New South American mammal discovery


This video is called Olinguito: Smithsonian announces discovery of new species in the raccoon family, called olinguito.

From Wildlife Extra:

First new species of carnivore in western hemisphere discovered for 35 years

Has appeared unrecognised in museums and even zoos!

August 2013. Observed in the wild, tucked away in museum collections, and even exhibited in zoos around the world-there is one mysterious creature that has been a victim of mistaken identity for more than 100 years. A team of Smithsonian scientists, however, uncovered overlooked museum specimens of this remarkable animal, which took them on a journey from museum cabinets in Chicago to cloud forests in South America to genetics labs in Washington, D.C. The result: the olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina) – the first carnivore species to be discovered in the American continents in 35 years.

Related to raccoons and coatis

The olinguito is the latest scientifically documented member of the family Procyonidae, which it shares with raccoons, coatis, kinkajous and olingos. The 2-pound olinguito, with its large eyes and woolly orange-brown fur, is native to the cloud forests of Colombia and Ecuador, as its scientific name, “neblina” (Spanish for “fog”), hints. In addition to being the latest described member of its family, another distinction the olinguito holds is that it is the newest species in the order Carnivora-an incredibly rare discovery in the 21st century.

“The discovery of the olinguito shows us that the world is not yet completely explored, its most basic secrets not yet revealed,” said Kristofer Helgen, curator of mammals at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and leader of the team reporting the new discovery. “If new carnivores can still be found, what other surprises await us? So many of the world’s species are not yet known to science. Documenting them is the first step toward understanding the full richness and diversity of life on Earth.”

Olingo research turned up a surprise

Discovering a new species of carnivore, however, does not happen overnight. This one took a decade, and was not the project’s original goal-completing the first comprehensive study of olingos, several species of tree-living carnivores in the genus Bassaricyon, was. Helgen’s team wanted to understand how many olingo species should be recognized and how these species are distributed-issues that had long been unclear to scientists. Unexpectedly, the team’s close examination of more than 95 percent of the world’s olingo specimens in museums, along with DNA testing and the review of historic field data, revealed existence of the olinguito, a previously undescribed species.

Lives in the Andes

The first clue came to Helgen from the olinguito’s teeth and skull, which were smaller and differently shaped than those of olingos. Examining museum skins revealed that this new species was also smaller overall with a longer and denser coat; field records showed that it occurred in a unique area of the northern Andes Mountains at 5,000 to 9,000 feet above sea level-elevations much higher than the known species of olingo. This information, however, was coming from overlooked olinguito specimens collected in the early 20th century. The question Helgen and his team wanted to answer next was: Does the olinguito still exist in the wild?

To answer that question, Helgen called on Roland Kays, director of the Biodiversity and Earth Observation Lab at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, to help organize a field expedition.

Nocturnal fruitarian

The team had a lucky break that started with a camcorder video. With confirmation of the olinguito’s existence via a few seconds of grainy video shot by their colleague Miguel Pinto, a zoologist in Ecuador, Helgen and Kays set off on a three-week expedition to find the animal themselves. Working with Pinto, they found olinguitos in a forest on the western slopes of the Andes, and spent their days documenting what they could about the animal-its characteristics and its forest home. Because the olinguito was new to science, it was imperative for the scientists to record every aspect of the animal. They learned that the olinguito is mostly active at night, is mainly a fruit eater, rarely comes out of the trees and has one baby at a time.

Cloud forest

In addition to body features and behaviour, the team made special note of the olinguito’s cloud forest Andean habitat, which is under heavy pressure of human development. The team estimated that 42 percent of historic olinguito habitat has already been converted to agriculture or urban areas.

“The cloud forests of the Andes are a world unto themselves, filled with many species found nowhere else, many of them threatened or endangered,” Helgen said. “We hope that the olinguito can serve as an ambassador species for the cloud forests of Ecuador and Colombia, to bring the world’s attention to these critical habitats.”

