Wildlife Roundup: The Good News, March 2010

In the wake of a pretty depressing meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species this month, here is some good news about wildlife conservation:

  • They’re baaaaack……After being presumed extinct for nearly thirty years, scientists recently discovered a population of yellow-spotted bell frogs (Litoria castanea) in Australia.  Researchers have already harvested tadpoles from population, about 100 strong, in order to start a captive breeding program for the species.  (Hat tip: John Platt.)
  • Foxes have made a huge comeback on Catalina Island.  Just off the coast of Southern California, Catalina Island has seen its population or rare Island foxes rise from a low of less than 100 two decades ago to almost 1,000 today.  Much of the credit is due to some favorable climatic conditions, but an aggressive distemper vaccination program, as well as public outreach and education also was responsible for the foxes comeback.
  • Eighty Palos Verdes blue butterflies, an extremely rare endangered species, were just released on the Palos Verdes peninsula, in Los Angeles, as part of a reintroduction effort.  The butterflies, which only live for ten days once they undergo metamorphosis, were bred in captivity.
  • In more butterfly news, Taylor's checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha taylori) also got a boost last month.  The Oregon Zoo released more than 2,000 captively reared butterfly larvae in prairie ecosystems near Olympia, Washington.  This is the fifth year that the Zoo has successfully reared the butterflies, which are an endangered species in Washington and a candidate for federal Endangered Species Act protection.
  • Egypt just created its first marine reserve on the Mediterranean coast.  Falling within the Gulf of el-Salloum, the 150 square-mile protected area is home to over 160 species of birds and over 10,000 marine species.
  • One of the most endangered species of birds in the world, California condors have been the focus on an intensive captive breeding effort, but reintroduced birds have struggled in the wild.  It’s been nearly a century, for example, since wild condors laid eggs in the Pinnacles National Monument, a protected area in California’s Gabilan Mountains.  That has just changed.  The lucky couple are condor 317 (a one and a half year old female) and condor 318 (a seven year old male, nicknamed Benito, pictured below).

  • There’s new hope for the Tasmanian Devil, whose numbers have been devastated in recent years by a highly contagious form of mouth cancer that swept through the population.  Now scientists believe that the have identified a genetically resistant colony of the Devils.
  • As a kid, one of my favorite books was E.B. White’s The Trumpet of the Swan, so it’s good to see that the Iowa Department of Natural Resources is helping to conserve trumpeter swans in partnership with Kirkwood Community College.  The Iowa DNR and Kirkwood recently released two swans into a controlled environment as part of an ongoing captive breeding program for North America’s largest waterfowl—not to mention one of its most beautiful.
  • Continuing their expansion in the Midwest, two grey wolf tracks were recently confirmed in Michigan’s lower peninsula.  While wolves have been present in the Upper Peninsula for years, this is one of the first confirmed reports of multiple wolves down south.  In other news, a gray wolf was recently photographed in Oregon, Illinois, although, sadly, it was later shot by a coyote hunter.  
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