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Stories by John R. Platt


An Invasive Plant Is Killing Wombats in Australia

When an otherwise nocturnal wombat shows up in the daylight, acting lethargic and having trouble walking, you know that animal is in trouble.When thousands of wombats turn up sick, emaciated, balding and dying, you know you have a crisis.That's what's happening in Murraylands, South Australia, where up to 85 percent of the region's southern hairy-nosed wombats ( Lasiorhinus latifrons ) are sick or dying, apparently the victims of invasive plants that have taken over the local ecosystem.Brigitte Stevens, founding director of Wombat Awareness Organization, was one of the first to observe the sick wombats three years ago...

July 12, 2012 — John R. Platt

Massive Ivory Burn in Gabon Sends Message to Elephant Poachers

Ivory to ashes, tusks to dust.... Nearly 5,000 kilograms of elephant tusks and ivory carvings went up in flames on Wednesday in the west African nation of Gabon, sending a powerful message to the international community that poaching and wildlife crime will no longer be tolerated in that country."Gabon has a policy of zero tolerance for wildlife crime and we are putting in place the institutions and laws to ensure this policy is enforced," President Ali Bongo said in a prepared release...

June 27, 2012 — John R. Platt

Critically Endangered Purring Monkey and 1,900 Other Species Added to IUCN Red List

It took more than 30 years for science to formally identify the Caquetá titi monkey ( Callicebus caquetensis ) of Colombia as a new species. Now it probably won't last another 30 years unless it is protected, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which on Tuesday added the monkey and more than 1,900 other animals and plants to its Red List of Threatened Species.The Caquetá titi monkey—which is both the size of a house cat and also purrs like one—was first observed in 1976, but decades of armed conflict in Colombia prevented scientists from locating it again until 2008...

June 19, 2012 — John R. Platt

Platypus Populations on Small Australian Islands Show Lack of Genetic Diversity, High Risk of Disease

Last year we learned that climate change could soon make Australia too hot for the cold-loving, iconic platypus ( Ornithorhynchus anatinus ). Now we have word of a new threat to these unique, egg-laying mammals: inbreeding, which has put the platypuses living on two small Australian islands at enhanced risk of disease.According to research published March 28 in Ecology and Evolution and May 4 in the Journal of Heredity , the platypus populations on mainland Australia and its island state Tasmania have perfectly normal levels of genetic diversity...

June 5, 2012 — John R. Platt

California Condor Populations Hit Important Milestone, but Still Face Threats

The population of endangered California condors ( Gymnogyps californianus ) hit an important milestone last month, reaching a high of 405 birds—quite an achievement for a species that was down to its last 22 individuals just 25 years ago.California condors—North America's largest birds, with a wingspan of up to 2.8 meters—were almost wiped out by poaching, DDT and lead poisoning before all of the remaining birds at the time were brought in from the wild in 1987...

May 24, 2012 — John R. Platt

China Feeds Extra Fish to Finless Porpoises to Save Them from Starvation

Chinese officials added an extra 50,000 carp to the waters of Poyang Lake this week to help feed the endangered Yangtze finless porpoises ( Neophocaena phocaenoides asiaeorientalis ) that live there, according to a report from the Xinhua news agency.Around 300 to 500 porpoises live in Poyang Lake in northern Jiangxi Province, representing between one third and one half of the subspecies's global population...

May 19, 2012 — John R. Platt
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