Has appeared in museums and zoos

While the olinguito is new to science, it is not a stranger to people. People have been living in or near the olinguito’s cloud forest world for thousands of years. And while misidentified, specimens have been in museums for more than 100 years, and at least one olinguito from Colombia was exhibited in several zoos in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s. There were even several occasions during the past century when the olinguito came close to being discovered but was not. In 1920, a zoologist in New York thought an olinguito museum specimen was so unusual that it might be a new species, but he never followed through in publishing the discovery.

Giving the olinguito its scientific name is just the beginning. “This is the first step,” Helgen said. “Proving that a species exists and giving it a name is where everything starts. This is a beautiful animal, but we know so little about it. How many countries does it live in? What else can we learn about its behaviour? What do we need to do to ensure its conservation?” Helgen is already planning his next mission into the clouds.

The team’s discovery is published in the Aug. 15 issue of the journal ZooKeys.

Cute Pictures: Baby Olinguito Found in Colombia: here.

If you’re like most of the internet, you’ll love this feline photo. Behold: the first camera trap image of an Andean cat in the Argentine province of Neuquen, courtesy of the WCS Patagonian and Andean Steppe program. This is the farthest south and lowest elevation at which the species has been photographed: here.

A catalog of mammalian type specimens in the collections of Natural History Museum, University of Oslo, Norway, is presented. All type specimens in the Museum’s mammal collection were revisited and the respective label information was compared with the data provided in the original descriptions. Most taxa were described from type series with no specimen particularly assigned to holotype. The compiled catalog of the type specimens is not intended as a taxonomic revision of the respective taxa, which is why we have not designated lectotypes from the collection’s type series. Specimens that were clearly marked as “the type” in the original description were considered holotypes. The catalog consists of 19 taxa, with the year of authority corrected for three taxa: here.

Rare Orinoco crocodiles satellite tracking


This is a video from Venezuela about Orinoco crocodile conservation.

From Wildlife Extra:

Orinoco crocodiles to be tracked by satellite

Four of these reptiles will be released and monitored with satellite transmitters

August 2013. Two of the world’s twelve species of crocodiles live in Colombia, the spectacled caiman (Severely threatened locally) and the Critically Endangered Orinoco crocodile.

The Orinoco crocodile can reach seven feet long and is the only crocodile species whose distribution is contained in a single watershed. Although they originally lived throughout the entire area of the Orinoco, it has been endangered by indiscriminate hunting, especially 1930-1950.

“Today there are only two relic populations of these animals in the wild, in Arauca region (At the confluence of the Ele, Lipa and Cravo Rivers) and the Meta region (In the Guayabero, Duda and Losada Rivers),” says the environmental scientist Willington Martinez, of the UN’s Roberto Franco Tropical Biology Station.

The Franco station has been working on plans to protect the species by developing a project to reintroduce Orinoco crocodiles into the wild; the project is being run with the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development (MADS). The project plans to release and monitor four Orinoco crocodiles, which have been fitted with satellite transmitters in the department of Meta.

Crocodile release

Experts have chosen pre-juvenile specimens that retain their hunting instinct, have been isolated from the public, and are used to capturing live prey. They have undergone blood tests and physical examinations to establish that they are in good health.

The transmitters will be attached externally, and every time one of the animals removes its head from the water, the data will be sent to a satellite. The information can be accessed from a web page (which can be accessed by any user) and even be sent to mobile phones of the experts.

The researchers hope to obtain data that allow them to determine patterns of habitat use and movement.

Read more at the website of the National University of Colombia; also here.

New fish species discovery in Colombia


From Practical Fishkeeping:

New fish discovered by Fluval during Colombia expedition

Fluval has announced that a new species of Pike cichlid was discovered during a recent company-sponsored expedition to Colombia, which will be shared with the aquatic world in a soon-to-be-released Fluval documentary.

For 13 days near the end of the latest Colombian dry season, Fluval’s Tom Sarac led a team of aquatic explorers across 2,600 km/1,600 miles of the Llanos, a vast tropical grassland plain situated to the east of the Andes.

The group’s mission was three-fold; to understand and witness this rich bio-diverse environment firsthand, implement their learnings into habitat-accurate products for the home aquarium hobby and, lastly, bring awareness to help protect this precious natural environment from threats such as deforestation, mining and oil/gas production.

