NANYUKI, KENYA, Tuesday, March 20th, 2018 – It is with great sadness that Ol Pejeta Conservancy and the Dvůr Králové Zoo announce that Sudan, the world’s last male northern white rhino, age 45, died at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya on March 19th, 2018 (yesterday). Sudan was being treated for age-related complications that led to degenerative changes in muscles and bones combined with extensive skin wounds. His condition worsened significantly in the last 24 hours; he was unable to stand up and was suffering a great deal. The veterinary team from the Dvůr Králové Zoo, Ol Pejeta and Kenya Wildlife Service made the decision to euthanize him.

Sudan will be remembered for his unusually memorable life. In the 1970s, he escaped extinction of his kind in the wild when he was moved to Dvůr Králové Zoo. Throughout his existence, he significantly contributed to survival of his species as he sired two females. Additionally, his genetic material was collected yesterday and provides a hope for future attempts at reproduction of northern white rhinos through advanced cellular technologies. During his final years, Sudan came back to Africa and stole the heart of many with his dignity and strength.

“We on Ol Pejeta are all saddened by Sudan’s death. He was a great ambassador for his species and will be remembered for the work he did to raise awareness globally of the plight facing not only rhinos, but also the many thousands of other species facing extinction as a result of unsustainable human activity. One day, his demise will hopefully be seen as a seminal moment for conservationists world wide,” said Richard Vigne, Ol Pejeta’s CEO.

Unfortunately, Sudan’s death leaves just two female northern white rhinos on the planet; his daughter Najin and her daughter Fatu, who remain at Ol Pejeta. The only hope for the preservation of this subspecies now lies in developing in vitro fertilisation (IVF) techniques using eggs from the two remaining females, stored northern white rhino semen from males and surrogate southern white rhino females.

How did we get to this point?
The poaching crisis of the 1970s and 80s, fueled by demand for rhino horn in Traditional Chinese Medicine in Asia and dagger handles in Yemen, wiped out the northern white rhino populations in Uganda, Central African Republic, Sudan and Chad. The last remaining wild population made up of 20-30 rhinos in Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo succumbed to fighting in the region during the 1990s and early 2000s. By 2008, the northern white rhino was considered by most experts to be extinct in the wild.

In 2009, the last four fertile northern white rhinos – two males and two females – were moved to Ol Pejeta from Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic, with support from Fauna & Flora International and the Kenya Wildlife Service. It was hoped that the climate and rich grasslands of the Conservancy, similar to the native habitat of this subspecies, would provide them with more favourable breeding conditions.

On arrival at Ol Pejeta, the four were placed under 24 hour armed surveillance, and fed a supplemented diet. However, despite the fact that they were seen mating, there were no successful pregnancies.

In early 2014, plans to introduce a male southern white rhino to the two female northern whites got underway in the hopes that if breeding were successful, the hybrid offspring would at least conserve some of the northern white genes. Again, this proved unsuccessful. Tests later revealed that neither of the females was capable of natural reproduction, and that only one was fertile enough to conceive artificially. The death of the other northern white male, Suni, of natural causes in October 2014, further emphasised the need to urgently come up with alternative solutions.

What’s next?
With options running out, scientists are attempting to develop “artificial reproductive techniques” (or ARTs), including IVF to rescue this subspecies. To that end, Ol Pejeta Conservancy and Dvůr Králové Zoo are now partnering with IZW Berlin, Avantea Cremona and the Kenya Wildlife Service to try and conduct the first-ever procedure to safely remove egg cells from remaining females, fertilize these with semen previously collected from northern white males, and insert the resulting embryos into female southern white rhinos acting as surrogates. This has never been done before in rhinos and does not come without risks.

“Sudan was the last northern white rhino that was born in the wild. His death is a cruel symbol of human disregard for nature and it saddened everyone who knew him. But we should not give up. We must take advantage of the unique situation in which cellular technologies are utilized for conservation of critically endangered species. It may sound unbelievable, but thanks to the newly developed techniques even Sudan could still have an offspring,” said Jan Stejskal, Director of International Projects at Dvůr Králové Zoo. “We will be happy for everyone who will help us in our joint effort.”

