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How Zoos Acquire Endangered Species

orangutan bob oregon zoo

How do you transport two young orangutans to a zoo thousands of kilometers away from their native lands? Here’s the simple answer: FedEx. Here’s the less simple answer: It’s a lot of work. Meet Bob and Kumar Kumar and Bob are in playful moods on the rainy morning that I see them at Oregon Zoo [...]

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1,215: The Record Number of Rhinos Poached in 2014


South Africa has finally finished compiling its report on the number of rhinos poached in the country last year and, as expected, the news is terrible. All-told, 1,215 rhinos were killed by poachers in South Africa in 2014, the highest number ever and an increase of 21 percent over 2013. By comparison, just 13 rhinos [...]

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The Best (or Worst) of 2014

northern white rhino

I wrote more than 150 articles about endangered species in 2014. Very few of them could be considered “good news.” But be they good news or bad, here are some of the best “Extinction Countdown” articles of the past year. Shocking Study Finds Lions are Nearly Extinct in West Africa — One of the most-read [...]

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Another Northern White Rhino Dies, Only 5 Remain

northern white rhino

And then there were five. The death by old age this past weekend of Angalifu, a 44-year-old northern white rhino (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) that lived at San Diego Zoo, reduces the world population of this critically endangered subspecies to just five, all of which live in captivity and none of which are breeding. One more [...]

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African Lions Face Extinction by 2050, Could Gain Endangered Species Act Protection


The African lion (Panthera leo leo) faces the threat of extinction by the year 2050, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director Dan Ashe warned today. The sobering news came as part of the agency’s announcement that it has officially proposed that African lions receive much-needed protection under the Endangered Species Act. The decision to list [...]

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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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10 Years of Extinction Countdown: A Lot of Good in the Face of Mass Losses

mountain gorilla

Ten years. Nearly 1,200 articles. I have no idea how many species. I have no idea how many tears. *** When I started what was then called “Extinction Blog” on August 19, 2004, I didn’t know what it would become, let alone who I would be a decade later. To be honest, I didn’t set [...]

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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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First-Ever Video of Critically Endangered Myanmar Snub-Nosed Monkeys

myanmar snub-nosed monkey

Here’s something you don’t see every day: video footage of the critically endangered Myanmar snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus strykeri), a species that was only discovered in 2010. You can count at least 23 of the rare monkeys, out of a total population estimated to range from 260 to 330 individuals for the entire species, in the [...]

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Only 4 Northern White Rhinos Remain in Africa: Inside the Last Attempts to Breed and Save Them

northern white rhino

Richard Vigne, CEO of Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, admits that there’s not a huge amount of hope of saving the northern white rhino (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) from extinction. “You have to be realistic,” he says, referring to the conservancy’s efforts to breed the last four northern white rhinos in Africa. “The reality is that [...]

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From Saved to Stolen: Thief Absconds with Extinct-in-the-Wild Water Lily

Nymphaea thermarum

This is why we can’t have nice species: Last week one of the world’s rarest plants was stolen from public display in London at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. An unknown thief or thieves walked in, pulled or dug up the plant and disappeared with it. The tiny thermal water lily (Nymphaea thermarum) is the [...]

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Good News for One of the World’s Rarest Monkeys

tonkin snub-nosed monkeys

You know that a species is in rough shape when a population increase of just 20 animals is cause for celebration. But that’s the case in northern Vietnam this month, where one of the few remaining groups of critically endangered Tonkin snub-nosed monkeys (Rhinopithecus avunculus) has grown from just 90 individuals in 2006 to between [...]

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How the Western Black Rhino Went Extinct

western black rhino

Oh what a difference a century makes. At the beginning of the 20th century, an estimated one million black rhinoceroses from four different subspecies roamed the savannas of Africa. By 2001 that number had dropped to about 2,300 black rhinos and just three subspecies. This is the tale of how we lost one of those [...]

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Century-Old Egg Answers Mystery about Critically Endangered Bird

jerdon's courer egg

Few people have ever seen a Jerdon’s courser (Rhinoptilus bitorquatus), a critically endangered nocturnal bird that lives in a tiny scrub forest in southeastern India. And until recently it was thought that no one had ever seen a Jerdon’s courser nest or egg. But it turns out that a single egg from one of these [...]

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22 Links for World Rhino Day as Poaching Levels Shoot Past 2012′s Deadly Record

southern white rhino

Statistically speaking, at least two rhinos will probably be killed by poachers today. The criminals will descend upon the fallen animals, chop off their horns and disappear. Those horns will then begin their long journey to China or Vietnam where they will be ground up and sold as “cures” for ailments ranging from cancer to [...]

