Apr 19
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Endangered Species of the Week: Vancouver Island marmot

Vancouver Island marmot (Marmota vancouverensis)

Species: Vancouver Island marmot (Marmota vancouverensis)

Status: Critically Endangered (CR)

Interesting Fact: The Vancouver Island marmot is thought to be one of the rarest mammals in North America, with a wild population of fewer than 100 individuals.

More information: The endemic Vancouver Island marmot is a stocky rodent that has a chestnut-brown pelage with a cream-coloured area around its nose and mouth. As with all marmots, the Vancouver Island marmot lives in family groups that usually contain one male, two females and the juveniles and young produced that year. The families occupy complex underground burrow systems in which they hibernate between the end of September and early May, surviving by using up the fat reserves that are built up throughout the summer.

Logging activities and weather fluctuations within the habitat of the Vancouver Island marmot are thought to have caused population declines. Additionally, the local deer population has recently increased and their presence is known to increase the amount of predators in an area which may also take Vancouver Island marmots.

The Vancouver Island marmot is legally protected through its listing on the British Columbia Wildlife Act. A recovery plan was established in 1988 in an attempt to save this species from the brink of extinction, and a captive breeding programme is now in place, with reintroductions of captive-bred individuals planned for the future.

See images of the Vancouver Island marmot on ARKive

Find out more about Vancouver Island and other islands of the North Pacific

Find out more about other marmot species

Hannah Mulvany, ARKive Content and Outreach Officer

Apr 11
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In the News: Rising sea levels will submerge thousands of islands

A recent report published in the journal Nature Conservation has found that sea levels are rising at a higher rate than they have for thousands of years, putting many islands and the species living on them at risk.

Global climate change is negatively affecting the Earth and its oceans in many ways, and these impacts are predicted to be the greatest cause of future species extinctions. The increasing temperature on Earth is melting the sea ice at the North and South Poles, which is increasing the amount of water in the oceans. The temperature of the ocean is also increasing, which raises the volume of the seawater due to the molecules requiring more space to move. “Sea level rise is one of the most certain consequences of global warming, yet it remains the least studied,” the study said. “Potential effects of sea level rise are of considerable interest because of its potential impact on biodiversity and society.”

Seychelles image

The Seychelles may be one of the groups of islands at risk of flooding due to rising sea levels

Of the 180,000 islands on Earth, all low-lying islands are particularly at risk and it is thought that over 10,000 of them could disappear, along with the species that live on them, if the sea level rise predictions are correct. Islands are home to a much higher proportion of endemic species than mainland areas, with the entire population of the Alaotran gentle lemur, New Caledonia blossom bat, Seychelles frog and thousands of other species being found on just one island, or a small group of islands. The submersion of numerous islands will not just impact fauna and flora, with human populations living in coastal areas also being forced to move inland or relocate completely in response to the rising sea levels, and coastal industries being lost.

New Caledonia blossom bat

The New Caledonia blossom bat is only found in a few caves in northern New Caledonia

New Caledonia and French Polynesia are thought to be the islands most at risk of disappearing under water, with islands in the Caribbean and Mediterranean and those in close proximity to Guyana and Madagascar also under threat. The study found that, after a predicted sea rise of between 0.5 and 2.3 metres, more than 30 percent of the totally submerged islands would be in New Caledonia, 30 percent in French Polynesia and 10 percent in the Mediterranean, with the rest occurring in other regions.

French Polynesia image

It is predicted that 30 percent of French Polynesia will be under water when sea levels rise

The authors of the study said, “Considering their important contribution to global biodiversity and the threat of sea level rise for future biodiversity of some of these islands, there is an urgent need that islands feature prominently in global and regional conservation prioritisation schemes.” Less than 5 percent of the Earth’s land area is represented by islands, although they are home to around 20 percent of the world’s bird, reptile and plant species, as well as other fauna. Of all known extinctions, 80 percent have occurred on islands, and although climate change may be partially to blame, the negative effects of invasive species, deforestation, over-collection and various other threats are more prevalent in island ecosystems than on the mainland and have much greater and more severe impacts on island species.

