Saturday, March 20, 2010

Extinct Birds

Haven't had much time recently to note recent news, so I'm playing catch-up here.

First, a new biological modeling system is being tested to determine whether it is economically feasible to try and save a species after it hasn't been seen in a while. Recent test subjects include the ivorybill and the dodo. (News source.)

California condors have made a nest in Pinnacles National Monument for the first time in 100 years. (News source.)

Scientists have extracted DNA from the eggshells of several extinct birds (moas, elephant birds, etc.). (Abstract)

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Sunday, March 07, 2010

New Orangutan Population in Sumatra

A new population of orangutans has been discovered in the Batan Toru forest in northern Sumatra. (News source.)

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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Javan Leopards

A new population of Javan leopards has been discovered in one of the island's parks. (News source.)

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Carnivores in the News

Was a Florida panther photographed in Sarasota County? (News source.)

Cougar sightings are coming out of Virginia. (News source.)

A large cougar was killed after it attacked a bull in Washington State. (News source.)

The Mexican wolf that escaped in MN recently was recaptured. (News source.)

The highest diversity of cat species in the world has been discovered in a forest in the Indian state of Assam. (News source.)

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Fallow Deer Espionage

Interesting story on how a few Persian fallow deer were smuggled into Israel before the Iranian shah's government collapsed in 1978. (Via Kevin Stewart.)

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"We don't believe a recoverable population of ivory-billed woodpeckers exists" ... (News source.)

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010


An interesting Op Ed from biologist Alan Rabinowitz showing why advocacy groups like the Center for Biological Diversity are doing more harm than good by forcing the USFWS to preserve "jaguar habitat."

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Monday, January 18, 2010

"Extinct" Tortoise Found in Captivity

Nine captive Galapagos Island tortoises are descendants of an "extinct" species from Floreana Island, according to new genetic research. (News source.)

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Alberta Bison Restoration

Kevin Stewart passes along his letter to the editor about the controversy over restoring bison to the wild in Alberta.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Strange Animal Roundup

Just so I don't have to make more posts than necessary:

Conservationists are working with Ethiopian wolves, here.

Another brown-and-white giant panda has been found. (News source.)

A giant stingray has been filmed. (News source, with video)

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Politics of Jaguar Conservation

An interesting article here, on the political disputes and legal controversies surrounding the Arizona-New Mexico Jaguar Conservation Team.

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Friday, October 09, 2009

Lord Howe Island Stick Insect Recovery

A paper on this rediscovered insect:

The recovery programme for the Lord Howe Island Phasmid (Dryococelus australis) following its rediscovery
Nicholas Carlile, David Priddel and Patrick Honan (2009)
Ecological Management and Restoration 10(s1): s124-s128


"Until its rediscovery on Balls Pyramid in February 2001, the Lord Howe Island Phasmid or Stick Insect (Dryococelus australis) was thought to be extinct. It disappeared from Lord Howe Island soon after the accidental introduction of the Ship Rat (Rattus rattus) in 1918. In this paper, we report on the recovery actions undertaken for this critically endangered species since its rediscovery. Monitoring of the small surviving population on Balls Pyramid has shown it to fluctuate between about 9 and 35 adult individuals. As a safeguard against extinction, two adult pairs were removed from Balls Pyramid in February 2003 to establish captive populations in Melbourne and Sydney. Although all four founders bred readily in captivity, one pair died only a month after capture. The second female would have also died soon after capture had it not been for veterinary intervention using novel untested techniques. The single surviving pair bred successfully but the hatch rate of eggs was poor. For the next generation, both fecundity and hatch rates were low. The lack of knowledge regarding the specific husbandry requirements of this particular species undoubtedly contributed to these problems. Careful management, together with a cautious scientific approach, eventually led to all problems being resolved. Presently, there are more than 700 individuals and 14 000 eggs in captivity. Approximately 80% of incubated eggs are expected to hatch. To establish additional captive colonies, adults and eggs have been sent to other institutions, both within Australia and overseas. Now that the species is reasonably secure in captivity, the opportunity exists to reintroduce this iconic insect back onto Lord Howe Island, but this can occur only after the introduced rodents have been removed. A programme to eradicate both the Ship Rat and the House Mouse (Mus musculus) from Lord Howe Island is currently being developed."

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Thursday, September 03, 2009

Conservation: Saola and Okapi

The Saola antelope is close to extinction. (News source.)

An interesting interview and overview of okapi conservation here.

(Thanks to Kevin Stewart.)

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bangladesh: Clouded Leopards

A clouded leopard cub has been captured in Bangladesh, where the species was considered extirpated. The cub's mother and other cubs were chased away by locals. (News source.)

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Tiger Sightings

Bengal tigers are on the move:

"Pugmarks of a Royal Bengal Tiger have been found in the snow at an altitude of 10,000 feet in the Himalayas near Jelepla in eastern Sikkim." (News source.)

