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Extinction Countdown

Extinction Countdown

News and research about endangered species from around the world

Deadly Snakes, Ugly Critters, Leonardo DiCaprio and Other Links from the Brink

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A deadly but critically endangered snake, one of the world's rarest birds and a heavily guarded flower are among the endangered species in the news this week.

Bothriechis guifarroiA New Snake with a Sad Story: A gorgeous but extremely dangerous new snake species has been discovered in Honduras. The new palm pit viper has been named Bothriechis guifarroi in honor of assassinated forest campaigner Mario Guifarro, a former hunter and gold miner who was killed in 2007 after he switched his allegiances to protecting forests rather than destroying them. The researchers who discovered the new snake are recommending it be classified as critically endangered due to the ongoing habitat loss in the region.

Photo: Josiah H. Townsend, Department of Biology, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Celebrate Forty Years: Yesterday, May 17, marked the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act. It was also the eighth annual Endangered Species Day. Don't worry if you missed it—there are still dozens of Endangered Species Day events going on this weekend. Click here to find one in your area.

Let's Hope for Another 40: Even as we celebrate 40 years of the Endangered Species Act, forces are hard at work trying to dismantle it. Most recently, 13 Republicans in the House of Representatives have formed a "working group" to examine how the act works. Considering that the participants include notorious anti-environmentalists such as Washington's "Doc" Hastings, you have to wonder about their real agenda.

Kakapo Lost and Found: New Zealand's critically endangered kakapo (Strigops habroptila) ranks high on the list of my favorite species. This week brought both good and bad news about these rare flightless parrots. The bad news is that a kakapo named Fuchsia has died, lowering the population of this species down to 124 birds. The good news is that another kakapo that had been missing for three months has been located. Even better, another unknown and possibly uncounted kakapo might be nearby. The Kakapo Recovery Program has the story on their Facebook page.

Ugly is Beautiful: I'm as guilty of this as anyone: It's easier to promote and care about the more attractive and iconic endangered species than it is to worry about endangered slugs and other unbecoming creatures. That's where the Ugly Animal Society comes in. This U.K.-based comedy presentation focuses on "Mother Nature's more aesthetically challenged children." Founded by Simon D. Watt, the events (there are a few coming up in June) will encourage people to "adopt" some of the world's less-cute endangered species. Break a leg, folks!

Men in Black: Britain's rarest flower will have 24/7 bodyguards when it is on display at the Chelsea Flower Show this week. Let's hope this isn't where all endangered species will be in the future.

wild onesBook of the Week: I'm about half-way through an excellent new book by Jon Mooallem, Wild Ones: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America. The book has a photo of a polar bear on the cover, but it's really about people and how we relate to and interact with wildlife and endangered species. Wild Ones came out this week and it's already earning high praise. I recommend it.

Celebrity Activist of the Week: An art auction organized by actor and activist Leonardo DiCaprio has raised $38.8 million for environmental and conservation programs. As you could expect from DiCaprio's ongoing efforts to help tigers and elephants, some of the funds will go toward initiatives to protect wildlife and endangered species. Way to go, Leo.

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.

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

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