2011 Briefs : January-March

Rewilding Project on Sir Baniyas Island, UAE
January 1, 2010  http://gulfnews.com    By Binsal Abdul Kader

The Arabian Wildlife Park on Sir Baniyas Island was developed by Abu Dhabi's Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC). This  nature reserve aims to create a working ecosystem that will support populations indigenous to the Arabian Peninsula. The ~4,200 hectare park is surrounded by a 32km fence and is home to several thousand free-roaming animals. Species include the endangered Arabian Oryx, Sand Gazelle, and Arabian (Mountain) Gazelle, as well as predators and scavengers such as the cheetah and hyena. The predators are there to control the herbivore population and prevent them from destroying the island fragile eco-system. Three cheetahs (Safira, a female, and males Gibbs and Gabriel) were taught to hunt by the conservation team of the TDIC as part of a rewilding process. "As part of the Sir Bani Yas Island Carnivore Project, we have taken three adult cheetahs from breeding centres in the UAE and taught them to hunt and be self-sufficient," said  Aimee Cokayne, Conservation and Research Officer at TDIC. The male cheetahs took longer than Safira to learn hunting skills. Safira took four months to rewild whereas Gibbs and Gabriel took six months. Safira has been free ranging on the island for over a year and Gibbs and Gabriel for almost 10 months. In April 2010, Safira gave birth to four cubs — the first cheetah cubs to be born in the wild in the UAE in 38 years. Safira raised the four cubs as wild cheetahs with no help from humans. The cheetahs were moved into separate but adjacent enclosures within the Arabian Wildlife Park on the island so they could get used to the area and environment and have a large space to learn their hunting skills. Male and female striped hyenas have also been re-wilded and are free-ranging in the Arabian Wildlife Park since August 2009. 

Pangolin Born at Taipei Zoo
January 1, 2010  http://focustaiwan.tw/

TAIPEI, Taiwan --  A baby pangolin was born on Dec. 9, 2010 at the Taipei Zoo. “It now weighs 260 grams, compared with 105 grams at birth”, said zoo director Jason Yeh in a statement. Yeh said much of the zoo's success can be attributed to its special formula of feeds, consisting of apples, egg yolks, mealworms and bee pupae, developed after one of the four pangolins born at the zoo died in 2004 after having trouble adjusting from milk to feed. Pangolins, also known as scaly anteaters, forage with their long, sticky tongues. Ants and termites are their major food, but reproducing the natural diet in captivity has been problematic. Yeh said zoos around the world attempted to keep the animal in the 1970s, but they failed because of problems finding appropriate feeds. This is the fourth pangolin ever born in captivity at the zoo. The pup was found by keepers last month in a hole its mother made after they tried to move her to a heated room during a cold front. The scaly animals are vulnerable to the cold. When temperatures fall below 25 degrees Celsius, they tend to shiver and develop runny noses.

San Diego Christmas Bird Count
January 2, 2010 www.signonsandiego.com

In the late 1800s, “…at the time of the founding of the Audubon Society, there was a tradition to go out and shoot birds on Christmas Day,” said Phil Unitt, curator of the Department of Birds and Mammals at the San Diego Natural History Museum. “The Audubon Society was trying to draw public attention to the carnage. So the ideas was to go out and count birds instead of shooting them.” The local count has been done every year since 1953. It occurs in six parts of the county — San Diego, Anza-Borrego, Lake Henshaw, Rancho Santa Fe, Oceanside and Escondido — on different days during the holidays.  Volunteers work inside a defined, 15-mile-diameter circle. The results are not designed to be a strict, scientific analysis, said Unitt. But they do provide a glimpse of how certain species are doing over time.  Bird species that spend the winter in San Diego County seem to be on the rise. During its count on Dec. 18, the San Diego circle recorded 219 species, the second highest number in the count’s 58-year history. The Oceanside circle, which counted Thursday, tallied more than 38,000 birds. Species doing the best these days are urban adapters, said Unitt. Birds sensitive to habitat fragmentation are dwindling. The San Diego circle set a record low this season for sightings of the California quail at two birds. In 1980, 202 quails were counted.

When Rare Migratory Birds Harbor H5N1 Virus
January 3, 2010  www.yomiuri.co.jp  Eiji Noyori and Koichi Yasuda / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writers

JAPAN -- Five nabezuru (hooded cranes) have been found to have been infected with Avian bird flu on the Izumi Plain in Kagoshima Prefecture. There is no law or rule that defines how to deal with rare species of migratory birds infected with avian flu. In cases when chickens, quail and other poultry are suspected to be infected, the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry either orders restrictions on the transport of the birds or their culling under the Domestic Animal Infectious Disease Control Law. But when wild birds are found to be infected with avian flu, taking action is the job of the Environment Ministry. An official of the Ishikawa Zoo, a facility that aids the reproduction and introduction into the wild of the crested ibis, said, "We don't know what to do if bird flu begins to spread." The Cultural Properties Protection Law and other laws concerned with the handling of special natural treasures do not stipulate how to cope with infectious diseases.
In addition, birds kept in zoos are not regarded as wild birds or poultry, and there are no protection laws covering them. Each zoo is left to make its own decision about how to treat their birds in case of infection. At a municipal zoo in Takaoka, Toyama Prefecture, a kobuhakucho (mute swan) died of bird flu recently, and the facility culled the 10 remaining swans based on its own judgment. Shigeyuki Yamamoto, head of the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums, said, "Infection can occur in any facility, but importance has been placed only on protection and breeding in cases of rare species….It's difficult to decide to take drastic actions such as culling. Therefore, the government needs to establish rules [to deal with this situation] as soon as possible," he said.

The Izumi Plain is a migratory reserve where about 80 percent of the world's nabezuru and 50 percent of manazuru (white-necked cranes) gather each winter. Currently, more than 10,000 birds of the two species winter on the plain, drawn by local people who feed them. The plain has been a tourism resource for the city. But experts have pointed out the risk of attracting so many birds to a single location. If a bird flu outbreak occurs, the affected species might become endangered. For example, in autumn 2000 in western South Korea, about 10,000 tomoegamo (Baikal teal birds) died of avian cholera. In winter 2002 in southern Taiwan, nearly 100 kurotsuraherasagi (black-faced spoonbill) birds died of poisoning by bacillus botulinus, a bacterium.

Lawyer Suing LA Zoo Will Open Elephant Sanctuary in Cambodia
January 3, 2010  www.scpr.org 

During the holidays, the L.A. Zoo’s new Elephants of Asia exhibit drew as many 10,000 visitors a day. However, David Casselman, a lawyer who is working to shut down the exhibit, also has plans to open his own elephant sanctuary near the Angkor Temples in Cambodia. He plans to open a veterinary hospital there this year, and  says he’s covered most expenses to develop the million-acre jungle preserve. “We’re hoping to have ponds and underground viewing area for elephants and tigers, clouded leopards and other animals,” he says. He hopes to open it up for eco-tourism in a couple of years. 

Building an Elephant Kingdom in Thailand
January 3, 2010  www.npr.org  by Anthony Kuhn

For centuries, elephants caught by the Kui (an ethnic minority in Thailand) were symbols of royal power. They carried Siamese kings into battle and hauled valuable teak wood from tropical forests. But more than two decades ago, the government banned logging, and elephants and their mahouts drifted into the cities to beg. In recent years, the government of Surin province has launched an "Elephant Kingdom" project to get the elephants out of the cities and back to the countryside, where the Kui can care for them. The project centers on Ta Klang village, near the confluence of the Chi and Mun rivers — a favorite elephant bathing spot. The region is home to about 600 elephants. In Ta Klang, elephants and humans live together, the elephants in pens outside the Kui's wooden houses, which sit on stilts to avoid flooding during the monsoon months. The project pays mahouts the equivalent of $265 a month for each elephant that they keep out of the cities. Krittipon Sala-Ngarm, who manages the village's elephant study center says this is not much money. Elephants consume hundreds of pounds of vegetation and dozens of gallons of water a day, and mahouts therefore have a tough time making ends meet. The Elephant Kingdom project is replanting farmland around the village with grass, and in five years, Krittipon predicts, it should have enough for the elephants to eat. In the meantime, elephants make money performing for tourists, painting, kicking soccer balls and throwing darts at balloons.

USFWS Will Remove Nonnative Species from Florida Keys
January 3, 2011  www.miamihearald.com  

Over the past century, as developers of the Florida Keys bought up pristine real estate, the federal government created four refuges along the island chain to protect wildlife and preserve habitat. Now refuge biologists say nonnative predators are jeopardizing the natural ecosystem and pose a grave danger to ~30 native species protected by the Endangered Species Act and some found nowhere else in the world. The invasive species are an assortment of exotic and abandoned domestic animals: Virginia opossums, nine-banded armadillos, common boa constrictors, Burmese pythons, Gambian pouch rats, black rats, green iguanas, the Nile monitor, black spinytail iguanas, imported red fire ants, and, especially, free-roaming domestic cats. After several heated public meetings with animal advocates, USFWS has released a compromise plan that includes education, live trapping of cats and some euthanization of other predators that don't belong wild in the Keys. The nonnative species upset the natural food chain, which includes American bald eagles lunching on endangered Lower Keys marsh rabbits. The biggest compromise came with the raccoons. Because they are indigenous to the Florida Keys, with two recognized subspecies, it was agreed the removal of them could yield unintended ecological consequences. Because even native raccoons can wreak havoc on an ecosystem if populations get unnaturally inflated by feasting on residential garbage, the plan calls for more research and evaluation.

Massive Red-Winged Black Bird Die-off in Arkansas
January 3, 2010  www.physorg.com  By JEANNIE NUSS

BEEBE, Arkansas – Between 11:00 and 12:00 pm on New Years Eve, 4,000-5,000 red-winged black birds fell out of the sky in the small Arkansas town of Beebe. The birds were the second mass wildlife death in Arkansas in recent days. Last week, about 83,000 dead and dying drum fish washed up along a 20-mile stretch of the Arkansas River, about 100 miles west of Beebe. Wildlife officials say the fish deaths are not related to the dead birds, and it is likely they were stricken by an illness. A few grackles and a couple of starlings also were among the dead birds. Those species roost with blackbirds, particularly in winter. "They died from massive trauma," said Game and Fish Commission spokesman Keith Stephens, citing a report from the state poultry lab where the birds were examined. Residents heard loud fireworks just before the birds started hitting the ground. "They started going crazy, flying into one another," Stephens said. In the tumult, many birds probably lost their bearings. "The blackbirds were flying at rooftop level instead of treetop level [to avoid explosions above],” said Karen Rowe, an ornithologist with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. "Blackbirds have poor eyesight, and they started colliding with things." The birds will not be missed. Large roosts like the one at Beebe can have thousands of birds in one tree that leave ankle- to knee-deep piles of droppings. Red-winged blackbirds are among North America's most abundant birds, with somewhere between 100 million and 200 million nationwide, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, N.Y. The Game and Fish Commission shipped carcasses to the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission and the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis. Researchers at the University of Georgia's wildlife disease study group also has a set of birds. [On 1/6 the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison reported that the birds died of impact force to their bodies. Scott Wright, chief of disease investigations at the center, said the birds clearly showed signs of bruises and hemorrhaging.]

Iran's Siberian Tiger Dies
January 3, 2010   www.google.com/hostednews/afp/

TEHRAN — A Siberian tiger delivered to Iran by Russia in a swap deal last year has died from a disease which one official said it contracted before it was given to Tehran. The tiger was a resident of Tehran's Eram Zoo since April 2010 when Russia gave it to Iran along with a Siberian tigress in exchange for two Persian leopards. Hooshang Ziaee, an adviser to Iran's Environmental Protection Organisation, said the tiger had been infected with Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) but it was unclear when it died. A Bengal tiger and five other lions at the Eram zoo had also tested positive for FIV. "The final cause for the death of the Siberian tiger was that it and other felines fed on diseased donkeys," he said. "The doctors tested the dead feline and have concluded that it already had immunodeficiency which means he was vulnerable to any disease," said zoo director Amir Elhami. "None of the other animals in the zoo have FIV and so it is clear that before the tiger was transferred to the zoo, it had this disease. In the past few days we also tested our lions (for FIV), but none of them have the disease," he said. Iran obtained the two Siberian tigers from Russia as part of its efforts to breed anew the species which had become extinct 50 years earlier in the country, Ziaee said, adding that the tigress was healthy.  Russia swapped the tigers for the Persian leopards in order to re-introduce the breed -- extinct in its Caucasus since the start of the last century.

U.S. Bumblebee Populations Fall by 96%
January 3, 2010 www.guardian.co.uk/

Bumblebees are important pollinators of wild plants and agricultural crops around the world, including tomatoes and berries, thanks to their large body size, long tongues, and high-frequency buzzing, which helps release pollen from flowers. Bees in general pollinate some 90% of the world's commercial plants, including most fruits, vegetables and nuts. Coffee, soya beans and cotton are all dependent on pollination by bees to increase yields. It is the start of a food chain that also sustains wild birds and animals. Sydney Cameron, an entomologist at the University of Illinois, led a team on a three-year study of the changing distribution, genetic diversity and pathogens in eight species of bumblebees in the US. By comparing her results with those in museum records, she showed that the relative abundance of four of the sampled species (Bombus occidentalis, B. pensylvanicus, B. affinis and B. terricola) had declined by up to 96% and that their geographic ranges had contracted by 23% to 87%, some within just the past two decades. Cameron's findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reflect similar studies across the world. According to the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in the UK, three of the 25 British species of bumblebee are already extinct and half of the remainder have shown serious declines, often up to 70%, since around the 1970s. Cameron's team also showed that declining species of bee had higher infection levels of a pathogen called Nosema bombi and lower genetic diversity compared with the four species of bee that were not in decline – B. bifarius, B. vosnesenskii, B. impatiens and B. bimaculatus. The infection reduces the lifespan of individual bees and also results in smaller colony sizes.

Beavers – Ecosystem Engineers
January 3, 2010 www.physorg.com/

Beavers are often called ecosystem engineers because they can radically alter stream or valley bottom ecosystems, said Melinda Daniels, an associate professor of geography who recently studied the connection between beavers and river restoration. Beaver dams create diverse river landscapes, she said, and can turn a single-thread channel stream into a meadow, pond or multichannel, free-flowing stream. She co-authored a recent article in Bioscience: "The River Discontinuum: Applying Beaver Modifications to Baseline Conditions for Restoration of Forested Headwaters." The ultimate goal of the research, Daniels said, is to help restore rivers in an efficient way that acknowledges ecosystem diversity and doesn't destroy it. "We can restore rivers in a way that mimics the naturally diverse beaver streams, and we can save a lot of money in the process."

Salisbury Zoo Adopts New Zoological Information Management System
January 3, 2010  www.delmarvanow.com/   By Sarah Lake

SALISBURY —  Last month, the Salisbury Zoo began using the Zoological Information Management System, a collaborative computer program that maintains information on animals and eliminates paper trails.  According to Zoo Director Joel Hamilton, the program yields searchable, usable data; generates daily in-house reports; and provides collaboration for researchers, curators, aquarists and other personnel at zoos and aquariums across the world. Based on the zoo's operating budget -- between $500,000 and $2 million -- the annual fee for ZIMS membership is $5,000, which is paid for by the Salisbury Zoo Commission. 

London Zookeepers Begin Annual Animal Count
January 4, 2010  www.google.com/hostednews/ukpress/ 

London zookeepers have begun counting every animal at London Zoo. Handlers in the tarantula enclosure hope to increase the insect population by breeding Mexican Red-Kneed bird-eating spiders. A month ago, keepers discovered that one of the eight-legged females at the zoo was actually a male. Staff in the aquarium have to head-count more than 4,700 fish while bug keepers have to tally-up thousands of tiny insects. During the census, bug handlers have to estimate the size of ant colonies, count millipedes into tubs and carefully unearth creatures that live underground. Recent additions to the zoo's population will be included in the census. A baby western lowland gorilla will be counted for the first time. The male, who was born in October but is yet to be named, was the first gorilla to be born at the zoo in 20 years. Other new additions to the inventory include two golden-head lion tamarins, two two-toed sloths and hundreds of tiny baby seahorses. The last inventory found there were more than 16,000 residents of the zoo made up of 726 different species.

Global Ape Hematology Registry
January 4, 2010  www.washingtonpost.com  By William Mullen

Lincoln Park Zoo ape-keeper Jill Moyse and Kathryn Gamble, the zoo's chief veterinarian, have created a new body of literature on great-ape hematology and produced an international registry to record the blood types of captive apes on four continents. The registry represents all four great-ape species: gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees and bonobos. Every healthy male and female adult in North America that could donate blood has been registered. "These are small populations, so emergency calls for blood are pretty rare," said Gamble, who recently published the project's research in the journal Zoo Biology. "But when you need it, you desperately need it." Gamble and Moyse sent out small, chemically coated cards to North American and European zoos and to African and Asian sanctuaries. A small smear of blood on the cards almost instantaneously reveals the ape's blood type. Eventually the cards returned to Chicago from around the world. The project has verified that ape blood isn't interchangeable between species or humans, she said. It found that bonobos have only type A blood, while orangutans have all four types, A, B, AB and O. "Gorillas so far are somewhat confusing and frustrating," said Gamble. "Although all of their cards came back as type O, it is clear from genetic evaluation from our collaborators at the University of Chicago that gorillas don't in fact have all the same blood type….Because chimpanzees are frequently used as stand-ins for humans in medical research, their usual blood type, type A, was already known.” Thomas Meehan, head of the gorilla species survival plan veterinary board for all North American zoo gorillas, said the project may result in new, lifesaving surgical procedures. 

Benefits of National Zoo Membership Should Encourage Non-Drivers
January 4, 2010  http://greatergreaterwashington.org  

A National Zoo Family membership is $60 per year, and includes free parking. Parking in the zoo lots costs $15 for 3 hours, so 4 trips essentially pays for the membership. A similar benefit for non-drivers would need to be compelling for visitors and easy for the zoo to administer. Suggestions include: Bus/Rail: Could the zoo and Metro develop a way to provide discounts on Metro Rail or Metro Bus trips when FONZ members visit the zoo? Bike: Could the zoo permit the setup of Capital BikeShare locations with special incentives for FONZ members when they dock a bike at the zoo? Could the zoo, in partnership with local bike shops, purchase discount gift cards for distribution to zoo members who park their own bike in a designated area at the zoo for at least a certain amount of time? Walk: Could the zoo provide additional FONZ member benefits for those who walk to the zoo from their neighborhood or hotel?

NC Southern White Rhino Euthanized
January 4, 2010 www.digtriad.com  By Devetta Bloung

ASHEBORO, N.C. (AP) — A 41-year-old Southern white rhinoceros has been euthanized at the North Carolina Zoo. Senior veterinarian Dr. Ryan DeVoe said Alice had been under treatment for chronic foot infections for three years that recently progressed to the point that the animal was in constant pain. DeVoe said foot infections combined with other problems associated with her age and skin lesions that had developed as a reaction to pain medications had diminished Alice's quality of life. Alice came to the zoo in September 1976 as one of two Southern white rhinos Born in South Africa in 1967. Alice was pregnant when she arrived, and in August 1977 after the 15-month rhino gestation period, gave birth to the zoo's first, and still its only, baby rhino. The female named Caroline now resides at the Fossil Rim Zoo in Texas. Southern whites, one of five rhino species native to Africa and Asia, have an average life span of 35-45 years. Six other rhinos who reside at the N.C. Zoo, including two above age 40, remain in good health and are on exhibit daily in the park's Watani Grassland Reserve exhibit. 

Indian Rhinos Translocated
January 4, 2010  www.prnewswire.com

For only the second time in India's history, two female Indian rhinos, an adult female and a juvenile, have successfully been translocated from Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary to Manas National Park in Assam. The two females join two males that were moved to Manas in 2008. Veterinarians darted the animals with tranquilizers, then transported them 250 km in specially-designed crates. Pobitora has the highest density of rhinos in the world, with more than 90 rhinos in less than 18 square kilometers (4,450 acres) of habitat. To minimize the chance of loss from disease and other disasters, the rhinos need to be spread among other parks. Translocating the rhinos will help create a viable population that has recovered from fewer than 200 animals in the early 1990s to more than 2,800 today. The December 29 translocation was facilitated by the Indian Rhino Vision 2020 — a partnership among the government of Assam, the International Rhino Foundation, the World Wide Fund for Nature, the Bodoland Territorial Council, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. They aim to create a population of 3,000 wild rhinos in seven of Assam's protected areas by the year 2020. Manas, a  World Heritage site, now has seven rhinos after the original population was wiped out during a decade-long insurgency between 1989 and 1992. The animals have been fitted with radio collars and will be monitored continuously for the next year by the staff of Manas National Park with support from members of WWF India. A monitoring report will be submitted in six months to the translocation core committee.

Power Lines Kill ~450 Birds in Louisiana
January 4, 2010 www.physorg.com/

LOUISIANA -- Power lines are believed to have killed about 450 birds sometime late Sunday or early Monday, near Baton Rouge. Louisiana's state wildlife veterinarian Jim LaCour said he had not found anything to link the deaths to the recent bird die-off in Arkansas. Mass bird deaths aren't uncommon. The USGS website listed about 90 mass deaths of birds and other wildlife from June through Dec. 12. There were five deaths of at least 1,000 birds, with the largest near Houston, Minn., where parasite infestations killed about 4,000 water birds between Sept. 6 and Nov. 26. In Louisiana, the birds — a mixed flock of red-winged blackbirds, brown-headed cowbirds, grackles and starlings — may have hit a power line or vehicles in the dark, LaCour said. Two dozen of them had head, neck, beak or back injuries. About 50 dead birds were near a power line, and about a quarter-mile away, a second group of 400 or more stretched from the power line and across the highway. Dan Cristol, a biology professor and co-founder of the Institute for Integrative Bird Behavior Studies at the College of William & Mary, said the Louisiana birds may have been ill or startled from their roost, then hit the power line. Wildlife officials in both Arkansas and Louisiana sent carcasses to researchers at the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis. and the University of Georgia. Results are not expected for at least two or three weeks. In 1999, several thousand grackles fell from the sky and staggered about before dying in north Louisiana. It took five months to get the diagnosis: an E. coli infection of the air sacs in their skulls.

Rats Trained to Detect TB
January 4, 2011  www.nytimes.com   By Nicholas Bakalar

The World Health Organization recently endorsed a new machine that can accurately test for TB in under two hours. But the device costs $17,000, and each test requires a $17 cartridge. Today, the most commonly used detection method in developing countries is smear microscopy – cheap and simple, but not very sensitive — 60 to 80 percent of positive cases going undiagnosed. Now, new studies suggest that the Gambian pouched rat, Cricetomys gambianus, can smell the difference between tuberculosis bacilli and the other germs that inhabit human phlegm. The rats have actually been accepted as a reasonable diagnostic tool in Tanzania. Alan Poling from Western Michigan University recently confirmed the rats’ abilities in the December issue of The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. In controlled tests, the rats sensitivity was found to be over 93 percent. In another test comparing the rats’ success to that of microscopy, the rats picked up 44 percent more positive cases. The rats, raised in captivity, are all from Tanzania. This species has also been trained to sniff out land mines. (It is light enough not to set them off.) The newborns open their eyes at about 4 weeks, and immediately begin a habituation and socialization program. When the rats are about 8 weeks old, the trainers put sputum samples, positive and negative for tuberculosis, under “sniffing holes” in a specially designed cage. When a rat spends at least five seconds at a positive sample, it is rewarded with peanuts and bananas. Eventually, the rats learn that a longer sniff at a positive sample gets a reward, and that negative samples are unproductive and should be skipped over quickly. By the time they are 26 weeks old, some have flunked, but the rest are experts.

Pygmy Hippo Born at Zoo Miami
January 5, 2010 www.allheadlinenews.com

Asali, a nearly 2-month-old pygmy hippopotamus, can now be seen swimming and playing with her mother at Zoo Miami in South Florida. Now 44-pounds, she weighed 12 pounds when she was born on Nov. 14. She is expected to weigh close to 600 pounds when she’s full grown. Her parents are 18-year-old Kelsey and 11-year-old Pogo. This is the 11th pygmy hippo born at Zoo Miami. However, she is the first one born in 20 years.

Satanic Leaf-tailed Gecko Born at San Diego Zoo
January 5, 2010 www.zandavisitornews.com By Dani Dodge

The satanic leaf-tailed gecko (Uroplatus phantasticus) is native to Madagascar. The horns over the lizard's eyes gives the gecko its devilish name. "All of the leaf-tailed geckos are camouflage specialists," said John Kinkaid, an animal care manger at the zoo, "Some have beards, others have patterns that mimic tree bark or moss, while this one has a tail that looks like a dead leaf. The horns above its eyes break up the silhouette of its body and make it harder for predators to find." The satanic leaf-tailed gecko is also known as the eyelash leaf-tailed gecko or fantastic leaf-tailed gecko. This species has an average size of around 3.5 inches, which makes it the smallest of the leaf-tailed geckos. They can range in color from yellow to purple. The San Diego Zoo has two male, three female and three young satanic leaf-tailed geckos in its collection. Keepers do not yet know the sex of the younger geckos. The New Year’s Day gecko has a sibling that hatched on Dec. 26. The San Diego Zoo is one of only seven zoos in the United States with this species in its collection and one of only two breeding them.

Swedish Bird Die-off on January 5
January 5, 2010 www.physorg.com/news/

Up to 100 birds were found lying in a snow-covered street in Falkoeping, Sweden on Wednesday. Most of the jackdaw birds were dead. Ornithologist Anders Wirdheim said the find was surprising. “Jackdaws (a type of crow) spend the winter in large flocks. If they are exposed to disturbances, they can become so stressed that they fly themselves to death," he said. Five birds are being analyzed. Bacterial and viral tests, including for swine flu, will be performed. The incident comes after two unexplained mass bird deaths in the United States. On Tuesday, officials in Louisiana said 500 birds were discovered dead, shortly after thousands of birds were discovered dead in neighboring Arkansas. Arkansas officials said preliminary testing showed their birds died of "acute physical trauma." US officials said possibly New Year's Eve fireworks had provoked the birds to take flight in the dark, and that due to poor night vision they may have died after bumping into houses, trees and other birds in their fright. Swedish rescue services told media on Wednesday that fireworks had been heard in the area where the birds were found.

South American Catfish is Actually Several Species
January 5, 2010 www.nature.com

An extensive investigation of South American Corydoras catfish (reported in Nature today) reveals that catfish communities — although containing almost identically colored and patterned fish — could actually contain three or more different species. Establishing for the first time that many species are mimetic (they evolve to share the same color patterns for mutual benefit), the research also established that each individual community of similar looking fish comprised species belonging to different genetic lineages, but still adopting similar color patterns. This has consequent implications for environmentalists charged with protecting environmental diversity and safeguarding the species.

Leatherback Turtle Migratory Route Determined
January 5, 2010  www.guardian.co.uk/

Leatherback turtles prey on jellyfish and other soft-bodied sea creatures, and can live for 40 to 50 years. They become sexually mature at 10-15 years of age and swim back to their birthplace to reproduce. Females can mate every year and, in each clutch, will lay about 100 eggs in the sand of a beach near their own birthplace. Matthew Witt, a researcher at the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at the University of Exeter, has led the first study of the journeys taken by female leatherbacks as they make their 10,000-mile round trips across the Atlantic Ocean. “Tika” travelled the furthest of the 25 females that were followed in the 5-year study. She, and another female called Regab, ended up in the waters off Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay after leaving Gabon, Africa. Others stayed closer to Africa, but still their journeys lasted for months and they swam thousands of miles. The maps of their journeys were published today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. “What we've shown is that there are three clear migration routes as they head back to feeding grounds after breeding in Gabon, although the numbers adopting each strategy varied each year.” Each turtle was fitted with a simple transmitter on her back, powered by four lithium camera batteries. This sent signals to a satellite receiver every time she came up for air across the open ocean. Typically, a mature individual could stay swimming around the migration routes for up to five years, building up food reserves, before returning to their birthplace in Gabon to reproduce.

"Knowing the routes has also helped us identify at least 11 nations who should be involved in conservation efforts, as well as those with long-distance fishing fleets. There's a concern that the turtles we tracked spent a long time on the high seas, where it's very difficult to implement and manage conservation efforts, but hopefully this research will help inform future efforts to safeguard these fantastic creatures." Howard Rosenbaum, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Ocean Giants programme, agreed: “This important work shows that protecting leatherback turtles requires research and conservation on important nesting beaches, foraging areas and important areas of the high seas.” Witt's research has created a live map of creatures around the Atlantic, updated at www.seaturtle.org.

Requirements for Importers of Non-human Primates
January 5, 2011 Federal Register /Vol. 76, No. 3 www.gpo.gov/fdsys

The CDC is proposing to amend its regulations for the importation of live nonhuman primates (NHPs) by extending existing requirements for the importation of Macaca fascicularis (cynomolgus), Chlorocebus aethiops (African green), and Macaca mulatta (rhesus) monkeys to all NHPs. Filovirus testing will continue to be required only for Old World NHPs. CDC also is proposing to reduce the frequency at which importers of cynomolgus, African green, and rhesus monkeys are required to renew their registrations, (from every 180 days to every two years). CDC proposes to incorporate existing guidelines into the regulations and add new provisions to address: NHPs imported as part of a trained animal act; NHPs imported or transferred by zoological societies; the transfer of NHPs from approved laboratories; and non-live imported NHP products. CDC is also proposing that all NHPs be imported only through ports of entry where a CDC quarantine station is located.
Written or electronic comments identified by Docket No. CDC–2011–0001 should be submitted by March 7, 2011 to: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, ATTN: NHP Rule Comments, 1600 Clifton Road, NE., (E03), Atlanta, GA, 30333. Comments will be available for public inspection Monday through Friday, except for legal holidays, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., Eastern Time, at 1600 Clifton Road, NE., Atlanta, GA 30333. Please call ahead to 1–866–694–4867 and ask for a representative in the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine (DGMQ) to schedule your visit. Comments also may be viewed at http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dq. Written comments may be submitted electronically via the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov  For further information see: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-01-05/pdf/2010-32922.pdf

Living Endemic Birds of Hawaii Watercolors
January 5, 2011 www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/

VOLCANO NATIONAL PARK, Hawaii — The Volcano Art Center is exhibiting “Living Endemic Birds of Hawai'i: the Complete Collection” by Hawaii wildlife artist Marian Berger beginning January. Because the collection is so large, it will be split, with the second half displayed from Feb. 5 to March 6. The exhibit features Berger's dramatic original watercolor paintings depicting all 37 species of birds found only in Hawaii. "The vision of this extraordinary project has been to produce a limited edition masterpiece in the style of John James Audubon as a means of supporting critical work to ensure the survival of Hawaii's endemic birds, a majority of which are, sadly, extinct. Each original watercolor has been painted in full double elephant folio size (26" by 39.5"), after Audubon's great work on the Birds of North America, with all individual birds painted life-size." The collection will be reproduced by Karen Kaufman, who has one of the top reproduction studios in Hawaii, and made available as full sets of unbound copies for framing, or bound by Vatican-trained bookbinder Jesus Sanchez, whose workshop is based in Hilo.

The optional binding will be as Audubon's work was bound in the early 1800s. At that time, a few more than 200 sets were produced and sold for $1,000 per set, which is the equivalent of more than $400,000 today. Only the very wealthy of the era, including J.P. Morgan and the Queen of England, could afford a set. Today, an original collection of Audubon's birds would sell for more than $8 million, with single prints selling for as much as $200,000. The anonymous patron who underwrote the project, including the commissions for all the original paintings, has agreed to donate the proceeds of the $200,000 original collection to support Hawaii's endemic birds. Funds will go to support San Diego Zoo Global's efforts to preserve Hawaii's endemic birds through its Hawai'i Endangered Bird Conservation Program (HEBCP). This is a unique collaboration between the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife, the U.S Geological Survey Biological Resources Discipline and private landowners.

The HEBCP comprises two captive breeding facilities, one at Keauhou Ranch in Volcano and the other in Makawao on Maui, and ongoing projects at a number of field sites around Hawaii. Using intensive propagation and release techniques, the HEBCP aims to re-establish self-sustaining populations of critically endangered birds or augment existing ones. More than 1,000 chicks of many different Hawaiian species have been successfully raised by the HEBCP since 1993.

Berger was born in Limerick, Ireland, the daughter of a meteorologist. Since moving to the Big Island in 1976, she has received many awards and commissions for her art, particularly her paintings of Hawaii's native birds. She created a series of paintings of Kauai's most endangered birds and plants for the rooms at the Aston Kauai Resort. From this, an edition of 2,000 prints was published, with the proceeds donated to the Hawai'i Nature Conservancy. Several of her original paintings have been presented to Hawaii's U.S. Sens. Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka for their contributions toward preserving Hawaii's native wildlife. Her art has appeared on Hawaiian conservation stamps and in the Bishop Museum's natural history calendars. She had been hoping for an opportunity to develop a complete series of original paintings of Hawaii's native endemic birds, and said, "This has been a dream I've had for more than 30 years."

Biofuel Grasses Better for Birds than Corn
January 6, 2010  news.msu.edu/

EAST LANSING, Mich. —  Federal mandates and market forces are promoting biofuel production.  Ethanol in America is chiefly made from corn, but research is focusing on how to cost-effectively process cellulosic sources such as wood, corn stalks and grasses. Michigan State University biologist Bruce Robertson believes that native perennial grasses might provide an opportunity to produce biomass in ways that are compatible with the conservation of biodiversity and important ecosystem services such as pest control. “Grassland birds,” he said, “are of special concern, having suffered more dramatic population losses than any other group of North American birds.” Next-generation biofuel crops have potential to provide a new source of habitat for this threatened group of birds. He compared bird populations in 20 separate sites of varying size for each of the three fuel feedstocks. The study found that bugs and the birds that feed on them thrive more in mixed prairie grasses than in corn. Almost twice as many species made their homes in grasses, while plots of switchgrass, a federally designated model fuel crop, fell between the two in their ability to sustain biodiversity. The larger the plot of any type, researchers found, the greater the concentration of birds supported. But Robertson warns that the biodiversity benefits could decrease as biofuel grass feedstocks are bred and cultivated for commercial uniformity. The study was recently published in the journal GCB (Global Change Biology) Bioenergy.

Border Collie Comprehends over 1,000 Object Names
January 6, 2010 www.eurekalert.org

SPARTANBURG, S.C.,– John Pilley and Alliston Reid from Wofford College have answered two central questions with their dog vocabulary comprehension research: How large can a dog's vocabulary become if given extensive training? And what do dogs actually understand when we use human language to communicate with them? These findings are published in the Elsevier journal Behavioural Processes. The authors demonstrated that their dog, Chaser, learned the names of 1022 objects; no upper limit is apparent — they stopped training the dog after three years due to their time constraints, not because the dog could not learn more names. Chaser's ability to learn the names of proper nouns and her extensive vocabulary was tested repeatedly under carefully controlled conditions. The authors admitted that she remembered the names of each of her 1,022 toys better than they could. In order to test independence of meaning of nouns and commands, the authors randomly combined nouns with commands to see if Chaser would produce the correct behavior toward the correct object in each trial. Without special training, Chaser responded to each combination correctly, even on the first trial, demonstrating that Chaser understood that the commands and proper-noun names had independent meanings. Their third experiment demonstrated that the dog also understands names for categories of objects or common nouns, and not just individual names or proper nouns. For instance, she learned that name "toy" referred to the 1,022 objects she was allowed to play with. By forming categories represented by common nouns, Chaser mapped one label onto many objects. Chaser also demonstrated that she could map up to three labels onto the same object without error (e.g. "toy," "ball," and "frisbee"). Their fourth experiment demonstrated that Chaser could also learn names by exclusion — inferred the name of a novel object by exclusion of familiar already-named objects. Retention of these names using this procedure was limited to short periods, however, just as usually observed with children. "Border collie comprehends object names as verbal referents" is online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.beproc.2010.11.007

Legoland San Diego Plans Star Wars Exhibit
January 6, 2010 www.signonsandiego.com   BY LORI WEISBERG

SAN DIEGO - Legoland will open a new area in Miniland based on the "Star Wars" movies. The exhibit, which will recreate six famous scenes from the movies and one from the Cartoon Network television program, is scheduled to open on March 31 and will feature life-size Lego models of Chewbacca, R2D2 and Darth Vader. Builders will use 1.5 million Lego bricks in 1:20 scale. Other new areas and activities coming this year at the theme park include a Hero Factory, in which children can "build" their own heroes and villains, and Splash Zoo, which features Duplo animals for toddlers. The Hero Factory is set to open on Feb. 17, and Splash Zoo, geared for children ages 1 to 3, will open May 26 in the water park. This new area will feature giant zoo animals, as well as interactive spray pads and fountains. The park’s Fun Town Fire Academy is being re-launched April 12. Police vehicles will now be added to the mix of fire trucks on this ride. Octopus Garden, an interactive exhibit, will be added May 6 to the Sea Life Aquarium. It replaces the Sharks Revealed exhibit that opened in 2008. General Manager Peter Ronchetti said the number of park visitors in 2010 was up by double-digits in percentage over the previous year, the seventh straight year of increased attendance. The park does not release specific attendance figures.

Harpy Eagle Pair Breeding in Belize
January 6, 2010  http://news.mongabay.com   By Morgan Erickson-Davis

For the first time in more than 16 years, scientists have confirmed the presence of a harpy eagle nest in the Maya Mountains of Belize. The discovery represents the most northerly breeding pair in the Americas, and signals a comeback for a species which has become locally extinct in much of Central America due to human activity. The nest is located within the Bladen Nature Reserve which is co-managed by the Belize Forest Department and Ya’axché Conservation Trust, a community oriented NGO based in Punta Gorda and managed by Lee Mcloughlin. The nest is under continual monitoring to record the birds' behavior and protect the nest from human disturbance.

Africa Needs Better Emerging Disease Detection
January 6, 2011  http://www.scidev.net/   

NAIROBI -- Africa lags behind in detecting infectious diseases and warning of emerging epidemics, yet bears half the world's outbreaks. Emily Chan, from the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, is lead author of a study of nearly 400 WHO-verified disease outbreaks from 1996–2009. The study found that more than half (53 per cent) were in Africa. Yet the continent took the longest to detect the outbreaks and to communicate about them — on average 30 and 43 days respectively after the estimated start of an outbreak. In the Western Pacific, it took an average of four days until discovery and 18 days until communication. In South–East Asia discovery and communication both averaged around 15 days. The most common diseases causing epidemic outbreaks were cholera, yellow fever, meningitis, avian influenza and dengue. The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) (29 November).

11 Prairie Dogs Escape from Columbus Zoo
January 7, 2010 www.dispatch.com/  BY KATHY LYNN GRAY

20 black-tailed prairie dogs were brought to the Columbus Zoo in November from another zoo. They were kept in quarantine and then moved to temporary quarters two weeks ago. This spring they will be added to the zoo's prairie dog exhibit. Yesterday, 11 escaped. 4 have been found on zoo grounds. "At this point we don't have any reason to believe they have left zoo property, but we decided to enlist the help of our neighbors just in case," Assistant Curator Jeremy Carpenter said today.

Health Camp for Delhi’s Captive Elephants
January 7, 2010 economictimes.indiatimes.com/

NEW DELHI, India -- A free 1-day health camp for captive elephants was organized on Thursday for the 20 captive elephants in the national capital region. It was organized by the government's Project Elephant with the help of Wildlife Trust of India’s 2-man veterinary team. "Delhi is not suitable for elephants to live in,” said NVK. Ashraf, chief veterinarian of WTI, “Employed during social and religious functions, the humidity levels are much lower than required and there is a dearth of clean water and fresh air. Also, elephants require a constant supply of food. In captivity they are fed 2 or 3 times a day. So, regular health examination, treatment and proper husbandry measures are necessary." At the health camp, the elephants were dewormed, their eyesight checked and treated for any injuries and ailments. Special reflectors were fitted to the elephants to reduce the chances of road accidents. To encourage the practice of regular check-ups, health cards were distributed to the owners. WTI has been running a Captive Elephant Welfare Project since 2001. Similar health camps have been organized in a number of states, including Assam, Bihar, Kerala and Rajasthan, in the past.

Sumatran Elephant Born at Indonesian Safari Park
January 7, 2010 english.ntdtv.com/

Indonesia Safari Park in West Java Province welcomed a new male Sumatran elephant on Monday. The park started with 20 elephants in 1985 but the number has more than doubled now to 45. Sumatran elephants, found only in Indonesia, are a subspecies of the Asian elephant and are threatened with extinction due to their disappearing habitat.

WWF Protecting Africa’s Elephants & Rhinos
January 7, 2010 www.wwf.org.uk/

In the 1960s, newspaper reports of the destruction of Africa’s rhino and elephant populations led directly to the creation of WWF. The organization has worked with governments and local communities to stop poaching, improve laws on elephant conservation and reduce conflict between people and elephants. They helped to bring about a ban on the international ivory trade in 1989. Although millions of elephants used to roam across Africa, today 470,000-690,000 survive in 37 countries. In most of central and western Africa, they’ve yet to recover from rampant poaching. But in southern and eastern Africa, elephant populations are now doing well.

Rhinos are also recovering. The white and black white rhino had once been widespread across southern Africa. But in the 20th century, numbers of wild black rhinos declined by 90% and the white rhino population was reduced to just a few individuals. The African Rhino Programme was launched in 1997, and numbers have increased to over 22,000 white rhinos and 4,000 black rhinos – a 204% increase. Worryingly, rhino poaching in southern Africa has increased in the last two years. 470 rhino were poached in Africa between 2006 and 2009.

Snakes Search for Dry Land in Australia
January 7, 2010  www.time.com

In the past two weeks, the worst flooding in Queensland's recent history has taken 10 lives, inundated 40 communities, caused an estimated $9 billion loss to export revenue and cost the country at least $5 billion in damages. And now, crocodiles, brown snakes and taipans have been emerging from the murky floodwaters, looking for shelter from their now underwater habitats and endangering residents and emergency workers. Staff at the Rockhampton airport have compared the watery runway there to a wildlife park.  According to the University of Sydney, 3,000 people are bitten by snakes each year in Australia, but usually there are no more than one or two deaths. "Brown snakes are more common and less intimidated by people, they are also more nervous, and more likely to bite," says Ken Winkel, the director of the Australian Venom Research Unit at the University of Melbourne. "When you get flooding in certain areas and their habitat is disturbed, snakes go to higher ground," says Winkel, even when the water does dry up. Queensland Health has warned residents that it will likely be a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other insects in months to come. Meanwhile, more rainfall is expected over the weekend, as the floods could make their way south to New South Wales later this month.

Walrus Reproduction in Captivity
January 7, 2010 www.mercurynews.com  By Lisa M. Krieger

The reproductive history of the Pacific Walrus is a mystery. They mate underwater, in remote, vast and icy habitats, during the Arctic Circle's longest and darkest nights. And there is growing concern for their survival because sea ice is melting. In the eight decades that walruses have been kept captive, only 11 babies have been born, and only six have survived. Fewer than 20 walruses now exist in American zoos, and many are aging, according to Holley Muraco. (Muraco is the marine mammal reproductive physiologist at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom.) The facility is ready to make the first-ever attempt at artificial insemination of this species. Hopes are pinned on bull Sivuqaq and Siku, or perhaps another female, Uquq — one of America's youngest and healthiest captive walruses. Orphaned when their mothers were killed during an Eskimo hunt, they were recovered off the coast of Gamble, Alaska, near St. Lawrence Island. So far, the male and female reproductive cycles have been out of sync. Siku and Uquq produce eggs just once a year, in the spring. But Sivuqaq is most romantic in the winter, when they are uninterested.

Sivuqaq's passion can be stirred by: strollers, running children, a nearby recycling bin, power tools. Muraco said. "It is almost a territorial thing. He'll puff up and make groans, whistles and a low growl." He's been taught to roll over and expose himself and he obliges on a simple cue. It is a daunting 30-pound, 3-foot-long organ. Walruses have the largest organs in the mammalian world, Muraco said. Their penis bone, called a baculum, is so big that Eskimos use it as a walking stick. Finding a super-sized artificial vagina has proved a bigger challenge. Six Flags bought the largest one on the market, specifically designed for huge draft horses from the equine company Select Breeders Service. But even that proved too small. To be safe, they've decided to custom-build their own vagina out of a big PVC pipe, cushioned inside to prevent injury and equipped with valves to allow the flow of warm water. Their final task will be building a mount (a fake female walrus) that's sturdy enough to support his 2,900 pounds, yet fuzzy enough to put him in the mood. Muraco records the daily, weekly and monthly shifts in the walruses' hormones such as testosterone, progesterone and estradiol. Every day, the animals open their giant mouths to provide a saliva sample, swabbed with Q-tips. Once a week, they offer up a flipper to donate blood. Videotape analyses help scientists link the animals' behavior to hormonal changes. The fertility cycles of Siku and Uquq are also tracked. With an Army-issued ultrasound — portable, battery-operated and water-resistant — Muraco scans their organs for signs of increased blood flow, which signals a developing follicle that leads to ovulation. At Six Flags, two baby bottlenose dolphins were recently conceived using sperm collected from fathers in Florida — then cooled with ice, shipped by FedEx and refrigerated.

Mass Bird Die-Offs are Common
January 7, 2010 www.nwhc.usgs.gov

Federal records show that mass bird die-offs happen on average every other day somewhere in North America. Usually, we don't notice them and don't try to link them to each other, according to ornithologist John Wiens, chief scientist at the California research institution PRBO Conservation Science. Since the 1970s, the USGS's National Wildlife Health Center in Wisconsin tracks mass deaths among birds, fish and other wildlife. In the past eight months, the USGS has logged 95 mass wildlife die-offs in North America and that's probably a dramatic undercount. 4,300 ducks were killed by parasites in Minnesota, 1,500 salamanders died from a virus in Idaho, 2,000 bats that died of rabies in Texas, and 2,750 sea birds mysteriously died in California. On average, 163 such events are reported to the federal government each year, according to USGS records. And there have been much larger die-offs than the 3,000 blackbirds in Arkansas. Twice in the summer of 1996, more than 100,000 ducks died of botulism in Canada.

So what's happening this time? E.O. Wilson says technology is to blame. With the Internet, cell phones and worldwide communications, people are noticing events, connecting the dots more. The irony is that mass die-offs — usually of animals with large populations — are getting the attention while a larger but slower mass extinction of thousands of species because of human activity is ignored, Wilson said. See: http://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/mortality_events/ongoing.jsp

Vampire Flying Frog Described
January 7, 2011  http://news.nationalgeographic.com

A "flying" tree frog, Rhacophorus vampyrus, first found in 2008, lives only in southern Vietnamese cloud forests, where it uses webbed fingers and toes to glide from tree to tree. Adults deposit their eggs in water pools in tree trunks, which protects their offspring from predators lurking in rivers and ponds. "It has absolutely no reason to ever go down on the ground," said study leader Jodi Rowley, an amphibian biologist at the Australian Museum in Sydney. In 2010, scientists discovered another unique fact – their tadpoles have strange curved "fangs." Tadpoles normally have mouthparts similar to a beak. Instead, vampire tree frog tadpoles have a pair of hard black hooks sticking out from the undersides of their mouths—the first time such fangs have been seen in a frog tadpole. The scientists do not yet know what purpose the fangs serve. However, frogs that raise tadpoles in tree-trunk water holes often feed their young by laying unfertilized eggs as meals. The fangs, Rowley speculated, could help in slicing these open. The new vampire flying frog species was formally described on December 21 in the journal Zootaxa.

3 California Ecosystems Endangered
January 7, 2010 latimesblogs.latimes.com/greenspace/

A report prepared by the Endangered Species Coalition examined the effects of climate change on endangered species. California has 3 of the top 10 imperiled places. Deserts, the Sierra Nevada and the San Francisco Bay Delta are all vulnerable. The Mojave Desert is home to the pupfish and the Desert Tortoise, two species that are feeling the effects of higher temperatures and less precipitation. In the Sierra, earlier snow melt is devastating for amphibians. The report says that half the region’s 30 native species have declined. In the Delta — where 12 of the region’s original 29 species are either extinct or endangered — reduced water availability and fewer cold-water rivers are reducing the population of trout, salmon and smelt. Other ecosystems identified were the Hawaiian Islands, the Snake River Basin, the Greater Yellowstone region, Arctic Sea ice, shallow coral reefs and the Everglades and the wetlands of the Gulf Coast. The report ends with a mention of seven ecosystems that didn’t make the top 10 but are deeply in danger. In another tip of the hat to California, the entire West Coast is on the critical list.

Everglades Protection is Announced
January 7, 2010 www.doi.gov/news/pressreleases/

FT. LAUDERDALE, FL – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced that the USFWS is working with private landowners, conservation groups and federal, tribal, state and local agencies to develop a new national wildlife refuge and conservation area to preserve the community’s ranching heritage and conserve the headwaters and fish and wildlife of the Everglades. “The Everglades rural working ranch landscapes are an important piece of our nation’s history and economy, and this initiative would work to ensure that they remain vital for our future,” Secretary Salazar said, “The partnerships being formed would protect and improve water quality north of Lake Okeechobee, restore wetlands, and connect existing conservation lands and important wildlife corridors to support the greater Everglades restoration effort.” The new National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area will occupy approximately 150,000 acres of important environmental and cultural landscapes in the Kissimmee River Valley south of Orlando. The proposed area includes 50,000 acres for potential purchase, and an additional 100,000 acres that could be protected through conservation easements and cooperative agreements, keeping the land in private ownership. The Service will only work with willing sellers to purchase land rights. In addition to improving water quality, the proposed conservation area and refuge would protect important habitat for 88 federal and state listed species, including the Florida panther, Florida black bear, whooping crane, Everglade snail kite and the Eastern indigo snake. It will also link to approximately 690,000 acres of partner-conserved lands.  Learn more by visiting www.fws.gov/southeast/greatereverglades.

Snake Hobbyists Protest USFWS Restrictions
January 8, 2011  www.nytimes.com  

Early last year, the USFWS sought to ban the importation and interstate transportation of nine species of foreign snakes, claiming the animals, if freed, posed a serious risk to native ecosystems across the southern United States.  It is the first time the government has tried to list animals widely held as pets. Roughly one million Americans are believed to own snakes of the types listed by the Interior Department, according to the United States Association of Reptile Keepers, and 31,000 were imported in 2008, the  most recent year for which the government has data. Trade in these species is big business: more than $100 million annually. Those with rare colors can fetch upward of $75,000. The move to ban the snakes  has set off a swell of anger among aggrieved snake owners and breeders, who have the most to lose financially, as well as a smattering of academic herpetologists, zookeepers and representatives of international conservation groups. When the regulations came up for public review, they flooded the government with objections. At the heart of their arguments is a critique of the emerging science of  invasive species risk assessment. And their response has highlighted the challenges that the government faces as it increasingly moves to protect native flora and fauna not just from current invasive species  but also from future threats. The reptile keepers group, which claims 12,000 professional breeders and sellers as members, has filed formal objections with the Interior Department and is threatening a lawsuit  based on what it says is the government’s poor scientific evidence.

To ban the snakes under federal law, the government has to show that they pose a threat to native plants, crops or animals. With very little science available about how reptiles that come from distant  places like subtropical Asia and Africa might fare in America, the United States Geological Survey was asked to assess the risk. The agency looked at many factors, including the damage in the Everglades, and used a computer model to determine what parts of the country might have a supporting  climate for the species. They estimated that suitable climates for the Burmese python might include the 11 southernmost states from California to North Carolina. If global warming continued apace, the geological survey added, the snakes might even be at home in New York City by 2100. A modeling study by biologists at the City University of New York predict that only Florida and South Texas would be possible habitats for the snakes. Independent studies of snakes captured in the Everglades and taken north to Gainesville, Fla., and South Carolina found that most of the animals died when left outside in winter in those regions.   

These findings were further bolstered when an unusual cold snap in the Everglades last January left a large number of Burmese pythons dead on canal banks and levees. The studies have fired up the snake  industry, which sees them as proof that the government is pursuing a hostile and unwarranted agenda. Dr. Elliott Jacobson, a professor of veterinary medicine at the University of Florida and a specialist in  reptiles, also sees the government’s science as skewed. He loves snakes so much that he keeps 140 as pets and houses them in a guest cottage and in the bedrooms once occupied by his sons, now grown. But he said he suspected that the government was less sympathetic to his pets than to more cuddly creatures. “The impact of feral cats, for example, on wildlife is much greater than what the Burmese pythons can do,” he said, noting that a cat eats much more than a snake of the same size. But Thomas Strickland, assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks, said the science is solid, that the government is not going to back down and that it would approve the regulations by next summer.

San Diego Economic Report Card
January 9, 2011 www.signonsandiego.com   By Dean Calbreath

For the first time since the recession began in 2007, the county ended the year with more workers than it began with, and consumers spent more money and were more optimistic than the year before.   According to current estimates, 140,000 more tourists came to the county than in 2009 — the first year-to-year increase since 2007 — and they spent 2% more, compared to a 12% decline last year. Despite  some softening during the end of the year, and the threat of continuing foreclosures, home prices were higher in each month in 2010 than they had been in 2009. Tourism is San Diego's third- biggest industry, bringing the county $6.1 billion in direct spending from January through October, according to the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau. Although tourism grew in late summer and early fall, it stalled in October leading to a year-end projection that total spending would only be 1% ahead of 2009 which was 12% down from 2008.

Brookfield Zoo vs Village of Brookfield
January 9, 2011  http://articles.chicagotribune.com/

To raise money, the Village of Brookfield proposed levying an amusement tax on the Brookfleld Zoo. The tax applies to other venues in Brookfield, such as a bowling alley and high school sports events, but the biggest impact would be on the zoo. The village expects to raise up to $500,000 from the tax. Last week, the Illinois House unanimously passed a measure prohibiting the village of Brookfield from implementing an amusement tax on Brookfield Zoo. The Senate approved the measure in November, and Zoo officials hope the state measure is signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn. "This was a grass-roots effort in which zoo members, employees and supporters got involved in the legislative process and made a difference," said Matt Mayer, vice president of public affairs for the Chicago Zoological Society, which runs the zoo.

