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Hawaiian monk seal

Endangered Earth Online.

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Hawaii to Crack Down on Monk Seal Killers

In good news for one of the world's most imperiled marine mammals, this Tuesday a Hawaiian senator introduced legislation that would make it a felony to kill or harm Hawaiian monk seals and other endangered species. Within the past year, two male monk seals and one pregnant female fell victim to deadly shootings -- even as the seal's population is expected to drop below 1,000 animals within a few years due to starvation, climate change, entanglement in marine debris, habitat loss, and other threats. Last year saw the lowest number of pups ever produced during breeding season; the population is declining by 4 percent annually. The Hawaiian monk seal's cousin, the Caribbean monk seal, was announced extinct in 2008.

In response to a scientific petition from the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, last year the National Marine Fisheries Service announced it would designate federally protected "critical habitat" for Hawaiian monk seals on the main Hawaiian Islands, which the species are increasingly populating and which may provide its last opportunity for recovery.

Check out our press release and learn about our campaign to save the Hawaiian monk seal.

It's Global Population Speak Out Month

This Tuesday, as part of our ambitious campaign to fight overpopulation, the Center for Biological Diversity announced participation in the second annual Global Population Speak Out, a month-long effort to publicize the crisis of unsustainable human population growth. The Speak Out is a critical way to raise awareness about overpopulation, which is driving every major cause of mass extinction -- but which very few conservation groups confront.

Read our Speak Out press release, check out our Overpopulation Web page, and make your own pledge to speak out this month on overpopulation.

Action Brewing to Save 800 Species From Pesticide Poisoning

To save more than 800 endangered species from death and harm from toxic pesticides, last week the Center for Biological Diversity filed notice of intent to sue the Environmental Protection Agency over registration of almost 400 chemicals that threaten imperiled species -- as well as human health. The EPA has violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to consult with federal wildlife agencies about pesticides' impacts on species across the nation before approving them for use. The agency has also violated the Migratory Bird Treaty Act by registering pesticides known to harm and kill sensitive migratory birds.

Our notice of intent seeks to protect 887 at-risk animal and plant species, including the Florida panther, coho salmon, California condor, and mountain yellow-legged frog. We've already forced the EPA to consult on the impacts of scores of pesticides on a suite of California species such as the California red-legged frog and Delta smelt. Said the Center's Jeff Miller, "For too long this agency's oversight has been abysmal, allowing the pesticide industry to unleash a virtual plague of toxic chemicals into our environment."

Read more in the Los Angeles Times.

Center Goes to Court for Mexican Gray Wolf

Last week the Center for Biological Diversity sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for its failure to act on our petition to grant the Mexican gray wolf its own place on the endangered species list. The Mexican wolf is distinct from other gray wolves and should be recognized as such with its own Endangered Species Act protections as an endangered subspecies or "distinct population segment." But the Mexican wolf is currently lumped together under the Act with gray wolves elsewhere in the country. And the Service has missed its November deadline to respond to the Center's petition from last summer to fix that.

Earning its own place on the endangered species list would require the development of a new Mexican wolf recovery plan -- which is crucial, since the current one is almost three decades old and contains no numeric population, distribution, or genetic diversity targets. It would also give better guidance for managing the sole existing wolf population -- which hovered at just 52 animals and two breeding pairs at the end of 2008.

Get more from KSWT News.

Friending the Pacific Fisher

This Thursday, the Center for Biological Diversity and allies sent a notice of intent to sue the Interior Department for the feds' failure to protect the Pacific fisher -- a slender, mink-related mammal native to West Coast forests. Though the fisher is now reduced to just two populations in the West due to habitat loss from logging and development, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hasn't protected the animal, instead putting it on the list of "candidates" for Endangered Species Act safeguards -- where it's supposed to wait for protection while progress is made on other, "higher priority" species protections. But the Service is making essentially no progress on protecting other species -- thus, it has no excuse for not protecting the fisher now.

The Center and others petitioned to protect the Pacific fisher in 2000, and a decade is far too long for the mammal to wait for the help it urgently needs.

Check out our press release and learn more about the Pacific fisher.

Deadly Soot Pollution Targeted

This Monday, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice of intent to sue the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to limit dangerous pollution from particles like soot and dust. Particulate matter, or PM-10, is made up of tiny particles -- about 10 times tinier than the width of a human hair -- that can travel deep into the lungs and seriously harm human health when breathed, as well as forming regional haze that cloaks vistas in scenic places throughout the West. Particulate pollution also includes soot, or "black carbon," which is one of the most potent contributors to global warming. But in violation of the Clean Air Act, the EPA has failed to watchdog five western states to make sure they're following laws to protect the public -- and the climate -- from particulate air pollution.

"This kind of pollution is dirty and dangerous," says the Center's Kevin Bundy, "and EPA needs to do what the law requires to get it out of the air.