The estimated cost of IVF – from the development of the method, to trials, implantation and the creation of a viable breeding herd of northern whites – could be as much as US$ 9 million. Yet this is the hope for preserving an entire subspecies. Ol Pejeta and Dvůr Králové Zoo are asking supporters to donate towards this campaign in memory of Sudan, to help us raise the funds needed before it’s too late. Visit

“Supercolony” of Adélie Penguins Discovered in Antarctica

A pair of Adelie penguins in Antarctica.

For the past 40 years, the total number of Adélie Penguins, one of the most common on the Antarctic Peninsula, has been steadily declining—or so biologists have thought. A new study led by researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), however, is providing new insights on this species of penguin.

In a paper released on March 2nd in the journal Scientific Reports, the scientists announced the discovery of a previously unknown “supercolony” of more than 1,500,000 Adélie Penguins in the Danger Islands, a chain of remote, rocky islands off of the Antarctic Peninsula’s northern tip.

“Until recently, the Danger Islands weren’t known to be an important penguin habitat,” says co-PI Heather Lynch, Associate Professor of Ecology & Evolution at Stony Brook University.  These supercolonies have gone undetected for decades, she notes, partly because of the remoteness of the islands themselves, and partly the treacherous waters that surround them. Even in the austral summer, the nearby ocean is filled with thick sea ice, making it extremely difficult to access.

Yet in 2014, Lynch and colleague Mathew Schwaller from NASA discovered telltale guano stains in existing NASA satellite imagery of the islands, hinting at a mysteriously large number of penguins. To find out for sure, Lynch teamed with Stephanie Jenouvrier, a seabird ecologist at WHOI, Mike Polito at LSU and Tom Hart at Oxford University to arrange an expedition to the islands with the goal of counting the birds firsthand.

When the group arrived in December 2015, they found hundreds of thousands of birds nesting in the rocky soil, and immediately started to tally up their numbers by hand. The team also used a modified commercial quadcopter drone to take images of the entire island from above.

“The drone lets you fly in a grid over the island, taking pictures once per second. You can then stitch them together into a huge collage that shows the entire landmass in 2D and 3D,” says co-PI Hanumant Singh, Professor of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at Northeastern University, who developed the drone’s imaging and navigation system. Once those massive images are available, he says, his team can use neural network software to analyze them, pixel by pixel, searching for penguin nests autonomously.

The accuracy that the drone enabled was key, says Michael Polito, coauthor from Louisiana State University and a guest investigator at WHOI. The number of penguins in the Danger Islands could provide insight not just on penguin population dynamics, but also on the effects of changing temperature and sea ice on the region’s ecology.

“Not only do the Danger Islands hold the largest population of Adélie penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula, they also appear to have not suffered the population declines found along the western side of Antarctic Peninsula that are associated with recent climate change,” says Polito.

Being able to get an accurate count of the birds in this supercolony offers a valuable benchmark for future change, as well, notes Jenouvrier. “The population of Adélies on the east side of the Antarctic Peninsula is different from what we see on the west side, for example. We want to understand why. Is it linked to the extended sea ice condition over there? Food availability? That’s something we don’t know,” she says.

It will also lend valuable evidence for supporting proposed Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) near the Antarctic Peninsula, adds Mercedes Santos, from the Instituto Antártico Argentino (who is not affiliated with this study but is one of the authors of the MPA proposal) with the Commission for the Conservation of the Antarctic Marine Living Resources, an international panel that decides on the placement of MPAs. “Given that MPA proposals are based in the best available science, this publication helps to highlight the importance of this area for protection,” she says.

Also collaborating on the study: Alex Borowicz, Philip McDowall, Casey Youngflesh, Mathew Schwaller, and Rachael Herman from Stony Brook University; Thomas Sayre-McCord from WHOI and MIT; Stephen Forrest and Melissa Rider from Antarctic Resource, Inc.; Tom Hart from Oxford University; and Gemma Clucas from Southampton University. The team utilized autonomous robotics technology from Northeastern University.

Funding for this research was provided by a grant to the Wood Hole Oceanographic Institution from the Dalio Ocean Initiative. Logistical support was provided by Golden Fleece Expeditions and Quark Expeditions.

