08 May 2013:
Declining Snow Cover Imperils
Plant and Animal Species, Study Says
Declining winter and spring snow cover in parts of the Northern Hemisphere poses a growing threat to the plant and animals species that depend on the snow to survive harsh winters
, a new study says. Writing in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment
team of scientists reports that shorter snow seasons and decreased snow depths are altering the so-called subnivium, a seasonal microenvironment beneath the snow that provides refuge for a variety of life forms, from microbes to bears. In the last four decades, snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere has declined by as much as 3.2 million square kilometers during the months of March and April. Spring melting has accelerated by nearly two weeks, and the period of maximum snow cover has shifted from February to January, the scientists say. If exposed to temperature fluctuations as a result of disappearing snow, reptiles and amphibians could emerge from winter torpor prematurely, and plant species would be subject to harmful freeze-thaw cycles.
02 May 2013:
Five Southeast Asian Nations
Have Lost One-Third of Forests in 33 Years
Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam have lost one-third of their forests since 1980
and could be left with only 10 to 20 percent of their original forest cover by 2030, according to a review of satellite data by WWF. The conservation group warned that if present trends continue only 14 percent of the greater Mekong region’s remaining forest cover will consist of contiguous habitat capable of sustaining viable populations of many wildlife species, such as tigers and Asian elephants. The WWF researchers calculated that since 1980, Thailand and Vietnam have lost 43 percent of their forests, Laos and Burma have lost 24 percent, and Cambodia has lost 22 percent. Since 1973, areas of core, undisturbed forest — defined as having at least 3.2 square kilometers of uninterrupted forest — have declined from 70 percent to 20 percent of the region. Peter Cutter, landscape conservation manager with WWF-Greater Mekong, said the region is at a crossroads and that to preserve its remaining forests and biodiversity it must expand protected areas and better safeguard those that already exist.
Interview: Telling the Life Story of
Ginkgo, the Oldest Tree on Earth
Botanist Peter Crane sees the ginkgo as more than just a distinctive tree with foul-smelling fruits and nuts prized
Ginkgo leaves in autumn
for reputed medicinal properties. To Crane, author of a new book, Ginkgo
, the tree is an oddity in nature because it is a single species with no known living relatives; a living fossil that has been essentially unchanged for more than 200 million years; and an inspiring example of how humans can help a species survive. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, Crane, dean of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, talks about what makes the ginkgo unique and what makes it smell, how its toughness and resilience has enabled it to thrive as a street tree, and what the ginkgo’s long history says about human life on earth. The ginkgo, which co-existed with the dinosaurs, “really puts our own species — let alone our individual existence — into a broader context,” says Crane. Read the interview
23 Apr 2013:
Conservation of Forests
Can Prevent Malaria Spread, Study Says
The conservation of woodlands and biodiversity can actually help prevent the spread of malaria
in tropical forests, a new study says. Using a mathematical model of different conditions in a forest region of southeastern Brazil, scientists found that the circulation of the parasite Plasmodium vivax
— which is associated with 80 million to 300 million malaria cases worldwide — is likely to decrease in less developed forests where populations of non-malarial mosquitoes and warm-blooded animals are abundant. While no malaria cases have been reported in 30 years within the biodiverse study area, located in the Atlantic Forest, researchers say a primary malaria mosquito is found nearby. According to their study, published in the journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
, the findings suggest that malarial and non-malarial mosquito populations are likely to compete for blood feeding, and that the animals act as “dead-end reservoirs” of the malaria parasite. “These aspects of biodiversity that can hinder malaria transmission are services provided by the forest ecosystem,” Gabriel Zorello, an epidemiologist at the University of Sao Paulo and lead researcher of the study, told ScieDev.Net.
12 Apr 2013:
Many Marine Mammal Species
Have Rebounded Since U.S. Protections
Forty years after the passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), no marine mammal species in U.S. waters has been extirpated and the populations of
many marine animals are more abundant
than in 1972,
a new study says. While many species, including the endangered right whale, remain at significant risk, the populations of other species — including gray seals in New England and sea lions and elephant seals on the Pacific coast — have “recovered to or near their carrying capacity,” scientists say. “At a very fundamental level, the MMPA has accomplished what its framers set out to do, to protect individual marine mammals from harm as a result of human activities,” said Andrew Read, a professor at Duke University and co-author of the study, published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences
. Passed at a time when numerous species were on the edge of extinction, the MMPA imposed strict regulations against commercial killing and the incidental bycatch of marine mammals by the fishing industry.
