Endangered Andean toad rediscovery in Ecuador


In this video, one can hear and see a male of the recently rediscovered toad species Andinophryne olallai call.

From mongabay.com:

Scientists rediscover endangered Andean toad in Ecuador

By Joanna Parkman

January 30, 2015

In 1970 researchers uncovered the Tandayapa Andean toad (Andinophryne olallai), previously unknown to science, in the Pichincha Province of Ecuador. Given that only a single individual was discovered, even after further exploration in the following years, the toad was soon presumed to be extinct. Forty-two years later, however, a research team rediscovered the species in Manduriacu, Ecuador. Their recently published study in Amphibian & Reptile Conservation describes new knowledge of the cryptic Tandayapa Andean toad, including population status, geographic extent, and natural history.

The Rediscovery

While rediscovering an “extinct” species may appear to be an unusual phenomenon, Lynch says that “…approximately 12 percent of [frog and toad] species previously thought to have gone extinct have in recent years been rediscovered.” This suggests that similar occurrences will increase with additional research efforts, especially in the neotropics. Lynch credits a global initiative created in partnership with the Amphibian Survival Alliance to find these so-called Lost Frogs.

“In response to the global amphibian crisis researchers and conservationists in all corners of the world have increased their efforts to understand and protect amphibian populations before they disappear forever,” he told mongabay.com.

Lynch and fellow scientists conducted stream surveys for reptiles and amphibians throughout the premontane tropical forest—directly below the mountainous zone—and cloud forests of Northwest Ecuador. The survey sites, located along the Western slope of the Andes Mountain range near the Cotacahi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve, ranged from 1,100 to 1,400 meters (3,609 to 4,593 feet) in elevation.

Most notably, the research team identified a new locality for the long missing Tandayapa Andean toad: Imbabura Province, roughly 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of the location where the species was first discovered in 1970. Across the four stream systems sampled, the group observed 18 individuals, including two froglets, five juveniles, and two pregnant adult females.

Other reptiles

not only reptiles. Also amphibians.

observed during surveys included two nationally endangered species—the Darwin Wallace poison-frog (Epipedobates darwinwallacei) and the spiny Lirecko (Lepidoblepharis conolepis)—and one internationally endangered species—the Ricuarte robber frog (Pristimantis scolodiscus)—as well as multiple species that have yet to undergo an assessment.

The rediscovery of the Tandayapa Andean toad is particularly important to the scientific community, as it demonstrates the value of field research, the continued existence of new and unexpected discoveries, and the capacity of species resilience. Furthermore, rediscoveries illustrate the importance of in-situ conservation, or on-site conservation of naturally occurring populations.

Polar bear, whale and fish conservation news


This video is about a polar bear and her two cubs.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Governments agree on new protections for polar bears

Convention on Migratory Species meeting in Ecuador adds listings for Cuvier’s beaked-whale, and 21 shark, ray and sawfish

Adam Vaughan

Monday 10 November 2014 14.17 GMT

Polar bears are among 31 species approved for greater protections by more than 100 countries, in a move hailed by conservationists as an important step to saving the endangered mammal.

The Convention on Migratory Species conference in Ecuador closed on Sunday, with new listings for a whale capable of the world’s deepest ocean dives, and 21 shark, ray and sawfish. A proposal to list the African lion, however, was rejected due to a lack of data.

The Norwegian proposal to protect the estimated 20,000-25,000 remaining polar bears, which are threatened by melting ice, Arctic oil exploration and hunting, saw the species gain an Appendix II listing. That means countries must work together to put in place conservation plans, as opposed to the stronger Appendix I listing which requires strict protections such as bans on killing an animal.

Dr Masha Vorontsova, director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare Russia, said: “We are pleased to see the polar bear joining a growing list of threatened migratory species protected under CMS. Appendix II does not mean that sufficient conservation action will be taken to protect the well-being of polar bears.

“What gives us hope is that this listing means that 120 countries are now recognising the threats that polar bears face from the shrinking of their ice habitat to pollution and hunting. This is an important first step, but it must not be the last if we wish to save the polar bear.”

The top level of protection, Appendix I, was issued for the rarely-seen Cuvier’s beaked-whale (Ziphius cavirostris), which scientists have recorded as diving as deep as 3km below the water’s surface.

The meeting in Quito also agreed that the 120 parties to the convention should pass laws to ban the capture of live whales and dolphins for use in travelling shows and entertainment.

Cathy Williamson of Whale and Dolphin Conservation said: “This very positive development from CMS sends a clear message of international concern about the impact of live captures for the aquarium industry on wild whale and dolphin populations.”

Campaigners praised the new protections for rays and sharks, with countries agreeing to take steps to stop the practice of finning, where sharks are caught and their fins cut off for use as soup at Chinese banquets.

Humane Society International’s Alexia Wellbelove said: “Today’s commitment at CMS by countries to provide greater protection for shark and ray species is an unprecedented step forwards in the conservation of sharks and rays worldwide.”

Governments agreed that the use of lead shot should be cut down to stop the poisoning of migrating birds, despite the UK initially opposing the move. The resolution also called for the phasing out of the veterinary drug diclofenac, and rodenticides, insecticides and poison baits.