Bears tortured and forced to dance are finally rescued

Bears Rangira and Sridvei being transported to a wildlife reserve in Nepal

TORONTO, Dec. 22, 2017 /CNW/ – A dramatic rescue of two tortured sloth bears took place overnight in Nepal (19 December) by the Jane Goodall Institute of Nepal, with support from World Animal Protection and Nepali police.

These are the last two known Nepali owned, illegal ‘dancing bears’. Rangila (19 years) and Sridevi (17 years) were sold to their owner to be used as dancing bears – a cruel, outlawed practice where bears are made to ‘dance’ as entertainment for crowds of people.

Bears like Rangila and Sridevi are snatched from their mother at an early age and forced to perform. Their owner pierced their noses with a burning hot rod and shoved a rope through it – to retain control of the large animals. Harsh training methods are used to make them submissive enough to perform for tourists.

With the help of local police, the bears were found in Iharbari, Nepal via mobile phone tracking of their owners. The rescue was emotional for all involved. The bears were in an extremely distressed state; showing signs of psychological trauma such as cowering, pacing and paw sucking.

The bears are now on their way to be placed in the temporary care of Parsa National Park.

This is not the first time using bears for entertainment has been eradicated in an area and World Animal Protection has a 20-year history of working with local partners to end such cruelty. Seeing an end to bear dancing in Greece, Turkey and India, the NGO is also close to phasing out bear baiting in Pakistan.

Neil D’Cruze, World Animal Protection said:
“Rangila and Sridevi have suffered for too long in captivity since they were poached from the wild. It’s extremely distressing to see animals being stolen from the wild and the sad reality is there are more wild animals suffering across the world, purely for the entertainment of tourists. I am pleased that for these two sloth bears at least; a happy ending is finally in sight.”

Manoj Gautam, Jane Goodall Institute of Nepal says:
“We are thrilled that the last two known Nepali dancing bears have been rescued from their lifetime of suffering. After a year of tracking them, using our own intelligence and in cooperation with local police, our hard effort and dedication has helped to bring an end to this illegal tradition in Nepal.”

The suffering of bears in Asia is not over. World Animal Protection continues its campaign to protect bears across Asia, working to stop the exploitation of bears used for the horrific blood sport of bear baiting and in the cruel and unnecessary bear bile industry.

Notes to editors:

Launched in 2015, our Wildlife Not Entertainers campaign is moving the wildlife tourism industry away from cruel forms of entertainment, such as elephant rides and shows, towards positive wildlife experiences where tourists can see wild animals in the wild or true sanctuaries.

Discovery of a new great ape: The Tapanuli orangutan

Photo Credits: Maxime Aliaga

An international team of researchers*, including Professor Serge Wich from Liverpool John Moores University, have just described1 a new great ape species, the Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis), found in upland forests in North Sumatra in Indonesia. With no more than 800 individuals, this species is the most endangered great ape species.

The scientists described the new species in Current Biology, based on morphological and extensive genomic evidence. The new orangutan species, Pongo tapanuliensis, or Tapanuli orangutan, is endemic to the three Tapanuli districts of North Sumatra, Indonesia and occurs in roughly 1,100 km2 of upland forest in the Batang Toru Ecosystem.

A recent independent study2 by Indonesian and international scientists, led by the study’s co-author Professor Serge Wich, indicated that no more than 800 individuals remain in the Batang Toru Ecosystem. Conservationists have drawn attention to the fact that urgent action is required to carefully review current proposals for further developments in the area that would threaten the livelihood of the new species.

There is strong anthropogenic pressure on the Tapanuli orangutan due to conversion of pristine forest for mining, plans to build a hydro-electric dam, and general human encroachment.

Professor Serge Wich, who is based at the LJMU School of Natural Sciences and Psychology, has been involved in surveys and research on this new species since 2001 and provided ecological expertise to the study.

He commented: “It is incredibly exciting that a new orangutan species has been described and it’s a wonderful addition to Indonesia’s high biodiversity. At the same time the low number of Tapanuli orangutans in the wild indicates that there can be no complacency in terms of its conservation. If steps are not taken quickly to reduce current and future threats to conserve every last remaining bit of forest, we may see the discovery and extinction of a great ape species within our lifetime.”

