Wildlife Roundup: The Good News

Arabian oryx (Amos Ben Gershom, Israel Mininstry of Environmental Protection)

Without ado, last month’s reasons to have a little hope when it comes to biodiversity:

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Scientists say they are close to developing a fungus-resistant American chestnut tree (well, 94% American chestnut, genetically speaking) that could be reintroduced to forests in the United States.  The American chestnut, which was all but wiped out by an introduced fungus in the turn of the 20th century, used to be the dominant tree throughout much of the East Coast.  As a bonus, scientists believe that American chestnuts can store carbon dioxide much more quickly many other tree species.
  • Inmates at a minimum security prison are helping in a captive breeding program for the imperiled Oregon spotted frog.  The prisoners success rate at raising the frogs--which was much higher than either the Woodland Park Zoo or the Oregon Zoo, who also participate in the program--“stunned” researchers, according to the Seattle Times.
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  • Nature reports that new sub-species of monkey, the Mura’s saddleback tamarind, has been discovered in the forests of Northwest Brazil. According to  the Wildlife Conservation Society, which helped find the monkey, Mura’s saddleback  tamarind was “named after the Mura Indians, the ethnic group of Amerindians of the Purus and Madeira river basins where the monkey occurs.”
  • Stinking hawk’s-beard, a rare European flowering plant, has been successfully reintroduced to the U.K., after several failed attempts.  The entire reintroduction project was a bargain too--costing only a few thousand dollars a year.
  • Wood storks in Florida’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary had a very successful breeding season this year, with 1,100 nesting pairs producing 2,200 fledglings.  This is the first successful breeding season for the endangered birds in the Sanctuary since 2006.  Managers of the Sanctuary attribute the breeding success to tropical storms in August, which brought water levels up to those needed by the storks to breed.
  • Fifteen baby Chinese alligators have been born in the wild, the first such births in a decade-old effort to reintroduce the species to China’s Chongming Island, which is located at the mouth Yangtze River.
  • A fifteen year effort to introduce the endangered  American burying beetle to Nantucket is showing signs of success.  The introduction program, led by the Roger Williams Park Zoo (fondly remembered from college days), has resulted in naturally reproducing beetle populations in two locations on the Island.
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  • The U.S. Geological Survey announced the discovery of a population of endangered mountain yellow-legged frogs in the San Bernardino National Forest’s San Jacinto Wilderness, the first such discovery in fifty years. The newly  discovered frog population, coupled with successful captive breeding efforts by the San Diego Zoo and habitat restoration, are all causes for renewed optimism about the species, says the Survey.
  • Arabian oryx are being reintroduced into the desert of Jordan.  The oryx come from the largest breeding population of oryx left in the Middle East—a heard of about 4,000 animals in Abu Dhabi.  Oryx have been extinct in Jordan since the 1930’s.
  • El Segundo blue butterfly populations are rebounding in Southern California, thanks to habitat protections put in place by the Los Angeles International Airport.  In fact, the largest known population of the this small, fragile, and highly endangered butterfly is now at LAX.