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Posts tagged “Extinct

Endangered Species Friday [Case Study]: Dusicyon australis

Falkland-Islands-wolf

Endangered Species Friday [Case Study]: Dusicyon australis

How the Fur Trade Pushed the Falkland Islands Wolf into Extinction.

This Friday’s Endangered Species watch Post (ESP) focuses on a species that was literally hunted into extinction. Daily I read comments about our wildlife or speak to animal lovers, activists or conservationists of which many show great concern in relation to legal hunting E.g (Cites permitted trophy hunting), or poaching E.g (non-permitted illegal hunting).

D. australis was identified back in 1792 as the (Falklands Wolf) by Dr Robert Kerr (1755 – 11 October 1813) was a scientific writer and translator from Scotland. Dr Kerr was born in Roxburghshire as the son of a jeweler. He studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh and practiced at the Edinburgh Foundling Hospital as a surgeon. He translated several scientific works into English, such as Antoine Lavoisier’s work of 1789, Traité Élémentaire de Chimie, published under the title Elements of Chemistry in a New Systematic Order containing All the Modern Discoveries, in 1790.

In 1792, Dr Kerr published The Animal Kingdom, the first two volumes of a four-tome translation of Professor Linnaeus’ Systema Naturae, which is often cited as the taxonomic authority for a great many species. (He never did the remaining two volumes.) What would Dr Kerr say now if he knew this magnificent creature he discovered has since been pushed into extinction via ‘legal hunting practices and deliberate persecution’?. Like few conservationists and philanthropist’s that I have spoken to whom have identified species of birds, frogs and new world primates their most common reaction is utter shock and frustration, although most were not surprised.

While Dr Kerr was the primary individual that named and listed the species, Capt. John Strong, a British Marine explorer was the very first person to discover the Falkland Island Wolf upon landing on the Falkland Islands back in the 1690’s. Based on historical and fossil records we know the species was living quite a peaceful and undisturbed life. Historical records also prove that Charles Darwin who was a naturalist and geologist whom visited the islands back in 1833 stated the Falkland’s Wolf was commonly seen. Its from this point back in the early 1800’s after Charles Darwin’s visit that the Falkland Wolf populations began to decline. Within approximately thirty years after Charles Darwin’s visit – the species then went extinct.

From 1833 to 1876 when active exploration’s and colonization’s began increasing the evidence pinpoints that humans were the primary cause for the species complete extinction. Had the Falkland’s not been colonized or disturbed by explorers and hunters its very likely the Falkland Islands Wolf would still be with us today. That is based on my own expert opinion and scientific studies that have proved islands with no human interference over eighty million years old up to the 1900’s the majority of non-colonized islands regardless of their size – all their natural wildlife discovered is still mostly intact. Take the island of Madagascar as an example!

The prehistoric breakup of the supercontinent Gondwana separated the Madagascar-Antarctica-India landmass from the Africa-South America landmass around 135 million years ago. Madagascar later split from India about 88 million years ago, allowing plants and animals on the island to evolve in relative isolation. As a result of the island’s long isolation from neighboring continents, Madagascar is home to an abundance of plants and animals found nowhere else on Earth. Approximately 90 percent of all plant and animal species found in Madagascar are endemic. So we know that if left untouched both the Falkland island and Madagascar’s habitat and wildlife both flora and fauna lived undistributed.

While Madagascar’s history is a little different from the Falkland Islands the evidence is clear, that as soon as explorers, human colonies, immigrants and travelling settlers visited – the habitat became threatened just as the Falkland’s Wolf became extinct in under thirty years after Charles Darwin’s visit, 1833. Only 10 percent of Madagascar’s forests now remain. Also, recent estimates suggest that 1-2 percent of Madagascar’s remaining forests are destroyed each year, and that a staggering 80-90 percent of Madagascar’s land area burns each year. Ninety percent of Madagascar’s Lemurs are moving towards complete extinction – and why? from 700 CE – 1500 when immigrants, traders and explorers arrived – wildlife and habitat began to decline gargantuanly. However based on historical fur trade records a pattern has emerged – its concerning – its continuing – and if not banned its likely other animals will suffer due to the fur trade.