The discovery of the new fish, with a unique “W” shaped trident marking located near its gills, will be featured in Fluval’s upcoming Colombia Expedition film, which will be released in conjunction with the launch of the all-new Fluval Aquatics website later next month. Aquatic fans are encouraged to register on the Fluval home page now in order to be alerted as soon as the site goes live.

A one-minute long trailer of the Colombia Expedition has been released, which can be viewed below.

Colombia’s Las Tangaras Reserve Grows. October 2013. Rainforest Trust and ProAves have purchased two properties totalling 3,117 acres that will be added to the Las Tangaras Reserve. The purchase of these properties will significantly expand the reserve and provide improved protection for the many threatened and endemic species found within its borders: here.

Colombian graffiti art helps monkeys


From the Conservation International Blog:

On Streets of Bogotá, Graffiti Art Raises Environmental Awareness

Last year, CI’s visual storytelling team traveled to Colombia to document graffiti artists in Bogotá. Street art is a popular and powerful mode of expression in the Colombian capital; recently, prominent street artists partnered with CI and the Margot Marsh Biodiversity Foundation to raise awareness about environmental issues while trying to steer young people away from drugs and crime. Today on the blog, one of them shares his most recent conservation-themed mural with us.

mural-painting team in Bogotá

David “Wap” Suarez (top right) poses with his mural-painting team. (photo courtesy of David Suarez)

My name is David Suarez, and I am 29 years old. I have spent 13 of those years painting art on the streets of Bogotá under the pseudonym “Wap.”

I started drawing during childhood; probably due to the amount of anime and cartoons that I watched and collected, I started to lean toward illustration and art. I saw graffiti in videos and movies that I watched at that time (1997-98), and I was struck by the letters, colors, culture — and above all, the fact that it could be painted on the street where everyone could see it.

Some time went by before I got access to my first spray-paint cans to make my first piece, which was a total disaster. But I kept trying, learning from various painting and drawing techniques, color theory, etc. Finally in 2004, I and another street artist founded a group called “dot exe crew” — one of the most important in the history of graffiti in Bogotá.

mural in Bogotá

David “Wap” Suarez working on a mural in Bogotá. (photo courtesy of David Suarez)

We started painting murals not only thinking about the stylistic letters and use of color, but we also began to experiment with illustration of narrative and story, taking our graffiti concepts to a more professional and artistic level. This technique became popular among other taggers/artists during that time. This is how I came to paint the first mural on biodiversity, as well as work for corporate brands.

Parallel to this, in the eastern hills of Bogotá’s Chapinero neighborhood where I live, I helped to found Artes Urbanas (Urban Arts) with friends and local school districts that were involved in various manifestations of hip-hop culture. Artes Urbanas was a youth club that provided young people with a space to be creative and avoid getting involved in drugs and crime. There, I taught screening, airbrushing and drawing.

This project was very successful, and we were immediately exposed to many institutions and foundations that wanted to support us — including CI, with whom we began painting murals under the water ecosystem restoration project in Chapinero. These themes began to interest me more and more, so I started to do murals on these subjects independently.

After seven years of work with Artes Urbanas, due to some differences with members of the youth club, I left and the project died. It left me with great experiences and precedents, as art is my life. I continued painting murals on wildlife trafficking, on the Amazon, on the eastern hills of Bogotá, and other issues that don’t have anything to do with the environment but are part of the reality of my city.

Recently, I received the news that CI wanted to provide a grant to Artes Urbanas to paint a mural on the primates of Colombia. As Artes Urbanas was no longer, the solution was to divide the grant between two people for the preparation of two murals on endemic species of primates.

painting a mural of primates in Colombia in Bogotá

David “Wap” Suarez and his team working on a mural depicting the primates of Colombia in Bogotá. (photo courtesy of David Suarez)

For issues of conflicting interests and limited time and budget, I was not able to go to the Amazon to meet my primate brothers in person. However, I received my half of the grant and did my best to maximize the resources I had to paint the mural. I researched everything about Colombia’s primates on the Internet. CI provided me with a copy of their scientific book “Primates of Colombia” and other sources of information. And so I painted a huge mural of nearly 10 feet in height and about 100 feet in length in a busy area of Bogotá. My team and I are very grateful to CI for believing in and supporting our art.

mural depicting the primates of Colombia in Bogotá

The completed primate mural, which includes depictions of spider, howler and saki monkeys. Click here to zoom in. (photo courtesy of David Suarez)

My newest project, called “Factory of Ideas” has to do with restoring public spaces and taking up some of the projects developed with Artes Urbanas. I’m painting murals continuously; since the primates of Colombia mural, I have made two more and I hope to continue painting for much longer.

