Colorful Florida Butterfly Receives Protections at Last
The Miami blue butterfly -- with just a few hundred of its kind believed left in the wild -- is finally protected under the Endangered Species Act. The butterfly spent 28 years on the list of candidates for protection but this week, as part of the Center for Biological Diversity's landmark agreement to push 757 species toward protection, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalized its protections. The sun-loving coastal butterfly is so endangered it was thought extinct in 1992 after Hurricane Andrew devastated south Florida, but today we know there are at least a few that survived.
The butterfly's severe decline is primarily the result of urban sprawl and toxic chemical use, as well as climate change and invasive iguanas devouring its host plants. The adult butterflies only live for a few days before dying and its only the males who sport the remarkable blue that gives the species its name -- the females look quite drab in comparison (but are still, of course, exquisite and important insects).
The Service also finalized Endangered Species Act protection for the cassius blue, ceraunus blue and nickerbean blue butterflies, three species found in the same habitat as the Miami blue, because of their similarity in appearance to the Miami blue.
Read more in The Miami Herald and then learn about the Center's work to save the Miami blue butterfly.
Tell the White House to Take Action on Deadly Bat Disease
With nearly 7 million bats dead from the terrible disease white-nose syndrome, the Obama administration is not moving fast enough to stem its spread across the country. That's why on Wednesday the Center for Biological Diversity filed a national petition urging the White House to tell federal land-management agencies to limit human entry into caves to help stop the disease's spread to the West.
In just six years, the mysterious disease has swept across the country from a single cave in upstate New York to affect bats in 19 states and four Canadian provinces. It causes bats to wake up more during hibernation, damages their tissue and often starves them to death, their wings too damaged to fly. In some caves, mortality is close to 100 percent.
"The loss of bats to white-nose syndrome is an unprecedented natural disaster that will have real financial consequences for many Americans," said the Center's Mollie Matteson. "Not only do some bat species face extinction, but if they're wiped out American farmers stand to lose an estimated $22 billion in lost insect-eating services that bats provide."
Get the full scoop from the Summit County Citizens Voice and brand-new eastern small-footed bat species Web page. Then ask Congress to fund the fight to protect bats and learn about the Center's hard work to save our bats.
Help on the Way for Imperiled Freshwater Turtles
Not only did Alabama enact a ban on all commercial trade of freshwater turtles and their eggs on Sunday, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday that next year, it may propose 17 freshwater turtle species in the eastern U.S. for international protection at the meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned for international trade restrictions on all 17 species to curb the tide of 2 million wild-caught turtles -- from the United States alone -- sold as pets, food and medicine sources every year to markets in Asia, where many native turtle populations have already been consumed.
The United States has more species of turtles than any other country in the world, and Alabama hosts more than half of all North American species. In response to public pressure from the Center and others, Alabama is the latest in a string of states to enact restrictions on commercial collection and killing of local turtles.
"Way to go, Alabama!" said Collette Adkins Giese, an attorney at the Center who specializes in reptiles and amphibians (the only attorney of her kind in the world). "We're so glad that states across the South are finally beginning to clamp down on the slaughter of native turtles."
Check out this Reuters story and learn more about the Center's work for freshwater turtles.
Study Links Oyster Die-offs, Ocean Acidificiation
A new study out this week provides the latest evidence that the world's oceans are in trouble. Researchers have found a definitive link between massive die-offs of oysters in the Pacific Northwest and ocean acidification driven by carbon pollution. The study, published in Limnology and Oceanography, looked at oyster failures in Oregon, where some production has collapsed by as much as 80 percent in waters affected by ocean acidification.
It's no surprise: 22 million tons of carbon dioxide are absorbed by our oceans every day from pollution spewed by cars, power plants and other industrial sources. That CO2 changes the ocean water chemistry, making it much harder for shellfish -- and ultimately other creatures farther up the food chain -- to survive and thrive. If we're going to save our corals, salmon, whales and other sea life from this catastrophe, we have to act now. Just last week, the Center for Biological Diversity called on the White House and Environmental Protection Agency to finally develop a national plan to address ocean acidification.
Read more in The New York Times, then check out our new website on our endangered oceans and take action for corals, fish and whales.
EPA Lets Wildlife, Human Lead Poisoning Continue -- Take Action
Millions of birds die every year due to secondary lead poisoning from lead bullets and shot: It's a fact. But the Environmental Protection Agency refuses to regulate the toxic lead in hunting ammunition despite two petitions from the Center for Biological Diversity and 150 allied groups asking for a switch to nontoxic ammo. Bald eagles, highly endangered California condors, swans and many other species of birds are exposed to lead and poisoned by ingesting spent lead shot or scavenging carcasses with lead bullet fragments. People (especially children) who eat game shot with lead ammo risk serious health effects from lead poisoning.
