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Saturday, 30 August, 2003
New species uncovered in Venezuela
Aphyocharax yekwanae

The Aphyocharax yekwanae was named in honour of the Indians who live in the basin.
The Aphyocharax yekwanae was named in honour of the Indians who live in the basin
Scientists working in the jungles of Venezuela have discovered 10 new species of fish and a previously unknown species of shrimp.
Among the new discoveries, revealed by US-based Conservation International, was an armoured catfish whose spiky head earned him the nickname "punk" and a piranha that eats fruit as well as flesh.
The group are now calling on the Venezuelan Government to protect the Caura River Basin, where the species were found, designating the 4,500-hectare (11,115-acre) area a wildlife reserve.
"For its size, it's incredible what the area has. It's a hot spot that should be protected," said zoologist Antonio Machado, who helped direct the research.
Area under threat
The Caura River Basin, in the state of Bolivar, is an area of pristine tropical forest and waterways tucked away in the highlands, about 500 kilometres (300 miles) south-east of the Venezuelan capital Caracas.
Conservationists are concerned that the area will fall prey to encroaching human settlements as well as the adverse effects of increased farming and fishing.
The Caura River Basin requires immediate and urgent protection as a wildlife reserve
Zoologist Antonio Machado
The region could also be threatened by future hydroelectricity plans, the group said.
"The Caura River Basin requires immediate and urgent protection as a wildlife reserve," said Mr Machado, who described the region as a biological "hotspot".
One of the most colourful discoveries was a green and red variety of the Bloodfin Tetra family — a type popular with aquarium owners — which has been given the Latin name Aphyocharax yekwanae in honour of the Ye'Kwana Indians who live in the basin.
"These indigenous people depend on the water," Mr Machado explained.
The omnivorous piranha, which supplements its diet with fruit from submerged trees, was called Serrasalmus.
While the tentacle armoured catfish has been formally dubbed Ancistrus, the team of international scientists that found it on their expedition in 2000 gave it the nickname "punk fish" because of its spiky head.
Thursday, 23 October, 2003
Ocean census discovers new fish
By Julianna Kettlewell
BBC News Online staff

The Census of Marine Life
A new species of scorpionfish was discovered
More than 600 new species of fish have been discovered by a major ocean census and thousands more may be lurking undetected.
Some 300 scientists from 53 countries are creating a record of all known marine life, in a project reminiscent of an aquatic Domesday Book.
The 10-year Census of Marine Life project will form an open database of raw material available to everyone.
It will pinpoint endangered animals and suggest how to protect them.
Pole to pole
So far 15,304 species of fish have been logged.   Between 2,000 — 3,000 more are expected to join the list before the census ends in 2010 and many will be previously unknown species.

We are at the start of a great adventure, like going to the moon

Jesse Ausubel, census Program Director
Apart from cataloguing species diversity, distribution and abundance, the census will explain how ocean life changes over time and in the face of human activity.
Extending from pole to pole and covering virtually every ocean, the Census of Marine Life (CoML) is easily the most ambitious and costly project of its kind.   Much of the $1bn bill will be footed by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation — a philanthropic non-profit organisation — and individual governments.
The unknown ocean
The census is divided into seven parts.   As well as Pacific shorelines and the North Atlantic sea floor, scientists are examining the Gulf of Maine, hydrothermal vents, coastal salmon runs, the world wide habits of large fish and mammals, and animals of the abyss.
The first census report just published outlines how the understanding of these seven topics has advanced since the initiative began three years ago.
One 'hot pot' of discovery has been the deep waters off Angola.   Researchers exploring the abyssal sediments found an environment with more species per area than any other known aquatic environment on earth.
The Census of Marine Life
New species of grenadiers found in the western Mediterranean