This is an amazing discovery,” said head of UN Environment, Erik Solheim. “It is essential that we do everything in our power to protect the tiny numbers of this new species.”

Professor Serge Wich, who is the chair of the scientific commission of the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP), also contributed to the GRASP study 3 on sustainable forest management in Sumatra, which looked into sustainable pathways to development while keeping this important orangutan habitat intact: “If steps are not taken quickly to reduce threats to the small orangutan habitat in Batang Toru,” GRASP coordinator Dr. Johannes Refisch points out, “we may see the newly discovered species going extinct very soon.”

The steps taken to find the new apes species

“Despite nearly 50 years of orangutan research in Sumatra, the Batang Toru population was only ‘rediscovered’ in 1997, during a series of field surveys” says Professor Erik Meijaard, who carried out the initial survey south of Lake Toba looking for orangutan populations. In 2005, the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP) and other non-governmental organizations intensified previous research and conservation efforts on the orangutans in the Batang Toru Ecosystem, together with several universities, and Indonesian authorities. As a part of this effort, a research station was established in 2006 by SOCP, allowing for a more detailed look at their behavioural ecology and genetics.

It was not until 2013, however, when skeletal material from an adult male orangutan killed in a human-animal conflict became available, that SOCP’s Matthew Nowak and colleagues realized the uniqueness of the Batang Toru population. “We compared this skull to other orangutan skulls.” states Anton Nurcahyo, an Indonesian PhD student from the Australian National University. “We were completely surprised to find that the skull is quite different in some characteristics from orangutan skulls we had seen before”. While this suggested that the Batang Toru population was potentially unique, much stronger evidence was required to actually determine whether the Batang Toru orangutans were indeed a different species. This was achieved by the largest genomic study of wild orangutans to date which has been made possible by decades of data collection at most of the field sites where orangutans are studied.

“For quite some time, we had been working on genomic data to investigate the genetic structure and evolutionary history of all existing orangutan populations” say Drs Maja Mattle-Greminger and Alexander Nater, responsible for the genomic analyses at the University of Zurich. “One consistent result was that we identified three very old evolutionary lineages among all orangutans, despite only having two species currently described”.

“When we realized that Batang Toru orangutans are morphologically different from all other orangutans, the pieces of the puzzle fell into place” adds Prof. Michael Krützen from the University of Zurich and responsible for the study. “The oldest evolutionary line in the genus Pongo is actually found in Batang Toru orangutans, which appear to be direct descendants of the first Sumatran population in the Sunda archipelago.”

Extensive computer modelling carried out by Dr Nater, aimed at reconstructing the population history of orangutans, revealed that the Batang Toru population appears to have been isolated from all other Sumatran populations for at least 10-20’000 years, after which the low levels of influx of males from the northern populations had ceased. Adding additional evidence based on behavioral observations and ecological surveys from Batang Toru and other sites provided further support for the morphological and genetic findings.

*Professor Serge Wich worked alongside Professor Dr. Michael Krützen, University of Zurich, Matthew Nowak, Sumatran Orangutan Conservation, Dr Alexander Nater, University of Constance, Dr Maja Mattle-Greminger, University of Zurich, Dr Erik Meijaard, Australian National University and Anton Nurcahyo, the Australian National University for this research.


Nater, A. et al. (2017). Morphometric, behavioral, and genomic evidence for a new orangutan species. Current Biology.

Wich, S et al. (2016). Land-cover changes predict steep declines for the Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii). Science Advances 2(3), e1500789, DOI:


3 Wich et al. (2011): Orangutans and the economy of sustainable forest management in Sumatra. UNEP, PanEco, YEL, ICRAF, GRID-Arendal. ISBN 978-82-7701-095-3.

New analyses reveal elephant poaching and global ivory trafficking continue at high unsustainable levels in 2016

A record quantity of ivory may have been in illegal trade in 2016 © TRAFFIC

Geneva, Switzerland, 25th October 2017—new analyses find the elephant poaching situation in Africa and levels of global ivory trafficking remain as critical threats to the survival of Africa’s iconic pachyderms.

report published ahead of next month’s crucial meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), combines analyses of elephant mortality compiled through the CITES Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) programme with analysis of global ivory trafficking through the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) that TRAFFIC compiles on behalf of Parties to CITES. There are also updates from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) on elephant populations.

