Nov 25

Proposed new laws could threaten Brazil’s rich biodiversity, potentially placing an area of forest equal to the sizes of Germany, Italy and Austria combined at high risk of destruction.

Brazil-nut tree image

New laws could lead to the destruction of vast areas of Brazil's forests

Suggested changes in land clearance laws

Brazil’s senate is soon set to vote on new laws on land clearance, the approval of which could lead to the destruction of a substantial area of the country’s forested region.

Since 2004, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has declined steadily, with tougher regulation enforcement and improved satellite monitoring both being contributing factors. Between August 2009 and July 2010, forest clearance fell to the lowest level on record, but this year there have already been signs of an increase in deforestation in several areas of the country.

Environmental groups fear that changes in legislation could exacerbate the problem, by opening up vast areas of the world’s biggest rainforest to clearance for uses such as cattle ranching and soy production, as well as preventing the chance of replanting within many illegally deforested areas.

WWF has said that studies show that the proposed changes to Brazil’s Forest Code could lead to the destruction or lack of restoration of 175 million acres of forest, equivalent to the combined area of Germany, Italy and Austria.

Blue-chested parakeet image

The blue-chested parakeet was once common in south-east Brazil, but it is now restricted to isolated reserves

Implications for Rio+20

Brazil has made a commitment to reduce deforestation by 80% by the year 2020, but implementation of the new laws could hinder the country’s ability to reach this target, as well as its efforts to position itself as a global environmental leader prior to hosting the UN Conference on Sustainable Development – known as Rio+20 – in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012.

The Forest Code, which dates back to 1965 and applies to nearly 5.2 million farmers and rural land owners in Brazil, requires that a certain proportion of owned land, varying between 20 and 80%, is left as untouched forest. However, 90% of landowners are believed to fall short of full compliance with the regulations.

The proposed new laws, which were passed in May by Brazil’s lower house, would grant a reprieve from heavy fines to landowners who illegally cleared forest between 1965 and July 2008, and would also include relaxation of the rules surrounding the clearing of hills.

Lowland tapir image

The Vulnerable lowland tapir relies upon rainforest habitats for its survival

Forests and agriculture

Scientists and conservationists have argued that the changes to the Forest Code would not provide sufficient protection for forests and the biodiversity within them. However, agriculture has played an important role in Brazil’s economic rise, with the country now being the world’s leading producer and exporter of coffee and sugar cane. Senator Katia Abreu, president of the Brazilian Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock, has stated that Brazilian farmers could lose up to $100 billion should the new laws not be passed.

The bill will be voted on by Brazil’s Senate at the end of November, and final approval falls with President Dilma Rousseff, whose election campaign involved a pledge to veto any legislation which might lead to an increase in deforestation.

Read more on this story at The Telegraph – Brazil ‘risks loss of forest area equal to Germany, Italy and Austria’.

Explore photos and videos of species found in Brazil on ARKive.

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Species Text Author

Nov 25

The turkey has been eaten, the football game watched and all that’s left after the US holiday of Thanksgiving is to have a well-earned sleep, right? Wrong!

For many people across the country, now’s the time to put the finishing touches to that Black Friday shopping strategy to make sure this years’ must-have toy is snapped up. “Black Friday” is the name given to the Friday after Thanksgiving in the US where stores offer amazing deals both in the aisles and online for savvy shoppers looking to save on holiday shopping. Reminiscing at the famous toys that have defined Black Friday in previous years, we couldn’t help but notice some similarities between them and some of the creatures in ARKive. We think you’ll get a kick out of ARKive’s Black Friday must-have gift list!

Troll doll

Who doesn’t remember these odd-looking but endearing toys that stole the hearts of children everywhere? This crested black macaque sure has the signature troll doll hair style!

Crested black macaque photo

Beanie babies

The most popular beanie baby of all time was the tie-dyed Grateful Dead bear named Garcia. While the spectacled bear isn’t exactly rainbow colored, it has some of the most unusual markings of any bear species on Earth.

Spectacled bear photo

My Little Pony

I remember my first My Little Pony growing up, a purple pony with long dark hair. The Przewalski’s horse might not be purple, but it’s just as lovely.

Przewalski's horse photo

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

A favorite holiday gift of kids everywhere, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are mutant turtles with exceptional ninja fighting skills. Although the hawksbill turtle likely doesn’t know his bajutsu from his kenjutsu, it frequents the waters off the coast of Japan, the birthplace of Ninja.

 Hawksbill turtle photo

Barney the Dinosaur

Like him or loathe him, Barney the Dinosaur is a beloved childhood character. Even though the purple frog isn’t a reptile, we still think he embodies Barney’s signature look – a bloated body and short, stout limbs.

Purple frog photo

Tickle Me Elmo

Probably the most iconic Black Friday toy in history, the Tickle Me Elmo toy was originally priced at $28.99 but before the end of the holiday season in 1996 it was selling online for $1500! Finding a species on ARKive that resembles Tickle Me Elmo might be just as hard as finding the toy itself but we think the Betsileo woolly lemur comes pretty close!

Betsileo woolly lemur photo

Which toy are you on the hunt for this Black Friday? Do you think it has a counterpart on ARKive? If so, share it with us!

Liana Vitali, ARKive Science, Education and Outreach Officer, Wildscreen USA

Nov 25
Trumpet-mouthed hunter snail image

Trumpet-mouthed hunter snail (Gulella salpinx)

Species: Trumpet-mouthed hunter snail (Gulella salpinx)

Status: Critically Endangered (CR)

Interesting Fact: The trumpet-mouthed hunter snail does not lay eggs but ‘gives birth’ to miniature juvenile snails!

