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Stories by John Platt

Last chance to save the vaquita porpoise from extinction?

This is a crucial time for the critically endangered vaquita porpoise ( Phocoena sinus ). Despite conservation efforts, the vaquita population has dropped more than 50 percent in the past three years as hundreds of porpoises have died in commercial fishing nets...

November 6, 2009 — John Platt

Gorillas versus charcoal update: Biomass project reaches halfway point

What do comic books, a reggae band and alternative fuels have in common? They are all part of a project to help save critically endangered mountain gorillas ( Gorilla beringei beringei ) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).Last April, I wrote about a project in the DRC that aimed to save mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park, which is home to half of the world's 720 or so members of the species, by convincing locals to stop using forest-destroying charcoal as fuel...

November 4, 2009 — John Platt

IUCN Red List update: 17,291 species are threatened with extinction

The 2009 edition of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species was released today, and the news isn't good: 17,291 species out of 47,677 assessed species, or 36 percent, are threatened with extinction.Science currently recognizes around 1.8 million species on Earth (out of an estimated five million to 30 million total species—the true total remains unknown)...

November 2, 2009 — John Platt

Britain's rare birds get more common, as common birds get rarer

More than half of the U.K.'s rarest birds have seen recent population increases, according to the 10th annual "State of the U.K.'s Birds" report (pdf).Published by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in association with several local conservation groups, the report assesses the status of 210 bird species.Of the 63 rarest U.K...

October 28, 2009 — John Platt

New tools in the fight against frog-killing fungus available online

As the deadly chytrid fungus ( Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, or Bd ) continues its spread around the globe, putting thousands of amphibian species at risk of extinction, scientists are taking a few steps to control it, or at least understand it better.First, researchers led by Jamie Voyles of James Cook University in Townsville, Australia, believe they have finally figured out how the chytrid fungus kills...

October 27, 2009 — John Platt

Poachers still killing 100 elephants daily in Africa

 Twenty years after the international ban on ivory trade took effect, poachers are still slaughtering more than 100 elephants a day, according to a report by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).The ban on ivory trade, established by the U.N.'s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), took effect on October 17, 1989...

October 19, 2009 — John Platt

DNA could offer captive-breeding alternative to snow leopard studbook

Captive breeding of endangered snow leopards ( Panthera uncia ) has relied since 1976 on an international studbook that matches animals at zoos around the world for purposes of keeping the big cats from becoming too inbred.Breeding via studbook, however, is a slow process that does not offer many benefits to an endangered species with small populations, such as the snow leopard...

October 16, 2009 — John Platt

How much did the U.S. spend in 2007 to protect endangered species?

Protecting endangered species is an expensive proposition. The U.S. federal and state governments spent $1,537,283,091 toward conserving threatened and endangered species in 2007, plus another $126,086,999 in land purchases for habitat preservation, according to a new report from the U.S...

October 13, 2009 — John Platt

Search for world's rarest lemur pays off

Heading into the jungles of Madagascar in search of the world's rarest lemur—the greater bamboo lemur ( Prolemur simus )—was a gamble that paid off, said Damian Aspinall of The Aspinall Foundation...

October 7, 2009 — John Platt

Nearly extinct black-footed ferret returns to Canada

For the first time in more than 70 years, black-footed ferrets ( Mustela nigripes ) are now living wild on Canadian soil. Last Friday, the Toronto Zoo released 34 black-footed ferrets into the prairies of Grasslands National Park in southern Saskatchewan near the U.S...

October 6, 2009 — John Platt

AIDS-like retrovirus threatens Australia's koalas with extinction

Koalas ( Phascolarctos cinereus ) may be one of the world's cuter critters, but that doesn't mean they have it easy. Not only have koala populations become heavily fragmented due to habitat loss, they face numerous threats that they never encountered before: household cats and dogs frequently kill koalas; hundreds die every year after being run over by cars and trucks; and now a deadly virus is spreading to koalas throughout Australia.The koala retrovirus, which infects and alters the animal's DNA, has been linked to a variety of diseases and medical problems, including leukemia, bone marrow failure, cancer and AIDS-like immune deficiencies...

September 21, 2009 — John Platt

One in six Mediterranean mammals in trouble

The latest regional update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species finds bad news for mammals living around the Mediterranean. One in six species in the area are now threatened with extinction, according to the IUCN report, "The Status and Distribution of Mediterranean Mammals,"—the first major assessment of mammals in this region...

September 17, 2009 — John Platt

Should cheetahs be reintroduced in India?

Cheetahs ( Acinonyx jubatus ) may be the world's fastest land mammal, but that hasn't helped them escape their worst enemy: humans. The big cats have been hunted to extinction in 15 countries, and their remaining African and Asian populations currently face genetic weaknesses, such as low sperm counts and deformed tails, because of inbreeding.Now, controversial efforts are underway to return the cheetah to India, the nation that gave the species its name ( citrakaya in Sanskrit)...

September 16, 2009 — John Platt

Rare plant worthy of Endangered Species Act protection--But won't get it

Goose Creek milkvetch ( Astragalus anserinus ), a rare plant that only exists in a 25-square-kilometer area straddling the borders of Idaho, Nevada and Utah, "warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act" (ESA) but it won't get it, because other species have "higher priorities," according to the U.S...

September 14, 2009 — John Platt
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