L.A. Unleashed

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Category: Conservation

Your morning adorable: Polar bear cubs explore the outdoors for the first time at Ouwehands Zoo

Two newborn polar bear cubs walk outside their enclosure for the first time at the Ouwehands Zoo

At the Ouwehands Zoo in the Netherlands, twin polar bear cubs born in late November ventured outside for the very first time last week.

The cubs, named Siku and Sesi (Inuit words for sea ice and snow, respectively), were born to mother Freedom and father Viktor. Their maternal grandmother, Huggies, also lives at the zoo.

If you can't get enough of Siku and Sesi, might we recommend checking out their nursery webcam on the Ouwehands Zoo's website? (As we type, the cubs are wrestling under their mother's watchful gaze, making it a little difficult to concentrate on the matter at hand.)

See more photos and video of Siku, Sesi and Freedom after the jump!

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Rare Javan rhinoceroses caught on video in Indonesia

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Four of the world's rarest rhinoceroses were captured by camera traps in an Indonesian national park, an environmental group said Monday.

The footage from movement-triggered hidden cameras showed two mother Javan rhinos and two calves in Ujung Kulon National Park in November and December last year, said a release from the WWF-Indonesia.

Javan rhinos are one of the world's most endangered species, with an estimated population of no more than 50 in Ujung Kulon. A few others live in Vietnam's Cat Tien National Park.

"This is good news to ensure that the population is viable," said Adhi Hariyadi, WWF project leader in the park.

The first "video trap" footage recorded in November showed a mother and calf, identified later as a male, walking steadily toward the camera. Several more videos of the family were obtained later.

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Your morning adorable: Giraffe calf sticks out his tongue at German zoo

Giraffe calf

At the Opel Zoo in Kronberg, Germany, 2011 has already been a big year for giraffe calves. Two Rothschild giraffes -- a male named Karl, born Feb. 10 to mother Catherine, and a male named Luke, born just three days later to mother Lucy -- have been born so far this year, joining a female Rothschild calf named Mary who was born on Christmas.

Karl, Luke and Mary are all half-siblings, sharing the same father, a bull (the term for a male giraffe) named Gregory.

The Opel Zoo is part of a conservation breeding program designed to help the Rothschild giraffes, which were recently classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, bounce back from the brink of extinction in the wild. Rothschild giraffes (also known as Ugandan giraffes or Baringo giraffes) are native to parts of Uganda and Kenya.

See more photos of Karl and Luke after the jump!

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Indonesian officials arrest Jakarta man on suspicion of sale of exotic wildlife parts over the Internet

Wildlife Parts

JAKARTA, Indonesia — An Indonesian man has been arrested on suspicion of using the Internet to sell hundreds of illegal wildlife parts -- including ivory, tiger skins and the teeth of the world's smallest bears.

The parts were allegedly destined for domestic and international markets, and several other suspects were being pursued, said Darori, director general of the Forestry Ministry, on Thursday.

The suspect was arrested in his art shop during a Feb. 9 raid carried out by police and forestry officials in the capital, Jakarta, he said, adding that the U.S.-based Wildlife Conservation Society helped tip off authorities.

They found 26 items at the scene and hundreds more waiting to be shipped by courier service, including teeth from sun bears, native to Southeast Asia.

"This is just the first case," said Darori. "If you are trying to sell wildlife online, beware. We will catch you and you will be prosecuted."

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Your morning adorable: The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute's two cheetah cubs are better than one


Staff at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Virginia have found a creative way to make sure two cheetah cubs born there in December have an upbringing that's as close as possible to what they would have in the wild.

The institute, which is associated with the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is a participant in a conservation breeding program to help the cheetah species survive. Two different cheetah mothers, Amani and Zazi, gave birth to cubs about a week and a half apart.

But there was one problem: Each mother gave birth to only one cub. Cheetah mothers typically have litters of three or four cubs; "singletons" are a rarity. For reasons not entirely clear, mothers are unable to properly care for only one cub. "The theory is that one cub does not stimulate the mother enough to keep producing milk," head cheetah keeper Lacey Braun wrote on the National Zoo's website.

Keepers decided to take Amani's cub, a male, from her in order to hand-raise him. When Zazi's single female cub was born later in the month, an idea was hatched: Why not let Zazi raise the two cubs together as siblings? Zazi took to being the mother of "twins" just fine, and the cubs are energetic and healthy. They had their first trip outside last week, and the institute recently launched a live webcam to allow cheetah fans to watch the cubs' antics online.

See more photos of the cubs after the jump!

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Montana's governor encourages ranchers to kill wolves

Gray wolf howling

BILLINGS, Mont. — Defying federal authority over gray wolves, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer on Wednesday encouraged ranchers to kill wolves that prey on their livestock -- even in areas where that is not currently allowed -- and said the state would start shooting packs that hurt elk herds.