The MIKE analysis of elephant carcases across selected sites in Africa finds an incremental decline in elephant poaching for the fifth year in a row, but overall poaching still remains at levels which suggest continuing population decline. The worst affected areas are in Central and West Africa.

The situation in East Africa, however, is a bright spot. At three sites in Tanzania and one in Kenya fewer than half the number of elephant carcasses were recorded in 2016 compared to 2015. Tanzania remains the sub-region’s elephant stronghold although numbers in Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda are also stable or rising, as are some populations in southern Africa.

The ETIS analysis indicates that levels of illegal ivory transactions remained as high as in the previous six years, but also estimates that a record quantity of ivory may have been in illegal trade in 2016. This means that, even taking into account the impact of increased enforcement action, the overall quantity of ivory in illegal trade is likely now nearly three times greater than what was observed in 2007.

These record levels are partially driven by the 22 large-scale ivory seizures (>500 kg) reported in 2016—a record-number. CITES recognizes that seizures of 500 kg or more are generally considered to be indicative of the involvement of organized crime. Overall, close to 40 tonnes of ivory was seized globally during the year.

Worryingly, there is gathering evidence of ivory processing taking place within Africa to facilitate the smuggling of finished products to Asia, especially China and Hong Kong. Other findings reflect a wider shifting of ivory market dynamics, perhaps influenced by the prospect of forthcoming domestic ivory market bans in China and Hong Kong.

“Today’s findings show a volatile and unsettled ivory trade equation. A spate of positive policy changes and law enforcement actions have not yet suppressed record movements of illegal ivory, and trade patterns are shifting as traffickers struggle to find the path of least resistance to carry on,” said Tom Milliken, who manages ETIS for TRAFFIC.

“We’re not turning a corner yet on the elephant poaching crisis and it is more imperative than ever to keep up the pressure to stop the poachers and ivory traffickers by addressing emerging trade dynamics, especially ivory processing in Africa for Asian markets and the scourge of social media trading channels which currently remain beyond the reach of effective law enforcement everywhere.”

Next month, the 69th meeting of the CITES Standing Committee takes place in Geneva, where among a range of issues, Parties will discuss what progress some 20 countries have made in implementing National Ivory Action Plans they were called upon by CITES to develop.

Breeding failure of a colony of nearly 20,000 Adélie penguins highlights need for urgent protections of Antarctic waters

Adélie penguins © Y. Ropert-Couder/ CNRS/ IPEV.

  • Thousands of Adélie penguin chicks starved to death at the start of 2017 due to unusually extensive sea ice
A colony of over 18,000 pairs of Adélie penguins in Terre Adélie, Antarctica, suffered a catastrophic breeding failure at the start of 2017 with only two chicks surviving. WWF is demanding greater protections of the waters off East Antarctica next week at a crucial international meeting in Hobart, Australia where proposals for a new Marine Protected Area (MPA) will be considered.

Surviving mostly on a diet of krill, a small shrimp like crustacean, Adélie penguins are generally faring well in East Antarctica, but declining in the Antarctic peninsula region where climate change is well established. However, this significant breeding failure at this particular colony in East Antarctica has been linked to unusually extensive sea ice late in the summer, meaning the adult penguins had to travel further to forage for food for their chicks. As a result the chicks starved.

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), comprising 25 member states and the EU, are meeting on the 16th October 2017 in Hobart, where they will consider a proposal for a new Marine Protected Area (MPA) for the waters off East Antarctica. The proposal for an MPA, led by Australia and France with the EU, has been on the table at CCAMLR for eight years but has yet to be agreed.  Nevertheless, expectations are running high as last year CCAMLR adopted the Ross Sea MPA, the largest protected area in the world. An MPA would help to secure a future for the amazing wildlife and marine biodiversity of East Antarctica, including Adélie and emperor penguins.