05 Apr 2013:
South Africa Game Reserve
Poisons Rhino Horns to Halt Poachers
Officials at a private game reserve in South Africa say they have injected into the horns of more than 100 rhinos a parasiticide that will make humans sick if they ingest the horns
. As the rhinos’ death toll continues to escalate in South Africa
, where nearly 700 animals were
Rodger Bosch/AFP/Getty Images
Injured rhino in South Africa
poached last year to supply a growing black market for their horns, officials say bold action was necessary. “Despite all the interventions by police, the body count has continued to climb,” Andrew Parker, chief executive of the Sabi Sand Wildtuin Association, a group of private landowners, told the Guardian
. “Everything we’ve tried has not been working and for poachers it has become a low-risk, high-reward ratio.” The group is trying to increase that risk by injecting a mix of parasiticides and pink dye into the horns of tranquilized rhinos. The poison is not lethal to humans, Parker said, but anyone who consumes it will be extremely ill. Demand for rhino horns in Southeast Asia
, where the horns are believed to have healing powers, has triggered a surge in the killing of rhinos.
Interview: Tracking Causes of
The Decline of the Monarch Butterfly
University of Kansas insect ecologist Orley R. Taylor, who has been observing monarch butterflies and their spectacular migrations across North America for
Monarch Watch/ Catherine I Sherman
decades, says he has never been more concerned about their future. A new census taken at the monarchs’ wintering grounds in Mexico found their population had declined 59 percent over the previous year and was at the lowest level ever measured. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, Taylor talks about the factors that have led to the drop in the monarch population. Among them, he says, is the increased planting of genetically modified corn in the U.S. Midwest, which has led to greater use of herbicides, which in turn kills the milkweed that is a prime food source for the butterflies. “What we’re seeing here in the United States,” Taylor says, “is a very precipitous decline of monarchs that’s coincident with the adoption of Roundup-ready corn and soybeans.”
Read the interview
Interview: A Marine Biologist
Works to Create a ‘Wired Ocean’
Even as populations of sharks, bluefin tuna, and other large fish are being severely over-exploited, scientists still know surprisingly little about when and where the ocean’s biggest predators congregate to feed and spawn,
making it difficult to protect biological hotspots. Stanford University marine biologist Barbara Block is seeking to narrow that knowledge gap by deploying an armada of satellite tags on the backs of ocean creatures. Block envisions a wired ocean, a blue fount of data in which tags, smart buoys, and mobile robots reveal the secrets of marine life. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, Block discusses the wealth of data gathered by the latest electronic tags and explains why it’s important to put the fruits of this research into the public’s hands “What we need is environmental interest and awareness that connects humans to the world,” says Block, "or else we're going to end up with the same problem we had on the continents, where the large mammals are gone."
Read the interview
08 Mar 2013:
Largest U.S. Dam Removal
Releases Huge Amount of Sediment
Scientists tracking the aftermath of the largest dam removal in U.S. history say the dismantling of a dam in northwestern Washington state has unleashed about 34 million cubic yards of sediment and debris
that built up
A plume of sediment at the mouth of the Elwha River.
for more than a century. While about one-third of the 210-foot Glines Canyon Dam on the Elwha River still stands, vast amounts of sediment are already flowing downstream, allowing University of Washington (UW) scientists a rare opportunity to track the discharges and study their ecological impacts. Scientists say it is unclear where much of the sediment will end up — or what the environmental consequences will be. In an ongoing study, they will use sophisticated technology to track particles in the water and monitor their accumulation on the ocean floor. Scientists say the sediment — enough to fill 3 million truckloads — could create murkier water conditions, threatening the reproduction of salmon and blocking light for marine life.
05 Mar 2013:
African Forest Elephant
Populations Fell 62 Percent in a Decade
Populations of forest elephants in central Africa plummeted by more than 60 percent from 2002 to 2011
, with dwindling habitat and an acceleration in poaching driving the elephants toward extinction, according to a
new study. An international team of 60 scientists found that while elephants historically ranged across a 772,000-square-mile region in Cameroon, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon and the Republic of Congo, they now exist in just 25 percent of that area, said John Hart, scientific director for the Lukuru Foundation and co-author of the study published in the journal PLoS ONE
. The decade-long survey, which involved the work of many local conservation staff members who walked more than 8,000 miles conducting censuses, is the largest ever conducted on forest elephants. According to the survey, the remaining 100,000 forest elephants are increasingly scarce in regions with high human populations, heavy poaching, and weak governance.
