes in marine reserves. Human population pressure as well as local involvement in research and management are both critical. The team studied 56 marine reserves from 19 different countries throughout Asia, the Indian Ocean, and the Caribbean. “About ¾ of the marine reserves we studied showed a positive difference in the amount of fish inside compared to outside – so most reserves we studied were working,” says Dr Josh Cinner of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University. The most successful reserves showed really big differences of 14 times the amount of fish inside compared to outside, but that wasn’t always the case. One of the best predictors of how 'successful' a marine reserve was, is actually the size of the human communities around the reserve – but interestingly, this varied in different regions. Compliance with reserve rules was not just related to the level of enforcement, but also to a range of social, political, and economic factors which enabled people to co-operate better in protecting their marine resources. Reserves worked best where there was a formal consultation processes about reserve rules, where local people were able to participate in monitoring the reserve, and when ongoing training for community members was provided so that they could better understand the science and policy. The report appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Benefitting from Protection

    February 22, 2010  www.coralcoe.org.au

    Dr Hugh Sweatman, from the Australian Institute of Marine Science says that, “With 32% of the Great Barrier Reef area designated as no-take areas, fish densities are about two times greater and fish populations across the ecosystem have increased considerably.” The researchers predict that as protected fish inside no-take areas grow larger and larger, they will contribute many more larvae to the whole ecosystem. Therefore, the benefits of no-take areas are expected to extend far beyond the no-take boundaries, replenishing surrounding areas that are open to fishing. Larger, more mobile species, such as sharks, have benefited less than residential fishes, but nevertheless show clear effects of protection: grey reef sharks are much more abundant on highly protected reefs than on fished reefs. “The Great Barrier Reef generates far more economic benefit to Australia than the cost of protecting it,” he added. Sweatman and others have published their report, “Adaptive management of the Great Barrier Reef: a globally significant demonstration of the benefits of a network of marine reserves” in the current Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    Whooping Crane Festival

    February 22, 2010  www.caller.com  By Phyllis Yochem

    CORPUS CHRISTI — The Whooping Crane Festival begins Thursday in Port Aransas. The festival is dedicated to the tallest bird in North America – the 5 ft-tall whooping crane that travels 2,400 miles annually from their breeding ground in Canada to winter at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. At one time in 1938, this flock numbered 18 birds. The number has now been built back to 263 at the refuge as of January. Boat trips to see the whooping cranes are a feature of the festival, and a trade show is usually held with books about birds, bird feeders and information booths about local birding spots. George Archibald, co-founder of the International Crane Foundation, will speak at 9 a.m. Saturday, and will also serve as narrator on a boat trip. Guided bus trips will visit area birding spots. Field trips are scheduled to the Fennessey Ranch, and reservations are necessary to participate in overnight trips to La Copita Ranch. Special seminars are planned for photographers and astronomers. A dolphin encounter tour and a deep sea trip are planned. Boat trips are available to St. Joseph’s Island. There are no roads there, but plenty of birds.

    Flightless Birds Gave up Flying After Dinosaurs Perished

    February 22, 2010  www.physorg.com

    Evolutionary biologist Dr Matthew Phillips and a team from Australian National University in Canberra, theorize that when the dinosaurs suddenly became extinct around 65 million years ago, niches on the ground opened up with plentiful food and no predators. Since there was no need to take to the air for a quick escape, the ancestors of modern day ostriches, cassowaries, rheas and emus, stayed on the ground and grew fat, until they could no longer fly. Dr Phillips said it was an advantage to the birds to lose the ability to fly because wings are “fairly costly in terms of the amount of energy that goes into them.” Becoming larger was also of benefit because it made them more energy efficient. Phillips and his team studied fossil DNA of flightless birds, including the extinct giant moa, from New Zealand, and other ancestors of the modern large flightless birds. They discovered the moa’s closest relatives were small ground-dwelling birds called tinamous, which are still found in South America today, and which can just barely fly. Molecular dating of the samples suggested the ancestors of the moas became flightless around the same time the dinosaurs became extinct. The new study suggests the flightless birds evolved separately from flying ancestors on the different land masses, rather than from a single flightless ancestor on Gondwanaland, as previously thought, and they all lost the ability to fly about 65 million years ago. This neatly solves the age-old problem of how “flightless” birds could have reached the different continents: they were not flightless at all, and simply flew. The study appears in the January edition of the Systematic Biology.

    Auroch’s Mitochondrial Genome

    February 22, 2010  www.physorg.com

    Researchers in Ireland and Britain have sequenced the complete mitochondrial DNA genome of ancient wild auroch using a sample from a 6,700 year-old bone. The findings are published in this latest issue of the journal PLoS ONE. The mitochondrial DNA genome sequence traces maternal inheritance but the researchers hope the next stage will be to assemble the full nuclear DNA genome of the aurochs. The researchers hope to reopen the Ancient Biomolecules Centre at the University of Oxford and start to explore the evolutionary history of aurochs and modern cattle. Previous studies have suggested that ancient aurochs, which lived in the Near East (modern day Iran, Iraq and Syria) and across Europe and Asia, are the ancestor of modern cattle. However, comparisons of European aurochs mitochondrial DNA with modern European cattle suggests that the level of cross-breeding between domestic cattle and the wild, fierce European aurochs must have been very low.

    Endangered Species Pemit Issued to Ocean Alliance

    February 22, 2010  www.gpoaccess.gov

    The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has issued Ocean Alliance, Inc. (Responsible Party: Iain Kerr), a permit to conduct research on and import specimens of marine mammals sperm (Physeter macrocephalus), blue (Balaenoptera musculus), Bryde's (B. edeni), dwarf sperm (Kogia sima), false killer (Pseudorca crassidens), fin (B. physalus), gray (Eschrichtius robustus), humpback (Megaptera novaeangliae), killer (Orcinus orca), minke (B. acutorostrata), pilot (Globicephala spp.), pygmy sperm (K. breviceps), sei (B. borealis), southern right (Eubalaena australis), northern right (E. glacialis), and unidentified beaked (Ziphius cavirostris and Mesoplodon spp.) whales, and common dolphins (Delphinus delphis). Permit No. 13545 authorizes Ocean Alliance, Inc. to conduct research over a five-year period to determine contaminant levels; culture cells; and collect data on abundance, movement and distribution patterns, habitat use, energetics, behaviors, and stock and social structures of the above identified species. During vessel surveys researchers may harass live animals and collect tissues from dead, stranded cetaceans in U.S. waters and on the high seas. Researchers may conduct biopsy sampling, collection of sloughed skin and feces, photo-identification, videography, passive acoustic recording, focal follows, and behavioral observation of up to 250 sperm whales annually and 20 animals annually for each of the above remaining species, except southern right whales. Researchers may import from foreign waters 150 sperm whale samples per year and 20 samples per year each for all other identified species. Research may occur in U.S. waters and the high seas of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, including the Gulf of Maine, Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, the territorial waters of Mexico, Indian Ocean, and Mediterranean Sea.

    Orangutans Threatened by Palm Plantations

    February 22, 2010  news.bbc.co.uk

    The International Union for Conservation of Nature estimates that the population has declined by 50% in recent decades and the Indonesian government admits that 50,000 orangutans have died as a result of de-forestation. The orangutans are displaced as the trees of old-growth forests are burned and at times killed by workers who see them as a nuisance in the logging process, are not the only victims of the runaway growth in palm oil - scientists say there is a wider environmental price being paid. Greenpeace has identified the draining of ancient peat lands to make way for palm oil as a global threat, saying it had lead to massive amounts of trapped methane and carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere. As a result, Indonesia is the world's third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind only America and China. Using GPS technology and satellite imaging, a BBC team pinpointed exact locations where palm oil giant the Duta Palma Group is logging on both high conservation lands and deep peat lands - both are illegal. The palm industry - valued at £5bn ($7.7bn) for Indonesia - is the country's third biggest export earner. Many of the big manufacturers who buy that oil via European wholesalers say that while they are starting to find oil from sustainable sources, they are not yet in a position to trace the origin of all of the oil they use. Currently, only 3% of the world's palm oil is certified sustainable, meaning it comes from plantations that pass an environmental and social impact test. Bulk oil from a variety of plantations - including that of Duta Palma Group is mixed together and shipped around the world and sold on to manufacturers behind everyday products. Current labeling laws allow manufacturers to list palm oil as 'vegetable' oil, without singling out the palm oil content. Many manufacturers, including industry giants Unilever and Proctor and Gamble, say their recipes can change and the amounts and types of oils they use can vary from week to week, making more detailed labels unworkable. Recently Unilever, the UK's largest user of palm oil in products that range from Dove soap to Pot Noodles, Knorr soups and Flora, terminated a large contract with a supplier called Sinar Mas, because of reports it was destroying high conservation value forests.

    Developing Good Culling Strategies

    February 22, 2010  www.physorg.com
    A paper published in the inaugural issue of the British Ecological Society's new journal, Methods in Ecology and Evolution, aims to help wildlife managers plan culling strategies more effectively by modeling the financial and population impact of their planned strategy using a spreadsheet-based application which the authors have made available online. Co-author Corey Bradshaw from the University of Adelaide says, "Density reduction culling programs aren't usually done with much forethought, organization or associated research. Our Excel-spreadsheet 'Spatio-Temporal Animal Reduction' (S.T.A.R.) model is designed specifically to optimize the culling strategies for feral pigs, buffalo and horses in Kakadu National Park (northern Australia), but our aim was to make it easy enough for anyone to use and modify so that it could be applied to any invasive species anywhere."

    Staten Island Zoo Director Resigns

    February 23, 2010  www.silive.com

    STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – After serving six and a half years, the Staten Island Zoo's Executive Director John Caltabiano has resigned. Each year during Caltabiano's tenure, a new exhibit opened, including the reptile wing, the otter exhibit, the Clydesdale barn and the petting zoo. Events such as the Earth Fair Day, Festa Italiana and the Society Ball, which have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, have become mainstays. The Zoo currently has a deficit of about $350,000 resulting from cuts from the city. Former Councilman Kenneth Mitchell will serve as interim director as the board begins a nationwide search for a successor.

    John Gwynne, Zoo Designer

    February 23, 2010  www.miller-mccune.com

    John Gwynne says his interest in landscape design, animals and the environment came together just as Western zoos were seeking a more holistic approach to presenting animals. The new settings were not only visually richer for zoo visitors; they were also more educational. Visitors got quick lessons in environments that had, over eons, shaped the animals’ appearance and behavior. He began his career in 1975 when the Roger Williams Park Zoo was able to use federal money to hire a design and exhibition staff. Gwynne eventually became chief of exhibitions. gaining national attention by creating entirely new settings, such as its African plains exhibit. As the Reagan administration progressed, federal money became scarce, and Gwynne was happy in 1982 to get a call from the Wildlife Conservation Society. WCS was looking for someone who had put together natural-habitat exhibits, who had extensive zoological knowledge and who had a deep academic and practical knowledge of art and design — as well as an amiable personality and the political toughness necessary for the cooperative work of a nonprofit environment. The Society hired him to work in the graphics and exhibitions department of the Bronx Zoo, a department that he eventually came to lead. He’s not only designed some of the zoo’s signature exhibits, he’s participated in the Society’s efforts at landscape-scale conservation around the world, helping to publicize a sweeping plan for 13 new national parks that will comprise more than 10 percent of the small African country of Gabon. He recently authored a book about his own personal garden entitled The New Garden Paradise.

    Applications for Single Use Permits and Registration of Production Facilities (CITES)

    February 23, 2010   www.gpoaccess.gov

    The USFWS will ask the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to approve the information collection described below. As required by the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 and as part of our continuing efforts to reduce paperwork and respondent burden, we invite the general public and other Federal agencies to take this opportunity to comment on this Information Collection scheduled to expire on July 31, 2010. To ensure that we are able to consider your comments, they must be received by April 26, 2010. Send to Hope Grey, Information Collection Clearance Officer, Fish and Wildlife Service, MS 222-ARLSQ, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Arlington, VA 22203 or hope_grey@fws.gov. For further information contact Hope Grey at (703) 358-2482.

    The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) uses a system of permits and certificates to help ensure that international trade is legal and does not threaten the survival of wildlife or plant species in the wild. Prior to the import or export of CITES-listed species, the Management Authority and Scientific Authority must make appropriate determinations and issue CITES documents. Section 8A of the Endangered Species Act designates the Secretary of the Interior as the U.S. Management Authority and U.S. Scientific Authority for CITES. The Secretary delegated these authorities to the Fish and Wildlife Service.
    Before a country can issue an export permit for CITES Appendix I or II specimens, the CITES Scientific Authority of the exporting country must determine that the export will not be detrimental to the species, and the Management Authority must be satisfied that the specimens were acquired legally. For the export of Appendix III specimens, the Management Authority must be satisfied that the specimens were acquired legally (CITES does not require findings from the Scientific Authority). Prior to the importation of Appendix I specimens, both the Scientific Authority and the Management Authority of the importing country must make required findings. The Scientific Authority must also monitor trade of all species to ensure that the level of trade is sustainable. Participating parties should make efforts to ensure that CITES specimens are traded with a minimum of delay.

    We use FWS Form 3-200-74 (Single-Use Export Permits Under a Master File or Annual Program File (CITES)) to streamline the application process for CITES documents that involve multiple, similar actions over a given amount of time. For the initial application, respondents use forms designed specifically to address their particular activity (approved under OMB Control No. 1018-0093). From information in the application, we create a master file or annual program file that contains all the information necessary for us to make the required legal acquisition and nondetriment findings. The applicant can then submit FWS Form 3-200-74 to request authorization to carry out multiple, identical activities over the next 6 months. On FWS Form 3- 200-74, we request information only about the number of additional documents the applicant requires to carry out activities approved under the previous application process. By referencing information in the master file or annual program file, we can quickly issue partially completed CITES documents (with certain specific areas left blank for completion by the applicant).
    United States facilities, such as farms and aquaculture operations, produce several native U.S. taxa listed in CITES Appendices II and III in closed and semi-closed production systems. By registering a production facility and setting up a master file, we can expedite issuance of export permits for that facility. The registration is valid for 1 year. We use FWS Form 3-200-75 (Registration of a Production Facility for Export of Certain Native Species (CITES)) to collect information on annual production levels, method of producing specimens, source of the parental and founder stock, and method of transport for international trade. This information allows us to issue documents on a very short turnaround time, and we do not need to collect additional information prior to the issuance of export documents.

    II. Data
        OMB Control Number: 1018-0137.
        Title: Applications for Single Use Permits and Registration of
    Production Facilities (CITES), 50 CFR 13.11, 23.20, 23.36, and 23.51.
        Service Form Number(s): 3-200-74 and 3-200-75.
        Type of Request: Extension of a currently approved collection.
        Affected Public: Individuals, businesses, nonprofit organizations, and State, tribal, and local governments.
        Respondent's Obligation: Required to obtain or retain a benefit.
        Frequency of Collection: On occasion.

    III. Request for Comments concerning:
    - Whether or not the collection of information is necessary,
    - Whether or not the information will have practical utility;
    - The accuracy of our estimate of the burden for this collection of information;
    - Ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and
    -Ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents.

    Elephants Will Stay At Topeka Zoo

    February 23, 2010  news.google.com  BY TIM HRENCHIR

    The Topeka City Council has squashed a proposal to relocate the Topeka Zoo's elephants, Sunda and Tembo, to an elephant sanctuary in Tennessee. After more than two hours of discussion, the council voted 7-1 to reject a resolution to make that move, which Councilman John Alcala had brought forth earlier in the meeting. The vote came after the council heard impassioned testimony from people on both sides of the issue, including Sedgwick County Zoo director Mark Reed, who predicted the AZA would revoke the zoo's accreditation if the city sent the elephants to the sanctuary. Next week, the AZA plans to decide whether to revoke the Topeka Zoo's accreditation in light of recent problems there.

    Grizzly Bears Move into Polar Bear Habitat

    February 23, 2010  www.eurekalert.org

    Biologists affiliated with the American Museum of Natural History and City College of the City University of New York have found that grizzly bears are roaming into what was traditionally thought of as polar bear habitat—and into the Canadian province of Manitoba, where they are officially listed as extirpated. The preliminary data was recently published in Canadian Field Naturalist and shows that sightings of Ursus arctos horribilis in Canada's Wapusk National Park are recent and appear to be increasing in frequency. "Grizzly bears are a new guy on the scene, competition and a potential predator for the polar bears that live in this area," says Robert F. Rockwell, a research associate at the Museum and a professor of Biology at CUNY. Park records show there was no evidence of grizzly bears before 1996, not even in the trapping data from centuries of Hudson Bay Company operation. But between 1996 and 2008 the team found nine confirmed sightings of grizzly bears, and in the summer of 2009 there were three additional observations. Before this study, researchers thought that the barren landscape north of the Hudson Bay was an impassable gap in resources for potentially migrating grizzly bears. But some U. arctos horribilis have managed to move from their historic ranges in the Rockies, the Yukon, and Nunavut, probably because of their flexible, mixed diet of berries and meat. The potential gap was navigable, and now some grizzly bears have reached the abundant caribou, moose, fish, and berries found to the south in Canada's Wapusk National Park. "A big question is how to deal with these new residents," continues Gormezano. In Canada, both the polar and grizzly bear are federally listed as species of special concern. In Manitoba, the polar bear is provincially listed as threatened while the prairie population of the grizzly bear is listed as extirpated.

    Iberian Lynx Receives 3m Euros

    February 23, 2010  news.yahoo.com

    MADRID, Spain – A Spanish woman has provided three million euros in her will to help protect the Iberian lynx, the world's most endangered feline. She left a total of nine million euros (12 million dollars) to animal charities, one-third of which is to go to the lynxes. A six-year-old captive breeding program for the lynx is based in Andalucia's Donana National Park. Fewer than 200 Iberian lynxes are believed to remain in the wild, mostly in protected areas of southern Spain. At the start of the 20th century there were around 100,000 in Spain and Portugal, but urban development, hunting, and most of all a dramatic decline in wild rabbits, their main prey have sharply reduced their numbers. The IUCN lists the species as "critically endangered".

    Gaur Herd Spotted in Central Vietnam

    February 23, 2010  vietnewsonline.vn

    Forest rangers in the central Quang Tri Province report sighting 10-15 gaur, the world’s largest wild bovines, grazing from 9 to 11 a.m. every day on Che Hill near the La Lay border gate in Dakrong District. Gaur are found in India, Indochina, and the Malay Peninsula, and are classified as “vulnerable”. They are extinct in Sri Lanka. Since 1975 the giant ox has been sighted around a dozen times in Dakrong forest which borders Laos. Vietnam is believed to have round 500 gaurs, with 10 percent of the population living in Cat Tien National Park north of Ho Chi Minh City, according to the Wild Cattle Conservation Project.

    New Strain of Flightless Mosquito Created

    February 23, 2010  www.physorg.com

    The virus that causes dengue fever is spread through the bite of infected female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, and there is no vaccine or treatment. UCI researcher Anthony James and Oxitec Ltd. researcher Luke Alphey have created a new breed of flightless female mosquito that is expected to die quickly in the wild, curtailing the number of mosquitoes and reducing - or even eliminating - dengue transmission. Males of the strain can fly but do not bite or convey disease. When genetically altered male mosquitoes mate with wild females, females of the next generation are unable to fly. Scientists estimate that if released, the new breed could sustainably suppress the native mosquito population in six to nine months. The technology is completely species-specific, as the released males will mate only with females of the same species.  It's far more targeted and environmentally friendly than approaches dependent upon the use of chemical spray insecticides, which leave toxic residue. And it is egalitarian: all people in the treated areas are equally protected, regardless of their wealth, power or education. While the current work is focused on the dengue fever vector, this approach could be adapted to other mosquito species that spread such diseases as malaria and West Nile fever. The study appears in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    Small Dogs Originated in Middle East

    February 23, 2010  www.physorg.com

    A genetic study has found that small domestic dogs probably originated in the Middle East more than 12,000 years ago. Melissa Gray and Robert Wayne, from UCLA, led a team of researchers who surveyed a large sample of gray wolf populations. The mutation for small body size post-dates the domestication of dogs. However, because all small dogs possess this variant of IGF1, it probably arose early in their history. Our results show that the version of the IGF1 gene found in small dogs is closely related to that found in Middle Eastern wolves and is consistent with an ancient origin in this region of small domestic dogs. Sites in Belgium, Germany and Western Russia contain older remains (13,000-31,000 years ago), but these are of larger dogs. Reduction in body size is a common feature of domestication and has been seen in other domesticated animals including cattle, pigs and goats. The study is published in the open access journal BMC Biology.

    3 Condors Die from Lead Poisoning

    February 23, 2010  www.latimes.com

    FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Three rare California condors in northern Arizona died last month in northern Arizona because they ingested lead pellets while feeding on the carcasses of dead animals, according to test results released Monday. The deaths from lead poisoning are the first in three years among condors in Arizona and Utah. The Peregrine Fund recovered the bodies of a female condor and her year-old chick from the Grand Canyon, and that of a young male from the Arizona-Utah border. Birds foraging in southern Utah present a challenge for recovery program officials, who must persuade hunters there to stop using lead ammunition. "We have to remain optimistic because we've seen such progress in Arizona, and I guess what it means is we have more work to do," said Chris Parish, who oversees the release of condors in Arizona for the fund. Utah is educating hunters about the effects that lead ammunition has on condors. The birds feed on dead animals, often big game killed by hunters or the entrails left behind when they are field-dressed. High levels of lead can shut down a condor's digestive system, causing the bird to starve to death. Utah's program is modeled after one in Arizona, which asks hunters to voluntarily use lead-free ammunition. Utah plans to give coupons for free non-lead ammunition to hunters in certain areas. California requires lead-free ammunition. There are about 350 condors alive today, with about half in captive breeding programs in California, Arizona and Mexico. Since the reintroduction program began in Arizona in 1996, 45 condors have died -- 15 of them from lead poisoning.

    Animated Marine Acoustic Maps

    February 23, 2010  www.physorg.com By Krishna Ramanujan

    A Cornell researcher who uses underwater recorders to create animated maps of the oceans' noise not only documents ocean noise and its repercussions but also tracks such endangered species as the North Atlantic right whale. Chris Clark and colleagues placed arrays of recording devices over the ocean floor for three months at a time. The devices were then retrieved, their terabytes of data analyzed at Cornell and transferred into a visual format. Every day right whales lose 80 to 85 percent of their opportunities to communicate as a result of ship traffic. He hypothesizes that whales' voices and hearing have evolved to communicate with each other over very large distances. "I can hear a blue whale that's singing off the Grand Banks of Canada while listening off Puerto Rico," Clark said. Although blue whales use very low frequencies that can travel such great distances, higher-pitched humpback whale singers can be heard only over a few hundred miles, and North Atlantic right whales over only tens of miles. Using his acoustic techniques, Clark has found that as traffic noise increases or oil exploration vessels pound the sea floor, communication among whales breaks down, and sometimes the animals evacuate the area within hours to days.

    Another Animal Disease Jumps Species

    February 24, 2010  www.sciencealert.com.au

    Unlike the sexually-transmitted form of Chlamydia, Chlamydia pneumoniae is a major bacterial germ that causes widespread respiratory disease in humans. Queensland University of Technology infectious disease expert Professor Peter Timms led an international team that used koalas to prove the link between Chlamydia pneumoniae in animals and humans. He said Chlamydia pneumoniae was originally an animal pathogen that crossed the species barrier to humans and had adapted to the point where it could now be transmitted between humans. "What we think now is that Chlamydia pneumoniae originated from amphibians such as frogs," he said. The findings from the study have been published in the International Journal of Bacteriology.

    Paris Zoo Remodel Scheduled

    February 24, 2010  www.latimes.com  By ANGELA DOLAND

    PARIS (AP) -- The zoo in Paris' Vincennes woods has been closed since 2008. It has not had any major work done since it opened in 1934, and its crumbling displays — including faux cliffs and rocks made out of concrete — eventually became a safety hazard. On Wednesday, officials finally announced a euro 133-million ($181-million) overhaul through a public-private partnership, which they hope will create a new Zoological Park of Paris by 2014. Bertrand-Pierre Galay runs France's National Museum of Natural History, which encompasses the zoo. Genevieve Beraud-Bridenne is director of the museum's department of zoos and botanic gardens. The natural history museum will share the financial burden with a consortium called Chrysalis, specially set up for the project, that includes building group Bouygues Construction. Private investment in such projects was once a rarity in France, though it is becoming more common. The new design is sleek and aims to recreate animals' natural ecosystems as closely as possible. A glass-domed greenhouse will replicate an Amazonian rain forest. White rhinos and West African lions will roam on a savanna. Another zone will recreate the rocky terrain of Patagonia, with Humboldt penguins. Ten zones are planned, and 1,000-plus animals will be on display, but there will be no elephants because there isn't enough space for them. An emphasis will be put on education and research, with the long-term goal of possible reintroduction into the wild.

    New Female Condor at Santa Barbara Zoo

    February 24, 2010  www.edhat.com  by Sheri Horiszny

    SANTA BARBARA, CA - Condor 327, a young adult female, arrived at the Santa Barbara Zoo in early January from the Peregrine Fund's World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho. After a month-long quarantine, she was released into the California Trails complex with four juvenile condors. [The $75 million California Trails complex features animals that are in danger of disappearing from California such as the Channel Island fox and desert tortoise]. Assistant Zoo Director Alan Varsik said, "Our birds turn three in April and still have their juvenile, grey heads. This bird is six years old and has the wonderful orange color of a young adult." Number 327 hatched April 11, 2004, at the Peregrine Fund's World Center for Birds of Prey and was hand raised. At age eight months, she was transferred to the Vermilion Cliffs in northern Arizona. But she has been recaptured and released twice between January 2005 and June 2009 by the USFWS Condor Recovery Program because of several close interactions with humans. Estelle Sandhaus, the Zoo's Assistant Director of Conservation and Research, said that could put the bird at risk of injury, of ingesting something harmful (like microtrash), and could take those dangerous behaviors back to the flock. She will eventually join the captive breeding program. Her sire's sire, known as AC2, was one of the last wild-born condors taken into captivity. Her dam is the captive-hatched offspring of two wild condors captured in 1983: Number 27, Cuyama, who is in Boise, and Number 31, Cachuma, now at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. [Many of the very first condors born or taken into captivity were given both numbers and names that are Chumash in origin. As the Recovery Program has grown (now over 360 living birds), only numbers are used, which relate to the California Condor International Studbook, which tracks the entire population.]

    Hormone Help Animals Bond

    February 24, 2010  www.physorg.com

    Researchers at the University of Edinburgh have shown that the hormone vasopressin helps the brain differentiate between familiar and new scents. The study, published in the journal Nature, suggests that when the hormone fails to function, animals are unable to recognize other individuals from their scent. Many scientists think a failure in this recognition system in humans may prevent them from forming deep emotional bonds with others. The researchers studied the way rats familiarize themselves with other rats through smell. They placed an adult rat in an enclosure with a baby rat and left them to sniff and interact with each other. After a short separation, they placed the baby back in the adult's enclosure, together with an unknown baby. Adult rats whose vasopressin had been blocked failed to recognize the baby they had already met.

    Killing Australia’s Feral Cats

    February 24, 2010  www.physorg.com 

    Australian scientists are using new traps that attract cats using sound and light. The traps will  soon be tested in South Australia's Kangaroo Island, according to the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre. “This is a tunnel that emits a [...] sound and bright features that attract cats to it," said professor Steven Lapidge. "It requires them to walk through a tunnel.  If sensors detect the shape of a cat, a short spray of a toxic substance is delivered to its belly to put it to sleep.” The centre believes Australia may have more than 18 million feral cats descended from escaped domestic pets, which kill native wildlife and are hard to control using conventional poisons.

    Bornean Elephant Behavior Study

    February 24, 2010  www.cardiff.ac.uk

    SABAH, Malaysia -- Three elephants in the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary were fitted with satellite collars in a joint project carried out by the Danau Girang Field Centre (run jointly by Cardiff University and Sabah Wildlife Department) and French non-governmental organization, Hutan -- a male bull named Gading with only one tusk, a female named Benina, who was the group or matriarch, and a younger female named Bod Tai, that had been previously collared by WWF-Malaysia. Data was collected over nearly two years and shows a pattern of movement which varies between the male and females. This research will be published as part of student Nurzhafarina Othman’s PhD thesis, after enough long-term satellite data is collected to explain the movement patterns.

    Effects of Plague on Wildlife

    February 24, 2010  www.usgs.gov

    The effects of plague on wildlife may have been underestimated in the past, according to research published today in a special issue of Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases. A flea-borne bacterial disease introduced to North America in the late 1800s, it spreads rapidly across a landscape, causing devastating effects to wildlife and posing risks to people. Conservation and recovery efforts for imperiled species such as the black-footed ferret and Utah prairie dog are greatly hampered by the effects of plague. Eruptions of the fatal disease have wiped out prairie dog colonies, as well as dependent ferret populations, in many locations over the years. The newly published work demonstrates that plague continues to affect the black-footed ferret, one of the most critically endangered mammals in North America, as well as several species of prairie dogs, including the federally threatened Utah prairie dog -- even when the disease does not erupt into epidemic form. "The impacts of plague on mammal populations remain unknown for all but a few species, but the impact on those species we have studied raises alarms as well as important questions about how plague might be affecting conservation efforts in general," said Dean Biggins, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and co-author of two papers in the special issue.

    Diet and Barn Swallow Health Study

    February 24, 2010  www.eurekalert.org

    TEMPE Ariz. – A balanced diet, exercise and reduced stress not only can lead to a longer life, but also better reproduction, according to a new study by a team of researchers, including one from Arizona State University, on barn swallow nutrition and mating habits. The study shows that swallows who maintained a positive antioxidant balance over the course of their breeding season were those who produced the most young. The results of the study are presented in the February 25, 2010 issue of PLoS One, a journal of the Public Library of Science, in the article "Positive carotenoid balance correlates with greater reproductive performance in a wild bird." The study was led by Rebecca Safran, an assistant professor in ecology and evolutionary biology at University of Colorado in collaboration with Kevin McGraw, an associate professor in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University. Co-authors include Colorado doctoral students Matthew Wilkins and Joanna Hubbard, and project volunteer Julie Marling. Little seems to be easy for the North American barn swallow. The pint-sized bird travels thousands of miles to its nesting grounds and then almost immediately upon arrival engages in its courtship and mating rituals. If successful in these activities, the barn swallows then need to feed, warm and protect their offspring. The leaders of the pack "have a prime 'management system' for antioxidants," said McGraw. "Even after completing the arduous tasks of migration and reproduction, these intense breeders still find themselves carrying a surplus of antioxidants to combat additional challenges."  "Our results indicate these top-of-the-line barn swallows are less stressed and have higher functioning immune systems," added Safran. This study is the first to consider how an individual's temporal change in carotenoid levels is associated with its evolutionary fitness.

    Study of Animal Footpads

    February 24, 2010  www.physorg.com

    New research from scientists in Taiwan and at Duke University has found that the mechanical properties of the pads vary in predictable fashion as animals get larger. In short, bigger critters need stiffer shoes. Kai-Jung Chi, an assistant professor of physics at National Chung Hsing University in Taiwan ran a series of "compressive tests" on the footpads of carnivores that have an extra toe halfway up the foreleg, including dogs, wolves, domestic cats, leopards and hyenas. She measured the relative stiffness of the pads across species - how much they deformed under a given amount of compression. Whether running, walking or standing still, the bulk of the animal's weight is borne on that pillowy clover-shaped pad behind the four toes, the metapodial-phalangeal pad, or m-p pad for short. It's made from pockets of fatty tissue hemmed in by baffles of collagen. Chi also tested pads in the strain meter from dead animals.  Analysis of 47 carnivore species shows that the area of their m-p pads doesn't increase at the same rate as the body sizes. But the stiffness of pads does increase with size. Earlier research had found that the stresses on the long bones of the limbs stay fairly consistent over the range of sizes, in part because of changes in posture that distribute the stresses of walking differently, but that clearly wasn't enough by itself. The researchers also found that larger animals have a pronounced difference in stiffness between the pads on the forelimbs and the pads on the hind limbs. Bigger animals have relatively softer pads on their rear feet, whereas in smaller animals the front and rear are about the same stiffness. Chi thinks the softer pads on the rear of the bigger animals may help them recover some energy from each step, and provide a bit more boost to their propulsion. The research appears today in the Journal of the Royal Society, and was supported by the National Science Foundation.

    Saving a Grey-Shanked Douc Langur Population

    February 24, 2010  vietnewsonline.vn  by Thuy Hang

    Eight young scientists have devoted themselves to rescuing the grey-shanked douc langur in Kon Ka Kinh National Park in Gia Lai Province. Pygathrix cinerea is native to the central provinces of Quang Nam, Quang Ngai, and Binh Dinh, and the Central Highlands provinces of Kon Tum and Gia Lai. According to people living in villages near the park, the park used to be filled with the animals until a few decades ago, but their numbers began to shrink in the 1990s due to poaching. Ha Thang Long, a biologist at the Endangered Primate Rescue Center in Ninh Binh Province’s Cuc Phuong National Park, has studied the gray-shanked douc langur in central Vietnam to make recommendations for establishing species protection areas to promote connectivity between isolated populations of the animal in parks and reserves. He decided to research the distribution of the species in the 3,000-hectare Kon Ka Kinh National Park and its buffer zone. The project, titled “Distribution, population and conservation status of the grey-shanked douc (Pygathrix cinerea) in Gia Lai Province, Central Highlands of Vietnam” was also the subject of his master’s thesis. He found that the animal lived in both places and up to an elevation of 1,400 meters. DNA analysis showed that the langurs living in Kon Ka Kinh were genetically close to the populations found in Ba To in the central Quang Ngai Province. The conservation of the animal was hampered by logging activities in an area which was supposed to be a corridor between two protected forests, the research showed. Long teamed up with seven other researchers, most of them students or fresh graduates, to persuade the villagers not to hunt the langurs. They struck up close friendships with former hunters, who even became their forest guides. The villagers gradually came to be the primate’s protectors and the population has recovered to 250. A long-term study is currently under way in Gia Lai Province as a part of Germany’s Frankfurt Zoological Society's Vietnam Primate Conservation Program. The Frankfurt Zoological Society also works with the Endangered Primate Rescue Center which has an ongoing Captive Breeding program.

    California Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog

    February 24, 2010   www.gpoaccess.gov

    In a notice published in the Federal Register on November 9, 2009 regarding the review of species that are candidates for listing under the Endangered Species Act, we included a discussion of the Sierra Nevada Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of the mountain yellow-legged frog. In that discussion, we included language addressing some recent taxonomic work.
    That language did not accurately convey our intent that the entity that we consider to be a candidate had not changed despite the recent taxonomic studies. The language we used created confusion rather than clarifying this issue. Thus, we are replacing two sentences from the discussion with new language as described below.

    Correction: In the notice of review (74 FR 57804; November 9, 2009), we correct page 57830, under the section entitled Amphibians, in the discussion of "Mountain yellow-legged frog, Sierra Nevada DPS (Rana muscosa),'' by removing the two sentences, "It is the population of R. muscosa found in the southern portion of the Sierra Nevada that is a candidate for listing. R. sierrae is not a candidate,'' and replacing them with the following sentence "At this time, we have not adopted this taxonomic distinction of two species and continue to recognize mountain yellow-legged frogs in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California as R. muscosa and as the candidate entity.'' This correction is effective February 24, 2010. For further information contact Jim Serfis, Chief, Branch of Candidate Conservation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Room 420, Arlington, VA 22203 (telephone 703-358-2171; facsimile 703-358-1735). Persons who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339.

    Permit Issued to Work With Endangered Marine Mammals

    February 24, 2010  www.gpoaccess.gov

    On September 8, 2008, notice was published in the Federal Register that a request for a permit to conduct research on Pacific harbor seals (Phoca vitulina), California sea lions (Zalophus californianus), and northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) within coastal waters and on pinniped rookeries and haul outs of Washington and Oregon had been submitted by the National Marine Mammal Laboratory, (Responsible Party: Dr. John Bengtson, Director), Seattle, WA, had been issued to conduct research on marine mammals. The applicant has revised their request for a permit to include Eastern Distinct Population Segment Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) and Southern Resident killer whales (Orcinus orca). The requested permit has been issued under the authority of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and is valid through January 31, 2015, for harassment of marine mammals during aerial, vessel, and ground surveys; capture of pinnipeds for collection of tissue samples, attachment of scientific instruments and application of marks (flipper tags, brands, etc.); and harassment of marine mammals during underwater playback experiments. The permit also allows for a limited number of research-related mortality of marine mammals. For further information contact Tammy Adams or Kate Swails, (301) 713-2289.

    Orlando SeaWorld Trainer Drowned by Killer Whale

    February 24, 2010  www.nytimes.com  By A.P.

    Animal Trainer Dawn Brancheau was rubbing the 12,000-pound killer whale, Tilikum, after a noontime “Dine with Shamu” show when he grabbed her and pulled her in, said Chuck Tompkins, head of animal training at all SeaWorld parks. It was not clear if she drowned or died from trauma. Because of his size and involvement in previous deaths, trainers were not supposed to get into the water with Tilikum, and only about a dozen of the park’s 29 trainers worked with him. Ms. Brancheau had more experience with the 30-year-old whale than most.

    SeaWorld San Diego’s Shamu Show

    February 24, 2010  www.signonsandiego.com  By Mike Lee

    SeaWorld San Diego shut down its killer whale show after a trainer at its sister facility in Orlando, Florida was killed. In 1971, a SeaWorld San Diego secretary riding the original Shamu for a publicity stunt suffered lacerations and puncture wounds when she was tossed into the water and seized by her legs. At least 14 local SeaWorld trainers were injured by killer whales during a four-month period beginning in August 1987. They didn’t go into the pools with SeaWorld’s killer whales for six months while the training program was revamped, and three managers were dismissed. Four years ago, SeaWorld San Diego trainer Ken Peters was bitten on the foot by Kasatka, a 5,000-pound female killer whale. Kasatka took Peters to the bottom of the tank twice during a performance, fracturing his left foot. [Kasatka was the dominant female of SeaWorld San Diego's seven killer whales. She had attacked Peters two other times, in 1993 and 1999.] Bryan Pease, a San Diego lawyer and chairman of the board for the Animal Protection and Rescue League, said, “I am sure the trainers will say they are well taken care of, but you can’t meet the behavioral needs of these large marine animals in a marine park.”  
    “In the ocean, killer whales swim about 75 miles a day and eat huge quantities of salmon, seals and other species. They typically travel in pods of three to 40 animals,” said Brad Hanson, who studies killer whales for the National Marine Fisheries Service in Seattle. The orcas sometimes exhibit aggressive tendencies toward one another. “We see scars on them, and they are obviously using their teeth as part of their social behavior,” Hanson said. “They can play pretty rough.” Captive killer whales might get bored or angry and behave in unnatural ways, said Elliott Norse, president of the nonprofit Marine Conservation Biology Institute near Seattle. “In the wild, killer whales have never once been known to cause a human death, although they certainly are curious about humans, and a few historical accounts have recorded them as behaving in what might have been threatening,” Norse said. Dave Koontz, Park spokesperson would not discuss training procedures for SeaWorld San Diego’s staff or killer whales, saying they are internal matters. From the sound of things yesterday at the local venue, the death in Orlando likely won’t undermine fan support for the Shamu show.

