Conservation projects around the world
CONSERVATION PROJECTS AROUND THE WORLD
Thousands of conservation projects are trying to save wildlife. Often it is very difficult as you can see in these 4 stories:
From left to right: Bullseye harlequin poison dart frog from the rainforest of Colombia. Dirk Ercken/Alamy; A conservationist shows schoolchildren the whooping crane costume that they use to look after the chicks. Nature and Science/Alamy; Andatu, the first Sumatran rhinoceros born in captivity in Indonesia. Reynold Sumakyu/Alamy
THE WHOOPING CRANE IN THE US
There were only 21 whooping cranes in the mid-1940s - all the others had died. This bird migrates between the US and Western Canada. They died because of habitat loss and hunting. Hunting was banned more than 20 years before, but it took a long time for the species to recover. In the 1960s biologists started to breed the cranes. They got them to produce more than one set of eggs each breeding season by taking away the first eggs and putting them in an artificial incubator. Then the cranes mated again and laid more eggs, and these stayed in the nests. The eggs in the incubator followed the humans around, and they dressed in white crane costumes to prepare the chicks for life in the wild. The human keepers taught the chicks how to be a whooping crane.
In the early 1990s, the first chicks raised by humans in costumes were taken to central Florida and set free. They successfully mated and produced a wild whooping crane chick in 2000. Then they had to teach the chicks how to migrate from Florida to Wisconsin for the summer – a 1,900-kilometre journey.
The team worked with Operation Migration. Volunteers trained the chicks to follow an ultralight aircraft driven by a pilot wearing the crane costume. Farmers offered safe places to sleep on the way. It was a lot of effort. But today the numbers of whooping crane numbers have risen to 826: they are still endangered but not critically. Their story could be a success if we can conserve their wetlands habitat.
THE POISON DART FROG IN COLOMBIA
In 1998 the police in Colombia asked Ivan Lonzano, director of Bogotá’s wildlife rescue centre, to go to the airport. The police had found two boxes that were going to Europe. Inside were nearly 800 very colourful poison dart frogs. Many of the species were endangered and most of the frogs were dead or dying. This shock made Lonzano start the conservation that nearly lost all his money and almost ended his marriage.
Colombia has 734 frog species. 160 are critically endangered. But international frog collectors and traffickers do not care. Lonzano had the idea to start a legal trade of poison frogs that were bred in captivity (they lose their poison in captivity but they still have exotic colours). He hoped this would make the prices go down so not so many people would take the wild frogs illegally. It took years to learn how to breed the frogs and to convince the Colombian government to allow him to export them legally.
Now it’s beginning to work. Collectors like this legal way to get frogs and prices are much lower. This stops the traffickers. Lonzano says that many of the collectors have successfully bred frogs from his frogs, and sold them, and this makes the prices even lower. His next step is to breed frogs and set them free in the wild.
THE SUMATRAN RHINO
For more than 30 years, people have been trying very hard to stop the shy Sumatran rhino from going extinct. This rhino is often alone and makes a singing noise, so people call it ‘the singing rhino’. There used to be a lot across Southeast Asia from Bhutan to Indonesia. But now there are only a few in the wild (between 30 to 80) in jungle in Sumatra and Borneo. Their habitat has been destroyed so the few rhinos left are separated. This has made them less resistant because of inbreeding and less genetic diversity.
People are now trying to save the habitat (but there is another threat from plans to build roads in Aceh province). Conservationists think the only chance of survival is to breed the rhinos in captivity. So, in 1984, they decided to capture some rhinos in the wild, keep them safe in captivity and try to increase numbers. But this was very difficult. 40 rhinos were first captured, but 13 of these died by 1990 because of disease, injury and the wrong diet (hay instead of the fresh vegetation they ate in the wild). Also, they had no babies. It looked like conservationists were helping this species to extinction.
Two Sumatran rhinos in the Cincinnati Zoo in the US had eye problems. The keepers discovered this was because of too much time in the sun – in the wild they are protected by trees. The zoo spent $500,000 for special covers to provide shade.
The fertility problem was partly because females of this species only ovulate when males are present. Another problem was that if females didn’t mate regularly, they developed uterine problems (cysts and growths) and if they didn’t get pregnant and have babies often enough they quickly became infertile. There were many miscarriages with natural mating. The first calf was not born until 2001 and so far only two captive females, one in the US and another in Sumatra, have produced babies. This does not look good for the future as the small population in the wild does not produce enough babies.
They are now trying IVF techniques using surrogate mothers. They need to capture more animals. It is very difficult to take the eggs from rhinos because of their anatomy – a mistake could cut an important blood vessel.
If they succeed, the Sumatran rhino will, in future only be a captive species, because it’s wild home is disappearing.
THE SICILIAN ZELKOVA TREE
The Sicilian Zelkova (Zelkova sicula) was first discovered in 1991. There were only 230 in the Iblei Mountains, eastern Sicily. Then 1,000 trees were found in the same mountain range in 2009. This is one of the most endangered tree species in the world, and people are looking for more of them.
Because of to a chromosome irregularity, the Sicilian Zelkova produces sterile seeds and it spreads with root suckers. Scientific research has shown that the trees we have now are all probably from one ancestor. The two sites of trees now have fences to stop animals grazing. And more trees are being planted. But they might be under threat from climate problems, for example too much dry weather. So conservationists have decided that the best idea is to trying growing these trees from saplings in other places where the environmental conditions might be better.
But that is not so easy, as scientists have discovered. The team at the Conservatoire National Botanique of Brest has worked on growing new plants from root cuttings. And scientists at the Institute of Biosciences and BioResources of Palermo have been trying in vitro techniques. After many years, the researchers finally succeeded. But only eight per cent of these young trees managed to survive outside. They are also trying to plant them in the wild and investigate their role in the ecosystem.
NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: https://newint.org/features/2020/12/07/what-it-takes
(This article is in easier English so it is possible that we changed the words, the text structure, and the quotes.)