Last week proved to be big news for two endangered animals. A nearly extinct primate was discovered in a remote part of the world and endangered pygmy rabbits gave birth to babies in the wild for the first time in a decade.
Scientists with Conservation International made a remarkable discovery when they found 455 northern white-cheeked gibbons living in a remote portion of a forest inside Vietnam’s Pu Mat national park. It is the largest known remaining population of the critically endangered primate.
The gibbons were identified through “auditory surveying,” a technique that uses the “species loud morning calls” for identification. CI confirmed 130 separate groups (455 animals in total) living in the area which borders Laos.
Gibbons are on the brink of extinction throughout the world due to loss of habitat and hunters who sell their body parts for its alleged medical value.
Gibbons are called the most “romantic primates” because they mate for life and “serenade their partners with song.”
Ben Rawson, regional primate expert for Conservation International, who led the gibbon research project, said in a press release, “We are extremely excited about this discovery. Pu Mat was already important for its great diversity of species and for its benefits to the surrounding communities, and now it is a top priority for global gibbon conservation.”
The Second Discovery
Conservationists in Washington State declared their own victory for another endangered animal last week. At least one Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit, a species that numbered only 16 in 2002, successfully gave birth to three wild-born kits.
Researcher Penny Becker found the litter of tennis sized balls of fur. Columbia Basin pygmy rabbits are the smallest rabbits in North America, weighing only one-pound when they are fully grown.
The Oregon Zoo and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife were thrilled with the discovery. They have been working on the recovery program for ten years. Currently the zoo breeds the rabbits, but none have been born in the wild.
In 2007, 20 rabbits were released into the Sagebrush Flat Wildlife Area, but only one rabbit survived the first reintroduction process and that animal had to be returned to the zoo.
Oregon Live reported the rabbits died from various diseases and being hunted by predators.
Scientists learned from their mistakes and this year built protective burrows for the rabbits and released them later in the year. More than 100 healthy rabbits were returned to their natural habitat. The discovery of the newborns was very encouraging.
“They’re healthy and surviving well enough to have kits,” said David Shepherdson, the zoo’s biologist. “Those have to grow up and breed next year, so this is the first step …in having a self-sustaining wild population.”
Photo fromWhittaker via flickr.
Photo fromusfwspacificr via flickr.