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Stories by John R. Platt

Should Captive-Bred Chimpanzees Have Full Endangered Species Act Protection?

In a move that's probably long overdue, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced last week that it will conduct a status review to determine if captive chimpanzees ( Pan troglodytes ) should be reclassified from "threatened" to the more protected status "endangered" under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).Wild-born chimpanzees have been fully protected under the ESA since they were classified as "endangered" in 1990, but chimps and other great apes in captivity have not enjoyed the same protection under what is known as the "captive-bred wildlife exception." According to the Michigan State University College of Law's Animal Legal & Historical Center, this means "people who register with FWS can legally export, re-import, sell and 'take' (including euthanize) their captive-bred apes as long as those activities enhance the survival of the species." Those activities include scientific research, exhibition (this applies to show-biz chimpanzees) or "holding and maintenance of 'surplus' apes (meaning those not immediately needed for scientific research or breeding)." The "threatened" designation also means that people can import, export or sell great apes with an FWS permit (pdf).The FWS status review is a response to a petition from The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Jane Goodall Institute, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance, the Fund for Animals, Humane Society International and the New England Anti-Vivisection Society."The federal government does not 'split list' any other endangered species by wild and captive populations, and it should not have done so in this case," HSUS president and CEO Wayne Pacelle said in a prepared statement...

September 7, 2011 — John R. Platt

Thylacine Hunted into Extinction for No Reason, Study Reveals

The thylacine ( Thylacinus cynocephalus ), better known as the Tasmanian tiger, has long been the poster child for human-caused extinction. Hunted out of existence by Australian farmers who feared that the striped, canine-like marsupials would kill their sheep, the last thylacine died in captivity in Hobart Zoo 75 years ago next week, on September 7, 1936 (although the species was not officially declared extinct until about 25 years ago).Now, just a few days before the annual observance of National Thylacine Day in Australia, a new study reveals that the predator was probably not a threat to sheep after all...

August 31, 2011 — John R. Platt

Ecuadorian Hydroelectric Plant Could Cause Extinction of Rare Plant

A planned hydroelectric project on Ecuador's Rio Topo will generate 22 megawatts of energy for the surrounding area, but building it also will likely wipe out a rare plant.The plant, a mosslike liverwort called Myriocolea irrorata that lives only in the region, was first discovered on the banks of the Rio Topo in 1857 by Scottish explorer Richard Spruce...

August 24, 2011 — John R. Platt

Should Rwanda Relocate Humans to Make Room for Chimpanzees?

The endangered eastern chimpanzees ( Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii ) in Rwanda's Gishwati Forest could be doomed unless they increase their gene pool, an unlikely event if humans don't get out of the way first, the Global Post reports.After decades of habitat loss, just 20 chimpanzees—up from 13 in 2008— live in the remaining 8.8 square kilometers of Gishwati...

August 16, 2011 — John R. Platt

Dugong Deaths Way up Down Under

More dugongs ( Dugong dugon ) have died in Australia this year than in all of 2010. At least 90 of the marine mammals, close relatives of manatees, have starved to death off the coast of Queensland after floods destroyed the area's sea grass, the dugong's main source of food...

August 13, 2011 — John R. Platt

Baby Mountain Gorilla Rescued from Poachers

This is the face of wildlife crime: a tiny, frightened mountain gorilla ( Gorilla beringei beringei ) baby rescued Sunday from poachers in Rwanda.The gorilla was confiscated from a team of poachers as they crossed the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Rwanda...

August 10, 2011 — John R. Platt
How we see Straight Lines

How we see Straight Lines

In looking at a straight line, the eye can detect a lateral break that forms an image only .00001 centimeter wide on the retina. A new hypothesis holds that this ability is due to rapid scanning motions...

June 1, 1960 — John R. Platt
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