Two sightings of tigers in North Bengal sanctuaries have caught conservationists by surprise. (News source.)

(Via Kevin Stewart)

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Conservation Tech

3D computer generated "skins" created from photos are being used to track tigers in conservation work. The software is free and available for similar purposes. (News source.)

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Sunday, March 08, 2009

Condor Release

Four more young California condors were released in Arizona near the Utah border. (News source.)

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Sunday, March 01, 2009

Tiger Catching

Sumatran forest rangers and conservationists try to catch problem tigers, fit them with tracking equipment, and release them elsewhere. (News source.)

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Coelacanth Danger

A Tanzanian harbor project could be detrimental to a local population of coelacanths. (News source.)

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Cryptic Corals

Coral researchers have to deal with corals that exhibit morphological variations, as well as separate species that look alike. Some research noted here.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hot Spots, New Species, Etc.

Some research here on locating hot spots of species diversity for conservation focus.

408 new mammal species have been discovered since 1993, according to a new paper. The authors then go on with dire warnings for humanity.

And, new birds are waiting to be discovered in the eastern Himalayas.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Species Hotspot in Cambodia

WWF is pointing out a new "species hotspot" in the Mekong of Cambodia.


Sunday, December 28, 2008

2008 Abstract: Muntjac

Molecular evidence for the occurrence of the leaf deer Muntiacus putaoensis in Arunachal Pradesh, north-east India

Jiffy James, Uma Ramakrishnan and Aparajita Datta

Conservation Genetics
Vol. 9, no. 4 (August 2008): pp. 927-931

Abstract: The discovery of the leaf deer Muntiacus putaoensis in northern Myanmar has added to the growing list of large mammals recently discovered in remote, unexplored parts of south and south-east Asia. Its subsequent discovery in eastern Arunachal Pradesh, India, based on morphometric analyses of two skulls collected from local hunters, doubled the size of its known east-west range, which is significant for a newly-discovered and poorly understood species. However, ambiguity remained regarding several other partial skulls and dried skin samples collected during subsequent surveys. The sympatric occurrence of the Indian muntjac Muntiacus muntjak further complicates species identification based primarily on morphometry. In this paper, we develop molecular genetic analyses that can unambiguously identify muntjac species. Further, we test and apply our methods to unknown skin samples to confirm the occurrence of the leaf deer in Arunachal Pradesh. Finally, we use our samples and genetic data from three mitochondrial markers to establish phylogenetic affinities between these samples and other extant members of the Muntiacus genus. Our approach, which combines the use of specific primers and phylogenetic analyses, is generally applicable towards the detection of cryptic biodiversity in unexplored and species-rich areas like north-east India.

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2008 Abstracts: The Munzala

A Voucher Specimen for Macaca munzala: Interspecific Affinities, Evolution, and Conservation of a Newly Discovered Primate

Charudutt Mishra and Anindya Sinha

International Journal of Primatology
Vol. 29, no. 3 (June 2008): 743-756

Abstract: Sinha, A., Datta, A., Madhusudan, M. D., & Mishra, C. (2005. Macaca munzala: A new species from western Arunachal Pradesh, northeastern India. International Journal of Primatology, 26, 977989) discovered Arunachal macaques (Macaca munzala), a species new to science, in the eastern Himalaya of Arunachal Pradesh in northeastern India. They depicted the holotype and paratypes of the species in photographs, and a specimen of the species had been unavailable for preservation and examination. In March 2005, we obtained an entire specimen of an adult male Macaca munzala, which we propose as a voucher specimen for the species. We provide detailed morphological and anatomical measurements of the specimen and examine its affinities with other macaques. Macaca munzala appears to be unique among macaques in craniodental size and structure, baculum, and aspects of caudal structure, while exhibiting affinities with the other members of the sinica-group to which it belongs. We summarize our insights on the origins and phylogeny of Macaca munzala. Finally, we review the current conservation status of the macaques, which are threatened by extensive hunting in the only 2 districts of Arunachal Pradesh where they are documented to occur.


In search of the munzala: distribution and conservation status of the newly-discovered Arunachal macaque Macaca munzala

R. Suresh Kumar, Nabam Gama, R. Raghunath, Anindya Sinha and Charudutt Mishra

Vol. 42 (2008): pp. 360-366

Abstract: The recently-described Arunachal macaque Macaca munzala is so far known only from western Arunachal Pradesh, north-east India. Here we present the first conservation status assessment for the species. Our surveys enumerated a total of 569 individuals in the Tawang and West Kameng districts of the State. The species seems to be tolerant of anthropogenic habitat change but is vulnerable to hunting. A low infant to adult female ratio suggests that not all adult females reproduce at any given time, and females do not give birth every year. The macaques are persecuted largely in response to crop damage, with the practice of keeping them as pets providing an added incentive to hunting. The species is, however, able to attain remarkably high densities in the absence of hunting. Crop damage by the macaque is widespread; patterns of crop damage are similar across altitudinal zones and do not seem to be correlated with macaque density. The species will need to be protected in human-modified landscapes, and the issues of crop damage and retaliatory persecution need to be addressed urgently.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Cryptic Species: Manage or Survey

In a study of conservation measures for cryptic species (species not seen in some time), "conservationists should carry on managing the environment as if a seemingly vanished species is still around, rather than rushing to check whether it is extinct, say researchers." (News source)


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Greater Bamboo Lemurs

A new population of the rare greater bamboo lemur has been discovered in Madagascar. (Eurekalert.)

