New Shrew: Texas Tech University professor Robert Baker has named Notiosorex cockrumi after his PhD supervisor. Baker discovered the shrew in 1966, but only recently confirmed that it is not the same species as N. crawfordi , which shares its home range in Arizona’s Santa Rita mountains. Cute little sucker (but don’t let that fool you: shrews are savage). Photo credit: Robert Baker, Arizona University.
Beleaguered Bongo Being Brought Back By Biologists: the last wild mountain bongo is thought to have died on Mt Kenya in 1994, but the species is not extinct thanks to hunter-turned-conservationist Don Hunt. Between 1970 and 1980, Hunt established a breeding program in the US that saw the captive population climb from the 20 he caught to around 400. On January 20, 18 bongo from the US joined 17 others at the Mt Kenya Game Ranch, where it is hoped that they will establish a semi-tame breeding pool with which to re-establish a wild population. If this story doesn’t bring a lump to your throat, you’re a serious hardass. Sniff. Photo credit: Mount Kenya Animal Orphanage.
Missing Monkey May Still Survive: no picture, sadly, as Miss Waldron’s red colobus (Procolobus badius waldroni) is just too damn rare. Anthropologist Scott McGraw and colleagues declared it “probably extinct” in 2000, but shreds of evidence have rekindled hope that the species may survive in remote corners of the Ivory Coast. McGraw has a photograph, a skin and a tail, all of them collected in the last few years. Hunting and destruction of habitat have brought the Miss Waldron’s to the brink; if they have in fact pushed it over, it will be the first recorded primate extinction in 200 years. Apart from being a shitty thing to do, that’s a bad sign for the region because primates are extraordinarily adaptable, and the local ecology would have to be in really bad shape to have killed one off.
Several Species in Shark Decline: once the most commonly caught sharks in the region, oceanic whitetip and silky sharks have almost vanished from the Gulf of Mexico, according to biologists Julia K. Baum and Ransom A. Myers. Their study (Ecology Letters Feb 2004: vol. 7 pp. 135-145) compared 1950s and 1990s catch rates data and concluded that the whitetip, silky and mako shark populations in the Gulf of Mexico have declined by 99, 90 and 79 percent, respectively. The study has drawn extensive criticism; oddly enough, the critics cited work for the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Blue Water Fishermen’s Association. The photo shows an oceanic whitetip (credit: Monterey Bay Aquarium).
Someone Otter Do Something: for reasons that remain unclear, the northern sea otter (Enhydra lutris) population of southwest Alaska has declined to the point where the United States Fish and Wildlife Service is listing it as “threatened”, one step away from “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act. The Alaskan population was nearly eliminated by 1911, when an international treaty banned hunting; by the 1980’s almost half of the world’s northern sea otter population lived in southwest Alaska. Since then, the population has declined by somewhere between 50 and 70 percent. Photo credit: Friends of the Sea Otter; more info available from biologicaldiversity.org.