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Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Measuring at 14 centimeters (5.5 inches), a new spider discovered in the sand dunes of Israel is the largest of its kind in all of the Middle East. How it avoided detection until now in one of the world' longest inhabited—and explored—regions is likely due, at least in part, to the species' entire habitat consisting of only three square kilometers.

Dwelling in the Sands of Samar in the southern Arava region of Israel, the spider, called Cerbalus aravensis, is already greatly endangered due to development plans. Rezoning for agriculture and sand quarries has already reduced the spiders' dunes by more than half: from seven square kilometers to three.

"The discovery of this new spider illustrates our obligation to preserve the dune," says Dr. Shanas from the University of Haifa, who headed the team of scientists.

The habitat is under direct threat as the Israel Land Administration is moving ahead to renew mining projects in the Sands of Samar. Shanas says that the spider may not be the only species hiding from science for millennia among the dunes and that they should be preserved for their biological richness.

"The new discovery shows how much we still have to investigate, and that there are likely to be many more species that are unknown to us. If we do not preserve the few habitats that remain for these species, they will become extinct before we can even discover them," Dr. Shanas concludes.

Little is known about the spider's biology, but researchers say it is nocturnal and active during the hottest months. The species lives in an underground den covered over by a door of glued together sand particles.

Taken from: www.mongabay.com

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Oil company in Ecuador transforms indigenous community into commercial poachers, threatening wildlife in a protected area

The documentary Crude opened this weekend in New York, while the film shows the direct impact of the oil industry on indigenous groups a new study proves that the presence of oil companies can have subtler, but still major impacts, on indigenous groups and the ecosystems in which they live.

In Ecuador's Yasuni National Park—comprising 982,000 hectares of what the researchers call "one of the most species diverse forests in the world"—the presence of an oil company has disrupted the lives of the Waorani and the Kichwa peoples, and the rich abundance of wildlife living within the forest. By building a 149 kilometer (92 mile) road through the protected forest and providing subsidies to the local tribes, the oil company Maxus Ecuador Inc. transformed some members of the tribes from semi-nomadic subsistence hunters into commercial poachers.








"We’ve found that a road in a forest can bring huge social changes to local groups and the ways in which they utilize wildlife resources," said Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) researcher Esteban Suárez, lead author of the study. "Communities existing inside and around the park are changing their customs to a lifestyle of commercial hunting, the first stage in a potential overexploitation of wildlife."


According to the new study by the WCS and the IDEAS-Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador, the creation of the single road allowed tribe members to transport game to a market where it is sold illegally. In addition, the subsidies and free access to the road, all provided by the oil company, make the transportation of the meat—and thereby the wild meat market itself—economically viable.

Although sale of wild meat and products in Ecuador is illegal, the researchers report that "local authorities and park rangers know about the market, [but] they lack the resources and political will to stop the illegal trade of wildlife in Pompeya, primarily to avoid conflicts with the local indigenous population."





Some communities of the Waorani tribe even abandoned their traditional semi-nomadic life and built settled villages along the road for easy transport of their game. They took up firearms (instead of the traditional blowguns), which became more prevalent following the arrival of the oil company.

"These changes," the authors explain, "are amplified by patronizing relationships in which large companies buy their right to operate in the area by providing local communities with resources, money or infrastructure without consideration of the social and ecological impact of these 'compensation plans'".

The study published in Animal Conservation found that the wild meat market appeared shortly after the road was constructed in early 1990s and free travel was given to the indigenous tribes. Between 2005 and 2007, 11,000 kilograms (24,000 pounds) of wild meat were sold at the Pompeya market every year. The amount of meat sold every day doubled between 2005 and 2007, from 150 kilograms (330 pounds) to 300 kilograms (661 pounds).

"While the magnitude of the wildlife trade occurring at Pompeya is still limited, its emergence and continuous growth are symptomatic of the dramatic changes that the area is experiencing under the influence of the oil industry and the absence of effective management and control strategies," the authors write.



Taken from: www.mongabay.com


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Monday, June 15, 2009

Brilliant pink moth discovered in Arizona.


A new species of moth with brilliantly-colored pink wings has been discovered at 7,700 feet in the Chiricahua Mountains of southern Arizona.

"This large moth flew in and we didn't think much of it because there is a silk moth very much like it, a Doris silk moth that feeds on pines that has dark wings with pink on the hind wings. It's fairly common there," said University of Arizona biologist, Bruce Walsh, who discovered the species.