01 Mar 2013:
Loss of Wild Pollinators
Affecting Global Crop Production
Research data from 600 fields in 20 countries shows that wild bees and insects are more effective pollinators than domesticated honey bees, suggesting that the continuing loss of wild insects in many agricultural
landscapes has negative consequences for crop harvests.
Reporting in Science
, an international team of 50 scientists analyzed data from 41 crop systems around the world. They found that widespread development and modern agricultural techniques that use every available hectare of land decrease the number of key pollinators, such as wild bees, butterflies, and beetles. As the numbers and diversity of these pollinators decreases, flowering plants receive fewer visits from these insects, resulting in lower production of important crops such as tomatoes, melons, and coffee. The researchers said that using domesticated or managed honey bees did not make up for the loss of wild bees and insects. The study suggests new practices to preserve natural or semi-natural areas to support wild pollinators.
28 Feb 2013:
Earth Unlikely to Face
An Ecological Tipping Point, Study Says
A team of international scientists has rejected the idea that the planet could face a sudden and irreversible ecological shift as a result of largely human-driven pressures, suggesting that such global transformations are more likely to occur over a long period of time. While earlier studies have warned that ecological pressures — including climate change, biodiversity loss, and over-exploitation of resources — could drive the planet toward a dangerous “tipping point,” the new paper says the ecosystems of different continents are not sufficiently interconnected for such a global shift to occur
. And while as much as 80 percent of the biosphere includes ecosystems that have been affected by human activities, major ecological shifts driven by these human pressures “depend on local circumstances and will therefore differ between localities,” said Erle Ellis, a scientist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and co-author of the paper, published in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution
20 Feb 2013:
Camera Trap in Amazon
Gives Stunning Glimpse of Species Diversity
Using footage from a camera trap trained on a single “colpa” salt lick in the remote jungle of the western Amazon, a Peru-based conservationist has captured a rare glimpse into the region’s robust biodiversity,
documenting an array of species, some of which are threatened, in an area now targeted by loggers, miners, and other developers. During a four-week period, Paul Rosolie’s camera collected footage of dozens of species
, including a troop of howler monkeys, a giant anteater, and a host of big cats — including jaguars, pumas, and ocelots — constantly on the hunt for prey. In a short film, Rosolie, a field director at a research station for Tamandua Expeditions, documents a wide array of wildlife in a region of the lower Las Piedras River in Peru.
08 Feb 2013:
Memory of Magnetic Landscape
Guides Salmon to Home Rivers, Study Shows
Although magnetism has been known to play a role in the remarkable homing ability of salmon, a new study clarifies just how the fish use magnetic fields
to travel thousands of miles to their natal rivers to spawn. Researchers at Oregon State University solved this mystery by studying 56 years of fishery data involving the millions of sockeye salmon that annually pour into British Columbia’s Fraser River. Vancouver Island sits in front of the Fraser, and the routes the salmon took around the island in different years offered clues to how the fish decipher shifting magnetic fields. When the magnetic field of the northern passageway around Vancouver Island was similar to that experienced by the fish when they left the river two years earlier, the returning salmon tended to chose the northern route;
the reverse was true when there was a more southerly magnectic field. Lead researcher Nathan Putnam said this showed that juvenile salmon imprint on the magnetic signature of their home rivers and then seek their way back using that signature. The research was published in Current Biology
06 Feb 2013:
More than 11,000 Elephants
Killed In Gabon Park Since 2004, Study Says
Poachers have slaughtered more than 11,000 elephants in Gabon’s Minkebe National Park
rainforest since 2004, according to a new study by Gabon’s government and two leading conservation groups. The study said that in the past 9 years, two-thirds of the forest elephants in Minkebe — about 11,100 animals — have been killed by poachers for their tusks. The study comes as tens of thousands of African elephants are being killed annually
to feed a growing demand for ivory jewelry and ornamental items in a fast-growing Asian economy. Gabon said that many of the poachers are infiltrating Minkebe park from Cameroon and that the forest elephants’ harder and straighter tusks are coveted by poachers and dealers.