As for people who took the time to read this humble street story, my message to you is to care for the environment and support the arts — if not financially, then at least by respecting their importance. We should focus on making our environment something positive for everyone, just as I’ve been trying to do all this time.

David “Wap” Suarez is a street artist in Bogotá, Colombia.

Read a version of this post in Spanish here (scroll down).

Colombian amphibian discoveries, good and bad


This video is called Animal Week – Salamanders.

From Wildlife Extra:

Two new species of Salamander discovered in Colombia as deadly fungus detected for first time

Chytridiomycosis detected for the first time in north-east Colombia

February 2013. A team of young researchers from Colombia have recently found two new species of salamander that were discovered during a project supported by the Conservation Leadership Programme and Save Our Species.

The two new salamanders belong to the genus Bolitoglossa, otherwise known as tropical climbing or web-footed salamanders. One of the salamanders (B. leandrae) has been named after an 11-year old girl who became friends with the team whilst they conducted their fieldwork. “Leandra grew fascinated by the world of amphibians,” explains team leader Aldemar Acevedo. “She was eager to learn about our work and became an excellent spokesperson for nature conservation among the community.”

Small salamander

Bolitoglossa leandrae is a relatively small salamander (its body measures roughly 2.5 cm in length, about the size of a 50 pence, 20 cent or US quarter coin) with a narrow head and long, slender tail. Males are dark brown with thin yellow stripes along the length of the body and females are reddish brown.

Bolitoglossa tamaense is slightly longer than B. leandrae (the body of the longest specimen measured approximately 5 cm, or the same as the height of a credit card) and has a broad head and relatively long body and legs. A number of different colourations and patterns were recorded, but the body is generally brown or dark red, and the tail and limbs can be dark brown, red, orange or yellow.

Colombia-Venezuela border

The new findings were made during the first amphibian census to be carried out in Tamá Bi-National Park which straddles the Colombia-Venezuela border. In addition to the two new species, the team recorded three frog species (from the genus Pristimantis) that had not previously been found in Colombia, and eight other species that are new records for north-east Colombia. In total, the team recorded 34 amphibian species, up from just five species previously recorded in the area.

In their journal article, the authors highlight the need for more field and lab-based research to improve our understanding of amphibian diversity, and for more practical conservation projects to take place in the region.

Tamá Bi-National Park

“For decades, the natural landscape of Tamá Bi-National Park was subject to deforestation, agricultural pressures and illegal crop-growing so during our project we began working with local communities and environmental organisations to encourage good land stewardship and the development of adequate conservation plans” said Aldemar. “Local communities have responded to our call and we are starting to see a decrease in deforestation, especially in forest patches inhabited by Bolitoglossa leandrae.”

Chytridiomycosis

It’s not all good news, however, as the team detected chytridiomycosis (a virulent fungus which kills off amphibians) for the first time in north-east Colombia and it was found on 23 of the park’s 34 species. If left unchecked, this could result in population declines and perhaps even local extinctions.

To try and control the rapid spread of the fungus, the team ran several biosafety workshops for rangers and community members. In the future, the team plans to conduct further research to measure the success of their biosafety workshops and they are currently looking for funding to kick-start reforestation programmes in areas of habitat that would be suitable for amphibians.

The finding was published an article in the journal Zootaxa.

Colombian migratory bird reserve expands


This video from the USA is called University of Tennessee cerulean warblers study.

