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Browsing articles tagged with " species at risk"
Mar
18

Lots About Lemurs

By Guest Blogger  //  Species in Need.  //  No Comments

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lemur_main__50378_zoomExperts at Lemur Conservation Foundation helped us get our facts straight for the animal info-graphic found inside our Endangered Species Chocolate Coconut Creme Filled Bar. But…you can only fit so many lemur facts inside a chocolate wrapper! Our friends at Lemur Conservation Foundation offered up this broader picture of this highly social, super smart species.

 

Guest post via Catherine Olteanu, Communications and Development at Lemur Conservation Foundation

Ring-tailed lemur Species

Ring-tailed lemurs were first mentioned in western literature around 1625 in Samuel Purchas’s popular ‘Pilgrimages’ or travel logs.  In his writing Purchas describes ring-tailed lemurs as being about the size of a monkey with a face like a fox and having a long tail with black and white rings.   Carl Linnaeus might have been familiar with Purchas’s work, and with the 1729 journal of Robert Drury, an English sailor shipwrecked on Madagascar for fifteen years. Drury’s journal is one of the oldest written accounts of life in southern Madagascar, the home of the Ring-tailed lemur.

Linnaeus looked to the works of Ovid and Virgil for the term ‘Lemur’ and its reference to ‘Lemuria,’ a Roman festival during which ghosts were exorcised.  It is descriptive of some lemurs’ nocturnal habits, noiseless movements, reflective eyes, and ghost like cries and appearance.  Today lemurs are known as ‘ghosts of the forest.’ 

LEMUR 50 I Gunilla DSC_0058ps

photo courtesy of Lemur Conservation Foundation

Lemurs, found only on the island of Madagascar, are some of the most unique and the most endangered animals in the world.  Scientists theorize that they arrived in Madagascar as a result of rare rafting or swimming events that brought them to the island from the African continent.  Once in Madagascar they evolved in ecosystems that rival the Amazon basin in biodiversity.  Among

the 103 species of lemurs only the Ring-tailed lemurs is classified as its own genus. It is the type species for the genus of ‘Lemur.’ 

Known scientifically as Lemur catta, and as ’Maki’ or ‘Hira’ in the Malagasy language, they are highly adaptable with a range

covering a large portion of southern Madagascar’s diverse geography. They breed successfully in captivity. Despite their success as a species ring-tailed lemurs, like virtually all of Madagascar’s species of lemurs, face severe challenges to their survival. The 2012 assessment of Madagascar’s fauna by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature documented 91% of lemur species as ‘Critically Endangered,’ ‘Endangered,’ or ‘Vulnerable.’ 

According to Dr. Russell Mittermeier, President of Conservation International and Chairperson of the IUCN Primate Specialist Group, lemurs are the most threatened primate on earth. Ring-tailed lemurs are listed as ‘Near Threatened,’ with declining wild populations and habitat that is shrinking faster than any other in Madagascar.  As we observe Ring-tailed lemurs in their natural habitats we can learn what they need to survive as a species and how we can better manage precious resources.

Physical Characteristics

Adult lemur catta are about the size of a house cat which is relatively large for lemurs. They weigh approximately six pounds, and have an average body length of seventeen inches, not including their tails.  Their lower incisors form a ‘tooth comb’ which is used in their oral grooming behaviors. They also have a ‘toilet claw,’ a specialized claw on their second toe that is used to groom fur that cannot be reached for oral grooming. Their long slender frames and narrow faces are covered with dense fur that is white on their chest and throat and grey to dark grey-brown on their backs. 

LEMUR 50 I Gunilla DSC_0269ps

photo courtesy of Lemur Conservation Foundation

Beneath their fur ring-tailed lemurs have black skin which is visible on their palms, the soles of their feet, and around the throat where their fur is less dense than on their backs and chest.  Their skin is leathery with dermal ridges on their hands and feet. The dermal ridges, common to all primates, help improve grip and facilitate terrestrial movement.  Their feet are more specialized that their hands with an opposable big toe instead of an opposable thumb.  Ring-tails have feet more adapted to terrestrial movement compared to other lemurs that spend all of their lives in the forest canopy.

The ring-tailed lemur’s distinctive bushy, ‘balancing tails’ that are about twenty-four inches long with alternating black and white bands giving them their distinctive look and popular name.  Tails have twelve or thirteen white bands and thirteen to fourteen black bands, and always e

nd in a black tip.  Ring-tailed lemurs use their tails used to help stabilize their movements in the forest canopy unlike some

primates who use their tails for gripping branches. They also use their tails for communication, and group cohesion. 

Distribution

Ring-tailed lemurs are endemic to the south and southwestern regions of Madagascar.  They have adapted to a variety of habitats from deciduous forests, montane humid forests, scrub, and gallery forests.  Although their distribution is quite wide across southern Madagascar and its variety of habitats today they are only found in a few special protected areas. Their population density varies, often dramatically.

Within their habitats ring-tailed lemurs live in ‘troops’ that average 13 to 15 individuals, although troops of up to 30 have been documented.  A troop needs between 15 to 85 acres of ‘home range’ territory.  Things like troop size, population density and the size of a troop’s home range area vary with the availability of food.

