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Litoria frog

The Litoria frog uses a loud ringing song to call for a mate.

Litoria is a genus of Hylidae tree frogs native to Australia, the Bismarck Archipelago, the Solomon Islands, New Guinea, the Lesser Sunda Islands, the Moluccan Islands, and Timor.

They are sometimes collectively referred to as Australiasian treefrogs.

They are distinguishable from other tree frogs by the presence of horizontal irises, no pigmentation of the eye lid and their Wallacean distribution. 

Several new species are described every year on average, by 2010 the number of known species is likely to exceed 150.

This frog was found on a RAP survey, at the headwaters of the Strickland River, in the Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea.

Finder: Steve Richards, South Australian Museum — July 2008
Details: Conservation International
Litoria frog
The Litoria frog uses a loud ringing song to call for a mate.
Litoria is a genus of Hylidae tree frogs native to Australia, the Bismarck Archipelago, the Solomon Islands, New Guinea, the Lesser Sunda Islands, the Moluccan Islands, and Timor.
They are sometimes collectively referred to as Australiasian treefrogs.
They are distinguishable from other tree frogs by the presence of horizontal irises, no pigmentation of the eye lid and their Wallacean distribution.
Several new species are described every year on average, by 2010 the number of known species is likely to exceed 150.
This frog was found on a RAP survey, at the headwaters of the Strickland River, in the Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea.
Finder: Steve Richards, South Australian Museum — July 2008
Details: Conservation International
“I first came here in 1987 and then you could walk up a stream during the day, there were these beautiful frogs mottled yellow and black that were on almost every boulder as you walked.
At night you would hear several, many different kinds of frogs calling.
You'd walk in the forest during the day and frogs would just sort of hop out under your feet.
Now the stream is empty.  The nights are quiet.”
Rhacophorus angulirostris
Kina Balu Flying Frog
Photographed in Indonesia in 2003, Alexander Haas, Conservation International
Thursday, 25 September 2008
Bleak outlook for Europe's toads
By Alex Kirby
By Mark Kinver
Science and environment reporter, BBC News
Common toads in a mating ball

Photo: Trent Garner/ZSL
Common toads in a mating ball
Even common toads are feeling the heat, researchers warn
More than half of Europe's amphibians could be extinct by 2050, a team of UK researchers has warned.
Climate change, habitat destruction and disease were the main factors threatening the species' long-term survival, they added.
Scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) said creatures in Italy and Iberia were at most risk.
A recent global assessment found that a third of all amphibians were at risk of being wiped off the face of the planet.
The findings were presented at an event hosted by naturalist Sir David Attenborough to highlight the plight of Europe's amphibians.
"Amphibians are the lifeblood of many environments, playing key roles in the functions of ecosystems," Sir David said.
"It is both extraordinary and terrifying that in just a few decades we could lose half of all these species."
Dr Bickford, who spent four years studying the animals high up in the mountains of Chimbu Province, reports his findings in the journal Nature.
Bleak outlook
Outlining the team's findings, ZSL research fellow Trent Garner said climate change was likely to have a dramatic impact on the conditions the creatures needed to survive.
A female toad and her young crossing a road in Germany.

Climate change, habitat destruction and disease threaten to wipe out over half of Europe's frog, toad and newt species by the middle of the century, the Zoological Society of London warned Thursday.

Photo: DPA
A female toad and her young crossing a road in Germany.
Climate change, habitat destruction and disease threaten to wipe out over half of Europe's frog, toad and newt species by the middle of the century, the Zoological Society of London warned Thursday.
"Published projections show that climate change alters amphibians' habitats, so we expect a large number of species to be faced with loss of habitat and, ultimately, extinction," he observed.
Dr Garner added that species in Italy, Iberia and the Mediterranean region would bear the brunt of changes to the climate, but amphibians in all parts of Europe would be affected.
"In the UK, we are already seeing common toads losing condition and experiencing reduced survival.
"As climate change continues to impact habitats, the situation gets far worse for these native species."
As well as the climate threat, the researchers warned that two infectious diseases - a chytrid fungus and ranavirus - were also a serious threat to the animals' long-term survival.
Helen Meredith, amphibians co-ordinator for ZSL's Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) programme, warned: "There is no time to waste if we are to prevent further species loss.
"We need to reduce carbon emissions, but also address other pressing factors including habitat destruction and spread of diseases."
 
Oreophryne frog

The Oreophryne (Cross Frogs) is a genus of microhylid frogs endemic to Southern Philippine, Celebes and the Lesser Sunda Islands, and New Guinea.

The Oreophryne a tiny frog species was discovered in limestone hills.

The Oreophryne are from a group of frogs that are common in the very wet rainforests of New Guinea.

In these saturated environments this Oreophryne and its relatives lay their eggs on the ground or in trees where they hatch directly into tiny froglets, bypassing the tadpole stage.

The Oreophryne has a sharp chirping call.

This photo is taken on a RAP survey, at the headwaters of the Strickland River, in the Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea.

Finder: Steve Richards, South Australian Museum — July 2008
Details: Conservation International
Oreophryne frog
The Oreophryne (Cross Frogs) is a genus of microhylid frogs endemic to Southern Philippine, Celebes and the Lesser Sunda Islands, and New Guinea.
The Oreophryne a tiny frog species was discovered in limestone hills.
The Oreophryne are from a group of frogs that are common in the very wet rainforests of New Guinea.
In these saturated environments this Oreophryne and its relatives lay their eggs on the ground or in trees where they hatch directly into tiny froglets, bypassing the tadpole stage.
The Oreophryne has a sharp chirping call.
This photo is taken on a RAP survey, at the headwaters of the Strickland River, in the Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea.
Finder: Steve Richards, South Australian Museum — July 2008
Details: Conservation International
Scientists Say Global Warming Devastates Frogs in Latin America
By ANDREW C. REVKIN
Published: January 11, 2006
About two-thirds of over 110 species of brightly colored harlequin frogs, in the genus Atelopus, in the American tropics, have vanished since the 1980's.
cientists studying a fast-dwindling genus of colorful frogs in Central and South America say that recent global warming has combined with a spreading fungus to create a killing zone, driving many species restricted to misty mountainsides to extinction.
The researchers said they had implicated widespread warming, as opposed to local variations in temperature or other conditions affecting the frogs, by finding that patterns of fungus outbreaks and species loss in widely dispersed patches of habitat were synchronized in a way that was statistically impossible to explain by chance.
Climate scientists have already linked most of the recent rise in the earth's average temperature to the buildup of greenhouse emissions from smokestacks and tailpipes.   Thus the new findings, according to the researchers and some independent experts on amphibians, imply that warming driven by human activity may have already fostered outbreaks of disease and imperiled species with restricted habitats.
The study, led by J. Alan Pounds, the resident biologist at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve in Costa Rica, is to be published on Thursday in the journal Nature.
In an accompanying commentary, two scientists not involved in the research, Andy Dobson, a Princeton University ecologist, and Andrew R. Blaustein, a zoologist at Oregon State University, said the research provided "compelling evidence" that warming caused by human activity was already disrupting ecology.
"The frogs are sending an alarm call to all concerned about the future of biodiversity and the need to protect the greatest of all open-access resources -- the atmosphere," they wrote.
But other climate and amphibian experts criticized the paper, saying there were several layers of significant uncertainty that were not eliminated by the analysis.
Among those, they said, it is still unclear whether the lethal fungus, which attacks amphibian skin, has long been in the affected areas and dormant or is a recent arrival.
Some amphibian and climate experts who read the paper said it contained definitive statements — like "our study sheds light on the amphibian-decline mystery by showing that large-scale warming is a key factor" — that were not supported by data.
Over 110 species of brightly colored harlequin frogs, in the genus Atelopus, once lived near streams in the American tropics, but about two-thirds of them have vanished since the 1980's.
Implicated in many of those vanishings, as well as amphibian die-offs around the world, is a chytrid fungus that grows on amphibian skin from deserts to lowland tropical forests to mountainsides.
A paradox confronting biologists studying possible links to climate change is that the fungus thrives best in cooler conditions, challenging the theory that warming is contributing to the amphibian declines.
But Dr. Pounds and his team, in studying trends in temperature and disease around the American tropics and, in particular detail, in the cloud-shrouded ridges of Costa Rica where he lives and works, found patterns that they say explain the situation.
Rising cloudiness, a long-projected consequence as warming increases evaporation, can keep days cooler by blocking some sunlight and nights warmer by holding in some heat.
At intermediate elevations on the mountain slopes of places like Costa Rica, that could have created a favorable zone for the spread of the chytrid fungus, Dr. Pounds said in an interview.
He said that because the apparent harlequin frog extinctions have occurred in lockstep in widely dispersed field sites, they are hard to attribute to anything other than the broad warming trend linked by other scientists to rising concentrations of greenhouse gases.
While the fungus is the bullet, he said, the broader ongoing warming and resulting shifts in clouds are the trigger.
Cynthia Carey, an expert in amphibian diseases who teaches at the University of Colorado, Boulder, said that while both climate and amphibian die-offs are serious problems, this particular paper failed to offer anything beyond circumstantial evidence of links between the fungal illness and warming.
"It is difficult to prove cause and effect on the ground where multiple factors interact in complex ways," Dr. Carey said.
Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company
Nyctimystes

The Nyctimystes is a genus of tree frog in the Hylidae family.

