Gorillas mourn loss of loved ones

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It may be one of nature’s more heartbreaking scenes: a mountain gorilla  mother refusing to let go of her dead infant.

Last month in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Virunga National Park, ranger Innocent Mburanumwe captured pictures of the first-time mother, Ruzuzi, appearing to grieve over her less-than-two-week-old baby. Ruzuzi kept the body with her for more than a week, according to Mburanumwe.

Gorillas have long been known to exhibit care for the dead. Mburanumwe, for instance, has seen behavior similar to that of Ruzuzi’s on at least three occasions.

Virunga veterinarian Jan Ramer said, “While we can never know what is really going on in their heads, it sure seems some gorillas do mourn—or don’t accept that the individual is dead.

“When an adult female died last year, her three sons stayed with her body for 24 hours,” added Ramer, a regional vet manager for the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project who has studied mountain gorillas since the mid-1980s.

“I believe they were sad and confused, which is how I feel when I am mourning.

Montana to Allow Wolf Hunting

ImageGray wolf hunts are under way in Montana and Idaho as state officials seek to sharply reduce the predator’s numbers in hopes of curbing attacks on livestock and big game herds.

Montana’s hunt kicked off at sunrise Saturday with a six-week, archery-only wolf season. A general wolf hunting season opens Oct. 22 and runs through the end of the year.

Montana wildlife officials have set a statewide harvest quota of 220 wolves, which would reduce the state’s population to a projected 425 animals.

Idaho’s hunt began Tuesday. There is no quota across most of Idaho, and hunting is scheduled to run through June 1 in some areas.

Wildlife advocates failed in their bid to get a federal court injunction barring the hunts, which became possible after gray wolves in five states lost their federal protections this spring under an act of Congress.

License sales are down in both states compared with hunts in 2009. That could undermine the states’ goal of killing enough wolves to reduce attacks on cows, sheep and big game such as elk and moose.

But officials said they expect sales to pick up as the hunting season goes on. Also, wildlife commissioners from the two states adopted changes this year meant to target wolves where predation has been the biggest problem.

“We’re trying to be more surgical and distribute the harvest,” said Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Ron Aasheim.

The 2009 wolf seasons marked the first time the animals had been subject to organized public hunting in the Lower 48 states since they were nearly exterminated in the 1930s.

Wyoming briefly allowed the animals to be shot on sight in 2008. The state’s 343 wolves have since been returned to the endangered species list because Wyoming’s wolf management law was considered too hostile.

Many of the 72 wolves killed in Montana in 2009 were taken in remote backcountry locations where livestock attacks are infrequent. That meant fewer wolves could be killed in the more-populated agricultural areas where problems with wolves have been more common.

For this year’s wolf season, state officials divvied up the quota among 14 hunting units, versus just three in 2009.

Idaho hunters in 2009 failed to reach the state’s 220-wolf quota even after the season was extended by several months. This year, commissioners set no limit on the number of wolves that can be killed in most parts of the state.

The move sparked criticism from wildlife advocates who said wolf populations could be decimated without quotas.

Idaho officials counter that they can call off the hunt if wolf numbers get too low, although no minimum number has been offered. Idaho had at least 705 wolves at the end of 2010 and state officials say there could be more than 1,000.

“If you believe the rhetoric, we would have already wiped out half our wolves by yesterday,” said Idaho Fish and Game Deputy Director Jim Unsworth. “It’s just not going to happen that way. We’re not rookies at managing hunters and hunter harvests.”

Wolf management actions by the states will be monitored for five years by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under terms of the animal’s removal from the endangered species list. If wolf numbers tumble, federal protections could be restored.

Protections also could be restored if state laws or policies change in a way that “significantly increases the threat to the wolf population” said Seth Wiley, a recovery specialist with U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

But Wiley said his agency was confident both Montana and Idaho would maintain enough wolves to keep them off the endangered list.

A lawsuit from wildlife advocates challenging the transfer of authority over wolves to the states remains pending before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Orangutan habitat all but destroyed by 2022

The tropical forests of South East Asia, important for local livelihoods and the last home of the orangutan are disappearing far faster than experts have previously supposed according to a new Rapid Response report from The UN Environment Programme.
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The report says that natural rainforests of Sumatra and Borneo are being cleared so rapidly that up to 98% may be destroyed by 2022 unless urgent action is taken now. The rate of loss, which has accelerated in the past five years, outstrips a previous UNEP report released in 2002. Then, experts estimated that most of the suitable orangutan habitat would be lost by 2032.