Orphaned Siberian Tiger Cubs
Are Readied for New Life in Wild
Last November, three Siberian tiger cubs were orphaned in the sparsely populated taiga of the Russian Far East, their mother apparently a victim of poachers.
A call from local villagers to Russian wildlife officials set in motion a rescue mission that continues to this day, as Russian and U.S. scientists prepare the tigers for eventual release back into the wild. One of those scientists is Dale Miquelle, who directs the Russia program of the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society. He helped capture one of the cubs and is now working with Russian experts on readying the six-month-old tigers for life in the wild at a rehabilitation facility. As Miquelle explains in this report from the field
, saving every Siberian tiger is vital, as fewer than 500 survive in the wild. Read more
18 Jan 2013:
In Kenya Reserves, Poaching
Is Leading Cause of Death for Elephants
A 14-year study of elephants in northern Kenya has found that the animals are now more likely to die at the hands of human poachers
than of natural causes. When researchers began tracking 934 individual elephants at
African savanna elephant
two adjacent reserves, Samburu and Buffalo Springs, in 1997, elephant populations were growing and illegal killing was rare, with perhaps one animal killed per year, according to George Wittemyer, a Colorado State University wildlife biologist and lead author of the study published in PLoS ONE
. But that started to change over the last decade, particularly for older elephants, which have larger tusks. In 2000, there were 38 male elephants over the age of 30 in their study population; by 2011, the number had dropped to 12. By that time, 56 percent of all elephants found dead had been poached. The long-term slaughter
also altered the demographics of the population. While males accounted for 42 percent of the population in 1997, their numbers dropped to 32 percent by 2011. Ten of the family groups being tracked effectively “disappeared.”
17 Jan 2013:
Journals of Iconic Naturalists
Reveal Plants Are Blooming Much Earlier
An analysis of records kept by iconic naturalists Henry David Thoreau and Aldo Leopold has revealed evidence that some native plants in the eastern U.S. are flowering as much as much as a month earlier
in spring than they did even just six decades ago. Writing in the journal PLoS ONE
, scientists from Boston and Harvard universities and the University of Wisconsin-Madison report that many plant species found in and around Concord, Mass. — including serviceberry and nodding trillium — are now blooming an average of 11 days earlier than when Thoreau kept copious notes in the 1850s. In Wisconsin, where Leopold and his students collected comprehensive data on spring blooms from 1933 to 1945, the evidence of earlier flowering is even more pronounced: During the unusually warm spring of 2012, the study says, plants bloomed an average of one month earlier than they did 67 years earlier. Scientists say the findings could provide critical insights into the effects of climate change on native plants, and the long-term implications this could have on the plants and the animals and insects that depend upon them.
Interview: Perils and Rewards
Of Protecting Congo’s Gorillas
It is difficult to imagine a more dangerous place to be a conservationist than the Democratic Republic of Congo, which for decades has been ravaged by war and civil
Virunga National Park/gorillacd.org
Emmanuel de Merode
strife that has left several million people dead. But it is against this backdrop that Emmanuel de Merode has waged a five-year struggle to protect Congo’s Virunga National Park, the oldest national park in Africa and home to one of the last sizeable populations of mountain gorillas. De Merode is the chief warden of Virunga, a UNESCO World Heritage site that encompasses nearly 2 million acres of forests, mountains, savannahs, and iconic wildlife. Since 1996, more than 150 Virunga park rangers have been killed in the line of duty, with two murdered last October. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, de Merode discusses the challenges of protecting the mountain gorillas in a war-torn nation, the remarkable survival of the gorillas amid this strife, and how restoring order inside Virunga National Park could play a role in bringing peace to Congo.
Read the interview
27 Dec 2012:
Group Collecting DNA Codes
Of Endangered Species Gets Google Boost
The Consortium for the Barcode of Life
(CBOL), a global initiative assembling the “DNA barcodes
” of the world’s endangered species, received $3 million from Google this month to create an online database organizers hope will emerge as a critical tool in the enforcement of international wildlife protection laws. Since it was formed in 2004, the consortium’s 200 participating organizations have collected genetic information for more than 100,000 species. With tens of thousands of species currently in danger of extinction, project organizers hope the database will provide a quick and inexpensive way to identify species, including many that are regularly smuggled through airports. In some cases, law enforcement officials would be able to send a small tissue sample to a laboratory for identification rather than requiring an expert to identify the species.