From Wildlife Extra:

Cerulean warbler and other rare species to benefit from acquisition of key Colombian habitat

Pauxi Pauxi Reserve extended

January 2013. The Cerulean Warbler, a bird whose population has declined by about 70 percent in the last 40 years, and 25 other neotropical migrating birds are the key beneficiaries of a successful two-year-effort by American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and Fundación ProAves to purchase and protect key wintering habitat for the birds in Colombia, South America.

9 properties acquired

The conservation effort resulted in the acquisition of nine new properties. Those new properties now make up the western flank of the Pauxi Pauxi Reserve that was established in 2007 by the same partner groups and now totals about 4,470 acres.

The purchased area is located in north central Colombia, approximately 150 miles north of Bogota in an area of lush tropical vegetation. The newly acquired land is part of an imposing, mountainous outcropping called Cerro de la Paz, along the Magdalena River Valley west of the Andes Mountains, an area that has been heavily deforested due to agricultural and urban expansion.

Pauxi Pauxi Reserve

“As migratory birds head south through the degraded river valley, the Pauxi Pauxi Reserve is a forested haven. We are thrilled to expand available habitat for these weary avian travelers,” said David Younkman, Vice President for Conservation at ABC.

“Cerro de la Paz and the Pauxi Pauxi Reserve is one of the best migrant hotspots in Colombia based on our surveys,” said Alonso Quevedo, Executive Director of ProAves. “It is fantastic that our conservation efforts to protect endangered resident species, such as the Helmeted Curassow, can also ensure vital winter habitat for dozens of migratory species.”

The Cerulean Warbler was formerly one of the most abundant breeding warblers in the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys and elsewhere in the U.S., but is now one of the country’s most imperiled migrant songbirds.

Cerulean Warbler numbers plummet by 70%

Overall, Cerulean Warbler numbers have plummeted by almost 70% since 1966. This elusive bird winters in the Andes and intermountain valleys, and breeds in North America from the Great Lakes region to Georgia, and west from Wisconsin to Louisiana, with particular concentrations in the Appalachians and Central Hardwoods region. Both its breeding and wintering habitat are being lost.

Winter migrants

In addition to providing habitat for the Cerulean Warbler, these properties represent a crucial area of wintering habitat for numerous other wintering migrants such as Tennessee, Black-and-white, Mourning, Canada, Blackburnian, and Black-throated Blue Warblers, American Redstart, Northern Waterthrush, and Rose-breasted Grosbeak. The Critically Endangered Blue-billed Curassow and Endangered Helmeted Curassow are also reported from this area in recent years, although confirmation is pending.

The Pauxi Pauxi Reserve also provides another strategic function – it anchors the northern end of the Cerulean Warbler Corridor in Colombia. This area is seeing increased agricultural expansion and ProAves is assisting local farmers in reducing deforestation by promoting shade coffee and cacao, both which benefit migratory birds. ProAves owns and operates small coffee and cacao farms that demonstrate to neighboring farmers ways to enhance wildlife conservation and maximize profits.

Current conservation efforts include reforesting habitat by building a tree nursery. Local residents have been hired to help find seeds, maintain saplings, and will begin planting by mid-2013. To protect the area from logging and unauthorized farming, a guard has been hired, and an existing structure is being renovated to serve as a guardhouse. Two small cacao farms on the property will provide ongoing income to sustain management efforts. Camera traps are being installed to confirm the presence of Helmeted, and possibly Blue-billed, Curassow among other important wildlife. ProAves and American Bird Conservancy have been able to undertake this work, including the new land purchases, with the generous support of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Neotropical Migratory Conservation Act program, Southern Wings, the Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Amos Butler Audubon, the Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust, Jeff and Connie Woodman, David and Patricia Davidson, Elisha Mitchell Audubon Society, and many other supporters of Colombian bird conservation.

This region faces other threats as well: an enormous hydroelectric dam on the Sogamoso River is underway which will flood a large tract of forest, and the developer is buying land and relocating families upslope. This will bring increased pressure on the reserve’s buffer zone and drive wildlife into the refuge, making the protected habitat even more important.

ABC is a leading U.S. bird conservation organization while Fundación ProAves is a leading bird conservation group in Colombia and an ABC International Partner.

Black-and-white-warbler: here.

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