Four years ago, the same colony which numbered 20,196 pairs at the time, failed to produce a single chick. Again heavy sea ice, combined with unusually warm weather and rain, followed by a rapid drop in temperature, resulted in many chicks becoming saturated and freezing to death.

WWF has been supporting penguin research by French scientists working for the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in the region since 2010.

Rod Downie, Head of Polar Programmes at WWF-UK, said:
“Adélie penguins are one of the hardiest and most amazing animals on our planet. This devastating event contrasts with the image that many people might have of penguins. It’s more like ‘Tarantino does Happy Feet’, with dead penguin chicks strewn across a beach in Adélie Land.

“The risk of opening up this area to exploratory krill fisheries, which would compete with the Adélie penguins for food as they recover from two catastrophic breeding failures in four years, is unthinkable. So CCAMLR needs to act now by adopting a new Marine Protected Area for the waters off East Antarctica, to protect the home of the penguins.”

The MPA proposal originally comprised seven large marine areas off the coast of East Antarctica but subsequently reduced to four. However, it is anticipated that only three of those (MacRobertson, Drygalski, and the D’Urville Sea-Mertz region, where the Petrel Island Adélie colony is located) will be adopted this year. The D’Urville Sea Mertz region in particular needs to be set aside as off limits to krill fisheries in order to protect the foraging and breeding grounds of Adélie penguins.

WWF expects the other four areas, comprising Gunnerus, Enderby, Prydz Bay, and Wilkes to be brought back in front of CCAMLR in future years.

Yan Ropert-Coudert, senior penguin scientist at the CNRS who leads the Adélie penguin programme at Dumont D’Urville research station, adjacent to the colony, said:

“The region is impacted by environmental changes that are linked to the breakup of the Mertz glacier since 2010. An MPA will not remedy these changes but it could prevent further impacts that direct anthropogenic pressures, such as tourism and proposed fisheries, could bring”.


A baby sloth born this week at the Honolulu Zoo is now on public display with its mother. The Linneaus’s two-toed sloth, also known as a southern two-toed sloth, was born on Monday afternoon, September 18. The baby sloth is too young for staff to determine its sex, so a name for the zoo’s newest arrival will be given later.

This is the third baby sloth born at the Honolulu Zoo to mother Harriet and father Quando. The two other siblings are both females. Opihi was born on April 24, 2015, and Akala was born on July 17, 2016. They are also on display with their father.

The Honolulu Zoo participates in several of the Association of Zoos & Aquarium’s Species Survival Programs, which includes the two-toed sloth. As part of the Species Survival Program, Harriet and Quando are considered a genetically valuable pair.

Sloths give birth to one offspring at a time, but do not readily breed in zoos. Two-toed sloths are nocturnal and sleep 16 to 18 hours per day, with a diet consisting of leaves and fruit. Offspring will stay with their mom for 9 to 12 months.

International protection for UK’s second largest seabird colony

Atlantic puffin

A section of Northumberland coastline supporting 200,000 seabirds gets greater protection.

The newly designated Northumberland Marine Special Protection Area (SPA) stretches 12 miles from the coastline into the North Sea, and covers an area of more than 120,000 football pitches.

It’s the most important site in the UK for Arctic, common and roseate terns, the second most important site for sandwich tern, and the third most important site for Atlantic puffin.

International designation will help ensure any disturbance to the birds’ essential open water feeding areas is minimised, so the birds have a safe space to feed in.

It builds on the protection already afforded to important breeding sites via the network of SPAs at Coquet Island, Farne Islands, Lindisfarne and Northumbria Coast. Today’s designation will help to protect the full range of habitats needed by the birds.

Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said:

We already have one of the strongest track records in the world when it comes to looking after our precious marine environment, and today’s designations will strengthen our blue-belt of protected areas while helping seabirds across the country thrive.

Andrew Sells, Natural England’s Chairman said:

This is a momentous day for a huge number of our best-loved and most charismatic seabirds, many of which have suffered population declines over recent decades.

These designations will protect vital feeding areas for seabirds along the English coast, creating safe havens to help the birds thrive for generations to come.

Chris Corrigan, Director, RSPB England said:

It is fantastic to see these special places being recognised and given the protection they so need and we hope to see more designations in the very near future.

