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Massacred Elephants, Found Frogs and Other Links from the Brink

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Elephants, turtles, grizzly bears and some of the world’s rarest frogs are among the endangered species in the news this week.

Dzanga Bai elephantsWorst News of the Week: Armed gunmen entered the Dzanga Bai World Heritage Site in the violence-plagued Central African Republic this week and slaughtered at least 26 elephants. The site is known as the “village of elephants” and as many as 200 elephants gather at its nutrient-rich sand and waters every day. According to WWF, a witness described the scene this week as “an elephant mortuary.” Developing.

Photo: Elephants and other wildlife photographed at Dzanga Bai in 2008 by Nicholas Rost. Used under Creative Commons license

Poached Eggs: Authorities in Indonesia this week intercepted a shipment of about 2,000 endangered turtle eggs. The eggs were bound for the city of Samarinda, where they would have fetched about a dollar apiece on the black market. No one has been arrested to date.

Take Action: Should grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) in Montana be removed from the Endangered Species Act? The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants your comments on a draft conservation strategy for grizzlies in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem.

dusky gopher frogHopping Good News: One of the rarest amphibians in the world, the dusky gopher frog (Rana sevosa) has long been found only at a single pond in Mississippi. Well, now they live in two ponds. The USDA Forest Service announced that a five-year-old female frog has found her way to a second pond a mile away. At least five other dusky gopher frogs have joined here there. This second habitat gives the species—named as one of the 100 most endangered species in the world last year—a slight edge in its fight against extinction.

Photo: Dusky gopher from by John A. Tupy/Western Carolina University

Squashed: Last year a New Zealand man ignored warning signs and drove his four-wheel vehicle into the middle of a colony of 10,000 endangered black-billed gulls (Chroicocephalus bulleri) at one of their most important breeding sites, squashing an unknown number of eggs and nests. He has now been sentenced to all of two months in jail for his crime. Sigh.

The Headline I Did Not Expect to Read: Kangaroo scrotums are the new victims of global warming. Thanks, Vice.

Rhino Drones and Comedy: Inspired by my recent article on unmanned aerial vehicles (aka drones) being used to help protect rhinos from poachers, this event hopes to raise $20,000 in one night to benefit the Aerial Conservation Drone Project. In related news, Tanzania has announced a new plan to use drones and the country’s military to help protect rhinos and elephants from poaching.

Celebrity Activist of the Week: Popular Chinese actress Li Bingbing (Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame) was in Kenya last week speaking out against the illegal ivory trade. She’s asking governments, businesses and consumers to take a more active role in ending illegal wildlife trade. “Many consumers in Asia do not realize that by buying ivory, they are playing a role in the illegal wildlife trade and its serious consequences,” she said. “As global citizens, we need to take responsibility by learning more about the potential impacts of our lifestyle choices.”

Well, that’s it for this time around. For more endangered species news stories throughout the week, read the regular Extinction Countdown articles here at Scientific American, “like” Extinction Countdown on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter.

John R. Platt About the Author: 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.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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