    Jack Hanna Comments on SeaWorld Trainer’s Death

    February 25, 2010  www.latimes.com  By Walter Pacheco and Anika Myers Palm,

    ORLANDO, Florida -- Jack Hanna, a well-known animal expert, spoke this morning on national television, saying animal experts such as Brancheau are aware of the risks and benefits of working with live animals. He compared the incident to the tragedies that occasionally occur for astronauts. Hanna said that holding animals in captivity not only conserves the creatures, but also helps educate people. "Why do we have whales, as well as elephants and other animals in captivity? -- to educate folks," he said. "It's the last chance we have to save these animals."  Although the Park is still open, the Shamu Show is closed today. Nothing was said about the death to incoming visitors. About six television news trucks, most representing local stations, were outside the park before its 9 a.m. opening, but there was otherwise little evidence that anything at the park had changed. Tilikum’s Previous History: In 1999, park officials found the naked body of Daniel Dukes lying across Tilikum's back at SeaWorld Orlando. Dukes apparently had sneaked into SeaWorld after hours to swim with the animals. "That's like going over the fence at the NASCAR race," Hanna said. "You can't blame SeaWorld for that."  SeaWorld acquired Tilikum after a fatal incident in 1991 at Sealand of the Pacific, a defunct aquarium in British Colombia. Tilikum and two female killer whales dragged trainer Keltie Byrne underwater, drowning her in front of spectators.

    Talking To Children About The SeaWorld Incident

    February 25, 2010  abcnews.go.com

    The ABC News Medical Unit asked Rahil D. Briggs, Psy.D., pediatric psychologist, to give parents advice on how to talk to their children about the incident. Briggs: We know that young children do experience PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Parents themselves may be quite upset, but it is important to attempt to be calm while talking with a child who has witnessed a traumatic event, so that the child will feel able to ask myriad questions and talk about what is on his or her mind. Parents can share that they were scared, too, but should attempt to convey that the child is safe, secure, and the parent will remain an effective caregiver. Do not assume that because your child is young and not yet bringing up the topic themselves, they don't remember it. If children have questions, provide honest and brief answers, in a developmentally appropriate fashion. Parents can help children to construct cohesive narratives regarding the incident, as children will very often attempt to patch together the bits and pieces that they understand/remember. Although there may be a desire to watch news coverage of the incident, parents should seriously limit their children watching such coverage, as it can be traumatizing. Stick to routines. In the aftermath of such an unexpected trauma, the day-to-day routines of family life are important, and may help to restore some sense of normalcy. Allow a bit of extra time for cuddling, for bedtime routines, transitions, etc. If a child is in school, communicate with teachers regarding the incident, as they can help be an extra set of eyes, noting any concerns.

    Petition to List Sonoran Desert Population of the Bald Eagle

    February 25, 2010   www.gpoaccess.gov

    After a 12-month investigation on a petition to list the Sonoran Desert Area population of the bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) as a distinct population segment (DPS), the USFWS has found that the population does not meet the definition of a DPS and, therefore, is not a listable entity under the Endangered Species Act. As a result, listing is not warranted, and we intend to publish a separate notice to remove this population from the List of Threatened and Endangered Wildlife once the District Court for the District of Arizona has been notified. This finding is available on the Internet at www.regulations.gov at Docket Number [FWS-R2-ES-2008-0044]. For further information contact Steve Spangle, Field Supervisor, Arizona Ecological Services Office telephone, 602-242-0210.

    Oldest Captive Chimpanzee Passes Health Exam

    February 25, 2010  www.mercurynews.com  By Linda Goldston

    At age 52, Cobby is the oldest male chimp in an accredited zoo in the United States and Europe. For his geriatric work-up, a cardiologist and an ultrasound technician from the University of California San Francisco volunteered to assist so he could have a complete heart work-up. Siemens Medical Solutions USA donated the use of a state-of-the-art cardiac ultrasound machine for the day, one they use for demonstrations and won't be used on humans. And Jacqueline Jencek, chief of veterinary services, used the zoo's digital X-ray machine, made possible by a matching grant from the HEDCO Foundation. "Using the digital X-ray machine is much safer for the animals," Jencek said. It allows them to have an image in nine seconds, far faster than the 10 to 15 minutes needed by older machines that used film. And it means the animals are under anesthesia for a much shorter period — the scariest part of the exam. The physical only took about an hour and a half but meticulous planning preceded the process. Cobby had to be sedated and then moved by a cart from the primate house to the zoo hospital, which immediately set off a screaming fit by his worried female roommates, Tallulah, 53, Minnie, 40 and Maggie, 47. They calmed down after a while. Jencek has started training the zoo's animals to be injected by hand, but Cobby has not yet had the training and had to be darted with a drug often used for children, an amnesiac that calms them down and makes them forget what happened. The cardiac ultrasound showed mild hypertension, but his body X-rays showed no surprises.

    National Zoo’s Animal Reproduction Study

    February 25, 2010  www.zandavisitor.com  By Lindsay Renick Mayer

    WASHINGTON, DC -- Dr. David Wildt, head of the National Zoo’s Center for Species Survival, part of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute is interested in furthering animal reproduction research “so we can effectively create healthy, viable security populations, which may be used to reinvigorate wild populations,” he said. National Zoo scientists recently looked at 10 prominent scientific journals related to reproduction science over the past decade to survey how many articles were about animals that were not already the main focus of other studies. They found that only 10 percent of the more than 12,000 studies were based on a nontraditional species and that 36 percent of the published papers were about mice and cattle. The National Zoo has become a leader in studying the inherent differences in how animals reproduce and using that knowledge to successfully breed a wide range of threatened or endangered species, including the cheetah, giant panda, Przewalski’s horse, clouded leopard and white-naped crane. In some species, such as the black-footed ferret, these types of intensive studies have led to introducing a species back into the wild using captive-bred animals. And as frogs worldwide die off from a disease known as amphibian chytrid fungus, scientists can use information about how various species of frogs reproduce to develop security populations that are protected from the disease. Co-author Pierre Comizzoli said, “The more diversity we explore, the better we are able to address complicated issues that we encounter in humans. We consider our science to be a new interface between animal science and human health.” Their study that highlights some of the unique reproductive traits among the planets more than 55,000 vertebrate and 1.1 million invertebrate species appears in the journal Molecular Reproduction & Development.

    Cross-River Gorilla – World’s Rarest Gorilla Species

    February 25, 2010  www.cnn.com  By Christian Purefoy

    CROSS RIVERS, Nigeria (CNN) -- There are believed to be only 300 Cross River gorillas in Nigeria and Cameroon and maybe only 30 in Nigeria’s last rainforest in the Mbe mountains. The gorillas are under threat from local poachers, who sell the meat in local bush-markets. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the local Cross River government are encouraging a community-based conservation program. The nine local communities living near the Mbe mountains have come together to try to protect the gorillas -- holding regular meetings on how to stop poachers and farmland encroachment. Nigerian WCS Director Andrew Dunn says, "There are people who wrote off the Cross River gorilla entirely, but we've shown that although there are only three or four small groups left there are corridors between these remaining groups. So the future is not entirely bleak."

    Deforestation and Avian Infectious Disease

    February 26, 2010  jeb.biologists.org  By R. N. M. Sehgal

    Climate change, the introduction of invasive species, urbanization, agricultural practices and the loss of biodiversity have all been implicated in increasing the spread of infectious pathogens. Birds harbor many of the same types of pathogens as humans and in addition can spread infectious agents to humans and other wildlife. The migration and dispersal of birds can also change with habitat degradation, and thus expose populations to novel pathogens, and landscape transformation can have confounding effects on avian malaria, other haemosporidian parasites and viruses. With advances in many technologies, including mathematical and computer modeling, genomics and satellite tracking, scientists have tools to further research the disease ecology of deforestation. A review article on this topic has been published in the current issue of Journal of Experimental Biology  It is part of a special issue: "survival in a changing world".

    Multiple Causes of Global Amphibian Decline

    February 26, 2010  jeb.biologists.org

    More than 70% of the world's amphibian species are in decline. An article in the Journal of Experimental Biology proposes that there is probably not a single cause and offers a three-tiered hierarchical approach that addresses interactions among and between ultimate and proximate contributing factors. There are two immediate (proximate) causes of amphibian declines: death, and decreased recruitment (reproductive failure). Although much attention has focused on death, few studies have addressed factors that contribute to declines as a result of failed recruitment. Further, a great deal of attention has focused on the role of pathogens in inducing diseases that cause death, but the authors suggest that pathogen success is profoundly affected by four other ultimate factors: atmospheric change, environmental pollutants, habitat modification and invasive species. Environmental pollutants arise as likely important factors in amphibian declines because they have realized potential to affect recruitment. Further, many studies have documented immunosuppressive effects of pesticides, suggesting a role for environmental contaminants in increased pathogen virulence and disease rates. Increased attention to recruitment and ultimate factors that interact with pathogens is important in addressing this global crisis. The review article is available at jeb.biologists.org.

    Bristol Zoo’s High-Tech Amphibian Facility

    February 26, 2010  www.scientificamerican.com

    Bristol Zoo Gardens in England has just finished building AmphiPod, a high-tech facility that allows keepers to adjust the temperature, humidity and day length to create the perfect conditions to encourage the frogs to breed, according to Tim Skelton, the zoo's curator of reptiles. In addition to mimicking the frogs' natural habitat, AmphiPod will also help to protect them against disease. The lemur leaf frog (Hylomantis lemur) from Panama and Costa Rica and Madagascar's golden mantella frog (Mantella aurantiaca) will be the first inhabitants. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species reports that the leaf frog has lost 80 percent of its population in the past 10 years, mostly due to the chytrid fungus. The mantella frog lives in a tiny habitat less than 10 square kilometers in size, which is rapidly being destroyed along with most of Madagascar's forests. Additional species may join the AmphiPod frogs in the future if the habitat successfully inspires breeding, according to Skelton. Raising funds to build AmphiPod took nearly a year, and ~$45,000 more is needed to run the facility for the next three years.

    Fort Worth Zoo’s New “Museum of Living Art”

    February 27, 2010  www.star-telegram.com

    FORT WORTH -- The Fort Worth Zoo’s old reptile exhibit has been replaced by the “Museum of Living Art”. Zoo Director Michael Fouraker and curator Diane Barber had simply hoped to elicit less screaming and more awe from children, but the name has launched the zoo on a remarkable journey -- raising millions of dollars to build an architecturally significant and striking herpetarium. Ramona Bass, who leads the zoo's board, is largely responsible for pulling off the exhibit. The $19 million Museum of Living Art -- MOLA, (a play on MOMA in New York) opens to the public this Saturday after more than two years of construction on the site of the old aquarium. The 17,000-square-foot building will have large exhibits with multiple animals to give people a sense of what a desert or rain forest ecosystem looks like, as well as significantly larger exhibits for snakes such as the Burmese python and king cobra. The building also has an area where visitors can see hatchlings and tadpoles and get very close to the world's largest species of salamander. Outside, an additional 13,000 square feet features a 15-foot saltwater crocodile, giant tortoises and more animals selected for their particular beauty: macaws, ring-tailed lemurs and golden lion tamarins. The zoo has also installed a 90,000-gallon tank and stocked it with turtles, fish and gharials, which officials hope will use the sandy beach to lay eggs. Behind the public area are climate-controlled rooms for breeding, some for endangered species destined for release in the wild. The architectural firm Gideon Toal, of Fort Worth, designed the building. Gary Lee of CLR Design to design the animal exhibits. Photos at www.star-telegram.com.

    National Zoo’s New Giant Pacific Octopus

    February 28, 2010   www.washingtonpost.com

    A giant Pacific octopus arrived at the National Zoo in late January. It is 2 1/2 years old and weighs just 3 pounds. The zoo says that over the next year it will grow to be more than 13 times its current size. It's believed to be a male, but the zoo says it may need more time to confirm that. The zoo will name the octopus next month. Invertebrate curator Alan Peters says zoo officials hope the octopus will draw people into the world of invertebrates. Giant Pacific octopuses are slightly bigger than a grain of rice when hatched, but can eventually weigh hundreds of pounds with an arm span of up to 25 feet.

    2 Condor Eggs So Far This Season

    February 28, 2010  www.independent.com  By Matt Kettmann

    Two California condor eggs were recently found in the Sespe Wilderness and another six pairs of birds are acting like they’re ready to nest. USFWS spokesperson Michael Woodbridge said, “It looks like we could have the potential for as many as seven or eight nests total.” In 2009, there were six nests in the southern Los Padres National Forest, but only two chicks successfully fledged. Of the four lost eggs, one was eaten by a bear, one chick died en route to the veterinarian after ingesting microtrash, and a third egg simply disappeared overnight. The two known eggs are located near the Hopper Mountain Wildlife Refuge, and both are in caves that sit on the side of sheer cliffs. One was laid on February 10, while biologists are still attempting to reach the second egg to confirm its fertility. Santa Barbara Zoo researcher Estelle Sandhaus and Fish & Wildlife biologist Joseph Brandt have pioneered a nest-guarding program. “It’s really dramatically increased the success of chicks fledging,” said Woodbridge, explaining that now an average of 70 percent of chicks fledge per season compared to old rates as low as 15 percent. The condor program is still seeking more volunteers for the nest-guarding program, and those who are interested should email conservation@sbzoo.org.

    Qatar Will Host CITES Conference

    February 28, 2010  www.gulf-times.com

    Qatar will host the 15th triennial conference of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) from March 13-25. This is the first time the conference will be held in an Arab country. It will bring together about 2,000 personalities representing the 175-member CITES along with several organizations related to the wild fauna and flora. CITES, which was signed in Washington by some 90 countries in 1973 and put into force in 1975, is an international agreement between governments, drafted as a result of a resolution adopted in 1973 at a meeting of members of the IUCN. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival and it accords varying degrees of protection to more than 33,000 species of animals and plants.

    Kenya & Tanzania Joint Wildlife Survey

    February 28, 2010  www.nation.co.ke

    Today, Kenya and Tanzania began a joint census in Amboseli to assess the impact of the recent prolonged drought on wildlife. The count is targeting large mammals and will cover the entire 6000 square kilometeri ecosystem, including the surrounding community ranches on the Kenyan and Tanzanian sides. The result will be used for ecological balancing (increasing species in some areas where they are sparse and reducing the population in others where they are in oversupply). It will also determine how the distribution and abundance of large carnivores relates to vegetation types and human activities, to help in regenerating vegetation and restoring habitats. “This year’s census is particularly crucial given that the park’s ecosystem was among the hardest hit by the recent prolonged drought which led to massive deaths of zebra, elephants, buffaloes and wildebeest as well as the local community’s livestock,” according to Kenya Wildlife Service. A  technical team and experts will carry out both ground and aerial surveys for five days. The last aerial census in Amboseli was carried out in 2007. The Park remains a crucial dry season refuge for wildlife. Results will be available in March.

    Reintroducing the South China Tiger

    March 1, 2010  www.time.com  By Andrew Marshall

    The wild south China tiger population has been reduced from perhaps 4,000 to none. During Mao Zedong's time they were considered pests and exterminated. Habitat loss, declining prey numbers and growing demand from traditional Chinese medicine are contributing factors. In 1993, Beijing banned the nation's domestic trade in tigers and their parts and, today, China is one of 175 parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which outlawed tiger trafficking globally. But Chinese demand still drives a lucrative trade in poached tigers, which other countries blame for the accelerating decline in their own wild populations. Tigers are also found in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam. A century ago, there were an estimated 100,000 tigers in the wild in Asia. Now their numbers are at an "all time low" of 3,200, according to WWF estimates.

    A unique collaboration between Minnesota Zoo, China's State Forestry Administration (SFA), and a Bangkok-based environmental financier called International Consultancy Europe (ICE), is hoping  to reintroduce the South China tiger back into its natural habitat. Panthera tigris amoyensis, the rarest of the world's five surviving subspecies, is the progenitor of all modern tigers and the only subspecies unique to China. The project has secured $3 million to restore a 250,000-acre (100,000 hectare) nature reserve straddling the borders of Hubei and Hunan provinces. Half of this grant has been provided by the Chinese government as they seek to overturn their appalling record on conservation and the environment and gain a powerful new icon of national resurgence. Tigers have never before been reintroduced to the wild, and hopes for resurrecting the South China subspecies rest largely on a captive population of 67 tigers, held in zoos across China. Derived from just six animals — two male, four female — caught between 1958 and 1970, they are so inbred that they are virtually brothers and sisters.

    Ron Tilson, director of conservation at Minnesota Zoo, and co-author of a new edition of Tigers of the World, is convinced that China's economic and human resources make it uniquely placed to put tigers back in the wild. The South China project could help revolutionize Chinese attitudes to endangered species and kick-start other attempts to revitalize biodiversity. "China is at a tipping point in its conservation history," he says. The complete article, “Tale of the Cat” is available at www.time.com.

    More Wildlife Vets Needed

    March 1, 2010  www.avma.org

    The House of Representatives has taken up legislation to increase the number of veterinarians specially trained in the care and conservation of wild animals and their ecosystems. In addition to offering financial incentives to encourage veterinary students to pursue careers in wildlife or zoologic medicine, the bill introduced by Alcee L. Hastings would create grants for U.S. veterinary schools and colleges to expand zoo animal and wildlife education. The bill, entitled “Wildlife and Zoological Veterinary Medicine Enhancement Act” (H.R. 4497), addresses a critical shortage in the veterinary workforce. Hastings said, "With an increasing number of endangered species, the introduction of invasive non-native species, and more infectious disease threats, wildlife and zoological veterinarians must be placed at the core of our efforts and be given the resources necessary to protect both animal and human lives," Hastings attributed the shortage to low salaries, high educational debt, and insufficient numbers of practical training and formal educational programs specializing in wildlife and zoo veterinary medicine. The legislation cites the American Association of Wildlife Veterinarians and National Association of Federal Veterinarians as stating that many U.S. veterinary schools and colleges lack both a comprehensive curriculum and sufficient numbers of formal educational programs specializing in wildlife or zoological veterinary medicine to adequately prepare graduates for a competitive workplace. While some training opportunities exist for aspiring wildlife and zoological veterinarians, such opportunities are not available each year, pay low salaries or stipends, and are highly competitive. Hastings says H.R. 4497, if enacted, will develop affordable and high-quality opportunities for individuals who are seeking to become wildlife and zoo veterinarians, spur job growth, and promote robust public health policy. "My bill will create new positions for wildlife and zoo veterinarians and limit the amount of educational debt for students while providing incentives to study and practice wildlife and zoo veterinary medicine," he said. "My legislation will also advance education by helping schools develop pilot curricula specializing in wildlife and zoo veterinary medicine and by expanding the number of practical training programs available to students." The AVMA along with the American Association of Wildlife Veterinarians, National Association of Federal Veterinarians, Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and Wildlife Conservation Society is supporting H.R. 4497, which at press time in early February had four co-sponsors and had been referred to the House Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans, and Wildlife. The complete article is at www.avma.org

    Craig Pugh Will Head Lowry Park Zoo

    March 1, 2010  tampabay.bizjournals.com

    The board of trustees of the Lowry Park Zoological Society appointed Craig Pugh as chief executive officer of Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo. Pugh, deputy director since 2005, has served as acting chief executive since the December 2008 resignation of President and CEO Lex Salisbury. Pugh will oversee operations of the zoo, which occupies nearly 60 acres and includes 2,000 animals. Prior to joining Lowry Park Zoo in 1999, Pugh was executive director of Palm Beach Zoo. In 2009 Pugh was appointed to the Florida Council on Arts and Culture, which advises the Florida secretary of state on cultural grant funding and on cultural matters.

    Buffalo Zoo Partners With SWAT Team For Emergencies

    March 1, 2010  www.buffalonews.com  By Tom Buckham

    The changing face of the zoo staff, which is now mostly female, has led the Buffalo Zoo to partner with the Buffalo Police Department’s Special Weapons and Tactics team. Members of the police unit have toured the Delaware Park zoological gardens to familiarize themselves with the layout — especially exhibits containing dangerous animals — and a memorandum of understanding between the zoo and the police is being readied, according to zoo President Donna M. Fernandes. The arrangement will include an emergency phone line to the SWAT team. Rifles always have been kept handy on zoo grounds, and the staff invariably included one or more marksmen capable of dealing with an animal escape or an attack on a keeper. Firing a sedative dart to immobilize an animal would be the preferred course of action. Deadly force was required once — in 1979, when police were forced to shoot two polar bears to death after an inebriated intruder climbed into their enclosure one night and was mauled.

    Columbus Zoo’s Manatee-Release Program

    March 1, 2010  www.dispatch.com   BY KATHY LYNN GRAY

    Gene, a Columbus Zoo manatee from 1999 to 2005, died last month from cold stress. He'd been released three years ago after living in captivity for 30 years. Another former Columbus manatee, Hurricane, was suffering from cold stress when he was captured in late December and put into a manatee "hospital" at Sea World. He recovered and was released back into the wild Tuesday. The federal government spends millions each year on manatee rescue and release in an attempt to keep the species from becoming extinct. The government's partners also contribute funds, with the Columbus Zoo spending about $125,000 a year for each manatee it houses. Since the program started in 1973, an estimated 1,032 manatees have been rescued, according to Nicole Adimey, coordinator of the federal program. About half were released back into the wild almost immediately, and 289 were released after rehabilitation at one of the program's 11 centers. Of those, 107 were released with monitoring devices. Six of those manatees did not succeed in the wild, 66 were successful, and results of 35 are inconclusive, she said. Rehabilitation is successful if the released manatee adapts to life in the wild for more than a year. That includes migrating into warmer, inland waters during colder months, something manatees in lengthy captivity must learn from their wild companions. Gene and Hurricane had done that in the past, Warmolts said. But this year, Gene was among about 200 manatees - 190 more than normal - killed by the cold in the first six weeks of the year. Doug Warmolts is assistant director of living collections at the Columbus Zoo.

    NC Zoo Asks Members Asked to Recruit New Members

    March 1, 2010  www.zandavisitor.com  By Rod Hackney

    ASHEBORO, NC -- The North Carolina Zoo Society is asking its current membership of 26,000 member households to help add another 1,000 members to its ranks in 2010. For bringing in new members, the Zoo is offering its current membership the opportunity to win a $1,000 shopping spree at the Society’s two gift shops. For each friend, co-worker or family member recruited into the Society’s “wild family,” the recruiter’s name will be entered into a drawing. Stephanie Gee, Society Membership Director said the “Member Get a Member” campaign begins March 1 and will end September 30, 2010.

    Fossil Polar Bear DNA Study

    March 1, 2010  www.pnas.com 

    A paper published in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by researchers at the University at Buffalo, Penn State University, the University of Oslo and other institutions is filling in key pieces of the evolutionary history of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) and brown bears (Ursus arctos), including their response to past climate changes. "Our results confirm that the polar bear is an evolutionarily young species that split off from brown bears some 150,000 years ago and evolved extremely rapidly during the late Pleistocene, perhaps adapting to the opening of new habitats and food sources in response to climate changes just before the last interglacial period," says Charlotte Lindqvist, assistant professor in the UB Department of Biological Sciences and lead author on the paper with Stephan C. Schuster at Penn State's Center for Comparative Genomics and Bioinformatics. Very few polar bear fossils have been found, but in an Icelandic geologist found a well-preserved, 110,000- to 130,000-year-old jawbone and canine tooth in the Svalbard archipelago of Norway. The researchers sequenced the complete mitochondrial genome of the fossil, and then used that information to develop mitochondrial sequencing of the other bears and construct phylogenies. Lindqvist said, "Our fossil polar bear lies almost directly at the splitting point between this unique group of brown bears and polar bears. This is, by far, the oldest mammal mitochondrial genome to be sequenced," says Schuster. It is the oldest mammalian mitochondrial genome yet sequenced — about twice the age of the oldest mammoth genome, which dates to around 65,000 years old. To conduct their analyses, the researchers used a variety of techniques, including isotope analyses, high-throughput genomic sequencing, bioinformatics and phylogenetic analysis, which traces evolutionary relationships among species. "We have found that polar bears actually survived the interglacial warming period, which was generally warmer than the current one," she says, "but [the current] climate change may now be occurring at such an accelerated pace that polar bears may not be able to keep up. The polar bear may be more evolutionarily constrained because it is today very specialized; morphologically, physiologically and behaviorally well-adapted to living on the edge of the Arctic ice, subsisting on a few species of seals."

    Bonobo Pointing Study At Great Ape Trust

    March 1, 2010  www.greatapetrust.org
    DES MOINES -- Human pointing is universal, and an alternative to spoken words. Scientists agree that pointing is closely associated with word learning. But some of the world’s leading primatologists have argued that although apes may gesture in a way that resembles human pointing, the genetic and cognitive differences between apes and humans are so great that the apes’ signals have no specific intent. Several Great Ape Trust scientists, disagree in a recent paper entitled, “Why Apes Point: Pointing Gestures in Spontaneous Conversation of Language-Competent Pan/Homo Bonobos.” They claim that three bonobos at the center, Kanzi, Nyota and Panbanisha, not only point with their index fingers in conversation, but they do so with specific intent. The difference between pointing by the Great Ape Trust bonobos (the only ones in the world with receptive competence for spoken English) and other captive apes that make hand gestures is explained by the culture in which they were reared, according to the paper’s authors: Janni Pedersen, an Iowa State University Ph.D. candidate and Pär Segerdahl, a scientist from Sweden who studies language; and William M. Fields, an ethnographer investigating language, culture and tools in non-human primates. The pointing study supports and builds on 40 years of research by Dr. Duane Rumbaugh, Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh and Fields, who is the director of the Great Ape Trust. The Great Ape Trust scientists conducted the study in rebuttal to a paper titled “Why Apes Don’t Point” written by Michael Tomasello, a leading expert on evolution and communication and co-director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany.  A chapter based on the Great Ape Trust scientists’ study is included in Primatology: Theories, Methods and Research, published by Nova Science Publishers Inc. and edited by Emil Potocki and Juliusz Krasinski.

    Pesticide Atrazine Can Turn Male Frogs Into Females

    March 1, 2010  www.eurekaleert.org

    Atrazine, one of the world's most widely used pesticides, wreaks havoc with the sex lives of adult male frogs, emasculating three-quarters of them and turning one in 10 into females, according to a new study by University of California, Berkeley, biologists. The 75 percent that are chemically castrated are essentially "dead" because of their inability to reproduce in the wild, reports UC Berkeley's Tyrone B. Hayes, professor of integrative biology. "These male frogs are missing testosterone and all the things that testosterone controls, including sperm. So their fertility is as low as 10 percent in some cases, and that is only if we isolate those animals and pair them with females," he said. "In an environment where they are competing with unexposed animals, they have zero chance of reproducing." They can successfully mate with male frogs but, because they are genetically male, all their offspring are male. Although the experiments were performed on the African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis), field studies indicate that atrazine, a potent endocrine disruptor, similarly affects frogs in the wild, and could possibly be one of the causes of amphibian declines around the globe, Hayes said. The study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Last week, Hayes and colleagues published a review of pesticide's effects on amphibians in the Journal of Experimental Biology. Some 80 million pounds of the herbicide atrazine are applied annually in the United States on corn and sorghum. As a result of these studies, the EPA is reviewing its regulations on use of the pesticide.

    Shasta Coho Salmon Facing Extinction

    March 1, 2010  www.siskiyoudaily.com

    SISKIYOU COUNTY – A new California Department of Fish and Game report warns that if habitat conditions for threatened coho on the Shasta River are not improved quickly, Shasta coho may face extinction. (Coho are currently the only salmon species in the Klamath Watershed protected under the Endangered Species Act.) The report released last month on juvenile coho considers two out of the Shasta’s three year-classes of coho to be “functionally extinct,” meaning coho will now only migrate to the Shasta to spawn one out of every three years. The last remaining year-class, expected to return to the Shasta for spawning next fall, is also on a trajectory toward extinction. CDFG reports that only 9 coho, all male, returned to spawn in the Shasta River in the fall of 2009, and similarly few returned in 2008. CDFG expects the last functional run (148 adults) in the fall of 2010 and reports that the only remaining spawning and rearing habitat for these fish is the Big Springs Complex, which includes Kettle Springs and lower Parks Creek. While habitat restoration on the Nature Conservancy’s Shasta Big Springs Ranch is “producing rapid improvements,” the only properties in the Big Springs Complex where juvenile coho were actually observed in 2009 were ranches owned by Emmerson Investments Inc. (Emmerson is the head of the Sierra Pacific Logging Corporation, the Nation’s third largest land owner.) The report is at klamathriver.org [PDF]

    Saving Hawaii’s Endangered Birds

    March 1, 2010  www.kitsapsun.com  By Joan Carson

    Every issue of Hawaiian Airline’s in-flight “Hana Hou” has an article on the islands’ natural history. January’s magazine contains Joan Conrow’s short piece about an “Akepa,” one of Hawaii’s native honeycreepers. It’s part of a recovery program funded by the San Diego Zoo. It operates at the Big Island’s Keauhou Bird Conservation Center near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. KBCC is the world’s first facility to breed rain forest birds. It developed its technique by experimenting on some of Hawaii’s common birds. The center has perfected propagation programs for 12 native forest species, seven of which are endangered. This is where the last 60 Hawaiian crows (Alala) in the world are located. The plan is to start releasing some back into the wild after the population reaches 75. Other releases already have occurred. During the past four years, 28 captive-raised Palila (another honeycreeper) have been released on Mauna Kea. Since 1998, about 175 native thrush (Puaiohi) have been released in Alakai Swamp on the island of Kauai. You can read the articles at www.hanahou.com.

    Twin Andean Bears Born at National Zoo

    March 1, 2010  www.zandavisitor.com  By Karin Korpowski-Gallo

    WASHINGTON, DC -- The National Zoo’s 4-year-old Andean bear, Billie Jean, has given birth for the first time to twins. Officials believe the births occurred in January, over a 24-hour period while denned in a secluded section of her indoor exhibit. One cub was born at about 8 a.m. Jan. 14, and the other was born at roughly the same time Jan. 15. A special bear web camera for public viewing is at nationalzoo.si.edu. “From the den camera, we can observe a very attentive mother bear and two small cubs that are moving, wiggling and thriving,” said curator Craig Saffoe. “Vocalizations that we hear are loud and strong, which is another indicator that the cubs are healthy.” The pair are the first Andean cubs born at the National Zoo in more than two decades. Coincidentally, the last surviving Andean bear cub born in North America before this was their mother. Several ultrasounds in December showed that Billie Jean had 2 fetuses, but like the giant panda, Andean bears can re-absorb one or both. The cubs' father is Nikki, 18, who came to the Zoo three years ago with a severe weight problem. Zoo nutritionists put him on a weight-loss plan and he was able to shed almost 200 pounds in a year, boosting his fitness and ability to be considered for breeding. Andean bears (Tremarctos ornatus ) are also known as spectacled bears. They are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN.

    Endangered Species Permit Applications

    March 1, 2010  www.gpoaccess.gov

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, invites the public to comment on the following applications to conduct certain activities with endangered species. We must receive any written comments on or before March 31, 2010. Please refer to the permit number when you submit comments. Send written comments by U.S. mail to the Regional Director, Attn: Peter Fasbender, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ecological Services, 1 Federal Drive, Fort Snelling, MN 55111-4056; or by electronic mail to permitsR3ES@fws.gov. For further information contact Peter Fasbender, (612) 713-5343.

    Permit Application Number: TE006012. Applicant: Steven Taylor, Center for Biodiversity, Illinois Natural History Survey, Champaign, Illinois. The applicant requests a permit renewal to take (capture and release, collect for scientific study and for propagation) Illinois cave amphipod (Gammarus acherondytes) in Monroe and St. Clair Counties, Illinois. Activities are proposed for life history analysis and population assessment work aimed at enhancement of the survival of the species in the wild.

    Permit Application Number: TE106217. Applicant: Toledo Zoological Society, Toledo, Ohio. The applicant requests a permit renewal to take (capture and hold) Mitchell's satyr butterflies (Neonympha mitchelli mitchelli) for captive propagation and release into the wild. Activities are proposed in the interest of conservation and recovery of the species and enhancement of the survival of the species in the wild.

    Permit Application Number: TE130900. Applicant: Enviroscience, Inc., Blacklick, Ohio. The applicant requests a permit renewal to take (capture and release) the following unionid species: Clubshell (Pleurobema clava), Northern riffleshell (Epioblasma torulosa rangiana), Orange-footed pimpleback pearlymussel (Plethobasus cooperianus), Pink mucket pearlymussel (Lampsilis orbiculata), Rough pigtoe (Pleurobema plenum), Purple cat's paw pearlymussel (Epioblasma obliquata obliquata), White cat's paw pearlymussel (Epioblasma obliquata perobliqua), Fanshell (Cyprogenia stegaria), Fat pocketbook (Potamilus capax), Higgins' eye pearlymussel (Lampsilis higginsi), Winged mapleleaf (Quadrula fragosa), White wartyback (Plethobathus cicatricosus), Fat three-ridge (Amblema neislerii), Chipola slabshell (Elliptio chipolaensis), Purple bankclimber (Elliptoideus sloatianus), Upland combshell (Epioblasma
    ), Southern acornshell (Epioblasma othcaloogeniss), Fine-lined pocketbook (Lampsilis altilis), Shiny-rayed pocketbook (Lampsilis subangulata), Alabama moccasinshell (Medionidus acutissimus), Coosa moccasinshell (Medionidus parvulus), Gulf moccasinshell (Medionidus penicillatus), Ochlockonee moccasinshell (Medionidus simpsonianus), Southern clubshell (Pleurobema decisum), Southern pigtoe (Pleurobema georgianum), Ovate clubshell (Pleurobema perovatum), Triangular kidneyshell (Ptychobrachus greeni), Oval pigtoe (Pleurobema pyriforme) and the following fish species: Shortnose sturgeon (Acipenser brevirostrum), Blue shiner (Cyprinella caerulea), Cherokee darter (Etheostoma scotti), Etowah darter (Etheostoma etowahae), Amber darter (Percina antesella), Goldline darter (Percina aurolineata), Conasauga logperch (Percina jenkinsi), and Snail darter (Percina tanasi) in the
    States of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Florida and Georgia. Proposed activities are for the enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

    Permit Application Number: TE02344A. Applicant: Mainstream Commercial Divers, Inc., Murray, Kentucky. The applicant requests a permit renewal to take (capture and release) the following unionid species: Clubshell, Northern riffleshell, Orangefoot pimpleback pearlymussel, Pink mucket pearlymussel, Rough pigtoe, Purple cat's paw pearlymussel, White cat's paw pearlymussel, Fanshell, Fat pocketbook, Higgins' eye pearlymussel, Winged mapleleaf, and Scaleshell (Leptodea leptodon) in the States of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio, Wisconsin, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Proposed activities are for the enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

    Permit Application Number: TE02350A. Applicant: J.F. New Associates, Inc., Walkerton, Indiana. The applicant requests a permit to take (capture and release) Indiana bats (Myotis sodalis) and gray bats (Myotis grisescens) throughout the States of Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, and Kentucky to document presence/absence of the species and to conduct habitat use assessments. Proposed activities are aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

    Permit Application Number: TE02360A. Applicant: Theresa Sydney Burke, Beaver, West Virginia. The applicant requests a permit renewal to take (capture and release) Indiana bats, gray bats, and Virginia big-eared bats (Corynorhinus townsendii virginianus) throughout the range of the species in Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Proposed activities are aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

    Permit Application Number: TE02365A. Applicant: Lynn W. Robbins, Missouri State University, Springfield, Missouri. The applicant requests a permit renewal to take (capture and release; collect tissue samples) Indiana bats and gray bats throughout the range of the species in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Ohio. Proposed activities are aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

    Permit Application Number: TE02373A. Applicant: Environmental Solutions and Innovations, Inc., Cincinnati, Ohio. The applicant requests a permit renewal with amendment to take (capture and release) Indiana bats, gray bats, Virginia big-eared bats, Ozark big-eared bats (Corynorhinus townsendii ingens); to take (harass) running buffalo clover (Trifolium stoloniferum) and Northeastern bulrush (Scirpus ancistrochaetus), to take (capture and release) Cumberland elktoe (Alasmidonta atropurpurea), dwarf wedgemussel (Alasmidonta heterodon), Fanshell, Dromedary pearlymussel (Dromus dromas), Cumberland combshell (Epioblasma brevidens), oyster mussel (E. capsaeformis), Curtis pearlymussel (E. florentina curtisii), yellow blossom (E. florentina florentina), tan riffleshell (E. florentina walkeri), purple cat's paw, white cat's paw, northern riffleshell, tubercled-blossom pearlymussel (E. torulosa torulosa), cracking pearlymussel (Hemistena lata), pink mucket, Arkansas fatmucket (Lampsilis powellii), scaleshell, ring pink (Obovaria retusa), Littlewing pearlymussel (Pegias fibula), white wartyback pearlymussel, orangefoot pimpleback, clubshell, James spiny mussel (Pleurobema collina), rough pigtoe, fat pocketbook, rough rabbitsfoot (Quadrula cylindrical strigillata), winged mapleleaf, and Cumberland bean (Villosa travilis) mussels; and to take (capture and release) diamond darter (Crystallaria cincotta), blue shiner, Maryland darter (Etheostoma sellare), Roanoke logperch (Percina rex) and blackside dace (Phoxinus cumberlandensis) in the States of Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Proposed activities are for the purpose of determining presence or absence of the species, population monitoring, habitat assessment, and evaluation of potential project impacts. Activities are aimed at the enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

    Permit Application Number: TE02378A. Applicant: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, St. Paul, Minnesota. The applicant requests a permit renewal to take (capture and release) Higgins' eye pearlymussel in the Mississippi, St. Croix, Minnesota, and Wisconsin Rivers in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri. Proposed activities include surveys to determine presence/absence of the species and to assess impacts of proposed projects. Proposed activities are aimed at the enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

    Permit Application Number: TE02381A. Applicant: Mark Hove, Macalester College, St. Paul, Minnesota. The applicant requests a permit renewal to take (capture and release; potential collection of glochidia during fish-host study; capture and relocate) winged mapleleaf and Higgins eye pearlymussels in the St. Croix, Mississippi, Chippewa, and Zumbro Rivers in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Proposed activities are aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

    Permit Application Number: TE224720-1. Applicant: ABR, Inc., Environmental Research & Services, Forest Grove, Oregon. The applicant requests a permit amendment to permit number TE224720 which authorizes take (harass through capture and release; collection of hair and tissue samples) of Indiana bats and gray bats. Applicant requests an amendment of the geographic scope of the permit to include the states within Region 5 of the Service: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia. Proposed activities under this permit application include surveys to document species' presence or absence in areas proposed for wind-energy development, studies to document habitat use, collection of echolocation data and hair/tissue sampling for scientific research. The applicant's proposed activities are aimed at enhancement of the survival of the species in the wild.

    Permit Application Number: TE839777-11. Applicant: Don Helms, Helms & Associates, Bellevue, Iowa. The applicant requests a permit amendment to take (capture and release; capture and relocate) Higgins' eye pearlymussels and scaleshell mussels throughout the State of South Dakota. Proposed activities are for the enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

    Permit Application Number: TE02560A. Applicant: Timothy C. Carter, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana. The applicant requests a permit renewal and amendment to take (capture and release; collect tissue samples) Indiana bats and gray bats throughout the States of Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Proposed activities are for the enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

    Permit Application Number: TE02651A. Applicant: The Ohio Department of Transportation, Columbus, Ohio. The applicant requests a permit renewal to take (capture and release) Indiana bats and American burying beetles (Nicrophorus americanus) within the State of Ohio. Proposed activities to determine presence/absence of the species, to assess habitat use and monitor populations are for the enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

    Endangered Species Permit Applications

    March 1, 2010  www.gpoaccess.gov

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, invites the public to comment on the following applications to conduct certain activities with endangered species, marine mammals, or both. We must receive requests for documents or comments on or before March 31, 2010. Send to: Brenda Tapia, Division of Management Authority, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Room 212, Arlington, VA 22203; fax (703) 558-7725; or e-mail DMAFR@fws.gov  For further information contact: Brenda Tapia, (703) 358-2104 I.