As the UK moves closer to leaving the EU, we urge the government to continue to recognise the significance of protecting these sites, based on scientific evidence, and they continue to protect and manage these sites to the same or even higher standards than those currently secured by European law for generations to come.

Along with the new Northumberland Marine SPA, Natural England also announced extensions to Hamford Water SPA in Essex and Morecambe Bay and Duddon Estuary SPA in Cumbria.

These designations add an area of more than 150,000 football pitches (450 square miles) to the existing Marine Protected Area network. This gives international protection to feeding habitats for over 425,000 seabirds for the first time.

Further information

As an important breeding site in the UK Northumberland Marine SPA ranks:

  • top for Arctic tern (9,564 individuals), common tern (2,572) and roseate tern (160)
  • 2nd for Sandwich tern (43,24 individuals)
  • 3rd for Atlantic puffin (108,484 individuals)
  • 4th for common guillemot (65,751 individuals)
  • 11th for little tern (90 individuals)

Arctic terns make the longest annual migration of any bird species in the world – an average of 44,000 miles each year.

The new Northumberland Marine SPA covers a 41 mile stretch between Scremertson and Blyth.

The most important site for breeding seabirds in the UK is at Flamborough, along the Yorkshire coast.

Incredibly rare white koala joey born at Australia Zoo!

There’s been koala joey fever at Australia Zoo over the past few months with the emergence of tiny fluffy faces from pouches and now, the season has become even more exciting with an incredibly rare white koala joey delighting guests who catch a glimpse of her.

This little joey does not have albinism where colour is absent from all physical characteristics including skin, fur and eyes however her extremely pale colouration is caused by a recessive gene and thought to be inherited from her mother Tia who has had other pale coloured joeys in the past.

Dr Rosie Booth, Director of the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital said that it’s more unusual to see a koala with fur this light with eyes and skin remaining the usual brown black than it is to see a koala with albinism.

“In veterinary science it’s often referred to as the ‘silvering gene’ where animals are born with white or very pale fur and, just like baby teeth, they eventually shed their baby fur and the regular adult colouration comes through,” said Dr Rosie.

Koalas are known to vary in colouration depending on their environment with southern koalas being much darker and larger than those found in Queensland and New South Wales.

“In the wild animal kingdom, it’s actually quite unfortunate to have unusually light colouration as it makes animals stand out from their camouflage risking being spotted by potential predators so this little joey has hit the jackpot being born at Australia Zoo where every single person adores animals and gives them such great care,” she continued.

Australia Zoo’s white joey is yet to be named with Tourism Australia set to encourage naming suggestions via their Facebook album showcasing her beautiful snowy face.

As this little girl grows along with her fellow joeys, they can be spotted in Australia Zoo’s ‘Mums n Bubs’ enclosure where they become more adventurous with climbing every day and get their taste for eucalyptus leaves. But with vets anticipating an eventual colour change, it’s best to be quick to see the unusual beauty while she’s small.

Australia Zoo on Queensland’s beautiful Sunshine Coast is one of the only places in Australia where koalas can be cuddled as part of an experience. Australia Zoo also sponsors the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital, renowned as a specialist medical facility for koala health and research as well as all other native Australian species.

Naming suggestions can be made on the Tourism Australia Facebook post for this gorgeous koala here:

200,000 Global Citizens from 50 Countries Petition World Leaders to Save Snow Leopards

At the invitation of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic, leaders from all snow leopard range countries and the international conservation community endorsed the 2017 Bishkek Declaration for Snow Leopards today at the International Snow Leopard & Ecosystem Forum. They pledged to intensify their joint effort to save the endangered cat, to monitor snow leopard landscapes and maintain their integrity and connectivity through natural corridors.

The talks in Bishkek will have an enormous impact on the snow leopard and its fragile mountain habitat, which provides fresh water to more than half of the world’s population. Recognizing this historic opportunity, more than 200,000 people around the world have signed a call to action to the leaders gathering in Bishkek through a joint petition by Snow Leopard Trust, WWF, and NABU.

