tagged w/ Habitat Fragmentation
Scientists: Serengeti on road to ruin
Photo: Conservationists say a proposed new road through the Serengeti National Park will disrupt migratory patterns of wildebeests
Serengeti on road to ruin, scientists warn
By Matthew Knight for CNN
September 21, 2010 11:07 a.m. EDT
London, England (CNN) -- Plans to build a highway through Tanzania's Serengeti National Park will destroy one of the world's last great wildlife sanctuaries, a group of conservation experts has warned.
Writing in the journal Nature, 27 scientists have called for a re-think on a proposed 50 kilometer (31 mile) road which they say will cause "environmental disaster."
Under plans approved by the Tanzanian government earlier this year, the trade route would bisect a northern part of the park, forming part of the 170 kilometer-long Arusha-Musoma highway slated to run from the Tanzanian coast to Lake Victoria, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Construction is expected to begin in 2012.
In "Road will ruin Serengeti," lead author Andrew Dobson, professor at the department of ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton University, says laying a track across the park would disrupt the annual migratory patterns of tens of thousands of zebras and gazelles, and 1.3 million wildebeest.
Using computer simulations the scientists estimate that if the wildebeests' access to the Mara river in Kenya is blocked their numbers "will fall to less than 300,000."
The ecosystem could flip into being a source of atmospheric CO2
--Scientists writing in 'Nature'
"This would lead to more grass fires, which would further diminish the quality of grazing by volatizing minerals, and the ecosystem could flip into being a source of atmospheric CO2," the scientists said.
In addition to simulations, the scientists also cite the experience of other park ecosystems where large mammal migration has been hindered by roads and fences.
In Canada's Banff National Park in Canada, "habitat fragmentation" has led to the "collapse of at least six of the last 24 terrestrial migratory species left in the world."
In Africa, the ecosystems of Etosha National Park in Namibia and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in Botswana have collapsed to "a less diverse and less productive state," the scientists said.
Scientists say a different route running south of the Serengeti should be considered to preserve the 1.2 million hectare UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This alternative route could utilize an existing network of gravel roads and would only be 50 kilometers longer than the proposed northern route, the scientists said.
While they acknowledge that Tanzania needs improved infrastructure to facilitate economic development, they argue that the road would damage wildlife tourism -- "a cornerstone" of the country's economy which was worth an estimated $824 million in 2005.
The Nature article adds weight to the growing pressure on the Tanzanian government to reconsider its position regarding the road.
Last month, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Zoological Society of London voiced their concerns and campaigns against the highway are gaining support on social networking sites Facebook ("Stop the Serengeti Highway") and Twitter ("SaveSerengeti").
Earlier this year, Tanzania's President Jakaya Kikwete tried to placate opponents of the project by announcing that the section of new road running through the Serengeti would not be tarmacked.
"I am also a conservation ally and I assure you I'm not going to allow something that will ruin the ecosystem to be built," President Kikwete said in an address to the nation in July.Scientists: Serengeti on road to ruin... more
Artist Josh Keyes adds an unusual twist to what could, in anyone else’s hands, be a typical wildlife painting. The paintings are created using acrylics on canvas, panel, or wood and depict animals in their natural environment, overrun with man-made debris.
http://www.whitespace.bz/ws/web/forms/pulse/PulseMainArticle.aspx?id=336Artist Josh Keyes adds an unusual twist to what could, in anyone else’s hands,... more
WHEN Nobel prize-winning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen coined the word Anthropocene around 10 years ago, he gave birth to a powerful idea: that human activity is now affecting the Earth so profoundly that we are entering a new geological epoch.
The Anthropocene has yet to be accepted as a geological time period, but if it is, it may turn out to be the shortest - and the last. It is not hard to imagine the epoch ending just a few hundred years after it started, in an orgy of global warming and overconsumption.
Let's suppose that happens. Humanity's ever-expanding footprint on the natural world leads, in two or three hundred years, to ecological collapse and a mass extinction. Without fossil fuels to support agriculture, humanity would be in trouble. "A lot of things have to die, and a lot of those things are going to be people," says Tony Barnosky, a palaeontologist at the University of California, Berkeley. In this most pessimistic of scenarios, society would collapse, leaving just a few hundred thousand eking out a meagre existence in a new Stone Age.