Rodent Control May Endanger Wildlife
January 10, 2011 pubs.acs.org/  By Jyllian N. Kemsley

Katie Swift, a predator control specialist for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, helped organize a recent rodenticide symposium. “We know that sublethal residues are showing up in nontarget wildlife, but we don’t know whether they’re affecting the animals’ immune systems or reproductive success or making them more vulnerable to other causes of mortality,” Swift said.  Today’s rodenticides are anticoagulant compounds that inhibit an enzyme called vitamin K 2,3-epoxide reductase. Vitamin K promotes blood clotting. Animals dosed with such rodenticides die either through external bleeding after injury or through internal hemorrhaging after high doses of the compounds damage blood vessels. One of the challenges of rodent control is simply tracking whether and how much of a rodenticide is being consumed by rodents or by other animals. Birds that prey on rodents might be more at risk than previously realized. Barnett A. Rattner, a wildlife toxicologist at the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, has been studying exposure of the American kestrel, a small falcon, and the eastern screech owl to diphacinone. Until recently, the compound had been tested only in bobwhite quail and mallard ducks, which are exposed through water or soil contamination or possibly by eating bait directly. Both kestrels and owls are significantly more sensitive to diphacinone than quail or ducks. The consequences for the birds range from poor health to death, Rattner said. Even a seemingly small effect could alter a wild animal’s ability to forage for food.  Philippe Berny, a professor of pharmacy and toxicology at the French veterinary school VetAgro Sup says, rodenticides are supposed to be used only in houses, but the compounds are turning up in predators and scavengers such as weasels, foxes, owls, and seagulls. Berny and coworkers are trapping rodents and looking at fecal samples from predators to try to identify contamination pathways. There are “probably interactions between different rodent populations—field rodents coming into houses or a house mouse goes outside and brings some bait with it,” Berny said, “But we don’t really know what’s going on.”  See: http://pubs.acs.org/cen/science/89/8902sci2.html

More Understanding of Marine Conservation Areas is Needed
January 10, 2011  www.nature.com

Facing fishery devastation and the destruction of coral reefs, conservationists have increasingly sought to establish marine protected areas (MPAs). More than 5,000 sanctuaries where fishing is controlled to limit its effect on biodiversity have been set up (mainly in coastal zones). They range in size from less than 10,000 square meters to the vast Phoenix Islands area, part of the Republic of Kiribati in the Pacific Ocean, which tops 400,000 square kilometers. But there has been little scientific assessment of how to create a successful MPA. Tundi Agardy, an environmental consultant, is the lead author of a paper published in Marine Policy, which warns of a "blind faith" in the ability of MPAs to stem biodiversity loss. Her paper identifies five possible shortcomings in MPAs: many are too small to be effective; they may simply drive fishing into other areas; they create an illusion of protection when none is actually occurring; many are poorly planned or managed; and they can fail all too easily because of environmental degradation of waters just outside the protected area. For example, an MPA created to protect the vaquita (Phocoena sinus), a small porpoise found only in the Gulf of California, actually missed a sizeable proportion of the species' core range. The animal's numbers have continued to decline and it is now the most endangered marine mammal in the world.

Understanding the best way to create MPAs is about to become much more important. The 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development set ambitious, internationally agreed targets to establish extensive networks of MPAs around the world by 2012. This requires the creation of more MPAs outside national boundaries in the high seas, where still less is known about how to make them work. Alex Rogers, a conservation ecologist at the University of Oxford, is organizing a conference at the Zoological Society of London next month to discuss the design of high-seas protected areas, along with the complex legal and political issues that surround them.

Pandas Are Coming to Edinburgh Zoo
January 10, 2011 www.telegraph.co.uk/  By Louise Gray

It has taken more than five years of political negotiations at the highest level to persuade the Chinese to send two seven-year-old pandas to the Edinburgh Zoo. Female Tian Tian and male Yangguang will be kept in separate areas in Edinburgh Zoo’s old gorilla enclosure. The 80 lbs of bamboo they eat per day will be grown on gounds. The pandas are considered a diplomatic gift but Edinburgh Zoo has already made substantial donations to Chinese conservation projects and will be expected to continue giving money. David Windmill, chief executive officer of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), which runs Edinburgh Zoo, says the pandas will be in Scotland for 10 years. A date has not yet been set for the arrival of the pandas but it is expected to be later this year. There are only three other zoos in Europe that have been given the animals from China: Vienna, Madrid and Berlin.

History of Panda Diplomacy
January 10, 2011 www.telegraph.co.uk By Richard Alleyne

China's use of giant pandas as diplomatic gifts has a long history dating as far back as the seventh century Tang Dynasty, when Empress Wu Zetian sent a pair to the Japanese emperor. The People's Republic of China revived the practice in the 1950s during the Cold War in what became known "Panda Diplomacy". From 1958 to 1982, China gave 23 pandas to nine different countries.

Britain's most famous giant panda, Chi Chi, (Qi Chi / Qi Qi) was bought by London Zoo in 1957 from an Austrian animal broker. Although originally destined for an American zoo, Washington had ceased all trade with communist China and so Chi Chi was refused entry to the United States. There were unsuccessful attempts to mate Chi Chi with Moscow Zoo's An An. Chi Chi died on 22 July 1972 and was mourned by the nation. She is stuffed and displayed in the London Natural History Museum. 

Sedgwick County Zookeeper Grazed by Kanburi Pit Viper
January 10, 2011 www.ksallink.com/

WICHITA, Kansas — A Sedgwick County Zoo reptile keeper was admitted to the hospital for observation today after he was grazed by the strike of a venomous Kanburi pit viper during routine feeding. (The snake was being fed with tongs). The worker was admitted to the hospital for observation and so far, he has not had to use any antivenin. Kanburi pit vipers are native to Thailand and although bites can cause swelling and pain, they are not known to be life-threatening. The zoo said its employees regularly perform animal escape drills and venomous snakebite drills.

Golden Lion Tamarins Born at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
January 10, 2011 www.zandavisitor.com/

CLEVELAND – A female Golden lion tamarin (Leontopithecus rosalia) gave birth to two babies on Dec. 27. The two weighed only about 2 ounces at birth and spend their time hanging onto their mom, Brie, and dad, Cumin. Brie and Cumin had their first baby together, named Orolito, less than a year ago. Golden lion tamarins are part of a Species Survival Plan organized by AZA in which accredited member zoos and institutions collaborate to manage the population of endangered species. The Zoo has contributed 19 golden lion tamarin births to the SSP since 1997. Dr. Chris Kuhar, the Zoo’s curator of primates and small mammals, hopes to continues to be successful in breeding this species in the future.

H5N1 Bird Flu Closes 4 Korean Zoos
January 10, 2011  english.chosun.com/

Due to the spread of avian influenza and foot-and-mouth disease, the closure of four Korean zoos has been extended to Jan. 25. They are Seoul Zoo in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province, Children's Grand Park in Gwangjin-gu, Seoul Forest in Seongdong-gu, and Dream Forest in Gangbuk-gu, Seoul. The Seoul Metropolitan Government has banned public entry to the zoos since Jan. 1 in order to prevent zoo animals from being infected as the alert for livestock endemics was raised to the highest level and an outbreak of bird flu was reported.

H1N1 Vaccine Strategy Against Multiple Flu Strains
January 10, 2011  www.eurekalert.org

In the January 10, 2011 issue of the Journal of Experimental Medicine, researchers from the University of Chicago and Emory University report that people who were infected and recovered had an extraordinary immune response. Several patients developed antibodies that are protective against a variety of flu strains. "Our data shows that infection with the 2009 pandemic influenza strain could induce broadly protective antibodies that are only rarely seen after seasonal flu infections or flu shots," said first author Jens Wrammert, of Emory University School of Medicine and the Emory Vaccine Center, "These findings show that these types of antibodies can be induced in humans, if the immune system has the right stimulation, and suggest that a pan-influenza vaccine might be feasible." "The result is something like the Holy Grail for flu-vaccine research," says study author Patrick Wilson, from the University of Chicago. "It demonstrates how to make a single vaccine that could potentially provide permanent immunity to all influenza.

USGS Documents Massive Wildlife Die-Offs
January 10, 2011 www.usgs.gov/

The USGS National Wildlife Health Center's Arkansas analyses of the bird deaths in Arkansas on New Year’s Eve and those in Louisiana found the cause of death to be impact trauma. Such trauma was probably a result of the birds being startled by loud noises, arousing them and causing them to fly into objects such as houses or trees. Necropsies found internal hemorrhaging, while pesticide tests were negative. Results from further laboratory tests are expected to be completed in 2-3 weeks. Jonathan Sleeman, director of the USGS NWHC in Madison, Wis., which is completing its analyses, said in 2010, the USGS NWHC documented eight die-off events of 1,000 or more birds. The causes: starvation, avian cholera, Newcastle disease and parasites. According to USGS NWHC records, there have been 188 mortality events across the country involving 1,000 birds or more during the past 10 years (2000 - 2010). In 2009, individual events included one in which 50,000 birds died from avian botulism in Utah; 20,000 from the same disease in Idaho; and 10,000 bird deaths in Washington from a harmful algal bloom.  Mass mortality events occur in other animal populations as well. For example, prairie dog colonies in the West can be destroyed by sylvatic plague, which can then kill off the highly endangered black-footed ferret that preys on prairie dogs exclusively. The USGS NWHC is involved with developing vaccines, delivered through bait, which can immunize prairie dogs against plague.  In the 1970s and 1980s, most USGS NWHC die-off investigations involved large numbers of waterfowl deaths from avian cholera, avian botulism, and lead poisoning; in the 1990s, the USGS NWHC was highly involved in investigating the emergence of West Nile virus in North America. In 2008, the USGS NWHC discovered the cause of white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease that has devastated cave hibernating bat species in the Northeastern U.S. Public reporting of wildlife mortality events is important, and in 2010, the USGS Wildlife Disease Information Node initiated an experimental reporting system to facilitate this. Visit http://www.whmn.org/wher/  for more information.

North American Environmental Outlook to 2030
January 11, 2011 www.cec.org/

MONTREAL, Canada -- The Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) is a collaboration among Canada, Mexico and the U.S. to foster conservation and protection of the North American environment.  A new report examines the major forces and underlying trends likely to shape the environment of North America in 2030 and outlines nine areas where decisions today will affect our environmental future in varying degrees.

The full report, North American Environmental Outlook to 2030 (pdf), is available online at www.cec.org/outlook.

Giant Pandas Need Old Growth Forests
January 11, 2011  www.eurekalert.org

The results of a study recently published in the journal Biology Letters indicate that giant pandas need old-growth forests as much as bamboo forests. This work, which was completed through the collaborative efforts of scientists from the Chinese Academy of Science, San Diego Zoo Global, China West Normal University, China Wildlife Conservation Association and the Sichuan Forestry Department, could assist conservationists in creating strategic plans that help conserve this critically endangered bear species. "In this study we show that pandas are associated with old-growth forests more than with any ecological variable other than bamboo," said, Ron Swaisgood, Ph.D., one of the authors of the work and a panda researcher with the San Diego Zoo. "This finding indicates that in order to conserve this species, we need to conserve both bamboo and old-growth forests." The study, which was conducted from 1999 through 2003, includes data collected from the panda's range in the Sichuan province of China. A key element to the success of this endeavor was the scale of the study, which contributed important information. "But maps and measures of habitat suitability are only as good as the underlying biological assumptions, which are sometimes influenced by the scale over which data are obtained, " states the study.

AZA and International Elephant Foundation Support Elephant Research
January 11, 2011 www.aza.org/pressroom/IEF2011/

The International Elephant Foundation and AZA have announced support for 18 elephant conservation projects for 2011. IEF will provide more than $230,000 to support elephant conservation around the world, adding to the $1.8 million total invested in conserving elephants since its inception in 1998.  IEF receives the majority of its funding from AZA-accredited zoos. The following elephant conservation projects will receive support from IEF in 2011:

Measuring Dog Scat-Sniffing Ability
January 11, 2011  www.eurekalert.org

When the ability to extract and analyze DNA improved, researchers recognized the value of scat as a way to confirm the ID of species, analyze hormone levels, diet, and monitor the location and population size of key species. Sarah Reed of UC Berkeley and Aimee Hurt from Working Dogs for Conservation wanted to scientifically determine how far away dogs can detect the scat, and to determine how that is influenced by factors in the environment. "One of the things we're trying to do is help design tests and create metrics that could be used to evaluate dogs as part of a certification program." They obtained their test subjects from animal shelters and rescue organizations. "The dogs that do really well in this type of work are high energy, which also makes them hard to live with as pets," said Hurt.

Only one out of every 200-300 dogs is considered a candidate, she said, and of those, only 40 percent make the final cut. It takes anywhere from six weeks to three months to get the dogs ready for field work. For their study, two dogs emerged from more than 600 candidates. A female Labrador retriever mix was trained to detect the scat of mountain lions (Puma concolor), bobcats (Lynx rufus) and domestic cats, and a male pit bull terrier mix was trained to detect red fox (Vulpes vulpes), kit fox (Vulpes macrotis), and gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) scat. Researchers obtained the sample scat from zoos and animal rehabilitation centers throughout California. For each species, the researchers collected scat from several individuals fed a variety of diets. This ensured that the dogs were cued to the species' scent rather than to what the animals ate. Both scat-sniffing dogs were able to detect samples placed 33 feet away at least 75 percent of the time. Samples placed 82 feet away were located 30 to 40 percent of the time. Wind did not have a significant effect on detection rates, possibly because the dogs were allowed the freedom to search for scents from multiple directions. Precipitation had the biggest influence on detection rates. The study appears in the January issue of Journal of Wildlife Management.

Environmental Changes may Affect Cooperative Bird Behaviors
January 11, 2011 www.eurekalert.org

NEW YORK, -- A new study by researchers Walter Jetz from Yale University and Dustin Rubenstein from Columbia University shows an important link between the natural variation in climate conditions and complex behaviors among birds. The study appears in Current Biology on Jan. 11, 2011 and argues that species that live in families may be better guarded against the effects of unpredictable climatic conditions.

Family-living, or cooperative breeding, is common among birds. Some birds forgo their own reproduction to help raise others' offspring. However, some cooperative breeding societies consist of groups of non-relatives that also work together in raising young. From Australia to the Amazon, cooperatively breeding birds account for approximately 831 species—or nearly 10 percent—of the nearly 10,000 avian species. Using a behavioral data set of more than 95 percent of the world's birds, and a global 40-year climate dataset, the researchers examined how environmental factors (like mean and variation in temperature and rainfall) and biotic factors (like body mass, diet breadth and type) influence the incidence and global distribution of family-living in birds. They discovered 'hot-spots' in places like Australia and Africa where family-living species are overrepresented, as well as 'cold-spots' in places like South and Central America where there are fewer family-living species than we would have expected. This geographic unevenness coincided with the occurrence of specific bird lineages, but also carried a strong signal of environmental and biotic factors. In particular, variation in rainfall emerged as a key predictor of family-living in birds.

Top 10 Zoo Escapes According to Time Magazine
January 11, 2011  www.time.com

When Ken Allen died in 2000, the San Diego Union-Tribune ran an obituary: Beloved ape, 29, was renowned escape artist. The Bornean orangutan, born at the San Diego Zoo in 1971, became famous after a series of escapes in the 1980s. According to the zoo's website, “He never seemed to mind being led back into his enclosure — he just seemed to enjoy the challenge of finding a new way out!” The “hairy Houdini” had a fan club, was the subject of T-shirts and bumper stickers, and even inspired “The Ballad of Ken Allen.” In an attempt to figure out how he escaped, the zoo had workers go undercover as tourists and had rock climbers check out the walls. "Ken Allen appeals to everyone's sense of breaking out," psychiatrist and ballad writer Dennis Gersten told the AP, "The irony of it is that he doesn't really want to leave. He breaks out, but he doesn't go anywhere."

The others that made the Top 10 list were:

Siberian Tiger Born at Toronto Zoo
January 11, 2011 www.torontosun.com/  By Jenna McMurray

CALGARY — A Siberian tiger cub was born to mother Katja about 2:30 a.m. Monday. At last count there were only 350 Siberian tigers left in the wild. Katja also delivered two cubs last September, surprising zoo staff. One of the cubs was stillborn and the other clung to life for a few days before perishing. "(Katja) may have been a little rough and not handled them properly, but she was a first-time mom," said Jamie Dorgan, manager of the zoo's Eurasia area. This time the 10-year-old mother seems to be adjusting well to her parenting duties, said Dorgan. The cub is expected to remain in the den with Katja for at least three months before it is out on display. Dorgan said it is unusual for a tiger to birth only one cub, as litters average two to three and can be up to seven. The cub was fathered by Baikal, 9, who also fathered her two cubs born last year. Toronto now has 5 tigers: Katja, her mother Kita, 15, and Vitali, 3, who will soon be relocated to the Toronto Zoo for breeding. [Jan 12 Update: Vets are now providing emergency care for the cub after mother, Katja, abandoned it in the late afternoon and took up a position outside the den box. After vets stepped in to provide supplementary food, they found the cub dehydrated and its body temperature low. The Director of Animal Care, Conservation and Research, Dr. Jake Veasey, says when a mother leaves her young it is often because they sense a congenital problem.  Veasey says they don't yet know that is what happened in this case. A Zoo official says the cub was believed to be in stable but guarded condition this morning.]

Global Plant Initiative
January 11, 2011 www.physorg.com

Plant collectors dry plants and mount them on paper sheets that are stored in plant collections called herbaria. But scientists in the most biodiverse countries lack easy access to this basic information needed to identify plants. Turning a digital scanner upside down, a photographer at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, U.K., revolutionized digitalization of centuries-old plant specimens by suspending the scanner above them. Now free scanners and training is offered to major herbaria, by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Global Plants Initiative, meeting Jan. 11-13 at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, will take biodiversity research to a new level, sharing plant collections in a massive online database of high-resolution scans. STRI is now a regional digitization center for a Latin American Plants Initiative that coordinates scanning of specimens from herbaria that did not have collections large enough to qualify for their own scanner. The Global Plants Initiative currently partners with 175 museums, universities and herbaria from 60 countries and is actively working to further extend participation. Its database holds almost 1.5 million images, among them 151,000 images of botanical artwork, photographs and reference materials. Nearly 7,500 new scanned objects arrive each week. The GPI online data base currently holds more than 1.5 million images. Eldredge Bermingham, director of STRI, says, “The Global Plants Initiative, in conjunction with other new tools like genetic barcoding, will revolutionize plant biology—sharing information with countries where it was collected long ago."

History of Reptile Collecting in Zoos
January 11, 2011 www.voiceofsandiego.org/   by Randy Dotinga

For decades, prominent American zoos made deals with reptile smugglers and brought snakes, tortoises and lizards from foreign lands to the United States. A new book, “Stolen World: A tale of reptiles, smugglers and skullduggery” explains why zoos got caught up in international intrigue and how the San Diego Zoo found itself linked to a scandal. Author Jennie Erin Smith writes about an episode of corruption involving Tom Schultz, a really outstanding curator and a talented keeper and breeder of animals at the San Diego Zoo. Tom was an intrepid traveler and “wheeler dealer” who would go to Indonesia and Fiji and come back with animals that other zoos could only dream of. He was a tough and talented guy, and that's one of the reasons why his own zoo defended him when the government took him down. He was a zoo man and well loved. He was involved in a notorious case in which a reptile dealer illegally imported Fiji iguanas and used the San Diego Zoo to try to launder them. But it didn't work. Schultz knew the origin of the iguanas, he knew they were illegally imported, but he maintained that he had no idea what the real story was, that they could have been bred in the United States. The government ultimately got him for fraud, forced him to retire and embarrassed the zoo. He pleaded guilty to wire fraud and theft for the illegal trafficking in rare and endangered reptiles. He reimbursed the zoo for the amount of money the feds accused him of taking. The accusation was that he had used zoo funds to enrich himself. But it was clear that he was bypassing bookkeeping to enhance the zoo's collection of animals. Today it is nothing like it was in the 1970s and the 1980s. Most zoos carefully follow all of the many wildlife laws. But there is still a massive trade of animals from all over the world into China.

Headstarting Hellbenders at Buffalo Zoo
January 12, 2011 www.buffalonews.com  by Denise Jewell Gee

BUFFALO, New York -- The eastern hellbender, which can grow longer than 2 feet, is the largest aquatic salamander in North America. Two decades ago, scientists started to notice fewer giant salamanders in the state's rivers. "We're not finding many of the younger, middle-aged hellbenders," said Mark Kandel, regional wildlife manager for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, “And there's any number of reasons why they may not be surviving through that middle part." Noting the gap between when eggs that are hatched in the wild and the number that grow to adulthood, DEC has teamed with the Buffalo Zoo to collect wild eggs and raise the offspring in the zoo past the point when they are most vulnerable to predators. In a lab that will open to public viewing today, the zoo is raising 540 hellbenders from eggs that were collected from a river in the Southern Tier. The small hellbenders will be released back into area waterways when they're large enough to better survive. Penny Danielewicz, collections manager of reptiles and amphibians for the Buffalo Zoo, said, "We are working to see if we can use this head start project as a tool in hellbender conservation." The hellbenders in the zoo are just over a year old and have grown to about 3 or 4 inches since they hatched in late 2009. They are scheduled to be released back to the wild in 2013. The nocturnal creatures, she said, can whip their bodies back and forth — a characteristic that helped earn their name. The zoo will give a presentation on the eastern hellbender during its "Warm Up With the Cold-Blooded" event from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. The DEC has also worked with the Department of Transportation to help replace large rocks used by the hellbenders as habitats in rivers and streams in the Allegheny watershed.

Cincinnati Zoo Utilizes “Business Analytics”
January 12, 2011 www.cioinsight.com/  By Jennifer Lawinski

Two years ago the Cincinnati Zoo had several systems across the organization that were not automated, nor were they able to share data. Gateway Ticketing Systems was hired to bring in an integrated POS system to connect its sales networks and integrate data. And, BrightStar Partners helped them install IBM’s Cognos business analytics software  to make sense of all the data it could now collect. The systems launched in July 2010 and the Zoo was able to see who its 1.2 million annual visitors were and where they were spending their money. The Zoo anticipates an additional 50,000 visitors this year and a $350,000 increase in revenue. In March 2011, the Zoo will begin a loyalty program that non-members can join that will give more insight into how they’re spending once inside the Zoo. The Zoo spent about $250,000 on updating and integrating its POS system. They can’t disclose how much the IBM Cognos solution cost, but sources say they  “received a return on investment on the IT spent for analytics in the first quarter. We’re beyond thrilled about that.”  Before launching the BA tools, the Zoo’s IT team comprised an IT director, a database administrator and a hardware specialist. To manage the Cognos solution, the Zoo hired an additional database administrator, bringing its IT staff from three to four.

Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens Offers Home Landscaping Classes
January 12, 2011 www.zandavisitornews.com By Tiffany Barnes

CINCINNATI, OH - Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s 2011 Landscaping for the Homeowner Series begins January 19. Presented by the Zoo’s Director of Horticulture, Steve Foltz, this 10-class series is one of the most informative and complete landscape series for homeowners in the Tri-state area. Classes meet every Wednesday evening from 7-9 p.m. starting January 19 for 10 weeks. Cost for the complete series is $80 for Zoo members and $120 for non-members. Individual classes are $10 for Zoo members and $14 for non-members.

6 “Lost” Frogs From Haiti are “Rediscovered”
January 12, 2011 www.physorg.com

Conservationists have found six rare frog species that are unique to Haiti and have not been seen in about two decades.  The discovery was made during an expedition in October to search for frogs that are rarely seen and could be on the verge of extinction. Among the unusual frogs researchers found were a whistling frog named after composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and a "ventriloquist" frog that can throw its voice to send predators in the wrong direction.  They also found in the mountains of southwest Haiti a burrowing, black-eyed frog with orange hind legs and a speckled frog with dazzling sapphire eyes.

The team, led by Conservation International scientist Robin Moore and Blair Hedges of Pennsylvania State University, was specifically searching for the La Selle Grass frog (E. glanduliferoides), not seen in over 25 years. They didn't find that frog, but  uncovered glimpses of a handful of Haiti's other 48 native species of amphibians.

Columbus Zoo & Aquarium Launches Turtle Fund
January 12, 2011 www.zandavisitor.com  By Patty Peters

POWELL, OH - The last act for the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium’s Conservation Committee in 2010 was to establish a special fund in recognition of 2011 as Year of the Turtle. The Zoo will join the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) and other conservation partners to support priority field projects and raise awareness about the plight of the world’s turtles and tortoises. During the 1970s through the 1990s, the Zoo had several notable accomplishments, including the first zoological breedings of giant Asian pond turtles, gibba turtles, and Adanson’s turtles. Other significant breedings include painted terrapins, Roti Island snake-necked turtles, and Vietnam pond turtles, all of which are designated as Critically Endangered. The Zoo has also bred seven different species of map turtles. In total, at least 40 species of freshwater turtles and tortoises have been bred at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Over 40% of freshwater turtle species are threatened worldwide – more than any other animal group. North America is a biodiversity hotspot, home to nearly 20% of all known turtle species. (For more information on Year of the Turtle, visit www.yearoftheturtle.org.)

During 2010, the Columbus Zoo and Partners in Conservation (PIC) awarded more than $1 million in conservation grants to 70 projects in 30 countries. Two emergency grants were rushed to sanctuaries in Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo following the confiscation of hundreds of endangered African grey parrots. The birds require months of rehabilitation before they can be released back to the wild. The Zoo supports long-term field projects for all four species of great apes (gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans) and provides financial and logistical support to the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA). Collaborating with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the Columbus Zoo joined the Ape TAG Initiative as a platinum member in 2010. The Zoo’s Polar Bear Conservation Fund, established in 2008, provides grants to top polar bear scientists working in Alaska and Canada. In 2010, the Zoo became a partner in the International Polar Bear Conservation Centre, based in Manitoba, Canada. Among other functions, the Centre will act as a transition facility for orphaned cubs and other compromised polar bears.

Penguin Flipper-banding is Detrimental
January 12, 2011 www.nature.com

A recent study in the journal Nature shows that banding of free-ranging king penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) impairs both survival and reproduction, ultimately affecting population growth rate. Over the course of a 10-year longitudinal study, banded birds produced 39% fewer chicks and had a survival rate 16% lower than non-banded birds, demonstrating a massive long-term impact of banding and thus refuting the assumption that birds will ultimately adapt to being banded.  Indeed, banded birds still arrived later for breeding at the study site and had longer foraging trips even after 10 years. One of the major findings is that responses of flipper-banded penguins to climate variability (that is, changes in sea surface temperature and in the Southern Oscillation index) differ from those of non-banded birds. The authors show that only long-term investigations may allow an evaluation of the impact of flipper bands and that every major life-history trait can be affected, calling into question the banding schemes still going on. In addition, our understanding of the effects of climate change on marine ecosystems based on flipper-band data should be reconsidered. Flipper bands may affect penguins in several ways. For example, injury can occur to flippers and adjacent parts of the body due to rubbing during swimming (medium-size penguins beat their flippers about three times per second when swimming), and studies in swim channels have indicated that penguins with bands use about 24% more power to swim than birds without bands. Although such studies have been dismissed as reflecting a short-term effect that birds can eliminate over time, it is hard to see how they can compensate for increased drag. A similar argument counters the theory that bands do not affect penguin mortality, because flashing bands during swimming make the birds more conspicuous to predators. Habituation to newly placed animal tags is a well-documented phenomenon. However, the authors warn that we should not confuse physical impairment with psychological disturbance.

Climate Change is Biggest Threat to National Parks
January 12, 2011  www.nature.com

In 50 years' time, climate change will have altered some U.S. parks profoundly. Montana's Glacier National Park will be without glaciers; California's Joshua Tree National Park will have no Joshua trees; and Sequoia National Park, no sequoias. Jon Jarvis, who became director of the US National Park Service in 2009, calls climate change "the greatest threat to the integrity of our national parks that we have ever experienced". Climate change has already begun to transform Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. The area has been plagued by tree pests that thrive in warmer temperatures. Fires are expected to become more frequent, animal populations are shifting and the landscape and ecology are being reshaped. In September 2010, the Park Service released a Climate Change Response Strategy, which includes sections on science, adaptation, mitigation and communication (National Park Service Climate Change Response Program; 2010). Ecosystems won't move predictably. "Migration in response to climate change can often be extremely messy," says Stephen Gray, a climatologist at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, who is working on scaling down global climate models to forecast changes at the level of individual parks. As ecologists scramble to predict changes, park managers are gearing up for a new management style, either letting things change, or intervening aggressively to keep them the same. Many conservation biologists argue for creating and maintaining corridors that connect parks to other natural areas. The bigger the connected area, the larger the gene pools available for adaptation. To maintain corridors in areas that fall outside national-park remits, the Park Service is participating in Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, an initiative begun in September 2009. These clubs of federal and state agencies, conservation organizations, university scientists and other interested parties focus on managing huge chunks of land as units, rather than having every park, forest and piece of private land managed independently.

Rhino Poaching at Highest Level in 2010
January 12, 2011 www.panda.org

A total of 333 rhinos were illegally killed in South Africa in 2010, including ten critically endangered black rhinos, according to national park officials. The yearly total is the highest ever experienced in South Africa and nearly triple 2009 when 122 rhinos were killed. An additional 5 rhinos have been lost to poaching since the new year. Kruger National Park was hardest hit, losing 146 rhinos to poaching in 2010. It is home to the largest populations of both white and black rhinos in the country.

Bornean Bay Cat Rediscovered in Borneo
January 13, 2011 www.afp.com/

KUALA LUMPUR – The Bornean Bay Cat, a long-tailed reddish or grey feline the size of a large domesticated cat, was sighted in the northern highlands of Malaysia's Sarawak state, the forest department said Thursday. Three photographs showing two or three individuals were captured by a camera trap, said research officer Wilhelmina Cluny. It was classified as extinct until a photograph of it was taken in 2003. The images were captured in 2009 and 2010 but not released until the study was completed. The animals spotted were the grey variety, which are even more rare than the reddish type. The camera trap was positioned next to the Pulong Tai national park in northern Sarawak, one of the two Malaysian states that make up part of Borneo. The vast island is shared with Indonesia and the small sultanate of Brunei. The 2003 photographs were taken in the Lanjak Entimau wildlife sanctuary in southern Sarawak.

Yellowstone’s Famous Elk Herd is in Decline
January 13, 2011  www.ap.org/    By MATTHEW BROWN

BILLINGS, Mont. – As recently as 1994, the northern Yellowstone elk herd was the largest in North America with almost 20,000 animals that migrated between the park and parts of southern Montana. But those numbers have plummeted sharply since wolves were reintroduced 15 years ago, adding to threats that already included mountain lions and grizzly bears. Figures released Wednesday showed the Yellowstone herd down to a minimum of 4,635 elk. That's a 24 percent drop from last winter, and wildlife officials said the decline was unexpected because the herd in recent years showed signs of stabilizing. Park Service biologist Doug Smith said there was no reason to suspect a continued decline, and that a smaller herd is healthier in some ways because it gives the animals room to thrive. Conservationists credit wolves with helping restore balance to the ecosystem, in part by reducing the size of a herd some had said was far too large at its peak. Smith said, "Yellowstone is one of the most predator rich environments in North America with coyotes, wolves, bears and mountain lions. The elk may come back, but it's going to be slow.”

Virus Causes Cricket Crisis
January 13, 2011 www.timesfreepress.com/  By JANET McCONNAUGHEY

PORT ALLEN, La. — The cricket paralysis virus has killed millions of crickets that are raised to feed pet reptiles and zoo animals, putting some producers out of business and disrupting supplies to pet shops across North America. Cricket farms started in the 1940s as a source of fish bait, but the bulk of sales now are to pet supply companies, reptile owners and zoos, although people also eat some. Most U.S. farms are in the South, but suppliers from Pennsylvania to California also raise crickets. The virus had swept through European cricket farms in 2002. It was first noticed in 2009 in the U.S. and Canada in the only commonly sold cricket species — the house cricket Acheta domesticus.  The virus doesn’t affect animals that eat crickets or even other cricket species, said Peter Tijssen, a virologist at the University of Quebec. David Fluker, president of Fluker’s Cricket Farm Inc. in Port Allen, estimated there are 10 major U.S. farms and many smaller operations. He has created a limited access blog to discuss the problem, and believes four or five farmers are now fighting the virus. Despite the problem, untainted operations seem to be largely meeting the demand.

Canadian grower Bill Duckworth, owner of Krickets Un Ltd in Lacombe, Alberta, said more than 60 million crickets at his operation died within 10 days. In response, he’s been sanitizing his barns since August and when they reopen, will institute procedures to prevent entrance of the virus, such as requiring workers to wear protective suits and step onto chemical-saturated pads to kill any viruses on their shoes.“It’ll be a $100,000 ordeal before I’m done here. When I’m done, I’ll be 100 percent biosecure,” Duckworth said.

USFWS Offers $12,500 in Deaths of Whooping Cranes
January 13, 2011 www.ajc.com/

There are about 570 whooping cranes left in the world, 400 in the wild. About 100 cranes are in the eastern migratory population. Three of the cranes were found dead Dec. 30 in southwest Georgia. Authorities say necropsies on the whooping cranes determined all three been shot. Now USFWS has offered a $12,500 reward for information about the illegal in hopes of generating tips leading to an arrest and prosecution of whoever killed the migratory birds. The cranes were released in late 2010 in Wisconsin as part of a program to reintroduce the birds to the eastern United States.

Endangered Species Permit Applications
January 13, 2011 Federal Register /Vol. 76, No. 9 http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys

Applicant: U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, College Park, MD; PRT–30984A
The applicant requests a permit to import biological specimens from hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), that were obtained from the wild in Thailand for the purpose of scientific research.

Applicant: Zoological Society of  Escondido, CA; PRT–31183A
The applicant requests a permit to import one captive born female dhole (Cuon alpinus), from the Toronto Zoo, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, for the purpose of enhancement of the survival of the species.

Applicant: Zoo New England, Boston, MA; PRT–31106A
The applicant requests a permit to import one captive-bred female snow leopard (Uncia uncia), from the Toronto Zoo, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, for the purpose of enhancement of the survival of the species.

Applicant: Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center, Virginia Beach, VA; PRT–27787A
The applicant requests a permit to export one captive-hatched female Komodo monitor (Varanus komodoensis), to the Toronto Zoo, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, for the purpose of enhancement of the survival of the species.

Applicant: Gary Bartels, St. Elmo, IL; PRT–31829A
Applicant: William Minore, Loves Park, IL; PRT–25354A
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.

Avian Pox on the Galapagos
January 13, 2011 www.plosone.org

A research team from across the United States and Ecuador has pinpointed 1898 as the year the avipoxvirus, or avian pox, hit the Galapagos Islands and started infecting its birds. The research team, led by Dr. Patricia Parker of the University of Missouri–St. Louis, examined 3,607 finches and mockingbirds collected in the Galapagos between 1898 and 1906 that are currently held at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, along with 266 birds collected in 1891 and 1897 held at the Zoologische Staatssammlung in Munich, Germany. Because museum specimens include detailed collection date and location data, they can be used to study not only a particular species, but also historical events and environmental conditions. The team concluded that this virus was introduced late in 1890s and was dispersed among islands by a variety of mechanisms, including regular human movements among colonized islands. At present, this disease represents an ongoing threat to the birds on the Galapagos Islands. "110 Years of Avipoxvirus on the Galapagos Islands" will be published on January 13 in PLoS ONE.

Calgary Tiger Cub Death Sparks Controversy
January 14, 2011 www.cbc.ca/canada/ 

The female Siberian tiger cub born Monday at the Calgary Zoo has died of organ failure after being abandoned by its mother, Katja. "The cub simply was not strong enough to pull through, in spite of receiving the very best of care," Jake Veasey, the zoo's director of animal care, conservation and research, said in a release. Katja killed her previous two cubs, born in fall, by carrying them improperly. Rob Laidlaw, the founder of Zoocheck, questioned the wisdom of breeding captive Siberian, or Amur, tigers. Veasey spoke about some of the issues raised by Laidlaw, saying "The conservation efforts to save endangered species depend upon a multi-pronged approach, including captive breeding of insurance populations, conservation efforts in the wild, research and the effective management of human conflict."  The Calgary Zoo has four adult Siberian tigers, including the cub's father, Baikal. One will be sent to the Toronto Zoo as part of the coordinated species survival program for the tigers.

Baby Takin at San Diego Zoo
January 14, 2011 www.zandavisitor.com  By Jenny Mehlow

The San Diego Zoo has a new baby takin.  His name is  Wûshi (Whoo-she), which means 50 in Mandarin, because he is the Zoo’s 50th takin. He was born on exhibit Dec. 28, 2010 to mother, Summer, and first-time dad, Louis. Wûshi can be seen balancing on all four hooves on tops of rocks in the exhibit and head butting everything in his way. The Zoo received a herd of takins in the mid-1980s and was home to the first Sichuan takin birth outside of China in 1989. China has given the takin full protection under its laws and created two reserves for their preservation. These animals share habitat with giant pandas and also love bamboo.

Winnipeg Zoo Selects New Director
January 14, 2011 www.winnipegfreepress.com/

WINNIPEG - Assiniboine Park has hired Tim Sinclair-Smith as its new director of zoological operations. The conservancy also announced it has received a $1 million grant from the Winnipeg Foundation toward its $200-million redevelopment plan “Imagine A Place”. Both of Sinclair-Smith's parents were zookeepers in his native Australia and he has spent a 20-year-career working at several zoological facilities in Australia, East Africa, and Cameroon as well as other facilities in Canada. Most recently, Sinclair-Smith was at the Calgary Zoo where he was curator for Eurasia, South America and Savannah and curator of behavioral husbandry. Sinclair-Smith has served as an inspector for both the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) and the Canadian Association of Zoos & Aquariums (CAZA), the main governing bodies for zoos in North America. He is also a current member of the CAZA policy committee. The $1-million grant will be used for three projects:

    * The Children's Nature & Adventure Playground
    * Expansion of the Duck Pond to more than double its previous size
    * Construction of a multi-purpose Family Centre, a central meeting spot for friends and families

Leipzig Zoo’s Popular Cross-eyed Possum
January 14, 2011 www.nydailynews.com/ 

Heidi the opossum has more than 180,000 Facebook fans (more than twice that of German Chancellor Angela Merkel). She also has a popular YouTube song http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmPGMSsfnEg  and a stuffed animal named after her. The 2 1/2-year-old possum was moved from a zoo in Denmark to the Leipzig Zoo, and is all the rage in Germany — even though she won't be on public display until July. The public is highly anticipating seeing the opossum, which has left zookeepers puzzled by her popularity."The Heidi sensation was surprising and unplanned," said Leipzig Zoo spokeswoman Maria Saegebarth. "It's great that there has been a lot of interest, but we had nothing to do with the media hype." Heidi is just one example of animal-star frenzy in Germany over the past few years. Knut, a polar bear cub that the Berlin Zoo hand-reared, earned the zoo $1.3 million in one year. And Paul the octopus garnered international headlines when he correctly predicted the results of each of Germany’s World Cup soccer matches.

Warming Climate Affects Red Deer Reproduction
January 14, 2011 www.eurekalert.org

Wild red deer on the Isle of Rum, which were featured in the BBC TV series Autumnwatch, are rutting earlier in the year, a study shows. The rutting and calving seasons are now up to two weeks earlier on average compared with 30 years ago. The research was based on a 38-year study of the ecology of red deer on the Isle of Rum initiated by Professor Tim Clutton-Brock of the University of Cambridge's Department of Zoology. The study used annual records of breeding success in more than 3,000 individually recognizable deer. Long term studies that can track the life histories of individuals have a crucial role to play in measuring the effects of climate change because they can identify the reasons for changes in survival and breeding success. The Isle of Rum National Nature Reserve has been a key centre for wildlife research for many years, particularly in relation to deer.

Genetically Modified Chickens Prevent H5N1 Spread
January 14, 2011 www.sciencemag.org

Chickens genetically modified to prevent the spreading of bird flu have been produced by researchers at the Universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh. To produce these chickens, the Cambridge and Edinburgh scientists introduced a new gene that manufactures a small "decoy" molecule that mimics an important control element of the bird flu virus. The replication machinery of the virus is tricked into recognizing the decoy molecule instead of the viral genome and this interferes with the replication cycle of the virus. When the transgenic chickens were infected with avian flu, they became sick but did not transmit the infection on to other chickens kept in the same pen with them. This was the case even if the other chickens were normal (non-transgenic) birds. This is quite different from conventional flu vaccines, which need to be updated in the face of virus evolution as they tend only to protect against closely matching strains of virus and do not always prevent spread within a flock.  This would not only protect the health of domestic poultry but could also reduce the risk of bird flu epidemics leading to new flu virus epidemics in the human population. The study will be published in the January 14 issue of the journal Science.

Malaysia Plans Sanctuary for Captive Tigers
January 14, 2011 www.physorg.com

The Malaysia national parks department plans to set up a large enclosed natural habitat for captive tigers.  A final decision on the programme, which will be located in peninsular Malaysia, will be made by the end of the year. The plan comes after the discovery of 27 captive tigers living in poor conditions in a zoo in southern Malacca state.  A park official said, "Tigers in the park will be fed and it will be a tourist attraction."  But William Schaedla, regional director of TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, which monitors trade in wildlife, urged the authorities to concentrate on battling poaching rather than breeding tigers. "TRAFFIC Southeast Asia agrees that something must be done to care for the tigers that are casualties of poaching and conflict. However, the facilities undertaking these efforts should avoid becoming factories for more captive tigers," he said. "Captive tigers would not have the ability to feed themselves or a fear of humans, and so cannot be returned to the wild. Also, this will not prevent tiger extinction in the wild," he added. Last year, WWF-Malaysia said tribesmen in Malaysia were being paid by syndicates to trap wildlife, including critically endangered tigers, to meet demand from China. In the 1950s, there were as many as 3,000 tigers in Malaysia, but their numbers fell as the country opened up more land for agriculture.

Woodland Park Zoo Carousel Will Be Solar-Powered
January 14, 2011  www.ballardnewstribune.com/  By Robinson Newspapers Staff

The Woodland Park Zoo, in partnership with Seattle City Light, plans to install solar panels on the roof of its historic carousel. The solar panels are expected to produce 9,000 kilowatt-hours annually, enough to offset the electricity required to power the carousel, which completes an average 100,000 rides per year. According to City Light, 9,000 kilowatt-hours is also the annual amount of electricity needed to power the average Seattle home. The project is made possible by a $70,000 grant from City Light’s green power program, which is funded by voluntary contributions from customers in support of renewable energy education. This is the Zoo’s third partnership with City Light for renewable energy. Solar panels have been installed in the Family Farm and a sustainable geothermal energy unit is installed in the zoo’s penguin exhibit.

Elephant Herpesvirus
January 14, 2011  http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/   By Sarah Webb

In 1994, Laura Richman, DVM took a residency in the National Zoo's pathology department, analyzing tissue samples from 10 young Asian and African elephants in North American zoos.  She found viruses with proteins characteristic of herpesviruses but they were different from any that had been previously discovered. Her early findings were published in Science in 1999. Though EEHV often remains dormant, the disease that can develop is often fatal and is the cause of about half of the deaths of young elephants in zoos. If detected quickly, the disease can be treated with antiviral drugs. Working for her PhD, Richman developed blood- and serum-based PCR tests that are now widely used to test for these viruses.  She now works for Medimmune as vice president for research and development for translational sciences.  Although she oversees the work of 200 scientists, she still keeps a hand in the elephant herpesvirus research that launched her career in translational medicine. She maintains an unpaid position as a research associate at the National Elephant Herpesvirus Laboratory, founded at the National Zoo to test for the viruses that she discovered.  In June 2007, she traveled with a team to India to help a government organization start a lab to test elephants in India for herpesvirus. For more information: http://nationalzoo.si.edu/SCBI/AnimalCare/EEHV/default.cfm.

750 Acres of Sonoran Desert Donated to Reid Park Zoo
January 15, 2011 azstarnet.com/

The Reid Park Zoological Society has been given more than 750 acres of Sonoran desert north of Sahuarita. It is valued at more than $5.4 million, and is to be used for conservation purposes. Nancy Schlegel, executive director of the Zoological Society, said, "The possibilities of what we can do for conservation are just amazing." The ranch is leased for cattle grazing, but over the next three to five years the Zoological Society will decide how to best use the property. A house sits on the acreage, which is surrounded by mining operations and ranch land. A species census will determine what wildlife exists there. Although the donor, Gilbert Aguirre, now lives in California, he says he “wanted to give something back" after selling 5,000 acres of Ruby Star Ranch land to a developer. "It would be an asset for the community to have a wildlife refuge there,” he said.  

Legoland California
January 15, 2011  www.signonsandiego.com  BY LORI WEISBERG

CARLSBAD, California -- The 128-acre Legoland in Carlsbad came under control of Merlin Entertainments Group in 2005, when its parent company, the Blackstone Group, acquired all four Legolands from the Danish toy maker for $460 million. Since then, Merlin, which owns more than 60 amusements worldwide, including Madame Tussaud’s, has been investing steadily in the park, with major expansions typically announced every other year. In 2006, $10 million was spent on a pirate-themed addition (including four water attractions) and a couple years later, the company invested $20 million on the Sea Life aquarium and an Indiana Jones-like adventure. Merlin has invested over $50 million in Legoland California, and has a continuing capital plan for the park. They hope to develop it into a two- to three-day family short-break destination, and are planning a Lego hotel within the park. Although the park already has necessary approvals, Merlin’s is focusing on completing a Lego hotel for its park in England in time for the 2012 Olympics. Officials said it’s possible that construction of the Carlsbad hotel could get under way later this year, with completion in 2013. Merlin also plans to build a second Legoland in Winter Haven, Fla. It is scheduled to open in October.

Elephant Crushes Keeper at Knoxville Zoo
January 17, 2011 abcnews.go.com/ By MATT GUTMAN and JESSICA HOPPER

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee —  A female elephant trainer was crushed to death on January 14th by a 26-year-old African elephant. “Edie,” who weighs more than 8,000 pounds and stands 8 1/2 tall, has lived at the zoo since 2002. Stephanie James had been a zookeeper for two years, and was working with the animal when it shoved her into a stall and crushed her against the metal bars. James, 33, died of internal injuries at the University of Tennessee Medical Centre. Zoo officials said Edie was not acting aggressively and subsequently followed the commands of another handler to move back from James, but by then it was too late. For now, zoo officials are keeping their zoo's three elephants away from direct human contact.

14 Lions Euthanized at Tehran Zoo
January 17, 2011 www.washingtonpost.com   By NASSER KARIMI

TEHRAN, Iran – Zoo officials put down 14 lions at the Tehran zoo that had been diagnosed with glanders, a bacterial disease found in horses, donkeys, mules as well as other domesticated animals. It was feared that the infection could spread to humans. Houman Moloukpour, a veterinarian, said over the past two months, three lions have died in the zoo after they contracted glanders, which he said cannot be treated among domesticated animals but wild ones do respond to treatment. The death of the lions came two weeks after a Siberian tiger died in the zoo. Mohammad Javad Mohammadizadeh, head of Iran's environmental department, said the tiger died after being fed contaminated meat, though it is possible it could also be related to the glanders. Iran gave Russia two leopards in exchange for two tigers. The other tiger is still in the zoo, under quarantine.

Two Chimpanzees Attack Nebraska Zookeepers
January 17, 2011 today.msnbc.msn.com/

OMAHA -- A keeper was patting one of the chimps at Riverside Discovery Centre in Scottsbluff, Nebraska when it grabbed her hand. The keeper screamed and spooked the chimp, which also began screaming. The cries attracted the attention of another chimp, which also grabbed the keeper's hand. The keeper lost her index finger and a ring finger on one hand at the knuckle after the chimps bit her. Her middle finger was injured but was not bitten off.  Anne James, executive director of the western Nebraska zoo, said the woman was taken to hospital where surgeons will attempt reattach the missing fingers which were recovered after the attack.

NC Zoo Launches “Field Trip Earth”
January 17, 2011  www.benzinga.com

North Carolina Executive Director Russ Williams and Mark MacAllister, the Zoo’s Coordinator for Online Learning Projects, will be demonstrating the FieldTripEarth website at ScienceOnline2011, the fifth annual international meeting on Science and the Web. FieldTripEarth is the NC Zoo Society's conservation education website. It serves K-12 classrooms in all 50 states and about 140 countries around the world. “There is a need for child-friendly sites that provide students with interesting and relevant information about wildlife conservation research,” Williams said, “Likewise, there is a need for websites where teachers can obtain high-quality raw materials for teaching across the curriculum—materials like narrative articles, photos, videos, datasets and maps.” These ‘raw materials' are provided by more than 150 researchers who have written for the site, and are designed to be easily integrated into day-to-day teaching activities across all of the academic disciplines. For example, many teachers use researchers' field diaries to teach journaling and other literacy skills, while others use geographic location datasets generated by animal tracking projects to teach their students mapping concepts or coordinate systems.

Known as a Landmark Website, The NC Zoo Society's FieldTripEarth has been honored by The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) as one of the 21 best websites for learning and curriculum development. These websites are considered the "best of the best" by AASL. In addition to providing learning resources directly to classrooms, the NC Zoo Society, through FieldTripEarth, also includes a significant outreach component focused on K-12th grade students and teachers through training workshops. The website can be accessed at http://www.fieldtripearth.org, and can be used by anyone free of charge.

Johor Zoo Celebrates Year of the Rabbit
January 17, 2011 www.straitstimes.com/

JOHOR BARU, Malaysia - Head zookeeper Mohd Sham Mahdon said the Johor Zoo is celebrating the Chinese New Year by bringing in 50 rabbits. A new exhibit called the 'Rabbit Garden' has Chinese New Year decorations. Children will be allowed to pet these rabbits inside the enclosure.

Panthera’s Cougar Conservation Projects
January 17, 2011 news.mongabay.com/  By Morgan Erickson-Davis

The cougar is the second largest felid in the Americas (after the jaguar). It is actually more closely related to the smaller cats such as ocelots and lynx than it is to lions and tigers. Originally, it was classified as the same genus as the domestic cat (Felis), but in 1993 was given its own genus, Puma, which it shares with its closest living relative, the jaguarundi. Although it is the widest ranging land animal in the Americas there are only estimated 50,000 left in the wild. In North America, only the critically endangered Florida panther remains.  It occupies only five percent of its historic range and numbers just 50-100 animals. Research shows that ideally, cougars need at least 850 square miles of uninterrupted habitat to exist. With urban areas becoming more numerous, many scientists are calling for the expansion of protected habitat corridors so that cougar populations can move about. Panthera, an organization whose mission is to ensure the future of wild cats through scientific leadership and global conservation action, is currently conducting two projects which focus on cougar conservation: the California Cougar Project and the Teton Cougar Project. The Teton Cougar Project, a joint Panthera-Craighead Beringia South initiative in its ninth year, is working to gather data about the cougar population of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and the southern Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem with the aim of increasing knowledge of cougar population dynamics and interactions with competing carnivores and humans.

The Teton Cougar Project is a long-term project that has just a few more years to go. The Endangered Species Act has provided an experimental environment for understanding the North American ecosystem. Wolves have been reintroduced, and grizzly bears have been nurtured back to health. During this time, cougars have taken advantage of some very interesting ecological opportunities. Now, all of the big predators are back. We are studying cougars because they were the most mysterious and the most unknown and we are going to find a way to understand how it was 100 or 200 years ago when explorers first came into the Rockies. The California Cougar Project is an attempt to understand how the cougar can adapt to the presence of people. If we can understand that, how they survive, how they breed, how they avoid people, we can begin to understand how we can live with the whole system of predators and people on the planet. We have laid out the basic framework for the Project by interviewing and connecting with experts in California. We need to increase dispersal of information about mountain lions to the public; Cougars could be used very nicely in the state of California to develop an integrated approach to conservation via corridors and protected areas.

New Cheetah Genetic Study
January 17, 2011 www.physorg.com/

Historically, cheetahs were widespread throughout Africa and much of Southwest Asia, ranging through Kazakhstan and the entire Indian peninsula. Now they are concentrated in certain areas in southern and eastern Africa. Pauline Charruau and Pamela Burger of the Institute of Population Genetics at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna have collaborated with groups in a number of other countries – Portugal, Germany, the United States, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, France and South Africa – to investigate a large number of cheetah DNA samples. The researchers even included DNA that they extracted from bones found in mediaeval sites in north-west Iran. By comparing the sequences of certain pieces of the DNA, they found that cheetahs in Northern-East Africa (in Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti) differ significantly from the animals further south. Furthermore, the few cheetahs remaining in Iran are markedly distinct. The populations separated about 30,000 to 70,000 years ago. The cheetahs in Southern and Eastern Africa are known to represent two closely related subspecies but Burger's work reveals that the other subspecies in Northern-East Africa and in Asia represent older and highly distinct lineages. The 100 Iranian cheetahs that remain are the last representatives of the Asiatic subspecies and are so dissimilar that urgent action is needed to ensure their survival. Together with the United Nations Development Programme, the Iranian Department of the Environment has established a comprehensive programme (CACP) headed by Alireza Jourabchian. The results are published in the current issue of the journal Molecular Ecology.

Teacher / Zoo Researcher Receives Award
January 17, 2011 lagrange.patch.com 

Jason Crean, a high school science teacher, college professor, research aide, curriculum author, animal handler and zoo consultant, is recipient of last year's Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching. The award comes with $10,000 from the NSF. Crean’s teaching focuses on real-world science applications. His students take part in a simulated paternity test and use DNA to distinguish between different species of animals. He also works as a research aide at the Wildlife Genetics Lab at Brookfield Zoo, which partners with his classroom. At the zoo, he teaches graduate and professional development courses. In 2007, he teamed with Dr. Jean Dubach, a geneticist he met at Brookfield, to develop a genetics curriculum for high school students. The curriculum is offered online for free to any teacher in the world.

Public Outrage Over Lion Deaths at Tehran Zoo
January 18, 2011 latimesblogs.latimes.com/  by Ramin Mostaghim

Eight months ago Tehran zoo officials imported 2 Siberian tigers from Russia. Two weeks ago one of them died and reports surfaced on Sunday that the other and between 8 and 14 lions which were infected with “glanders” had been shot. When animal-rights activists and zoo patrons expressed outrage,  zoo authorities claimed that the animals were euthanized by injection. They also revised the number of big cats killed from 14 to 10 and then eight. Critics now claim the animals were victims of an irresponsible and politicized publicity stunt by government and zoo officials who claimed the cats were part of a program to revive the wild tiger population surrounding the Caspian Sea. However, environmental science professor Nizar Karami claims, "This was an empty and unscientific measure, because the Siberian tiger is not the same as the Mazandaran [Caspian Sea] tiger, which is extinct, and to revive a species we need at least a hundred animals and over 4,000 square kilometers of habitat." Rather than releasing the tigers — which may or may not have been bred in captivity, officials kept them at the zoo, where they proved a popular attraction.

No one knows exactly what happened — whether the animals really were infected with glanders, why and how they were killed and how many died. Critics immediately pointed to the poor living conditions at the zoo. The head of the Iranian Environmental Organization blamed zoo officials for feeding the cats contaminated donkey meat. Amir Elhami, the zoo's manager, has denied any responsibility on the part of the zoo, maintaining that the tigers were sick when they arrived. Karami, who has consulted for the zoo, placed the blame on zoo authorities but said that they had little choice once the animals had been infected by the contaminated meat. "Glanders is infectious for all animals," he said. "There was no other option."  But, he added, the zoo's claims that the animals were euthanized by injection was a "sheer lie.” Karami stated that he has “…eyewitnesses that say at least eight lions were gunned down.”