Four years ago, range country leaders had first gathered in Bishkek to launch the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program at the invitation of the Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev. Today, they at the halfway point of this multi country conservation initiative, they came together once again to take stock of progress made, and discuss further efforts that will be needed to reach the goal they set for themselves.

The Forum’s host, President Atambayev, set the stage in his opening speech, and reminded delegates of the urgency: “If we don’t take drastic steps to conserve the snow leopard now, we will lose this precious species, as we have lost thousands of species before.”

In a video message, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres thanked the delegates for their efforts, and highlighted that the mountain ecosystems of the snow leopard are essential to the wellbeing of humanity.

Leaders from the twelve range countries and international partners such as the Snow Leopard Trust, UNDP, GEF, WWF, UNEP, GTI Council and NABU highlighted the need to protect fragile snow leopard ecosystems across the mountains of Asia, and to address the emerging threat of climate change across the snow leopard range.

“Range countries and partners have made impressive progress since 2013. They’ve done a lot of important ground work that has set us up for success. Several countries have finished management plans for their snow leopard landscapes, and others are almost there. Now we need to put these plans into action. The snow leopard still faces increasing threats, and they need to be addressed urgently”, says Michael Despines, the Snow Leopard Trust’s Executive Director.

“We still don’t have any solid estimates of how many snow leopards there really are. But we do know that we’re losing cats at an alarming rate, perhaps as many as one per day.”

Traditional direct threats including poaching and retaliation killings continue to loom large. Indirect threats such as climate change, the degradation of snow leopard habitat and prey base, illegal hunting or unsustainable infrastructure development add to the pressure.

In the 2017 Bishkek Declaration, range country leaders expressed their concerns about “continuing gap in knowledge about snow leopard status and populations”, and proposed to take up “scientifically sound initiatives” to assess the world’s snow leopard population. The GSLEP secretariat is launching a new initiative, PAWS (Population Assessment of the World’s Snow Leopards) as a follow up.

The Snow Leopard Trust stands ready to lend its full support and expertise to this initiative.

“Due to remote locations and difficult terrain the challenge of studying snow leopards is seriously hampering the current scientific studies that often result in conflicting figures. However, I am sure that with state of the art scientific knowledge and expertise of the Snow Leopard Trust and other specialists this matter shall soon be resolved”, Mushahid Ulla Khan, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Climate Change and Chair of the Global Snow Leopard & Ecosystem Protection Program, said in his speech at the Forum.

Call to Action

“This conservation summit presents a unique opportunity for the snow leopard. We will do everything we can to urge range countries and partners to take advantage of this opportunity and commit to decisive action”, Michael Despines says.

More than 200,000 supporters have joined us in this call to action by signing a joint petition by the Snow Leopard Trust, WWF and NABU. Specifically, they are asking range countries to:

  • Ensure that the snow leopard landscapes are secured and protected with the involvement and support of local communities through long-term management plans implemented by all sectors of government and other stakeholders.
  • Create and implement a joint strategy with all range countries to combat poaching and illegal trade of snow leopards
  • Safeguard the future of the snow leopard by supporting a range-wide, scientifically sound assessment of their remaining population to better inform conservation management
  • Ensure that all infrastructure development in mountain ecosystems is sustainable and does not threaten snow leopards or their habitats
  • Work with local communities to develop projects that will promote sustainable development in snow leopard landscapes, helping to decrease rural poverty while respecting the needs of wildlife.

President Atambayev’s office accepted the signatures from Goodwill Ambassador and actress Dia Mirza during the Global Forum.

The Role of the Snow Leopard Trust

Along with organizations such as UNDP, GEF, USAID and WWF, the GTI Council and NABU, the Snow Leopard Trust is one of the strategic partners of the event. Snow Leopard Trust staff members have helped lead the preparation of the event and supported the drafting of the 2017 Bishkek Declaration and policy recommendations for range countries. We’ve also provided the GSLEP program secretariat with support around communications and logistics, and will help lead media and PR for the event.

Along with Michael Despines, Science & Conservation Director Charu Mishra and other members of the Trust’s Science and Operations teams are in Bishkek during the Forum to help provide scientific expertise and share their considerable conservation experience from three decades of field work.

More information about the event can be found at