Tigers have disappeared from 40% of their range in the last 10 years.

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The most comprehensive scientific study of tiger habitats ever completed has discovered that they have disappeared from 40 percent of their range of 10 years ago, and now only occupy only 7% of their historic range.

The research was commissioned by the Save The Tiger Fund and undertaken by many of the world’s leading tiger specialists at the WWF, the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Save The Tiger Fund. The study calls for specific actions to safeguard the surviving populations. The research shows that conservation initiatives like protection from poaching, conservation of prey species and preserving the tigers’ natural habitat have resulted in some populations remaining stable or even increasing. But it states that long-term success can only be achieved by wide ranging conservation vision across many boundaries.

See the leatest reports of tiger poaching. ‘The report documents a nadir for tigers, and plots a way forward to reverse the trend,’ stated John Robinson of the Wildlife Conservation Society. ‘We can save tigers forever. However, tiger conservation requires commitment from local partners, governments and international donors; along with effective, science-based conservation efforts to bring the species back to all parts of its biological range.’

Utilising land use information, maps of human influence, and on-the-ground studies of tigers, the study identifies seventy six ‘tiger conservation zones’, places and habitats where tiger populations have the best chance of a long term future. Large carnivores like tigers are very vulnerable to extinction if isolated in small pockets and reserves. About 50% of the 76 zones could still support 100 or more tigers, providing an excellent chance for the recovery of wild tiger populations. The largest viable tiger zones exist in the Russian Far East and India. Southeast Asia has some promise to sustain healthy tiger populations even though many areas have lost tigers over the last decade. ‘As tigers ranges span borders, so must tiger conservation,’ stated Eric Dinerstein, chief scientist at the WWF. ‘Asia’s economic growth should not come at the expense of tiger habitat.’
The group’s main conclusion from the research is that to protect the remaining tigers, increased conservation of the twenty top priority tiger conservation zones is required. The group is ready to support the thirteen countries where tigers live in the wild in a regional effort to save the species. The report suggests that the heads of state of those countries convene a ‘tiger summit’ to elevate the conservation of tigers on their countries’ agendas. ‘Saving wild tigers requires many countries to work together,’ stated Mahendra Shrestha, director of National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Save The Tiger Fund. ‘We’ve learned many important lessons over the last decade and this research provides a blueprint for scientists and the countries that hold the key for the tigers’ survival.’

The study was funded by the Save The Tiger Fund, a partnership between the ExxonMobil Foundation, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and other donors such as the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund. Additional funding was provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.N. Foundation. It was written by scientists from Wildlife Conservation Society, World Wildlife Fund and the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park.

Aplomado Falcon to be re-introduced into New Mexico

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will reintroduce the rare northern aplomado falcon back into its historical range in New Mexico. Falcons bred in captivity will be reintroduced to southern New Mexico and allowed to disperse into Arizona.

The falcons will be released in groups of 5-7 with the total annual release not to exceed 150 birds. The state lines of New Mexico and Arizona will form the boundaries for a new experimental population of the endangered northern aplomado falcon.

The reintroduction is part of a scheme create a viable population of the rare bird. The falcon was listed as endangered in 198, however as part of the experimental population, falcons in Arizona or New Mexico are no longer considered endangered, although they will have some protections under the Endangered Species Act. This designation allows greater flexibility for land managers where falcons occur. The re-introduction program will be evaluated every five years. Land within the falcon’s preferred habitat comprises 28.6 million acres. The falcons will come from The Peregrine Fund’s captive population that also supplies birds for the Service’s ongoing recovery efforts in Texas.

In partnership with The Peregrine Fund, more than 1,000 falcons have been released in Texas. To date, more than 244 young have successfully fledged. ‘We’ve had good success over the twenty years we’ve been putting birds in Texas, I expect the same outcome in New Mexico and Arizona.’

The falcon has been seen sporadically over the years in the two states but has only successfully nested once since the 1950’s – a time when pesticide contamination and habitat alteration caused severe population declines.

The northern aplomado falcon (Falco femoralis septentrionalis) is a subspecies of the aplomado falcon, and a member of the falcon family (Falconidae). It is smaller than a prairie falcon, and larger than the American kestrel and merlin. The northern aplomado falcon is readily identified by its bold facial pattern with a distinctive white stripe above the eye, a strongly banded tail, and brown ‘vest.’

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Welcome to The Howler Wildlife News.  This blog has been created to share up-to-date Wildlife News from around the worldImage