Endangered Species Friday: Diomedea amsterdamensis
This Friday’s (ESP) Endangered Species watch Post I dedicate to one of the most stunning and adorable of all plane like birds. Listed as [critically endangered] and identified back in 1983 by South African Dr Jean Paul Roux whom is a Marine Biologist studying Zoology, Systems Biology and Marine Biology at the University of Cape Town, South Africa Jean Paul Roux works full-time at the Department of Biological Sciences, Cape Town. (Image D. amsterdamensis fledglings)
Commonly identified as the Amsterdam Albatross or Amsterdam Island Albatross the species was listed as [critically endangered] back in 2012. This gorgeous bird is endemic to the French Southern Territories of which its populations are continuing to decline at a rapid pace. Populations were estimated at a mere 170 individuals which in turn ranks as the worlds most endangered species of bird. Out of the 170 individuals there are a total of 80 mature individuals consisting of 26 pairs that breed annually.
Between 2001-2007 there were a total of 24-31 breeding pairs annually, which leaves a slightly lower population count today of around 100 mature individuals. Back in 1998 scientists stated that there were no fewer than 50 mature individuals if that. The Amsterdam Albatross doesn’t naturally have a small population however qualified for the category of [critically endangered] due to this reason when identified in 1983. Furthermore pollution, habitat destruction and disease remain pivotal factors that’s decreasing populations furthermore. The video below from MidWay island explains a little more about pollution and birds of this caliber.
Its quite possible that there could be more unidentified groups within the local territory or elsewhere, unfortunately as yet there is no evidence to suggest the Amsterdam Albatross is located anywhere else, however there have been sightings, which do not necessarily count as the species being endemic to countries the bird may have been noted within.
The species breeds on the Plateau des Tourbières on Amsterdam Island (French Southern Territories) in the southern Indian Ocean. An increase of populations was documented via census back in 1984, a year after identification. Marine Biologists have stated that population sizes may have been more larger when its range was more extensive over the slopes of the island.
Meanwhile in South Africa satellite tracking data has indicated the Amsterdam Albatross ranges off the coast of Eastern South Africa to the South of Western Australia in non-breeding pairs. There have been some [possible] sightings over Australia through to New Zealand too. Meanwhile South Africa “may” have its first breeding pair this must not be taken as factual though. Back in 2013 a nature photographer photographed an Amsterdam Albatross off the Western Cape of South Africa which is the very first documented and confirmed sighting .
AN OCEAN OF GRIEF
Breeding is biennial (when successful) and is restricted to the central plateau of the island at 500-600 m, where only one breeding group is known. Pair-bonds are lifelong, and breeding begins in February. Most eggs are laid from late February to March, and chicks fledge in January to February the following year.
Immature birds begin to return to breeding colonies between four and seven years after fledging but do not begin to breed until they are nine years of age. The Amsterdam Albatross exact diet is unknown, but probably consists of fish, squid and crustaceans. During the breeding season, birds forage both around Amsterdam Island and up to 2,200 km away in subtropical waters which is something of interest. During the great Sardine Run many aquatic species consisting of birds, seals, sharks and whales hit the South African oceans hard for sardines. So I am calling on my fellow South African friends to please be on the lookout for this rather elusive bird.
Image: Amsterdam Albatross mating ritual, credited to Andrew Rouse.
Diomedea amsterdamensis, is quite a large albatross. When described in 1983, the species was thought by some researchers to be a sub-species of the wandering albatross, D. exulans. Bird Life International and the IOC recognize it as a species, James Clements does not, and the SACC has a proposal on the table to split the species. Please refer to the link above on Avian Biology which will explain more on the bird and its current classification.
More recently, mitchondrial DNA comparisons between the Amsterdam albatross, the wandering albatross Diomedea exulans, the Antipodean albatross D. antipodensis and the Tristan albatross D. dabbenena, provide clear genetic evidence that the Amsterdam albatross is a separate species.
Degradation of breeding sites by introduced cattle has decreased the species’s range and population across the island. Human disturbance is presumably also to blame. Introduced predators are a major threat, particularly feral cats. Interactions with longline fisheries around the island in the 1970s and early 1980s could also have contributed to a decline in the population.
Today the population is threatened primarily by the potential spread of diseases (avian cholera and Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae) that affect the Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross Thalassarche carteri population 3 km from the colony. Infection risks are very high and increased chick mortality over recent years suggests the population is already affected.
The foraging range of the species overlaps with longline fishing operations targeting tropical tuna species, so bycatch may also still be a threat, and a recent analysis has suggested that bycatch levels exceeding six individuals per year would be enough to cause a potentially irreversible population decline. Having a distribution on relatively low-lying islands, this species is potentially susceptible to climate change through sea-level rise and shifts in suitable climatic conditions. Plastic pollution has also been noted as problematic.
International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa and International Animal Rescue Foundation France are currently working on projects to reduce more plastic within bird habitat that has never been visited by the organisation before. The current plight of bird habitat and plastic pollution within the Pacific ocean needs to be worked on by everyone, furthermore addressed immediately.
To date all twenty two species within the four genera of Albatross are heavily threatened with extinction. There remains no species at present that is listed as [least concern]. The future is indeed very bleak for all 22 species and something we now need to work on and towards to preserve Albatross’s before extinction occurs within a decade for the vast majority of all twenty two species and sub-species.
Thank you for reading.
Please share to make aware the plight of this stunning bird and the remaining twenty two species too.
Dr Jose C. Depre.
A planet without birds is a world not worth living within anymore. Daily I am traumatized and deeply disturbed at viewing the destruction we have caused to these stunning animals and, their natural habitat. I am pained, deeply frustrated and infuriated at international retail companies whom preach good yet practice negligence killing off via plastic pollution our species of birds. Jose Depre
Endangered Species Friday: Acinonyx jubatus
This Fridays endangered species I speak up about the now (not co common Cheetah). Endangered Species Watch Post (ESP) tries to limit the amount of commonly known specie on the platform, however due to recent declines we’ve now included the specie within the (ESP).
Listed on the ‘threatened list’ of (endangered species) as vulnerable, the common Cheetah was formally identified by Johann Christian Daniel von Schreber (1739 in Weißensee, Thuringia – 1810 in Erlangen), often styled I.C.D. von Schreber, was a German naturalist. (Image Cheetah, photographer unknown).
Identified back in 1775 there remains a total of some five sub-species known that inhabits north, south, west and east Africa. The sub-species A. j. venaticus is known only to inhabit Iran. Some very contradictory reports state there may or may not be populations living within Central India too.
From 1996 to 2002 A. jubatus populations haven’t increased of which this amazing hunting cat commonly known as the Cheetah or (Hunting Leopard) continues to sit at (vulnerable listing). Further population declines will most certainly see the specie qualifying for the category of (endangered). Should this occur the African Cheetah will become the first specie of big cat within the new millennium to hit endangered level.
Cheetahs have disappeared from some seventy six percent of their known historical range which now overtakes that of the Panthera leo (Lion). African populations are considered ‘widely common’ however still known to be sparsely populated. Meanwhile in Asia the Cheetah has practically vanished which is why we must do more to protect the last known remaining Africans populations before further extinctions occur. Cheetahs were known to be quite common throughout Mediterranean and the Arabian peninsula, north to the northern shores of the Caspian and Aral Seas, and west through Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan into central India However this is no longer the case.