    Applicant: Dr. Ajit Varki, Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of California, San Diego, CA, PRT-236267. The applicant requests a permit to acquire from Coriell Institute, Camden, NJ, in interstate commerce DNA and/or cell lines from chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), gorilla (Gorilla), and Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) for the purpose of scientific research. This notification covers activities to be conducted by the applicant over a one-year period.

    Applicant: Exotic Feline Breeding Compound, Inc., Rosamond, CA, PRT-234072. The applicant requests a permit to import one captive bred male Iranian leopard (Panthera pardus saxicolor) from Aalborg Zoo, Denmark, for the purpose of enhancement of the survival of the species.

    Applicant: Terrance David Braden, Williamston, MI, PRT-231677. Applicant: Alan Maiss, Reno, NV, PRT-228691. Applicant: Conroe Taxidermy, Conroe, TX, PRT-230925. The applicants each request a permit to import the sport-hunted trophy of one male bontebok (Damaliscus pygargus pygargus) culled from a captive herd maintained under the management program of the Republic of South Africa, for the purpose of enhancement of the survival of the species.

    Applicant: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Jacksonville, FL, PRT-770191. The applicant requests a permit and a letter of authorization for the rescue, rehabilitation and release of unlimited number of stranded West Indian manatees (Trichechus manatus) in the waters of the United States, the import of rescued manatees, and import and export of biological specimens. This notification covers activities to be conducted by the applicant over a 5-year period.

    Catalina Island Fox Population Rebounds

    March 2,  2010  www.latimes.com  By Louis Sahagun

    The cat-sized Catalina Island fox is found only on the 75-wa mile island off the coast of Southern California. A decade after a canine distemper outbreak devastated the cat-sized Catalina Island fox population, it is rebounding. The population crashed to about 100 in 1999, and the Catalina Island Conservancy and the Institute for Wildlife Studies launched a $2-million recovery program that includes vaccinations, aerial monitoring and education programs. A captive breeding program here ended in 2004, the same year the USFWS listed the subspecies as endangered. There are about 950 Catalina Island foxes today, up from 784 last year, according to a recent trapping effort by conservancy wildlife biologists Julie King and Calvin Duncan. The foxes are trapped once a year and inspected for illnesses, including an unusual, potentially fatal ear cancer that recently began showing up in older foxes. About 1,200 of the 1,300 foxes on Santa Catalina Island died as a result of the outbreak. But an extreme drought in 2007 resulted in the deaths of significant numbers of mule deer, whose carcasses were scavenged by the omnivorous 5-pound foxes, and by the time breeding season arrived in 2008, many foxes were literally obese, and females were in such good condition that they were having larger-than-normal litters. Good rains the past two years triggered an abundance of fruit-bearing cactuses and a population explosion of mice, convenient prey for female foxes to feed to their pups. Tachi, a captive bred fox has become a popular ambassador raising $14,000 in donations last year.

    1,007 Migratory Bird Species Now Protected

    March 2, 2010  www.infozine.com 

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – The USFWS has announced revisions to the list of bird species protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). The list, last updated in 1985, incorporates the latest taxonomic and scientific data for migratory birds. The changes include 186 new additions and 11 subtractions, bringing the total number of species protected under the MBTA to 1007. The revised list reflects the addition of species based on new evidence of their occurrence in the United States or its territories and also remove species no longer known to occur within the United States. Changes also reflect taxonomic revisions to the bird taxa of North America published by the American Ornithologists’ Union. The final rule can be found online at migratorybirds.fws.gov

    Salisbury Zoo Plans Health Clinic

    March 2, 2010  www.delmarvanow.com  BY GREG LATSHAW

    Salisbury Zoo Director Joel Hamilton hopes to break ground on a 4,300-square-foot hospital building in June, adding a surgery room and addressing a shortage of quarantine space. There will be individual holding areas for carnivores, large animals, small animals and aquatic animals. The zoo houses more than 200 animals from North and South America: a jaguar, spider monkey, tarantulas, boa constrictors and a screech owl. The animal clinic is expected to cost about $1.5 million, and so far, the zoo has secured $1.3 million in pledges, part of a larger capital campaign called Renew the Zoo. After the animal health clinic, the zoo hopes to build an environmental center to replace the current visitors center, which is more than 30 years old. Finally, the zoo plans to add a new exhibit of Australian animals, which would include wallabies and native birds. Last week, Delegate Norman Conway, D-38B-Wicomico, introduced a bill to the Maryland General Assembly that would give the animal health clinic a funding boost. House Bill 1462 would authorize up to $300,000 in Maryland bond sales, which the zoo must match dollar-per-dollar.

    New Barn For San Diego Zoo’s Galapagos Tortoises

    March 2, 2010  www.signonsandiego.com  By Jeanette Steele

    The San Diego Zoo has a herd of 17 Galapagos tortoises. Some have lived in the old exhibit since 1928 but now their home is getting a $1 million makeover and yesterday they were moved to temporary quarters. To get them to move, zookeepers tossed chopped yams in front of them and thumped their shells with sticks. The 400-600 pound reptiles were loaded onto a trailer and hauled to the Zoo’s hospital compound where they will remain until summer. “Because of their size, you don’t just pick up one of these,” said zoo herpetology curator Donald Boyer, adding that the sticks don’t hurt the tortoises. “It’s more of an acoustic thing,” he said. “They are sensitive. They can feel, and they can definitely hear something tapping on their shell.”  Renovation of the exhibit will bring a new heated barn for the coldblooded creatures, a shallow pond for baths and a “contact zone” where zoo-goers can touch the tortoises amid supervision. (They like to have their long necks scratched.)  “They definitely all have their own kind of personalities,” Boyers said. “Some are more shy than the others.” They also have quirky names. The oldest is called Speedy. San Diego’s tortoise herd grew out of a 1920s expedition to the Galápagos Islands off Ecuador, the zoo’s officials said. Four American zoos received tortoises from that trip to launch breeding programs for the species, which has become endangered due to habitat loss and the introduction of non-native predators in the tortoises original environment. The San Diego Zoo program has produced more than 90 babies since then. The height of breeding was the 1960s, when herd members were more spry. With the new exhibit, zoo officials hope to bring in younger tortoises to reinvigorate the birthrate. The new exhibit should be complete sometime in July.

    Rhesus Monkey Nutrition Study

    March 2, 2010  smithsonianscience.org

    A study published in the American Journal of Primatology on February 16 looked at large groups of rhesus macaques living in an outdoor enclosure at the California National Primate Research Center at UC Davis. Researchers collected milk two different times from 59 mothers: once when their infants were 1 month old and again when the infants were 3 1/2 months old. They recorded the quantity of milk produced by each mother, and the energy value of each one's milk was analyzed for its content of sugars, proteins and fat. These figures were combined to calculate the available milk energy generated by each mother. Although all of the monkeys in the study were fed the same diet, the researchers found natural variation in the quantity and richness of the milk generated by the 59 mothers. Milk from mothers who weighed more and had had previous pregnancies contained higher available energy when their infants were 1 month old than the milk of lighter, less experienced mothers. "This is the first study for any mammal that presents evidence that natural variation in available milk energy from the mother is associated with later variation in infant behavior and temperament," said Katie Hinde, the study's lead author and anthropologist at the California National Primate Research Center and the nutrition laboratory at the Smithsonian's National Zoo.

    Mosquitoes Not Birds May Have Spread H5N1 Across U.S.

    March 2, 2010  www.jhsph.edu

    West Nile virus was first detected in the U.S. in 1999 in New York. Between 2001 and 2004, the virus spread rapidly across the U.S., making a large jump across the Mississippi River and into the Great Plains between 2001 and 2002. Birds are known hosts of the disease and have long been suspected of transporting the virus across the continent. They can transmit the virus to certain mosquitoes, like Culex tarsalis, which then can pass on the disease to humans through their bites. A new study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has found that mosquitoes — not birds as suspected — may have a played a primary role in spreading West Nile virus across the United States. The study, published in the March 2 edition of Molecular Ecology, found that the rapid spread of West Nile did not follow a leap-frog pattern or move north to south along migratory bird routes like we would expect. “ Our study shows mosquitoes are a likely candidate” said senior author Jason L. Rasgon.

    Endangered Bonobo Born at Columbus Zoo

    March 2, 2010  www.zandavisitor.com  By Jennifer Wilson

    POWELL, OH -- There are 85 bonobos in 10 facilities in North America. The Columbus Zoo has 15 of the animals. This is the eleventh bonobo born at the Columbus Zoo since the Zoo received its first bonobos in 1990. This is the fourth baby for mother “Susie” who is caring for the newborn in the company of the other bonobos in her group including her offspring “Donnie”, born in 1993, and “Lola”, born in 2004. Daughter “Kimia”, born in 1999, now resides at the Cincinnati Zoo. Bonobos live in dynamic groups and confirmation of the baby’s sire, either “Toby” or “Jimmy”, awaits the results of genetic paternity testing. The Columbus Zoo supports the Congolese association ABC - Les Amis des Bonobos du Congo (Friends of Bonobos in Congo). ABC operates Lola ya Bonobo Sanctuary, which has advocated for wildlife conservation in Kinshasa for the past 10 years. In 2009, the Zoo’s Conservation Grants Program and Partners in Conservation awarded more than $1 million in program support for 70 conservation projects in 35 countries. Over the past five years, the Zoo has distributed $4 million in support. This money is raised from restricted donations, conservation fundraisers, and coins donated by Zoo visitors. Dale Schmidt is Executive Director of the Columbus Zoo.

    Recently Analyzed Fossil Was Not Human Ancestor

    March 2, 2010  www.eurekalert.org

    AUSTIN, Texas — A fossil touted last year as a possible "missing link" between humans and early primates is actually a forebearer of modern-day lemurs and lorises, according to two papers by scientists at The University of Texas at Austin, Duke University and the University of Chicago. In an article now available online in the Journal of Human Evolution, four scientists present evidence that the 47-million-year-old Darwinius masillae is not a haplorhine primate like humans, apes and monkeys, as the 2009 research claimed. The Darwinius research completely ignored that body of literature that centers on the evolution of primates, which include haplorhines (apes, monkeys, humans, tarsiers) and strepsirrhines (lemurs, lorises). The two groups split from each other nearly 70 million years ago. The fossil group to which Darwinius belongs – the adapiforms – have been known since the early 1800s and includes dozens of primate species represented by thousands of fossils recovered in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Some adapiforms, like North American Notharctus, are known from nearly complete skeletons like that of Darwinius. Most analyses of primate evolution over the past two decades have concluded that adapiforms are strepsirrhines, and not direct ancestors of modern humans. The most recent such analysis, published last year in the journal Nature, concluded that Darwinius is an early strepsirrhine and a close relative of the 39-million-year- old primate Mahgarita stevensi from West Texas.

    Pneumonia Devastates Bighorn Sheep

    March 2, 2010  www.ammoland.com

    UTAH -- Like many North American wild animals, ancestors of today’s wild sheep crossed the Bering Land Bridge from Asia. These sheep were isolated from their cousins in Asia, Europe and Africa by the great ice sheets that covered North America during the ice ages. They evolved into the bighorns (Ovis canadensis) and thinhorns (Ovis dalli) found today. In addition to isolating the sheep, the ice sheets kept temperatures cold and dry. These conditions helped prevent diseases from spreading. As a result, North American wild sheep evolved few defenses or immunities against diseases. Wild sheep are highly social animals. In contrast, some of the sheep populations in Europe, Asia and Africa were domesticated. Because they frequently encountered each other, the domestic sheep—exposed to a variety of diseases—developed strong defenses and immunities. When domestic sheep were introduced to the Americas, they brought their exotic diseases with them. These diseases proved deadly to native wild sheep and often eliminated entire populations. Bighorn sheep, once the most abundant large mammal in the mountainous areas of the West, were nearly driven to extinction by the early 1900s. Many factors, including competition for forage, habitat degradation and unregulated hunting all played their parts, but exotic diseases were the biggest factor. Today’s bighorns are ancestors of isolated, remote bands that somehow escaped the exotic diseases rampaging through the herds as the Wild West was tamed. They still lack immunities to most diseases, and in many areas entire herds are being wiped out. There is no known cure for pneumonia in bighorns and wildlife biologists closely monitor herds attempting to cull sick animals to avoid total decimation of individual herds.

    Listing the Flat-Tailed Horned Lizard as Threatened

    March 2, 2010  www.gpoaccess.gov

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is reinstating the November 29, 1993, proposed rule to list the flat-tailed horned lizard (Phrynosoma mcallii) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. We also announce the reopening of a public comment period on the 1993 proposed rule and the scheduling of public hearings. This action will provide all interested parties with an additional opportunity to provide information and submit comments on the 1993 proposed rule. We particularly seek information on:
    (1) The species' biology, range, and population trends.
    (2) Past and ongoing conservation measures for the species, its habitat, or both, including how implementation of the Flat-tailed Horned Lizard Rangewide Management Strategy has affected the species in the United States.
    (3) Conservation measures for the species in Mexico.
    (4) The factors that are the basis for making a listing, delisting, or downlisting determination for a species under section 4(a) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), which are:
        (a) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range;
        (b) Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes;
        (c) Disease or predation;
        (d) The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or
        (e) Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence.
    (5) The taxonomic status of this species, or whether any population segments of the flat-tailed horned lizard are discrete or significant under our February 7, 1996, policy regarding the
    recognition of distinct vertebrate population segments (61 FR 4722).
    (6) The potential effects global climate change may have on the flat-tailed horned lizard or its habitat.

    You may submit comments and information via the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Search for Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-2010-0008 and then follow the instructions for submitting comments.  OR  U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R8-ES-2010-0008; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203. For further information contact: Jim Bartel, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, 6010 Hidden Valley Road, Suite 101, Carlsbad, CA 92011; telephone 760-431-9440. Written comments must be received on or before May 3, 2010. Public Hearings will take place on March 23, 2010, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at University of California, Riverside (UCR) Palm Desert Graduate Center, 75-080 Frank Sinatra Drive, Palm Desert, CA.

    Topeka Zoo Accreditation Delayed 1 Year

    March 3, 2010  cjonline.com  By James Carlson

    VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — For the second time in less than 10 years, the Topeka Zoo's accreditation has been tabled. The zoo will deliver a progress report to the AZA in 6 months, after which they will conduct a follow-up inspection and decide in one year whether to continue accreditation. Bruce Bohmke, chair of the accreditation commission, said he was happy with the steps the zoo has taken but recognized further changes need to be made. Wednesday's decision was delivered six months after the first of two USDA inspections criticized the zoo for veterinary care and record keeping surrounding numerous animal deaths.

    Woodland Park Zoo May Re-Open Nocturnal House

    March 3, 2010  www.ballardnewstribune.com

    SEATTLE, WA -- The Woodland Park Zoo's Night Exhibit, with 15 species, closed to the public on March 1 as a cost-savings measure. Now the BNSF Foundation (Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway) has stepped forward with a $20,000 challenge grant to help toward the long-term care of these animals. BNSF is issuing a challenge to the community to match the gift and help the zoo raise $50,000 for the nocturnal animal fund by May 1. The fund will help make modifications to existing areas at the zoo for the Night Exhibit animals that will remain, support their long-term care, and help toward an assessment process to determine the future of the Night Exhibit building. Since the Night Exhibit closure date was announced in January, the community has already contributed $5,500 to the nocturnal animal fund, according to the press release. A revamped Adaptations Building re-opens on May 1 with some Night Exhibit animals in newly renovated exhibit spaces. A pair of two-toed sloths will join tamanduas (small anteaters native to South America), and a colony of Rodrigues fruit bats will be joined by springhaas (small rodents native to southeastern Africa). Additional animals remaining include a three-banded armadillo, a slow loris and trio of pygmy lorises.  The closure of the Night Exhibit was among a series of cost-savings measures that will enable the zoo to operate sustainably over the long term and help reduce annual expenses by $800,000 to $1 million in 2010 and beyond.

    Biologging Studies

    March 3, 2010  www.eurekalert.org

    Biologging – The ability to study animals in the wild using microchips that store data or transmit data to Earth-orbiting satellites has revolutionized how we study animals in the most distant parts of the globe. The tags can relay information about the animal's movements, behavior, physiology or environmental surroundings in "real time," or "archive" the data for later retrieval. Using this latter approach, researchers have overcome the challenges of studying wild, free-ranging predators that remain submerged beneath the ocean – where radio communications are impossible. A special collection of papers from an international conference on Biologging Science held in California and co hosted by the Tagging of Pacific Predators and the TAG A Giant Foundation is being published Wednesday, March 3, 2010 in the scientific journal Endangered Species Research, which features a wide array of cutting-edge biologging research from around the world. A number of studies, including one on the Mohave desert tortoise can be viewed at www.int-res.com.

    Moose Population Declining in Minnesota

    March 3, 2010  media.www.umdstatesman.com

    The results of an aerial survey released by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) indicates that populations of moose continue to decline in northeastern Minnesota.
    "Moose are superbly adapted to the cold but intolerant of heat," said Dr. Mark Lenarz, "and scientists believe that summer temperatures will likely determine the southern limit of this species." The researchers estimated that there are 5,528 moose in northeastern Minnesota now in 2010. The number is down from last year's estimated, 7,593. Of the 150 Minnesota moose that were radio-collared in 2002, 103 have died. Nine died as a result of highway vehicle accidents, trains killed two and wolves distinguishably killed six. Most of the unaccounted-for deaths are thought to be the result of parasites and disease.

    Grizzlies Declining in Alberta Canada

    March 3, 2010  www.albertalocalnews.com

    CALGARY —  A new report, done by an independent scientist, estimates that there are 691 grizzly bears in Alberta and notes that some of the populations are declining. At last count in 2000, the government said there were 841 bears in the province. Environmental groups have been urging the government to declare the grizzly threatened since the estimated number dipped below 1,000. The government says the Endangered Species Conservation Committee will review the new count and decide whether to change the bears’ designation

    American Pika is Thriving

    March 4, 2010  www.eurekalert.org

    ALBANY, Calif. -- A small mammalian relative of rabbits and hares, the American pika inhabits rocky slopes of western North American mountains. Pikas tolerate cold climate environments through a combination of physiological and behavioral adaptations where these same adaptations may make them sensitive to even mildly warm climates. Their vulnerability to global warming has been an escalating concern, but a recent study has determined that that American pika in the Sierra Nevada and southwestern Great Basin are thriving and persist in a wider range of temperatures than previously thought. A paper titled "Distribution and Climatic Relationships of the American Pika (Ochotona princeps) in the Sierra Nevada and Western Great Basin, U.S.A.; Periglacial Landforms as Refugia in Warming Climates," by Constance Millar and Robert Westfall in the February 2010 issue of the journal Arctic, Antarctic and Alpine Research. The study also suggests a greater distribution in the Sierra Nevada and Great Basin than has been found in other studies in these regions, and provides important baseline surveys that can be used in future pika ecology and population studies.

    Australia’s Yellow-Spotted Bell Frog “Rediscovered”

    March 4, 2010  www.sfgate.com   By OWEN PYE

    NSW, Australia -- An Australian frog which disappeared decades ago and was feared extinct has been rediscovered in a remote creek in rural Australian farm land. A state government scientist spotted a thriving community of an unusual frog species during a trip to New South Wales' Southern Tablelands. Frog specialist Dr. David Hunter was brought in to confirm that it was the Yellow-Spotted Bell Frog, last seen in 1973. The frogs' location will be kept secret to ensure their survival while the state government talks with Sydney's Taronga Zoo about setting up a captive breeding program. Seven of 216 known Australian frog species have disappeared in the last 30 years.

    Youth Wildlife Art Contest

    March 4, 2010  www.signonsandiego.com

    SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Zoo is encouraging young artists from kindergarten through grade 12 to participate in a national contest to honor Endangered Species Day on May 21.
    The annual event was started by Congress in 2006 after lobbying by a La Mesa man. It is designed to draw attention to imperiled plants and animals. Native wildlife is the theme of this year’s art contest, which is organized by the USFWS and other groups. Contest details are at endangeredspeciesday.org. The deadline to submit entries is March 26.

    California Academy of Sciences Breeding Programs

    March 4, 2010  abclocal.go.com

    GOLDEN GATE PARK, San Francisco, CA -- The California Academy of Sciences’ best known breeding program is for penguins, and now academy biologists are having the same kind of success with other animals, the dwarf Cuttlefish and the Asian Horned Frog. The cuttlefish breeding program is the only one in the United States. About 350 cuttlefish have hatched so far. Both this and the frog breeding program have been so successful that the academy is now shipping babies to other aquariums and researchers around the country.

    Jersey Zoo’s Breeding Programs

    March 4, 2010  news.bbc.co.uk

    JERSEY, UK -- The UK’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs has awarded £600,000 to support two of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust’s breeding programs: the Montserrat’s mountain chicken frog and the Madagascar pochard duck. Last year, Durrell joined three charities in Madagascar to develop a captive breeding programme for the Madagascar pochard, hoping to double their numbers in three years. There are thought to be 19 such birds left in the world. The charity has also bred mountain chicken frogs, one of the world's largest frogs, brought from the Caribbean to its Trinity site.

    Protection Urged for California’s Tiger Salamander

    March 4, 2010  www.sfgate.com 

    The tiger salamander breeds in seasonal pools and ponds, but spends most of its 10-year life underground primarily in the Central Valley. Those key spawning habitats have severely diminished over the years. In 1997, only 12 percent of the Central Valley's 5 million acres of historical seasonal pools remained, said Sonke Mastrup, chief deputy director at the Department of Fish and Game. The remaining habitat is also at risk for being broken up and isolating the species, Mastrup said. The tiger salamander was listed as a federally protected species in 2004 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The state commission had twice previously denied listing the salamander, and was sued in 2004 by the Center for Biological Diversity. A state appellate court ordered the Department of Fish and Game to reconsider the issue. Now they have decided the species deserves protection as a threatened species. The decision affects about 400,000 acres of the amphibian's habitat from from Yolo County north of Sacramento to Santa Barbara County. The 3-2 commission vote came over the objections of the wine industry, business groups and homebuilders, which complained scientists were unable to show accurate population counts for the salamander and had exaggerated how much rural land might be developed in the future.

    Attaching Radio Transmitters to Lizards

    March 4, 2010  www.nature.com

    Studies have reported deleterious effects of radio transmitters attached by researchers to various animals in the wild. Charles Knapp of the San Diego Zoo in California and Juan
    Abarca of the National University in Heredia, Costa Rica, reveal that the arbitrary weight limit used for transmitters on lizards — of 5–10% of body mass — may be too high. They attached transmitters of between 2.5% and 15% of body mass to green iguana hatchlings (Iguana iguana) in Costa Rica. Although these did not impede the animals’ running speed, transmitters weighing 10% and 15% of the iguanas’ body mass did lower climbing speeds. The animals with the 10%-of-mass transmitters also gained less weight over a month. The authors
    suggest limiting monitoring equipment for these creatures to 7.5% of body mass. The study appears in the journal Herpetologica: 65, 363–372 (2009).

    MOLA Opens at Fort Worth Zoo

    March 4, 2010  www.nbcdfw.com By DEBORAH FERGUSON

    Thirty percent of the animals in MOLA are new to the Fort Worth Zoo such as the 15-foot, six inch salt water crocodile bought from a crocodile farmer in Darwin, Australia. The croc swims in 75-degree water or lounges in the sun and is visible to diners in the new Crocodile Cafe. A two-inch glass wall lets diners get an up close view. On the other side, two gharials along with Painted Terrapin (turtles) can also be seen through the glass wall. Ectotherm curator Diane Barber considers the gharial exhibit MOLA'S showpiece. "It's the only under water viewing in the country," Barber said. “And our turtles are doing really cool breeding behavior we've never seen before like stroking each other's faces." The $19 million MOLA opens to the public on Saturday, March 6, about six months later than what the zoo had originally planned. "A couple of the contractors (landscapers and artists) were too busy to meet our schedule," explained director Michael Fouraker. Much of the credit for the exhibit goes to longtime zoo supporter Ramona Bass. Not only was she largely responsible for the fund raising, she also worked on the tiniest details such as the words for the signage. And board president Moore said it was Bass who came up with the name MOLA – Museum of Living Art. Bass said, "Herpetarium is a place for snakes and amphibians but it's not a beautiful word."

    Third-Oldest Asian Elephant Dies in Florida

    March 4, 2010  latimesblogs.latimes.com  By Garrick Kennedy

    Mary, a 63-year-old elephant, died this week at the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens in Orlando. Mary was born in 1946 at the Nehru Zoological Park in India. She came to the U.S. in 1952 as part of a circus. After she was retired from the circus, she was sent to the Dallas Zoo before coming to the Central Florida Zoo in 1983, where she was the matriarch of the group of elephants, despite being smaller than the others. Mary was the third-oldest Asian elephant on record at a U.S. zoo accredited by the AZA. Donations in her memory are being collected and will be sent to the Elephant Conservation Program to help endangered elephants in the wild.

    Abilene Zoo Is Reaccredited

    March 4, 2010  www.reporternews.com

    VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- The Abilene Zoo was reaccredited Thursday afternoon by the AZA, a decision that was delayed for about a year amid concerns about zoo conditions. The AZA’s 12-member Accreditation Commission deliberated about 15 minutes before rendering its verdict. The AZA first accredited the Abilene Zoo in 1985 and has done so every five years since then. Only about 10 percent of all zoos go through the AZA accreditation process. The reaccreditation had been in doubt for a year when the AZA tabled the zoo’s request last March. A follow-up inspection in January found some concerns still be addressed. “We were able to satisfy [the commissioners] that we were moving forward on all those issues,” said Vonceil Harmon, the zoo’s interim director. One major concern remaining, the AZA has said, is that veterinary facilities deemed inadequate during last year’s original inspection have continued to be used. A new clinic is expected to be finished in a few weeks.

    Columbus Zoo & Aquarium’s New Polar Bear Exhibit

    March 4, 2010  www.dispatch.com  By Kathy Lynn Gray

    The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has not had polar bears since 1994, but a new exhibit “The Polar Frontier” opening in late April, will change that. 3-year-old twin females Aurora and Anana,  born at the Toledo Zoo November 25, 2006, are ready to explore their new home featuring pools, digging pits and a cascading stream. The exhibit was supposed to open this month, but weather and the complexity of the project's pools has caused a delay, according to Terri Kepes, associate zoo director for planning and design. Also part of the new exhibit will be 6-year-old brown bears Brutus and Buckeye (from the zoo’s North America exhibit), and four Arctic foxes, also new to the zoo. Two huge bear yards have been created, connected by a holding building. One yard is primarily for the polar twins, and the other is for the brown bears, but keepers will occasionally switch yards for variety, according to Doug Warmolts, assistant director of living collections. He says the new exhibit will offer plenty of bear stimulation. The pools will have fish for the bears to catch; the pits will offer sand, pebbles and mulch for digging and there will be dead trees to rip apart. Viewing areas for visitors will include a tunnel under the polar-bear pool.

    PETA vs Knut

    March 4, 2010  www.independent.co.uk  By Tony Paterson

    The German branch of the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, insisted yesterday that celebrity polar bear Knut be castrated because he is sharing an exhibit with female Giovanna, who has the same grandfather. Their future offspring and the future of captive polar bears in general would be at serious risk through the possibility of their inbreeding insisted Frank Albrecht, PETA’s zoo expert. The suggestion caused howls of protest in Germany's popular press yesterday. And Berlin's Knut fan club is vigorously campaigning for Giovanna to stay as the two bears have adapted well to each other. Dr Katarina Jewgenow, head of reproductive biology at the Leipzig Institute for Biological Research, reminded PETA that "Contraception is enough. Giovanna could easily be given the pill," she said. Since his birth in 2006 to a maltreated circus bear who subsequently abandoned him, Knut has earned well in excess of €10m for Berlin Zoo. His enclosure is permanently surrounded during opening hours and millions of Knut cuddly toys based on what he looked like as a cub have been sold to an adoring public. His popularity led to him being formally adopted by Germany's Environment Minister and to his appearance on Vanity Fair's cover.

    Knoxville Zoo Chimp Dies from Pregnancy Complications

    March 5, 2010  www.knoxnews.com  By Amy McRary

    KNOXVILLE -- The Knoxville Zoo's 35-year-old pregnant chimpanzee Jackie died Thursday night. She was carrying twins that were due later this month or in April. Jackie began showing signs of premature labor Thursday. When her delivery wasn't progressing, zookeepers took her to the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine. Ultrasounds showed the chimp was carrying twins with congenital abnormalities and they could not survive. A medical team induced labor because of the pregnancy's risks for Jackie. But the chimp was unable to survive. "We're very saddened by the loss," Zoo Executive Director Jim Vlna said today. Jackie came from the Cleveland Zoo in March 2008 with two other female chimps. Here, she was reunited with male chimp Jimbo. Jackie and Jimbo had had two offspring in Cleveland. The Species Survival Plan recommended Jimbo, 30, and Jackie become parents again and it was hoped that her offspring would be companions to young George. George, born in July 2008, is the first chimpanzee born at the Knoxville Zoo in 20 years. His father is Jimbo; his mother is a female chimp named Daisy. Jackie’s death leaves the Chimp Ridge exhibit with seven apes.

    California Mountain Yellow-Legged Frogs Hibernate at Institute for Conservation Research

    March 5, 2010  www.latimes.com  By Louis Sahagun

    California mountain yellow-legged frogs thrived for thousands of years in hundreds of streams in the San Gabriel, San Bernardino and San Jacinto mountains. But since the 1960s, the species has been decimated by fires, mudslides, pesticides, fungal infections, loss of habitat, and competition from nonnative trout, bullfrogs and crayfish. Today, fewer than 200 are believed to exist in nine isolated wild populations, including a group in the San Gabriel Mountains' Devils Canyon that survived last year's devastating Station fire. The San Diego Zoo's recovery program for the California mountain yellow-legged frog was launched in the summer of 2006, with 82 tadpoles rescued from a drying creek in the San Bernardino National Forest. Two years later, researchers at the zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research, where they are housed, discovered a clutch of 200 eggs in one of their tanks. However, the frogs were younger than is typical for breeding and only a handful of the eggs were fertile. The Institute became the first to breed a yellow-legged frog in captivity when one of those eggs produced a tadpole that matured into a still-surviving adult. Now the institute has 61 frogs, including 16 females that they have refrigerated to induce hibernation. Jeffrey Lemm, research coordinator said, "A month from now, there could be as many as 6,000 tadpoles. [Each female produces 200-300 eggs] Eventually, we may have thousands of adult frogs in self-sustaining populations for the first time in half a century."

    The frog’s mating behavior is the focus of research technician Frank Santana’s master's thesis project. When the frogs mate, sperm and eggs are released simultaneously. Tadpoles emerge from the fertilized eggs about three weeks later. In the wild, only 3% to 5% mature into adult frogs, but in the laboratory, with daily water changes and meals of frozen lettuce and fish food, the success rate is much higher. All the tadpoles produced in the laboratory will be reintroduced into a mountain stream that the U.S. Geological Survey biologists have determined is free of predators. The recovery effort has been funded by the California Department of Transportation to mitigate for emergency work to stabilize a slope near the frog's habitat on California 330 in the San Bernardino Mountains. The Fresno Chaffee Zoo recently received about 100 tadpoles rescued last summer from the Station fire area. The Los Angeles Zoo and the Living Desert in Palm Desert will each get 10 adult frogs for captive breeding purposes. Federal authorities are also developing measures to reduce the effect of human activities in areas where the yellow-legged frog is still found and may be reintroduced. That includes a remote stretch of Tahquitz Creek in the San Jacinto Wilderness near Idyllwild, where two yellow-legged frogs were discovered last year.

    Giraffe Born at Riverbanks Zoo

    March 5, 2010  www.thestate.com  By JOEY HOLLEMAN

    COLUMBIA, South Carolina -- A male giraffe was born during the February 12-13 snowstorm at the Riverbanks Zoo. This is the third baby giraffe for the zoo in the past year and brings Riverbanks' giraffe population to seven. The little guy, whose name will be decided in an online auction, is allowed out into the public exhibit on days when temperatures near 60 degrees. Charlie is the father to all three, but they have different mothers - Sharon for Lewis, Krissy for Vivian and Ginger for the new boy.This is the 18th giraffe birth at Riverbanks since it opened in 1974, but there were none between 2000 and 2009. Charlie was brought to Riverbanks in 2005 from a Kansas zoo in hopes he would be a good father as he grew up. The birth went smoothly, and the baby quickly began nursing on his mother.

    No Endangered Status for Sage Grouse

    March 5, 2010  www.nytimes.com 

    WASHINGTON — The Interior Department has determined that the greater sage grouse, found in the high plains of the American West, is facing extinction but will not be designated as an endangered species for now. According to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, other species were facing more imminent threats, leading the government to assign the bird a status known as “warranted but precluded.” The bird will be placed on the list of “candidate species” for future inclusion on the list and its status will be reviewed yearly. Residential building and energy development have shrunk the sage grouse habitat over the past several decades, causing its population in 11 Western states to dwindle from an estimated 16 million 100 years ago to 200,000 to 500,000 today. A group of lawmakers from Western states had strongly urged Mr. Salazar to keep the sage grouse off the endangered species list, saying that the states had made significant progress in protecting its habitat. They said adding the bird to the list would hurt ranchers and energy producers who need access to sagebrush-covered lands that would be off limits under the listing. Brian Rutledge, Rocky Mountain regional director for the Audubon Society, said, “We’ve already achieved 50 percent total destruction of the sagebrush ecosystem and a large part of what’s left we’ve seriously compromised."

    One Health Initiative

    March 5, 2010  www.onehealthinitiative.com

    The One Health Initiative is a movement to forge a collaborations between physicians, veterinarians, and other scientific-health related disciplines. It is a worldwide strategy for
    expanding interdisciplinary collaborations and communications in all aspects of health care for humans and animals. The One Health Web site has a growing reference collection of publications and a newsletter archive dating back to 2008.

    Editorial on Biodiversity Conservation

    March 5, 2010  www.sciencemag.org

    Julia Marton-Lefèvre, director general of the IUCN, has written an editorial in the journal Science titled “Biodiversity is our life”. The IUCN documents the extinction risk of 47,677 species: 17,291 are threatened, including 12% of birds, 21% of mammals, 30% of amphibians, 27% of reef-building corals, and 35% of conifers and cycads. Tracking extinction risk over time through this index reveals even worse news, with dramatic declines in many groups, notably amphibians and corals. The Living Planet Index reveals that populations of wild species have declined by 30% since 1970; mangrove forests have lost a fifth of their area since 1980, and 29% of seagrass beds are gone. This biodiversity loss has grim consequences for humanity. According to The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity study in 2009, half the welfare of the world's 1.1 billion poorest people flows directly from nature, through benefits including wild harvest, crop pollination, disaster mitigation, clean water provision, and maintenance of traditional cultures. The study estimates the total global annual economic cost of biodiversity loss, where it can be measured, to be between 1.35 and 3.1 trillion U.S. dollars. In addition, destruction of tropical forests (shrinking by 6 million hectares each year) is responsible for nearly a fifth of greenhouse gas emissions, driving climate change. Biodiversity loss deprives our descendants of currently unknown but potentially vast benefits. And in the sense that it cuts off humanity from the wonders of nature, the loss ultimately makes us less human.

    The good news: Conservation has centuries-old roots, and it works. The recent toll of bird extinctions would have been 25% greater in the absence of conservation action. Protected areas are expanding worldwide, and they can prevent or reverse natural habitat destruction. The world's zoos, aquaria, botanic gardens, and gene banks provide insurance for species and genetic diversity. She advocates a strengthened global science-policy interface, such as the proposed Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. And more financial support, especially for developing countries. Innovative funding mechanisms for ecosystem services—such as climate change mitigation through forest conservation [known as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD. Each of the 30 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development should contribute 0.2% of its gross domestic product for biodiversity conservation in developing countries, in addition to its 0.5% commitment for development assistance. Such funding could be freed up through the removal of misappropriated economic and environmental subsidies, and would yield several hundred billion dollars annually.

    Importance of Long-term Field Studies

    March 5, 2010  www.sciencemag.org  By Tim Clutton-Brock & Ben Sheldon

    Successful long-term field studies, like those of chimpanzees at Gombe and Mahale, gorillas at Karisoke, savannah baboons at Amboseli, and Japanese macaques at Arashiyama, provide many of the best opportunities for novel, innovative research on primate ecology and behavior. Many of these studies are now collaborative ventures involving multiple scientists from separate disciplines and universities, who can together draw on detailed records of the life histories of large samples of individuals. The protracted presence of scientists at particular sites also contributes to the conservation of study populations and their habitats. Long-term, individual-based studies are not restricted to primates, however; most involve birds or mammals, and only a few have focused on fish, reptiles, and amphibians. Despite extensive interest in the evolution of insect societies, few studies of social insects have yet been able to track the full careers of reproductive individuals. The longest-running field studies are of passerine birds and were started in the Netherlands in the 1930s. Several long-term studies of seabirds, wildfowl, ungulates, carnivores, and primates have been running since the late 1950s and early 1960s, producing vital insights into the causes of population declines and responses to climate change. Among mammals other than primates, long-term individual-based studies of African lions, elephant seals, wild sheep, African elephants, red deer, and marmots have been running for over three decades. Some studies now provide records of the full life histories of several thousand individuals spanning multiple generations and offer opportunities to investigate biological questions that are not yet accessible in primates. Multigenerational pedigrees that can be used to assess the relative contributions of genotype and environment to individual differences now exist for an increasing number of birds and mammals, and modern genomic approaches have also started to yield new insights. However, their application requires the existence of extensive phenotypic and ecological data, and there are no short-cuts to obtaining these data.

    Endangered Frogs Chilled To Spur Breeding

    March 6, 2010  news.nationalgeographic.com

    In an effort to encourage breeding in a critically endangered frog, scientists at the San Diego Zoo's Institute for Conservation Research have placed 24 mountain yellow-legged frogs into refrigerators. "The cold temperatures mimic high-elevation winter conditions that cause the frogs to hibernate. Typically, mountain yellow-legged frogs display mating behaviors after emerging from hibernation," the zoo explained in a news statement yesterday. U.S. Geological Survey scientists found this adult mountain yellow-legged frog last year in a rediscovered population of the endangered frog in the San Jacinto Wilderness, San Bernardino National Forest, California. This re-discovery -- along with the San Diego Zoo's first successful breeding of the frog in captivity, and successful efforts by California Department of Fish and Game to restore frog habitat -- renews hope of survival for this Southern California amphibian, USGS said. This is the first time the mountain yellow-legged frog has been put into a refrigerated unit to induce breeding. In 2009 the San Diego Zoo was the first to successfully breed the mountain yellow-legged frog in captivity after a slight chilling of their water, the zoo said.