Edinburgh Zoo Plans Walk-through Primate Enclosure
January 18, 2011 www.scotsman.com/ By Gemma Frazer

In April, the Edinburgh Zoo plans to open a new exhibit that will re-create a South American tropical habitat. A variety of monkeys, including the white-faced saki, red titi, golden-headed lion tamarin, pygmy marmoset and owl monkey, pudu, exotic birds including a cock-of-the-rock, and a tank of leaf- cutter ants will be featured. Visitors will be able to walk freely through the 25 square meter enclosure, watch the monkeys overhead swinging through the specially-planted trees and even watch the animals being fed. Gary Wilson, the zoo's chief operating officer, said: "What we want to do is re-create a small tropical forest where the animals are free to mix with the visitors in the open space. The monkeys keep very much to themselves. They are used to humans because they are used to being fed by their keepers and they are of no danger to the public and are not going to come down.”   

Kazakhstan Extends Saiga Hunting Ban
January 18, 2011 www.google.com/hostednews/afp

ASTANA -- Kazakhstan has extended a ban on hunting the critically endangered saiga antelopes until 2021. The introduction of the new ban follows an outbreak of pasteurellosis, an infectious disease that strikes the lungs and intestines, that claimed nearly 12,000 saiga antelopes in Kazakhstan last year. The Kazakh agriculture ministry put the country's saiga population at over 90,000 antelopes as of late 2010, although the WWF estimates the antelope's entire number at 50,000, having shrunk from over a million in the 1990s. The population fell drastically following the collapse of the Soviet Union, due to uncontrolled hunting and demand for its horns in Chinese medicine. The antelopes migrate between Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Mongolia, Turkmenistan and China.

Restoring Iraq’s Wetland Marshes
January 18, 2011 news.bbc.co.uk/earth/hi/

Southern Iraq’s marshlands were the largest wetland ecosystem in the Middle East, and home to the Marsh Arabs for nearly 5,000, but in the 1980s, Saddam Hussein drained them to punish the indigenous Arab tribes, who had risen against him in the aftermath of the first Gulf War. He built a network of canals to channel water from the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers around the marshes, dumping it straight into the Arabian Gulf. Within a matter of months, the marshes, which had covered 15,000 square kilometres, were reduced to less than 10% of their original size. The marshes had been critically important to wildlife in the region. Surrounded by deserts they were a source of fresh water, sustaining a wide biodiversity of birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals. They were vital for birds migrating between Eurasia and Africa.

But since the fall of Saddam there has been a concreted effort to restore the marshes and re-establish wildlife and the Marsh Arab way of life. It is being spearheaded by Azzam Alwash, an Iraqi, who grew up in the area. He has established “Nature Iraq”, an organization dedicated to the protection and restoration of Iraq's natural heritage But the restoration is patchy. Upstream dams have disrupted the traditional water cycle of the marshes. The spring floods that used to flush out accumulated salt deposits and replenish the marshes with fresh minerals no longer occur. As a result the marshes are becoming more saline, affecting the ecology of the area. The dams have also reduced the total volume of water reaching the marshes in the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Combined with a prolonged regional drought the area is suffering from a second drying. At its peak in 2007 over 50% of the marshes had been restored, but now the proportion of restored marshland has dropped to nearer 30%.

This year, ornithologists from BirdLife International have joined the effort and a film crew from BBC is documenting the progress. Miracle in the Marshes of Iraq will broadcast on tonight, January 18th. Birds filmed colonising the marshes include marbled teal, Basra reed warbler black winged stilts, great white pelicans, imperial eagles, slender billed gulls, greater flamingos, squaco herons and red-crested pochard.

2 New Beetle Species from New Caledonia
January 18, 2011 www.sciencedaily.cm

New Caledonia archipelago in the western Pacific became separated from Australia 70 million years ago, and has some very distinctive species, including two new herbivorous “leaping” beetles. With financing from National Geographic, researchers used molecular tools to classify the DNA sequences of the animals' diet, in particular chloroplast DNA (which is exclusive to plants). They used plant matter remains found in the digestive tract of the insects at the time they were killed. According to the study, which has been published in the Journal of Natural History, this technique made it possible to discover that one of the new species, Arsipoda geographica, feeds on a tropical plant in the mountains while Arsipoda isola feeds on another plant in the southern jungles of the island. Surprisingly, "The DNA sequences of the plants are from botanical species that have still not been found on the archipelago. This provides indirect evidence of the existence of an enigmatic botanical diversity,” says author, Jesús Gómez-Zurita.

Devil’s Ark Hopes to Save Tasmanian Devils
January 18, 2011 www.scientificamerican.com  By John Platt

The infectious cancer known as devil facial tumor disease (DFTD) has killed off as much as 90 percent of the world's Tasmanian devils (Sarcophilus harrisii) since it was first observed in 1996. Scientists now estimate that only 2,000 of these iconic creatures remain in the wild. No DFTD cure or vaccine exists, despite intensive research to try to stop the spread of the disease. It has apparently now mutated into 13 different strains. Right now, the animals' only hope lies in isolating disease-free captive populations. A few such sanctuaries have been built in the last couple of years. The newest of these isn't even on the island of Tasmania: The 500-hectare Devil Ark in Barrington Tops opens this week in mainland Australia, and could eventually house up to 1,000 devils. The first 15—five males and 10 females—arrived at the new conservation site on Tuesday. Devil Ark founder John Weigel said the first $350,000 to fund the program was allocated through the Australian government's Save the Tasmanian Devil Program, which also provided grants to two programs on Tasmania. Australia's Healesville Sanctuary, located 65 kilometers from Melbourne, already has one of the world's the largest breeding populations of captive Tasmanian devils, with 66 healthy (DFTD-free) animals. The sanctuary had 24 devil births last year and hopes to increase its population to 120 animals by the end of 2012. The devils at the site are all kept in pens, although larger, free-range enclosures are being built.

New Caledonian Crows Use Tools for Non-Foraging Activities
January 18, 2011 www.physorg.com/

The New Caledonian crow (Corvus moneduloides) is widely known for their intelligence and using tools, such as twigs, as an extension of their beaks, to pull insects from hard to reach spaces. Though not highly social, New Caledonian crows stem from small, tightly-knit units whose parents teach the offspring to use the tools. A research team from the University of Oxford recently presented a group living in an aviary with several unfamiliar objects. They found that at the sight of something potentially dangerous, the birds would make first contact with a tool (i.e. a stick), to ensure the object’s safety, before reaching out with the beak. With this new evidence of a bird using a tool for more than one function, it’s now thought avian brains could be more complex than originally thought. The study appears in the journal Animal Cognition.

KC Zoo Uses Diagnostic Thermography
January 18, 2011 www.joplinglobe.com/

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Veterinarian Kirk Suedmeyer has been using a new diagnostic tool that produces thermograms of an animal’s body, showing temperature differentials in bright digital color. You would expect an elephant’s ears to show up in blue because there’s less blood there to create heat. And you would expect the skull and abdomen to glow orange or red because that’s where the organs are. “We’ve been able to find things with the thermography unit that we didn’t know were there,” Suedmeyer said. For example, one of the elephants had a relatively small wound on the bottom of one of her foot. The vet staff was keeping it clean and free of infection. But a thermogram revealed that the inflammation extended several inches up her foot. That alerted the staff to monitor a potential problem and to watch to see if the condition was healing or getting worse. Unusual warm spots may indicate infection or disease. A cold spot may indicate a cardiovascular problem such as poor circulation. The thermography machine and a large wall monitor for the veterinary operating room were a $15,000 gift from the Deramus Family Foundation.

Great Bustard Reintroduction Project
January 19, 2011 www.guardian.co.uk/

Efforts to reintroduce the world's heaviest flying bird to the UK have received a £1.8m boost from the European Union. The reintroduced birds have been coming from Russia since 2004, where eggs are rescued from destruction by farming, and are reared by keepers operating glove puppets, before being flown to the UK at about six weeks old. Last year, at least four chicks were known to have hatched, while the previous year saw the first two wild-born chicks reared to fledging. The attempt to reintroduce the globally scarce bird, which became extinct in the UK by 1832, had its first major breakthrough in 2009 when the population produced the first chicks to hatch in the wild in this country for 177 years. There is now a small UK population of around 18 birds which is being run by a partnership of the Great Bustard Group, government conservation agency Natural England, the RSPB and Bath University. The funding from the EU Life+ initiative will cover 75% of the  costs, including monitoring the bustards with GPS satellite transmitters. The University of Bath, which is part of the partnership to reintroduce the bird, said 16 bustards had been fitted with satellite transmitters to track where they go to feed and roost. Bustards  have also vanished from France, Poland, Germany, Sweden and Holland.

Petition To Delist or Reclassify Six California Plant Species
January 19, 2011 Vol 6 No. 12 www.gpo.gov/fdsys

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announce a 90-day finding on a petition to delist Oenothera californica (avita) subsp. eurekensis (Eureka Valley evening- primrose) and Swallenia alexandrae (Eureka Valley dunegrass), and reclassify the tidewater goby (Eucyclogobius newberryi), Acmispon dendroideus (Lotus scoparius subsp.) var. traskiae (San Clemente Island broom), Malacothamnus clementinus (San Clemente Island bush-mallow), and Castilleja grisea (San Clemente Island Indian paintbrush) from endangered to threatened. Based on our review, we find that the petition presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned actions may be warranted. Therefore, with the publication of this notice, we are initiating status reviews of these taxa to determine if the respective actions of delisting and reclassifying are warranted.

To allow us adequate time to conduct this review, we request that we receive information on or before March 21, 2011. Please note that if you are using the Federal eRulemaking Portal http://www.regulations.gov  In the box that reads ‘‘Enter Keyword or ID,’’ enter the Docket number for this finding, which is [insert docket number . FWS–R8–ES–2011–0005;92220–1113–0000–C5]. Check the box that reads ‘‘Open for Comment/Submission,’’ and then click the Search button. You should then see an icon that reads ‘‘Submit a Comment.’’ Please ensure that you have found the correct rulemaking before submitting your comment.

U.S. mail to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: [FWS-insert docket number]; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203.

Endangered Species Permit Applications
January 19, 2011 Vol. 76, No. 12 www.gpo.gov/fdsys

The USFWS 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 February 18, 2011. Send written comments by U.S. mail to the Regional Director, Attn: Lisa Mandell, 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:  Lisa Mandell, (612) 713–5343.

Permit Application Number: TE023666. Applicant: Eric R. Britzke, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Clinton, MS.
     The applicant requests a permit renewal to take (capture and release, nonlethal tissue sampling) Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis), gray bat (Myotis grisescens), Virginia big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii virginianus), Ozark big eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii ingens), and Northern flying squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus) throughout the species’ range. Proposed activities include a range of activities aimed at recovery of the species in the wild, including population assessments, monitoring, and tissue sampling.

Permit Application Number: TE105320. Applicant: Tragus Environmental Consulting, Akron, OH.
     The applicant requests a permit renewal to take (capture and release, nonlethal tissue sampling) Indiana bats and gray bats throughout the ranges of the species. Proposed activities are aimed at recovery of the species and enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Application Number: TE31208A.Applicant: Julian J. Lewis, Lewis & Associates LLC, Borden, IN.
     The applicant requests a permit to take (capture and release) Illinois cave amphipod (Gammarus acherondytes) in Monroe County, IL, to monitor the status of the species. The proposed research is for the recovery of the species in the wild.

Permit Application Number: TE31215A. Applicant: Christopher A. Hamm, Okemos, MI.
     The applicant requests a permit to take (capture and release) Mitchell’s satyr butterflies (Neonympha mitchellii mitchellii) in Alabama, Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, and Virginia for activities to enhance the survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Application Number: TE042946–5. Applicant: Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL.
     The applicant requests a permit renewal/amendment to take (capture and release, hold propagated stock) Pallid sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus albus) within the Mississippi River from St. Louis, MO, to the mouth of the Ohio River. The proposed activities are for the enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Application Number: TE206783. Applicant: Marlo M. Perdicas, Marshallville, OH.
     The applicant requests a permit renewal to take (capture and release) Indiana bats and gray bats throughout the ranges of the species. Proposed activities are for the enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Application Number: TE113009. Applicant: Stephen A. Ahlstedt, Norris, TN.
     The applicant requests a permit renewal to take (capture and release) White cat’s paw pearlymussel
(Epioblasma obliquata perobliqua) and purple cat’s paw pearlymussel (E.o. obliquata) throughout the State of Ohio and within DeKalb and Steuben Counties, Indiana. Proposed activities are for the enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Application Number: TE212440. Applicant: Bat Conservation International, Carlisle, PA.
     The applicant requests a permit renewal to take (capture and release) Indiana bats and gray bats throughout 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: TE31310A. Applicant: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, St. Paul, MN.
     The applicant requests a permit to take (capture and release) Topeka shiners (Notropis topeka) throughout the State of Minnesota. Proposed activities are for the recovery and enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Application Number: TE207178. Applicant: Amy L. Halsall, Geneva, IL.
     The applicant requests a permit renewal to take (capture and release) Indiana bats within the States of Illinois and Indiana. Proposed activities are aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Application Number: TE839777. Applicant: Don R. Helms, Helms & Associates, Bellevue, IA.
     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, White cat’s paw pearlymussel, Fanshell (Cyprogenia stegaria), Fat pocketbook (Potamilus capax), Higgins’ eye pearlymussel (Lampsilis higginsii), Winged mapleleaf (Quadrula fragosa), and Scaleshell mussel (Leptodea leptodon)—throughout the Upper Mississippi River, its tributaries, and the Ohio River, within the States of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Proposed activities are aimed at enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Application Number: TE174388. Applicant: Metroparks of the Toledo Area, Toledo, OH.
     The applicant requests a permit renewal to take (harass/kill through habitat management) the Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis) within Lucas County, Ohio. Habitat management activities are proposed to enhance the recovery and survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Application Number: TE120231. Applicant: John Timpone, Tucson, AZ.
     The applicant requests an amendment to his permit to take (capture and release) Indiana bats for enhancement of survival of the species in the wild. The proposed amendment would increasethe geographic area in which the applicant may work, and would add the following species to the permit if they become federally listed during the permit term: Small footed bat (Myotis leibii) and Northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis).

Permit Application Number: TE182436. Applicant: Illinois Natural History Survey, Champaign, IL.
     The applicant requests a renewal of their permit to take (capture and release) Indiana bats throughout the State of Illinois. Proposed activities are to monitor and evaluate the population to enhance the recovery and survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Application Number: TE088720. Applicant: George T. Watters, Columbus, OH.
     The applicant requests a permit renewal/amendment to take (capture and release, relocate, capture, and hold for propagation and recovery research) the following mussel species: Clubshell, Northern riffleshell, Orange-footed pimpleback pearlymussel, Pink mucket pearlymussel, Rough pigtoe, Purple cat’s paw pearlymussel, White cat’s paw pearlymussel, Fanshell, Fat pocketbook, Winged mapleleaf, White wartyback (Plethobathus cicatricosus), Salamander mussel (Simpsonaias ambigua), Ring pink (Obovaria retusa), Cumberland bean (Villosa trabalis), Crackling pearly mussel (Hemistena lata), Fat threeridge (Amblema neslerii), Chipola slabshell (Elliptio chipolaensis), Purple bankclimber (Elliptoideus sloatianus), Shinyrayed pocketbook (Lampsilis subangulata), Gulf moccasinshell (Medionidus penicillatus), Oval pigtoe (Pleurobema pyriforme), Sheepnose (Plethobasus cyphyus), Rayed bean (Villosa fabalis), and Spectaclecase (Cumberlandia monodonta). Proposed activities are aimed at recovery of the species and enhancement of survival in the wild.

Permit Application Number: TE135297. Applicant: St. Louis Zoo, St. Louis, MO.
     The applicant requests a renewal of permit TE135297 to capture, handle, transport, hold, and captively propagate the American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus). The application requests renewal of authority throughout Missouri and Arkansas. Proposed activities are aimed at recovery of the species and enhancement of survival in the wild.

Permit Application Number: TE106220. Applicant: Brianne L. Walters, Terre Haute, IN.
     The applicant requests a renewal of her permit to take (capture and release) Indiana bats in Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. Proposed activities are for the recovery of the species and enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Application Number: TE839763. Applicant: John O. Whitaker, Terre Haute, IN.
     The applicant requests a renewal of his permit to take (capture and release) Indiana bats and gray bats throughout the ranges of the species. Proposed activities are for the recovery of the species and enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Application Number: TE049738. Applicant: Third Rock Consultants, Lexington, KY.
     The applicant requests a renewal of permit TE049738 to take (capture and release) Indiana bats, gray bats, Virginia big-eared bats, and Ozark big-eared bats, along with nine federally listed fish and 17 federally listed mussels, throughout the ranges of each species in USFWS’s Midwest and Southeast Regions. Proposed activities are for the recovery of the species and enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Application Number: TE212427. Applicant: Ecology and Environment, Inc., Lancaster, NY.
     The applicant requests a renewal of his permit to take (capture and release) Indiana bats, gray bats, and Ozark big- eared bats throughout the ranges of the species. Proposed activities are for the recovery of the species and enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Application Number: TE206778. Applicant: Field Supervisor, Twin Cities Field Office (USFWS), Bloomington, MN.
     The applicant requests a renewal of his permit to take (capture and release, relocate, capture and hold) Higgins’ eye pearlymussels and winged mapleleaf mussels within the States of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa. Proposed activities are for the recovery of the species and enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Application Number: TE207180. Applicant: Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife, Columbus, OH.
     The applicant requests a permit renewal/amendment to take Karner blue butterflies within Ohio and Michigan. Proposed take of the butterfly is in the form of capture, propagation, transfer, release, and monitoring to enhance populations, as well as take through habitat restoration and management to create/maintain suitable habitat. Captive propagation is proposed to continue at the Toledo Zoological Gardens under the permit renewal and habitat management activities are proposed on State-owned and managed lands in Ohio. Proposed activities are aimed at enhancement of the recovery and survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Application Number: TE206781. Applicant: Ecological Specialists, Inc., O’Fallon, MO.
     The applicant requests a permit renewal to take (capture and release; capture and relocate) clubshell, fanshell, fat pocketbook, Higgins’ eye pearlymussel, northern riffleshell, orange-footed pimpleback pearlymussel, pink mucket pearlymussel, and scaleshell mussels within Arkansas, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Proposed activities are for the enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Permit Application Number: TE31861A. Applicant: Mark Twain National Forest (Lynda Mills), Potosi, MO.
     The applicant requests a permit to take (capture and release) Indiana bats and gray bats within the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri. Proposed activities are for the enhancement of survival of the species in the wild.

Making Climate-Smart Conservation Decisions
January 19, 2011 www.nwf.org/

WASHINGTON, DC – A new guide released today offers conservationists and resource managers a way to understand the impact of climate change on species and ecosystems and will support efforts to safeguard these valuable natural resources. “Scanning the Conservation Horizon: A Guide to Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment” is the product of an expert workgroup consisting of leading scientists from federal and state agencies, non-profit organizations, and universities. The peer-reviewed guide is designed to help conservation professionals and natural resource managers craft effective strategies to prepare for and cope with the effects of rapid climate change on the nation’s fish, wildlife, and natural habitats. The 176 page guide includes:

The free guide can be downloaded at www.nwf.org/vulnerabilityguide .

Killer Whale Ecology Study
January 19, 2011 www.sciencemag.org  by Virginia Morell

A new study comes at a time when scientists are rethinking the role and effect of killer whales in marine communities, including the possible threat they pose to some of their endangered cetacean cousins. Researchers are now recording killer whale attacks on several species of great whales, as well as seals, narwhals, sea lions, walruses, and even penguins. From Russia's Chukotka Peninsula to South Africa's coastal waters to the icy seas of Antarctica—even in Canada's Hudson's Bay, where they had rarely been seen before—scientists are finding mammal-hunting killer whales. “There was a long-held belief that killer whales didn't eat the large whales to any great extent, but that is weakening because of these new, eyewitness studies,” says Alan Springer, a marine ecologist at the University of Alaska, and the lead author of a controversial hypothesis that certain types of killer whales shifted their diet from whales and turned to Steller sea lions and then to sea otters after humans hunted the large whales nearly to extinction (Science, 4 April 2008, p. 44). “We're still dealing with the legacy of industrial whaling and sealing,” explains Robert Pitman, a marine biologist at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in San Diego, California. “People used to think that because of the [1972] Marine Mammal Protection Act the numbers of whales, seals, and sea otters were just going to keep increasing. That's not necessarily the case. We need to think ecologically—and that means we have to add killer whales to the mix.”

Cincinnati Zoo Installs New Solar Canopy
January 20, 2011 www.ecoworld.com

On Wednesday workers began installing the first of the 6,400 panels at the Cincinnati Zoo — the largest urban solar array accessible to the public in the U.S. “It’s literally four acres of solar panels,” said Mark Fisher, the zoo’s senior director of facilities, planning and sustainability, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. The $11 million project was developed by green energy company Melink Corp. Melink will also own and operate the 1.56-megawatt system. The solar power installation will provide about 20 percent of the park’s electricity, or about $150,000 worth of annual utility costs. Zoo visitors will get a chance to learn more about the solar array through an interactive kiosk, which will explain how the system works and how much energy is being produced. The Cincinnati Zoo now claims to be “the greenest zoo in America.”

Baby Giant Anteater Debuts at SF Zoo
January 20, 2011 www.sfgate.com

Born on Dec. 22, an infant giant anteater is now on exhibit with its mother, Evita, in the grasslands of their Puente al Sur exhibit. Eric Krussman, curator of birds and reptiles, says the 2-year-old, first-time mom has been doing everything right. He states, "She lies down and lets the baby crawl on her back and is very attentive." The baby anteater will cling to its mother's back for the next year. Babies align themselves along the mother’s stripes to stay out of view of predators like jaguars. Giant anteaters are considered the most threatened animal in Central America according to the IUCN. Given their high morbidity rate in captivity, "this baby's birth is a success story for both conservation efforts and the San Francisco Zoo," said executive director Tanya Peterson. The zoo has three anteaters now, including the 12-year-old father Angelo, who is being kept in a separate space for the newborn's safety.

New Elephant Welfare Study Begins
January 20, 2011 www.avma.org/

A three-year study entitled “Using Science to Understand Elephant Welfare” was begun last month with the objective of determining the best practices in zoo elephant management. Supported by an $816,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, it will involve the entire population of 290 elephants housed in AZA accredited institutions. Benchmarks produced by the study, being overseen by the Honolulu Zoo, could potentially affect accreditation standards for all AZA elephant-holding facilities and bring about advances in elephant care and facility design. The study will employ an epidemiologic approach to collect data on a wide spectrum of input variables, such as enrichment, training, enclosure size, and group size, and on animal-based outcome variables. Detailed behavioral data will also be collected at a subsample of zoos. The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute's endocrinology laboratory will be looking at elephant blood, feces, and saliva samples to provide a holistic picture of the health and welfare of the animals. Specifically, the endocrinology laboratory will analyze samples to produce data related to body condition and nutritional status, metabolic activity, and reproductive status, in addition to measuring concentrations of several hormones associated with stress. "This is the largest study of its kind in terms of the breadth of the information that we're gathering on any one species," said Janine Brown, who is head of SCBI's endocrinology laboratory. "The approach that we're using is not only going to be useful for elephants, but it could be applied to other species." This article was published in the February 1 issue of the AVMA Journal.

Baby Komodo Dragons at Zoo Atlanta
January 20, 2011 www.myfoxatlanta.com/

ATLANTA - Two baby Komodo dragons that hatched August 13 at the Los Angeles Zoo are now on display at Zoo Atlanta. The dragons are about a foot long but can grow up to nine feet as adults and weigh as much as 150 pounds. Zoo Atlanta is a participant in the Komodo Dragon Species Survival Plan, and is also home to an adult male Komodo dragon, Slasher, who is 18-years old.

Zoo Opens Historic Archive for 175th Anniversary
January 20, 2011 www.thisisbristol.co.uk/  By Andy Sloan

An archive of photographs and records have been unveiled at Bristol Zoo. Also featured are the memories of the zoo keepers. Former head keeper for 50 years, Don Packham, revealed how he landed his job aged 15, the day a prankster let all the monkeys out and how a tiny Pekinese dog stopped elephants walking the streets of Clifton. There are photographs of Samson the gorilla with a rose between his teeth, a baby gorilla swigging from a milk bottle, and an original share-register signed by Brunel. An attic full of files, photographs and old signs, many of which have not been seen for decades, were opened to the press yesterday as part of the zoo's 175th anniversary. The Zoo opened in 1936, the fifth oldest zoo in the world. Its rich history is being captured in a new book authored by zoo hisorian Tim Brown, and photographer / designer Alan Ashby. It will be released in March. Mr. Brown found an annual report from 1847 confirming the zoo was the only one in the world ever to hold a labrador duck, which became extinct in the 1870s. The book charts the zoo’s transformation from a reliance on fairground rides and exclusive animals into a force for conservation. The zoo has welcomed six generations of visitors, helped save more than 175 species from extinction through captive breeding and entertained more than 90 million visitors.

Detroit Zoo Hosts Animal Welfare Forum
January 20, 2011 www.dailytribune.com/

ROYAL OAK — The Detroit Zoological Society's Center for Zoo Animal Welfare and Michigan State University are hosting a day-long forum on Sunday for zoo professionals from Michigan as well as animal welfare students and faculty from MSU. About 50 people who work with animals, and MSU students and professors will talk about efforts in the applied studies to improve animal welfare. Research findings from zoo and university studies will be presented, and roundtable discussions will focus on various topics, including how farm animal welfare research can be applied to zoo animal welfare science. The forum also will address strategies for helping zoo visitors and animal care professionals think about animal welfare. DZS Director of Animal Welfare, Cynthia Bennett, said, " The fact that an animal is healthy, reproducing and living in a satisfactory environment is not, by itself, evidence the animal is thriving."

Uganda Giraffe Herd at San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park
January 20, 2011  www.zandavisitor.com/ By Jenny Mehlow

ESCONDIDO --  A four-week-old Uganda Giraffe born on Dec. 24 at San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park has joined a herd of other Uganda giraffes. Jioni is the smallest and fairest in the herd and will soon be playing with the other young calves: Jarani, born in August 2010, and Machaleo, born in September 2010. The Park is currently home to 16 Uganda giraffes: five males and 11 females. Other animals in the area include African crowned cranes, impala and Nile lechwe. On August 10, 2010, the IUCN declared that the Uganda giraffe was an endangered subspecies. It is believed that fewer than 670 of this subspecies remain in the wild. While the Uganda giraffe has historically lived in western Kenya, Uganda, and southern Sudan, it has been almost totally eliminated from most of its former range and now survives in only a few small, isolated populations in Kenya and Uganda.

Koala Joey at Riverbanks Zoo
January 20, 2011 www.wistv.com/

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) – The Koala Knockabout at Riverbanks Zoo has a new baby. The joey, named Owen, was born last May to parents Jimmie and Lottie. Lottie came to Riverbanks from Australia in October 2003, as a result of a sister-state relationship with Queensland. Jimmie came from the Los Angeles Zoo in December 2008. "Keepers observed movement inside Lottie's pouch in September, but it wasn't until November that they got a first look at Owen," said John Davis, curator of mammals. Now he is too large for the pouch, and spends most of his day clinging to his mom's back or tucked around her belly.

Wildlife Underpasses and Overpasses
January 20, 2011 www.nytimes.com

Highway collisions are not just deadly for the animals; they are devastating for motorists as well. Between 1 million and 2 million wildlife-vehicle collisions occur every year in the United States, a 50 percent increase in the last 15 years. That adds up to more than $8 billion in accident-related costs, including damage to vehicles and insurance claims — but it does not begin to account for human lives lost. Fences dramatically reduce the number of large animals killed and improve motorists' safety, but like roads, they have the effect of fragmenting habitat, limiting how far species can travel to find food, water and mates. Research of populations on either side of a highway has even found genetic differences between the isolated groups.

Underpasses and overpasses, in combination with the fences, provide a solution that not only addresses the safety concerns for motorists, but also maintains habitat connectivity for animals. There are thousands of underpasses in North America, but only a handful of wildlife overpasses. The first two were built in Canada's Banff National Park across the Trans-Canada Highway in the mid-1990s. Tony Clevenger, a wildlife biologist with the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University, has  studied the two overpasses and 22 underpasses in Banff for the past 14 years. Since 1996, animals have used the crossings more than 240,000 times, he said, and wildlife-vehicle collisions have dropped between 80 percent and 95 percent. While effective, the overpasses cost upwards of $10 million to $12 million — a hard sell for state transportation departments with aging roadway infrastructure and limited budgets to make repairs. So Clevenger proposed hosting a competition to see if the wildlife bridges could be built for half the price by redesigning the structures from the bottom up. The ARC International Wildlife Crossing Infrastructure Design Competition began in 2008 and will conclude this Sunday, when the winner is announced at the Transportation Research Board annual conference in Washington, D.C. The Western Transportation Institute partnered with the Woodcock Foundation in New York and several state and federal agencies to sponsor the competition, which will award a $40,000 prize to the team with the winning design. One overriding design principle for all the competitors was to scale the projects appropriately, thus driving down costs without compromising their functionality for wildlife.

Two Egyptian Tortoises Hatch at Woodland Park Zoo
January 20, 2011 www.mynorthwest.com/  By JAMIE GRISWOLD

The Woodland Park Zoo just released video of tiny endangered turtles that hatched in December. The Egyptian tortoise is listed as critically endangered, and the population has already been destroyed in Egypt. The only wild Egyptian tortoise populations today live in Libya.

Captive Breeding and Contraception in Zoos
January 20, 2011  www.signonsandiego.com  by Michael Stetz

Many zoos work tirelessly to preserve threatened and endangered species, but they also have to make sure that some of animals they house don’t strain their facilities’ by reproducing at a rate that’s unsustainable. And not all animals should breed. An animal may be getting to old and a pregnancy might be dangerous. The males and females could be too closely related, causing concerns about inbreeding. Like other zoos nationwide, the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park separates the genders or puts certain species on birth control. Affected species include lions, Visayan warty pigs, sika deer and elephants, among others. The Zoo’s female elephants are all on contraception. Their advanced age could cause complications during a pregnancy. Visayan warty pigs are critically endangered but are so prolific in San Diego that they had to be separated. All the ones on exhibit at the zoo are females.

Contraception for zoo animals is not something that’s universally accepted. A number of European zoos don’t believe in the practice, arguing that it’s unfair for animals not to be able to experience sex, pregnancy and parenthood, as they would in the wild. But if the offspring is unwanted, it’s sometimes killed, and meat is fed to the lions. “It’s a cultural difference,” said Cheryl Asa, the director of the AZA’s Wildlife Contraceptive Center at the St. Louis Zoo. There are a number of safe birth-control methods, she said. For primates, human birth control, such as the pill, can work. Implants containing a synthetic progestin which blocks ovulation are also a popular method. Zoos started using contraceptives in the 1970s. The AZA Wildlife Contraception Center was established in 1989. It doesn’t recommend which animal should be on birth control, Asa said. It just provides the different methods.

The San Diego Zoo said it couldn’t provide a complete list of animals on birth control because that number changes regularly. Nor could the zoo give a tally of how many animals are born at the zoo yearly. That shifts because of the changes based on recommended breeding programs. SeaWorld San Diego also uses birth control measures to manage its animal populations. Dolphins and Asian small-clawed river otters are on contraceptives. The AZA runs a national program called the “species survival plan.” Creating the most genetically diverse offspring is the goal, so the animals don’t suffer from disease or other health problems.

UC Davis Plant Study Contradicts Global Warming Theory
January 20, 2011  www.sciencemag.org

In a paper published today in the journal Science, a UC Davis researcher and his co-authors challenge a widely held assumption that plants will move uphill in response to warmer temperatures. Between 1930 and 2000, instead of colonizing higher elevations to maintain a constant temperature, many Northern California plant species moved downhill - an average of 260 feet, said Jonathan Greenberg, from the UC Davis Center for Spatial Technologies and Remote Sensing. "While the climate warmed significantly in this period, there was also more precipitation. These wetter conditions are allowing plants to exist in warmer locations than they were previously capable of," he said. Many forecasts say climate change will cause a number of plants and animals to migrate to new ranges or become extinct. That research has largely been based on the assumption that temperature is the dominant driver of species distributions. However, Greenberg said the new study reveals that other factors, such as precipitation, may be more important than temperature in defining the habitable range of these species. Funding was provided by the U.S. National Science Foundation and the U.S. Forest Service.

9 Giant Horned Lizards Hatched at LA Zoo
January 20, 2011  www.nbclosangeles.com/

LOS ANGELES— Native to Mexico, six adult giant horned lizards were transported to the United States and divided between the San Diego Zoo and the L.A. Zoo. Between November 26 - 31, nine giant horned lizards hatched at the Los Angeles Zoo. This is the first time this species has reproduced in a North American Zoo. When they first hatched they weighed about one gram and were roughly the size of a nickel. They'll reach a maximum length of about 10 inches when full grown. The lizards can squirt blood out of their eyes as a defense mechanism. L.A. Zoo curator of reptiles and amphibians Ian Recchio will oversee their development in the new Living Amphibians, Invertebrates and Reptiles center (The LAIR) which opens in the fall.

Study of Canine Transmissible Venereal Tumour
January 20, 2011 www.eurekalert.org

Canine Transmissible Venereal Tumour, found in dogs, wolves and coyotes, is a very unusual form of cancer that is typically transmitted by mating, though it can also be spread by licking, biting or sniffing tumour-affected areas. The cancer cells themselves move directly from dog to dog, acting like a parasite on each infected animal. Found in most canine breeds, scientists think CTVT is very similar to the transmissible but more fatal cancer seen in the endangered Tasmanian devils of Australia. Working on her PhD at Imperial College London, Dr. Clare Rebbeck originally set out to explore how the cancers found in different parts of the world were related to one another, by using computer analysis of DNA samples. Her analysis indicated that the cancers sometimes acquired mitochondria from their hosts to repair their own genetic mutations. The findings may have broad implications for halting the spread of similar diseases in other animals and for understanding cancer progression across species. Mitochondrial transfer between genetically distinct cells has previously been observed in the laboratory, but this is the first time it has been demonstrated to occur in nature.
In an earlier study, Imperial's scientists estimated that the earliest CTVT tumour originated from an ancient dog or wolf approximately 10,000 years ago, perhaps when dogs were first domesticated through intensive inbreeding of the more social wolves. Today's results suggest that over this time, the cancer must have evolved the unusual ability to capture mitochondria from its host animal. The study was published in the journal Science on 20 January 2011.

Chinese Panda Breeding Experts Help National Zoo Pandas
January 20, 2011 www.washingtonpost.com  by Michael Ruane

National Zoo’s pandas have produced only one cub during their 10 years in Washington. Giant pandas in China and in other U.S. zoos have done better. Pandas at the San Diego Zoo, for example, have produced five cubs in recent years. Part of the problem is the Washington pair's imprecise mating techniques. The two have never mated naturally with success, the zoo said. Their lone offspring, Tai Shan, was born in 2005 via artificial insemination. Indications are that Mei Xiang may be about to go into heat so Chinese "practitioners" experienced in panda mating are trying to get Tian Tian in top shape. Keepers have been training him to do leg-strengthening exercises by inducing him to stand up more often. Brandie Smith, a senior zoo curator, said: "We're getting him in shape. We're building up his stamina. There have been no panda films of mating ….yet.” Mei Xiang is also in training. Keepers have been teaching her to lie across a large log in the giant panda enclosure to try to improve her positioning. She tends to get flattened by Tian Tian's advances. As zoo scientists wait for breeding season, they are also trying to keep noise down in the panda enclosure and limit the amount of light that gets into the compound at night. These are just some elements of what the zoo said will be a big effort over the next two years to help the pandas breed, or find out why they can't.

Two Oil Companies Plan to Drill in Virunga National Park
January 20, 2011, http://news.mongabay.com   by Jeremy Hance

WWF, the IUCN, and UNESCO have all recently expressed concerns about two oil companies' plan to explore for oil in Africa's Virunga National Park, home to a quarter of the world's mountain gorillas, as well as chimpanzees, hippos, lions, forest elephants, and rare birds. "After so many years of conservation and money invested in the park by conservation groups, the international community and the government, it is devastating to see an oil company [SOCO International and Dominion Petroleum] pursue profit with total disrespect for both the animals and the local Congolese," reads a statement from WWF, which reports that 30,000 local people use Edward Lake for sustainable fishing. WWF warns that oil drilling threatens to pollute the lake. The three groups have warned DRC President Joseph Kabila not to move ahead with drilling in the park. Under the current agreement the two oil companies would garner 85% of the share of the oil drilling, while the DRC government would take 15%.

National Zoo Panda Loan Extended 5 Years
January 21, 2011 www.zandavisitor.com

Mei Xiang, 12, and Tian Tian, 13, have lived at the National Zoo since Dec. 6, 2000. Both pandas were born at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda in Wolong and had wild-born parents. Dennis Kelly, director of the National Zoo, and Zang Chunlin, secretary general of the China Wildlife Conservation Association, signed a new Giant Panda Cooperative Research and Breeding Agreement, extending the Zoo’s giant panda program for five more years until Dec. 5, 2015. The new agreement stipulates that the Zoo will conduct research in the areas of breeding and cub behavior. The first two years of the agreement includes a cooperative study involving reproductive experts from the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda in Wolong, and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. They will oversee the breeding of Mei Xiang and Tian Tian. If, after two years, either panda is found unsuitable for breeding, the two institutions will discuss the possibility of exchanging them with breeding pandas from China. The current pair has not produced a cub since 2005, when Tai Shan was born. If a cub is born at the Zoo, it will stay until the age of 4. Previously, cubs were sent to China before age 2.

African Wild Dogs Born at Brookfield Zoo
January 21, 2011 www.suntimes.com/  By Karen Spak

A litter of ten African wild dog pups — six males and four females — were born at the Brookfield Zoo on Thanksgiving Day. Joan Daniels, associate curator of mammals, said a nest box camera helped zoo staff see the puppies, but their small size and similar color made it impossible to count them until they recently began to leave the den. The zoo’s wild dog pack includes 6-year-old mother Kim, her “dominant male” mate Digger, 4, and Digger’s brother, Duke, also 4. The two brothers have spent weeks regurgitating their beef-based diet for Kim, who couldn’t leave her puppies to find her own food. Now Kim is joining them in regurgitating food for the 10 pups. Kim’s litter was one of only three born in North American zoos last year. The other two litters are being keeper-raised. The dogs should be on exhibit at Habitat Africa! The Savannah in March.

Nonprofit Seeks City Land for a New Colorado Zoo
January 21, 2011 www.gjfreepress.com/  By Sharon Sullivan

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — Janet Gardner hopes to build a zoo on city-owned, undeveloped property near Interstate 70. Grand Junction City Council members are open to the idea of a zoo but would prefer to lease Gardner land near the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens where infrastructure already exists.

Gardner’s concern about building a zoo at Las Colonias, the 100-acre site near the botanical gardens is that it is in a flood plain, and was a former uranium mill site. Gardner formed the Grand Valley Zoological Quest, a nonprofit with seven board of directors, including herself, with the intention of raising the estimated $16 million needed to build the first phase of the zoo — Rainforests of the World. Gardner is asking the city to consider leasing four acres of Matchett Park for the first phase, expanding the zoo eventually to 40 acres over a period of decades. Phase one would include reptiles, snakes, frogs, lizards, parrots, and other tropical species. There could also be small primates, and pygmy hippopotamuses, fresh water fish, and possibly small felines, Gardner said. The zoo would become home to many rescued parrots and other exotic animals bred in captivity, she said. A series of laws passed between 1972 and 1992, prevent the acquisition of animals from their wild, natural habitat, she added. Gardner dreamed of creating a zoo 11 years ago, after meeting Harlin Wall, owner of Wall-to-Wall Reptiles, and also a boardmember of Zoological Quest. The Denver Zoo is the most popular cultural attraction in Colorado.

Lawsuit Against EPA for Failing to Protect Species from Poisoning
January 21, 2011 www.sfgate.com

A lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco by the Center for Biological Diversity and Pesticide Action Network North America, accuses the Environmental Protection Agency of failing to prevent the pesticide poisonings of more than 200 endangered and threatened species, including the California condor. The EPA has registered more than 18,000 pesticides for use in the United States. Americans use more than a billion pounds of pesticides a year, many of which have been linked to cancer and to developmental, neurological and immune system malfunctions in animals and humans, including sexual deformities. Some scientists suspect that pesticide poisoning played a role in recent collapses in honeybee colonies, bat population die-offs and bird deaths. The Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that 72 million birds are killed by pesticides in the United States each year.

The lawsuit names 214 imperiled species around the country that need protection. Besides the condor, which is known to be extremely vulnerable to lead poisoning and other chemicals, the western snowy plover, northern spotted owl, San Joaquin kit fox, giant garter snake, light-footed clapper rail, California tiger salamander and several Northern California butterflies, rats, snakes, fish, rodents and insect species also are named in the lawsuit. In 2006, the EPA agreed to restrictions on 66 pesticides and began studying impacts on the California red-legged frog. In May, a federal court in San Francisco restricted the use of 75 pesticides in eight Bay Area counties. The settlement agreement forced the EPA to study the impacts the chemicals have on 11 endangered snakes, insects, birds, fish, mammals, crustaceans and amphibians that live in areas where spraying occurs.

New Populations of Silky Sifaka Found in Madagascar
January 21, 2011 http://news.mongabay.com/   by Rhett A. Butler

The Simpona or Silky sifaka (Propithecus diadema candidus) is a critically endangered lemur that is endemic to a very small mountainous area in Northeastern Madagascar. A recent seven week survey of the area was led by Cornell University's Erik Patel, who also heads SIMPONA, a non-profit organization that aims to protect the species and its habitat. The survey, which assessed 24 square kilometers of rugged terrain, counted 23 individuals among seven groups. Patel said the number is relatively low, but the silky sifaka has "patchy" population distribution, making it difficult to extrapolate the total population for the species. Patel's team found 31 silky sifaka groups in the past few years consisting of 131 total individuals in Marojejy National Park. There are no silky sifakas in captivity because they have never survived in zoos anywhere.

Another Attempt to Breed “Lonesome George”
January 21, 2011  www.physorg.com 

“Lonesome George”, a tortoise estimated to be between 90 and 100 years old, is believed to be the last living member of the Geochelone abigdoni species. He could live 50 more years and scientists are still hoping he will still produce offspring even though efforts over the past two decades have failed. For the past 20 years, he has lived with two female partners, of the similar but different species - Geochelone becki. The females laid eggs in 2008, 2009 and last year, but none resulted in viable offspring. Scientists believe George may have a better chance of reproducing with two new partners, of the Geochelone hoodensis species. The two potential mates come from the archipelago's Spanish Island and arrived on Santa Cruz island, where George lives, on Thursday. Genetic studies conducted by Yale University have shown that the newly arrived tortoises "are genetically closer, and could offer greater possibilities of producing offspring.”

Ecuador Removes Rats from Galapagos Islands
January 21, 2011 news.google.com/news  By Gonzalo Solano

QUITO, Ecuador —Introduced black rats, Norway rats and house mice are seriously threatening the rare plant and animal species on the Galapagos Islands, and will be exterminated with a specially designed poison spread by helicopter. Developed and donated by Bell Laboratories of Madison, Wis., the poison was first employed last weekend on Rabida, Sombrero Chino, Bartolome and Plaza Norte islands, as well as five islets. The poisoned bait is contained in blue cubes that attract rats but are repulsive to sea lions and birds. The project is being run by the Galapagos National Park Service with the backing of the Charles Darwin Foundation, Island Conservation, the University of Minnesota's Raptor Center and the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. Project manager, Victor Carrion, said a total of 50 bird species are endangered by the rodents, eight of them critically, as well as giant tortoises, iguanas and numerous plants. Before the poison was deployed last weekend, scientists removed 20 Galapagos hawks from two islands and placed them in cages where they will be held for about two months. The raptors might otherwise have fed on rodents that consumed the poison. The archipelago has 19 islands and 42 islets, and there are up to four invasive rodents per square meter. This first phase cost just under $1 million, but it will probably take 20 to 25 years to clear the islands entirely.

Predicting Species Loss With Climate Change
January 21, 2011  www.nytimes.com  By Elizabeth Rosenthal

Over the next 100 years, many scientists predict that 20 to 30 percent of species could be lost if the temperature rises 3.6 degrees to 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit. If the most extreme warming predictions are realized, the loss could be over 50 percent, according to the United Nations climate change panel. Polar bears are obvious victims of climate threat, but scientists say that tens of thousands of smaller species living in the tropics or on or near mountaintops are equally vulnerable. In response to warming, animals classically relocate either higher up in altitude or farther toward the poles. But in the tropics, animals have to move hundreds of miles north or south to find a different niche. Mountain species face additional limitations; competing for less and less space and their usual foods. Walter Jetz, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Yale, predicts that a third of the 1,000 mountain birds he studied, or 300 species, would be threatened because warming temperatures would decimate their habitats. Two years ago, scientists blamed a warming climate for the disappearance of the white lemuroid possum, a niche mountain dweller in Australia that prefers cool weather. Many scientists, suspecting that the furry animal had died off during a period of unusually extreme heat, labeled the disappearance the first climate-related animal extinction. Since then a few surviving animals have been found, but the species remains intensely vulnerable and future heat waves will probably mean extinction for a number of cold-adapted species.

Current methods for identifying and protecting threatened species — like the IUCN Red List — do not yet adequately factor in the impact of probable climate shifts, and the science is still evolving. Some species that scientists say are most at risk in a warming climate are already considered threatened or endangered, like the Sharpe’s longclaw and the Aberdare cisticola in Kenya. The cisticola, which lives only at altitudes above 7,500 feet, is considered endangered, and research predicts that climate change will reduce its already depleted habitat by a further 80 percent by 2100. A rapid change of climate can quickly eliminate species that inhabit a narrow niche. Scientists at the University of California at Berkeley recently documented that in Yosemite National Park, where there is a century-old animal survey for comparison, half the mountain species had moved their habitats up by an average of 550 yards to find cooler ground. Elsewhere in the United States, the pika, the alpine chipmunk and the San Bernardino flying squirrel have all been moving upslope in a pattern tightly linked to rising temperatures.

Clouded Leopard Genetic Study
January 22, 2011 news.bbc.co.uk/earth/  by Matt Walker

Until 2006, all clouded leopards were thought to belong to a single species. However, genetic studies revealed that there are actually two quite distinct clouded leopard species – The Asian mainland species (Neofelis nebulosa), and a second species lives on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra (Neofelis diardi) now known as the Sunda clouded leopard. In 2010, a team of scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research released the first footage of the Sundra clouded leopard  in the Dermakot Forest Reserve in Malaysia. They subsequently studied Sunda clouded leopards living on both Borneo and Sumatra, conducting physiological, molecular and genetic studies to reveal their origin. Their analysis confirms that the two are separate subspecies, the Bornean subspecies N. d. borneensis and the Sumatran subspecies N. d. diardi. Their results are published in the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. As well as being genetically distinct, the clouded leopards on both islands are also morphologically different, having unique features in their skulls and teeth. Both cats have similar patterned coats and occupy similar jungle habitats.

Changing a Female Panda’s Estrus Cycle
January 23, 2011 www.upi.com/Science_News/   

MEMPHIS, TN -- Memphis Zoo’s female panda Ya Ya was born in August 2000 and came to Memphis in April 2003. Pandas reach productive maturity between the ages of 4 to 8 years old. Ya Ya had her first estrus at six, but estrus is supposed to occur between March and May, and for several years now, Ya Ya’s estrus has come around Thanksgiving. She has been inseminated by her mate, Le Le, but has not had a successful pregnancy and zoo officials think it may have to do with the timing of her estrus. Matt Thompson, curator of mammals, said, "We realized we had some emergency lights inside that were putting out a little more light than they should, and we've adjusted that.  We’ve also turned down the thermostat.” The light and warmth may have signaled spring to Ya Ya's system. The Memphis Zoo is the only U.S. zoo with pandas that has not produced a cub. San Diego Zoo's female, Bai Yun, had her last cub in 2009. "We couldn't have gotten a more textbook female," said Megan Owen, conservation program specialist with the San Diego Zoo. Their first male, Shi Shi, wasn't interested in mating, but Bai Yun went into season when she should have and was inseminated, giving birth in 1999. She and the next male, Gao Gao, have mated without help, producing four cubs. Pandas can reproduce until the age of 20 and Ya Ya's not yet 11.  In case Ya Ya again goes into estrus at the wrong time of the year, the zoo has frozen bamboo shoots, the young vegetation pregnant pandas normally would eat, rather than mature bamboo.

Five Cheetah Subspecies Identified
January 24, 2011 news.bbc.co.uk/earth/   By Ella Davies

Cheetahs previously existed in 44 countries in Africa but are now only found in 29. They were also found across southwest and central Asia but can now only be found in Iran. Scientists previously recognized that cheetahs have low genetic variability, and theorized that a "population crash" approximately 10,000 years ago led to inbreeding in the species. Now, a collaborative study by scientists from the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria the Iranian Department of Environment and the conservation group Panthera, has analysed the DNA of cheetahs from a wide geographical and historical range. "With our data we prove that current Iranian cheetahs represent the historical Asiatic subspecies A.j. venaticus as they share a similar genetic profile with a specimen originating from northwestern Iran in 800-900 CE," said Dr. Pamela Burger. Five 'different' subspecies are described according to where they live:

Cheetahs in North Africa, previously considered the same subspecies as those in Iran, were actually found to have more in common genetically with those in West Africa. By comparing sequences in the DNA, researchers have found that the unique Asiatic cheetahs separated from the rest of the species in Southern Africa over 30,000 years ago. Dr. Burger says that because this split occurred long before the theorized population crash, A.j. venaticus represents a highly distinct lineage. Currently estimated at just 60-100 individuals with less than half at mature breeding age, the Iranian cheetah population is classified as critically endangered. The study appears in the journal Molecular Ecology. Alireza Jourabchian is Director of the Conservation of the Asiatic Cheetah Programme (CACP) in Iran.

Hormonal Therapy For Older Pregnant Horses
January 24, 2011 www.vu-wien.ac.at/en/research/   

About  one in ten horse pregnancies results in miscarriage at a very early stage. Some horses have a history of early miscarriages and it has become customary to treat them with a type of progestin known as altrenogest, although there have not been any studies to assess whether this actually improves the chances that the pregnancy will run to term. Christine Aurich at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna has now investigated the effect of altrenogest treatment on the development of the foetus and on the horses’ hormone levels. Surprisingly, the researchers found that the foetus developed significantly more slowly in older mares compared with younger animals. The difference disappeared in horses treated with altrenogest, showing for the first time that the progestin has a positive effect on foetal development.  The results are published in the 75th issue of the journal Theriogenology.

Poaching Has Claimed 95% of Liberia’s Elephants
January 25, 2011 news.mongabay.com  By Jeremy Hance

Since the 1980s, Liberia has lost 19,000 elephants to illegal poaching, according to Patrick Omondi of the Kenya Wildlife. Only 1,000 elephants remain. Ivory trade is still being illegally practiced in the country. Omondi wants to reactivate Liberia's participation in CITES. Although one of the smaller African nations (about the size of the Virgina, USA), Liberia possesses a high diversity of species, including 2,200 plants, 590 birds, 193 mammals, and 162 fish.

Colorado Wildlife Crossing Design Selected
January 25, 2011 www.nytimes.com

DENVER, Jan. 24 (UPI) -- Bear, bobcat, coyote, deer, elk, big-horn sheep and lynx are among the species involved in vehicle-animal collisions on Colorado roads.  A nonprofit group has awarded a $40,000 prize to an architecture firm for the design of a bridge intended to allow wild animals to cross I-70 near Vail, Colorado. HNTB and Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates  were picked by a panel of architects and engineers for their proposal. There were 36 international entries and 5 finalists with estimated construction costs ranging from  $7 million to $12 million  The winning design is four times wider than the bridge spanning the Trans-Canada Highway in Banff National Park. That bridge is considered a success because it reduced the wildlife collision rate by about 80 percent. The winning design is made of precast concrete panels that are snapped into place and covered with foliage, it is broad enough to look like forests, shrubs and meadows. Fences along the road funnel animals to the bridge:  http://s3.amazonaws.com/arc-competition/HNTBMVVA_Panels_Low.pdf

Scientists Record Epic Polar Bear Swim
January 25, 2011 news.bbc.co.uk/earth/

Polar bears in the Arctic survive on a calorie-rich diet of ringed seals (Pusa hispida) which they hunt on frozen sea ice. The bears are known to swim between land and sea ice floes to hunt the seals, but the increased sea ice melts have been pushing them to swim greater distances. Recently, scientists from the USGS studying bears around the Beaufort sea, north of Alaska, report that a female polar bear swam continuously for over nine days, covering 687km (426 miles). Their findings, published in Polar Biology, reveal that the bear swam continuously for 232 hours and 687 km and through waters that were 2-6 degrees C. By fitting a GPS collar to the bear, researchers were able to accurately plot her movements for two months as she sought out hunting grounds. They determined when the bear was in the water by the collar data and a temperature logger implanted beneath the bear's skin."This individual lost 22% of her body fat in two months and her yearling cub," said research zoologist George M. Durner.

Hybrid Minke Whales Discovered in Arctic
January 25, 2011 news.nationalgeographic.com  by Brian Handwerk

A cross between an Antarctic minke whale and a northern minke whale was recently discovered during a DNA analysis of whales caught by Norwegian hunters. Normally the two whale species—both of which can reach 35 feet (11 meters) in length—undertake seasonal migrations that separate them by many miles of ocean. Northern minkes head toward the North Pole in spring and ply waters up to the edge of Arctic ice during the summer. In autumn these whales head south, nearly as far as the Equator, to spend the winter. Antarctic whales follow a similar pattern, moving between Antarctic ice and warmer mid-latitudes with the seasons. But because the two hemispheres' seasons are opposite, the minke species don't share near-equatorial waters at the same time. Further analysis of DNA from a whale captured in the North Atlantic in 1996, proved it was Antarctic whale. The sample had been overlooked because the DNA archive was in its infancy when the whale was captured. This Antarctic whale in the Arctic provided further evidence that Antarctic minkes can migrate to the home waters of their northern relatives and—as the hybrid shows—even mate with them, according to the study, published December 22 in the journal PLoS ONE.

Avoiding Cascading Species Loss
January 25, 2011  www.nature.com By Emma Marris

Saving foxes on the Channel Islands off California's coast involved a carefully ordered and timed removal of other species. The species that make up an ecosystem are connected in complex 'food webs'. When one species disappears, its predators can no longer eat it and its prey are no longer eaten by it. Changes in these populations affect others. Such impact 'cascades' can be unpredictable and sometimes catastrophic. When feral pigs were introduced to the Channel Islands, they attracted golden eagles that preyed on both pigs and foxes. Fox numbers then dropped. Removing the pigs would have left the foxes as the sole diet of the eagles, and likely doomed them. So instead, conservationists captured and relocated the eagles and only then eradicated the pigs. Sagar Sahasrabudhe and Adilson Motter of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, demonstrate that removing or partially suppressing one or more species at a key time can save other members of the ecosystem from local extinction. They publish the results today in Nature Communications.