Laysan crake image

The Extinct Laysan crake disappeared from Hawai’i due to the negative effects of invasive species

Find out more about the effects of climate change on animal and plant species

Find out more about the islands of the North Pacific, South Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Find out more about the conservation of islands

Hannah Mulvany, ARKive Content and Outreach Officer

Aug 20
Share 'In the News: Lemurs heading towards extinction' on Delicious Share 'In the News: Lemurs heading towards extinction' on Digg Share 'In the News: Lemurs heading towards extinction' on Facebook Share 'In the News: Lemurs heading towards extinction' on reddit Share 'In the News: Lemurs heading towards extinction' on StumbleUpon Share 'In the News: Lemurs heading towards extinction' on Email Share 'In the News: Lemurs heading towards extinction' on Print Friendly

In the News: Lemurs heading towards extinction

Madagascar’s lemurs could be all but wiped out within the next 20 years unless drastic action is taken, according to primatologists.

Black-and-white ruffed lemur portrait

The black-and-white ruffed lemur is listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN

Threats to lemurs

All lemur species are endemic to Madagascar, the world’s fourth-largest island and a global “hotspot” of biodiversity. However, these unique primates are under threat from habitat loss and hunting, and recent assessments have found that an alarming 91% of lemur species should be placed in the IUCN Red List threatened categories. This makes lemurs the world’s most endangered mammal group.

One of the greatest threats to lemurs is widespread deforestation. Decades of logging, mining and agriculture have already destroyed 90% of Madagascar’s forests, confining lemurs to the remaining fragments. In recent years, political instability has compounded the problem, forcing many local people to turn to illegal logging and hunting to survive.

Photo of brown lemur on a tree trunk

The brown lemur, listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN

According to Jonah Ratsimbazafy, a local primatologist, “If continued at this rate of deforestation, we can say that within 20 to 25 years there will be no more forest and thus no more lemurs.”

Lemur conservation strategy

To tackle the issues facing these charismatic primates, the world’s leading primate experts came together this month to draw up a three-year strategy for lemur conservation. This strategy contains 30 action plans for the 30 different priority sites for lemur conservation, and it aims to help with fundraising for individual projects.

According to Dr Russ Mittermeier, President of Conservation International and Chair of the IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group, there are three main actions which will be most effective for lemur conservation in the field: “First working on grassroots projects with local communities so people can make a difference for themselves, secondly supporting eco-tourism projects and thirdly establishing research stations as a permanent facility to protect against loggers and hunters.”

Photo of Verreaux's sifaka about to leap from tree

Like many other lemurs, Verreaux’s sifaka is threatened by habitat loss and hunting

Benjamin Andriamihaja of the Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments said, “We try to fund activities that generate revenues, like planting beans, rearing pigs and chickens or developing fish farming, so that peasants stop destroying the forest.”

Hard work is yet to come

Speaking about the new strategy for lemur conservation, Dr Christoph Schwitzer, Head of Research at Bristol Zoo Gardens, said, “The fact is that if we don’t act now we risk losing a species of lemur for the first time in two centuries. The importance of the projects we’ve outlined in this document simply cannot be overstated.”

Photo of Alaotran gentle lemur with young

The Alaotran gentle lemur has a very restricted range and specialised habitat, putting it at high risk of extinction

However, he said that he was an optimist and would not give up on any species of lemur, adding that, “This document shows how well people can work together when species are on the brink. I’m proud of what we’ve achieved here but the hard work is yet to come.”

 

Read more on this story at The Telegraph – Furry lemurs ‘could be wiped out within 20 years’.

Find out more about Madagascar and other Indian Ocean islands.

View more photos and videos of lemurs on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

Jul 13
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Endangered Species of the Week: Pink pigeon

Photo of pink pigeon, side profile

Pink pigeon (Nesoenas mayeri)

Species: Pink pigeon (Nesoenas mayeri)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: In the 1980s, a tiny grove of cedar trees which housed the entire wild population of pink pigeons became known as ‘Pigeon Wood’.

