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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.
  • All 8 Pangolin Species Being Eaten into Extinction

    ground pangolin

    A few days ago customs officials in Vietnam raided a cargo ship from Sierra Leone and seized an astonishing 1.4 tons of dried pangolin scales. The grisly discovery came from the bodies of as many as 10,000 dead pangolins, the scaly anteaters of Africa and Asia that are being hunted into extinction for their meat [...]

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    Somali Ostrich and 360 Other Newly Discovered Birds Added to List of Threatened Species

    somali ostrich

    Did you know there are two species of ostrich? Don’t worry if this is news to you—scientists didn’t know that for sure either until this year, when the Somali ostrich (Struthio molybdophanes) of Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti and Kenya was declared a separate species from the common ostrich (S. camelus). Previously considered a subspecies, the Somali [...]

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    Wild Births are Big Steps for Rare California Condors and Mexican Wolves

    california condor

    Two species that couldn’t be more different have had similarly good news this week. First we go to Utah’s Zion National Park, where a pair of California condors (Gymnogyps californianus) successfully hatched a chick in a nest more than 300 meters off the ground. This is the first wild condor birth in Utah since the [...]

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    Baby Mountain Gorillas Celebrated by 40,000 People in Rwanda

    mountain gorilla baby

    Well I just found something to add to my bucket list. Earlier this month 40,000 people gathered in Rwanda for the 10th Kwita Izina, the annual ceremony that celebrates and names all of the known mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) born during the previous year in the Virunga National Park Transboundary Collaboration, which stretches across [...]

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    Tiger Skins Are Like Fingerprints—Could That Help Stop Smugglers and Poachers?


    Last month forest rangers in India arrested a 21-year-old engineering student and his friend who had been caught carrying a tiger skin that they intended to sell for nearly $25,000. A few days earlier Indonesian police raided the homes of two suspected wildlife traffickers, where they confiscated a small menagerie of live animals, a number [...]

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    Why Is Namibia Killing Its Rare Desert Elephants?

    desert elephant

    On Saturday, June 21 one of the Republic of Namibia’s rare desert elephants was felled by a hunter’s rifle. Unlike most of the other elephants that die on any given day in Africa, this particular elephant was slain legally. Namibia has reportedly sold nine hunting permits to foreign hunters for undisclosed amounts. Two of the [...]

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    Endangered Manatees Face a New Threat: Lawsuits


    What do manatees and bureaucracy have in common? They both have a tendency to move slowly—sometimes painfully slowly. In Florida manatees’ own lethargy puts the animals at risk of being killed or injured by the speedboats that zip through the state’s waterways. Sluggish bureaucracy, meanwhile, has created an opportunity for groups who oppose the manatees’ [...]

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    Japan Could Lose 561 Plant Species by the Next Century

    Polemonium kiushianum

    A massive new study of Japan’s native plants reveals an extinction crisis in the making. The study examined 1,618 threatened Japanese vascular plant species, most of which can be only be found in extremely limited ranges and many of which already face shrinking populations. According to a paper published June 12 in PLoS ONE, the [...]

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    Bye-Bye Tricolored Blackbird as Population Crashes 44 Percent in 3 Years

    tricolored blackbird

    Populations of California’s already endangered tricolored blackbirds (Agelaius tricolor) have fallen by 44 percent since 2011 and 64 percent since 2008, according to a survey coordinated by the University of California, Davis. The state is now home to just 145,000 of these birds, which live almost exclusively in California. Eighty years ago the population numbered [...]

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    After Near-Extinction, Recovery Declared for 2 Island Foxes

    island fox

    Most efforts to rescue threatened species from the risk of extinction involve decades of hard work. Even our country’s national symbol, the iconic bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), required more than 40 years before it had recovered enough to leave the protection of the Endangered Species Act. Every once in a while, though, things move a [...]

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