Martin Harper, RSPB director of conservation, said: “I would like to congratulate the UK government for its role in helping to find a way forward. The UK showed leadership on the issue of poisoning by providing financial support to set up the CMS Preventing Poisoning Working Group, which produced the guidelines that have been ratified.”

Guidelines were also settled for the first time on how best to protect birds and bats from wind turbines and other forms of renewable energy.

Bradnee Chambers, the convention’s executive secretary, said: “Like never before in the 35-year history of CMS, migratory animals have become the global flagships for many of the pressing issues of our time. From plastic pollution in our oceans, to the effects of climate change, to poaching and overexploitation, the threats migratory animals face will eventually affect us all.”

POLAR BEARS HAD A BAD DECADE The polar bear population dropped 40% in the area north of Alaska and northern Canada. [HuffPost]

Morpho butterflies and young grebes at the botanical garden


This video says about itself:

Blue Morpho Butterfly – Found around 1700m amsl, Cordillera del Condor, South Ecuador.

I saw blue morpho butterflies today. I did not find them in Ecuador; but in the Victoria amazonica hothouse of the botanical garden. Pupae of various butterfly species were there as well.

Before we arrived there, a young great crested grebe swam under a bridge into a canal. A coot then drove it away.

In the botanical garden, near the astronomical observatory, a grey heron on the canal bank.

Another young great crested grebe swims past. Every now and then, it dives.

In the lawn there, the figures 425, formed by autumn crocus flowers; because the garden is 425 years old.

Migratory birds killed by lead ammunition


This video is called Bird migration, a perilous journey – Alyssa Klavans.

From BirdLife:

Banning lead should not be a toxic issue

By Martin Fowlie, Wed, 05/11/2014 – 20:35

RSPB‘s Agriculture Policy Officer, Ellie Crane, is attending the Convention on Migratory Species Conference of the Parties in Quito – vital decisions are in the process of being made – here’s a guest blog just in from Ellie.

Lead is nasty stuff. If it gets inside the human body it has multiple toxic effects – for example in children it damages the developing brain and can have lasting effects on IQ and behaviour. We have known about the problems of lead for years, which is why we’ve phased it out of paint and petrol.

But we are still releasing lead into our environment, in the form of lead ammunition used by hunters. It’s not only people who are at risk from eating game shot with lead ammunition: birds are under threat too.

Large numbers of birds suffer and die from lead poisoning every year. They can eat gunshot that has fallen to the ground, mistaking it for food or grit. Many gamebirds survive shooting but carry shot in their flesh. These, along with animals that have been shot but not retrieved, are eaten by predatory and scavenging birds such as white-tailed eagles, that consequently ingest ammunition fragments.

This week the world has a historic opportunity to eliminate the threat of lead once and for all, at the international Convention on Migratory Species conference in Quito, Ecuador. A proposal is on the table to phase out all use of lead ammunition and replace it with readily available non-toxic alternatives. Right now, government representatives from the UK, Europe and across the world are closeted in meeting rooms deciding whether or not to support this proposal.

There can be no doubt that this phase out of lead needs to happen, for the sake of both people and wildlife. Last month a group of 30 eminent European scientists issued a statement summarising the overwhelming evidence for harm for lead and calling for a phase out of lead ammunition. This follows a similar statement from American scientists.

Some countries have already taken partial action to tackle the lead problem, but this has mostly proved ineffective. In England, for example, the use of lead gunshot for shooting wildfowl was banned in 1999 but monitoring shows that most wildfowl continue to be shot (illegally) with lead gunshot and birds continue to die of lead poisoning. Some countries have had more success: for example Denmark banned the use of lead gunshot for all shooting as long ago as 1996. Danish hunters have embraced the shift to non-toxic ammunition and there has been no negative impact on the sport.

So the decision on whether to phase out lead ammunition across the whole world really is a no-brainer. The eyes of the world are on Quito.

Two new global agreements have been reached that will help save migratory bird species across the world. The Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) agreed a set of guidelines to tackle causes of poisoning and ratified a ground-breaking action plan to save more than 400 bird species: here.

Good Galapagos tortoise news


This video says about itself:

Island-hopping in Galápagos: meet the world’s rarest tortoise and the birds of Española Island

10 October 2011

In the second part of his Galápagos island-hopping adventure, Andy Duckworth talks to naturalist guide Robert Naranjo, seeks out sea lions, a friendly hawk, dancing albatrosses and more prancing blue-footed boobies. He also meets Lonesome George, the last surviving Pinta Island tortoise and the rarest creature on the planet

From the BBC:

28 October 2014 Last updated at 19:16 GMT

Giant tortoise makes ‘miraculous’ stable recovery

By Jonathan Webb, Science reporter, BBC News

Where once there were 15, now more than 1,000 giant tortoises lumber around Espanola, one of the Galapagos Islands.

After 40 years’ work reintroducing captive animals, a detailed study of the island’s ecosystem has confirmed it has a stable, breeding population.

Numbers had dwindled drastically by the 1960s, but now the danger of extinction on Espanola appears to have passed.