They are principally a Papua New Guinea species but do inhabit islands in the Moluccas and northern Queensland, Australia.

This large and spectacular frog was discovered next to a clear running mountain river.

It was found on a RAP survey, at the headwaters of the Strickland River, in the Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea.

All species in this genus have one distinct feature that separates them from other species in the Hylidae genus, the lower eyelid is marked with pattern of lines, veins or dots.

This feature presumably acts as camouflage when the frogs are at rest during the day.

This genus inhabits tropical or subtropical montane rainforest.

Frogs of this genus are found mainly in New Guinea’s montane tropical forests where they lay their eggs under stones in rivers and streams.

The tadpoles have a large sucker-mouths that they use to attach to slippery rocks so they are not swept away

Their body shape is very streamlined with a large tail musculature.

All species of this genus have extensive webbing and large toe discs.

Many of the species in this genus have a relatively small population sizes and not much in known about each species, let alone the genus as a whole.

The eggs are large and are laid on submerged objects in fast flowing creeks and streams — not all species of this genus have been recorded as doing this.

Finder: Steve Richards, South Australian Museum — July 2008
Details: Conservation International
Nyctimystes
The Nyctimystes is a genus of tree frog in the Hylidae family.
They are principally a Papua New Guinea species but do inhabit islands in the Moluccas and northern Queensland, Australia.
This large and spectacular frog was discovered next to a clear running mountain river.
It was found on a RAP survey, at the headwaters of the Strickland River, in the Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea.
All species in this genus have one distinct feature that separates them from other species in the Hylidae genus, the lower eyelid is marked with pattern of lines, veins or dots.
This feature presumably acts as camouflage when the frogs are at rest during the day.
This genus inhabits tropical or subtropical montane rainforest.
Frogs of this genus are found mainly in New Guinea’s montane tropical forests where they lay their eggs under stones in rivers and streams.
The tadpoles have a large sucker-mouths that they use to attach to slippery rocks so they are not swept away
Their body shape is very streamlined with a large tail musculature.
All species of this genus have extensive webbing and large toe discs.
Many of the species in this genus have a relatively small population sizes and not much in known about each species, let alone the genus as a whole.
The eggs are large and are laid on submerged objects in fast flowing creeks and streams — not all species of this genus have been recorded as doing this.
Finder: Steve Richards, South Australian Museum — July 2008
Details: Conservation International
Friday, 17 October, 2003
Purple frog delights scientists
Photo: Frog, Bossuyt/Nature  

The chubby, seven-centimetre-long, purple amphibian with a pointy snout was found hopping around in the Western Ghats, a range of hills in India.
The chubby, seven-centimetre-long, purple amphibian with a pointy snout was found hopping around in the Western Ghats, a range of hills in India.
It has to be one of the strangest looking frogs ever discovered.
The chubby, seven -centimetre -long, purple amphibian with a pointy snout was found hopping around in the Western Ghats, a range of hills in western India.
Scientists have given it the name Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis, from the Sanskrit word for nose (nasika); batrachus, meaning frog; and Sahyadri, the name for its mountain home.
Its head appears too small for its body and it looks more like a squat, grumpy blob than a living creature.
But to the scientists who describe it in the journal Nature, the frog is a beautiful find because of what it tells them about Earth history.
"It is an important discovery because it tells us something about the early evolution of advanced frogs that we would not know otherwise because there are no fossil records from this lineage," says Franky Bossuyt, of Free University of Brussels, Belgium.
Geological pathways
Bossuyt and colleague S D Biju, of the Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute in Kerala, say N. sahyandrensis is related to a family of frogs in the Seychelles called Sooglossidae.
DNA analysis suggests the common ancestor of the animals lived 130 million years ago, when the planet's landmasses were joined together into a giant supercontinent called Gondwana.
Frog, Bossuyt/Nature
"A once -in -a -century find"
Its subsequent break-up would have sent the frogs on a diverging path of evolutionary development.
"People have been wondering about the closest relative of Sooglossidae, the ones that live on the Seychelles," Bossuyt told the Reuters news agency.
"There was a theory that maybe the closest relative was in India and had become extinct.   But now we have found it, and it looks different than expected," he added.
In a commentary on the research in Nature, Blair Hedges, of Pennsylvania State University, US, has described the discovery of N. sahyandrensis as "a once-in-a-century find".
 
Cyrtodactylus

The Cyrtodactylus is a genus of Asian geckos, commonly known as bow-fingered geckos.

Usually found in dense rainforest this Cyrtodactylus bent-toed gecko was found on a RAP survey, at the headwaters of the Strickland River, in the Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea.

This lizard was climbing on mossy branches in the pouring rain.

This beautiful gecko is potentially new to science known only from a single specimen collected in the dense rainforest at Tualapa in the Strickland River headwaters.

Unlike many geckos it relies on sharp claws instead of large pads to climb high into the forest canopy where it feeds on insects and other arthropods.

Finder: Steve Richards, South Australian Museum — July 2008
Details: Conservation International
Cyrtodactylus
The Cyrtodactylus is a genus of Asian geckos, commonly known as bow-fingered geckos.
Usually found in dense rainforest this Cyrtodactylus bent-toed gecko was found on a RAP survey, at the headwaters of the Strickland River, in the Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea.
This lizard was climbing on mossy branches in the pouring rain.
This beautiful gecko is potentially new to science known only from a single specimen collected in the dense rainforest at Tualapa in the Strickland River headwaters.
Unlike many geckos it relies on sharp claws instead of large pads to climb high into the forest canopy where it feeds on insects and other arthropods.
Finder: Steve Richards, South Australian Museum — July 2008
Details: Conservation International
                 
         
One-third of amphibian species called threatened
Human implications are foreseen in study
Carolyn Y. Johnson, Globe Correspondent   |   October 15, 2004
The first vertebrate species to begin hopping and crawling on land 350 million years ago may be the first to die out, according to a study released yesterday that found a third of all amphibian species worldwide are threatened with extinction.
Isolated reports of silent forests and empty streams began to circulate about three decades ago, but the latest assessment is the first to provide a complete snapshot of a global decline in the diversity of frogs, salamanders, newts, and worm-like caecilians, and to show that they are at greater risk than both birds and mammals.
Scientists say the survey is bad news for humans, too.
Amphibians' permeable skin and dual existence on land and in water make them "canaries in the coal mine," early indicators that pollution, climate change, and overall degradation of the environment may eventually threaten human life, according to zoologists.
"Amphibians have a moist, wet, rather delicate skin.
They absorb things from their environment and can lose water very quickly through their skin," said Geoffrey Hammerson, a research zoologist who contributed to the report.  "They're good red flags for us to watch."
The survey, published online by the journal Science, studied the 5,743 known amphibian species and found that at least 1,856 of them face extinction, more than 100 species may already be extinct, and 43 percent are in a population decline — many for unknown reasons.
"I've lived a decline," said coauthor Bruce Young, an international zoologist of the environmental organization NatureServe who lives in Costa Rica.  "I first came here in 1987 and then you could walk up a stream during the day, there were these beautiful frogs mottled yellow and black that were on almost every boulder as you walked.  At night you would hear several, many different kinds of frogs calling.  You'd walk in the forest during the day and frogs would just sort of hop out under your feet."
Now, he said, the stream is empty.  The nights are quiet.
The study, a three-year collaborative effort between 500 zoologists, biologists, and wildlife specialists around the world, was organized by three wildlife organizations: NatureServe, Conservation International, and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.  They compiled a database containing the results of thousands of studies that monitored the populations of individual species in particular regions.
They determined that 32.5 percent of amphibian species were threatened with extinction, compared with 12 percent of birds and 23 percent of mammals.
"They've established very convincingly that global declines are true and are far worse than anyone imagined," said James Hanken, director of Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology.
The authors attributed some of the declines, which have occurred mainly in tropical areas, to habitat loss or to humans collecting animals for food, medicine, or pets.
But nearly half of the rapidly declining species are suffering because of unexplained causes, and could begin to die by the hundreds over the next decades if nothing is done, the report said.  The mysterious declines are even happening in pristine, well-protected areas.
Scientists suspect a variety of factors, including the spread of a deadly fungus that may have originated in Africa, global climate change, or a combination.
Ultraviolet light also has been shown to weaken the immune responses of amphibian embryos in studies; a thinning ozone layer could let in more potentially damaging light, sickening animals.
The spread of the deadly chytrid fungus is poorly understood.  The fungus apparently began spreading in the 1970s, because museum specimens captured earlier than then are free of it, said Young.  He speculated that the fungus could have been spread by trade in pets and wild animals, or South African clawed frogs could have spread the fungus when they were used widely in the 1960s for human pregnancy tests.
"It starts us thinking that we should be paying attention to these because parallel things could happen in humans," Hammerson said.
Even in New England, where native amphibian species aren't endangered, local declines are common.  The Massachusetts endangered species list includes five of the 10 kinds of salamander that live in the state — mostly because of fragmented habitat.
New England's frogs and salamanders depend on vernal pools, shallow ponds that dry up each summer, to lay their eggs free from the threat of hungry fish.  Such wetland areas are often filled in during development or cut off by highways and housing complexes from the forests where adult amphibians live.
© Copyright 2006 Globe Newspaper Company.
 
