5 Critically Endangered Red Wolf Pups Born at North Carolina Zoo
The population of the most endangered canid in the world just got a little bit bigger.
The North Carolina Zoo announced the birth of five American red wolf pups on Friday. This is an especially big deal because there are only 15 to 20 red wolves left in the wild, in eastern North Carolina.
"Congratulations to the North Carolina Zoo for playing an essential part toward helping this critically endangered species recover," North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources secretary Susi H. Hamilton said in the birth announcement. "It's yet another example of the Zoo doing amazing work to conserve wildlife and wild places."
We're thrilled to announce the birth of 5 American red wolves as part of our red wolf breeding program! Born April… https://t.co/iQqimKwwmq— North Carolina Zoo (@North Carolina Zoo)1588939282.0
The pups were born April 21 to a mother named Piglet and a father named Jewell. This is the couple's first litter.
"The pups and their mother are all healthy and doing well," the zoo said.
The new babies were all named for plants found in North Carolina, the zoo explained:
The names for the males are Oak (Appalachian Oak), Cedar (Red Cedar) and Sage (Azure Sage). The females are named Lily (Carolina Lily, the state's wildflower) and Aster (Piedmont Aster).
American red wolves have struggled in the wild in recent years, as The Herald-Sun reported. They were declared extinct in the wild in 1980 due to hunting and habitat loss, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) began efforts to reintroduce them to the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge as part of the American Red Wolf Recovery Program. Their numbers swelled to more than 130 by 2006, but then began to decline between 2013 and 2015 after FWS introduced a policy allowing landowners to shoot and kill wolves, as EcoWatch previously reported.
In 2018, a federal judge ruled that the killing violated the endangered species act and had to stop.
In zoos, however, the species has fared better. There are around 240 red wolves in breeding programs across the U.S., the zoo said.
The North Carolina Zoo has been part of the American Red Wolf Recovery Program since 1994 and has bred 34 wolves since the program started. The birth of the new pups brings the zoo's wolf population up to 25, meaning it has the second-biggest red wolf pack in U.S. after the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington.
Six red wolf babies were also born at the The Museum of Life and Science in Durham, North Carolina in April 2019, The Herald-Sun reported. However, most of the museum's red wolves were moved to Virginia in January, and no babies were born there this spring, WRAL reported.
The North Carolina Zoo is currently closed to visitors because of the coronavirus pandemic, though you can still visit virtually. However, the new arrivals won't know the difference right now.
"The pups are being kept in a quiet, non-public viewing area of the Zoo and have minimal contact with staff and keepers," the zoo said. "This allows their mother to raise the pups with the least amount of stress in a natural habitat."
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
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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Green groups applauded Sen. Jeff Merkley on Wednesday for introducing a pioneering pair of bills that aim to "protect the long-term health and well-being of the American people and their economy from the catastrophic effects of climate chaos" by preventing banks and international financial institutions from financing fossil fuels.