When the algorithms point to an exotic species as a target for removal or suppression, conservationists are likely to have little problem with the idea. But if a native species is the proposed target, that could be a problem. Motter says, "In the long run, I think we will have people in the field advocating for the suppression of native species." He points out that land managers are already doing so, by running regulated hunting of prey species in areas where top predators have been eliminated. Human impacts are just too great on most ecosystems for us to just hope they will sort themselves out.

Why do Seahorses Resemble Horses?  
January 25, 2011 blogs.nature.com/news/

A new study in Nature Communications has found that the sea horse’s curvy shape makes it easier for it to catch prey without swimming very far. They hide behind sea grasses until their meal (small shrimp of fish larvae) comes along. They then snap their heads upwards toward the prey and use suction to draw the meal into their snouts. The tendons of the rotational muscles of the fish are like elastics that snap the head upward remarkably quickly as the prey passes by. The whole process is called pivot feeding and takes about 5 milliseconds. Pipefish and sea dragons, which also fall in the Syngnathid family of fishes, use the same mechanism. But why the seahorse evolved a head that is bent in relation to the rest of the body in a horse-like manner has been a mystery. Their evolutionary ancestors resembled the pipefish, with their trunk and head in a straight line. Sam Van Wassenbergh at the University of Antwerp and his colleagues suggest the bent head gives the seahorse an advantage by allowing it to move its head further and strike at a greater distance. When the linear pipefish rotates its head toward the prey, the sudden momentum is transferred down the body to create movement in the trunk. The head movement itself is restricted. This is not a problem for fish that swim while hunting, such as the pipefish, because they can compensate for a decreased head strike range by moving themselves forward, but the trunk of the seahorse is at a sharp angle to the head and so has significant inertia. In addition, there is a compressed region in the bent neck that snaps the head forward to increase the speed of the strike. The researchers confirmed their theory by studying real world data collected from videos of prey capture by various seahorse and pipefish species.

Analysis of the Strategy to Double the Wild Tiger Population
January 25, 2011 http://www.eurekalert.com  

The tiger reserves of Asia could support more than 10,000 wild tigers – three times the current number – if they are managed as large-scale landscapes that allow for connectivity between core breeding sites, according to a new study from some of the world's leading conservation scientists published in the current issue of Conservation Letters. It is the first assessment of the political commitment made by all 13 tiger range countries last November to double the tiger population across Asia by 2022. Authored by multiple experts including Dr. Eric Dinerstein, Chief Scientist at WWF-US, and Dr. John Seidensticker of the Smithsonian Conservation Research Institute, the study found that the 20 priority tiger conservation landscapes with the highest probability of long-term tiger survival could support more than 10,500 tigers, including about 3,400 breeding females. They also looked at historical examples to prove that a doubling or tripling is possible using large landscapes: In the jungles of lowland Nepal, tiger numbers crashed during civil conflict from 2002 to 2006. However, tigers did not disappear because Nepal and India's tiger reserves are linked by forest corridors, which likely allowed for replenishment from India. Recently designated habitat corridors across the Sino-Russia border are helping tigers re-establish themselves in China's Changbaishan mountains, where they had disappeared in the 1990s. In India's Nagarahole National Park, tiger numbers are "healthy and resilient" because the park is connected to other reserves in the region. Tigers number almost 300 in this large landscape of connected parks and reserves.

Wild tiger numbers have declined from about 100,000 in the early 1900s to as few as 3,200 today due to poaching of tigers and their prey, habitat destruction and human/tiger conflict. Most of the remaining tigers are scattered in small, isolated pockets across their range in 13 Asian countries. Besides poaching and habitat loss, the $7.5 trillion in infrastructure projects like roads, dams and mines that will be invested in Asia over the next decade threatens tiger landscapes. The authors insist that conservationists and governments must be involved in helping design infrastructure projects to mitigate their impacts on tigers both inside core sites and in current and potential forest corridors. A recently built oil depot in India's Terai Arc, for example, severed a vital elephant and tiger corridor. Conservationists are now in litigation to remove the depot.

Female Gorilla, Lulu, Dies at Columbus Zoo
January 25, 2011 www.10tv.com/

Lulu, a female gorilla thought to be 46 years old, died Monday at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Lulu suffered from arthritis but had not shown any signs of illness until Saturday when she suffered a seizure. The frequency and severity of the seizures progressed and on Monday, while being sedated in preparation for an MRI, she stopped breathing and could not be resuscitated. She was born in equatorial Africa and was brought to the Central Park Zoo in 1966 when she was about 2 years old. In 1972, she gave birth to a baby girl, Pattycake, the first gorilla born in New York City. Lulu gave birth again in 1975 and that infant, also a female, did not survive. Lulu and Pattycake moved to the Bronx Zoo before Lulu was brought to the Columbus Zoo in 1984 on a breeding recommendation of the Gorilla Species Survival Plan. She produced three more female offspring between 1987 and 1991 including Binti Jua, who gained fame in 1996 when she gently carried a toddler after he climbed over a barrier and tumbled into the gorilla habitat at the Brookfield Zoo. Lulu became the surrogate mother to two infants whose mothers were unable to care for them including a granddaughter who was born via caesarian section at the Columbus Zoo, one of the first for the species. Lulu provided maternal care while also bringing the infants to the mesh so that they could be bottle-fed by gorilla keepers. There are now 16 gorillas at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

Black Rhino Born at the St. Louis Zoo
January 25, 2011 www.stltoday.com/

A critically endangered black rhinoceros male calf was born on January 14th at the St. Louis Zoo. The calf was born to first-time parents, mother Kati Rain and father Ajabu, both 6 years old. [Ajabu comes from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.] The calf weighed 120.5 pounds at birth and is nursing well. This is the first time in 20 years that a black rhino was born at the zoo. In all, eight black rhino calves have been born at the Zoo. They are part of the AZA’s Black Rhino Species Survival Plan that manages 60 black rhinos in 38 institutions.

Deaths from Animal Attacks/Venom in the U.S.
January 25, 2011  www.scientificamerican.com  By Rachel Nuwer

At the Centers for Disease Control’s web site, mortality figures for 1999-2007 can be sorted by location, age, race, and gender (http://wonder.cdc.gov/cmf-icd10.html) The database compiles official death information and assigns a detailed code for cause of death ranging from frostbite to falls. From these figures, statistics for death caused by animals can be calculated based upon the overall population of the United States. For example, the probability of getting eaten by a bear is 0.00007 out of 100,000 people. If statistics are broken down to include only backpackers, the risk goes up to 0.1 out of 100,000. Only nine people died from alligator or crocodile attacks in the United States between 1999-2007. A total of 714 people died after receiving a dose of animal-induced poison. Only 59 people died from snake or lizard bites during the time period, and venomous spiders killed just 70 people. Bee, wasp, and hornet stings caused 509 of the 714 total venomous animal deaths, or about 71 percent. About 0.5 percent of children and three percent of adults are prone to anaphylaxis after contact with insect venom, a potentially fatal full-blown allergic response that can occur within seconds of exposure to an insect sting.

Role of Hormones in Bird Reproduction
January 25, 2011  www.physorg.com

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology Princeton and Edinburgh Universities have now demonstrated that hormone levels not only play a key role during the breeding season, but dictate, long in advance, how many eggs a breeding pair will lay, when they will lay them and how often. An animal’s hormonal constitution is thus of major significance for its reproductive success, and is possibly an important driving force of evolution. Considerable variance can be observed in the numbers of offspring produced by the members of bird species. Moreover, different individuals within a species embark on mating and breeding processes at different times. For example, the concentration of corticosterone increases slightly when an animal is very active, as during brood care. When the bird is exposed to sudden danger and significant stress, its levels rise significantly and reproduction may be suppressed. In contrast, the hormone prolactin stimulates the birds to invest more in reproduction; it controls the number of eggs per clutch and the intensity of brood care. The results of this study published January 19 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, enhances knowledge about the physiological mechanisms that can dictate when a bird breeds, how many eggs it produces per clutch and how often it breeds. The hormones prolactin and corticosterone, in particular, play a more important role in the regulation of individual investments before reproduction begins than was previously assumed.

Gharial Numbers Plummet
January 25, 2011 timesofindia.indiatimes.com/

KENDRAPADA: The number of gharials (Gavialis gangeticus) in Orissa is falling at an alarming speed. Forest officials counted only three Gharials during a recent census in Satakosia Gorge within Tikarpada under Mahanadi river system, said Dr. Sudhakar Kar, a senior research officer and herpetologist of forest and wildlife department of the state. "The forest department had released 700 baby gharials in the Mahanadi river three decades back. In spite of the opening of a Gharial breeding center in Tikarapada in 1976, their number is decreasing. The possible reasons for this could be changes in environment and water pollution affecting their breeding. It also could be due to human interference, disturbance in the river system and natural calamities", Kar said. Gharials take 12 years to reach sexual maturity and feed on fish. Gharials caught accidentally in fishing nets are either hacked to death or have their snout chopped off by fishermen to save the net. "Integrated efforts that include captive breeding, research and monitoring, and especially safeguarding gharial habitat are urgently needed to save the species in the state. The forest department has recently decided to release Gharials from the Nandankann Zoo into the rivers on a regular basis," Kar added.

Genome 10K Project Update
January 25, 2011 www.biotechniques.com  By Julie Manoharan

A white paper was published July 22, 2009 in the Journal of Heredity explaining the goal of the Genome 10K project to map 10,000 genomes by 2015 (3000 mammals, 2000 birds, 2000 reptiles, 1000 amphibians, and 2000 fish).  Stephen O’Brien, one of the project directors, now believes it may take twice as long depending on the technology, money, and personnel. In the fall of 2010 the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) in China agreed to map 100 vertebrate genomes and other institutes have followed. The number of scheduled genomes increased from 100 to 220 and the project has since gained momentum. Some of the first species to be mapped include a komodo dragon, a lesser panda, an ostrich, and an echidna, a rare, egg-laying mammal.

Quick and affordable next-generation sequencing data is difficult to assemble without a reference genome—a previously assembled genome of that species or a similar species, and typically completed by whole genome sequencing. The genomes of rare species have no reference genomes to guide the assembly. For example, the platypus genome assembly has proven difficult, because there are no closely related species to the platypus. On the other hand, the wolf’s sequence data could be assembled by referencing the dog genome. In December 2010, researchers sequenced the genomes of African elephants Loxodonta africana and Loxodonta cyclotis, two endangered species. Conservationists can compare it to the mammoth genome, which was sequenced by a group of researchers from Penn State in 2008. From this comparison, researchers could begin to understand the different adaptations that enabled one to survive and not the other. By understanding these adaptations, conservationists could better hone their efforts for animals facing extinction due to global climate change. Oliver Ryder, a geneticist at the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research and a co-director of the Genome 10K project, said, “One of the aspects that thwarts our ability to conserve species that are threatened or endangered is our lack of knowledge of their biology.” Ryder’s team preserves and analyzes cells, tissues, blood, and DNA from mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. He believes that if Genome 10K project is completed, conservationists may get some answers about evolution and adaptation that will help them protect endangered species.

Orangutan Genome is Sequenced
January 26, 2011 www.eurekalert.org

The full genomic sequence of a female Sumatran orangutan named Susie has been completed by an international consortium. A total of nearly 14,000 human genes are also found in the orangutan, chimpanzee, macaque and dog genomes. The researchers also sequenced the genomes of ten additional orangutans, five from Sumatra and five from Borneo. The surprising finding is that the Sumatran orangutan is genetically much more variable than its cousin on Borneo despite now having a much smaller population. Orangutan numbers have fallen as man has taken over their habitat. In 2004, experts estimated that 7,000-7,500 Sumatran and 40,000 to 50,000 Bornean orangutans remained in the wild. Their genetic variation is good news because, in the long run, it enables them to maintain a healthy population.

Orangutan Genetics and Conservation
January 26, 2011  www.nature.com  by Joseph Milton

A group of researchers in the U.S. and Europe has published a draft of the orangutan genome in the journal Nature. "This resource could allow conservationists to prioritize populations for saving based on genetic diversity," says Devin Locke at the Genome Center at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, who led the study. "Zoo breeding programs could also be informed by genetics, allowing them to maintain maximum diversity." Analyzing the DNA of the ten wild great apes, five from Borneo and five from Sumatra, the team found that genetic diversity was lower in Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) than in their Sumatran relatives (Pongo abelii). Because Borneo is home to six or seven times as many orangutans as Sumatra, this might seem counter-intuitive. Locke says, "The database we developed can be used to generate a tool for genetically profiling orangutan individuals and populations. It's the profiling data that would be useful in making management decisions. Studies have shown a statistical correlation between the loss of genetic diversity and an increase in extinction risk in other species," he says.

By comparing the DNA of the Bornean and Sumatran orangutans, the researchers estimate that the two species diverged around 400,000 years ago, more recently than was previously thought. The researchers also compared their orangutan data with chimpanzee and human DNA, and were surprised to find that the orangutan genome has evolved much more slowly than the other species. Locke suggests that this could be because the orangutan genome contains far fewer mobile DNA elements, which he says may act as "a kind of lubricant", facilitating rearrangements of DNA. Even if the orangutan genetic data cannot help to save the great apes, it may further the understanding of human genetic disease. The researchers identified a set of actively evolving genes in orangutans that are associated with metabolic pathways involved in neurodegenerative conditions in humans. "Orangutans also develop cardiovascular disease and spontaneous diabetes like humans," says Oliver Ryder, a biologist at San Diego Zoo's Institute for Conservation Research, who also worked on the study.

Parts of Human Genome Closer to Orangutans Than Chimps
January 26, 20ll www.eurekalert.org

With the addition of the orangutan to the collection of sequenced primate genomes, an international group of scientists led by Mikkel Schierup and Thomas Mailund has learned more about the genetics of our ancestors, the chimpanzee and the orangutan. Although our closest living relative is the chimpanzee, the researchers have found  regions of the orangutan genome where humans and orangutans are more closely related than humans and chimpanzees as a result of a phenomenon called incomplete lineage sorting (ILS). ILS can reveal information about the time of speciation events, as well as the genetic diversity of the ancestral species. "[I]n about 0.5% of our genome, we are closer related to orangutans than we are to chimpanzees," Mailund said, "and in about 0.5%, chimpanzees are closer related to orangutans than us."  Because humans and orangutans split millions of years prior to the human/chimp split, the presence of ILS suggests that the ancestral species of human and chimps maintained high genetic diversity, in contrast to the genetic bottleneck humans are believed to have experienced following divergence from chimps. Their study was published today in Genome Research (www.genome.org).

USDA Will Investigate Chatanooga Zoo
January 26, 2011 timesfreepress.com/  By: Pam Sohn

The USDA's Animal and Plan Health Inspection Service, will be looking into allegations of problems at the Chattanooga Zoo at Warner Park, after receiving an anonymous complaint on Jan. 14, 2011. Darde Long, director of the Chattanooga Zoo at Warner Park, said the zoo welcomes the oversight and also has asked USDA to come in and do an inspection. The zoo has had seven animal deaths in the past month, including Hank — the zoo's famous chimpanzee and longtime resident — whose former keeper says the ape was healthy in May. Keeper John Urstadt is one of several former zoo employees who claim that the zoo's recent transition from city management to oversight by the Friends of the Zoo — a nonprofit group created in 1985 and dedicated to maintaining the zoo — has left the zoo without experienced and caring keepers. Urstadt said he believes the recent deaths were due to "neglect of the animals." In all of 2010, the zoo had only 10 deaths.

African Wolf: Canis aureus lupaster Is Not a Golden Jackal
January 26, 2011 www.eurekalert.org

Molecular evidence has established that a new species of grey wolf is living in Africa. Formerly thought to be a subspecies of the Egyptian golden jackal, this indicates that members of the grey wolf lineage reached Africa about 3 million years ago, before they spread throughout the northern hemisphere. The  study, involving a collaboration of biologists from the University of Oslo, Oxford University's Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) and Addis Ababa University, has uncovered genetic evidence that unambiguously places the Egyptian jackal within the grey wolf species complex. It is taxonomically grouped with the Holarctic grey wolf, the Indian wolf and the Himalayan wolf. Scientists will now try to determine how the new African wolf evolved and lived alongside not only the real golden jackals but also the vanishingly rare Ethiopian wolf, which is a very different species. It is also destined to be re-named the African wolf.

Analysis of Animal Diving Speeds
January 27, 2011  www.nature.org

Animals that breathe air but forage under water are highly adapted to their extreme lifestyle. The oxygen collected at the surface must be used carefully under water to maximize efficiency. In a paper in the Journal of Animal Ecology, Watanabe and colleagues analyze the swimming speeds of animal divers. Based on biomechanical and energetic principles, they predicted that larger divers should swim faster (specifically, that swimming speed should increase with mass to the power 0.05). They also predicted that low-metabolism ectotherms (animals, such as turtles, whose temperature is strongly influenced by their environment) should swim more slowly than same-sized, high-metabolism endotherms (which maintain a constant temperature; for example, birds and mammals). Telemetry studies of free-living animals made it possible for them to assemble dive-speed data for 37 species encompassing mammals, birds and turtles, and ranging in size from a 500-gram rhinoceros auklet to a 90-tonne blue whale. They found that speed does indeed increase with size. They also found that the three turtle species in the data set all had slower swimming speeds than expected on the basis of their mass: just as the authors' theory predicted for ectotherms.

Philippine Crocodile Reintroduction
January 27, 2011  www.physorg.com

Nineteen of the world's most critically endangered crocodiles have been released into the wild in the Sierra Madre Natural Park in the northern province of Isabela, the Philippines. It is one of just two remaining natural habitats for the reptile. If they survive, the number of known Philippine crocodiles in the wild will increase by roughly a fifth, according to Marites Balbas, spokeswoman for the Mabuwaya Foundation that is behind the conservation programme which began in 2005. Fewer than 100 adults remain in the wild, and the species is listed as "critically endangered" by the IUCN.  

Sumatran Tiger Cubs Born at Indonesian Zoo
January 27, 2011  www.physorg.com

A Sumatran tiger gave birth to four cubs at Taman Rimba zoo in Jambi province Tuesday but one died immediately, according to provincial tourism and cultural agency head Didi Wuryanto. He said the parents of the cubs, male and female tigers called Peter and Uni, had been transferred to Jambi on Sumatra island from Ragunan zoo in Jakarta. There are as few as 400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild in Indonesia, according to WWF.

Gray Whales Off Southern California Coast
January 27, 2011  www.physorg.com

Gray whales are apparently thriving in the eastern Pacific and are being seen in healthy numbers as the females head south from Alaska to give birth in the warm waters of Mexico. There had been concerns over the last five years when numbers have been down, but experts are relieved to see them swimming south. Los Angeles Aquarium of the Pacific mammal expert, Michele Sousa, said, “Since counts began in early December we've seen over 264 gray whales and 14 calves." There are thought to be up to 22,000 of the whales, which can reach lengths of up to 15 meters (yards) and weigh up to 35 tonnes in the waters off the US Pacific coast. Every year pregnant female grays travel thousands of miles from the icy northern waters off Alaska to Baja California in Mexico, to give birth to their young. They are followed by singleton and younger whales — who have a less urgent need to get south, but still make a respectable 160 kilometers (100 miles) a day, flicking their vast tails to thrust themselves southward. In all, the gray whales make a round trip of 16,093 to 22,530 km (10,000 to 14,000 miles), starting with a two to three-month trip south from October, two to three months in the lagoons, then two to three months heading back north. Alisa Schulman-Janiger of the American Cetacean Society, who has run a gray whale census with a lookout post on a headland north of Long Beach for three decades, confirmed the good news.

San Diego Zoo Hippo Birth
January 27, 2011 www.signonsandiego.com  By Michael Stetz

The San Diego Zoo welcomed a new baby animal to its collection at 11:30 Wednesday morning. This is the 32nd hippo born at the San Diego Zoo. The calf's mother is Funani, and the father is Otis. Otis arrived two years ago from the Los Angeles Zoo and while the pair initially struggled for dominance, keepers observed them mating last April. Otis was removed from the exhibit a few weeks ago in preparation for the birth. Funani has given birth to 3 calves fathered by Jabba, the zoo’s previous male hippo. Zookeepers have yet to determine the newborn's sex. Video at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pGxi-ZNMsaU

Artificial Hip for Tiger in German Zoo
January 27, 2011 www.google.com/hostednews/afp

BERLIN — An 8-year-old female Malayan tiger at Halle Zoo in East Germany has received the world's first artificial hip. The 3-hour-operation by a team of vets occurred at Leipzig University. “Girl” had been in visible pain for close to a year because of problems in her right hip joint. During the operation by five specialists, Girl's heart came close to stopping, but anaesthetist Michaele Alef was able to save her. She is now recovering in a separate enclosure back in Halle Zoo, and once a six-week danger period when the new hip could dislocate is over, there is every chance that it will last her the rest of her life. Artificial hips of the kind now in Girl were first developed by professor Pierre Montavon from the University of Zurich with the Swiss firm Kyon. Italian Aldo Vezzoni, a specialist with a wealth of experience fitting artificial hips in dogs, assisted with the operation.

Animal Rights Group Criticizes San Diego’s Elephant Program
January 27, 2011 www.signonsandiego.zom

Last year, four male African elephants were born at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The group “In Defense of Animals” claims males are hard to keep in zoos once they reach adulthood, and the herd of 17 elephants is becoming too large for their six acre space. IDA called the Parks’ breeding practice “reckless” — and gave it a “Dishonorable Mention” in their recent “Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants” list.  IDA says the park does do some things right, such as using positive reinforcement, so they are not one of the 10 worst zoos. The Zoo defends its breeding practices, saying that the elephant population in zoos is aging and dying off. It hardly matters that males are being born because zoos have become much more sophisticated in housing the animals. In all, 155 African elephants live in zoos accredited by the AZA. Only 28 are males. At the Safari Park, there are 6 female adults and 2 male adults. At the San Diego Zoo, there are six females and one male.

The growing herd in Safari Park started with seven elephants, brought from a game reserve in Swaziland where they were to be killed because of overpopulation. To make room for them, the Safari Park had to transfer three elephants to Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo. All died soon after. The zoo maintained that the relocation had nothing to do with their deaths; animal rights groups argued otherwise. IDA has also attacked zoos for creating new elephant exhibits — at a cost of millions — instead of doing away with the practice of housing elephants altogether, which some have done. The San Diego Zoo completed the $45 million Elephant Odyssey in 2009, which IDA claims is too small.

Africa’s Vanishing Wildlife
January 27, 2011 http://news.mongabay.com   By Jeremy Hatch

According to a study published in the journal Biological Conservation on September 2010, Africa's large mammal populations have dropped by 59% in just 40 years. The study looked only at mammal populations under governmental protection. The researchers surveyed 78 protected areas for 69 species. Lead author, Ian Craigie says the main cause is human population explosion in Africa.

Pygmy Killer Whales Studies in Hawaii
January 27, 2011 news.sciencemag.org  By Virginia Morrell

Pygmy killer whales aren't related to killer whales and they're not whales. Pygmy killer whales are most closely related to other smaller oceanic dolphins in the Delphinidae family, such as pilot whales, melon-headed whales, and false killer whales, says Robin Baird, a cetacean biologist at the Cascadia Research Collective in Olympia, Washington. Baird has now tracked two of them for the first time in the Hawaiian Islands, by attaching satellite tags via darts to their dorsal fins. One was tagged in  2008 and the other in 2009. One of the whale's tags transmitted its location for 10 days; the other, for 2 weeks. Using these data, Baird's team constructed a map of the whales' wanderings as they traveled about 4 kilometers offshore around the island of Hawaii. "They stayed surprisingly close to the island," says Baird. In contrast, a beaked whale (another small cetacean species) that his team also tagged traveled 500 kilometers away from Hawaii over a 20-day period. These findings are reported in the journal Marine Mammal Science.

Orangutan Comparative Genome Analysis
January 27, 2011 www.nature.com

Sumatran orangutans (Pongo abelii) and Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) are the most phylogenetically distant great apes from humans. Compared to other primates, the orangutan genome has many unique features. Orangutans are the only primarily arboreal great apes, characterized by strong sexual dimorphism and delayed development of mature male features, a long lifespan (35–45 years in the wild, more than 55 years in captivity) and the longest inter-birth interval among mammals (8 years on average). Orangutans create and adeptly use tools in the wild, and while long presumed socially solitary, dense populations of Sumatran orangutans show complex social structure and geographic variability in tool use indicative of cultural learning. From the population perspective, both Pongo species are deeply diverse; however, Sumatran individuals possess greater diversity than their Bornean counterparts, and more species-specific variation. The genome analysis of Bornean/Sumatran speciation time estimates 400,000 years ago -  more recent than most previous studies. A 2004 study estimated that 7,000–7,500 Sumatran individuals and 40,000–50,000 Bornean individuals remained in the wild in fragmented subpopulations. The IUCN lists Sumatran orangutans as critically endangered and Bornean orangutans as endangered. Oliver Ryder of the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research contributed to this study that appears in the journal Nature.

Elephant Populations Connected with Underpass
January 28, 2011 www.npr.org

Two distinct elephant populations near Mount Kenya have been united with the opening of Africa's first dedicated elephant underpass. The elephants, who had been separated for years by human development, can now safely cross under a major regional highway. The $250,000 underpass is a key element in the larger effort to create a corridor linking 2,000 elephants on Mount Kenya's highlands with 7,500 in the forests and plains below. The Lewa Wildlife Conservancy says that on January 1, 2011, an elephant known as "Tony" was the first to make use of the underpass. The long-term implications of the success of this corridor are massive in terms of re-establishing genetic connectivity between these two elephant populations, and reducing the habitat pressure within Lewa,

Black Rhino Range Expansion Project
January 28, 2011 technology.iafrica.com/

A founder population of 13 critically endangered black rhino was released to a new home in Limpopo province recently. The animals form the sixth founder population created through the WWF/ Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Black Rhino Range Expansion Project. 98 black rhino have been translocated through the Project so far, and at least 26 calves have been born on project sites. One site already has 11 calves, and 10 calves were born in 2010. There are currently about 4500 black rhino left in Africa, up from the lowest point of about 2100 in the early 1990s. The Black Rhino Range Expansion Project forms partnerships with landowners with large areas of black rhino habitat. Usually several landowners agree to remove internal fences in order to create large enough areas to hold a significant population of black rhino. The Project also supports security measures on important black rhino source populations. WWF project leader is Dr. Jacques Flamand. The project is supported by the Mazda Wildlife Fund.

Sumatran Tiger Cubs Debut at Safari Park
January 28, 2011  www.760kfmb.com/

SAN DIEGO -- Two 3-month-old Sumatran tigers, Joanne and Majel, have joined mother Delta in their 3-acre tiger exhibit at the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park. The Safari Park hopes to build a new forested exhibit that will include climbing rocks, swimming pools, trees and long grasses. There are only about 450 Sumatran tigers remaining worldwide, making them critically endangered. The park is home to six Sumatran tigers, and 23 have been born there over the years.

Call for Regulation of Rare Plant Sales
January 28, 2011  www.redorbit.com

According to Patrick Shirey and Gary Lamberti at the University of Notre Dame, nearly 10 percent of the 753 plants listed as threatened and endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act are being sold, or at least advertised  online. Citizen groups, who want to protect plants, are using such resources in ‘assisted colonization’ projects. The Torreya Guardians, for example, are legally planting seedlings of the Florida torreya outside its current range to aid species conservation. However, the widespread transfer of endangered or threatened plants poses both environmental and economic risks. Shirey and Lamberti cite other studies reporting that damage from invasive plant species costs more than $30 billion in the United States by damaging crops, pastures and ecosystems. They urge the USFWS to better monitor the movement of plants around the world and enforce existing legislation by establishing surveillance teams to monitor online transactions. The agency should also restrict consumers’ ability to purchase hybrids bred from endangered species which have serious implications—good and bad—for wild populations.

H5N1 Bird Flu Outbreak in Japan
January 28, 2011  mdn.mainichi.jp/

Bird flu has been spreading across Japan, with cases showing up from Hokkaido in the north, to Kyushu in the south. Confirmed infections in both wild and domesticated birds have jumped suddenly in late January, with five new cases identified on the 25th and 26th of the month. Bird flu is a disease originating in poultry such as ducks and chickens, but migratory wild birds are thought to be "smuggling" the virus into previously unaffected areas. In wild ducks, for instance, after infection, the flu virus has about a 10-day incubation period before the animal begins to show symptoms – in 10 days a duck can travel for hundreds or even a thousand miles. "Wild ducks that were probably infected by domestic poultry on mainland East Asia have, after their breeding season, come to winter in Japan and the Korean Peninsula," says University of Tokyo ornithology professor Hiroyoshi Higuchi. Higuchi says the genotype of the virus infecting birds in Japan is very similar to that found on the mainland, and it is now widely believed that migratory birds brought the disease to this country. The Ministry of the Environment has pointed out that the number of wild bird species vulnerable to influenza now in Japan has risen to 33. These birds spend winter in spots all over the country.

USDA Will Upgrade Animal Health Surveillance System
January 28, 2011 www.aphis.usda.gov/

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced today that it will be upgrading its national animal health surveillance system, replacing the aging Generic Disease Database system with commercial-off-the shelf software. The decision to use a commercial  product, instead of developing the entire system internally, is in line with government and agency initiatives for improving information technology (IT) management. The move will allow for quicker development of meaningful functionality and consolidation of existing IT systems, thereby increasing the efficiency of data capture and providing a streamlined approach throughout the country. USDA is contracting with Trace First Limited to use their CoreOne software and services. The software will help APHIS integrate its complex technical needs within the national animal health surveillance system. The CoreOne software will be housed in a USDA data center and will be available for state animal health officials to use as well. http://www.aphis.usda.gov/newsroom/2011/01/ah_surveillance_sss.shtml

Saving the Hainan Gibbon
January 28, 2011  www.sciencemag.org

There are only 22 Hainan gibbons—one family with 11 members, another with seven members, and four loners—remaining in their last refuge, Bawangling National Nature Reserve on southern China's Hainan Island. Here, rangers and scientists hope to prevent the first primate extinction in recorded history. Experts can only speculate whether the genetic bottleneck the gibbon is squeezing through will cripple its survival odds. “We're down to a scary number,” says conservation biologist Chan Pui Lok Bosco, head of Kadoorie Conservation China (KCC), a nonprofit in Hong Kong. But other species under similar genetic duress have pulled through.

Half a century ago, an estimated 2,000 gibbons roamed the rugged interior of Hainan, now known for its beach resorts. Villagers had avidly hunted the gibbons to use their body parts in traditional medicine. But the big blow came in the 1960s, when much of Hainan's lowland rainforest—the gibbon's preferred habitat—was converted to rubber plantations. The gibbons retreated to higher terrain, where subpopulations guttered and winked out. By the 1990s, a swath of land in Bawangling some 600 to 900 meters above sea level had become their last redoubt.

A new push to save the gibbon began in 2003, when Hainan's forestry department invited Kadoorie to conduct a gibbon census and devise a conservation action plan in Bawangling. Chan and his colleagues confirmed that there are only two families left and that they are confined to suboptimal habitat. With few gibbon food trees at higher elevations, the gibbons must roam far to forage. For that reason, Chan says, “they have the largest home range of any gibbon species in the world.” Hainan gibbons are arboreal; none has been observed to come down to the ground. To not interfere with the gibbons' diet, KCC trained locals to collect seeds of fallen fruit, such as the gibbon's apparent favorite, tao lan (Pouteria annamensis). KCC has since planted more than 80,000 food trees in degraded lowland in Bawangling, says Chan. And starting in 2005, KCC has sponsored four pairs of rangers—two for each gibbon family—to spend 5-day shifts in the backcountry monitoring the rare ape.  After 5 years of intense study, the prognosis is uncertain. Researchers are collecting droppings and hair to probe the genetic bottleneck. On the plus side, three females are now pregnant, and the gibbons are managing to avoid human encounters.

Indian Zoos Will Breed Dholes
January 30, 2011  http://www.thehindu.com

The Central Zoo Authority has selected the Vizag Zoo / Indira Gandhi Zoological Park as the conservation breeding center for wild dogs in India and Vandalur Zoo in Chennai as the associate zoo in this pilot project. Vizag zoo is the only zoo in the country that has successfully bred the species. Three separate litters have been born. The latest litter of five pups arrived a month ago. Dholes are classified as endangered by the IUCN, due to habitat loss, depletion of their prey base, competition from other predators, and possibly diseases from domestic and feral dogs.

Giant Pandas Will Arrive at Ueno Zoo in February
January 30, 2011  http://search.japantimes.co.jp/

TOKYO, Japan -- A pair of giant pandas leased from China will arrive at Tokyo's Ueno Zoo in February. They will replace Ling-Ling, a male panda, who died in April 2008. One of the pandas is a male named Bili, and the other is a female called Xiannu. Both are 5 years old. The metro government will pay $950,000 (around ¥80 million) annually to China for 10 years to lease the animals. Beijing will use the funds to preserve the species' habitat and conduct research on pandas. WWF estimates there are around 1,600 pandas in the wild, with about 980 under protection in China's panda reserves.

New Plans for Tennessee Elephant Sanctuary
January 31, 2011 http://news.yahoo.com

HOHENWALD, TN -- The Tennessee Elephant Sanctuary has never been open to the public, but now wants to be a worldwide educational center for elephant care, while still remaining a refuge for needy elephants. With 2,700 acres of woodland and a 25-acre lake, the sanctuary was started in 1995 by two former elephant trainers, Carol Buckley and Scott Blais. Buckley later clashed with the board of directors over money matters. She was fired in March and filed a lawsuit seeking $500,000 in damages and visitation rights to see one of the elephants. She has since founded a new organization called Elephant Aid International. Last year, the board hired a new CEO to work with Blais, who remains in charge of elephant care and facilities. Rob Atkinson, the new director, spent the past 11 years with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. He worked on an eight-year campaign that led to a 25 percent reduction in the number of elephants kept in zoos in the United Kingdom.

While the sanctuary will remain closed to the public, a new educational gallery is open in Hohenwald's downtown square, where people can meet with the caregivers and learn about the elephants. More than 12 new video cameras have been added throughout the grounds, which can be streamed live online or used in distance learning programs. Atkinson said one goal is to bring more elephants to the sanctuary. Currently there are 12 Asian and two African elephants, but they have space enough for 50 more Asian elephants. Food and care cost about $1,000 per elephant each month, and there are currently 14 caregivers and 10 administrative staff workers. The elephants are still kept behind fences and are provided food and medical care, but the sanctuary is as close to living in the wild as they can get, Atkinson said.

In 2006, a caregiver was killed at The Elephant Sanctuary when one of the elephants suddenly knocked her over and stepped on her chest. Co-founder Blais was also injured in the accident. The sanctuary is accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries and inspections over the last three years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found no violations.

Ants’ Effect on Ecosystems
January 31, 2011   www.redorbit.com/

Ants have two distinct effects on their local environment. First, they engineer the soil by nest building  and collecting food. These activities affect the level of nutrients in the soil and can indirectly impact the local populations of many animal groups. Second, they prey on a wide range of other animals, including larger animals which can be attacked by vast numbers of ant workers. A recent “ant study” published in the Journal of Animal Ecology was carried out in Germany and looked at the presence of different combinations and densities of black garden ants (Lasius niger) and common red ants (Myrmica rubra). The researchers found that a low density of ants in an area increased the diversity and density of other animals in the local area, particularly the density of herbivores and decomposers. At higher densities ants had no or the opposite effect, showing that predation is counteracting the positive influence.

Saudi Arabia’s Efforts to Save Arabian tiger
January 31, 2011 www.emirates247.com

SAUDI ARABIA -- Prince Bandar, the secretary general of the National Commission for Wildlife Conservation and Development (NCWCD) says that historically, Arabian leopards lived in large numbers in the Arabian peninsula, but have become nearly extinct because of massive hunting and development following the discovery of oil. Only around 200 are believed to exist in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Oman. Two individuals have been found in the area across Jordan’s mountains and the UAE and hopefully more exist. NCWCD has installed 50 thermal imaging cameras in areas stretching thousands of miles from the northern border with Jordan to the southern border with Yemen two months ago but so far we have not spotted any animal it is a big project and the study will last at least two years.

A parallel project involves breeding of the Arabian tiger in captivity. “We have just had some baby tigers and we expect to have more this year…but there are many other animals that have become endangered in this region including the Arabian Oryx, the Hubara Bustard, the Arabian Gazelle and other species.” The first birth of the Arabian tiger was reported a few years ago by the Saudi National Wildlife Research Centre (NWRC). The baby tiger was reported to be in healthy condition, according to NWRC, which said the mother tiger was presented by Yemen to Crown Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz, the chairman of NCWCD. It was later gifted to the breeding program which launched in early 2000s. The mother tigress was introduced into the captivity breeding program in 2006. In 2007, it was paired with a male Arabian tiger at the NWRC in the central town of Taif.

Four Ant Genomes Sequenced
January 31, 2011 www.physorg.com/

Three ant draft genomes will be published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:  the Argentine ant (Linepithema humile), the red harvester ant (Pogonomyrmex barbatus) and the red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta). In addition, the genome sequence of a fourth ant, the leaf-cutter ant (Atta cephalotes), is scheduled for publication in the Feb. 10 issue of the journal PLoS Genetics. Among the four ant genomes being reported, the Argentine ant and the fire ant, both native to South America, have established themselves in regions throughout the world, devastating native biodiversity. "The Argentine ant has enormous ecological impact," said Neil D. Tsutsui, associate professor at UC Berkeley's Department of Environmental Science, Policy & Management. "When the Argentine ants invade, they devastate the native insect communities while promoting the population growth of agricultural pests. This genome map will provide a huge resource for people interested in finding effective, targeted ways of controlling the Argentine ant."

Colonies of Argentine ants in their native habitat are territorial and aggressive, helping to keep their populations in check.  But in the U.S., invasive Argentine ants are genetically similar, and therefore non-territorial. This has allowed groups to form one enormous "super-colony," stretching hundreds of miles along the coast of California. Instead of fighting each other, the invasive ants focus their energies on conquering other insect species, including native ants.

Edinburgh Zoo Develops Plant-Analyzing Device
February 1, 2011 www.google.com/hostednews/ukpress

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) has developed a software program to assist in the conservation of the Pantanal freshwater wetlands in Brazil. The ecosystem is under increasing threat from large-scale development and changes in land management practices. The “DeltaDiet tool” helps scientists understand the nutritional needs and food gathering strategies of animals by providing speedy analysis of fecal samples from plant-eating creatures. Dr. Arnaud Desbiez, the RZSS regional conservation and research coordinator for Latin America, said: "To date over 250 plants have been characterized, leading to detailed manuals for plant families being published, and we have been able to examine the diet of several species through the different seasons of the year." This is particularly urgent since cattle ranching activities are intensifying and destroying important wildlife habitat. The database is being made available for use by other researchers and will be continually updated with new data.

Pygmy Hippo, Douc Langur, Cotton-top Tamarin Born at Singapore Zoo
February 1, 2011 www.zandavisitornews.com

SINGAPORE- The Singapore Zoo saw nearly 300 births and hatchings in 2010. The critically-endangered, cotton-top tamarin is one of the few species that survives better in captivity than in the wild. Despite protection from the international laws, there are only about 2,000 adult cotton-top tamarins left in the wild in South America. Eleven cotton-top tamarins were born at the zoo last year, giving the park a  population of 30. A pygmy hippo was born in October, bringing the Singapore population to 4. The Zoo had four Douc Langur births last year and now has a population of 15. Other animal babies welcomed in 2010 include the proboscis monkey, meerkat, manatee, spotted mousedeer, oriental small-clawed otter, Chinese stripe-necked turtle and Linne’s two-toed sloth, amongst the 44 species of births and hatchings. The zoo is operated by Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) which also runs the Night Safari, Jurong Bird Park and the soon-to-open River Safari. It has a number of conservation research initiatives such as the captive breeding of proboscis monkeys and study of their dietary requirements, as well as hormonal analyses to chart the oestrous cycles.

San Diego’s Youngest Panda Ready to be Weaned
February 1, 2011  www.sandiego.com/

The San Diego Zoo reported today that 18-month-old Yun Zi and his mother, Bai Yun, are beginning to show signs of separation and are keeping their distance from each other, especially in the mornings. Bai Yun has begun to refuse her baby’s nursing requests, which marks an important step in the weaning process of the 97-pound cub. Zookeepers monitoring the situation have begun to close the gate between the mother’s and cub’s sections of the exhibit in the mornings. The two pandas still spend their afternoons together, but over the next several days, the amount of time they spend together will gradually decrease. Yun Zi will live on his own while his mother, Bai Yun, prepares for mating season this spring. As part of this long-term program, the Zoo collaborates with the Chinese Academy of Science in studying panda behavior, ecology, genetics and conservation of wild pandas living in the Foping Nature Reserve.

ZooSchool Opens at Birmingham Zoo
February 1, 2011 www2.alabamas13.com/

BIRMINGHAM, AL  — The "Trails of Africa ZooSchool" at the Birmingham Zoo will officially open to the public in March. The exhibit cost 12.5 million dollars and covers 14 acres of zoo property.  It will have a variety of animals including elephants, ostriches and zebras, and will offer Birmingham City School students a unique opportunity to learn about Africa and the world around them. Trails of Africa will become part of the 7th grade curriculum for Birmingham city school students.  Students will travel here, learn about the elephants and the other animals and use that information in other areas of their lives. The ZooSchool is free to students and schools. The zoo has found several sponsors that include BBVA Compass Bank and Honda to pay for the costs of the program including transportation and meals for the students.

Chester Zoo Supports Indian Rhino Translocation
February 1, 2011 www.chesterfirst.co.uk

Indian rhinos are a conservation success story. The species has recovered from about 200 animals in the early 1990s to more than 2,850 today. Recently the Chester Zoo contributed to the translocation of four rhinos – one male and three females –from Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary to Manas National Park. The animals join two females that were moved to Manas in late December, and five rhinos (two males and three females) that were moved in 2008. Pobitora, has the highest density of rhinos in the world, with more than 90 rhinos in less than 18 square kilometers of habitat. To minimize the chance of loss from disease and other disasters, the rhinos need to be spread among other parks, and hopefully reduce the number of rhinos straying into nearby villages which can lead to injuries to people and animals. Zoos from Europe, Australia and the United States have joined forces to support the rhino moves with the guidance of veterinarians, field workers, park guards, conservationists and forest department officials. Dr. Roger Wilkinson, Chester Zoo’s head of field conservation and research, said, “In 2008 the zoo provided funding to help reduce the risk of poaching, human-wildlife conflict, disease transmission and ultimately protecting the habitat in Manas National Park.” Manas National Park was once an icon among India’s many spectacular wildlife reserves, and home to the tiger, pygmy hog and golden langur as well as elephants, wild buffalo and Indian bison. Rhinos were once common in the park, but violent civil conflict beginning in 1989 caused massive damage to the park’s infrastructure.

Species Management Plan for State of Florida
February 1, 2011 www.winknews.com

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission approved a new system in September 2010 for conserving and managing the 60 species currently threatened in Florida. The new system calls for conducting biological status reviews on all existing species on the state’s threatened lists. The new system also requires that management plans, tailored to the needs of the species, be created for each of the existing state-listed species. The information for the management plans will build on the data already received from the biological status reviews. With the help of the public and stakeholders, the FWC’s Species Conservation Planning Section will decide which reviewed species should be on Florida’s threatened list. The entire management-planning process is expected to take two to three years for all 60 species.

Landowners Asked to Join Conservation Reserve Program
February 1, 2011 www.twincities.com/

Signup for landowners who want to enroll in the Conservation Reserve Program starts March 14. The U.S. Department of Agriculture wants landowners to commit 4 million new acres of land to the program this year. About 31 million acres are currently enrolled, and 4.4 million acres could come out of the program because contracts are expiring.

Brookfield Zoo Finances
February 1, 2011 www.rblandmark.com/  By Bob Uphues

Despite record attendance of 2.2 million people in 2010, Brookfield Zoo’s revenue fell nearly $3 million below its projected estimate, said Stuart Strahl, president and CEO of the Chicago Zoological Society, While the zoo also sold a record number of annual memberships, it sold about 50,000 fewer individual daily tickets. "We had a record number of members come, but we also had a record number of free passes," Strahl said. The zoo saw increased free visits by community groups as part of the zoo's outreach campaign, he added. The drop in ticket sales affected parking income and "people are spending less inside the park on special attractions" like dolphin shows and the Hamill Family Play Zoo and on souvenirs and food. "It added up to about two and three-quarter million dollars below our $55 million projected budget," Strahl said. The zoo received fewer gifts from foundations and grant money was also lower, he said. The Zoo did turn a profit, however.  While its 2010 tax returns have not yet been filed with the state of Illinois, in 2009 the Chicago Zoological Society saw operating revenues outpace expenditures by more then $5.5 million. Of that number, $4.1 million was transferred to its capital projects fund and other transfers resulted in the operating fund showing a net loss of $70,000.

In 2009, the state of Illinois earmarked $17.1 million for infrastructure improvements at the zoo as part of that year's capital bill. To date, said Strahl, Brookfield Zoo has received about 33 percent of that money. But there's no guarantee the institution will receive the rest it was promised, and the zoo's policy of transferring operating profits into its capital fund is something that's not going to change, Strahl said, meaning there will be less money for other aspects of the zoo's operation. "When I arrived here we had $105 million in repairs needed to our infrastructure," Strahl said, "Now it's down to about $40 million.” In late 2010 in the zoo laid off employees and closed two exhibit yards. While their website shows three pages of job postings, most of those are the result of turnover not new positions. Since 2000 the number of full-time staffers at Brookfield Zoo has dropped 15 percent.

Oregon Zoo Announces 20-Year Master Plan
February 1, 2011 www.oregonlive.com  By Katy Muldoon

Oregon Zoo’s new 20-year plan includes projects that voters specifically approved in 2008, when they passed a $125 million zoo bond measure.

Elephant Survives Birth of Twins
February 1, 2011 www.cumbernauld-news.co.uk/

An African elephant called Masa gave birth last week to a male calf.  He is doing well, but his twin did not survive. Charlotte Jones of Howletts said the birth of twin elephants in the wild would often result in the death of both mother and calves: "Twin elephants are incredibly rare, estimated to occur in less than 2% of cases. The mother is doing fine and didn't have any complications. It could have been a lot more distressing for her.”

Mexican Wolves Increasing in Southwest
February 2, 2011  www.latimes.com

Federal authorities have counted eight more Mexican gray wolves in the Southwest this year, the first increase in the population of the controversial species in four years. In another encouraging sign for the animals, 14 are wild-born pups, twice the number counted last year. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a count of 29 of the wolves in Arizona and 21 in New Mexico. Last year it counted 42 wolves in the high deserts and mountains on the two states' borders. Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity credited former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson with helping revive the population by calling for an end to government trapping of some of the predators in 2007. The animals once thickly populated the region, but were basically wiped out by government efforts to eradicate them and protect livestock. Federal authorities released several dozen into the wild in the late 1990s, and since then the species has made halting progress toward a comeback. At the time of reintroduction, wildlife officials had estimated there would be 100 in the region by 2006.

Zoobiquity Conference -  Animal-Human Health Issues
February 2, 2011 newsroom.ucla.edu/

Zoobiquity was a one day conference organized by the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens, and the One Health Center of the UC Global Health Institute to provide physicians and veterinarians with a better understanding of the global nature of illness and to help both fields to work together to further medicine, science and research. The conference took place January 29 and involved 200 physicians and veterinarians. The morning was spent at UCLA Medical Center, where veterinary and human specialists compared diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to their patients in the areas of cancer, heart disease, psychiatry and infectious diseases. Case studies included: obsessive-compulsive disorder in a bull terrier and a video store employee; lead poisoning in a California condor and toddlers; a brain tumor in a Rhodesian Ridgeback dog and a retired school guidance counselor; Lyme disease in a thoroughbred horse and a mother of three; and salmonella in a farm dog and a reptile collector. More than 70 percent of infectious diseases, such as Ebola, West Nile virus and avian flu, come from the animal world and are transferred to humans. The afternoon was spent at the Los Angeles Zoo, where conference participants took part in rounds of animal cases, led by the zoo's veterinary staff. Experts in both animal and human medicine provided commentary on the important comparative elements in these cases, which included, among others, skin cancer in a rhinoceros horn, diabetes in New World and Old World monkeys, and a heart condition in a lioness.

Natterson Horowitz, director of imaging at the UCLA Cardiac Arrhythmia Center, assists in monitoring common heart issues that can also affect animals. Her work with the L.A. Zoo helped spark her interest in the commonalities between species and led to her spearheading the Zoobiquity conference.  A special project called the Zoobiquity Research Initiative was also launched at the conference. As part of the project, interdisciplinary teams of veterinary students from UC Davis and medical students from UCLA will work together on timely projects of importance to both animal and human health, including the effects of obesity, geriatrics and environmental toxic exposure. Experts from both fields of medicine will mentor the teams. The proceedings from the conference will be submitted for publication in both human and veterinary journals.

National Zoo Panda Pregnancy Watch Begins
February 2, 2011 www.google.com/hostednews/afp/ By Kerry Sheridan

Giant Panda breeding season lasts only 2-3 days each year, and National Zoo’s female, Mei Xiang, began making sounds that zookeepers recognized as fertility calls about two weeks ago, indicating that the time was near. An expert from China the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda in Wolong flew in to consult with Pierre Comizzoli, National Zoo’s reproductive physiologist, in late January. Finally, over the weekend, the two bears who spend the year in separate spaces were reintroduced. Comizzoli said Tang was helpful because the Wolong center hosts around 90 pandas, compared to Washington which only has a pair, and so he had seen plenty of panda behaviors. He was "definitely able to detect exactly what was wrong with the positioning of the male and the female" that was preventing natural impregnation. In the end, lots of efforts were made but zoo experts still were not sure if the female had been able to conceive, so artificial insemination was also performed, once on January 29 and once on January 30.

"Due in part to the bears' rigorous attempts at natural mating, efforts to retrieve semen from Tian Tian were not successful. The team decided to thaw high-quality semen of Tian Tian collected and frozen in 2005," the zoo said in a statement. Zoo keepers will not know for months if Mei Xiang, now 12 years old, was able to become pregnant. A panda's gestation can last 90-185 days. Hormone levels do not reveal anything early, and ultrasounds are difficult. Mei Xiang and Tian Tian belong to China but came to the US National Zoo in 2000 for 10 years of research. Their stay was recently extended by a five-year deal but if they don't produce a cub soon, they may be exchanged for a younger couple.

Knoxville Zoo’s Innovative Streaming Video
February 2, 2011  www.internetevolution.com  By John Myers

The Knoxville Zoo is an important red panda care and conservation center. They have a state-of-the-art red panda exhibit and just celebrated the birth of two new female cubs with rare bloodlines. That was when technology giant, Mozilla, who uses the red panda or fire fox as part of their company logo, offered to help the zoo put up live, streaming video of their red pandas online. John Myers, manager of technologies at Knoxville Zoo, came up with several innovative ideas for the installation.  For cameras he used consumer-grade wireless pan-and-tilt units, each with built-in infrared night vision and an integral Web server. Due to the likelihood of the cams being exposed to extremely warm conditions in the summer, they were lightly modified to enhance their cooling capacity. The cameras connect to a Web server in the zoo’s network through a wireless access point made by the same company. The built-in Web server on each of the cams allowed staff  to periodically adjust the aim of the camera, allowing tracking of the cubs and their parents as they roamed, through a Web browser interface. That, however, presented its own problem – how to rebroadcast the video feed from something that wasn’t designed for that purpose. The solution was easily implemented. Mozilla provided six laptops that were being retired from their organization. After clean installs of XP, the six laptops were set up so that each connected to one of the six cameras through a Web browser. Software was installed that allowed staff to capture a specific region of the screen, converting it into a virtual camera feed for use with Adobe’s free Flash Media Encoder. Flash Media Encoder is used to compile and push the video feed to the streaming server.

Two of the cameras are now under Plexiglas sheets mounted on poles outside, allowing people to watch the panda parents during the day, when they’re somewhat active. The night vision is disabled on these, as the parents go into their den just before dark and stay in all night. Another camera is in the other adult den, where the cub’s aunt resides with her new beau. The other three cameras are in the cubs’ den. Since the cubs are typical kids and don’t play or sleep on any kind of regular schedule, the night vision is set to automatic, making cub viewing a 24x7 possibility – an often entertaining possibility.

Year of the Turtle
February 2, 2011  www.eurekalert.org

PORTLAND, Ore --  Turtles (which include tortoises) are central to the food web. Sea turtles graze on the sea grass found on the ocean floor, helping to keep it short and healthy. Healthy sea grass in turn is the breeding ground for many species of fish, shellfish, and crustaceans. The same processes hold for freshwater and land turtles. Deanna Olson, a scientist with the Forest Service's Pacific Northwest Research Station, is co-chair of the Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation steering committee, and is spearheading the Year of the Turtle campaign. The Year of the Turtle activities include a monthly newsletter showcasing research and conservation efforts, education and citizen science projects. Olson also co-authored a report, "State of the Turtle," and created a new turtle mapping project for the U.S. See: http://www.parcplace.org/yearoftheturtle.htm .
About 20 percent of all turtle species worldwide are found in North America. About 50 percent of all freshwater turtle species worldwide are threatened, more than any other animal group. Primary threats to turtles are habitat loss and exploitation, but climate change patterns, and altered temperatures, may also impact their survival. The sex of some species of turtles is determined by the temperature of the nest: warm nests produce females, cooler nests, males.

U.N. Report: State of the World’s Forests
February 2, 2011 www.bbc.co.uk/

China, Vietnam, the Philippines and India have all seen their forested areas increase in size. There are also gains in Europe and North America, but forests are being lost in Africa and Latin America driven by rising demand for food and firewood. The findings come in the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) State of the World's Forests report. Environmental groups are warning that priority needs to be given to old forests and the biodiversity they maintain in the face of climate change and growing demand for resources. Conservation International is highlighting 10 places in the world where forests of iconic importance are under threat, including the banks of the Mekong River and the wildlife it supports, the lemur-rich jungles of Madagascar and the Californian Floristic Province, home of the giant sequoia.  All currently cover less than 10% of their original range.

Newhall Ranch Development Could Impact California Condor
February 2, 2011 www.latimes.com/ By Louis Sahagun

A plan to build a community of 60,000 residents along the last wild river in Southern California would alter roosting and foraging grounds for endangered California condor and convert nearly 20 miles of waterways into concrete storm drains and levees, which the EPA contends could increase flood risks to ranch residents and downstream communities, including Ventura and Santa Paula. The agency is challenging the Army Corps of Engineers, which is expected to issue permit this month authorizing the developer, Newhall Land, to use 20 million cubic yards of excavated soil to fill in wetlands in areas to be developed over the next 20 to 30 years in the 12,000-acre ranch. Under the Obama administration, the EPA has overruled the Army Corps of Engineers before, notably in its decision to require that the Los Angeles River be managed as a navigable waterway from its source in the west San Fernando Valley to its mouth in Long Beach. That subjects the river and its tributaries to the tight strictures of the Clean Water Act.