One reason for for Asiatic Cheetah population declines was due to live captures of the animal which were trained to hunt other fauna. Unfortunately that was not the main reason why the specie spiralled into near extinction. The primary threat was Cheetah prey decline. This same problem has also been noted as effecting other big cats within Africa and Asia too. Agriculture, over-unregulated-hunting, over-culling, urbanization and habitat destruction via humans, has all played a significant role pushing the species furthermore into the realms of near extinction. Within Iran the sub-species A. j. venaticus is known to be (critically endangered)
In Tunisia Cheetahs were known to roam freely, however there are no known populations remaining within the country. The El-Borma region, near the Algerian boundaries, was probably among the areas where Cheetahs have last been seen in 1974 and documented. Reports compiled back in 1980 now tell us the specie is incredibly rare (if not regionally extinct already). Recently hunters yet again stated that (hunting) has never impacted on the species whatsoever. That’s a complete barefaced lie by members of (PHASA) Professional Hunting Association of South Africa and (DSI) Dallas Safari International.
Cheetahs became extinct from most of the Mediterranean coastal region and easily accessible inland habitats of El-Maghra and Siwa oases one decade after being widely distributed in the northern Egyptian Western Desert until the 1970s. The main reasons explaining cheetah extirpation have been attributed to (extensive and uncontrolled hunting and the development of coastal lands). Please view images lower down the article.
“The main reasons explaining cheetah extirpation have been attributed to (extensive and uncontrolled hunting and the development of coastal lands)”…
Current data on Cheetah population within Eritrea, Sudan and Somali is unknown. Populations within these three countries could very well already be extinct. Reports conducted within most “known Chad Cheetah zones” have sadly concluded the species is no longer present within the of much African country either, 2008 surveys did pick up few roaming species within Southern Chad though. Few populations remain within Central Sahara although to what extent is again unknown.
Within the African countries of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, and Democratic Republic of Congo again population counts are not known. (Its’ quite possible that the species has already gone extinct). Cheetahs are already officially extinct within Burundi and Rwanda. Reports have sadly confirmed the species is also extinct within Nigeria. Poaching and over-hunting have wiped all populations out within the three central African countries. A 1974 study ‘suggested’ that few populations may be occupying both Cameroonian boundaries and Yankari Game Reserve. This report is though mere speculation and not confirmed evidence.
EXTINCTIONS TO DATE
Extinctions have already occurred within; Burundi; Côte d’Ivoire; Eritrea; Gambia; Ghana; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; India; Iraq; Israel; Jordan; Kazakhstan; Kuwait; Oman; Qatar; Rwanda; Saudi Arabia; Sierra Leone; Syrian Arab Republic; Tajikistan; Tunisia; Turkmenistan; United Arab Emirates; Uzbekistan and Yemen.
Afghanistan; Cameroon; Djibouti; Egypt; Libya; Malawi; Mali; Mauritania; Morocco; Nigeria; Pakistan; Senegal, Uganda and the Western Sahara.
Known Endemic Zones
Algeria; Angola; Benin; Botswana; Burkina Faso; Central African Republic; Chad; Congo; Ethiopia; Iran; Kenya; Mozambique; Namibia; Niger; South Africa; South Sudan; Sudan; Tanzania, United Republic of; Togo; Zambia; Zimbabwe. (Updated 2015)
2015 WILD POPULATION COUNTS
(Please note the following populations below are wild and not captive nor farmed)
Reintroductions of Cheetah populations have taken place within Swaziland however to what extent the populations are within Swaziland is unknown.
What we know to-date is that populations within the “Southern Africa” (not just South Africa) hosts the largest populations at roughly some 5,000+ mature individuals. Botswana and Malawi holds roughly 1,800 mature individuals. Populations are unknown within (Angola) and ‘considered possibly extinct’. Mozambique holds some 50-60 mature individuals, Namibia 2,000. SOUTH AFRICA holds some 550 mature individuals, Zambia some 100 mature individuals, Zimbabwe 400. A large proportion of the estimated population lives outside protected areas, in lands ranched primarily for livestock but also for wild game, and where lions and hyenas have been extirpated. So we do question why trophy hunting and unregulated hunting still persists out of farmed areas.
Ethiopia, southern Sudan, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania holds an estimated (2,500 mature individuals) however due to intense hunting pressure, poaching and habitat destruction this number could be much lower. (There is NO evidence that hunting within any of the ‘legal zones’ has increased Cheetah populations whatsoever”. Furthermore I challenge all hunting organisations within the legally allowed hunting areas to prove myself wrong? The largest population (Serengeti/Maro/Tsavo in Kenya and Tanzania) is estimated at 710.
Kenya hosts some 790+ mature wild individuals, Tanzania 560+ to 1,100 individuals. Uganda, Gros and Rejmanek (1999) estimated 40-295 with a wider range in the Karamoja region, whereas now Cheetahs have been extirpated and just 12 are estimated to persist in Kidepo National Park and surroundings. North-West Africa the species stands at no fewer that 250 mature individuals (if that).
Within Iran the ‘sub-species’ of Asiatic Cheetah – A. j. venaticus (if still extanct) stands at some 60-100 mature individuals. We do like the fact the conservation trustee is a known hunter allegedly supporting Cheetah conservation. We’ve yet to see an real improvement of Iranian Cheetahs in the country (more money talk)…
The overall “known Cheetah population” for Asia and Africa is by far more threatened that the Lion. To date there are some 7,000 known mature individuals remaining within the wild but no greater than 10,000. This sadly make the Cheetah by far more threatened than Panthera leo. African Lion populations stand at some 15,000 to 13,000 maximum. As the Cheetah population will not likely exceed 10,000 individuals – the species therefore qualifies for (vulnerable status).
Nowell and Jackson stated that Cheetah populations in the past have undergone some alarming declines, now it would seem that history is re-repeating itself (this time the specie may not survive). The Cheetah exhibits remarkable levels of genetic diversity in comparison and compared to other wild felids, so there could be a high chance the species may make it back from the near brink of extinction within the wild.
Problem is poaching and over-hunting then wasn’t as prolific as it is today. Scientists stated that interbreeding among other individuals had saved the species from bottleneck declines in the past. This history dated back some 10,000 years. Sport hunting then wasn’t an issue as it is today, so in all fairness the species could be hunted into extinction illegally or legally (with much thanks to Cites on the ‘legal part’). So in all honesty we may lose the Cheetah before the Lion.
While the causes of the Cheetah’s low levels of genetic variation are unclear [back then], what is clear is that large populations are necessary to conserve it. Since Cheetahs are a low density species, conservation areas need to be quite large, larger than most protected areas. Major areas of the African continent are being overtaken by humans, agriculture to cope with human expansion and deforestation. No longer is it a case of ‘if’ rather than ‘when’….
Cheetahs are ‘hunted for sport and trophies’, as well as handicrafts products. Live animals are also traded – the global captive Cheetah population is not self-sustaining. Pest animals are also removed.
In Eastern Africa, habitat loss and fragmentation was identified as the primary threat during a conservation strategy workshop (2007). Because Cheetahs occur at low densities, conservation of viable populations requires large scale land management planning; most existing protected areas are not large enough to ensure the long term survival of Cheetahs. A depleted wild ungulate prey base is of serious concern in northern Africa. Cheetahs which turn to livestock are killed as pests. Conflict with farmers and depletion of the wild prey base are also considered significant threats in parts of Eastern Africa.
