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News articles on herps
Mongabay.com news articles on herps in blog format. Updated regularly.
(07/26/2011) One day this baby Nile crocodile could reach 20 feet (6 meters) long. Nile crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus) range throughout sub-Saharan Africa and even make their home on the island of Madagascar.
Picture of the day: unusually blue animals
(07/21/2011) Following up on yesterday's post on the spectacular blue anole from the Colombian island of Gorgona, here is a small collection of pure blue animals I've photographed. Birds and fish are excluded from the list since there are many blue species.
Animal picture of the day: the world's most blue lizard?
(07/20/2011) The blue anole is one of the world's most spectacular reptiles. Found only on the island of Gorgona, the blue anole is so elusive and rare that scientists have been unable to give an estimate of its population. However it is considered threatened due to its dependence on its small island habitat.
Blue iguana back from the dead
(07/18/2011) The blue iguana (Cyclura lewisi) was once king of the Caribbean Island, Grand Cayman. Weighting in at 25 pounds, measuring over 5 feet, and living for over sixty years, nothing could touch this regal lizard. But then the unthinkable happened: cars, cats, and dogs, along with habitat destruction, dethroned Grand Cayman's reptilian overlord. The lizard went from an abundant population that roamed the island freely to practically assured extinction. In 2002, researchers estimated that two dozen—at best—survived in the wild. Despite the bleak number, conservationists started a last ditch effort to save the species. With help from local and international NGOs, the effort, dubbed the Blue Iguana Recovery Program, has achieved a rarity in conservation. Within nine years it has raised the population of blue iguanas by twenty times: today 500 wild blue iguanas roam Salina Reserve.
Animal photo of the day: the brilliant Red-eyed Tree Frog
(07/16/2011) The red-eyed tree frog (Agalychnis callidryas) is one of the most colorful and best-known tree frogs.
Brainy lizards rival birds in intelligence
(07/13/2011) Reptiles have long been thought to be dim-witted, but a new study in Biology Letters finds that the Puerto Rican anole, a type of lizard, can match birds in smarts. Using cognitive tests that have been previously used on birds, researchers with Duke University found that the lizards were capable of solving a problem they've never encountered before, remembering the solution in future trials, and even changing techniques when presented with new challenges. In fact, the tiny anoles solved the test with fewer tries than birds. Given reptiles' reputation of being slow-on-the uptake the head author, Manuel Leal, said the findings are 'completely unexpected'.
Endangered Madagascar wildlife on sale in Thailand
(06/19/2011) Conservation group TRAFFIC uncovered nearly 600 Madagascar reptiles and amphibians on sale in Thai markets, including endangered species and those banned for sale by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The animals, representing 24 reptiles species and 9 amphibians, are being sold for the international pet trade. "We know there is a significant ongoing illegal trade in protected species from Madagascar, mainly destined for Asia, which has been exacerbated by the current political situation in the country leading to weaker enforcement of existing laws and safeguarding of protected areas," says Richard Hughes, WWF’s Representative in Madagascar.
Over 900 species added to endangered list during past year
(06/16/2011) The past twelve months have seen 914 species added to the threatened list by the world's authority of species endangerment, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)'s Red List. Over 19,000 species are now classified in one of three threatened categories, i.e. Vulnerable, Endangered, and Critically Endangered, a jump of 8,219 species since 2000. Species are added to the threatened list for a variety of reasons: for many this year was the first time they were evaluated, for others new information was discovered about their plight, and for some their situation in the wild simply deteriorated. While scientists have described nearly 2 million species, the IUCN Red List has evaluated only around 3 percent of these.
Photos: 600 new species discovered in Madagascar since 1999
(06/06/2011) More than 600 species of plants and animals have been described in Madagascar over the past decade, reiterating the position of Indian Ocean island as one of the world's top biodiversity hotspots, says a new report issued today by WWF.