“Our ancestors are not to blame”

But lets not jump the gun here blaming our own ancestors for the primary decline of wildlife and destruction of habitat. As Charles Darwin explained in the 1830’s on visiting the Malvina the Falkland Wolf was still quite commonly seen. Just as Lemurs and forest remained intact on the island of Madagascar before humans arrived, history tells us though that our ancestors mostly respected the land and wildlife however, its from years of 1800 that wildlife and habitat began declining. The Falkland’s Wolf wasn’t killed off by our ancestors as such but more – US fur traders from the 1830s, and when Scottish settlers arrived in the 1860s began raising sheep on the Island, D. australis was poisoned as a pest species too.

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Is it just a mere coincidence that the Falkland Islands Wolf went extinct as soon as the fur trade began booming from the 1600’s to the 1800’s dare I ask? commercial fur trade in North America grew out of the early contact between Indians and European fisherman who were netting cod on the Grand Banks off Newfoundland and on the Bay of Gaspé near Quebec. Indians would trade the pelts of small animals, such as mink, for knives and other iron-based products, or for textiles. Exchange at first was haphazard and it was only in the late sixteenth century, when the wearing of beaver hats became fashionable, that firms were established who dealt exclusively in furs. The trade then spread to America thus seeing United States citizens hunting the Falklands Wolf into extinction. So again I question is it correct to blame our ancestors whom colonized the Falkland Islands of which Darwin stated the wolf was still commonly seen from 1830, bur more blame Canadians, Americans and Europeans for the introduction of the fur trade? That’s the problem, not colonization or immigration but sheer commercialization of an animal trade and greed.

There are some other factors of course that relate to the Falkland’s Wolf extinction. The species natural prey which was rodents were in decline too. Due to the decline of certain prey specimens this unfortunately forced the wolf into now human populated agricultural lands, hunting sheep. The Falkland’s Wolf was then seen as a pest of which settlers, mainly farmers deliberately laid poisoned traps thus decreasing populations furthermore. Its believed that the decline in rodents was primarily due to humans protecting their farms and crops. None knows for sure the entire Falkland’s Wolf diet but – ground-nesting birds such as geese and penguins, grubs and insects, as well as seashore scavenging would most likely have been common prey and foraging behavior.

Conclusion:

The Falkland’s Wolf was killed off by greed, legal hunting and the fur trade. Its quite sad to know that after Darwin’s notes were made public the species soon became extinct some thirty years later, had them notes not been publicized – the species could still be with extant. While we have certain protocols, laws and agreements in place such as the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (Cites), and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature – history is still repeating itself, so I do at the best of times question why we have such organisations in place to protect wildlife – when its “we humans” that should be taking the stand and protecting what is left on Planet Earth. While poaching remains a significantly large threat to many large fauna such as Lions, Elephants, Rhino and aquatic wildlife. The agricultural trade, indiscriminate hunting and habitat loss remains the number one threat to all species of flora and fauna.

So, how do we stop further extinctions and declines of wildlife? Well if you’ve read this entire article all the way through (the answer is in front of you).. You’ve just got to open your eyes, absorb the information and act on it.

Dr Jose C. Depre. 

Environmental and Botanical Science. 

info@international-animalrescue-foundation.org.uk 

 

 

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Endangered Species Monday: Afrithelphusa monodosa.

purple-marsh-crab

Endangered Species Monday: Afrithelphusa monodosa

Warning: Extinction is now Inevitable

This Mondays (E.S.P) -Endangered Species watch Post I focus on a species of fresh water crab that’s rarely spoken about within the theater of conservation, or animal rights forums. Identified by Mr Bott from which I know little on and about this particular species of marsh crab is currently listed as endangered. Rarely do I document on a species of animal that I and other conservationists know will be extinct within the next five years. My aim for this Monday’s endangered species column is to raise awareness about the plight of this little creature, in a way I hope will force Cites and the Guinea government to now implement emergency evasive action to halt extinction immediately. (Image: Purple Marsh Crab, photographer unknown) 

I must also point out that one must not confuse the [common name] of this species [above], identified back in 1959, to that of the United States [Purple Marsh Crab]. Professor Linnaeus created the nomenclature system for a reason, and yet again I am seeing two species of animals that hold the same common names being confused with one-another. Sesarma reticulatum is not under any circumstances related to the Afrithelphusa monodosa pictured above and below. 