On closer inspection of the moth, however, Walsh determined that it was an entirely different species from a different family: Noctuidae. The Chiricahuas is known for its biological richness and new species, however a moth of this color is a rare find.

The moth has been named lithophane leeae, after Walsh’s wife, Lee.

"We can now add L. leeae to this group of large, but quite elusive, species," Walsh noted.







Taken from
Mongabay.com


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Monday, May 11, 2009

Will the illegal trade of the critically endangered Philippine forest turtle lead to its extinction?

Endangered Species International (ESI) conducted ongoing monitoring at markets known to sell pets and wild animals in Manila, Philippines, to monitor the status of the trade of one of the most endangered turtle in the world: the Philippine forest turtle [Siebenrockiella (Panayenemys) leytensis]. The critically endangered Philippine forest turtle is endemic to the Philippines, occurring only on one major island, Palawan, and its small satellite island, Dumaran.

During many visits, ESI staff encountered between two and ten Philippine forest turtle for sale at each market totalizing 171 animals over the 4-year period. The turtles were not sold openly as they were prior to 2005; instead, they were kept hidden in the back of stores and brought to potential buyers only when it was felt that there were no risks involved. “We continuously observed S. leytensis in all major pet markets in Manila, demonstrating that the domestic illegal trade remains rampant and has not decreased over the years, that brings this unique species closer to extinction” said Pierre Fidenci, head of Endangered Species International.







In April 2009, the species was sold for between 50 and 75 USD per turtle, but could be negotiated down to 30 USD for smaller individuals. Turtles could be ordered within one or two weeks but that large-sized turtles were difficult to obtain. Most of the turtles sold for the domestic pet trade were sub-adults and young adults. It was rather uncommon to find large individuals (greater than 30 cm in carapace length) for sale.

Overall, illegal collecting of the Philippine forest turtle is the most prominent factor contributing to the sharp decline of the species. Despite international and national laws designed to prevent exploitation of the critically endangered Philippine forest turtle, this species has been sold illegally for domestic and international trade for almost eight years now. Trade is still rampant and the species is being sold in the Philippines, North America, Europe, and Japan.

The ongoing level of trade highlights the failure of past and current activities to stop or reduce illegal trade. Targeting known illegal traders in Palawan should be a priority, but no legal actions have yet been undertaken by local authorities or other concerned organizations. “We have been watching the numbers going down and now it is time for real actions to stop the illegal trade of the Philippine forest turtle” said Pierre Fidenci.



Taken from Andreas Rytz, Endangered Species International
May 04, 2009


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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Flu epidemic killing bonobos in Congo sanctuary


Located in sixty acres of forest, the Lola Ya Bonobo sanctuary is a place for bonobos who have been confiscated by police following attempts to sell them to pet markets in the US, Europe, or Middle East. The sanctuary provides rehabilitation for the bonobos and educates the local populace about the apes in an effort to curb hunting bush meat, one of the major threats to bonobos and apes across Africa. The center eventually hopes to reintroduce some of the bonobos back into the wild.

Bonobos are smaller than Common chimpanzees. They also sport pink lips and a black face. Behaviorally, bonobos are quite different from common chimpanzees. Whereas common chimpanzees live in patriarchal groups, bonobo groups are dominated by females. They are less violent than chimpanzees and do not engage in warfare like common chimpanzees. In addition, bonobos are famous for their sexual openness, including using sexual activity as a greeting and a way of mitigating conflict.

Bonobos are listed as endangered by IUCN's Red List. Only found in the DRC estimates of their population vary widely, from 5,000 to 50,000 individuals. Bonobos are threatened by habitat loss, deforestation, the pet trade, the bushmeat market, and even for use in witchcraft.

Six bonobos, a species of chimpanzee, have died from a flu epidemic in a month at the Lola Ya Bonobo in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Ten more have contracted the flu.

“There is no fever. Antibiotics don’t do anything. The bonobos have severe respiratory infections and then they can’t breath for 3 days then they die,” writes a staff member on the sanctuary's blog through the conservation organization WildlifeDirect. The staff of Lola Ya Bonobo have sent out a plea for help and donations, as the flu continues to sweep through their center.




Taken from:
Flu epidemic killing bonobos in Congo sanctuary
Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com
March 29, 2009


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