Tag Archives: conservation

Rewilding: The Last Truly Wild Horses Return Home

The Przewalski’s horse has rebounded from near extinction. There were once only 12 of these pony-sized wild horses remaining in the entire world. Even just a few years ago, all the existing Przewalski’s horses lived in captivity, and the species was listed by the IUCN as “extinct in the wild.”

42-22097706.jpg__800x600_q85_cropNow, thanks to a captive breeding program, there are over 2,000 of them worldwide, with about 350 living in the wild in Mongolia. These little horses are the last truly wild horse species in the world. The American mustang and other well-known “wild horses” are actually feral rather than wild — they descended from domesticated horses that got free and chose to live in the wild rather than go back to captivity.

The Przewalski’s horses are not out of the woods. There are concerns about their survival in the age of climate change should Mongolia begin to experience unusually harsh winters. And it is possible that they may interbreed with feral horses, diluting their bloodline so that they would no longer be a distinct species. But the Przewalski’s horse seems to have avoided the biggest threat to species recovering from near-extinction — a lack of genetic diversity leading to inbreeding and health problems.

Read more at Smithsonian here.

Read more at Newsweek here.

All images taken from the sites linked above.

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Kawela Bay on Oahu Permanently Protected

A gorgeous surf spot, Kawela Bay and Kahuku Point, on Oahu’s North Shore has been saved from development. The North Shore Community Land Trust, working with the state of Hawaii and the Trust for Public Land, were able to conserve 630 acres of stunning coastline. In addition to protecting a beautiful bay, the move will also protect important habitat for endangered Hawaiian monk seals and threatened green sea turtles.

The land trust’s director notes that they want to protect about 60,000 more acres on Oahu, of which 20,000 are for sale right now.

The article below also highlights the important work other land trusts are doing on the mainland to protect surf spots, calling out the Peninsula Open Space Trust near Mavericks and the Elkhorn Slough Foundation south of Santa Cruz in California, as well as the North Florida Land Trust on the Atlantic coast.

Read more at Surfline here.

How Norway Saved (and is Rebuilding) Its Vast Forests

A century ago, Norway’s forests were overharvested and on the decline after centuries of logging for firewood and timber (much of it exported to other European nations). Now, the forest has three times the trees it did 100 years ago, and Norway’s annual tree growth offsets 60% of its carbon emissions (as trees are nature’s best carbon dioxide filters). How has Norway accomplished this? By smart forest planning.

The nation harvests only 50% of its annual tree growth each year. This means that the forests are increasing in size. New policies such as preventing livestock from grazing in harvested areas, which prevents regrowth, as well as an aggressive tree-planting scheme, have contributed to the success.

Challenges remain. Critics complain that Norway is not managing its forests for biodiversity, but is treating them like tree plantations instead. Only a very small percentage of Norwegian forests are protected in national parks and so forth. In addition, far northern climates like Norway’s are among the fastest-warming in the new global climate era. It remains to be seen how well Norway’s trees will adapt to a warmer climate.

I recently posted a story about how Norway is due to complete payment of $1 billion to Brazil for its incredible work in reducing deforestation of the Amazon. What a smart country.

Read more at the BBC here.

Wild Bison Return to Colorado

This is my favorite kind of story — when wildlife are allowed to return to habitats they used to live in before being hunted nearly to extinction. Last week, on National Bison Day, 10 bison were reintroduced to northern Colorado, where they haven’t roamed free for more than 150 years.

The National Wildlife Federation worked to bring brucellosis-free bison to a 1000-acre parcel of open space owned by the city of Fort Collins and Larimer County. Brucellosis is a bacterial disease that can cause female bison to miscarry. Because it is possibly transmissible to domestic cattle, ranchers have long fought the reintroduction of bison in areas where their cattle might come into contact with them. The 10 bison released in Colorado last week were bred using a new technique that should guarantee they are free of brucellosis. The eventual goal is to have a herd of hundreds of bison roaming about 10,000 acres. Bison from this large herd could go on to repopulate other areas or provide fresh bloodlines to other bison herds.

Only a few bison were left in the U.S after the herds of 30 million were reduced to just a few individuals by the late 1800s. Ten bison is just a small start, but someday large herds could roam parts of Colorado again.

View the National Wildlife Federation blog post here

Washingtonians Vote to Protect Wildlife

The citizens of Washington state just voted to enact a new law that will “prohibit the purchase, sale, and distribution of products made from a list of 10 endangered animals being exploited to the point of potential extinction, and will be enforced by strong penalties. The animals protected by I-1401 include elephants, rhinos, lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, marine turtles, pangolins, sharks and rays.”

This is great news, as these are some of the most targeted and trafficked animals in the world. The U.S. Senate will soon be considering a bill (recently passed by the House) that will strengthen federal criminal penalties for illegal wildlife trafficking. Although we are still sad about the death of Cecil the Lion, it is certainly true that his death has shined a spotlight on the issue of international wildlife crimes.

You can view the original National Wildlife Federation Action Fund post here

Save Animals Facing Extinction (bill sponsor)’s site here.

Yellowstone Grizzly Population is Growing

New research based on genetic testing of grizzly bears in Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks shows that the bear population is increasing in size. The tests also indicate that the population is not suffering from a lack of genetic diversity, which can happen in an animal population contained within a (relatively) small area. While the current range of the Yellowstone grizzly is around the size of South Carolina, that represents a greatly restricted home, as the species used to roam the U.S. from California to Ohio and from Alaska to Mexico. And while there were once tens of thousands of grizzlies in North America, there remain only about 2000 in the lower 48. Almost all of these are found in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, with a small population of maybe 80 bears in Washington state.

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Of course, the state flag of California still features a grizzly bear, even though the last time a bear was seen in California was in 1924. In the 1800s, residents of San Francisco could watch grizzlies swim across the San Francisco Bay to Angel Island! What a sight that would be. The Center for Biological Diversity is calling for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to consider reintroducing grizzlies to California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. Read more at CBD’s newsroom here.

Read about the bear study here.

Read about bringing back grizzlies at Defenders of Wildlife’s site here