Tag Archives: habitat loss

Biodiversity challenge – Floreana mockingbird

To save a mockingbird

Ground zero
For a scientific superhero,
Far-flung Floreana,
Former mockingbird nirvana.
Here the chosen one
Dropped anchor,
Found the inspiration
For his show and tell,
Sailed home and
Dropped his bombshell,
Blew a crater in creation’s well
Of wishful thinking.

Gone, long gone,
The great man and his Beagle,
Gone without a trace
The bird that spurred him on;
Displaced by space invaders,
Banished to a brace of
Offshore dots no bigger than
A giant tortoise carapace.

Time to pull a rabbit from the hat,
Restore the habitat,
Depose those reigning
Cats and dogs,
Deport the greedy goats,
Repair the prickly pear,
Remove the rats,
Kick out the new kids on the block,
Turn back the clock,
Return the mock.

© Tim Knight and timknightwriter, 2015

Species profile: Floreana mockingbird

IUCN Red List Category: Critically Endangered

The Floreana mockingbird was once common on the island of that name and, along with two other mockingbird species on neighbouring islands, played a pivotal role in the theory of Natural Selection that Charles Darwin proposed after visiting the Galapagos archipelago. Within 50 years of Darwin’s departure, the mockingbird had disappeared from Floreana, driven out by invasive black rats and loss of habitat. The species now clings to survival on two tiny, predator-free nearby islets. It is one of the rarest and most endangered birds in the world. A ten-year rescue plan is under way to eradicate all introduced species from Floreana, restore the degraded habitat, and reintroduce the mockingbird to its former home.

Biodiversity challenge – Cat Ba langur

Bay window of opportunity

Cat Ba langur by Dao Van Hoang https://www.behance.net/daovanhoang

Fewer than five dozen
Not-so-distant cousins.
Fifty-nine steps
Down to
Golden silence.
No relief
From loggers, poachers,
Habitat encroachers.
How to keep them all at bay?
No way.
Beyond belief
To turn a primate into paste;
It boils down to a tragic waste.
They won’t be
Safe from harm
Until the long arm
Of the monkey balm brigade
Is cut off in its prime.
So where’s the punishment
To fit the crime?
Running out of time
To stop the hunters
And their punters.
How long left
Before Ha Long’s bereft?
Can Cat Ba’s
Langur
Linger
Longer?

© Tim Knight and timknightwriter, 2014

Species profile: Cat Ba langur

IUCN Red List Category: Critically Endangered

The Cat Ba or golden-headed langur is one of the world’s most endangered primates, confined to a single island in Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay. This spectacular leaf-eating monkey has almost been wiped out by a combination of poaching and destruction or degradation of its forest habitat. It is hunted not for its meat, which is considered unappetising, but for use in traditional medicine, where its body is boiled down and turned into cao khi (monkey balm), which is claimed to have soothing properties. The population had crashed from several thousand to just 53 individuals before the Cat Ba Langur Conservation Project began in 2000. Since then, poaching has been almost non-existent and numbers have increased to an estimated 59, but low reproductive rates and the dangers of inbreeding mean that the future of the species remains in the balance.

Biodiversity challenge – Trinidad piping guan

Guan tomorrow?

If less is more
We have excess of this
Declining frugivore,
Red-listed, red-legged
Blue-faced piper
At the gates of dusk.
Demi-gone denizen
Of montane slopes,
A fading grace,
Hopes shrinking
Faster than your forest,
Sinking without trace
Beneath the race
For timber, land
And pot roast.
Not yet wholly ghost,
But close.
Going, going, guan.

© Tim Knight and timknightwriter, 2014

Species profile: Trinidad piping guan

IUCN Red List Category: Critically Endangered

As its name implies, the Trinidad piping guan is endemic to that particular island. Formerly widespread, it is now restricted to a single area in the mountainous north-east. The pawi, as it is known locally, has very distinctive markings including white wing patches, red legs and blue dewlap and cere. It feeds on fruit and seeds, foraging in the cool of the evening. Although protected by law, it is in grave danger of extinction due to illegal hunting and habitat loss.

Biodiversity challenge – Round Island burrowing boa

Round number

Report from Round Island,
North of Mauritius:
Burrowing boa
Numbers in free fall,
Plummeting lower
No hope at all.

Round Island update,
Strangely propitious:
Burrowing boa
No longer declining.
For every extinction
A silver lining.

© Tim Knight and timknightwriter, 2014.

Species profile: Round Island burrowing boa 

IUCN Red List Category: Extinct

Last recorded in 1975, the Round Island burrowing boa declined rapidly following the introduction of rabbits and goats, which consumed the native vegetation, resulting in widespread soil erosion and degradation of its palm forest habitat.

Biodiversity challenge – Iberian lynx

Missing lynx

Who trashed the habitat?
Who squashed the rabbit hat?
Who smashed the thermostat?
Who signed the exeat?
Where’s the world’s rarest cat?

© Tim Knight and timknightwriter, 2014.

Species profile: Iberian lynx

IUCN Red List Category: Critically Endangered

There may be as few as 170 Iberian lynx surviving in the wild, confined to two isolated and shrinking breeding populations in the Andalucia region of southern Spain. The devastation of its traditional Mediterranean scrubland (maquis) habitat due to infrastructure development and the expansion of agriculture and commercial forestry, combined with a scarcity of rabbits, its chief prey, caused by disease and the insidious effects of climate change, have brought the species perilously close to the exit door. Illegal hunting, accidental poisoning and road fatalities are also taking their toll on the remaining population. More info

Biodiversity challenge – Kha-nyou

Not squirrel kin

Eleven million years extinct,
Then resurrected
On a market stall
In Laos;
Not squirrel,
Rat or mouse,
But unconnected,
Evolutionarily distinct;
Unique,
A living fossil,
Sole surviving
Member of a clique
First founded
Two score million years ago
Or more,
Surrounded
By a sea of strangers;
Cast adrift,
A rodent race apart
Upon your running wheel
For one;
Can you imagine
How alone you’d feel?
Well, kha-nyou?

© Tim Knight and timknightwriter, 2014.

Species profile: Kha-nyou

IUCN Red List Category: Endangered

Discovered by scientists visiting a market in Laos in 2005, the kha-nyou, or Laotian rock rat, is an example of a living fossil. The sole surviving member of an ancient group of rodents thought to have gone extinct some 11 million years ago, the kha-nyou is like no other species of mammal, having separated from its closest living relatives 44 million years ago. Its bizarre combination of features – long snout, small ears and bushy tail – have earned it the nickname ‘rat-squirrel’. Known only from a single area of limestone karst in Laos, the kha-nyou is threatened by hunting and habitat loss.