Endemic to Guinea the species was listed back in 1996 as [critically endangered]. However since the last census was conducted back in [2007] the Purple Marsh Crab has since been submitted into the category of [endangered]. Unfortunately as yet there remains no current documentation on population size, furthermore from the 1996 census, marine conservation reports suggest that no fewer than twenty specimens have been collected from the wild. To date the ‘estimated’ population size stands at a mere 2.500 mature individuals.

Back in 1959 Mr Bott identified the specimen as Globonautes monodosus however from 1999 the species was re-named as Afrithelphusa monodosa. The Purple Marsh Crab is one of only five species in the two genera of which belong to a very rare group of fresh water crabs that are still endemic to the Guinea forests within the block of Western Africa. All five specimens within the two genera are listed as either [endangered or critically endangered], and as such its quite likely that all five specimens will become extinct within the next five to eight years, or possibly even sooner. It is without a doubt that one of the next species on the planet to go extinct will be the Purple Marsh Crab.

Allegedly new specimens have been discovered since [1996] however these reports are somewhat sketchy. When I last documented on the specimen back in 2010 there were no conservation efforts or any projects in the planning process that would help preserve the crabs future survival. We are now in 2015 and I have yet to witness any conservation projects planned or taking place, which I find rather frustrating. As explained the species will be extinct within a matter of years of which the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (Cites) should be protecting.

A. monodosa lives within the Guinea swamps and all year round wetland habitat within the northwestern Guinea. The original vegetation cover found at the farmland near the village of Sarabaya where this species was recently collected lies in southern guinea savannah in the semi-deciduous moist forest zone. Specimens of A. monodosus were collected from cultivated land from burrows dug into permanently moist soil each with a shallow pool of water at the bottom. At the end of the dry season after a six-month period without rain the soil in this area nevertheless remains wet year round, so this locality either has an underground water table close to the surface, or a nearby spring. The natural habitat of A. monodosus is still unknown but presumably this cultivated land was originally a permanent freshwater marsh.

There were no nearby sources of surface water and it is clear that these crabs do not need to be immersed in water (as do their relatives that live in streams and rivers), and that A. monodosus can meet its water requirements (such as keeping its respiratory membranes moist and osmoregulation of body fluids) with the small amount of muddy water that collects at the bottom of their burrow. This species is clearly a competent air-breather and has a pair of well-developed pseudol.

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Image: Credited to Piotr Naskrecki. Purple Marsh Crab. 

Current threats

To be truthfully honest I feel documenting on the current threats is in reality a waste of my time because both the Guinea government and Cites have known of these threats for many years. Yet little if any actions are being taken to suppress these threats. Either way I will document on them in the hope that someone will push for protection or whip into action a protective project sooner rather than later.

To date the species hasn’t been listed on either Cites (I-II) Appendix’s, the major present and future threats to this species include habitat loss/degradation (human induced) due to human population increases, deforestation, and associated increased agriculture in northwest Guinea.

International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa propose the following actions to be undertaken immediately:

  1. Up to date assessment of population size and location of any new and old habitats documented.
  2. Surveys to asses diets, predators, diseases and behavior.
  3. Investigations to locate new subspecies.
  4. Protection zones established within the highest populated zones.
  5. Liaising the Guinea government for funding of conservation projects.
  6. Listing of the species in (I Appendix) Cites.
  7. Community education and awareness programs.
  8. Removal of healthy and gene strong species for captive breeding programs.

Crabs Role within the Eco-System

Crabs are one of the major decomposes in the naval environment. In other terms, Crabs help in cleaning up the bottom of the sea and rivers by collecting decaying plant and animal substance. Many fish, birds and sea mammals rely on crabs for a food source. Regardless of if this is one species with low individual populations or not, extinction will only harm other animals. Furthermore will reduce other species food sources. The video below depicts the [Marsh Crabs] and their normal natural environment. The species in question which is identical to the Guinea Purple Marsh Crab is not included within the video but is related to the five genera.

Thank you for reading. 

Dr Jose C. Depre 

Environmental and Botanical Scientist. 

info@international-animalrescue-foundation.org.uk