Monday, 24 July, 2000
Amphibian decline 'has many causes'
The amphibian decline is happening worldwide
"The amphibian decline is happening worldwide"
By environment correspondent Alex Kirby
The decline and even disappearance of frogs, toads, newts and salamanders across the world has no single cause, a US biologist says.
Dr Ashley Mattoon, of the Worldwatch Institute, says the declines "involve microscopic pathogens and global climate change, and fields ranging from forestry economics to wildlife toxicology.
"Understanding them will require a much more interdisciplinary, integrative approach than is typical of conventional research."
Writing in World Watch, the Institute's magazine, Dr Mattoon says a decade of research into the amphibians' plight has produced few definitive answers.   Of the pressures that appear to underlie most declines, the single most important is habitat loss.
The amphibian decline is happening worldwide
"Amphibians are useful creatures"
Sudden disaster
Other pressures identified include pollution, the introduction of non-native species, disease, climate change, and exposure to increased levels of ultra-violet radiation because of ozone loss.
But while some declines have no single identifiable cause, Dr Mattoon says many differ from other cases of biodiversity loss in three significant ways.
"Many of the declines appear to have been very sudden.   They may also involve whole assemblages of species, so it's not just a question of one or two animals disappearing from an area, but 10 or 20 of them.
"And many declines are occurring in areas where there is no obvious disturbance of any kind.   It has been very difficult to understand why this is happening, and it would have been almost impossible to predict it."
A recent example of the more interdisciplinary approach she urges is an international effort to track a pathogenic fungus that is killing frogs in north and central America and in Australia.
The amphibian decline is happening worldwide
"More research is urgent"
Another example is research which may have identified a role for climate change in the disappearance of a frog fauna from Costa Rica.
Species discovered
Dr Mattoon is worried at the "enormous geographical mismatch in research efforts: more than 80% of the amphibian populations studied to date have been north American and European, but the vast majority of amphibian species thus far identified live in the tropics."
A recent five-year survey in Sri Lanka found more than 200 new species there.   "That's more than five times the 38 species that were known to comprise the island's amphibian fauna in 1993," said Dr Mattoon.
"Since so many tropical amphibians are forest animals, we have to assume that deforestation is taking an enormous toll on them.   But there's an urgent need for more field research, particularly in tropical moist forests."
She argues too for research to investigate not simply the causes of decline, but also its implications.
Amphibians occupy pivotal positions in many ecosystems, sometimes controlling insects, or keeping algal growth in check.   And many species produce substances of great pharmaceutical potential.
Strange deformities are being found more often
"Strange deformities are being found more often"
Amphibian challenge
Dr Mattoon argues that trying to conserve individual species cannot succeed.   "It's just not realistic to assume that every little frog or salamander is going to be able to attract a constituency that will look out for its best interests", she says.
But a truly sustainable society "manages its affairs in ways that prevent large numbers of species from disappearing — even species like most amphibians that will never have any political pull.
"Amphibian decline is a fundamental challenge to the way we live.   We may not understand all the biological particulars, but the ethical issue is now very clear."
 
Orthrus

The Orthrus jumping spider is potentially a species new to science.

Nothing is known about its ecology.
  
Jumping spiders have good vision and use it for hunting and navigating.

They are capable of jumping from place to place, secured by a silk tether.

Both their book lungs and the tracheal system are well-developed, as they depend on both systems — bimodal breathing.

In general, jumping spiders can jump at least 15 cm (6 in).

They don't have big legs for jumping because they use blood pressure to jump – muscles in the body contract to squeeze the blood into the legs, which makes the legs snap straight, and thus the jump.

The jumping spider family Salticidae contains more than 500 described genera and over 5,000 species, making it the largest family of spiders with about 13% of all species.

Probably at least as many species again remain to be discovered around the world.

This jumping spider was found on a tree in the rainforest on a RAP survey in Central Province in Papua New Guinea.

In Greek mythology, Orthrus is a two-headed dog and a doublet of Cerberus, both whelped by the chthonic monster Echidna by Typhon.

Finder: Wayne Maddison, Beaty Biodiversity Museum, University of British Columbia — July 2008
Details: Conservation International
Orthrus
The Orthrus jumping spider is potentially a species new to science.
Nothing is known about its ecology.
Jumping spiders have good vision and use it for hunting and navigating.
They are capable of jumping from place to place, secured by a silk tether.
Both their book lungs and the tracheal system are well-developed, as they depend on both systems — bimodal breathing.
In general, jumping spiders can jump at least 15 cm (6 in).
They don't have big legs for jumping because they use blood pressure to jump – muscles in the body contract to squeeze the blood into the legs, which makes the legs snap straight, and thus the jump.
The jumping spider family Salticidae contains more than 500 described genera and over 5,000 species, making it the largest family of spiders with about 13% of all species.
Probably at least as many species again remain to be discovered around the world.
This jumping spider was found on a tree in the rainforest on a RAP survey in Central Province in Papua New Guinea.
In Greek mythology, Orthrus is a two-headed dog and a doublet of Cerberus, both whelped by the chthonic monster Echidna by Typhon.
Finder: Wayne Maddison, Beaty Biodiversity Museum, University of British Columbia — July 2008
Details: Conservation International
Monday, 19 September 2005
Global plan to rescue amphibians
By Richard Black
Environment Correspondent,
BBC News website, Washington DC
The price of saving the world's frogs, toads and salamanders from oblivion will top $400m (£220m) over five years.
Photo: Chytridiomycosis -affected frog (Colostethus panamensis) in Panama
Chytridiomycosis -affected frog in Panama
(Colostethus panamensis)
Fungal attack
The hunched posture typical of infected, dying frogs
(Image: Forrest Brun/Roberto Benes)
This is the estimated cost of a global action plan drawn up during an expert summit in Washington DC, and backed by the UN's biodiversity agency IUCN.
The money would pay for the protection of habitats, for disease prevention and captive-breeding projects, and for the ability to respond to emergencies.
About a third of all amphibian species are at a high risk of extinction.
"Many species have already become extinct through habitat loss," Rohan Pethiyagoda, deputy chair of IUCN's species survival commission, told the BBC News website.
"The extent of these declines and extinctions is without precedent in any class of animals over the last few millennia."
Plotting the decline
According to the Global Amphibian Assessment, a vast and authoritative study which reported its findings last year, almost a third of the 5,743 known species are at risk of extinction; up to 122 have disappeared within the last 25 years.
The action plan emerging from this meeting lists six major reasons behind the decline:
  • habitat loss and degradation
  • climate change
  • chemical contamination
  • infectious disease, notably the fungal infection chytridiomycosis
  • invasive species
  • over-harvesting
  • Over the three days, working groups drawn from a wide range of scientific institutions and conservation organisations have established budgets for tackling each of these issues; the overall total comes to US$404m (£223m).
    Chytridiomycosis, a fungal disease which emerged in the 1970s, occupied much of the delegates' attention.
    It has devastated populations, particularly in south and central America, but is also firmly established in Australia, Africa and Europe.
    WHAT ARE AMPHIBIANS?
    Frog (BBC)
    Group includes frogs, toads, salamanders and caecilians
    First successful terrestrial vertebrates 350m years ago
    Adapted to many different aquatic and terrestrial habitats
    Present today on every continent except Antarctica
    Undergo metamorphosis, from larvae to adults
    So widespread and so devastating is Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, the fungus responsible, that one of the main recommendations emerging in the action plan is that extensive captive-breeding programmes should be established for amphibians at particular risk.
    The plan envisages that, ultimately, around 1,000 species could be preserved in this way, with specialist facilities established on every continent.
    But not all delegates believe this to be an effective approach.
    "Many species can't be bred in captivity," Cynthia Carey, from the University of Colorado, US, told the BBC News website, "and with 99% of the species they're looking at, we just don't know how to do it.
    "You can give them the right habitat and food, but they may need specific light or heat or moisture or group size, otherwise the female won't ovulate — and it can take years to study that."
    The action plan sees captive breeding as a bridge to a better era when chytridiomycosis can be beaten and the amphibians returned to the wild.
    "We've been running a captive-breeding programme with the boreal toad (Bufo boreas) since 1995," said Professor Carey.
    "We've tried re-introducing them to the wild seven or eight times, but every time they die within a couple of years; if you don't get rid of the fungus, all you're doing is providing it with lunch."
    Developing resistance
    Part of the US$404m would be spent on investigating ways of dealing with Batrachochytrium.  Ideas include researching why some species are immune, which could lead to drugs or even a vaccine, though that is considered to be a long way off.
    Photo: Panamanian frog (undescribed species of Eleutherodactylus) dead from fungal disease in river
    Panamanian frog (undescribed species of Eleutherodactylus) dead from fungal disease in river
    More than 1,800 amphibian species are in difficulties
    (Image: Forrest Brun/Roberto Benes)
    Another idea is developing fungal resistance in captive populations through cross-breeding before returning them to the wild.
    "But we also need to identify critical habitats, protect them and then enforce protection," said Rohan Pethiyagoda, who runs the Wildlife Heritage Trust in Sri Lanka.
    "Where I come from, 95% of the original habitat has already disappeared; and sometimes the patches left are less than one square kilometre in size."
    Other sums would go towards combating over-harvesting — the unsustainable use of amphibians for food, medicine and the pet trade — and to establishing rapid-response teams that could travel to a site when a particular population collapses.
    Early warning?
    All sources will be explored for funding.  At the meeting, two grants amounting to a total of US$700,000 were announced, and there were indications that the powerful Global Environment Facility may be willing to invest.
    Many delegates emphasised the importance of putting amphibian decline in the context of broader environmental change and its impact on human societies.
    AMPHIBIANS: THE ASSESSMENT
    Salamanders (Conservation International/Don Church)