Jared Blumenfeld, the EPA's Pacific Southwest region administrator, has said that the environmental impacts that will result from the project, as a whole, are not consistent with the principles of sustainable growth. As it stands, the sprawling ranch doesn't look much different than it did a century ago. It is also home to endangered flora and fauna including the San Fernando Valley spineflower, the unarmed threespine stickleback, least Bell's vireo, southwestern willow flycatcher, coastal California gnatcatcher, arroyo toads and California condors. The USFWS is expected to issue a biological opinion some time this month that could, among other things, exempt the corps and the developer from prohibitions against harming, harassing or killing endangered species, including California condors, as a result of their activities on the property. In January, a coalition of environmental and Native American groups filed a lawsuit in San Francisco County Superior Court accusing the California Department of Fish and Game of violating environmental codes by approving the project it claims will damage water quality, wildlife and cultural resources.

Rare Stolzmann’s Fish-eating Rat is Flourishing
February 2, 2011  http://news.bbc.co.uk

Stolzmann's fish-eating rat (Ichthyomys stolzmanni) is one of the world’s least known rodents. Discovered in 1893 in Peru, only 7 specimens had ever been recorded until Peruvian biologists Victor Pacheco and Joaquin Ugarte-Nunez conducted a new survey and found that it has now become a "nuisance". Since the 1970s, when trout farms in the area expanded, the rats have been thriving, regularly eating baby trout on trout farms, easily adapting to man-made changes in the environment. Details of the rat's new status are published in the journal Mammalian Biology.

White-Nose Syndrome Update
February 2, 2011  www.eurekalert.org

A review published in Conservation Biology reveals that WNS has already killed one million bats, targeting them during hibernation. It is believed to be caused by a newly discovered cold-adapted fungus, Geomyces destructans. Janet Foley from the University of California, Davis said, "By July 2010 G.destructans was identified in hibernating bats in 13 states as well as in Ontario and Quebec across the Canadian. The 6 species affected in eastern North America include: the endangered Indiana and gray bats (Myotis sodalis and M. grisescens), little brown bat (M. lucifugus) and the cave bat (M. velifer). Infection has also been confirmed in five species of bats in Europe, although no similar epidemic has yet been recorded. The low temperatures and humid conditions of bat caves create ideal breeding grounds for this fungus, and in some bat colonies the mortality rate from WNS has been more than 95%.

It remains unclear if G. destructans is the only pathogen involved, how it causes mortality, and its means of transmission. Some evidence suggests that people can move the fungus from cave to cave. "Our study considers how epidemiology and disease ecology can help fill these knowledge gaps," said Foley. "Based on current data, we believe that the culling of bats would be both premature and ill-advised. Instead we see efforts to conserve the genetic diversity of bat populations, combined with a program of educating the public to be key parts of the roadmap." Dr. Foley's team includes bat and disease ecologists from three different public agencies and academia and tries to make the point that creative, scientifically-sound ideas will be key to the success of any management plans. The group outlines an outbreak investigation framework that includes establishment of diagnostic standards, case definitions, and gathering of information on potential treatments for similar diseases. The importance of monitoring bat population health is also stressed, as is improving public education and awareness of the disease. The team also called for further studies of the chemical or biological agents that can kill the fungus, but have yet to be proven safe for bats. If current declines in bat populations continue, the researchers expect strong reductions in the ability of bats to reduce insect pests and play important ecological roles in unique cave ecosystems.

Link Between Habitat and Body Size in Turtles
February 3, 2011 www.physorg.com/

The 330 species of present-day chelonians can be found dwelling on remote islands, traveling across vast expanses of ocean, and living in desert and freshwater habitats on every major continent. The largest weigh over 1,000 pounds and are more than 6 feet in length, while the smallest weigh just a few ounces and fit in the palm of your hand. Combining statistical computer modeling with genetic data and the fossil record, Michael Alfaro and colleagues at UCLA demonstrated that different environments have specific optimal body sizes for their chelonian inhabitants. Chelonians living in marine or island habitats have an optimal body size several times larger than their cousins on the mainland, Marine turtles have the largest optimal shell length (about 4.5 feet), followed by island tortoises (approximately 2.5 feet), while freshwater and mainland chelonians are several times smaller (roughly 1 foot). Giant island tortoises found in the Galapagos and Seychelles provide a classic example of "island gigantism," a well-observed phenomenon in which an island-dwelling species evolves to be much larger than its mainland counterparts.

In the case of the giant tortoises, a larger body size gives them the ability to survive long periods without food, which may be necessary due to prolonged droughts that can occur in island habitats. Large body size also may allow giant tortoises to "raft" across vast expanses of ocean while going weeks without food, a feat documented through observations of giant tortoises with barnacle growth found on the mainland, Alfaro said. "What is exceptional about chelonians is that they are one of the most distinctive groups of vertebrates, arose early in the history of terrestrial vertebrates, and persisted for a long time," Alfaro said. "Chelonians are good examples of evolutionary survivors." The study’s lead author is a high school student volunteer. The study is currently available online in Biology Letters.  

New SeaWorld Attractions in 2011
February 3, 2011 www.cbsnews.com/

ORLANDO, Fla. -- SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment will open 10 new attractions at its parks this year, including a new killer whale show at SeaWorld’s in three cities. "One Ocean" has an educational, environmental theme, with a focus on teaching the public about orcas. It will be offered at SeaWorld Orlando at the end of April, SeaWorld San Diego in May and SeaWorld San Antonio in June. Discovery Cove, a separate theme park in Orlando which offers interactions with dolphins and other aquatic animals, will open The Grand Reef in June, with hammocks and sandy beaches. Visitors will be able to swim and snorkel amid marine life similar to what you might find in a real coral reef. SeaWorld San Diego will open Turtle Reef this summer, with a ride and massive aquarium featuring sea turtles, tropical fish and an underwater viewing gallery. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay will debut Cheetah Hunt, a coaster with 4,429 feet of track and three zero-to-60 mph launches in one ride. A new viewing area, Cheetah Run, will offer a close-up look at real cheetahs, including a chance to see them run in a daily workout session. SeaWorld is also about to restart its popular "Dine with Shamu" killer whale show. It will begin Feb. 26 at SeaWorld San Antonio and later this spring at parks in Orlando and San Diego. The performance includes a buffet meal for guests while trainers work nearby with one of the park's orcas. SeaWorld says the construction spree, which is expected to approach nearly $200 million in 2011, is the largest single-year capital investment in company history.

SeaWorld’s New Killer Whale Show
February 3, 2011 www.palmbeachpost.com  By JASON GARCIA

SeaWorld’s new killer whale show “One Ocean” will replace the nearly 5-year-old “Believe” show. The Feb. 24 death of SeaWorld Orlando trainer Dawn Brancheau, who was drowned by a company killer whale, and the safety review that followed, contributed to this decision. Trainers will now work exclusively from the stage, instead of in the water. Instead of "rocket hops" — the iconic maneuver in which a whale propels a trainer out of the water — One Ocean will feature highlights such as multiple orcas performing in unison and maneuvering amid giant fountains. SeaWorld officials say they will reinstitute “trainer in-water work" only if they can make sufficient safety improvements.  According to Julie Scardina, curator of animal training, “One Ocean will also have a more explicit conservation theme than Believe did, with images and messages that revolve around the ocean, the environment, what people can do to make a difference." Scardina said that the new show will emphasize the individual personalities of each of the roughly two-dozen killer whales in SeaWorld's corporate collection. During the show, trainers will have some guests interact with the animals through the glass surrounding the show pool. Trainers will also have more latitude about what behaviors to use than they did during the tightly choreographed Believe.

To prepare for One Ocean, SeaWorld's three Shamu Stadium orca complexes will undergo significant construction, as crews install fountains, paint new color schemes and, in some of the parks, replace oversized video screens. Scardina said the physical improvements will be comparable to what SeaWorld did to prepare for Believe, on which the company reportedly spent more than $10 million. Scardina said SeaWorld is also incorporating new safety features developed as part of the internal review launched following the Brancheau tragedy. But she declined to discuss specific measures, citing the ongoing legal fight in which SeaWorld is contesting a citation issued last year by OSHA. A hearing before an administrative judge with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Review Commission is scheduled for April 25.

Philippine Tarsier Research
February 3, 2011 www.sunstar.com.ph/

KORONADAL CITY -- The Philippine tarsier is one of the country's primary flagship species, but very little is known about its behavior or conservation status. Alfredo S. Pascual, regional director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Central Mindanao, said a Wildlife Gratuitous Permit was recently issued to Endangered Species International, a California-based conservation group to study the species. Biologist Pierre Fidenci, president of Endangered Species, plans to assess the tarsiers' distribution, population size, and habitat in Mt. Matutum, a protected area. He hopes to establish a core conservation center at Sitio Bagong Silang in Barangay Linan, Tupi town in South Cotabato. Tarsiers will be captured through mist nets and will be fitted with radio transmitters and tracked for two months, while non-radio tagged tarsiers will be marked with colored plastic rings. In 2009, the indigenous people of Sitio Bagong Silang in Linan, Tupi, South Cotabato captured a tarsier along with three grass owls. This led to the discovery of the tarsier sanctuary in Linan.

Calgary Zoo’s “Spotlight on Tigers”
February 3, 2011 www.examiner.com/

Calgary Zoo visitors took a stand today by wearing tiger masks to show their support for the 350 Amur (Siberian) Tigers left in the wild. The zoo handed out 350 Siberian tiger masks to illustrate the total number of the animals believed to exist in the wild. “I think it makes it real,” said Simon Scott, director of communications and marketing, of the impact of the masks. “We often hear about problems in other countries but until you actually see it and experience it, it’s often difficult to grasp. I hope it will bring into very sharp focus that there are very few of these animals left remaining in the wild. The captive breeding programs at institutions like ours are involved in are essential if we want generations to come to ever see these animals,” said Scott. The zoo currently has three Amur tigers, a male (“Baikal”) and two females (“Kita” and “Katja”). “Spotlight on Tigers” is part of the Zoo’s  “It’s an Amazing World” series which will run throughout 2011. Gorillas, grizzly bears and hippos will be featured in awareness programs later this year.

French Documentary on Captive Orangutan
February 3, 2011 www.kpbs.org/

40-year-old orangutan Nénette was born in Borneo, and is the oldest resident at the Paris Zoo (the famed Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes) where she has lived since 1972. Documentarian Nicolas Philibert filmed her through the glass walls of her enclosure, along with her cage mates Tübo (her son), Théodora and Tamü. The film captures the comments of zookeepers, zoo visitors, music, and children, but the camera stays on the orangutans, mostly Nénette as she sits quietly for 67 minutes.

Wolverines Threatened by Climate Change
February 3, 2011  www2.ucar.edu/news/

Wolverines inhabit the boreal forests and tundra regions of North America, Europe, and Asia. Their thick, oily fur insulates them from frost and large padded paws help them run through deep snow. While some 15,000 or more wolverines are believed to roam Canada and an unknown number in Alaska, only a few dozen to a few hundred are believed to live in the contiguous United States, almost entirely in mountainous areas in Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, and Washington. They occupy regions that have late-season snow cover and relatively cool summer temperatures. Female wolverines make their springtime dens in the snow, which provides warmth to the newborn kits and protects them from predators. The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) reports that if society continues to emit large amounts of greenhouse gases, their habitat is likely to warm dramatically. “Unless the wolverine is able to very rapidly adapt to summertime temperatures far above anything it currently experiences, and to a spring with little or no snow cover, it is unlikely that it will continue to survive in the contiguous U.S. under a high or medium-low emissions scenario,” the study concludes. Concerned over habitat loss and the potential threat of climate change, the USFWS announced in December 2010 that the wolverine warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act, but delayed that protection because other species took higher priority.

Establishing a Whooping Crane Population in Louisiana
February 3, 2011 Federal Register Vol. 76, No. 23 pp 6066-67 
www.gpoaccess.gov/fdys   

The USFWS will reintroduce whooping cranes (Grus americana) into historic habitat in southwestern Louisiana with the intent to establish a nonmigratory flock. This reintroduced population will be designated a nonessential experimental population (NEP) The geographic boundary of the NEP includes the entire State of Louisiana. The objectives of the reintroduction are: to advance recovery of the endangered whooping crane; to implement a primary recovery action; to further assess the suitability of Louisiana as whooping crane habitat; and to evaluate the merit of releasing captive-reared whooping cranes, conditioned for wild release, as a technique for establishing a self-sustaining, nonmigratory population. The only natural wild population of whooping cranes remains vulnerable to extirpation through a natural catastrophe or contaminant spill, due primarily to its limited wintering distribution along the Texas gulf coast. If successful, this action will result in the establishment of an additional self-sustaining population, and contribute toward the recovery of the species. No conflicts are envisioned between the whooping crane’s reintroduction and any existing or anticipated Federal, State, Tribal, local government, or private actions such as agriculture-aquaculture-livestock practices, oil/gas exploration and extraction, pesticide application, water management, construction, recreation, trapping, or hunting.

Endangered Species Permit Applications
February 3, 2011 Federal Register /Vol. 76, No. 24 pp 6490-91
www.gpoaccess.gov/fdys   

The USFWS invites the public to comment on the following applications to conduct certain activities with endangered species. Comments on these permit applications must be received on or before March 7, 2011. Submit to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Endangered Species Program Manager, Region 8, 2800 Cottage Way, Room W–2606, Sacramento, CA 95825 (telephone: 916– 414–6464; fax: 916–414–6486). Please refer to the respective permit number for each application when submitting comments. For additional information contact: Daniel Marquez, Fish and Wildlife Biologist; (telephone: 760–431–9440)

Permit No. TE–31042A Applicant: Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi, Texas.
The applicant requests a permit to take (trap, seine, capture, handle, fin clip, release, collect, transport, and captive breed) the Owens tui chub (Siphateles bicolor snyderi) in conjunction with surveys, genetic research, and captive breeding experiments in Inyo and Mono Counties, California, for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE–30656A Applicant: James E. Berrian, San Diego, California.
The applicant requests a permit to take (survey by pursuit) the Quino checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha quino) in conjunction with surveys throughout the range of the species in California for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE–30659A Applicant: Creekside Center for Earth Observation, Menlo Park, California. The applicant requests a permit to take (survey, capture, handle, collect, translocate, and release) the Mission Blue butterfly (Icaricia icarioides missionensis) in conjunction with translocation activities from San Bruno Mountain, San Mateo County, to Twin Peaks Natural Area, San Francisco County, California, for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE–233367 Applicant: Laura E. Gorman, Redondo Beach, California.
The applicant requests an amendment to an existing permit (December 16, 2009, 74 FR 66668) to take (harass by survey) the southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) in conjunction with surveys and population monitoring activities throughout the range of the species in California and Nevada for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE–31406A Applicant: California State Parks, Channel Coast District, Ventura, California.
The applicant requests a permit to take (survey, locate and monitor nests, install fence, population monitor, and collect carcasses) the California least tern (Sterna antillarum browni) in conjunction with surveys and population monitoring activities at the McGrath State Beach and Mandalay State Beach, Ventura County, California, for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE–798003 Applicant: North State Resources, Redding, California.
The applicant requests an amendment to an existing permit (February 22, 2000, 65 FR 8731) to take (survey, capture, handle and release) the California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense) in conjunction with surveys throughout the range of the species in California for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE–32399A Applicant: Judson D. Sechrist, Denver, Colorado.
The applicant requests a permit to take (capture, handle, collect, transport, and kill) the Lost River sucker (Deltistes luxatus) and the shortnose sucker (Chasmistes brevirostris) in conjunction with research, entrainment minimization studies, and testing effectiveness of non-physical fish barriers in Klamath County, Oregon, for the purpose of enhancing their survival.

Permit No. TE–170381 Applicant: William F. Stagnaro, San Francisco, California.
The applicant requests an amendment to an existing permit (December 16, 2009, 74 FR 66668) to take (collect tissue samples) the California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense) in conjunction with genetic studies throughout the range of the species in California for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

San Diego Water Authority Habitat Conservation Plan
February 3, 2011 Federal Register /Vol. 76, No. 24 pp 6491-93
[FWS–R8–ES–2010–N261; 80221–1112–80221–F2]
www.gpoaccess.gov/fdys   

Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), USFWS is announcing the availability of the final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) / Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the application from the San Diego County Water Authority (Water Authority; Applicant) for an incidental take permit. We also announce the availability of the Water Authority’s Subregional Natural Community Conservation Program/Habitat Conservation Plan (NCCP/HCP), which the applicant has submitted with their incidental take permit application and Implementing Agreement (IA). If issued, the permit would authorize incidental take of species for a 55-year term during construction, operations, and maintenance activities by the applicant in San Diego and Riverside Counties, California. A record of decision will be signed no sooner than 30 days after the publication of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notice of the Final EIS in the Federal Register. We must receive any comments by 5 p.m. on March 7, 2011. Send comments by U.S. mail to Mr. Jim Bartel, Field Supervisor, at Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, 6010 Hidden Valley Road, Suite 101, Carlsbad, CA 92011; For further information contact Ms. Karen A. Goebel, Assistant Field Supervisor, at the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office address abov ve; or telephone (760) 431–9440.

The Water Authority has submitted their Subregional Natural Community Conservation Program/Habitat Conservation Plan with their incidental take permit application   If issued, the permit would authorize incidental take of 37 animal species and provide assurances for 26 plant species (including 18 federally listed species) during the proposed 55-year term of the permit. The permit is needed because incidental take of federally listed animal species could occur during construction, operations, and maintenance activities by the Applicant within the approximately 992,000-acre (401,450- hectare) Plan Area in western San Diego County and south-central Riverside County, California. For copies of the documents, please contact the Service by telephone at (760) 431– 9440, or by letter to the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office. Copies are also available for viewing at the Water Authority’s Web site: http://www.sdcwa.org/

The Applicant seeks incidental take authorization for 37 animal species and assurances for 26 plant species. Covered species  include 26 plant species (5 endangered, 5 threatened, and 16 unlisted); 5 invertebrate species (3 endangered and 2 unlisted); 2 amphibian species (1 endangered and 1 unlisted); 9 reptile species (all unlisted); 13 bird species (2 endangered, 1 threatened, and 10 unlisted); and 8 mammal species (1 endangered and 7 unlisted). Take authorized for listed covered animal species would be effective upon permit issuance. For currently unlisted covered animal species, take authorization would become effective concurrent with listing, should the species be listed under the Act during the permit term. The proposed permit would include the following eight federally listed animal species:

Stephens’ kangaroo rat (Dipodomys stephensi; endangered),
Least Bell’s vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus; endangered),
Coastal California gnatcatcher (Polioptila californica californica; threatented),
Southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus; endangered),
Arroyo toad (Anaxyrus (=Bufo) californicus; endangered),
Quino checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha quino; endangered),
Riverside fairy shrimp (Streptocephalus woottoni; endangered),
San Diego fairy shrimp (Branchinecta sandiegoensis; endangered).
The proposed permit would include assurances for the following 10 federally listed plant species:

Encinitas baccharis (Baccharis vanessae; threatened),
Otay mesa mint (Pogogyne nudiuscula; endangered),
Otay tarplant (Deinandra conjugens;threatened),
San Diego ambrosia (Ambrosia pumila; endangered) ),
San Diego button-celery (Eryngium aristulatum var. parishii; endangered),
San Diego mesa mint (Pogogyne abramsii; endangered),
San Diego thorn-mint (Acanthomintha ilicifolia; threatened),
spreading navarretia (Navarretia fossalis; threatened),
Thread-leaved brodiaea (Brodiaea filifolia; threatened),
Willowy monardella (Monardella viminea; endangered).

White-Nose Syndrome Now in Indiana Bats
February 3, 2011 www.enn.com

The fungus responsible for the deaths of more than a million bats in the U.S. has now reached a second Midwestern state. Wildlife officials in Indiana confirm that two bats found in the southern part of the state have the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome. The latest find is particularly disturbing because Indiana is the stronghold of the federally endangered Indiana bat, a species that was showing signs of recovery in parts of its range until the advent of the syndrome in 2006. From its epicenter in upstate New York, the lethal fungus of white-nose syndrome has now spread to 15 states, including Missouri, and Ontario and Quebec. Bats from six different species have died, and three other bat species have been discovered with the fungus. Mortality rates in some Northeast bat colonies have reached 100 percent. Last spring, the white-nose pathogen was found on a bat in western Oklahoma, fueling biologists’ concerns that the disease would soon span the continent.

Toledo Zoo’s Redevelopment Planned
February 4, 2011 http://toledoblade.com   By CARL RYAN

The Toledo Zoo plans to demolish 9 rental properties it owns near the zoo because it wants to get out of the landlord business, which incurs a loss of $10,000 annually. Once accomplished, the zoo's plan is to ask the city for permission to create a service drive to the zoo's gate  Zoo officials believe such an alteration would greatly reduce traffic to the entrance. The zoo has no plans to build on or pave the empty lots left by the demolition. The three-quarters of an acre will be seeded with grass or perhaps planted with mulberry trees, whose fruit could be harvested and used for animal feed. The property is zoned residential and the city would have to approve a request to put it to another use. Neighborhood meetings are being held to discuss the proposal.

Bushmeat Hunting Threatens Tanzania Biodiversity
February 4, 2011 www.physorg.com/

A new report from an international group of scientists describes the results of three separate research projects focused on the threats to biodiversity in Uzungwa Scarp Forest Reserve in southern Tanzania. Some species in this region are on the brink of extinction from one of their last remaining strongholds, especially the Udzungwa red colobus, a monkey species found only in these mountains and nowhere else in the world. Similar declining trends were detected for the small forest antelopes such as duikers. Human threats, especially hunting for bushmeat, but also forest degradation through selective removal of trees, are behind these declining trends. “The government needs to allocate the resources that are required to manage this national treasure and to address the needs of the adjacent communities,” said Charles Meshack, Executive Director of the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group, Tanzania’s leading NGO in forest conservation. Francesco Rovero of Italy’s Trento Museum of Natural Sciences, led the preparation of the report.

Many Yellowstone Bison May be Slaughtered
February 4, 2011 www.physorg.com/news/

Roughly half of Yellowstone's estimated 3,900 bison have been exposed to brucellosis, which can cause infected animals to prematurely abort their young. There have been no recorded cattle-to-bison brucellosis transmissions, and few cattle remain in the immediate vicinity of the park. Wildlife advocates said those conditions make it possible for government agencies to ease their restrictions on where bison can move. The Park's herds are suffering their worst winter in several years. Almost 400 of the animals have attempted to migrate out of the park in search of food, but many end up in government-operated corrals under a controversial program meant to guard against the spread of the disease brucellosis to livestock. Those that test positive for exposure to brucellosis are slated to be shipped to slaughter. So far, 161 of the 368 captured bison had been tested. Fifty-three tests came back positive and 108 negative, said park spokesman Al Nash. There is no guarantee the negative animals will be released. Holding them until spring in the corrals along the park border could prove impossible if bison keep pouring out of the park. Livestock officials said plans to ship brucellosis-positive bison to packing plants beginning this week had been delayed until at least Monday, after agencies ran into difficulties lining up trucks for transport. Wildlife advocates scrambled to stop the shipments, asking a federal judge in Helena for a restraining order that would halt the impending slaughter. Those involved in the legal effort said the chance of livestock being infected by bison is too low to justify the death of so many bison - the largest wild land animals in North America.

Fossa Declines in Madagascar
February 4, 2011 http://news.bbc.co.uk/earth/hi/earth_news/

Fossas, the largest carnivore on the island of Madagascar, is a highly specialized, cat-like predator. They are expert climbers and can chase down lemurs as well as small shrew-like tenrecs and almost any other vertebrate in Madagascar's forests, with the possible exception of wild boar. Little is known about how many fossa exist on Madagascar, with official estimates suggesting that fewer than 2500 survive and the animal should be considered as Endangered. Mia-Lana Lührs, a PhD at Germany's University of Göttingen and the German Primate Center, believes the number is much lower. She has recorded a substantial fall in the numbers of fossa living in Kirindy, a reserve within forests on the west of the island, considered a stronghold of the fossa. Her studies, which use GPS tracking collars to follow individual fossa, suggest no more than 30 fossa of either sex now exist in Kirindy. A forest fragment that size would be expected to be home to many times that number. Habitat destruction is one significant cause of the fossa's recent decline reason. But they are also killed by villagers to prevent the fossa from stealing their chickens. A separate recent piece of research by PhD student Christopher Golden of the University of California, Berkeley, found that fossa are hunted for food by people within 55 to 60% of those villages studied in northeastern Madagascar and body parts are also used in traditional medicines in some parts of the island.

Tanzania Will Not Build Serengeti Highway
February 4, 2011 news.sciencemag.org  by Rebecca Kessler

The Tanzanian government has announced that it will leave an existing dirt road within the Serengeti National Park "untouched" while improving roads on either side of the  park that lead to the passage. The park is home to spectacular yearly mass migrations of grazing animals that support legions of predators. The highway would have cut directly across the grazers' route between the southern plains, where protein-rich grass beckons during the wet season, and the northern woodlands, where the animals seek refuge during the dry season. Concerns are that a major road will irreparably fragment habitat, deliver poachers directly to the park's interior, and turn thundering herds into roadkill. The project was intended to bring economic development to a marginalized area within a poverty-stricken nation. Most opposition has come from international groups or individuals who live outside Tanzania.

The Tanzanian government says it intends to pave sections of the road outside the park, one from the western park gate west to the town of Musoma, the other from the eastern park gate southeast to the town of Arusha. "Inside the park, it's going to be left untouched. It's not a new plan. That's what the president has been saying all the time." "It sounds as if the government is beginning to create a loophole," said Andrew Dobson, a Princeton University ecologist who has opposed the road project in the past. Dobson and others have been advocating the construction of an alternative road beyond the park's southern border that they say would go easier on wildlife and benefit more Tanzanians. With four colleagues, Dobson co-authored a new paper, published last week in the journal PLoS One, based on a detailed computer model examining how a worst-case road-development scenario might affect the wildebeest (gnu). Assuming the road inside the park is paved and eventually fenced, as has happened elsewhere, the paper predicts the 1.2 million-strong wildebeest population would be split into two and its numbers slashed by one-third. Such a drop in gnu numbers could affect the entire Serengeti, since the animals are a staple for predators and industrious ecosystem engineers, said Ricardo Holdo, a community ecologist at the University of Missouri, Columbia, who was the lead author. "Building a barrier that cuts across the Serengeti essentially decouples the system."

Biomimicry: Woodpeckers Head and Shock-Absorbers
February 4, 2011 www.newscientist.com  by Paul Marks

A woodpecker's head experiences decelerations of 1200g as it drums on a tree at up to 22 times per second. Humans are often left concussed if they experience 80 to 100g, Researchers from UC, Berkeley, studied video and CT scans of the bird's head and neck and found that it has four structures that absorb mechanical shock: The hard-but-elastic beak does not bend or fracture; a tongue-supporting structure (unique to the woodpecker) is sinewy and springy and distributes loads from vibration; spongy, porous bone in the skull stops low frequency vibrations from reaching the brain; and there is little room between the skull and the brain for cerebrospinal fluid, so the transmission of vibrations is reduced. The researchers were able to construct artificial analogues for all these factors so they could build a mechanical shock absorbing system to protect microelectronics that works in a similar way.

Taronga Zoo Elephant Has Tuberculosis
February 5, 2011 http://www.smh.com.au  By Deborah Smith

Taronga Zoo's Asian elephant, Pak Boon, who gave birth to a calf three months ago, was diagnosed with tuberculosis in December. Senior veterinarian Larry Vogelnest, said the 19-year-old female had no symptoms but tested positive in a routine, laboratory screen which is conducted every 3 months. Dr. Vogelnest said she was probably infected with the bacteria in Thailand before coming to Australia four years ago, and the disease had remained dormant and undetectable. ''Now it has reactivated, almost certainly because of the birth of her calf.'' The strain of Mycobacterium tuberculosis she has accounts for about a third of human cases in Thailand. It is not one of the deadly drug-resistant strains but she will need treatment for up to a year and the three types of drugs she is being given could cost as much as $50,000. Zoo staff are taking precautions by wearing masks to do trunk washes for TB tests and preventing Pak Boon from blowing water out of her trunk near people. She has not been separated from her group, as this would cause her stress. The zoo's seven other elephants have tested negative.

About one-third of the world's human population is thought to be infected with TB but only about 4 to 10 per cent of people develop active disease. In the US between 1994 and 2006, 33 Asian elephants, or about 12 per cent of the species in that country, tested positive for TB, according to Elephant Care International.

USDA Cites Chattanooga Zoo in Animal Deaths
February 5, 2011 www.tennessean.com/

CHATTANOOGA, TN — Federal inspectors have found that feeding and care problems at the Warner Park Zoo contributed to at least four of 10 recent animal deaths there. Two marmosets died after they weren't fed for two days. "This was not a failure of our keepers to provide care, but an oversight by our management team when preparing the schedule," Zoo Director Darde Long said in a written response. "We are deeply disturbed by this, and already (have) taken a step to make sure it will not happen again."

The investigation was prompted by an  anonymous complaint after the death of Hank, a chimpanzee that was a favorite of zoo visitors. The chimp was one of seven animals to die at the zoo last month. USDA Inspector Susanne Brunkhorst found that two newborn snow leopards died because the mother had been kept on exhibit with no access to her den in 20- and 30-degree weather. Another cub born inside survived. Brunkhorst wrote that while snow leopards may be used to cold weather, special consideration is needed for pregnant females. She reported finding only one small bale of hay at the petting zoo when they visited the facility on Jan. 26 and 27. "In addition to the 11 goats and 2 mini-horses, the camel and the buffalo highlander cross are also fed hay. One bale does not contain enough hay for 15 animals for even one day," the report said. According to the report, logs kept by the zoo staff noted that the facility ran out of hay on Jan. 23. The zoo is now in search of a licensed veterinary technician to ensure better animal care.

35 Animals Freeze to Death in Mexican Zoo
February 5, 2011 www.latimes.com

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (AP) — Thirty-five animals at a zoo in the northern Mexico state of Chihuahua have frozen to death during the region's coldest weather in six decades. Serengeti Zoo owner Alberto Hernandez says 14 parrots, 13 serpents, five iguanas, two crocodiles and a capuchin monkey died. He said Saturday that power failures cut off electrical heating at the zoo in the town of Aldama. Temperatures have dropped to 9 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 13 Celsius) in the area, the coldest weather in 60 years.

Study of Gibbon’s Regional Accents
February 7, 2011  www.eurekalert.org

Crested gibbons (genus Nomascus) live in dense Asian rainforests, specifically in China, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Both males and females sing in order to define territory and find a mate, and couples also sing duets to strengthen their pair bonding. New research published in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Evolutionary Biology describes how gibbon song can be used to identify not only which species of Gibbon is singing but the area it is from. Researchers from the German Primate Center, Goettingen, compared the songs and the genetic diversity of 19 populations, covering 6 species of crested gibbons, to their location. Gibbon songs are adapted to transmission in a forest so the transmission energy is concentrated in a single frequency band, with slow modulations, on an optimized song syllable. Consequently, in order to identify species, over 400 song samples were analyzed using 53 acoustic parameters. Genetic diversity between the species was measured by looking at mutations in the gene coding for mitochondrial cytochrome b.

Phoenix Zoo’s “Orang-Hutan” Habitat
February 7, 2011 www.prweb.com/

The Phoenix Zoo announced today that “Orangutan Home Services”, a Tempe-based Air-conditioning company, is generously donating $500,000 to help support the Zoo’s construction of Orang-Hutan: “People of the Forest” habitat. The exhibit will allow 5 times more space outdoors and nearly 15 times more space indoors than the previous exhibit. The new facility includes two indoor climate controlled habitats and two large outdoor habitats with sway poles, ropes and plenty of climbing structures for the Zoo’s family of four orangutans; Duchess, Bess, Michael and Kasih. Bert Castro, CEO and President of the Phoenix Zoo, said, “This exhibit is the largest single undertaking in the history of the Zoo and their donation helps us to provide a state of the art habitat for our orangutans.” Jordy Tessler, President of Orangutan Home Services, has a clear vision for his company’s philanthropy: “Our slogan is ‘Improve Your Habitat.’ The Phoenix Zoo is the ideal place for families, and children of all ages. We want to do our part to ensure that everyone who visits will have a positive experience.” The exhibit  will open in April 2011.

N.C. Zoo Raises More Than $4M
February 7, 2011, www.bizjournals.com

The N.C. Zoo Society raised $4.1 million in 2010, marking one of the society’s best years since its inception in 1968. The society has only topped the $4 million mark at two other points in its history: in 2002 and 2009. Russ Williams, the society’s executive director, said the tough economic times resulted in a dropoff in corporate donations, but individual contributors helped pick up the slack. Last year’s donations supported the building of an elephant breeding and reproduction center, animal care and enrichment and education programs for students and teachers. Internationally, the society donated to animal welfare programs in Egypt and Afghanistan, conservation programs in Uganda and Cameroon and forest preservation in Nigeria.

Prague Zoo’s Komodo Dragon Parthenogenesis
February 7, 2011 praguemonitor.com

PRAGUE, CZ – The Prague zoo's female Komodo dragon Aranka has laid two sets of eggs. After Aranka's partner died a year ago, the keepers replaced her with another male, partly disabled Leonardo, who, the keepers assert, has never mated with her. Aranka approached him repeatedly, but keepers never saw them mate, not even on the recordings of the camera that permanently monitors them. Leonardo came from the Plzen zoo, west Bohemia, where he had no offspring with his partner. In spite of this, Aranka laid six fertilized eggs last August and another five a week ago. Of the former lay, three eggs have been developing.  Petr Velensky said, "Similar cases of parthenogenetic breeding have been registered in English zoos twice, in London and in Chester. In both cases, the females involved had lived without a male for many years, for almost all their adult lives. He said Aranka's eggs also may have been fertilized with her former partner's sperm remaining in her oviducts. The Prague zoo ranks among the world's most successful in breeding Komodo dragons. Last year, twenty young hatched from Aranka's twenty eggs fertilized by her former partner. Aranka is exceptional as she has given birth to young three times already, which only the Washington zoo's female managed so far. Unlike her Washington counterpart, Aranka is expecting two sets of young now. The wild population stands at about 5,000.

Bison Genetic Study Has Implications for Their Survival
February 7, 2011 www.physorg.com

Yellowstone bison, about 3,700 of them, are considered to be the last wild, pure-bred herds, according to the Park Service. Other conservation herds have DNA contaminated with cattle genes from cross-breeding in the late 19th century, a Park Service report shows. This winter, hundreds of bison have strayed into nearby Montana grazing lands searching for food. Livestock producers fearing the bison will spread brucellosis, a bacterial infection that can cause domestic cows to miscarry, look to the government to control the exodus. The National Park Service plans to slaughter any of these bison that test positive for exposure to brucellosis, saying as many as 1,600 head of buffalo could be culled  this year, depending on how the winter progresses.

Now a new bison genetic study has been published by Thomas Pringle of UC Santa Cruz that is critical of the government culling policy. He faults the government for overlooking a hereditary weakness in the bison herd that could be amplified by the culling program. He found that most Yellowstone bison whose DNA were tested carried a genetic mutation that affects cellular metabolism and makes bison lethargic, rendering them less capable of foraging in deep snow, fending off predators and competing for mates. Pringle said his bison research demonstrates that culling of the wild herd based on brucellosis, rather on the health of their genes, may push the species over the edge into a form of extinction. "They're taking a really high risk of killing bison with healthy genes and getting into a situation where they can't go back; the good DNA will be lost," said Pringle, whose paper relies on published genetic data, analyses of bison fossils and samples from herds at national parks like Yellowstone. His paper is at: http://precedings.nature.com/documents/5645/version/1

Dubai Aquarium Offers Behind the Scenes Tours
February 7, 2011 www.ameinfo.com/

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES -- Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo is now offering behind the scenes tours. Visitors observe feeding, cleaning and care for the 33,000 aquatic animals. They can visit the dive platform, food preparation area, laboratory area and quarantine facility. The tour lasts about 15 minutes and is led by specially trained educators. To experience this tour, visitors are to purchase the Platinum Aquarium Package. Gordon White, General Manager, Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo, said, “Different aquatic animals and zones are selected for the animal feeding presentations allowing visitors to maximize learning on the feeding habits of aquatic animals. Among the aquatic animals selected for the presentations are Humboldt Penguin Rookery, Nutria, Gentoo Penguin, Stringray Bay, Piranhna and Otter exhibit, representing different zones such as Living Ocean, Rainforest and Rocky Shore.” Dubai Aquarium has the world's largest acrylic viewing panel. New species are regularly added with recent additions being the exquisite Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks and Silver tip Sharks. A 270-degree walk-through tunnel experience, Glass Bottom Boat Rides, Shark Dives, Cage Snorkeling Experience, The Ocean School Programme, feeding presentations and the Aquarist Programme are among some of the activities that offer an interactive experience for visitors.

Mountain Gorilla Twins Born in Rwanda
February 7, 2011 news.yahoo.com/

KIGALI, Rwanda– Mountain gorilla twins, both male, were born Thursday to mother Kabatwa. Only five previous instances of twins have been recorded in 40 years of monitoring in Rwanda. "Very few cases of twins have been documented in the wild or captivity," said Prosper Uwingeli, chief warden at the Volcanoes National Park where the twins were born. According to a 2010 census, the total number of mountain gorillas has increased by 25% over the past seven years to reach more than 780 individuals.

Two thirds of them are found in the Virunga massif, between Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Extinctions Breed Carbon Chaos
February 7, 2011 www.usnews.com/science/ By Daniel Strain

Following massive die-offs, the natural processes that keep carbon flowing through marine ecosystems—from tiny photosynthesizers to big fish and between the bottom and the top of the ocean—get broken. For millions of years after at least two global disasters, marine communities were too unstable to keep the molecules churning, according to a new report in the February issue of “Geology”. These “chaotic carbon episodes” could have big ramifications for extinctions in the modern era, say scientists from Brown University and the University of Washington. The team’s conclusions are particularly relevant for the modern era—what many biologists have dubbed the sixth mass extinction. Computer simulations of climate change look 100 years into the future, but the impacts of species extinctions today may last long after human pollution has come and gone.

Minimizing Stress in Zoo Animals
February 7, 2011  www.mysanantonio.com By ALLAN TURNER

HOUSTON (AP) —Unresolved, stress can make blue-hued banded iguanas turn black, piranhas snack on their tankmates, parrots yank out their feathers and snakes coil and rattle. No animal confined in a zoo is immune to stress, and American zoos collectively spend millions to see that it doesn't happen. Hollie Colahan, the Houston Zoo's curator for primates and carnivores, said,  “I think you have to look at the individual animals and their backgrounds. Life in the wild is stressful." Colahan leads the zoo's enrichment committee of animal keepers and others who try to find ways to lessen the possibility of stress. The zoo's 100 keepers are the first line of defense. At a facility with 6,000 animals representing 800 species, keepers must be ever alert to stress indicators that all but the keenest eye might miss. When a new ocelot arrived at the zoo, keepers learned she had never been on exhibit before so they worked to gradually gain her trust. At first, she was brought into the exhibit late in the afternoon, then for brief periods in the morning. Bravery was rewarded with mouse treats. The strategy paid off and within weeks the once-skittish ocelot braved the scrutiny of zoo patrons.

Joining keepers in battling stress are zoo veterinarians and even architects. Building low-stress enclosures that mimic natural range was a key goal of the zoo's newly opened $42 million African Forest. "It's all about prevention," said Hill. "The eland share the exhibit with warthogs, kudu, zebras and a dorcas gazelle," Hill said, "These species share the same range in the wild, so it is an appropriate and comfortable setting for them. In fact, one of our zebras, Joplin, and our dorcas gazelle have formed such a strong bond that they are almost inseparable." For many animals, the stress indicators are hard to read. Keepers must not only know a species' expected behavior, but the quirks and oddities of individuals. "Chimps are as different as people," Colahan said. "It's very normal chimp behavior for them to be running around, screaming, punching and throwing. Our goal is to ensure that normal behavior doesn't cross the line to the point that it becomes harmful."

While a human patient exhibiting symptoms of stress might be calmed by a doctor's prescription, zoo officials are reluctant to treat animals with pills.  Animals can't give feedback like humans. Hill says, “We don't want to jump to fix problems with a pill right away. We'd rather get to the root of the cause, to alter the animal's environment, if necessary." In worst-case scenarios, animals retire to off-exhibit areas to live their lives in secluded comfort, although some were expected to return to public view. "There are animals that never will go on exhibit," said Judith Bryja, reptile supervisor, "Some do really great. Some just stress out." Animals that exhibit signs of stress first are checked by veterinarians to rule out sickness, zoo officials said. Much of the wisdom of enriching zoo environments came as an outgrowth of research by members of the AZA who share ideas with one another.

Ropeway Will Be Built in Gir Sanctuary
February 7, 2011 http://in.news.yahoo.com/

NEW DELHI, India --  The environment ministry Monday gave its clearance for the construction of a ropeway from Bhavnath Taleti to Ambaji temple in the Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat. In 2008 the Girnar reserve forest - covering around 180 sq km area including Mount Girnar -- was declared Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary to protect 20-25 Asiatic lions. It is believed that the ropeway would minimise man-animal conflict and  would also provide a convenient way of transporting thousands of pilgrims daily to the holy spot on Mount Girnar. It would also put an end to socially unacceptable modes of transportation (the dolis) that are being used at present. But environmentalists claim the project would harm the nests of vultures that roost on the mountain crannies, and could lead to local extinction of the 'Girnari Giddh', a critically endangered species. According to a ministry official, “The Girnari Giddh population that is going to be affected by the ropeway project is between 20-25 percent of the total population of long-billed vultures in Gujarat, but less than 10 percent of the population of vultures in the state.”

WWF Officials Kidnapped in Indian National Park
February 7, 2011 www.bbc.co.uk  By Subir Bhaumik

Twenty armed gunmen have kidnapped six officials of the WWF from Manas national game reserve in north-eastern India. The abductions came within a few hours of a decision by Bodo tribal groups to renew their campaign for a separate state. All six – Indian nationals – were carrying out an elephant and tiger census and were accompanied by members of a local wildlife protection group, who were "chased off" by militants. Manas is home to 22 of India's 41 endangered wildlife species including rare wild pigs, birds, and one-horned rhinos. There are an estimated 70 tigers in the park, which adjoins the foothills of Bhutan.

American Pika May Get Endangered Status
February 7, 2011 www.sacbee.com  By Matt Weiser

The California Department of Fish and Game will reconsider whether the American pika, a tiny rabbit-like resident of the Sierra Nevada, needs protection as an endangered species. A court decision found that the Department failed to consider new information about the species in a review completed last fall. The pika could become the first California species to be listed under the state Endangered Species Act as a result of effects caused by climate change. The species lives only in high-elevation mountainous boulder fields. In parts of its habitat in other Western states, evidence has emerged that climate change has shrunk this unique habitat into ever-smaller islands, resulting in smaller pika populations. Last summer, the Center for Biological Diversity submitted new findings of pika population losses near Bodie and in the Lassen region. In a subsequent lawsuit, the center claimed state officials failed to consider this information, and the court agreed.

Orphaned Manatees Ready for Release
February 7, 2011 miami.cbslocal.com

MIAMI (CBS4) – Two orphaned West Indian Manatees rescued by the Miami Seaquarium are ready for release to the wild. Kiandra and Glades were rehabilitated at the facility thanks to a partnership with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Manatee Rehabilitation Partnership Sea to Shore Alliance. Kiandra was found off of Key Largo in 2008. Glades was rescued near Port Everglades in October of 2009. Both animals will be wearing a satellite tag from the Manatee Rehabilitation Partnership so that biologists can track them over the next year. To track both Kiandra and Glades from your computer go to the MRP website www.wildtracks.org.

Bear Heart Changes During Hibernation
February 7, 2011  www.eurekalert.org

Grizzly bears hibernate 5-6 months of the year. During that time, their heart rate slows drastically from around 84 beats per minute to around 19. In humans, such a slow beat would cause blood to pool in the heart's four chambers, and the increased pressure would cause the chambers to stretch out, ultimately leading to congestive heart failure. Bryan Rourke and Nathan Barrows from Cal State Long Beach worked with Lynne Nelson and Charles Robbins (both at Washington State University) who have been studying bears for years. They operate a facility where grizzlies have been raised since birth and acclimated to echocardiogram testing. They previously found that, during hibernation, the muscle of a bear's left ventricle stiffens to prevent it from stretching as blood accumulates. Using echocardiogram data from the captive bears and tissue samples from wild bears, the researchers found that the atrium protects itself by weakening its beat. Muscle contractions in the heart are controlled by a protein called myosin heavy chain. The alpha version produces a quicker but slightly weaker contraction compared to the beta. "We found that the muscle in the left atrium produces more alpha protein during hibernation.  When the bears emerge from hibernation, the protein ratio switches back. Their research is published in the journal Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 84:1 (January/February 2011).

Denver Zoo Breeds Peruvian Titicaca Frog
February 7, 2011 www.scientificamerican.com/  By John Platt

The Lake Titicaca frog (Telmatobius culeus) is the world's largest aquatic frog. Adults weigh nearly a kilogram and measure more than 50 centimeters. Its unique folds of  loose skin allow it to remain submerged indefinitely by absorbing oxygen directly from the water. It is found only in the vicinity of Lake Titicaca between the Peru–Bolivia border and was listed as critically endangered in 2004 after scientists observed an estimated 80 percent drop in frog counts over its last three generations. Overharvesting of the frog for so-called medicinal purposes to enhance male virility has been the worst threat.

The Denver Zoo began conservation efforts in Peru a few years ago and has since made the species its top conservation priority. They helped design and fund an amphibian exhibit at the Huachipa Zoo in Lima.  The exhibit aims to educate the public about the plight of South American amphibians and teach guests what they can do to save them. It also includes some wild-caught Lake Titicaca frogs. In December 2010 they made a few adjustments to the captive frog’s environment, raising both the temperature and pH slightly and the specimens started to reproduce. One of the frogs laid eggs, and five tadpoles hatched. Tom Weaver, supervisor at the Denver Zoo, said, "We did lose the tadpoles, but now we can learn and adjust conditions and hopefully get to the point where captured propagation is figured out. We probably didn't have the perfect conditions for the tadpoles. The water could have been too clean. The fact that only a small number of eggs hatched indicates that we’re close, but not quite there. "The tadpoles did last for two weeks," he says, "Next time we're going to have better success."

The Denver Zoo will continue to assist with the captive breeding program, and later this year will help to survey Lake Titicaca and the surrounding area to identify local species and their ranges. They will also be looking for evidence of the chytrid fungus, which is devastating amphibian populations worldwide but has not yet been seen in the Lake Titicaca frog, although it has been found in nearby toad species.

Detroit Zoo Exhibits BBC Wildlife Photos
February 7, 2011 www.chicagotribune.com

ROYAL OAK, Mich. — The 2010 Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition makes its North American debut on Saturday at the Detroit Zoo's Ford Education Center. It runs through May 1. The display features 118 photographs chosen from more than 31,000 entries. Organizers say it's the sixth consecutive year that the North American premiere has been held at the Detroit Zoo in Royal Oak. This competition has taken place for nearly five decades and is run by the Natural History Museum in London and BBC Wildlife Magazine.

Polar Bear Reproductive Ecology Study
February 8, 2011 www.eurekalert.org

University of Alberta researchers Péter Molnár, Andrew Derocher and Mark Lewis studied the reproductive ecology of polar bears in Hudson Bay and have linked declining litter sizes with loss of sea ice. The researchers say projected reductions in the number of newborn cubs is a significant threat to the western Hudson Bay polar-bear population, and if climate change continues the viability of the species across much of the Arctic will be in question. Using data collected since the 1990s researchers looked at the changing length of time Hudson Bay is frozen over (the polar bear's hunting season) and the amount of energy pregnant females can store up before hibernation and birthing. An early spring-ice breakup reduces the hunting season, making it difficult for pregnant females to even support themselves, let alone give birth to and raise cubs. Pregnant polar bears take to a maternity den for up to eight months and during this time no food is available. In the early 1990s, researchers estimate that 28 per cent of energy-deprived pregnant polar bears in the Hudson Bay region failed to have even a single cub. Researchers say energy deprived pregnant females will either not enter a maternity den or they will naturally abort the birth. If spring break up in Hudson Bay comes one month earlier than in the 1990s, 40 to 73 per cent of pregnant female polar bears will not reproduce. If the ice breaks up two months earlier than in the 1990s, 55 to a full 100 per cent of all pregnant female polar bears in western Hudson Bay will not have a cub. The polar-bear population of western Hudson Bay is currently estimated to be around 900 which is down from 1,200 bears in the past decade. The number of polar bears across the Arctic is estimated to be between 20,000 and 25,000. The research will be published in Nature Communications, Feb. 8

Website Maps Zoonotic Diseases
February 8, 2011 www.veterinarypracticenews.com

The HealthMap.org/Predict website delivers real-time information from a number of sources “to give users in more than 20 countries a comprehensive view on the current global state of infectious diseases and their effects on human and animal health.” The website launch was announced at this week’s International Meeting on Emerging Diseases and Surveillance in Vienna, Austria. The Predict project was created in 2009 as part of the United States Agency for International Development’s Emerging Pandemics Threats Program. The project’s main focus is building a global early warning system for emerging zoonotic diseases such as influenza, ebola and severe acute respiratory syndrome, also known as SARS. The project is implemented by the University of California, Davis; the Wildlife Conservation Society; EcoHealth Alliance; Global Viral Forecasting Initiative; and the Smithsonian Institution. Additional partners include Harvard Children’s Hospital, ProMED, Yale University and Praecipio. More than 50,000 Web sources are combined each hour—into a unified view on the current status of infectious diseases around the world. Jonna Mazet, DVM, Ph.D., is the director of the Predict project and UC Davis’ One Health Institute in the School of Veterinary Medicine.

Teeth Re-evolved in Marsupial Frog
February 8, 2011 www.nytimes.com  By SINDYA N. BHANOO

John Wiens, a researcher at Stony Brook University, found that while frogs lost teeth in the lower jaw at least 200 million years ago, a particular type of marsupial tree frog regained those lower teeth about 20 million years ago. “It’s a very clear-cut case of re-evolution because of the large time span,” he said. Dr. Wiens analyzed DNA samples of 170 modern and fossilized frogs to approximate the dates of loss and re-evolution of the teeth. Most frogs have teeth on their upper jaws, which may have made the re-evolution in the tree frog, known as Gastrotheca guentheri, easier. “They already had teeth in the upper jaw, so they had the enamel, dentine and other necessities,” he said, “There was a way to facilitate new teeth after 200 million years.” The species is the only known modern frog species with lower teeth, though certain other species with upper teeth do have toothlike structures on the lower jaw. The study appears in the journal Evolution.

Australia’s Incredible Underground Orchid
February 8, 2011 www.news.uwa.edu.au/

Rhizanthella gardneri is a critically endangered orchid that lives its entire life underground. It even blooms underground. Last year, using radioactive tracers, scientists at The University of Western Australia showed that the orchid gets all its nutrients by parasitizing fungi associated with the roots of broom bush, a woody shrub of the WA outback. Now, with less than 50 individuals left in the wild, scientists have made a remarkable discovery about its genome. Despite the fact that it is subterranean and had no green parts and cannot photosynthesize, it still retains chloroplasts. "We found that compared with normal plants, 70 per cent of the genes in the chloroplast have been lost," said Dr. Etienne Delannoy, of the ARC Centre for Excellence in Plant Energy Biology, and author of a study published in Molecular Biology and Evolution.  "In Rhizanthella, everything that isn't essential for its parasitic lifestyle has gone. We discovered that it has retained a chloroplast genome to make only four crucial proteins. Our results are relevant to understanding gene loss in other parasites.”

Wood Bison Reclassified as Threatened
February 8, 2011 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 26
FWS–R9–IA–2008–0123  pp6734-6754 www.gpoacess.gov/fdsys

The USFWS proposes to reclassify the wood bison (Bison bison athabascae) from endangered to threatened based on a review of the best available scientific and commercial data, which indicate that the endangered designation no longer correctly reflects the status of the wood bison. Data and comments from the public must  be received  by April 11, 2011. Submissions may be made via the Federal eRulemaking Portal: Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov . Follow the instructions for submitting comments. Or mail to Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R9–IA–2008–0123; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203.

We particularly seek comments concerning: (1) Information on taxonomy, distribution, habitat selection and use, food habits, population density and trends, habitat trends, disease, and effects of management on wood bison; (2) Information on captive herds, including efficacy of breeding and reintroduction programs, origin of parental stock, stock supplementation for genetic purposes, growth rates, birth and mortality rates in captivity, location of captive herds in comparison to wild populations, effects of captive breeding on the species, and any other factors from captive breeding that might affect wild populations or natural habitat; (3) Information on the adequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; trends in domestic and international trade of live specimens, sport-hunted trophies, or other parts and products; poaching of wild wood bison; illegal trade and enforcement efforts and solutions; and oversight of reintroduction or introduction programs; (4) Information on the effects of other potential threat factors, including contaminants, changes of the distribution and abundance of wild populations, disease episodes within wild and captive populations, large mortality events, the effects of climate change, or negative effects resulting from the presence of invasive species; (5) Information on management programs for wood bison conservation in the wild, including private, tribal, or governmental conservation programs that benefit wood bison; and (6) Current or planned activities within the geographic range of the wood bison that may impact or benefit the species including any planned developments, roads, or expansion of agricultural enterprises.

Leatherback Turtle Study
February 9, 2011  www.eurekalert.org BY LOUIS BERGERON

Leatherbacks are the Olympians of the turtle world – swimming farther, diving deeper and venturing into colder waters than any other marine turtle species. But for all their toughness, they have suffered a 90 percent drop in their population in the eastern Pacific Ocean over the last 20-plus years. Now, new data from a 5-year-long project tagging and tracking the turtles explains why they congregate for months in what appeared to be one of the most nutrient-poor regions in the oceans, the South Pacific Gyre. The Gyre has plenty of the leatherback's favorite prey – gelatinous zooplankton, such as jellyfish.  "Understanding what sort of areas leatherbacks are likely to favor is a critical first step in protecting them in the open ocean," said Stanford biologist George Shillinger, lead author of a paper to be published in Marine Ecology Progress Series. One of the biggest hazards leatherbacks face on the high seas is longline fishing, a widely used approach for capturing commercially valuable species such as tuna and swordfish. The turtles also face fishing pressure from gill nets and longlines as they swim through coastal waters on their way out to the open ocean. Shillinger said, "We are really going to have to link our research on turtles with a better understanding of where and how fishing is being done, things like how many hooks and nets are in the water and for how long….We also need to know more about the by-catch – which non-targeted species are being caught and in what numbers." Temporary closure of certain areas – breeding zones, migration routes and rich foraging habitats – when turtles are most likely to be concentrated there is one possible measure.