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Rare Monkey Population up 50 Percent in China and Tibet

black snub-nosed money Franziska Bauer

Two decades ago just 50 black snub-nosed monkeys (Rhinopithecus bieti) lived in the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China. This January a survey revealed that number had risen to an amazing 700 animals. Now further surveys of the monkeys’ other populations in China bring us even more good news: The total population for this endangered species [...]

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Pangolins in Peril: All 8 Species of Scaly Anteaters Endangered by Illegal Trade


Dan Challender remembers the first time he saw someone eat a pangolin. As part of his research into the consumer demand and illegal trade of the small mammals—often referred to as scaly anteaters—he found himself in a restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City in 2012. To help his research Challender made friends with the restaurant [...]

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To Save the Sumatran Rhino, Zoo Will Attempt to Mate Brother and Sister

sumatran rhino dumont sq

Sometimes you just get desperate. In a last-ditch effort to help save the Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) from extinction, the Cincinnati Zoo has gathered together the last two members of the species in North America and will now attempt to get them to mate. There’s just one catch: the rhinos are brother and sister. Normally [...]

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As Rhino Poaching Surges, South Africa Proposes Legalized Trade in Precious Horns

white rhino

The South African government released two important and shocking news items last week. The first announcement revealed that 461 rhinos had been poached in the country to date as of July 3—more than were killed in all of 2011. Poachers target the animals for their horns, which are valued in China and Vietnam for their [...]

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Weird Frog Discovered by Charles Darwin May Be Extinct

southern darwin's frog

It looks like we’ve lost another one. The weird and unusual Chile Darwin’s frog (Rhinoderma rufum), whose tadpoles grew inside the vocal sacs of adult males, appears to be extinct: a four-year quest failed to turn up any evidence that the species still exists. The frogs were last seen in 1980. As you might guess [...]

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Diseased Tigers, Wounded Rhinos and Other Links from the Brink

sumatran tiger

Diseases, poachers, smartphones, sewage and animal psychology are in the news this weekend. Temper Tantrum: Evidence of canine distemper has been found in Sumatran tigers (Panthera tigris sumatrae) in Indonesia, according to a recent report from BBC News. Distemper has previously been found in Amur tigers (Panthera tigris altaica) in Russia, where it proved to [...]

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Gray Wolves Declared Recovered and Other Links from the Brink

gray wolf

Gray wolves, little penguins and rare birds in Fiji are among the endangered species in the news this weekend. Prepare for the Howls: In a not-unexpected move, this U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) on Friday announced that it will propose to delist gray wolves (Canis lupus) from the Endangered Species Act (ESA), arguing that [...]

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Desperately Seeking Cichlid: Fish Species Down to Last 3 Males, No Known Females

Mangarahara cichlid

The last three males of an all-but-extinct fish species would really, really, really like to meet a female. Once upon a time the Mangarahara cichlid (Ptychochromis insolitus) lived in a single habitat: a river in Madagascar from which the species gets its name. That river has now been dammed and the habitat has dried up. [...]

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Massacred Elephants, Found Frogs and Other Links from the Brink

Dzanga Bai elephants

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

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Hammerhead Sharks, Houston Toads, Heavy Metal and Other Links from the Brink

great hammerhead shark

Rare sharks, toads, rhinos and bears are among the endangered species in the news this week. Hammer Time: David Shiffman offers 10 reasons why great and scalloped hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna mokarran and S. lewini) deserve Endangered Species Act protections and encourages people to take direct action in support of a move to do just that. [...]

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Slaughtered Rhinos, Vanishing Cheetahs, the Lonely Dodo and Other Links from the Brink


Rhinos, cheetahs, gray wolves and frogs are among the endangered species in the news this week. Worst News of the Week: All of the rhinos in Mozambique’s Limpopo National Park have been completely wiped out by poachers, who are now turning their effort to the park’s elephants. The 1.1 million hectare park is the size [...]

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Hunter Allowed to Import Rhino Trophy into U.S. for First Time in 33 Years

black rhino

For the first time in more than 30 years an American hunter has been allowed to import a trophy from a black rhino he shot in Africa back into the country. Animal-rights groups argue that this is a precedent-setting setback for efforts to preserve the endangered species. Hunters, on the other hand, argue that this [...]

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Pygmy Elephants, Asiatic Lions and Other Links from the Brink

pygmy elephant baby

Pygmy elephants, Asiatic lions and Siamese crocodiles are among the endangered species in the news this week. Pygmy elephant update: Remember the 14 pygmy elephants (Elephas maximus borneensis) that were poisoned in Borneo back in February? There’s both good and bad news about the case. The good news is that Baby Joe, the youngster that [...]