    "We all know that amphibian decline is just the first manifestation of synergies between different factors," said Tom Lovejoy, the president of the Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment in Washington.
    "We're living in this global soup of chemicals; there's climate change, the oceans are already a tenth of a percent more acid than they were.
    "So, by finding ways to manage the first manifestation of these negative synergies, we'll be better able to deal with other manifestations what will occur in the future."
    But others were less optimistic that US$404m — even presuming that it is forthcoming — can make much a difference.
    "I would be optimistic if people started doing something about the underlying issues such as climate change and pollution," said Professor Tim Halliday, international director of the Declining Amphibians Task Force.
    "But there's no sign that these things are changing."
    Tabuina varirata

The Tabuina varirata jumping spider is not only a species new to science, but Tabuina is a genus new to science.

It belongs to the subfamily Cocalodinae, a highly distinctive group unique to New Guinea and the region that previously had only two known genera.  

Nothing is known about its ecology except for the habitat.

Jumping spiders have good vision and use it for hunting and navigating.

They are capable of jumping from place to place, secured by a silk tether.

Both their book lungs and the tracheal system are well-developed, as they depend on both systems — bimodal breathing.

In general, jumping spiders can jump at least 15 cm (6 in).

They don't have big legs for jumping because they use blood pressure to jump – muscles in the body contract to squeeze the blood into the legs, which makes the legs snap straight, and thus the jump.

The jumping spider family Salticidae contains more than 500 described genera and over 5,000 species, making it the largest family of spiders with about 13% of all species.

Probably at least as many species again remain to be discovered around the world.

This jumping spider was found on a tree in the rainforest on a RAP survey in Central Province in Papua New Guinea.

Finder: Wayne Maddison, Beaty Biodiversity Museum, University of British Columbia — July 2008
Details: Conservation International
    Tabuina varirata
    The Tabuina varirata jumping spider is not only a species new to science, but Tabuina is a genus new to science.
    It belongs to the subfamily Cocalodinae, a highly distinctive group unique to New Guinea and the region that previously had only two known genera.
    Nothing is known about its ecology except for the habitat.
    Jumping spiders have good vision and use it for hunting and navigating.
    They are capable of jumping from place to place, secured by a silk tether.
    Both their book lungs and the tracheal system are well-developed, as they depend on both systems — bimodal breathing.
    In general, jumping spiders can jump at least 15 cm (6 in).
    They don't have big legs for jumping because they use blood pressure to jump – muscles in the body contract to squeeze the blood into the legs, which makes the legs snap straight, and thus the jump.
    The jumping spider family Salticidae contains more than 500 described genera and over 5,000 species, making it the largest family of spiders with about 13% of all species.
    Probably at least as many species again remain to be discovered around the world.
    This jumping spider was found on a tree in the rainforest on a RAP survey in Central Province in Papua New Guinea.
    Finder: Wayne Maddison, Beaty Biodiversity Museum, University of British Columbia — July 2008
    Details: Conservation International
    Thursday, 14 October, 2004
    Global amphibians in deep trouble
    By Alex Kirby
    BBC News Online
    Environment correspondent
    Amphibians on a leaf (Conservation International)
    Amphibians on a leaf
    (Conservation International)
    Almost 6,000 amphibian species are known to science
    Scientists believe the world's amphibians are facing an unprecedented onslaught of environmental threats.
    They say as many as 122 species may have become extinct since 1980 and a third of known amphibians face oblivion.
    Naturalists describe the creatures as sensitive indicators of the health of the wider environment.
    The Global Amphibian Assessment, the work of more than 500 scientists, is published in Science Express, the online version of the journal Science.
    It was compiled by an international team from Conservation International, IUCN-The World Conservation Union, and NatureServe, and is the first comprehensive assessment of the threat.
    Skin alert
    There are 5,743 known amphibians, a category which includes frogs, toads, salamanders and caecilians (legless amphibians).
    Of these, 1,856 — almost a third — are now judged to be at risk of extinction.
    At least nine species have slipped over the edge to oblivion since 1980, when the assessment says the most dramatic declines began.
    Another 113 amphibians which have not been seen in the wild for some years are thought to be possibly extinct.
    The scientists say 43% of all amphibians are declining, 27% are stable, under 1% are increasing, and the status of the rest is unknown.
    Their catastrophic decline serves as a warning that we are in a period of significant environmental degradation
    Russell Mittermeier, Conservation International
    They describe amphibians as "the canaries in the coal mine", as their highly permeable skins are very sensitive to environmental changes, including in water and air quality.
    Russell Mittermeier, president of Conservation International, said: "Amphibians are one of Nature's best indicators of overall environmental health.
    "Their catastrophic decline serves as a warning that we are in a period of significant environmental degradation."
    'Mass extinction'
    Harlequin toad, Atelopus varius (Robert Puschendorf)
    Harlequin toad, Atelopus varius (Robert Puschendorf)
    The harlequin toad from Costa Rica and Panama has been hit hard by chytridiomycosis
    Achim Steiner, director-general of IUCN, said: "After birds and mammals, amphibians are the third group of species to be completely evaluated on a global scale.
    "This study significantly expands our current knowledge and provides a baseline from which we can monitor our impact on the environment over time.
    "The fact that one third of amphibians are in a precipitous decline tells us that we are rapidly moving towards a potentially epidemic number of extinctions."
    The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species says 12% of all birds and 23% of mammals risk becoming extinct, well below the 32% of threatened amphibians.
    Water critical
    Colombia, Mexico, Ecuador, Brazil and China each have large numbers of species at risk, and 92% of Haiti's amphibian species are in danger.
    A highly infectious fungal disease, chytridiomycosis, is attacking many amphibians in the Americas, the Caribbean and Australia.

    Crocodile newt, Tylototriton shanjing (Henk Wallays)
    Crocodile newt, Tylototriton shanjing (Henk Wallays)
    The crocodile newt is over-harvested for use in traditional medicines
    In some areas outbreaks are thought to be linked to climate-induced drought.
    Elsewhere, though, the researchers say, habitat destruction, air and water pollution and consumer demand are among the chief culprits for the amphibians' plight.
    Simon Stuart, who led the researchers, said: "Since most amphibians depend on fresh water and feel the effects of pollution before many other forms of life, including humans, their rapid decline tells us that one of Earth's most critical life support systems is breaking down."
    Uroballus

This Uroballus jumping spider was found in the rainforest on a RAP survey in Central Province in Papua New Guinea and is potentially a species new to science. 

Nothing is known about its ecology.

The jumping spider family Salticidae contains more than 500 described genera and over 5,000 species, making it the largest family of spiders with about 13% of all species.

Probably at least as many species again remain to be discovered around the world.
 
Jumping spiders have good vision and use it for hunting and navigating.

They are capable of jumping from place to place, secured by a silk tether.

Both their book lungs and the tracheal system are well-developed, as they depend on both systems — bimodal breathing.

In general, jumping spiders can jump at least 15 cm (6 in).

They don't have big legs for jumping because they use blood pressure to jump – muscles in the body contract to squeeze the blood into the legs, which makes the legs snap straight, and thus the jump.

Uroballus are about 3 mm long in both sexes. The cephalothorax is very broad, almost square.

The abdomen is oval, the first pair of legs thick and short with swollen femora.

The other legs are weak.

The spinnerets are very long and thin.