Schweitzer told the Associated Press he no longer would wait for federal officials to resolve the tangle of lawsuits over wolves, which has kept the animals on the endangered species list for a decade since recovery goals were first met.

"We will take action in Montana on our own," he said. "We've had it with Washington, D.C., with Congress just yipping about it, with [the Department of the] Interior just vacillating about it."

State wildlife agents and ranchers already kill wolves regularly across much of the Northern Rockies, where 1,700 of the animals roam parts of five states. Rules against killing wolves have been relaxed significantly by federal officials over the past decade but hunting remains prohibited.

Livestock owners in southern Montana and Idaho have authority to defend their property by shooting wolves that attack their cattle, sheep or other domestic animals. And federal agents regularly kill problem wolves, with more than 1,000 shot over the past decade.

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Montana governor blocks shipment of Yellowstone bison to slaughter

A group of bison grazes, just inside Yellowstone National Park near Gardiner, Montana

BILLINGS, Mont. — Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer on Tuesday signed an executive order blocking the shipment of hundreds of Yellowstone National Park bison to slaughter.

The Democratic governor told the Associated Press that he was worried the shipments could spread the disease brucellosis, now largely confined to Yellowstone's wildlife, to Montana livestock.

Park officials had planned to slaughter potentially hundreds of bison testing positive for exposure to the disease, which causes pregnant animals to prematurely abort their young.

The shipments initially had state backing. And Montana has participated in past slaughters, including one three years ago in which more than 1,400 bison passed through Montana to slaughter.

But Schweitzer said he wants to send a message to federal officials that a new approach is needed to control a bison population that spills out of the park and into Montana every few years.

In the interim, he suggested the park bring in loads of hay to feed 525 bison captured so far this winter after they migrated out of the snow-packed park to lower elevations in search of food.

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service delays protections for Pacific walrus


Pacific walruses need additional protection from the threat of climate warming but cannot be added to the threatened or endangered list because other species are a higher priority, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Tuesday.

Walrus will be added to the "warranted but precluded" list, said agency spokesman Bruce Woods, a designation under the Endangered Species Act that allows delays in listing if the agency is making progress listing other species and does not have resources to make a decision on others.

"The threats to the walrus are very real, as evidenced by this 'warranted' finding," said Geoff Haskett, the service's Alaska region director, in a statement. "But its greater population numbers and ability to adapt to land-based haul-outs make its immediate situation less dire than those facing other species such as the polar bear."

He said cooperation with Alaska Native groups, the state and other partners could lessen the long-term effect of climate change for the walrus and help it avoid an endangered listing.

The decision was condemned by the Center for Biological Diversity, which in 2008 petitioned to list walruses as threatened or endangered, citing threats to walruses' sea ice habitat. Center spokeswoman Shaye Wolf said the warranted but precluded designation is a black hole for imperiled species. Some have been so designated for more than 20 years.

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Federal agency proposes voluntary guidelines for wind power developers to avoid bird deaths

Red-tailed hawk

The Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing voluntary guidelines for onshore wind energy developers to avoid bird deaths and other harm to wildlife as part of the Obama administration's big push for renewable and clean energy.

Bird advocates who had lobbied for mandatory standards warned that the new guidelines would do nothing to stem bird deaths as wind power builds up across the country.

"We have a responsibility to ensure that solar, wind and geothermal projects are built in the right way and in the right places so they protect our natural and cultural resources and balance the needs of our wildlife," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement Tuesday. President Obama has called for the nation to get 80% of its electricity from clean energy sources by 2035, and renewable sources are expected to play a key role in that effort.

The department is seeking public comment for its proposed guidelines, which are slated to be released later Tuesday, ahead of a two-day renewable energy conference in Washington. The agency is also proposing new voluntary guidance aimed at preventing deaths of bald and golden eagles.

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Officials halt plan to slaughter brucellosis-afflicted Yellowstone bison after activists file court challenge


BILLINGS, Mont. — Federal officials halted plans Friday to ship bison to slaughter from Yellowstone National Park after saying they first had to review a court challenge filed by wildlife advocates.

Almost 400 of the animals were being held in corrals inside the park for testing to see whether they have been exposed to the disease brucellosis.

Officials had planned to begin this week sending to slaughter those bison that test positive.

But environmental and American Indian groups are seeking a restraining order from a federal judge in Helena to block the shipments. No shipments are expected while the legal challenge is reviewed by the Park Service, Yellowstone spokesman Al Nash said.

Brucellosis can cause wildlife and livestock to prematurely abort their young. About half the park's bison carry the disease, although no bison-to-cattle transmissions have been recorded.

"Our plan at the moment is to continue testing and sorting these animals. We'll see what next week brings," Nash said.

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