Conservation Stories of 2010

We hope you had a healthy and enjoyable holiday season. Before we move on, let’s take a quick look back at 2010, labeled the International Year of Biodiversity. The year had both good and bad conservation stories, according to a photo feature in the Guardian.

Polar BearIn the good news category is the 187,000 square miles of Alaska that was set aside by the Obama administration as a critical habitat for polar bears. This may add restrictions to future offshore oil and gas drilling in the future.

The UK created 15 new marine protected areas, where human activity is banned or restricted. Reefs, sandbanks and sea caves will be protected, as well as the marine life that makes them home.

Also in the UK, biologists celebrated the record number of bitterns that had flown in from northern Europe. As well, the pine marten enjoyed an enlarged range.

On the downside, British scientists published a list of “100 Weird Mammals under threat of extinction”. The list included the Long-Beaked Echidna, which is one of the most primitive mammals on the planet and lays eggs like a reptile. Also listed was the Saola or ‘Asian Unicorn’, which was unknown to western science until 1992.

The bad news also includes the plight of the world’s amphibian species, a third of which faces extinction.

Tiger 1More bad news involves sharks being caught in large numbers solely for their fins, and then they are often released back into the ocean for a slow death. 2010 reports also revealed Asian appetites for tiger parts means the current population of around 3,200 is facing serious threats. As well, the fight to save rhinos faces increasingly sophisticated poachers.

African bushmeat activities are decreasing the population of many animals, including chimpanzees. On the other hand, mountain gorillas in Virunga national park have increased their numbers due to intense efforts to reduce poaching and disease.

Happy New Year 2011. Let’s make this year a great one for conservation.

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Alison Wheatley

Alison Wheatley

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