Traditional Chinese medicine trade takes toll on Indonesia's geckos
(06/01/2011) The call of the tokek, or gecko, is one of the most familiar sounds in Indonesia. Next to the smell of clove cigarettes, the calls to prayer, the friendly smiles and the ferocious afternoon rainstorms, it stands as one of the most easily identifiable characteristics of the country.
World's 'most social' lizard builds multigenerational homes
(05/31/2011) Researchers from Macquarie University in Australia have discovered that the threatened great desert burrowing skink lizard forms stable families that construct and maintain elaborate underground homes, reports ABC News. This is the first lizard in the world known to practice such familial behavior. Native to central Australia, researchers are conducting studies on the great desert skink (Liopholis kintorei) at Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park, where rangers monitor the threatened species. Over 5,000 species of lizard have been documented globally, but only the Uluru skinks live together in immediate and social families that invest in the construction of long-lasting homes.
Amphibian-plague strikes frogs harder in pristine ecosystems
(05/31/2011) Frog populations worldwide are facing two apocalypses: habitat destruction and a lethal plague, known as chytridiomycosis. Over 30 percent of the world's amphibians are currently threatened with extinction and it is thought at least 120 species have gone extinct in just the last 30 years. Unfortunately, a new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) finds that the two threats—habitat loss and chytridiomycosis—are likely to leave no frog population undisturbed. According to the study, frogs that live in still-pristine habitats are more susceptible to chytridiomycosis than those that are already suffering from habitat loss.
Photos: the top ten new species discovered in 2010
(05/23/2011) If we had to characterize our understanding of life on Earth as either ignorant or knowledgeable, the former would be most correct. In 250 years of rigorous taxonomic work researchers have cataloged nearly two million species, however scientists estimate the total number of species on Earth is at least five million and perhaps up to a hundred million. This means every year thousands of new species are discovered by researchers, and from these thousands, the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University selects ten especially notable new species.
North America's tiniest turtle vanishing
(05/12/2011) Despite decades of conservation work, populations of North America's smallest turtle, the bog turtle (Glyptemys muhlenbergii), is continuing to decline. Habitat destruction, invasive plants, road-kill, and the illegal pet trade have all played a role in the bog turtle historic decline, but researchers are now reporting increased mortalities across bog turtle populations, bringing fears of disease or an as-yet-unnamed environmental issue.
Cambodia's wildlife pioneer: saving species and places in Southeast Asia's last forest
(05/11/2011) Suwanna Gauntlett has dedicated her life to protecting rainforests and wildlife in some of the world’s most hostile and rugged environments and has set the trend of a new generation of direct action conservationists. She has designed, implemented, and supported bold, front-line conservation programs to save endangered wildlife populations from the brink of extinction, including saving the Amur Tiger (also known as the Siberian Tiger) from extinction in the 1990s in the Russian Far East, when only about 80 individuals remained and reversing the drastic decline of Olive Ridley sea turtles along the coast of Orissa, India in the 1990s, when annual nestings had declined from 600,000 to a mere 8,130. When she first arrived in Cambodia in the late 1990s, its forests were silent. 'You couldn’t hear any birds, you couldn’t hear any wildlife and you could hardly see any signs of wildlife because of the destruction,' Gauntlett said. Wildlife was being sold everywhere, in restaurants, on the street, and even her local beauty parlor had a bear.
No limbs or sight needed: bizarre new lizard uncovered in Cambodia
(05/09/2011) A new species of legless lizard has been discovered in Cambodia. Herpetologist Neang Thy uncovered, literally, the new species when he turned over a log in the species-rich Cardamom Mountains. While the new lizard looks like a snake or a big earthworm, it is in fact a lizard belong to the Dibamidae family. These bizarre reptiles spend much of their lives burrowing underground for insects, which has allowed them to lose the need for limbs.
Over a thousand geckos freed from criminal taxi
(05/08/2011) Over a thousand tokay geckos (Gekko gecko) were found in a single trunk of a taxi by the Wildlife Rapid Response Team (WRRT), forestry officials, and military police in Cambodia. WRRT is wildlife-crimes program run by Wildlife Alliance. Boxes filled the taxi’s trunk. In the boxes were bags stuffed with 1,027 tokay geckos, of which nineteen had perished.