Finder: Wayne Maddison, Beaty Biodiversity Museum, University of British Columbia — July 2008
Details: Conservation International
    Uroballus
    This Uroballus jumping spider was found in the rainforest on a RAP survey in Central Province in Papua New Guinea and is potentially a species new to science.
    Nothing is known about its ecology.
    The jumping spider family Salticidae contains more than 500 described genera and over 5,000 species, making it the largest family of spiders with about 13% of all species.
    Probably at least as many species again remain to be discovered around the world.
    Jumping spiders have good vision and use it for hunting and navigating.
    They are capable of jumping from place to place, secured by a silk tether.
    Both their book lungs and the tracheal system are well-developed, as they depend on both systems — bimodal breathing.
    In general, jumping spiders can jump at least 15 cm (6 in).
    They don't have big legs for jumping because they use blood pressure to jump – muscles in the body contract to squeeze the blood into the legs, which makes the legs snap straight, and thus the jump.
    Uroballus are about 3 mm long in both sexes. The cephalothorax is very broad, almost square.
    The abdomen is oval, the first pair of legs thick and short with swollen femora.
    The other legs are weak.
    The spinnerets are very long and thin.
    Finder: Wayne Maddison, Beaty Biodiversity Museum, University of British Columbia — July 2008
    Details: Conservation International
    Thursday, 11 September, 2003
    No protection for many threatened species
    By Alex Kirby
    BBC News Online
    Environment correspondent
    New Guinea's Wapoga frog   Steve Richards
    "The single most effective way to conserve species is to maintain their natural habitats"
    The global effort to save some of the Earth's rarest creatures from extinction is fundamentally flawed, scientists say.
    They have found that hundreds of endangered species live in areas which offer them no protection at all.
    At this rate, they believe, many more will vanish in a few decades.
    But they say there is still a chance to save most of the creatures at risk.
    The alert is sounded in a report released at the World Parks Congress in Durban, South Africa, organised by IUCN — The World Conservation Union.
    The report is the work of the Center for Applied Biodiversity Science (Cabs) at the US-based Conservation International, and IUCN's World Commission on Protected Areas.
    Giveaway comparison
    In what the authors call "a global gap analysis", they set out to see how well the world's network of protected areas actually helped wildlife.
    Madagascar's giant jumping rat

Image: Olivier Langrand/Conservation International
    Giant jumping rat: Unprotected
    (Image: Olivier Langrand/ Conservation International)
    They compared a map of all the areas with others showing the ranges of more than 11,000 bird, mammal and amphibian species.
    They found 260 mammals they defined as "gap species", with no protection over any part of their range: 825 amphibians fell into the same category.
    All the birds they studied were threatened, and 223 of them were unprotected.
    Many of the other gap species are no cause for worry, but 140 mammals and 346 amphibians are classed as threatened.
    Additionally, the study says, many existing protected areas are so small they are virtually useless for conservation, putting at least 943 more species at risk.
    Without an urgent expansion of the protected area system, the authors say, they expect "a major wave of extinctions within the next few decades".
    But Gustavo Fonseca of Conservation International said: "By identifying the most urgent priorities that require protection and acting strategically and quickly, we still have a chance to save the vast majority of these species."
    Mohamed Bakarr, deputy chair of IUCN's protected areas commission, said: "The single most effective way to conserve species is to maintain their natural habitats.
    Much from little
    "The results of this analysis must be used to identify those places on Earth where we need immediate protection."
    Not surprisingly, perhaps, the study identified tropical areas, especially rainforests, and islands as the priorities for action.
    Caerulean paradise flycatcher: Vanishing <i>(Image: Jon Riley/BirdLife)
    Caerulean paradise flycatcher: Vanishing (Image: Jon Riley/BirdLife)
    Islands make up 5.2% of the Earth's land surface, but contain 45% of all the species analysed in the study, more than half of them endemic (unique to one habitat).
    The analysis concluded that modest action would yield impressive benefits: adding 2.6% of the world's land area to the protected area system would cover about two-thirds of species which at present have no protection.
    Some of the creatures it identified as priorities for action cling precariously to survival.
    Going fast
    Threatened and unprotected mammals include one of the world's rarest fruit bats, the Comoro black flying fox.
    A vanishingly rare amphibian is the Wuchuan frog, found only in one cave in China.
    Most of the birds which lack protection are in Indonesia and the Latin American Andes.
    They include the yellow-eared parrot of Colombia, with fewer than 150 known survivors, and the even rarer caerulean paradise flycatcher, found on one Indonesian island.
    Wednesday, 7 August, 2002
    The ride of their lives
    By Alex Kirby
    BBC News Online
    Environment correspondent
    Liophryne schlaginhaufeni
    "The dispersal of froglets is not random.   Only male frogs (Liophryne schlaginhaufeni) transport froglets piggy-back through the forest.   Individuals jump off along the way.   The behaviour means there is less competition for food and less potential for predation and inbreeding."
    If modern man wants tips on good childcare he need look no further than a couple of frogs in Papua New Guinea.
    Scientists report the remarkable behaviour of two species in which males not only bear sole responsibility for looking after their offspring but also take the entire family for piggy-back rides through the forest.
    "Male parental care is extremely rare in nature," David Bickford, a University of Miami researcher, told BBC News Online.
    "Very few species do it but for these frogs there are clear advantages."
    Dr Bickford, who spent four years studying the animals high up in the mountains of Chimbu Province, reports his findings in the journal Nature.
    Night ride
    The frogs (Liophryne schlaginhaufeni and Sphenophryne cornuta) are unusual in that they develop from eggs directly into miniature adults — they have no aquatic tadpole phase.
    From the moment the eggs are laid by the female, the male will guard over them, protecting them from predators.
    And then, when the froglets emerge, the male will carry the clutch on his back through the undergrowth, to drop them off many metres from where they were hatched.
    Dr Bickford says as many as 34 froglets will ride piggy-back on their father.   "They can ride for more than a week," the conservation and evolutionary biologist adds.   "One male I recorded covered a distance of 55 metres."
    The journey is made during the night; the family will hide under the leaf-litter during the day.
    'Exhausted mother'
    But this is not fun and games.   Individual froglets jump off along the route to start a new life.
    "What is truly amazing about this dispersal is that there is nothing random about it," says Dr Bickford.   "It seems likely that they know when to jump off by instinct — distributing themselves evenly in both time and space."
    This wide dispersal means the youngsters will face less competition for food, are less likely to be eaten by a predator and will not encounter the problems associated with inbreeding.
    I think [the female] is just too exhausted to take any part in looking after the clutch

    Dr David Bickford
    But where is the mother in all of this? Dr Bickford saw only males engage in the transport of froglets, but quite why this should be needs further investigation.
    The researcher thinks it may have something to do with the levels of investment required of males and females at different stages of the reproduction process.
    "I think she is just too exhausted to take any part in looking after the clutch.   It takes a lot of energy to produce the eggs.   These have very large yolk sacs to sustain the young in the early days.   After giving birth, she just hops off."
    Gorillas, orangutans, and corals are among the plants and animals which are sliding closer to extinction.

The Red List of Threatened Species for 2007 names habitat loss, hunting and climate change among the causes.

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has identified more than 16,000 species threatened with extinction, while prospects have brightened for only one.

Photo: M Watson and A. Shah 2007 IUCN Red List/BBC
    The 2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species shows there has been little success in stemming the slide of Earth's biodiversity.
    Gorillas, orangutans, and corals are among many plants and animals sliding closer to extinction.
    Monday, 7 October, 2002
    Species face tough fight for survival
    The amphibian decline is happening worldwide
    New Zealand's blue duck: Predators and habitat loss mean rapid decline (Image: Jonathan Leach /WWT)
    By environment correspondent Alex Kirby
    A central Asian antelope, a camel and the Iberian lynx all face a high risk of extinction, scientists say.
    They are now classified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as critically endangered.
    Its updated Red List of Threatened Species says more than 11,000 creatures now face extinction.
    But two, an insect and a rodent, previously thought extinct, have been rediscovered.
    Since the last edition of the list two years ago, over 400 new species have been assessed.
    Dramatic decline
    Of these, 124 have joined one of the threatened categories: critically endangered (CR), endangered (EN), or vulnerable (VU).
    Saiga antelope: Extinct in one or two decades

Image by Anna Luchchekina)
    Saiga antelope
    Extinct in one or two decades
    (Image by Anna Luchchekina)
    IUCN (also known as the World Conservation Union) says 11,167 species are now threatened with extinction, 121 more than in 2000.
    One of the three species causing IUCN particular concern is the saiga, an antelope found in the deserts and steppes of central Asia.
    It has suffered a major decline in the last decade, poached for both its meat and its horns, which are exported for use in traditional medicine.
    In 1993 the total population was estimated at over one million: by 2000 this had fallen to fewer than 200,000.
    Scientists believe under 50,000 animals now remain in the wild.
    Habitat fragmentation
    IUCN's director general, Achim Steiner, told BBC News Online: "This rate of loss is unsustainable.   If nothing is done, the saiga is doomed to extinction in one or two decades."
    It is a very serious situation indeed — it's a severe warning that we have no reason to say things are turning round

