Decreasing Wild Addax Numbers
The addax’s most iconic feature is its elongated, corkscrew horns. It is also a desert creature adapted to the harsh conditions of the desert Sahara. They are one of the largest mammals of the desert but rarely need to drink. Their coats can change colors from brown in winter to white in summer to help in cooling their bodies. The addax’s flat hooves keep them from sinking in the sand.
Since 2000, the ICUN has identified the addax as critically endangered. But the addax has listed as endangered since 1986. Alongside the Dama Gazelle, this species is considered as the Saharan bovid species with the highest risk of extinction in the near future.
Their native, wild population numbers in Chad, Mauritania, and Niger have been declining over 80% over the past three generations (approx. 21 years). The majority of the population is found in the Termit & Tin Toumma in the eastern region of Niger.
There are over 600 addax individuals in Europe, North America, Japan, and Australia in managed breeding programs hoping to reintroduce these species back to their native territory. There are also at least 1,000 more held in private collections and ranches in the United States and the Middle East.
The addax is protected in Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria under national legislation. In Libya and Egypt, hunting of all gazelle species is forbidden by law. A reintroduced population in Morocco and Tunisia of about 70 individuals was released back in 1994 to 1997 and increased to about 550 individuals by 2007.
However, their native population in Niger has been declining. The Sahara Conservation Fund, a nonprofit that has been tracking the addax population for the past decade, reported that there were about 200 in 2007. But, John Newby, the CEO of SCF, believes that fewer than 100 are scattered throughout eastern Niger and neighboring country, Chad.
The addax isn’t the only species to have suffered losses in the Sahara. In a 2014 study, 86% of the 14 large animal species, from the Saharan cheetah to the African wild dog, were extinct or endangered. All due to habitat loss and poaching.
In 2008, the Nigerian government gave the China’s state oil company, China National Petroleum Corporation, oil exploration rights. The company’s area of interest was Tin Toumma. The Nigerian government assigned military units to protect the oil workers and some would shoot the animals for sport and meat, violating Nigerian law.
In 2012, Niger set up the largest preserve in Africa, the Termit & Tin Toumma National Nature Reserve, to protect the remaining addax and other endangered/vulnerable species. Despite the legal protection, Niger only assigned about two dozen rangers to patrol the reserve roughly the size of Hungary. The addax population continued to decline.
The month, the conservationists are conducting an aerial and ground survey, funded by the Saint Louis Zoo and International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
Debate on Delisting Yellowstone’s Grizzly Bears
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has once again recommended that the Yellowstone grizzly bears should be removed from the Endangered and Threatened Wildlife List.
Since July 28, 1975, the grizzly bear was listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. In total, about five or six small populations amount to 800 to 1,000 bears. The most isolated population is in Greater Yellowstone with only 136 grizzly bears.
With its new status, passed laws protected the bears. Grizzly bear hunting ended, with stiff fines and potential jail time levied against poachers. Trash dumps in the nearby region closed while logging and mining operations were reduced. Backcountry roads that fragmented their habitats were also closed down.
Since then, numbers have grown from 136 to over 700 individuals in the Greater Yellowstone area and are dispersing well outside of the recovery zone. Their range includes south into the Wild River Range, north through the Gallatin Range, and east of the Absaroka Mountains onto the Plains. The rate of growth in the past decade has slowed down, likely due to increased population density. A stable population meant that the Yellowstone ecosystem is at or near its carrying capacity for the bears.
Whether the bear population should be removed or kept on the Threatened Species list has been a debate for almost a decade. It was determined that the population was a distinct population that met all the population criteria for delisting. So in 2007, the Greater Yellowstone grizzly bear population was removed from the list but relisted in 2009. The same occurred in 2010 and 2011.
Now in early 2016, the discussion was reopened on the proposed delisting. The public, federal and state agencies, and scientists have all commented on the proposal.
The FWS notes that even after the Endangered Species Act protections are removed, it will continue to closely monitor the grizzlies’ population and habitat. In the latest grizzly recovery plan, bears would still receive strict protection. But they will also be subject to potential liberal hunting politics and lethal control if the bears kill livestock on public lands.
But, many conservationists and scientists believe that delisting is premature.
Chris Servheen, FWS’s national grizzly bear recovery coordinator says that the Endangered Species Act ushered in more human tolerance and support for bears. The lost protection could cause the bear population to decrease again.
Kent Nelson, founder of Wyoming Wildlife Advocates, argues that the Yellowstone’s bears should be connected with other bear populations before delisting. The isolated grizzly bears could face genetic problems from inbreeding.
He also argued that sport hunting should not be considered. It would result in the deaths of dispersing bears. The federal government has long held sport hunting as an incentive to reward the states that help protect and support programs for the bears. But, bear watching has become one of the most popular activities for travelers, worth more than $1 billion annually. Their rarity has made them economically worth far more alive than as person’s rug or trophy.
Conservationists and scientists aren’t the only ones. The leaders of three dozen Native American tribes, including those in the Yellowstone region, signed a petition voicing their opposition to both delisting the grizzlies and bringing back sport hunting.
Another concern is how climate change could affect the grizzly’s future. David Mattson, a retired U.S. Geological Survey scientist, says that the four grizzly bear key foods are either in decline or uncertain due to climate change. The whitebark pine are declining due to tree diseases, wildfires, and outbreaks of pine beetles. The infestation of pine beetles was linked to climate change. Another staple, the spawning cutthroat trout, has been dramatically reduced by an illegal introduction of fish-eating lake trout.
These concerns will continue to bring in support for the Yellowstone grizzly bears and their ecosystem. The proposal is still opened for comments.