Posted on 25 June 2012.
The world lost a legend this past weekend.
One of the world’s rarest animals died on Sunday. Lonesome George, a giant tortoise, was estimated to be around 100 years old when a park ranger found him lying motionless in his pen in the Galapagos National Park. Thought to be the last of his kind, he became an icon for the Galapagos. His subspecies (Chelonidis nigra abingdoni) is now functionally extinct.
Lonesome George was found in 1973 and spent the rest of his years in captivity. Efforts to encourage him to reproduce failed. Two females of a different subspecies of giant tortoise were placed in his pen, but once the eggs were laid, they were found to be infertile.
His fame brought thousands of visitors to the islands each year, including human celebrities like Angelina Jolie. This high-profile position lead him to become a symbol of conservation efforts in the Galapagos and globally. The loss of such an icon is a potent reminder of the perils endangered species face.
He will be missed.
Posted in Issues, Species at Risk, Wildlife
Posted on 16 January 2012.
Red wolf (Canis rufus gregoryi) at the Great Plains Zoo. The species is highly endangered but once ranged throughout the southeastern US. www.joelsartore.com
Joel Sartore (www.joelsartore.com) is a renowned photographer for National Geographic and Defenders of Wildlife has been fortunate enough to welcome him to our Board of Directors this year. His passion for wildlife conservation takes him all over the world and is prominently reflected in his photographs, which show the vast array of wildlife that are threatened with extinction and the beauty and uniqueness of each creature in a way that words never could.
An Atlantic loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) at the Riverbanks Zoo. www.joelsartore.com
Joel is currently writing a multipart series of blogs about trips he has taken to zoos all over the country for National Geographic as part of his Biodiversity Project. Joel and National Geographic have been generous enough to share his photos and words chronicling his experience with us. We will be posting his blog series every Monday along with his stunning photographs and even some videos so we hope you will check back each week and follow along on his adventures.
Posted in Features, Species at Risk, Wildlife
Posted on 03 August 2011.
Defenders of Wildlife and numerous zoos across the country are in a fight for the lives of frogs. That’s right. The critters that mesmerized many of us as children are in trouble. Chytrid fungus, a deadly skin disease, has struck many species of frogs, and is spreading through Central America at an average rate of about 30 km per year. This is a race against the clock, with survival of the worldwide amphibian population in jeopardy.
Already, the disease has wiped out 90 species all over the world, including Puerto Rico, the United States, Australia, Central and South America. Defenders is working with scientists that are on the ground in Panama, capturing frogs before chytrid reaches them and searching for a cure.
Read part one of a two-part series on the challenges we are facing to stop this deadly disease.
Check out some pictures of the diverse array of frogs.
Read more about this project in Defenders magazine.
Posted in Amphibians, Features, International Conservation, Species at Risk
Posted on 03 March 2011.
Photo of a slain eastern cougar in 1881. Courtesy of USFWS
On Wednesday we heard that the eastern cougar, a cousin of the western mountain lion, was officially declared extinct by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Although not shocking news – an eastern cougar has not been seen since 1938 – it is still sad to hear, especially when humans are to blame. The early European settlers killed cougars to protect themselves and their livestock, and also nearly wiped out their white-tailed deer prey. Such actions and attitudes crippled the wild cat population and doomed it to eventual extinction.
So what happens when we lose a top-level predator like this? What does it mean now that the cougar is gone?
Well, usually it means that their prey animals, such as deer, begin multiplying out of control and wreak havoc on the landscape (and we do have a white-tailed deer problem). It also means other predators can take advantage of the empty niche.
In the 1970s, the eastern cougar was declared an endangered species. That is also the same time the coyote population exploded in the northeast. Coyotes had been moving east as humans moved west, providing corridors for them to travel. Loss of forests to agriculture also opened up more areas for coyotes to live, as farm fields came to resemble their former western native prairies. Gone were the wolves and cougars, and so coyotes could now assume their place.
Today, you can find coyotes everywhere, even here in Defenders’ backyard in D.C. Although widespread, they remain secretive and try to avoid humans. Just like the former cougars, coyotes feed on deer, and may help to keep these populations in check. They also eat rats – bonus!
With the resurgence of a new predator in our midst, we need to take measures to ensure a peaceful coexistence. Coyotes have successfully adapted to our altered landscape, and now it’s our turn to adapt to life with them.
Read more about the eastern cougar’s history and the proposal to delist it as an endangered species.
Live safely with carnivores in your neighborhood.
Posted in Features, Northeast, Wildlife
Posted on 12 January 2011.
Smile, you’re on camera!
It doesn’t happen very often, but every now and then an animal previously considered extinct comes out of hiding, surprising us all. And that’s exactly what happened when U.S. Forest Service cameras caught this critter on a motion-activated camera for the second time, confirming that Sierra Nevada red foxes have returned to northern California.
The Sierra Nevada red fox is one of the rarest, most elusive and least-known mammals in California and the United States. Once found throughout California’s mountains, the animal was thought to be extinct from the Southern Sierra Nevada for the past two decades.
Not only that, but experts believe there could be not just one, but a whole population of these foxes in the area. Forest Service wildlife biologist Diane Macfarlane said last week, ”There’s enough diversity in the DNA that we think there is a fairly strong population there after not showing up in this isolated area for years and years.”
The sighting is exciting news for the critters once thought to be extinct, but it should also serve as a reminder: we have a responsibility to protect our endangered wildlife, and to prevent them from ever disappearing in the first place. Sometimes, we don’t get a second chance.
Read more about California’s “mountain fox.”
See how Defenders is working to keep wildlife from the brink of extinction.
Posted in Features, In the News, West Coast
Posted on 16 December 2010.
Imagine a polar bear in Times Square, its heart-wrenching struggle for survival on display for millions to see.
It’s a powerful image that could help mobilize people to action to save these beloved bears. And YOU can make it a reality.
Donate today to help run our powerful new video billboard ad near Times Square and put the plight of our polar bears—and what can be done to save them—front-and-center.
To highlight the desperate plight of these mighty Arctic hunters and spur action to save polar bears, Defenders of Wildlife has secured time on the CBS jumbotron near Times Square through Christmas and New Year’s Eve. (Note: The ad, above, does not have an audio track.)
In a very public and prominent way, we’re calling on President Obama to secure vital habitat for these beloved bears and raising awareness about one of the most recognizable victims of climate change.
But we can’t make a difference for polar bears without you. We need to raise $65,000 by midnight tomorrow to make this ad a reality and support other polar bear-saving work. Please make your tax-deductible contribution now.
The need for action is urgent. Scientists say that America’s polar bears could disappear from the wild by 2050… unless we act now.
Please donate today and help us save America’s polar bears from extinction in the wild.
Posted in Alaska, Climate Change, Features, Offshore Drilling, Polar Bear, Video