"One hunter recalled a nighttime visit to a swamp in Ohio in 1845, when he was sixteen; he mistook for haystacks what were in fact alder and willow trees, bowed to the ground under gigantic pyramids of birds many bodies deep." In his new book about the passenger pigeon, the naturalist Joel Greenberg sets out to answer a puzzling question: How could the bird go from a population of billions to zero in less than fifty years? (SLNewYorker.) [more inside]
"I had heard about this film through various channels off and on through the years. It had gotten to the point where it was almost apocryphal in my mind.... Nobody knew where it was, nobody had ever seen it, but I was aware it existed. It was like the holy grail." said Wayne Petersen, director of the Massachusetts Important Bird Areas program for Mass. Audubon on the archival footage of the extinct heath hen discovered, restored and premiering at the Mass Audubon Birders Meeting this month. [more inside]
William Temple Hornaday was an early--and probably a founding--member of the American conservation movement, and was also director of the National Zoological Park. He wrote a tremendously bitter and accurate report for the U.S. National Museum in 1894 on the extermination of the American bison, an absolute head-shaker, detailing the history of the bison in North America and its destruction at the hands of sportsmen, hunters, mindless dolts and many others who massacred tens of millions of the animal ("murdered" is the word Hornaday uses constantly). To put the whole issue in perspective, Hornaday issued a famous map showing the shrinkage of the North American bison herd, setting out the enormity of the issue instantly on one piece of paper, a summary of hundreds of pages of bad stories and big numbers.
The red-crested tree rat (Santamartamys rufodorsalis), not seen in over a hundred years, made an unexpected, nonchalant appearance at the El Dorado Bird Reserve in Colombia a couple of weeks ago. Witnesses are unavailable for comment, being too busy with squeals of "Awwwwwww" to respond to questions. Press release here; high-res photos heEEEEEEEEEEEEEE
"Bryn the pygmy rabbit died in 2008, marking the end of her genetic line. This subpopulation lost its sagebrush habitat as the land was developed for agriculture ... In an off-exhibit room at the Oregon Zoo, the staff was quiet, even reverent, as they brought in Bryn. She was one of two Columbia Basin pygmy rabbits left, and since both were old females, this was a solemn occasion." Rare: Portraits of America’s Endangered Species
Attenborough's Pitcher, an "Udderly Weird Yam," a two-inch phallic mushroom already immortalized on Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me, and the "Bombardier Worm" ("Chaff worm" would seem a more accurate name) are just four of the newly described species making the International Institute for Species Exploration's totally arbitrary Top 10 New Species list. [more inside]
Saving the world’s weirdest creatures. The EDGE of Existence programme, a project of the Zoological Society of London, aims to conserve the world's most Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) species by implementing the research and conservation actions needed to secure their future. [Via MoFi.]
The 2004 International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources' Red List of Threatened Species.
"The onslaught of destruction wrought upon the thylacine by the early settlers of Tasmania came about largely as a result of fear, ignorance, and misunderstanding." An extinct carnivorous marsupial.
The Endangered Species Act marked its 30th anniversary this December. Some say we need it while others say we need to change it. Whatever its faults, many species have benefited from it.
Lions in Africa are getting close to extinction. In fact, all the big alpha predators are in trouble. It may only be a matter of time before all the mega species disappear from the wild.
Cuba is best known for its legendary cigars and bearded dictators, but it's also home to some of the healthiest ecosystems in the Caribbean. Pygmy owls, bee hummingbirds, and solenodons share the islands of Cuba with tiny tiny tree frogs, trogons, and one of the largest groups of snails in the world. There are problems, though. Many species such as the giant cursorial owl, the ivory-billed woodpecker and the smallest of the giant sloths have been wiped out over the last 5,000 years, and other species are threatened.
Feeling Peckish? Like a big bald eagle? Order one now! Humour might be one way of trying to protect endangered animals but the bushmeat trade is no joke and fighting it is damn difficult, probably as difficult as fighting world poverty. Does anyone else feel that these jokes just aren't funny anymore?