Black Rhino Euthanized at San Antonio Zoo
February 9, 2011 www.mysanantonio.com  By Vincent Davis

Senior staff veterinarian Rob L. Coke said 25-year-old black rhino, Sababu, has had an inflammatory bowel condition for the past 15 years and was under veterinary care for some time. According to Dr. Coke, “She was doing well until a couple of weeks ago and she started having problems again.” Sababu had to be euthanized Monday morning. Sababu was born at the Cincinnati Zoo and came to the San Antonio Zoo 23 years ago. She had three calves at the zoo, one of which is scheduled to be shipped to Zoo Atlanta in a few weeks. Sababu's mate, Herbie, died unexpectedly of an intestinal infection condition in October. Coke said there are an estimated 65 black rhinos at zoos in North America and fewer than 4,000 in the wild. The average life span of a rhino is the upper 20s.

Bronx Zoo’s Valentine Courtship Quiz
February 9, 2011  www.longislandpress.com   By Jessica Sinclair

The Bronx Zoo has developed a Valentine’s Day quiz that helps determine which member of the animal kingdom shares your style of courtship. Find out what kind of animal – a tiger or a monkey – you will be having dinner with on Valentine’s Day. John Calvelli, WCS Executive Vice President of Public Affairs, said, “I hope I’m having dinner with a romantic white naped crane.” Take the 8-question quiz at: http://quiz.bronxzoo.com/valentines/  [You don’t have to “subscribe”  Click “skip”]

Bronx Zoo’s Valentine Cockroach Gift Promotion
February 9, 2011 www.bronxzoo.com

Naming a cockroach in honor of someone near and dear to your heart shows that you've noticed how resilient, resourceful, and loyal that person is. Or maybe it's in recognition of your beloved’s virility, or strength in the face of high radiation. The Bronx zoo has 58,000 Madagascar hissing roaches, and they need names. With a $10 donation, one of them can be named by you. They will send a “truly memorable” certificate of honor to that certain someone explaining that there's a special insect living at the Bronx Zoo with his or her name on it. http://www.bronxzoo.com/name-a-roach/ 

Sheep Intelligence Study
February 9, 2011  www.newscientist.com By Michael Marshall

A new study in PLoS One demonstrates that domestic sheep can pass a psychological test that monkeys struggle with. Laura Avanzo and Jennifer Morton of the University of Cambridge put seven female sheep through a series of increasingly tricky challenges. In one test the sheep walked into a pen that contained two buckets, one blue and the other yellow, with some food in the blue one. Over the course of a few trials they learned what was going on and always went to the blue bucket. When the researchers put the food in the yellow bucket instead, the sheep changed their behavior accordingly. They also mastered a subtler game in which the food was still in one of the buckets but the clue to its location was the color of a cone placed nearby, not the color of the bucket itself. They also  tested the animals' ability to shift their attention, something that requires a high level of mental control. http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0015752

Arroyo Toad Gets Critical Habitat
February 9, 2011 latimesblogs.latimes.com

The USFWS has designated 98,366 acres of critical habitat needed by the endangered arroyo toad to fulfill all of its complex life-cycle stages: flowing water, sandy banks and chaparral. The USFWS also designated 2,347 acres of critical habitat for the thread-leaved brodiaea, a rare Southern California lily threatened by urban development, off-road vehicles, grazing and plowing for fire clearance. Specifications for the habitat, which extends from Monterey County to San Diego County, were published Wednesday in the Federal Register, concluding a decade-long legal battle between the USFWS and the Center for Biological Diversity over the fate of the toads, which persist in only 23 small, isolated populations. By the time Bufo californicus was listed under the federal Endangered Species Act in 1994, it had lost more than 75% of its historic habitat to development, mining, agriculture and predation by non-native species. About 72,596 acres of private lands, 21,982 acres under federal jurisdiction, 2,128 acres of state property and 1,660 acres of locally owned lands are included in the total. A final economic analysis estimates the financial impact associated with the designation of critical habitat to be about $750 million over the next 25 years.

Survey of Important Bird Areas in Africa
February 9, 2011 www.redorbit.com/

An international research team looked at how native African bird species will fare in 803 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) across the African continent, if climate change continues as predicted. They believe that one third of the IBAs will undergo significant upheaval this century, in terms of the species they contain, due to climate change. The research, published in the journal Conservation Biology, and funded by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), suggests that hundreds of bird species in Africa will become emigrants, leaving one part of the continent for another in search of food and suitable habitat. There are large areas of Africa lacking protected status and many of these areas are predicted to be critically important for bird conservation in the future. The study demonstrates that international cooperation is essential to protect species. The researchers state, "We need to improve monitoring, communication and co-operation to make protected areas work across borders." Areas of High turnover, i.e. high immigration and emigration: Kalahari-Gemsbok National Park (South Africa) – 79% turnover and Hobatere (Namibia) - ensemble turnover 70%. Areas of little change: Kilombero Valley (Tanzania) - 95% persistence and Waza National Park (Cameroon) - 98% persistence.

Mate Miss-match Causes Stress in Finches
February 9, 2011  www.nature.com

Monogamous Australian finches (Erythrura gouldiae) have either black or red heads, and females prefer to mate with partners whose head color matches their own — an indication of genetic compatibility. Simon Griffith of Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia and his colleagues monitored the birds as they either chose their mates or were placed in a mating pair. Females that ended up with compatible males laid their first egg earlier and had lower levels of the stress hormone corticosterone in their blood than those partnered with a mismatched mate. The study appears in the journal Proc. R. Soc. B doi:10.1098/rspb.2010.2672 (2011).

Walrus Will Not Be Listed By USFWS
February 9, 2011 www.physorg.com/

The USFWS has added the Pacific Walrus to the "warranted but precluded" list, a designation under the Endangered Species Act that allows delays in listing if the agency is making progress listing other species and does not have resources to make a decision on others. Geoff Haskett, the service's Alaska region director, said, "Its greater population numbers and ability to adapt to land-based haulouts make its immediate situation less dire than those facing other species such as the polar bear."  He said cooperation with Alaska Native groups, the state and other partners could lessen the long-term impact of climate change for the walrus and help it avoid an endangered listing. Scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center have tracked a steady decline in sea ice in recent decades. Climate models have projected that summer sea ice could disappear by 2030. Alaska's walrus population spends virtually the entire winter in the Bering Sea on the edge of sea ice that forms every year. In spring, as temperatures warm, ice melts and the edge of the sea ice moves north. Females and pups ride the ice edge through the Bering Strait and into the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.

Great Bustard Reproduction Study
February 9, 2011 www.physorg.com

A new study, published in the journal Ethology, shows that male great bustards (Otis tarda) achieve greater reproductive success and avoid "dangerous" and "unnecessary" confrontations due to the extent of development of their plumage. The researchers analyzed wild specimens which were marked with transmitters to monitor the evolution over time of the coloring of their neck, and of the quantity and length of the 'beards' (feathers on both sides of the beak). "The males  in the best physical condition make it known to other males through the length and number of 'beards', and thereby avoid bloody fights to ascend in rank which would occur if these signals did not exist,” according to lead author Juan Carlos Alonso. Great bustard sexual dimorphism is "the greatest in all birds and one of the highest amongst vertebrates". Added to this is their "markedly" polygamous nature: "more than half the males do no copulate, and only 10-15% of the best males obtain the majority of the copulations" explains Alonso. Despite the competition between the males, it is the females who ultimately select from the best.

Factors Affecting Successful Wildlife Translocations
February 9, 2011 wdin.blogspot.com/

A new study published in BMC Ecology explores whether genetic background and previous pathogen exposure influenced survival of translocated animals when captive-bred and free-ranging bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) were used to re-establish a population that had been extirpated in the San Andres Mountains in New Mexico, USA. Although genetic theory predicts otherwise, increased heterozygosity was not associated with increased survival among translocated animals. Previous pathogen exposure was found to be a more important marker. Although the free-ranging source population had significantly higher multi-locus heterozygosity at 30 microsatellite loci than the captive bred animals, neither source population nor genetic background significantly influenced survival or cause of death. The presence of antibodies to a respiratory virus known to cause pneumonia was associated with increased survival, but there was no correlation between genetic heterozygosity and the presence of antibodies to this virus. The article is at: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6785/11/5

SeaWorld San Diego Will Add “Manta Coaster” in 2012
February 9, 2011 www.signonsandiego.com  By Lori Weisberg

SeaWorld is expected to break ground on the new coaster in the next month. Launched from a tunnel filled with manta ray projections, the family coaster will reach a top speed of 43 mph and pull 4 Gs during the 1 minute, 56 second trip. Because of a 30-foot height limitation for San Diego coastal construction, the park will excavate a trench for a 54-foot subterranean plunge and a dramatic wing dip into a shallow lake over a 2,800-foot-long track. The San Diego Manta represents a significantly more compact version of the 125-foot-tall, 3,500-foot-long Blue Fire coaster in Germany, which features heart rate monitors, video screens for each rider and lap bar-only restraints. SeaWorld's sister park in Orlando, Fla., opened a similarly themed Manta flying coaster in 2009. The California Coastal Commission will review the project on Friday.

Koalapalooza at the San Diego Zoo
February 9, 2011 www.signonsandiego.com

Koalapalooza at the San Diego Zoo starts February 18. The event will celebrate all things Australian! The San Diego Zoo has the largest colony of koalas outside of Australia. As part of the celebration, female koala Yabber will pick a name for her new Joey. The names will be placed in 3 different trees in her exhibit, and whichever tree she decides to climb will decide the name.

Royal Antelope Born at San Diego Zoo
February 9, 2011  www.signonsandiego.com

A royal antelope was born at the San Diego Zoo on January 20 weighing just 10 ounces. Since he failed to nurse, he was taken to the Zoo’s hospital and is now being fed specially-made formula with a specially-designed nipple. He gets 5 feedings each day and has gained 7 ounces. The threatened species comes from the forests of West Africa. The zoo has housed them since 2003 and celebrated the first birth in 2006.

ABQ Zoo Elephant Treated for Tuberculosis
February 9, 2011 http://gardennews.biz

ALBUQUERQUE, NM -- The veterinary staff at the ABQ BioPark Zoo is actively monitoring Alice, a 37-year-old Asian elephant. Zoo officials confirmed that Alice has Tuberculosis through a blood test and trunk wash that are part of the regular care routine for each member of the herd. The Zoo was already participating in a pilot program for a new TB blood test, making the early detection possible. Early detection is key to the elephant’s recuperation well-being later in life. All BioPark staff that work with the elephants have been tested for TB, and results were negative. Throughout the prescribed year-long treatment, the zoo’s animal care staff will monitor Alice’s progress through trunk washes and serum analysis. The staff will also monitor her liver function, blood levels and appetite to assess side effects of the medications. Alice will remain with the rest of the herd to minimize stress on her and the other elephants while she undergoes treatment. The other elephants are continuously being tested for TB. Alice was born in the wild in 1974; she has been at the BioPark since 1976.

Revised Critical Habitat for Arroyo Toad
February 9, 2011 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 27
FWS–R8–ES–2009–0069,  pp 7246-7467 www.gpoacess.gov/fdsys

The USFWS is designating final revised critical habitat for the arroyo toad (Anaxyrus californicus, Bufo californicus). Approximately 98,366 acres of habitat in Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange, and San Diego Counties, California, is designated as critical habitat for the arroyo toad. This final revised designation constitutes an increase of approximately 86,671 ac from the 2005 designation of critical habitat for the arroyo toad. A taxonomic name change has occurred and been accepted for the arroyo toad. Throughout the remainder of this document we will use the currently recognized name for the listed entity, Anaxyrus californicus, for references to the arroyo toad.  This rule becomes effective on March 11, 2011. The final rule, final economic analysis, and map of critical habitat will be available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS–R8–ES–2009–0069, http://www.fws.gov/ventura/, and http://www.fws.gov/carlsbad/  Comments and materials received, as well as supporting documentation used in preparing this final rule, will be available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours, at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, 2493 Portola Road, Suite B, Ventura, CA 93003; telephone 805–644–1766

London Zoo’s New “Penguin Beach”
February 10, 2011 http://londonist.com/

A new £2m pool for nearly 150 penguins is set to open at London Zoo in May 27. Penguin Beach will be four times longer and three times deeper than the current exhibit, which was designed  in 1931 by Berthold Lubetkin. His design was heralded for its Modernist stylings but was not well suited to the penguins — walking on concrete hurt their joints, and the pool was too shallow for them to properly dive into. The new exhibit will include interactive games and displays for visitors. There will be a replica field station, which will feature exhibits about the research conducted in Antarctica by the zoo's resident penguinologist.

The zoo previously housed 41 penguins. They were moved to Whipsnade Zoo in 2004 while work on their new home is carried out. The new exhibit will house two different breeds of penguin - the South American Humboldt and the Antarctic Macaroni with its distinctive yellow spiky crest. Director General Ralph Armond said, "Penguins have a long history at ZSL London Zoo, having been here permanently for the last 150 years. They are one of our most popular animals, with over eight million people visiting them in the last 10 years.

White-backed Vulture Born at Sakkarbaug Zoo
February 10, 2011  http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com

JUNAGADH, India: Sakkarbaug Zoo has one of the five captive vulture breeding centers in the country. The vulture breeding aviary was started April 2009 with 43 vultures. Their first chick was born on February 1, 2011. Among the 43 vultures at the center are the white backed vulture, long billed vultures and Egyptian vultures, which have been rescued from various parts of the state such as Ahmedabad, Rajula, Bajana, Surat, Gandhinagar Dhrangdhra, Vyara, Amreli, Morbi and Junagadh. "Most of these vultures were injured by kite strings during the kite festival,'' said zoo director V J Rana. The only other facility that has been successful in breeding vultures in captivity is the Pinjore Vulture Breeding Centre in Haryana has succeeded in breeding vultures in captivity. Sakkarbaug zoo is known for its conservation programs. Currently, the zoo is running conservation and breeding programs for the Asiatic lion, vultures, Indian wolf, Indian wild ass, Asiatic cheetah and the four-horned antelope with aid from the Central Zoo Authority of India.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Team Helps Frogs in Panama
February 10, 2011 www.coloradoconnection.com/ 

COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO. -- Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is a founding partner in the international initiative called the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project. A team from the Zoo is now heading back for a fifth time to the jungles of Panama. Della Garelle, the zoo's Director of Conservation, said, "We are working to find frogs not yet affected by the chytrid fungus, creating an ark for amphibians and establishing assurance colonies. We'll spend this trip in the Cerro Brewster region looking for the critically endangered Atelopus limosus harlequin frog and transporting them to a special bio-secure breeding and care facility in Panama." Their goal is to one day be able to reintroduce these amphibians back to the wild. The zoo's team will be in Panama February 11-19. You can track their mission on their "Frog Blog" at http://cheyennemountainzoofrogblog.blogspot.com/. Thanks to an assist from the Denver Zoo, the frogs of Lake Titicaca won’t be croaking anytime soon.

There is No “Missing Link”
February 10, 2011  www.nature.com 

Evolution is not a steady march towards ever more sophisticated beings and therefore the search for the living "missing links" is pointless, according to findings published by a team of researchers led by Dr. Hervé Philippe of the Université de Montréal's Department of Biochemistry. Philippe explains: "What we now know is that evolution does not happen in a single direction – when people talk about a missing link, they're generally excluding the possibility of more sophisticated ancestors."

Orangutan Researcher is Also an Educator
February 10, 2011 www.physorg.com  By Lily Whiteman

For the last 18 years, Cheryl Knott of Boston University has been researching orangutans in the rainforests of Gunung Palung National Park in Borneo. The number of orangutans has been steadily plummeting. The decline of the Sumatran and Bornean populations of orangutans is caused by varied threats, such as illegal logging, the conversion of rain forest to palm oil plantations and farmland, poaching and the pet trade. Their slow reproductive interval — once every eight to nine years — also increases their vulnerability to conservation threats. Knott has advanced our understanding of orangutan reproduction by identifying important relationships between what (and how much) orangutans eat and their reproductive patterns. This kind of information can help government institutions identify the best areas to protect in order to conserve orangutans.

Knott has also come to the realization that "…as scientists, part of our responsibility is to educate local villagers and let them know about this incredible resource and how unique the animals in the rainforest are. I think a very important aspect of modern primate studies is reaching out and working on conservation with local people, as well as doing your research." She started a conservation program with local villagers to educate them about the importance of preserving the rainforest and protecting orangutans and other forest animals. Many of them had never seen a wild orangutan or even knew about the national park. Other components of Knott's conservation program — called the Gunung Palung Orangutan Conservation Program — are a radio show, field trips to the national park, curriculum development, lectures about conservation and an environmental education center for local villagers. In addition, Knott says that she is also working with villagers to "find alternatives to logging and ways to make their own lands more productive so they don't have to cut down more forest”. “We are helping them increase their income without destroying the forest." Knott's organization also works with the local governments to investigate people who have illegal pet orangutans and then accompanies the authorities when the animals are confiscated.

Pacific Walrus Will Not Be Listed
February 10, 2011 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 28
FWS–R7–ES–2009–0051 p 7634-7679  www.gpoacess.gov/fdsys

After review of all available scientific and commercial information, the USFWS has found that listing the Pacific walrus (Odobenus rosmarus divergens) as endangered or threatened is warranted. Currently, however, listing the Pacific walrus is precluded by higher priorities. The Walrus will be added to the list of candidate species and the Service will develop a proposed rule to list the Pacific walrus as priorities allow. This finding and supporting documentation are available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket Number FWS–R7–ES–2009–0051. A range map of the three walrus subspecies and a more detailed map of the Pacific walrus range are available at the following Web site: http://alaska.fws.gov/fisheries/mmm/walrus/wmain.htm.

Endangered Species Permit Applications
February 10, 2011 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 28  www.gpoacess.gov/fdsys

The following applicants have applied for scientific research permits to conduct certain activities with endangered species. The public is invited to comment on these permit applications. Written comments must be received on or before March 14, 2011. Written comments should be submitted to the Chief, Endangered Species Division, Ecological Services, P.O. Box 1306, Room 6034, Albuquerque, NM 87103. 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–28576A
Applicant: University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys for Pecos gambusia (Gambusia nobilis) within New Mexico and Texas.

Permit TE–28891A
Applicant: Timothy Tristan, Corpus Christi, Texas.
Applicant requests a new permit to receive, rehabilitate, and release green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas), hawksbill sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbricate), Kemps ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys kempii), and leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) that are found sick, injured, or cold-stunned on land in Texas and the adjacent Texas bays, estuaries, and Gulf of Mexico.

Permit TE–064431
Applicant: Aztec Engineering Group, Inc., Phoenix, Arizona.
Applicant requests an amendment to a current permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/ absence surveys of black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes) and Yuma clapper rail (Rallus ongirostris yumanensis) within Arizona.

Permit TE–048579
Applicant: Kathlene Meadows, Tucson, Arizona.
Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys for Pima pineapple cactus (Coryphantha scheeri var. robustispina) within Arizona.

Permit TE–219536
Applicant: Texas Tech University,Lubbock, Texas.
Applicant requests an amendment to a current permit for research and recovery purposes to collect and transport Roswell springsnail (Pyrgulopsis roswellensis) and Koster’s springsnail (Juturnia kosteri) from Bitter Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico to Texas Tech University.

Permit TE–826091
Applicant: Bureau of Land Management, Phoenix, Arizona.
Applicant requests an amendment to a current permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/ absence surveys for Yuma clapper rail (Ralus longirostrus yumanensis), lesser long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris yerbabuenae curasoae), and Sonoran pronghorn (Antilocarpa americana sonoriensis) within Arizona.

Permit TE–022190
Applicant: Arizona—Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson, Arizona.
Applicant requests an amendment to a current permit for research and recovery purposes to hold in captivity, perform husbandry duties, and create educational displays for the following species: woundfin (Plagopterus agentissimus), Yaqui chub (Gila purpea), and Yaqui topminnow (Poeciliopsis occidentalis sonoriensis) at the museum.

Permit TE–31412A
Applicant: J Permit TE–31412A Applicant: John Kuba, Buffalo Gap, Texas.
Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys for golden-cheeked warbler (Dendroica chrysoparia), black-capped vireo (Vireo atricapilla), and interior least tern (Sterna antillarum anthalassos) within Texas.

Permit TE–841353
Applicant: Loomis Partners, Austin, Texas.
Applicant requests an amendment to a current permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/ absence surveys for the following species: Texas blind salamander (Typhlomolge rathbuni), Barton Springs salamander (Eurycea sosorum), Mexican long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris nivalis), American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus), Comal Spring riffle beetle (Stygoparnus comalensis), Comal Springs dryopid beetle (Heterelmis comalensis), whooping crane (Grus americana), Attwater’s greater prairie- chicken (Tympanuchus cupido attwateri), and fountain darter (Etheostoma fonticola) within Texas.

Permit TE–814933
Applicant: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Austin, Texas.
Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys for the following species within Texas: (Unnamed) ground beetle (Rhadine infernalis) (Unnamed) ground beetle (Rhadine exilis) American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus) Ashy dogweed (Thymophylla tephroleuca) Attwater’s greater prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus cupido attwateri) Barton Springs salamander (Eurycea sosorum) Bee Creek Cave harvestman (Texella reddelli) Big Bend gambusia (Gambusia gaigei) Black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes) Black lace cactus (Echinocereus reichenbachii var. albertii) Black-capped vireo (Vireo atricapilla) Bone Cave harvestman (Texella reyesi) Braken Bat Cave meshweaver (Circurina venii) Clear Creek gambusia (Gambusia heterochir) Coffin Cave mold beetle (Batrisodes texanus) Cokendolpher Cave harvestman (Texella cokendolpheri) Comal Springs dryopid beetle (Stygoparnus comalensis) Comal Springs riffle beetle (Heterelmis comalensis) Comanche Springs pupfish (Cyprinodon elegans) Davis’ green pitaya (Echinocereus viridiflorus var. davisii) Eskimo curlew (Numenius borealis) Fountain darter (Etheostoma fonticola) Golden-cheeked warbler (Dendroica chrysoparia) Government Canyon Bat Cave meshweaver (Cicurina vespera) Government Canyon Bat Cave spider (Neoleptoneta microps) Gulf Coast jaguarondi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi cacomitli) Helotes mold beetle (Batrisodes venyivi) Houston toad (Bufo houstonensis) Johnston’s frankenia (Frankenia johnstonii) Kemp’s ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii) Kretschmarr Cave mold beetle (Texamaurops reddelli) Large-fruit sand-verbana (Abronia macrocarpa) Least tern (Sterna antillarum) Leatherback sea turtle (Dermchelys coriacea) Leon Springs pupfish (Cyprinodon bovines) Little Aguja pondweed (Potamogeton clystocarpus) Madla’s Cave meshweaver (Cicurina madla) Mexican long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris nivalis) Navasota ladies’-tresses (Spiranthes parksii) Nellie cory cactus (Coryphantha minima) Northern aplomado falcon (Falco femeralis spetentrionalis) Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) Peck’s Cave amphipod (Sygobromus pecki) Pecos assiminiea snail (Assiminea pecos) Pecos gambusia (Gambusia nobilis) Red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis) Rio Grande silvery minnow Hybognathus amarus) Robber Baron Cave meshweaver (Cicurina baronia) San Marcos gambusia (Gambusia georgei) Slender rush-pea (Hoffmannseggia tenella) Sneed’s pincushion cactus (Coryphantha sneedii var. sneedii) South Texas ambrosia (Ambrosia cheiranthifolia) Southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) Star cactus (Astrophytum asterias) Terlingua Creek cat’s-eye (Cryptantha crassipes) Texas ayenia (Ayenia limitaris) Texas blind salamander (Typholmolge rathbuni) Texas poppy-mallow (Callirhoe scabriuscula) Texas prairie dawn-flower (Hymenoxys texana) Texas snowbells (Styrax texanus) Texas trailing phlox (Phlox nivalis spp. texensis) Texas wild-rice (Zizania texana) Tobusch fishhook cactus (Ancistrocactus tobushii) Tooth cave ground beetle (Rhadine persephone) Tooth Cave pseudoscorpion (Tartarocreagris texana) Tooth Cave spider (Leptoneta myopica) Walker’s manioc (Manihot walkerae) White bladderpod (Lesquerella pallid) Whooping crane (Grus americana) Zapata bladderpod (Lesquerella thamnophila)

Permit TE–150338
Applicant: Crouch Environmental, Houston, Texas.
Applicant requests an amendment to a current permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/ absence surveys for the following species: Houston toad (Bufo houstonensis), golden-cheeked warbler (Dendroica chrysoparia), southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus), Yuma clapper rail (Rallus longirostris yumanensis), hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricate), Kemp’s ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii), and Johnson’s seagrass (Halophila johnsonii) within Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, and Oklahoma.

Endangered Species Permit Applications
February 10, 2011 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 28 pp7580-7581
www.gpoaccess.gov/fdsys

The USFWS invites the public to comment on the following applications to conduct certain activities with endangered species.  Comments or requests for documents must be received on or before March 14, 2011. For further information contact Brenda Tapia, (703) 358–2104 /  DMAFR@fws.gov  (e-mail). Please include the Federal Register notice publication date, the PRT-number, and the name of the applicant in your request or submission. The comments and recommendations that will be most useful and likely to influence agency decisions are: (1) Those supported by quantitative information or studies; and (2) Those that include citations to, and analyses of, the applicable laws and regulations.

Applicant: 777 Ranch, Inc. Hondo TX; PRT–013008
The applicant requests renewal of their permit authorizing interstate and foreign commerce, export and cull of excess male barasingha (Cervus duvauceli), Eld’s deer (Cervus eldi), Arabian oryx (Oryx leucoryx), and red lechwe (Kobus leche) from their captive herd for the purpose of enhancement of the survival of the species. This notification covers activities conducted by the applicant over a 5-year period.

Applicant: Lincoln Park Zoological Gardens, Chicago, IL; PRT–090113
The applicant requests renewal of their permit to import biological samples from ill and dead chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) from the Gombe Stream Reserve, Tanzania for enhancement of the species through scientific research and veterinary diagnosis. This notification covers activities to be conducted by the applicant over a 5-year period.

Applicant: Robert Amon, New Gretna, NJ; PRT–32570A
Applicant: Jerry Brenner, West Olive, MI; PRT–33348A
Applicant: Alan Smith, Sheridan, WY; PRT–33990A
Applicant: Lawrence Gill, Sheridan, WY; PRT–33992A
Applicant: David Hubbard, Stedman, NC; PRT–31720A
The above 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. Geological Survey, Alaska Science Center, Anchorage, AK; PRT–690038
The applicant requests an amendment to the permit to increase in the number of takes of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) via aerial biopsy darting and paint marking for the purpose of scientific research. This notification covers activities to be conducted by the applicant over the remainder of the 5- year period for which the permit would be valid.

Leafcutter Ant Genome Analysis
February 10, 2011  www.eurekalert.org

MADISON -- A genome study of the leafcutter ant, Atta cephalotes, was published today in the journal PLoS Genetics by an international team led by UW-Madison bacteriology professors Cameron Currie and Garret Suen. It illustrates how lifestyle can remake an animal's genetic blueprint over the course of evolutionary history. Leafcutter ants are unique in their ability to harvest fresh leaves to cultivate a nutrient-rich fungus as food. This evolved mutualism has enabled them to cultivate huge subterranean fungus gardens that are their sole source of nutrition. The genome analysis reveals that the insect has shed genes that other ant species use to help acquire nutrients. The leafcutter has apparently slimmed its genome to get rid of genes it no longer needs due to its symbiotic lifestyle. The team is now generating genome sequences for the fungus the ant eats, as well as for a cartel of microorganisms associated with both ant and fungus.
Found only in the New World tropics, the estimated 45 species of leafcutter ants exert a pervasive ecological influence, harvesting as much as 17 percent of total leaf production in tropical rainforests and consuming more plants by volume than any other herbivore, including other insects and mammals. A mature colony can occupy 600 cubic meters of space. Leafcutters are known for having a diversity of body shapes and sizes to accomplish the division of labor it takes to build, defend and stock a nest containing so many individual insects. The ants’ caste system includes small workers for tending to the fungus garden and ant brood, medium-sized workers for harvesting fresh leaves, and larger soldiers, which are capable of mating, have wings.

New Defense Against MRSA and other Pathogens
February 10, 2011 www.eurkekalert.org

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections are among the most virulent infections known. New research focuses on a critical cellular step that is part of the infection process, known as RNA degradation. "In bacteria, RNA degradation is crucial. The cells are replicating very quickly and responding to environmental changes very rapidly. In less than three minutes, a new RNA transcript is made, the protein is made, and then the RNA is degraded, and that material is made available to make other RNA molecules," said Paul Dunman, head microbiologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center. In a paper published online Feb. 10 in the journal PLoS Pathogens, the scientists demonstrate that by stopping bacteria's ability to degrade RNA – a "housekeeping" process crucial to their ability to thrive – scientists were able to stop MRSA both in the laboratory and in infected mice. The team is now developing closely related compounds designed to be much more potent than the one discussed in the paper. They hope their research will “…open the door to an entirely new class of antibiotics."

New Degree in Conservation Medicine
February 11, 2011 wdin.blogspot.com/

The School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University is offering a 12-month Masters Degree in Conservation Medicine. It is designed to prepare students for a career in conservation medicine by providing them with foundational knowledge in such areas as new diseases emerging from wild animals, and the effects of climate change on biodiversity. The program is also designed to develop team building, organizational and leadership skills necessary for successful implementation of real world conservation efforts. Since many disciplines are involved in conservation medicine, the MS in Conservation Medicine seeks a diversity of backgrounds, including; veterinarians, natural and social scientists, engineers, public health and medical professionals, lawyers, policy and wildlife professionals, and others interested in applying their expertise to conservation medicine issues. Announcement at: http://wildlifedisease.nbii.gov/documents/digest/in%20the%20spotlight_tufts_mcm%20announcment%20for%20media.pdf

Tenrecs Use Quills to Make Calls
February 11, 2011 news.bbc.co.uk/earth

Lowland streaked tenrecs (Hemicentetes semispinosus), found only in Madagascar rainforests,  are known to communicate using high-pitch tongue clicks when foraging, but many of the sounds are beyond human hearing. To record the sounds, a BBC research team took a bat detector so they could also pick up ultrasonic noises, and found that the seemingly "quiet" mammals were constantly communicating. In the 1960s, streaked tenrecs were found to communicate using specialized quills on their backs to make high pitch ultrasound calls. The film crew was able to obtain evidence of this technique called “stridulation” by filming the tenrecs as they foraged. Animals such as crickets, beetles and vipers also rub body parts together to communicate. This bizarre audio behavior had never been filmed before in mammals.

Although there are approximately 30 tenrec species in Madagascar, including the rare web-footed aquatic tenrec (Limnogale mergulus) and the spiny, rabbit-sized common tenrec (Tenrec ecaudatus), stridulation is unique to streaked tenrecs.

Endangered species permit applications
February 14, 2011 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 30
FWS-R6-ES-2011-N021; 60120-1113-0000-D2 http://www.gpoaccess.gov/fdsys

From the announcement:

    The following applicant has requested an issuance of enhancement of survival permit to conduct certain activities with endangered species pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.):
    Applicant: Scott Gangle, North Dakota Game and Fish Department, Bismarck, North Dakota, TE-34128A. The applicant requests a permit to take pallid sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus albus) in conjunction with recovery activities throughout the species' range for the purpose of enhancing its survival and recovery.

Proposed Designation of Critical Habitat for Roswell Springsnail, Koster's Springsnail, Noel's Amphipod, and Pecos Assiminea
February 17, 2011 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 33
FWS-R2-ES-2009_0014; 92210-1117-0000-B4  www.gpoaccess.gov/fdsys

From the announcement:

The USFWS announces reopening of the public comment period on the proposal to revise designated critical habitat for the Pecos assiminea (Assiminea pecos), and to newly designate critical habitat for the Roswell springsnail (Pyrgulopsis roswellensis), Koster's springsnail (Juturnia kosteri), and Noel's amphipod (Gammarus desperatus). The USFWS also announce revisions to the proposed critical habitat, as it was described in the proposed rule (75 FR 35375). In total, we are proposing to designate as critical habitat 520.8 acres (210.8 hectares) for the four species. This proposal includes as critical habitat for Noel's amphipod an additional 5.8 acres (2.3 hectares) for Chaves County, New Mexico, as a population of amphipods was recently confirmed to be Noel's amphipod at this location.

Comments must be received on or before March 21, 2011 by 11:59 p.m. EST. Any comments that we receive after the closing date may not be fully considered in the final decision on this action. You may submit comments by one of the following methods: Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Search for docket number FWS-R2-ES-2009-0014 and then follow the instructions for submitting comments. U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2009-0014; 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: Wally “J'' Murphy, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New Mexico Ecological Services Field Office, 2105 Osuna Rd., NE., Albuquerque, NM 87113; telephone 505-761- 4781.

Petition to list the Sand Verbena Moth (Copablepharon fuscum) as endangered or threatened
February 17, 2011 Federal Register / Vol 76, No. 33
FWS-R1-ES-2010-0096; MO 92210-0-0008 www.gpoaccess.gov/fdsys

From the announcement:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announce a 90-day finding on a petition to list the sand verbena moth, Copablepharon fuscum, as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. Based on their review of the petition, they are initiating a review of the status of the species to determine if listing the sand verbena moth as endangered or threatened is warranted. To ensure that this status review is comprehensive, USFWS is requesting scientific and commercial data and other information regarding this species.

USFWS requests all information to be received on or before April 18, 2011. Please note that if you are using the Federal eRulemaking Portal, the deadline for submitting an electronic comment is 11:59 p.m. EST. After April 18, 2011, you must submit information directly to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Office. You may submit information by one of the following methods: Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the box that reads ``Enter Keyword or ID,'' enter the Docket number for this finding, which is FWS-R1-ES-2010-0096. U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R1-ES-2010-0096; 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: Ken S. Berg, Manager, Washington Fish and Wildlife Office, 510 Desmond Drive, Lacey, WA 98503; by telephone (360) 753-9440.

Bristol Zoo opens new £100,000 meerkat enclosure
February 21, 2011 http://news.bbc.uk

The Bristol Zoo opened a new 152 sq meter (~1,635 sq feet) meerkat enclosure called "Meerkat Lookout" that has space for 25 animals. The new enclosure cost £100,000 (~$160,000) and features "indoor and outdoor areas for the public and meerkat and features a tunnel and viewing domes so visitors can see the animals at eye level." The exhibit was named by 11-year old Joe Romain, who won a naming contest sponsored by the Zoo.

Full story: http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/bristol/hi/people_and_places/newsid_9403000/9403306.stm

National Science Foundation and AAAS report calls for transformation of undergraduate biology education
February 23, 2011 By Brandon Bryn

The NSF, AAAS, and their partners have released Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education: A Call to Action, a report that charts the course "for bringing more contemporary, multi-disciplinary instruction into undergraduate biology classrooms." This report comes in response to the changes occurring in traditional biology, which now includes "newly pioneered disciplines such as genomics, proteomics, synthetic biology and systems biology"; however, biology education at the undergraduate level has not adequately changed to reflect these new developments. The report was released to the public on Saturday 19 February at the AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.

The full report is available at: http://visionandchange.org/viewfinalreport/ (requires free registration)

Full press release: http://www.aaas.org/news/releases/2011/0223vision_change.shtml

SeaWorld trainers to begin limited "water work" with killer whales
February 23, 2011 http://www.chicagotribune.com by Jason Garcia

Over the coming few months, trainers at SeaWorld will begin limited "water work" with killer whales, "with the interactions initially restricted to small medical pools equipped with false-bottom floors that can be lifted out of the water." The company is also installing safety upgrades at the killer whale facilities, and beginning water desensitization training where "[t]he whales are taught to swim around the perimeters of their pools while ignoring progressively greater distractions."

It has been a year since trainer Dawn Brancheau was killed by an orca during a public show. The park is currently being sued by Brancheau's widowed husband in a wrongful-death lawsuit. It is unclear if trainers will be allowed back in the water with the whales during public shows in the future.

Full story: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/os-seaworld-trainers-water-20110223,0,7431052.story

Endangered species permit applications
February 23, 2011 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 36
FWS-R6-ES-2011-N026; 60120-1113-0000-D2 http://www.gpoaccess.gov/fdsys

    The following applicants have requested issuance of enhancement of survival permits to conduct certain activities with endangered species pursuant to Section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).  

Applicant: Craig D. Miller, Boulder, Colorado, TE-040571. The applicant requests a renewed permit to take Southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) in conjunction with recovery activities throughout the species' range for the purpose of enhancing its survival and recovery.   

Applicant: Mark Peyton, Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District, Gothenburg, Nebraska, TE-038221. The applicant requests a renewed permit to take piping plover (Charadrius melodus), interior least tern (Sterna antillarum), and American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus) in conjunction with recovery activities throughout the species' range for the purpose of enhancing its survival and recovery.

Applicant: Kevin Bestgen, Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, Colorado, TE-046795. The applicant requests a renewed permit to take Colorado pikeminnow (Ptychocheilus lucius) and razorback sucker (Xyrauchen texanus) in conjunction with recovery activities throughout the species' range for the purpose of enhancing its survival and recovery.

Applicant: Randy Rieches, San Diego Wild Animal Park, Escondido, California, TE-051835. The applicant requests a renewed permit to take black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes) in conjunction with recovery activities throughout the species' range for the purpose of enhancing its survival and recovery.

Applicant: William Sloan, National Park Service, Moab, Utah, TE- 047808. The applicant requests a renewed permit to take Southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) in conjunction with recovery activities throughout the species' range for the purpose of enhancing its survival and recovery.

Applicant: Sam Stukel, South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks, Yankton, South Dakota, TE-124904. The applicant requests a renewed permit to take pallid sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus albus) in conjunction with recovery activities throughout the species' range for the purpose of enhancing its survival and recovery.

Applicant: Robert Muth, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bozeman Fish Technology Center, Bozeman, Montana, TE-038970. The applicant requests a renewed permit to take pallid sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus albus), June sucker (Chasmistes liorus), bonytail (Gila elegans), and woundfin (Plagopterus argentissimus) in conjunction with recovery activities throughout the species' range for the purpose of enhancing its survival and recovery.

Applicant: Steven Wall, Volga, South Dakota, TE-121908. 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: Jay P. Gilbertson, East Dakota Water Development District, Brookings, South Dakota, TE-056001. 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.

USFWS denies petition to list the Wild Plains Bison as threatened
February 24, 2011 Federal Register / Vol 76, No. 37
FWS-R6-ES-2010-0095; MO 92210-0-0008-B2 http://www.gpoaccess.gov/fdsys

From the announcement:

We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, announce a 90-day finding on a petition to list the wild plains bison (Bison bison
bison
), or each of four distinct population segments (DPSs), as threatened under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). Based on our review, we find that the petition does not present substantial information indicating that listing may be warranted. Therefore, we are not initiating a status review in response to this petition. However, we ask the public to submit to us any new information that becomes available concerning the status of, or threats to, the wild plains bison or its habitat at any time.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mark Sattelberg, Field Supervisor, Wyoming Field Office (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ecological Services, Wyoming Field Office, 5353 Yellowstone Road, Suite 308A, Cheyenne, WY 82009), by telephone (307-772-2374) or by facsimile (307-772-2358).

USFWS denies petition to list Unsilvered Fritillary Butterfly as endangered
February 24, 2011 Federal Register / Vol 76, No. 37
FWS-R8-ES-2010-0078; MO 92210-0-0008 B2 http://www.gpoaccess.gov/fdsys

From the announcement:

We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, announce a 90-day finding on a petition to list the unsilvered fritillary butterfly
(Speyeria adiaste) as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (Act), as amended, and designate critical habitat. Based on our review, we find that the petition does not present substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that listing the unsilvered fritillary may be warranted. Therefore, we are not initiating a status review in response to this petition. We ask the public to submit to us any new information that becomes available concerning the status of, or threats to, the unsilvered fritillary or its habitat at any time.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Michael McCrary, Listing and Recovery Coordinator for Wildlife, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, 2493 Portola Road, Suite B, Ventura, CA
93003), by telephone 805-644-1766, or by facsimile 805-644-3958.

Endangered plant species permit applications
March 1, 2011 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 40
FWS-R1-ES-2010-N287; 10120-1113-0000-F5http://www.gpoaccess.gov/fdsys

The following applicant has applied for a recovery permit to conduct certain activities with endangered species
under section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). We are soliciting review of and comments on this application by local, State, and Federal agencies and the public.

    Applicant: Benjamin Blonder, Tucson, Arizona. The applicant requests a permit to remove/reduce to possession
Argyroxiphium kauense (Mauna Loa silversword) at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii Island, Hawaii, in conjunction with scientific studies for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Mysterious deaths of baby bottlenose dolphins in Gulf of Mexico
March 2, 2011   http://news.nationalgeographic.com   By Ker Than

Since January, 80 bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncates) have washed up along the shores of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Forty-two of these dolphins have been calves. Dolphins normally give birth in March and April, so scientists think that many of the calves may have been “…aborted, stillborn, or born prematurely.” So far, the cause of the die-off is unknown, so researchers caution that to draw a connection to the BP oil spill would be premature, although they are still considering the spill as a possible factor.

While dolphin die-offs are not unheard of, this one is of particular concern because of the high number of young dolphins in the mix. According to Moby Solangi, director of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies, “Usually in a stranding, you have a mixture of animals—males, females, adults, calves—but this one is distortedly focused on neonates.”

In addition to the BP oil spill, scientists are considering other known causes such as “unusually cold waters, ocean biotoxins, and diseases.” Even if the BP spill was the cause, the link may be hard to prove because “…the hydrocarbon molecules in oil are quickly processed by the body and do not persist in tissues,” and “scientists also don't have a good idea of how the spill might have affected dolphins still in the womb.”

Birth of Giant River Otters at Zoo Miami
March 3, 2011 http://www.zooborns.com

Zoo Miami welcomed the birth of two Giant River Otter (Pteronura brasiliensis) pups in January. This is only the second time the species has been successfully bred at a North American zoo. The two pups (one male and one female) only weighed between 2 to 3 lbs at birth, but will "grow up to be truly giant at a length of 6ft and a weight of around 75 lbs." The Giant River Otter is the longest of the world's otter species. It is listed as endangered by the IUCN, with habitat destruction and illegal poaching being the main threats to survival.

Full story and photos: http://www.zooborns.com/zooborns/2011/03/zooborns-first-giant-river-otter-pups.html#more

Seattle mayor proclaims March 7-11 to be “Woodland Park Zoo Field Conservation Week”
March 3, 2011  http://www.ballardnewstribune.com  By Anne-Marije Rook

The Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle is hosting the 2011 Zoos and Aquariums Committing to Conservation (ZACC) conference from March 8-11. The international conference will bring together “250 zoo and aquarium conservationists, field biologists, wildlife agencies, and conservation organizations from 23 different countries and disciplines,” who will “…share knowledge and findings, to build stronger conservation bridges between wildlife and local communities, and to establish direct links to zoos, aquariums and their stakeholders.”

To celebrate the “important global network for wildlife and habitat conservation,” Mayor Mike McGinn proclaimed the week to be Woodland Park Zoo Field Conservation Week. Additionally, the zoo will be offering half off admission price to visitors who wear green and will host “special keeper talks, discovery stations, and the zoo’s 1,000 animal ambassadors will introduce visitors to critical field conservation projects.”

Full press release: http://www.ballardnewstribune.com/2011/03/03/news/mayor-mcginn-proclaims-week-march-7-11-be-woodlan

Elephants cooperate to accomplish tasks
March 7, 2011  http://news.bbc.co.uk  By Victoria Gill

A new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals that Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) understand when they need help from another elephant in order to complete a task. These findings show that elephants “…belong in an ‘elite group’ of intelligent, socially complex animals.”

From the BBC article:

“The [elephants] involved in the study had already been taught that pulling on a rope brought a platform towards them, and a food reward on that platform within reach.

But this apparatus, set up at the Thai Elephant Conservation Center in Lampang province, presented them with a new twist on that simple task.

One rope was threaded all the way around a platform - like a belt through belt loops - so if one end was tugged, the rope simply slipped out and the platform did not budge.

But if two elephants each took an end of the rope and pulled, the platform moved and that could claim their treats.

‘When we released one elephant before the other, they quickly learned to wait for their partner before they pulled the rope,’ Dr. Plotnik told BBC News.

‘They learnt that rule [to wait for the other elephant to arrive] quicker than chimps doing the same task.’”

Plotnik also stated that their findings “will help with the conservation of these endangered animals,” explaining, “The more we can understand about their intelligence, the better we can develop solutions to things like human-elephant conflict.”

Full article: http://news.bbc.co.uk/earth/hi/earth_news/newsid_9417000/9417308.stm

CITATION: Plotnik JM, Lair R, Supachoksahakun W, de Waal FBM. 2011. Elephants know when they need a helping trunk in a cooperative task. PNAS published ahead of print. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1101765108

Rare giant freshwater turtle (Rafeteus swinhoei) in Vietnam desperately needs medical attention
March 7, 2011  http://www.signonsandiego.com  By Tran Van Minh

Rafeteus swinhoei is an extremely endangered turtle, with only 4 believed to be left in the world today. One of these turtles has lived in Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi, Vietnam, for approximately 100 years. [The other 3 turtles: one in another lake in Vietnam, two in Chinese zoos.] Recently, the 440 pound turtle has been seen with visible “open pink sores on its wrinkled neck and legs [and shell],” most likely caused by the polluted lake water.

A large rescue operation is underway, with dozens of workers trying to capture the turtle and bring it to the island for medical attention. The turtle has so far evaded capture, but officials have come together to discuss “next steps” in the rescue. The event has also garnered the attention of thousands of people in the area, many of whom consider the turtle to be a “mythical creature said to have helped a Vietnamese king fend off the Chinese nearly six centuries ago.”

For photos of the turtle and the rescue operation, visit MSNBC’s photoblog: http://photoblog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/03/08/6217371-sacred-turtle-sets-off-massive-rescue-operation

Denver Zoo’s 2010 attendance highest since 1995
March 7, 2011  http://www.bizjournals.com   By Mark Harden

In 2010, the Denver Zoo had 1,967,839 visitors, “the second-highest total in its 115-year history.” The record of 1,984,097 was set in 1995 when the zoo’s polar bears were on exhibit before leaving for Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida. Additionally, the zoo attained a household membership total of 64,040 (approx. 224,000 individual members). Among the factors contributing to the record numbers were the births of tiger cub quadruplets, the birth of an orangutan, and “overall good weather.” The zoo’s holiday attraction, Zoo Lights, also saw record attendance.

Full article: http://www.bizjournals.com/denver/news/2011/03/07/denver-zoo-sees-2nd-highest-visitor.html

Export of Brazilian beef greatly impacts climate
March 7, 2011   http://www.biologynews.net  

A recent study shows that the impact of Brazilian beef exports “is much greater than current estimates indicate,” causing the researchers to demand “that indirect effect on land be included when determining a product’s carbon footprint.” If indirect effects are not taken into account, researchers and policymakers run the risk of underestimating a product’s effect on the climate.

From the press release:

‘By 2050, global meat consumption is expected to have increased by almost 80 per cent, which will require more grazing land and increased soy cultivation. Added to this is increased demand for land to produce bioenergy. Yields cannot just continue to increase. No matter from which angle you look at the forecasts, changed and increased land use is the result,’ says Christel Cederberg.

Full article: http://www.biologynews.net/archives/2011/03/07/brazilian_beef_greater_impact_on_the_environment_than_we_realize.html

CITATION: Cederberg C, Persson UM, Neovius K, Molander S, Clift R. 2011. Including carbon emissions from deforestation in the carbon footprint of Brazilian beef. Environmental Science & Technology 45:1773-1779. doi: 10.1021/es103240z

Study explores how animal size relates to thigh bone structure
March 8, 2011  http://sciencedaily.com

A new study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B examines the structures inside of animals’ thigh bones that “enable them to support huge loads” while still being relatively lightweight. Researchers from Imperial College London and the Royal Veterinary College analyzed femur bones from 90 different species and found that trabeculae (an “interlinking lattice of tiny bone struts inside the femur”) have “different geometry depending on the size of the species.”

Dr. Michael Doube, lead author of the study, says: “We assumed that trabeculae would be important in supporting the weight of larger creatures such as Asian elephants…. However, we were surprised to find that animals that have comparatively lighter loads, such as the Etruscan shrew, weighing three grams, also has trabeculae supporting its tiny body. Our study is helping us to see how the remarkable geometry of trabeculae supports loads in all creatures, no matter how big or small they are." The new discovery that the structure of trabeculae varies depending on the size of the animal could be used to “advance a class of tough, light-weight structural materials, which could be used to improve bodywork for planes and cars.”

Full news report: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110308191047.htm

CITATION: Doube M, Klosowski MM, Wiktorowicz-Conroy AM, Hutchinson JR, Shefelbine SJ. 2011. Trabecular bone scales allometrically in mammals and birds. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2011.0069

First ocelot birth by Oviductal Artificial Insemination
March 8, 2011  http://www.zandavisitor.com   by Tiffany Barnes

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s Linder Center for Conservation & Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) and Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo conducted a physical today on the first endangered cat produced by Oviductal Artifical Insemination (AI). The Brazilian ocelot (Leopardus pardalis mitis) kitten, which was born on January 22, is the second born to mother, Kuma. Unlike in traditional AI, where the semen is deposited into the uterus, in oviductal AI semen is “…injected directly into the oviducts,” allowing scientists to “to produce pregnancies using fewer spermatozoa or semen of poorer quality, which is always a potential concern in small wild cats.”

Kuma has also had one other kitten by AI, and researchers weren’t sure if this would prevent her from a future successful AI pregnancy. According to Gregg Dancho, director of Beardsley Zoo, “Because the technology was so new, we didn’t know if using AI to produce Kuma’s first kitten would impede her ability to conceive again and we’ve now shown that the science can be replicated.” As there are only 30 Brazilian ocelots in North American zoos, the Ocelot Species Survival Plan “requested that CREW scientists attempt the AI procedures with Kuma to allow her to pass her valuable genes onto the next generation.”

Full article: http://www.zandavisitor.com/newsarticle-4950

Predation main cause of low survival rates in birds living in suburban areas
March 8, 2011   http://sciencedaily.com  

Scientists at Smithsonian’s Migratory Bird Center studied the gray catbird (Dumatella carolinensis) in suburban areas to determine the main factors that play a role in fledglings’ survival. While factors such as brood size, sex or hatching date did not seem to impact survival rate, predation “accounted for 79 percent of juvenile catbird deaths” within the three suburban study sites. In two of the sites, half of the deaths were due to domestic cats.

From the article:

“The predation by cats on fledgling catbirds made these suburban areas ecological traps for nesting birds,” said Peter Marra, Smithsonian research scientist. “The habitats looked suitable for breeding birds with lots of shrubs for nesting and areas for feeding, but the presence of cats, a relatively recent phenomenon, isn't a cue birds use when deciding where to nest.”

"Cats are natural predators of not just birds but also mammals -- killing is what they are meant to do and it's not their fault," said Marra. "Removing both pet and feral cats from outdoor environments is a simple solution to a major problem impacting our native wildlife.”

Full article: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110303132343.htm

CITATION: Balogh AL, Ryder TB, Marra PP. 2011. Population demography of Gray Catbirds in the suburban matrix: sources, sinks and domestic cats. Journal of Ornithology. doi: 10.1007/s10336-011-0648-7

60-year old Laysan albatross raising a new chick
March 8, 2011 http://www.physorg.com From USGS

A Laysan albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis) named 'Wisdom' — the oldest known U.S. wild bird — has incubated an egg and is currently raising a chick. First banded in 1956 by a USGS scientist, Wisdom has worn out 5 bird bands and is estimated to be in her early sixties. She has likely raised between "30 to 35 chicks during her breeding life."

From the article:

" 'She looks great,' said Bruce Peterjohn, the chief of the North American Bird Banding Program at the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Md. 'And she is now the oldest wild bird documented in the 90-year history of our USGS-FWS and Canadian bird banding program,' he added. 'To know that she can still successfully raise young at age 60-plus, that is beyond words.'

And since adult albatross mate for life, with both parents raising the young, it makes one wonder if Wisdom has had the same partner all these years or not."

Also amazing is the fact that Wisdom has likely flown at least 2 to 3 million miles since the first time she was banded (Albatross fly approximately 50,000 mi/yr as an adult). "Or, to put it another way, that's 4 to 6 trips from the Earth to the Moon and back again with plenty of miles to spare."

Full article: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-03-oldest-wild-bird-midway-chick.html

ZooMontana gathers $78K in donations
March 8, 2011  http://billingsgazette.com   By Zach Benoit

On March 1, the ZooMontana board posted a public letter announcing that the zoo was at risk of losing its AZA accreditation if it couldn’t come up with a plan by March 19 to obtain $500,000 to pay off debts and loans. (See the letter here: http://www.kulr8.com/home/related/ZooMontana-makes-public-plea-to-save-accreditation-117105068.html) By Tuesday, more than $78,000 had been sent in donations to the zoo, with an additional $50,000 in pledges. The money is being used to pay overdue bills. Daniel Lundquist, the zoo’s director of marketing and development, said, “We want to be responsible….We're definitely excited that people are giving and we'll see. We're not going to give up. We'll keep on pushing.”

Full story: http://billingsgazette.com/news/local/article_fc759f1f-863e-5919-8a09-dc4aec5eef32.html

USFWS concludes Eastern cougar extinct
March 8, 2011   http://www.fws.gov 

The eastern cougar (Felis concolor couguar) has been on the endangered species list since 1973, but a review of available information led the US Fish and Wildlife Service to conclude that the eastern cougar is extinct. According to Martin Miller, USFWS Northeast Region Chief of Endangered Species, although many people have reported cougar sightings in the historical range of the eastern cougar, the USFWS believes “…those cougars are not the eastern cougar subspecies [and] found no information to support the existence of the eastern cougar.” Instead, cougars observed in the wild are believed to be other subspecies that had escaped from captivity or were released, or wild cougars that had migrated from the western U.S. Dr. Mark McCollough, USFWS lead scientist for the eastern cougar, “the subspecies of eastern cougar has likely been extinct since the 1930s.

Full press release: http://www.fws.gov/northeast/ecougar/newsreleasefinal.html

Guam and Marshall Islands place moratoriums on shark fin trade
March 8, 2011 http://www.pewenvironment.org / http://www.independent.co.uk

Over the last couple of weeks, Guam and the Marshall Islands (both U.S. territories) have passed protections for the endangered predators. The Senate of Guam passed a bill banning the sale, possession and distribution of shark fins, while the Marshall Islands placed a moratorium on the trade and export of shark fins until "new rules are established to regulate the trade." According to the Pew Environment Group, "Worldwide, up to 73 million sharks are killed every year primarily for their fins, which are valued for their use in shark fin soup, an Asian delicacy. As a result, 30 percent of the world’s species are threatened or near-threatened with extinction. For an additional 47 percent of species, scientists lack sufficient data to properly assess their population status....The impact of the shark fin trade on Guam’s waters was recently documented by University of Guam Associate Professor of Fisheries Dr. Jenny McIlwain. At a legislative hearing, Professor McIlwain testified that she found four times as many sharks off Fiji and northwest Australia than she did in Guam’s waters."