    Achim Steiner
    IUCN
    Another species, the wild Bactrian camel, is hunted partly because it competes with domestic camels and livestock for water and grazing, but also for sport.
    Its main stronghold is China, where mining is destroying its habitat.   Other problems include the effects of hybridisation with domestic camels, and increased human competition.
    The plight of the third, the Iberian lynx, is dire: it may be the first wild cat to become extinct for at least 2,000 years.   Fewer than half the 1,200 individuals recorded 10 years ago now survive.
    The lynx lives in Mediterranean woodland, where habitat fragmentation by farming and industrial development means it now survives only in scattered groups in south-west Spain and Portugal.
    Lord Howe Island stick insect: Back from the brink

(Image by N Carlile)
    Lord Howe Island stick insect: Back from the brink
    (Image by N Carlile)
    Higher listing
    The two species rediscovered after being listed as extinct are the Lord Howe Island stick insect, an Australian species, and the Bavarian pine vole, from Germany.
    Other species of concern include:
  • The Ethiopian water mouse (critically endangered), known from a single specimen found near a tributary of the Blue Nile in north-west Ethiopia — its habitat may be overgrazed by livestock
  • the tiger tail seahorse (vulnerable) is caught for medicinal and aquarium uses, and accidentally as bycatch.   Its habitat is also being degraded
  • the slender-billed and Indian vultures are both classified as critically endangered because they have suffered extremely rapid population declines, particularly in south Asia.   Suspected causes include disease, poisoning, pesticide use and changes in the processing of dead livestock.
  • IUCN has upgraded several species to a higher threat category, because it now judges them more vulnerable.
    They include three birds: the Titicaca flightless grebe, the black-browed albatross, and the blue duck of New Zealand.
    In 2000, 5,611 plants were assessed as threatened.   With the addition of Mexican and Brazilian cactus assessments, the figure is now 5,714.
    Wild Bactrian camel and day-old calf

(Image by John Hare)
    Wild Bactrian camel and day-old calf
    But with only about 4% of the world's described plants evaluated, IUCN says, the true percentage of threatened species is much higher.
    The 2000 Red List said the extinction crisis was as bad as many people feared, with some "dramatic" population declines.
    Achim Steiner told BBC News Online: "This update reaffirms the basic trends identified then.
    "It is a very serious situation indeed — it's a severe warning that we have no reason to say things are turning round.
    "The resources we have to compile the list are absolutely inadequate.   It is people like birdwatchers and other nature lovers who generate an enormous amount of data voluntarily that are the heart and soul of the conservation movement.
    "And there are the people in places like Africa who have no binoculars, but use wildlife every day.   We count on them too."




    MMVII
     
    Sumatran orangutan.

Gorillas, orangutans, and corals are among the plants and animals which are sliding closer to extinction.

The Red List of Threatened Species for 2007 names habitat loss, hunting and climate change among the causes.

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has identified more than 16,000 species threatened with extinction, while prospects have brightened for only one.
    The orangutan — an icon in peril... like so many other species
    BBC — Wednesday, 12 September 2007
    Gorillas head race to extinction
    By Richard Black
    Environment correspondent, BBC News website
    Gorillas, orangutans, and corals are among the plants and animals which are sliding closer to extinction.
    The Red List of Threatened Species for 2007 names habitat loss, hunting and climate change among the causes.
    The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has identified more than 16,000 species threatened with extinction, while prospects have brightened for only one.
    The IUCN says there is a lack of political will to tackle the global erosion of nature.
    Governments have pledged to stem the loss of species by 2010; but it does not appear to be happening.
    "This year's Red List shows that the invaluable efforts made so far to protect species are not enough," said the organisation's director-general, Julia Marton-Lefevre.
    "The rate of biodiversity loss is increasing, and we need to act now to significantly reduce it and stave off this global extinction crisis."
    The rate of biodiversity loss is increasing

    Julia Marton-Lefevre
    One in three amphibians, one in four mammals, one in eight birds and 70% of plants so far assessed are believed to be at risk of extinction, with human alteration of their habitat the single biggest cause.
    Critical list
    The tone of this year's Red List is depressingly familiar. Of 41,415 species assessed, 16,306 are threatened with extinction to a greater or lesser degree.
    The main changes from previous assessments include some of the natural world's iconic animals, such as the western lowland gorilla, which moves from the Endangered to the Critically Endangered category.
    Numbers have declined by more than 60% over the last 20-25 years.
    RED LIST DEFINITIONS
    Extinct - Surveys suggest last known individual has died
    Critically Endangered - Extreme high risk of extinction - this some Critically Endangered species are also tagged Possibly Extinct
    Endangered - Species at very high risk of extinction
    Vulnerable - Species at high risk of extinction
    Near Threatened - May soon move into above categories
    Least Concern - Species is widespread and abundant
    Data Deficient - not enough data to assess
    Forest clearance has allowed hunters access to previously inaccessible areas; and the Ebola virus has followed, wiping out one-third of the total gorilla population in protected areas, and up to 95% in some regions.
    Ebola has moved through the western lowland gorilla's rangelands in western central Africa from the southwest to the northeast. If it continues its march, it will reach all the remaining populations within a decade.
    The Sumatran orangutan was already Critically Endangered before this assessment, with numbers having fallen by 80% in the last 75 years.
    But IUCN has identified new threats to the 7,300 individuals that remain.
    Forests are being cleared for palm oil plantations, and habitat is being split up by the building of new roads.
    Governments know they are going to fail to reach that target

    Jean-Christophe Vie
    In Borneo, home to the second orangutan species, palm oil plantations have expanded 10-fold in a decade, and now take up 27,000 sq km of the island.
    Illegal logging reduces habitat still further, while another threat comes from hunting for food and the illegal international pet trade.
    So fragmented have some parts of the Bornean forest become that some isolated orangutan populations now number less than 50 individuals, which IUCN notes are "apparently not viable in the long term".
    Straight to zero
    The great apes are perhaps the most charismatic creatures on this year's Red List, but the fact they are in trouble has been known for some years.
    Perhaps more surprising are some of the new additions.
    Galapagos coral

The first formal assessment of corals shows many are at risk.

Gorillas, orangutans, and corals are among the plants and animals which are sliding closer to extinction.

The Red List of Threatened Species for 2007 names habitat loss, hunting and climate change among the causes.

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has identified more than 16,000 species threatened with extinction, while prospects have brightened for only one.

Image: Cleveland P Hickman Jr.
    The first formal assessment of corals shows many are at risk
    "This is the first time we've assessed corals, and it's a bit worrying because some of them moved straight from being not assessed to being possibly extinct," said Jean-Christophe Vie, deputy head of IUCN's species programme.
    "We know that some species were there in years gone by, but now when we do the assessment they are not there.   And corals are like the trees in the forest; they build the ecosystem for fish and other animals."
    IUCN is now embarking on a complete assessment of coral species, and expects to find that about 30% to 40% are threatened.
    The most glaring example of a waterborne creature failed by conservation efforts is probably the baiji, the Yangtze river dolphin, which is categorised as Critically Endangered, Possibly Extinct.
    This freshwater species appears to have failed in its bid for survival against the destructive tides of fishing, shipping, pollution, and habitat change in its one native river.
    Chinese media reported a possible sighting earlier this year, but the IUCN is not convinced; with no confirmed evidence of a living baiji since 2002, they believe its time on Earth may well be over.
    Baiji river dolphin.

Gorillas, orangutans, and corals are among the plants and animals which are sliding closer to extinction.

The Red List of Threatened Species for 2007 names habitat loss, hunting and climate change among the causes.

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has identified more than 16,000 species threatened with extinction, while prospects have brightened for only one.

Image: Stephen Leatherwood
    Last rites for river dolphin
    If so, it will have become a largely accidental victim of the various forces of human development.
    Not so the spectacular Banggai cardinalfish; a single decade of hunting for the aquarium trade has brought numbers down by an astonishing 90%.
    Many African vultures are new entrants on this year's list.
    But birds provide the only notable success, with the colourful Mauritius echo parakeet making it back from Critically Endangered to Endangered.
    Intensive conservation work has brought numbers up from about 50 to above 300.
    But the gharial, a crocodilian found in the major rivers of India and Nepal, provides a cautionary tale of what can happen when conservation money and effort dry up.
    A decade ago, a programme of re-introduction to the wild brought the adult population up from about 180 to nearer 430.
    Deemed a success, the programme was stopped; numbers are again hovering around 180, and the gharial finds itself once more on the Critically Endangered list.
    Female and infant mountain gorilla.

Gorillas, orangutans, and corals are among the plants and animals which are sliding closer to extinction.

The Red List of Threatened Species for 2007 names habitat loss, hunting and climate change among the causes.

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has identified more than 16,000 species threatened with extinction, while prospects have brightened for only one. 

