Yangtze porpoise down to 1,000 animals in world’s most polluted river

May 1st, 2013

Neophocaena phocaenoides, Finless Porpoise, captive. Research Centre for Aquatic Biodiversity and Resource Conservation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. Photo courtesy of WWF.

During a 44-day survey, experts estimated 1,000 Yangtze finless river porpoises (Neophocaena asiaeorientalis asiaeorientalis) inhabited the river and adjoining lakes, down from around 2,000 in 2006. The ecology of China’s Yangtze River has been polluted by the Three Gorges Dam, ship traffic, electrofishing, and overfishing, making it arguably the world’s dirtiest major river.

The experts believe that finless porpoises have become increasingly scattered by shipping traffic, dams, and habitat loss.

Against all these problems, conservationists are struggling to keep any of these species around. Meanwhile, Li Lifeng, the head of WWF’s freshwater programs, told Australia Network News that conservation efforts in China are “half-hearted.”

In the meantime, China appears to be moving ahead with another massive hydroelectric project, the Xiaonanhai Dam, which environmentalists say will kill many of the Yangtze’s distinct species. If built the dam will decimate the river’s only fish reserve, home to 180 species, including the finless porpoise, the Chinese sturgeon, and possibly the world’s last Chinese paddlefish. If nothing changes, in a few decades the Yangtze will likely lose the bulk of its big species.

Caught red-handed! Chinese ship carrying illegal pangolin meat hits protected coral reef

May 1st, 2013

A Chinese vessel transporting 22,000 pounds of illegal pangolin meat crashes into coral reef in Tubbataha National Marine Park, located in the Philippines.

A live pangolin confiscated in Sumatra from a smuggler. Unfortunately the pangolins found aboard the ship were already dead. Photo by: Jefri Tarigan.

  • After the crash, the Filipino coastguard discovered 400 boxes of pangolin meat while inspecting the ship.
  • The Chinese pangolin is the most common mammal in international trade, and is being taken from all throughout Asia to meet the demand for use in traditional medicines and meat in China.
  • “It is bad enough that the Chinese have illegally entered our seas..and crashed recklessly into a national marine park,” Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan, head of WWF-Philippines, told the Associated Press. “It is simply deplorable that they appear to be posing as fishermen to trade in illegal wildlife.”
  • These “fishermen” are facing dozens of years in prison and fines up to $300,000, however wildlife criminals are rarely sentenced to the full extent of the law.

Read more about the Chinese pangolin here: The unfamiliar pangolin is the biggest mammal victim of the wildlife trade

Read the original article here: Double bad: Chinese vessel that collided with protected coral reef holding 22,000 pounds of pangolin meat


Newly discovered tarantula may be critically endangered

May 1st, 2013

An enormous tree-dwelling tarantula recently discovered in northern Sri Lanka may be critically endangered due to deforestation, human removal, and pesticides & insecticides.

New species of tarantula from Sri Lanka: Poecilotheria rajaei. Photo by: Ranil Nanayakkara.

  • This notorious Raja’s tiger spider is described by media outlets to be “the size of your face”.
  • Ranil Nanayakkara, co-founder of Sri Lanka’s Biodiversity Education and Research, first saw this species in 2009 when a villager showed him a dead specimen that the local community had killed.
  • The adult tarantulas prefer old trees with natural tree hallows, so because of the problem of deforestation, many of the tarantulas had no choice but to move to the village of Mankulam, where they have been discovered hiding out in the local hospital.
  • Unfortunately, only around 1.5 percent of Sri Lanka’s primary forest remains.
  • The discovery team named the spider rajaei after local policeman, Michael Rajakumar Purajah, who tremendously helped the team with their field studies.
  • Raja’s tiger spider is venomous, but is not deadly to humans.
  • Scientists say that although spiders may be scary-looking, they are very misunderstood creatures and are essential to biodiversity by eating millions of insects that would otherwise have out -of-control populations.

“Last but not least they have every right to this earth just like us humans, and they are wonders of nature.”- Ranil Nanayakkara

Want to learn more? Read the full story here: New giant tarantula that’s taken media by storm likely Critically Endangered (photos)

Poecilotheria rajaei in close-up. Photo by: Ranil Nanayakkara.