Results tagged “endangered species” from PlanetGreen.org

Crocodile Crossword

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If you need help figuring out the clues, you can try consulting any of these websites:

American Crocodile Facts, Defenders of Wildlife
American Crocodiles, National Geographic
American Crocodile, Wikipedia
Crocodile, Wikipedia
Saurian (definition), Dictionary.com

After you finish solving the puzzle, check your answers below (no peeking!):

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Pennies For The Planet: Giant Pandas Face Extinction

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pndabmboo.JPGIn only two or three generations, pandas could go extinct. Because of recent development in what used to be the pandas' habitats, the bears don't have enough room. While enough land was set aside for 1,000 pandas 30 years ago, the area is not sufficient for the 1,600 pandas now living in the wild. In addition to this, the pandas are being fenced off by water projects and roads. They cannot find enough food or a mate. Pandas travel long distances to find mates because if the genes are too similar the babies will be very susceptible to diseases. But now the pandas are unable to do that. If this continues, the pandas will only be seen in zoos and other places where captive animals are kept. And it will happen in the next sixty years (one panda's lifespan is twenty years), if the building on the pandas' land is not stopped.

When I was five, I became a big-time environmentalist. I raised a hundred dollars (mostly through presents, but I did ask for them instead of other things...) to give to Jane Goodall. And I collected 1,690 pennies for Pennies for the Planet, a program by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) which raises money for different projects (although I thought that I was helping to save pandas due to the logo, my donation went to a program for the conservation of black rhinos).

It was Halloween night. Katrianna and I dressed up in our matching lion costumes, and I carried a sour cream jar that had been covered in yellow paper and decorated. That would hold my pennies. Mom took Katrianna and I outside and we began trick-or-treating. My campaign was a huge success. Nearly all of my pennies came from that expedition. Later, Mom and I drove to the nearest coin machine and donated all of my pennies to the WWF.

Today, there are whole kits made for Pennies for the Planet trick or treating. They didn't exist when I did it within the first couple years of the twenty-first century. Now there are environmental coin jars in most elementary classrooms. Mom told me that when I did it a neighbor, also a teacher, whom I had asked for pennies on Halloween night, added Pennies for the Planet to her curriculum. This program sponsors new projects each year and is a reputable environmental charity, although it might have to change its logo in the next sixty years if the panda population continues to dwindle.

The Endangered Snow Leopard

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Snow-Leopard.jpgIn the deep dark chasm,
Upon the sides of the walls,
Motion with lightning's shape and speed,
And before it the swift deer falls. 

Its color blended ever light,
Gray white and shades of dun,
Streamlined shape and hunter's eye,
And incredible speed to run. 

Against a snowy background,
Imposing yet serene,
The fearsome leopard of the snow,
Can hardly yet be seen. 

-Katrianna Sarkar

Snow leopards are endangered from causes such as the trade in its pelt and global warming. The fur is made into coats and hats, and their bones and other body parts are also used in traditional medicine. Tigers are supposed to be used in the practice of traditional medicine, but they are already so rare (their populations have lessened from this too) that the more common snow leopard is substituted. 

Their numbers are hard to estimate, due to the fact that snow leopards live in rugged, remote terrain. This makes conservation more difficult, so an interesting device was employed. With as few snow leopards as there are, you can tell the individual leopards by their spots.  As a result, pictures taken by a remote camera are compared to those in a photo library. In that way, they can estimate how many there are.

As elusive as snow leopards are, we still know quite a bit about them:

Wild sheep and goats are the snow leopard's main food, as well as an occasional buck or rabbit.

A snow leopard can leap thirty feet.

Snow leopards have enormous, furry tails. They use them for balance, but if they get cold they can wrap their tail around themselves.

Snow leopard cubs have blue eyes. When they get older, snow leopard eyes get grayer.

Let's hope we can save them. We should start conserving energy by using solar power and stop buying coats made from snow leopard, or, for that matter, any other kind of fur.

Tuataras: The Endangered "Living Fossil"

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ttara.jpgThe tuatara is the last member of an order of reptiles that lived, along with the dinosaurs, 225 million years ago. The order is rhynchocephalia, which comes from Greek and means "beak head." The tuatara is called a "living fossil," but in some ways this is the wrong name for it. Although in some respects it seems a little more primitive than some of the more modern reptiles, scientific experiments have proven that its rate of molecular evolution* is quicker than that of any animal yet tested.

The Maori word "tuatara" has been translated in many different ways, but the most common meaning is that tua means 'back,' and tara, 'spine.' Both the males and the females have spines (actually just flaps of skin), but the males' are larger and can be stiffened in order to attract a mate or fight another male.

There are two types of tuataras. For a long time, the Cook Strait tuatara (also called the common tuatara) was the only kind known to exist. Then, a second one, the far rarer and slightly smaller Brothers Island tuatara, was discovered. Today, the classification of tuataras is controversial, with some people arguing that there are two species, while others hold that it's one species, just slightly adapted to its environment. One way to distinguish the two types is that the Brothers Island species is olive-green with yellow speckles, while the Cook Strait tuatara, which is usually mottled and always has white spots, varies from green to grey, dark pink, or brick red. It can also change color throughout its lifetime. Additionally, when caught by a predator, a tuatara can drop its tail which continues to wriggle, allowing time for escape. Their tails do grow back, but they are often a different color plus shorter. They also can lose spines and regrow them and will shed their skin annually.