    In their native habitat, the female mountain yellow-legged frog lays eggs as soon as the snow begins to melt. A female mountain yellow-legged frog can lay up to 200 eggs that hatch into tadpoles three weeks later. The frogs at the San Diego Zoo's Institute for Conservation Research were put into the refrigerated units, which are beverage coolers being used as hibernacula, on January 1, 2010. After the frogs have hibernated for a few months in 40-degree temperature, San Diego Zoo scientists will begin to raise the temperature a degree a day to slowly warm them back up. Scientists expect to move the frogs to an area of the lab for breeding at the beginning of April. There are about 200 of the federally endangered mountain yellow-legged adult frogs remaining in the San Gabriel, San Bernardino and the San Jacinto mountains of Southern California, said Adam Backlin, an ecologist for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Sixty-one more live at the San Diego Zoos Institute for Conservation Research. The goal of the breeding program at the Institute for Conservation Research is to return frogs to their native habitat. The breeding at the San Diego Zoo's Institute for Conservation Research is a part of a collaborative effort to save the species by organizations including USGS, California Department of Transportation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, University of California, California Department of Fish and Game, and the Fresno Chaffee Zoo. The Zoo's breeding program, in conjunction with its partners, began in 2006 after a forest service biologist with the San Jacinto Ranger District discovered pools where the frogs had been living that were drying up. A USGS team rescued 82 tadpoles, which were taken to the San Diego Zoo's Institute for Conservation Research, the zoo said.

    Indonesian Government's ‘Aceh Green’ Plan

    March 7, 2010  www.nytimes.com

    Five years after an earthquake and tsunami destroyed much of Aceh Province, killing 170,000 people, the provincial government has begun to institute a strategy of economic development.  It aims to incorporate sustainable development, integrate former rebel combatants into society and create jobs that fulfill the goal of the former separatist movement: ensuring that revenue from natural resources benefits local people. The Aceh Green program, although still in its early stages, has already yielded some results. Hundreds of former rebels, who know the Ulu Masen jungle  better than anyone, are being trained and recast as forest rangers by Fauna and Flora International, one of the oldest international environmental groups in Aceh. The new rangers trek through the woods, armed with compasses and climbing rope, on the lookout for illegal loggers and poachers. The rangers are picked by their local communities and act as an independent group supplementing an existing but small forest police force — their former adversaries. The former rebels are trained for 10 days by Fauna and Flora International. These guys are going from outcasts and criminals to heroes. They are becoming our eyes and ears. They let us know what is going on in very remote parts of the jungle, places that are normally very difficult to monitor.”

    Aceh Green is the brainchild of Gov. Irwandi Yusuf, who is a former rebel as well as an American-trained veterinarian and founder of Fauna and Flora International’s Aceh branch. In February 2008, Ulu Masen became the first forest to be internationally recognized as protected under the United Nations program called REDD, for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries. The system allows rich countries to offset their carbon output by paying poor countries to preserve their forests. The project could net Aceh an estimated $26 million in carbon credits if it can successfully protect the entire 1.9-million-acre Ulu Masen jungle. Aceh, which covers the northern tip of Sumatra Island and supports a population of more than four million, has some of the world’s richest stores of natural wealth, including natural gas, oil, coal, gold, iron, copper, tin and hardwood timber. It was the struggle to control revenue from these natural resources that prompted the long-running separatist rebellion. Now, the provincial government, empowered by a 2005 peace agreement that gives it limited autonomy from Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, hopes to extract those resources in a sustainable manner and for the benefit of its residents. Critics say that although Aceh Green is a good idea, the province lacks the government infrastructure and overall will power to make it effective.

    John Thorbjarnarson, WCS Croc Expert Dies from Malaria

    March 7, 2010  www.nytimes.com 

    Dr. Thorbjarnarson, a herpetologist, died at the age of 52 on Feb. 15 in New Delhi. The Wildlife Conservation Society, his employer, said he had contracted malaria while studying the dwarf crocodile in Uganda. He died of the disease after coming to India to speak to a wildlife group. One of the world’s leading experts on crocodiles and alligators, he also came up with strategies to help preserve crocodilian species that were on the verge of extinction when he went to work a quarter century ago. Then, 20 of 23 species teetered on the edge of oblivion. Now, seven do.
    Moreover, his contributions to understanding Orinoco crocodiles in northern Venezuela and the Chinese alligator and the black caiman in the Amazon have given tentative hope that these nearly extinct species may have a chance. Dr. Thorbjarnarson helped preserve habitats for these and other species, often by helping to convince farmers and other native peoples that they have a real stake in the animals’ survival — sometimes by allowing controlled hunting. In 2004, the World Conservation Union awarded its Castillo Prize for crocodilian conservation to Dr. Thorbjarnarson for “multiple and long-term efforts in global crocodilian conservation.” He is the author of scores of academic papers, and his second book, on Chinese alligators, is to be published in April.

    National Zoo Works to Save Virginia Bat

    March 7, 2010  www.zandavisitor.com  By Lindsay Mayer [see March 12 Washington Post article]

    FRONT ROYAL, VA -- An estimated million bats have died in the Northeastern United States from white-nose syndrome, a disease characterized by a white cold-loving fungus that invades the skin of the bat (mainly the muzzle, ears and wings). The bats lose their fat reserves and ultimately starve. Last November, the National Zoo accepted 40 endangered Virginia big-eared bats (Corynorhinus townsendii virginianus) and formed a bat care team made up of biologists, husbandry and animal care specialists, veterinarians and a nutritionist who relied on protocols developed by the Virginia Big-Eared Bat Group convened by FWS. The SCBI team worked around the clock to care for, and learn from, the colony. “We expected some of the feeding challenges,” said David Wildt, head of the National Zoo’s Species Survival Center. “But we were surprised to learn how sensitive this particular subspecies of bat is. Even the smallest change in environment or husbandry practices seemed to affect the ability of the bats to adapt to their new environment.”  Over the past four months, the majority of the bats have died; 11 bats remain in the National Zoo’s colony. The researchers found that bats learned to eat from the bowl faster when confined in a small enclosure for a few hours. While some successfully learned to eat meal worms out of pans, others did not. Some of the bats that ate mealworms did not adequately groom themselves, which resulted in dermatitis (inflammation of the skin). Others developed foot, toe and digit problems that, in part, may have caused deadly bacterial infections that spread rapidly through the blood stream despite aggressive treatments with antibiotics and fluids. In the future, scientists can use this information to better provide for the needs of the subspecies in captivity, their enclosures and medical care. The USFWS's National White-Nose Syndrome Coordinator Jeremy Coleman said  “Developing a successful captive breeding program is a reasonable precautionary step to ensuring the long-term viability of the subspecies. The Smithsonian’s National Zoo was the only organization to accept the challenge of this risky, groundbreaking, but essential endeavor.”

    Cobra Venom Analysis

    March 7, 2010  www.eurekalert.org

    Researchers have been studying King Cobra venom for over 50 years but new compounds are still being identified. Cobra venom is a complex cocktail of biological molecules that can change composition depending on the environment, the season or even the snake's diet. The venom primarily acts on neurotransmitter receptors which regulate communication between nerve cells or between nerves and muscles, resulting in symptoms such as paralysis and respiratory failure. The latest discovery is a novel protein named haditoxin which is described in the March 12 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry by Professor Manjunatha Kini from the National University of Singapore and Dr S. Niru Nirthanan, now at Griffith University on the Gold Coast. While not every new toxin will convert directly into a clinically useful drug, Dr. Nirthanan said there was potential for haditoxin to be a lead compound or template from which to design other drugs. "Because of the high specificity of these toxins, haditoxin may also be useful as a 'molecular probe' which will help us study neurotransmitter receptors and their role in disease."

    Unborn Elephant Calf Dies at Taronga Zoo

    March 8, 2010 www.abc.net.au   [see March 10 for birth announcement]

    SYDNEY, Australia -- 18-year-old Asian elephant Porntip was in and out of labor over the past week, but zookeepers and veterinarians became concerned when she began showing unusual movements and behavior. Taronga Zoo's director Cameron Kerr says the calf was in the wrong position to move down the birth canal, and an ultrasound this morning indicated it had died. Mr Kerr said Porntip still has to give birth to the calf which could take weeks or even months. Originally used to give tourist rides in Thailand, Porntip is described as the matriarch of the group at Taronga. The zoo says she has come through her ordeal well and is in good spirits and health. She is the second Asian elephant to become pregnant at the zoo. In July last year, Luk Chai was born to another of the zoo's Asian elephants, Thong Dee. 

    Saving Wild Tiger Populations

    March 8, 2010  www.nytimes.com  by Bill Marsh

    The global wild tiger population is believed to have fallen to below 3,000 — less than 3 percent of what it was 100 years ago. Their range is fragmented, isolating many of the animals in genetically impoverished groups of dozens of cats or fewer. In India, some famous tiger reserves have no tigers left at all.  Alan Rabinowitz, head of Panthera, a group devoted to big cat preservation, blames, in part, the numerous tiger organizations that are competing for donors when they should be concentrating on protecting the most promising populations and fighting poachers. Despite millions raised and spent in the last decade, wild tigers may have declined by half over that time. China banned trade in tiger products in 1993, but illegal demand there remains high and is the greatest driver of poaching. China periodically has considered lifting the ban to allow some of its tiger farms to provide parts to meet domestic demand for medicinal tiger products. Ronald Tilson, a director at the Minnesota Zoo and a tiger authority, believes that more tiger products increase demand, because consumers prefer wild ones for what is believed to be their greater potency. There are an estimated 5,000 captive tigers in China and another 8,000 worldwide. In Texas alone, there are more tigers in captivity than in the wild globally.  What’s being done: Last month, Thailand hosted a meeting of concerned Asian nations. This week a major conference — the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)— begins in Qatar, and a “summit” is planned for Vladivostok, in September, hosted by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of Russia and the president of the World Bank. Putin has taken an especially active interest in the Amur sub-species, also known as the Siberian tiger. Visitors to his Web site can track the movements of a female he collared with a transmitting device in 2008.

    Jack Hanna’s New Road Show

    March 8, 2010  www.bizjournals.com

    COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. has signed on as a sponsor of Jack Hanna’s wildlife television show and a months-long U.S. speaking tour. The company is the presenting sponsor of the “Into the Wild Live tour”, which stops in Nationwide Arena Thursday for Columbus Zoo Night before making its way around the nation through June. Nationwide has been a long-time backer of the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium, where Hanna arrived in 1978 as executive director. He left in 1992 but has since held the title of director emeritus. The insurer has given financial support to zoo exhibitions including the American Bald Eagle exhibit and the new Polar Frontier, set to open this spring. More information is at www.jackhanna.com and www.jhitw.com.

    Killer Whale Intelligence Analyses

    March 8, 2010  articles.orlandosentinel.com

    Killer whales, or orcas, have the second-biggest brains among all ocean mammals, weighing as much as 15 pounds. It's not clear whether they have as many memory cells as humans, but they are amazingly well-wired for sensing and analyzing their environment. Scientists are trying to better understand how killer whales are able to learn local dialects, teach one another specialized methods of hunting and pass on behaviors that can persist for generations -- longer possibly than seen with any other species except humans. Human interaction with captive killer whales has come under scrutiny since February 24, when a large male orca with a checkered past killed a trainer at SeaWorld Orlando by dragging her into a tank. "I'm not trying to second-guess what was in this particular whale's mind," said neuroscientist Lori Marino, part of the Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology Program at Emory University in Atlanta. "But, certainly, if we are talking about whether killer whales have the wherewithal and the cognitive capacity to intentionally strike out at someone, or to be angry, or to really know what they are doing, I would have to say the answer is yes."
    The three groups of killer whales studied have starkly different diets, languages, hunting techniques and manners of behaving around other marine life, and they don't seem to interact much with one another. "If they didn't have the same paint jobs, you'd call them different species," said Brad Hanson, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration biologist in Seattle. Yet their DNA is incredibly similar and their enormous brains could be responsible. In 2001 Hal Whitehead, a biology professor at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, co-authored a paper that suggested no species other than humans are as "cultural" as orcas. "A cultural species starts behaving differently than a species where everything is determined genetically," he said. Equally remarkable to researchers is the orca's ability to communicate with whistles and pulsed calls, and to "see" by making a clicking sound that works like sonar. Many cetaceans -- whales, dolphins and porpoises included -- have these abilities to some degree. But orcas learn local and complex languages that are retained for many generations. And their bio-sonar, or echolocation, abilities also amaze researchers. Sam Ridgway, a neurobiologist and research veterinarian at San Diego's National Marine Mammal Foundation, which works for the Navy, said the orca brain has a relatively smaller amount of cerebral cortex -- the gray matter involved in memory, attention and thought -- than the human brain does. But it has large-diameter myelinated axons, which carry nerve impulses.

    Second Ultrasound for National Zoo Panda

    March 8, 2010  www.nbcwashington.com  By KELVIN ROBINSON

    Mei Xiang had her second ultrasound Monday morning but there was no sign of a fetus, according to the Washington Post. The Zoo artificially inseminated her in January. Zoo scientists said that's not a definitive "no." It could be weeks before there's any sign of a little cub. For now, they are continuing to monitor her condition to establish future data. This could be the zoo's last chance to breed Mei Xiang and 12-year-old Tian Tian. The pair is on a 10-year loan from China that expires later this year.

    Visitor Loses Fingers To Bear At Lincoln Park Zoo

    March 8, 2010  www.nydailynews.com

    Last Friday, a 47-year-old Wisonsin woman, who had been drinking, ignored warning signs at the Lincoln Park Zoo, and put her hand through a fence to feed an Asiatic black bear. She lost a thumb and forefinger, while her middle and ring fingers were partially severed. The woman's boyfriend suffered minor bites as he tried to save her. Officials were unable to identify which of the bears - Moe or Honey - was involved and state law requires the biting victims to take rabies vaccines or for the zoo to euthanize the bears. The pair chose to pay for the vaccines rather than replacing the bears. The Zoo was forced to close for the afternoon.

    Musk Oxen Decline Due to Climate

    March 8, 2010  www.science.psu.edu

    A team of scientists has discovered that the drastic decline in Arctic musk ox populations that began roughly 12,000 years ago was due to a warming climate rather than to human hunting.  "This is the first study to use ancient musk ox DNA collected from across the animal's former geographic range to test for human impacts on musk ox populations," said Beth Shapiro, of Penn State University and one of the team's leaders. Musk oxen once were plentiful across the entire Northern Hemisphere, but they now exist almost solely in Greenland and number only about 80,000 to 125,000. The team's findings will be published in the 8 March 2010 issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    Afghanistan Expands Endangered Species List

    March 8, 2010  www.scientificamerican.com  by John Platt

    Nine months after it created its first list of protected endangered species, the government of Afghanistan has added 15 more to the list, including the large-billed reed warbler (Acrocephalus orinus). It had only been observed in nature twice—once back in 1867—before its nesting habitat was found in Afghanistan in 2006. The 15 newly protected species were evaluated by the new Afghanistan Wildlife Executive Committee, which includes among its advisors the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). Peter Zahler, deputy director of WCS's Asia Program, said, "Afghanistan's National Environment Protection Agency has shown a strong commitment to conserving its natural heritage—even during these challenging times." The 14 other newly protected species are:

    Bactrian deer (Cervus elaphus bactrianus)
    Blanford's fox (Vulpes cana)
    Dalmatian pelican (Pelecanus crispus)
    East Himalayan fir (Abies spectabilis)
    eastern barbastelle (Barbastella leucomela)
    eastern imperial eagle (Aquila heliacal)
    goitered gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa)
    Indian gazelle (G. bennetti)
    marbled teal (Marmaronetta angustirostris)
    Mehely's horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus mehelyi)
    Pallas's fish eagle (Haliaeetus leucoryphus)
    sociable lapwing (Vanellus gregarious)
    stone marten (Martes foina)
    white-rumped vulture (Gyps bengalensis)
    Afghanistan now protects 48 species.

    New Documentary On Desert Tortoise Survival

    March 8, 2010  www.usgs.gov 

    The Mojave Desert tortoise population has severely declined over the last four decades. A new USGS documentary, titled “The Heat is On: Desert Tortoises and Survival” explains why this important indicator of desert ecosystem health is declining and what scientists are doing to save them. Mojave tortoises were first listed as ‘Threatened’ in 1990. Declines are due to habitat loss associated with urban development, utility corridors, highway mortality, off-road vehicle use and recreational activities. Also, populations of predators like coyotes and ravens have grown exponentially, subsidized by human food sources. Power lines provide artificial nesting perches for ravens, and invasive plant species compete for scarce resources and fuel fires that destroy the habitat. Diseases, such as upper respiratory tract disease, have also played a major role in tortoise declines. USGS tortoise research focuses on these habitat changes, as well as diet, diseases, reproduction and the impacts of climate change. Results from this work are guiding recovery efforts led by the USFWS’s Desert Tortoise Recovery Office. Data are also being used to create habitat suitability models, which give a range-wide sense of tortoise habitat. The 30 minute film is at pubs.usgs.gov. 

    Mountain Gorilla Tourism Possibility

    March 9, 2010  www.guardian.co.uk  By David Smith

    There are 720 mountain gorillas left in the wild in Congo, Rwanda and Uganda, but this is an increase from 650 five years ago. "The gorillas are doing much better now than 14 months ago," said Samantha Newport, spokeswoman for Virunga park, adding that rangers had regained control of the gorilla sector from armed rebels in 2008. Last year the park began offering gorilla tracking to foreign tourists, attracting about 100 a month from countries including Australia, America, Brazil, Britain, Italy, South Africa and Spain. Visitors pay to walk through the forests with a professional tracker and observe the primates in their natural habitat. Local activists hope that a period of relative political and military stability in eastern Congo could turn it into a tourist destination, rivalling the more established tracking tours in neighboring Rwanda and Uganda. Henry Cirhuza, DRC programme manager of the Gorilla Organisation, a UK charity, said, "It's easier to track gorillas here in the DRC. In Rwanda and Uganda you need to book six months before, whereas here you can book today and go tomorrow. It costs $400 here instead of $500 there. You can spend one hour tracking here, whereas in Uganda it can take all day. And tourism is the best way to bring money to the population here." But while there are tentative signs of declining violence in Africa's oldest national park, grave challenges remain. Poachers still roam here. Several armed groups still live, cook and train in the park. As the death of Nsekanabo last month demonstrated, gorillas still lose their hands, or their lives, in snares intended to catch other animals. The latest and biggest danger to the gorillas comes from deforestation caused by the relentless demand for charcoal, on which local people are highly dependent for fuel to boil water and cook food. Park officials are attempting to combat the trade by distributing kits to local communities to manufacture biomass briquettes from plant waste as a cheaper alternative to charcoal.

    Two Snow Leopards Move to Seneca Park Zoo

    March 9, 2010  www.democratandchronicle.com  By VICTORIA E. FREILE

    ROCHESTER, NY -- A pair of young snow leopard sibings (one male and one female) will be on display at the Seneca Park Zoo by mid-May, said Director Larry Sorel. They will come from the Los Angeles Zoo in late April or early May, and will occupy an outdoor habitat on the east side of the main zoo building. After one or two years, one of the siblings will be relocated for breeding purposes and another snow leopard will be brought to the Rochester in that animal’s place, he said. The pair from California are related to a former famous zoo resident, a snow leopard named Jeramiah, who lived at the zoo in the late 80s and early 90s.

    Decoding the Orangutan’s Long Call

    March 9, 2010  www.physorg.com 

    An acoustic analysis of the long calls of three male orangutans was published today in the journal Ethology. The international team of researchers, led by Prof. Dr. Carel van Schaik from the University of Zurich, followed three sexually active males 'Niko', 'Kentung' and 'Fugit' from a nature reserve in Tuanan, Borneo. The research area covered 750 hectares of heavily logged peat swamp forest where the average Orangutan density is 4.25 per square kilometre. "Orangutans have a rich repertoire of calls, however only sexually mature, flanged males emit long-distance calls with a series of long booming pulses and grumbles which can be heard through over 1 km of dense jungle," said co-author Dr Brigitte Spillmann. Frequently the males would emit spontaneous calls where there is no obvious prompt identified by the observers. They would also call out in an aroused state in response to social prompts, such as another male's long call, when a tree falls nearby and when the caller pushes over a tree themselves. Tree pushing is known as 'snag crashing', when the caller pushes over a dead tree in a noisy display of dominant behavior, comparable to chest beating in gorillas. If a flanged male hears a tree falling nearby, this may suggest a rival male is 'snag crashing' and can lead to a long call being given in response. Long calls emitted in an aroused state are slightly faster, have pulses of shorter duration and contain more pulses and bubbles than spontaneously emitted calls. After observing these categories of behavior, the team also analyzed how female orangutans respond to the long calls. Bornean females recognize not only who is calling, as in previous research, but also clear differences in the acoustic characteristics of long calls emitted in different contexts. The team monitored the responses between a calling male and a female who had heard the call but was not associated with the caller. Females with dependent offspring moved away from spontaneous calls whereas a small sample of sexually active females seem to approach the caller. When an aroused long call was heard females appeared to ignore the caller. However the cost to the caller goes up if there is a more dominant male eavesdropper who may respond, concluded Spillman. "Long calls given in response to a disturbance are likely intended to repel rivals or potential predators, which accounts for the females' lack of reaction compared to spontaneous long calls. Females are able to tell the difference between the types of long call and they react accordingly."

    How The Chameleon Tongue Works

    March 9, 2010  www.abc.net.au  by Jennifer Viegas

    In cold weather a chameleon’s metabolism slows down, but its tongue continues to work quickly to capture prey. A new study has found out why: the tongue does not rely on direct muscle contractions, and this mechanism is more resistant to cold than are muscles. Christopher Anderson and Dr Stephen Deban of the University of South Florida report on their chameleon feeding study in today’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The chameleon's near weatherproof tongue can exploit a wide range of environments as well as early morning peaks in prey activity even in the chilliest of alpine climates. The tongue works similar to a spring in a ballpoint pen, or a bow and arrow. In each case, a temperature-dependent muscle, or muscles, must initiate the mechanism, creating kinetic energy that then decouples from that first movement. This allows the spring, arrow or tongue to shoot out on its own momentum. "A chameleon's tongue travels at accelerations exceeding 400 meters per second squared, or about 41 Gs of force," said Christopher Anderson. “To put that into perspective, a space shuttle only develops about three Gs of force when it takes off.” Contraction of the chameleon's tongue accelerator muscle, which is wrapped in circular fashion around the rigid tongue bone, leads to "rapid elastic recoil of collagen tissue within the tongue". About the only thing that might stop this nearly 20-centimetre-long recoil is extremely hot weather. Normally, the tongue shoots out in less than the blink of an eye. Prey then adheres to the tongue due, in part, to a suction vacuum effect and a sticky mucus layer on the tongue that acts like super glue. The tongue rolls back into the mouth, carrying the stunned victim with it. The researchers suspect that toads and salamanders have equally near-weatherproof ballistic tongues.

    Paignton Zoo Elephant Euthanized Because of Feet Abscesses

    March 9, 2010  news.bbc.co.uk

    DEVON, U.K. -- Asian elephant, Gay, spent more than 30 years at the Paignton Zoo, arriving in 1977. She first developed abscesses on her front feet in 2008 but her back feet also became so infected last year she was given special shoes to wear. Neil Bemment, director of operations and mammals curator, said, "Our vet team and animal staff did absolutely everything they could. We tried a range of treatments and consulted any number of experts but it became clear that we had no option but to put her to sleep.” A post-mortem examination is being carried out on Gay, who also had arthritis, to allow vets learn more. The Zoo’s remaining elephant, Duchess, who came to the zoo with Gay has eyesight problems so another elephant will not be introduced for fear of her being bullied. A zoo spokesperson said it wouldn't be fair to move her to another zoo because it would be hard for her to find her way around because of her cataracts.

    Polar Bear Enrichment at S.F. Zoo

    March 9, 2010  www.sfexaminer.com  By KAMALA KELKAR

    Pike, Andy, and Ulu, polar bears in their 20s, frequently act lethargic in their grottoes that date back to the 1930s. The bears have been noticeably inactive for several years, prompting a recent report from Commission of Animal Control and Welfare Chairwoman Sally Stephens and veterinary adviser Joseph Spinelli to issue a report calling for the creation of a more-stimulating habitat. Stephens and Spinelli recommended that the zoo rotate the bears throughout the exhibits, expand their facilities or consider moving the animals entirely. The level of liveliness is both difficult and expensive to fix, said Bob Jenkins, vice president for the zoo’s institutional advancement. The zoo uses its entire $17 million budget to operate the facility, Jenkins said, and does not have any funds for capital improvements. As the zoo’s management strategizes how to afford bigger pools and a more-spacious residence for the senior bears, zookeepers are now trying to keep them entertained by letting the trio catch fresh fish, dig for blueberries or play with “toys,” usually frozen fish, to keep their brains active. And it's working. Visitors love to watch Pike and Andy slide across the ice while Ulu disguises herself as a brown bear in the dirt, Jenkins said. The average polar bears life span in the wild is 15 to 18 years in the wild, and 30+ years in captivity.

    Siberian Tiger Moves To Calgary Zoo

    March 9, 2010  www.cbc.ca  

    The Calgary Zoo has a new Siberian tiger, a large male named Baikal, from the Bronx Zoo. The move is part of AZA’s species survival plan. The zoo hopes to mate Baikal with Katja, a female tiger born at the Calgary Zoo in April, 2000. After a month in quarantine, Baikal is now in an enclosure with Katja, Vitali and Kita according to Tim Sinclair-Smith, a curator at the zoo. Siberian, or Amur tigers ( Panthera tigris altaicaare ) are classified as critically endangered by the IUCN, with about 300 to 400 living in the wild.

    Mesker Park Zoo’s ‘Natural’ Pest Control

    March 9, 2010  www.courierpress.com  by Rich Davis 

    Misty Minar, horticulturalist at Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden uses good bugs to fight bad bugs to protect the exotic plants and trees that were custom grown for their Amazonia exhibit. "We don't use pesticides because of the animals, which include a pair of popular jaguar cubs," She uses integrated pest management. These are her tools:
    - Ladybugs: Every couple of months, 9,000 to 18,000 of them are delivered from GreenMethods, a 17-year-old New Hampshire company that stockpiles ladybugs from the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. They control aphids and eat other soft-bodied pests.
    - Parasitic wasps are so tiny, they are barely visible. They sting scales and deposit their eggs in them. When the eggs hatch, the larvae eat the scale, emerge as adult wasps and the process starts over. Recently, to tackle the big Smoky Brown and Australian cockroaches that arrive via the plants, the zoo hung tiny tubes on various plants. Inside each tube were parasitic wasp-infected roach eggs. Once the wasps hatch, they eat the baby roaches in the egg case, then fly off to find other roach egg cases in Amazonia.
    - Mealybug destroyers are beetles that lay their eggs in the cottony masses of mealybugs. The larvae eat the mealybug.
    - A species of spider mite controls another more damaging species of spider mite without harming the plant.
    She also takes soft drink cans, paints them black, adds a little "cheap beer" to attract snails and position the "beer traps" out of public view. She'll also cover a small pickle jar with pantyhose (which helps the bug climb in), smear some Vaseline inside to prevent escape and add a little bread and beer to lure a roach or snail. To make coffee spray that helps control scales, she reuses the grounds. The grounds added to soil can also deter pests and be a good fertilizer. Another bug spray is made with one part rubbing alcohol and four parts water. Minar said preventive measures include inspecting plants before they enter Amazonia, removing pest-breeding sites and hosing down plants. To get an exact ID on the pest and develop the right "good bug" control, samples are sent to Purdue University's diagnostic laboratory.

    Genetics and Conservation Research

    March 9, 2010  www.usgs.gov

    Examples of state-of-the-art research by USGS scientists includes using genetics to determine population ranges, identifying wildlife implicated in maulings; studying the impacts of alternative energy development, identifying impacts of climate change and determining the inter-seasonal movement of birds. Genetic techniques are also used to develop wildlife vaccines to protect endangered species from disease. Projects and principle investigators are at www.usgs.gov

    New Palos Verde Blue Butterfly Habitat Established

    March 9, 2010  www.latimes.com 

    The thumbnail-sized Palos Verdes Blue butterfly lays eggs on just two kinds of plants: locoweed and deerweed. Their leaves are the only things its larvae can eat after hatching. The butterfly's life is short -- 5 or 10 days. So butterfly keepers thought it best to release 60 males and 20 females. "We wanted to have the maximum probability of mating," said Travis Longcore, science director of the Urban Wildlands Group. The butterfly's new Friendship Park habitat is the third in the wild since it was rescued from the brink of extinction in 1994. A sighting that year at a military fuel depot in San Pedro, Calif., was the first time in more than a decade that anyone had spotted a Palos Verdes blue. Since then, thousands have been bred in captivity, many of them at Moorpark College in Ventura County, and released each year at this time. The first habitat to be restored was at the fuel depot, where its estimated population has dipped to as low as 30, but risen to as high as 282. The second habitat restored was a few miles away at the Chandler Preserve, where the Palos Verdes Blue was reintroduced last year. Biologists were pleased to discover in recent days that it has returned to the preserve this season on its own. For the Friendship Park habitat, conservationists scattered the butterfly's favorite plants around eight acres. There are now as many as 10,000, even if most are still in captivity.

    Captive Lynx Threatened by Chronic Kidney Disease

    March 9, 2010  www.heraldsun.com.au

    Fewer than 200 Iberian lynxes are believed to remain in the wild, mostly in protected areas of southern Spain. The Lynx Conservation Program was launched in 2003, to breed the critically endangered cat in captivity. Reintroduction was to start this year, but now three of the 72 captive Iberian lynx have died since December from Chronic Kidney Disease. More than one third of the animals in the two breeding centers have also shown symptoms of CKD. Veterinarians "are working and consulting with experts to try to find the possible origin of the CKD, as well as trying to prevent the emergence of new cases. For now, the focus is on maintaining and providing palliative care to the high percentage of the population affected by this disease.''

    Maldives Bans Shark Fishing

    March 9, 2010  www.nytimes.com 

    PARIS — The Maldives will make its territorial waters into a shark sanctuary, becoming the second nation (after Palou) to announce blanket protection for its sharks. Both are top scuba-diving destinations. The Maldives exclusive economic zone covers about 35,000 square miles. Researchers from James Cook University in Australia last year estimated that a single gray reef shark was worth $3,300 a year to the Maldivian tourism industry, compared with the one-time value of $32 that a fisherman would get from the same shark. They found a similar dynamic with regard to sharks on the Great Barrier Reef. The rapid decline in global shark stocks has alarmed scientists. Up to 30 percent of shark species are threatened with extinction, said Matt Rand, director of global shark conservation at the Pew Environment Group. “If we don’t leave enough in the water, they won’t recover.” On Saturday, member nations of the CITES begin meeting in Doha, Qatar, where they will consider giving protected status to eight species of sharks, including the scalloped hammerhead and oceanic whitetip, which inhabit Maldivian waters. In the United States, the Shark Conservation Act, which would sharply curtail the practice of “finning” — cutting off sharks’ fins and throwing the rest of the animal back into the sea — has passed the House of Representatives and is awaiting approval in the Senate.

    India’s NIO Breeds Yellow Seahorses

    March 9, 2010  www.ptinews.com   By Rupesh Samant

    Panaji, India -- Yellow seahorses have been successfully bred in captivity at Goa-based ocean research laboratory. The experiment which began in late 2008 at NIO's Aqua Nursing Home was successfully closed in February 2010, after the first batch of F2 generation juveniles of seahorses were observed after 382 days of growth. This will permit the development of small-scale aquaculture farms by seahorse fishermen, as a viable alternative to capturing wild seahorses.

    Taronga Elephant Calf is Unexpectedly Born

    March 10, 2010  au.news.yahoo.com

    A male elephant calf was born early on Wednesday after being declared dead in his mother's uterus. During the complicated labor process he had turned upside down, which would have made birth impossible, according to Taronga Zoo staff. Dr Thomas Hildebrandt, an authority on elephant births from the Berlin Institute of Zoo and Wildlife Health, performed a series of ultrasound scans and medical examinations and failed to detect any signs of life. Days later matriarch Porntip delivered the 100kg calf. "We believe now that the traumatic [6-day] labor may have induced a state of coma in the calf," said zoo director Cameron Kerr. Taronga’s senior veterinarian, Dr Larry Vogelnest said the elephant's unconscious state "would explain the complete absence of any vital signs during all the checks and examinations." The zoo's birthing team of about a dozen keepers and veterinarians is now working around the clock to support the calf who is described as “very weak” through the critical first hours and days of life. He managed to take his first steps in between sleeps by lunchtime on Wednesday. He also consumed several liters of colostrum, a protein and antibody-rich milk secreted by mammals for a short period after giving birth to protect babies against disease. His mother, who was artificially inseminated 22 months ago, is doing well. "Porntip is already showing signs of being an excellent mother, trying to help him suckle, although he hasn't quite managed it yet," Vogelnest said. The calf will remain in the zoo's heated elephant barn while he is given intensive care by the elephant birth team, and will not be visible to zoo visitors. Porntip, along with the zoo's other Asian elephants, Pak Boon, Tang Mo, Thong Dee and eight-month-old Luk Chai, were gently caressing the newborn with their trunks, and were in a calm state.

    Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumor Disease Immunity

    March 10, 2010  www.abc.net.au  By Dani Cooper

    Tasmanian devils could face extinction within the next 25 to 35 years due to the emergence of a contagious cancer, the devil facial tumor disease (DFTD). DFTD has affected more than 70 per cent of the state's total devil population, including the entire eastern half of Tasmania where it is invariably fatal, and has wiped out more than 90 per cent of the population. But researchers from the universities of Tasmania and Sydney report in the Proceedings of the Royal Society that Tasmanian devils in the north-west of Tasmania may be potentially resistant to the the disease. Their recent study of DNA samples collected from about 400 animals confirms that Tasmanian devils in the geographically isolated north-west of the state are genetically different. The difference is in the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes, which in humans help stop rejection of organs in organ transplantation. This is critical in the spread of the DFTD because it is transmitted like a skin graft or transplant - most likely passed on by biting - rather than developing in each individual animal. Professor Kathy Belov of Sydney and colleague Menna Jones of Tasmania believe the difference in the MHC gene of the north-west population of devils means their immune systems "should be able to see the cancer and start a response to fight it". This theory is supported by the arrival of the DFTD at West Pencil Pine in Tasmania's north-west. Anecdotal evidence from field studies shows that in the three years the disease has been present in the region, only 26 devils have caught the disease and all have the eastern MHC genotype.

    Endangered Species Permit Applications

    March 10, 2010  www.gpoaccess.gov

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service invites the public to comment on an application for a permit amendment, which would allow Service employees and their designated agents to conduct enhancement of survival activities for a plant that was recently added to the List of Endangered and Threatened Plants (Phyllostegia hispida). To ensure consideration, please send your written comments by April 9, 2010.  Send to Program Manager, Endangered Species, Ecological Services, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 911 NE 11th Avenue, Portland, OR 97232-4181.
    For further information contact: Linda Belluomini, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, at the above address or by telephone (503) 231-6131.

    Permit No. TE-702631. Applicant: Regional Director, Region 1, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Portland, Oregon. The permittee requests a permit amendment to allow Service employees, and their designated agents to remove/reduce to possession Phyllostegia hispida (no common name), a plant endemic to the island of Molokai, Hawaii. The purpose of these activities is to artificially propagate this species to enhance its chances of survival.

    First Condor Egg at Pinnacles in 100 Years

    March 10, 2010  www.sfgate.com

    A nest with a single egg was found recently in a cave on top of a cliff known to rock climbers as Resurrection Wall, on the west side of the park. The egg belongs to 7-year-old condors 317 and 318. Female 317 was released in the park in 2004, and is one of 26 condors who now reside in and around the Pinnacles. Her mate is from a flock that hangs out along the Big Sur coast. The pair was first spotted in February displaying feathers, and performing other courtship rituals. Biologists tracked them to their nest using radio telemetry and global positioning technology and confirmed the egg. "Condors historically called the Pinnacles home, but because of the declining population the birds have not nested in the park in 100 years," said Carl Brenner, the chief of interpretation and education for the national monument, which is in the Gabilan Mountains about 30 miles south of Salinas. Beginning in 1991, condors have been reintroduced in California, Arizona and Baja California. There are now 348 condors in the wild and another 161 in captive breeding centers. The goal is to eventually have 150 free-flying birds and 15 breeding pairs in both California and Arizona, but there are still many hurdles.

    Laurie Marker & Stuart Pimm Receive Tyler Prize

    March 10, 2010  latimesblogs.latimes.com  by Geoff Mohan

    The University of Southern California’s $200,000 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement will go to Laurie Marker, the co-founder and executive director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Otjiwarongo, Namibia, and professor Stuart Pimm, the Doris Duke Professor of Conservation Ecology at Duke University in Durham, N.C. Both were recognized “for their scientific contributions, their understanding of ecosystem functions and for their applications of this knowledge to the management and restoration of ecosystems to the benefit of their inhabitants.”
    Marker founded an organization in Namibia to study and protect the cheetah, an animal she has worked with for more than 30 years. The organization approaches habitat preservation in a way that also focuses on the residents in the habitat, offering them economic opportunities that build a constituency for conservation. Pimm won the prize "in recognition of his work to delineate the structures of ecological food webs, to understand the expected lifetimes of plant and animal populations and to determine the populations that are most vulnerable to risks of extinction and those that have the capacity to recover most rapidly from disturbances." Pimm has contributed to more than 200 journal articles, and managed research projects around the world. The prize was established in 1973 and has been awarded annually to 61 individuals and four organizations associated with world-class environmental accomplishments.

    Color-Changing Frog Found

    March 10, 2010  news.nationalgeographic.com

    A newfound frog species Oreophryne ezra undergoes a "striking" change from a black, yellow-spotted youngster to a peach-colored, blue-eyed adult. The species was discovered in 2004 in a tiny, mountaintop cloud forest in southeastern Papua New Guinea. The forest has been long avoided by locals, who believe the misty jungle to be taboo. Though a few other frogs are known to switch colors as they mature, "I don't think the difference in color pattern is as startling as what's seen in this species," said Fred Kraus, a vertebrate zoologist at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, Hawaii. Kraus led a study on the frog which appears in the December 2009 issue of the journal Copeia. The juveniles look like poison dart frogs, and even sit on leaves in broad daylight, consistent with the audacity of poisonous frogs. But "if the juvenile has a warning color, why would adults lose it? It makes no sense at all," said Kraus. To solve at least part of the riddle, Kraus would like to test whether the young frogs have poison.

    50 Wildlife Groups Urge Tougher Endangered Species Protection

    March 10, 2010  www.nytimes.com  By ALLISON WINTER

    Fifty environmental groups are urging the Obama administration to revisit rules setting parameters protected species. Interior Department officials have said they are considering wide-ranging revisions to the 1973 law, with changes to the habitat modification rules at the top of their list. The law requires the government to protect critical habitat for endangered species and prohibits "destruction and adverse modification" of that habitat. The big question, the groups say, is how to define "adverse modification."  The phrase has been interpreted differently by different administrations. Multiple federal courts have said the USFWS needs to provide a clarification. A technical but important distinction is whether the government must apply a "survival" or "recovery" standard when weighing habitat protections. Regulations in place since 1986 require protection for habitat as a means to aid survival of species. Environmental groups want them to expand protections to aid species' recovery. Several years ago environmental groups sought to block livestock grazing in Colorado habitat for Preble's jumping mouse. The groups argued that grazing was "adverse modification" because it would not promote the recovery of the mouse. But the government and ranching and homebuilder groups said grazing should be allowed, since "adverse modification" does not require "recovery." They said grazing itself was not jeopardizing the mouse, even if it might be altering some of its habitat.