In Iran, the Asiatic Cheetah A. j. venaticus is threatened indirectly by loss of prey base through human hunting activities. In addition, most protected areas are open to seasonal livestock grazing, which potentially places huge pressure on the resident ungulate populations through disturbance and potential competition. Additionally, domestic dogs accompanying the herds present a likely threat to both Cheetahs and their prey. An emerging threat is the possibility of fragmentation into discontinuous subpopulations as a result of increasing developmental pressures (mining, oil, roads, railways); this is particularly the case in Kavir N.P., currently the north-western limit of the Asiatic Cheetah’s range.
Conflict with farmers and ranchers is the major threat to Cheetahs in southern Africa. Cheetah are often killed or persecuted because they are a perceived threat to livestock, despite the fact that they cause relatively little damage. In Namibia, very large numbers of Cheetahs have been live-trapped and removed by ranchers seeking to protect their livestock (from government permit records, Nowell  calculated that over 9,500 cheetahs were removed from 1978-1995). While removal rates have fallen, in part due to intensified conservation and education efforts, many ranchers still view Cheetahs as a problem animal, despite research showing that Cheetahs were only responsible for [3% of livestock losses] to predators. Although Cheetah in Iran have been killed because of predation on livestock, since 2003, there has been no direct evidence of killing Cheetahs, though it is likely most incidents go unreported.
“Cheetahs are also vulnerable to being caught in snares set for other species”.
Another threat to the Cheetah is interspecific competition with other large predators, especially lions. On the open, short-grass plains of the Serengeti, juvenile mortality can be as high as 95%, largely due to predation by Lions. However, mortality rates are lower in more closed habitats.
CITES [allows legal trade in live animals and hunting trophies under an Appendix I] quota system (annual quotas: Namibia – 150; Zimbabwe – 50; Botswana – 5). This was accepted by CITES as a way to enhance the economic value of Cheetahs on private lands and provide an economic incentive for their conservation. The global captive Cheetah population is not self-sustaining; Cheetahs [breed poorly in captivity] and in 2001 [30% of the captive population] was wild-caught. While analysis of trade records in the CITES database shows that these countries have reported almost no live exports since the late 1990s, Conservation groups are concerned that there is a substantial illegal cross-border trade in live animals.
There is also concern about illegal trade in skins, as well as capture of live cubs for trade to the Middle East. There is an increasing trade in cubs from [north-east Africa into the Middle East], but there is currently little trade in cubs from the Sahel region, where it was previously considered a major problem. Cheetahs are active during the daytime and there is concern that they can be driven off their kills by [tourist cars crowding around, or mothers separated from their cubs]. Burney (1980) conducted a study and concluded that [tourist cars did not seem to harm cheetahs, and in fact sometimes helped, as cheetah chases more often ended in a kill when there were cars around, distracting prey, providing cover from which to stalk, or otherwise waking Cheetahs up to notice prey in the area]. However, [tourist numbers have risen sharply by then, and its potential impact on cheetahs remains a concern].
The Eastern African Cheetah conservation strategy identified four sets of constraints to mitigating these threats across a large spatial scale. Political constraints include lack of land use planning, insecurity and political instability in some ecologically important areas, and lack of political will to foster Cheetah conservation. Economic constraints include lack of financial resources to support conservation, and lack of incentives for local people to conserve wildlife. Social constraints include negative conceptions of Cheetahs, lack of capacity to achieve conservation, lack of environmental awareness, rising human populations, and social changes leading to subdivision of land and subsequent habitat fragmentation. These potentially mutable human constraints contrast with several biological constraints which are characteristic of Cheetahs and cannot be changed, including wide-ranging behaviour, negative interactions with other large carnivores, and potential susceptibility to disease.
Disease is a potential threat to the Cheetah, as its reduced genetic diversity can increase a population’s susceptibility. However, the most serious disease mortality thus far documented in wild Cheetahs was from naturally occurring anthrax in Namibia’s Etosha National Park; Cheetahs, unlike other predators, do not scavenge carcasses of ungulates killed by anthrax, and thus [had no built-up immunity] when they preyed upon springbok sick with the disease. The Cheetah’s low density may offer some measure of protection against infectious disease; for example, Cheetahs were not affected by an outbreak of Canine Distemper Virus in the Serengeti National Park which [killed over 1/3 of the Lion population]. Serological surveys of Cheetahs on Namibian farmland indicate some exposure and survival of the disease.
We are losing the Cheetah faster than the specie of Lion. Although some regulations are in place with the species listed on Appendix I (Cites) its quite likely we’ll lose wild populations should hunting, poaching and unregulated hunting not stop now.
Thank you for reading.
Dr Jose C. Depre
Environmental and Botanical Scientist.
Sources; Cites, Red List, Wiki, Wild Forum, DEA, CCG, DSI, PHASA, Cambridge University, Oxford University.
Endangered Species Friday: Bothriechis marchi
This Fridays endangered species watch post (ESP) I focus ones attention on reptilians which I rarely do speak or document about. Awareness surrounding this stunning Pit Viper needs creating rather quickly, before populations go extinct. (Image credits: Dr. Silviu Petrovan B. marchi)
Endemic to Honduras (mainland) and scientifically identified as Bothriechis marchi the specie is listed as [endangered] of which populations are declining quite extensively throughout its entire range. B. marchi was identified by two environmental scientists that I’ve listed below;
1. Dr Thomas Barbour (August 19, 1884 – January 8, 1946) whom was an American herpetologist. From 1927 until 1946, he was director of the Museum of Comparative Zoology founded in 1859 by Louis Agassiz at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Dr Barbour identified B. marchi back in 1929.
2. Dr Arthur Loveridge (1891-1980) whom was a British biologist and herpetologist who wrote about animals in East Africa, particularly Tanzania, and New Guinea. He gave scientific names to several gecko species in the region. Dr Loveridge identified with Dr Barbour, B. marchi back in 1929.
The species was known to be quite common throughout its entire range from the mid 1980’s right-through to the early millennium. Since last observations took place around 2000 there has been few sightings of the species due to increasing threats on the mainland.
Commonly known to the locals as the Honduran Palm Pit Viper or March’s Palm Pit Viper the species is known to occur within Northern Honduras of which extends into Eastern Guatemala. Range has been reported to be some 500m to 1,500 (m) in elevation however the species is considered rare at anything below 900 (m). There have been few reports of specimens recorded below the 900 (m) elevation in Nicaragua by Villa 1984. Furthermore a few individual specimens have also been recorded at sea level.
While there are an assortment of threats that indeed pose a risk to the species the main primary reason B. marchi qualifies for the endangered listing is due to the very small locations that the species is known to inhabit. From previews records we know the species now only exists at some five to six locations of which any-form of habitat fragmentation or destruction could/would lead to species into extinction.
Even throughout the species very small range habitat loss, collapse of prey populations, and extraction for the pet trade still occurs despite the March’s Palm Pit Viper listed as endangered and, protected. One can normally locate the species next to running streams, water courses or within closed intact rain forest. To date there are no sub-species known and one must also point out the March’s Palm Pit Viper is indeed (venomous). Diet normally consists of frogs, newts, and rodents.
Image: Honduran Palm Pit Viper. (Photographer unknown).
Listed on Cites Appendix II there remains very little conservation projects in place to actually preserve the species despite Cites stating pet trade must be [regulated]. If anything there should be no pet trade and the Government of Honduras now needs to implement tough policies and regulations to ensure species survival for future generations to come. Cites in my own opinion needs to pull their finger out and restore a little faith back into the public domain as clearly very little if any monetary income is being made from the pet trade that is helping sustain conservation projects within the species range.
