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Stories by John R. Platt


Endangered Ozark Hellbender Salamanders Breed in Captivity for the First Time

"In my 24 years in the zoo business, this is one of the most exciting periods I've been through so far," says Jeff Ettling, curator of herpetology and aquatics at the Saint Louis Zoo.He's talking about the birth of 185 baby Ozark hellbender salamanders ( Cryptobranchus alleganiensis bishopi ) at the zoo's Ron Goellner Center for Hellbender Conservation, which has a dozen or so additional eggs ready to hatch...

December 5, 2011 — John R. Platt

Can the Most Interesting Man in the World Help Save This Critically Endangered Wombat?

Is the northern hairy-nosed wombat (Lasiorhinus krefftii ) the most interesting endangered species in the world? Maybe it is, maybe it isn't—but it has definitely attracted the attention of the Dos Equis beer commercial spokesperson known only as "the Most Interesting Man in the World."The television advertising icon and Dos Equis have launched an auction for a jar of what they call The Most Interesting Jam—a concoction made from ingredients suggested by Facebook fans and supposedly hand-mixed by the Most Interesting Man in the World himself—with all proceeds going to benefit the Wombat Foundation, an organization set up to protect the critically endangered northern hairy-nosed wombat...

November 22, 2011 — John R. Platt

Another Rhino Goes Extinct and Other Updates from the Brink

Just two weeks after the World Wildlife Fund declared the Vietnam Javan rhinoceros ( Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus ) extinct comes the announcement of another rhino extinction, this time the western black rhino ( Diceros bicornis longipes ) of Africa.The declaration came last week from the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) as part of the latest update to its Red List of Threatened Species, which tracks the conservation status of endangered animals and plants around the world.The loss of the western black rhino was, sadly, expected...

November 15, 2011 — John R. Platt

England Tries Wire and Mesh "Bat Bridges" to Save Endangered Species

The U.K. Highways Agency plans to build a series of new "bat bridges" to help endangered bats fly across the busy A11 highway near Norfolk in eastern England without being killed by cars and trucks, but even though measures to protect bats from projects like this are required by law some politicians are balking at the cost.Five previous bat bridge projects built by the agency over the past few years carried a price tag of nearly $800,000...

November 4, 2011 — John R. Platt

Please Don't Feed the Endangered Eagles?

It's a fairly common practice to help certain endangered species in the wild by providing them with extra food or prey. But could these activities actually end up harming the very species conservationists are trying to help?Researchers from Spain's National Museum of Natural Sciences, the Doñana Biological Station and GIR Diagnostics asked that question in a recent study of the Spanish imperial eagle, also known as the Iberian imperial eagle or Adalbert's eagle ( Aquila adalberti )...

October 27, 2011 — John R. Platt

Surveys Find No Sign of Endangered Vietnamese Pheasant

Are we looking at Asia's first pheasant extinction? The endangered Edwards's pheasant ( Lophura edwardsi ) has not been observed in the wild since 2000, and now surveys conducted by the World Pheasant Association (WPA) in the bird's two most likely habitats in Vietnam have failed to turn up any sign of the species.Edwards's pheasant was described as fairly common when it was first described and named by French ornithologist Alphonse Milne-Edwards in the 19th century...

October 14, 2011 — John R. Platt

Hellbender Salamander Gets Endangered Species Designation, but No Habitat Protection--and That May Be a Good Thing

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) this week granted the Ozark hellbender ( Cryptobranchus alleganiensis bishopi ) protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) but made the unusual decision not to declare critical habitat for the rare, giant salamanders because, it said, doing so could open it to threats from those who would illegally collect the species for the international pet trade.Ozark hellbenders are North America's largest amphibians, often topping off at 60 centimeters in length, and because of that size they are highly valued by collectors...

October 7, 2011 — John R. Platt
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