Pew Environment Press Release: http://www.pewenvironment.org/news-room/press-releases/guam-senate-moves-to-end-shark-fin-trade-328342

Full story from The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/sharks-get-protection-in-marshall-islands-2236306.html

Estimated one million sardines die in Redondo Beach's King Harbor
March 9, 2011 http://www.latimes.com By Scott Gold, Nate Jackson and Kenneth R. Weiss

An estimated one million sardines (as well as a smaller amount of other fish) headed for the Redondo Beach harbor this week to escape a "spring storm that brought wind gusts of 45 miles per hour off the coast." However, King Harbor is only 22 feet deep and did not have enough oxygen to support the influx of fish.

From the article:

"Brent Scheiwe, program director of the L.A. Conservation Corps' Sea Lab, an ecology, education and job skills organization, said oxygen levels in the harbor typically measure at eight parts per million. Three parts per million is considered critically low, and by Tuesday morning, the water in the harbor was 0.72 parts per million — below lethal levels."

Samples will be sent to a lab in Sacramento for necropsies and analyses, although this is considered to be a formality since no toxins were found in the water. In the meantime, dozens of volunteers are working with authorities to clean up the thousands of dead fish floating on the suface of the harbor (with hundreds of thousands more piled on the bottom of the harbor, which will most likely be removed by vacuum). Not only is the smell extremely unpleasant for locals and visitors, the pollution caused by the decomposing fish could become a public health hazard.

Video of the cleanup: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-12682145

Full story: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-0309-dead-fish-20110309,0,2606300.story

Endangered species permit applications
March 9, 2011 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 46
FR Doc No: 2011-5398 http://www.gpoaccess.gov/fdsys

Applicant: Chicago Zoological Society dba Brookfield Zoo, Brookfield, IL; PRT- 21862A
    The applicant requests a permit to import a captive-born female Grevy's zebra (Equus grevyi) from Toronto Zoo, Ontario, Canada, for the purpose of enhancement of the survival of the species.

Applicant: St. John Fisher College, Rochester, NY; PRT-28080A
    The applicant requests a permit to import biological samples from juvenile, captive-held African penguins (Spheniscus demersus) collected by Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) for the purposes of enhancement of the survival of the species.

Applicant: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-MBO/SJV, Tucson, AZ; PRT-14239A
    The applicant requests a permit to export live masked bobwhite (Colinus virginianus ridgwayi) from the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge captive breeding facility to Sonora, Mexico, under the Sonoran Joint Venture for recovery and reintroduction. This notification covers activities to be conducted by the applicant over a 5-year period.

Applicant: Zoological Society of San Diego, San Diego, CA; PRT-32684A
    The applicant requests a permit to import ten live captive-bred gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) from the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust, Tamil Nadu, India, for the purpose of enhancement of the survival of the species.

Applicant: Jacksonville Zoological Society dba Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Jacksonville, FL; PRT-29540A
    The applicant requests a permit to import eighteen live, captive- born Jamaican boas (Epicrates subflavus) from United Kingdom, for the purpose of enhancement of the survival of the species.

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: John Cross, San Angelos, TX; PRT-35586A
Applicant: James McArtor, Cody, WY; PRT-35246A

SeaWorld Orlando returns 1,000th rehabilitated sea turtle to the wild
March 9, 2011 http://www.cfnews13.com

On Friday, March 9, SeaWorld's animal rescue team returned a rehabilitated loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) to the wild. When the turtle was first brought to the rescue center in September 2010 while suffering from lockjaw, it weighed only 70 pounds. After being nursed back to health, the turtle was back up to a normal weight of 102 pounds upon release.

The SeaWorld sea turtle rescue program began at SeaWorld Orlando in 1980. More than 1,500 sea turtles have been brought to the center, with a 68% rate of return to the wild.

Full press release: http://www.cfnews13.com/article/entertainment/2011/march/216507/SeaWorld-releases-1000th-sea-turtle

New study finds similar aging patterns for humans and other primates
March 10, 2011 http://www.nsf.gov By Bobbie Mixon

The first-ever multi-species comparison of primate aging patterns discovered that "chimps, gorillas and other primates grow old gracefully much like humans. Previous theories argued that the human aging process was unique, as humans live longer than most other species and are the longest-lived primates. However, new data comparing aging in wild primates to that in humans shows that aging rates (the rate at which mortality risk increased with age) were surprisingly similar. The data was compiled from "long-term studies of seven species of wild primates: capuchin monkeys from Costa Rica, muriqui monkeys from Brazil, baboons and blue monkeys from Kenya, chimpanzees from Tanzania, gorillas from Rwanda, and sifaka lemurs from Madagascar." The data also confirmed "...a pattern observed in humans and elsewhere in the animal kingdom: as males age, they die sooner than their female counterparts." The report appears in the March 11 issue of Science.

Full press release: http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=118917&org=NSF&from=news

CITATION: Bronikowski AM, Altmann J, Brockman DK, Cords M, Fedigan LM, Pusey A, Stoinski T, Morris WF, Strier KB, Alberts SC. 2011. Aging in the natural world: comparative data reveal similar mortality patterns across primates. Science 331(6022):1325-1328. doi: 10.1126/science.1201571

San Diego Zoo Global takes on management of Cocha Cashu Biological Station in Peru
March 10, 2011 http://www.sandiegozoo.org

San Diego Zoo Global will be "taking on management responsibility for a conservation and research station located in the Manu Biosphere Reserve in Peru," the first South American-based field station for the organization. The 6,000 sq.mi. Manu Biosphere Preserve, a protected national park, "is one of the most biodiverse lowland tropical forests in the world and is considered one of the most pristine ecosystems on the planet." An estimated 1,000 bird species, 200 reptile and amphibian species, 125 mammal species, and 40 fish species live in the Park, and scientists from the San Diego Zoo will be working together with Peruvian researchers to "develop conservation science-based projects that study the many high-profile species that live in the Amazonian ecosphere."

Full press release: http://www.sandiegozoo.org/conservation/news/san_diego_zoo_global_reaches_peru_field_station

Third Annual National Public Gardens Day
February 1, 2011

From the announcement:

Scheduled for May 6th, 2011, the Friday preceding Mother ’s Day weekend, National Public Gardens Day is a national day of awareness in which communities nationwide are invited to visit and learn about the important role their public gardens play in promoting environmental stewardship and awareness, plant and water conservation, and education. Now in its third year celebrating America’s public gardens, National Public Gardens Day was created in partnership between the American Public Gardens Association (APGA) and irrigation product and service provider, Rain Bird. The 2011 National Public Gardens Day will showcase the contributions of public gardens with special events at many of the more than 500 North American public gardens.

For more information on National Public Gardens Day, visit www.NationalPublicGardensDay.org

Full announcement: http://nationalpublicgardensday.org/npgd-announcement/

Study offers warning about next potential mass extinction
March 2, 2011  By Elizabeth Weise

In the March 3 issue of Nature, researchers from UC Berkeley, University of Sao Paulo in Brazil and the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center published results that show we may be at the beginning of Earth’s sixth mass extinction. (A “mass extinction” is defined as a period “during which more than 75% of existing species disappear.”) The authors looked at data published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature [IUCN] on threatened and endangered animals and determined that if current extinction rates continue unabated that three-fourths of animal species will be extinct “within as little as three centuries to as far out as 2,200 years.”

The major causes of the accelerating extinction rates are humans and “our burgeoning population, set to hit nine billion by 2050.” Anthony Barnosky, the study’s lead author, still thinks that there is hope that we can prevent another mass extinction. He says that the solution is “not to give up, but to become more efficient,” and that “…we have to realize that there’s a fixed amount of land out there for other species habitats' in order to keep biodiversity at the level we're accustomed to having it."

Full article: http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/2011-03-02-next-mass-extinction_N.htm

CITATION:  Barnosky AD, Matzke N, Tomiya S, et al. 2011. Has the Earth’s sixth mass extinction already arrived? Nature 471:51-57. doi: 10.1038/nature09678

Rising carbon dioxide levels reducing plant transpiration rates
March 3, 2011 By David Bricker

Two new studies published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examine the effects of carbon dioxide levels on the amount of water vapor ("transpiration") plants release into the atmosphere. The scientists gathered both current and historical data from plants in Florida to come to the conclusions that 1) rising carbon dioxide levels over the last 150 years have caused a 34% shrinking in plant stomata (the pores that allow them to transpire) and 2) that a doubling of today's carbon dioxide levels will "halve the amount of water lost to the air." This could eventually lead to hotter, drier conditions — which could thus lead to devastating effects on Florida's Everglades.

From the press release:

"The carbon cycle is important, but so is the water cycle," Dilcher said. "If transpiration decreases, there may be more moisture in the ground at first, but if there's less rainfall that may mean there's less moisture in ground eventually. This is part of the hyrdrogeologic cycle. Land plants are a crucially important part of it."

Dilcher also said less transpiration may mean the shade of an old oak tree may not be as cool of a respite as it used to be.

"When plants transpire they cool," he said. "So the air around the plants that are transpirating less could be a bit warmer than they have been. But the hydrogeologic cycle is complex. It's hard to predict how changing one thing will affect other aspects. We would have to see how these things play out."

"Our first paper shows connection between temperature, transpiration, and stomata density," Dilcher said. "The second paper really is about applying what we know to the future."

Full press release: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-03/iu-rci030311.php

CITATIONS:
Jan de Boer H, Lammertsma EI, Wagner-Cremer F, Dilcher DL, Wassen MJ, Dekker SC. 2011. Climate forcing due to optimization of maximal leaf conductance in subtropical vegetation under rising CO2. PNAS [published ahead of print]. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1100555108

Lammertsma EI, Jan de Boer H, Dekker SC, Dilcher DL, Lotter AF, Wagner-Cremer F. 2011. Global CO2 rise leads to reduced maximum stomatal conductance in Florida vegetation. PNAS 108(10):4035-4040. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1100371108

First global map of how human populations will be affected by climate change
March 3, 2011

A new study published in Global Ecology and Biogeography by J. Samson, et al used census and climate change data to” mark how people living in different areas of the world would be impacted by climate change by 2050.”

From the blog post:

“Samson’s team found that if populations continue to increase at the expected rates, those who are likely to be the most vulnerable to climate change are the people living in low-latitude, hot regions of the world, places like central South America, the Arabian Peninsula and much of Africa. In these areas, a relatively small increase in temperature will have serious consequences on a region’s ability to sustain a growing population….The study also points to clear inequities in the causes and consequences of climate change: the countries that have contributed the least to climate change, based on their average per-capita carbon dioxide emissions, are nevertheless predicted to be the most vulnerable to its impacts.”

To view the map and full press release: http://www.mcgill.ca/newsroom/news/item/?item_id=172326

CITATION:  Samson J, Berteaux D, McGill BJ, Humphries MM. 2011. Geographic disparities and moral hazards in the predicted impacts of climate change on human populations. Global Ecology and Biogeography [pre-pub ahead of print]. doi: 10.1111/j.1466-8238.2010.00632.x

UN-commissioned film commemorates International Year of the Forest
March 3, 2011

From the post:

2011 has been designated International Year of Forests by the UN. This beautiful film, Of Forests and Men, made by Yans Arthus-Bertrand of Earth from the Air fame, was commissioned by the UN and shown during the plenary session of the recent UN Forum on Forests in New York.

To view the 7-minute film: http://www.plant-talk.org/global-film-international-year-forests.htm

For more on the International Year of the Forest: http://www.un.org/en/events/iyof2011/

Genetic testing more accurate than visual counts in estimating animal populations
March 7, 2011 By Brian Wallheimer

A new article published in the journal Animal Conservation describes how conservation scientists should rely on genetic testing to accurately count animal populations. The study used genetic methods to count endangered white-tailed sea eagles (Aquila heliaca), analyzing feathers collected from around roosts and nesting sites at the Narzum Natural Nature Reserve in Kazakhstan.

From the press release:

Andrew DeWoody, a professor of genetics at Purdue University; Jamie Ivy, population manager at the San Diego Zoo; and Todd Katzner, a research assistant professor at the University of West Virginia, found that visual counts of imperial and white-tailed sea eagles in the Narzum National Nature Reserve of Kazakhstan significantly underestimated the imperial eagle population there. Using DNA from eagle feathers gathered in the area, the researchers were able to identify individual DNA fingerprints for each bird.

The technique showed that there were 414 eagles, more than three times as many as had been visually observed, and more than two and a half times more than modeling suggested would be there.

"A biologist doesn't always see them coming and going," said DeWoody, whose findings were published in the early online version of the journal Animal Conservation. "Eagles are difficult to capture, mark and resight. Biologists in the field can't differentiate individuals, whereas by a genetic fingerprint geneticists can differentiate among individuals that have visited a site."

Full press release: http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/research/2011/110307DeWoodyConservation.html

CITATION: Katzner TE, Ivy JAR, Bragin EA, Milner-Gulland EJ, DeWoody JA. Conservation implications of inaccurate estimation of cryptic population size. Animal Conservation [pre-pub ahead of print]. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-1795.2011.00444.x

First large-scale map of oil palm plantations reveals big environmental toll
March 7, 2011 By Rhett A. Butler

New research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences estimates the area covered by palm oil plantations in Malaysia, Borneo, and Sumatra. The scientists used satellite images to "extrapolate the environmental impact of oil palm expansion," including effects on biodiversity in the area and on carbon emissions.

From the article:

"Conversion of peatswamp forests to oil palm led to biodiversity declines of 1% in Borneo (equivalent to four species of forest-dwelling birds), 3.4% in Sumatra (16 species), and 12.1% in Peninsular Malaysia (46 species)," they write. Birds were used as a proxy for biodiversity loss.

...Koh and colleagues also estimated the climate impact of oil palm expansion.

Comparing the map with known peat forests, they found that at least 880,000 hectares of carbon-dense swamps had been converted to plantations by the early 2000s, contributing to the loss of more than 140 million metric tons of above-ground carbon stocks and resulting in annual carbon emissions of at least 4.6 million tons from peat oxidation.

The authors conclude with a call to prioritize conservation and reforestation efforts in regions that retain the bulk of remaining peatswamp forests in Southeast Asia: Central Kalimantan, Riau, and West Kalimantan."

Full story: http://news.mongabay.com/2011/0307-koh_palm_oil.html

CITATION: Lian Pin Koh, Jukka Miettinen, Soo Chin Liew, and Jaboury Ghazoul. Remotely sensed evidence of tropical peatland conversion to oil palm. PNAS Early Edition for the week of March 7, 2011. www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1018776108

Wildlife highlights from the report to the Fish and Wildlife Health Committee
March 8, 2011

View full report at: http://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/publications/other/NWHC%202011_March8%20FWHealthCommRep.pdf

White-nose syndrome range expansion in bats, 2010/2011 (CT, IN, MA, NC, NH, NJ, MD, NY, PA, TN, VA, VT, WV, Ontario, Quebec): White-nose syndrome (WNS) results from fungal infection of the skin of hibernating bats by Geomyces destructans. This disease has caused unprecedented winter mortality in North American bat populations and was recently confirmed by histology in bats from two new states (Indiana and North Carolina). States with laboratory-confirmed cases of WNS now total 13 since the disease was first recognized near Albany, New York, in winter 2007/2008. Clinical signs of disease continue to occur among bats at confirmed hibernacula in subsequent seasons, and current estimates of hibernating bat population declines since the emergence of WNS exceed 99% at some locations. The USGS National Wildlife Health Center, along with many partners, continues to play a primary role in WNS research, including WNS transmission/pathogenesis/recovery studies, development of improved tools for molecular detection of G. destructans, and investigation into the microbial ecology of G. destructans in bat hibernacula. The Center distributes Wildlife Health Bulletins on new developments related to WNS and other wildlife health issues. These can be found at http://www.nwhc.usgs.gov. Contacts: David Blehert, 608-270-2466, dblehert@usgs.gov; Anne Ballmann, 608-270-2445, aballmann@usgs.gov

Recent WNS publications include: Wing pathology of white-nose syndrome in bats suggests life-threatening disruption of physiology. BMC Biology 2010, 8:135. http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/8/135 USGS Media Release about this publication.

DNA-based detection of the fungal pathogen Geomyces destructans in soil from bat hibernacula. Mycologia 2010, 0: 10-262v2-10-262, http://www.mycologia.org/cgi/content/abstract/10-262v2 (ahead of print)

H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza: The Federal, State and Tribal partnership formed to develop and implement the National Interagency Early Detection System for Highly Pathogenic H5N1 Avian Influenza in Wild Migratory Birds has continued into its fifth year of surveillance. Birds have been tested from all 50 states and 6 freely-associated states and territories. While the surveillance focused on waterfowl, shorebirds, gulls and terns, a total of 284 species were sampled. So far, during the 2010 sampling year (April 1, 2010 – March 31, 2011), DOI cooperating agencies collected and analyzed over 14,235 wild bird samples and the highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 virus was not detected. Of these, 481 have tested positive for low pathogenic avian influenza based on molecular screening; 34 were H5 positive and 2 were positive for low pathogenic H5N1. Contact: Scott Wright, 608-270-2460, swright@usgs.gov

New environmental contaminants book: USGS NWHC Scientist Christian Franson has co-authored a book chapter that is included in the second edition of Environmental Contaminants in Biota, Interpreting Tissue Concentrations. This updated edition, which was written by 46 scholars, is the authoritative work on interpreting concentrations of environmental contaminants in fish, wildlife and aquatic species. Dr. Franson's chapter, "Lead in Birds," was written in collaboration with Deborah J. Pain of the UK's Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, and focuses on the interpretation of tissue lead concentrations resulting from exposure to metallic lead, including shotgun pellets, bullets, bullet fragments, and fishing weights. The chapter reviews past literature relevant to lead poisoning in birds; evaluates current research about the factors that influence 2 . Contact: Christian Franson, 608-270-2444, 3 . Contact: Cris Marsh, 608-270-2459, cmarsh@usgs.gov 4

Great Salt Lake mortality in eared grebes (Utah): An avian cholera outbreak was observed at the Great Salt Lake in November 2010. Surveys conducted by Utah Division of Wildlife Resources estimated 10,000 eared grebes died out of a population of 200,000. No other species other than grebes appeared to have been affected. Significant cholera outbreaks in this area have occurred in 1994 where 15,000 grebes died; 44,000 in 1998; 30,000 in 2002; and 30,000 in 2004; 15,000 in 2007. Mortality subsided in early January 2011 and ceased when water started freezing. More information on avian cholera and links to news stories are available at: http://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/disease_information/avian_cholera/ Contact: Anne Ballmann, 608-270-2445, aballmann@usgs.gov

Northern fulmar mortality from Monterey Bay to southern Washington (California, Washington): In November 2010, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary’s Beach COMBERS beach survey program documented increased numbers of Northern Fulmars washing up dead on beaches in multiple counties (Monterey, Santa Cruz, and San Luis Obispo) with mortality conservatively estimated at approximately 2,500 – 3,000 birds. Reports of concurrent fulmar mortality came from Clatsop County, Oregon, and Long Beach, Washington. It is estimated that 98% were young of the year and in poor body condition with hemorrhaging of foot webbing suggesting prey-based starvation may have been the main cause of mortality. Many birds were sent to rehabilitation centers and responded positively to feeding and sodium supplementation. Northern Fulmars are birds that regularly migrate through central California. Sometimes, large numbers of these migrant birds will strand on beaches in what is known as a "wreck". Wintertime wreck events in this area have occurred previously in 2003-2004, 1995, 1984, 1976, and 1907-1908. Contact: LeAnn White, 608-270-2491, clwhite@usgs.gov

Biscayne Bay turkey vulture mortality (Florida): A large mortality event involving turkey vultures was reported in early November 2010 which extended from Biscayne Bay to Marathon, Florida. An estimated 875 turkey vultures died as a result of drowning after crashing into open water. Several broad-winged hawks were also involved. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission personnel, National Park Service, and other agencies were involved in the recovery of live birds, several of which responded well to supportive care in rehabilitation facilities and were later released. The majority of the vultures found dead were in good body condition and no underlying diseases were identified. The area in question was too far from radar to reliably detect "micro bursts" or other localized downdrafts; however, weather or possibly aircraft disturbance is suspected to be a contributing factor in the deaths. A smaller drowning event involving turkey vultures occurred off Sandy Key in February 2001. Contact: Anne Ballmann, 608-270-2445, aballmann@usgs.gov

Red-winged blackbird die-off (Arkansas): A die-off of about 4,000 red-winged blackbirds occurred on New Year’s Eve in Beebe, Arkansas. This event garnered significant media attention. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission submitted some red-winged blackbird carcasses to the NWHC for investigation. NWHC determined that these birds died from blunt (impact) trauma after being disturbed from their roost in the middle of the night and flying into objects. State officials hypothesized that loud noises may have caused the birds to leave their roost. No significant underlying or predisposing conditions or diseases were found in these birds in numerous toxicological analyses, cultures, and tests. Contact: LeAnn White, 608-270-2491, clwhite@usgs.gov

State of Alaska attempts to block designation of coastline as critical habitat for polar bears
March 9, 2011 By Cassandra Sweet

The state of Alaska is suing federal regulators in order to try to "block their designation of thousands of miles of Alaska coastline as critical habitat for polar bears." The lawsuit is based on claims that the Interior Department and USFWS violated "administrative procedures" when making the designation. Alaska Governor Sean Parnell said that current protection laws are stringent already and cited potential job loss and increased costs of resource development projects (such as oil production) as reasons why the critical habitat designation was unwarranted.

Full article: http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20110309-714415.html

Florida Aquarium grows plants on living roof to feed animals
March 11, 2011  By Sheena Parveen

The Florida Aquarium in Tampa Bay is conserving water, providing their animals with locally-grown organic vegetables, and saving money by growing a hydroponic garden on their roof. The Aquarium’s Green Team came up with the idea to utilize their roof space to grow a variety of fruits and vegetables, which they then use to feed their animals. The Green Team also uses collected rainwater to water the garden, saving the Aquarium thousands of dollars a year, and fertilizes the garden with organic worm tea.

Full article: http://www.myfoxtampabay.com/dpp/news/scitech/foxe/at-aquarium-food-sprouts-from-rooftop-03112011

Samples from seed banks often labeled incorrectly
March 11, 2011  By Virginia Gewin

Seed banks are used to conserve seeds and preserve biodiversity for the future. However, new research published in the journal Crop Science demonstrates that many of the samples that are stored in seed banks are labeled incorrectly.

From the article:

Mark van de Wouw, a biologist at the Centre for Genetic Resources in Wageningen, the Netherlands, and his colleagues made a genetic analysis of 360 unique lettuce-seed samples marked with the same name, and revealed that almost one-quarter were wrongly labelled. The oldest seeds had the most mistakes: samples of cultivars stored before 1900 had only a 56% chance of being named correctly, whereas those stored between 1960 and 1989 proved almost 90% authentic.

Errors can occur during seed handling or through cross contamination when regenerating seeds, but van de Wouw found that most errors occurred during the initial labelling of the seed. And in the past, growers were less exact about the names given to plant varieties, so even labels written correctly at the time may be wrong according to modern standards.

Van de Wouw urges scientists requesting samples from seed banks to perform taxonomic analyses to validate that the sample they received is actually the sample they ordered — regardless of what the label says. Charlotte Lusty from the Global Crop Diversity Trust in Rome points out that the study also confirms how much progress seed banking has made in the recent past and emphasizes the need for proper authentication checks. However, many seed banks are struggling to just stay afloat, so time- and resource-intensive authentication may not be occurring at the level that it should.

Full story: http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110311/full/news.2011.154.html

CITATION: van de Wouw M, van Treuren R, van Hintum T. 2011. Crop Science 51:736-746.

New species of ancient tarsier found in Thai coal mine
March 11, 2011 By Rachel Kaufman

Scientists have discovered 18 fossilized jawbones in a Thai coal mine that they have determined belong to a new species of ancient tarsier.

From the article:

Tarsiers are primates that share a common ancestor with monkeys and humans. The big-eyed, nocturnal animals are today found mostly in Southeast Asia.

The new species—named Tarsius sirindhornae—lived about 13 million years ago. Based on the fossil jaws, the whole animal would have weighed up to 6 ounces (180 grams), making it the largest known tarsier, said study leader Yaowalak Chaimanee, a geologist with Thailand's Department of Mineral Resources.

The scientists believe that the ancient tarsier was much like its modern relatives, except it most likely had a different diet as its teeth were rounded instead of sharp.

Full story: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/03/110311-new-species-found-fossils-primates-tarsiers-thailand-science/

CITATION: Chaimanee Y, Lebrun R, Yamee C, Jaeger JJ. 2010. A new Middle Miocene tarsier from Thailand and the reconstruction of its orbital morphology using a geometric-morphometric method. Proceedings of the Royal Society B [published online before print]. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2010.2062

Orchids Galore opens at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
March 12, 2011 By Julie Young

The exhibition "Orchids Galore" opened this week at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia, and will run through April 10. More than 2,000 orchids were "trucked in from far-away places for the show," which will be on exhibit with the 1,800 orchids already on display in the Garden's permanent collection. Displays include a "cascading waterfall of spectacular yellow oncidium orchids," "a living arch of moth orchids and bromeliads," and a new orchid hybrid with red blooms. Tom Brinda, the assistant executive director of horticulture and education, wants people to be able to interact with the flowers in a variety of ways, stating, "We wanted them to be at viewing level, sniffing level and photography level."

Full story: http://www2.timesdispatch.com/lifestyles/2011/mar/12/tdhome01-orchids-galore-opens-at-lewis-ginter-bota-ar-900283/

Potential increase in Bornean rainforest logging due to earthquake in Japan
March 13, 2011 By Rhett Butler

Malaysian logging may well see an increase in demand from Japan once reconstruction efforts are underway following the destruction from last week’s earthquake and tsunami. According to AmResearch, an investment research firm based in Kuala Lampur, Japan accounts for” 46 percent of Sarawak’s total wood panel exports” [Sarawak is a state in Malaysian Borneo]. This comes at a time when Bornean rainforests are already “heavily logged…[and native people are] pushed off their traditional lands.”

Full story: http://news.mongabay.com/2011/0313-japan_sarawak_logging.html

USGS launches Butterfly and Moth Website
March 13, 2011  By Roger Greenway

The USGS and partners “has launched a new website to help us understand, identify, and appreciate the rich diversity of butterflies and moths of North America.” The main feature of the website is the Butterflies and Moths of North American database [BAMONA]. The data collected will be used by researchers to monitor the health of rapidly declining North American butterfly and moth populations. The database features more than “287,000 verified sighting records and 3,239 images that describe 4,638 species.”

To access BAMONA: http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/

Full story: http://www.enn.com/wildlife/article/42458

Texas Zoo adopts two guard dogs to protect animals on exhibit
March 13, 2011 By Gheni Platenburg

The Texas Zoo has had problems in the recent past with natural predators, such as raccoons, bobcats, and snakes. To solve the problem, they adopted two Great Pyrenees dog – a brother and sister – to guard the animals in the zoo at night. Andrea Blomberg, the zoo executive director, said, "We knew we couldn't bring just any type of dog into the zoo....We needed dogs that knew not to attack the animals that were supposed to be here and guard them." The 2-year-old dogs arrived at the zoo on Feburary 22 and have been "learning their patrol routes as well as familiarizing themselves with the zoo's inhabitants."

Full story: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/tx/7470134.html

New study discovers potential treatment for prion diseases
March 14, 2011  By Allison Elliott

New research published in this month’s issue of Biomaterials “may shed light on possible treatments for prion diseases.”
From the article:

“Prion diseases, which include Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans and bovine spongiform encephalopathy ("mad cow" disease) in cattle, are caused by prions — unconventional pathogens composed of infectious protein particles and resistant to conventional sterilization procedures. Presently there is no known agent or procedure that can halt or reverse damage caused by prion disease.”

The authors demonstrated a potential process that would halt the spread of prions by using polymers of amino acid lysine (polylysines) to target plasminogen (a substance that stimulates the multiplication of prions). The process effectively slowed the disease in lab mice, which “survived longer and showed lower levels of prions in their brains than did untreated mice.”

Full story: http://uknow.uky.edu/content/new-research-focuses-prion-diseases

CITATION: Ryou C, Titlow WB, Mays CE, Bae Y, Kim S. 2011. The suppression of prion propagation using poly-l-lysine by targeting plasminogen that stimulates prion protein conversion. Biomaterials 32(11):3141. doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2011.01.017

Evolutionary history of flies mapped
March 14, 2011 

Dr. Brian Wiegmann, a North Carolina State professor of entomology, and colleagues have mapped “the evolutionary history of flies…[plugging] gaps in the 260-million-year history of the fly order Diptera.”

From the article:

“While providing the most comprehensive picture of fly life over the ages, the tree should allow scientists to tease out answers to other puzzling questions about flies, like how some traits, such as blood feeding, appeared and reappeared many times across millions of years of evolution. The results of future studies based on the information provided by the tree may have important impacts on human health and the environment; flies have a substantial impact on society as vectors of killer diseases like malaria, as agricultural pests, and as important pollinators and decomposers.”

Wiegmann states: “We still haven’t found all the flies that exist, so there are still some surprises out there. But this work unlocks some of the mysteries of the fly evolutionary tree and adds a major branch to the tree of life for all living things.”

The study appears in this week’s issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Full press release: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-03/ncsu-to031411.php

CITATION: Wiegmann B, Trautwein M, Winkler I, Barr N, Kim J-K, Bertone M, Cassel B, Bayless K, et al. 2011. Episodic radiations in the Fly Tree of Life. PNAS [published ahead of print]. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1012675108

Rock-paper-scissors tournaments can explain ecological diversity
March 14, 2011  By Robert Mitchum

Traditional ecology promotes “survival of the fittest,” with more successful species winning out over other species competing for the same resources. However, researchers at the University of Chicago and UC Santa Barbara report that “the childhood game of rock-paper-scissors” can explain how in “systems such as the Amazon…thousands of tree species occupy similar ecological niches.”

From the article:

"If you have two competitors and one is better, eventually one of the two will be driven extinct," said co-author Stefano Allesina, PhD, assistant professor of ecology and evolution at the University of Chicago. "But if you have three or more competitors and you use this rock-paper-scissor model, you can prove that many of these species can co-exist forever."

The rock-paper-scissors rules are an example of an "intransitive" competition, where the participants cannot be simply ordered from best to worst. When placed in pairs, winners and losers emerge: rock beats scissors, paper beats rock, and scissors beat paper. But when all three strategies compete, an impasse is reached where no one element is the undisputed winner.

The co-authors combined game theory, graph theory, and dynamical systems to arrive at their outcomes, which propose “new ideas about the stability of ecosystems – or the dramatic consequences when only one species in the system is removed.” The study will appear in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Full article: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-03/uocm-rte031011.php

CITATION:  Allesina S, Levine JM. 2011. A competitive network theory of species diversity. PNAS [in press].

New study examines resource competition between near and distant plant relatives
March 14, 2011 By Kevin Mayhood

New findings to be published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences have implications for Darwin's naturalization hypothesis, which predicts that newcomers "that are most distantly related to established species in an ecological community would be the most successful colonizers. Close relatives might compete for the same resources, if they have the same or similar strategies."

From the press release [emphasis added]:

When planted in the focal species' home soils, the closer the relationship between plants, the worse the focal species fared. The focal species fared best when grown with the most-distant relatives, consistent with Darwin's idea that competition will be strongest between close relatives.

But, when planted in potting soil, the focal species grew as well or better with a close relative as with a distant relative. Darwin's hypothesis is supported by the greenhouse experiment in field soils but conflicts with the outcome found in potting soil. To learn why different soils produce opposite results requires more research.

However, the dependence of the outcome of competition on soils adds another parameter to consider when predicting what kinds of plants will be successful invaders, the researchers say.

Full press release: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-03/cwru-stw031011.php

CITATION: Burns JH, Strauss SY. 2011. More closely related species are more ecologically similar in an experimental test. PNAS [published ahead of print]. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1013003108

USFWS reject petition to list flat-tailed horned lizard as endangered
March 14, 2011 By Louis Sahagun

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has rejected a petition list the flat-tailed horned lizard (Phrynosoma mcallii) as an endangered species, stating that the species' "remaining desert habitat in Southern California and Arizona is large enough to maintain self-sustaining populations." The Service does not believe that the threats to the lizard, including "urban and agricultural development, off-road vehicles, military exercises, sand and gravel mining, alternative energy projects and construction of roads and utility corridors" are as significant as once believed.

This is the fourth time USFWS has rejected the proposal, and advocacy groups may once again try to challenge the finding.

Full post: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/greenspace/2011/03/usfws-refuses-to-list-the-flat-tailed-horned-lizard-as-an-endangered-species.html

Full announcement from Federal Register: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-03-15/html/2011-5411.htm

Professional taxonomists call on citizen scientists
March 14, 2011 By Rebecca Kessler

With declining funding and less scientists entering the field of taxonomy, and with extinctions estimated to outnumber discoveries, researchers are concerned that many species will remain unaccounted for. This combination of factors has prompted some taxonomists to call for assistance from amateur practitioners. David Pearson, a tiger beetle specialist at Arizona State University, claims that "amateurs can easily make serious contributions." He states that "...along with having the dedication, time, and some money to devote to their hobby, amateurs tend to be extremely bright, eager to learn, and quite capable of the basic descriptive science that many professionals no longer have the funding to do." However, other researchers assert that "citizen scientists," although they may help professional taxonomists get the job done, will not be the final solution to the problem, citing the need for a peer-review process and continental-scale expertise.

Full article: http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2011/03/could-amateur-taxonomists-catalog.html?ref=hp

Fifteen most important and least known conservation issues
March 14, 2011 By Jeremy Hance

At the end of 2010, scientists outlined 15 conservation issues in Trends in Ecology & Evolution that "may impact conservation efforts this year and beyond, but are not yet widely known."

The issues, in alphabetic order:

The detailed information on these issues can be found in the paper: Horizon scan of global conservation issues for 2011.

Full story: http://news.mongabay.com/2011/0314-hance_conservation_issues.html

CITATION: Sutherland WJ, Bardsley S, Bennun L, et al. 2010. Horizon scan of global conservation issues for 2011. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 26(1):10-16. doi:10.1016/j.tree.2010.11.002.

Orchid S. pumilum attracts flies by mimicking smell of carrion
March 14, 2011

A new study published in the Annals of Botany studied the ability of the orchid Satyrium pumilum to mimic the smell of carrion in order to attract pollinators. Studying the flies that visited roadkill, the researchers found that many of these flies were carrying pollen from the S. pumilum orchid. According to Timotheüs van der Niet, the lead author: "The flowers of the orchids are incredibly specialised. Not only do they have to entice flies in, but they have to get flies of the right size into the right position to pick up the pollen. We've found that scent plays a hugely important role in pulling in the flies, and even inside the flower different scents attract the flies into the right location to pick up the pollen. The combination of smell and sight is irresistible to some flies. The level of carrion mimicry is amazing; we even saw a female fly leave larvae in a flower because it thought it was carrion."

Full story: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-03-orchid-scent-death.html

CITATION: van der Niet T, Hansen DM, Johnson SD. 2011. Carrion mimicry in a South African orchid: flowers attract a narrow subset of the fly assemblage on animal carcasses. Annals of Botany [published online ahead of print]. doi: 10.1093/aob/mcr048

WAZA and JAZA join forces to help zoos and aquariums in Northern Japan
March 15, 2011

The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums and its Japanese regional association are working together to collect money in order to assist zoos and aquariums that were affected by this month's devastating earthquake and tsunami. Gerald Dick, Executive Director of WAZA, stated: "After the horrible earthquake and tsunami in Japan, WAZA is trying to provide financial support for emergency assistance. The most affected zoos and aquariums urgently need help in order to protect staff and save animals."

From the press release, describing how specific Japanese zoos and aquariums have been affected:

Full press release: http://www.waza.org/en/site/pressnews-events/press-releases/zoos-and-aquariums-affected-by-earthquake-and-tsunami-in-japan

New PepsiCo bottle made from plant-based, renewable materials
March 15, 2011 By Gregory Karp

PepsiCo has announced that they have developed a "green" bottle that will be made 100% from plant waste such as "switch grass, pine bark and corn husks."

From the article:

It's an environmental as well as a marketing achievement: using 100% agricultural waste to make a top-quality plastic bottle that can then be placed back in the existing recycling system.
"It's closing the loop," said Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council. "It's the beginning of the end for petroleum-based plastic bottles."

...Down to the molecular level, it's a clone of today's plastic bottles, made with the resin polyethylene terephthalate (PET). The biggest difference is that manufacturing this bottle requires the use of no petroleum.... In the future, the company expects to use other materials, such as orange peels, potato peels, oat hulls and other agricultural byproducts from its own food businesses, which include product lines under the brands Frito-Lay, Tropicana and Quaker.

Although made with renewable materials, the bottles will be "as sturdy and clear as current bottles, being the chemical equal to the current PET plastic bottles."

Full story: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-pepsi-20110315,0,882790.story?track=rss

Push to label palm oil on food products in Europe
March 15, 2011 By Jeremy Hance

A coalition of environmental and conservation groups are calling for "food manufacturers to add palm oil to the label in Europe, instead of currently being listed as simply...'vegetable oil'." The campaign is not advocating a boycott of palm oil, but instead asking for legislation that would help "drive the demand...for certified sustainable palm oil. Some companies have started to voluntarily label palm oil and others, " including McDonalds, Walmart, Nestle, and Unilever, have "pledged to use only palm oil from certified sustainable sources by 2015."

Full story: http://news.mongabay.com/2011/0314-hance_palmoil_eu.html

Why older female elephants make the best leaders
March 15, 2011 By Virginia Morell

A new study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B provides evidence as to why the oldest female in an elephant herd is always the leader. Studying African elephants (Loxodonta africana) in Kenya's Amboseli National Park, the researchers discovered that these leaders were best able to identify potential threats and were the "most capable of making wise decisions."

From the story:

Researchers tested the decision-making skills of these matriarchs by playing recordings of lions roaring; they monitored the elephants' reactions to the roars of a single lion versus three lions for both male and female lions.... The oldest matriarchs proved best at recognizing a male lion's roar....The study provides the first experimental evidence that the members of a herd benefit from an older leader—a discovery, the researchers say, that also shows how vital it is to protect the elders (who usually have the biggest tusks) from ivory poachers.

For a video of the experiment: http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2011/03/video-old-female-elephants-make.html?ref=hp

CITATION: McComb K, Shannon G, Durant SM, Sayialel K, Slotow R, Poole J, Moss C. 2011. Leadership in elephants: the adaptive value of age. Proceedings of the Royal Society B [published online ahead of print]. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2011.0168

Overview of current status of Pan African Sanctuary Alliance chimpanzee sanctuaries
March 15, 2011

A new study examines "11 Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA) member facilities, predicting their carrying capacity for chimpanzees and provides a roadmap for long term resource, infrastructure and financial planning." As chimpanzees can live up to 50-60 years, these facilities must invest a substantial amount of time and resources into caring for the rescued animals. Because of complicated group dynamics and loss of habitat, it is often unfeasable for organizations to reintroduce the orphans back into the wild.

From the story:

Lead author Lisa Faust, PhD a research biologist with Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo said, "The most sobering part of this study is realizing that most of these institutions already report being at capacity or close to capacity, and yet on average the group of sanctuaries are collectively faced with accepting 56 new chimpanzee arrivals every year, most of them under the age of two to three years old. Because chimpanzees are long-lived, this means that most of the sanctuaries will need to sustain or increase their current size, because they will continue to accept new arrivals as part of their commitment to chimpanzee welfare and law enforcement."

The study, published in the International Journal of Primatology, aims to provide sanctuaries with statistics to plan for the future.

Full story: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-03-zoo-african-sanctuaries-road.html

CITATION: Faust LJ, Cress D, Farmer KH, Ross SR, Beck BB. Predicting capacity demand on sanctuaries for African chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). International Journal of Primatology [published online ahead of print]. doi: 10.1007/s10764-011-9505-z

Vilas Zoo looking for first visitors from 100 years ago
March 15, 2011 By Bill Novak

The Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, WI is celebrating its 100th birthday this year and is looking for "any centenarian who remembers the earliest days of the zoo...to come forward and be recognized as an 'honorary founding member'" by the Friends of the Zoo. When the zoo first opeend, the "most thrilling exhibit was five white-tailed deer." The zoo was established in 1911 by the Vilas family and has always provided free admission to visitors. This year they will be opening a new children's barn and breaking ground on a new Arctic Passage exhibit. A birthday party will be held at the zoo on May 28.

Full story: http://host.madison.com/news/local/article_a93ee988-4f10-11e0-baaf-001cc4c002e0.html

"Giant lobster" donated to zoo by fisherman
March 15, 2011

A fisherman in West Sussex, England, caught a "giant" lobster but felt it was too old and special to be eaten, so he donated it to the Blue Reef Aquarium in Portsmouth. The 50-year-old lobster measured 3 feet in length and weighed almost 9 lbs. According to experts at the aquarium, full-grown lobsters are typically half that size. The largest lobster ever caught (1934) was nicknamed "Mike" with a weight of 42 lbs.

Full story: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-12744820

Listing and designation of critical habitat for Chiricahua Leopard Frog
March 15, 2011 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 50
FR Doc No: FWS-R2-ES-2010-0085

From the announcement:

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to designate critical habitat for the Chiricahua leopard frog (Lithobates chiricahuensis) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. In total, we are proposing to designate approximately 11,136 acres (4,510 hectares) as critical habitat for the Chiricahua leopard frog. The proposed critical habitat is located in Apache, Cochise, Gila, Graham, Greenlee, Pima, Santa Cruz, and Yavapai Counties, Arizona; and Catron, Hidalgo, Grant, Sierra, and Socorro Counties, New Mexico. In addition, because of a taxonomic revision of the Chiricahua leopard frog, we are reassessing the status of and threats to the currently described species Lithobates chiricahuensis and proposing the listing as threatened of the currently described species.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments no later than May 16, 2011 by one of the following methods (requests for public hearings must be received by April 29, 2011): Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments on Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2010-0085. U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2010-0085; 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: Steve Spangle, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona Ecological Services Field Office, 2321 West Royal Palm Road, Suite 103, Phoenix, AZ 85021; telephone: 602/242-0210.

Full announcement: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-03-15/html/2011-4997.htm

First African black-footed cats born from frozen embryos
March 16, 2011

A joint effort between Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo Center for Conservation and Research and the Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species (located in New Orleans) has resulted in the first successful birth of African black-footed cats (Felis nigripes) from frozen embryo via in-vitro fertilization.

From the post:

The youngsters, both males, were born to surrogate mother Bijou on February 13, 2011, but their story goes all the way back to 2003, when sperm was collected from a 6 year old male named Ramses in Omaha, Nebraska. Experts at the Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo Center for Conservation and Research – Reproductive Sciences Department froze the sperm and sent it to Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species. It was combined with an egg from Zora, a Black-Footed Cat living at Audubon research center, creating embryos in March, 2005. Those embryos were frozen for almost six years before being thawed and transferred to Bijou on December 7, 2010. Sixty-nine days later, the two kittens became the first of their species to be born as a result of in-vitro fertilization utilizing frozen/thawed sperm and a frozen/thawed embryo.

...There are only 19 such cats in zoo collections in the United States, and only 40 around the world. Native to South Africa, the black-footed cat is one of the smallest wild felines.

For the full post and photos of the kittens: http://www.zooborns.com/zooborns/2011/03/rare-cats-born-through-amazing-science.html

Tousands of Laysan albatross killed at Midway by tsunami generated by earthquake
March 16, 2011

The Midway atoll (located northwest of the main Hawaiian islands) was flooded by the tsunami following last week's earthquake in Japan, killing at least 1,000 adult and adolescent Laysan albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis) and thousands of chicks.

From the article:

The white-and-black feathered Laysan albatross is not in danger of becoming extinct. About 1 million of the birds live at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge about 1,300 miles northwest of Honolulu, making it the largest Laysan albatross colony in the world.

Biologists are less sure how many ground-nesting bonin petrels may have died, because these birds live in underground burrows and would have been buried in areas covered by waves. Stieglitz [the project leader for the Hawaiian and Pacific Islands National Wildlife Refuges] estimated the death toll would reach the thousands. Since the bonin petrel feed at night, however, Stieglitz said he was hopeful many were out foraging when the tsunami hit before dawn.

For full story: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-03-tsunami-thousands-seabirds-midway.html

New Capybara born at the San Diego Zoo
March 16, 2011

From the press release:

The San Diego Zoo welcomed a new Capybara on March 7. The baby was born to a first-time mother, Rose, and could be seen running around the exhibit just hours after it was born. Rose is taking great care of her offspring, which nurses several times a day. Animal care staff expects nursing to continue for another 15 weeks. In addition to nursing, the baby has already started eating solid foods, including broccoli and apple. Capybaras are born with incisor teeth and keepers have seen the baby chewing on branches and trees around the exhibit.

Capybaras are the largest rodent in the world. They spend a lot of time in the water, have webbed feet to help them swim and can stay underwater to hide from predators for up to five minutes. Their ears, eyes and nostrils are all found near the top of the head, like a hippopotamus, so the capybaras can lift their head to survey the surroundings while the rest of the body hides in the water.

Capybaras are found in Central and South America but lived in Southern California during the Pleistocene epoch, 12,000 years ago. Fossil remains of a capybara were found in San Diego County in 1995. This discovery also tells us that Southern California was a wetter environment during the Pleistocene, because modern capybaras don’t stray far from water.

For photos and the full press release: http://www.zooborns.com/zooborns/2011/03/worlds-largest-rodent-born-at-san-diego-zoo.html

Endangered species permit applications
March 16, 2011 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 51
FWS-R8-ES-2011-N051;80221-1113-0000-F5

From the announcement:

The USFWS 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 April 15, 2011. Send written comments by U.S. mail to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Endangered Species Program Manager, Region 8, 2800 Cottage Way, Room W-2606, Sacramento, CA 95825 (telephone: 916-414-6464; fax: 916-414-6486). Please refer to the respective permit number for each application when submitting comments. For further information please contact: Daniel Marquez, Fish and Wildlife Biologist; see ADDRESSES (telephone: 760-431-9440; fax: 760-431-9624).

Permit No. TE-815214
Applicant: Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area, Arroyo Grande, California.
The applicant requests an amendment to an existing permit (February 13, 2008, 73 FR 8344) to take (set up and use remote sensing cameras to document and identify predation) the California least tern (Sterna antillarumbrowni) in conjunction with population monitoring and predator management activities in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties, California, for the purpose of enhancing their survival.

Permit No. TE-33863A
Applicant: Deborah K. Blackburn, Austin, Texas.
The applicant requests apermitto take (harass by survey) the southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonaxtrailliiextimus) in conjunction with surveys and population monitoring activities throughout the range of the species in California and Nevada for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE-064431
Applicant: Aztec Engineering Group Inc., Phoenix, Arizona.
The applicant requests an amendment to an existing permit (February 10, 2011, 76 FR 7577) to take (harass by survey and monitor nests) the southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonaxtrailliiextimus), and take (harass by survey) the Yuma clapper rail (Ralluslongirostrisyumanensis) in conjunction with surveys and population monitoring activities throughout the range of each species in California and Nevada for the purpose of enhancing their survival.

Permit No. TE-027422
Applicant: Brian T. Pittman, Petaluma, California.
The applicant requests an amendment to an existing permit (June 20, 2000, 65 FR 38297) to take (harass by survey, capture, handle, measure, and release) the arroyo toad (Anaxyruscalifornicus), and take (harass by survey, capture, handle, mark, collect biological samples, collect voucher specimens) the California tiger salamander (Ambystomacaliforniense) in conjunction with surveys, genetic study,and population monitoring activities throughout the range of each species in California for the purpose of enhancing their survival.

Permit No. TE-213726
Applicant: Joelle J. Fournier, San Diego, California.
The applicant requests an amendment to an existing permit (May 3, 2010, 75 FR 23287) to take (harass by survey, trap, capture, band adults, erect fence, use cameras, handle, transport sick and injured chicks and adults, and collect and transport abandoned eggs) the California least tern (Sterna antillarumbrowni) in conjunction with surveys, population monitoring and rehabilitation activities at Camp Pendleton Marine Base, Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, Naval Air Station North Island, and Silver Strand Training Complex South in San Diego County, California, for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE-34570A
Applicant: San Francisco Bird Observatory, Milpitas, California.
The applicant requests a permit to take (harass by survey, monitor nests, and use cameras) the California least tern (Sterna antillarumbrowni) in conjunction with surveysand population monitoring activities in Santa Clara, San Mateo, Alameda, and Napa Counties, California, for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE-172638
Applicant: Kevin S. Livergood, Foothill Ranch, California.
The applicant requests an amendment to an existing permit, which we granted March 6, 2008, for a Federally threatened species. The original permit allowed the applicant to take (harass by survey) the coastal California gnatcatcher (Polioptila californica californica) in conjunction with survey activities throughout the range of the species in California for the purpose of enhancing its survival. The applicant requests an amendment to take (capture, collect, and kill) the Conservancy fairy shrimp (Branchinectaconservatio), the longhorn fairy shrimp (Branchinectalongiantenna), the Riverside fairy shrimp (Streptocephaluswoottoni), the San Diego fairy shrimp (Branchinectasandiegonensis), and the vernal pool tadpole shrimp (Lepiduruspackardi) in conjunction with survey activities throughout the range of each species in California for the purpose of enhancing their survival.

Permit No. TE-817400
Applicant: East Bay Regional Park District, Oakland, California.
The applicant requests an amendment to an existing permit (April 22, 2008, 73 FR 21645) to take (capture, collect, and kill) the
Conservancy fairy shrimp (Branchinectaconservatio), the longhorn fairy shrimp (Branchinectalongiantenna), and the vernal pool tadpole shrimp (Lepiduruspackardi) in conjunction with survey activities in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, California, for the purpose of enhancing their survival.

Permit No. TE-795930
Applicant: Map Associates, Chico, California.
The applicant requests an amendment to an existing permit (April 21, 2010, 75 FR 20857) to take (collect soil containing Federally listed fairy shrimp cysts, translocate, and inoculate cysts into restored vernal pools) the vernal pool tadpole shrimp (Lepiduruspackardi) in conjunction with vernal pool restoration and population enhancement activities in Butte County, California, for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE-35000A
Applicant: University of California, Davis, California.
The applicant requests a permit to take (survey, capture, handle, take biological samples, and release) the salt marsh harvest mouse (Reithrodontomysraviventris) in conjunction with ecological research and genetic studies in Solano, Napa, Sonoma, Marin, Contra Costa, Alameda, San Mateo, and San Francisco Counties, California, for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE-35207A
Applicant: Jordan J. Zylstra, San Jacinto, California.
The applicant requests a permit to take (survey by pursuit) the Quino checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryasedithaquino) in conjunction with surveys throughout the range of the species in California for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE-104080
Applicant: Stephen A. Sykes, Rocklin, California.
The applicant requests a permit to take (survey, capture, handle, and release) the California tiger salamander (Ambystomacaliforniense) in conjunction with surveys throughout the range of the species in California for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE-35388A
Applicant: Steven M. Ritt, San Diego, California.
The applicant requests apermitto take (harass by survey) the southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonaxtrailliiextimus) in conjunction with surveys and population monitoring activities throughout the range of the species in California for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE-35387A
Applicant: Danielle C. Glenn, Ventura, California.
The applicant requests apermit to take (harass by survey, locate, and monitor nests) the California least tern (Sterna antillarumbrowni) in conjunction with surveys and population monitoring activities throughout the range of the species in Ventura County, California, for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Permit No. TE-039640
Applicant: Kristopher R. Alberts, San Clemente, California.
The applicant requests an amendment to an existing permit (April 7, 2008, 73 FR 18804) to take (survey by pursuit) the Quino checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryasedithaquino) in conjunction with surveys throughout the range of the species in California for the purpose of enhancing its survival.

Full announcement: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-03-16/html/2011-6104.htm

Barbary macaques recognize group members in photographs
March 17, 2011 By Victoria Gill

New findings published in the journal Animal Cognition suggest that "primates learn with age to understand that photos are representations of faces." The researchers studied Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus) and found that the older monkeys spent a lot of time studying photos of unfamiliar monkeys, but quickly looked away when it was a photo of another group member. Juvenile monkeys were confused by the photographs and often didn't know how to act. According to the lead author about the juveniles, Julia Fischer of the German Primate Center and Gottingen University, "Some of them didn't know what to do and they would even try to greet the pictures....That's the lip-smacking behaviour you see in the videos."

Full story: http://news.bbc.co.uk/earth/hi/earth_news/newsid_9422000/9422157.stm

CITATION: Schell A, Rieck K, Schell K, Hammerschmidt K, Fischer J. 2011.0 Adult but not juvenile Barbary macaques spontaneously recognize group members from pictures. Animal Cognition [published online ahead of print]. doi: 10.1007/s10071-0110383-8

Endangered species permit applications
March 17, 2011 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 52
FWS-R4-ES-2011-N049
;40120-1112-0000-F5

From the announcement:

The USFWS 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 April 18, 2011. Send written comments by U.S. mail to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1875 Century Boulevard, Suite 200, Atlanta, GA 30345 (Attn: Cameron Shaw, Permit Coordinator). Please refer to the respective permit number for each application when submitting comments. For further information please contact: Cameron Shaw, telephone 904/731-3191; facsimile 904/731-3045.

Applicant: U.S. Forest Service, Montgomery, Alabama, TE-132772.
The applicant requests renewal of authorization for taking the following species during scientific studies and land management activities on National Forest lands in Alabama:

Cahaba shiner Notropis cahabae
Cumberlandian Combshell Epioblasma brevidens
Upland Combshell Epioblasma metastriata
Southern acornshell Epioblasma othcaloogensis
Coosa moccasinshell Medionidus parvulus
Southern clubshell Pleurobema decisum
Dark pigtoe Pleurobema furvum
Southern pigtoe Pleurobema geogianum
Ovate clubshell Pleurobema perovatum
Triangular kidneyshell Ptychobranchus greenii
Flat pebblesnail Lepyrium showalteri
Lacy elimia Elimia crenatella
Cylindrical lioplax Lioplax cyclostomaformis
Tulotoma Tulotoma magnifica

Applicant: Stephen Samoray, Nashville, Tennessee, TE 25612A.
Applicant requests authorization for non-lethal take of Indiana bats (Myotis sodalis), gray bats (Myotis grisescens), Virginia big-eared bats (Corynorihinus townsendii virginianus) and Ozark big-eared bats (Corynorhinus townsendii ingens) for the purpose of conducting presence/absence surveys and collecting scientific data on roost sites.

