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Extinction Countdown

Extinction Countdown

News and research about endangered species from around the world
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    John R. Platt Twice a week, John Platt shines a light on endangered species from all over the globe, exploring not just why they are dying out but also what's being done to rescue them from oblivion. Follow on Twitter @johnrplatt.
  • Indian Vultures Are Dying for Some Good News

    white rumped vulture

    When a species experiences catastrophic population declines as high as 99.9 percent, any bit of good news is cause for celebration—even if the news isn’t exactly great. India’s vultures now have some. The birds were almost completely wiped out by a veterinary drug called diclofenac, but a new study finds that the number of deaths [...]

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    Sage Grouse and Oil Drilling Can Co-Exist, Says New Report

    greater sage grouse

    Conservation groups and energy-development companies have been at odds the last few years over an odd, dancing bird called the greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus). These land-based birds live in and rely upon sagebrush habitats in California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. Unfortunately, those habitats have been disappearing [...]

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    A Wild Idea: Save Tasmanian Devils While Controlling Killer Cats

    tasmanian devils

    Tasmanian devils (Sarcophilus harrisii) disappeared from mainland Australia centuries ago, probably not long after humans first brought dingoes to the continent. A new plan could bring the infamous, snarling predators back from the island of Tasmania to Oz. That would not only benefit the devils, which are dying out due to a communicable cancer, but [...]

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    Poison Dart Frog Threatened by Toxic Gold Mines

    dart frog

    A tiny species of poison dart frog barely the size of a human fingernail has been discovered in a pocket of forest in central Panama, but its unique chirps may not be heard for much longer. The new species—dubbed Andinobates geminisae—was discovered in 2011 by researchers from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and the Autonomous [...]

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    Elephants are Worth 76 Times More Alive Than Dead: Report


    Ivory from a poached elephant sells on the black market for about $21,000. A living elephant, on the other hand, is worth more than $1.6 million in ecotourism opportunities. That’s the conclusion of a new report from the The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. The report—“Dead or Alive? Valuing an Elephant” (pdf)—follows on the heels of [...]

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    Sloth Bears Confirmed Extinct in Bangladesh

    sloth bear

    A massive project to assess the health of wildlife in Bangladesh has confirmed conservationists’ longstanding suspicions that sloth bears no longer exist in that country. Sloth bears (Melursus ursinus) could once be found throughout India, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. (A separate subspecies lives on the island nation of Sri Lanka.) Overhunting during the British colonial [...]

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    Deforestation Threatens Newly Identified Bird in Brazil

    Bahian mouse-colored tapaculo

    Discovering a new species isn’t always as easy as saying “Look, there’s a new species!” In the case of a rare bird recently identified in Brazil, it took about 20 years for scientists to gather enough evidence to classify it as a new species. The journey began in the early 1990s when scientists found an [...]

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    Mysterious Flying Squirrel Could Get Endangered Species Protection

    San Bernardino flying squirrel

    The squirrels gliding amid the mountains east of Los Angeles have been, for the most part, flying under the scientific radar. There has never been a single scientific paper published specifically about the San Bernardino flying squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus californicus), even though hundreds of papers about squirrels in general are published every year. Despite this [...]

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    This Massive Squirrel Has Been Saved from Extinction

    Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel

    It only took about half a century, but the once-rare Delmarva fox squirrel (Sciurus niger cinereus) now has a healthy population once again, placing it in a position to finally leave the protection of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). If that happens, this giant squirrel—which can reach an astonishing 75 centimeters in length—would join just [...]

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    Chinese Sturgeon Give Up, Stop Breeding in Polluted Yangtze River

    chinese sturgeon

    When an endangered species stops breeding, you know its days are probably numbered. In China the countdown has apparently begun for the critically endangered Chinese sturgeon (Acipenser sinensis). According to a report issued this week by the Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences, only about 100 of the massive fish remain in the heavily polluted and [...]

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