"Researchers in Madagascar have confirmed the existence of a population of greater bamboo lemurs more than 400 kilometers (240 miles) from the only other place where the Critically Endangered species is known to live, raising hopes for its survival.
"The discovery of the distinctive lemurs with jaws powerful enough to crack giant bamboo, their favorite food, occurred in 2007 in the Torotorofotsy wetlands of east central Madagascar, which is designated a Ramsar site of international importance under the 1971 Convention on Wetlands." ...
"For years, scientists believed but were unable to prove that greater bamboo lemurs (Prolemur simus) lived in the Torotorofotsy area. A collaborative effort between the Malagasy non-government organization MITSINJO and the Henry Doorly Zoo in the United States supported by the Margot Marsh Biodiversity Foundation and Conservation International (CI) resulted in researchers finding and immobilizing several to attach radio collars for further monitoring.
"The researchers believe there are 30-40 greater bamboo lemurs in the Torotorofotsy wetland, which is far to the north of the isolated pockets of bamboo forest where the rest of the known populations of the species live. Habitat destruction from slash-and-burn agriculture and illegal logging threatens the previously known populations that total about 100 individuals, making the existence of the newly found lemurs in a distinct region especially valuable."

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Bolivian River Dolphin Recognized

After a census of river dolphins in the Orinoco and Amazon River basins, the Bolivian river dolphin has been officially recognized as a separate endemic species (Inia boliviensis). "The Bolivian species is smaller and a lighter grey in colour than the other species and has more teeth. It lives only in the Bolivian Amazon and is isolated from the other Amazon River dolphins, separated by a series of 18 rapids between Bolivia and Brazil." (News source.)

This species has been declared a Natural Heritage by the Prefecture of the Department of Beni (northeastern Bolivia), with recognition that immediate steps for conservation is needed. (News source.)

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Borneo Clouded Leopard

Here's an interview with a researcher, trying to protect the recently described Borneo clouded leopard.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Carnivore Release Casualties

Turns out that only 30% of captive-born carnivores released into the wild actually survive. (News source.)

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Scottish Wildcats

The Aspinall Foundation is planning to breed-and-release hybrid-free Scottish wildcats into various parts of the U.K. (News source.)

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Guam Rail on Cocos Island

There's a plan to introduce the endangered Guam rail onto Cocos Island, where it would have better protection against predators. Snakes and cats have been devastating to the bird on its home island. (News source.)

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Friday, December 07, 2007

Panda Outbreak

A parasitic disease has dramatically risen in wild populations of the giant panda. As the panda population density grows, it creates a situation where a new disease could be particularly devastating. (News source.)

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Species Survey in Ghana

A 2006 expedition report to the Atewa Range Forest Reserve in Ghana has been released by Conservation International’s Rapid Assessment Program. (News source.)

"The RAP discoveries include a Critically Endangered frog species (Conraua derooi) whose presence in Atewa may represent the last viable population in the world; an unusually high 22 species of large mammals and six species of primates including two species of global conservation concern: Geoffroy’s pied colobus (Colobus vellerosus) and the olive colobus (Procolobus verus); 17 rare butterfly species; six bird species of global conservation concern including the brown-cheeked hornbill (Bycanistes cylindricus) and the Nimba flycatcher (Melaenornis annamarulae)(first time recorded in Ghana); and nine species new to science: a spider tick whose lineage is as old as the dinosaurs and eight species of katydids."

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

South China Tiger Born

A South China tiger was recently born at an African game reserve in a project geared towards breeding the tigers for later reintroduction into China. (News source.)

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

More on Giant Earthworm

Here's an interesting article on the continuing search for the rare giant Palouse earthworm.

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DeBrazza's Monkeys

A new population of the rare DeBrazza's monkey has been discovered in Kenya. Primate researcher Iregi Mwenja investigated reports of the species in the Mathews Range (sightings given by a tour operator), even when others (other primatologists?) told him that they likely weren't there. (News source.)

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

More on South China Tiger

OK, not a lot more, but it looks like the Chinese have banned hunting in mountain area where the tiger was seen. Setting up a nature preserve is under consideration. (News source.)