Applicant: Troy Best, Auburn University, Alabama, TE-77175.
Applicant requests authorization to take (capture and release) Indiana bats (Myotis sodalis) and gray bats (Myotis grisescens) for the purpose of conducting scientific and genetic research, population monitoring, and ecological studies. This work will be conducted throughout Alabama.

Applicant: U.S. Forest Service, Russellville, Arkansas, TE-65972.
The applicant requests renewal of authorization for take of the following species during scientific studies and land management
activities on National Forest lands of the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest:

Gray bat Myotis grisescens
Indiana bat Myotis sodalis
Ozark big-eared bat Corynorhinus townsendii ingens
Least tern Sterna antillarum
Fat pocketbook Potamilus carpax
Pink mucket Lampsilis abrupt
Palid sturgeon Scaphirhynchus albus
Cave crayfish Cambarus aculabrum
Cave crayfish Cambarus zophonastes
American burying beetle Nicrophorus americanus
Missouri bladderpod Lesquerella filiformis

Applicant: Joseph Alderman, Semora, North Carolina, TE-28597A.
The applicant requests authority for nonlethal take of the following species while conducting presence/absence surveys in North
and South Carolina:

Carolina heelsplitter Lasmigona decorate
Appalachian elktoe Alasmidonta raveneliana
Tar River spinymussel Elliptio steinstansana
Dwarf wedgemussel Alasmidonta heterodon
James spinymussel Pleurobema collina
Littlewing pearlymussel Pegias fibula
Cape Fear shiner Notropis mekistocholas

Applicant: Ecological Solutions, Inc., Roswell, Georgia, TE-70800.
The applicant requests authority for nonlethal take of the following species while conducting presence/absence surveys in Georgia:

Hairy Rattleweed Baptisia arachnifera
Alabama Leather Flower Baptisia arachnifera
Smooth coneflower Echinacea laevigata
Pondberry Lindera melissifolia
Candy dropwort Oxypolis canbyi
Harperella Ptilimnium nodosum
Dwarf sumac Rhus michauxii
Green pitcherplant Sarracenia oreophila
Chaffseed Schwalbea Americana
Fringed campion Silene polypetala
Cooley meadowrue Thalictrum cooleyi
Persistent trillium Trillium persistens
Relict trillium Trillium reliquum
Tennessee yellow-eyed grass Xyris tennesseensis
Etowah Darter Etheostoma etowahae
Amber Darter Percina antesella

Applicant: Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, TE-75925.
The applicant requests renewal of authorization for trapping, banding, translocating and installing artificial nesting cavities for
red-cockaded woodpeckers (Picoides borealis) on the Poinsett Combat Range, Manchster State Forest, and other Air Force Properties in Sumter County, South Carolina.

Applicant: U.S. Army, Fort Polk, Louisiana, TE-41314.
The applicant requests renewal of authorization for trapping, banding, translocating, and installing artificial nesting cavities for
red-cockaded woodpeckers (Picoides borealis) on the Ft. Polk Army Base, Louisiana.

Applicant: Dr. J.H. Carter III and Assoc., TE-807672.
The applicant requests renewal of authorization for trapping, banding, translocating, and installing artificial nesting cavities for
red-cockaded woodpeckers (Picoides borealis) throughout the species' range.

Applicant: North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, TE-31057A.
The applicant requests authority for nonlethal take of the following species for the purposes of research, management, and captive propagation in North Carolina:

Appalachian elktoe Alasmidonta raveneliana
Tar River spinymussel Elliptio steinstansana
Dwarf wedgemussel Alasmidonta heterodon
James spinymussel Pleurobema collina
Littlewing pearlymussel Pegias fibula
Cape Fear shiner Notropis mekistocholas

Applicant: Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, Aiken, South Carolina, TE-31066A.
The applicant requests authority to collect seeds from Echinacea laevigata (smooth coneflower) for the purpose of establishment of a conservation garden. Plants and seeds from this effort may be used in the future to assist with recovery and reintroduction efforts.

Applicant: Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park, Homosassa, Florida, TE-40783.
Applicant requests renewal of authorization to take by housing and providing care for Key deer (Odocoileus virginianus clavium) for the purpose of public education. This activity will take place in Citrus County, Florida.

Applicant: Eglin Air Force Base, Niceville, Florida, TE-130169.
Applicant requests renewal of authorization to collect Cladonia perforata (perforate reindeer lichen), for the purpose of establishing a population at the Bok Tower Garden plant repository to use for re-establishment in the event that the current wild population is lost.

Applicant: North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, TE-31079A.
Applicant requests authorization to take (capture and release) Indiana bats (Myotis sodalis), Virginia big-eared bats (Corynorhinus townsendii virginianus) and gray bats (Myotis grisescens) for the purpose of conducting presence/absence surveys, population monitoring, and ecological studies. This work will be conducted in North Carolina.

Applicant: Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, TE-31141A.
Applicant requests authorization to take (capture and release) Indiana bats (Myotis sodalis) and gray bats (Myotis grisescens) for the purpose of conducting presence/absence surveys, population monitoring, and ecological studies. This work will be conducted in Tennessee.

Applicant: Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Apopka, Florida, TE-32394A.
Applicant requests authorization to take, by nonlethal means, the Anastasia Island beach mouse (Peromyscus polionotus phasma) for the purpose of scientific study and enhancing management and recovery efforts. This effort will be conducted along the Atlantic coastline of northeast Florida.

Applicant: James Godwin, Auburn, Alabama, TE-32397A.
Applicant requests authorization to take Alabama red-bellied turtles (Pseudemys alabamenisis) for the purpose of scientific study. This effort will involve trapping, marking, and removing tissue for genetic analysis. The study will take place in Baldwin and Mobile Counties, Alabama, and Harrison and Jackson Counties, Mississippi.

Applicant: USDA, Forest Service, Montgomery, Alabama, TE-33465A.
The applicant requests authorization for trapping, banding, translocating, and installing artificial nesting cavities for red-cockaded woodpeckers (Picoides borealis) on National Forests in Alabama, and related activities in cooperating States.

Applicant: Joseph Kirkbride, National Arboretum, Washington DC, TE- 33475A.
The applicant is requesting authorization to take plant tissues and flowers from Chionanthus pygmaeus (pygmy fringe tree) from Federal lands in Florida, to retain as voucher specimens at the National Arboretum, and to conduct genetic testing on the specimens for species verification.

Applicant: Virginia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Blacksburg, Virginia, TE-34778A.
The applicant requests authorization to capture, handle, tag, and track Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, and Carolina northern flying squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus coloratus) in North Carolina.

Applicant: John Alderman, Pittsboro, North Carolina, TE-065756.
The applicant requests to amend his existing permit to include conducting presence-absence surveys (to include capture, tag, and release) for all endangered and threatened species of freshwater mussels in the United States.

Applicant: Bernard Kuhajda, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, TE-137403.
The applicant requests to amend his existing permit to include presence-absence surveys for and tissue collection from the endangered vermilion darter (Etheostoma chermocki) and the proposed endangered rush darter (E. phytophilum) in Alabama.
Applicant: Phillip Bettoli, U.S. Geological Survey, Cookeville, Tennessee, TE-34878A.

The applicant is requesting authorization to take (nonlethally) boulder darters (Etheostoma wapiti) and cracking pearlymussels
(Hemistena lata) for the purpose of developing sampling protocols and enhancing recovery efforts. This work will be accomplished in the Elk River, Tennessee.

Applicant: Alabama Power Company, Birmingham, Alabama, TE-34880A.
The applicant is requesting authorization for take (nonlethal) of red-cockaded woodpeckers (Picoides borealis), southern clubshell (Pleurobema decisum), southern pigtoe (Pleurobema georgianum), Georgia pigtoe (Pleurobema hanleyianum), interrupted rocksnail (Leptoxis foreman), cylindrical lioplax (Lioplax cyclostomaformis), rough hornsnail (Pleurocera foreman), and tulotoma (Tulotoma magnifica), for the purpose of conducting presence/absence surveys and to enhance recovery through management activities. This work will be conducted in Alabama.

Applicant: Mark Bailey, Andalusia, Alabama, TE-34882A.
The applicant is requesting authorization for take (non-lethal) of red-cockaded woodpeckers (Picoides borealis), Mississippi gopher frog (Rana capitol sevosa) and reticulated flatwoods salamander (Ambystoma bishop) for the purpose of conducting presence/absence surveys and to assist with recovery activities. This work will be conducted throughout the species ranges.

Applicant: U.S. Army, Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, TE-60988.
The applicant requests authorization for trapping, banding, translocating and installing artificial nesting cavities for red-cockaded woodpeckers (Picoides borealis) on Fort Jackson.

Endangered species permit applications
March 17, 2011 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 53
FWS-R9-IA-2011-N059; 96300-1671-0000-P5

From the announcement:

The USFWS 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 April 18, 2011. Send written 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) 358-2280; or e-mail DMAFR@fws.gov. Please refer to the respective permit number for each application when submitting comments. For further information please contact: Brenda Tapia, (703) 358-2104
(telephone); (703) 358-2280 (fax); DMAFR@fws.gov (e-mail).

Applicant: Tom Stehn, Whooping Crane Recovery Plan Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 2, Austwell, TX, PRT-013808
The applicant requests renewal of a permit to import captive-bred/ captive-hatched and wild live specimens, captive-bred/wild-collected viable eggs, biological samples from captive-bred/wild specimens, and salvaged materials from captive-bred/wild specimens of whooping cranes (Grus americana) from Canada, for completion of identified tasks and objectives mandated under the Whooping Crane Recovery Plan. Salvage materials may include, but are not limited to, whole or partial specimens, feathers, eggs and egg shell fragments. This notification covers activities to be conducted by the applicant over a 5-year period.

Applicant: Rosamond Gifford Zoo at Burnet Park, Syracuse, NY; PRT- 28295A
The applicant requests a permit to re-import two captive born female Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) and one captive born male Asian elephant from African Lion Safari and Game Farm, Ontario, Canada for the purpose of enhancement of the survival of the species.

Applicant: Ronald Grubbs, Cuthbert, GA; PRT-37429A
The applicant requests a permit to import a 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.

Japanese Friendship Garden raising funds for earthquake and tsunami victims
March 17, 2011 By Peter Rowe

On March 19, the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park hosted their annual Cherry Blossom Festival. While typically a joyful occasion, this year's festival was held "against a backdrop that highlights nature’s cruel streak."

From the story:

Clearly, Dennis Otsuji notes, this is the wrong time for a party.

“We are not celebrating,” said Otsuji, president of the friendship garden’s board. “We are supporting and raising funds for help.”

Plans for a joyful festival have been recast in sober hues. Los Angeles-based Consul General Junichi Ihara set aside cheerful remarks in favor of a somber talk on this crisis. Donations will be collected for the Red Cross’ Japanese relief campaign. Vendors are reviewing their wares, ensuring they set the right tone.

Full story: http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2011/mar/17/1n18cherry/

Polar bear dies at Berlin Zoo, necropsy links death to brain problem
March 23, 2011

Knut, the beloved 4-year-old polar bear at the Berlin Zoo, died suddenly on March 19. Knut was born in 2006 and "became a sensation after he was rejected by his mother and hand-raised by zookeeper Thomas Dorflein, who died of a heart attack in 2008." Knut became somewhat of a celebrity in Germany, drawing large crowds to the zoo. Knut's death last week came as a surprise to keepers, as he seemed to be healthy and alert and had survived past infancy. In captivity, "polar bears tend to live to their mid-30s."

From the article:

During the last few weeks of his life, Knut seemed strong and was marking and defending his area of rocks, showing "I'm the male polar bear," Klös said.  

An animal autopsy of the 4-year-old polar bear named Knut that died suddenly at the Berlin Zoo on Saturday (March 19) showed distinct brain changes that may be the cause of death.

The necropsy, or animal autopsy, was undertaken Monday (March 21) at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

"The preliminary results show distinctive anomalies at the brain, which could be seen as the cause of the ice bear's sudden passing," according to a press statement from the zoo. "Other irregularities on the organs could not be found from the pathologists."

The animal died suddenly in front of hundreds of zoo visitors with no signs of any ailments.

...Though the necropsy is not yet complete, Klös said the fact that they didn't find any abnormalities in the animal's kidneys, liver or heart suggest stress did not play a role in the death.

The results of the necropsy are expected to be in on Friday.

Full story: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/03/22/scitech/main20045962.shtml

Photo gallery at LA Times: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/unleashed/2011/03/knut-polar-bear-photos.html

U.S. News and World Report releases list of top veterinary schools
March 15, 2011

The U.S News and World Report released their 2012 rankings of "Best Graduate Schools."

From their report, the top 10 veterinary schools:

From the story, on how the rankings of the American Veterinary Medical Association accredited schools are determined:

All the health rankings are based on the results of peer assessment surveys sent to deans, other administrators and/or faculty at accredited degree programs or schools in each discipline, according to U.S. News and World Report. Respondents rated the academic quality of programs on a five-point scale: outstanding (5), strong (4), good (3), adequate (2) or marginal (1).

Cornell University scored 4.5, U.C. Davis scored 4.2 and Colorado and North Carolina State Universities both scored 4.1.

Full story: http://www.veterinarypracticenews.com/vet-breaking-news/2011/03/15/cornell-university-ranks-best-graduate-school-in-veterinary-medicine.aspx

Full list of vet schools: http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-health-schools/veterinarian-rankings

Cell phone game "Giskin anomaly" in Balboa Park
March 21, 2011 By Hilary Andrews and Maureen Cavanaugh

The Balboa Park Online Collaborative has come up with a new interactive way of introducing visitors to the history of Balboa Park. More than just an audio tour, the cell phone game is "part science fiction, part scavenger hunt, and part history lesson." Called "The Giskin anomaly survey", the named derives from a fictional device created by Erhardt Giskin called the anomaly detector, which "enables us to pull thoughts out of the past." Basically, the game works by having visitors walk around Balboa Park, check in at various locations, call into a toll-free number, receive a clue which leads them on to the next location, and so on.

From the interview with Rich Cherry (Director of the Balboa Park Online Collaborative) and Ken Eklund (game designer and writer of the Giskin anomaly) on KPBS' These Days with Maureen Cavanaugh:

CHERRY: The story is kind of a dual narrative. So there's this fictional story that's happening in the present with these two characters actually running around doing the survey. But there's also a very distinct story line that is happening in this one, that is based in 1941 to 1944, when a lot of people don't know that the park was actually taken over by the military. And there's a whole backstory around that. And the two characters in the historical part of the narrative, a sailor, and his Japanese-American girlfriend. So there's a lot of history that actually comes cross that's related to the park, related to what the country was going through, in a time of war, related to how people were thinking about it, and what was going on. So it actually ties back to material that's actually historical, researched by Ken at the history center, you know, from the museums in the park where they have their little nuggets of stories of what happen indeed their institutions. All of the museums were actually taken over in a very short period of time to be hospital beds for the war effort.

...Episodes of the Giskin anomaly can be played throughout 2011 in Balboa Park.

Full transcript: http://www.kpbs.org/news/2011/mar/21/giskin-anomaly-lets-san-diegans-experience-history/

Amsterdam albatross determined to be separate species
March 21, 2011 By Ella Davies

Researchers from the University of Lethbridge, Canada, have completed genetic analysis of the Wandering albatross species complex (Diomedea amsterdamensis, D. antipodensis, D. dabbenena and D. exulans) and have determined that the Amsterdam albatross (D. amsterdamensis) is a separate species and not a subspecies of the wandering albatross, as was previously believed by some in the scientific community. The Amsterdam albatross is the rarest albatross in the world, the entire population of which consists of 170 individuals residing on Amsterdam Island in the Indian Ocean. It is considered critically endangered.

From the article:

[Dr. Theresa Burg] explained that Amsterdam albatrosses differ in appearance from wandering albatrosses.

"They are slightly smaller in size," she said. "They lay their eggs at a different time and have slightly browner plumage than the other wandering albatrosses."

The team's study also revealed significant differences between the birds' DNA. The analysis showed that Amsterdam albatrosses separated from their cousins, becoming a genetically distinct species, up to 265,000 years ago.

...Scientists hope that now the birds are recognised as unique, efforts to conserve them will increase.

Full story: http://news.bbc.co.uk/earth/hi/earth_news/newsid_9421000/9421647.stm

CITATION: Rains D, Weimerskirch H, Burg TM. 2011. Piecing together the global population puzzle of wandering albatrosses: genetic analysis of the Amsterdam albatross Diomedea amsterdamensis. Journal of Avian Biology 42(1):69-79. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-048X.2010.05295.x

Direct benefits of Purple-crowned fairy wrens' cooperative breeding behavior
March 18, 2011

A recent study explains the direct benefits achieved by the seemingly altruistic behavior of cooperative breeding. The researchers "conducted a long term study of the cooperative breeding behavior of fairy-wrens (Malurus coronatus) in tropical Australia."

From the press release:

A puzzling example of altruism in nature has been debunked with researchers showing that purple-crowned fairy wrens are in reality cunningly planning for their own future when they assist in raising other birds' young by balancing the amount of assistance they give with the benefits they expect to receive in the future.

"The study showed that the seemingly selfless little helpers are in fact carefully calculating accountants" said Dr. [Anne] Peters, senior author of the study.

Cooperative breeding, where birds apparently selflessly raise others' offspring, has long perplexed biologists as this behaviour runs counter to Darwin's theory of natural selection, which predicts that individuals invest only in their own reproduction.

...Dr. Peters' study shows that these apparently altruistic helpers are actually playing a selfish game: they help when their chances of inheriting the current breeding territory are greater, and they are thus helping to raise their own future assistants.

Full press release: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-03-fairy-wrens-accountants-animal-kingdom.html

CITATION: Kingma SA, Hall ML, Peters A. Multiple benefits drive helping behavior in a cooperatively breeding bird: an integrated analysis. The American Naturalist [published online ahead of print]. doi: 10.5061/dryad.8210

USFWS and environmental groups come to an agreement on Rocky Mountain wolves
March 18, 2011 By Emma Marris

After reintroducing the endangered Rocky Mountain wolf (Canis lupus occidentalis) to the Rocky Mountains in 1996, the wolves were able to breed successfully to the point where the USFWS wanted to remove the wolves from the endangered species list. After trying to delist the wolf by passing various bills and court battles with environmental groups, the agency "has announced that they have struck a deal with environmental groups including Defenders of Wildlife and the Natural Resources Defence Council."

From the post:

If the courts agree, Idaho and Montana will be able to manage their own wolves while they wait for Rocky Mountain wolves to be delisted, and green groups promise to refrain from any more lawsuits on the matter.

...The ten environmental groups released a joint statement, which read, in part, "In return for allowing the states of Montana and Idaho to manage wolves according to approved conservation plans, the Department of the Interior agrees to conduct rigorous scientific monitoring of wolf populations across the region and an independent scientific review by an expert advisory board after three years ... The settlement offers a workable solution to the increasingly polarized debate over wolves."

However, wolves in Wyoming will continue to be protected, as legislators in that state have indicated that they would allow indiviuals to shoot wolves on sight, and would not follow a management plan.

Full post: http://blogs.nature.com/news/thegreatbeyond/2011/03/wolf_war_truce.html

Target 12 plan countries pledge to zero extinction efforts
March 18, 2011 By Winifred Bird

In October 2010, the Convention of Biological Diversity came up with the "Target 12" plan, which aims to "stem biodiversity loss."

From the article:

In the plan's Target 12, countries pledged to prevent the extinction of known threatened species and improve their conservation status, especially those in steepest decline, by 2020. “It's the most ambitious thing to come out of the meeting,” says Conservation International President Russell Mittermeier, whose organization...pushed hard for the pledge. “Target 12 gives everyone in conservation an official mandate,” adds Jean-Christophe Vie of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in Gland, Switzerland. “You don't have to argue with countries; you can point to the document they all agreed to.”

Critics say Target 12 is misguided. “It's like spending all your money in the health system on 85-year-old people who smoked their whole life and need lots of multiple bypasses and none on preventative medicine,” says Hugh Possingham, a mathematical ecologist at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, who models how limited budgets can be used to save the most species. With resources for conservation in short supply, Possingham argues, planners must consider each project's cost and the likelihood of success or risk neglecting projects that could have a bigger long-term impact.

However, the plan still has a large amount of proponents and the support of The World Bank and the Global Environment Facility, both of which have signed on to support developing countries "that wish to protect the sole remaining habitats of endangered plants and animals at sites compiled by the Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE)."

Full story: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/331/6023/1385.full

New research shows how human gender roles can impact research
March 18, 2011

A new study calls on researchers to become "aware of their own perceptions of gender" in an attempt to promote objectivity in studies of animal and plant behavior in sexual conflicts.

From the story:

Lund researchers Kristina Karlsson Green and Josefin Madjidian have studied and measured how male and female traits and behaviour in animals' and plants' sexual conflicts are described in academic literature and also what parameters are incorporated for each sex in mathematical models of sexual conflict.

"We have found evidence of choices and interpretations that may build on researchers' own, possibly subconscious, perception of male and female. We have now identified and quantified terms used to describe male and female in sexual conflict research and seen that different terms are used depending on the sex being described. It is not just something we think and suppose", says Kristina Karlsson Green from the Department of Biology at Lund University.

Sexual conflicts among animals and plants mean that the male and the female disagree in various ways on mating and the raising of young.

..."In the literature, the male is described more in terms of activities to promote his own interests, while the female is described in more passive terms, such as that her behaviour is merely a reaction to that of the male. This is despite the fact that the behaviour of both sexes has a negative impact on the other partner while promoting the partner's own interests", says Josefin Madjidian.

The study is published in the journal Animal Behavior.

Full story: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-03-human-gender-roles-animals.html

CITATION: Green KK, Madjidian JA. Active males, reactive females: stereotypic sex roles in sexual conflict research? Animal Behaviour [published online ahead of print]. doi: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2011.01.033

Long-finned pilot whales stranded on Australian island
March 18, 2011

A group of long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas) was stranded on a beach at Bruny Island in Austrlia. Twenty-one of the whales died, but rescuers were able to save 11 of the whales and move them back to the water. It is unknown why the whales were stranded, but Department of Primary Industries spokeswoman Rosemary Gales suggedsted that "Pilot whales are really social animals so if one makes a mistake and gets into shallow water, the others will come."

Full story: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5giU5bSNn1hSOyipaqL7LgBwgLc9g?docId=CNG.fb430be5ece3c4750314f0ea8e66fc0b.4e1

Democratic Republic of Congo blocks company from searching for oil in Virunga National Park
March 18, 2011

The DR of Congo rejected an environmental assessment submitted by Soco International (an oil company from the United Kingdom) to search for oil in Virunga National Park. The Park, a UN World Heritage site, is considered to be one of the most biodiverse regions on Earth and is home to 200+ of the remaining 700 mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) in the world.

Full story: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12783233

New study: Half of world's invasive plant species originated at botanic gardens
March 17, 2011 By Andy Coghlan

A new study calls for a "tightening up of biosecurity," as more than half of the world's most invasive species originally spread into new habitats by "escaping" botanic gardens. Although most of the escapes ocurred between the 1800s to the mid-1900s, there are still recent examples of accidental releases.

From the story:

Most accounts of escapes have been anecdotal, so to assemble a broader picture, Philip Hulme at Lincoln University in Christchurch, New Zealand started with 34 plants that had made it on to a list of the world's 100 worst invasive species, collated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Hulme scoured the literature for evidence of where the plants had originated and reports that no less than 19 of the 34 had almost certainly spread from botanic gardens.

Peter Raven, head of the Missouri Botanical Garden and pioneer of the St Louis declaration [an initiative to stamp out accidental releases], says that despite it having only 10 signatories, many more botanic gardens in the US are following its guidelines. "There's always potential for species to escape from collections and become established in the wild," says Suzanne Sharrock, director of global programmes at Botanic Gardens Conservation International, a global umbrella group for botanic gardens based at Kew in London. "Our focus is to help botanic gardens become part of the solution, by using their collections to develop early-warning systems in the face of changing environmental conditions, and to inform the public of the dangers posed by invasive species."

The research appears in this month's issue of Trends in Ecology & Evolution.

Full article: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20928043.700-botanic-gardens-blamed-for-spreading-plant-invaders.html

CITATION: Hulme PE. 2011. Addressing the treat to biodiversity from botanic gardens. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 26(4):168-174. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2011.01.005

Expert argues for translocation of endangered animals threatened by climate change
March 18, 2011

A new study by Chris Thomas, Professor of Conservation Biology at the University of York, suggests that "moving endangered species is the only viable option to maintain some climate-endangered species in the wild." While current reintroduction guidelines "condone only the release of a species into an area where it used to occur," Prof. Thomas' plan suggests translocating species to Britain and other countries if conservationists wish to save many species from becoming extinct due to climate change.

In his opinion piece in Trends in Ecology & Evolution, Prof. Thomas suggests the following species to be considered for translocation to the UK:

Full story: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110317131207.htm

CITATION: Thomas CD. 2011. Translocation of species, climate change, and the end of trying to recreate past ecological communities. Trends in Ecology & Evolution [published online ahead of print]. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2011.02.006

Gardening to support California Quails
March 20, 2011 By Pam Pierce

In a recent feature in the San Francisco Gate newspaper, Pam Peirce, the author of "Golden Gate Gardening" and "Wildly Successful Plants: Northern California," answered a question about how to provide shelter for California quails in gardens. She warned against changing your garden drastically during March - August, when the birds are still young and maturing. She also included tips on how to balance maintaining a garden free of rats (which prey upon quail) while still offering adequate cover for the quail.

Summary of the answer:

Full Q&A: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/03/20/HOPA1I8F8S.DTL

Stretching DNA to silence a gene
March 21, 2011 By Daniel Stolte

Scientists at the University of Arizona have discovered a new method of controlling gene expression. By stretching DNA, Koen Visscher and his co-authors were able to turn off gene expression.

From the article:

The discovery came when the researchers pulled on the two beads holding the DNA, gradually increasing the tension. At some point, the gene was no longer read.

"As we increase the tension, we see that the enzyme finds it harder and harder to latch on," Visscher said, "to the point where it still binds but falls off almost immediately."

The force applied to the DNA strand ranges from 1 piconewton to 12 piconewton, about 50,000 times weaker than the weight of a grain of salt.

"If we apply too much force, we alter the structure of the DNA," Visscher said. "If we change the structure of the DNA, all bets are off as far as the interaction with the protein goes. We want to be far away from that."

According to Visscher, the controlled stretching of DNA could pave the way for new applications that require precise control over gene expression, such as the "lab on a chip." Analogous to microprocessors, those chips are used to miniaturize biochemical processes, for example in screening for new drug candidate molecules.

The research is published in this month's issue of Biophysical Journal.

Full story: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-03-silence-gene.html

CITATION: Skinner GM, Kalafut BS, Visscher K. 2011. Downstream DNA tension regulates the stability of the T7 RNA Polymerase initiation complext. Biophysical Journal 100(4):1034-1041. doi: 10.1016/j.jbpj.2010.11.092

Augrabies flat lizards use UV signals to ward off rivals
March 21, 2011 By Lyn Danninger

Researchers have discovered that the South African Augrabies flat lizard (Platysaurus broadleyi) uses a unique strategy to ward off their rivals. The scientists discovered that males of the species "flash covert ultraviolet signals from a patch located on their throats...." Through analysis of the electrical impulses in the lizards' optic nerves, they also found that the Augrabies flat lizards were "three times more sensitive to UV than [a] similar species." The authors hypothesize that the lizards communicate in this way because the UV has "physical properties that make it a particularly sensitive indicator of male quality and therefore, allows animals to more accurately gauge the quality of a rival or potential mate."

Full story: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-03-lizard-uv-ward-rivals.html

CITATION: Fleishman LJ, Loew ER, Whiting MJ. 2011. High sensitivity to short wavelengths in a lizard and implications for understanding the evolution of visual systems in lizards. Proceedings of the Royal Society B [published online ahead of print]. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2011.0118

How to protect the Tuamoto Kingfisher
March 21, 2011

Dylan Kesler, assistant professor in fisheries and wildlife at the University of Missouri's School of Natural Resources, is working to protect the Tuamoto Kingfisher (Todiramphus gambieri) from extinction. Located on an island in the South Pacific, the population of less than 125 birds faces extinction without intervention from conservationists. This month, Kesler published the results of two studies in The Auk, the first on habitat needs and the second on how to attach radio transmitters to the birds in a potentially less damaging way.

According to Kesler, the habitat characteristics that Tuamoto Kingfishers need to survive are (taken from the story):

The second of Kesler's studies focused on a unique method of attaching radio harnesses to the birds that would reduce unintentional harm. According to the author, "Unfortunately, even with all our work to date, the population is still crashing. We're seeing some turnover, but each year when we return, there are more empty territories and the population decreases. At this rate, these birds will be gone within our lifetime."

Summary of the Tuamoto Kingfisher Project: http://picra.net/tk2010/TK2010/Introduction.html

Full story: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-03-mu-world-endangered-birds.html

CITATIONS:
Coulombe GC, Kesler DC, Gouni A. 2011. Factors influencing occurrence and habitat use of Tuamoto Kingfishers at landscape and territory scales. Auk 128 [in press].

Kesler DC. 2011. Non-permanent radiotelemetry leg harness for small birds. Journal of Wildlife Management 75 [in press].

Oil spill on Nightingale Island threatens Northern Rockhopper Penguin population
March 21, 2011

Last week, a cargo vessel carrying 1,500 tonnes (450,000 gallons) of crude oil crashed into Nightingale Island, part of the Tristan da Cunha UK overseas territory in the South Atlantic. More than half of the world's population of endangered Northern rockhopper penguin lives on the island, and "hundreds of oiled penguins have already been seen coming ashore." The concerns of people living on the island and conservation groups is two-fold: that the heavy crude oil leaking into the sea will pollute the environment and destroy the local rock lobster fishery, and also that rats which may have been traveling on the vessel will infest the rodent-free island. Currently, workers are trying to save the island's tens of thousands of penguins and are setting traps to catch any rodents that come ashore.

Full story: http://www.birdlife.org/community/2011/03/race-to-save-oiled-penguins-after-tanker-strikes-tristan-da-cunha/

Correlations between individuals' background and pro-environmental behaviors
March 21, 2011

A study by the group Understanding Society at the University of Essex finds that the amount of education a person has completed affects the degree to which he/she is willing to adopt pro-environmental behaviors, as well as the type of behaviors he/she is willing to adopt.

From the story:

The first set of findings...show that people with degrees are 25% more likely, on average, than people with no education qualifications to adopt pro-environmental behaviours, at least in terms of paying more for environmentally-friendly products. However, they are less likely to turn off the TV overnight or to use public transport.

...Nonetheless, people's willingness to behave in an environmentally-friendly way comes with conditions as 59% of those surveyed agreed that 'any changes I make to help the need to fit in with my lifestyle' and just half (50%) would be prepared to pay more for environmentally friendly products.

Professor Peter Lynn at the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) which manages Understanding Society at the University of Essex, said: "These findings offer an interesting suggestion that more highly-educated people may be more willing to take environmentally-motivated principled actions such as buying recycled paper products or avoiding the purchase of over-packaged products and yet are less willing than others to take relatively small actions that may be more of a personal inconvenience."

Overall, the survey found that while people are willing to modify their behavior somewhat to benefit the environment, they are less likely to do so if it entails the loss of personal convenience.

Full story: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-03-environment-affects-actions.html

National Zoo asks public to test smarts against curator to raise funds for Smithsonian park
March 21, 2011

Through April 8, the Smithsonian's National Zoo is asking visitors to their website to "match wits with a curator as a way to raise money for the park." The quiz is called "Are You Smarter Than a Curator?" and tests participants' knowledge of enrichment and training.

From the press release:

For every correct answer, the zoo’s animal care program will earn 10 cents. Each quiz has the potential to generate 50 cents for the zoo. If 100,000 people participate, it could result in $50,000 for the zoo’s animal care and conservation efforts.

To play the quiz: http://www.smarterthanacurator.org

Full story: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national-zoo-asks-public-to-test-smarts-against-curator-to-raise-funds-for-smithsonian-park/2011/03/21/ABI6tZ4_story.html

Two condor chicks born at San Diego Zoo Safari Park
March 21, 2011

Two condor chicks were born at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park last week—the first of the new year. The two chicks were hatched by their mother without the handling of eggs by humans. Two additional eggs remain in incubators.

From the press release:

When the program started in the 1980s, there were an estimated 22 condors left in the world. The park has hatched 165 chicks, releasing 80 into the wild in California, Arizona and Baja California.

Condor breeding is also taking place at the Los Angeles Zoo, World Center for Birds of Prey, and Oregon Zoo. Eggs have been laid in the wild as well, bringing the population to an estimated 370.

Full story: http://www.cbs8.com/Global/story.asp?S=14294503

Lowry Park Zoo retains AZA accreditation after making improvements
March 22, 2011 By Justin George

Last year, the Lowry Park Zoo was required by the AZA to make significant improvements to their facilities in order to retain their accreditation status. Among the renovations that Association suggested were "improvements to the veterinary hospital, manatee hospital and boardwalk area, as well as more educational signs interpreting conservation for kids." So far, the Zoo is "in the design and development phase for a veterinary hospital and a conservation and animal science complex" and is in the process of renovating their boardwalk and Wildlife Center. The Zoo is also in the midst of a campaign to raise $10 million to support these renovations ($5 million raised so far).

Full story: http://www.tampabay.com/news/business/tourism/after-improvements-lowry-park-zoo-to-stay-accredited/1158714

World Water Day: Conference discusses urban water challenges
March 22, 2011 By Lee Middleton

World Water Day was held this year in Cape Town, South Africa from March 20-22, with the focus on "provision of water in urban areas." The event hosted more than a "thousand representatives fro more than 30 organizations" and was hosted by South Africa "in collaboration with UN-Water, the African Ministers' Council on Water (Amcow), the UN secretary general's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (Unsgab), the UN Environment Programme, and the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat)."

From the article:

The challenges identified with water itself were uncontroversial – too much, not enough, too dirty, rain falling in the wrong place or at the wrong time – and most conference speakers were optimistic that technological innovations could be found to deal with these. In the end, the real challenges were identified in leadership and implementation. "The urban water challenge must be recognised for what it really is – a crisis of governance, weak policies and poor management, rather than a scarcity crisis," said Unsgab's Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands.

For more on World Water Day: http://www.worldwaterday.org/

Full article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/2011/mar/22/world-water-day-conference-urban-challenges

First genome sequencing of a crustacean indicates surprisingly complex nervous system
March 22, 2011

The first sequencing of a crustacean has been performed on Daphnia pulex, a type of water flea that is found in locations throughout the world. Karen Wilson, from the Department of Marine Ecology at the University of Gothenburg, has found that the "genome of Daphnia contains neurotrophins – surprisingly shows that the nervous system of crustaceans is more complex than previously believed."

From the story:

"In mammals, neurotrophins play a role in learning, memory and development of the nervous system. For a long time researchers considered neurotrophins and their receptors to be characteristic of vertebrates, but that is not the case," says Karen Wilson....

The neurotrophins and their receptors in mammals are known to be sensitive to oxygen deficiency, environmental degradation and toxins. This may mean that the neurotrophins in crustacea are equally exposed.

"This is an important finding, as climate change, acidification and pollution may affect behaviour in crustaceans in both freshwater and marine environments."

Full story: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-03-results-genome-sequencing-crustacean.html

Dramatic decrease in Tahoe native fish populations
March 22, 2011

A recent study shows that there has been "has found a considerable decline in native fish species density at Lake Tahoe since 1951." The scientists from the University of Nevada, Reno, took samples from 26 historically sampled locations and found that 58% of these sites surveyed "showed a decline of species or no native species at all." The scientists point to human intervention as a major factor in the decline, such as the introduction of non-native fish species to the lake for the purposes of sport fishing. Additionally, the decrease in the clarity of the lake water has led to lower UV levels, creating a "refuge for nonnative species that are less sensitive to the optical properties of water such as ultraviolet radiation." The final report recommends "establishing and implementing a management plan to protect the nearshore zone habitat, which is critical to native fish."

Full story: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-03-tahoe-native-fish-population-declines.html

CITATION: Chandra S, Williamson C, Oris J, Schladow G. Nearshore indicators for clarity, habitat, and ecological sustainability. 2011. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Pacific Southwest Research Station and Nevada State Lands Division. Available online at: http://www.fs.fed.us/psw/partnerships/tahoescience/nearshore_clarity.shtml

Three Komodo dragons missing from Indonesian Zoo
March 22, 2011

From the article:

Three young Komodo dragons have gone missing from a zoo in Indonesia, a spokesman said Tuesday, warning that the lost lizards were dangerous and fast on their feet.

The missing reptiles, which measured 50 centimetres (20 inches) to a metre long, were each around one year old and disappeared from their cage early this month, Surabaya zoo spokesman Agus Supangkat told AFP.

The zoo is not certain how the Komodo dragons have gone missing, stating that "They could have been eaten by predators, stolen or escaped. The zookeepers have said they didn't take them. The police are still investigating."

Full story: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-03-dragons-indonesian-zoo.html

Red panda dies at Virginia Zoo
March 22, 2011

On March 5, a 4-year-old female red panda (Ailurus fulgens) died after a fall "from a branch attached to a stilted house in her zoo habitat." 'Yin' was born at the San Diego Zoo in 2006 and had been living at the Virginia Zoo since 2007. The cause of death is not yet known.

Full story: http://www.dailypress.com/features/dp-features-panda-death,0,7735766.story

SeaWorld Orlando offering free passes to state teachers
March 22, 2011

Until the end of 2011, SeaWorld Orlando is offering "Fun Cards" to certified K-12 teachers who live in Florida.

From the press release:

"Sharing marine life knowledge with students is one of our core values,” said Terry Prather, SeaWorld Orlando’s president. “At SeaWorld Orlando alone, more than 100,000 students pass through our camp and field trip programs every year. We know how important a strong educational foundation is for our youth and we want to thank teachers for their years of devotion and passion.”

The Fun Cards will also provide the teachers with promotional discounts through the end of the year.

Full story: http://www.cfnews13.com/article/entertainment/2011/march/221875/SeaWorld-treats-Fla-teachers-with-study-pass

Proposed rule to list nine distinct population segments of Loggerhead sea turtles as endangered or threatened
March 22, 2011  Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 55
Docket No. 100104003-1195-02

From the announcement:

SUMMARY: We (NMFS and USFWS; also collectively referred to as the Services) are extending the date by which a final determination will be made regarding the March 16, 2010, proposed rule to list nine Distinct Population Segments (DPS) of loggerhead sea turtles, Caretta caretta, as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA). We are taking this action because substantial disagreement exists regarding the interpretation of the existing data on status and trends and its relevance to the assessment of risk of extinction to the Northwest Atlantic Ocean DPS of the loggerhead turtle. Additionally, considerable disagreement exists regarding the magnitude and immediacy of the fisheries bycatch threat and measures to reduce this threat to the Northwest Atlantic Ocean DPS of the loggerhead turtle. We are soliciting new information or analyses that will help clarify these issues. Comments previously submitted need not be resubmitted as they already have been incorporated into the public record and will be fully considered in the final rule. The Services believe that allowing an additional 6 months to evaluate and assess the best scientific and commercial data available would better inform our final determination on the listing status of the nine proposed DPSs of the loggerhead turtle.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by the RIN 0648-AY49, by any of the following methods. Comments must be received by April 11, 2011:   Electronic Submissions via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov.  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. Fax: To the attention of NMFS National Sea Turtle Coordinator at 301-713-0376 or USFWS National Sea Turtle Coordinator at 904-731-3045.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Barbara Schroeder, NMFS (ph. 301-713-1401, fax 301-713-4060, e-mail barbara.schroeder@noaa.gov), Sandy MacPherson, USFWS (ph. 904-731-3336, fax 904-731-3045, e-mail sandy_macpherson@fws.gov), Marta Nammack, NMFS (ph. 301-713-1401, fax 301-713-4060, e-mail marta.nammack@noaa.gov), or Lorna Patrick, USFWS (ph. 850-215-7438, fax 850-763-2177, e-mail lorna_patrick@fws.gov).

Full announcement: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-03-22/pdf/2011-6732.pdf

Proposed rule to revise critical habitat for the Pacific Coast population of the Western Snowy Plover
March 22, 2011 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 55
Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-2010-0070; MO 92210-0-0009

From the announcement:

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to revise the designated critical habitat for the Pacific Coast population of the Western Snowy Plover (Pacific Coast WSP) (Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The areas identified in this proposed rule constitute a revision of the areas designated as critical habitat for the Pacific Coast WSP, published in the Federal Register on September 29, 2005. In the final rule, we designated a total of 12,145 acres (ac) (4,915 hectares (ha)) of critical habitat range-wide in 32 units in Washington, Oregon, and California. We are now proposing to revise the existing critical habitat to a total of 68 units totaling approximately 28,261 ac (11,436 ha). The area breakdown by State is as follows: Washington: 6,265 ac (2,497 ha) in 4 units; Oregon: 5,219 ac (2,112 ha) in 13 units; and California: 16,777 ac (6,789 ha) in 51 units.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments no later than May 23, 2011, by one of the following methods:
    (1) Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments to Docket No. FWS-R8-ES-2010-0070.
    (2) U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R8-ES-2010-0070; 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: Jim Watkins, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arcata Fish and Wildlife Office, 1655 Heindon Road, Arcata, CA 95521; telephone (707) 822-7201; facsimile (707) 822-8411.

Full announcement: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-03-22/pdf/2011-4906.pdf

Endangered species permit applications
March 22, 2011 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 55
FWS-R2-ES-2011-N036; 20124-1113-0000-F5

From the announcement:

The USFWS 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 April 21, 2011. Send written comments by U.S. mail to Chief,  Endangered Species Division, Ecological Services, P.O. Box 1306, Room 6034, Albuquerque, NM 87103. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Susan Jacobsen, Chief, Endangered Species Division, P.O. Box 1306, Albuquerque, NM 87103; (505) 248-6920.

Permit TE-33863A
    Applicant: Deborah Blackburn, Austin, 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, and southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) within Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Oklahoma, Utah, Nevada, California, and Colorado.

Permit TE-33921A
    Applicant: City of San Antonio, San Antonio, 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-34030A
    Applicant: Dustin McBride, North Richland Hills, Texas.
    Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys for Houston toad (Bufo houstonensis) within Texas.

Permit TE-106816
    Applicant: Douglas High School, Douglas, Arizona.
    Applicant requests a new permit for holding a refugium and breeding population for Yaqui topminnow (Poeciliopsis occidentalis sonoriensis) and Yaqui chub (Gila pupurea) at Douglas High School, to establish, reestablish, or augment populations consistent with appropriate agreements and necessary State and Federal permits.

Permit TE-819451
    Applicant: Ecosystem Management, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
    Applicant requests a renewal to a current permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys for black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes), interior least tern (Sterna ntillarum anthalassos), northern aplomado falcon (Falco femeralis septentrionalis), and southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) within New Mexico and Arizona.

Permit TE-35152A
    Applicant: Ronald Van Den Bussche, Stillwater, Oklahoma.
    Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys for Ozark big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii ingens) and gray bat (Myotis grisescens) within Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Permit TE-35159A
    Applicant: New Mexico State Land Office, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
    Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys for southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) and Rio Grande silvery minnow (Hybognathus amarus) within New Mexico.

Permit TE-35163A
    Applicant: Joseph Grzybowski, Norman, Oklahoma.
    Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys, nest surveys, and banding activities for black-capped vireo (Vireo atricapilla) within Texas and Oklahoma.

Permit TE-169770
    Applicant: New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
    Applicant requests an amendment to a current permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct a spawning study, propagate, and collect and transport eggs for Rio Grande silvery minnows (Hybognathus amarus) within the Los Lunas Silvery Minnow Refugium, New Mexico.

Permit TE-837751
    Applicant: Bureau of Reclamation, Phoenix, Arizona.
    Applicant requests an amendment to a current permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys for woundfin (Plagopterus agrentissimus) within Arizona.

Permit TE-35429A
    Applicant: Chris Sledge, Weatherford, 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-35437A
    Applicant: Tulsa District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Tulsa, Oklahoma.
    Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys for gray bat (Myotis grisescens), Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis), Ozark big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii ingens), black-capped vireo (Vireo atricapilla), interior least tern (Sterna antillarum), leopard darter (Percina pantherina), Neosho madtom (Noturus placidus), Arkansas River shiner (Notropis girardi), Ouachita rock pocketbook (Arkansia wheeleri), winged mapleleaf (Quadrula fragosa), and American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus) within Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas.

Permit TE-35591A
    Applicant: Marc Baker, Chino Valley, Arizona.
    Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to collect flower buds for chromosome counts from Arizona hedgehog cactus (Echinocereus triglochidiatus var. arizonicus) within the Tonto National Forest, Arizona.

Permit TE-35429A
Applicant: Chris Sledge, Weatherford, Texas.
    Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys for two ground beetles without common names (Rhadine exilis and Rhadine infernalis), Helotes mold beetle (Batrisodes venyivi), Cokendolpher Cave harvestman (Texella cokendolpheri), Robber Baron Cave meshweaver (Cicurina baronia), Madla Cave meshweaver (Cicurina madla), Bracken Bat Cave meshweaver (Cicurina venii), Government Canyon Bat Cave meshweaver (Cicurina vespera), Government Canyon Bat Cave spider (Neoleptoneta microps), Tooth Cave spider (Neoleptoneta myopica), Tooth Cave pseudoscorpion (Tartarocreagris texana), Bee Creek Cave harvestman (Texella reddelli), Kretschmarr Cave mold beetle (Texamaurops reddelli), Tooth Cave ground beetle (Rhadine persephone), Bone Cave harvestman (Texella reyesi), and Coffin Cave mold beetle (Batrisodes texanus) within Texas.

Permit TE-36653A
Applicant: PBS&J, Austin, Texas.
    Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys for golden-cheeked warbler (Dendroica chrysoparia), black-capped vireo (Vireo atricapilla), southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus), interior least tern (Sterna antillarum anthalassos), northern aplomado falcon (Falco femeralis septentrionalis), red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis), Yuma clapper rail (Rallus logirostris yumanensis), Houston toad (Bufo houstonensis), Barton Springs salamander (Eurycea sosorum), San Marco salamander (Eurycea nana), Texas blind salamander (Typhlomolge rathbuni), fountain darter (Etheostoma fonticola), San Marcos gambusia (Gambusia georgei), Comal Springs riffle beetle (Heterelmis comalensis), Comal Springs dryopid beetle (Stygoparnus comalensis), Peck's Cave amphipod (Stygobromus pecki), two ground beetles without common names (Rhadine exilis and Rhadine infernalis), Helotes mold beetle (Batrisodes venyivi), Cokendolpher Cave harvestman (Texella cokendolpheri), Robber Baron Cave meshweaver (Cicurina baronia), Madla Cave meshweaver (Cicurina madla), Bracken Bat Cave meshweaver (Cicurina venii), Government Canyon Bat Cave meshweaver (Cicurina vespera), Government Canyon Bat Cave spider (Neoleptoneta microps), Tooth Cave spider (Neoleptoneta myopica), Tooth Cave pseudoscorpion (Tartarocreagris texana), Bee Creek Cave harvestman (Texella reddelli), Kretschmarr Cave mold beetle (Texamaurops reddelli), Tooth Cave ground beetle (Rhadine persephone), Bone Cave harvestman (Texella reyesi), and Coffin Cave mold beetle (Batrisodes texanus) within Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Arizona, and New Mexico.

Permit TE-012642
Applicant: Blue Earth Ecological Consultants, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
    Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys for southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) within New Mexico.

Permit TE-066458
Applicant: National Aquarium, Washington, DC.
    Applicant requests a new permit for research and recovery purposes to hold and display, for educational purposes, the following species: Texas blind salamander (Typhlomolge rathbuni), bonytail chub (Gila elegans), desert pupfish (Cyprinodon macularius), razorback sucker (Xyrauchen texanus), Gila topminnow (Poeciliopsis occidentalis), and woundfin (Plagopterus argentissimus), which were obtained from the Dexter National Fish Hatchery in New Mexico and will be held at the National Aquarium.

Permit TE-168185
Applicant: Cox-McLain Environmental Consulting, Inc., Austin, Texas.
    Applicant requests an amendment to a current permit for research and recovery purposes to conduct presence/absence surveys for southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) within Texas.

Full announcement: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-03-22/pdf/2011-6634.pdf

Monterey Bay Aquarium's new app highlights ocean-friendly seafood options
March 22, 2011

The Monterey Bay Aquarium has debuted a new Android/iPhone application that draws upon its respected Seafood Watch program, which connects "seafood lovers to ocean-friendly choices." Included in the app is the "aquarium’s crowdsourcing feature, Project FishMap, which allows users to tag any one of more than a million restaurants and markets across the United States whenever they find ocean-friendly seafood – and to learn where others have found sustainable options."

Other key features of the new Android app include (from the press release):

To find out more and download the Android app, visit www.montereybayaquarium.org/seafoodwatchapp.

Full press release: http://www.perishablenews.com/index.php?article=0014048

Southern California ornithologists win Recovery Champion awards
March 23, 2011

Two Southern California ornithologists won two out of the three Recovery Champion awards given by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week.

From the article:

Michael Mace, curator of birds at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and Sandy Vissman, lead biologist for the San Clemente Loggerhead Shrike Recovery Team, were honored for their work along with members of the Duckwater Shoshone Tribe of Nevada.

Mace was recognized for his efforts to preserve and recover California condors and light-footed clapper rails, two endangered bird species.

...Vissman, who works at the Fish and Wildlife Service in Carlsbad, helped recover the San Clemente Island loggerhead shrike from 14 birds to more than 300....Vissman worked with the military to promote conservation without impeding training missions and to create a captive breeding project for the species.

Full article: http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2011/mar/23/local-bird-experts-honored-conservation/

CSIRO report finds 45 Australian animals in danger of extinction
March 23, 2011 By Kelly Doherty

A report commissioned by the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) has found that up to "45 rare species of wallaby, bandicoot and other Australian animals could become extinct within 20 years unless urgent action is taken to control introduced predators and other threats."

From the story:

Dozens of mammals, birds, lizards and other vertebrates in the remote northwestern Kimberley region are at risk from hunting by feral cats and from destruction of their native habitat by wild donkeys, goats and fires, a study of the conservation needs of the area shows.

"We're in the midst of a massive extinction event in Australia and the north has really been the last stronghold for many species of birds and mammals and reptiles," said Tara Martin, a co-author of the report by the government-funded Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.

Nearly 30 percent of the endangered species identified in the study are unique to the Kimberley region, while others, like the golden bandicoot and golden-backed tree rat, have found the area to be their last refuge after being pushed into extinction elsewhere in the country.

"The Kimberley is really their last chance on Earth," Martin told The Associated Press.

The report calls for the reduction in the number of wild donkeys and goats that are competing with threatened animals for precious resources, and also to do more wildfire management. It also calls for the "immediate funding of $96 million...to start a range of conservation programs" and an additional amount of annual support afterwards.

Full story: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-03-extinction-threat-australian-species.html

CITATION: Carwardine J, O'Connor T, Legge S, Mackey B, Possingham HP, Martin TG. 2011. Priority threat management to protect Kimberley wildlife. CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences, Brisbane. Available online at CSIRO website.

Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement in San Bernardino County
March 22, 2011 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 56
FWS-R8-ES-2011-N005; 1112-0000-81440-F2

From the announcement:

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), intend to prepare either an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) or an Environmental Assessment (EA) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regarding an expected application from the Town of Apple Valley, CA, for an incidental take permit (ITP) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (Act), as amended. The decision to prepare an EIS or EA will be, in part, contingent upon the complexity of issues identified during and following the scoping phase of the NEPA process. We are furnishing this notice to announce the initiation of a public scoping period, during which we invite other agencies, Tribes, and the public to submit written comments providing suggestions and information on the scope of issues and alternatives to be addressed in the EIS or EA.

ADDRESSES: Comments: Send your comments by April 22, 2011 to Diane Noda, Field Supervisor, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2493 Portola Road, Suite B, Ventura, CA 93003. You may alternatively send comments by facsimile to (805) 644-3958.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jen Lechuga, HCP Coordinator, telephone: (805) 644-1766, extension 224.
    In accordance with section 10(a)(2)(A) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), the Town of Apple Valley, CA (Town) is preparing a MSHCP in support of an application for a permit from the Service to incidentally take listed species.
Species Proposed for Inclusion in the Town of Apple Valley's MSHCP:

Full announcement: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-03-23/pdf/2011-6820.pdf

USDA entomologists monitor insect movements remotely
March 23, 2011 By Jan Suszkiw

Scientists from the USDA have found a way to monitor insects remotely, using commercially available parts to create a system that tracks the sound made by insects' movement.

From the story:

The team's objective was to make automated insect monitoring affordable, easy to use and reliable. Toward that end, they integrated commercially available sensors (LEDs, microphones and piezoelectric film) with high-gain amplifiers and laptop-run software for analyzing signals. The system uses the sensors to collect infrared, acoustic and vibration signals generated by three kinds of insect movements: wriggling, crawling and scraping. The software analyzes the signals to create a profile of the target insect that distinguishes it from other species.

The researchers see likely applications in automating routine monitoring of industrial-scale traps.

Full post: http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2011/110323.htm

San Francisco Flower and Garden Show
March 23, 2011 By Laramie Treviño

The 26th annual San Francisco Flower & Garden Show "kicks off today for its five-day run with an expanded format that continues the sustainability theme. It opens for its third consecutive year at the San Mateo Event Center. The show includes five stages, a marketplace with more than 200 vendors, 20 full-garden installations, more than 70 seminars, a children's area, a 6,000-square-foot aesthetic edible garden, a farmers' market and a wine-tasting venue, among other sites." Highlights include a floor show where "landscapers and designers set up their lush slices of paradise" and seminars covering a wide range of gardening topics such as organic vegetable gardening and low-water landscaping.

Full story: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/03/23/DDPA1I5K05.DTL

Rare frogs laying eggs at San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research
March 23, 2011 By Yadira Galindo

From the press release:

After hibernating for three months in modified refrigerators, rare frogs are pairing up and producing eggs at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Since breeding began March 19 more than 500 southern mountain yellow-legged frog [Rana muscosa] eggs have been laid. Scientists at the lab expect hundreds more.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us as we raise these eggs to tadpoles, but it is gratifying work because we know this could be the future of the species,” said Jeff Lemm, a research coordinator with the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research.

Only about 200 adult yellow-legged frogs remain in the San Gabriel, San Bernardino and San Jacinto mountains of Southern California. Some of the eggs being laid at the Institute may be put into a stream in the San Jacinto mountains, while others will be released there after they grow into tadpoles.

Full press release: http://www.zandavisitor.com/newsarticle-5008-Rare_Frogs_are_Pairing_Up_and_Producing_Eggs_at_the_San_Diego_Zoo_Institute

American Profile lists "America's Top 9 Animal Attractions"
March 17, 2011 By Lisa Zhito

The website American Profile has highlighted what they consider to be the top nine animal attractions in the United States.

From the article:

Full article: http://www.americanprofile.com/articles/americas-top-9-animal-attractions/