Weekly round-up: November 15

A new species of monkey has been identified in Myanmar – but with an estimated population of 199 to 259 individuals, is also at risk of extinction. Scientists discovered the Popa langur (Trachypithecus popa) during an expedition researching another species, Phayre’s langur, which is also endangered. The only previous example of a Popa langur had been collected in 1913 and kept in the London Natural History Museum.

Dark grey or dark brown with distinctive white colouring around the eyes and mouth, the newly-discovered primate has been identified in five locations across the country, including on Mount Popa, an extinct volcano from which the species’ name derives.

The newly-discovered Popa langur (Thaung Win)

Due to hunting, habitat loss, logging and other threats however, the research team has called for Popa langurs to be classed as critically endangered by the IUCN Red List and Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), adding that better management of protected areas, and enforcement within them, is required to preserve the 513th species of primate known to humans.
Publication Zoological Research

A small archipelago in the south Atlantic has created one of the world’s biggest marine reserves. Tristan da Cunha, a UK overseas territory 1,700 miles west of Cape Town, has declared almost 700,000km2 of its waters as a no-take zone, preserving the habitat of seabirds, whales, sharks, seals and a host of other marine life. Sustainable fishing areas have been drawn up around two of the islands, home to a population of 245 people. The no-take zone is the fourth-largest on the planet.

James Glass, Tristan da Cunha chief islander, said: “Today we’re delighted to announce our Marine Protection Zone, exactly 25 years after we declared Gough Island in the Tristan group a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

“Our life on Tristan da Cunha has always been based around our relationship with the sea, and that continues today. The Tristan community is deeply committed to conservation: on land, we’ve already declared protected status for more than half our territory. But the sea is our vital resource, for our economy and ultimately for our long-term survival. That’s why we’re fully protecting 90 per cent of our waters – and we’re proud that we can play a key role in preserving the health of the oceans.”
Source tristandc.com

Monitoring populations of species lacking in distinctive markings or whose appearance can change considerably throughout the year is a major conservation challenge. The grizzly bear is one animal that checks both boxes, but a team from the University of Victoria in Canada may have come up with a solution – facial recognition. Their open-source application BearID has been shown to detect grizzly faces with average precision of 0.98, and the ability to identify an individual bear with 84 per cent accuracy.

A grizzly bear – but which one? (Pixabay)

Although further development is required, the technology has many potential applications across the conservation field, including population assessments, analysing the efficacy of conservation efforts and identifying individual animals.
Publication Ecology and Evolution

Mangrove forests have long been known as a source of rich biodiversity and a natural barrier that protect coastal communities from storms. However, these key ecosystems are facing a ‘triple threat’ according to new research – sea-level rise, decreasing mud flow and squeezed habitats.

The study highlights that not only are forests at risk of rising sea levels as a result of climate change, but the proliferation of dams has restricted mud flow that would naturally raise mangrove soils – while development of coastal regions is further restricting their ability to adapt by preventing a landward retreat.

Mangrove forests are rich in biodiversity (Satdeep Gill)

Co-author Dr Christian Schwarz, environmental scientist at the University of Delaware, said: “The loss of mangrove species will have dramatic ecological and economic implications, but fortunately there are ways to help safeguard these ecosystems. 

“It is essential to secure or restore mud delivery to coasts to counter negative effects of sea-level rise. For coasts where mud supply remains limited, removal of barriers that obstruct inland migration is of utmost importance to avoid loss of mangrove forests and biodiversity.”

Mangrove forests, which are found on tropical and subtropical shorelines, provide vital ecosystem services – including significant carbon sequestration and extensive habitat for myriad species.
Publication Environmental Research Letters

Chester Zoo’s latest arrival, an eastern black rhino calf (Chester Zoo)

Chester Zoo welcomed the birth of an eastern black rhino calf on Friday, November 13 – a boon to the species which numbers fewer than 1,000 globally. The long-awaited moment was captured on CCTV as 17-year-old Ema Elsa, who arrived at the zoo in 2005, gave birth after her 15-month pregnancy. The calf, a female, was on her feet and suckling within ten minutes.

The breeding of eastern black rhinos in zoos is seen as vital to continuation of the subspecies, which is classified as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List due to poaching for their horns. Last year the zoo played a major role in the reintroduction of eastern black rhinos to Rwanda.

Ema Elsa and her calf (Chester Zoo)

Andrew McKenzie, team manager of rhinos at Chester Zoo, said: “The whole team here is overjoyed. Mum and calf have bonded wonderfully and have been showing us all of the right signs. These rhinos have been pushed to the very edge of existence and every single addition to the European endangered species breeding programme is celebrated globally. It’s sadly no exaggeration to say that it’s entirely possible that we could lose them forever within our lifetime and the world’s most progressive zoos are very much part of the fight to prevent their extinction.”

Watch the calf’s arrival and first steps on Facebook.
Source Chester Zoo

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