One of my own major concerns here on the mainland and Honduras islands is deforestation. Many of you or may not be aware, some months back we ran a conservation project on the Honduras White Bat of which deforestation was primarily to blame for the bats decreasing populations. Unfortunately the same threat also applies to the March’s Palm Pit Viper (which I find very worrying).
Timber extraction and habitat destruction is increasing on the mainland at an alarming rate placing the March’s Palm Pit Viper in danger furthermore. This species is also threatened by extraction for the pet trade. For example the Honduras authorities have issued permits for exportation of hundreds of individuals annually. Furthermore, the crash in amphibian populations threatens this species.
I must also point out that while timber extraction is placing increasing pressure on many species of fauna and flora illegal and unregulated logging remains an ever-increasing threat to sustainable development programs. Who’s to blame for this illegal logging crisis? United States and Europe have been exposed in many environmental investigation projects, timer extraction projects also increase poverty, fuel corruption not forgetting devastating communities throughout the mainland and islands. Although some actions have been taken to decrease illegal logging threats – they still very much remain and as such will push the Honduran Palm Pit Viper into extinction should measures not be implemented to protect wildlife immediately..
Please note that while there has been some-speculation there may well be a new sub-species, Bothriechis guifarroi is not related to B marchi, although near threatened the species is still pretty remarkable.
Sadly we don’t have a video for you to view the Honduran Palm Pit Viper however I’ve included a Viper video that you may enjoy.
– Have a nice day.
Thank you for reading.
Chief Environmental Officer. (Executive Director)
Dr Jose C. Depre
International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa.
Endangered Species Friday: Anas melleri
This Fridays Endangered Species watch Post (ESP) focuses on a very undocumented bird known scientifically as Anas melleri and commonly known as the Meller’s Duck.
The Meller’s Duck was identified back in 1865 by lawyer and Doctor Philip Lutley Sclater FRS FRGS FZS FLS (4 November 1829 – 27 June 1913) was an English lawyer and zoologist. In zoology, he was an expert ornithologist, and identified the main zoogeographic regions of the world. He was Secretary of the Zoological Society of London for 42 years, from 1860–1902.
Listed as endangered, populations are on the decline quite extensively throughout the birds entire range. A. melleri qualified for (endangered status) back in 2012. Endemic to Madagascar the species can be located on the eastern and northern high plateau. Populations are isolated on massifs on the western edges of the plateau. Documented reports from the west of the island most probably refer to vagrant or most likely wandering birds.
Its been alleged that at some time from 2012 re-introduced populations on the island of Mauritius are now extinct – however there remains no hard hitting evidence to back this claim up, conservationists have stated that a ‘probable extinction’ occurred on the island.
The Meller’s Duck was once described as common on the Africans island of Madagascar, unfortunately there is no evidence to back this claim up either. Conservationists that visit the island regularly from International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa and have documented on the Meller’s Duck previously have been informed by locals that the species is rarely seen, however huntsmen will peddle the meat of ducks into local villages.
International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa stated the species had been documented by explorers as ‘densely populated’ on the island from the 1500’s to 1800’s. Sadly since human colonization increased on the island after the French protectorate from the mid 1800’s human population growth on the island has attributed to current decline of the species. Over the last twenty years human population has skyrocketed significantly which unfortunately has led to vast swathes of habitat destroyed and illegal poaching to occur.
“All birds seem to be within a single subpopulation which is probably continuing to decline rapidly. Extinctions are likely to occur in under a few years, five years max”…
Conservation teams like the local communities have confirmed that the species is sadly no longer common ‘anywhere’ other than forested areas of the northwest and in the wetlands around Lake Alaotra where there are some breeding pairs, but where many non-breeders collect, with up to 500 birds present. All birds seem to be within a single subpopulation which is probably continuing to decline rapidly. Extinctions are likely to occur in under a few years, five years max!.
Population sizes are incredibly depressed. We now know the species numbers at 2,000 to 5,000 individuals which equates to exactly 1,300 to 3,300 mature individuals. Should pet collection, poaching, habitat destruction Etc continue at the rate it is extinctions will as explained occur in roughly (730 days). That’s how serious the problem is.
Conservation projects are underway of which the IARF have contributed funding towards the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. The species occurs in at least seven protected areas, and is known from 14 Important Bird Areas (78% of eastern Malagasy wetland IBAs) (ZICOMA 1999). No regular breeding sites are known. In 2007, there was a drive to increase the number of institutions that keep the species in captivity, and as such the bird is a nationally protected species.
Conservation actions planned: Protect remaining areas of least-modified wetlands at Lake Alaotra. Conduct wide-scale status surveys of eastern wetlands. Study its ecology to identify all causes of its decline and promote development of captive breeding programmes.
(Please note all new monetary and equipment grants provided by IARFA from August of last year to present has yet to be updated into the main transparency register onsite)
Meller’s duck breeds apparently during most of the year except May–June on Madagascar, dependent on local conditions; the Mauritian population has been recorded to breed in October and November (however as explained is likely to now be extinct). Unlike most of their closer relatives—with the exception of the African black duck—they are fiercely territorial during the breeding season; furthermore, pairs remain mated until the young are.
A. melleri is still classed as the largest species of wildfowl found in Madagascar and is widely hunted and trapped for subsistence (and for sport). Interviews with hunters at Lake Alaotra suggest c.450 individuals are taken each year, constituting 18% of the global population.
Long term deforestation of the central plateau, conversion of marshes to rice-paddies and degradation of water quality in rivers and streams, as a result of deforestation and soil erosion, have probably contributed to its decline too. Widespread exotic carnivorous fishes, notably Micropterus salmoides (although this may now be extinct) and Channa spp., may threaten young and cause desertion of otherwise suitable habitat.
Its decline on Mauritius has been attributed to hunting, pollution and introduced rats and mongooses as well as possible displacement by introduced Common Mallard Anas platyrhynchos. Pairs are very territorial and susceptible to human disturbance.
Extinction is likely to occur of which continued protective captivity projects must increase for the birds future survival and re-introduction elsewhere.
The video below depicts a Meller’s Duck captivity project in Germany.
Thank you for reading.
Dr Jose C. Depre
Endangered Species Monday: Alouatta belzebul
This Monday’s endangered species article from the (Endangered Species Watch Post) focuses on the Red Handed Howler Monkey of which is listing near to endangerment. (Image Red Handed Howler Monkey)
Generically identified as Alouatta belzebul back in 1766 by Professor Carl von Linnaeus (1707 – 10 January 1778), also known after his ennoblement as Carl von Linné was a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist, who laid the foundations for the modern biological naming scheme of binomial nomenclature.
Listed as vulnerable the species is endemic to Brazil (Alagoas, Maranhão, Pará, Paraíba, Pernambuco, Rio Grande do Norte, Sergipe and Tocantins). Populations are currently on the decline of which its very likely the species will be re-categorized as endangered within the next five years, if not sooner.
A. belzebul is said to be extremely common in some areas such as Marajó however is noted as rare within the Atlantic Forest portion of the range known as; Rio Grande do Norte, Alagoas, Paraíba and Pernambuco. Last survey census’s reported the species to be inhabiting at least ten isolated locations of which two hundred individuals remain in each plot.
International Animal Rescue Foundation Brazil have for the past three years been conducting surveys within the area will be submitted to the (IUCN). Furthermore the Environmental Protection Unit now re-based in Londrina are working with local communities, hunters and farmers within the A. belzebul range to preserve commonly known species of monkey, birds, amphibians and flora within the region.