(Image: WildlifeDirect)
    Conservation is not enough
    Climate of distraction
    IUCN says that it is not too late for many of these species; that they can be brought back from the brink.
    It is something that the world's governments have committed to, vowing in the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity "to achieve by 2010 a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national level".
    "Governments know they are going to fail to reach that target," said Jean-Christophe Vie, "and not just in terms of a few species — the failure is really massive.
    "We know that it is possible to reverse the trend, but the causes are so huge and massive and global, and there is still a lack of attention to the crisis that biodiversity faces."
    Many in the environmental movement argue that too much money and attention has gone on climate change, with other issues such as biodiversity, clean water and desertification ignored at the political level.
    IUCN's assessment is that climate change is important for many Red List species; but it is not the only threat, and not the most important threat.
    There are conflicts between addressing the various issues, with biofuels perhaps being the obvious example.
    Useful they may turn out to be in reducing greenhouse gas emissions; but many conservationists are seriously concerned that the vast swathes of monoculture they will bring spell dire consequences for creatures such as the orangutan.
     
    Wellington's solitary coral under threat of extinction
    Galapagos coral under threat of extinction
    BBC — Wednesday, 8 August 2007
    Rare river dolphin 'now extinct'
    Baiji river dolphin.

An extensive survey of its habitat failed to find any sign of the baiji

Gorillas, orangutans, and corals are among the plants and animals which are sliding closer to extinction.

The Red List of Threatened Species for 2007 names habitat loss, hunting and climate change among the causes.

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has identified more than 16,000 species threatened with extinction, while prospects have brightened for only one.

Image: Stephen Leatherwood
    An extensive survey of its habitat failed to find any sign of the baiji
    A freshwater dolphin found only in China is now "likely to be extinct", a team of scientists has concluded.
    The researchers failed to spot any Yangtze river dolphins, also known as baijis, during an extensive six-week survey of the mammals' habitat.
    The team, writing in Biology Letters journal, blamed unregulated fishing as the main reason behind their demise.
    If confirmed, it would be the first extinction of a large vertebrate for over 50 years.
    The World Conservation Union's Red List of Threaten Species currently classifies the creature as "critically endangered".
    Sam Turvey of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), one of the paper's co-authors, described the findings as a "shocking tragedy".
    "The Yangtze river dolphin was a remarkable mammal that separated from all other species over 20 million years ago," Dr Turvey explained.
    "This extinction represents the disappearance of a complete branch of the evolutionary tree of life and emphasises that we have yet to take full responsibility in our role as guardians of the planet."
    'Incidental impact'
    The species (Lipotes vexillifer) was the only remaining member of the Lipotidae, an ancient mammal family that is understood to have separated from other marine mammals, including whales, dolphins and porpoises, about 40-20 million years ago.
    We have yet to take full responsibility in our role as guardians of the planet
    Dr Sam Turvey,
    Zoological Society of London
    The white, freshwater dolphin had a long, narrow beak and low dorsal fin; lived in groups of three or four and fed on fish.
    The team carried out six-week visual and acoustic survey, using two research vessels, in November and December 2006.
    "While it is conceivable that a couple of surviving individuals were missed by the survey teams," the team wrote, "our inability to detect any baiji despite this intensive search effort indicates that the prospect of finding and translocating them to a [reserve] has all but vanished."
    The scientists added that there were a number of human activities that caused baiji numbers to decline, including construction of dams and boat collisions.
    "However, the primary factor was probably unsustainable by-catch in local fisheries, which used rolling hooks, nets and electrofishing," they suggested.
    "Unlike most historical-era extinctions of large bodied animals, the baiji was the victim not of active persecution but incidental mortality resulting from massive-scale human environmental impacts - primarily uncontrolled and unselective fishing," the researchers concluded.
     
    Gharial crocodile under threat of extinction
    BBC — Monday, 10 September 2007
    Conservation alone 'is not enough'
    Richard Leakey
    VIEWPOINT
    Richard Leakey
    Ahead of Wednesday's publication of the 2007 Red List of Threatened Species, Dr Richard Leakey argues that conservation alone cannot save threatened species such as the mountain gorilla.
    In this week's Green Room, he calls for action on humans' needs as well.
    Rangers standing next to the four dead gorillas

Gorillas, orangutans, and corals are among the plants and animals which are sliding closer to extinction.

The Red List of Threatened Species for 2007 names habitat loss, hunting and climate change among the causes.

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has identified more than 16,000 species threatened with extinction, while prospects have brightened for only one.

(Image: Altor IGCP Goma)
    These deaths were repulsive for the fact that the gorilla corpses served no use to the killers
     Millions of people were horrified by the recent slaughter of mountain gorillas that dominated headlines for the inhumanity that seems to cling to this corner of the world.
    In the space of a month, nine gorillas — more than 1% of the known population of these charismatic relatives of ours — were wiped out.
    All were from the Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC) Virunga National Park.
    Predictably, the slaughter drew an outraged response.
    Wildlife conservation organisations leapt into action and began raising funds to deal with it, and a crisis team went in on the ground.
    In the following four weeks, peoples' compulsion to do something to save the species produced donations amounting to tens of thousands of dollars.
    Living at the epicentre of the bloodiest conflict since the Second World War, the mountain gorillas share their habitat with heavily armed militia.
    In other lawless regions, where wild meat comes into contact with hungry gunmen, species are slaughtered for food, or for trophies to be traded for cash and weapons.
    But these deaths were repulsive for the fact that the gorilla corpses served no use to the killers.
    On the contrary, it is the very presence of mountain gorillas in the Virunga National Park that threatens them, for the animals draw attention to an area that unscrupulous people would rather have us forget.
    Fuelling conflicts
    At the heart of the crisis is charcoal — the main form of household energy in Africa.
    And making charcoal means felling forests, destroying wildlife habitats, damaging ecosystem services such as water catchments and soil fertility.
    Gorilla protection rangers.

Wildlife protection rangers earn just $5 a month for risking their lives.

Gorillas, orangutans, and corals are among the plants and animals which are sliding closer to extinction.

The Red List of Threatened Species for 2007 names habitat loss, hunting and climate change among the causes.

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has identified more than 16,000 species threatened with extinction, while prospects have brightened for only one.

Image: (Image: WildlifeDirect)
    Wildlife protection rangers earn just $5 a month for risking their lives
    Charcoal production has been going on for millennia, but recent events in eastern DRC have led to a sharp escalation in demand.
    In neighbouring Rwanda, an enormous human population has stripped almost all its indigenous forests bare; while in the Congolese border town of Goma, refugees fleeing the region's crises have swelled the population to more than half a million.
    Together, they've created an insatiable demand for charcoal worth an estimated $30m (£15m) a year.
    To save Rwanda's few remaining forests and the gorillas that have become a major source of tourist revenue, President Paul Kagame has installed a surprisingly efficient and effective ban on charcoal production.
    Ironically, however, that has driven the black industry across the border into DRC, threatening the habitats of the very same gorillas in the park which straddles both countries.
    Given the lack of any form of effective government in eastern Congo, and the ludicrously small government salaries - a ranger earns about $5 (£2.50) per month - it is not surprising that the parks' forests have become a commons and virtually everybody is involved in the scramble for resources, from peasants to high ranking government officials and rebel militia.
    If gorillas focus unwelcome global attention on the park, it is hardly surprising that those getting rich on charcoal will want to remove that attention by getting rid of one of our closest biological relatives.
    As shocking as the gorilla executions were, this is fundamentally a human tragedy, with very human solutions.
    There must be alternative sources of energy to meet the demand in both Rwanda and eastern Congo. There must be a return to the rule of law in DRC, where the forests are saved for the long term good of all, rather than looted for the short term riches of a few.
    In it together
    Although it seems to be a very local problem, we all have an interest in protecting the forests.
    Rainforest

Gorillas, orangutans, and corals are among the plants and animals which are sliding closer to extinction.

The Red List of Threatened Species for 2007 names habitat loss, hunting and climate change among the causes.

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has identified more than 16,000 species threatened with extinction, while prospects have brightened for only one.

BBC
    It will take a focused global initiative to end the conflict, introduce alternative sources of household fuel, and create alternative livelihoods
    Not only do we risk losing one of the most charismatic and important species on Earth, but we are in danger of doing more damage to the world's warming climate.
    In that respect, the forests' destruction is a double whammy.
    Burning charcoal is one of the greatest sources of atmospheric carbon dioxide, but it also strips away the trees that otherwise soak up so much of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
    While the alarm has been raised by conservation organisations concerned about gorillas, and the global public has responded, it is clear that the problem is much greater than one of conservation alone.
    This is a human development crisis and it will take a focused global initiative to end the conflict, introduce alternative sources of household fuel, and create alternative livelihoods for the population living in eastern Kivu.
    If the underlying demand for charcoal is ignored and we focus too much on the gorillas alone, we will not only see the extermination of the mountain gorillas, but the forests, woodlands and all the unique species that inhabit this biologically diverse landscape.
    We will also lose the climate mitigation services that the intact forests provide.
    In the end, we could see a human crisis that will dwarf the tragedy of nine gorillas.
    Dr Richard Leakey is the founding chairman of WildlifeDirect, a former head of the Kenyan Wildlife Service and a leading palaeontologist
     
    Banggai cardinalfish under threat from overfishing
    Humphead parrotfish victim of overfishing
     