Frog pictures for Save the Frogs Day
(04/29/2011) To raise awareness of the plight of amphibians, in 2009 biologist Kerry Kriger declared April 28th "Save the Frogs Day". This year the event focuses on Atrazine, a commonly used pesticide which triggers reproductive problems in frogs and humans. Atrazine is used primarily on corn. In recognition of Save the Frogs Day, here is a collection of frog photos taken Mongabay.com's Rhett Butler.
Scientists scramble to save dying amphibians
(04/28/2011) In forests, ponds, swamps, and other ecosystems around the world, amphibians are dying at rates never before observed. The reasons are many: habitat destruction, pollution from pesticides, climate change, invasive species, and the emergence of a deadly and infectious fungal disease. More than 200 species have gone silent, while scientists estimate one third of the more than 6,500 known species are at risk of extinction. Conservationists have set up an an emergency conservation measure to capture wild frogs from infected areas and safeguard them in captivity until the disease is controlled or at least better understood. The frogs will be bred in captivity as an insurance policy against extinction.
Save the Frogs Day focuses on banning Atrazine in US
(04/26/2011) This year's Save the Frogs Day (Friday, April 29th) is focusing on a campaign to ban the herbicide Atrazine in the US with a rally at the steps of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Kerry Kriger, executive director of frog-focused NGO Save the Frogs! and creator of Save the Frogs Day, says that Atrazine is an important target in the attempt to save amphibians worldwide, which are currently facing extinction rates that are estimated at 200 times the average. "Atrazine weakens amphibians' immune systems, and can cause hermaphroditism and complete sex reversal in male frogs at concentrations as low as 2.5 parts per billion," Kriger told mongabay.com.
Customs officials confiscate over a thousand monitor lizards headed to China
(04/11/2011) Thai Customs officials have confiscated 1,800 Bengal monitor lizards on the border between Thailand and Malaysia, reports the AFP. Officials said the lizards were likely headed to China for consumption.
Escaped Bronx Zoo cobra found! (picture)
(03/31/2011) The missing Bronx Zoo cobra that caused consternation among some New York residents while becoming a pop culture icon has been found after a thorough search of the zoo's Reptile House.
Photo: new vipers discovered in Asia's rainforests
(03/30/2011) Researchers have discovered two new species of pitviper in Southeast Asia. After collecting snakes throughout the Asian tropics—Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia—researchers were able to parse out a more complex set of species than had been recognized. One of the new vipers has been dubbed Cryptelytrops rubeus for its ruby-colored eyes.
New population of nearly extinct Madagascar chameleon discovered
(03/01/2011) Scientists have discovered a new population of the Belalanda chameleon (Furcifer belalandaensis), boosting hope for one of Madagascar's rarest chameleons.
Top 25 most endangered turtles: Asian species in crisis
(02/23/2011) Surviving hundreds of millions of years on Earth have not saved turtles from facing extinction at human hands. A new report by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Turtle Conservation Coalition, identifies the world's 25 most imperiled turtles, including one that is practically assured extinction: 'Lonesome George' the last Abdington Island tortoise in the world. The list includes four turtle species from South and Central America, three from Africa, and one from Australia. But Asia is the hotbed for turtles in trouble with 17 of the top 25 species, or 68%. The numbers are even more alarming if one looks only at the top ten: eight of the top ten are in Asia, and six of these in China.
Photos: new super tiny frogs discovered in Sri Lanka, one critically endangered
(02/09/2011) Two new incredibly small frogs have been discovered in Sri Lanka, an island nation off India with at least 100 species of frogs. The new frogs are in the genus Pseudophilautus, which are shrub frogs native either to Sri Lanka or India. One of the new species, dubbed Pseudophilautus hankeni, survives only in high mountain forests, and will likely be classified as Critically Endangered. "These species were discovered as a part of a broad amphibian survey that we carried out about 10 years ago in Sri Lanka. In that survey we discovered nearly 100 new species new to science. We are in the process of describing them now," explained Dr. Madhava Meegaskumbura, who participated in the frogs' discovery and formal description, to mongabay.com.
New Caledonia's forests are second most threatened in the world, not New Zealand's
(02/06/2011) On February 2nd, Conservation International (CI) released a list of the world's top 10 most threatened forest hotspots. The original press release incorrectly named New Zealand as number two, when in fact it is the island of New Caledonia and the surrounding East Melanesian islands.
Pictures: 6 'lost' frog species discovered in Haiti
(01/12/2011) On the eve of the anniversary of last year's destructive earthquake, scientists have announced a bit of positive news out of Haiti: the rediscovery of six species of frogs.
Wildlife crime goes largely unpunished in Indonesia
(01/10/2011) Indonesia is famed for its wildlife diversity. Straddling the contact zone between Asia and Australia, evolution has created some of the earth’s most remarkable species here. Think babirusa , Komodo dragon, orangutan and birds of paradise, and you get the picture. Indonesia is famed for its wildlife diversity. Straddling the contact zone between Asia and Australia, evolution has created some of the earth's most remarkable species here. Think babirusa, Komodo dragon, orangutan and birds of paradise, and you get the picture. Most of us also know that Indonesia has a major problem maintaining this diversity through effective conservation programs. Not a day goes by without Indonesia appearing somewhere in the world’s media with a negative story on how it is managing its wildlife.
Malaysian customs seizes 1,800 trafficked reptiles
(01/04/2011) Malaysia ended 2010 with the confiscation of 4.3 metric tons of reptiles near the Thai border on December 20th, reports the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network, TRAFFIC. The confiscation was the largest of the year and consisted of over 1,800 monitor lizards, snakes, freshwater turtles, and tortoises.
Pictures: 'Mr. Burns' frog discovered in Colombia along with 2 other new species
(11/15/2010) Three previously undocumented species of frog have been discovered in Colombia, reports Conservation International.
Thousands of marine turtles slaughtered in Madagascar for food
(11/14/2010) Over 10,000 marine turtles are being killed in one region of Madagascar for food every year, according to a new study in Animal Conservation. Although fishing for marine turtles is illegal, it has not stopped local artisanal fishermen from pursuing four different endangered marine turtle species. "We conducted this study because we know this small-scale, artisanal fishing is going on despite it being illegal to catch turtles under Malagasy law," Annette Broderick, from the Center for Ecology and Conservation (Cornwall) at the University of Exeter, said in a press release. "Because turtles are an endangered species, it's important for us to know what's going on in the region so we can work with the local community to find a sustainable way forward."
The unruly evolution of island life
(11/09/2010) From the terrifying Komodo dragon to the diminutive hobbit Homo floresiensis, islands are home to some remarkable curiosities of size. Despite the fame of giant lizards and pygmy humans, a longstanding tenet of evolutionary biology suggests that the size of island animals moves towards the middle of the pack. A study published on 1 September in the Journal of Biogeography explores these two seemingly contradictory notions and finds that neither is a perfect explanation.
Wildlife trafficker gets 5 years in Malaysian prison
(11/04/2010) A Malaysian court sentenced notorious wildlife trafficker Anson Wong to five years in jail, reports The Star.
Biological shocker: snake reproduces asexually
(11/03/2010) Researchers have discovered a biological shocker: female boa constrictors are capable of giving birth asexually. But the surprise doesn't end there. The study in Biology Letters found that boa babies produced through this asexual reproduction—also known as parthenogenesis—sport a chromosomal oddity that researchers thought was impossible in reptiles.
Undercover for animals: on the frontline of wildlife crime in the US
(11/03/2010) Special Agent O’Connor is a veteran wildlife law enforcement officer, with over 20 years of service under belt. She began her career in wildlife law enforcement as a Conservation Police Officer for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, where she served for eight years. She then moved to federal wildlife law enforcement with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, where she was first posted to Ann Arbor, Michigan, and then to St. Paul, Minnesota. During that time, she investigated several major cases that led to felony convictions for violations of wildlife laws. She now serves as a training officer at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC), the interagency law enforcement training organization that serves 88 Federal agencies, in Georgia.
World's rarest snake making a comeback
(11/02/2010) The Antiguan racer (Alsophis antiguae) shares a similar story with many highly endangered island species. Invasive mongoose killed every racer on the Caribbean island of Antigua, leaving only a small population on nearby Great Bird Island. Confined to 8 hectares, this final population was being killed-off by invasive Eurasian black rats. By the time conservationists took action, only 50 Antiguan racers survived in the world. But here's where the story turns out different: 15 years later, a partnership between six conservation groups has succeeded in raising the population tenfold to 500 snakes and expanded its territory to other islands through snake-reintroductions.
The march to extinction accelerates
(10/26/2010) A fifth of the world's vertebrate species (i.e. mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish) are threatened with extinction, according to a massive new study by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN); and the situation is worsening for the world's wildlife: on average 52 species of mammals, birds, and amphibians move one category closer to extinction every year (the IUCN Red List categorizes species as Least Concern, Near Threatened, Vulnerable, Endangered, Critically Endangered, Extinct in the Wild, and then Extinct). However, the news isn't all bad. The study found that conservation action does work: in the first analysis of its kind, researchers found that the global biodiversity decline would have been 18% worse if not for conservation attention, "nonetheless," the authors—174 scientists from 38 countries—write, "current conservation efforts remain insufficient to offset the main drivers of biodiversity loss." According to the study, these drivers include agricultural expansion, logging, over-exploitation of species, and invasive species.
Life shocker: new species discovered every three days in the Amazon
(10/26/2010) A new report by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) confirms the Amazon rainforest, even as it is shrinking due to deforestation, remains among the world's most surprising places. According to the report, Amazon Alive, over the past decade (1999-2009) researchers have found 1,200 new species in the Amazon: one new species for every three days. Not surprisingly invertebrates, including insects, made up the bulk of new discoveries. But no type of species was left out: from 1999-2009 researchers discovered 637 new plants, 357 fish, 216 amphibians, 55 reptiles, 39 mammals, and 16 new birds. In new discoveries over the past decade, the Amazon has beaten out a number of high-biodiversity contenders including Borneo, the Eastern Himalayas, and the Congo rainforest.
Elephant tromping benefits frogs and lizards
(10/25/2010) While elephants may appear destructive when they pull down trees, tear up grasses or stir up soils, their impacts actually make space for the little guys: frogs and reptiles. The BBC reports that a new study in African Journal of Ecology finds that African bush elephants (Loxodonta Africana), facilitate herpetofauna (i.e. amphibians and reptiles) biodiversity when they act as ecosystem engineers.
Photos: ants take top prize at Veolia Wildlife Environment Photography contest
(10/21/2010) An image of nocturnal ant silhouettes systematically devouring a leaf in Costa Rica has given Hungarian photographer, Bence Máté, the much-coveted Veolia Wildlife Environment Photographer of the Year award. In addition to being named Photographer of the year, Máté also won the Erik Hosking award, given to a young photographer (ages 18-26) for a portfolio of images, for images taken in Costa Rica, Brazil, and Hungary.
Photos: three new forest frogs discovered in Tanzania
(10/19/2010) Africa's most biodiverse nation, Tanzania, has added a few more species to its dockets. Researchers have discovered three new amphibians in the always surprising Eastern Arc Mountains, a region which has supplied a number of new species recently. All three new species are members of the frog genus Callulina. Described in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society the researchers warn that all three of the new frogs are confined to small habitats threatened by deforestation and firewood collection.
Photos: 200 new species discovered in 60-day expedition in New Guinea
(10/06/2010) A 2009 expedition to Papua New Guinea proves once again that the island-nation is as diverse in life as it is in human cultures. It took researchers with Conservation International (CI) and the local Institute for Biological Research (IBR) just two months to uncover a startling 200 new species: averaging more than 3 a day in the remote Nakanai Mountains and Muller Range rising from the island of New Britain, a part of Papua New Guinea. Half of the new species were spiders, but the team also found two new mammals, nine new plants, two dozen frogs, and multitude of insects. Most surprising was the discovery of at least two species so unique that they are likely to be assigned their own genus.
Wildlife permits revoked for 'Snakes on a Plane' animal trafficker in Malaysia
(10/02/2010) Wildlife smuggler Anson Wong and his wife Cheah Bing Shee had their business licenses and wildlife permits revoked after the notorious trafficker was convicted of attempting to illegally take nearly 100 snakes out of Malaysia, reports the Star.
1000 rare tortoises poached each week in Madagascar
(09/30/2010) One thousand endangered tortoises are being illegally collected each week in southern Madagascar, reports WWF.
Stunning toxic frog protected as a result of drug trafficking conflict
(09/29/2010) A spectacular poison dart frog on the edge of extinction in the wild has been afforded temporary protection by warring drug gangs in Colombia's Chocó region, reports ProAves. The La Brea Poison Frog (Oophaga occultator), a colorful species only documented by scientists in 1975, has suffered from unsustainable collection for the pet trade, severe deforestation for coca cultivation, and aerial spraying for coca eradication, resulting in a substantial population decline. But the species has clung to life in a deforested landscape along the Saija River in Colombian Pacific coast in part due to conflict between three armed groups which has kept collectors out of the area.
U.S. government bombs Guam with frozen mice to kill snakes
(09/28/2010) In a spectacularly creative effort to rid the island of Guam of an invasive species, the US Department of Agriculture is planning to 'bomb' the rainforests with dead frozen mice laced with acetaminophen. The mice-bombs are meant to target the brown tree snake, an invasive species which has ravaged local wildlife, and angered local residents, since arriving in the 1940s.
Photos: 'Lost amphibian' search makes good: three 'extinct' species rediscovered
(09/22/2010) A search for 100 of the world's 'lost amphibians'—unseen for decades and in many cases supposed extinct—have turned up three species so far, one of which hasn't been recorded since the Nazis were bombing London. The lost amphibian expeditions, formed by Conservation International (CI) and the IUCN Amphibian Specialist Group (ASG), have found surviving populations of the cave splayfoot salamander (Chiropterotriton Mosaueri) in Mexico, the Mount Nimba reed frog (Hyperolius Nimbae) in the Ivory Coast, and the Omaniundu reed frog (Hyperolius sankuruensis) from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
How the overlooked peccary engineers the Amazon, an interview with Harald Beck
(09/20/2010) When people think of the Amazon rainforest, they likely think of roaring jaguars, jumping monkeys, marching ants, and squeezing anacondas. The humble peccary would hardly be among the first animals to cross their mind, if they even know such pig-like animals exists! Yet new research on the peccary is proving just how vital these species are to the world's greatest rainforest. As seed dispersers and seed destroyers, engineers of freshwater habitats and forest gaps, peccaries play an immense, long overlooked, role in the rainforest. "Peccaries have the highest density and biomass of any Neotropical mammal species. Obviously these fellows have quite an appetite for almost anything, but primarily they consume fruits and seeds. Their specialized jaws allow them to crush very hard seeds. The cracking sounds can be heard through the thick vegetation long before we could see them. As peccary herds bulldoze through the leaf litter in search for insects, frogs, seeds, and fruits, they destroy (i.e. snap and trample) many seedlings and saplings, sometimes leaving only the bare ground behind," Harald Beck, assistant professor at Towson University in Maryland, told mongabay.com in an interview.
Photos: the world's most endangered turtles
(09/10/2010) More than 40 percent of the world's freshwater turtle species are threatened with extinction, according to a new assessment by Conservation International. Turtles are threatened primarily by hunting, habitat destruction, and the pet trade, making them among the most endangered groups of animals.
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