IARFB are also currently conducting investigations to locate where sugar cane is being exported too and used within from the A. belzebul’s region. Its believed that America, Mexico, South America, and Europe are purchasing large sugarcane exports from the region. Tesco, J.S Sainsbury’s, Cooperative Food Group, Asda, Walmart, Woolworths and Spar have all been noted on suppliers exports from the regions. Aldi, Lidl, Quick-Save, Budgens have been ruled out. We are least impressed though with J.S Sainsbury’s name written on export documents of sugar cane from the region.
Within the ten isolated locations six populations are known to reside in Paraiba, two in Rio Grande de Norte, one in Pernambuco, and one in Alagoas. The largest population in the Atlantic Forest is in Pacatuba in Paraiba with about 80 animals. There have been five registered local extirpations from forest fragments in the last 50 years.
Little known conservation actions are under way within their endemic region and as explained populations are decreasing and nearing endangerment. A. belzebul is listed within the family of Atelidae which is one of the very first five of new recognized ‘new world monkeys’. Its quite likely that new sub-species of the Red Handed Howler Monkey may be located as well as newer species of ‘new world monkeys’ too within the coming years. Only five years ago did scientists locate over 100,000 new species within the Yasuni National Park, Ecuador so in reality anything is possible.
The Atelidae family host howler, spider, woolly and woolly spider monkeys (the latter being the largest of the New World monkeys). They are found throughout the forested regions of Central and South America, from Mexico to northern Argentina.
When the species is not foraging on the ground floor they can normally be found resting in the canopies of trees at a height of some sixty feet. Social groups normally consist of seven to twenty members that will host mature males, females juveniles and infants. Males normally take lead of the pack or (troop).
These large and slow-moving monkeys are the only folivores of the New World monkeys. Howlers eat mainly top canopy leaves, together with fruit, buds, flowers, and nuts. They need to be careful not to eat too many leaves of certain species in one sitting, as some contain toxins that can poison them. Howler monkeys are also known to occasionally raid birds’ nests and chicken coops and consume the eggs.
Image: Adult Red Handed Howler Monkey.
Howlers are the only New World primates which regularly include mature leaves in their diet, although softer, less fibrous, young leaves are preferred when they are available. Their folivory and ability to eat mature leaves is undoubtedly one of the keys to their wide distribution and the wide variety of vegetation types they inhabit.
Mature fruit is the other important food item, especially wild figs (Ficus) in many regions, but they also eat leaf petioles, buds, flowers (sometimes seasonally very important), seeds, moss, stems and twigs, and termitaria. The diet of two A. belzebul groups in the Caxiuanã National Forest was studied by Souza et al. (2002). They were largely folivorous but would switch to fruits whenever available, especially during the wet season.
Adult male weight 7.27 kg (n=27),
Adult female weight 5.52 kg (n=26)
Adult male weight 6.5-8.0 kg (mean 7.3 kg, n=27),
Adult female weight 4.85-6.2 kg (mean 5.5 kg, n=26) .
Listed on Cites Appendix II there are few threats associated with the species. Nevertheless they still remain and if left unchecked can rapidly increase placing the new world monkey in danger of extinction.
In the Amazon, the species is widespread, although they are hunted. The Amazon populations have suffered severely from forest loss throughout their range in southern Pará over the last decade. In the Atlantic Forest population, the major threat is the fragility of the remaining small forest patches to stochastic and demographic affects (habitat loss and fragmentation has been mainly due to sugar-cane plantations).
Please share and make aware the Red Handed Howler Monkey’s plight. Tip: Check sugar products from local shops and hypermarkets to ensure your not aiding the destruction of their natural habitat via your sugar purchase. Check your local candy and other shopping supplies. If necessary contact companies politely asking where they are obtaining the sugar products from. Never give up.
Thank you for reading.
Dr Jose C. Depre.
Environmental and Botanical Scientist.
Chief Executive Officer
Endangered Species Monday: Eos histrio
This Monday’s endangered species watch post I speak about an all time favorite bird of mine commonly known as the red and blue Lory. Generically identified back in 1776 as the Eos histrio, the species of bird is unfortunately listed as endangered. (Image: Eos histrio)
Identified by Professor Philipp Ludwig Statius Muller (April 25, 1725 – January 5, 1776) Dr P.L.S Muller was a German zoologist. Statius Muller was born in Esens, and was a professor of natural science at Erlangen. Between 1773 and 1776, he published a German translation of Linnaeus’s Natursystem.
The supplement in 1776 contained the first scientific classification for a number of species, including the dugong, guanaco, potto, tricolored heron, umbrella cockatoo, red-vented cockatoo, and the enigmatic hoatzin. He was also an entomologist.
Endemic to Indonesia populations are decreasing like many birds of its kind now within the country. The red and blue Lory was listed as endangered back in 2012 of which population sizes haven’t really increased since this time-frame. Back in 1999 a rather crude evaluation was undertaken by scientists that estimated the population to be standing at roughly 8,500 to 21,400 birds. This evaluation would then place the number of “mature individuals” at a rather depressing 5,400 to 14,000, hence its qualification for the listing of [endangered].
Red and blue Lory can be mostly found on the Talaud Islands (almost exclusively on Karakelang) off northern Sulawesi, Indonesia although, it was previously known to be abundant. Populations have declined fiercely on Karakelang of which its population sizes as explained stand at around 8,500 to 21,400 birds. The nominate subspecies, known from the Sangihe Islands, is probably now “extinct” however, further scientific evaluations around have still to confirm a sub-species extinction.
Diet will normally consist of fruit and insects of which the red and blue Lory will normally collect said foods in dense forest and woodland. Coconut nectar and cultivated fruits from agricultural land have been documented to be part of the red and blue Lory’s diet too.
Image: Suspected extinct sub-species; Extinct subspecies E. h. histrio and E. h. challengeri.
Red and blue Lory’s are recorded at high densities in primary rain-forests rather than low densities. The species will at times tolerate some secondary rain-forest however, it must be noted high density primary rain-forest remains the – birds preferred habitat. E. histrio are not known to commonly build nests like some species of forest dwelling bird do within the family of Psittaculidae. Normally the species can be witnessed nesting within holes in trees which at times is rather comical if you’ve ever seen the species in the wild as I have.
Image: Red and blue Lory – mates forever.
Breeding time is quite typical from May through to June however, some reports have suggested that the species may nest through to June and/or January. Red and blue Lory’s are not known to be a migratory species however will at times locally migrate to local islands out of Indonesia to roost. These movements though must not be considered or documented as migratory.
Listed on appendix I of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species wild flora and fauna (Cites) the species faces many threats highlighted below for your attention;
Trade represents a significant and on-going threat to the species. It was widely trapped as early as the 19th century. In 1999, research suggested that as many as 1,000-2,000 birds were being taken from Karakelang each year, 80% (illegally) to the Philippines. This is compounded by the extensive loss of forest, perhaps the main factor underlying its disappearance from Sangihe. The reasons behind habitat loss are small-holder agricultural encroachment into primary forest and (illegal) commercial logging. Furthermore, in 2003 there were plans to develop a commercial banana plantation on Karakelang. The use of insecticides and the transmission of disease via escaped cage-birds to wild populations, have been identified as a further potential hazards.
While conservation actions are underway the species continues to decline at astronomical rates. I doubt that the species will still be around by the time I hang up my gloves and retire. Extinction is sadly looming, occurring all over Asia at alarming rates, its highly unlikely the red and blue Lory will pull through.