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Starving Orangutans, Dead Bats and Other Links from the Brink (April 13, 2013)

bornean orangutan

Bornean orangutans, gray bats and Grauer’s gorillas are among the endangered species in the news this week. This Week’s Most Heartbreaking Story: A family of Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) was photographed clinging to the sole remaining tree in their former forest habitat after the rest of it had been chopped down for a palm oil [...]

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Ethiopian Lions, Sumatran Rhinos and Other Links from the Brink (April 6, 2013)


Ethiopian lions, Florida panthers, Sumatran rhinos and Yangtze porpoises are among the endangered species in the news this week. Well that was Interesting: The Internet was abuzz this week with “news” about how a pack of lions in Ethiopia supposedly saved a teenage girl from kidnapping rapists. That story actually dates back to 2005 but—as [...]

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Links from the Brink (March 30, 2013)

slender loris

Ivory smugglers, manatees, Iranian cheetahs, slow lorises and Britain’s beloved hedgehogs are in the news this week. Ethics and Endangered Species: A new study accuses wildlife photographers of unethical behavior when it comes to the slender loris (either Loris tardigradus or L. lydekkerianus). The photographers reportedly convinced tribesmen (who consider the species to be taboo) [...]

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De-Extinction: Can Cloning Bring Extinct Species Back to Life?

passenger pigeon

At some point in the next decade, if advances in biotechnology continue on their current path, clones of extinct species such as the passenger pigeon, Tasmanian tiger and wooly mammoth could once again live among us. But cloning lost species—or “de-extinction” as some scientists call it—presents us with myriad ethical, legal and regulatory questions that [...]

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Yaks Are Returning to Tibet, but Does Climate Change Pose Further Risks?

yak tibet

Wild yaks are coming back to at least one area of Tibet after a long period of overhunting, but the future for the species is yet unknown as their periglacial habitat melts because of climate change. Wild yaks (Bos mutus) are among Asia’s largest mammals, second only to elephants and rhinos, and are especially adapted [...]

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Crowd-Funded Drones Could Help Protect Kenyan Rhinos


What if there were only a couple dozen police officers to patrol all of Manhattan? Now imagine that the borough protected something far more valuable than gold, something that heavily armed criminals were willing to kill to get. How could those few officers keep the peace over such a large territory? That’s roughly the equivalent [...]

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Rhino Poaching: An Extinction Crisis

white rhinoceros

In 2010 a black rhinoceros female named Phila survived two separate and brutal attempts on her life. In the first, poachers used a helicopter to attack the private game reserve where she lived in South Africa. Another rhino died in the assault. Phila escaped with two gunshot wounds. She was lucky, but her ordeal was [...]

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Last Wild Siamese Crocodile in Vietnam Found Strangled to Death [Updated]

siamese crocodile

The body of the last wild Siamese crocodile (Crocodylus siamensis) in Vietnam was found floating in Ea Lam Lake on September 29. The 3.2-meter-long, 100-kilogram female had been strangled by two steel wires, possibly by hunters. She was estimated to be nearly 100 years old. Once present throughout Southeast Asia, critically endangered Siamese crocodiles have [...]

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Japanese River Otter Declared Extinct

Japanese river otter

After not being seen for more than 30 years, the Japanese river otter (Lutra lutra whiteleyi) has been declared extinct by the country’s Ministry of the Environment, which also last week declared several other species extinct. Once numbering in the millions, Japanese river otters—a subspecies of the European or Eurasian otter (L. lutra)—were overhunted for [...]

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South Africa Invests in Elephant Birth Control [Video]

elephant family

African elephants face two terribly contradictory threats: In some parts of the continent the animals are being hunted into extinction for their valuable ivory tusks, but in other countries elephants are so heavily overpopulated that they pose a threat not just to themselves but to entire ecosystems. South Africa faces the latter problem. There are [...]

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DNA Test Could Help Save Scottish Wildcat from Extinction—If It Still Exists

Scotland is home to a least a hundred thousand feral cats. Unfortunately, the cats that now live in the Scottish Highlands are not native to the country, and they have helped push the already squeezed native felines closer toward extinction. The native group—the Scottish wildcat (Felis silvestris grampia), also known as the Highland tiger—isn’t much [...]

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Critically Endangered Purring Monkey and 1,900 Other Species Added to IUCN Red List

It took more than 30 years for science to formally identify the Caquetá titi monkey (Callicebus caquetensis) of Colombia as a new species. Now it probably won’t last another 30 years unless it is protected, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which on Tuesday added the monkey and more than 1,900 [...]