About 500 of the species collected are thought to be new to science.   Experts hope that the research will improve understanding of the relationship between deep-sea species diversity and the richness of food in the water column.
The report also highlights the habits of young salmon during the sea dwelling stage of their lives, challenging conventional ideas about their survival.
"Most of the attention on salmon has been in rivers," Mike Vecchione, a scientist at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, told BBC News Online.
"But the census has found that most deaths of young salmon occur in the open ocean.   This information may be key to maintaining their populations."
Long journey
This is not the first survey into marine life.   Numerous catalogues of aquatic creatures are available to the public, but the Census of Marine Life claims to be a league apart.
"Most other marine surveys concentrate on commercially important species or charismatic animals like sharks or whales, but we are casting our net far wider," said Jesse Ausubel, Program Director of CoML.
Over the next seven years, the census hopes to bring the number of marine species on the database to well over 210,000.
They also plan to establish pharmaceutical uses for some of the new species discovered.
Less than 14 km off the Florida Keys, scientists recently discovered a new species — perhaps even a new genus — of sponge, which has been nicknamed the "Rasta sponge".   Chemical compounds found in the sponge may help treat cancerous tumours.
But those involved in the census acknowledge they are still at the beginning of a very long voyage.
"Some 95% of the ocean is still unexplored biologically.   We don't know what that figure will be in 2010, but we hope it will be much smaller," Mr Ausubel said.
"We hope we will have visited and sampled all the major domains of the ocean.
"We are at the start of a great adventure, like going to the moon," he added.   "But we know more about the surface of the moon."
Newly found bird loses only known habitat
Thursday, October 23, 2003
Carrizal Seedeater

Photo: Miguel Lentino
Carrizal Seedeater
CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) — Naturalists celebrated the discovery of a new species of bird — a blue-flecked, seed-eating finch — in Venezuela, but they mourned that a state electricity company destroyed its only known habitat to make way for a dam.
U.K.-based BirdLife International, which unites conservation groups worldwide, said the species was first spotted on Carrizal Island, an uninhabited islet on the Caroni river in biodiverse southeastern Venezuela, in July 2001.
It took two years for researchers to conclude the bird, of which three examples were found, was a new species.   They called it the Carrizal Seedeater.
In that time, the bird's habitat of thickets of spiny bamboo on the island were razed as part of the construction of a massive hydroelectric dam, Birdlife International said in a statement Wednesday sent to Reuters.
"The discovery of the Carrizal Seedeater is an exciting development for global bird life, but the discovery is tempered with the knowledge that we have now destroyed the place where it hid from us for so long," said Robin Restall, one of the naturalists who made the discovery.
"This bird may now be losing the most favorable habitat for its continued survival," he added.
BirdLife International said the bird had a larger bill than other finches and small plumage differences. The male was gray with splashes of blue, the female was varying shades of brown.
Venezuela world's last unspoiled jungle
Venezuela has some of the world's last unspoiled jungle housing exotic tropical species.
In August, scientists announced the discovery in the South American nation of 10 new fish species, including a "punk" catfish with a spiky head and a piranha that eats fruit as well as fish.
With their habitat gone, it was not clear what had happened to the three Carrizal Seedeaters that were found.
Still, naturalists with BirdLife's affiliate in Venezuela, the Audubon group, said the same kind of bamboo existed in the surrounding Caroni basin.
"There has to be more of them alive, hidden in the bamboo," Audubon Venezuela president Clemencia Rodner told Reuters.
Audubon representatives said state electricity company EDELCA allowed the naturalists to do a wildlife inventory in 2001 but that by then it was too late to change the dam's plans.
Rodner said naturalists hoped the company would support an expedition to search for more examples of the bird.
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Friday, 28 November, 2003
Fiji's 'extinct' bird flies anew
By Alex Kirby
BBC News Online environment correspondent
A small songbird believed to have become extinct more than a century ago has been found alive and well in Fiji.
Long-legged warbler

Back from oblivion, and in good voice

BirdlLife Fiji
Long-legged warbler
Back from oblivion, and in good voice
A team from BirdLife International discovered the bird, the long-legged warbler, after hearing its distinctive and haunting call in a mountain valley.
BirdLife says the 12 pairs of warblers it has seen are safe for the moment in their remote home in the dense forest.
But the birds are at risk from forest clearance elsewhere, and from mongooses introduced to the islands to kill rats.
The warbler is known also as the long-legged thicketbird, in recognition of its preference for living in dense undergrowth.
Given up for dead
It used to be called the spirit bird (manu kalou) by local people, perhaps because of its singing.
Only four specimens were collected, between 1890 and 1894, since when there had been no confirmed sightings of the bird.   Despite unconfirmed sightings within the last 20 years, BirdLife believed the warbler was extinct.
But a year into a survey of Fiji's rare birds, funded by the UK's Darwin Initiative, it turned up again on Viti Levu, the largest island in the group.
Warbler's forest home