Ring-tailed lemur troops usually stay in a section of their home range for up to four days before moving.  After a few days in one location a troop will move a little more than a half mile inside their home range. 

Diet

The ring-tailed lemur is an omnivore and survives on a varied diet.  They range widely and feed opportunistically form a variety of plants, insects, and the occasional small vertebrate prey.

The leaves and fruit of the tamarind tree can provide up to fifty percent of a wild ring-tailed lemur’s diet along with available fruits, leaves, flowers, herbs, bark, sap, and have been observed eating pollens.

The forests where ring-tailed lemurs live does not have continuous vegetation and they must frequently travel on the ground as they move and forage for food. As they travel the ring-tail’s diet becomes more opportunistic, especially during the dry season.

Behavior

Ring-tailed lemurs are diurnal, with activity taking place both in the day and in the night. Because they live in the desert they take advantage of cooler temperatures after dark. Their troops have a well-defined female hierarchy with a dominant alpha female. Females are usually dominant over males but there is competition among the females for the alpha female position.

LEMUR 50 Nicole Begley Catta on Branch

photo courtesy of Lemur Conservation Foundation

Females live in the same group all of their lives.  Young male ring-tailed lemurs migrate to a new group when they are 3 to 5 years old.  When they leave their natal group they often travel in pair or groups of three to search for and successfully integrate into a new troop.  If they are successful at finding a new troop they challenge the resident males for access to the females for breeding. 

Their challenges include a unique behavior called ‘stink fighting.’ Ring-tailed males use their wrist and shoulder glands to mark their tails then shake them at the other males.  During breeding season they might also engage in ‘jump fighting,’ a more violent and aggressive behavior than stink fighting.

Both male and female ring-tailed lemurs use scent marking to note the edges of their troop’s home range.  Territorial disputes can occur when ring-tailed groups meet at home range boundaries. The dominant female defends the troop’s home range with behaviors like staring, lunging, and occasionally physical aggression. These encounters resolve with members of the troops moving toward the center of their home range.

Ring-tailed lemur vocalization range from the simple to the complex and can have transitions and variations in the calls. Some sounds are used to alert the troop to predators, infant distress, to mark location, and express contentment and range from meows and purring to clicks, yaps, moans, wails, squeaks and screams.  You can listen to ring-tailed lemur calls here.

Their tails are also used as a form of communication.  Members of a troop hold their tails high in the air while traveling to act as distance signals, keeping the troop together, and as a presence signal, warning other groups to stay away.

Like all lemurs lemur catta engage in the iconic ‘Sun Worshiping’ posture. Females, offspring, and males all sit very still with straight backs and arms stretched out to their sides. This typical morning behavior allows maximum exposure of the chest and stomach to the sun allowing them to warm themselves quickly after a cold night.

Reproduction

Lemur catta females usually give birth first at three years of age and then produce offspring annually.  Ma

ting begins in mid-April and lasts only a few weeks.  Infants are born in August and September after a gestation period of about 135 days.

Single infants are most common but twins are frequent when food is plentiful. The ring-tailed infants cling to their mother’s abdomen for about two weeks.  Then they ride on her back in the ‘jockey-style’ position.  Ring-tail babies grow very quickly. By four weeks of age they are ready to leave their mother and begin exploring their environment.

Females with offspring form a very tight social unit.  They will interact and travel together as well as share babysitting duties, feed & sleep together.  Females and offspring huddle together facing inward with their tails intertwined and held over each other’s back and shoulder forming a tight circle or ‘lemur ball.’ The ‘sleep formation’ is only shared by females and offspring. Mature males sleep on their own. The sleep formation is unique to ring-tailed lemurs. 

LEMUR ring tail 1

photo courtesy of Lemur Conservation Foundation

Threats

The biggest threat to ring-tailed lemurs is habitat loss from encroachment and slash and burn agriculture. Madagascar’s southern forests, the lemur catta’s only wild home, are sparse and easily cleared with even the simplest methods or tools for agriculture and other uses.  Satellite images of Madagascar suggest that their habitat is disappearing faster than any other on the island.  This encroachment is a significant reason for their ‘near threatened’ status on the IUCN Red List.

Responsible Viewing

Be sensitive to local customs and taboos that often involve animals and vary from place to place.

Most parks have ‘circuits’ of varying lengths and corresponding degrees of difficulty. Do not deviate from the routes or engage wildlife. Do not smoke in the forests. Stay on the trails and do not litter. Most areas require a guide.

Do not feed lemurs anywhere that you see them, whether in the forest or in resort or restaurant areas. Feeding can provoke aggression among the lemurs and also towards you. 

Never try to pick up a lemur, and warn children not to try to touch or pick up the animals.  Wild lemurs might approach you but they bite if they are frightened.

Where to View

You can view the ring-tailed lemur at several special protected reserves and in five of Madagascar’s national parks. The national parks in the ring-tail lemurs’ habitat are Andohahela National Park, Andgingitra National Park, Isalo national Park, Tsimananampetsotse National park, and Zombitse-Vohibasia National Park. 

LEMUR 1 I Gunilla

photo courtesy of Lemur Conservation Foundation

Madagascar National Parks & Special Reserves

Information about most of the parks and special reserves for watching lemur catta in the wild can be found at the Parcs Madagascar web site. A URL is included for private reserves like Berenty and Anja.

Madagascar’s national parks system was founded in 1990 as a management and conservation initiative for the country’s unique, rare, and often endangered flora and fauna.   There are 12 parks and special reserves in the ring-tails’ habitat. 

Special reserves like the Beza-Mehafaly Special Reserve, Kalambatritra Special Reserve, Ivohibe Special Reserve (part of the Madagascar national Parks system), the Berenty Special Reserve, and the Anja Community Reserve are popular viewing locations and offer unique experiences. Communities like Anja develop opportunities for visitors to come and enjoy Madagascar’s unique flora and fauna. Fees from visitors often are the major source of funding for the reserves.

Anja Community Reserve  

The Anja Community Reserve became a protected area in 1999. It covers 30 hectares and is known for its dense population of ring-tail lemurs.

‘Anja Reserve is the most visited community managed forest and ecotourist site in Madagascar. Anja has become a vital example of how community management of natural resources can both effectively protect the area and benefit the community.’

Berenty Reserve  

Berenty is a small private reserve situated among gallery forest on the Mandrake River.  This semi-arid eco-region in the far south of Madagascar includes spiny forest habitat.  It is a base for students and professional conservationists as well as visitors who want to see lemurs and other wildlife in their native habitat.

The reserve is a two hour drive from Tolangnaro, on the southeast cost of Madagascar. Accommodations are in the forest and there is a network of trails to enjoy.  Berenty the most visitors of any Madagascar nature reserve.

Beza Mahafaly

Beza Mahafaly has a large population of lemur catta as well as several other species of lemurs.  Research is also carried out at this special reserve by several international research organizations. You might see some lemurs with telemetry collars.

The reserve is in the South Western part of the island 35 kilo meters northeast of Betioky. Covering 600 hectares, Beza Mahafaly is the second smallest special protected area in the Madagascar national parks system.  

Ivohibe 

The ‘Peak of Ivohibe’ special protected area is in the south east of Madagascar and connects to Andringitra National Park by a 20 kilo meter forest corridor.  The mountain peak is 2060 meters in elevation.

photo courtesy of Lemur Conservation Foundation

photo courtesy of Lemur Conservation Foundation

Andgingitra National Park 

Andgingitra is known for its rough terrain including Mount Imarivolanitra with an elevation of 2658 m (8,720 ft.) as well as deep valleys and ridges. It is well known for its biodiversity and high concentration of endemic species. Over 200 species of animals are endemic to Andgingitra National Park.

Andohahela National Park 

Andohahela, in south east Madagascar, is the only protected area with both dense and humid forests. The Tropic of Capricorn crosses the park. Its unique geographic location connects the southern and eastern eco-regions.

Isalo National Park

Isalo is the most visited park in Madagascar. It is part of the Commune of Ranohira in the Ihorombe region. The park covers 81,540 hectares.  Significant landscape features include river furrows and a massive continental sandstone plateau dating from the Jurassic Period.

Tsimananampetsotse National Park

Tsimanampesotse is in the southwest part of Madagascar. It is among the original 10 reserves created in 1927, more than seventy years before the modern Madagascar National Parks system was adopted, and 6 years before Madagascar signed the 1933 London International Convention for the protection of fauna and flora in Africa. Tsimanampesotse has a unique saturated sulphate lake. 75 to 90% of its fauna and flora found here are endemic to the park.

Zombitse-Vohibasia National Park. 

Zombitse Vohibasia is located in the southwest area of Madagascar.  While it is well known for its rare birds, Zombitse is also home to 8 species of lemurs, including ring-tails. 

The park covers 36,308 hectares organized into 3 parcels that include the forest of Zombitse as well as Vohibasia and Isoky special areas.

The Lemur Conservation Foundation

The Lemur Conservation Foundation, a 200 acre private reserve located in Myakka City, Florida, holds six species of lemurs, including ring-tails. Our free ranging colony lives in native forests in multi species groups much like they do in Madagascar.  We are dedicated to the conservation and preservation of lemurs through captive breeding, education, art, observation based research, and partnerships.  LCF is a managing member of The Madagascar Fauna Group and two species survival plans, including the SSP for lemur catta.

Feb
11

CA, Tax Time, Sea Otters

By Guest Blogger  //  Species in Need.  //  No Comments

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Photo credit: Cindy Tucey, landscape and wildlife photographer

It’s that time of the year…Tax Season. While sea otters don’t pay taxes, we can help them when we pay ours.  Since 2007, sea otters in California have benefited from over $2 million in taxpayer contributions that go towards efforts to protect and recover sea otters in California. This funding is critical because currently there is no other funding source for sea otter research and conservation efforts in California.

Each year the California Franchise Tax Board sets a minimum amount needed for each check off to meet in order for the Fund to appear on tax forms in the following year. This year the California Sea Otter Fund needs to reach $277,666.

So, please help sea otters in California during this tax season. They are dependent on any contribution you can make.  Just seek out line 410 on your California Tax income form and give as little as $1. 

2012 Form 540 -- California Resident Income Tax Return

You can find out more information on the California Sea Otter Fund and how the money has been used in the past by clicking here.  Spread the word to your California tax-paying friends that they can help sea otters too.  Thanks!

Article by guest blogger, Jim Curland, Advocacy Program Director, Friends of the Sea Otter

Friends of the Sea Otter, founded in 1968, is an advocacy group dedicated to actively working with state and federal agencies, scientists, educators, and the public to maintain, increase and broaden the current protections for the sea otter, a species currently protected by state and federal laws and having two populations on the Endangered Species list.

 

Dec
17

A Sea Otter Christmas

By Guest Blogger  //  Species in Need.  //  No Comments

blog_feature_sept13There are several opportunities to help contribute to conserving sea otters and their populations this holiday season! Friends of the Sea Otter is involved in these efforts to make giving during the holidays a “win-win” situation for sea otters.

Monterey County Gives Campaign

The Monterey County Gives campaign during this holiday season runs from mid-November through midnight December 31 and is a way to stretch your donation further through a portion of your contribution getting matched by the Community Foundation of Monterey partnering with the Monterey County Weekly for this campaign.

 

Thanks to the matching fund, your donation can have a bigger impact to Friends of the Sea Otter and to helping protect sea otters and their habitat. Click here to view our donation page.

 

Amazon Smile

Using Amazon for your holiday shopping? Want to help protect sea otters for no extra charge while purchasing gifts?

Amazon will donate 0.5% of purchases to an organization of your choice. Please remember Friends of the Sea Otter when filling your Holiday baskets by choosing us when you visit: https://smile.amazon.com/

 

Friends of the Sea Otter Holiday Gift Store

Share a Gift and Help Sea Otters! Friends of the Sea Otter is the world’s oldest sea otter organization dedicated to conserving sea otters and their habitats. Your purchase in the gift store will be used in support of Friends of the Sea Otter’s efforts to protect sea otters and their habitat in a number of ways. You can buy individual gifts or purchase our gift bundles as a membership package. We have a select number of bundles, each with their own unique gifts. Your donation will go towards Friends of the Sea Otter’s mission to conserve sea otters and their habitat. If you would like to make a donation, but would not like to receive a gift please use the donate button at the top.

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Zazzle Store

If you are looking to buy someone that special gift for the holidays, there are a variety of items in Friends of the Sea Otter’s Zazzle Storefront.  Many of the items were designed using specially made artwork by Kelly Lance, done exclusively for Friends of the Sea Otter. And, if you are still decorating the Christmas tree, be sure and check out the Christmas ornament in the store.  A percentage of your purchase in our Zazzle Storefront will go towards Friends of the Sea Otter’s mission to conserve sea otters and their habitat.

You can follow FSO on Facebook and Twitter and learn more about what FSO is doing and how you can help at www.seaotters.org.

Article by guest blogger, Jim Curland, Advocacy Program Director and Frank Reynolds, Program Manager for Friends of the Sea Otter

Friends of the Sea Otter (FSO), founded in 1968, is an advocacy group dedicated to actively working with state and federal agencies, scientists, educators, and the public to maintain, increase and broaden the current protections for the sea otter, a species currently protected by state and federal laws and having two populations on the Endangered Species list.

Oct
3

GMO Impact on Wildlife

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October is Non-GMO Month – a great time to mull over myths and truths about genetically modified organisms so you can make an informed choice…for your health and the health of the planet. What are the impacts of GMOs on the environment? Over 80% of all GMOs are engineered for herbicide tolerance. As a result, use of herbicides has increased 15x since GMOs were introduced – herbicides that persist in the environment and harm wildlife. There are also GMO crops that produce a Bt toxin insecticide which may harm non-target insect populations such as butterflies and beneficial pest predators. The long-term inpact of GMOs are unknown, and once released into the environment these engineered organisms cannot be recalled.

We believer Mother Nature knows best. That’s why we source Non-GMO Project Verified ingredients for our chocolate. Look for in-store displays during October and celebrate your right to make an informed choice about the foods you eat.

-Sources: Non-GMO Project | Learn More , GMO Myths and Truths, and Non-GMO Project Communications Toolkit

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Look for our Non-GMO Project Verified Natural Chocolate Halloween Treats on store shelves in October!

And find Endangered Species Chocolate in store displays throughout Non-GMO Month

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Sep
18

First of a Billion Steps

By Guest Blogger  //  Species in Need.  //  No Comments

Fundraising BBT

Six months ago, SEE Turtles launched the Billion Baby Turtles Initiative with a goal of 50,000 hatchlings saved in 2013. After just six months, we’re excited to announce that we’ve saved more than 100,000 hatchlings! To celebrate, we are launching of our first School Fundraiser Contest. School classes (and clubs) will compete to save the most hatchlings by raising money for turtle conservation programs.

 Winning classes will receive an Eco-Prize Pack that includes healthy snacks and green school supplies. One random teacher will win a spot on a sea turtle trip to Costa Rica and every class that raises at least $100 will earn prizes. Learn more about the contest and download a flyer to give to teachers here.

Contest sponsors include our lead partners Endangered Species Chocolate and Nature’s Path, as well as Klean Kanteen, who will match the first $1,000 in donations from schools and EcoTeach, who is providing the Costa Rica trip. Product sponsors that are providing free eco-friendly gifts for the winning classes are Koteli Bags, Zevia Natural Soda, SoyJoy, EcoLunchboxes, EVOL healthy burritos, Lundberg Family Farms, and Glass Dharma.

Every dollar raised through this contest will go to save at least one baby turtle at community-based conservation projects in Central America and Mexico. Billion Baby Turtles has now supported 9 conservation organizations working to save 4 species of sea turtles on 11 nesting beaches across Latin America.

One of the donations that help put us over the top is a close friend of SEE Turtles, Deborah Goldstein. Deborah is a member of our WildTribe, a trusted group of SEE Turtles advisors and ambassadors and won a contest last year to spend time at two turtle projects in Nicaragua that are supported by Billion Baby Turtles.

Deborah helped release hawksbill turtle hatchlings In Padre Ramos and then spent a week helping Paso Pacifico in La Flor Wildlife Refuge. “I have wanted to volunteer to save sea turtles for as long as I can remember,” said Deborah. “I had no idea how excited I’d be when I held my first hatchling. Or how happy I’d be to release hundreds of hatchlings in the estuary in Nicaragua. I felt like I was doing my part and I wanted to give back to the organization that helped make this opportunity possible.”

To help us reach a billion hatchlings saved, please visit BillionBabyTurtles.org.

 Guest blogger, Brad Nahill, is a wildlife conservationist, writer, activist, and fundraiser. He is the Director & Co-Founder of SEEtheWILD, the world’s first non-profit wildife conservation travel website.  To date, we have generated more than $300,000 for wildlife conservation and local communities and our volunteers have completed more than 1,000 work shifts at sea turtle conservation project. SEEtheWILD is a project of The Ocean Foundation. Follow SEEtheWILD on Facebook or Twitter.

 

Sep
16

Friends of the Sea Otter

By Guest Blogger  //  Species in Need.  //  No Comments

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Sea Otters at a Crossroads

“We have learned that if we are to preserve a healthy population of these small animals, if the tap-tapping of the sea otter is to remain an inspiring motif along our shores, it will demand more than foresight. It will require vision.” –Margaret Owings, Founder, Friends of the Sea Otter.

This year Friends of the Sea Otter (FSO) celebrates its 45th year of sea otter conservation.  Throughout the history of the organization, FSO has dealt with many critical issues facing sea otters on their road to population recovery.  Now is no different.

California

In California, “The No Otter Zone” is the primary focus. This issue, a two and half decade  attempt to section a part of the ocean in southern California that excludes sea otters, is an ongoing effort.  In January 2013, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) rendered a final decision to eliminate the “No-Otter Zone”, allowing sea otters to expand their range naturally into historically occupied waters they inhabited. This aims to help recover the population of sea otters in California.  Prior to this FWS decision, a team of expert scientists had concluded that sea otters need to expand their range naturally into these areas to recover the population and not jeopardize its future existence.

In July 2013, a coalition of fishing groups filed a lawsuit that seeks to challenge the decision to end the “No-Otter Zone”.  Friends of the Sea Otter, along with other conservation groups, and the representation of EarthJustice, have filed a motion to intervene in the case so that we may defend the decision by FWS.  Throughout the years, FSO has used the judicial system to uphold protections for sea otters.  And, we will do so again in order to protect sea otters.

Alaska

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photo by Cindy Tucey, Friends of the Sea Otter board member

Up north in Alaska, a very different situation is unfolding.  The state of Alaska, its fishing industry, and elected officials are trying to turn back the clock on marine mammal conservation more than 40 years by advocating for the management of sea otters. How are they suggesting they do this? Their answer: by killing sea otters for the sake of small commercial interest groups.  

All sea otters are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). This makes it illegal to hunt a sea otter or sell any products made from the body of a sea otter, unless the sea otter is harvested by an Alaskan Native for subsistence purposes. Alaskan Natives must sufficiently alter a sea otter pelt into some kind of traditional artifact or handicraft before selling anything made from a sea otter. It is currently illegal for anyone, including Alaskan Natives, to sell unaltered sea otter pelts to non-Alaskan Natives.

FWS has a proposal to clarify some terms under the MMPA and Friends of the Sea Otter is focusing on their clarification of “significantly altered”. The proposed revised definition for “significantly altered” raises some serious concerns.  The definition of “significantly altered” is too broad and at odds with the MMPA and is being conducted without any environmental impact analysis. It isn’t as restrictive as it needs to be and could potentially result in blankets and rugs being made from sea otter pelts without “significantly altering” the pelt as is the intention of the MMPA. This would be devastating for sea otters.

In addition, this revision of the definition for “significantly altered” is being carried out under the pressure from fishing groups, who are under the impression that the sea otter population in Southeast Alaska is destroying fisheries.  Equal pressure is mounting from state elected officials and the federal Alaska delegation to do something about a “growing” sea otter population.  Open season on sea otters in Southeast Alaska could greatly impact the species and set a disturbing precedent. It would allow an increase in the hunting of a wildlife species in an effort to manage and protect industry, which in this case would be fisheries.

Join Friends of the Sea Otter

This is a critical time in sea otter conservation. FSO is determined to take on these issues and ensure the protection of the sea otter at all costs so that the future of these populations is around for people to delight in.

You can follow FSO on Facebook and Twitter and learn more about what FSO is doing and how you can help at www.seaotters.org.

Article by guest blogger, Jim Curland, Advocacy Program Director and Frank Reynolds, Program Manager for Friends of the Sea Otter

Friends of the Sea Otter (FSO), founded in 1968, is an advocacy group dedicated to actively working with state and federal agencies, scientists, educators, and the public to maintain, increase and broaden the current protections for the sea otter, a species currently protected by state and federal laws and having two populations on the Endangered Species list.

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#OtterESC for Sea Otter Awareness Week

Love sea otters as much as we do? Join Endangered Species Chocolate on Twitter during Sea Otter Awareness Week (Sept 22-28, 2013) to help generate a donation for Friends of the Sea Otter! Each tweet containing the image below and hashtag #OtterESC adds $1 to Endangered Species Chocolate’s $500 donation goal.

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May
15

Endangered Species Day

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This year marks the 40th Anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, one of the most successful environmental laws in U.S. history. Friday, May 17, 2013 is the 8th annual Endangered Species Day – a day to spread awareness of species at-risk and to share success stories of species that have recovered. Join us in raising awareness!

  • Attend an Endangered Specie Day event. Find one here!
  • Spread the word on social media. Mention @savespecies in a tweet to help Endangered Species Coalition gain supporters (be sure to hashtag #ESDay). Or share a wildlife message with your Facebook friends (include @Endangered Species Coalition in your post so they can see your support).
  • Learn about conservation efforts in your state! U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s interactive map can help you discover which species are being protected in your area.
  • Use Endangered Species Coalition’s 10 Things You Can Do list to make simple changes that can have a big impact on species conservation.

Mar
25

A Billion Baby Turtles

By Guest Blogger  //  Caring for the Environment., Species in Need.  //  No Comments

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Photo by Abigail Alling / Biosphere Foundation

Message from our friend, Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, co-founder of SEETurtles, SEEtheWILD and LiVBLUE.

The seBillionBabyturtleslogoa turtles need your help! Six of the seven species of sea turtles are endangered and facing possible extinction. This week we’re kicking off Billion Baby Turtles, a project aimed at reversing this alarming trend and saving sea turtles.

Even if you don’t have time to read this entire post, please take a minute to visit, “like” and share our new Facebook page, where you can also enter to win an amazing prize pack of gear and goodies from sustainable brands including ENO Hammocks, Endangered Species Chocolate, Feelgoodz, Hydro Flask, Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics, Nature’s Path/EnviroKidz, Numi Tea, NUUN, Osprey Packs, prAna, and Tofurky. Enter here.

Now, a little bit more about the sea turtles and what we’re up to with Billion Baby Turtles…

If you’ve watched Animal Planet you know that odds are generally working against sea turtles.  From the moment an egg is deposited in a sandy nest on a tropical beach, to the first time a baby turtle touches the sea, to decades later when she returns as an adult to lay her own eggs on very same beach, life is an endless series of life-and-death challenges for a sea turtle.

Nature is stacked against survival, which is why a mother turtle lays thousands of eggs during her lifetime in order to simply replace herself. Predators include dozens of species of crabs, beetles, ants, birds, fish, and sharks. Jaguars, pigs, wild dogs, and raccoons are even on the list of turtle eaters.

For millions of years, sea turtles handled it all just fine.

Yet, when you add modern humans to the mix, the balance suddenly tipped towards oblivion. Over the past century all seven species of sea turtle and their eggs have been hunted, carved, and eaten to the point that many populations are considered vulnerable to extinction. Getting caught accidentally in fishing nets and on hooks just adds to their woes. Throw in plastic pollution, boat collisions, and runaway coastal development on their nesting beaches and you’ve got a situation requiring intervention on a global scale.

But this isn’t a bad news story. That’s because over the past several decades a massive global network of sea turtle scientists, advocates, conservationists, and even lawyers has evolved to work day and night to bring them back. These heroes have been literally working around the clock, saving one egg-—one baby turtle-—at a time. At other times they’ll invest months to rehabilitate a single adult animal before returning it to the ocean. Every turtle released into the ocean is a moment of joy for everyone involved. It never gets old.

SEEBillionBabyThink about it—while you sleep tonight, thousands of scientists, technicians and volunteers are saving sea turtles on the beaches of the world.

These projects are run on “Turtle Time.” Slow, steady, and tenacious wins the race. It takes as long as twenty-five years for a turtle to reach maturity, and return on that turtle-y kind of investment can come slowly. Turtle people are above all patient and hard working. Many projects have been steadily protecting turtles for more than thirty years. Their work is paying off. Some turtle populations are now on the rise after nose-diving to near extinction before that.

Photo by Neil Ever Osborne / SEEturtles.org

The Black Sea Turtle Project in Michoacan, Mexico celebrated its thirtieth anniversary this year and is experiencing its best season since its inception after watching the numbers of nesting female turtles bounce along the bottom of the graph for a decade.

Its sister project, Grupo Tortuguero, working to safeguard black turtles in feeding grounds a thousand miles away in Baja, is turning fifteen in January.

Turtle hunters and poachers in Mexico have had a change of heart and are now turtle protectors and guides. Everyone reports seeing more sea turtles in the ocean and on the beaches.

Now is not the time to let up, though. To get sea turtles back to their former abundance and to restore their ecological role in the ocean this is just half time.

We know exactly what to do. We just need to continue to execute the game plan.

Along with my friends Brad Nahill at SEEtheWILD and Fabien Cousteau at Plant a Fish, we came up with the idea of the Billion Baby Turtles, an initiative to help support groups working on the sea turtle front lines. To make a million more adult turtles we need a billion more baby turtles. It’s a one in a thousand situation out there, roughly speaking.

By creatively connecting individuals and small businesses with grassroots projects working to increase sea turtle production, we are helping overcome donor fatigue, burn out, and other second half challenges.

In the coming years we will collaborate widely to further expand the global sea turtle tribe, widen the base of donors through micro-philanthropy, and throw our support behind the men and women working for turtles on the front lines in their coastal communities around the world.

Forty years ago sea turtle pioneer, Dr. Archie Carr, described what it would take to save sea turtles.

 In the long run, marine turtles, like the seas themselves, will be saved only by wholehearted international cooperation at the government level. While waiting for it to materialize, the critical tactical needs seem to me to be three in number: more sanctuaries, more research, and a concerted effort by all impractical, visionary, starry-eyed, and anti-progressive organizations, all little old ladies in tennis shoes, and all persons able to see beyond the ends of their noses…

That is almost legendary substance.

While high-level official negotiations continue, and the large agencies and organizations fight for pro-ocean and pro-turtle policies, why don’t we all do our small part for sea turtles?

A billion baby sea turtles?

 Yes.

Why don’t YOU lead one to the water?

Join us on Facebook to Help Spread the Word About Billion Baby Turtles & Win Great Prizes.

SEETurtle_visit J 5.10Dr. Wallace “J.” Nichols is a scientist, activist, community organizer, author and dad. He works to inspire a deeper connection with nature, sometimes simply by walking and talking, other times through writing or images. He is co-founder of SEE Turtles, SEEtheWILD, & LiVBLUE among other organizations.

 

Support Billion Baby Turtles Project…

…when you purchase an Endangered Species Chocolate Save the Sea Turtle Gift Pack. Each gift includes three sustainably sourced Dark Chocolate with Blueberries Bars and a $10 donation to Billion Baby Turtles, a gift that helps 10 turtle hatchlings get safely to the sea!

seeturtle gift

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feb
28

The Xerces Society

xerces

When we announced The Xerces Society as one of our 2013-2015 10% GiveBack Partners, we were well-educated about their work. What we didn’t know was how incredibly passionate their supporters are! Since our commitment to donate 10% of our annual net profits to The Xerces Society, we have received countless emails and phone calls from members, thanking us. Their passion is infectious; my interest, piqued!

So, Xerces Society, what’s with the name?

This conservation non-profit is named after the Xerces Blue, an extinct species of butterfly. The Xerces Blue is believed to be the first American butterfly species to become extinct as a result of loss of habitat caused by urban development.

Bring back the pollinators!

Want to help bees, butterflies and other animals that help pollinate our planet? The Xerces Society’s Bring Back the Pollinators Campaign works with four simple principles that will easily turn your backyard into a place where pollinators can thrive! Become an expert at attracting beneficial insects to your landscape with the help of Xerces Society’s book, Attracting Native Pollinators: Protecting North America’s Bees and Butterflies.

Why their work is vital…

Of the more than one million species of animals in the world, 94 percent are invertebrates. They pollinate, spread seeds, recycle nutrients, and are a food source for wildlife. Without them – whole ecosystems would collapse. But these little guys are often overlooked with decisions are made about environmental policy and land management. The Xerces Society speaks up on their behalf through advocacy, policy, education and applied research.

Become a member of The Xerces Society.  We promise – you’ll be in good company

Jan
28

SEE the WILD: Last Refuge

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Main image courtesy of Mike Liles. All other photos via Brad Nahill | SEEtheWILD

Follow our guest blogger, Brad Nahill, Director and Co-Founder of conservation non-profit SEEtheWILD, as he continues his mission to protect sea turtles  in El Salvador.

The Last Refuge

A wide beach on a warm clear evening may be the most relaxing setting on earth. We weren’t likely to come across any nesting turtles on this beautiful evening in the far northwest corner of Nicaragua (the tides weren’t right), but we didn’t mind. The soft sound of surf provided a soundtrack for the brightest Milky Way I’ve seen in years. Just being out on the sand was enough entertainment. But we didn’t travel 10 hours by bus from El Salvador for a tranquil beach walk.

We came to Padre Ramos Estuary because it is home one of the world’s most inspiring sea turtle conservation projects. Our motley group of international sea turtle experts was there as part of a research expedition to study and protect one of the world’s most endangered turtle populations, the Eastern Pacific hawksbill sea turtle. Led by the Nicaraguan staff of Fauna & Flora International (FFI, an international conservation group) and carried out with support from the Eastern Pacific Hawksbill Initiative (known as ICAPO), this turtle project protects one of only two major nesting areas for this population (the other is El Salvador’s Jiquilisco Bay). This project depends on the participation of local residents; a committee of 18 local non-profit organizations, community groups, local governments, and more.

The coastal road leading into the town of Padre Ramos felt like many other spots along Central America’s Pacific coast. Small cabinas line the beach, allowing surfers a place to spend a few hours out of the water each night. Tourism has barely touched the main town however and the stares of the local kids hinted that gringos are not yet a common sight walking around town.

After arriving at our cabinas, I grabbed my camera and took a walk through town. A late afternoon soccer game competed with swimming in the cool water for the favorite pastime of the residents. I walked out to the beach as the sun set and followed it north to the mouth of the estuary, which curls around the town. The flattened crater of the Cosigüina volcano overlooks the bay and several islands.

The next day, fully rested, we set off early in two boats to try to catch a male hawksbill in the water. Most of the turtles studied in this region have been females easily caught on the beach after nesting. We spotted a hawksbill alongside an island called Isla Tigra, directly in front of the Venecia Peninsula, and the team sprung into action, one person hopping out of the boat with the tail end of the net while the boat swung around in a large semicircle, the net spreading out behind the boat. Once the boat reached the shoreline, everyone hopped out to help pull in the two ends of the net, unfortunately empty.

Despite our poor luck at catching turtles in the water, the team was able to capture the three turtles we needed for the satellite tagging research event. We brought one turtle from Venecia, which is located across the bay from the town of Padre Ramos, to involve members of the community who participate with the project in the satellite tagging event. Little is known about these turtles, but satellite transmitters have been part of a groundbreaking research study that has changed how scientists view the life history of this species. One finding that surprised many turtle experts was the fact that these hawksbills prefer to live in mangrove estuaries; up till then most believed they almost exclusively lived in coral reefs.

A few dozen people gathered around as our team worked to clean the turtle’s shell of algae and barnacles. Next, we sanded the shell to provide a rough surface on which to glue the transmitter. After that, we covered a large area of the carapace with layers of epoxy to ensure a tight fit. Once we attached the transmitter, a piece of protective pvc tubing was placed around the antenna to protect it from roots and other debris that might knock the antenna loose. The final step was to paint a layer of anti-fouling paint to prevent algae growth.

Next, we headed back to Venecia to put two more transmitters on turtles near the project hatchery, where hawksbill eggs are brought from around the estuary to be protected until they hatch and then are released. The tireless efforts of several local “careyeros” (the Spanish term for people who work with the hawksbill, known as “carey”) was rewarded with the opportunity to work with cutting edge technology on this important scientific study. Their pride in their work was obvious in their smiles as they watched the two turtles make their way to the water once the transmitters were attached.

Turtle conservation in Padre Ramos is more than just attaching electronics to their shells. Most of the work is done by the careyeros under the cover of darkness, driving their boats throughout the estuary looking for nesting hawksbills. Once one is found, they call the project staff who attach a metal ID tag to the turtles’ flippers and measure the length and width of their shells. The careyeros then bring the eggs to the hatchery and earn their pay depending on how many eggs they find and how many hatchlings emerge from the nest.

It was only a couple of years ago that these same men sold these eggs illegally, pocketing a few dollars per nest to give men unconfident in their libido an extra boost. Now, most of these eggs are protected; last season more than 90% of the eggs were protected and more than 10,000 hatchlings made it safely to the water through the work of FFI, ICAPO, and their partners. These turtles still face several threats in the Padre Ramos Estuary and throughout their range. Locally, one of their biggest threats is from the rapid expansion of shrimp farms into the mangroves.

One of the tools that FFI and ICAPO hope to use to protect these turtles is to bring volunteers and ecotourists to this beautiful spot. A new volunteer program offers budding biologists the opportunity to spend a week to a few months working with the local team to manage the hatchery, collect data on the turtles, and help to educate the community about why it’s important to protect these turtles. For tourists, there is no shortage of ways to fill both days and nights, from surfing, swimming, participating in walks on the nesting beach, hiking, and kayaking.

On my final morning in Padre Ramos, I woke up early to be a tourist, hiring a guide to take me on a kayaking excursion through the mangrove forest. My guide and I paddled across a wide channel and up through increasingly narrow waterways that challenged my limited ability to navigate. Halfway through, we stopped at a spot and walked up a small hill with a panoramic view of the area.

From above, the estuary, which is protected as a natural reserve, looked remarkably intact. The one obvious blemish was a large rectangular shrimp farm that stood out from the smooth curves of the natural waterways. Most of the world’s shrimp is now produced this way, grown in developing countries with few regulations to protect the mangrove forests that many creatures depend upon. While crossing the wide channel on the to return trip to town, a small turtle head popped up out of the water to take a breath about 30 feet in front of me. I like to think it was saying “hasta luego”, until I’m able to return again to this magical out of the way corner of Nicaragua.

Want to get involved?

Visit FFI to learn more about Nicaragua’s key species, leatherback, hawksbill and olive ridley sea turtles.

Volunteer with this project!  Help local researchers manage the hatcheries, tag turtles, and release hatchlings. The cost is $45/day which includes food and lodging.

Make a donation here. SEE Turtles supports this work through donations, helping to recuit volunteers and educating people about threats sea turtles face. Every dollar donated saves 2 hawksbill hatchlings!

Brad Nahill is a wildlife conservationist, writer, activist, and fundraiser. He is the Director & Co-Founder of SEEtheWILD, the world’s first non-profit wildife conservation travel website.  To date, we have generated more than $300,000 for wildlife conservation and local communities and our volunteers have completed more than 1,000 work shifts at sea turtle conservation project. SEEtheWILD is a project of The Ocean Foundation. Follow SEEtheWILD on Facebook or Twitter.

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