21 Dec 2012:
Changing Oceans May Be Adding
To U.S. Fisheries Decline, Scientists Say
As U.S. fishing regulators weigh stricter catch quotas to allow time for critical species to recover in the waters of New England, scientists say that changing ocean conditions may be a factor in historic fish declines, not just decades of overfishing. Warmer ocean temperatures and changing ecosystems are contributing to declining populations of cod and flounder
in the northeastern U.S., government officials say. In the Gulf of Maine this year, water temperatures were the highest ever recorded, according to the Northeastern Regional Association of Coastal and Ocean Observing Systems. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists say that about half of 36 fish stocks — including cod and flounder — have been shifting northward into deeper, cooler waters for four decades. And while some regulators say the only chance of restoring populations is for tougher quotas on bottom-dwelling “groundfish” species, the New England Fishery Management Council this week delayed a vote on such cuts
after fishermen said the reductions would devastate their industry.
19 Dec 2012:
Climate Already Altering
Ecosystems and Biodiversity, Report Says
Climate change is causing plant and animal species across the U.S. to shift their geographic ranges and life events — from flowering to migration — are being transformed at a faster rate than observed even a few years ago, a new analysis by 60 scientists says. According to the report, “Climate Change on Biodiversity, Ecosystems, and Ecosystem Services
,” some terrestrial species are moving up in elevation at rates 2 to 3 times greater than previously believed, while the range shifts for some marine species have been even greater. These rapid changes in ranges, distributions, and life cycles are forcing species to interact in ways that they never have before and could alter the timing and availability of natural resources critical to biodiversity and ecosystem health. “These geographic range and timing changes are causing cascading effects that extend through ecosystems... creating mismatches between animals and their food sources,” said Nancy Grimm, a scientist at Arizona State University and lead author of the report.
05 Dec 2012:
African Lion Populations
Plummet as Habitat Disappears, Study Says
More than two-thirds of Africa’s lions have disappeared over the last 50 years as the continent’s once-vast savannah regions have been lost to human
A lion in South Africa
development, a new study has found. Using high-resolution satellite images from Google Earth and human population data, Duke University researchers calculated that about 75 percent of the original savannah has been lost since 1960
, driven by land-use changes and deforestation. On the entire continent, they found, there are now just 67 remaining pockets of savannah suitable for lion habitat; only 10 of those areas would be considered lion “strongholds.” Overall, lion populations have dropped from 100,000 to roughly 32,000 in just five decades, according to the study published in the journal Biodiversity and Conservation
. Continued habitat loss projected over the coming decades could put these populations at increased risk, the study said.
03 Dec 2012:
An Advocate's Novel Campaign
To Call Attention to Rhino Slaughter
A South African artist has launched an unorthodox campaign to call attention to the mounting slaughter of rhinoceroses — by sending toenail clippings to the
Chinese embassy. Frustrated that petitions and other protests have done little to curb the poaching of rhinos for their horns, Mark Wilby decided to target the illegal markt in Asia, where the horns are believed to have healing properties. Rhino horns are composed largely of keratin, a protein also found in human nails and hair. Wilby, who is encouraging others to also send nails to the embassy address in Pretoria, concedes the protest is “disrespectful,” but says he wants to put pressure on the Chinese government in hopes that it can help stop the killing of Africa’s rhinos. According to reports, nearly 600 rhinos have been killed illegally
so far this year in South Africa alone. “I’m sending this to the Chinese Embassy in South Africa not because I’m blaming the Chinese government or the Chinese people,” he said in a video posted on YouTube
. “I just don’t know who else to appeal to.”
