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Extinction Countdown

Extinction Countdown

News and research about endangered species from around the world


Texas Wildfires Devastate Last Habitat for Endangered Houston Toad

Devastating fires that swept through eastern Texas this month have left dozens of people dead or missing and destroyed more than 1,500 homes. The fires have also dealt a horrible blow the endangered Houston toad ( Bufo houstonensis ), which had already been suffering due to years of drought that preceded the flames.Houston toads started disappearing from much of their historic range (including the city the species is named after) decades ago, as habitat loss forced them into smaller and smaller territories...

September 13, 2011 — John R. Platt

Should Captive-Bred Chimpanzees Have Full Endangered Species Act Protection?

In a move that's probably long overdue, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced last week that it will conduct a status review to determine if captive chimpanzees ( Pan troglodytes ) should be reclassified from "threatened" to the more protected status "endangered" under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).Wild-born chimpanzees have been fully protected under the ESA since they were classified as "endangered" in 1990, but chimps and other great apes in captivity have not enjoyed the same protection under what is known as the "captive-bred wildlife exception." According to the Michigan State University College of Law's Animal Legal & Historical Center, this means "people who register with FWS can legally export, re-import, sell and 'take' (including euthanize) their captive-bred apes as long as those activities enhance the survival of the species." Those activities include scientific research, exhibition (this applies to show-biz chimpanzees) or "holding and maintenance of 'surplus' apes (meaning those not immediately needed for scientific research or breeding)." The "threatened" designation also means that people can import, export or sell great apes with an FWS permit (pdf).The FWS status review is a response to a petition from The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Jane Goodall Institute, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance, the Fund for Animals, Humane Society International and the New England Anti-Vivisection Society."The federal government does not 'split list' any other endangered species by wild and captive populations, and it should not have done so in this case," HSUS president and CEO Wayne Pacelle said in a prepared statement...

September 7, 2011 — John R. Platt

Thylacine Hunted into Extinction for No Reason, Study Reveals

The thylacine ( Thylacinus cynocephalus ), better known as the Tasmanian tiger, has long been the poster child for human-caused extinction. Hunted out of existence by Australian farmers who feared that the striped, canine-like marsupials would kill their sheep, the last thylacine died in captivity in Hobart Zoo 75 years ago next week, on September 7, 1936 (although the species was not officially declared extinct until about 25 years ago).Now, just a few days before the annual observance of National Thylacine Day in Australia, a new study reveals that the predator was probably not a threat to sheep after all...

August 31, 2011 — John R. Platt

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