Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life
Yves Adams / Instagram

A rare yellow penguin has been photographed for what is believed to be the first time.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation safely returned 10 rescued orangutans to the wild on Borneo Island, Indonesia. Afriadi Hikmal / Getty Images

With lockdowns in place and budgets slashed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many environmental protections vanished this past year, leaving some of the world's most vulnerable species and habitats at risk. But conservationists at the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation were faced with an entirely different threat.

Read More Show Less

Like many other plant-based foods and products, CBD oil is one dietary supplement where "organic" labels are very important to consumers. However, there are little to no regulations within the hemp industry when it comes to deeming a product as organic, which makes it increasingly difficult for shoppers to find the best CBD oil products available on the market.

Read More Show Less
Plants adopting the Trump-approved New Swine Inspection System had nearly double the rate of fecal and digestive matter contamination of other facilities. Juanmonino / Getty Images

By Brett Wilkins

New data released Friday revealed pigs slaughtered at plants piloting a controversial new system—which speeds production while replacing many government inspectors with slaughterhouse employees—had much higher rates of fecal and digestive matter contamination than animals processed in other plants, information that the Trump administration hid from the public while expanding the system.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Photos of alligators engaged in "icing" were posted on Facebook by an Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation worker. David Arbour / Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

As unusually cold temperatures descended on the south and central U.S. this week, it wasn't only humans who struggled to adjust.

Read More Show Less
Elizabeth Ann is a black-footed ferret and the first endangered species in the U.S. to be cloned. USFWS Mountain-Prairie / Flickr

In a remarkable first, scientists have cloned a U.S. endangered species.

The clone in question is a black-footed ferret named Elizabeth Ann, and her lineage could bring much needed genetic diversity to the imperiled species.

"[I]t was a commitment to seeing this species survive that has led to the successful birth of Elizabeth Ann," Ryan Phelan, the executive director of biotechnology conservation nonprofit Revive and Restore, said in a Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) press release. "To see her now thriving ushers in a new era for her species and for conservation-dependent species everywhere. She is a win for biodiversity and for genetic rescue."

 

Elizabeth Ann's birth was a joint effort from FWS, Revive and Restore, ViaGen Pets and Equine, San Diego Zoo Global and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. She arrived on Dec. 10, with the birth first announced on Thursday.

The history of the black-footed ferret makes her birth an especially important milestone. The species once lived throughout the U.S. West, FWS recovery coordinator Pete Gober told The New York Times. But their numbers dwindled as their primary prey, prairie dogs, also declined due to habitat loss, poison and disease. At one point, scientists believed the black-footed ferret to be extinct.

"We thought they were gone," Gober told The New York Times.

That changed in 1981, when a ranch dog named Shep dragged one back to his owners' home in Wyoming. However, disease wiped out much of the newly discovered ranch population. The FWS captured 18 ferrets for a breeding program, but all of the ferrets they have bred and released since have come from just seven parents.

That's where Elizabeth Ann fits in. She is a clone of Willa, one of the last wild-caught black-footed ferrets whose genes were never passed on, according to FWS. However, they were preserved by the San Diego Zoo Global's Frozen Zoo in 1988, making Elizabeth Ann's birth possible.

"With these cloning techniques, you can basically freeze time and regenerate those cells," Gober told The Associated Press.

Scientists determined that her genome had triple the unique variations of the current ferret population, meaning that Elizabeth Ann's descendants could play a role in boosting the species' genetic health, according to FWS.

That won't happen right away, The New York Times reported. First, Elizabeth Ann will be joined by other Willa clones, as well as clones of a male named Studbook Number 2. The clones will breed, while their offspring will be interbred with wild ferrets. Scientists need to make sure that none of the mitochondrial DNA from the clones' surrogate mother, a domestic ferret, is passed on.


Cloning, which involves copying the genes of one plant or animal to make a new one, is emerging as a conservation strategy for imperiled species. Viagen, a Texas-based company that helped clone Willa, also cloned a Przewalski's wild horse last summer, The Associated Press reported. The Przewalski is a Mongolian horse species whose population of around 2,000 is descended from only 12 animals.

Cloning could also recover extinct animals. Ben Novak, Revive and Restore's lead scientist, wants to bring back the passenger pigeon, and the nonprofit is also looking into cloning a wooly mammoth. Some conservationists argue that these efforts take funding away from protecting existing species, The New York Times reported. But Novak argued that the genetic technology required for both de-extinction and conservation is the same.

The FWS also noted that it is not abandoning more traditional conservation efforts.

"Successful genetic cloning does not diminish the importance of addressing habitat-based threats to the species or the Service's focus on addressing habitat conservation and management to recover black-footed ferrets," Noreen Walsh, director of the Service's Mountain-Prairie region, said in the press release.

Cold-stunned turtles on South Padre Island in Texas are being rescued during an extreme cold spell. Markus Masataka / Getty Images

The dramatic cold snap that devastated Texas's power grid also had a major impact on the state's nonhuman inhabitants.

Read More Show Less
"By playing with cats and changing their diets, owners can reduce their impact on wildlife without restricting their freedom," a new study finds. cunfek / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Domestic cats are adorable human companions, but they can have a terrifying impact on birds and other wildlife. Their hunting has contributed to the extinction of 63 birds, mammals and reptiles, and they are the number one human-caused threat to birds in the U.S. and Canada, according to American Bird Conservancy.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Reticulated giraffes in Buffalo Springs National Reserve, Kenya. James Warwick / The Image Bank / Getty Images

A giraffe's life is a hard one, crowded by humans, stressed by habitat fragmentation and threatened by poaching. But for females, friends could make it better and longer, a recent study finds.

Read More Show Less
Traffic noises can impair the ability of songbirds to learn skills, a new study finds. savoilic / iStock / Getty Images Plus

If you've ever had a hard time thinking when a noisy truck rattles by, you're not alone.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A volunteer looks for waterbirds at Point Reyes National Seashore in California during the National Audubon Society's annual Christmas Bird Count. Kerry W / Flickr, CC BY 2.0

By Theresa Crimmins, Erin Posthumus, and Kathleen Prudic

The rapid spread of COVID-19 in 2020 disrupted field research and environmental monitoring efforts worldwide. Travel restrictions and social distancing forced scientists to cancel studies or pause their work for months. These limits measurably reduced the accuracy of weather forecasts and created data gaps on issues ranging from bird migration to civil rights in U.S. public schools.

Read More Show Less
Officers from the Sumatran Orangutan Foundation Lestari and the Orangutan Information Centre evacuate eight-year-old, female Sumatran orangutan trapped in the oil palm plantations on Sept. 1, 2015 in Langkat Regency, North Sumatra, Indonesia. More than a third of large-scale oil palm expansion between 1990 and 2010 resulted in direct forest loss (about 3.5 million hectares in total) in Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea, according to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. Clearing rain forests for oil palm plantations has destroyed critical habitat for endangered species like rhinos, elephants, tigers and Orangutan, which have all been pushed to the verge of extinction. Sijori Images / Barcroft India / Getty Images

By Ajit Niranjan

The way food is grown around the world threatens 24,000 of the 28,000 species that are at risk of extinction, according to a report published Wednesday that calls on world leaders to urgently reform the global food system.

Read More Show Less
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated in 2002 that up to two million birds were killed in oil pits every year. Pedro Ramirez, Jr / USFWS

By Jacob Carter

Since 1918 the federal government has implemented its authority under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) to hold industries accountable for the death of birds due to their operations. Such operations include the spraying of insecticides that poison birds, maintaining oil pits that can lead to drowning, or contact with infrastructure such as wind turbines that can cause death on impact.

Read More Show Less