26 Nov 2012:
Giant Galapagos Tortoise
May Not Be Extinct After All, Tests Reveal
The death of an iconic, century-old giant tortoise on the Galapagos Islands earlier this year may not have meant the end of his species, an upcoming study suggests. In
Galapagos National Park
an analysis of more than 1,600 DNA samples, scientists from Galapagos National Park (GNP) and Yale University determined that at least 17 tortoises found on a volcano on Isabella Island have similar genetic traits
to a tortoise known as “Lonesome George,” a Pinta Island giant tortoise discovered in 1972 and thought to be the last surviving member of his species, Chelonoidis abingdonii
, until his death in June. According to the GNP website, the discovery suggests the possible existence of additional hybrid tortoises, or even “possibly-pure Pinta” giant tortoises, in the Galapagos. The results of the study will be published in the journal Biological Conservation
19 Nov 2012:
Breeding Birds in UK
Have Declined 20 Percent Since 1960s
The population of breeding birds in the UK has plummeted by 21 percent since 1966
, losing more than 44 million birds in less than a half-century, according to the newly released State of the UK’s Birds 2012
report. According to experts, the number of house sparrows has
State of the UK's Birds 2012
The yellow wagtail
dropped from 30 million in 1966, when the first reliable bird-monitoring surveys were conducted, to about 10 million today — a loss of about 50 sparrows every hour. Once-abundant populations of the willow tit have all but disappeared in most regions of the UK, while numbers of the lesser spotted woodpecker and Arctic skua are now too few to number. Populations of farmland bird species are now half of what they were in 1970, according to the report, which draws on information from numerous bird surveys and databases. Land use changes and coastal water management have likely been key factors in these declines, as some species have had increasing difficulty finding suitable places to nest or forage, experts say.
16 Nov 2012:
Majority of Marine Species
Still Remain Unknown to Scientists
While more new marine species were identified over the last 10 years than during any previous decade, as many as two-thirds of the plant and animal species living in the oceans may still be unknown to scientists, a new study says. Writing in the journal Current Biology
, a team of international scientists estimates that there are
The marbled swimming crab
likely 700,000 to 1 million species in the oceans, of which only 226,000 species have so far been identified
. Another 65,000 are sitting in scientific collections awaiting identification, according to the study. The study, which was produced by 270 experts from 32 countries, represents the most comprehensive inventory of marine life, and notes that the majority of unknown species are composed of crustaceans, mollusks, worms, and sponges. “For the first time, we can provide a very detailed overview of species richness, partitioned among all the marine groups,” said Ward Appeltans, a biologist at UNESCO's International Oceanographic Commission and one of the study’s authors. The complete inventory can be viewed online at www.marinespecies.org
14 Nov 2012:
Brazilian Scientists Investigate
Cloning of Eight Endangered Species
Scientists in Brazil are taking steps toward cloning the jaguar and seven other endangered species
, a program they hope will ease pressure on wild populations of the animals. Embrapa, the country’s agricultural research
The maned wolf
agency, working with the Brasilia Zoological Garden, has already collected 420 tissue samples from animals — including maned wolves, black lion tamarins, bush dogs, coatis, collared anteaters, gray broket deer, and bison — that live in the Cerrado, Brazil’s tropical savanna. They are now seeking government permission to conduct cloning experiments. According to Embrapa’s Carlos Frederico Martins, the group is not looking at the cloning as a conservation strategy and does not intend to release the animals into the wild.
09 Nov 2012:
U.S. Pledges Stronger Role
in Stemming Global Trade in Wildlife
The Obama Administration has vowed renewed commitments to help stem the international trade in wildlife
, including the use of U.S. intelligence agencies to track poaching of elephants, rhinos, and other
African savanna elephant bull.
animals in Africa and Asia. Speaking to a group of conservationists and diplomatic leaders on Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said an expanding middle class worldwide has spawned a booming demand for rare species and animal parts that is being supplied by increasingly violent organized gangs and corrupt officials who terrorize communities and overwhelm local law enforcement. In addition to decimating the natural world, Clinton said, this booming trade has dire economic impacts and poses a growing threat to the security of nations worldwide, including U.S. interests. In a series of initiatives, the U.S. will bolster intelligence efforts to track poaching and assess its security impacts and work with other nations to expand and strengthen law enforcement.
06 Nov 2012:
World’s Rarest Whale Species
Identified After New Zealand Beaching
Scientists have confirmed that two whales that washed onto the New Zealand coast two years ago were spade-toothed beaked whales, an enigmatic species so rare that no human is known to have ever seen one alive
. Writing in the journal Current Biology
, New Zealand and U.S. researchers provide the first full description of the species, which previously was known only from three skull fragments recovered over a 140-year span, the most recent of which was found 26 years ago. When conservation workers initially found the adult whale and her 11-foot male calf on a New Zealand beach in December 2010, they thought they were Gray’s beaked whales, a far more common species. But DNA tests of tissue samples collected from the animals revealed that they were actually spade-toothed beaked whales
), a species whose males have blade-like tusk teeth, and researchers later exhumed the whales to conduct additional tests.