Reversing extinction: Marwell zoo and the scimitar-horned oryx

Declared extinct in the wild back in 2000, this species is now not only re-established in the wild, but has a big enough population to now only be listed as endangered (down from critically endangered).

Apart from supplying individuals for the reintroduction, Marwell zoo also helped with strategy.

The video below is just 2 minutes long. While it talks about Marwells other work as well, it shows a number of these animals living wild back in Africa.

This has got to become the reason for zoos. What ever else they do, there are many species at risk of extinction in the wild, these need to have enough captive individuals to re-establish wild populations, should the current conservation fail.

Of course, zoos have many other roles, from education, to fostering a love of wildlife in the next generation.

One thing that they should not be, is a curio house- many zoos are far to worried about displaying albino or melanistic individuals. Now while these individuals are fascinating and can be used as ambassadors for the species, their genetic health should be looked after (all white tigers are descended from one female, and closely related individuals are regularly bred togerther to ensure this trait is passed down. Indeed, as a result of this, white tigers are often not of good health.

The majority of zoos are now like Marwell – while like many, it started as the private zoo of wealthy owners it has turned into an important place of conservation and science. Another of their successes, is the cooperative breeding that occurs as standard in current times, across Europe. Regular loaning of animals is essential, so that we can treat all of the zoo animals in Europe as one single population, thereby  making sure that all animals in the system are healthy.

There are many hundreds of zoos across Europe (some claim as many as 2000, though around 1500 is the estimated worldwide number suggesting that this is a rather large exaggeration. It is likely that around half of the worlds zoos are in Europe, and by cooperative breeding, we can make sure that healthy populations remain in captivity, so that should a population be lost from the wild, it can be returned, when the wild situation improves.

Almost all predictions about human population are expected to peak in the coming decades, and then decline after that. If this pattern is followed, it should be expected that we will need to re-establish wilderness in the future. 

Scimitar-horned oryx have been returned to the wild in Tunisia, and Chad and there are plans to return them to the wild in Niger, in the near future.

Extinction was caused by a variety of features, but the primary one was over-hunting. This has virtually been eliminated, after a ban on hunting of this species was put into effect in 2013. Should this species be allowed to fully recover. In 1985, there was a population of at least 500 of this species living in the wild, so it took only 15 years for it to disappear, as such what is clearly essential is a regular assessment on how this species is faring, allowing earlier interventions.

Saving the natural world, may require this kind of success to be a regular feature.

Amazon River Dolphin

Amazon river dolphin by Oceancetaceen sometimes known as the Orinoco

Amazon Dolphin

The Amazon river dolphin, (other names include boto, bufeo or pink river dolphin), is a species of toothed whale endemic to South America and is classified in the family Iniidae. Three subspecies are currently recognized: Amazon river dolphin,, Bolivian river dolphin and the Orinoco river dolphin while position of Araguaian river dolphin  within the clade is still unclear The three subspecies are each found in a separate river basin (in order) the Amazon basin, the upper Madeira River in Bolivia, and the Orinoco basin.

The Amazon river dolphin is the largest species of river dolphin, with adult males reaching 185 kilograms (408 lb) in weight, and 2.5 metres (8.2 ft) in length. Adults acquire a pink colour, more prominent in males, giving it its nickname “pink river dolphin”. Sexual dimorphism is very evident, with males measuring 16% longer and weighing 55% more than females.

Like other toothed whales, they have a melon, an organ that is used for bio sonar. The dorsal fin, although short in height, is regarded as long, and the pectoral fins are also large. The fin size, unfused vertebrae, and its relative size allow for improved manoeuvrability when navigating flooded forests and capturing prey.

They have one of the widest ranging diets among toothed whales, and feed on up to 53 different species of fish, such as croakers, catfish, tetras and piranhas. They also consume other animals such as river turtles, aquatic frogs, and freshwater crabs. However, this is not particularly surprising, as there are so many forms of life in the Amazon rainforest, and plenty is likely to occasionally find themselves in the river.

In 2018, this species was classed as endangered, by the IUCN with a declining population. Threats include incidental catch in fishing lines, direct hunting for use as fish bait or predator control, damming, and pollution; as with many species, habitat loss and continued human development is becoming a greater threat.

While it is the only species of river dolphin kept in captivity, almost exclusively in Venezuela and Europe, it is difficult to train and often die very young, when kept in captivity..

Life expectancy of the Amazon river dolphin in the wild is unknown, but in captivity, the longevity of healthy individuals has been recorded at between 10 and 30 years. However, a 1986 study of the average longevity of this species in captivity in the United States is only 33 months. An individual named Baby at the  Duisburg Zoo, Germany, lived at least 46 years, spending 45 years, 9 months at the zoo.

Below you will find any news articles on Amazon dolphin (though articles with both words also get sucked in). Also  we will add any information on where you can go to see these in the wild, beneath both of these.

Ecuadorians have voted to halt oil drilling in an Amazonian national park – GOOD NEWS!

The referendum on Yasuni reserve will benefit a huge range of species, along with several groups of uncontacted tribes of indigenous people. The vote was not close, with 90% of votes counted protection won by around 20%. It will also keep around 726 million barrels of oil in the ground. Given that one barrel is 158 litres, that is 114 billion liters of oil, and as each one emits at least 3 kg of carbon dioxide, this is going to save 350 billion kg of carbon dioxide released into the air. This is a huge win for the environment, but also for the wildlife of the Yasuni reserve.