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The Most Eagerly Awaited Rhino Porn of All Time [Video]

rhino mating

In 2009 four of the world’s last seven northern white rhinos (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) were moved from a zoo in the Czech Republic to Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. At the time conservationists expressed hope that returning the rhinos to semi-wild lives under their native African skies would help inspire the animals to mate and, [...]

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160 Video Cameras to Help Monitor Last 35 Javan Rhinos

javan rhino

Smile, you’re on endangered-species camera. The world’s last 35 Javan rhinoceroses (Rhinoceros sondaicus) are a little bit safer this week as 120 new camera traps have been installed in Ujung Kulon National Park, located on the western corner of the island of Java, in Indonesia. The new video cameras were donated by the World Wildlife [...]

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Video: 2 Rhinos Fight for Life after Their Horns Are Chopped Off

mauled white rhino

Two endangered rhinos have been critically injured and a third died after poachers in South Africa hunted the animals down and chopped off their horns. Rhino horn—possession of which is banned under international law—is valued for use in traditional Asian medicine to treat cancer and other disorders, even though the horns—made of keratin like that [...]

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Meet the Pangolin, Another Animal Threatened by Traditional Asian Medicine


In May 2011 Indonesian customs officials inspecting a shipment of fish and turtle meat bound for Vietnam came across a gruesome discovery: 5.9 metric tons of pangolin meat and another 790 kilograms of pangolin scales hidden within the cargo. It was just one of the nearly four dozen illegal pangolin shipments seized in Indonesia, Vietnam, [...]

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Elephant Week: Poaching and Ivory Smuggling at Record Highs in 2011

Poaching of elephants and the illegal trade in their tusks and related ivory products were out of control in 2011, with more than 2,500 animals confirmed killed and thousands of kilograms of tusks seized by customs officials around the world. This was the worst year on record since the international ivory trade ban was established [...]

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Western Black Rhino Extinct and Other Updates from the Brink

western black rhino extinct

Just two weeks after the World Wildlife Fund declared the Vietnam Javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus) extinct comes the announcement of another rhino extinction, this time the western black rhino (Diceros bicornis longipes) of Africa. The declaration came last week from the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) as part of [...]

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Poachers Drive Javan Rhino to Extinction in Vietnam [Updated]

Sad news coming out of Vietnam today: the Javan rhinoceros subspecies (Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus), once endemic to Southeast Asia, has been confirmed as extinct, according to WWF International. There are now officially no rhinos left in Vietnam. This is the second of the three Javan rhino subspecies to be hunted into extinction. The first, the [...]

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Return of the Toxic Avenger: Rhino Advocate Proposes Poisoning Horns to Protect Them from Poachers

Illegal demand for rhino horns for use in traditional Asian medicine has soared in recent years. As a result, rhino deaths by poaching hit an all-time high in 2010, and 2011 is likely to beat that number. Last year, the owner of the Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve near Johannesburg, South Africa, proposed a new [...]

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Rare Northern White Rhino Dies of Old Age–and Then There Were 7…


All things to nothingness descend, Grow old and die and meet their end… Nor long shall any name resound Beyond the grave, unless ‘t be found In some clerk’s book, it is the pen Gives immortality to men …and rhinos The Norman poet Master Wace wrote those words (well, all but the last line) in [...]

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Australian mathematicians say some endangered species “not worth saving”

Some endangered species on the brink of extinction might not be worth saving, according to a new algorithm developed by researchers at the University of Adelaide and James Cook University, both in Australia. Dubbed the SAFE (species’ ability to forestall extinction) index, the formula takes current and minimum viable population sizes into account to determine [...]

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Rhino poaching hit an all-time high in 2010

Rhinoceros poaching in South Africa hit an all-time high in 2010, with 333 animals slain for their valuable horns. That’s nearly triple the 122 rhinos killed in the country in 2009. Most of the poached rhinos were southern white rhinoceri (Ceratotherium simum simum). The most prolific type of rhino, it is considered a near-threatened species. [...]

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Toxic avenger: One man’s desperate idea to save the rhinos–poison their horns

With rhinoceros poaching in Africa approaching an all-time high, one nature preserve owner has had enough. Ed Hern, owner of the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve near Johannesburg, South Africa, is experimenting with injecting cyanide into his rhinos’ horns. He believes the poison will not harm the rhinos, because there are no blood vessels in [...]