Whether our species would survive is hard to predict, but what of the fate of the Earth itself? It is often said that when we talk about "saving the planet" we are really talking about saving ourselves: the planet will be just fine without us. But would it? Or would an end-Anthropocene cataclysm damage it so badly that it becomes a sterile wasteland?
The only way to know is to look back into our planet's past. Neither abrupt global warming nor mass extinction are unique to the present day. The Earth has been here before. So what can we expect this time?
Take greenhouse warming. Climatologists' biggest worry is the possibility that global warming could push the Earth past two tipping points that would make things dramatically worse. The first would be the thawing of carbon-rich peat locked in permafrost. As the Arctic warms, the peat could decompose and release trillions of tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere - perhaps exceeding the 3 trillion tonnes that humans could conceivably emit from fossil fuels. The second is the release of methane stored as hydrate in cold, deep ocean sediments. As the oceans warm and the methane - itself a potent greenhouse gas - enters the atmosphere, it contributes to still more warming and thus accelerates the breakdown of hydrates in a vicious circle.
"If we were to blow all the fossil fuels into the atmosphere, temperatures would go up to the point where both of these reservoirs of carbon would be released," says oceanographer David Archer of the University of Chicago. No one knows how catastrophic the resulting warming might be.
That's why climatologists are looking with increasing interest at a time 55 million years ago called the Palaeocene-Eocene thermal maximum, when temperatures rose by up to 9 °C in a few thousand years - roughly equivalent to the direst forecasts for present-day warming. "It's the most recent time when there was a really rapid warming," says Peter Wilf, a palaeobotanist at Pennsylvania State University in University Park. "And because it was fairly recent, there are a lot of rocks still around that record the event."
By measuring ocean sediments deposited during the thermal maximum, geochemist James Zachos of the University of California, Santa Cruz, has found that the warming coincided with a huge spike in atmospheric CO2. Between 5 and 9 trillion tonnes of carbon entered the atmosphere in no more than 20,000 years (Nature, vol 432, p 495). Where could such a huge amount have come from?
Volcanic activity cannot account for the carbon spike, Zachos says. Instead, he blames peat decomposition, which would have happened not from melting permafrost - it was too warm for permafrost - but through climatic drying. The fossil record of plants from this time testifies to just such a drying episode.
Continued at link . . .WHEN Nobel prize-winning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen coined the word Anthropocene... more
KINIGI, Rwanda (AFP) — Rwanda "baptised" 18 rare baby mountain gorillas at what has become an annual event to highlight the plight of the endangered species.
The baby gorillas, however, were not physically present at the colourful ceremony at the edge of a national park where the primates live.
Eighteen masked people represented the gorillas at the event, which included songs and dances, attended by senior government officials including Prime Minister Bernard Makuza.
Tourism Minister Monique Nsanzabaganwa said government was expanding the the size of the volcanic park by 10 percent by the end of the year in a bid to promote the conservation of the gorillas.
"This campaign is to encourage gorilla conservation initiatives and to promote the local tourism industry," she said.
"Tourism remains one of Rwanda's key sectors," she added.
The ceremony was the fifth of its kind in Rwanda in as many years. A total of 103 gorillas have been baptised and officially received a name so far, according to AFP count.
The world's last mountain gorillas are concentrated in the mountains straddling the border between the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda.
They number around 700 in all, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).KINIGI, Rwanda (AFP) — Rwanda "baptised" 18 rare baby mountain... more
Congress is debating a bill that would open up oil and natural gas platforms just 10 miles from portions of Florida's Gulf and Atlantic coasts. It's putting pressure on state lawmakers to decide how close is too close to search for new energy sources.
As it stands, oil and natural gas exploration is limited to dozens of miles away from Florida's beaches and some in the state worry that allowing access just ten miles away, in Federal waters, puts Florida at risk environmentally without any of the financial windfalls.
Florida's Petroleum Council argues lawmakers should open up state waters, the first 10 miles of ocean and gulf waters beyond the shoreline, to oil exploration. Analysts estimate such a move could generate more than $1.5 billion a year in lease agreements and jobs.
