Tibetan monks take on the role of protecting the snow leopard

June 19th, 2013

The snow leopard is a rare, elusive feline that lives in the mountains of central Asia. The snow leopard is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List and conservationists are enlisting local Tibetan monks to help safeguard the future of this species.

Snow leopard in the Toronto Zoo. Photo by: John Vetterli.

  • The snow leopard is endangered because its beautiful fur makes it a target for poachers and the leopard’s natural prey is in decline.
  • According to Panthera researcher Tom McCarthy another threat to the snow leopard is something called “retribution killing.”
  • Because snow leopards can hunt livestock, poor herders that live in the snow leopards’ range sometimes try to kill the cats for eating their sheep and yaks.
  • A big cat conservation organization named Panthera has teamed up with Tibetan monks who, they believe, can help discourage locals from killing snow leopards.
  • Along with educating people about the importance of snow leopards and other wildlife, the monks also monitor snow leopard habitat and work as field assistants to the Panthera scientists.
  • The program is proving itself to be successful in keeping snow leopards out of harm’s way.

Want to learn more?  Read the full story here: An avalanche of decline: snow leopard populations are plummeting

Other snow leopard stories: First snow leopards collared in Afghanistan as species faces rising threat from climate change
First video footage of wild snow leopard cubs in their den in Mongolia

Bringing the scarlet macaw back to the skies of Mexico

June 19th, 2013

The scarlet macaw is a beautiful bird that roams the skies of Central America. The scarlet macaw is indigenous to the forests of Mexico, but hasn’t been seen in Mexico for more than 70 years.

A released-bird with transmitter. Photo by Elise Voltura.

  • Researchers, conservation organizations, and the Mexican government are working together to reintroduce the scarlet macaw to the skies of Mexico.
  • The birds are trained by researchers to avoid poachers, forage for food, recognize predators, and form flocks. It is important that the macaws learn these behaviors, as they are crucial to their survival in the wild.
  • Hopefully, with this effort, sixty scarlet macaws will be successfully released into the wild this year. The first seventeen macaws were released in the Palenque National Park in April and seem to be thriving in their new habitat.
  • The macaws are monitored with different technologies, including conservation drones and collars, that track how they are faring in the wild.
  • Each year the Mexican government holds a Scarlet Macaw Festival for the locals so that they can learn about the bird and celebrate its return to Mexico.

Scarlet macaw in flight. Photo by Juan Antonio Lopez.

Want to learn more?  Read the full story here: Flying rainbows: the scarlet macaw returns to Mexico

The river of plenty: uncovering the secrets of the amazing Mekong

June 10th, 2013

Fisherman navigating the river in Lao PDR. Photo courtesy of FISHBIO.

Home to giant catfish and stingrays, feeding over 60 million people, and with the largest abundance of freshwater fish in the world, the Mekong River, and its numerous tributaries, brings food, culture, and life to much of Southeast Asia. Despite this, little is known about the biodiversity and ecosystems of the Mekong.

“Researchers estimate there could be over 1,200 species. As a comparison, the whole state of California has about 67 freshwater fishes,” Harmony Patricio, a conservation biologist and the conservation director at FISHBIO, told mongabay.com in a recent interview.

A new program by FISHBIO, headed by Patricio, is working to document the freshwater fish in the Mekong, called the Mekong Fish Network.

“The main goal of the Mekong Fish Network is to help people…collaborate and share information,” she says. “These fish migrate between six different countries: China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. These countries all speak different languages and have different cultures and governments.” But, she points out, fish don’t care about borders.

“It’s quite frustrating that there is a lot of money being poured into development in the Mekong, but it’s hard to get that same level of commitment for environmental conservation.” Patricio asks, adding that it’s time the international community comes to see the Mekong as one of our most important ecosystems.

“The world needs to realize that the Mekong [is] a global resource of incredible diversity and productivity.”

Tiny pufferfish (left) in hand. Photo courtesy of FISHBIO.

Want to learn more? Check out the full story here: http://news.mongabay.com/2013/0423-hance-fishbio-mekong.html