As a point of interest to cryptozoology buffs, this is the subspecies of tiger which produced the Blue Tiger morph in China.

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Friday, August 31, 2007

Chinese Mountain Cat

A feline biologist has photographed the rare Chinese mountain cat, and will be publishing a paper on it in an upcoming issue of Science. (News source.)

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Ivorybill Recovery Plan

USFWS has released a recover plan for the Ivorybill Woodpecker.

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Roosmalen and Those Who Are Trying to Help

Marc van Roosmalen's plight in a Brazilian jail has not been forgotten by the world.

Various support structures have been set up to share his plight, his donations to the world, and also work towards a potential release.

Roosmalen was jailed in June 2007 for 14 years due to various penalties associated to keeping monkeys at his home in Brazil. The actual reported offense having taken place several years prior.

One of the more thorough new virtual support sites is called Help Marc Van Roosmalen . It is presented in primarily Dutch with some German areas. Within the context are some history pieces, a place for sympathies for the Roosmalen family and an early interview with Roosmalen himself.

One additional site, in a variety of languages, is at . This breaks down some of the details and also some of the wider Internet postings on this scientist.

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

A New Wetapunga from New Zealand?

80 scientists just finished a blitz survey of the Otari-Wilton's Bush reserve in Wellington, New Zealand. As part of this 24 hours blitz collected, counted and found over 1300 species, among them a cave living wetapunga.

The researchers speculate that the cave "weta" may be a new species, even genus of the group.

Wetapunga's are the heaviest insects known in the world, weighing upwards of 2 1/2 ounces and over 3.5 inches long. These large wingless crickets once lived throughout New Zealand, and are now reduced to small populations primarily on Little Barrier Island.

If this is a true new species, or even genus, then it is an important geographic find for conservation. Regardless of the taxonomic classification though, the find is key to conservation protection of the native animals of New Zealand and elsewhere.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Status of the Eastern Cougar - Maine and Beyond

Maine is a one of those states where population densities are more isolated to the coastal areas, and the central and northern portions have a much smaller per capita population. This makes for beautiful scenery as well as isolation for hikers, hunters and outdoors people. Eagles, moose, deer and more haunt the woods and waterways.

In 2000 the population of Maine was just under 1.3 million spread over some 31,000 square miles. 3500 miles of coastline, 17 million acres of forest. The US census bureau projection is around 1.4 million people by 2025, or 42nd in the nation for population.

The last known cougar in Maine was killed in 1938, yet reports have filtered in over the years of the animals still haunting the woods. Making Maine one of the Eastern Cougar haunts of New England, ranking it in line with Vermont and New Hampshire.

Now, the state of Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, is gathering together the reports from the state as part of a periodic review of the status of the cougar. While not listed on Maine’s endangered or threatened listings, it is protected under the federal endangered species program (since 1969).

Part of the review, which will take data from 21 states east of the Mississippi, will be aimed towards scientific analysis of the data, but also as to whether the Eastern Cougar is actually even a distinct species. This later aspect runs the risk of removing the endangered species classification, as the population entirety would be lumped with the cougars from the west. While this reclassification is still unknown, it is a debatable subject as the actual speciation of cougars is debated in and of itself. We have previously seen multiple sub-species (including the eastern cougar and over 10 others) , to a shortening that lumps various geographic areas together as sub-species.

One stand out account from Maine is from September 2000 in which a Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIF&W) Biologist Keel Kemper identified tracks made in Monmouth, Maine as being larger than existing felines would make. The event was spurred by the sighting by Roddy Glover, in which he claimed seeing a female and cub while scouting the area prior to bow season to start. Glover is a taxidermist and had mounted cougar pelts prior. The investigation by Keel Kemper and Philip Dugus occurred within hours of the reported sighting, and hundred of tracks were found and casts were made.

For anyone who has seen a cougar, be it in the east or west (and I have seen them in the west), remain positive that despite reclassification of species or endangered status, these animals will continue to fight for their survival.

Are they in the New England? Possibly, there is some good evidence from New Brunswick and Massachusetts (the Vermont classification is debatable) in the form of scientific evidence. We have numerous sightings, and the off / on image to see or track to view. Time will tell, and the review of the animal’s status is important regardless of the end results as it will allow the first large scale review from multiple states in years. We hope the data will be made available to us all for review when complete.

The review plan outline is viewable at the US Fish and Wildlife Website at

Maine is but one state, and should be considered as one of many.

Please see the following links for further information:

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Clouded Leopard - News - But Why Now?

News has hit the waves of a reclassification of the clouded leopard from Borneo from sub-species to full species classification. This is good news for conservationists, and felid follows.

But, the news is making the waves now, creating the appearance it is new.

The actual reclassification was presented in December 2006 in the journal Current Biology (volume 16, issue 23, December 2006).