"We know it's out in the eastern Gulf of Mexico," Council spokesperson Eric Hamilton says. "And we can get to that with a very small footprint."
Governor Charlie Crist has remained open-minded on the offshore drilling debate, provided platforms were largely out of sight and environmental risk was small.
"It's such an important issue that all the aspects of it, particularly if it would mean any revenue for Florida," Crist said Wednesday. "I understand that it may not. That would be a deal breaker."
Ultimately, voters could decide if near-shore drilling is in Florida's future. A push is on to put the question of opening up Florida's waters for oil and natural gas leases on the 2010 ballot.
"We've got this beautiful economy that every other state would envy," Audubon of Florida spokesperson Eric Draper says. "Why would we put that at risk for a little bit of oil that's not even going to bring that much money into the state of Florida."
Recent polling by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research Institute find a majority of Floridians support drilling off Florida's coasts, if safety was guaranteed.
I CAN NOT IMAGINE ANYONE BEING IGNORANT ENOUGH TO BELIEVE ANY "GUARANTEE' (OR ANYTHING ELSE) BY BIG OIL AND/OR CORRUPT POLITICIANS THAT SUPPORT IT!
$1.5 BILLION WOULD NOT COVER THE LOSS INCURRED BY 1 MAJOR SPILL. THE DAMAGE TO MARINE WILDLIFE, ENDANGERED COASTAL HABITAT AND ALREADY FRAGILE MARINE ECO-SYSTEMS WOULD NOT BE REPLACEABLE.
IT IS STRANGE HOW NATIONAL AND LOCAL MEDIA FAIL TO REPORT ALL OF THE OIL SPILLS HERE ALONG THE GULF COAST AFTER A HURRICANE...
PLEASE DO NOT ALLOW THE DESTRUCTION OF FLORIDA'S DELICATE ECO-SYSTEMS!
NO MORE DRILLING! WE NEED REAL ENERGY ALTERNATIVES THAT ARE SUSTAINABLE AND RENEWABLE NOW!
OUR GROTESQUE CONSUMPTION OF EARTH'S NATURAL RESOURCES HAS NOT BEEN REDUCED BY EXTINCTION, POLLUTION, STARVATION, WAR, POVERTY, HABITAT-LOSS, DISEASE... WHAT MORE WILL IT TAKE?Congress is debating a bill that would open up oil and natural gas platforms just 10... more
Has the recent violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo threatened the populations of lowland gorillas? How many are left?
The short answer is yes, dramatically.
Not to be confused with Western Lowland Gorillas, which are thriving in significant numbers in neighboring Congo (a recent census counted 125,000).
Today fewer than 5,000 Eastern Lowland Gorillas are estimated to remain in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), formerly known as Zaire. Some 17,000 inhabited the region as recently as 1994, but today habitat loss, hunting ('bushmeat'), and war and violence are combining to push them over the edge.
Following the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, an influx of refugees, along with bloodthirsty militias, moved across the border into the neighboring DRC. These militias set up training grounds in the very forests the gorillas call home, making conservation work impractical to say the least. Park rangers, game wardens and wildlife researchers either fled their wooded beats or were removed at gunpoint.
In the wake of this, civilian populations in the affected areas still had to make ends meet somehow. So hunting for so-called “bushmeat,” and cutting down the forest for firewood, charcoal and space for agricultural plots became the means for day-to-day survival, and continue to this day.
Some 91 percent of the human population in the region practice subsistence agriculture. This means that large swaths of gorilla habitat throughout the region have been converted to farms. At the same time, 96 percent of the locals rely on firewood as their main supply of energy for warmth and cooking. “Forested parks are for many of them the last remaining source of fuel,” reports the Year of the Gorilla website.
*please follow link for the rest of this story*Has the recent violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo threatened the populations... more
Researchers, who have studied the 24 large mammals that once moved from area to area in their hundreds of thousands, found that six of the migrations have stopped while the rest have been severely diminished.
Springbok and the spectacular scimitar-horned oryx are among the animals whose treks have ceased, according to the research published in the current issue of the journal Endangered Species Research. Bison and caribou have also all been badly affected.
