Endangered Species Friday | Macrotis lagotis
This Fridays (ESP) [Endangered Species Post] I touch up on the Macrotis lagotis, commonly known as the Rabbit-eared Bandicoot identified back in 1837 By Dr Reid. (Image credit unknown, explorer unknown).
The Rabbit Eared Bandicoot is the fifth Australian marsupial that I’ve documented on since establishing the (Endangered Species watch Post), covering now over 403 species of animals (worldwide) in exactly 5 years. From 1965 very little was actually known about the Rabbit Eared Bandicoot, despite the fact it was formally identified way back in the 1800’s.
Unfortunately when scientists eventually managed to re-locate the species, they found the animal was in fact nearing extinction within its endemic wild. Listed then as (ENDANGERED) the species almost went extinct from the 1980’s - 1900’s. Fortunately environmental scientists worked hard to preserve this rather unusual animal. From 1990 the species was still listed as (endangered - and nearing complete extinction within the Australian wild).
Fortunately from 1994-1996 species recovery programs increased populations within the wild. Come 1996 the species was re-listed as (vulnerable). Commonly known as the ‘bilby’, M. lagotis once inhabited some 70% of Australia. Wild populations are now restricted predominantly to the Tanami Desert (Northern Territory), the Gibson and the Great Sandy Deserts (Western Australia), and one outlying population between Boulia and Birdsville (south-west Queensland). The bilby has gone extinct from portions of southern Queensland within the last few decades.
However despite numerous conservation actions that have been aiding and increasing bilby populations, they are now on the decrease; slowly, but surely, for how long though is another story. Endemic to Australia (Northern Territory, Queensland, and Western Australia) its believed there are no fewer than 500 individuals on Thistle Island, 500 in Arid Recovery, 100 in Venus Bay, 200 in Peron, 40 in Scotia, 200-500 in Queensland.
There are fewer than 1,000 individuals in the Northern Territory and 5,000-10,000 in non-reintroduced Western Australia. The global population might be under 10,000 individuals. The species is wide-ranging and patchily distributed. The population estimates of bilbies in the Northern Territory and Western Australia are very approximate, as there are no published numbers in peer-reviewed journals. It is known from aerial surveys that bilby signs (diggings) in the areas where bilbies are persistent occur less than 15 to 20 km apart.
“TEN THOUSAND INDIVIDUALS REMAINING”
Image: Bilby, Australia. Photographer unknown.
Bilby populations are not known to be seriously fragmented, and from what I am aware the species is protected under CITES APPENDIX I (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild Fauna and Flora).
“WHAT’S WITH THE LARGE EARS?”
You’ll find that many small and even large animals that live within extremely arid and hot countries, and are active during the daytime will host large fan like ears. Without these large cooling like rabbit ears many species of animals wouldn’t be able to radiate heat away from its most important organs - being the brain. Smaller ears would most certainly result in the mammal dying from massive heat stroke, and dehydration. However due to the lack of research on the bilby, we still don’t know for sure if these massive ears do indeed help keep the species cool.
Bilby ears are almost naked, which ‘may be for temperature regulation’, but because the research hasn’t been done we don’t actually know for sure. One thing that scientists studying bilbies do agree on is the variability in behavior between bilby populations living in different conditions around Australia. They’ve adopted different diets, burrows, breeding habits and social networks, and this adaptability has been the key to their survival.
The current bilby distribution is associated with a low abundance or absence of foxes, rabbits, and livestock. Major threats relate to predation from foxes, habitat destruction from introduced herbivores, and changed fire regimes. Predation pressures “from feral cats” and dingoes occurring in association with pastoral practices may be a threat to the bilby. Feral cats have affected the success of reintroduced populations. Additional threats to the bilby include mining and other development, and road mortality.
When: Bilbies are opportunistic breeders waiting until conditions are good, rather than particular seasons.
Where: In the wild, bilbies are now limited to patches of the northern desert areas of NT and WA. and a tiny isolated remnant population in SW QLD. They are also found in sanctuaries and breeding colonies in WA, NSW, SA and QLD.
Other info: The name bilby comes from the Yuwaalaraay people of northern NSW. They are important in Aboriginal culture and were a common food resource. Bilbies live up to 7 years in the wild and 11 years in captivity. They are considered endangered.
WHAT DO BILBIES EAT?
Bilbies are omnivores and eat insects, seeds, bulbs, fruit and fungi. Most food is found by digging in the soil. Big ears quickly detect insect prey, which they catch with their long tongue.
Thank you for reading.
Every Monday and Friday I.A.R.F publishes in the last (6 months of each year) an Endangered Species Post. Furthermore every Wednesday I.A.R.F also publishes investigative articles relating to wildlife, environmental and animal concerns. For more information please subscribe to our news feed for free here www.speakupforthevoiceless.org
Dr Jose C. Depre PhD. MEnvSc. BSc(Hons) Botany, PhD(NeuroSci) D.V.M. Environmental & Human Science.