    Report On The National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center (NCCWSC)

    March 10, 2010  wdin.blogspot.com

    Numerous federal agencies and departments have been participating in an integrated research program mandated by Congress in the Global Change Research Act of 1990. Research on changes in atmospheric conditions, ecosystems, land use, and other issues will help inform policymakers and enable resource managers to anticipate and adapt to a rapidly changing world. To meet this challenge, Congress in 2008 authorized the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)—the science agency of the Department of Interior—to establish a “Global Warming and Wildlife Science Center,” now named the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center (NCCWSC). Over the past year USGS staff, along with a project team, organized a series of workshops to help identify information gaps, research needs and priorities, collaboration strategies, and an organizational and staffing structure. Because the needs of managers will vary across the landscape, the NCCWSC was conceived as a network comprising a central office linked to some number of Regional Climate Science “Hubs.” These Hubs will work with one or more collectives of natural resource partners, known as Application Partnerships, which will include agencies, universities, NGOs, and other stakeholders engaged in on-the-ground resource management or conservation in that region. The USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center (NCCWSC) will conduct three regional workshops across the United States in May and June to provide information about and get input on the NCCWSC approach to developing and implementing a science-management interface between climate change science and natural resource management. The report is at joomla.wildlife.org [PDF]  

    Greening of Happy Hollow Park & Zoo

    March 10, 2010  www.mercurynews.com 

    SAN JOSE, California -- The Happy Hollow Park and Zoo closed July 9, 2008, to undergo a $72 million green renovation as part of the Measure P Safe Neighborhood Parks and Recreation bond measure approved by voters in 2000. 12.5 acres of existing ride areas and zoo were renovated and 4 acres were added to the site. There are several new animal exhibits, new veterinary and commissary buildings, an education center, guest services building and gift shop, restaurant, new parking lot and a pedestrian bridge is scheduled for completion in September. The park is now up to speed on all ADA requirements. Zoo manager Gregg Owens all new buildings were designed with the environment in mind; the Learning LODGE, or Learn. Observe, Discover, Go Explore! Is made of hay bales and supports the park's educational outreach programs. There are seven green growing roofs with native plant species to provide habitat for the local wildlife, and almost all of the building materials are constructed out of recycled materials. The entire park has a runoff system that keeps all water that comes into the park property on park property. There is a new children's maze based on the Almaden Quicksilver Mines, and although old favorites like Danny the Dragon, the crooked house and the putt-putt cars are still there, new additions like the Keep Around Carousel, with endangered animals, and the Redwood Lookout play area, modeled after a ranger lookout station are new. There is an exhibit where visitors can watch bees at work, made possible by a community member, Steve Demkowski, who is creating an area on his own called the Backyard Habitat and will show how bees are beneficial to all of us. Steve is using cutting-edge technology and has been working with the San Diego Zoo to come up with innovative ways to keep the bees alive during the winter months."  Still to come are a bat house and an outdoor amphitheater. The Happy Hollow Foundation, headed by Heather Lerner is writing grant proposals and seeking corporate support to ensure adequate funding for park operations. The grand reopening of the Park will be March 20. Before the park's closure in 2008, it was averaging 350,000 visitor a year, now  500,000 per year; are anticipated.

    U.S. Launches CITES Web Site

    March 10, 2010  www.uscites.gov

    The United States is one of 175 member countries to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (commonly referred to as CITES). During the 15th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP15), U.S. Delegates will report on U.S. negotiations and positions here on USCITES.gov. Visitors to the site can track U.S. positions, priority issues and view brief video reports from Doha, Qatar from March 13-15.

    Yellow-Legged Frog Site Fidelity

    March 10, 2010  www.eurekalert.org

    ALBANY, Calif. -- USDA Forest Service researchers have found that site fidelity (the tendency to return to previously occupied habitats) is strong in the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog. The cumulative effects of a changing climate and introduced non-native trout are negatively impacting the habitat of this species that is already gone from 90 percent of its historic localities. In a 10-year study using mark-recapture methods, Kathleen Matthews and Haiganoush Preisler quantified site fidelity of the frogs in a high elevation basin of Kings Canyon National Park and found that frogs were returning to breed in lakes that dry up after low snowpack years, killing all tadpoles, or to lakes where predation by introduced non-native trout reduced breeding success of frogs. This frog species requires perennial water for successful tadpole development, which can take up to 4 years, so when a lake dries, up to four year-classes of tadpoles are lost. Currently in the study area, the largest, deepest lake not vulnerable to drawdown by snowpack is unfavorable for successful breeding because introduced non-native trout prey upon all life stages of the frog. The study was published in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences and can be viewed at www.fs.fed.us [PDF].

    India Needs More Parks & Corridors

    March 10, 2010  www.eurekalert.org

    A study on the past extinction of large mammals in India by the Wildlife Conservation Society, Duke University, and others has found that India's protected area system and human cultural tolerance for some species are key to conserving the subcontinent's tigers, elephants, and other large mammals. The researchers created models to estimate extinction probability for 25 large mammals, determining current species distributions along with more than 30,000 historical records from natural history, taxidermy and museum records dating back 200 years. The models were used to gauge how factors such as protected areas, forest cover, elevation, and human demographics, and cultural attitudes impact extinction predictions. The species with the highest probable rates of extinction were large-bodied animals such as the wild buffalo (66 percent), habitat specialists such as the goat-like Nilgiri tahr (71 percent) and the swamp deer (90 percent), and rare species had higher probabilities of extinction such as the Asiatic lions of Gir Forest (96 percent). Factors such as human densities did increase the probability of extinction for many species with the exception of adaptable animals such as wild pigs, jackals, and blackbuck. Many species, including ones that exist outside of protected areas (mouse deer, four-horned antelope, sloth bear, wolf and others) and species that now occupy a tiny remnant of former ranges (gaur, elephant, rhino, Asiatic lion, tigers, etc.) will require new protected areas to ensure their persistence. The paper was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society

    ESA Protection For 48 Kaua’i Species

    March 10, 2010  www.fws.gov 

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – 48 new species on the Hawaiian island of Kaua‘i will receive Endangered Species Act protection. Previous critical habitat designations created an overlapping patchwork of habitat that did not maximize conservation efforts and Hawai‘i’s natural communities. USFWS is now using an ecosystem-based approach, according to Secretary Ken Salazar. “By highlighting species that share ecosystems and common threats, we can more effectively focus conservation management efforts to address these threats and restore ecosystem function for these species and the entire ecological community,” he said. The 45 plant species now listed as endangered include a variety of ferns, vines, shrubs and trees found nowhere else in the world. Twenty-three of the plant species have fewer than 50 individuals remaining in the wild, and some have not been seen for several years, though they are believed to still exist in remote areas. One fern, Diellia manii, was thought to be extinct since the early 1900s, but a single individual was rediscovered in 2002 at Koke‘e State Park. The addition of these plant species to the endangered species list brings the total number of endangered Hawaiian plants to 309. Another 10 are considered threatened.

    The two bird species added to the endangered species list are both Hawaiian honeycreepers in the finch family: the ‘akeke‘e, or Kaua‘i ‘akepa, and the ‘akikiki, or Kaua‘i creeper. Both species were considered common in the late 1800s and into the early 1960s. The ‘akeke‘e population appeared to be relatively stable at that time, even while other endemic Kaua‘i birds were sharply declining, and its population was estimated to be nearly 8,000 birds in 2000. However, the population had dropped to approximately 3,500 birds by 2007. The ‘akikiki population has declined even further, by about 80 percent in the last 40 years, to approximately 1,300 birds in 2007. These two species join 33 other bird species listed as endangered and another listed as threatened in Hawai‘i. Drosophila sharpi is a large species of Hawaiian picture-wing fly found in Kaua‘i’s wet forests. The rule proposing to list this species named the species as Drosophila attigua, but that species was found to be identical to Drosophila sharpi. The final rule reflects this recent taxonomic revision. The species joins 12 other Hawaiian picture-wing flies on the endangered species list.

    A total of 26,582 acres in six different ecosystem types are being designated as critical habitat for 47 of the species. Of the total acreage, 98 percent (26,050 acres) overlaps existing critical habitat for other species. The majority of the designated critical habitat, 21,666 acres, is located on state-owned lands, while 4,918 acres are located on privately owned lands. The land is owned by Alexander & Baldwin, Inc., and is located in the Upper Wainiha Valley. The area is managed by The Nature Conservancy for the long-term protection of this upper watershed. Critical habitat for the plant Pritchardia hardyi,or loulu, was not made because this rare palm is attractive to collectors. A critical habitat designation could trigger an increased risk by alerting collectors to its location.

    Forbes Releases “Billionaire” Lists

    March 10, 2010  www.forbes.com

    The 2010 World’s Billionaires List has just been released. You can sort by name, citizenship, age, net worth, and country of residence. For links to all the specialty lists that Forbes publishes go to www.forbes.com.

    Wuhan Zoo Will Raise Pandas

    March 11, 2010  www.chinadaily.com.cn

    WUHAN -- Two male giant pandas, Xi Wang and Wei Wei, were sent to Wuhan Zoo in Wuhan city, capital of Hubei, in June 2008 after the Wenchuan Earthquake and have lived there since. They have now officially settled down in Wuhan, said Li Desheng, vice director of the China Giant Panda Protection and Research Center in Sichuan's Wolong nature reserve. Experts from the center have agreed that Wuhan Zoo is suitable for raising pandas. The Wolong pand base suffered severe damage in the "May 12" earthquake with the death of five staff and one panda. Fourteen of the 32 pens were destroyed. Pandas were later evacuated to other breeding bases. "More pandas will come to Wuhan Zoo in the future," Li said.

    Giant Anteater Born at Sacramento Zoo

    March 11, 2010  www.mercurynews.com

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Officials at the Sacramento Zoo have announced the birth of a giant anteater. Born Tuesday morning, it is the first to be born in the zoo's 83-year history. A second anteater was born a few hours later, but died. The surviving newborn was taken to a veterinary hospital where veterinarians and staff members warmed it to a normal body temperature and hand-fed it an incubator overnight. The baby has since been returned to is mother, where officials say both mother and baby appear to be in good heath. The IUCN lists the species as "near-threatened."

    Removing Giant Invasive Snakes In the U.S.

    March 11, 2010  www.fws.gov

    On January 20, 2010, the USFWS published a proposed rule in the Federal Register to designate the Burmese python and eight other large constrictor snakes as “injurious wildlife” under the Lacey Act. The Burmese python (Indian python) is currently established across thousands of square miles in south Florida, and a population of boa constrictors is established south of Miami. In addition, evidence strongly suggests that a population of northern African pythons is reproducing on the western edges of Miami. The other species being considered in the proposed rule are the reticulated python, southern African python, yellow anaconda, DeSchauensee’s anaconda, green anaconda, and Beni anaconda. None of the nine species of snakes is native to the United States. If finalized, the designation will prohibit the importation and interstate transportation of these species. So far, more than 1,300 Burmese pythons have been removed from Everglades National Park and vicinity since 2000. Others have been removed from the Florida Keys, along Florida’s west coast and farther north along the Florida peninsula. A draft economic analysis and environmental assessment are available for public review and comment at www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS-R9-FHC-2008-0015.

    Loggerhead Turtles Endangered

    March 11, 2010  www.boston.com By John M. Guilfoil

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and US Fish and Wildlife Service proposed yesterday that loggerhead sea turtles be considered an endangered species throughout much of the world, including the North Pacific and Northwest Atlantic oceans. In the Northwest Atlantic, the turtles have seen a nesting decline of 40 percent in the past decade. In the North Pacific, populations are down about 80 percent, and specialists fear that the turtles are on the brink of extinction. Scientists first petitioned the government in 2007 to change the turtles’ “threatened’’ status to “endangered.’’ The endangered species measure now goes through a public comment stage and could be in force by summer of 2011. Environmentalists hope the government will designate critical habitats for the turtles, especially on their nesting beaches, which on the East Coast usually stretch from Virginia to Florida. The government identified nine groups of loggerhead sea turtles and proposed endangered status for seven groups — in the Mediterranean Sea, North Indian Ocean, North Pacific Ocean, Northeast Atlantic Ocean, Northwest Atlantic Ocean, South Pacific Ocean, and Southeast Indo-Pacific Ocean. All nine groups are already considered threatened.

    Problems For Mexican Wolf Reintroduction in Southwest

    March 11, 2010  www.nytimes.com  By April Reese

    SEVILLETA NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, N.M. – The USFWS 12-year-old Mexican wolf reintroduction program is one of the most troubled endangered species programs in the country.  There are only about 42 wolves - about half the number of that FWS had hoped to see by now within the federally designated 6,850-ssquare mile Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area in the Gila and Apache national forests not far from the Mexican border. It is the lowest number since 2002  So far, about 29 Mexican wolves have died under the recovery program; 11 "problem wolves" were shot, after repeatedly preying on livestock and 18 died accidentally from stress during attempted captures. Illegal shooting by ranchers, many of whom oppose reintroduction of wolves, has also contributed to the death toll. Now, with the population struggling, FWS is reassessing its management approach. Last year, for example, the agency abandoned a controversial policy that required any wolf that preyed on livestock or left the boundaries of the recovery zone three times to be captured or killed. Under the new guidelines, FWS has greater discretion over how such wolves are handled, but even with reforms, there is no guarantee Mexican wolves will permanently reoccupy even a portion of their historic range. While population numbers remain stagnant, the wolf's chances are further compromised by a shallow gene pool, which some critics believe has been worsened by FWS policies. And the sociological hurdles are even higher, with wolf advocates and opponents fighting FWS's every move.

    The basic problems: Wolves need lots of room to roam, and confining the population to just under 7,000 square miles (a concession made to opponents when FWS designed the program in the mid-1990s) does more to penalize the population than encourage it to grow. When wolves that wander outside the recovery zone or prey on livestock are captured and relocated, they are forced to establish new territory and find new prey. Such disruptions can interfere with pack formation and lower survival rates. Genetic inbreeding is also becoming a more serious concern among biologists, and removals in recent years have compounded the problem. In 2005, for instance, FWS removed several wolves due to livestock depredation, including all but one from the most reproductively successful pack. A 2009 assessment by FWS concluded that 100 wolves and 18 breeding pairs -- the program's original target -- is not enough to ensure a viable population over the long-term Others say that given the difficulties surrounding the program, FWS may have to lower its expectations.

    Half a Million Samples Now at Svalbard Global Seed Vault

    March 11, 2010  www.nytimes.com  By GAYATHRI VAIDYANATHAN

    The latest shipment of seeds to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault has brought its sample numbers to more than half a million. Ola Westengen, who operates the vault, says the vault is meant to serve as the last repository for seeds and as a final go-to place for countries in case disaster strikes local seed banks. Unlike other gene banks, daily transactions do not happen at Svalbard. The vault is built into Arctic permafrost in Norway that is likely to remain frozen for hundreds of years, according to Cary Fowler, executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, which partners with the Norwegian government and the Nordic Genetic Resource Center in Sweden to operate the vault. Near the Arctic Circle, its remote location makes it safe from political or geological threats. "Some regional seed banks are highly vulnerable," said Fowler. War has destroyed banks located in Afghanistan, Rwanda and Iraq in the past. Floods have damaged seed banks in the Philippines. Overall, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 75 percent of biodiversity in crops has been lost in the past decade.

    Scientists sometimes go to extreme lengths to obtain wild species believed to have greater genetic diversity. Andrey Sabitov, a senior scientist at the Vavilov Research Institute in Russia, hiked a third of the way up a remote volcano to find the Fragaria iturupensis strawberry, rumored to be an ancestor of the American berry. It had originally been discovered by a Japanese explorer in 1929. Scientists at the USDA's Agricultural Research Service collaborated with the Russians to collect strawberry seeds from the volcano. Analysis later showed that the Sakhalin strawberry was not the ancestor of the American variety. But it had 10 sets of chromosomes that made it a genetic resource in its own right. Copies of the seed have been placed in Svalbard. Lineage is important for crop lines because earlier versions of a seed may have a gene pool that could make them more adaptable in harsher climates.

    David Ellis, curator at the U.S. Agricultural Research Service, is storing more than 40,000 samples in the vault. The USDA, which has its own duplicate repository at Fort Collins, Colo., is storing seeds at Svalbard to promote greater global cooperation and participation of developing countries at risk in the effort, said Ellis. The biological diversity of crops can be astounding. For example, there are more than 200,000 varieties of wheat in the world. Many are not domesticated, and they may contain many advantageous traits. Since climate change will raise temperatures and cause droughts in certain parts of the world, having a wider gene pool to choose from may be essential. Many of the traits have been lost from years of domestication in farmers' fields. Scientists often draw on these banks to develop newer varieties that can cope with the demands of changing agricultural conditions. Farmers can also request more drought-tolerant varieties from their local banks.

    AI for Woodland Park Zoo Elephant

    March 11, 2010  seattletimes.nwsource.com By Sonia Krishnan

    SEATTLE, WA – Chai, 31, one of three female Asian elephants living at the Woodland Park Zoo, has been inseminated with the sperm of a 12-year-old bull named Samson who lives at the Albuquerque Biological Park. He has not sired other offspring, so a successful pregnancy would be valuable for the North American elephant gene pool. In 2007, Chai’s first calf, Hansa, died at age 6 from elephant herpes virus. She miscarried after being artificially inseminated in 2008. Nancy Hawkes, the zoo's general curator, said one of the challenges is that an elephant's reproductive tract is nearly 10 feet from her outer opening. A probe with a long, skinny tube — as well as a tiny camera — helped guide the team in delivering the sperm. If Chai is pregnant, the earliest zookeepers will know is by the end of June, Hawkes said. Keeping a future calf safe from the same virus that killed Hansa is a priority, she said, citing early detection and anti-viral drugs as key to treatment.

    Zoo Atlanta Lion Cubs Move to Mexico

    March 11, 2010  www.ajc.com  By Lynn Peisner

    Three male lion cub brothers, Christos, Mikalos and Athanaisi, born May 31, 2008, to lioness Kiki and her mate, Kamau, at Zoo Atlanta will be trucked up to Chicago O’Hare International Airport and flown to Mexico City. The lions will be met by staff of Africam Safari in Puebla, Mexico, where they’ll live in a 10-acre habitat. The drive from Mexico City to Puebla will take approximately two and a half hours. It’s impossible to have extra males hanging around the zoo’s pride because that’s not how their social structure works in the wild, said Rebecca Snyder, Curator of Mammals. Plus, the lions have started displaying aggressive behavior toward their father, which means it’s time for them to leave.

    ‘State of the Birds 2010’ Report Released

    March 11, 2010  www.stateofthebirds.org 

    The State of the Birds: 2010 Report on Climate Change follows a comprehensive report issue released a year ago showing that that nearly a third of the nation's 800 bird species are endangered, threatened or in significant decline.  Last week in Anchorage, Alaska, the Interior Department opened the first of eight new climate regional Climate Science Centers that will engage scientists from all of Interior’s Bureaus and our partners to research climate change impacts, work with land, natural, and cultural resource managers to design adaptation strategies, and engage the public through education initiatives. The Climate Science Centers will help support a network of new “Landscape Conservation Cooperatives” that will engage federal agencies, tribal,  state, and local governmental and non-governmental partners, and the public in crafting practical, landscape-level strategies for managing climate change impacts on land, natural, and cultural resources within the eight regions. The full report is at www.stateofthebirds.org

    Bird Parent-Offspring Study

    March 11, 2010  www.sciencemag.org 

    A recent study of canaries answers two questions: Is it offspring who control provisioning or parents? And how is parental supply correlated with offspring demand? A team of Cambridge scientists began by determining whether parents or offspring control provisioning. To do this they exploited their recent discovery that maternal substances in the developmental environment, such as testosterone, antibodies, and carotenoids, modulate later expression of offspring solicitation behaviors. They found that canary nestling begging intensity is strongly influenced by prenatal factors in the egg and is relatively unperturbed by a changed rearing environment. Cross-fostering broods between parents thus generates a long-term manipulation of brood begging intensity, and parents exposed to intensely begging broods pay a fitness cost for supplying food at a greater rate. Parents were allowed to raise two broods per year: one of their own and one fostered from a different pair. Growth rates of the young were measured. Maternal future fitness was quantified by comparing the number of eggs that females laid the following year. The researchers found that provisioning was costly. Mothers that were exposed to a less demanding brood than their own laid more eggs the following year, whereas females that cared for a more demanding foster brood produced fewer eggs. They also found that parents mitigate the costs of provisioning by exerting a high level of control over the rate at which they provide food. 'Parent-offspring conflict and coadaptation' appears in March 12 Science.

    Dallas Zoo’s “Giants of Savanna” Exhibit Nears Completion

    March 12, 2010  www.nbcdfw.com  by David Flick

    Dallas Zoo director, Gregg Hudson provided a media tour of the zoo’s new $31 million “Giants of the Savanna” exhibit. The 11 acre exhibit will house  87 animals representing 10 species, including a six-member herd of elephants and a pride of five lions. Giraffes, impalas, zebras, ostriches and cheetahs also will roam the rolling stretch of grassland. The habitat is the zoo's most ambitious project in a generation, and represents a new philosophy for the facility that long emphasized research over entertainment. The habitat also features state-of-the-art animal care, including a 10,000-square-foot elephant barn with padded and heated floors, and a drawbridge that lifts up to accommodate the long necks of giraffes passing along a lower pathway. Hudson said that the 200 workers building the habitat have had to cope with 41 bad weather days since October. Nonetheless, the habitat is still on schedule for a May 28 opening.

    Listing the Boa Constrictor, Four Python Species,
    and Four Anaconda Species as Injurious Reptiles
    March 12, 2010   www.gpoaccess.gov

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to amend its regulations to add Indian python (Python molurus, including Burmese python Python molurus bivittatus), reticulated python (Broghammerus reticulatus or Python reticulatus), Northern African python (Python sebae), Southern African python (Python natalensis), boa constrictor (Boa constrictor), yellow anaconda (Eunectes notaeus), DeSchauensee's anaconda (Eunectes deschauenseei), green anaconda (Eunectes murinus), and Beni anaconda (Eunectes beniensis) to the list of injurious reptiles. This listing would prohibit the importation of any live animal, gamete, viable egg, or hybrid of these nine constrictor snakes into the United States, except as specifically authorized. The best
    available information indicates that this action is necessary to protect the interests of humans, wildlife, and wildlife resources from the purposeful or accidental introduction and subsequent establishment of these large constrictor snake populations into ecosystems of the United States. If the proposed rule is made final, live snakes, gametes, or hybrids of the nine species or their viable eggs could be imported only by permit for scientific, medical, educational, or zoological purposes, or without a permit by Federal agencies solely for their own use. The proposed rule, if made final, would also prohibit any interstate transportation of live snakes, gametes, viable eggs, or hybrids of the nine species currently held in the United States. If the proposed rule is made final, interstate transportation could be authorized for scientific, medical, educational, or zoological purposes.

    We will consider comments we receive on or before May 11, 2010. You may submit comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Follow the instructions for submitting comments to Docket No. FWS-R9-FHC-2008-0015. or  U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. FWS-R9-FHC-2008-0015; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203. We will not accept e-mail or faxes.  For further information contact Supervisor, South Florida Ecological Services Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1339 20\th\ Street, Vero Beach, FL 32960-3559; telephone 772-562-3909 ext. 256.

    11 Siberian Tigers Die of Malnutrition in NE China Zoo

    March 12, 2010  www.chinadaily.com.cn

    SHENYANG, China -- Eleven Siberian tigers have died over the past 3 months at the Shenyang Forest Wild Animal Zoo in northeast China's Liaoning Province. Death was due to malnutrition rather than infectious diseases, said Liu Xiaoqiang, vice chief of the Shenyang Wild Animal Protection Station. A total of 13 Siberian tigers have died at the zoo since Nov, 2009. The zoo has over 20 Siberian tigers left. Since November, Shenyang Qipanshan Administration Committee has been providing the zoo with appropriate feed worth $2,636 a day. But many tigers already had intestinal infections or kidney failure caused by the lack of food and died later. The number of tigers in the zoo has dropped by half in a decade, from 1,020 of 61 subspecies in 2000 to 518 of 49 subspecies in 2010. The zoo is mainly privately owned with the Shenyang Municipal Government having 15 percent of the share. Another privately-owned zoo in Shenyang, Guaipo Tigers Zoo, has over 30 Siberian tigers. Legal loopholes which made enforcement of regulations for privately-owned zoos impossible, said Liu. It is estimated that the number of wild Siberian tigers is now between 350 and 450 worldwide. China has around 20 wild Siberian tigers (10 to 14 are in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province and 8 to 10 are in its neighboring Jilin Province.) China established a breeding base for the Siberian tigers in Heilongjiang in 1986 and the number of captive tigers has increased from eight to more than 800 currently. The global wild tiger population is estimated to be at an all-time low of 3,200, down from an estimated 20,000 in the 1980s and 100,000 a century ago. [IUCN estimates the current global population to be 3,402-5,140.] 

    Visitors Fined After Lincoln Park Bear Attack

    March 12, 2010  www.fox11online.com

    MANITOWOC, WI -- A Wisconsin woman and her companion both had blood alcohol levels well over the legal limit when they ignored signs and barriers at the Lincoln Park Zoo and provoked an attack by an Asiatic Bear. Police say that the woman was feeding the bear Bugles. The bear was licking her fingers, and probably thinking they were more food, bit down. Each will pay a $681 fine.

    National Zoo’s Experimental Bat Colony Criticized

    March 12, 2010  www.washingtonpost.com  By Michael E. Ruane

    The National Zoo’s attempt to establish a captive colony of endangered Virginia big-eared bats is being investigated by USFWS. Five months after the project began, most of the bats in the colony are dead. The zoo hired Missy Singleton, a Texas-based expert, for a three-week stint as a consultant. In her December report, she criticized the way the bat holding cage was constructed, the way the bats were fed, and how they were being cared for. She said that poor injection techniques caused bats to "cry out." Mishandling of the bats resulted in "broken fingers, soiled fur, skin infections…bruised legs…anorexia, capture myopathy and death." The zoo disputes the allegations, saying that the colony is experimental, that this sub-species of bat has never been held in captivity before and that many of Singleton's assertions are inaccurate. Zoo scientists say there have been bruises, eating problems and fatal skin infections among the bats -- caused, essentially, by captivity, not from mishandling. There have been no broken bones or capture myopathy, a dangerous malady that can come after a wild animal is caught, the zoo scientists said. The zoo admits that the effort has been distressing. Another bat died this week. Others are under treatment. And officials say that the surviving 10 -- of the original 40 -- may also succumb. "We could lose the last 10 bats," said David E. Wildt, senior scientist at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va., where the colony is housed. On Monday, the watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility blamed the situation on the zoo's "ignorance and incompetence," and asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to revoke the zoo's permit for the colony and transfer the surviving bats elsewhere.

    A Quantitative Way to Decide Which Species to Save

    March 12, 2010  www.nature.org  By Daniel Cressey

    A team of Australian researchers are trying to bring a more rigorous approach to deciding when you should give up on a species. Cut off conservation money too soon and you could drive a species teetering on the brink into extinction. Keep conserving an animal long after it has last been sighted and you risk wasting money that could keep another endangered animal in the game. "Declaring extinction is a difficult decision with large risks and large uncertainties," says Tracy Rout, based at the University of Melbourne's School of Botany in Australia, who led the new study reported in Conservation Biology. "There are many cases where species that have thought to have been extinct have been rediscovered — so-called Lazarus species." Rout sets out a framework for making this decision and applies it to three species: the still-with-us mountain pygmy possum (Burramys parvus), the possibly extinct ivory-billed woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) and dead dodo R. cucullatus. "In terms of funding allocations, decisions are currently made in an arbitrary way, varying from agency to agency and species to species," says Rout. "Our method would help make any implicit judgements of value more explicit." Rout and her colleagues outline a model that uses sightings of endangered species — either as the number of surveys that have failed to spot the species or the time since it was last seen — to calculate the probability it is extant and then applies this to a decision-making framework that weighs the cost of continued conservation with the cost of stopping prematurely. Rout's paper is indicative of a growing trend in some parts of the conservation field, says David Roberts, a conservation biologist at the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, at the University of Kent in Canterbury, UK. "At the moment you can look at the IUCN Red List criteria and all the others are quantitative, whereas declarations of extinction are very much qualitative. There's this huge level of uncertainty."

    Zoo Celebrates National Elephant Day
    March 12, 2010  blogs.westword.com

    The Denver Zoo's National Elephant Day celebration is based on a Thai festival celebrating the country's national animal. The zoo has imported a statue 6 foot high statue from Thailand that was carved from a monkey wood tree cut down to make a safer roadway. The statue will eventually grace the zoo's new elephant exhibit, Asian Tropics, which will be capable of housing up to twelve elephants. As many as eight of those elephants could be male, making the Denver Zoo the keeper of the largest herd of bull elephants in the U.S. Read about the dangers associated with that proposition at www.westword.com.

    One World, One Health Is Theme For Veterinary Day

    March 13, 2010  www.javma.com

    World Veterinary Day, April 24, 2010, will raise awareness of the links between animal and public health through the theme "One World, One Health: more cooperation between veterinarians and physicians." The WVA partnered with the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) two years ago to create the World Veterinary Day Award for the most successful celebration by a national veterinary association working alone or in cooperation with other veterinary groups.

    Meerkats & Lions Part of El Paso Zoo’s New Exhibit

    March 13, 2010  www.elpasotimes.com  By Chris Roberts

    Acquiring animals for the El Paso Zoo’s new African exhibit was not simple, according to zoo director, Steve Marshall. The El Paso Zoo participates in a network of zoos and aquariums that examine genetics and other factors when breeding animals to preserve the health of the various species. The zoo's lions -- 2-year old siblings weighing about 300 pounds each -- were born in Oklahoma City. Because of complications at birth, they had to be nursed by hand. "They are very people-oriented," said Vikki Milne, the zoo's veterinarian. Malaika, Zari, Kalliope and Xerxes, the only male -- were given a clean bill of health after a 30-day quarantine. The measure is meant to isolate viruses, parasites and a variety of diseases. Lions are susceptible to feline illnesses such as the type of leukemia that affects house cats, Milne said. They also can pick up canine distemper. The zoo's meerkats came from two groups, one from Brownsville and the other from Santa Barbara, Calif. Zoo officials plan to interbreed the two groups to avoid problems created by inbreeding. Meerkats go through the same quarantine process. Disease can be transmitted by fleas. Salmonella can be picked up in food. And meerkats even get worms."This family has looked very healthy," she said.

    Recent Births at Rio de Janeiro’s Zoo

    March 14, 2010  www.google.com  By Claire de Oliveira

    RIO DE JANEIRO —  According to Monica Valeria Blum, the president of the Rio zoo foundation, The Rio de Janeiro Zoo is the "most visited site" in Rio, with ~100,000 visitors per month. It is home to over 500 mammals, 900 reptiles and 1,000 birds representing 400 species from the Brazilian ecosystem. Among its rare residents are the black-collared anteater, the Ararajuba Golden Parakeet and the yellow-breasted capuchin -- examples of Brazil's wildlife threatened by extinction. "This is the first time species like the anteater or toucan birds with spotted beaks have reproduced," said biologist Rodrigo Costa. He noted that the Tamuanda-Mirim anteater faces extinction in Rio state, as it is originally from the Atlantic Forest which will disappear within 40 years if it continues to be destroyed at the current pace. "For toucans, we studied how they adapted, what they ate, how they made their nest and the birds as well. We switched around males and females until they really got along," Costa explained. The successful couple are the proud parents of two little ones. When temperatures peaked at over 40 degrees C (104 degrees F) during the record-breaking February summer, he had to pierce bird nests to aerate them, he said. Among the hundred or so newborns from endangered species at the zoo are the scarlet ibis, the little Ararajuba Golden Parakeet and the Cuxiu primates of the Amazon (Black-bearded Saki or Chiropotes satanas). The yellow-breasted capuchin (Golden-bellied Capuchin or Cebus apella xanthosternos) is among the 25 most endangered primate species in the world. Experts estimate that about 300 of these monkeys remain in the wild in the northeastern state of Bahia. Around 25 of them are now held at the zoo, which is planning to reintroduce the primates to their natural habitat.

    Bird Flu H5N1 Outbreak in 5 Countries

    March 14, 2010  www.digitaljournal.com

    Reports are coming from Nepal, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam of bird flu outbreaks resulting in the deaths of thousands of birds thus far. Egypt is reporting more human cases of illness caused by the disease. While capable of travelling around the world, the virus has been most prevalent in China, Indonesia, Egypt and Vietnam, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

    Chinese Authorities Investigate Siberian Tiger Deaths

    March 15, 2010  english.cri.cn

    Chinese authorities are investigating the Shenyang Forest Wildlife Zoo after three dozen animals including 13 endangered Siberian tigers died from malnutrition. Comprehensive examinations of the 30 remaining tigers in the Monday showed three had problems, said Zhao Yujun, one of the zoologists conducting the examinations. Nutrition injections had been given to save the tigers, said Zhao. Food supplies had been ensured and other tigers at the zoo were each eating at least 2.5 kg of beef and two hens a day. More than 20 heating and lighting facilities had been installed since Sunday. Disinfection and ventilation measures had been adopted and food and water drinking conditions improved. An investigation team is probing the causes of the deaths of the tigers and disposal of tiger parts, the previous use of government funds, and the dispute between employees and zoo management and the operation of the zoo. The number of animals in the zoo has dropped by half in a decade, from 1,020 animals of 61 species in 2000 to 518 of 49 species in 2010. Besides the tigers, 22 other animals have died, including rare species that are protected in China, among them a red-crowned crane, four stump-tailed macaques, and one brown bear.

    Chafee Zoo Begins 2 Captive Breeding Programs
    March 15, 2010  www.sunherald.com   By Marc Benjamin

    FRESNO, Calif. – Less than 3 years ago, the Fresno Chaffee Zoo was in danger of losing its accreditation because of inadequate housing for some animals and political infighting among board members, but now the staff and facilities are doing well. They sent two endangered addaxes to a preserve in Africa in 2007, and recently received permission to begin breeding its two tigers and three of its four orangutans, recognition that they can meet the AZA’s expectations. "It's huge for us," said Scott Barton, executive director for Fresno Chaffee Zoo. There are only 600 to 800 Malayan tigers in the wild and that population also is in danger. The Malayan tigers in Fresno are among 50 being managed in AZA facilities, which hold some 400 tigers total, according to Ron Tilson, Minnesota Zoo director of conservation and AZA's species survival plan coordinator for tigers.

    2 Elephants Pregnant At St Louis Zoo

    March 15, 2010  www.globe-democrat.com

    The St. Louis Zoo said Monday that Ellie, 38, one of its' Asian elephants, is pregnant. This will be her third birth. Her daughter, Maliha, will turn four on August 2. Her 14-year-old daughter Rani is also pregnant. The Zoo’s bull elephant, 17-year-old Raja, is the father of both babies. He was the first Asian elephant ever born at the zoo in 1992, and this calf will be his fourth offspring. Ellie will be due to deliver in late summer 2011. Rani will deliver in mid-summer 2011. Curator of Mammals Martha Fischer said, “We have already begun to prepare for both deliveries, by developing exercise plans with stretches and exercises specifically designed to get these elephants ready for the rigorous delivery.“ Both elephants are receiving regular prenatal and ultrasound exams by the veterinary team. Soon they should be able to determine the gender of both babies with blood tests. Ellie lives with Maliha, Rani, Jade and the rest of the elephant herd at the Zoo’s River’s Edge habitat. She and Rani arrived at the Saint Louis Zoo in 2001 from the Jacksonville Zoo, where Rani was born in 1996.  There are fewer than 35,000 Asian elephants left in the wild. The Zoo also supports the welfare and conservation of Asian elephants in Sumatra, Sri Lanka and other countries in Asia through the International Elephant Foundation, as well as the conservation of African elephants in Kenya.

    Taronga’s ‘Miracle’ Elephant Calf Meets the Family

    March 15, 2010  www.smh.com.au  MATTHEW MOORE

    Taronga’s male Asian elephant calf has been nicknamed "Mr Shuffles" and has finally met his extended family. His two aunts, and his mother Porntip, have been keeping him a safe distance from the other recent arrival, eight-month-old Luk Chai, who now weighs 350 kilograms. Luk has shown great interest in the 116-kilogram ‘Mr Shuffles’, constantly touching the young elephant with his trunk. Apart from his bloodshot eyes, which are a normal feature of birth, he appears remarkably healthy. Although, the zoo's experts are still struggling to comprehend how quickly he has recovered from a week-long labor, including three motionless days in a coma with no hint of a heartbeat. Gary Miller, the zoo's elephant supervisor has hardly left his side, struggling to get him through those early days. ''He needed help. His left legs were not working real well … his left side was not really functional.'' Gary and his staff spent days massaging him, encouraging blood into his right side, getting him up, walking him around and moving his joints to get them functioning. ''It took quite a while for him to get his legs under him. He kept tipping over on his left side, going in circles to the left. One side was working and one wasn't.''

    Albatross Recovers at Wellington Zoo

    March 15, 2010  www.stuff.co.nz

    A female albatross with a wing span of about 3 meters is recovering in Wellington Zoo's animal hospital ‘The Nest’ after it crashed in a suburban homeowner’s garden Friday night. When the bird was still there on Saturday, the Conservation Department was contacted and the family took the albatross to the zoo. It was found to be slightly underweight, still a bit stunned but otherwise all right. The bird was checked by vets for broken bones, and blood tests were being run. A long-line fishing hook had been spotted in its stomach. (About 3000 seabirds drown each year from eating fish caught on fishing lines.) Zoo staff had contacted a sanctuary at Taiaroa Head near Dunedin which believed the albatross may be the mother of a chick there. 

    Seabird Migration Study

    March 15, 2010  www.mpg.de

    Relatively little is known about the migratory behavior of seabirds as compared with that of their land-living counterparts. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology have studied the migratory behavior of thin-billed prions and discovered that the animals spend their moulting season in two areas that are at a considerable distance from each other. Thus, it would appear that some seabirds can be extremely flexible and change their habitat if required - a vital adaptation to the unpredictable conditions found on the high seas. The study appears in the March issue of Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.

    Capuchin Monkeys Choose Variety

    March 15, 2010  www.eurekalert.org 

    DURHAM, N.C. -- Given a choice between spending a token to get their absolute favorite food or spending it to have a choice from a buffet of options, capuchin monkeys will opt for variety. The choices made by these captive-bred monkeys in an Italian research facility seem to show some innate desire to seek variety, said Dan Ariely, the James B. Duke Professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University. In a series of experiments Ariely conducted with colleagues at the Instituto di Scienze e Tecnologie della Cognizione in Rome, eight monkeys were first taught that tokens, such as plastic cylinders and metal nuts, represented different kinds of choice. With training, the tokens were associated with being able to buy one piece of the most-preferred food, or being able to buy one piece from an assortment of foods that included the most-preferred food. Lead author Elsa Addessi has used this token method before with this troop of capuchins, who are on public display as well as being used in non-invasive cognitive experiments. "Economically, the tokens should be equivalent, because they both give you the food you like," Ariely said. But the monkeys as a group chose to use the variety tokens and not the "single-food-tokens." Moreover, once they chose the variety tokens the monkeys also didn't always take the most-preferred food when it was offered as part of the variety assortment. The work appears online in Behavioural Processes.

    Fossil of Carnivorous Amphibian Species Found

    March 15, 2010  www.carnegiemnh.org

    PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania -- A team of researchers from Carnegie Museum of Natural History has described a new genus and species of carnivorous amphibian from western Pennsylvania. Found in 2004 from rocks deposited approximately 300 million years ago, it is one of only a very few relatively large amphibian fossils to display evidence of a predominantly terrestrial (land-based) life history so early in geologic time. (About 70 million years before the first dinosaurs appeared.) It has been named Fedexia striegeli. The full paper will be released today in Annals of Carnegie Museum, Volume 78, Number 4, 15 March 2010.