Thank you for reading.
Dr Jose C. Depre
Environmental and Botanical Scientist.
Endangered Species Monday: Apalis flavigularis
This Monday’s endangered species article I focus again (with a very frustrated mind) on yet another threatened species of bird which is, one of my favorites. Scientifically named as the Apalis flavigularis the species is listed as endangered. Commonly identified as the Yellow-throated Apalis the bird was primarily discovered back in 1893 by Captain George Ernest Shelley (15 May 1840 – 29 November 1910). Captain George Ernest Shelley was an English geologist and ornithologist. He was a nephew of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Captain Shelley was educated at the Lycée de Versailles and served a few years in the Grenadier Guards.
His books included A Monograph of the Cinnyridae, or Family of Sun Birds, A Handbook to the Birds of Egypt (1872) and The Birds of Africa (5 volumes, 1896 – 1912).
Endemic to Malawi a landlocked country in southeastern Africa, is defined by its topography of highlands split by the Great Rift Valley and enormous Lake Malawi. Bordering Mozambique, Zimbabwe and, Zambia. Populations are decreasing quite rampantly throughout the birds range.
A. flavigularis is restricted within its range to the following mountainous regions Mt Mulanje, Mt Zomba, Mt Malosa in south east Malawi. From 1983 the species was once considered common within its habitat however has since declined to depressing levels. Some reports have stated that the species may-have occurred within the Mozambican region of Mount Chiperone however, there are no records to back these claims up.
Further reports suggest that the species does not occur within similar regions of Malawi or adjacent to Mozambique. Back in 2008 surveys suggested there was a mere 7,900 individuals in the cedar forest on Mt Mulanje suggesting that the species population on Mulanje may have likely exceeded to some 10,000 individuals.
In all the total population count to-date stands now at some 2,300-4,400 individuals. The species is banded within the number of 2,500-9,999 individuals. This equates to 1,667-6,666 mature individuals, rounded here to 1,500-7,000 mature individuals.
The rapidly increasing human population in south-eastern Malawi, swelled by huge numbers of refugees during the last 20 years, is posing a serious threat to the survival of mid-altitude forest in the lowest parts of its range – the lower slopes of Mt Mulanje, in particular, are steadily being deforested for agriculture and timber. In 1995-1996, severe fires destroyed some indigenous forest on Mt Zomba.
Fires cause a proliferation of invasive plants, in particular Rubus ellipticus, on Mt Mulanje, however presence of the species was found to be positively correlated with R. ellipticus by Mzumara et al. (2011) so this may not present a significant threat. The “then” Malawian president Bingu wa Mutharika granted a Japanese minerals company a concession covering the whole of Mount Mulanje to mine rare earths in 2011, and it was reported that Tuchila plateau had been clear-felled and exploratory drilling had begun in late 2011.
It is uncertain whether the subsequent change in head of state following the death of the president in April 2012 will affect the mining concession.
The new head of state President Peter Mutharika seems to have made some small changes regarding mining however nothing really major to show improvements to the natural wildlife or countries only endemic bird. Back in June 2015 the Malawian Congress Party – Law maker for Kasunga East, Madaliso Kazombo criticized mining contracts in the country for lacking transparency saying its high time locals had shares in the in the companies of foreign investors. Read more >here<
During past and to date debates the countries mining operations continue to threaten wildlife and waterholes that much of the countries large taxa depend on. Back in 2014 a uranium mine sludge discharged placed countless species of animals in danger of immediate death – not forgetting the countries most endangered bird – Apalis flavigularis.
Toxic substances flowed from the tailings pond at the Kayelekera Uranium Mine into Lake Malawi 50 kilometers (30 miles) downstream include waste uranium rock, acids, arsenic and other chemicals used in processing the uranium ore. Lake Malawi in eastern Africa is the world’s ninth largest lake, some 580 kilometers (360 miles) long, and 75 kilometers (47 miles) wide at its widest point. It extends into Malawi’s neighbors Tanzania and Mozambique.
The lake provides water for drinking and domestic use to millions of Malawians and wildlife. Part of the lake is protected as a national park, and it is inhabited by more than 850 cichlid fish species found nowhere else on Earth.
Back in 2013, Paladin Africa’s Kayelekera Mine in Karonga produced 1,066 metric tonnes of U3O8, triuranium octoxide, a compound of uranium. One of the more popular forms of yellowcake, U3O8 is converted to uranium hexafluoride to make enriched uranium for use in nuclear power plants and nuclear weapons.
A statement issued by the Natural Resources Justice Network (NRJN), a coalition of 33 civil society organizations active in the extractive industry sector – mining, oil and gas, expressed grave concerns about a recommendation by the National Water Development and Management Technical Committee in the Ministry of Agriculture that the minister issue a discharge permit to Paladin Africa.
Conservation actions under way include: All remaining indigenous forest within the species’s range is legally protected within Forest Reserves, but this no longer confers much protection.
Conservation actions proposed: Examine its taxonomic status in more detail. Initiate a campaign in Malawi to promote public awareness and support for forest conservation. Strengthen protection of remaining forest habitat. Conduct surveys to assess its population size and distribution. Establish a programme to monitor its population and habitat on a regular basis.
Thank you for taking to the time to read and, please share.
Dr Jose C. Depre.
Environmental and Botanical Scientist.
Endangered Species Monday – Procyon pygmaeus
This Monday’s endangered species article I write about a species that I have honestly never even heard of or had the pleasure of meeting. Listed as critically endangered, the species is commonly known as the Pygmy Raccoon or scientifically known as Procyon pygmaeus. (Image: Pygmy Raccoon)
Identified back in 1901 by Dr Clinton Hart Merriam (December 5, 1855 – March 19, 1942), Dr Merriam was an American zoologist, ornithologist, entomologist, ethnographer, and naturalist. Known as “Hart” to his friends, Merriam was born in New York City in 1855. His father, Clinton Levi Merriam, was a U.S. congressman.
Dr Merriam studied biology and anatomy at Yale University and obtained an M.D. from the School of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in 1879. He taught for a while at Harvard University. Dr Merriam died in Berkeley, California in 1942. I have followed quite a lot of work relating back to Dr Merriam and must say Dr Merriam was one of very few experts of his type within the field of animal studies as we know it.
From 1996 the Pygmy Raccoon that’s known to the locals as the “Cozumel Raccoon” was listed as endangered back in 1996. Endemic to Mexico, Pygmy Raccoon’s are only known to inhabit the Cozumel region off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, hence the carnivores name – “Cozumel Raccoon”.
Recent census counts taking into consideration juveniles gives us an (estimated) population at a depressingly two hundred and fifty mature individuals. However fifty nine per cent of the population actually corresponds to mature individuals which is somewhat concerning, especially when we really need more younger juveniles to continue the gene pool and to ensure that overall protection of the species is to a degree somewhat safe should an outbreak of disease occur.
Taking all data – past – and – present census counts, NEAR exact population size of juveniles we’re still not looking at a high number of individuals however can state that overall population sizes are 192-567 individuals. Due to low population densities, introduction of new species onto the island and the effects of mega-hurricanes this provides environmental scientists justification to place the species at (critically endangered level/criteria).
Due to continuing decline of population sizes with regards to increasingly destructive hurricanes, introduction of new species onto the island, extent of occurrence being in the region of some 500km2, less than five locations the species is known to inhabit on the island the Pygmy Raccoon thus meets the criteria for (endangered listing). Overall and taking both reports into account the species qualifies for critically endangered listing.