Endangered Species Monday: Papustyla pulcherrima
Manus Green Tree Snail - Very first invertebrate to be listed on the Endangered Species Act of the United States of America (2015) Endangered Species Post Special Report.
This Monday’s Endangered Species Post (ESP) I take a wee glimpse into the life of the Green Tree Snail, also commonly known by Papua New Guinea’s natives as the Manus Green Tree Snail. Image Credit: Stephen J. Richards.
Identified by Professor Rensch 1931, Rensch was born on the 21st January 1900 in Thale in Harz and died on the 4th April 1990 in Münster, (Germany), Professor Rensch was an evolutionary biologist, zoologist, ethologist, neurophysiologist and philosopher and co-founder of the synthetic theory of evolution. He was professor of Zoology and Director of the Zoological Institute at the Westphalian Wilhelms University in Münster. Together with his wife Mme Ilse Rensch he also worked in the field of Malacology and described several new species and subspecies of land snails.
The Manus Green Tree Snail is identified as Papustyla pulcherrima commonly known as the Emerald Green Snail. From 1983-1994 this particular species of snail was considered (extremely rare). Back in 1996 when scientists managed to again finally catch up with this stunning little mollusk, the species was then listed as (data deficient) of which to date there remains little information about this (rare) but beautiful snail.
P. pulcherrima is endemic to the Papa New Guinea northern island of Manus of which the species is listed as (near threatened), and has also been reported on the adjacent Los Negros Island. Environmental scientists have confirmed from villagers on the main Manus Island that the species is not located anywhere else. However there are some sketchy reports that the species “may be located on surrounding islands”, however there is no evidence to back these claims up.
Environmental scientists have confirmed for now that the species is located in only 12-13 areas of the Manus Island[s]. Further reports have confirmed that mature individuals are on the decline (which if not controlled could evidently see the species re-listed as vulnerable or endangered). The Manus Green Tree Snail is not believed to be living within fragmented zones. The species is restricted to forest and low intensity garden ‘type’ habitat. Declines have been noted within all 12-13 identified habitats on the Manus Island and adjacent Los Negros Islands. Population history is pretty much undocumented although has been shown to be slowly declining.
Image: Manus Green Tree Snail.
Back in 1930 when Professor Rensch identified the Manus Green Tree Snail, locals soon began collecting the species for trade thus seeing the mollusk now nearing endangered listing. Demand for the Manus Green Tree Snail has now drastically increased threatening the species furthermore. Locals continue to collect this rather unusual colored species shell for use within the jewelry trade. There are now “very serious concerns” that trade may eventually push the species into extinction.
Due to mass trade exploitation the Manus Green Tree Snail is the very first invertebrate to be listed on the Endangered Species Act of the United States of America. International trade has been controlled by export permit since 1975 under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) appendix II. Unfortunately this is not stopping locals from harvesting the species, and trade is still continuing despite it now a criminal offence under United States and some international laws.
“Overexploitation threatens the Manus Snail”
Market sales data collected from the Lorengau market, over a six day period suggest that annual sales at the market may approach 5,000 shells. Investigations by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) reveal that large quantities of shells are still being attempted to be exported out of the country. Online searches revealed the sale of the shells, often marketed as antiques, occurring in open forums and internet market places based in New Zealand, Australia, and the United States of America (USA). International Animal Rescue Foundation has ran numerous traces online of which located yet again Ebay as being a number one trading site of the “threatened species”, please view the image below and click the image link that’ll direct you to that site.
“EBAY JAPAN IS A HOTBED FOR ILLEGAL TRADE OF THE MANUS GREEN SNAIL”
International Animal Rescue Foundation’s External Affairs Department and the Environmental Cyber Crimes Unit located many a sites trading the Manus Green Tree Snail’s shell which is illegal under some trade law, unfortunately the Ebay site listed above, located within Japan is one of many more that are trading (despite the species nearing extinction).
I.A.R.F’s Environmental Cyber Crimes Unit have since filed a complaint with Ebay, providing all the relevant data to now remove these species from their sites, however its likely to prove negative as the trader could very well state they harvested or purchased the shells before international laws were drafted. Furthermore a trace of the owner that owns this site above which is in violation of the United States and Cites laws (is located within the United States). So in regards to enforcement, breaking this link is going to be somewhat of a tough cookie. Further trade was witnessed here via what we can only believe is alleged “antiques”.
Further trade all of which is illegal has been recorded hereto - this site linked back to a Mr Rob West of 121 Henderson Road, Sheldon, Brisbane, Queensland 4157 Australia, Telephone: 610732061636. Mr West from Brisbane categorically states that he doesn’t own a shop, and is a one man band, yet clearly this link states otherwise. Further evidence revealed antique trade conducted on the Ebay site, see in the image below (illegal under United States law).