Migrations evolved to take animals from areas where food was scarce to those where it was abundant, and grazers particularly seek out young grass, which is more digestible and has higher levels of protein. Grass quantity and quality depends on the availability of water, either from rainfall or melting snow, which varies from place to place according to the time of year.
In turn the migrants' dung increases the productivity of the areas they visit, so much so that the scientists – from the US Government's Fish and Wildlife Service, the American National Museum, the Polish Acadamy of Sciences, and the Universities of Montana and Aberdeen – say "losing migrations may result in ecosystem collapse".
But converting land to agriculture, fencing it, and building roads and railways block the traditional routes, while hunting has slashed populations, which also reduces migrations.
The scientists are particularly worried by the "devastating effects" of increasing measures to stop diseases from wild animals spreading to livestock, by erecting long fences and culling wildlife.
Numerious species have simply been hunted into extinction for their horns or hide.
Many other animals are in trouble as well. Bison, which once thundered through the North American grasslands MidWest, are now so depleted that they only migrate within the Yellowstone and Wood Buffalo National parks.
Mass movements of the Siberian roe deer have stopped in the Ukraine, as have those of the eland in the South African Karoo and Highveld. And caribou routes are disrupted by fencing and the oil exploitation.Researchers, who have studied the 24 large mammals that once moved from area to area... more
The Marine Mammal Center reminds coastal residents and visitors to “Leave Seals Be”.
Or, to call The Center’s 24-hour response hotline (listed below by region).
The goal of the campaign is to discourage illegal pick-ups of newborn harbor seal pups on beaches that many members of the public mistakenly believe have been abandoned by their seal mothers.
While the Center is able to rehabilitate orphaned and injured harbor seal pups, there is no substitute for the care and feeding these pups receive from their mothers as mother’s milk contains important antibodies that help build the young pup’s immune system.
Therefore, well-meaning beachgoers who attempt to help these pups by taking them home, returning them to the water, covering them with a blanket, or approaching them too close, actually are doing more harm then good.
Also, harbor seals, along with all marine mammals, are protected under The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 making it illegal and punishable by law to “take” marine mammals without a permit or to harm or harass them.
What YOU can do for a Stranded Marine Mammal
If you see a seal in distress, call our rescue and response Hotlines. After your call is placed, the Center will monitor the pup for 24-hours or more, depending on the situation, and if necessary trained volunteers and staff will rescue it safely.
Call The Marine Mammal Center at 415.289.SEAL (.7325) with as much information as you have.
In Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties, call 831.633.6298.The Marine Mammal Center reminds coastal residents and visitors to “Leave Seals... more
A manatee cow and her newborn are resting and gathering strength in a Jacksonville Beach lagoon.
The two were spotted Friday morning in a cove of the Jacksonville Beach Marina on the northeast side of the Intracoastal Waterway.
Steve Cane thought the mother manatee might have been injured.
"She wasn't moving very much and seemed to be ignoring the calf that was up by her head," said Cane, who called Fish & Wildlife to report the mammals.
"But a wildlife guy came and told me it was natural for the mother manatee to come into shallow water to regain her strength after giving birth."
Fish & Wildlife biologist Ryan Berger arrived shortly after noon to take notes on the pair.
"They do this when they're traveling up from the warmer southern Florida waters," said Berger.
"They find a place where there's warmer water without much of a current and she'll just rest for a few days."A manatee cow and her newborn are resting and gathering strength in a Jacksonville... more
PHOTO- Thousands of oil platforms dot the Gulf of Mexico, and despite predictions of a “moderate” hurricane season, the oil and gas industry continues to "recover" from last year’s storms.
'Good' news -
The major hurricane forecasters have made their predictions, and it’s for a “moderate” hurricane season. Cooler seas off the coast of Africa and a prediction of a weak El Nino get the credit for the calmer forecast.
That’s good news for America’s oil and gas industry, which is still recovering from the carnage caused in Energy Alley last year by two hurricanes — Ike and Gustav.
In fact, 5 percent of oil production and 8 percent of natural gas production remains shut in — production outages total 58,000 barrels of oil per day and 590 million cubic feet of gas per day — thanks to last year’s stormy weather, according to figures from the U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS).