Image: Mexico – Pygmy Raccoon.
Back in 2004 a further census was undertaken by Mr McFadden that estimated a near total of some 954 mature individuals (including juveniles). However due to some pretty intense hurricanes and new taxa introduced to the island species populations are still taking a pretty fast downward spiral of which its populations are still noted as (declining).
Due to the species being severely impacted by hurricanes and already depressed populations from a variety of human threats make it increasingly difficult for populations to recover following natural disasters it quite likely were going to witness extinctions occurring very soon. After major hurricanes, the density of Pygmy Raccoon’s can decline at a particular site by as much as 60% and the proportion of juveniles in the population can diminish significantly. The impact of hurricanes may vary among regions or vegetation types on the island.
The species is not legally protected and there are no protected areas on Cozumel Island. Proposed conservation measures include protecting areas inhabited by this species, establishing captive breeding programs, and controlling introduced species. However even with these protective measures in place – we can already state local NGO’s and zoological gardens are expecting the species to be pushed into extinction within the wild due to the fact captive breeding programs are being thought up.
Relatively little is known about the group size of the Raccoon’s. They are primarily nocturnal and solitary animals, but may sometimes form family groups possibly consisting of the mother and cubs. The Raccoon’s live in densities of about 17-27 individuals per km2., and inhabit home ranges of around 67 hectares (170 acres) on average. However, individuals do not appear to defend territories to any great extent, and their close relative, the common raccoon, can exist at very high densities when food is abundant. Although there have been no detailed studies of their reproductive habits, females seem to give birth primarily between November and January, possibly with a second litter during the summer months.
While legally protected within Mexico threats are still increasing that do look set to push the species into complete wild extinction.
Cozumel Island has been substantially developed for tourism. Cozumel is still relatively well-conserved, with close to 90% of the island covered by natural vegetation, but the situation is deteriorating rapidly. The interior of the island is less developed, but Raccoon’s are rare or absent there. There is only a very small area of prime raccoon habitat and this is on the coast where most of the tourist development is taking place.
The expansion and widening of the road system is fragmenting the vegetation of the island in at least three areas. The widening of roads is potentially increasing their barrier effect and exacerbating their impact on the conservation of Pygmy Raccoon’s and other native species.
Most cases of Pygmy Raccoon mortality documented since 2001 have been the result of animals being run over by cars on the island’s highways. Alien invasive predators, such as Boa constrictor, as well as domestic and feral dogs, may have an important impact on the Pygmy Raccoon population and it is confirmed that feral dogs predate on them.
Additionally, introduced carnivores to the island could easily become a source of parasites and pathogens that could potentially affect negatively Pygmy Raccoon populations. The introduction of congeners from the mainland (P. lotor), usually for pets, is a risk of genetic introgression and a potential source of parasites and pathogens.
Hurricanes are the main natural threat recognized for the Cozumel biota. In the case of the Pygmy Raccoon, hurricanes cause drastic population decline, reduction in the proportion of juveniles, and cause injury and facilitate pathological change. The frequency, magnitude and duration of hurricanes in the Caribbean Basin is increasing (CITA), so they are an issue of major concern as there may be a synergistic effect with anthropogenic disturbance.
Hunting and collection of Pygmy Raccoons as pets is currently not an important threat.
Thank you for reading.
Dr. J.C Depre
Environmental and Botanical Scientist. CEO
Endangered Species Friday – Arborophila rufipectus
This Friday’s endangered species I document on yet another species of bird that’s sadly been added to International Animal Rescue Foundation’s Bird Watch Project. Scientifically identified as the Arborophila rufipectus and commonly known as the Sichuan Partridge the species is listed as endangered – nearing extinction. (Image adult Sichuan Partridge). Listed as a nationally-protected species in China. In 1998, it was recorded in Mabian Dafengding Nature Reserve, where there was estimated to be 192 km2 of potentially suitable habitat.
Identified by Dr Boulton in 1932 the species falls into the phasianidae family. A. rufipectus is restricted to its endemic range of China from which its known to inhabit the south-central Sichuan, China with some sketchy reports of the species documented within Yunnan.
Reporting from Singapore where one of five of our Asiatic Bird Watch Projects are situated, environmental teams stipulated from their visits into China within the past fourteen months, no current camera trappings of the species have been recorded within its native range, or ranges where past census’s have been undertaken.
Furthermore the team exhausted all other searches by widening the search covering a total of 2,100 km2. Observations were undertaken in key areas where it was deemed the Sichuan Partridge may be inhabiting taking into consideration food sources, areas of forest that hadn’t been logged while communicating to local hunters, poachers and, locals within the area.
Graduate Lee Won – International Animal Rescue Foundation’s Bird Watch Project CEO stated “We covered an area over the 1,700 km2 setting camera traps within Sichuan and Yannan (2014-2015). The traps were in place for exactly 14 months of which not one single individual or even a pair of Sichuan Partridges were recorded, which brings me and the team to the conclusion that its quite possible extinctions have already occurred, western environmental organisations have as yet to catch up on this data”.
Lee Won and the team that are working within extreme environments stated that vast deforestation is increasing within the birds natural environment of which enforcement and environmental protection remains to be seen. “If Chinese authorities and the Department of Forests and Environment do not protect the Yunnan forests there will be little flora or fauna remaining within this area by 2030” Won stated. The situation is more than dire, its tragic Lee confirmed.
With populations still recorded as “decreasing” the last known census recorded from 1996-1997 recorded an “estimated” total of 806 to 1,772 mature individuals (final count stood at 1,500-3,749). So from Lee Won and his teams evaluations its quite possible that extinction has occurred of which evidence will be submitted in due course to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Dai bo (2007) stated that new sightings of the Sichuan Partridges have been recorded within Laojunshan Nature Reserve numbering around eighty four individuals, these sightings were recorded from 1998-2002. Kim Won’s Bird Watch Project will be making their way to the Laojunshan Nature Reserve in the next few weeks in the hope to locate any evidence of the birds present occupation within the area. Unfortunately we remain skeptical. As explained from 1996/7 population estimate is likely to be too low, hence it is best placed in the band 1,000-2,499 mature individuals. This equates to 1,500-3,749 individuals in total, rounded here to 1,500-4,000 individuals. (Source IUCN).
Males are territorial and monogamous. Males will stay away from the females before mating and during the incubation period. At all other times, males will roost alongside the females. While females are brooding on the ground, the males will sit near the ground for two weeks and then leave to roost elsewhere. The breeding season is late March while the hatching season is mid-May through mid-July. Once paired, males will guard females 24 hours a day.
Image: Sichuan Partridge fledgling.
When it comes to the general breeding and habitat locations for the partridge, it prefers more local areas far from direct disturbances from human contact. Males have three types of one-syllable call, which are a crowing call, courtship call, and preserving territory call. The syllable duration is significantly different between calls, but the difference of main peak frequency was not significantly different. The vocal behaviors will benefit to preserve mates and avoid the predator pressure so the population could last longer.
The Sichuan partridge lives mostly in southern Sichuan Province, in south-west China. It prefers primary and older planted secondary broadleaf forests, rather than one with human activity close by. Prefers a dense canopy and more open understory. The major habitats (in ranking order) are Primary Broadleaf Forest, old replanted Broadleaf Forest, Degraded Forest, and scrub. It prefers thick shrubs for roosting.
