Latino Conservation Action Week

Latino Conservation Action Week: Disfrutando y Conservando Nuestra Tierra, hosted by the Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF), is in full swing today as a whitewater rafting trip in Browns Canyon in Colorado continues and tonight storytellers from Latino Outdoors bring their experiences in Yosemite and other National Parks to life.

Photo:   Latino Outdoors held an outing at Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge.  Credit: Latino Outdoors

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New Report on Prairie Potholes Announced

During the last Ice Age over 12,000 years ago, the glaciers retreated and carved indentations into parts of the Great Plains, mostly the Dakotas, Minnesota and parts of Montana and Iowa. These poorly drained and frequently flooded depressions were called potholes. And since they were surrounded by a sea of tallgrass prairies, they became known as prairie potholes.

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Photo:  Prairie potholes (USFWS)

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A Butterfly Back From The Brink

USFWS Emergency Order Helps Bring Schaus’ Swallowtail Butterly Back from the Brink;  Only Four Adults Were Seen in Wild During 2012 Season

By Ken Warren, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

The release of eight Schaus’ swallowtail butterflies back into the wild at Biscayne National Park (BNP) June 8 is potentially great news for a species that only two years ago was seemingly on the brink of extinction.

Photo: A Schaus’ swallowtail butterfly gets its bearings on Elsa Alvear’s fingertips seconds before flying away. (Ken Warren/USFWS)

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Venus Flytrap Poaching

By: Claire Hood/USFWS

This blog post represents the second post in a series on the illegal poaching of native species in the United States. Check out the first post on California Redwood burl poaching  and stayed tuned for a third post in the weeks to come.

A year ago, in May 2013, the head horticulturalist at a North Carolina plant garden arrived at work to find over a thousand holes in the ground.

Photo: Venus flytrap (Mystuart/Creative Commons)

The day before each hole had contained a Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) plant, a rare species of carnivorous plant that grows only in a certain region of North and South Carolina.  The poachers had taken nearly 90% of the garden’s Venus flytraps with the intention of selling them illegally for $10 to $40 each. With these prices, the poachers likely pocketed over $20,000 from the sale of these unusual plants.

A year later, poaching of carnivorous plants continues as three people were arrested in April for the illegal harvest of hundreds of Venus flytraps in North Carolina.  In fact, poaching of plants has increased over the last three years. While it has been a concern for North Carolina for over 25 years, the illegal harvest of these rare plants has reached epidemic levels as they increase in value and illegal markets flourish.

Photo: Pitcher plant (EW Connor/Creative Commons)

As a carnivorous plant, the Venus flytrap catches insects and spiders in its leaves, which snap shut and trap whatever is inside.  The food is then slowly dissolved and absorbed by the plant. Venus flytrap plants are being poached for their novelty as a carnivorous plant that can be grown indoors.   Sadly, however, Venus flytraps do not make good houseplants because of their very specific growing and food requirements.

With only an estimated 35,000 plants in the wild, large-scale poaching of Venus flytraps presents a serious threat to the species’ survival. Legal consequences are paltry for plant poachers; in North Carolina poachers face a misdemeanor and small fine. However, the recent surge in Venus flytrap theft has led local lawmakers to work on enacting stronger laws to protect the species and prosecute poachers. A North Carolina representative is working to pass a bill to make poaching of Venus flytrap plants a felony. Towns near the remaining wild plants have also sprung to action; school groups have organized mass replantings, and locals are working to raise money for Venus flytrap conservation. While poaching is a serious threat to this species, these local efforts give hope that communities will rally together to ensure the species’ long term survival.

Photo: Sundews (Blue Ridge Kitties/Creative Commons)

The Venus flytrap is listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which regulates the international trade of animal and plant species and ensure that this trade is not detrimental to the survival of wild populations. In addition, several other species of carnivorous plants are protected under the Endangered Species Act and also listed in the Appendices of CITES. For more information on carnivorous plants in the United States, see the Botanical Society of America’s Carnivorous and Insectivorous Plants pages.

Wetlands Around the World!

May is Wetlands month and we are celebrating wetlands all over the world!

Pantanal (Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay)The Pantanal is one of the largest preserved wetlands areas in the entire world, covering a total area of 150,000km2. Its complex system of marshlands, floodplains, lagoons and interconnected drainage lines is home to over 658 species of birds, 190 mammals, 50 reptiles, 270 fish species and a truly outstanding 1,132 species of butterflies.

Camargue (France) This place definitely has a certain je ne sais quoi! The Camargue encompasses the Rhone River delta in the southeast of France. Approximately a third of the Camargue is either lakes or marshland. It is one of the best places in Europe for bird watching, and its brine ponds provide one of the few European habitats for the greater flamingo. It is also famous for the Camargue bull and the Camargue horse.

Everglades (USA) The Everglades is one of the world’s only rain-fed flooded grasslands on limestone and North America’s most extensive flooded grassland. These wetlands are part of nature’s most efficient water treatment systems: plants filter pollutants out of the slow-moving water, delivering cleaner water to the Florida Bay, the Florida Keys and nearby coral reefs.

Photo: Great egret (Rodney Cammauf/NPS)

Kakadu Wetlands( Australia) Kakadu National Park is a diverse park about half the size of Switzerland located in the Northern Territory of Australia. The freshwater and saltwater crocodiles sleep on the banks of the many rivers and billabongs for most of the day but can also be seen floating or swimming in the water. One of Kakadu’s best known landmarks is the Yellow Water billabong. Located near the small settlement of Cooinda, Yellow Water is home to crocodiles, wild horses, buffalo and other wildlife. The billabong, which floods to join other waterways during the tropical season, also attracts millions of migratory birds each year.

Sundarbans (Bangladesh)The Sundarbans is the largest mangrove forest in the world. Sundarbans means ‘beautiful forests’, but the region may also have been named after the large number of Sundari trees that grow in the salty coastal waters. This area is definitely fit for royalty as it is home to possibly the largest population of Royal Bengal tigers in the world.

Photo: Mangroves (National Park Service)

Poaching The Titans

By: Claire Hood/USFWS

This blog post represents the first post in a series on the illegal poaching of native species in the United States. Stay tuned over the next couple of weeks for more stories highlighting this important conservation issue.

In northern California, there exists a collection of trees referred to as the Grove of Titans. Within it are some of the largest redwood trees in the world, trees so large they have earned monikers like the Lost Monarch and Del Norte Titan.

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Photo: Redwood stand (Justin Brown/Creative Commons)

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