In Africa, Two Elephant Species Are in Big Trouble

Endangered Earth: The weekly wildlife update from the Center for Biological Diversity.
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Savanna elephant
Center for     Biological     Diversity   

Forest and Savanna Elephants Badly Need Help

Long-awaited new assessments by the International Union for Conservation of Nature show that elephants in Africa are even closer to extinction than previously thought. The studies recognize two distinct African elephant species: savanna and forest. Savanna elephants have declined by more than 50% in 75 years, forest elephants by a shocking 80% in less than a century. Both are threatened by ivory poaching and habitat loss.

"Forest elephants are finally getting the recognition they deserve," said Tanya Sanerib at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Now we have to crack down on the poaching of these desperately imperiled animals."

Please support our work for elephants by giving to our Saving Life on Earth Fund.

Red tree vole

Meet Our Tiniest New Client: Oregon's Red Tree Vole

The Center and allies just sued over a Trump-era decision to deny protection to red tree voles on the north Oregon coast. These tiny, charming mammals can subsist entirely on conifer needles, spending almost their whole lives in trees. Sadly that means they're incredibly vulnerable to logging of their forest homes.

After our 2007 petition to protect this vole population, they were repeatedly recognized as needing protection, but instead waitlisted — and in 2019 the Trump administration decided they didn't deserve safeguards at all.

"We hope the Biden administration takes a close look at this politically driven decision," said the Center's Noah Greenwald. "Protecting the red tree vole also benefits hundreds of other plants and animals, clean water and our climate."

Lawsuit Launched for Oregon Coast Spring Chinook Salmon

Oregon spring-run Chinook salmon

Spring Chinook salmon once thrived in all of Oregon's coastal watersheds. But they've disappeared from many rivers due to logging, roads, and other sources of habitat degradation like dams and poorly run hatcheries.

In 2019 the Center and allies petitioned to win these fish Endangered Species Act protection. By law a decision from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was due September 2020 — but we've yet to see it. So we've launched a lawsuit against the agency to force it to follow its own timeline.

California condor

New Horizons for California Condors

California condors are a true Endangered Species Act success story. They narrowly escaped extinction in the 1980s, when the last 22 wild individuals starred in a captive-breeding program. Today there are more than 500 in the wild and in captivity.

And now North America's largest bird is taking off into the next stage of its recovery: Last week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it will establish a new population of California condors in the Pacific Northwest.

Get more from this story featuring the Center's Quinn Read — and a cute condor chick.

New Recovery Plans for Southeast Salamanders

Reticulated flatwoods salamander

Two critically endangered amphibians in Florida and other southeastern states just got a roadmap out of extinction. The Fish and Wildlife Service has published draft recovery plans for reticulated and frosted flatwoods salamanders after a lawsuit by the Center and allies.

"Protecting and properly managing habitat is critical here," said the Center's Elise Bennett. "We expect federal officials to quickly finalize, fund and implement the plans for these tiny beauties before it's too late."

This Flower Lives Only in a Future Mine's Footprint

Tiehm's buckwheat

On Monday the Center and allies asked the Bureau of Land Management to protect 4,015 acres surrounding habitat for a beautiful yellow-white wildflower called Tiehm's buckwheat. The acreage includes a buffer zone to protect the extremely imperiled plant from a lithium mine whose footprint would engulf the buckwheat's entire remaining habitat of only 10 acres.

"This rare little flower is staring down the barrel of extinction," said the Center's Patrick Donnelly. "We're asking the Biden administration to ensure its habitat is preserved for future generations."

Orange trees

Suit Challenges EPA Thumbs-Up for Antibiotic on Citrus Crops

Spraying antibiotics on trees is ineffective in fighting crop diseases and can drive antibiotic resistance in bacteria that seriously threaten human health. Yet under Trump, the Environmental Protection Agency approved widespread use of streptomycin on citrus trees — so the Center and allies sued last Thursday.

"To jeopardize an essential tool in controlling the global tuberculosis pandemic by allowing it to be sprayed on citrus trees is the height of irresponsibility," said Center Senior Scientist Nathan Donley. "Leading global health officials are sounding the alarm about overuse of essential medicines like streptomycin, yet the EPA's pesticide office is recklessly blessing its use as a pesticide."

Revelator spring 2021 books

Revelator: The Books We're Reading This Spring

The smart folks at The Revelator have the inside scoop on books about environmental issues ... and great taste, too. Here are their 10 favorite books of 2021 (so far) tackling the planet's toughest problems, from climate change to pesticides to environmental racism — plus vital solutions. There's even a sci-fi eco-thriller whose sales help fight wildlife trafficking.

American mink

Report Shows Wildlife Exploitation Likely Caused Pandemic

On Tuesday the World Health Organization published a report finding that the SARS-CoV-2 virus behind the COVID-19 pandemic probably originated from human exploitation of wildlife.

The report comes as U.S. lawmakers consider the Preventing Future Pandemics Act, a bipartisan bill that would shut down the trade in live terrestrial wild animals for human consumption, close wildlife markets, and spur international action to curtail future pandemics.

The report also indicated that minks could be the source of the outbreak, providing a stark compilation of data from fur farms in 10 countries where these captive animals have gotten sick. Meanwhile, the Oregon legislature is considering a bill to phase out the state's mink farms.

Lightning

That's Wild: Was Lightning the Key to Life on Earth?

Some 4 billion years ago, meteorites brought minerals to Earth that helped foster life. But researchers from the University of Leeds recently found that lightning strikes may have been just as important in delivering certain minerals: They bring schreibersite, a water-soluble form of phosphorus, to the planet's surface. Phosphorus is a key mineral for all life processes, from movement to growth and reproduction.

According to head researcher Benjamin Hess, the discovery means life could still erupt on other Earth-like planets long after meteorite impacts become rare.

Read more at Science Daily.

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Photo credits: Savanna elephant by Ankit Gita/Flickr; red tree vole by Stephen DeStefano/USGS; spring-run Chinook salmon by Conrad Gowell/Native Fish Society; California condor by Wade Tregaskis/Flickr; reticulated flatwoods salamander by Jeromi Hefner/USGS; Tiehm's buckwheat by Patrick Donnelly/Center for Biological Diversity; orange trees by Philippe Gauthier/Unsplash; Revelator spring books; American mink by Ryzhkov Sergey/Wikimedia; lightning storm by Bethany Laird/Unsplash.

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