Recent work on the species in Laojunshan Nature Reserve found that the species occurred in secondary broadleaf forest but not in settlements, coniferous plantations or farmland [please note there remains no date regarding recent work]. The same study found that birds typically occurred between 1400 and 1800m above sea level in the reserve, and mostly on gently sloping ground close to water sources. [undated with citation required].
Until recently the main threat was habitat destruction through commercial clear-felling of primary forest, as most remaining primary broadleaved forest within its known range was at risk from logging within 20-25 years. In 1998, a government-imposed ban on logging in the upper Yangtze Basin led to a complete halt in deforestation throughout its range.
There is now a major forest plantation scheme in operation aiming to re-forest ridges and steeper slopes. In general though, habitat is still declining. In some areas, forest is still being cleared for agriculture or illegally logged, although this has been “alleged to be on a small scale”. Many people enter the forest to collect bamboo shoots, firewood and medicinal plants in spring and early autumn, which creates substantial disturbance during the breeding season, and additional disturbance is caused by livestock either grazing in, or moving through, the forest.
The species is also illegally hunted. Hydroelectric schemes and the resulting reservoirs in the valleys below its mountain forest habitat cause indirect future threats as the people they displace will be moved to higher locations in close proximity to the remaining forest, putting it under increased pressure.
Further assessments on the species and other endemic species will continue through to next year. I hope to update you on my teams current goals and objectives.
Thank you for reading.
Dr Jose C. Depre.
Please support the organisation Say No To Dog Meat this Malbok Festival from July to August 2015.
Endangered Species Monday – Axis calamianensis
This Mondays endangered species article we take a brief look into the secretive and rather elusive life of the Calamian Hog deer scientifically identified as – Axis calamianensis the species is also commonly known as the Calamanian Deer, Calamian Deer, Calamian Hog Deer or the Philippine Deer.
(Pictured above: Calamian Hog stag)
A. calamianensis was formally identified back in 1888 by Dr Pierre Marie Heude (1836–1902) was a French Jesuit missionary and zoologist. Born at Fougères in the Department of Ille-et-Vilaine, Heude became a Jesuit in 1856 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1867. He went to China in 1868. During the following years, he devoted all his time and energy to the studies of the natural history of Eastern Asia, traveling widely in China and other parts of Eastern Asia.
From 1986 – 1990 A. calamianensis was listed back then as vulnerable however, since this time much has changed regarding the species habitat, and way of living. From 1994 Dr Groombridge identified the need to re-list the species as (endangered) of which a further evaluation after a more in-depth census was concluded (1996) showed the species to be verging near extinction. The last “population census” undertaken in 1996 confirmed the species was still endangered, which led to evasive and aggressive conservation projects to be put into action to preserve the species.
Image: Calamian stag a little uneasy on his feet
Endemic to the Philippines the species is restricted to the Calamian Islands in the Palawan faunal region. The species occurs on three of the four larger islands of Calamians, i.e. Busuanga, Calauit and Culion. Sketchy reports have suggested the species also occurred on at least nine other related islands too however, little evidence backs these claims up.
Reports have confirmed that localized extinctions have occurred in some (78%) of these islands; (Bacbac, Capari, Panlaitan, Galoc, Apo, Alava and Dicabaito), and to survive on only two of these islands, namely Marily and Dimaquiat. A. calamianensis is not known to occur anywhere else from outside of its now fragmented ranges.
Commonly viewed within most of its native range back in the middle 1940’s population sizes have seriously diminished since the late 1990’s. While many drastic declines were seen throughout the 1990’s one area that didn’t see population declines was that of the extreme south of Culion, by the mid-1970s.
By the time the Calauit Island Game Preserve and Wildlife Sanctuary was created, in some way to preserve species populations, conservation actions were already to late of which populations had declined quite rapidly. Reports placed the population size from 1,900 “individuals” which equated to around 250 “mature individuals (if that).
Recent surveys from 2006 showed quite drastic declines of which hunting was yet again the main primary cause for the species nearing extinction (many hunters try to defend and debate this – yet the evidence is there in black and white for them all to view). Despite a negative outlook from the last “official” 2006 census populations were still said to be quite widespread in Calauit, Busuanga and Culion. The 2006 census conducted by environmentalists, Rico and Oliver also confirmed the species populations were quite dense on the islands of Marily and Dimaquiat.
The overall reports into present population sizes though is not good, and its with sad regret to report that populations are continuing to decline at a very rapid rate, despite the species coming under some protective plans there really is no real “protection or even law implemented into action” to protect this species for future generations to come. Listed on the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (Cites) Appendix I localized hunting for food continues to place the entire species in “great danger of nearing extinction” within the next five to seven years. However I must state that “should” extinctions occur in the wild, captive breeding programs are already in place in the hope to later reintroduce the species into a newer, and safer habitat.
Image: Doe and Stag
Current plans to preserve species are that of protective breeding programs for later reintroduction back into the wild. San Diego Zoological Gardens currently hosts some fifty four (54) inhabitants successfully bred within the zoo and managed well.
Currently research has proven the local people to hunt the species for food and use within dress and musical instrument production. Hunters within the species endemic island ranges are known to hunt the species for its antlers for use within the home as a decorative piece. Antlers are prized among the locals.
The species is threatened due to hunting pressure and human settlement and agricultural expansion over its very limited range, coupled by the evident lack of effective and sustained enforcement of the strong local protective legislation.
Hunting was particularly severe during the mid-1970s, but seemingly declined in most areas during the 1980’ and 1990’s, except on Calauit where hunting pressure increased dramatically following the resettlement of the island by former residents under the auspices of the ‘Balik (Back to) Calauit Movement’. In 1986, 51 out of the 256 families evicted from the island ten years earlier had re-settled on the island, and by 1992 the settlers numbered nearly 500 people.
Much of the hunting of the species is recreational, and also to provide venison to the local markets. On Calauit, introduced African ungulate populations are increasing but are probably not competing with Calamian deer. A presidential proclamation that precluded removal or control of exotic species, and the movement or management of Calamian deer on Calauit Island was recently amended, thereby also potentially enabling the better future control of the exotic ungulate populations, though in fact many of these populations have also been seriously reduced by poaching.
While relatively large parts of Busuanga and Culion Islands are still undeveloped and sparsely inhabited, there are no proper reserves on either.
The following conservation actions are in place or still under amendment:
1. Monitor current status on all the three islands and determine population trends. Evaluate levels of hunting and habitat loss.
2. Strengthen existing protected area system via establishment of new (additional) reserves and development and implementation of properly structured conservation management plan for Calauit that includes improved infrastructure, and measures to combat poaching.
3. Agree and establish a zoning system within Calauit in collaboration with all relevant stakeholders, which enforces strict protection of the core area.
4. Establish protected areas on Culion and Busuanga, based on habitat and deer status surveys.
5. Undertake behavioral and ecological research of Calauit deer to determine management requirements. Conduct
more detailed studies in selected areas.
6. Initiate a conservation education program using Calamian deer as a flagship species to promote a wide variety of related conservation activities, including combating the bush meat trade.
Unfortunately due to the species being so rare there remains very little video data on the animal. Below and included for your information depicts a captive breeding program, and not a public zoological garden. Captive breeding programs in most cases forbid the public from entry. Children can be heard in the background however we must note, protective breeding programs are out of public site. Images above include other species of red and velvet deer too. As explained due to such rarity of this animal obtaining any real positive data of the animal has proved at the best of times difficult. Please contact myself below for further information or questions.
Thank you for reading
Dr Jose C. Depre.