Read more in the Idaho Statesman.

Lawsuit Launched to Stop Lead Poisoning of Seabirds

As many as 10,000 Laysan albatross chicks die per year from lead poisoning on Hawaii's Midway Atoll -- so this Monday, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal warning that we'll sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies for failure to clean up the source. Toxic, lead-based paint chips are shedding from deteriorating buildings at a decommissioned military base on the island, leaving baby albatrosses -- which eat the chips -- with nerve damage called "droopwing." Unable to lift their wings, these chicks will never fly and drag their wings painfully along the ground, becoming susceptible to open sores, fractures, and slow death. Lead poisoning from the same military base threatens the highly endangered Laysan duck and 17 other seabirds.

"For too long the Fish and Wildlife Service has stood by while thousands of albatross chicks die needlessly every year," said Shaye Wolf, a Center biologist. "If they don't take action to stop this problem, we will."

Read more in the Washington Post and look at devastating photos of lead-poisoned albatross chicks.

Center Takes on Brutal Rattlesnake Roundups

To stop the indiscriminate -- and abhorrently legal -- killing of eastern diamondback rattlesnakes in the Southeast, last Thursday the Center for Biological Diversity wrote to the governor of Georgia urging the state to outlaw rattlesnake roundups. During these annual contests, hunters bring in as many rattlesnakes as they can catch in a year, at which point the snakes are slaughtered and sold for meat and skin. A recent study shows that roundups have seriously depleted populations of eastern diamondbacks in the Southeast -- but Georgia still holds two of the gorefests every year. Rattlesnake roundups also harm other species, since snake collectors spray gasoline into tortoise burrows to capture their prey, destroying the burrows and usually killing the other animals inside. More than 350 other wildlife species use gopher tortoise burrows, and the tortoise itself is under consideration for Endangered Species Act protection. 

"These senseless killing contests are imperiling entire ecosystems and must be stopped," said Center biologist Tierra Curry. "Roundups should be replaced with festivals that celebrate native wildlife."

Check out our press release and learn more about why rattlesnake roundups should be outlawed.

"Saving 1,000 Species": Listen to Our Biodiversity Briefing

With the International Year of Biodiversity well on its way, last week the Center for Biological Diversity focused our quarterly Biodiversity Briefing on our campaign to win protections for America's 1,000 most endangered species. During the briefing phone call, Executive Director Kierán Suckling went over the four main ways in which we're pushing for protections: securing animals and plants a place on the endangered species list, keeping them there when protections are challenged, earning them protected "critical habitat," and making sure they have the federal recovery plans they need for long-term survival. From cleaning up the catastrophes left by the Bush administration to earning Endangered Species Act protections for 249 "candidate" species, 144 petitioned-for species, and 500 rare Southeast aquatic species, Suckling describes what needs to be done and how we're already doing it.

"We're looking at ways to systematically go at this -- treat it like the crisis that it is," said Suckling. "We really should be able to turn [the Obama administration] around and get some really big new protections we've been waiting decades for."

Listen to the briefing and learn about our campaign to save America's 1,000 most endangered species. For information on how you can join the Center's Leadership Circle and be invited to participate in Biodiversity Briefings live when they happen, email Development Director Jennifer Shepherd or call her at (520) 396-1135.

Tiny Toads Saved From Extinction

Once upon a time -- actually, for many thousands of years -- some 20,000 bright-golden spray toads lived on the misty edges of a waterfall on the Kihansi River in Tanzania. So isolated were the tiny creatures that they evolved into the only toad species in the world that gives birth to live young instead of laying eggs. Each baby is small enough to fit on the head of pin.

The toads were discovered in 1998, by which time the World Bank, which would not fit on the head of a pin and has been known to eat its own young, decided to destroy their habitat with a dam. Which it did. But just as the spray toad was about to go extinct, 499 were scooped up by conservationists and flown to the Bronx Zoo.

So desperate was the situation that scientists conducted a C-section on a dead pregnant toad to save her children. Since then, the population has grown to about 4,000 animals in the Bronx and Toledo zoos. Scientists -- with the World Bank's belated help -- are now planning to return the species to its native habitat in Tanzania.

People can work miracles when we listen to the better angels of our nature.

Read more in The New York Times.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: Hawaiian monk seal photos courtesy NOAA; crowded beach courtesy; Florida panther courtesy USFWS; Mexican gray wolves by Val Halstad, Wolf Haven International; Pacific fisher courtesy Pacific Biodiversity Institute; soot courtesy USEPA; Laysan albatross chick with droopwing (c) Myra Finkelstein; eastern diamondback rattlesnake courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Tad Arensmeier under the Creative Commons attribution license; plains bison by Jason Hickey; Kihansi spray toad courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Ruby 1x2 under the GNU free documentation license.

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