Kakapo: The world’s largest parrot and the birth of active conservation

Our world is facing a biodiversity crisis so severe that many scientists have labeled it as the sixth great mass extinction in Earth’s history. Conservation efforts to date have focused on endangered species and  “biodiversity hotspots” , relatively small areas with large numbers of species. Most of these hotspots are in areas you’d expect them to be, places like coral reefs and tropical rain forests. One surprising biodiversity hotspot is New Zealand.

Though New Zealand is best known for it’s two largest islands, the country has over 700 islands larger than one hectare. Additionally, New Zealand is isolated- hundreds of miles of Pacific ocean separate it from Australia, and it’s farther still from Asia or South America.  Similar to the Galapagos, this isolation has led to an extremely high rate of “endemic” species, plants and animals that are native to an area and aren’t found anywhere else on Earth.

New Zealand is particularly famous for its unique birds. You may have heard of the kiwi, a word which has become slang for a New Zealander*, but this nation is also known as the “seabird capital of the world“. In total, there are more than 60 endemic bird species found there.

Read More

Douglas Adams on Evolution, Endangered Species, Conservation, and writing Last Chance to See

The brilliantly funny Douglas Adams shares the adventures he had while writing Last Chance to See. Since he gave this talk, the Yangtze River Dolphin has been declared extinct and only 123 Kakapo remain.  Komodo dragons are now listed as vulnerable, and although their population appears quite large, it was recently discovered that Komodo dragons can reproduce via parthenogenesis (which produces only males) and that there may actually be only 350 breeding females.

H/T Carl Zimmer

~Southern Fried Scientist