Click the image link below to view more.
“Illegal to trade under the Endangered Species Act of the United States of America”
The environmental wildlife crimes investigation team linked to TRAFFIC and Cites stated:
It is possible the avoidance of conventional nomenclature is an attempt to avoid detection by authorities. In some cases, sellers on internet market places were based in CITES signatory countries (including: Australia, Italy, New Zealand, Singapore and USA) while others were not (e.g. Taiwan). Currently, volumes of shells on sale in such online market places appear low, suggesting that the existing controls on international trade maybe adequate. However, given that the online prices of shells were often orders of magnitude greater than market prices on Manus Island, vigilance will be required to insure that illegal international demand does not fuel a resurgence in snail collection.
Despite the massive trade on Manus Green Tree Snails online and within open Asian markets, its literally impossible to determine if this trade will eventually lead to the species being pushed into extinction. However it MUST be noted that there are currently only 12-13 identified habitats that the snail currently inhabits. And based on traces online conducted by the I.A.R.F’s External Affairs Department - trade is most certainly “out of control”, and not as Cites has reported (2012).
The shell of this species is a vivid green color, which is unusual in snails. The green color is however not within the solid, calcium carbonate part of the shell but instead it is a very thin protein layer known as the periostracum. Under the periostracum the shell is yellow.
The Manus Green Tree Snail is mostly threatened by habitat destruction through forest clearance: logging, plantation development (especially rubber) and to a lesser extent road developments. Increasing human population growth and an increasing cultural demand for deriving cash incomes from the land will likely see the rate of forest degradation increase in the future. Harvest occurs when trees are felled as part of traditional shifting cultivation and the snails, typically found in the canopy, suddenly become exposed. Such harvesting is not uncommon but it is likely to be of lower significance than the longer term habitat degradation caused by such agricultural practices.
While harvest for illicit international trade is occurring, the volumes are not “allegedly” thought to be large compared to historic rates, although they may approach levels seen in the legal domestic trade. However, given that the prices of shells internationally are often orders of magnitude greater than market prices on Manus Island, vigilance will be required to insure that illegal international demand does not fuel a resurgence in snail collection.
Notable deposits of gold have been found in central Manus and a mine operation will likely result in the next decade although no details of the plan have been released (as of 2014). The forests of Manus Island were badly affected by the 1997-1998 El Niño which resulted in a prolonged drought. Should climatic change result in increased rates of similar conditions this may constitute a future threat to the snail species, however, current predictions suggest that future incidence of drought in Papua New Guinea will decrease (Australian Bureau of Metrology and CSIRO 2011).
Despite the reassurances from Cites, WCS and the local wildlife organisations - evidence clearly points to large scale online trade legal and illegal. Furthermore there is no telling if shells online are antique or smuggled from the Manus Islands which is very concerning.
Manus Green Tree Snail is the first such snail to be listed on the threatened list of endangered species (USA). Research also explains to us that its likely the species will be plundered into extinction - very soon. Enjoy the video.
Thank you for reading, and please be most kind to share to create awareness and education.
Dr Jose C. Depre PhD. MEnvSc. BSc(Hons) Botany, PhD(NeuroSci) D.V.M.
Environmental & Human Science
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Endangered Species Monday: Dasyurus maculatus
This Mondays Endangered Species Watch Post (ESP) I focus a little attention onto the Spotted-tailed Quoll. D. maculatus was identified back in 1792 by Dr Robert Kerr (1755 – 11 October 1813) Dr Kerr 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. (Image adult Quoll)
Dr Kerr translated several scientific works into English, such as Antoine Lavoisier’s work of 1789, In 1792, he 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 start the remaining two volumes.) Please note, the Spotted-tailed Quoll is described as ‘two subspecies’ and will be noted as such during this short article.
Listed as near threatened, D. maculatus has been wrongly named by some writers as the ‘Tiger Quoll’. The species shows no resemblance to that of a Tiger nor shows any familiar behavioral traits too. There is no mention of a ‘Tiger Quoll’ within conservation literature too. So I wish to put that name to bed now.
From 1996 the species [and sub-species] was listed as vulnerable, a further 2008 evaluation of the carnivorous marsupial saw conservation NGO’s submit data to the Red List of which the Spotted-tailed Quoll now qualifies for the criteria of (near threatened). Endemic to the island of Australia the species exists as explained as two sub-species.
Sub species (1) Dasyurus maculatus maculatus was formerly distributed in south-eastern Queensland (as far north as Bundaberg and as far west as Chinchilla), eastern New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania (including some of the Bass Strait Islands. Maxwell et al. (1996) reported that in south-east Queensland this particular sub-species has undergone a range contraction indicated to be in excess of 30% over the last 25 years and is now rare in most areas.
