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Stories by John Platt

Rare Costa Rican birds captured, tagged for study for the first time

A rare bird species that has never been adequately studied by science will now have that situation corrected. Scientists trapped three endangered yellow-billed cotingas ( Carpodectes antoniae ) last month, fitted them with tracking devices and released them unharmed back into the Costra Rican wilderness.The researchers used a nearly invisible nylon mist net to capture the birds—one female and two males—near the town of Rincon on Costa Rica's Osa Peninsula...

March 10, 2011 — John Platt

African lion may be added to U.S. endangered species list to curb American trophy hunters

A coalition of conservation groups filed a petition Tuesday to list the African lion ( Panthera leo ) as a protected species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA), citing the American appetite for sports hunting and lion products—such as lion-skin rugs—as major factors in the big cat's decline.The petition was filed by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Humane Society International (HSI), Born Free USA, Born Free Foundation and Defenders of Wildlife."The king of the jungle is heading toward extinction, and yet Americans continue to kill lions for sport," Jeff Flocken, IFAW's Washington, D.C., office director, said in a prepared statement...

March 1, 2011 — John Platt

Turtles in trouble: New report identifies the 25 most endangered turtle species

Asian appetites are rapidly driving the world's tortoises and freshwater turtles toward extinction, and some species might only be savable through costly and labor-intensive conservation efforts, according to both a new report and speakers at a workshop about conserving Asian turtles."It's going to take some intense management, both to protect wild populations and manage captive populations as a hedge against extinction," says Rick Hudson, president of the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), who contributed to the report.The report, "Turtles in Trouble," provides details on the 25 most endangered tortoises and freshwater turtles, 17 of which live in Asia, but almost all of which are threatened by demand from Asian markets...

February 25, 2011 — John Platt

Large ocean fish could be gone by 2050, study says

Overfishing large predators such as shark, tuna and cod in the past 40 years has left the oceans out of balance, and could result in the disappearance of these fishes by 2050, according to Villy Christensen of the University of British Columbia's Fisheries Center.Christensen made this prediction at a panel, "2050: Will There Be Fish in the Ocean?" on February 19 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C.With the disappearance of these large fishes, populations of smaller, plankton-eating fishes such as sardines, anchovies and capelin have doubled, Christensen reported...

February 24, 2011 — John Platt

Should barred owls be shot to save endangered spotted owls?

The ever-controversial northern spotted owl ( Strix occidentalis caurina ) has been protected under the Endangered Species Act since 1990, but despite the best efforts of lawmakers and conservationists the bird's population numbers continue to dwindle...

February 16, 2011 — John Platt

Deforestation may have killed off rare bat in Ireland

The Emerald Isle used to be home to 10 bat species. Now there appear to only be nine. Brandt's bat, a species not identified by science until 1970 and not seen in Ireland since 2003, has been declared probably extinct in that country by researchers at the Center for Irish Bat Research (CIBR), a research partnership between University College Dublin (U.C.D.) and Queen's University Belfast, which spent the past two years looking for the animal.Brandt's bat still exists in nearby England, Europe and throughout Asia, but its disappearance from the Irish countryside presents a cautionary tale about that country's bats and the fate of these animals around the world.Brandt's bat escaped scientific classification for a long time because they look almost identical to another species, the whiskered bat ( M...

February 9, 2011 — John Platt

Sea urchins bred to eat invasive seaweed in Hawaii

Invasive seaweed is putting a deadly choke hold on Hawaii's coral reefs. In an effort to save them and the fish that rely on coral as a habitat, scientists have started breeding native sea urchins to eat the offending seaweed.The culprits are two seaweed algae called Kappaphycus alvarezii and K...

February 2, 2011 — John Platt

Asian cheetahs racing toward extinction

The conventional wisdom about cheetahs ( Acinonyx jubatus ) is wrong, according to new discoveries that could have wide-ranging impacts on conservation of the world's fastest land animal.First of all, the long-held belief that cheetahs had little genetic variation throughout their range appears to be false...

January 24, 2011 — John Platt

70 percent of Turkey's birds are headed toward extinction

Turkey's wetlands and lakes are drying up, and with them the nation's bird species are also disappearing. Total bird counts have dropped 50 percent in the past 20 years, and now up to 70 percent of the bird species regularly observed in Turkey are threatened with extinction, according to lhami Kiziro lu, a professor of biology at Ankara's Hacettepe University.A total of 435 different bird species can be found in Turkey, "including those that reproduce in Turkey and those that visit the country during the winter," Kiziro lu told the Anatolia News Agency...

January 20, 2011 — John Platt

Has an infectious cancer doomed Tasmanian devils to extinction?

Are Tasmanian devils ( Sarcophilus harrisii ) doomed to extinction in the wild? The infectious cancer known as devil facial tumor disease (DFTD) has killed off as much as 90 percent of the world's Tasmanian devils since it was first observed in 1996 (up from 70 percent when we last wrote about the species nine months ago)...

January 18, 2011 — John Platt

Rhino poaching hit an all-time high in 2010

Rhinoceros poaching in South Africa hit an all-time high in 2010, with 333 animals slain for their valuable horns. That's nearly triple the 122 rhinos killed in the country in 2009.

January 13, 2011 — John Platt

Shark-finning gangsters assault celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay

If you've ever watched shows like Hell's Kitchen or Kitchen Nightmares, you'd know not to cross incendiary celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay. Well, maybe his shows don't air in Taiwan, because a crew of Taiwanese shark-fin smugglers wasn't too impressed by Ramsay's reputation, holding the TV host at gunpoint and pouring gasoline over him during the taping of a documentary in Costa Rica.Ramsay was in Central America to film segments of a program dedicated to shark finning, the cruel and deadly practice responsible for endangering shark populations around the world that the U.S...

January 10, 2011 — John Platt
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