In the paper Molecular Evidence for Species – Level Distinctions in Clouded Leopards, the researchers identified genetic differences splitting the previous Neofelis nebulosa diardi into Neofelis diardi. The distinctions being significant enough to compare to the differences exhibited between the known Panthera species (which include lions, tigers and leopards).

This entire scenario is also supported, and vice-versa, within the same journal in the paper Geographical Variation in the Clouded Leopard, Neofelis nebulosa, reveals Two Species”. Here the researchers here looked at the morphological differences on the pelages .

These two papers support the basis for a species reclassification on a genetic and morphological basis.

The question therefore is raised, why now is the story being heralded as a new discovery?
The association over to conservation on mainland Borneo is one strong suggestive reason. The more attention the area receives, the more pressure is acclimated to a protection basis. While all this is great, we still must keep our attention to the details behind what is reported.

Please see the December 18, 2006 post here at Strange Ark for more details.

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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

New shark, ray species found

Please note, the article below details some basic data on 20 new species of sharks and rays from Indonesia between 2001 and 2006, some have been formally described, others are pending. You can purchase a hard copy of the referenced field guide through the ACIAR, or also download a copy (over 6 mb) freely of "Economically important sharks and rays Indonesia "

Twenty new species of sharks and rays have been discovered in Indonesia during a five-year survey of catches at local fish markets, Australian researchers said on Wednesday.

The survey by the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, or CSIRO, represents the first in-depth look at Indonesia's sharks and rays since Dutch scientist Pieter Bleeker described more than 1 100 fish species from 1842-1860.

Researchers said six of their discoveries have been described in peer review journals, including the Bali Catshark and Jimbaran Shovelnose Ray, found only in Bali, and the Hortle's Whipray, found only in West Papua.Papers on the remaining 14 are being prepared.

"Indonesia has the most diverse shark and ray fauna and the largest shark and ray fishery in the world, with reported landings of more than 100 000 tons a year," said William White, a co-author of the study. "Before this survey, however, there were vast gaps in our knowledge of sharks and rays in this region."

Based on the survey's findings, the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research has published a 330-page, full-colour, field guide titled: "Economically Important Sharks and Rays of Indonesia."From 2001 to 2006, researchers photographed and sampled more than 130 species on 22 survey trips to 11 ports across Indonesia.

More than 800 specimens were lodged in reference collections at the Museum Zoologicum Bogoriense at Cibinong, Java, and the Australian National Fish Collection at Hobart.The survey was part of a broader project working toward improved management of sharks and rays in Indonesia and Australia, researchers said.

"Good taxonomic information is critical to managing shark and ray species, which reproduce relatively slowly and are extremely vulnerable to overfishing," White said in a statement. "It provides the foundation for estimating population sizes, assessing the effects of fishing and developing plans for fisheries management and conservation."

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Seeds of 2006 Discovery to Live On

Scientists in West Sussex are working to preserve the seeds of a rare Chinese plant rediscovered after 100 years.

Chinese seed collectors found the small, yellow-flowered paraisometrum mileense growing in Yunnan Province in South West China.

Its seeds will now be preserved for conservation and research at the Millennium Seek Bank at Kew's country garden, Wakehurst Place at Ardingly.

Botanists are investigating its evolution so it is never lost again.

A living collection of the plant, which was last found growing in its native habitat in 1906, is also being introduced into a botanic garden in China.

Experts feared it had died out.

"It is greatly encouraging for botanists and conservationists to rediscover a species thought to be extinct in the wild," said Jie Cai, co-ordinator of the Chinese seed collection at Wakehurst.

"It provides an important opportunity for people to find out more about the plant's evolution, conservation and potential uses."
Please note, while the news article does not explain the date of rediscovery, it is not 2007. The plant was found in 2006, but the conservation of its seeds should help assure it stays in existence for a while longer. - Craig Heinselman

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Virgin Eggs Produce 5 Komodo Dragons

Earlier Chad has posted on the Komodo Parthenogenesis within this blog.

Well those eggs have now hatched.....

According to the Associated Press, 5 komodos were born at the zoo:

