A further 23 Scimitar-horned Oryx were released into a remote part of Chad this week, as part of a long-term international conservation project to reinstate this most persecuted of antelope back into one of their historic strongholds. The species is believed to have become extinct in the wild during the early 1990s – the precise year is widely disputed – but are now showing signs of a revival following a release of an initial 23 animals last August into the same region. This was made possible after a group of 40-50 Oryx were taken from the wild into captivity in the 1960s after decades of hunting decimated their population across Northern Africa.
I was recently asked to join the SCOTLAND: THE BIG PICTURE team as a Contributing Writer and subsequently appeared in their introductory film above. As Scotland begins its rewilding journey, STBP exists as a multimedia hub combining ecological science with compelling narratives and the finest imagery to tell inspiring stories that amplify the case for a wilder Scotland.
A new study led by the Zoological Society of London [ZSL] and the Wildlife Conservation Society [WCS] has uncovered a dramatic decline in their numbers, with only around 7,100 believed to now exist in the wild. With a historic population of over 100,000 in 1900, the species is clearly now in a fragile state, amid calls for them to be reclassified by the IUCN as endangered. The reasons behind their collapse include:
This enviable title has been awarded to Manu National Park in Peru, now believed to contain the greatest variety of terrestrial species on Earth. Following exhaustive research conducted across 16 of the most biodiverse places in the world, using 60 camera traps, Manu’s pristine mosaic of 14 different ecosystems came out on top. The study was carried out by the Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring [TEAM] Network, utilising systematic field station data collection procedures honed over many years to ensure the utmost veracity. Their work serves to identify trends in species diversity, which can then inform and shape conservation strategy.
This was the headline finding from the Scottish Natural Heritage [SNH] report published today, following dedicated long-term data collection primarily by volunteers with the British Trust for Ornithology [BTO] and Joint Nature Conservation Committee [JNCC] Breeding Bird Survey. Farmland bird numbers were also found to have risen substantially, whereas upland and wader species have seen considerable declines. Woodland birds with the greatest proliferations include the Great Spotted Woodpecker – up 530% – and the Chiffchaff, up an incredible 752%.
Every now and again, you come across a book that is more than just a book. Something that transcends its primary purpose. A real labour of love. The Red Squirrel: A future in the forest is such a book, and much like its subject matter, it needs your help. A crowdfunding campaign is currently underway to secure the funds required to get the photo book into publication, with just 25 days remaining. You can find out more about the project and how to contribute to it here. Continue reading Shining A Light On The Red Squirrel→
Heartened to hear about an ambitious project to reintroduce 11 locally extinct species to Dirk Hartog Island, off the coast of Western Australia. The ten mammals and one bird species were once endemic to the island, but their populations declined rapidly following overgrazing by introduced sheep and goats, and from predation by feral cats. The long-term goal of the ecological restoration project is to return the island’s ecosystem back to how it would have looked and functioned when Dutch explorer, Dirk Hartog, discovered it by chance in 1616. Continue reading Rewilding on Dirk Hartog Island→
Should we resurrect extinct species? If we have the animal’s DNA and the means to reproduce it, is the creature truly extinct? It’s a contentious field of research that’s still in its infancy, but it’s no longer science fiction – its potential is a reality thanks to ground-breaking developments in genetic technology. Conservationists, ecologists and the wider scientific community remain divided on the issue.
Those for it see it as a vital lifeline for critically endangered species, such as the Northern White Rhino. It could boost biodiversity, help restore diminished ecosystems and most profoundly, bring back species that were once thought lost forever. Those against the idea view it as a distraction from conventional conservation practices that could dilute the focus to protect existing species. Why conserve when you can ultimately bring back? Continue reading Delving into De-extinction→
Golden Toad. Charles H. Smith. Wikimedia Creative Commons
Today’s contemplation arose after reading about the sad demise of Rabbs’ fringe-limbed tree frog. The inevitability of this species’ extinction was particularly grim – but by no means unusual or surprising given the general health of amphibian populations across the world right now. They face unprecedented threats that include: fungal diseases, habitat modification and fragmentation, pollution and chemical contamination, climate change and ultraviolet radiation. Now almost half of all amphibian species are experiencing a population decline, with over a third threatened with extinction. Most alarmingly of all, at least 160 species are believed to have become extinct during the last two decades. Continue reading The Amphibian Extinction Crisis→