    Reptile Pit Organ Mechanism Revealed

    March 15, 2010  www.wired.com

    It is well known that snakes’ heat perception involves the pit organ, a cavity found between the eyes and nostrils of boa constrictors, pythons and pit vipers. These species can hunt if blindfolded, but cover their pit organ and they lose their hunting ability. Although the role of the pit organ as an infrared sensor was well-established, questions remained about its mechanism of stimulus detection. A team of UCSF biologists, Elena Gracheva, Nicolas Ingolia and David Julius, suspected that pit organs detect heat directly. When they measured gene activity in nerve cells that run from pit organs to snake brains, the researchers found that a gene called TRPA1 was about 400 times higher than in other snake tissues. A very thin membrane inside the pit organ -- essentially a hollow, bony cavity -- warms up as the radiation enters through an opening in the skin. Because the membrane is in a hollow space, it is extremely sensitive to changes in temperature. "The heated tissue then imparts a signal to nerve fibres to activate the receptors we have identified," known as TRPA1 channels, the scientists report. The neurochemical pathway involved suggests that snakes feel heat rather than see it. "The molecule we found belongs to a family of receptors related to pain pathways in mammals," said Julius. In humans, the equivalent mechanism is called the "wasabi receptor" because it allows our sensory nervous system to detect irritants -- such as Japanese wasabi. It is not, however, activated by heat. According to the researchers, the findings illustrate the ability of evolution to use common components for different, highly specialized functions. The study appears the March 14 issue of Nature.

    Endangered Species Permit Applications

    March 15, 2010  www.gpoaccess.gov

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, invite the public to comment on the following applications to conduct certain activities with endangered species, marine mammals, or both. With some exceptions, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) prohibit activities with listed species unless a Federal permit is issued that allows such activities. Both laws require that we invite public comment before issuing these permits. We must receive requests for documents or comments on or before April 14, 2010. We must receive requests for marine mammal permit public hearings, in writing, Brenda Tapia, Division of Management Authority, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Room 212, Arlington, VA 22203; or e-mail to DMAFR@fws.gov  For further information contact Brenda Tapia, (703) 358-2104

    Applicant: Dr. Michael A. Jarvis, Oregon Health and Sciences University, Portland, OR, PRT-01458A. The applicant requests a permit to acquire from Coriell Institute of Medical Research, Camden, NJ, in interstate commerce fibroblast cell line cultures from gorillas (Gorilla gorilla) for the purpose of scientific research. This notification covers activities to be conducted by the applicant over a 5-year period.

    Applicant: Felix Staninoha, Houston, TX, PRT-093431. The applicant request renewal of their permit authorizing interstate and foreign commerce, export, and cull of excess male barasingha (Recurvus duvauceli) from their captive herd for the purpose of enhancement of the survival of the species. This notification covers activities to be conducted by the applicant over a 5-year period.

        The following applicants each request a permit to import the sport-hunted trophy of one male bontebok (Damaliscus pygargus pygargus) culled from a captive herd maintained under the management program of the Republic of South Africa, for the purpose of enhancement of the survival of the species.
    Applicant: Douglas Wayne Swick, Fort Worth, TX, PRT-03756A
    Applicant: Brian Charles Isham, Houston, TX, PRT-03194A

    Applicant: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Boquer[oacute]n, PR, PRT-231088. The applicant requests a permit and a letter of authorization for the rescue, rehabilitation and release of unlimited number of stranded West Indian manatees (Trichechus manatus) in the waters of the United States, the import of rescued manatees, and import and export of biological specimens. This notification covers activities to be conducted by the applicant over a 5-year period.

    CITES And The Blue Fin Tuna Fight

    March 16, 2010  www.csmonitor.com

    The Atlantic bluefin tuna ban is one of the most contentious initiatives being debated at CITES because of growing concern over sustainability. The US supports a ban out of concern of the "longterm viability" of the bluefin tuna. While Western Atlantic bluefin spawning stocks have dropped by 82 percent from 1970 to 2007, those stocks have stabilized at “a very low” population level, the Interior Department reported. Meanwhile, the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean stocks have continued to plummet 72 percent, with most of that drop occurring in the past decade. Japan, already in the hot seat for its whaling practices, is catching flak from environmentalists as the key country opposing the ban. Japan consumes three-quarters of the global bluefin catch. Japan said Tuesday that it has China's support in opposing a global ban on trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna. If true, that would set the two Asian powers against the US and the European Union over the divisive issue. The battle lines aren't quite the same as those over whaling, though. Australia - one of Japan's fiercest critics on whaling - has said it prefers more regulation to manage Atlantic bluefin tuna stocks, rather than an outright ban. Australia has its own lucrative industry fishing "southern" bluefin tuna. The issue will be debated this week, but a vote won't likely come until next week. A two-thirds majority is needed to pass the ban. Japan has already said it will not comply with a bluefin ban, if passed.

    New Species of Shrike Discovered In Africa

    March 16, 2010  www.eurekalert.org

    DNA analysis has verified the existence of another species of black shrike in the Albertine Rift of Africa. The bird Laniarius willardi is a newly described species of boubou shrike (Malaconotidae) whose single distinctive trait is its blue-gray eyes. "This bird has been around for probably at least a couple million years; it's old, but it's new to science at least in the DNA age," said Dr. Gary Voelker, assistant professor of wildlife and fisheries and curator of birds with Texas AgriLife Research at College Station. "Clearly, it was noticed before, because several museum specimens collected in 1910 were noted to have had gray eyes. But it apparently never occurred to those collectors that their find was potentially something different than other black shrikes that might have been collected in the same basic region." The paper describing the new species will appear in the July issue of the international ornithological journal The Auk. Voelker hopes to study the bird's habits to determine its susceptibility to the deforestation now occurring across its native habitat.

    Slowing Climate Change by Limiting Deforestation

    March 16, 2010  www.eurekalert.org

    A new study, "Indigenous Lands, Protected Areas, and Slowing Climate Change," involving scientists from 13 different organizations, universities and research institutions has been published in PLoS Biology. It  makes specific recommendations for incorporating protected areas into overall strategies to reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses from deforestation and degradation (nicknamed REDD). "Deforestation leads to about 15 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, more than all the cars, trucks, trains, ships, and planes on earth. If we fail to reduce it, we'll fail to stabilize our climate," said Taylor Ricketts, director of WWF's science program and lead author of the study. "Our paper emphasizes that creating and strengthening indigenous lands and other protected areas can offer an effective means to cut emissions while garnering numerous additional benefits for local people and wildlife."

    International policies for compensating forest nations for REDD are under active negotiation. "Protected areas represent a valuable component of national REDD programs since they already contain the necessary institutions and infrastructure to handle funds, strengthen protection and generate results," said Claudio Maretti, Conservation Director, WWF Brazil. "Establishing protected areas usually clarifies land tenure and the associated carbon rights, which has been a sticking point in some negotiations." Completing and managing a network of protected areas in the developing world might require $4 billion USD annually, which is roughly 1/10 of the capital that could be mobilized by international REDD policies.

    Scientists Investigate Southern Right Whale Die-off

    March 16, 2010  www.physorg.com 

    The long-term conservation of the southern right whale is the basis of a thriving eco-tourism industry along Argentina's Patagonian coast. Over the past five years, health experts from WCS and biologists working around the famed Península Valdés—an important calving ground for right whales and a World Heritage Site—have recorded an alarming increase in the number of dead right whales. Since 2005, a total of 308 dead whales were recorded in the waters around Peninsula Valdés, 88 percent of which were calves less than three months old. The deaths constitute 28 percent of live calf sightings during that period. To identify the possible causes of the die-off and formulate conservation recommendations and future research, a team of whale and health experts from WCS have joined experts from other organizations at a workshop sponsored by the International Whaling Commission. Dr. Marcela Uhart, is associate director of WCS's Global Health Program that helped establish the Southern Right Whale Health Monitoring Program, a consortium of NGOs. Other members of the monitoring program include: the Ocean Alliance / Whale Conservation Institute (OA/WCI); Instituto de Conservación de Ballenas (ICB); Fundación Patagonia Natural (FPN); and Fundación Ecocentro.

    Critically Endangered Pygmy Sloth

    March 16, 2010   news.mongabay.com

    The critically endangered pygmy three toed sloth inhabits Escudo Island (3.4 sq km) off the Panamanian mainland.  It is the world's smallest sloth, about 40 percent smaller than its mainland relatives, and was not scientifically described until 2001.  Bryson Voirin, is one of the few researchers to have spent significant time studying the species.  "Working with a genetic lab in Brazil, we recently found a species specific genetic marker for Escudo sloths. This genetic mutation is found only in Escudo sloths," Voirin says. "A research colleague in Finland has classified the algae found in the fur of Escudo sloths, and found it is related to that of other sloth algae. Amazingly, this algae can withstand saltwater!"  Like most species confined to an island, the pygmy three toed sloth has become a specialist, a mangrove-specialist – their exclusive habitat. Local fishermen come over from the mainland and camp out on the island.  They cut down the mangroves to use as charcoal for their fires at their campsite,  and they don't catch enough fish to eat, they eat the sloths. Considering the sharks, lobsters, and most game fish are nearly extinct around Isla Escudo due to unregulated fishing, Voirin fears that pygmy sloths are becoming more and more of a staple food for the 'temporary residents' of Isla Escudo.

    State Park Reforestation
    March 16, 2010  www.kpbs.org  By Ed Joyce

    Reforest California will have planted 78,000 trees in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park by the end of this week. It's part of statewide effort to plant one million trees in Southern California state parks. The 2003 Cedar Fire burned nearly all of the 25,000 acres of the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. Reforestation Project Manager Mike Wells said the initial plan was to allow natural regeneration to replenish the forest, but after 4 years, only one species, the coulter pine, has come back. The four other conifer species have not. Wells said they hope to plant at least 75,000 trees a year, for the next 7 years. Half the $6 million cost is being paid for by private sponsors.

    Public Forum on Energy Security & Climate Change

    March 16, 2010  www.delmartimes.net

    On March 19th, Scripps Institution of Oceanography will host an informational hearing on Energy Security and Climate Change from 9-11 am. The public hearing will focus on the strategic challenges of the nation's dependence on fossil fuels as well as on the security issues we may face due to climate change. The hearing will also focus on how the military, local citizens and businesses in San Diego are meeting the challenges posed by these issues. Presenters include: Maj. Gen. Anthony L. Jackson , Commanding General Marine Corps Installations West: Rear Adm. William D. French, Commander Navy Region Southwest, and Rear Adm, Dennis McGinn, U.S. Navy (Ret.),  Alan Ball, founder and partner of Sustainable Intelligence; Dr. Emily Young, senior Ddirector of environmental analysis and strategy for the San Diego Foundation, and Sam Ori, director of policy for the Electrification Coalition.

    Rhino Poaching Devastates African Population

    March 16, 2010  www.latimes.com

    A sharp surge in poaching in South Africa and Zimbabwe by organized gangs has devastated Zimbabwe's rhino population and threatens to wipe out South Africa's critically endangered black rhinos within a decade. A report last year by WWF, the IUCN and TRAFFIC said poaching had reached a 15-year high, pushing the animals close to extinction. About 1,500 rhino horns were traded illegally in the last three years, despite a long-standing ban on international trade. Last year, 122 rhinos were killed in South Africa. Jones predicted that at the current poaching rate, 180 to 200 will be killed this year. A provisional 2009 estimate shows only 800 rhinos remaining in Zimbabwe, and 18,553 white and 1,570 black rhinos in South Africa, according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, which maintains the ban on the trade of rhino horn. Rhino ranchers, some of whom keep the animals to attract tourists while others rely on limited trophy hunting, are so wary about the involvement of organized crime in rhino killings that few are willing to talk publicly for fear of endangering animals on their properties. Interviews are given on condition that properties, even nearby towns, are not identified.

    Pentagon and WCS Combat Illicit Wildlife Trade

    March 16, 2010  www.nytimes.com  By DINA FINE MARON

    Designed by the Wildlife Conservation Society and backed by $50,000 from the Pentagon, a new campaign will teach soldiers to be wary when shopping for clothes, blankets and other items that might be made from endangered or threatened species like the snow leopard, sand cat, and Asiatic black bear. "Most of these soldiers are between 18 and 26 years of age, and they are not aware," said Heidi Kretser, head of WCS's trade education program. "They are looking at cool products to bring home to their families." The education effort is justified, the group says, by its statistics that show 350 illegally traded wildlife items were confiscated at just three U.S. bases in Afghanistan during spring and summer of 2008. Typically the problems stem from soldiers unwittingly buying blankets and coats containing the furs of protected species -- which make them illegal to ship or carry into the United States. But that is a lesson the troops often do not learn until the products are paid for -- and then confiscated by customs officers. The conservation campaign aims to curb such sales through PowerPoint presentations, pocket-sized endangered species cards and other teaching tools that the group plans to complete this spring. McKenzie Johnson, the conservation group's representative in Afghanistan educates U.S. military police on bases in Afghanistan to keep illegal wildlife products out of on-base bazaars. Johnson’s work is mostly funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, and involves accompanying military police through inspections of bazaars to point out illegal wildlife products -- often, furs of animals protected by CITES or U.S. laws. Deciphering which animals' pelts are used in blankets and coats is not easy, especially when bits of furs are mixed in a single product.

    European Butterflies Disappearing

    March 16, 2010  www.physorg.com 

    Scientists examining Europe's 435 butterfly species found that the populations of one in three species are falling and nine percent are already threatened with extinction. "Most butterflies at risk are confined to southern Europe," said Annabelle Cuttelod, coordinator of the European Red List at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). "Their main threat is habitat loss, most often caused by changes in agricultural practices, either through intensification or abandonment, or to climate change, forest fires and the expansion of tourism." Likewise, logging has led to a decline in the populations of some beetles species that are depend on decaying wood. Known as saproxylic beetles, they play an important role in ecosystems by recycling nutrients. Some 11 percent or 46 species of them are at risk of being lost from the region, while seven percent are threatened with extinction worldwide. Five percent of dragonfly species are threatened with global extinction, while some 11 percent are considered to be near threatened within Europe. "Increasingly hot and dry summers combined with intensified water extraction for drinking and irrigation are causing the dragonflies' wetland habitats to dry up," said the IUCN. The list including some 6,000 European species is part of the IUCN's overall Red List, which is the most respected inventory of biodiversity covering more than 47,000 of the world's species.

    Proposed Listing of 9 Distinct Population Segments of Loggerhead Sea Turtle

    March 16, 2010  www.gpoaccess.gov

    The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce; and United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), have determined that the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) is composed of nine distinct population segments (DPSs) that qualify as "species'' for listing as endangered or threatened, and we propose to list two as threatened and seven as endangered. This also constitutes the 12-month findings on a petition to reclassify loggerhead turtles in the North Pacific Ocean as a DPS with endangered status and designate critical habitat, and a petition to reclassify loggerhead turtles in the Northwest Atlantic as a DPS with endangered status and designate critical habitat. We will propose to designate critical habitat, if found to be prudent and determinable, for the two loggerhead sea turtle DPSs occurring within the United States in a subsequent Federal Register notice. Comments on this proposal must be received by June 14, 2010. You may submit comments, identified by the RIN 0648-AY49, via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov or Mail: NMFS National Sea Turtle Coordinator, Attn: Loggerhead Proposed Listing Rule, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Room 13657, Silver Spring, MD 20910 or USFWS National Sea Turtle Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 7915 Baymeadows Way, Suite 200, Jacksonville, FL 32256.

    Instructions: All comments received are a part of the public record and will be posted to http://www.regulations.gov. NMFS and USFWS will accept anonymous comments (enter N/A in the required fields, if you wish to remain anonymous). Attachments to electronic comments will be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file formats only. The proposed rule is available electronically at www.nmfs.noaa.gov. For further information contact: Barbara Schroeder, NMFS (ph. 301-713-1401) Sandy MacPherson, USFWS (ph. 904-731-3336), Marta Nammack, NMFS (ph. 301-713-1401) or Emily Bizwell, USFWS (ph. 404-679-7149).

    Recovery Plan for the Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle

    March 16, 2010  www.gpoaccess.com

    The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce; Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announce the availability for public review of the draft Bi-National Recovery Plan (Plan) for the Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle (Lepidochelys kempii). The Kemp's Ridley Recovery Plan is a bi-national plan developed by the NMFS and USFWS and the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, Mexico. We are soliciting review and comment on the Plan from the public and all interested parties, including state and local governments. We will consider all substantive comments received during the review period before submitting the Plan for final approval. Comments on the draft Plan must be received by close of business on May 17, 2010. Send comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal or US Mail: NMFS Deputy Chief Endangered Species Division, Attn: Draft Bi-National Kemp's Ridley Recovery Plan, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Room 13535, Silver Spring, MD 20910. For further information contact: Therese Conant (ph. 301-713-1401)  Interested persons may obtain the Plan for review on the Internet.

    Endangered Species Permits Issued

    March 16, 2010  www.gpoaccess.com                     

    We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, have issued the following permits to conduct certain activities with endangered species and/or marine mammals. Documents and other information submitted with these applications are available for review, by any party who submits a written request for a copy of such documents to: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Management Authority, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Room 212, Arlington, Virginia 22203; fax 703-358-2281.  For further information contact: Division of Management Authority, telephone 703-358-2104.

    Permit number

    Applicant Issue Date
    060470 Hollywood Animals, Inc January 15, 2010
    060472 Hollywood Animals, Inc January 15, 2010
    060473 Hollywood Animals, Inc January 15, 2010
    192403 Ricardo E. Longoria December 28, 2009
    220887 Fort Worth Zoo February 19, 2010
    223400 Earth Promise, ( Fossil Rim Wildlife Center) February 19, 2010
    223447 Zoological Society of San Diego February 26, 2010
    230742 The Phoenix Zoo February 2, 2010
    231594 Seneca Park Zoo February 2, 2010
    232558 William J. Butler January 20, 2010
    233622 National Zoological Park January 26, 2010
    234069 Carl Wagner January 28, 2010
    235302 Jarrell W. Martin February 5, 2010
    220509 Dr. Beth Shapiro, Penn State March 5, 2010
    225854 Tom S. Smith, B.Y.U February 18, 2010
    226641 Natalija Lace, U. Southern MI  74 January 26, 2010
    229154 John Downer Productions LTD February 23, 2010
    230255 Pontecorvo Productions LLC February 26, 2010

    Grant Approved For San Diego Vernal Pools

    March 16, 2010  www.delmartimes.net

    The San Diego City Council has authorized the use of a $500,000 federal Endangered Species Act grant to develop a conservation plan for vernal pool habitats in San Diego. About $400,000 will go to the San Diego Association of Governments to prepare the plan, which will identify the remaining vernal pool habitat and establish proposed preservation zones. The project has been in the planning for more than a decade and is scheduled to begin in May and be completed by June 2012. Vernal pools are small, shallow ponds that are dry most of the year, but fill up with water during winter rains. The pools are home to several plant and animal species, including the endangered fairy shrimp. They are found in Del Mar Mesa, Mira Mesa, Carmel Mountain, Kearny Mesa, Mission Trails Regional Park and Otay Mesa, and are threatened by development. About 97 percent of the known habitat for vernal pools in San Diego County has been lost to development and agriculture.

    Vernal Pool Research in San Diego

    March 16, 2010  www.signonsandiego.com  By Mike Lee

    There is a growing effort to study, restore and safeguard ponds that once covered about 200 square miles of the county. Roughly 2,500 vernal-pool basins were identified in the city of San Diego during an inventory completed in the early 2000s. They’re clustered in Del Mar Mesa, Kearny Mesa, Mira Mesa, Otay Mesa and a few other spots. They represent about 3% percent of historical vernal pools remain in Southern California, typically on mesas. One of their most important functions is providing protein, in the form of tiny invertebrates, for amphibians and migrating birds. The signature vernal-pool species is the endangered San Diego fairy shrimp, a quarter-inch-long crustacean that swims on its back and feeds by filtering nutrients from the brackish waters. Many of the almost-microscopic crustaceans and insects have not been described by science yet according to David Hogan, director of the Chaparral Lands Conservancy in Mount Laguna. “The El Niño years are when the vernal pools really pop,” he said, and this winter as one of the strongest El Niño seasons since record-keeping began.

    Historically, vernal pools were “largely seen as a nuisance” by the public and developers, said Marie Simovich, a biology professor at the University of San Diego and an expert on seasonal wetlands. She and her assistant researchers are studying roughly 20 pools at the Carmel Mountain Preserve, where mountain bikers and horse riders routinely disrupt their delicate biological balance. San Diego city officials are considering various strategies to enhance and protect the pools with support from Hogan’s conservancy. His group helped secure money to study the Carmel Mountain pools from the Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity, which supports endangered species. Hogan is also seeking about $450,000 from the San Diego Association of Governments to restore damaged pools and plant sensitive species at the site, which was slated for housing development in the early 1990s. He and others have helped set aside about 300 acres to protect the pools.

    Earth Hour – March 27

    March 17, 2010  www.panda.org

    At 8:30pm on Saturday, 27 March, lights will go out in homes, office buildings, town halls and public spaces across the globe - from the world's tallest building in Dubai, to San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge... and in YOUR living room! To participate, switch off your lights for one hour. When we do this together, we send a strong message to our leaders about the threats of global warming and that we can work together to create a sustainable future for our planet. Last year, 4,000 cities in 88 countries took part in the international celebration of darkness.

    Prescribed Burns Reduce US Carbon Footprint

    March 17, 2010  www.eurekalert.org

    "Prescribed burns can be an important piece of a climate change strategy," says Christine Wiedinmyer, a scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and lead author of the new study. "If we reintroduce fires into our ecosystems, we may be able to protect larger trees and significantly reduce the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere by major wildfires." The study is being published this week in Environmental Science and Technology. It was funded by the National Science Foundation, NCAR's sponsor. Drawing on satellite observations and computer models of emissions, the researchers concluded that widespread prescribed burns can reduce fire emissions of carbon dioxide in the West by an average of 18 to 25 percent, and by as much as 60 percent in certain forest systems. Prescribed fires are designed to burn underbrush and small trees, which store less carbon. "When fire comes more frequently, it's less severe and causes lower tree mortality," says Matthew Hurteau of Northern Arizona University, the study's co-author. "Fire protects trees by clearing out the fuel that builds up in the forest."

    New Analysis of Illicit Ivory Trade

    March 17, 2010  www.eurekalert.org

    The Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS), is the world's largest database on ivory seizures. (More than 15,400 ivory seizures compiled over the last 21 years.) Tom Milliken of TRAFFIC analyzed the ETIS data by region rather than country for CITES and found that it substantiates the failure of law enforcement in key elephant range. States facing an increasing threat from organized crime and the presence of unregulated markets. "What's needed is urgent action by government enforcement agencies in these regions and strong collaboration with counterparts in Asia where many of the current seizures are being made," he said. The Central African region is clearly losing the most elephants. The analysis can be downloaded from the CITES website [PDF.

    Zoo’s Baby Giant Anteater Dies
    March 17, 2010  cbs13.com

    The giant anteater born at the Sacramento Zoo eight days ago was discovered dead by keepers during a routine check. Harrison Edell, Zoo General Curator, said the baby looked to be growing stronger and was holding on to her mother. The baby’s twin died just a few hours after birth. A necropsy will be performed to determine why the baby died.

    Lincoln Park
    Zoo Will Breed Illinois Snake
    March 17, 2010  www.dailyherald.com

    A $49,000 grant will allow the Forest Preserve District and Lincoln Park Zoo to conduct a breeding program to increase the number of ‘smooth green snakes’ in county preserves. The smooth green snake is on the decline in Illinois and now one of the rarer snakes in the area due to loss of habitat. The goal this year is to determine how many smooth green snakes can safely be removed from the wild for breeding or relocation. Those found this year will be marked and released, although pregnant females will be collected and kept at the zoo, where they will have a better chance of survival. Any offspring will become the base for a new population to be placed in restored areas. "We get more value out of the new animals than we would if they were left in the wild," said Joanne Earnhardt, director of the Alexander Center for Applied Population Biology at Lincoln Park Zoo. The effort is the third in recent years for the forest preserve district involving snakes, which contribute to the ecological integrity and diversity of forest preserve land.

    Vervet Monkey Behavior Study

    March 17, 2010  news.bbc.co.uk  By Victoria Gill

    Scientists studying wild vervet monkeys in South Africa found that the animals were better able to learn a task when it was demonstrated by a female. The team compared animals' responses to demonstrations of a simple box-opening task, which was demonstrated either by a dominant male or female monkey. Their findings are described in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Biologist Erica van de Waal, from the University of Neuchatel in Switzerland and her team, studied six neighboring groups of wild vervet monkeys in South Africa's Loskop Dam Nature Reserve. Watching and learning from dominant females could be advantageous for the monkeys. While males tend to wander and find mates in other groups, females usually return to the group in which they were born. "Females are core group members with higher social status than males, and more knowledge about food resources in the home range," explained Ms van de Waal.

    Dogs Originated In Middle East

    March 17, 2010  www.nytimes.com  By Nicholas Wade

    Researchers have concluded that dogs were probably first domesticated from wolves somewhere in the Middle East, in contrast to an earlier survey suggesting dogs originated in East Asia. This finding puts the first known domestication — that of dogs — in the same place as the domestication of plants and other animals, and strengthens the link between the first animal to enter human society and the subsequent invention of agriculture about 10,000 years ago. A research team led by Bridgett M. vonHoldt and Robert K. Wayne from UCLA has analyzed a large collection of wolf and dog genomes collected from around the world. Scanning for similar runs of DNA, the researchers found that the Middle East was where wolf and dog genomes were most similar, although there was another area of overlap between East Asian wolves and dogs. Wolves were probably first domesticated in the Middle East, but after dogs had spread to East Asia there was a cross-breeding that injected more wolf genes into the dog genome, the researchers conclude in Thursday’s issue of the journal Nature.

    The wolf DNA in the study was collected over many years by Dr. Wayne from wolf packs around the world. A colleague, Elaine Ostrander, gathered much of the dog DNA by persuading owners at dog shows to let her take a scraping of cells from inside the cheek. The dog genome has been decoded twice: scientists at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Mass., have sequenced the boxer’s genome, and Craig Venter has decoded his poodle’s genome. With these two genomes in hand, the Broad Institute designed a dog SNP chip, similar to those used to scan the human for genetic disease. SNPs, or “snips,” are sites of common variation along the DNA. Affymetrix, an SNP chip maker, manufactured the dog SNP chip for Dr. Wayne’s team, letting him have 1,000 chips free, though thereafter they cost $250 apiece. The dog SNP chip brought to light the close relationship between dogs and wolves in the Middle East and also the genetic relationship between various breeds. Dr. Wayne was surprised to find that all the herding dogs grouped together, as did all the sight hounds and the scent hounds, making a perfect match between dogs’ various functions and the branches on the genetic tree

    Dog domestication and human settlement occurred at the same time, some 15,000 years ago, raising the possibility that dogs may have had a complex impact on the structure of human society. Dogs may have been the sentries that let people settle without fear of surprise attack. They may also have been the first major item of inherited wealth, preceding cattle, and so could have laid the foundations for the gradations of wealth and social hierarchy that differentiated settled groups from the egalitarianism of their hunter gatherer predecessors.

    California’s First Major Solar Power Plant

    March 17, 2010  greeninc.blogs.nytimes.com  By TODD WOODY

    California regulators on Wednesday recommended that the state’s first new big solar power plant in nearly two decades be approved after a two-and-half year review of its environmental impact on the Mojave Desert. The recommendation by the California Energy Commission staff comes three weeks after the United States Department of Energy offered the project’s builder, BrightSource Energy, a $1.37 billion loan guarantee to construct the 392-megawatt Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, or I.S.E.G.S. The Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife and the Center for Biological Diversity favor solar energy projects but objected to building the BrightSource power plant in Southern California’s Ivanpah Valley, saying it would harm rare plants and animals such as the desert tortoise. Other environmentalists argued that the project, which features thousands of mirrors that focus the sun on 459-foot-tall towers, would mar the visual beauty of the desert. In an assessment filed on Tuesday, energy commission staff found that a smaller version of the project that BrightSource proposed last month would mitigate any damage to several protected plant species on the site. Environmentalists, however, had said the downsized version of the power plant would not sufficiently protect rare species and continued to push for the project’s relocation to more disturbed land.

    Bobcat Proposal Rejected By CITES
    March 17, 2010  www.fws.gov

    Today the United States introduced to CITES the proposal to remove the bobcat (Lynx rufus) from Appendix II listing, which regulates their international trade. The United States pointed out that bobcat populations in the U.S. have been managed sustainably by state wildlife agencies for over 30 years and are not detrimentally affected by commercial trade. In fact, populations are increasing and recent surveys demonstrate that the population in the United States is between 1.7 and 2.6 million. The parties participated in considerable debate and there were divergent points of view on the proposal, including a strong showing of support by Canada which shares management of Lynx rufus with the U.S. Opposition to the proposal focused on issues concerning the possible impact to illegal trade of other listed spotted cats due to their similarity of appearance. The final vote in the Committee was 53 in support, 46 opposed and 15 abstentions. The final decision will be made by the plenary session of the CoP15 on the final day of the conference. Typically, that vote follows the recommendation of the Committee.

    Horrifying Chinese Zoo Scandal

    March 17, 2010 www.guardian.co.uk  by Jonathan Watts

    Chinese authorities have launched an investigation into the Shenyang Forest Wildlife zoo, a semi-private operation that slashed rations for its animals after running into financial difficulties. 11 Siberian tigers starved to death and there are allegations that the zoo has been illegally supplying brewers of tiger-bone tonics.  Authorities will also examine the structural problems facing China's massive captive-breeding business, in which more than 1,000 other tigers are at risk of malnourishment. An zoo official, quoted by The Beijing News, claimed 40 to 50 tigers may have died since 2000 and production of tiger-bone wine for human consumption was an "open secret". Bottles of the illicit tonic were reportedly given to police and senior forestry officials, who are supposed to be on the frontline of conservation efforts. The case highlights the dire conditions in which 6,000 to 10,000 tigers and other rare animals are kept by captive-breeding centers that were actually set up to farm parts for traditional medicine. The biggest of them, the Guilin Xiongsen Tiger and Bear Mountain Village crams 1,400 tigers into an area smaller than Regents Park. "Anyone with money is allowed to build a zoo or wildlife park without proper facilities, professional breeders or veterinarians," said Hua Ning, the project director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare in China. The government said it may re-evaluate the captive breeding system if the investigation into the deaths at Shenyang zoo proves widespread abuse. "We are closely following the development of the incidents," said Liu Xiongying, a senior official with information office at the State Forestry Administration, told The China Daily. China has previously defended its captive breeding programme as a means to save the animal from extinction.

    In Defense of Animals Files Complaint Against 4 Zoos

    March 17, 2010  seattletimes.nwsource.com  By Susan Gilmore

    The California-based animal rights organization, In Defense of Animals (IDA), has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture charging that Woodland Park Zoo's elephant breeding program violates the federal Animal Welfare Act. The complaint, follows the zoo’s announcement that it had artificially inseminated its elephant Chai. Catherine Doyle, IDA campaign director, said "IDA is calling on the USDA to stop the reckless breeding of elephants in herpes-affected zoos." The IDA also filed complaints against elephant breeding at three other zoos, the Houston Zoo, the St. Louis Zoo and the Oklahoma City Zoo.

    Revised Critical Habitat for California Red-Legged Frog

    March 17, 2010  www.gpoaccess.gov

    The  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), is designating revised critical habitat for the California red-legged frog (Rana). In total, approximately 1,636,609 acres (662,312 hectares) of critical habitat in 27 California counties fall within the boundaries of the final revised critical habitat designation. This rule becomes effective on April 16, 2010. This final rule, final economic analysis, and maps are available on the Internet www.regulations.gov and www.fws.gov. Comments and materials received, as well as supporting documentation used in preparing this final rule, are available for public inspection at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, 2800 Cottage Way, Room W-2605, Sacramento, CA 95825; telephone 916-414-6600; For further information about revised designation in Alameda, Butte, Calaveras, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Kern, Kings, Marin, southern Mendocino, Merced, Napa, Nevada, Placer, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, and Yuba Counties, contact Susan Moore, Field Supervisor or Arnold Roessler, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, 2800 Cottage Way, Room W-2605, Sacramento, CA 95825; telephone 916-414-6600; or facsimile 916-414-6712. For information about the revised designation in Los Angeles, Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, and Ventura Counties, contact Diane Noda, Field Supervisor, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2394 Portola Road, Suite B, Ventura, CA 93003; telephone 805-644-1766.  For information about the exclusion of critical habitat in Riverside County, contact Jim Bartel, Field Supervisor, Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 6010 Hidden Valley Road, Suite 101, Carlsbad, CA 92011; telephone 760-431-9440. For information about the revised designation in northern Mendocino County, contact Randy Brown, Acting Field Supervisor, Arcata Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1655 Heindon Road, Arcata, CA 95521; telephone 707-822-7201.

    The proposed revised critical habitat for the California red-legged frog available on April 28, 2009 (74 FR 19184), we proposed a nomenclature change to the California red-legged frog from Rana aurora draytonii to Rana draytonii and for that change to be published in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) when this rule became final. In this rule, we make that change
    and will now refer to the California red-legged frog by its accepted taxonomic name of Rana draytonii. The California red-legged frog is the largest native frog in the western United States. It is endemic (native and restricted) to California and Baja California, Mexico, at elevations ranging from sea level to approximately 5,000 feet (1,500 meters). Records of the California red-legged frog are known from Riverside County to Mendocino County along the Coast Range; from Calaveras County to Butte County in the Sierra Nevada; and in Baja California, Mexico (Grismer 2002, p. 79; Fidenci 2004, pp. 27-29; Smith and Krofta 2005, pp. 4, 6; California Natural Diversity Database 2009 (CNDDB)). For a detailed description of the species, see the recovery plan for the California red-legged frog (Service 2002, pp. 1-173), references identified in the recovery plan, and information in previous Federal Register notices (April 13, 2006, 71 FR 19244; March 13, 2001, 66 FR 14626; May 23, 1996, 61 FR 25813).

    Analysis of Bird Bone Density

    March 17, 2010  www.physorg.com

    It is a common misconception that bird skeletons are lightweight relative to their body mass. They actually don’t weigh any less than the skeletons of similarly sized mammals. Bat researcher, Elizabeth Dumont of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, explains that bird bones are denser than mammal bones, which makes them heavy even though they are thin and sometimes even hollow. Her findings, supported by bone density measurements, are published in the March 17 issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Dumont measured the density of the cranium, humerus and femurs in song birds, rodents and bats by measuring bone mass and volume. “I found that, on average, these bones are densest in birds, followed closely by bats. Many studies have shown that as bone density increases, so does bone stiffness and strength. Maximizing stiffness and strength relative to weight are optimization strategies that are used in the design of strong and stiff but lightweight man-made airframes,” she said. Over time bird bones have evolved specializations that maximize stiffness and strength such as high bone density, a reduction in the total number of bones, fusion of some bones, and changes in bone shape. For example, the humerus, in the bird wing, is quite round in cross-section. This makes it stiffer in the same way that a round toothpick is harder to snap than a flat one. Being dense, strong and stiff is one more way that birds’ and bats’ bones are specialized for flight.

    Golden Lion Tamarin Rescue Effort

    March 18, 2010  www.philly.com   By Sandy Bauers

    Tonight, at a Brazilian-themed gala, the Philadelphia Zoo is taking a step to participate in the Golden Lion Tamarin rescue effort. As a finale to a gift-giving spree celebrating its 150th anniversary, the zoo is awarding a half-million dollars over the next 10 years to Brazil's Golden Lion Tamarin Association to help fund the executive-director position held by Denise Rambaldi. Rambaldi’s program in Brazil has rejuvenated the golden lion tamarin population that lives along the Atlantic Coast near Rio de Janeiro. In the early 1980’s it was feared that there were only a few hundred of the squirrel-sized primate left. Rambaldi and international colleagues attacked the problem from every angle. They introduced captive-born animals into the wild. They used new technology to trace their movements and bring them aid when they needed it. And they planted corridors of forest and worked with ranchers to protect vital habitat. The golden lion tamarin is actually the first primate species that has been turned around. Nearly 200 golden lion tamarins captive-bred in zoos have been released back into the wild - a tactic that has frequently failed with other species because the animals don't know how to survive on their own. But before their release, researchers put the tamarins through "boot camps" in large enclosures, restricting their food so they would learn to forage. The animals were released into the wild at an age when young tamarins naturally separate from their family groups to find mates. They wore radio collars so humans could follow them, provide food or veterinary care if necessary, and return them if they became lost. Now, about half of the tamarins in the wild are captive-born animals or their descendants, Rambaldi said. Today, there are 1,600 tamarins on 10,600 hectares and the program now has a specific goal: 2,000 tamarins occupying 25,000 hectares (nearly 100 square miles) of forest that is both permanently protected from development and, where it is in patches, connected by corridors of forest.

    Calgary Zoo’s Head Curator Resigns

    March 18, 2010  www.cbc.ca

    CALGARY, Canada -- Cathy Gaviller, the zoo's director of conservation and research, resigned this week after 20 years at the facility to "pursue other opportunities." "The past few months have been very challenging for the organization and for me personally,” she said.  “I care deeply for the Calgary Zoo and hope my decision can help the zoo move forward confidently and begin a new chapter in animal stewardship." Gaviller's resignation comes the same week that a zookeeper was suspended for failing to properly check an outdoor enclosure where ice had built up in a moat. A gorilla was able to jump from the ice to a perimeter fence, where it perched for several minutes before returning to the enclosure. The zoo is currently under an independent review of its animal care practices after a capybara was crushed to death by a hydraulic gate. Several other animals have died at the zoo in the past few years including a baby elephant, a hippo, a wild goat, four gorillas and more than 40 stingrays. Last month, two non-poisonous snakes escaped into a drain inadvertently left open by a zookeeper. They were later found in the drain just below their enclosure.

    BronxZoo’s Marmoset Enrichment

    March 18, 2010  www.zandavisitor.com  By Sophie Bass

    Pygmy marmosets at the Bronx Zoo easily figure out how to retrieve insects from a variety of objects like plastic easter eggs. Animal keepers provide daily enrichment activities to help keep the animals mentally and physically active and healthy.

    Encephalomyocarditis Virus Infection In An Italian Zoo

    March 18, 2010  7thspace.com

    A fatal Encephalomyocarditis virus (EMCV) infection epidemic involving fifteen primates occurred between October 2006 and February 2007 at the Natura Viva Zoo. This large open-field zoo park located near Lake Garda in Northern Italy hosts one thousand animals belonging to one hundred and fifty different species, including various lemur species. A second outbreak between September and November 2008 involved three lemurs. In all cases, the clinical signs were sudden deaths generally without any evident symptoms or only with mild unspecific clinical signs. Gross pathologic changes were characterized by myocarditis (diffuse or focal pallor of the myocardium), pulmonary congestion, emphysema, oedema and thoracic fluid. The EMCV was isolated and recognized as the causative agent of both outbreaks. The first outbreak in particular was associated with a rodent plague, confirming that rats are an important risk factor for the occurrence of the EMCV infection. The epidemic is reported in the Virology Journal.

