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Stories by John Platt


Extinction Likely for World's Rarest Bear Subspecies

The May 3 death of a Marsican brown bear ( Ursus arctos marsicanus ) has put the world's rarest bear subspecies one step closer to extinction. Just 50 or so of the animals remain in two of Italy's national parks, a population so small that the bears are "below the threshold of survival," Giuseppe Rossi, head of the National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio, and Molise, told The Christian Science Monitor .The bear killed this week was likely struck by a car, an example of the increased bear-human conflict that has halved the population from 100 animals since the 1980s...

May 6, 2011 — John Platt

Wolves Lose Out to Politics, Removed from Endangered Species List

In an abbreviated, terse press conference on Wednesday Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) will propose removing gray wolves ( Canis lupus ) from the endangered species list in the northern Rockies and the western Great Lakes.Last month, lawmakers in Congress added riders to the annual budget bill to remove wolves in the Rockies from the Endangered Species Act, circumventing scientific evidence and advice in the process...

May 4, 2011 — John Platt
The Sciences

Possum-Killing Poison Helps Protect New Zealand Parrot

An endangered New Zealand parrot known as the kaka ( Nestor meridionalis ) has had a much-needed population boost after poisons were used to kill introduced possums, stoats and rodents in Waitutu ForestCommon brush-tailed possums ( Trichosurus vulpecula ) were introduced to New Zealand from Australia in 1870 for their fur and meat, but they overran the islands, threatening the country's native fauna, which evolved without any mammalian predators...

May 4, 2011 — John Platt

Central American crocodile recovers and crawls off endangered species list

Sometimes conservation plans work so well that once-endangered species no longer need protection. That's the case in Central America, where the Morelet's crocodile ( Crocodylus moreletii ) has recovered enough that many of the protections put in place decades ago to help it are now on the verge of being lifted.Once heavily hunted for their skin, which was heavily valued as a source of high-quality leather, the Morelet's crocodile began its slow climb toward survival back in 1970, when Mexico (where most of the animals live) banned hunting of all crocodiles and caimans...

April 28, 2011 — John Platt

Australian mathematicians say some endangered species "not worth saving"

Some endangered species on the brink of extinction might not be worth saving, according to a new algorithm developed by researchers at the University of Adelaide and James Cook University, both in Australia.Dubbed the SAFE (species' ability to forestall extinction) index, the formula takes current and minimum viable population sizes into account to determine if it is too costly to save a species from extinction...

April 14, 2011 — John Platt
The Sciences

Scientists want politics kept out of endangered species decisions

Some 1,293 scientists sent a letter (pdf) this week to each and every U.S. senator urging them not to support any endangered species legislation that is based on politics rather than science."As scientists with expertise in biological systems," the letter reads, "we are writing to urge you to vote against any legislation that would undercut the use of best available science as the basis for adding or removing any particular species from the protection of the Endangered Species Act."The letter, sent under the aegis of the Union of Concerned Scientists, follows recent political moves to remove the gray wolf ( Canis lupis ) from the endangered species list as well as other similar actions making their way through the legislative process...

April 1, 2011 — John Platt
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