    Published on Wednesday, January 18, 2006 by CommonDreams.org
    Chytrid Fungus, Toxic Fundamentalism, and the Mass Extinction of Frogs and Freedoms
    by Stephen Laffoley
    The first law of ecology is this: all things are interconnected — even frogs and freedom.
    I was reminded of this recently while looking at a magazine.
    In it, I came across a picture of a Costa Rican Golden Toad — a tiny, bright orange amphibian with large, gentle black eyes.
    The toad was one of ten fantastic looking amphibians featured on the page, all set against a stark background of black.
    Although the other amphibians on the page were more strangely shaped and more beautifully colored, I wistfully looked long and hard at that particular toad, the way I look at old pictures of people in bowler hats and corseted dresses.
    Why?
    Because, like the people in those pictures, that Costa Rican Golden Toad was dead.
    In fact, all Costa Rican Golden Toads are now dead, extinct — gone forever, like Eurasian Aurochs and Ice Age Saber-Toothed Tigers.
    Looking at that Golden Toad's delicate features, I felt a dark, queasy sadness.
    And this uncomfortable feeling only grew with the knowledge that this lost species of delicate toad was hardly alone.
    World's frogs and toads dying
    In fact, for nearly three decades many of the world's frogs and toads have been dying, and dying at an unprecedented rate: 168 of 5,700 amphibian species have already disappeared, while half the remaining species are endangered, with nearly 2,000 of these threatened with impending extinction.
    But this dark tale gets worse.
    Recently, the mass extinction of amphibians has sharply increased, with thousands of frogs literally dropping from trees and floating belly up — all dead.
    Why?
    The aggressive human destruction of the amphibians' habitat remains a prime cause.
    Man-made air and water pollution, deforestation, and global warming have all had catastrophic effects on the extraordinarily sensitive amphibians.
    But now many frogs and toads are dying from another cause: a mysterious toxic fungus — chytrid fungus — spreading rapidly across America and Australia.
    This fungus attacks and kills frogs and toads by upsetting the delicate water balance in their skin.
    The horrific result to date is the rapid extinction of dozens of species.
    Worse still, most traditional means of human intervention for assistance — conservation and habitat protection — are useless.
    How we interact with, utilize, and protect the world's ecosystems
    In fact, the only effective, long-term solution to this global problem is this: humans must think differently about how we interact with, utilize, and protect the world's ecosystems.
    But such thinking — thinking that respects open, flexible, and compassionate discussion; thinking that understands the environmental cost to our reckless, progress-driven, oil-fueled market economy — comes smack up against another growing, toxic fungus: neo-conservative fundamentalism.
    Not coincidentally — over the same three decades witness to the catastrophic loss of amphibian species — another mass extinction has been underway: the death of liberty, equality, justice, and freedom.
    The birth and rapid growth, in the mid-1970s, of toxic neo-conservative politics has aggressively polluted a political environment once conducive to the healthy existence of Enlightenment Age, human freedoms.
    Beginning with Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan
    Slowly, but steadily — beginning with Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, and moving through George Bush the First and then Bill "The Third-Way" Clinton — long enshrined, hard fought for American liberties have become first vulnerable, and then critically endangered.
    And now, in just five years under George Bush the Second, an unprecedented, fast-spreading, neo-conservative fundamentalist fungus has driven many of America's founding ideals into extinction.
    Consider the extinction of the following amendments to the United States' Constitution:
    Amendment I — freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition;
    Amendment IV — freedom from illegal search and seizure;
    Amendment V — the right to due process;
    Amendment VI — the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury, the right to be confronted with the witnesses against him, and the right to have the assistance of counsel for defense;
    Amendment VIII — the right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment.
    Under President George W. Bush, all these once vibrant, foundational laws of American society have withered and died, killed off by the neo-conservative, fundamentalist fungus.
    Worse still, both mass extinctions suggest something more frightening.
    The demise of so many of the world's amphibian species — like the proverbial canary dying in the coalmine — suggests the general collapse of the world's ecosystems.
    And equally disturbing, the demise of four fundamental amendments to the US Constitution suggests the impending collapse of America's democracy and freedoms.
    What to do?
    Frankly, our prospects for both look grim.
    Still, there may still be time to make a difference.
    The deep wisdom that comes with recognizing mass extinctions as harbingers of larger, catastrophic events also invites original thinking and meaningful solutions.
    And as the first law of ecology states: all things are interconnected — both problems and their solutions.
    And who knows, dire as things seem, we may yet find the wisdom to save both — frogs and freedom.
    Common Dreams © 1997-2006
     
    Friday, 27 January 2006
    All is silent down at the pond
    Professor Tim Halliday.

Image: Open University
    VIEWPOINT
    Tim Halliday
    Conservationists are mistaken, argues Professor Tim Halliday in this week's Green Room; many animals and plants cannot be saved from extinction, and the job of conservation scientists is to document them as they disappear.
    As long ago as 1952, Rachel Carson predicted a 'Silent Spring' if humans did not change their relationship with the natural environment.
    For many amphibians, the silent spring is now a reality, and in many parts of the world the calls of frogs have been silenced.
    This is happening at a time when public and scientific interest in biodiversity has reached an unparalleled level, as realisation increases that planet Earth is entering the sixth major episode of extinction in its history.
    My own interest is in amphibians (frogs, toads, salamanders, newts and caecilians), a group of animals that appears to be bearing the brunt of the current biodiversity crisis.
    In the last 20 years, several species have gone extinct, most famously the Golden Toad (Bufo periglenes) of Costa Rica.
    There is a profound malaise affecting fresh water, on which all terrestrial biodiversity and human life depends
    The Golden Toad's disappearance around 1989 exemplifies two important features of amphibian declines:
  • first, it happened very quickly, the species going from relative abundance to extinction over only three or four years
  • second, it occurred in a national park, a protected area set up to preserve biodiversity
  • It was thus clear, 15 years ago, that the Earth's amphibians are subject to a process that cannot be explained simply in terms of habitat destruction.
    Dirty water
    The recent Global Amphibian Assessment co-ordinated by IUCN, the World Conservation Union, concluded that a third of the world's 5743 known amphibian species are threatened by extinction.
    At the level of individual populations the situation appears equally dire.
    Data gathered by the IUCN Species Survival Commission's Declining Amphibian Populations Task Force (DAPTF) reveals that of 3020 amphibian populations monitored in recent years, over 20% have declined, and one in 10 has become extinct.
    These figures are clear evidence that natural systems which support amphibian life are collapsing.
    Amphibians are dependent, to varying degrees, on access to clean fresh water habitats for their survival; the recent dramatic amphibian decline suggests that all is not well in these ecosystems.
    In 2004, WWF reported that biodiversity in the world's fresh water habitats halved between 1970 and 2000.
    This makes fresh water the most threatened of the world's natural resources, more threatened even than tropical forest.
    Amphibian declines are thus but one symptom of a profound malaise affecting global supplies of fresh water, on which all terrestrial biodiversity, and human life, depends.
    Mallorcan midwife toad.  Image: Durrell Wildlife
    Perhaps it is time to face reality and replace the 'conservation paradigm' with the 'extinction paradigm'
    Concern for biodiversity has long been the domain of conservationists, and the dramatic decline among amphibian species suggests that the efforts of the conservation community are failing.
    It is clear that the mainstay of conservation, the protection of habitat, is no longer sufficient to ensure the survival of many species.
    There is a widespread culture of denial about this situation, not least among conservationists, who must take a lead in alerting humanity to the current extinction crisis.
    The reality is that many thousands of species will become extinct in the near future; so perhaps it is time to face this reality and to replace the 'conservation paradigm' with the 'extinction paradigm'.
    Tangled threats
    For recent extinctions, such as those that wiped out many island birds at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, identifying the causes was a relatively simple matter.
    Human settlers and their attendant rats, cats and dogs destroyed their habitat and hunted them to extinction.
    For frogs and toads that rapidly vanish from apparently pristine, protected areas, the causes are much less easy to identify.
    Technician holds water flask.

Image: China Photo/Getty Images
    Pollution is part of a complex web of threats facing wildlife
    The accumulating evidence, from many scientific studies, reveals a complex of interacting and largely invisible factors, including climate change, chemical contamination and elevated ultra-violet radiation, against which protected-area status is totally ineffective.
    To make matters worse, many amphibians are becoming prey to a highly virulent disease called chytridiomycosis which, probably with the help of humans, has found its way to almost all parts of the world.
    Similarly enigmatic declines and extinctions are occurring in other habitats, notably in the oceans.
    Even if they had plenty of time and money, conservationists can only hope to protect a few of the many species that face imminent extinction.
    It is the responsibility of biologists, I suggest, to admit that the conventional view of conservation — that we can and should preserve at-risk organisms — is simply untenable.
    What we can and must do is document the decline and disappearance of species that cannot be saved, so that at least some kind of record of them will be preserved.
    Tim Halliday is Professor in Biology at the Open University in the UK, and International Director of the IUCN/SSC Declining Amphibian Populations Task Force
    The Green Room is a new series of environmental opinion articles running weekly on the BBC News website
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