Giant Tortoise Believed Extinct Sighted in Galápagos
A rare species of giant tortoise, feared extinct for more than 100 years, was sighted on the Galápagos island of Fernandina Sunday, the Ecuadorian government announced.
The tortoise, an adult female of the species Chelonoidis phantasticus, was found during an investigation by the Galápagos National Park and the U.S. environmental group Galapagos Conservancy, The Associated Press reported.
BREAKING NEWS! GC’s own @wacho_tapia just returned from Fernandina Island in #Galapagos, where they discovered a f… https://t.co/5EyjPcEaNL— GalapagosConservancy (@GalapagosConservancy)1550693757.0
The researchers also thought that the tracks and faeces they had observed on their trip indicated there might be other members of the extremely endangered species living on the island. Up until Sunday's discovery, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) had listed the tortoise as critically endangered and possibly extinct, but noted that there was an unconfirmed sighting in 2009, and previous expeditions had found faeces and bite marks on cacti on the island.
"This encourages us to strengthen our search plans to find more tortoises, which will allow us to start a captive breeding program to recover this species," Galápagos National Park Director Danny Rueda said in a park Facebook post.
The tortoise, who is likely more than 100 years old, was moved to a tortoise breeding center on Santa Cruz Island, The Associated Press reported.
"They will need more than one, but females may store sperm for a long time," Duke University Conservation Ecology Professor Stuart Pimm told The Associated Press of a potential breeding program. "There may be hope."
The last confirmed sighting of Chelonoidis phantasticus was in 1906, when one was found by an expedition of the California Academy of Sciences, according to The Independent.
Until this week, specimen 8101 was the only known giant tortoise from the Galapagos island of Fernandina. Congratul… https://t.co/PNrjHLWTbL— Henry Nicholls (@Henry Nicholls)1550706088.0
Fernandina is the youngest and most volcanically active of the Galápagos islands. The IUCN listed "the frequent volcanic lava flows that nearly cover the island" as the force that might have driven the species close to extinction.
There were once 14 species of giant tortoises on nine Galápagos islands, but now that number has fallen to 10 species on six islands, The Independent reported.Ecuadorian Environment Minister Marcelo Mata Guerrero was quoted on the Galápagos National Park Facebook page as saying the park could "count on all the backing of the national government and the Environment Ministry to conduct the necessary investigations to guarantee the conservation and preservation of the species that call the Galápagos home."
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By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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