The worlds top sovereign fund is cutting ties with a dam which will likely lead to the extinction of the Tapanuli Orangutan

In most countries, if a dam was to cause so much destruction to the last habitat of a species, the dam would likely not get permission to be built.

It is true that the dam will only take about 20% of the land in question, directly. It will also split the population in half.

It is not surprising that the Norwegian sovereign fund has pulled out of this dam

Given that only around 800 Tapanuli Orangutans survive in the wild, the loss of just a handful is bad. A loss of 20% of the remaining population could quite rapidly push the population towards extinction, particularly as it will split the few remaining Orangutans into separate populations which cannot interbreed.

Norway has a huge sovereign fund, into which it pours the countries earnings from fossil fuel extraction. Perhaps recognizing that this has a shelf life which is not far from ending, Norway has made sure that for the most part its sovereign fund is good for the natural world (alongside giving good returns)

Generally rules on financing should have ruled this project out in the past, so it is good that this decision has been eventually made.

Will the dam still get built? We will have to wait and see.

UK could quit ‘Climate wrecking’ treaty’ – encouraging, must see more

The treaty in question is called the Energy Charter Treaty, and apparently if changes are not made by November we will look at exiting.

Under this charter, any coal power plant forced to shut could require the government responsible to continue paying the company for the lifetime that the power station could last.

What is in this egregious rules? Well, it would be run with a system of secrets of courts, and it would allow a company to sue any signature country should they bring an a law that might cut their profits in the future.

Given that any cuts in coal use, oil use, wood or many other things would impact many companies bottom line. Given that coal and oil use must cease within the next couple of decades, and only wood from land that would be replanted, the vast majority of companies would have their profits hit.

This foolish treaty would either lead to governments abandoning all carbon reduction targets, or paying large companies billions for all time.

This treaty is not centuries old, rather, it came into being back in 1998, at a time where we knew about climate change. France is similarly talking about quitting. Other countries are also looking at leaving, and it is thankfully likely to collapse.

It is strange how this possible became a treaty, as this plan is insane.

Ozone layer hole early – Antarctic sea ice in danger?

The fear is that, with the Tonga eruption, this larger than normal hole might do extra damage to the vast store of ice on Antactica.

The Antarctic Continent has about 30 million cubic kilometres of ice. If just a small amount melts were in trouble

Why is this concerning?

Well, given the Antarctic and the Greenland icesheet has enough ice to raise sea levels by 65m worldwide. This means a 5% melt in Antarctica would raise sea levels by several meters (even without any melting of Greenland at all).

This quantity of sea level rise, would threaten cities such as Shanghai and London, to large parts of Florida and Bangladesh to total nations that would be wiped out, such as Maldives.

This means that while it may well take a century and increased carbon emissions for all of the ice at the poles to melt, it could threaten human populations long before this occurs.

Around 410 million people on earth live within just 2m of the height of the sea. This is roughly 5% of human population. Currently, there are issues with just 2% immigration into the UK. A sea level rise of 2m would likely trigger an order of magnitude more to move here, Western Europe, USA and other countries. We are all going to be hit hard, but some far harder than others.

Colorado river lost 10 trillion gallons of water since 2000

Climate change effects are not restricted to the third world (though very often the impact is felt more harshly here).

In the USA the volume of water in the Colorado river has fallen by the volume of lake Mead in 23 years – this is the equivalent of 15 billion Olympic sized swimming pools. More than 40 million people rely on this river for their water – along with millions of acres of farm land.

Despite the drought that has hit the area, scientists have calculated that the water loss would not have had anywhere near the effect without the human caused climate change.

This may simply be early signs of things to come in the USA

Amazon deforestation has fallen over 60% since last July

Great progress is being made in slowing rainforest destruction in Brazil with great falls in the last year. It is true that this rate needs to fall to zero in the near future, but great progress is being.

A lot of this progress is as a result of the end of the Bolsonaro regime, and could swing back should a similar person come to power.

However, what is clear is that if the Amazon reaches a tipping point and starts to dry out, it will rapidly die, and at this point there is unlikely to be enough rain for the regions croplands to remain (the crops will no longer grow as a result of the lack of rain).

It is essential that the rest of the world invests heavily in this region, in order to give a clear alternative to soy and cattle rearing in order to earn a living.

A flurry of wolves born in California: are they making a comeback?

Grey wolves from Oregon now appear to be thriving in California (where they disappeared from about 100 years ago).

Wolves and cubs in California

Wolves have never been reintroduced to California, instead they were returned to Yellowstone, re-entered Oregan back in 1999, and then entered California in 2008.

Short of a sudden sustained assault on their numbers, they are back in California and are likely to multiply over the next few decades to take back up their position as apex predators. This should not be feared in any way, with sensible management, it could end up benefiting California, with healthier ecosystems, less car crashes caused by wildlife amongst many other benefits.

BP has returned to profits – what now

BP has made profits of £2 billion in the second quarter of the year, while global warming continues to become a more and more existential issue.

Unfortunately, it also appears that BP is not thinking of the future at all. The vast majority of this money will be returned to share holders in dividends and buybacks.

Perhaps there is something in extra tax on companies which make extra profit, simply because oil prices are high – largely as a result of the Ukraine war.

See Animals Wild