Thousands of oil platforms dot the Gulf of Mexico, and despite predictions of a “moderate” hurricane season, the oil and gas industry continues to recover from last year’s storms.
Three major undersea pipelines were whacked by hurricanes Ike and Gustav last season. And rough weather this spring has kept work crews from making NEEDED REPAIRS.
Now for 2 pieces of bad news -
Forecasts for the number of storms in any given year are notoriously unreliable, though last year, agencies like NOAA were spot-on.
You can find a table of how accurate NOAA’s predictions have been by pointing your web browser here: http://tinyurl.com/p8popp.
And the second piece of bad news: It only takes one well-aimed hurricane to make the season a bad one. So don’t take the forecast for a “moderate” season as a reason to slack off in your preparedness.
The next hurricane may come barreling right at you or someone you care about. And one well-placed hurricane could also cause major damage to Energy Alley.
So what’s the WORST that could happen?
A storm surge above 20 feet that could take out up to 30 percent of U.S. refining capacity at one shot. Storm surge is a large dome of water often 50 to 100 miles wide that sweeps across the coastline near where a hurricane makes landfall.
Much of the 1.3 million barrels of oil equivalent produced in the Gulf of Mexico every day could be shut in … perhaps for weeks.
The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port — which imports up to 11 percent of U.S. oil consumption, could be taken offline.
Losses from hurricane damage along the coasts of the Gulf of Mexico “could increase tenfold from 2020 to 2025,” according to World Bank estimates.
Climate change is making things worse — intensifying the hurricanes. Warmer seawater has boosted the average wind speed of powerful hurricanes from 140 miles per hour in 1981 to 157 miles per hour in 2007, according to a Florida State University study released last year.
And the trend toward stronger hurricanes is particularly noticeable in the area of the Atlantic including the Gulf of Mexico.
Mind you, nothing bad has to happen. It depends on if the Gulf of Mexico is hit by hurricanes at all, where the hurricanes hit and how strong they are.PHOTO- Thousands of oil platforms dot the Gulf of Mexico, and despite predictions of a... more
Please help save the Asian Elephants. Please follow links to view the protests.
Asian Elephants require connected large habitats. Asian Elephants survival depends on having access (via the corridor) to roam and forage throughout the seasons.
The largest and potentially most viable population of Asian elephants is found in the mountains of the Western Ghats where the 3 Indian states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka meet.
Of a total population of about 2000 elephants surviving in Peninsular India in various fragmented habitat islands, the largest single population which may number over 1000 individuals is found in a near contiguous habitat extending over this 4500sq km tract.
The best forage is in the Tamil Nadu section but the elephants need to migrate to Kerala and Karnataka each summer when water and food become scarce in Tamil Nadu.
Direct movement from Tamil Nadu to Karnataka is no longer possible because of clearing and development and so now the only way for the elephants to migrate from the east to the west in the dry time and return during the wet season is via the Mudumalai TIGER Reserve in Tamil Nadu, to the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary in Kerala.
However, due to habitat fragmentation this route must now pass through a corridor which is only about 2.5 km wide extending from Mulehole in Karnataka to Muthanga in Kerala.
There are suitable alternatives to this development outside the forest.
In another part of this elephant population's range, the proposed establishment of the India Based Neutrino Observatory (INO) in Singara, within the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve and in the buffer zone of the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, threatens to further fragment elephant migration routes.Please help save the Asian Elephants. Please follow links to view the protests.
Please watch the Center for Biological Diversity's newly released television ads about saving the polar bear.
Polar bears are dying and will soon be wiped out entirely if we don’t take immediate action to curb global warming.
Please sign the petition below and pass it on to a friend.
With your help we’ll reach our goal to get 50,000 signatures below and send a strong message to President Obama in the first 100 days of his presidency.
Global warming is rapidly melting the sea ice polar bears depend on. Accounts of bears starving and drowning are on the rise as they are forced to swim farther and farther to reach the solid ice they need for hunting and resting. Some bears are even turning to cannibalism in a desperate search for food. Those trapped on land hundreds of miles from the nearest ice are often shot as they wander, starving, near villages.
And, as if things weren’t bad enough already, pollution from oil and gas drilling threatens to destroy what’s left of the polar bear’s disappearing habitat.