    26% Decline in High Arctic Species

    March 18, 2010  www.sciencedaily.com

    Populations of lemmings, caribou and red knot are some of the species that have experienced declines over the past 34 years, according to the first report from The Arctic Species Trend Index (ASTI), which collects data on how the Arctic's ecosystems and wildlife are responding to environmental change. While some of these declines may be part of a natural cycle, there is concern that pressures such as climate change may be exacerbating natural cyclic declines. Population levels of species living in the sub-Arctic and low Arctic are relatively stable and in some cases, increasing. The Arctic is host to abundant and diverse wildlife populations, many of which migrate annually from all regions of the globe. This region acts as a critical component in the Earth's physical, chemical, and biological regulatory system," says lead-author Louise McRae from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL). The ASTI includes almost 1,000 datasets on Arctic species population trends, including representation from 35 per cent of all known vertebrate species found in the Arctic. The findings of the first ASTI report will be presented at the 'State of the Arctic' Conference in Miami, USA. The Arctic Species Trend Index (ASTI) was commissioned and coordinated by the Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (CBMP). The CBMP is working with over 60 organiations to expand, integrate and enhance existing arctic biodiversity research and monitoring efforts to facilitate more rapid detection, communication and response to significant trends and pressures.

    Reclassification of Beluga Sturgeon As Critically Endangered

    March 18, 2010  www.eurekalert.org

    STONY BROOK, NY -- The IUCN has announced the reclassification of beluga sturgeon in the Caspian Sea as "critically endangered", providing strong evidence that fishing and international trade should be halted and a stock-rebuilding plan should be initiated immediately. Beluga sturgeon populations have been decimated in part due to unrelenting exploitation for black caviar – the sturgeon's unfertilized eggs – considered the finest in the world. "This reclassification of beluga sturgeon is of great significance and relief," said Dr. Ellen Pikitch, Professor and Executive Director of the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University. "However, of even greater significance is the IUCN reclassification of many sturgeons. A higher percentage of sturgeon species were designated as critically endangered than any other group of species assessed, including other fish, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and plants." Dr. Pikitch, and Dr. Phaedra Doukakis, recently co-authored, along with other U.S. and Kazakhstani scientists, a study of Caspian Sea beluga sturgeon of the Ural River, which was published online this month in the journal Conservation Biology.

    CITES Rejects Proposal to Ban Bluefin Tuna Trade

    March 18, 2010  www.foxnews.com

    Today, member countries of CITES rejected a proposal to outlaw international trade in eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna. The controversial proposal made by Monaco was quashed with 68 votes against, 20 in favor and 30 abstentions. Japan, which buys three-quarters of the global catch of bluefin tuna, has lobbied hard in Doha and elsewhere to block the proposal, which had to be approved by two-thirds of the approximately 150 nations in attendance. Japan, Canada and many poorer nations feared a ban would devastate fishing economies.  Bluefin tuna stocks in the Atlantic and Mediterranean have crashed, with populations declining by up to 80 percent from only three or four decades ago.

    Listing of the Berry Cave Salamander as Endangered

    March 18, 2010  www.gpoaccess.gov

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, announces a 90-day finding on a petition to list the Berry Cave salamander (Gyrinophilus gulolineatus) as endangered. Based on our review, we find that the petition presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that listing this species may be warranted. Therefore, with the publication of this notice, we are initiating a review of the status of the species to determine if listing the Berry Cave salamander is warranted. To ensure that this status review is comprehensive, we are requesting scientific and commercial data and other information regarding this species. To allow us adequate time to conduct this review, we request that we receive information on or before May 17, 2010. You may submit information via the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Search for Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2010-0011 and follow the instructions or U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R4-ES-2010-0011; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203. We will post all information received www.regulations.gov. For further information contact Mary E. Jennings, Field Supervisor, Cookeville Ecological Services Field Office, 446 Neal Street, Cookeville, TN, 38501; by telephone (931-528-6481).

    The Berry Cave salamander (Gyrinophilus gulolineatus) was recognized as a distinct aquatic cave-dependant taxon when it was originally described as a subspecies (G. palleucus gulolineatus) of the Tennessee cave salamander (G. palleucus) The Tennessee cave salamander is found in eastern and middle Tennessee, northern Alabama, and northwestern Georgia. Three taxonomic entities have been formally described within the Tennessee cave salamander species complex. The pale salamander (G. p. palleucus) is the most widely distributed member of the group and is found in middle Tennessee, northern Alabama, and northwestern Georgia. The Big Mouth Cave salamander (G. p. necturoides) is restricted to one cave in middle Tennessee, and the Berry Cave salamander has been recorded from five locations in eastern Tennessee. The Berry Cave salamander is differentiated from other members of the group by a distinctive dark stripe on the upper portion of the throat, a wider head, a flatter snout, and possibly larger size (Brandon 1965, p. 347). Based on these differences and its apparent isolation from other members of the group, it has been recommended that this subspecies be recognized as a distinct species (G. gulolineatus).

    Recovery Plan for Central California Coast Coho Salmon

    March 18, 2010  www.gpoaccess.gov

    The  National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), announce that the Draft Recovery Plan for Central California Coast coho salmon (Draft Plan) is available for public review and comment. The Draft Plan addresses the Central California Coast coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) Evolutionarily Significant Unit (ESU). NMFS is soliciting review and comment from the public and all interested parties on the Draft Plan. NMFS will consider and address all substantive comments received during the comment period. Comments must be received no later than 5 p.m.May 17, 2010. Submit comments to CohoRecovery.swr@noaa.go or mail to Charlotte A. Ambrose, National Marine
    Fisheries Service, 777 Sonoma Avenue, Suite 325, Santa Rosa, CA 95404 ATTN: Recovery Coordinator/CCC Coho Salmon Public Draft Recovery Plan Comments.For further information contact:  Charlotte Ambrose, North Central California Coast Recovery Coordinator (707-575-6068).  Persons wishing to review the Draft Plan can obtain an electronic copy (i.e., CD ROM) from Ms. Andrea Berry by calling 1-866-300-2948 or download a copy.

    CITES Rejects U.S. Backed Polar Bear Ban

    March 18, 2010  www.physorg.com

    A U.S.-backed proposal to ban the international trade of polar bear skins, teeth and claws was defeated today at a U.N. wildlife meeting over concerns it would hurt indigenous economies and arguments the practice didn't pose a significant threat to the animals. 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. Canada, along with Norway and Greenland, led the opposition to the U.S. proposal. They said the threat from trade was minimal and the hunting done by Aboriginal communities was critical to their economies. Only 2 percent of Canadian polar bears are internationally traded and the country strictly manages the commerce, Canada said. "There is no doubt that action must continue to ensure the conservation of polar bears. Canada's goal is long term survival of polar bears," Canadian representative Basile Van Havre said. "But Canada does not think the proposal is supported by facts." Data available on polar bear trade shows that since the early 1990s the market for polar bear carcasses and parts has increased. From 1992 to 2006, approximately 31,294 live polar bears, carcasses or parts were exported to 73 different countries, according to data collected by CITES. Skins are the most popular export item, and Canada is the largest commercial exporter. In May 2008, the U.S. classified the polar bear as a threatened species, the first with its survival at risk due to global warming. The determination made all but subsistence hunting illegal.

    USFWS Plans for Warmer World

    March 18, 2010  www.nature.com  by Janet Fang

    More than 200 birds in the United States are threatened by climate change. Last week the Department of Interior released “The State of the Birds: 2010 Report on Climate Change” [PDF]. The report quantifies the vulnerability of each species on the basis of its breeding behavior, habitat, migratory pattern and ecological niche. Climate change will magnify already existing threats to birds, says Kenneth Rosenberg of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Every habitat will be disrupted by the warming climate, but ocean birds are the most vulnerable to the disruption, with all 67 species especially at risk because they depend on a rapidly changing marine ecosystem, according to the report. Island birds, particularly those in Hawaii, will face increasing rates of avian malaria if the warming climate allows mosquitoes to spread to higher mountain zones. Last month, Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, ordered a study of climate impacts on wildlife, and earlier this month the department opened a Climate Science Center in Anchorage, Alaska, the first of eight planned around the nation. Information from those centers about climate’s effects and ways to lessen them will feed into a network of Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, which will help to coordinate regional climate-adaptation efforts by federal and state governments and private landowners. The Obama administration’s first budget reflects a change in priorities. For fiscal year 2010, it provided US$25 million for Landscape Conservation Cooperatives and $15 million for Climate Science Centers, going from zero to $40 million in one year.

    Detecting Lead in Condor Feathers

    March 18, 2010  www.nature.com

    California condors are heavily affected by lead poisoning, but current biannual testing detects only a fraction of their exposure. Myra Finkelstein of the University of California, Santa Cruz, and colleagues report in the journal Environmental Science and Technology that analysis of sequential segments of condor feathers can provide a history of lead exposure over the 2-4 months of feather growth. By measuring lead concentration and isotope composition in feather and blood samples, the researchers identified lead-exposure events that would have been missed by blood monitoring alone. Their technique may also be applicable to other bird species.

    Free Biodiversity Article Collection From the Journal Nature

    March 18, 2010  www.nature.com 

    To celebrate the International Year of Biodiversity, the Journal Nature is offering free access to a collection of articles published between 2007 and 2009. Topics include:

    Putting a price on nature (18 November 2009)
    On the origin of bar codes (18 November 2009)
    Costing the Earth Nature (19 November 2009)
    A force to fight global warming (19 November 2009)
    Let the locals lead (19 November 2009)
    A call to the custodians of deep time (19 November 2009)
    Ragamuffin Earth (22 July 2009)
    Towards a theory of biodiversity (16 July 2009)
    Climate change and the ecologist (2 August 2007)
    Mutualistic networks minimizes competition and increases biodiversity (23 April 2009)
    Global patterns of speciation and diversity (16 July 2009)
    The importance of niches for the maintenance of species diversity (10 September 2009)
    Diversity and productivity peak at intermediate dispersal rate in evolving metacommunities (13 March 2008)

    Storms Threaten Monarch Butterflies in Mexico

    March 19, 2010  wdin.blogspot.com

    A loss of forests and food sources has for years thinned the number of monarchs coming to Mexico. Now scientists fear that a new pattern of harsh winter storms may mark the start of an irreversible decline of the transcontinental migration. In early February, normally one of Mexico's driest months, 15 inches of precipitation fell on hilly central regions, covering monarch reserves with snow, sleet and freezing rain. Fewer butterflies arrived this year than ever before, and as many as half of them are thought to have perished in February.

    Twin Golden Lion Tamarins Born At Zoo Atlanta

    March 19, 2010  www.ajc.com  By Kristi E. Swartz

    Zoo Atlanta’s 4-year-old golden lion tamarin, named Robin, has given birth to twins. The twins were born on Thursday, during "free-range" season at the zoo. Atlanta is one of only two zoos that lets the golden lion tamarins go free -- which basically means they can spend more time in the trees outside their indoor habitat, officials said. The tamarins wear radio collars so staffers can monitor where they are. The free-range season is tied to the Golden Lion Tamarin Conservation Program, started originally to help save the endangered animals from extinction. The program takes tamarins that were born in captivity and reintroduce them back to Brazil. Several tamarins that have been born at Zoo Atlanta have been reintroduced in Brazil.

    Bird Navigation Mechanism

    March 19, 2010  www.physorg.com 

    Several years ago German scientists found that magnetic field sensors in the beaks of homing pigeons enabled the birds to extract orientational information from the Earth's magnetic field. A recent article published February 16 in the online journal PLOS One describes their study in additional bird species. They theorize that the iron containing sensory dendrites in the inner dermal lining of the upper beak of all birds serves as an avian magnetometer system. They show that similar structures occur in two species of migratory birds (garden warbler, Sylvia borin and European robin, Erithacus rubecula) and a non-migratory bird, the domestic chicken (Gallus gallus). In all these bird species, histological data have revealed dendrites of similar shape and size, all containing iron minerals within distinct subcellular compartments of nervous terminals of the median branch of the Nervus ophthalmicus.

    Wild Cheetah Population Increases In Southern Angola

    March 19, 2010  www.physorg.com 

    NAMIBIA -- Laurie Marker, head of the Cheetah Conservation Fund, visited southern Angola and was excited to find that cheetahs have returned to this area after having disappeared during decades of civil war. "I actually saw two wild cheetahs, which is very rare, to visibly see them," she said. The cats were seen in the Iona region in southern Namibe province, home to Angola's biggest national park, which was badly damaged during the 27-year civil war that ended in 2002. Marker said southern Angola could develop eco-tourism. Last year researchers discovered 3 Angolan antelope (the giant black sable ) that were thought to be extinct.

    Park Zoo Needs Upgrades to Retain Accreditation
    March 20, 2010  www.tbo.com  By RAY REYES

    TAMPA, Florida – The AZA recently completed a site visit to determine if Lowry Park Zoo might be accredited for another five years. The accrediting committee found that three facilities at the zoo, the veterinary clinic, the manatee hospital and the boardwalk did not meet current industry standard. The Association has given the zoo one year to improve those facilities. Lowry Park will remain accredited during this grace period and be re-evaluated next March. The cost of improving "the oldest parts of the oldest exhibits" is about $2 million, said Craig Pugh, the zoo's chief executive officer. The Association found no concerns with animal or visitor safety. Pugh said, "This AZA recommendation is really a blessing, because it reinforces our priorities." The manatee hospital has been taxed this year with a record number of animal patients because of the unusually cold winter, zoo spokeswoman Rachel Nelson said. The structure is more than 20 years old, and water pumps and filters must be updated with current technology. The veterinary clinic is also more than 20 years old, and zoo officials say they would like to revamp it to include a science center. Funding for the undertaking was included in the zoo's last fiscal year report, but Nelson said zoo officials acknowledge it will be a challenge to build a new facility. The zoo also must revamp a boardwalk that is about a quarter-mile long, Pugh said.

    State Employee Fired Over Jaguar Capture
    March 20, 2010  www.physorg.com

    The Arizona Game and Fish Department has fired an employee based on results of an internal investigation into the capture and death of what was the only known wild jaguar in the U.S.
    40-year-old Thornton W. Smith was a field biologist that had been with the agency 12 years. He was involved in the placement and monitoring of traps used in a black bear and mountain lion research project resulting in the initial capture of the jaguar called "Macho B." The cat was found snared in a trap on February 18, 2009. It was recaptured due to health problems and euthanized less than two weeks later. Game and Fish officials say Smith acknowledged that he misled federal investigators regarding facts surrounding the jaguar's original capture.

    Mini-Convention for Pandaholics at San Diego Zoo

    March 20, 2010  www.signonsandiego.com 

    SAN DIEGO — Bloggers discussing pandas on the San Diego Zoo’s Web site came up with the idea to meet in person while visiting their favorite animal at the zoo. Saturday morning, more than 50 of them from across the state and as far as Canada turned their passion into a remarkable social event. The panda lovers, who are holding a “black and white” dinner later Saturday, got a special tour of the panda exhibit section. Many, including Wamboldt, saw the giant pandas live for the first time after watching them numerous times on the zoo’s panda cam. They called their event “Black and White Obsession,” and dressed appropriately for the occasion. Some wore panda ears. Most had T-shirts that said: Panda Convention, San Diego California 2010. “You can always tell when someone is a panda fan,” said Chris Tratnyek, a panda narrator at the exhibit. ”It’s a treat for us to have them.”  Anyone can log in to the Zoo’s Panda Cam, which is on 24 hours a day. The Zoo’s panda blog generates about 200 comments per post, said Debbie Andreen, associate editor and moderator of the blog. The Zoo’s blog debuted in 2005 after the birth of Su Lin. The San Diego Zoo has five giant pandas, including main attractions Bai Yun and her baby cub, Yun Zi, who was born in August. The two-day panda convention ends tomorrow.

    Zoo Jaguar Returns to Mexico
    March 20, 2010  www.zandavisitor.com  By Carolina Guana

    PHOENIX, AZ -- Lucero, a northern jaguar from Sonora, Mexico, arrived at the Phoenix Zoo in November 2008 after a series of collaborative efforts by the Commission of Ecology and Sustainable Development for the State of Sonora (CEDES), Arizona Game and Fish Department and the Phoenix Zoo. Born in the wild, the four-year-old had been illegally captured in southeast Sonora and sustained life-threatening damage to his teeth. Mexican wildlife authorities rescued Lucero and brought him to Centro Ecologico de Sonora before transferring him to Phoenix Zoo, where a team of veterinary dental specialists performed complex surgery to repair his severely damaged teeth. The veterinary team also took blood and tissue samples for a DNA study on the northern jaguar. Lucero spent the next several weeks recovering after surgery while getting acquainted with Caipora, the female jaguar with whom he would share an exhibit. Although Lucero’s surgery was successful, the extent of his injuries and time spent in captivity are likely to prevent him from being released into the wild. On March 23 he will return to Centro Ecologico de Sonora in Hermosillo. An endangered species, the jaguar was thought to have vanished from the U.S. landscape until two independent sightings in 1996. Arizona and New Mexico comprise the northernmost reach of the northern jaguar’s range, which stretches through Mexico, Central America and South America.

    San Diego Zoo’s Polar Bear Plunge Focuses on Climate Change

    March 22, 2010  www.signonsandiego.com  By Jeanette Steele

    The AZA is launching a five-year initiative to educate the public about climate change and the San Diego Zoo, with 3 million visitors each year “is one of the first institutions to focus on polar ice effects,” according to Debborah Colbert, AZA’s vice president for science and conservation. The Zoo is emphasizing global warming in a $1 million renovation of Polar Bear Plunge which re-opens this Friday. New displays include a comparison of satellite images from 1989 and 2007, a hopscotch game in which ice floes eventually dwindle to nothing, and other displays that support cutting greenhouse-gas emissions. “The time frame to act on changing our habits to improve the situation for polar bears is very short,” said Megan Owen, a biologist at the zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research. The Zoo experienced criticism last year when it chose the theme of global warming for its calendar, which is mailed to 250,000 households. Some people complained and threatened to sever their membership. [But many others applauded the choice]. Another step by the Zoo is to mate 9-year-old male polar bear Kalluk with his longtime exhibit partner, 15-year-old Chinook. If successful, it would be the first cub ever delivered at the zoo. The Plunge currently houses three bears and has added more room to the “backyard,” an off-exhibit space, because they may be asked to adopt another orphan in the future. For the first time, guests will be able to hear and see Chinook, Kalluk and Tatqiq without the interference of glass. One section of glass wall now slides away, and a steel screen there is designed to hinge toward visitors when the bears stand up and place their dinner plate-sized paws on it.  Zzookeepers are training the polar trio to regularly perform that maneuver. Polar Bear Plunge can house up to 6 animals.

    The Zoo (which includes the Wild Animal Park and other off-site facilities) is also in the process of calculating its carbon footprint. The concept is that by figuring out what level of greenhouse gases are being generated, decision-makers can work to lower the amount and/or buy offsets. The Zoo offers a carbon calculator on its Web site for visitors to do their own analyses, and has partnered with a Del Mar nonprofit group that helps people “buy” pieces of the Amazon rain forest to counter their carbon output. In the fall of 2009, students of professor Harry Watkins at Point Loma Nazarene University determined the environmental “footprint” of various zoo animals: An elephant was found to produce 30 tons of carbon dioxide per year, while a panda produces less than 1 ton. The average American adult produces  20 tons of carbon dioxide annually.

    2 Pelicans Die at Santa Barbara Zoo

    March 22, 2010  www.edhat.com

    Two pelicans have died at the Santa Barbara Zoo; one on March 14, and the other on March 15, 2010. "Anytime any animal dies at the Zoo it undergoes a complete necropsy and we take any possible causes into consideration. We test for everything and West Nile is just one of the possible causes we test for," said Nancy McToldridge, Zoo Director. The two birds were vaccinated for West Nile Virus during their 30-day quarantine, which every animal undergoes upon arrival at the zoo. The birds were received in fall 2008 from Santa Barbara's Wildlife Care Network; they had been rehabilitated but could be re-released into the wild. West Nile Virus vaccinations are repeated every year for all the Zoo's birds. "Should it be West Nile Virus," added Varsik, "we will be in contact with the local Public Health Department who monitors such cases and they will respond as they see fit." "Pelicans have been found to succumb to West Nile Virus," comments Dominic Travis, Lincoln Park Zoo Epidemiologist, who has been studying West Nile Virus. The Santa Barbara Zoo began vaccinating its bird population against West Nile Virus in 2003. The Zoo is in regular contact with the local Mosquito and Vector Management District who conducts research in the Zoo vicinity. No mosquitoes with West Nile Virus have been found as of March 19, 2010. Monitoring will continue going forward. Necropsy results will take 3 weeks.

    Worthen Sparrow Nest Sites Found in Mexico

    March 22, 2010  news.bbc.co.uk

    The Worthen's sparrow (Spizella wortheni) was originally discovered in the United States, where a single bird was caught on 16 June 1884, near Silver City, New Mexico. It is now thought to be extinct in the U.S. Formerly, the bird also ranged over much of the Mexican Plateau. Over the past 30 years, the sparrows have only been seen in a 25km squared area in northeastern Mexico, with most of its historical breeding sites since converted to agriculture. These historical records also suggested the sparrows like to breed in valleys full of desert scrub and grassland, habitat also filled by prairie dogs. A team of researchers led by Dr Ricardo Castillo of the Conservation Biology Laboratory of the Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon in San Nicolas de los Garza, Mexico, targeted areas of similar habitat, particularly searching around the La Soledad valley in the municipality of Galeana, home to one of Mexico's most important prairie dog locations. They found nests at San Rafael in Galeana, Nuevo Leon and at La Carbonera in the same state. Another nests were also found at San Jose del Alamito just over the border into the state of Coahuila, but still within the La Soledad valley. The researchers recorded 51 individual sparrows, which is half the 100 to 120 individuals that survive in the wild, according to the IUCN. "Our most optimistic estimate is that 500 individuals remain," Dr Castillo said.

    Internet A Growing Threat To Endangered Species

    March 22, 2010  www.washingtontimes.com  By Michael Casey, AP

    DOHA, Qatar -- The Internet has emerged as one of the greatest threats to rare species, fueling the illegal wildlife trade and making it easier to buy everything from live baby lions to wine made from tiger bones. Delegates to CITES voted overwhelmingly on Sunday to ban the trade of the Kaiser's spotted newt, which has been devastated by Internet trade according to WWF. Only around 1,000 remain in Iran's Zagros Mountains. About 200 have been traded annually over the years, mostly through a Web site operating out of Ukraine. A proposal from the United States and Sweden to regulate the trade in red and pink coral — which is crafted into expensive jewelry and sold extensively on the Web — was defeated, however. (Delegates were concerned that increased regulations might impact poor fishing communities.) The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has done several surveys of illegal trade on the Web and a three-month survey in 2008 found more than 7,000 species worth $3.8 million sold on auction sites, classified ads and chat rooms, mostly in the U.S., but also in Europe, China, Russia and Australia. Most of what is traded is illegal African ivory, but the group has also found exotic birds, along with rare products, such as tiger-bone wine and pelts from protected species, such as polar bears and leopards. A separate 2009 survey by the group Campaign Against the Cruelty to Animals targeted the Internet trade in Ecuador, and found offers to sell live capuchin monkeys, lion cubs and ocelots.

    Veterinarian Operates on Bat Wings

    March 22, 2010  www.santacruzsentinel.com  By Jane Palmer

    SANTA CRUZ -- For more than a decade, veterinarian Kerrin Hoban has performed a dozen "microsurgeries" on bats at the Harbor Veterinary Hospital on Soquel Avenue, as well as treating her stable of cats and dogs. She taught herself how to operate on bats on a broken-winged creature brought to her in 1998. "I take the metal stylette out of a spinal needle and use that as a teeny, weeny pin and put it in the teeny, weeny wing," she said. Just 10 days ago Hoban removed the pin from the wing of her latest patient, a fluffy, thumb-sized Mexican free-tailed bat called Roddie. Roddie now lives with Karen Moreno, a batophile and member of the California Bat Conservation Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of California's shrinking bat populations. Unable to fly again, Roddie will live out his days under Moreno's home -- a luxury hotel for bats. In the back room is a cage that recently housed 50 homeless bats. The size of a large laundry room, the grid-like cage allows ample room for the bats to fly and numerous rungs for the bats to hang off. Moreno estimates she has rehabilitated "hundreds" of bats in the past 12 years. When a bat is given to her with a broken wing, she knows just where to take it. Of all the bats that Hoban has operated on, however, only one has recovered its flight and been re-released into the wild. To survive, bats need to swoop down on insects and capture them in order to eat, she said. Even "knocking out" such a small creature is a challenge, said Hoban. Initially, Hoban places the tiny creatures in a Ziploc bag and funnels the anesthetic in with a nozzle. She can't rely on X-rays to guide her work as bat skeletons are so light, weighing less than a nickel. The powerful X-rays would burn straight through the bone, and she can’t afford a mammogram machine. "I do this for free," Hoban said. "The bats don't have any money."

    Sale Of Elephant Ivory Voted Down By CITES

    March 22, 2010  www.scientificamerican.com

    African elephants are being slaughtered at rates exceeding the former peak in the late 1980s, before CITES banned all trade in elephant products. The ban—as well as a worldwide public oucry against the slaughter—helped to stabilize the wild population of elephants. But within the last decade, highly organized international criminal rings have begun killing elephants like never before. The latest figures indicate that 38,000 elephants a year are falling to the poachers' guns. Last year, Samuel Wasser and Cathy Laurie of the University of Washington along with Bill Clark of Interpol described in Scientific American their efforts to use DNA analysis to trace ivory seizures back to the wild populations of elephants from which they were taken. They found that some of the largest seizures in recent years all came from the same population of wild elephants in Tanzania. Despite this finding, Tanzania had petitioned CITES, which is now meeting in Doha, Qatar, to allow a one-time sale of ivory. The proposal had been strongly opposed by scientists, who argued that allowing any ivory sales would help build a market for a product that can only come from dead elephants. Earlier today, in a rare victory for science-based conservation at this meeting, the organization's members voted to reject the plan. Following its defeat, Zambia withdrew a similar proposal.

    CITES Protects Elephants and Rhinos

    March 22, 2010   content.usatoday.com

    DOHA, Qatar -- Elephants will continue to be protected and rhinos will get some special attention. The 175 member CITES nations voted to continue to protect Zambian and Tanzanian elephants, rejecting these two countries' proposal to downlist pachyderms from Appendix I to Appendix II. That change would have allowed limited trade in their tusks. The proposal was opposed by the 23-nation African Elephant Coalition. International trade in ivory has been banned for 21 years. CITES members voted to increase the focus on protecting rhinos, whose trade is already banned internationally. Efforts will include increasing law enforcement, training of guards, strengthening border controls and improving rhino population monitoring.

    SeaWorld Trainers Use Protected Contact With Tilikum

    March 22, 2010  articles.latimes.com   By Jason Garcia

    ORLANDO, Florida -- After the February 24 death at SeaWorld, killer whale trainers have been ordered to keep their distance from Tilikum, who is twice as big as any other orca at the park. SeaWorld imposed the restrictions while it reviews its killer whale safety protocols, a process expected to extend into April. Although Tilikum no longer splashes the audience during the killer whale show, he continues to live in the park's seven-tank orca complex. "We're providing him with the same environment, as far as it being stimulating and enriching and healthy," said Kelly Flaherty Clark, curator of animal training at SeaWorld Orlando. "What's changed is we're challenged with finding new ways of doing that." Some of the adjustments have required Tilikum to learn new behaviors. Typically, to take a blood sample, trainers have a killer whale line up along a shallow ledge while one trainer kneels by its tail. The animal will then roll over, deposit a tail fluke in the trainer's lap and allow an adjacent veterinarian to take a blood sample. Tilikum has now been trained to line up with the tip of a target pole held over the water, with only his tail by the side of the tank. A vet can then reach over a wall to get a sample of Tilikum's blood. Flaherty Clark said Tilikum learned the procedure in about two weeks, a sign that the orca remains engaged. A 2-foot extension has been added to brush his teeth 3 times a day and when trainers must open or close a gate between tanks, they have trained Tilikum to wait a short distance away for as much as three or four minutes, rather than 10 to 12 seconds, as he previously did.

    Toledo Zoo Director Receives YWCA Milestones Award

    March 22, 2010  www.toledoonthemove.com

    Dr. Anne Baker, the executive director at the Toledo Zoo, will be one of seven women recognized by the YWCA Milestones Awards. The award recognizes women who showcase leadership and whose efforts and accomplishments allowed other women to reach their own milestones. Dr. Baker received her M.S. and Ph.D from the University of Maryland, where she studied primate ecology and social behavior. She served as Executive Director of the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, New York before becoming the Zoo’s Executive Director in April 2006. While at the Toledo Zoo, she has helped reinforce the Zoo’s commitment to conservation.

    Male Elephant Twins Born in Thailand

    March 22, 2010  www.telegraph.co.uk

    Thong-Kum and Thong-Tang are believed to be the world's first set of male elephant twins. They were born two weeks ago, two hours apart to a cheering crowd in the rural area of Tha Lad in Surin, Thailand. Elephant twins occur very rarely, and due to the nutritional needs placed on the mother, their survival rates are often low. Thailand's other pair of elephant twins, females Jim and Joom, were born in 1993, but one sadly died nine-years-ago. In January 2005, twin elephants were born in Addo Elephant National Park in South Africa. They were the third twins to be born in the history of the park. Twin elephants were also born in Chitwan National Park, Nepal, in 2009. Again they were the third set to be born there in the history of Chitwan. The Elephant population in Thailand has plummeted from 100,000 at the beginning of the 20th century to around 4,000 today.

    Great Ape Trust Signs Agreement With Rwanda

    March 22, 2010  www.desmoinesregister.com

    RWANDA -- Cattle grazing and clear-cutting had reduced the Gishwati forest to 1 percent of its original size, but now there are plans to replant thousands of acres. The Great Ape Trust of Iowa has signed an agreement with the Republic of Rwanda that gives the Gishwati Area Conservation Project the power to manage the reforestation of Gishwati, which is home to 15 endangered chimpanzees. Leading the project is Benjamin Beck, the trust's conservation director. Ted Townsend is founder of the ape trust and Earthpark and the co-founder of the massive effort to restore and expand Gishwati. The project is an attempt to save the isolated chimps, who may eventually be connected by a 31 mile forest corridor with potential mates living in the Nyungwe forest to the south. There are 350,000 residents (most involved in farming) in the immediate Gishwati area. The Rwandan government wants to shift residents to new jobs in ecotourism, high-tech industries, craft-making and other jobs that don't erode the area, known as the Land of a Thousand Hills. ”The people living near this forest have been respected and included, and are taking ownership of their forest’s rebirth as a symbol of their children’s future," said Townsend. The ape trust and Earthpark agreed to raise money for the forest corridor over the next three years. See www.DesMoinesRegister.com/Rwanda.

    Study of Asia’s Flat-Headed Swamp Cat

    March 22, 2010  news.nationalgeographic.com  Christine Dell'Amore

    The rare flat-headed cat of Southeast Asia has webbed feet, a streamlined head, and swims in swampy peat forests. The 3.3-pound cat eats fish and crabs. Andreas Wilting of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin, Germany and colleagues pieced together scattered records of flat-headed cat sightings since 1984. Their findings confirm a previous estimate by the IUCN, which found fewer than 2,500 breeding individuals in rainforest pockets of Thailand, Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia. Unfortunately the cat’s aquatic lifestyle may also doom it: More than half of its lowland habitat is quickly becoming vast biofuel plantations. The new study suggests that the cat's numbers can only decrease as more of the region's swamps are drained to plant palms. The study appears in the March 17 PLoS ONE.

    Are Saltwater Aquariums Sustainable?

    March 22, 2010  www.nytimes.com  By Henry Fountain

    There are an estimated 700,000 saltwater home aquariums in the United States. As technology and technique have improved, they have become small-scale reef ecosystems, with living coral and brimming with anemones, shrimp, sea urchins, crabs and snails. The result has been a growing market for these and other reef invertebrates, many of which are supplied by about 165 licensed collectors in Florida. Some scientists argue that the collecting poses a threat to the very ecosystems aquarium hobbyists aim to replicate. Andrew Rhyne, a marine biologist with Roger Williams University and the New England Aquarium who has studied the Florida invertebrate fishery said, “If a species is overharvested to the point where its numbers decline dramatically, there can be a cascading effect in the ecosystem. Without invertebrate grazers and herbivores, for example, a reef may be overrun with algae." Jessica McCawley, a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, disagrees. “These collectors are a special type of fisherman. They’re very concerned about the environment and the sustainability of the fishery. And they came to us and said, ‘Can you put some regulations on us?’ ” Collectors also say that scientists don’t have the experience they do in seeing these invertebrates go through regular cycles of bust and boom.

    What is not in dispute is that the fishery has changed in the past two decades, coinciding with the rise in popularity of reef tanks. These aquariums include home or office tanks of a few gallons to several hundred gallons or more, and attractions like the 20,000-gallon coral reef tank at Atlantis Marine World in Riverhead, N.Y., considered one of the finest anywhere. The popularity of the tanks is reflected in a study of Florida fishery data by Dr. Rhyne, Michael Tlusty, director of the New England Aquarium, and others. As the researchers detailed in a paper earlier this year in the open-access journal PLoS ONE, the number of organisms collected from 1994 to 2007 increased by about 13 percent a year, on average, to about 8.8 million in 2007. Over the same period, the types of invertebrates changed. In 1994, only 6 species among the top 15 were collected and sold for their ecological roles as cleaners, grazers, water filters and the like. The others were harvested for their ornamental value— or as curios to be sold in shell shops and other stores. The most popular “working” invertebrates were turbonella snails, with about 175,000 collected. Thirteen years later, 9 species among the top 15 collected were sold to fill ecological niches in aquariums, including nearly 700,000 turbonella snails and 2.4 million blue-legged crabs. Collectors point out that an unusual cold snap in January probably killed far greater numbers of invertebrates than are harvested each year. “Our biggest threat to this fishery is the changing conditions down here,” said Ken Nedimeyer, a longtime collector. “Our little collecting effort can’t even compare to a natural event.”  But Dr. Tlusty, of the New England Aquarium, said that in Florida, “they are trying to manage this as a single fishery,” when there are hundreds of diverse species being collected, and about which not enough is known. While the state has done a much better job of managing its fishery than governments overseas, he said, “it’s probably time to go to a more adaptive management strategy.”

    Study of Bush Meat Crisis In Congo Basin

    March 23, 2010  www.telegraph.co.uk  By Louise Gray

    In the 500 million acre region of the Congo Basin stretching into eight countries, hunting has reached an unprecedented scale. Researchers from the Overseas Development Insititute calculated that 3.4 million tons of bush meat is removed every year from that area alone. (This is the equivalent of 740,000 bull elephants). John Fa, chief conservation officer at Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and a visiting professor at Imperial College London, said it was "unsustainable". Most of the animals are small antelopes like blue duiker or rodents like the porcupine but larger mammals like monkeys and even gorillas are also taken. Fa pointed out that illegal logging is also destroying habitat and predators like leopards will be unable to survive without prey. The study, published in Mammal Review, found the rate of hunting is higher than ever because of malnutrition in the area. Meat from wild animals or 'bush meat' is one of the most important sources of protein for many people around the world, especially in Africa.

    Some of the 10 animals most vulnerable to extinction by hunting:
    Drill baboon
    Red colobus monkey
    Black colobus monkey
    Preuss's guenon monkey
    Moustached guenon monkey
    Crowned guenon monkey

    Head of Tennessee Elephant Sanctuary Fired

    March 23, 2010  www.tennessean.com  BY MITCHELL KLINE

    Carol Buckley co-founded The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee 15 years ago with Scott Blais. Buckley served as executive director and chief executive officer while the nonprofit group grew to include 2,700 acres in Hohenwald, where 15 elephants roam. Buckley was terminated on March 17, after being placed on administrative leave nearly four months ago. Sanctuary co-founder Scott Blais has taken over managing operations and has posted a message on the organization's Web site, telling supporters he agreed with the board's action. Buckley has posted statements on her Web site, carolbuckley.com, that some sanctuary employees complained that they were intimidated by her management style. Buckley said she was removed as CEO, president and a board member on January 19. The sanctuary is supported by a network of animal lovers across the globe.

    Listing of the Greater Sage Grouse Is Deferred

    March 23, 2010 www.gpoaccess.gov

    After a 12-month investigation the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has found that listing the greater sage-grouse as threatened is warranted, but precluded by higher priority listing actions. They plan to develop a proposed rule to list the greater sage-grouse as our priorities allow. Listing the western subspecies of the greater sage-grouse is not warranted, based on determining that the western subspecies is not a valid taxon. We find that listing the Bi-State population (previously referred to as the Mono Basin area population), which meets our criteria as a distinct population segment (DPS) of the greater sage-grouse, is warranted but precluded by higher priority listing actions. For further information contact Brian T. Kelly, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wyoming Ecological Services Office at (800) 877-8339.

    Marine Mammal Permit Request

    March 23, 2010  www.gpoaccess.gov

    Becky Woodward, Ph.D., 266 Woods Hole Road, 50, Woods Hole, MA 02543, has asked for a permit to conduct research on cetaceans. File No. 14118. The application and related documents are available for review by selecting "Records Open for Public Comment'' from the Features box on the Applications and Permits for Protected Species (APPS) home page, and then selecting File No. 14118 from the list of available applications. These documents are also available upon written request to the Chief, Permits, Conservation and Education Division, NMFS, 1315 East-West Highway, Room 13705, Silver Spring, MD 20910. Comments may also be submitted by email to NMFS.Pr1Comments@noaa.gov. Please include the File No. in the subject line of the email comment. Comments must be received on or before April 22, 2010. For further information contact Carrie Hubard or Kristy Beard, (301) 713-2289.

    The applicant requests a permit to attach tags to a variety of large and small endangered and non-endangered cetacean species. Research would occur in the North Atlantic from Maine to Texas and in the North Pacific from Alaska to California, including Hawaii. A peduncle belt type tag attachment mechanism has been developed as a noninvasive tagging option for medium to long-term cetacean studies. Two different types of peduncle belt tags would be used: (1) a form-fitting saddle pack tag which sits on the dorsal ridge of the peduncle just before the fluke insertion and (2) a peduncle-let harness which secures a towed telemetry buoy. Multiple research objectives would be addressed using data from the tags, including: (1) long-term movement and habitat use studies using satellite/GPS/depth tags, (2) medium-term acoustic studies using an audio recording package to examine transmitted and received sound, and (3) extended fine-scale behavioral ecology studies using multi-sensor data recording packages.

    Initial efforts would be limited to five species. In the first year, a maximum of 10 humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae), 10 long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas), 10 short- finned pilot whales (G. macrorhynchus), and 10 false killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens) would be tagged in the Atlantic Ocean. In the Pacific Ocean, the applicant would tag a maximum of 10 long-finned pilot whales, 10 short-finned pilot whales, 10 false killer whales, and 10 belugas (Delphinapterus leucas) of the Bristol Bay stock during the first year of the permit. Based on the success of the tagging, research efforts would expand during the life of the permit to incorporate new species and to increase the number of animals tagged annually. During the second year of the permit, sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus), minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata), Blainville's beaked whales (Mesoplodon densirostris), Cuvier's beaked whales (Ziphius cavirostris), and eastern North Pacific gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) would also be targeted for tagging. In year three, the applicant would add North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis) and belugas of the Cook Inlet stock to the species that may be tagged.

        Other research activities include photo-identification, behavioral observations, tracking and monitoring, passive acoustics, photography and video both above water and underwater, and collection of sloughed skin. Other animals, including fin (B. physalus) and sei (B. borealis) whales, may be incidentally harassed during tagging operations. See the application for specific take numbers by species and year. The permit would be valid for a period of five years.