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Unfair trade: A week in the world of illegal wildlife trafficking

frozen pangolins

Illegal trade in endangered species continues to grow around the world. How big is the problem? Here are 10 major cases that have hit the media in just the past week: Six pallets containing 765 kilograms of elephant tusks worth an estimated $1.2 million were seized in Thailand July 13. The shipment contained 117 tusks, [...]

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Rare British orchid gets police protection from overzealous collectors

the lady

Police protection for a plant? It makes sense if it’s one of the last wild examples of its species and collectors are willing to pay rhino horn–level prices for its flowers. That’s the situation for the lady’s slipper orchid (Cypripedium calceolus). Just a few of the wildflowers remain in Britain following decades of habitat loss [...]

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Rare Javan rhino killed by poachers

Javan rhino

One of the world’s last Javan rhinos (Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus) has been shot and killed by poachers in Vietnam, the World Wildlife Fund said Monday. The animal was shot and its horn, valued in traditional Asian medicine, was cut off. No one knows exactly how many Javan rhinos remain in the world, but estimates for [...]

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Ayurveda out of balance: 93 percent of medicinal plants threatened with extinction

Dhanvantari, the Hindu god of Ayurveda

Traditional Ayurvedic medicine could face an uncertain future as 93 percent of the wild plants used in the practice are threatened with extinction due to overexploitation, the Times of India reports. The Botanical Survey of India recently prioritized 359 wild medicinal plant species and conducted an assessment throughout the country to determine their health. The [...]

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Minor victories for tigers, elephants and rhinos at CITES meeting


The member nations of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) at their meeting in Doha, Qatar, this week passed resolutions to aid tigers, elephants and rhinos, three of the species most victimized by the illegal wildlife trade. Although none of the resolutions provide any new protections, they [...]

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Bugs off: Habitat loss killing Europe’s butterflies, beetles and dragonflies

violet click beetle

With fewer places left to breed and live, European butterflies, beetles, dragonflies and damselflies are dying in droves, according to the latest update to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The Red List update finds that 9 percent of Europe’s butterflies, 11 percent of its saproxylic beetles and 14 percent of dragonflies are threatened [...]

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Endangered in a Dangerous Land: Afghanistan expands its protected species list, including the “world’s least-known bird”

Nine months after it created its first list of protected endangered species, the government has added 15 more to the list, including what has been billed as "the world’s least-known bird." The bird, the large-billed reed warbler (Acrocephalus orinus), had only been observed in nature twice—once back in 1867—before its nesting habitat was found in [...]

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On the horns of a dilemma: Last-ditch effort aims to save nearly extinct northern white rhino–But is it too late?

white rhino

Four of the world’s last eight surviving northern white rhinos (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) are now living in Africa for the first time in decades as part of a last-ditch effort to save the subspecies from extinction. Only eight northern white rhinos exist in the world, all in captivity until recently. Two live in the U.S. [...]

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In 100 Heartbeats Jeff Corwin tackles causes and costs of species extinctions

jeff corwin 100 heartbeats endangered species book

Conservationist Jeff Corwin is known for often bringing a goofy passion to his television projects for Animal Planet and other networks. His latest effort displays no less passion, but switches out most of the jokes for gravitas. 100 Heartbeats: The Race to save Earth’s Most Endangered Species, Corwin’s new book and accompanying MSNBC documentary, is [...]

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Rhino poaching approaches 15-year high

High demand from Asia has driving rhino poaching to its highest level in more than a decade, according to a new report (PDF) by the by WWF, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Traffic. The report was presented last week at a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered [...]

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Can the free market save tigers from extinction?

save tiger from extinction free market

"How do we save [tigers] and other endangered species? Well, here’s an idea: Let’s eat them!" That was ABC reporter John Stossel on last Friday’s edition of the newsmagazine 20/20. Is he serious? Maybe so. Stossel, well-known for his libertarian views and free market advocacy, argues that tigers are endangered because they have a monetary [...]

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Zimbabwe’s rhinos face poaching crisis

black rhino, zimbabwe

More than 80 critically endangered black rhinos (Diceros bicornis) have been poached for their horns in Zimbabwe in the past 12 months, double the number killed in the previous year, a situation that the Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species (CITES) has now decided to disucss at its next meeting. Rhino horns are highly [...]

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Hello again, Pyrenean ibex: Can cloning resurrect an extinct species?

The last Pyrenean ibex (Capra pyrenaica pyrenaica) died nine years ago, the victim of loneliness (and a falling tree). But for a brief, seven-minute window, the extinct species may have recently been resurrected, thanks to cloning. Using skin samples taken from the last ibex before she died, and domestic goats as the hosts for implanted [...]

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