If current trends continue, two thirds of all polar bears — including all bears in Alaska — will be extinct by 2050, and the rest of the species will be gone forever by the end of the century.
But we can save them by joining together to take immediate action. The science is clear. We know what needs to be done — we just need to build the political support to make it happen.
Please help us gather 50,000 signatures on the petition below in President Obama’s first 100 days to encourage him to rein in global warming and save the polar bear.Please watch the Center for Biological Diversity's newly released television ads... more
PHOTO: Described in 2005, the Laotian Rock Rat [Laonastes aenigmamus] was first encountered by scientists on sale at an outdoor food market in Lao
Over one thousand new species have been discovered in the Greater Mekong Region of Southeast Asia since 1997, says a new report by WWF.
Among the most incredible finds documented in 'First Contact in the Greater Mekong' are the Lao Rock Rat, thought to have gone extinct 11 million years ago but discovered in a Lao food market; the hot-pink “dragon millipede” that produces cyanide in self-defense; the world’s largest huntsman spider, which has a leg span of over 30 centimeters; and a new species of purple banana from Southern China.
All told, over 500 plants, 250 fish, 80 frogs, 40 lizards, and 20 snakes, as well as 15 mammals, 4 birds, 4 turtles, 2 salamanders and a toad, were found throughout the six countries of the Greater Mekong region, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and the southern Chinese province of Yunnan.
In documenting such a prolific rate of discovery—an average of two species per week were discovered over the past decade—the report’s findings reaffirm the importance of the Greater Mekong as a biodiversity hotspot and conservation priority. As a result of such high biodiversity, the region is also recognised as a hub for the illicit trade in wildlife. Plants and animals of all sizes and description are poached from their natural habitats, transported across the region to major markets such as China and Viet Nam.
However, while many of these discoveries are new to science, Sulma Warne, Co-ordinator of TRAFFIC’s Greater Mekong Programme, says it is likely that many of the species have been known by local communities, and in some cases have long been harvested for food, medicine or other reasons.
While excited about the recent discoveries and recognizing the importance of sharing such news with the rest of the world, he was, however, concerned that high levels of publicity might motivate a demand for some species that was previously non-existent beyond low level local consumption.PHOTO: Described in 2005, the Laotian Rock Rat [Laonastes aenigmamus] was first... more
The reptiles, especially softshell turtles, are prized in China as food and as a source for traditional medicines. U.S. experts fear the trade could lead to extinctions.
The turtle tank at Nam Hoa Fish Market is empty, but not to worry: The manager of this bustling Chinatown store says he has plenty in back.
As Asian economies boomed, more and more people began buying turtle, once a delicacy beyond their budgets. Driven in particular by Chinese demand, Asian consumption has all but wiped out wild turtle populations not just in China, but in Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and elsewhere in the region.
Now conservationists fear that the U.S. turtle population could be eaten into extinction.The reptiles, especially softshell turtles, are prized in China as food and as a... more
· Report says Bush administration official bullied scientists
· Committee critical of handling of endangered species act
· Politics played a role in 20 endangered species decisions
Politics corroded Bush administration decisions on protecting endangered species in regions nationwide, federal investigators have concluded in a sweeping new report.
Former interior department official Julie MacDonald frequently bullied career scientists to reduce species protections, the interior department investigators found.
"The results of this investigation paint a picture of something akin to a secret society residing within the interior department that was colluding to undermine the protection of endangered wildlife and covering for one another's misdeeds," Congressman Nick Rahall, a Democrat from West Virginia, said late Monday afternoon.
Rahall chairs the House natural resources committee, which has been highly critical of the Bush administration's handling of the Endangered Species Act. Particularly in western states, the environmental law will be one of the biggest issues confronting President-elect Barack Obama's interior secretary.
The Bush administration took office promising to relieve farmers, loggers and developers of some of the regulatory burdens imposed by the Endangered Species Act. MacDonald, a civil engineer who was appointed to serve as deputy assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks, played an especially active role.
"MacDonald caused an incredible waste of time and money," one Fish and Wildlife Service official told investigators.
The 141-page investigation released Monday elaborates on inquiries conducted earlier by the interior department's office of inspector general. The earlier probes into MacDonald's work spurred the interior department to reconsider some of its decisions concerning species.