    Possible Listing of the Striped Newt

    March 23, 2010  www.gpoaccess.gov

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is initiating a review of the status of the striped newt (Notophthalmus perstriatus) and will issue a 12-month finding on the outcome. We will make a determination on critical habitat for this species if, and when, we initiate a listing action. Comments on the species must be received on or before May 24, 2010. Please send information via the Federal eRulemaking Portal or U.S. mail: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R4-ES-2010-0007; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203. For further information contact Stephen Ricks, Field Supervisor, Mississippi Ecological Services Field Office, 6578 Dogwood View Parkway, Jackson, MS 39213;  telephone (601-965-4900).

    Fiberglass Elephants Will Invade London

    March 23, 2010  www.businessweek.com  by Richard Vines

    Designers and artists have decorated more than 250 fiberglass elephants that will be positioned at locations around London on the night of May 2. Each elephant weighs 154 pounds and will be mounted on a plinth in locations that include Buckingham Palace, Parliament Square and Carnaby Street. The artist Benjamin Shine has produced a black-cab elephant, with headlamps for eyes and a “Taxi” sign in its forehead. The most-prized pieces will go on sale in a celebrity auction by Sotheby’s at the Royal Hospital Chelsea on June 30, and others will be offered online. The organizers hope to raise as much as 2 million pounds ($3 million) for the Elephant Family and other charities. Similar Elephant Parades have previously been held in the Netherlands and Belgium.

    3 Tigers Shot After Escape in Spain

    March 23, 2010  www.google.com

    CANARY ISLANDS, Spain —  Cocodrilo Park on the island of Gran Canaria says a zoo employee cleaning outside the cage before opening time Tuesday mistakenly pushed a button that opened the door of the cage. Four of the seven tigers inside the cage stayed but three escaped. Civil Guard police later shot and killed the escapees. No one was injured, and there were no visitors in the zoo at the time.

    Lowry Park Zoo Director Opens Giraffe Ranch
    March 23, 2010  www.tbo.com  By KEITH MORELLI

    TAMPA, Florida -- Lex Salisbury, the former director of the Lowry Park Zoo has opened Giraffe Ranch near Dade City and is charging $59 for a 90-minute tour. The tours are on four-wheel-drive safari vehicles through the 46-acre ranch north of Dade City, off U.S. 301.Visitors can see giraffes, zebras and other animals including Austrian Haflinger horses and Irish Dexter cattle. The ranch, originally known as Safari Wild, awaits a state land-use hearing scheduled for next month. Safari Wild made national news in 2008, when 15 patas monkeys swam a moat and scaled a fence to escape into the nearby Green Swamp. It took months for wildlife officers and Safari Wild trappers to corral the primates. At the time, Salisbury was the Lowry Park Zoo director, drawing a $339,000 salary. A city audit revealed supplies and animals from Lowry Park Zoo were transferred to Safari Wild while Salisbury was CEO of the zoo. He resigned in December 2008. Polk County approved the park in October, but state officials appealed the decision, arguing that state laws regulating commercial development on environmentally sensitive land had been violated. The state objected to the park not obtaining building permits for some structures and its proximity to wetlands. The Green Swamp feeds four major rivers and is a major aquifer recharge area for much of Central Florida. Safari Wild's original plans called for a welcome center, hotel cottages and about 1,000 animals from Africa and Asia that customers could see with trained safari guides.

    Zoo Installs New Safety Alert Software
    March 23, 2010  eon.businesswire.com

    The Philadelphia Zoo has selected ActiveCrawl RSS® desktop solution to alert its staff and administration of zoo and city-wide emergencies. Public facilities, particularly as large and open as a zoo, present sensitive staff communication issues during emergencies, and the desktop application can send critical information to the right people, and work in concert with other communication channels like SMS, voice, and digital signage since they bypass busy network lines during times of crisis. Kevin Hanna, director of public safety at the Philadelphia Zoo said, “As a large, 42-acre public facility with 1,300 rare and endangered animals we are striving to ensure that our emergency procedures are in place quickly during times of crisis. What appealed to us was that ActiveCrawl RSS provides an immediate push to the computer without requiring our employees to look at their emails or check the Internet. It’s that alert functionality we found so valuable.” Text crawls are delivered through PCs and Macs within seconds of being issued. The crawls can contain audio and graphics and the color and height of the crawl are customizable.

    Bamboo As An Asian Elephant Management Tool

    March 23, 2010  sify.com  By Vipul Goel

    Thailand bamboo plants have been cultivated for the first time at the Forest Research Centre, Lal Kuan, in Uttarakhand. The state-owned Forest Research Centre has produced over 100,000 Thailand bamboo plants, using micro-propagation techniques. It is hoped that the two species developed can flourish in the climate that is usually unsuitable for bamboo. "In future, we will plant large scale plantations. Since bamboo plants are the favorite food of elephants, these plants will be planted in elephant corridors, and the areas they inhabit. Secondly, it is hoped that the plants will form the basis for developing a cottage bamboo industry," said R.S. Bisht, a forest center ranger. The project was started in 2006.

    Two King Cheetahs Born at Taronga Zoo

    March 23, 2010  www.abc.net.au

    There are only about 50 king cheetahs in the world, and the Taronga Western Plains Zoo has bred two more of them. The cubs were born in October 2009, but have only now been allowed on exhibit. King Cheetahs are characterized by long black stripes down their back. A recessive gene must be inherited from both parents in order for the distinctive coat pattern to appear.

    CITES Won’t Protect Most Sharks

    March 23, 2010  www.afp.com  by Marlowe Hood

    DOHA (AFP) – A third of the world's 64 species of pelagic, or open water, sharks face extinction, according to report issued last June by the IUCN's Shark Specialist Group. The global shark product trade was worth $310 million in 2005, according to TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring group. Shark populations are declining as a result of overfishing, mainly for sharkfin soup. China and Japan lead the opposition to the U.S. proposal to protect at least 2 species (the scalloped hammerhead and oceanic whitetip). The CITES membership rejected regulation of cross-border commerce for these 2 sharks believing the borders would not be enforceable and that management of shark populations should be left to regional fisheries groups. The membership voted to protect the porbeagle shark, which has been overfished in the Atlantic and Mediterranean.

    National Zoo’s Breeding Lion Pride

    March 23, 2010  www.zandavisitor.com

    The Zoo is attempting to build a breeding lion pride for the first time in more than 20 years, both to simulate more natural conditions for this social cat (Panthera leo) and to help improve knowledge for the captive management. “Because lions naturally live in social groups, introducing our lions into a common territory provides social enrichment,” said Rebecca Stites, a lion and tiger keeper. Although the National Zoo has managed lions in the past, it has been many years since it had the right combination of animals by age and gender to develop a pride. But doing so takes more than merely putting the Zoo’s current three African lions, Luke, Nababiep and Shera, together and hoping they get along and breed—it is a process that requires extensive planning, knowledge of the species’ natural history and an understanding of the individual animals involved. Sisters Nababiep and Shera, have spent short periods of time with the male, Luke, individually and simultaneously. This happened only after they each had spent more than a year sniffing Luke through a mesh door (called a “howdy door”), and keepers observed their reactions to determine how they might respond face-to-face. If they continue to get along indoors, they will be brought together in an outdoor enclosure later this spring. The keepers will continue to watch the animals carefully throughout the process and if they determine that the safety of the animals is at risk at any point, this process may take longer. The formation of prides makes lions unique among the great cats, many of which are solitary animals.

    Cougar Experts Meet at Brookfield Zoo

    March 23, 2010   www.myfoxchicago.com

    Animal experts from across the Midwest will meet at Brookfield Zoo to talk about how cougars might affect the Chicago area. The cougar that was shot and killed in Chicago in April 2008 was the first cougar found in Chicago since 1855. It was the third seen in northern Illinois in the last decade. The cat was found to be genetically similar to big cats in South Dakota, where there are hundreds of cougars. “We confirmed with DNA evidence that this cat actually came from South Dakota and there were confirmed sightings along the way. Whether this cat was born in South Dakota or was a descendant of the group there, it is a reality that they can migrate all the way to our area,” said Tom Meehan, chief veterinarian at Brookfield Zoo. It is documented that cougars can travel long distances without being detected. One radio-collared cat in Oklahoma was found 700 miles from where it came from, in South Dakota.

    Zoo Plans New Orangutan Habitat
    March 24, 2010  www.azcentral.com

    The Phoenix Zoo will celebrate the birthday of 50-year-old Duchess, the longest-living Bornean orangutan in North America by breaking ground for a new $4 million orangutan exhibit. Duchess, who was born in the wild, arrived at the zoo at age 2 in 1962 and is one of the original residents. She has had seven babies, four of which are alive today. Daughter Bess and granddaughter Kasih are by her side at the zoo. Bob Keesecker and Denise Wagner are keepers of the orangutans.

    Peninsular Pronghorn Twins Born At L.A. Zoo

    March 24, 2010  www.zandavisitor.com 

    LOS ANGELES, CA -- On February 26, 2010, two critically endangered Peninsular pronghorns, one male and one female, were born at the L.A. Zoo. This is the third pair of twins born at the zoo, the other pairs were born in March 2008 and March 2009. The Zoo’s breeding herd is part of the Species Survival Plan for Peninsular pronghorns. Breeding efforts in the U.S. have been hindered due to a lack of females. Curator of Mammals Jeff Holland said, “The only way the Peninsular Pronghorn Recovery Project (PPRP) could keep moving forward is if we got a female fawn.” Newborn pronghorns take their first steps within 30 minutes of birth. By the time they are four days old, they can outrun humans. Adult pronghorns are the second fastest land mammal and the fastest ungulate (hoofed mammal), clocking in at anywhere from 40 to 60 miles per hour. They can maintain this speed, without showing any sign of distress, for an hour or longer. The L.A. Zoo partners with the Vizcaino Desert Biosphere Reserve and the Mexican Government in the PPRP, providing financial assistance and personnel support.

    New Gecko Species Discovered In Cambodia

    March 24, 2010  www.afp.com  

    PHNOM PENH (AFP) – A new species of gecko has been discovered in the foothills of the Cardamom Mountains in Cambodia's southwest. Named Cnemaspis neangthyi, it is olive colored with light blotches containing a central black dot. Conservation group Fauna and Flora International (FFI) said the Cardamom Mountains, with its well-preserved, unexplored forests, are home to many endangered species found nowhere else in the world. FFI researcher Neang Thy made the discovery. At least 62 threatened species (many found only in Cambodia) can be found in the two million hectares of forest in the greater Cardamoms.

    H5N1 Found In Los Angles County

    March 24, 2010  www.examiner.com

    West Nile Virus has officially made its appearance in Los Angeles county for the year of 2010. Two dead birds have tested positive for the disease, one bird found in the Stevenson Ranch area of Santa Clarita and the other in Silver Lake. Even the smallest puddles of water are ideal for mosquito eggs to hatch. The Greater Los Angeles Control Vector Control District will be treating larger bodies of slow moving or standing water, but it is up to each person to make sure receptacles with collected rain water are emptied before mosquitoes can breed in them. Also check fountains and bird baths. Make sure you stock ponds with fish to eat mosquito eggs or float 'mosquito dunks' (available at any pond supply store or department). [Information for San Diego County]

    CITES Resolutions on Tigers, Elephants and Rhinos

    March 24, 2010  www.scientificamerican.com  By John Platt

    Tigers: CITES banned international trade in tigers in 1975. Since that time, tens of millions of dollars have been spent but tiger populations have plunged, and habitat has shrunk 93 percent. CITES members unanimously agreed to improve law enforcement, increase regional cooperation between the countries where tigers still live, improve population and crime data reporting, and create a tiger trade database to develop anti-poaching strategies. How any of that would be achieved wasn't clear. A resolution on the table to further limit domestic trade (within the borders of an individual country) was on the agenda for this week's meeting, but did not pass. Existing provisions against tiger farms, like those found in China, were not weakened.

    Elephants: Elephant poaching also appears unfazed by existing CITES regulations, and has recently risen back to levels equaling the rate when the international ban on ivory trade passed in 1989. CITES has in the past agreed to several one-off sales of ivory stockpiles, which can accumulate through natural deaths of elephants, herd culling or seizure of materials from poachers. At its 2007 meeting CITES agreed to a nine-year moratorium on future one-off sales, but Tanzania and Zambia both came to the Doha meeting this month wanting to sell some of their stockpiled ivory: 90 tons from Tanzania and another 21 tons from Zambia. Tanzania's bid was voted down and Zambia withdrew its proposal. Tanzania had said the sale, which could have netted $20 million, would allow the country to spend more money on elephant conservation, but wildlife groups have long argued that any legal sale of ivory helps to create a smoke screen to mask black market dealing.

    Rhinos: Rhinos are currently facing a major surge in poaching. CITES agreed to focus on a number of efforts to protect rhinos, including increased law enforcement (in particular, against organized crime syndicates), better training for anti-poaching rangers, stronger border controls between nations, and creating awareness campaigns in nations like Vietnam, where many rhino horns end their long post-poaching journey.

    Remaking the Minnesota Zoo

    March 24, 2010  www.startribune.com

    Minnesota Zoo’s "Heart of the Zoo" plan is a 3-phase planned makeover that will cost more than $70 million. It aims to replace the central spine of the 32-year-old facility and start afresh. Last fall, after considering the political climate, the zoo created its own grass-roots support system, “Minnesotans for a Great Zoo”, which attracted more than 1,000 members, many of whom dashed off letters or e-mails to politicians. Zoo director, Lee Ehmke said, "We've got 44,000 households as members, representing 150,000 people who've made some level of commitment to the zoo…Some are really passionate about it." That passion exists despite what today's senior officials consider a series of blunders in the zoo's creation and expansion. They include forcing zoo-goers to navigate a long windswept plaza to reach the building's original main entrance, and slapping the blank brick exterior wall of Discovery Bay beside what became the new main entry. Last week the zoo learned it will receive $21 million from the state capital projects bill signed by Governor Tim Pawlenty and the first phase of reconstruction will begin.  It will:
    •Add a major new penguin exhibit, introducing a charismatic species to the heart of the main building. Kids will be able to climb up to a beach alongside nesting penguins.
    •Turn an abandoned whale tank into a nearly 200-seat theater for the bird show and other uses.
    •Expand and improve the zoo's education wing for school groups and others.
    •Landscape and re-create the existing main entrance. "There aren't trees big enough to mask all that architecture," Ehmke said.

    Later phases -- if the money keeps flowing -- will shift the entrance back to its original spot, surround visitors with animals from the moment they arrive and bring them into the building through a lively new visitors' center, under shelter from winter's blasts and summer's heat. In the meantime, officials are considering what to do with the $6 million they got as part of the $21 million for "asset preservation." Ideas include environmentally friendly permeable pavers and drainage swales to turn parking lots into green teaching tools, and renovating the nocturnal exhibit. The other $15 million, for the Heart of the Zoo project, will be paired with $5 million in private contributions to get a start on that $70 million task.

    's California Condors Produce 6 Fertile Eggs
    March 24, 2010  www.democratherald.com

    Ten pairs of endangered California condors breeding at the Oregon Zoo's Jonsson Center for Wildlife Conservation have produced six fertile eggs. Bird curator Shawn St. Michael says condors can lay eggs as late as June and this could be the program's best season. Last year, the captive breeding operation turned out eight eggs and six chicks survived. Wild condors lay no more than one egg per season. But keepers speed the process with captive birds using a method known as double-clutching, which has helped the species grow from 22 condors in 1982 to 347 when last counted in February. The zoo joined the condor-restoration effort six years ago after building barns, nest boxes and flight pens in a remote Clackamas County meadow that is off-limits to the public. So far, 19 chicks conceived there have survived and 10 fly free in California and Arizona.

    Francois Langur Born At Lincoln Park Zoo

    March 24, 2010  www.examiner.com

    CHICAGO, IL – A Francois langur, born March 18th, is being raised at Lincoln Park Zoo's Helen Brach Primate House. "All the infants of this endangered species are born an eye-catching orange and they maintain this color for about 3-6 months before they transform," explained Megan Ross, PhD., Lincoln Park Zoo's vice-president for animal care. "Scientists believe the reason for the bright orange fur is to make the newborn stand out so that other females in the group will see it, be drawn to it, and provide the mother support for the little one's care." Francois langurs participate in a social system called "alloparenting," or in other words, "aunting behavior." The female monkeys are expected to give the mom a break once in a while by carrying and caring for the baby. "We believe this aunting behavior helps prepare young females for motherhood," explained Ross.

    ’s Gorillas May Be Gone In 10-15 Years
    March 24, 2010  news.nationalgeographic.com  By Nick Wadhams

    Central Africa’s Congo Basin has traditionally been a rain forest refuge for great apes. But "with the rate of poaching and habitat loss, gorillas in the region may disappear from most of their present range in less than 10 to 15 years," according to a report from the U.N. Environment Program and International Criminal Police Organization, or Interpol.  Mining and logging camps are hiring professional poachers to provide "bush meat" for their workers. Tthough gorillas make up a tiny percentage of the bush-meat trade, losses can be devastating because gorilla numbers are already so low and their communities are so tightly knit. A killing can disrupt their movement patterns and feeding sites. Also disruptive are pathogenic threats. In addition to naturally occurring pathogens such as the Ebola virus—which "may be contributing substantially to great ape declines" —human- and livestock-based gastrointestinal pathogens such as E. coli can weaken ape immune systems and reproductive success. Most of these interspecies infections don't require human-gorilla contact, but jump via water or soil.  The most threatened Congo Basin gorilla species is the eastern lowland gorilla, which lives mostly in eastern Congo's North and South Kivu regions. Those areas have seen some of the worst of the fighting between the Congolese army and rebel groups. Kivu has also seen an increase in mining for metals such as gold and coltan, a mineral used in cell phones and other electronics. The discovery of a previously unknown group of 750 eastern lowland gorillas buoyed hopes in 2009, but overall numbers are still down from about 17,000 in the mid-1990s to 5,000 eastern lowland gorillas today. The report notes one success story: the rebound of the mountain gorillas of Virunga National Park. Their numbers rose from about 250 in the 1950s to some 380 today, thanks mostly to stepped-up ranger patrols, which target poachers as well as loggers.

    Marine Mammal Permit Issued

    March 25, 2010  www.gpoaccess.gov

    The Alaska SeaLife Center (ASLC), 301 Railway Avenue, PO Box 1329, Seward, AK 99664-1329 (Dr. Ian Dutton, Responsible Party) has been issued a permit to receive, import, and export marine mammal parts for purposes of scientific research. Permit No. 14486 authorizes the ASLC to collect, receive, import, and export biological samples from up to 4,000 individual cetaceans and 5,000 individual pinnipeds (excluding walrus, Odobenus rosmarus) annually for research on marine mammal population ecology, diet and nutrition, reproductive physiology, toxicology, and health. The permit is issued for 5 years.

    25 Komodo dragons Born at Surabaya Zoo

    March 25, 2010  www.google.com

    JAKARTA, Indonesia —  Veterinarian Rahmat Suharta says 25 eggs, from three giant female lizards, have hatched at the Surabaya Zoo in East Java over the past week. The babies, weighing between 2.8 ounces (80 grams) and 4.2 ounces (120 grams), have brought the number of dragons at the zoo up to 69, and eleven more eggs are expected to hatch in coming weeks.  Komodo dragons primarily inhabit the eastern Indonesian islands of Komodo, Padar and Rinca. There are believed to be around 2,500 left in the wild.

    San Diego
    Zoo's New Conservation Message At Polar Bear Plunge
    March 25, 2010  www.sdnn.com  by Jennifer Reed

    The San Diego Zoo’s Polar Bear Plunge is home to 3 bears: Chinook (a 15-year-old female who was orphaned in Canada) and 9-year-old litter mates (male, Kalluk and female, Tatqiq) whose mother was shot in Alaska when they were cubs. The renovated exhibit will feature new interactive and educational displays all aimed to teach visitors about the effects of global warming. The displays include a “measure up” area — with life-size statues of a 30-day-old cub, a one- to two-year-old juvenile and an adult male  — a snow den, a research helicopter and a refrigerator packed with 140 pounds of seal meat. One of the most interesting addition is “the world’s first moveable experience wall.” At various times of day, a glass panel will be removed from this wire mesh wall, allowing zoo keepers to interact with the bears and give guests the opportunity to experience the relationship between trainer and polar bear and be closer to the animals than ever before. Polar Bear Plunge was originally built in 1996 and although the $1 million remodel was not immediately necessary, spokesperson Rick Schwartz said scientists and zoo officials believed it was time to take a stance on the issue and use the information they have to promote awareness for wildlife conservation. Schwartz said, “Eighty-four percent of scientists feel that [global warming] is human-caused or increased by human behavior,” Schwartz said. “The remaining almost 20 percent of scientists that feel that it’s just part of the natural cycle.”

    Zoo Raided By State Wildlife Officials
    March 25, 2010  www.hattiesburgamerican.com
    COLLINS, Mississippi — About 20 agents from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks paid a surprise visit to Collins Zoo on Wednesday morning, seizing 17 turtles and a gray possum. 19 citations were issued to the zoo's owners for a lack of permits to have inherently dangerous animals, and three citations were issued for possession of various animals native to Mississippi. The wildlife officials were following up on a complaint the Humane Society of the United States filed last month. The organization claimed significant welfare and safety violations against the small zoo. Investigators are also working with the USDA. The Collins Zoo opened in 1988 and is funded solely by donations. The owners have been embroiled in legal battles since November 2001 when state officials seized 69 animals. They are currently in the process of suing the state for either the return of several animals seized in 2001 or the reimbursement of money for the animals. A variety of animals are kept at the zoo, including reptiles, birds, wolves and several breeds of large cats. Volunteers said many of the animals were rescued and brought to the zoo for rehabilitation.

    Zoo Fined 37,000 for Train Accident
    March 25, 2010  www.courier-journal.com  By Peter Smith

    The state has fined the Louisville Zoo $37,000, the maximum penalty for six violations leading to last year's train accident there that injured 22 of the 30 people aboard. The train “was traveling at excessive speed, it was in poor mechanical condition, and the operator was inadequately trained to operate it,” the Kentucky Department of Agriculture said in a summary of its report released on Thursday. The fine is the largest assessed on any amusement ride operator in the state since the General Assembly raised the maximum penalties in 2008 following a high-profile Kentucky Kingdom accident that severed the feet of a teenage girl. Twenty-nine passengers and the driver were aboard the narrow-gauge, open-air train at the zoo when it flipped onto its side in the late afternoon of June 1, 2009. The train rides, for decades a signature zoo experience, have been suspended since. Five lawsuits filed by passengers are pending.

    Chimpanzee Culture Driven by Females

    March 25, 2010  www.wired.com  by Brandon Keim

    A new analysis of six long-term chimpanzee studies indicates that the number of cultural traits in each colony is linked to the number of females. The number of males makes no difference. Study co-authors Johan Lind and Patrik Lindenfors, from Stockholm University’s Center for the Study of Cultural Evolution, found that chimpanzees possess complex learned behaviors that vary between colony and region. The females use tools more frequently than males, and spend more time teaching tricks to their young. And while male chimpanzees tend to stay in the same colony, females will sometimes transfer taking culture with them. The researchers' data came from chimpanzee colonies in the jungles of Central and West Africa. “The variation in sociality presently seen in apes is phenomenal. We have monogamous gibbons, and gorillas who live in harems. We have two species of chimpanzees, and their social structures are completely different,” said Lind. An open question is how cumulative chimpanzee culture is, said Lind. Whereas human cultural innovations are “stacked,” with innovations building on each other to produce ever-more-complex tools and behaviors, that doesn’t seem to be the case with chimpanzees, at least not to a comparable degree.  The study appears in PLoS ONE.

    New Elephant Training Program In India

    March 25, 2010  news.oneindia.in

    THIRUVANANTHPURAM, India -- The Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) says that there are currently about 4000 captive elephants across India, and all of these elephants have undergone traditional training methods, which many consider to be a painful exercise for the animals. The ancient art of trapping and training elephants is also risky to the trainers involved. "These training methods have continued to thrive for lack of awareness about availability of alternative methods," said NVK Ashraf, Director, Wild Rescue Programme. So WTI is organizing a series of workshops on elephant training, with Australian animal trainer Andrew McLean supervising workshops. The first workshop was organized on Wednesday in Triruvananthapuram, in collaboration with the Kerala Forest Department for over 70 participants including forest department officials, veterinarians, elephant owners among others. In addition to Kerala, the workshops would also be conducted in Assam, which has the highest captive elephant population and in Delhi to introduce the concept to relevant policymakers.

    Giant Anteater Born at Roger Williams Park Zoo

    March 25, 2010  newsblog.projo.com  By Thomas J. Morgan

    PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Zookeepers at the Roger Williams Park Zoo discovered a baby giant anteater on Tuesday. Tim French, the zoo's animal program director, said, "We are guardedly optimistic, though very aware that the first few months of an anteater's life can be tenuous. We will keep the two off exhibit until we are confident that mother and baby are bonding well and thriving."  This is Talara's first infant. She was born in 2002 at the Jacksonville Zoo. Father Jo Hei, was born in 2006 at the San Diego Zoo. Jo Hei was the first anteater in the zoo's exhibit, which opened in 2007. He was moved recently to a separate off-exhibit area in preparation for the birth, and will remain there until the baby is a bit older. Jo Hei and Talara were brought together based on breeding recommendations made by the AZA. Giant anteaters, native to Central and South America, are near threatened in the wild due to loss of habitat and hunting. It is estimated that only 5,000 remain in the wild.

    Repair Scheduled For Seneca Park Penguin Pool Leak

    March 25, 2010  www.democratandchronicle.com  By Jill Terreri

    Monroe County will spend $1.2 million to help repair a leak at the Seneca Park Zoo that was causing 50,000 gallons of water a day to go down the drain. Zoo officials have known for five years that they had a significant leak but didn't have the metering system to know where the leak was. After water pumps were installed last year they found that the leak was coming from the 15,000-gallon penguin pool at the Rocky Coast exhibit. Because the zoo's sewer charges are based on the zoo's water usage and not how much water actually ends up in the sewer, the zoo is asking that $46,016.10 be taken off its sewer charges in the 2010 tax year. The leak has cost county taxpayers $100,000 in combined water and sewer charges during the last year. The Rocky Coast Exhibit includes three pools, which house two polar bears, two sea lions and 31 African penguins. The pools for the polar bears and sea lions are not leaking significantly. The penguin's pool, even when the leak is fixed, is expected to lose 1,500 gallons per day. The Rocky Coast capital project has three phases. The first phase was installation of the water pumps, which hadn't been replaced in 12 years, and are now saving the county $45,000 every year in energy charges. The second phase is installation of a chiller to make the water cold for the sea lions so they can be in the exhibit all summer, and for water treatment. The third phase is detection and remediation of the leak.

    Great Plains
    Zoo Surveys Its Members
    March 25, 2010  www.argusleader.com  By John Hult

    TULSA, OK -- Great Plains Zoo officials hope an online survey initiated by the AZA will give greater insight into what its members want to see. Zoo members received the link to the survey via e-mail this month. The results, which Executive Director Elizabeth Whealy said should be available within a few weeks, can be compared with results from other zoos and aquariums around the country to see how effective it is at retaining and satisfying its dues-paying membership. Member dues represent about 7 percent of the zoo's budget. This is the first AZA survey that will connect and compare member zoos, according to Linda Sundes, AZA representative. Conducting surveys is an expensive prospect. The association's 221 member zoos were asked to opt-in to the survey at no cost. "It's very important information for them to have, and it's difficult for a zoo to create its own," Sundes said. The zoo has seen a steady uptick in membership since 2008, with attendance up by 20 percent since 2005.

    Mexican Wolf Recovery Effort

    March 25, 2010  www.nytimes.com  By APRIL REESE

    Last year's Mexican wolf census counted 42 animals in the wild -- 27 in Arizona and 15 in New Mexico -- down from 52 the year before. Pup mortality also was higher last year -- four adults and four pups -- were found dead in 2009, including two that were illegally shot. Necropsy results on the others are pending. The recovery plan created 28 years ago is outdated. David Parsons, the agency's first Mexican wolf recovery program coordinator, is now a wildlife biologist with the Rewilding Institute. He says the plan was not intended to guide the program for this long. According to FWS's latest draft conservation assessment, wolf-livestock conflicts were the leading cause of removal, accounting for 70 out of 142 removals. FWS has always viewed the removal of "problem wolves" as a key to the program's success and the agency will retain that option, according to Benjamin Tuggle, director of FWS's Southwest office in Albuquerque, N.M. Matthew Wunder, chief of conservation services for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, said, "Until new methods are perfected for keeping wolves and livestock apart, the best approach is to financially compensate ranchers who lose animals to wolves." Defenders of Wildlife has paid ranchers for their losses for years, and some states have begun their own compensation programs. But those payments sometimes do not cover associated losses, such as lower livestock weights due to stress or fewer calves due to the death of a cow that would have had offspring. To address those issues FWS is establishing an "interdiction fund." FWS has signed an agreement with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to oversee the interdiction fund, which currently has about $30,000 in its coffers. Officials hope the fund will eventually grow to about $1 million. According to the New Mexico Farm Service Agency, verified wolf depredations cost ranchers $70,000 during 2008 and 2009 combined.

    Giant Mouse Lemur Found in Madagascar

    March 25, 2010  blogs.nationalgeographic.com

    Two species of giant mouse lemurs are known: Mirza coquereli and Mirza zaza. Mirza coquereli (Coquerel's mouse lemur) is found in the southwestern spiny forest eco-region, but has never been seen in the Toliara area before. The species seen in the Ranobe gallery forest exhibits "significant differences in the coloration of its coat from the other two species," according to the researcher Charlie Gardner, who is from the University of Kent. He and Louise Jasper were working on a project for WWF when they spotted the giant mouse lemur. "It may not only be a new population, but a new species or subspecies," Gardner said. “The animal has to be trapped, examined and tested before it can be officially described as a new species.”

    Gets Green Light to Sell Ivory
    March 26, 2010  www.zimonline.co.za
    HARARE – "CITES has given us the green light to continue trading in ivory," said the senior government official who is part of Environment Minister Francis Nhema’s delegation attending the recent CITES meeting. "This is a major relief to us. We are spending some US$13 million in terms of security and the administration of the ivory we would have recovered from either poachers or dead animals."  Zimbabwe’s bid to continue trade in ivory looked doomed following appeals by Kenya, which lobbied the world conservation body not to allow trade in ivory.  The east African country had suggested that there be a 20-year moratorium on moves to ease international trade controls on elephant ivory. "Kenya's proposal would have been disastrous for our conservation efforts," the official said. Zimbabwe's elephants, alongside those of other African countries, are listed under CITES Appendix I, in which trade is prohibited. The last CITES meeting in 2007 agreed to a nine-year moratorium on any further trade in ivory, after a sale of 105 tons of elephant ivory from Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe to China and Japan. Estimates indicate that the number of elephants has fallen to between 470,000 - 685,000 from millions a few decades ago. Although Zimbabwe's proposal has received a nod from the world body, Zambia's and Tanzania's appeal to be allowed to sell has been short down. In 2008, Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa and Namibia were allowed a once-off sale of their ivory stockpiles. Currently, Harare does not have any ivory stockpiles after it was granted permission for a once-off sale in 2007, but later sold the ivory in 2008.

    Zoo's Indoor Rainforest
    March 26, 2010  www.timesonline.co.uk  By Chris Smyth

    London Zoo’s indoor rainforest is the country’s most complete re-creation of an Amazonian ecosystem. Visitors will actually join the monkeys in the “bio-dome” and interact with the primates without bars or glass. "The Golden-Headed Lion Tamarins are really not bothered by crowds,” said Tony Dobbs, senior keeper of mammals. Rain-making machines filled the air with mist and elsewhere among the trees Red Titi Monkeys and Emperor Tamarins leap around. Grey-winged trumpeter birds patrol the forest floor, and a two-toed sloth sleeps in the tree canopy. The zoo is hoping that the animals will start to breed in the artificial jungle, which is kept at about 27C (81F) and 80 per cent humidity, to mimic the conditions of the Amazon rainforest. Although the zoo’s rainforest is much smaller than other indoor jungles such as at the Eden Project in Cornwall, David Field, the zoological director, said that London had one crucial advantage: “animals, animals, animals!”.  Mr Field is evangelical about tearing down the bars and letting the animals roam free. “You get the animals running around among us, feeling that they will interact with us on their own terms, as another animal in the exhibit,” he said. But free-running monkeys could be just the start. “We can go farther with shared environments, and I think we can get more dramatic,” Mr Field said. “The primates could get bigger and better.”  He was not specific about which animals will be let loose next, but said, “I would like to see people going on an expedition when they come into the zoo. Not just coming round the corner to another enclosure, but being in the forest or the desert, and having to scout for the animals, and feel they are in the field themselves. When you get to predators that might be slightly more difficult. There are some, like wolves and cheetahs, but there are limits to what we can do with that because of legislation.”  Mr Dobbs said, “We keep a close eye on the animals. There is always a risk, but these monkeys will certainly let us know if they are grabbed. They are quite loud when they want to be.” The animals will not be in any danger from each other, because the predatory big cats have been banished. But Brazilian Salmon Pink Bird Eating Spiders and glow-in-the-dark scorpions remain.

    Southern White Rhino Born At Lowry Zoo

    March 26, 2010  www.zandavisitor.com   By Rachel Nelson

    TAMPA, FL -- Within 24 hours of the birth of an endangered Grevy’s zebra foal on St. Patrick’s Day, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo welcomed a southern white rhinoceros in the early morning hours on March 18, to first-time mother “Kidogo”. This is the first southern white rhino birth in the Zoo’s history. Kidogo is very attentive and protective of the male calf. According to the Southern White Rhinoceros Species Survival Plan (SSP), in June 2009, there were a total of 153 southern white rhinos among 47 AZA-accredited institutions in North America. "The white rhino population has been managed as an SSP since 1984, and every birth is very significant," noted Adam Eyres, white rhino SSP coordinator. "Fewer than 10 AZA institutions are currently producing calves, so this is great news for the white rhino population." Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo is currently home to a herd of five white rhinos: three adult females who came to the Zoo from the Phinda Reserve in Africa, one adult male and the new male offspring. An endangered Indian rhinoceros (also known as the great one-horned rhinoceros) was born July 7, 2009, in the Asian Gardens habitat area at the Zoo.) Dr. Larry Killmar is the Zoo’s director of collections.

    Pygmy Loris Twins Born At Czech Zoo

    March 26, 2010  praguemonitor.com

    DECIN, North Bohemia -- Pygmy loris twins, a rare nocturnal primate, were recently born in the Decin zoo but their mother has accepted only one, leaving the other dependent on the zoo keepers' care. The keepers are feeding it every two hours, warming it and massaging its belly. Father Pedro, comes from a Spanish zoo and mother Lori comes from Belgium.

    FedEx Donates $600,000 To Panda Habitat Conservation

    March 26, 2010  www.commercialappeal.com  By Wayne Risher

    The FedEx Corp. has donated $600,000 to support Conservation International reforestation projects in prime habitat for endangered giant pandas in China's Sichuan province. The group plans 10 community conservation projects in a region hit hard by a 2008 earthquake. Native plants such as bamboo will be planted to restore habitat and provide food. Conservation International said the FedEx funding also will help to sequester carbon, boost local economies and protect the Yangtze River watershed. FedEx Express Asia Pacific president David L. Cunningham Jr. said, "This alliance with Conservation International demonstrates not only a shared ideology between our respective organizations for the sustainability of our planet, but also our collective commitment to help in the rebuilding efforts of the affected region." FedEx transported giant pandas Ya Ya and Le Le when animals came to the Memphis Zoo on loan from the Chinese government in 2003. Last month the company's Panda Express carried a pair of American-born pandas back to China from Washington and Atlanta.

    DeBrazza’s Monkey Born At Denver Zoo

    March 26, 2010  www.denverpost.com

    Kanani, a 3-month-old De Brazza's monkey, is now exporing “Primate Panorama” at the Denver Zoo. Mother Kanani was born December 19 to mom Marinda and dad Kisoro. Marinda was born in captivity in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and came to Denver from North Carolina in 2009 to be paired with Kisoro, who was rescued in 2006 from the bushmeat trade in the Democratic Republic of Congo. No one knows how many De Brazza's monkeys live in the wild, the zoo said in a news release. The animals "are excellent at hiding and can freeze in place for several hours," eluding detection. They are named for Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, a French explorer. Incredible photos at blogs.westword.com.

    Endangered Species Permit Applications

    March 26, 2010  www.gpoaccess.gov

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, invite the public to comment on the following applications to conduct certain activities with endangered species. We must receive comments on or before April 26, 2010. Send comments to: Brenda Tapia, Division of Management Authority, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Room 212, Arlington, VA  22203; fax (703) 558-7725; or e-mail to DMAFR@fws.gov. For further information contact: Brenda Tapia, (703) 358-2104.

    Applicant: Lionshare Farm Zoological, LLC, Greenwich, CT; PRT01671A. The applicant requests a permit to import a female cheetah (Acrinonyx jubatus) from DeWildt Cheetah Breeding Centre, South Africa where the individual cheetah was captive bred for the purpose of enhancement of the survival of the species.

    Applicant: Florida Atlantic University/Div. of Research And Sponsored Programs, Boca Raton, FL; PRT 212266. The applicant requests a permit to export and reimport nonliving museum specimens of endangered and threatened species of animals previously accessioned into the permittee's collection for scientific research. This notification covers activities conducted by the applicant for a five year period.

    Applicant: Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, Norman, OK; PRT 075249. The applicant requests a permit to export and reimport nonliving museum specimens of endangered and threatened species of animals previously accessioned into the permittee's collection for scientific research. This notification covers activities conducted by the applicant for a five year period.

    Applicant: Robert F. Rockwell, American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY; PRT03086A. The applicant requests a permit to import up to 1,000 biological samples annually from polar bears (Ursus maritimus) from Canada for the purpose of scientific research. This notification covers activities to be conducted by the applicant over a five year period.

    Applicant: Sea Studios Foundation, Monterey, CA; PRT04400A. The applicant requests a permit to photograph Southern sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis), both above and under water, for commercial and educational purposes. This notification covers activities to be conducted by the applicant over a two year period.

    Reinstatement of Protection for Grizzly Bear in Yellowstone

    March 26, 2010  www.gpoaccess.gov

    On March 29, 2007, the USFWS announced the establishment of a distinct population segment (DPS) of the grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) for the GYA and surrounding area and removed this DPS from the List of Threatened and Endangered Wildlife. In that rule, we determined that the Yellowstone grizzly bear population was no longer an endangered or threatened population based on the best scientific and commercial data available. Robust population growth, coupled with State and Federal cooperation to manage mortality and habitat, widespread public support for grizzly bear recovery, and the development of regulatory mechanisms, brought the Yellowstone grizzly bear population to the point where making a change to its status was appropriate. Subsequently, three lawsuits challenging our decision were filed in Federal courts in Boise, Idaho, and in Missoula, Montana. Legal briefings in these cases were completed in 2008. We are issuing this final rule to comply with a court order that has the effect of  reinstating the regulatory protections under the Endangered Species Act
    of 1973 (ESA), as amended, for the grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) in the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA) and surrounding area. This rule corrects the grizzly bear listing to reinstate the listing of  grizzly bears in the GYA. This final rule also takes administrative action to correct two associated special rules. This action is effective March 26, 2010.  For further information contact: Dr. Christopher Servheen, Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, at our Missoula office or telephone (406) 243-4903

    Don’t Forget Earth Hour

    March 26, 2010  www.guardian.co.uk

    Tomorrow, at 8.30pm, people around the world will take part in Earth Hour. WWF provides these reasons for you to participate: