Save the Yangtze Finless Porpoises!

Meet the critically endangered Yangtze finless porpoise…

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The Yangtze finless porpoise (neophocaena asiaeorientalis) can grow up to 6 ½ feet tall and lives up to 8-10 years. They live in Yangtze River, which is the longest river in Asia. The term “porpoise” is derived from Latin – “porcus” meaning pig and “piscus” meaning fish. The animal is known for its mischievous smile and has a level of intelligence comparable to a gorilla.

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Currently there are only approximately between 1000-1800 Yangtze finless porpoises!

The population crashed by 52% between 1991 and 2006, with an estimated decline of 6.4% per year during that time!

At this rate, they could become extinct in 2021 – only 6 years away!

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Cause of decline?

Overfishing is the main factor that is contributing to the decrease in finless porpoises’ food supply. They need an abundant food supply for survival, so the limited supply makes it difficult for them to survive and thrive. [In a way they are competing with humans to eat!] Other factors include pollution, which contaminates the lakes’ and river’s water, and lastly ship movement, which kills and injures nearby porpoises. Overall, human activities along the Yangtze River in China are driving the species to the brink of extinction!

“The conflict between conservation and economic development along the Yangtze is overwhelming.”

Jagalchi Fish Markey

History is repeating itself! Have we not learned anything?!

The Yangtze finless porpoises’ close cousin, the Baiji dolphin, was declared functionally extinct in 2006. This was the first time in history that an entire species of dolphin had been wiped off the planet because of human activity. However, while the Baiji dolphin may have been more vulnerable, the porpoise depends on the same natural resources – therefore – the continuation of heavy human activity will drive this specie to extinction, just like it did to the Baiji dolphin!

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Baiji Dolphin Current Status = e

What’s up for the Yangtze Finless Porpoise? =  ee

Why should we care?

The habitat of the porpoise are shared by a variety of threatened and endangered species, including the Yangtze crocodile, sturgeon, paddlefish, puffer fish, and several varieties of carps. The continuation of activity is not only driving the Yangtze finless porpoise to extinction, but multiple other species. Helping this animal helps tons of others! It’s easy… save their home to save the species.

What would happen?

The extinction of the Yangtze River may lead to an overpopulation of fish – however nearby overfishing has already caused their food supply to decline. On the other hand – the extinction will lead way to the extinction of other threatened animals in the Yangtze river. The extinction of the species in the river will lead to the destruction of the river, causing the surrounding communities of fishermen and farmers to lose their resources, and consequently, their form of income. So by losing the porpoises, we will lose other animals in the river, and then harm the surrounding people. We are basically hurting ourselves!

The problem.

More than 30% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and 1/3 of the population relies on the river for water, food, energy, and economic growth. So unless we think about alternate, less harmful manners of living nearby the Yangtze river, we are currently choosing between humans and animals – with would cause the inevitable destruction of both.

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What’s being done?

Since 2002, the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) and its partners have reconnected more than 40 floodplain lakes with the main stem of the Yangtze River, which has restored seasonal flows and allowed the migration of species between the lakes and river. Not only does it allow the finless porpoise to migrate (helping its safety), but it has also contributed to a more abundant and secure food supply for the porpoises. The WWF has also worked to provide fishermen with feasible alternatives for income generation, which has helped to develop the economy, stop overfishing, and allowed fishermen to contribute to the protection of the finless porpoise.

The WWF is restoring wetlands, working with farmers and fishers, and helping industrial parks improve their water efficiency and reduce pollution along the Yangtze River. They have been collaborating with the public and private sectors, aiming to uplift the effects of their work and secure a future for the finless porpoises and humans.

The big step.

The Yangtze finless porpoise has been reclassified by China’s Ministry of Agriclture on November 3, 2014 as a  “National First Grade Key Protected Wild Animal” – which is the strictest classification available by law. The new classification helps to better the protection enabling the Ministry of Agriculture to enforce new measures which includes:

* illegal fishing will be strictly controlled

*occupation of finless porpoise habitat, migration channels or feeding areas by an individual or organization will be considered illegal

*anyone who inflicts harm on the porpoise through shipping or other activities will be transferred to judicial authority for criminal prosecution

How to help!

“It’s like trying to control traffic while someone’s throwing money from the Empire State Building.” -Rojas-Bracho

Please help save the porpoises, which would in turn save countless other species which are threatened due to their habitat’s conditions… the Yangtze River. The classification of the animal allows us to help them in a more controlled and powerful way, so their protection will contribute to the help of other species  just because of the close proximity and shared environment. Please help by donating to the WWF and by spreading awareness! The surival of both the humans and animals of the Yangtze River are threatened – so we must act now before its too late.

Positive steps have been taken to help the animals – we just have to continue the cycle!

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Sources

https://www.worldwildlife.org/stories/saving-the-finless-porpoisehttps://www.worldwildlife.org/species/yangtze-finless-porpoisehttp://www.nature.com/news/yangtze-finless-porpoises-in-peril-1.12125http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/08/140813-vaquita-gulf-california-mexico-totoaba-gillnetting-china-baiji/

Image Sources

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Save the Forest Elephants!

Meet the endangered forest elephant…

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The forest elephant (loxodonta cyclotis) ranges between 8 to 10 feet tall, weighs between 2 to 6 tons, and live between 60 to 70 years. They live in the densely wooded rain forests of west and central Africa. The forest elephant was considered a subspecie of the African elephant, but now it is considered by many scientists to be its own species – separate from the African savanna, or bush elephant. Forest elephants are smaller than other African elephant subspecies. However, like all elephants, are herbivores who enjoy a diet filled with leaves, high amounts of fruit, and tree bark. On the other hand, unlike other elephants, their ears are more oval-shaped and their tusks are straighter and pointed downward (unlike savanna elephants whose tusks curve outwards).

Currently there are approximately 300,000 forest elephants!

More than 60% of forest elephants have been poached in the past ten years!

Since they inhibit dense tropical forests, it obstructs the traditional counting method of visual identification, so instead their population is usually estimated through “dung counts,” consisting of analyzing the ground density and distribution of the feces.

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Cause of decline?

We are the cause! Yes us… humans. Forest elephants are primarily threatened due to poaching for ivory and meat.

Tens of thousands of elephants are killed each year to meet the illegal internationall demand for ivory. Also like most endangered forest animals, deforestation caused by humans for reasons including agriculture, settlements, and developments is a large factor in their decline. Similarly, commercial logging, plantations for biofuels and extractive industries such as logging and mining are destroying their habitats, which in in turn are making them more visible to poachers. Their habitat loss is also an effect of poverty, armed conflict, and displacement of people by civil conflict. The destruction is causing them to be constrained to smaller areas, hindering their freedom to roam.

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*Although the image is explicit, it is the reality of what is happening to forest elephants

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*Just imagine how many elephants are being killed to meet the ivory demand

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*Can you spot the irony?

Local populations vs. Forest Elephants

Local populations, often farmers, kill “problem” elephants who roam near their communities since they can damage crops and villages. Sometime people can be trampled while trying to protect their communities from wandering elephants.

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So why isn’t the government helping?

Many governments do not have adequate financial or human resources to protect their elephants, conduct regular population estimates, or enforce regulations.

Why they matter?

Forest elephants are essential for the vegetation growth of many rain forest plants and trees. The seeds of the trees germinate after passing through the elephant’s digestive tract, and once the seed has gone through the elephants’ body, the animals’ feces provides the necessary nutrients for the seeds to grow. So overall, they help to maintain biodiversity by dispersing plants, which in turn creates more oxygen for the animals and human populations. Lastly, they help to clear pathways that other animals depend upon.

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So what would happen if they became extinct?

Eventually, the vegetation of the forests would decline, causing issues for other herbivorous animals. And the forests would stay dense and closed without open pathways for other animals searching for food and shelter.

What is being done?

The World Wild Life Organization works to eliminate illegal hunting in protected areas of the Congo Basin, as well as other areas, and end the hunting of forest elephants. The organization promotes sustainable hunting practices of less vulnerable species, to provide affordable meat to the poor and growing human populations.

WWF has also worked with TRAFFIC, the world’s largest wildlife trade monitoring network, to support PAPECALF, a Central African Forest regional network that will strengthen law enforcement and better combat poaching of species at risk from illegal wildlife trade. The organization increases antipoaching efforts by: jointing patrols in some tran boundary areas, better customs controls at international transit points, more intensely investigations ad prosecutions of illegal hunting acts.

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How to help?

Donate to WWF or adopt an elephant at <https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/forest-elephant&gt;. Financially supporting these animals helps the government take care of them who do not have enough resource to do it alone.

Can’t afford to help financially? No worries! Spread the word! Most people are unaware of the endangered animals in the world. Informing people about what is happening to the animals around the world makes them want to take action! Since most people do not live near the areas where these endangered animals live, they do not encounter these issues so it is important to bring awareness to society!

In regards to ivory… Don’t Buy It! We need to educate international countries (the ivory demand comes mostly from China) how harmful ivory exporting is the the elephants and the ecosystems in which they live. Would you rather have a piece of an elephant who had been slaughtered in order for you to obtain it or be able to see live forest elephants thriving in the wild?

Watch this video to find out the secret to the forest elephants’ growth, fertility, and how they settle their stomachs…

http://www.animalplanet.com/tv-shows/wild-kingdom/videos/secret-lives-of-forest-elephants/

Sources:

https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/forest-elephant

https://www.awf.org/wildlife-conservation/forest-elephant

Image sources:

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Save the Mountain Gorillas!

Meet the critically endangered mountain gorilla…

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Mountain gorillas (gorilla beringei beringei) are considered one of the great apes and are known for their muscular arms, massive chest, and broad hands and feet. They have thicker fur, when compared to other types of apes, which they have adapted from their natural habitats where temperatures often drop below freezing. Males can live up to 6 feet tall and up to 400 pounds, while females can live up to 5 feet tall and around 215 pounds. Their expected lifespan ranges between 40-50 years.

Currently there are only approximately 800 mountain gorillas in the world!

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Female (left) holding an infant and male (right) mountain gorilla

Where do they live?

They can be found in forests high in the mountains at elevations of 8,000 to 13,000 feet. The world’s remaining mountain gorillas live in three countries spanning four national parks—Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Volcanoes National Park, and Virunga National Park.

View at Bwindi Impenetrable Forest from buffer zone.

The mountain gorilla’s fight for survival… literally!

Unfortunately, as humans have moved into the gorillas’ territory, they have been forced to live higher up in the mountains, causing them to endure dangerous and sometimes deadly conditions. Forest clearance and degradation, which are the primary threats to the population, are a result of human settlement and movement.

Other factors leading to their endangerment…

          Habitat loss

Not only are their territories being destroyed for settlement opportunities, but also to extract natural resources such as firewood, and also due to land conversion for agriculture. Similar to this, an ongoing threat has been conflict and civil unrest in the areas in which mountain gorillas live, which also cause habitat loss and degradation. The sudden movement of humans has occurred too quickly, so the gorillas have not been able to physically adapt, so it makes it extremely hard for them to survive in such high altitudes.

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  Poaching

Other factors that are contributing to their endangerment include poaching. Within the past decade, gorillas have been poached for the reason of live animal trade. Gorilla adults are killed in order to capture the infant in order to be sold, and the problem continues today, with a recent case in 2013 of a mountain gorilla being found after abandonment with clear signs of being held captive.

Find out more about the case: http://virunga.org/news/orphan-matabishi/

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Disease

Lastly, and what I personally find to be the most interesting cause in their decline is disease. Since gorillas are closely related to humans anatomically and physiologically, gorillas are vulnerable to many of the same diseases as us! Gorillas have not developed the necessary immunities that humans have, therefore first time exposure to certain viruses and illnesses really affect the population. And because gorillas live in small groups, the close proximity to one another allows for such diseases to spread among gorilla bands (yes, a group of gorillas is called a “band”). Tourists have been told to keep their distance from these animals, however conservationists, scientists, rangers, poachers, militia groups, and local communities still pose a threat of exposure.

Fortunately, attempts have been made to minimize the contamination risk to wildlife such as clearing the debris and trash left behind and also through health education programs.

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Role in the ecosystem?

If mountain gorillas went extinct, it would disrupt the natural balance in the food chain and also hinder on the new growing vegetation in the area. Since mountain gorillas are large-scale grazers, eating a variety of vegetation, they help to spread seeds throughout the forest through their fecal matter. Their body’s digestive system does not fully digest the seeds so they are present in their fecal matter and the nutrients from vegetation consumed provides the necessary nutrients for the seeds to grow.

Mountain gorilla (Gorilla gorilla berengeii) eating leaves, Park du Volcanes, Rwanda

…So if they became extinct…

The forests’ plants would not grow as rapidly in years to come, so the deforestation rates would destroy the forests at a much faster rate. The poachers selling mountain gorilla infants would have to begin poaching other animals for the money, which would then cause other species to become extinct and the cycle would continue.

But there’s hope!

Luckily, although their current status is “critically endangered,” they have increased in numbers due to recent conservation efforts! This proves that our efforts can make a difference in the endangerment of animals! This example provides hope that we can save many animals if we fight for them!

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What must be done to save the mountain gorillas?!

According to the International Gorilla Conservation Programme, “the only way to maintain gorilla habitat is to develop alternative economic activities that allow people to meet their daily needs, so that they see gorillas not as competitors, but as a means of improving their own situation.”

Warning!  war

The approximate number of nearly 800 mountain gorillas really need our help! The numbers are so low that it will be an extremely difficult task to bring up their numbers. The poaching, killings, and fight for survival at dangerously high altitudes is causing their rapid decline so it will take A LOT OF ACTION to reverse their endangerment and save their population.

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HOWEVER…

We are the cause! We are disrupting their natural way of life and because of it, we may never have mountain gorillas on this planet. Please help to fix the problem that we have caused to the innocent animals who are simply fighting for survival! Just imagine being hunted, having our infants taken from us to be sold, and being forced to live in difficult conditions that our bodies are not meant to endure… Mountain gorillas cannot fight for themselves, so after causing their endangerment, we must take responsibility NOW after waiting until nearly last minute to act!

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How to help?

Donate to the WWF, who is working to preserve the Virunga National park in Africa that origionally was the home of more than half of the world’s mountain gorilla population by reforesting areas and funding antipoaching patrols. The WWF also uses collaborats with the local people to raise environmental awareness and improve the management of natural resources. They also work to eliminate hunting in protected areas as well as promoting positive environmental practices in the logging industry that is causing much of the deforestation. It will also help to teach locals alternative economic activities to keep human settlements prospering while taking out this harmful form of economic activity.

Follow this link to hear the sound of a mountain gorilla:

https://www.awf.org/sites/default/files/media/file_moutaingor.wav

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*links were not showing up so I had to take a screen shot of them

Save the Snow Leopards!

Meet the endangered snow leopard…

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Snow leopards (panthera uncial) are a specie of cat that are known for their white-gray coat, which is spotted with large black designs appearing like spots. They range between two to five feet in length.

Currently there are only around 4,080 to 6,590 estimated snow leopards in the world.

How have they adapted to their environment?

Nose: wide, short nasal cavity heats the chilled outside air before it reaches the sensitive lungs

Fur: a snow leopard’s fur pattern helps the cat blend into its natural surroundings and sneak up on prey, it also keeps the cat warn in their cold habitat

Paws: extra large paws help the cat from sinking into the snow

Legs: snow leopards have short front limbs and long hind limbs that are used to launch the cat up to 30 feet in a single leap (or up to six times the length of its body)

Tail: a long thick tail helps the snow leopard keep its balance and also wraps around the animal as protection from the cold

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Snow leopards have evolved to live in some of the harshest conditions on Earth. They are found in twelve countries—including China, Bhutan, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, and Mongolia. However, China contains around 60% of the snow leopard habitat areas. They prefer rugged terrains such as cliffs, rocky outcrops, and ravines. These areas do not provide much cover so their physical features are vital to their survival and search for food. They are found at altitudes between 9,800 and 17,000 feet.

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Snow leopard feed mainly on large animals caught live, frequently sick or injured.

The animals that snow leopards typically hunt – including blue sheep, Argali wild sheep, ibex, marmots, pikas, and hares – are also hunted by local communities, therefore as their natural prey become harder to find, they are forced to kill livestock such as sheep, goats, horses, calves, etc. for survival. This has caused retaliatory killings of snow leopards by local farmers. In fact, humans are one of the main reasons for the decline of snow leopards. Another human affect is the hunting of snow leopards poaching for their fur, bones, and other body parts. The other major threat is climate change. The ongoing process poses the most dangerous long-term threat since they have vitally adapted to their such extreme environments.

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*(Snow leopard prey in order of how they were mentioned)

THE EFFECT OF EXTINCTION **DANGER** **DANGER**

Since the snow leopard population eats herbivores such as sheep, hare, marmot, goats, etc., the population of those animals would increase drastically causing over-grazing since the consumption of plants and vegetation would dramatically increase. Eventually, this would cause a limited amount of vegetation for the herbivorous animals, which would lead to a decrease in these animals as well. The decrease in flowers, plants, and grass would cause the butterflies and other insects that pollinate the plants to decrease causing meadows to disappear. The destruction of nature would cause the decline of other animals in the ecosystem and would lead to a dangerous domino effect of animal extinction.

Simplified:

Snow Leopard -> Herbivorous animals (snow leopard prey) -> Vegetation -> Insects -> Meadows -> Extinction of an unlimited number of other species

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What has been done so far?

Many programs have been enacted to reduce the retaliatory killings of snow leopards through innovative local insurance plans as well as bringing a wider awareness to herders and farmers about the difficult situation facing snow leopards. Anti-poaching programs have been created to reduce the hunting of snow leopards and as their prey so they do not have to hunt farm animals. Programs have specifically been created to eliminate the illegal trade of snow leopard fur, bones, and other body parts.

*How to help*

Snow leopards are such a unique specie that has amazingly adapted to the world’s most extreme environments such as the Himalayas, etc. They are vital to the ecosystem and their extinction would cause a vicious decline of other species and natural ecosystems. Viewing these amazing animals in zoos creates a mindset that they are more abundant in nature than in reality.

Could you imagine a world in which your own children are unable to really know what snow leopards are? They may be able to search for photos and information online but how can it be the same?

Just think about it… would you rather spend the time researching a snow leopard or go to the Himalayas on a hike and actually see one in its natural environment thriving and surviving? Let’s not allow our children to imagine what snow leopards were. They still exist on Earth so let’s work to protect them and save their endangered population. To help the declining snow leopard population, please visit wordwildlife.org to donate or adopt a snow leopard. Donations will help to support snow leopard and wild prey (since it is a domino effect), as well as monitoring grassland regeneration, and expanding community programs including livestock insurance and education for local communities.

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Personally I was unaware that snow leopards are endangered animals. They were always one of my favorite animals to see at the zoo because they are such sleek and beautiful creatures. I believe that education is the best way to help and change the process so please tell your family, friends, neighbors, classmates, and colleagues about this issue. Donations would be great and beneficial but if you are unable to, spreading the word will help to expand awareness of the issue around the globe. Why should we lose such an incredible creature when other factors (mostly human fault) are driving them to extinction? We have the ability to keep these precious animals on our planet if we learn more about the situation and spread the word!

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About the author…

Hi! My name is Mary Horsburgh and I am from Cleveland Ohio. I am transferring from Miami University so I will be attending UC in the fall as a sophomore. I will be a business major and a spanish minor. I am really excited to take this course because I love animals! I grew up on a small farm with cows, horses, chickens, dogs, cats, and a lamb at one time. I spend most of the summer in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where I love to fish (although I usually have my brothers take off the fish)! I also love to cook and bake! I come from a big family with four older brothers and one younger sister. Last semester at Miami I took a regional geography class where we touched on a variety of topics but never went into much depth, so during this class I am excited to l learn more about the earth, endangered animals, and nature!

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