Also known as the Mauritius pink pigeon, the pink pigeon is a rare endemic bird found only on the island of Mauritius and the adjacent Ile aux Aigrettes. As its name suggests, the pink pigeon has a pink head, neck and breast, although its back is brown and it has a reddish-brown tail. This species breeds in most months of the year, with both adults helping to raise the brood of two chicks. The pink pigeon feeds on buds, leaves, flowers, fruits and seeds of both native and introduced plants. Although this pigeon originally inhabited native evergreen forest, it is now mainly found among non-native trees such as the Japanese red cedar.

The pink pigeon underwent a dramatic decline in the last century due to severe deforestation combined with predation by introduced mammals such as mongooses, rats and cats. Cyclones are also a potential threat to this rare bird and can destroy its nest sites. By the early 1990s, the situation for the pink pigeon had become critical, with just ten individuals left in the wild. Fortunately, intensive conservation efforts have rescued this endemic bird from the brink of extinction, with a captive breeding programme increasing the wild population to over 350 individuals today. Other efforts to protect this species include habitat restoration, predator control and providing supplementary food. Although the pink pigeon still requires continued management if it is to survive, the miraculous recovery of this species is considered to be a great conservation success story.

 

Find out more about the pink pigeon and its conservation at Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust – Mauritius pink pigeon.

Read more about conservation on Mauritius at the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation.

You can also find out more about the wildlife of Mauritius and other Indian Ocean islands on the ARKive Indian Ocean islands page.

See images and videos of the pink pigeon on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

Jun 29
Share 'Endangered Species of the Week: Sumatran orangutan' on Delicious Share 'Endangered Species of the Week: Sumatran orangutan' on Digg Share 'Endangered Species of the Week: Sumatran orangutan' on Facebook Share 'Endangered Species of the Week: Sumatran orangutan' on reddit Share 'Endangered Species of the Week: Sumatran orangutan' on StumbleUpon Share 'Endangered Species of the Week: Sumatran orangutan' on Email Share 'Endangered Species of the Week: Sumatran orangutan' on Print Friendly

Endangered Species of the Week: Sumatran orangutan

Photo of Sumatran orangutan with infant

Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii)

Species: Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii)

Status: Critically Endangered (CR)

Interesting Fact: The name ‘orangutan’ means ‘person of the forest’.

The Sumatran orangutan lives almost exclusively in trees, only very rarely coming down to the ground. This large Asian ape is found in lowland tropical rainforests and swamps in northern Sumatra, and feeds mainly on fruit, although it will also eat leaves, termites, and even occasionally the meat of slow lorises. The Sumatran orangutan is distinguished from the Bornean orangutan by its narrower face, longer beard and lighter fur, and the two species also behave slightly differently. Adult male orangutans are larger than females, and may have large cheek pads on either side of the face. Orangutans are long-lived and breed very slowly, with females only producing an infant around once every eight years, giving them the longest inter-birth interval of any land mammal.

The main threat to the Sumatran orangutan is the loss of vast areas of forest due to illegal logging, mining and conversion to agriculture, particularly oil palm plantations. Forests have also been fragmented by roads, and forest loss and fragmentation make orangutans more vulnerable to being captured for the illegal pet trade. This species’ slow reproductive rate makes it very difficult for its populations to recover from any losses. The Sumatran orangutan is fully protected by law and is listed on Appendix I of CITES, which bans international trade in this species. However, the key to saving this charismatic primate lies in protecting its remaining forest habitat. A major stronghold for the Sumatran orangutan lies in the Leuser Ecosystem Conservation Area, and projects are also underway to rescue and rehabilitate orangutans that have been orphaned or confiscated, and, if possible, to return them to the wild.

 

Find out more about orangutan conservation at the Orangutan Foundation and Great Apes Survival Partnership.

You can also find out more about Sumatra and its wildlife on the ARKive Indian Ocean islands page.

See images and videos of the Sumatran orangutan on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

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