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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 818, March 17, 2016

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Elephants, Pangolins Move Closer to U.S. Protection

Elephants and pangolinIn response to legal petitions from the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided this week that Africa's elephants and the world's pangolins deserve consideration for increased U.S. Endangered Species Act protection.

Both species of elephants in Africa, and all pangolins, are threatened by poaching driven by the illicit global trade in wildlife parts. African elephants are now listed under U.S. law as a single, threatened species; our petition asks that they be recognized as two separate species, forest and savannah, and both declared endangered -- a higher level of protection. Pangolins are scaly, curious-looking creatures that live across Asia and Africa, and they're currently the most heavily trafficked mammals on Earth. One species, of the eight worldwide, already has protection; we petitioned for the other seven.

The Service is now taking public comments and beginning a year-long study to determine whether to grant the animals protection.

Read more in Scientific American.

Obama to Offer Offshore Drilling Leases in Arctic, Gulf of Mexico

Polar bearsWhen it comes to tackling the climate crisis, we can't afford half-measures.

Yes, we're glad the Obama administration announced plans on Tuesday to ban new oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic Ocean -- that's a big, important step that will protect whales and other wildlife there from oil spills and associated offshore-drilling damage. But the other announcement on the same day -- to offer new lease sales in Alaska's Arctic waters and in the Gulf of Mexico -- is a painful step backward.

Ramping up offshore drilling in the Far North risks more disastrous spills, puts species in harm's way, and deepens U.S. dependence on the fossil fuels driving the global climate crisis. Banning all new fossil fuel leases on America's public lands and offshore areas would keep up to 450 billion tons of carbon pollution from escaping into the atmosphere.

"President Obama must follow his own climate rhetoric and stop allowing new oil and gas drilling in all our oceans," said the Center's Miyoko Sakashita.

Read more in our press release.

Jump Up and Get Down: Nearly 14,000 Acres Protected for Jumping Mouse

New Mexico meadow jumping mouseBig news for a tiny mouse: This week the Fish and Wildlife Service protected almost 14,000 acres of critical habitat for endangered New Mexico meadow jumping mice as part of an agreement with the Center and other conservation groups.

Named for their ability to jump 10 times the length of their bodies, New Mexico meadow jumping mice live along the banks of southwestern streams. Their hibernation period is unusually long -- up to 9 months out of the year -- which leaves them little time to reproduce and pack on enough body fat to make it through their next hibernation. They're threatened by livestock grazing in their riparian habitat.

"Protection of the streamside habitat that New Mexico meadow jumping mice need to survive is long overdue," said the Center's Jay Lininger. "This is one of the most precariously endangered mammals in the country, and protecting its habitat will benefit a host of other species, too, and improve water quality."

Read more in the Albuquerque Journal.

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Protection Sought for Extremely Rare Dolphin

Taiwanese humpback dolphinsWith their population down to just 75 individuals, Taiwanese humpback dolphins are in trouble much deeper than the shallow waters they swim in -- so last week the Center and allies petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service to protect them under the Endangered Species Act.

In 2014 the Fisheries Service denied a previous petition to protect these dolphins, concluding that their population was indistinct from the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin -- which swims in deeper waters closer to China's coastline and other regions. But new studies show that Taiwanese humpbacks are a distinct subspecies, with unique characteristics, whose numbers continue to decline to alarmingly low levels. Also known in Taiwan as Matsu's fish, these dolphins are born gray and gradually become pink or white with age.

"Taiwanese humpback dolphins could vanish within our lifetimes if we don't help them soon," said Dr. Abel Valdivia, a marine scientist at the Center. "Sadly, small cetaceans around the world are in trouble, and these dolphins are barely hanging on."

Read more in our press release.

Three Center Staff Win 'California Lawyer Attorney of the Year'

California condorThe Daily Journal and California Lawyer magazine this week honored three Center attorneys who helped achieve a landmark legal victory against sprawl development near Los Angeles with the prestigious "California Lawyer Attorney of the Year" award. The award honors attorneys across the state for work with a significant impact.

Center attorneys John Buse, Kevin Bundy and Aruna Prabhala were recognized for their roles in a 2015 California Supreme Court decision that will force state officials to reconsider threats posed by the planned Newhall Ranch mega-development to protected wildlife (including California condors) and the climate. The court's opinion provides important guidance on how public officials must address the impacts of climate change and avoid harm to some of California's rarest and most highly protected fish and wildlife.

Congratulations to John, Kevin and Aruna.

Read more about the award and landmark court victory.

Suit Filed to Protect Monarchs as Butterflies Hit by Mexico Storm

Monarch butterflyThe Center and allies have filed suit against the Fish and Wildlife Service over the agency's failure to protect monarchs under the Endangered Species Act. We petitioned the Service in August 2014 to protect these iconic backyard butterflies following a 90 percent population decline; that December the Service said protection might be warranted, but more than a year later it has still failed to make a final decision.

