For Immediate Release, November 14, 2012
Contact: Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681
Arizona's Sonoran Pronghorn Named One of Nation’s Top 10 Species Threatened by Water Shortage
TUCSON, Ariz.— The Sonoran pronghorn, the fastest land animal in North America, was named one of the top 10 species in the country most threatened by water shortage in a report released today by the Endangered Species Coalition. The report, Water Woes: How Dams, Diversions, Dirty Water and Drought Put America’s Wildlife at Risk, highlights how reductions in water quantity and quality threaten wildlife in 10 ecosystems across the country. The report names the Sonoran Desert as one of the regions most threatened by water shortage, and identifies the Sonoran pronghorn as one of the 10 species at greatest risk of extinction due to declining water supplies. The pronghorn’s survival is threatened by drought and climate change.
|Pronghorn photo © Robin Silver. Photos of species and ecosystems in the "Top 10" report are available for media use.
“Vast herds of pronghorn once roamed the continent, but today the Sonoran pronghorn is teetering on the edge of extinction,” said Tierra Curry, a biologist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “These magnificent animals can run 60 mph, but they can’t out-run climate change without our help. Pronghorn have been tied to human culture for tens of thousands of years. Saving them will ultimately help save us.”
The Sonoran pronghorn lives in the Sonoran Desert of southwest Arizona and northern Sonora, Mexico. There are only about 500 surviving Sonoran pronghorn, roughly 100 of those live in the United States. They were listed as an endangered species in 1967.
Drought is a major factor affecting the survival of Sonoran pronghorn adults and fawns, and the increasingly severe and frequent droughts in the Southwest have become a significant threat. During a major drought in 2002, more than 80 percent of the U.S. pronghorn population died. Drought is also inhibiting the herd’s population growth, as fawn survival is highly dependent on the timing, duration and distribution of rainfall. Without rain, there isn’t enough forage for the newly-weaned fawns or adult pronghorn to survive. Federal and state managers currently have to supply water during the driest months to keep the U.S. herd from perishing.
Though its common name is “pronghorn antelope,” pronghorn are not actually antelopes – their closest living relatives are giraffes. Pronghorn are different from all other hoofed animals because their branched, hollow horns are made from hair, like the permanent horns of goats, but are shed each year like the solid horns of deer. At 3 feet tall and 100 pounds, they are the size of goats. Pronghorn have excellent vision and eyes nearly as large as those of an elephant, which allow them to easily detect predators.
Pronghorn face many threats in addition to water shortage, including Border Patrol activities, off-road driving and development. Roads and other developments fragment the pronghorn’s foraging grounds and block access to food sources, keeping the pronghorn from being able to disperse to greener areas during drought.
Among the other at-risk ecosystems named in the top 10 report are Florida’s Everglades, the Colorado River, the Ozarks, the Tennessee River and the Sierra Nevada mountains. For each ecosystem, the report identifies some of the endangered species that live there, as well as the conservation measures required to help them survive. Member groups of the Endangered Species Coalition from across the country nominated the species and ecosystems for inclusion in the report; the submissions were then reviewed and judged by a panel of scientists. Most of the imperiled species are fish, but the report also identifies two amphibians, two birds, two mammals and one plant, all of which are facing water challenges within the 10 ecosystems.
The Endangered Species Coalition has produced a “Top 10” report annually for the last five years. Water Woes can be downloaded at: http://waterwoes.org. Previous reports are available on the coalition’s website, www.stopextinction.org.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 450,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.