The new investigation offers additional details and interviews, fleshing out how politics potentially played a role on 20 different endangered species decisions. The decisions in question ranged from the northern spotted owl to the northern Mexican garter snake.
"One fish and wildlife service employee told us that MacDonald's influence was so prevalent that 'it became a verb for us - getting MacDonalded,' " the investigators reported.
MacDonald could not be located for comment late Monday. She has largely stayed out of public view since leaving the interior department in May 2007.· Report says Bush administration official bullied scientists
Uganda is on high alert as an outbreak of the dreaded Ebola hemorrhagic fever has occurred in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), local media reported.
According to the Director General of Health Services Dr Sam Zaramba, the Health Ministry has communicated to immigration staff at Uganda's western border points to monitor people coming from DR Congo.
"We have asked immigration officials to immediately contact our medical staff in the vicinity in case of any suspicion," Zaramba was quoted by Daily Monitor on Thursday as saying.
With some people reluctant to disclose their exact areas of origin for fear of being inconvenienced and perhaps quarantined, it remains a challenge how the immigration staff will handle the situation. However, Uganda is yet to issue any alerts or tight border controls.
"The WHO has not prompted us and there are minimal chances that the epidemic will reach here because the outbreak is far away from the borders and international efforts are underway to contain it there," added Zaramba.
DR Congo's Ministry of Health declared on Dec. 25 that there was an outbreak of the Ebola hemorrhagic fever in Mweka District, Kasai Occidental province.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday that of 35 suspected cases, including 11 deaths, in western Kasai province, only two were confirmed as Ebola, and both these patients were still alive.
A major Ebola outbreak in DR Congo, then known as Zaire, in 1995 killed 250 out of the 315 people known to have been infected, including health workers who contacted with infected blood.
Late 2007, Uganda suffered an Ebola outbreak in the western district of Bundibugyo, which claimed 37 lives out of the 148 infected. And since this outbreak that was officially declared over on Feb. 20, 2008, Ugandan Health Ministry has been on the alert for any eventualities.
Ebola virus is highly contagious and causes a range of symptoms including fever, vomiting, diarrhea, generalized pain or malaise and in many cases internal and external bleeding.
Mortality rates of Ebola fever are extremely high, with the human case-fatality rate ranging from 50 percent to 89 percent, depending on viral subtype.Uganda is on high alert as an outbreak of the dreaded Ebola hemorrhagic fever has... more
Just as populations of manatees -- Florida's state mammal -- are drawing back from the brink of extinction, federal regulators have approved a yacht club on a river that advocates say attracts roughly a quarter of all Southwest Florida manatees in the winter.
Boat collisions are one of the leading causes of death for manatees. And the prospect that 128 yachts could soon be harbored in a prime manatee area has alarmed environmental groups.
Four national conservation groups, including Save the Manatee Club and Defenders of Wildlife, recently petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to update a 30-year-old list of where manatees congregate, feed and breed. The petition seeks to stop development that puts more boats in places where manatees live.
"It's just long overdue," said Patrick Rose, executive director of Save the Manatee Club.
The petition has reignited a long-running battle between conservationists and boaters, frustrated by slow speed limits in manatee-protected waterways.
The river, a small tributary of the Caloosahatchee near Fort Myers, hosts a power plant that warms the water and attracts hundreds of manatees on chilly winter days.
Cold stress and toxic algae blooms are the top natural manatee killers. Boat collisions are their leading human-inflicted cause of death. Lee County frequently leads the state in the number of manatees killed by boats.
"The speed zones that are there are not there for the manatees in and of themselves. They are there because the boats are there," Rose said. "If it's really, truly critical habitat, maybe we shouldn't put more boats in those areas."
The federal government recognized the manatee as an endangered species in 1967. Since then, it has been illegal to harm manatees or destroy their designated habitat. The rules have helped manatees increase their numbers in most parts of Florida. The exception is Southwest Florida, where red tide algae pose a frequent threat.
The state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission conducts an aerial manatee count each year, but there are no reliable measures of the actual manatee population. At last count in 2007, 2,817 manatees were tallied.