The adult tuataras are nocturnal and as a result eat mainly insects that are active at night. Beetles are their favorite food, but they sometimes eat lizards, birds, and bird eggs. They do not have real teeth as humans do. Instead, their teeth are sharp protrusions of their jaw bones. Tuataras have two rows on their upper jaws and one row on bottom. The lower teeth fit between the top teeth when the tuatara's mouth is closed and are useful for eating hard insects. Tuataras are the only animal with this kind of dental arrangement. Unfortunately, having built-in teeth means that they can't replace them as they wear down. Older tuataras have to switch to soft food, like larvae, slugs, and earthworms, and eventually make do with smooth jaw bones.

Adult tuataras can go for an hour without breathing if they need to -- even if they don't need to, a resting adult may take only one breath an hour. Although they are cold-blooded, tuataras prefer cool weather to hot. They stay active in 50° weather, while many lizards don't. Like many other reptiles, tuatara eggs are very sensitive to temperature. If the eggs are incubated at 70° F, they have an equal chance of being male or female. At 64°, they are guaranteed to be female and above 72°, they are almost always be male. One threat from global warming is that the weather will be too hot for female eggs to incubate and the remaining males will not be able to find mates. Even if the eggs are laid, that's no guarantee that they're going to hatch because many predators enjoy eating them. If a theoretical tuatara had just laid a fresh clutch of eggs today, and no one was going to eat them, it would still take more than a year for them to hatch (incubation takes 13 to 16 months because they stop developing when they get too cold).

At 13 to 20, they reach maturity, but they don't stop growing until they're thirty. That is a long childhood, but it is not exactly an ideal one. Tuatara moms are not very attentive. They lay their eggs once every four years and then leave. The hatchlings must hunt in the day to avoid being eaten by adult tuataras at night. Then, they have to dig their burrow for protection. Burrowing is much easier for an adult tuatara, because they do not mind staying in 'hotels.' Whenever they sense danger, they dart into the nearest burrow, which is often inhabited by nesting seabirds. The birds go fishing during the day, and the tuatara goes hunting at night. The birds do not seem to mind this arrangement -- except in the occasional case where a tuatara eats one of their chicks.

One feature visible in tuatara hatchlings is their "third eye," also called a "parietal eye." This comes with its own lens, cornea, retina, and non-functional connection to the brain, which makes scientists think that it evolved from a real eye. This can be seen through the skin on top of the tuatara's head until it is a few months old, when scales and pigment will have covered it. One possible use is to tell the time of day or the season. Interestingly, tuataras also have three eyelids. The first closes from the top, the second from the bottom, and the third horizontally. This last is a clear one, called a nictitating membrane, which protects and moistens the eye while still allowing the tuatara to see. Their eyes also focus independently.

The chief reason tuataras are endangered is that introduced species, such as the rats and dogs first brought by the early Polynesian settlers, prey on tuatara eggs and hatchlings. The Europeans brought more of these pests, as well as cats and ferrets. In 1895, New Zealand's government fully protected the tuataras, but their population continued to plummet as rats reached one island after another. Even as late as 1984, they killed all of the tuataras on a 25-acre island. For a long time, tuataras lived only on 32 remote islands. On the mainland, where captive release programs have been operating, one nest and one hatchling have been discovered in the wild. Many fenced preserves also keep tuataras, which also benefits other endangered species, such as kiwis, other birds, lizards, and the giant weta, a flightless insect. More than 60,000 tuataras are estimated to live worldwide, which means that this remarkable reptile can resurge in the wild.

Sources:
Wikipedia
Kiwi Conservation Club
San Diego Zoo

*Molecular evolution means that the DNA is changing over time, which is, simplified, the same thing as evolution, only on a tiny scale.

Pangolins: A Species on the Brink of Extinction

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Pangolins are scaly animals similar to anteaters and armadillos that are found in Southeast Asia and Africa... but not for long. Two of the eight species of pangolins are endangered, but all of them are declining due to habitat loss and hunting. The Chinese use them as medicine: pangolins were once thought a remedy for skin disease and today they are used as a cancer cure. Not only are they used as medicine, they are also eaten as food and turned into jewelry and leather. Their future does not look very favorable.

Ninety-eight pangolins and almost seven pounds of pangolin scales were discovered in the home of a Malaysian poacher and taken away by officials. The guilty poacher could have up to twenty-three years in jail and have to pay a fine. But the pangolins' plight continues.

An Indian pangolin, a third species that will soon be endangered at the current rate, was found in a garden in a city that was expanding rapidly last August. The pangolin was taken to an animal rescue center and later released in a nearby national park. That was the first pangolin to be found in someone's home, but many more will follow into the city built on land that was once the wilderness they roamed.

Although these creatures are in serious danger, they are also interesting and so odd that they're cute. Their scales never stop growing, eventually making up twenty percent of their weight. Pangolins have a sticky tongue that is sixteen inches longer than they are (they range from six to three feet). It is the longest tongue of any mammal (in proportion to size) and is used for their exclusive diet of ants and termites (one pangolin eats up to seventy million insects per year). They compensate for not having teeth by eating stones, which, like birds' stone-filled gizzards, grind their food. So that the ants don't bite them, pangolins have ear and nose covers and thick eyelids. Baby pangolins ride on their mom's tail, hanging on as their pangolin parent wobbles along. These harmless, shy animals will either survive or go extinct depending on what happens. Today they aren't faring very well, and it's up to you to change that. There is even a site dedicated to saving them, with information about this interesting and endangered species.


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