For Rare-Species Poachers, Scientific Journals Are Treasure Maps
Recently, commercial collectors have been using reports of such new species in scientific journals as tools to track down the newbies so they can sell them for a profit on the exotic pet trade market.
Since being scientifically described in the 1990s, the Indonesian turtle Chelodina mccordi and another cave gecko (Goniurosaurus luii) fetch pet trade prices ranging from $1,500 to $2,000 apiece, the researchers said. The demand is so high that C. mccordi is almost extinct in the wild, and G. luii has gone locally extinct.
Likewise, the salamander Paramesotriton laoensis in northern Laos costs between $170 and $250 each on the black market, the researchers said. Smugglers often offer villagers less than $1 to collect the black-and-yellow Laotian newt (Laotriton laoensis), and then turn around and sell each one for as much as $200.
Despite the risks of revealing a newfound animal’s location, many researchers still publish that information. This data can help researchers understand how a previously unknown species fits into the ecosystem and the size of its habitat range.
Researchers chose not to publish the location of the newly identified cave gecko species Goniurosaurus kadoorieorum for fear that exotic pet trade poachers would wipe them out.
California Songbird Die-Off
Following the death of hundreds of pine siskins, a small songbird that inhabits California’s forested areas, state wildlife officials are asking that people empty their birdbaths and take down their bird feeders.
Since early December there have been reports of at least 300 pine siskins found dead in the Redding area, as well as in the Central and South Coast regions. Scientists from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) believe that Salmonellosis — a fatal disease caused by Salmonella bacteria — is largely to blame, and that infected bird feeders and birdbaths are partly responsible for the epidemic.
Based on the number of reported deaths, officials estimate more than 1,000 pine siskins have died this winter from salmonella bacteria. The disease is easily spread when birds ingest contaminated food or water, or come in contact with objects, such as bird feeders, perches or soil that have faeces left behind from infected birds. A similar outbreak occurred last winter, officials say.