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Poachers nabbed with world's rarest tortoise
by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) July 28, 2011

Police in Madagascar have arrested two men attempting to smuggle out nearly 200 threatened tortoises, including two dozen of the rarest species on Earth, a conservation group said Thursday.

The 26 specimens of Ploughshare tortoise (Astrochelys yniphora) seized comprise about five percent of the estimated surviving wild population of the critically endangered animal, native to northern Madagascar.

Authorities found the live tortoises in a box and three bags on the tarmac at Antananarivo's Ivato Airport, according to TRAFFIC, which monitors illegal trade in wildlife.

The contraband was minutes from being loaded on a plane, and was destined -- after transfers in Nairobi and Dubai -- for Jakarta, Indonesia, police reportedly said.

"In the case of rare, high value species like these, they would certainly have been destined for the pet trade in Asia," Richard Thomas of TRAFFIC said of the Ploughshare tortoises.

Border police also found 169 Radiated tortoises (Asstrochelys radiata) and one Spider tortoise (Pyxis arachnoides), prized by collectors internationally.

All three species are classified as critically endangered on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, the benchmark reference for the conservation status of wildlife.

International trade in the species -- which are also protected under national law in Madagascar -- is illegal, but seizures are not uncommon in markets in Southeast Asia.

A recent investigation by TRAFFIC, which is funded jointly by the IUCN and WWF, found all three species in markets in Thailand, more than 150 specimens in all.

"Responsibility does not lie with Madagascar alone, but also with importing countries," said Chris Shepherd, TRAFFIC's regional deputy director for Souteast Asia.

"Authorities in Indonesia and other parts of Southeast Asia should take firm and immediate action against those trading in these species and put an end to this illicit trade."

The wild population of Ploughshares, which grow to 40 centimetres (16 inches) and up to 10 kilos (22 pounds), has dwindled rapidly in recent decades, and is estimated at 440 to 700 individuals.

Historically eaten locally as a delicacy, its habitat has been drastically reduced by agricultural practices, especially the burning of fields. The main threat today is poaching for the illegal pet trade, according to the IUCN.

The species is now restricted to five small, isolated sub-populations, and could have as few as 200 remaining adults that can reproduce.

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Uganda releases smuggled parrots back into the wild
Kampala (AFP) July 28, 2011 - Ugandan wildlife officials on Thursday released hundreds of rare African parrots back into the wild six months after they were rescued from animal smugglers.

Authorities reintroduced the 200 grey parrots to their natural habitat in the Kibale national park, 350 kilometres (217 miles) west of Kampala, following months of treatment at the countrys largest zoo.

"They have been in captivity for so long now that at first they refused to come out ... eventually though they started moving out and flying off," said Lilian Nsubuga, the Uganda Wildlife Authority spokeswoman.

Eight of the parrots were unable to fly because they were either overweight or had damaged wings and would be returned to the zoo, she said.

Nsubuga said that the parrots, which were secretly transported to the park last week in several specially constructed containers, were each tagged with a ring on their beaks and would be monitored by a team of wildlife experts.

Ugandan police discovered around 130 of the birds in January as they were being illegally transported across he country's porous border with Democratic Republic of Congo.

Dozens of the birds later died after tests carried out by wildlife authorities showed that they had been sedated with alcohol-infused sugarcane ahead of the journey.

A second consignment of over 100 undocumented birds was later discovered at a warehouse close to Ugandas main airport in Entebbe following a tip-off.

Wildlife officials said that the birds were likely meant to be smuggled to Europe, America or East Asia, where they can fetch up to $2,000 (1,400 euros) each on the black market.

Trade in African grey parrots is restricted under an international treaty regulating the cross-border trade in endangered species.

Uganda is famed for its rich birdlife with over 1,000 species documented in the country, but officials say that animal smuggling is becoming increasingly big business.

No one has yet been arrested in connection with the seized parrots, wildlife authorities said.

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Some Desert Birds Less Affected By Wildfires and Climate Change
Waco TX (SPX) Jul 27, 2011
A new Baylor University study has found that some bird species in the desert southwest are less affected, and in some cases positively influenced, by widespread fire through their habitat. In fact, the Baylor researchers say that fire actually helps some bird species because of the habitat that is formed after a fire is positive for the bird's prey needs. The study found that three s ... read more

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