23 December 2010

Species Conservation | Flagship Failures

Firstly, rhino poaching in South Africa. I've been hearing stories but I didn't realise just how bad it was. Last year just under 200 rhinos were killed, this year it's gone up to over 310. That's almost a rhino a day. Go sign up and add your voice to the fight against rhino poaching in South Africa. I'm not going to lie, there's a story on that site called Turning in Circles that made me cry a little today.

Then there's the continued classification of the polar bear as "threatened". The fight against this started when Bush was still president but the Obama Administration is sticking the decision to keep the bears' status as merely "threatened". Apparently, the polar bear's situation isn't dire enough to classify it as "endangered" just yet. Ultimately this means less protection for the bear under US law and it means less incentive to check emissions and the effects of climate change on the Arctic. Really irresponsible decision. They're calling it an anti-science decision, apparently the government's own studies show that there's an 80% chance of two thirds of the world's polar bears going extinct in the next 40 years.

But in lighter polar bear news, it's not over just yet for them - it's been suggested that soon the damage done to the Arctic ice will be irreversible, making the bears bound for extinction. But according to some new models we haven't reached that tipping point just yet and if emissions are curbed soon, the Arctic and it's bears have hope. See more on the BBC's Polar Bears Could be Saved by Emissions Cuts.

Should this not be true, they'll move further South which would still lead to extinction, genetically at least, as they may start hybridising with grizzly bears to form (wait for it) pizzly bears! Or grolar bears, your pick. Apparently this isn't a likely scenario for just the bears though, there could be several potential hybrids of different seal species, narwhals and beluga whales, etc. - National Geographic is calling the onset of these new hybrid species the "Arctic Melting Pot" Ultimately though, it means the original species will be bred out of existence leaving us with these hybrids that have the wrong gene pools for their environments and are poorly adapted to survive. Just a more interesting form of extinction really...

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