'Virgin Birth' Of Komodo Dragons Stuns Zoo
(AP) MANCHESTER, England A British zoo announced Wednesday the virgin birth of five Komodo dragons, giving scientists new hope for the captive breeding of the endangered species. In an evolutionary twist, the newborns' eight-year-old mother Flora shocked staff at Chester Zoo in northern England when she became pregnant without ever having a male partner or even being exposed to the opposite sex.
"Flora is oblivious to the excitement she has caused but we are delighted to say she is now a mum and dad," said a delighted Kevin Buley, the zoo's curator of lower vertebrates and invertebrates.The shells began cracking last week, after an eight-month gestation period, which culminated with the arrival on Tuesday of the fifth black and yellow colored dragon.The dragons are between 15.5 and 17.5 inches and weigh between 3.5 and 5.3 ounces, said Buley, who leads the zoo's expert care team.He said the reptiles are in good health and enjoying a diet of crickets and locusts.Other reptile species reproduce asexually in a process known as parthenogenesis.
But Flora's virginal conception, and that of another Komodo dragon earlier this year at the London Zoo, are the first time it has been documented in a Komodo dragon.
The evolutionary breakthrough could have far-reaching consequences for endangered species.Captive breeding could ensure the survival of the world's largest lizards, with fewer than 4,000 Komodos left in the wild.Scientists hope the discovery will pave the way to finding other species capable of self fertilization.
While it wasn't unusual for female dragons to lay eggs without mating, scientists understood they were witnessing something important when they realized Flora's eggs had been fertilized.DNA paternity tests confirmed the lack of male input, although the brood are not exact clones of their mother.Parthenogenesis — where eggs become embryos without male fertilization — had only been noted once before in a Komodo dragon. Genetic tests showed that Sungai, a resident of London Zoo, was the sole parent to offspring last April.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The rodent with a whisp - a new rodent from Peru

In the rainforest of Peru a squirrel like rodent has been discovered.

A striking rodent, closer in relation to spiny rats than to squirrels, it features a wick like tail of black and a broad head covered throughout with long transitional fur of reddish to gray.

The new rodent has been dubbed Isothrix barbarabrownae and was found in 1999 at 6200 feet . The find occurred while researchers where in the Manu National Park and Biosphere Reserve Mountains in Peru.

Using genetic analysis the discoverers have been reviewing the proposed evolutionary connection of the South American rodents. This analysis is suggestive that the new species may have arisen from Andean ancestry.

The description of the new species is presented within Mastozoologia Neotropical, while early work detailing the findings of the research team was in Fieldiana: Zoology.
The total species finds for the research team has been 1 opossum, 7 bats and 3 rodents all from the same river valley of research in Peru.
Please see:

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Beaked Whale Stranding / Death

Whale may be a mountain of information

By Lunga Mtshizana

The carcass of a rare beaked whale at Morgan’s Bay may hold the key to unlocking new information about this mysterious mammal of the deep.

The 5,7 ton whale died on Sunday after a dramatic attempt to push it back into the ocean failed.
“The beaked whale is the least known whale and it is also amongst the least known mammals, therefore this is a very significant find,” Port Elizabeth Museum marine mammal scientist Stephanie Plön said.
Yesterday, Plön and her team removed the whale’s stomach contents and reproductive organs and took genetic samples, measurements and photographs. The scientists are hoping to determine the type of beaked whale this female specimen belonged to.

“Genetic analysis will help us determine whether this is a new species of beaked whale or whether it belongs to one of the existing species,” said Plön.

“From its stomach contents we will be able to determine its feeding behaviour and it will help us learn more about an animal which is very rare in South Africa and in other parts of the world.”

In 2004, scientists at the Port Elizabeth Museum found a new species of beaked whale after using genetic testing.

Gill Watson, collections manager for the Port Elizabeth Museum, said there were very minimal chances that the blood from the beaked whale would attract sharks to the beach, but she advised people not to swim at Morgan’s Bay until all the whale’s blood had been washed away.

Plön added the Eastern Cape Parks Board will now bury the dead whale and that scientists would return at a later stage for the animal’s skeleton. Plön said the whale might have been washed up because of old age, or because it was sick or in labour. She advised locals not to eat its meat as the cause of death has not been determined.

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Kokako Oldies

With the recent declaration (re-declaration actually) of the South Island Kokako being extinct in New Zealand by the DoC, it is only fitting to share some "older" accounts not often referred to. So, enjoy a few from the files:

Volume 13, Number 4, December, 1966


Late in January 1961 and early in the morning I entered the bush on the Nelson slope of the Mangatapu Saddle on the old road from the Maitai Valley to Pelorus Bridge. Shortly I was attracted by the loud calling of a bird which I located on the trunk of a large beech tree about 18 feet from the ground. The bird did not seem to notice me at all, so that I was able to watch it for some minutes before pouring rain drove me on. There was movement in an adjoining tree, and I was aware of what I think was a young bird; but it was the
adult which interested me. It invariably moved upwards in short springing hops; and tapped its beak on the branch, left and right. I think it was urging the young bird to join it. It called loudly all the time I was within hearing distance.

It looked about the size of a Tue. I never saw its breast or under its wings. A yellowish colour was noticeable about its face; and its back which it kept in view even when it sprang on to a branch and proceeded up it, was, I think, brownish green. It was most active all the time I was watching it. I have tried to identify it on various occasions since, but it was only when I overheard a fellow-camper at a Forest and Bird Camp at Waikaremoana mention the characteristic up-ward springing climb of the Kokako that I had a clue to its identity. There is no doubt in my mind that the bird I watched below the
Maungatapu Saddle was a South Island Kokako (Callaeas c. cinerea).
- H. E. READ

[Mrs. Read has discussed this incident with me. There seems to be no reason to doubt the accuracy of her identification; especially ,as the South Island Kokako has since been reported near Picton. - Ed.]