BirdLife Fiji

The warbler's forest home
Vilikesa Masibalavu of BirdLife was the first to identify the warbler.   He said: "I heard a loud song which was different from any other Fijian bird."
His colleague Guy Dutson said: "At first incredulous, I soon realised this was indeed the bird we had been searching for all this time."
After that initial discovery, nine pairs of warblers were found along a two km stretch of stream with dense thickets of undergrowth in Wabu, a forest reserve.   Another pair was later found in a logged forest.
BirdLife says this shows there are locally high population densities at an altitude between 800-1,000 metres (2,600-3,300 feet) in the unlogged forest.   Two of the pairs were seen with recently-fledged young birds.
Reversing the trend
Guy Dutson said: "The long-legged warbler is a very secretive species but now we know its song, we can find it and make our first assessment of its conservation needs.
"Its rediscovery is a rare beacon of hope when all too often birds are becoming extinct in their natural habitats, especially those endemic to small islands.
"We must now work to ensure this bird does not disappear after managing to hide from us for so long, and I hope to make sure it gets the protection it deserves."
BirdLife, a global alliance which works in more than 100 countries, says most Fijian forests are unprotected and at risk from logging or conversion to mahogany plantations.
It says its research shows degraded forest is unsuitable for the warbler and for many other birds.
Mongooses have caused the extinction of all of the ground-nesting birds on the main Fijian islands.
        RELATED INTERNET LINK:        

        Conservation International        

Thursday, 30 May, 2002
Brazil's 'extinct' bird still alive
By Alex Kirby
BBC News Online environment correspondent
Back after 45 years: But the golden-crowned manakin may not be safe

Poster: 'Let's protect ourselves wherever we go'
Back after 45 years: But the golden-crowned manakin may not be safe
A small bird thought to have become extinct years ago has been rediscovered in Brazil.
The bird, the golden-crowned manakin, was first found in 1957 — also the year it was last seen.
Ornithologists say its reappearance means there is more hope of finding other species lost for decades.
But they are worried that threats to the bird's rainforest habitat may mean its hold on life will be short.
The manakin was discovered 45 years ago by the German-born ornithologist Helmut Sick, in Para state in southern Amazonia. Two years later it was officially recognised as a distinct species.
Several unsuccessful attempts to find the bird have been made since 1957.   Then, within the last week, two Brazilian scientists rediscovered it by chance.
The two, Fabio Olmos and Jose Fernando Pacheco, were carrying out an environmental survey along the line of a new road being built for the logging industry.
They found the bird — a single male — several hundred kilometres from Sick's original discovery of five birds.
Not safe yet
Fabio Olmos said: "We were thrilled to find the lost manakin — quite distinctive from other manakins.
"The local economy is based on logging and cattle-ranching on cleared land. The Brazilian Government is encouraging colonisation but has no way of controlling loggers, squatters, colonists and gold miners once access is created.
"Forest destruction will remain a major threat to the long-term survival of this beautiful bird and other wildlife of the area."
BirdLife International, an alliance of conservation groups working in more than 100 countries, is setting up a network of conservationists in Brazil, including the manakin's finders.
Alison Stattersfield of BirdLife said: "This is tremendous news, but there are genuine concerns that the manakin's habitat is under threat from the continued destruction of the fantastic Amazonian rainforest."
Back after 45 years: But the golden-crowned manakin may not be safe
Back after 45 years: But the golden-crowned manakin may not be safe
Gone for a century
Ade Long of Birdlife told BBC News Online: "More new bird species have been reported from Brazil in the last 10 years than from anywhere else on Earth.
"So the manakin's reappearance encourages us not only to keep looking out for vanished species, but to hope that there are entirely new ones for us still to find.
"And Jose Fernando Pacheco has a very good record. He's rediscovered two other lost species in the last decade.
"One 'lost' bird he was involved with, the kinglet cotinga, which looks like a goldcrest, hadn't been seen since the 19th Century."

For archive purposes, this article is being stored on website.
The purpose is to advance understandings of environmental, political,
human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues.