Eurasian otter in Britain. The Japanese river otter was a subspecies of the Eurasian. Photo by: Catherine Trigg.
Japan’s Ministry of the Environment today declared the Japanese river otter (Lutra lutra whiteleyi) extinct. Last seen in 1979 in the city of Susaki on the island of Shikoku, the unique subspecies was killed-off by overhunting and loss of habitat due to development.
The extinction of the Japanese river otter represents another loss in Japan’s endemic mammal. Already the nation has seen the extinction two wolves, two bats, and a sea lion: the Honshu wolf (Canis lupus hodophilax) and the Hokkaidō wolf (Canis lupus hattai); Sturdee’s pipistrelle (Pipistrellus sturdeei) and the Okinawa flying fox (Pteropus loochoensis); and the Japanese sea lion (Zalophus californianus japonicus).
Up until the Twentieth Century, the Japanese river otter was common in rivers across the country, feeding on fish and shrimp. Several expeditions to discover the mammal were undertaken in the 1990s. Yoshihiko Machida, a researcher at Kochi University, told The Japan Daily Press that he believes the animal may still survive based on scat found in 1999.
(08/14/2012) Since 1898 North America has lost at least 39 species of freshwater fish, according to a new study in Bioscience, and an additional 18 subspecies. Moreover, the loss of freshwater fish on the continent seems to be increasing, as the rate jumped by 25 percent since 1989, though even this data may be low.
(07/12/2012) Once habitat is lost or degraded, a species doesn’t just wink out of existence: it takes time, often several generations, before a species vanishes for good. A new study in Science investigates this process, called “extinction debt”, in the Brazilian Amazon and finds that 80-90 percent of the predicted extinctions of birds, amphibians, and mammals have not yet occurred. But, unless urgent action is taken, the debt will be collected, and these species will vanish for good in the next few decades.
(07/10/2012) It’s slithery, brown, and doesn’t mind being picked up: meet the Saint Lucia racer (Liophis ornatus), which holds the dubious honor of being the world’s most endangered snake. A five month extensive survey found just 18 animals on a small islet off of the Caribbean Island of Saint Lucia. The snake had once been abundant on Saint Lucia, as well, but was decimated by invasive mongooses. For nearly 40 years the snake was thought to be extinct until in 1973 a single snake was found on the Maria Major Island, a 12-hectare (30 acre) protected islet, a mile off the coast of Saint Lucia (see map below).
(06/29/2012) With the death of Lonesome George, the world lost the last member of a subspecies and Ecuador its greatest symbol of the Galapagos Islands, but Fausto Llerena lost his best friend.
(06/28/2012) Nearly 250 species have been added to the threatened categories—i.e. Vulnerable, Endangered, and Critically Endangered—in this year’s update of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List. The 247 additions—including sixty bird species—pushes the number of threatened species globally perilously close to 20,000. However to date the Red List has only assessed 4 percent of the world’s known species; for the other 96 percent, scientists simply don’t know how they are faring.