Sub species (2) D. m. gracilis formerly occurred throughout the latitudinal range of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area of north Queensland. It is now apparently extinct from the Atherton and Evelyn Tablelands, and there are few sightings south of 17o45’S. This represents a decline in extent of occurrence of approximately 20%.
Populations are decreasing of which there remains an estimated ‘20,000’ mature individuals. Populations in south-east Queensland, western Victoria (Otways and far south-west of Victoria), and coastal areas of southern New South Wales are known to be declining too. Populations in north-eastern Queensland are small, fragmented, and are <1,000 individuals. Tasmanian population numbers appear to be stable.
There is some evidence of a decline in distribution or in numbers in remaining suitable habitat (e.g., in the Otway Range), and the species is mostly uncommon (although it is present in good numbers in some areas, such as the Marengo and Chaelundi Forests).
Image: Spotted-tailed Quoll (juvenile)
The reasons for decline of D. m. maculatus are a combination of habitat loss and fragmentation, possible disease at the beginning of the 20th century, competition with foxes and feral cats, predation by foxes and dogs, and impact of widespread strychnine baiting for dingoes.
Most recently threats include non-target mortality from trapping and poisoning (there is a long-standing concern that Quolls are being killed by the use of 1080 poisoning, but this has not been confirmed and is currently the focus of a number of investigative trials).
Direct persecution is significant as they are attracted to caged birds and do not necessarily take flight when discovered. Estimated forest loss as a result of clearing within its former range in south-east Queensland is over 70%, with the majority of loss occurring over the last 20 years.
The species uses a large number of den sites throughout the year and activities that reduce the number of den logs are likely to be significant. In Tasmania this taxon is naturally rare, possibly as a result of competition with D. viverrinus, Sarcophilus harrisii, and feral cats. Road mortality could be a significant factor where high speed roads and good habitat coincide, as Quolls are attracted to feed on the carcasses of road-killed animals.
D. m. gracilis is susceptible to factors which increase juvenile and/or adult mortality, or which otherwise decrease breeding success. Such factors may include habitat clearance, logging, introduced species including cane toad, and direct killing at chicken pens, at houses, and on roads.
Conservation actions are underway with more planned soon that will work to evaluate the current species size, habitat loss, food sources and protective areas needed Etc.
Spotted-tailed Quolls are generally nocturnal and rest during the day in dens. However, juveniles and females with young in the den can be seen during the day and may leave their dens when it is light out. Quoll dens take the form of underground burrows, caves, rock crevices, tree hollows, hollow logs, or under houses or sheds. Quolls move by walking and bounding gaits. Trails are not particularly important for Quoll, although they forage and scent mark along runways and roads.
Size of the Quoll depends on the species. They can reach 14 to 29.5 inches in length and 3 to 15.4 pounds of weight.
Quoll is covered with coarse coat that can be grey, brown or black in color. Basic color of the fur is enriched with prominent white spots. Quoll has pointed snout and pink nose. Its powerful jaw is equipped with sharp teeth. Tail is long and bushy. Quoll has sharp claws on the front and hind feet that are used for holding the food, climbing and digging underground burrows.
Quolls are nocturnal animals (active during the night). Even though Quolls are agile climbers, they spend majority of their life on the ground. Quolls can consume both animals and plants. Diet is mainly based on small mammals (such as rabbits), small birds, snakes and insects. They occasionally eat fruit and nuts.
Main predators of Quolls are crocodiles and snakes. Quolls live in the underground burrows, inside the hollow trees or caves. Quoll is territorial animal.
Male’s territory overlaps with territories of several nearby females. They share communal latrines. Quoll is solitary creature which gathers with other Quolls only during the mating season.
Mating season of Quolls takes place during the winter. Pregnancy lasts only couple of weeks and ends with up to 30 miniature babies (they weigh less than one gram).
Babies spend first 8 weeks of their life inside the mother’s pouch. After that period, babies are big enough to leave the pouch and ride on the mother’s back. Young Quolls are ready for independent life at the age of 6 months. Female’ pouch is not a true pouch. It forms out of the fold of skin on the stomach after successful mating. Pouch contains only 6 teats, which means that only 6 babies out of 30 will be able to survive and complete their development. Quolls reach sexual maturity at the age of one year. Quolls have short lifespan. They can survive from 2 to 5 years in the wild, depending on the species.
Contrary to popular belief Quolls or as some people refer to this documented species as the ‘Tiger Quoll’ are not rare. The species and entire genera are in fact nocturnal, so while your asleep they’ll most likely be happily wondering through your garden or local parks and nature reserves. However the species is threatened and decreasing with a population size of some 20,000.
Thank you for reading.
Dr Jose Depre.
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