The rather flamboyant common name of the species refers to the flaring, trumpet-like opening of its distinctive shell. As a recently discovered species, relatively little is known about the trumpet-mouthed hunter snail’s biology. It is endemic to a single limestone outcrop of the Marble Delta in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa. The ‘hunter’ part of this species’ common name refers to its carnivorous habits, a behaviour that is common to the whole Streptaxidae family, which primarily feed upon soft-bodied invertebrates such as other snails and worms. Unusually for a snail, this species is known to be ovoviviparous, with developing eggs brooded internally before being ‘given birth’ to as minature snails.

The marble deposit, to which the species is endemic, is extensively mined by two companies and the area is also heavily invaded by non-native plants. Fortunately, the two mining companies operating in the area have expressed their willingness to cooperate in the conservation of this intriguing species of snail.

View images of the trumpet-mouthed hunter snail on ARKive.

Becky Moran, ARKive Species Text Author

Nov 25

Survival Logo

Name: Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis)

Komodo dragon Survival characterStats:

Status - Vulnerable (VU)

Length - Up to 2 metres

Weight – Up to 90 kilograms

Interesting Fact:

Whilst it might be unable to breathe fire, this dragon does have a highly venomous bite. The largest lizard in the world, it can eat up to a staggering 80% of its own body weight in one go!

Where am I found?

Found on the volcanic islands of Komodo, Rinca and Flores in Indonesia, the Komodo dragon inhabits lower monsoon forests and savannah.

 Komodo dragon photo

What do I eat?

A powerful predator, the Komodo dragon has a voracious appetite. It feeds on both carrion and live prey; adults ambush deer, water buffalo and wild pigs, and carcasses can be detected from up to 10 km away!

Komodo dragon photo

How do I live?

Recent research into the feeding behaviour of the Komodo dragon has shown that it is actually venomous, possessing complex venom glands in its jaw, which excrete a variety of toxic substances that prevent blood clotting and lower blood pressure in its prey. This means that even if the injured animal escapes, it will rapidly succumb to shock and blood loss induced by the venom.

The mating season for the Komodo dragon occurs between May and June, with males wrestling to compete for females. Around 25 eggs are laid by the female in a depression dug in the ground. These are then incubated for nine months before hatching, with the small, vulnerable juveniles spending their first year living in trees to avoid predation.

Komodo dragon photo

Why am I threatened?

The Komodo dragon population is thought to have declined in the last 50 years, with habitat destruction, loss of prey species and hunting of this giant reptile being blamed.

Komodo dragon photo

Play Survival today!

Survival is available for free now on the App store and Android Market.

Find out more about ‘Survival’ or watch the ‘Survival’ promotional video on YouTube.

Nov 24

Yellowstone National Park’s population of 600 grizzly bears is once again protected after a federal appeals court ruled that the species had been improperly removed from the endangered species list.

Brown bear image

Grizzly bears were removed from the endangered species list in 2007

Protection restored

In 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed grizzly bears, also known as brown bears, from the endangered species list, but a federal appeals court has this week overturned this decision.

The judges stated that wildlife managers had made a mistake in denying the animals protection under the Endangered Species Act, which had, along with a recovery strategy, been responsible for a three-fold increase in the number of grizzlies in the greater Yellowstone region over the last 35 years.

The court cited climate change as the reason behind the ruling, with warmer weather contributing to the unprecedented die-off of the whitebark pine, a key food source for the grizzly bear. Along with the polar bear, the grizzly bear is now one of just two species to have earned protection as a result of the effects of global warming.

Whtiebark pine image

Whitebark pine trees are a source of food for grizzly bears

Deadly beetle

The effects of climate change have enabled the larvae of the pine beetle, a major pest, to avoid the typical seasonal die-off and thrive. In recent years, pine beetles have survived the warmer winters, leaving them to destroy an estimated 16% of whitebark pine trees, and damage a further 25%.

Diana Tomback, a whitebark pine expert at the University of Colorado, Denver, explains that the intensity and scale of the infestation and destruction is unprecedented, “Studies show that the majority of watersheds in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem have been ravaged and there are lots of places where there is 90%-plus mortality of beetle-ravaged mature trees.

The pine beetles bore under the tree bark, and create internal canals which eventually play host to thousands of beetle larvae. This intense damage stresses the pines, which turn a vivid red.

Brown bear image

The grizzly bear is once again protected by federal law

Avoiding potential conflict

Record numbers of grizzlies have been euthanised by park and wildlife officials in recent years, as a result of the animals being responsible for the deaths of several tourists and hikers. In 2010, approximately 75 grizzly bears were either killed or removed from the wild.

The panel of judges in the appeal court took into serious consideration the warning from conservationists that the loss of trees in the upper reaches of Yellowstone National Park and its surrounds would probably drive the grizzlies to more populous areas to forage. This change in habitat use by the bears will potentially increase the frequency of confrontations between the omnivorous mammals and humans and their livestock.

Andrew Wetzler, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, states that the whitebark pine may eventually be joining the grizzly bear as a protected species: “Since delisting, the Fish and Wildlife Service has said itself that white-bark pine should be listed independently as an endangered species.

Read more on this story at the LA Times – Court restores federal protections for Yellowstone grizzly bears.

View photos and videos of the grizzly bear on ARKive.

View photos of the whitebark pine on ARKive.

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Species Text Author

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