Meanwhile, monarchs wintering in Mexico have just been hit by a severe winter storm. The damage hasn't yet been quantified, but scientists are estimating high mortality. In 2002 a single winter storm killed about 500 million monarchs -- more than three times the number now remaining. Monarchs' decline has been driven by widespread planting of GE crops in the Midwest, where the herbicide Roundup is killing off their caterpillars' food. They're also threatened by climate change and illegal logging in Mexico.

"If monarchs are going to be seen by future generations, we need to do everything we can now to ensure their survival," said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center. "That includes protection under the Endangered Species Act."

Read more in The Hill.

Take Action

Are You an Endangered Species Activist? -- Sign Up Today

Gray wolfWe need your help more than ever to fight this year's battles and defend imperiled wildlife from politically motivated attacks. Wolves, long-eared bats, manatees, grizzly bears and many more animals and plants all stand to lose critical protections this year if industry interests successfully lobby their way through Capitol Hill and the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Since the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling in 2010, our democratic process has been awash in corporate money, and legislative attacks on the Endangered Species Act have increased by 600 percent. This year alone six new bills have already targeted wolves in Oregon, Wyoming and the Great Lakes region.

To protect wildlife and keep the pressure on politicians and agencies, the Center is building our network of activists across the country -- people who are willing to step up and call representatives, attend hearings, write letters to the editor and make noise at rallies. That's where you come in.

Ready to get involved? Sign up now to become an Endangered Species Activist.

Ask Dr. Donley: Does Meat Contain Pesticides?

Ask Dr. DonleyPesticides reign in the world of conventionally farmed produce, permeating fruits and veggies in supermarkets everywhere. But what about animal products? If chicken feed is laced with pesticides and cows crunch chemical-coated grass, will fowls be foul with toxins and pop out polluted eggs, and does poison lurk in hamburger meat? Inquiring minds want to know.

Enter the Center's environmental health scientist Dr. Nathan Donley, author of a new column devoted to resolving questions about how environmental toxins affect people, wildlife and ecosystems.

The good doctor's short answer to the meat/pesticide query? Affirmative.

For his longer answer, check out (and like and share) the latest installment of "Ask Dr. Donley" on Medium.

Protect California's Drinking Water From Toxic Oil Waste -- Take Action

PumpjackCalifornia state oil regulators recently submitted an application to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that should have everyone in the state on high alert. The request? They want the feds to exempt a San Luis Obispo aquifer from protection under the Safe Drinking Water Act -- so it can be used as a dumping ground for drilling and fracking.

Such a move would allow the oil industry to contaminate an underground water source with toxic chemicals -- an abhorrent idea especially in a time of drought. It'd also trample our environmental laws, designed specifically to prevent scandals like this.

If the EPA approves the application, it will not only seal the fate of San Luis Obispo, it will set a precedent for all other aquifers in California -- and the doors will open for many more such applications, leaving the state's underground water vulnerable to becoming trash dumps for the oil industry.

Act now to urge the EPA to deny the exemption and protect California's precious water.

Wild & Weird: Penguin Makes Annual Trek to Visit Human Friend

Joao Pereira de Souza is a retired fisherman and bricklayer who lives in a hut near the beach on an island near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Four years ago he found a wild Magellanic penguin in distress, covered in oil and starving. The bird had wandered some 3,000 to 5,000 miles away from its breeding grounds off Patagonia. So he took it home, bathed it, and fed it sardines until the animal was strong enough to be released back to sea.

Now the penguin, which Mr. de Souza has named Dindim, returns every year, waddling right up to his hut, and stays for many months before heading back out in February.

"I love the penguin like it's my own child, and I believe the penguin loves me," said Mr. Pereira de Souza in an interview with Globo TV.

"I have never seen anything like this before," said biologist Joao Paulo Krajewski, who met with Mr. de Souza and Dindim recently. "When (Dindim) sees him he wags his tail like a dog and honks with delight."

Read more in The Independent.

Kieran Suckling

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: Elephants courtesy Flickr/Steve Garvie; pangolin courtesy Flickr/David Brossard; polar bears courtesy Flickr/Elizabeth Haslam; New Mexico meadow jumping mouse courtesy Flickr/J.N. Stuart; wolves by John Pitcher; Taiwanese humpback dolphins courtesy Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society; California condor courtesy Flickr/Moritz Hammer; monarch butterfly courtesy Wikimedia Commons/docentjoyce; brown bear (c) Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; gray wolf courtesy Flickr/Chris Smith; "Ask Dr. Donley" graphic, Center for Biological Diversity; pumpjack courtesy Flickr/Farhan Amoor; Magellanic penguin courtesy NASA/Maria-Jose Vinas.

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