Seeker Archives

Fewer Than 250 Rare Pigs Left on Indonesian Island

A survey of Bawean warty pigs on Indonesia's Bawean Island finds the animal needs protection.

A rare animal on an Indonesian island deserves to be designated "endangered," according to a survey of Bawean warty pigs on Bawean Island.

Fewer than 250 of the pigs remain, a research team out of VHL University of Applied Sciences, The Netherlands, concluded, in a study just published in the journal PLOS ONE.

The pigs live nowhere else on Earth except for Bawean Island, off the north coast of Java, and until now scientists have had only museum specimens and the stories of local islanders to help them understand the animal's behavior and gauge its conservation status.

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To get a better idea about the animal's status – as well as when they were most active and where they preferred to live - the VHL team set up camera traps at 100 locations on the island and studied the footage.

In addition to coming up with the sub-250 population number, the scientists also learned that Bawean pigs were most active after dark, foraging on community-owned forest land.

The forests in which the pigs forage at night hold roots and tubers – high-energy food for the pigs. However, dining on community lands puts them at risk of conflict with local populations, the researchers said.

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True to its name the pig has distinctive markings.

"While females look very similar to wild boar," said study co-author Johanna Rode-Margono in a statement, "the male Bawean warty pig has three pairs of enormous warts on each side of its face."

In light of its tiny population, Rode-Margono called the creature "one of the rarest pig species on Earth."

Given its low population density, and the limited space in which it lives, the authors of the study argue that Bawean pigs should at least be designated "Endangered" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's "red list" of threatened species.

Less than two weeks into the new year, big changes are already in the works that could dramatically change the fate of many animal species. Some will benefit, others won't, and still others will be a hot topic of debate for months to come. Manatees fall into the last category. On January 7, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

announced

that the West Indian manatee should be downlisted from endangered to threatened status under the Endangered Species Act. Public comments can be submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service until April 7 of this year. At stake are issues such as slow speed zones for boats, since boats have hit manatees in the past. Both state and local officials have expressed a desire to curb such restrictions. "The manatee is one of the most charismatic and instantly recognizable species," Michael Bean, principal deputy assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the Department of the Interior, said. "It's hard to imagine the waters of Florida without them, but that was the reality we were facing before manatees were listed under the Endangered Species Act. While there is still more work to be done to fully recover manatee populations, their numbers are climbing and the threats to the species' survival are being reduced."

US Says Manatee Should Lose Endangered Species Status

The FBI this year will be collecting data on animal cruelty crimes through its National Incident-Based Reporting System. In a recent FBI podcast "

FBI This Week

," unit chief Amy Blasher explained that the bureau partnered with the National Sheriffs' Association and the Animal Welfare Institute to initiate the data collection process. "They believe that animal cruelty was an early indicator of violent crime, and that's really what led the discussions with our law enforcement partners throughout the country," Blasher said. She added that data would be collected only on certain types of animal abuse, such as dog fighting, cock fighting and animal sexual abuse.

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By April 6 of this year, all dogs in the U.K. will need to be microchipped. The

British Veterinary Association

(BVA) will also require dog owners to register the details of any new owner before they sell or give the dog away. Their contact information must additionally be kept up to date. The BVA says microchipping offers many benefits. A fact sheet mentions: "It can help reunite strays with their owners, help tackle puppy farming, and encourage responsible ownership. In pedigree dogs it facilitates the reporting of hereditary health problems."

DNA Dates Dog Domestication Back 33,000 Years

With public outcry increasing against keeping orcas and other large marine mammals in captivity, SeaWorld late last year

stated

that it was phasing out its current San Diego orca show. SeaWorld president and CEO Joel Manby said, "The main point is we are listening to our guests. We're evolving as a company. We're always changing and, again, always evolving. That means 2016 will be the last year of our theatrical killer whale experience called One Ocean." He continued, "In San Diego, in 2017 we will launch our all-new orca experience. It's going to be focused more on the natural setting, natural environment and also the natural behaviors of the whales." The announcement followed the California Coastal Commission's approval of $100 million expansion of tanks that SeaWorld San Diego uses to house its orcas, also called killer whales. The commission then also banned breeding of the captive orcas at the facility.

SeaWorld Ends Killer Whale Shows as Federal Ban Looms

Last year, recreational hunter Walter Palmer killed a beloved male Southwest African lion named "Cecil" that lived primarily at Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. The death drew international attention to the plight of lions and other species targeted by big game hunters. Cecil's death may not go in vein, however. Late last year, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

announced

that two species of lions found in India and Africa would be protected under the Endangered Species Act. The ruling goes into effect on January 22. As of then, the service will have the full authority to deny permits to trophy hunters if they have been previously convicted of violating wildlife laws. Fees for hunting permits will substantially increase. It will also be more difficult for hunters from the U.S. to import slain animals' heads, which have become "trophies" and stimulated bragging rights in the past.

Trophy Hunting: Is There ANY Benefit for Conservation

Last year, the National Institutes of Health said that it would retire all government research chimpanzees to sanctuaries. Animal rights activists are now turning their attention to other animals, such as monkeys, which are still used for research. Kathleen Conlee, vice president of animal research issues for The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), told Discovery News: "In regards to the use of monkeys in harmful research, The HSUS believes that a critical examination of primate research should be conducted, similar to what was done for chimpanzees by the Institute of Medicine in 2011."

Lab Chimps Freed: Why Not Other Species?

OdySea, slated to open in July, promises to be the largest aquarium in the Southwest. The facility, under construction now in Scottsdale, Ariz., continues the trend over the last three to four decades of massive aquariums in the United States and around the world. According to the OdySea

website

, the aquarium will span 200,000 square feet and will hold more than 2 million gallons of water. It is being built to accommodate up to 15,000 visitors daily.

Orphaned Otter Pup Arrives at Shedd Aquarium: Photos

We are seeing the end of the caged age, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The organization predicts that 2016 will experience a greater shift from caged to free-ranging animals raised for food. An ASPCA

news release

issued late last year further said, "In the past decade, nearly 100 major food retailers have adopted policies to phase out confinement practices. Nine states have banned the use of gestation crates (used for pregnant and nursing pigs), eight states ban veal crates, and five states ban battery cages (used for egg-laying hens)."

Why Is Processed Meat So Dangerous?

An effort is underway to establish land near Mount Katahdin in Maine as a national park and recreation area. The region is home to moose, black bears, deer and other wildlife. Roxanne Quimby, a conservationist and a founder of Burt's Bees, has stated that she would donate 150,000 acres for the proposed park. Sierra Club Maine is also supporting the effort. Congressional approval is needed for the designation, so organizers are now working to encourage President Obama to declare the area as a national monument. This would be a first major step toward national park status.

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The National Park Service turns 100 on August 25, kicking off a second century of stewardship of America's national parks, which are critical for much of the remaining wildlife in the United States. Centennial events are scheduled for several parks, including in Yosemite National Park, shown here. The NPS has also launched a new initiative, Find Your Park, as part of this 100th anniversary year. A listing of centennial events by location is available at the

Find Your Park website

.

10 Reasons to Visit a National Park Now