Volume 28, Part 4, December, 1981

(Callaeas cinerea cinerea) IN MOUNT ASPIRING NATIONAL PARK

For several years from about 1957, I went down to Mt Albert Station, then owned by Mr John Quaife, to help with the autumn cattle muster, usually in late March and early April. The calves duly weaned and the sale lot on their way to Cromwell, I would go up into the Teal Creek valley for a few days of deer shooting. The track, a seldom-used blazed trail, led steeply up the north side of the valley through thick silver beech forest with little understorey and a scattering of totara.

As I climbed and returned I would always come upon areas of the mossy forest floor that had been recently disturbed, and rotting tree trunks and branches that had been picked at and underdug. I suspected kaka but saw no other sign.

On my visit to Teal Creek in 1964, I heard what I described to my hosts as a rather exalted Tui, followed by the harsh and prolonged cry of a falcon, then silence. Mrs Quaife, who had heard of their possible previous existence in the area, suggested Kokako, but I didn't give much credence to it.

The following year, still intrigued by the "ploughing," I took more care to travel quietly and, on my way down, spent an hour or so just listening. I was rewarded by hearing the same Tui-like sounds from two different directions, and did see movement of what appeared to be a largish bird in the tree tops from whence one song came. Again a falcon came screaming down the valley and all sounds ceased.

The next year (1966), I missed the muster and paid my visit in early May. I was coming quietly down the trail and stopped to ease my shoulders by resting my pack, which was loaded with venison, on a convenient rock. Presently, I realised I was looking straight at
a strange bird perching on a branch 15-20 metres away. It was just below the canopy of a beech downslope from me, about 15 metres above the ground but horizontally only about 3 metres above me. It seemed to be quietly singing to itself as its head and beak were
constantly moving and I heard an occasional note, but with a gusty wind rustling the leaves and the river roaring below, it was hard to tell if the song was continuous. The light was not good, but I could see detail quite well. It was facing directly towards me, the tip of its tail visible below the 10-cm-thick branch. It was dark grey with jet
black head and beak. One could imagine it was wearing a mask ! Its wattles, which were quite prominent, were putty coloured, just a light fawn, but it was undoubtedly a Kokako.

I tried to ease out of my pack straps to get at my camera, but, the bird immediately hopped into the upper branches and disappeared. I was fairly sure I heard a snatch of song from another direction, but just then a falcon screamed down near the river and, apart from an occasional call from that, I heard nothing more. The position was
NZMS 1 Map S107 Grid 968687.

The following year (April 1967), I was within 400 metres of the previous sighting, and close to a patch of " ploughed" ground which I had seen on my way up the valley about six days before. It was a fine afternoon, no wind, the only sound being the roar of the
river just below. I had stopped to listen, propped against a tree for only a few minutes, when a Kokako appeared walking along a log which protruded from a thick patch of fern beside a patch of "ploughed" ground. I think it saw me immediately because it quickened
its pace, flew from the end of the log to a sloping tree trunk a short distance below, and began to climb the trunk in a most peculiar way. With each rather ungainly step upwards, it appeared to hold on to the bark with its beak, look in my direction, take another step, hold, look, and so on until it reached the branches, when it hopped rapidly out of sight. I was fairly certain I saw two largish birds moving in the canopy nearby, but as a small flock of parakeets was moving through just then, I could not be sure. I had to hurry on then, as it is not a place one would care to be benighted in.

The following day I took Mrs Quaife up to the spot, but in 3-4 hours we saw and heard nothing except the inevitable falcon.

I had informed the resident park ranger at Wanaka of my sighting the previous year, and again jogged his memory. The Park Board eventually flew in a hut to a nearby clearing, and spent some time in an unsuccessful search.
My next and last trip (1968) was also without sighting except of the falcon.

K. McBRIDE, Kawarau Downs, RD4, Kaikoura

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Some more on the Kokako

Chad has posted earlier this week on the South Island Kokako, likewise Loren Coleman over at Cryptomundo also posted on the birds "extinct classification".

While Rhys Buckingham has been a long time supporter and research on the South Island Kokako, he has not been alone. Another prominent research, as mentioned in both Chad and Loren's posts, has been Ron Nilsson. Here is an additional piece tied to the "extinct" declare, this comes a day or so after the original declaration. From New Zealand Herald of January 17, 2007

The South Island kokako is now listed as officially extinct, but one of its most dedicated fans is still a believer.

Ron Nilsson, of Christchurch, has spent more than 20 years searching for the South Island kokako, which he says he has heard up to 100 times and seen once.

Conservation officials yesterday formally declared the South Island kokako extinct, saying there had been no confirmed sightings for more than 40 years.

