Antelope first seen 20 years ago is on brink of extinction
Michael McCarthy, formerly the Independent’s longstanding Environment Editor, now its Environment Columnist, is one of Britain’s leading writers on the environment and the natural world. He has won a string of awards for his work, including Environment Journalist of the Year (three times) and Specialist Writer of the Year in the British Press Awards in 2001. In 2007 he was awarded the Medal of the RSPB for “Outstanding Services to Conservation,” in 2010 he was awarded the Silver Medal of the Zoological Society of London, and in 2011 the Dilys Breeze Medal of the British Trust for Ornithology. In 2009 McCarthy published Say Goodbye To The Cuckoo (John Murray), a study of Britain’s declining migrant birds.
Monday 21 May 2012
Vietnam's rare mammals may be sliding towards extinction, but Britain's rarest butterfly is going from strength to strength, a series of contrasting announcements makes clear today.
Fears are growing about the future of one of the world's most mysterious animals, the saola, a cross between an ox and an antelope, which was the first large mammal new to science in more than 50 years when it was discovered in Vietnam in 1992. There is also concern about three of the country's six species of gibbon, which are said to be "perilously close to extinction".
On the other hand, a new reserve is being set up for the large blue, the butterfly that went extinct in Britain in 1979, but which has been reintroduced through painstaking conservation work and is now flourishing at a handful of sites in southern England.
The contrasting East-West fortunes of these species say a lot about the different pressures on wildlife in Asia and Europe. Twenty years after its discovery, the saola remains elusive, with no precise estimate of its population, and according to WWF (formerly the World Wide Fund for Nature) there are fears that it could go the way of the Vietnamese rhino – discovered in 1988 and hunted to extinction by last year.
"While they inhabit a very restricted range, there is still no reported sighting of a saola in the wild by a scientist, and the handful of saola taken into captivity have not survived," said Nick Cox, of WWF. "If things are good, there may be a couple of hundred saola out there," said William Robichaud, co-ordinator of the saola working group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. "If things are bad, the population could now be down in the tens."
Although development is encroaching on the saola's forest habitat, the greatest threat to the animal comes from illegal hunting. Saola are caught in wire snares set by hunters to catch other animals, such as sambar deer, muntjacs and civets, which are largely destined for the lucrative wildlife trade, driven by traditional medicine demand in China and restaurant and food markets in Vietnam and Laos.
Meanwhile, the first comprehensive study of gibbons in Vietnam in more than a decade has found that three of the six species (the eastern and western black gibbons and the northern white-cheeked gibbon) are close to extinction, and the remaining three have suffered massive population reductions. The report, co-authored by Britain's Fauna and Flora International and Conservation International in the US, details the decline that Vietnam's gibbon species have suffered over the past 10 years. They have disappeared from much of their historical range in the country, and the remaining viable populations are restricted to protected areas, most of which lack the standard of protection needed to ensure their survival.
On the other hand, Britain's once extinct but now reintroduced large blue butterfly is faring so well that the Butterfly Conservation charity has acquired a new reserve to house it. It is at Rough Bank, overlooking the Slad Valley in the Cotswolds. Already home to four species of blue butterflies, the Rough Bank reserve is likely to become a key site for the largest one as it expands into the Cotswolds from its re-introduction base in Somerset's Polden Hills.
Global warming ‘will make our winters colder’
Northern white rhino dies at San Diego Zoo Safari Park to leave just five left in the world
A good year for nature in Britain, despite the cold: After frostiest March for 50 years, summer gave rise to an explosion in wildlife
Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
- 1 Planes go hybrid-electric in important step to greener flight
- 2 Christmas comes early to Hong Kong, as millions of bank notes spill out onto busy street
- 3 Antonio Martin shooting: Police and protesters clash over teenager's death just five miles from Ferguson, Missouri
- 4 Northern Lights above Britain: Stunning Aurora Borealis illuminates Northumberland sky on Christmas Eve
- 5 British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...
£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...
Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...
Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...