Galapagos tortoises, of which there are 11 remaining subspecies, weigh up to 250kg and live longer than 100 years.

The study, based on decades of observations of the variety found on Espanola, was published in the journal Plos One.

Slow release

It offers some good news that contrasts with the tale of Lonesome George, the very last of the related subspecies found on Pinta, on the other side of the archipelago. George’s death, at the age of about 100, made international news in 2012.

Lead author Prof James Gibbs told BBC News the finding on Espanola was “one of those rare examples of a true conservation success story, where we’ve rescued something from the brink of extinction and now it’s literally taking care of itself”.

Prof Gibbs, from the College of Environmental Science and Forestry at the State University of New York (SUNY-ESF), said he felt “honoured” to be reporting the obvious success of the reintroduction programme, which the Galapagos Islands National Park Service commenced in 1973.

His team has found that more than half the tortoises released since that time are still alive, and they are breeding well enough for the population to plod onward, unaided.

“It looks like we can step back out of the picture,” Prof Gibbs said.

It is quite a contrast to the 1960s, when just 12 females and 3 males roamed the island.

“They were so rare at that point, they couldn’t find one another. Many of the females had lichens growing on their backs, and fungi, that indicated they hadn’t been mated in a very long time.”

Those animals were taken to an enclosure [on] another island, to concentrate on breeding. Over the subsequent decades, more than 1500 of their captive-raised offspring have been released on Espanola.

Competing for cacti

It wasn’t as simple as putting the tortoises back, however. Their problems began when feral goats were introduced in the 1800s and devoured much of the island’s vegetation, severely disrupting the ecosystem.

“They can literally turn a rich ecosystem into a dustbowl,” Prof Gibbs said.

The goats even learned to feast on very tall cactus plants, whose dropped pads are a key food source for the tortoises in the dry season.

“They would feast on the roots… and chew away at the bark, and eventually that would topple these cacti. And then they had an incredible buffet of maybe 500-1000 years of cactus growth, demolished in a week or two.”

Conservationists set about culling the goats in the 1970s and finally eradicated them in the 1990s.

Their legacy, Prof Gibbs discovered, remains.

Analysis of the island’s plant life and its soil show that it has seen a major shift to bigger, woodier vegetation in the 100 years since the goats started stripping the undergrowth.

These shrubs and trees are a problem both for the tortoises and for their summer food of choice, the cacti.

The trees even get in the way of an endangered albatross that breeds on the island, making it difficult for the big, ungainly birds to take flight.

“Population restoration is one thing but ecological restoration is going to take a lot longer,” Prof Gibbs said.

Dr Rebecca Scott, an ecologist who studies turtles at GEOMAR in Kiel, Germany, said the results showed how important it is to monitor reintroduction carefully.

“Reintroducing these large, keystone species, in combination with reducing the spread of invasive species, can really help return ecosystems to native state.

“This work highlights the merit of well-managed reintroduction programmes, but also of really monitoring how these animals do.”

Dr Gerardo Garcia, a herpetologist at Chester Zoo, agreed that the situation was complex and the programme had succeeded because of careful, long-term management.

“It’s a long process but it’s quite normal for it to take decades,” he told BBC News.

“Nothing gets released and stable in less than 20 or 30 years.”

See also here.

Rare spectacled bear discovery in Ecuador


This video is called BBC Natural World – Spectacled Bears, Shadows of the Forest – Full Documentary.

From Wildlife Extra:

Rare Spectacled Bear found in new Ecuador reserve

There have been sightings of Spectacled Bear in Ecuador’s new Antinsanilla Reserve, confirming the animal’s presence in the area.

The reserve was primarily established to protect the rare Andean Condor, which numbers only around 50 in Ecuador today. It is also the habitat of a number of extremely endangered amphibians, making it a vital location for threatened Ecuadorian wildlife.

Antinansilla Reserve spans 6,100 acres, and was created with support from the Rainforest Trust, the Amphibian Survival Alliance, the Andrew Sabin Foundation and other conservation organisations working in collaboration with Ecuadorian Partner Fundación Jocotoco.

A Spectacled Bear was recently sighted in the reserve by park guard Manual Cuichan in September. “This marks the second time Spectacled Bears have been spotted in the reserve this year,” says Jocotoco’s Conservation Director Francisco Sornoza, “And it’s wonderful news since it’s clear that the bears are now using the reserve as a real refuge.”

Although the endangered Spectacled Bear – South America’s only bear species – is versatile and able to survive in cloud forests, alpine areas (known as páramo) and deserts, they are under continual threat from poaching and habitat loss due to agricultural expansion, road construction and other development. If current trends continue, their numbers are expected to decline by more than 30 per cent in the next thirty years.

“One of the iconic mammals of the Andes, the endangered Spectacled Bear has always been relatively rare, and now it is much persecuted almost throughout its range for alleged cattle depredations,” says President of Rainforest Trust, Dr Robert S Ridgley. “I knew that Spectacled Bears used to occur at Antisanilla and I hoped maybe one might wander in,” Ridgely added. “But never did I think that, hardly six months after Antisanilla’s purchase, two bears would have already been sighted on the páramo!”