Also, natural warm springs once helped manatees stay warm in the winter, but drinking water and irrigation demands have eliminated a large number of springs throughout the state. Power plants that constantly discharge warm water have replaced springs as sources for warm water.
The convergence of manatees basking in the Orange River's warmth and 128 yachts runs counter to the notion of protecting an endangered species, Rose said.
"It's crazy to think the most critical manatee refuge on the west coast would not be in critical habitat," Rose said.Just as populations of manatees -- Florida's state mammal -- are drawing back... more
PHOTO: A female manatee and her calf make their way through the canals near St. George Court and Jolly Roger Drive in Satellite Beach. Environmental groups want more habitat in Brevard County and elsewhere in Florida declared "critical" for manatee survival.
Four conservation groups, including Save the Manatee Club, formally petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to declare more places where manatees hang out to be "critical habitat" designations.
In Brevard, the places include manmade canals such as Berkeley Canal in Satellite Beach and the C-54 Canal in south Palm Bay, as well as natural tributaries to the Indian River Lagoon such as the St. Sebastian River, Mullet Creek, Turkey Creek and Crane Creek.
The designations would add another layer of scrutiny in permitting marine structures in those areas. While it doesn't by itself keep docks, marinas and other marine structures from being built, the designation could tip the balance, said Katie Tripp, director of science and conservation for Save the Manatee Club.
Under the Endangered Species Act, federal agencies can't authorize an action that causes the "destruction or adverse modification" of habitat designated as "critical" to the survival and recovery of an endangered species.
The groups that submitted the 64-page petition say new research since the original critical habitat designations were made in 1976 proves a need for more critical habitat designations, with more precise definitions.
"What this aims to do is clarify what that original list meant," Tripp said of the petition. "Instead of just listing a water body, it explains why."
Federal law requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, within 90 days of receiving such a petition, to determine whether it "presents substantial scientific information indicating that the revision may be warranted."
If the service makes that determination, then the agency would solicit comments through a lengthy public process, then publish the new critical habitat areas in the Federal Register, before they could take effect.
Steve Webster, executive director of Florida Marine Contractors Association, a trade group of dock builders, blasted Save the Manatee Club as an organization "that has outlived its purpose."
Please Visit: http://www.savethemanatee.orgPHOTO: A female manatee and her calf make their way through the canals near St. George... more
Positive conservation from the Malayan government. Can they actually do it?
Malaysia aims to double its wild tiger population
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia has launched an ambitious plan to double its wild tiger population within 12 years by protecting jungle corridors where poachers prey on the endangered big cats, activists said Monday.
The National Tiger Action Plan aims to have 1,000 Malayan tigers roaming in the wild by 2020, said Sara Sukor, a spokeswoman for Malaysia's chapter of the World Wildlife Fund, one of several conservation groups that helped the government create the plan.
Authorities estimate Malaysia's wild tiger population has fallen from 3,000 to 500 in the last half-century, largely due to illegal hunting and the human encroachment and destruction of the tigers' natural jungle habitat. Tiger meat is exported, served at exotic restaurants and used in traditional Chinese medicine — all illegal acts under Malaysian law.
Malayan tigers have been protected by wildlife laws since the early 1970s, but the National Tiger Action Plan is the government's first concerted effort to reverse the population decline instead of merely slowing it, according to the plan that was launched this month.
Government officials and conservationists will restore and manage key jungle corridors that connect tiger habitats, providing the animals with a wider territory and mitigating the impact of infrastructure such as roads, railways and oil pipelines.
Under the plan, the government has also vowed to better enforce its wildlife laws, remove tigers from areas where they might come into conflict with humans and boost scientific research in tiger protection, said the WWF's Sukor.
"We are optimistic the plan will succeed with cooperation among all the agencies involved," Sukor said. "We want to show that we are serious about wildlife protection."
Conservationists have long urged the government to step up wildlife protection, particularly by increasing penalties against poachers and smugglers of endangered species. Such offenses are typically punished by small fines without prison sentences.
Malaysia's tropical forests are home to a wide range of threatened animals, including orangutans, Borneo sun bears, Sumatran rhinoceroses and pygmy elephants.Positive conservation from the Malayan government. Can they actually do it?... more