Despite the hard facts about the dangers of lead, the NRA is now jumping in with a bill in the House of Representatives that would stop a key environmental law from protecting animals from lead poisoning in the wild. There's no reason not to save wildlife from these painful deaths: There are plenty of non-lead, nontoxic ammunition on the market today.
Speak out today against the NRA-supported bill in Congress and then learn more about our campaign to get the lead out.
Court Sends Redwood-killing Highway Back to Drawing Board
In a huge victory for some of the world's hugest, most ancient trees, a federal judge has halted California's plans to ram a highway through the state's fabled old-growth "redwood curtain" -- the gateway to Northern California's famous Richardson Grove State Park. The park is home to native fish like salmon and steelhead, as well as old-growth-dependent birds like the marbled murrelet.
The Center for Biological Diversity and allies filed a lawsuit in 2010 to prevent the California Department of Transportation from realigning the highway, which would harm ancient redwood trees and the species that depend on them for survival -- in favor of making the area more accessible to larger trucks. Established in 1922, Richardson Grove contains many of the few ancient redwoods in the world.
"Less than 3 percent of our ancient redwood trees remain, yet Caltrans wants to cut through, injure and pave over the roots of giant redwoods in a state park for the sake of a few more oversized trucks speeding through the grove," said Peter Galvin, cofounder and conservation director at the Center. "We'll keep fighting until Caltrans drops this misguided project."
Read more in the San Francisco Chronicle and learn about the Center's effort to save Richardson Grove.
Suit Filed to Save California Tiger Salamander
For more than a decade the rare California tiger salamander has been protected under the Endangered Species Act -- thanks to a Center for Biological Diversity petition in 2000. But despite the worsening threats it faces from habitat destruction, pesticides and other human impacts, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has continued to deny this amphibian one of the things it needs most to survive and recover -- a recovery plan. It's been proven by Center studies that a species with this written-out roadmap to survival is far more likely to recover than one without one. The plan is supposed to be drafted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after a species earns federal protection.
To stop the delay and fast track recovery for the salamander, this week the Center filed suit against the Fish and Wildlife Service to get a recovery plan in place.
The California tiger salamander, with its jet-black body, yellow spots and mouth outlined in yellow, has long been defended by the Center. Thanks largely to our efforts, this charming amphibian also has federally protected "critical habitat" as well -- all three of its populations in central and Southern California -- which our research shows doubles their chances of recovery.
Read about the new suit from ReptileChannel.com and then learn more about the California tiger salamander.
More Mexican Gray Wolves Needed in the Wild
If federal efforts to return the Mexican gray wolf to the Southwest are going to be truly successful, more wolves need to be released into the wild. That's why the Center for Biological Diversity used the recent anniversary of the reintroduction program to call on Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to lift the government's freeze on releases. More wolves living and breeding in the wild is absolutely critical to preserve genetic diversity and help create a healthy, sustainable population in New Mexico and Arizona.
Adapted to roaming the arid woodlands of the Southwest, the Mexican gray wolf is the smallest gray wolf subspecies and one of the most imperiled mammals in North America Only 58 wolves -- and just six breeding pairs -- could be counted in the wild this past January, and a pup was found shot in Arizona last month. This fledgling population desperately needs more wolves – but, unfortunately, no new wolves have been released from the captive-breeding pool since November 2008.
Get more from our press release and read about what the Center's doing to save this remarkable wolf.
Wild & Weird: Robosquirrels vs. Rattlesnakes
What do you do when you want to study the interaction of a cool, quick predator (like a rattlesnake) with some cute prey (like a squirrel) -- without hurting any cute squirrels in the process? Make a robot squirrel, of course.
That's what scientists at San Diego University and UC Davis are doing this spring. In the lab, robosquirrels can imitate how real squirrels tend to wag their tails and send extra heat up them when facing off with a snake -- both occurrences that help snakes notice squirrels (since snakes have infrared "vision"). Robosquirrels are better than real squirrels for studying this behavior, because scientists can separate the tail wagging from the tail heating.
In the field, the snakes seem to accept the robosquirrel as real (one video shows a snake biting a robot's head) -- but they don't react very well to a squirrel that's merely tail-wagging, without the heat. That is, they don't often strike a squirrel with an unheated tail, and if they do, they often miss.
Read more in Science Daily.
Photo credits: Miami blue butterfly by Jaret C. Daniels, McGuire Center for Lepidoptera Biodiversity; Miami blue butterfly courtesy Flickr Commons/Bill Botoun; eastern small-footed bat by Gary Peeples, USFWS; alligator snapping turtle by Gary M. Stolz, USFWS; corals courtesy Flickr Commons/Derek Keats; trumpeter swan courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Mdf; Richardson Grove; California tiger salamander by John Cleckler, USFWS; Mexican gray wolf by George Andrejko, Arizona Game & Fish Department; squirrel tail courtesy Flickr Commons/howzey.
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