But Mr Nilsson said he saw a bird just five years ago in Westland.

"I watched the bird flit across an old forestry road."

Mr Nilsson, a self-taught bird expert who has worked for the Wildlife Service, said he knew it was a kokako because of its size and behaviour.

"They are bigger than a tui ... like a small native pigeon. It has a peculiar body movement, like a saddleback."

Mr Nilsson said some of his colleagues had also seen and heard the elusive bird.

He planned to get back into the Fiordland bush in the next month to continue his search.

He has also searched remote valleys in Nelson, Westland and Stewart Island for signs of the grey bird with orange wattles at each side of the beak.
"There are half a dozen places where it could be."

He said that unlike the Department of Conservation, he would not have the audacity to say something was extinct.

For more read on at the New Zealand Herald

Having performing some research and writing about this bird and its connection to cryptozoology in 1998, it is indeed sad to see that despite finds of kick-ups and occasional sightings, the bird may well be slipping away completely. But, as history has shown with other "extinct" birds, there are times when remnant populations will be found. We can hope this is the case with the South Island Kokako.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

High Endemicism in Tanzania/Kenya

The Eastern Arc mountain range in Tanzania and Kenya is home to a large number of animals found nowhere else in the world. Many have yet to be discovered. A new study notes this high concentration, emphasizing the need to protect the region:

"New studies published this month in the scientific journal Biological Conservation document an amazing concentration of over 1000 species unique--or endemic-- to an area slightly larger than Rhode Island in the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania and Kenya. This remaining habitat in the Eastern Arcs has the highest concentration of endemic animals in Africa and is increasingly endangered by complex threats.
"'The wild areas of the Eastern Arc Mountains are pockets of Eden--the last remaining safe havens for over 1000 plants and animals found nowhere else on Earth and some with ancient lineages stretching back in time over millions of years,' said Dr. Neil Burgess, lead author of the two studies and Eastern Arc expert, World Wildlife Fund and University of Cambridge. 'Side by side, these species and their human neighbors struggle for survival as more and more people need more and more farmland for food.'

"One study found that the Eastern Arc Mountains are exceptionally important for conservation because at least 96 animals, 832 plants and hundreds of invertebrates--including 43 butterflies--live only there and nowhere else on earth. Another 71 animals are found only within a limited range including these mountains and nearby areas. Of these species, seventy-one are classified as threatened by extinction by the IUCN Red List.
"There are likely more species to be discovered in the mountains. One of the most exciting recent discoveries was that of a new genus of monkey--the 'Highland Mangabey' (Rungwecebus kipunji). A further 15 new animals have recently been found that are still in the process of being described by scientists including several new chameleons. Over the next two years, surveys will continue and new discoveries are expected in remote and poorly known areas.

"The studies point out another unusual characteristic of the species in the Eastern Arc Mountains: a number of them are genetically ancient. DNA analysis of forest birds indicates that some species have lineages stretching back 25 million years and some are most strongly related to birds in Southeast Asia than birds in Africa. Some plants and animals--like tiny little shrews with elephant-like trunks known as elephant shrews and nocturnal primates with large eyes known as bushbabies--are thought to have evolved early in the species lineage, known as 'primitive' or 'ancient relic lineages.'
"The same conditions that give life to these plants and animals support a dense and growing human population in one of the poorest countries in the world, according to the second study. With most local people dependent on agriculture, inefficient farming methods and a growing need for food lead to farmland expansion, sometimes across the boundaries and into existing reserves. Effective conservation in the Eastern Arc Mountains requires finding solutions to the livelihood needs of these poor, rural populations and sufficient funds to establish and adequately manage a network of protected areas.
"'Seven proposed reserves protecting an additional 153, 205 acres of wilderness in the Eastern Arcs are currently awaiting declaration by the Tanzanian government,' said Dr. Burgess. 'Their declaration would help establish the network urgently needed to protect the natural wealth of the Eastern Arc Mountains.' The Tanzanian government is also pursuing the declaration of the area as a World Heritage Site, in recognition of its universal value for the conservation of biological diversity.
"Not only do the Eastern Arc Mountains support life locally, but they provide drinking water for at least 60 percent of the urban population of Tanzania and generate over 90 percent of the nation's hydroelectricity generation capacity. World Wildlife Fund and its partners are exploring one possible solution for conserving the Eastern Arc Mountains that would attach a monetary value to these 'ecosystem services' and divert funds paid by water users to the forest managers and surrounding communities.
"The Eastern Arc Mountains curve through eastern Tanzania and just over the border into southeastern Kenya. Its forests are often covered in a blanket of mist during the night and help collect water for much of Tanzania and its hydroelectricity. As a crucial source of water and home to unique and threatened wildlife, World Wildlife Fund considers the Eastern Arc Mountain range and coastal East Africa a conservation priority and works with local communities and partners to protect the natural richness of the region."

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