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Category: Reptiles & Amphibians

200 species new to science are found in Papua New Guinea


A thumbnail-sized frog with a long snout, a brilliant green katydid with bright pink eyes and a mouse with a white-tipped tail are among 200 species scientists have discovered in Papua New Guinea.

The findings were unveiled this week by Washington D.C.-based Conservation International, whose researchers discovered a kaleidoscopic array of critters during two expeditions to the South Pacific island nation in 2009.

Among the finds: 24 frog species, scores of spiders and around 100 insects including ants and dragonflies that appear to have never been described in scientific literature before, the conservation group said.

"They tell us how little we still know about the world," research team leader Stephen Richards said Thursday. "There's a lot of concern, quite rightly, about biodiversity loss and climate change and the impacts on biodiversity and what biodiversity means to us.... Then we do projects like this and we discover, 'Hey -- we don't even know what biodiversity is out there.' "

In April 2009, the scientists flew to the Nakanai Mountains of the island of New Britain, and then traveled by dugout canoe, on foot and by helicopter to a remote research area of the rainforest. There, they found scores of fascinating animals, Richards said, including a mouse with a white-tipped tail that appears to have no close relatives and represents an entirely new genus.

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Animals most affected by Michigan oil spill? Turtles

SnappingTurtle1 MARSHALL, Mich. — It's easy to figure out which species is the dominant one at a wildlife rehabilitation center set up in the aftermath of the summer oil spill in southern Michigan.

Just read the small sign tacked to a temporary partition: "Welcome to Snapperville, a friendly suburb of Turtle Town."

Turtles make up close to 90% of the 2,300 animals captured and cared for since the late July oil spill that polluted the Kalamazoo River. And true to their history, the hard-shelled reptiles are proving to be resilient.

Rows of black rubber or gray steel bins at the center serve as temporary homes to turtles ranging from 6-ounce spotted turtles to 30-pound snappers.

Turtles ready for cleaning often are covered with mayonnaise to help loosen the coating of oil. They get detail work from a team of volunteers in white coats toiling under hot bright lights.

Toothbrushes and cotton swabs are among the most common tools used to clean black, hardened oil out of every nook and cranny.

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Firefighters rescue 18-foot Burmese python from burning Rhode Island home

Burmese Python

EAST GREENWICH, R.I. — Firefighters often have to rescue people from burning homes, sometimes even a dog or cat.

But the 18-foot Burmese python that firefighters had to drag out of a burning Rhode Island home just after midnight Monday may have been a first.

Acting Chief Peter Henrikson tells the Providence Journal that it took two firefighters to carry out the python with a diameter like a "Frisbee" in the middle.

The home's sole occupant managed to escape on his own and brought out his two dogs and a cat.

Henrikson says he hates snakes and wouldn't go near it.

He says it appears the fire started where the pipe of a wood stove met the wall. The East Greenwich house was condemned.

Pet alligator seized from Long Island liquor store
Florida deputies wrangle, handcuff 7-foot-long alligator near elementary school

-- Associated Press

Photo: A Burmese python (not the one rescued from the burning East Greenwich, R.I., home). Credit: Mike Stocker / Associated Press

What California students learned photographing desert tortoises could -- and did -- fill a book

TortoiseBook Thirteen Southern California high school students are the artists behind a new photography book that explores the lives of desert tortoises, a species considered vulnerable to extinction.

The publication of the book, "Tortoises Through the Lens: A Visual Exploration of a Mojave Desert Icon," culminates an 18-month, $27,000 project sponsored by the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Assn.

Students from Barstow High School, Needles High School, Desert High School, Excelsior Education Center, Victor Valley High School, Pete Knight High School, the Academy for Academic Excellence and a home-school program participated in the project. 

"It was all about perspective, illumination and snapping the shutter at the right moment to get that ultimate shot," Victor Valley senior Keya Cason, 17, told The Times. "The shot that says, 'Tortoises -- elders of the desert' and the land in which they live are important. " Cason now aspires to be a wildlife photographer.

The students' photography was also exhibited for several months at the Mojave National Preserve's historic Kelso Depot Desert Light Gallery. Proceeds from "Tortoises Through the Lens," which retails for $14.95, benefit tortoise conservation efforts.

Learn more about the project at The Times' environmental blog, Greenspace.

-- Lindsay Barnett

Pet alligator seized from Long Island liquor store

Liquor Store Gator

A pet alligator has been seized from a liquor store on New York's Long Island.

The Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says the 3-foot-long, illegally kept alligator was removed Wednesday from Alpine Wines and Liquors in Wading River.

Authorities say two employees of the store were issued tickets for possession of an illegal animal. The American alligator will be sent to a sanctuary out of state.

The store's proprietor told Newsday (subscription) that an employee had asked her to take care of it while he was apartment hunting and that she believed the animal was a monitor lizard, not an alligator.

Florida deputies wrangle, handcuff 7-foot-long alligator near elementary school
Kentucky men arrested for allegedly stealing lizard, trying to pawn it for alcohol

-- Associated Press

Photo: Suffolk County SPCA / Associated Press

Florida deputies wrangle, handcuff 7-foot-long alligator near elementary school

Florida Gator

OLDSMAR, Fla. --Deputies in Florida had to handcuff a rather unusual suspect -- a 7-foot-long alligator.

A crossing guard at a Tampa-area school spotted the gator lounging near an elementary school Monday morning around the time children would be walking to school.

As she and three deputies waited for a trapper to arrive, the alligator started walking toward the children. Three deputies roped the gator's neck and tail as the animal rolled and thrashed. Its tail broke off chunks of stucco from a nearby wall.

Deputies later secured the gator's mouth with electrical tape and handcuffed its hind legs. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials took custody of the animal until the trapper arrived.

Zoo Atlanta to receive inspection following escape of a rattlesnake
It's a boy! It's a girl! It's ... 22 baby Komodo dragons?

-- Associated Press

Photo: Pinellas County Sheriff's Deputy Jeffrey Crandall attempts to capture the alligator. Credit: Pinellas County Sheriff's Department / Associated Press

Zoo Atlanta to receive inspection following escape of a rattlesnake

ATLANTA — Georgia wildlife officials will inspect an Atlanta zoo after a venomous rattlesnake was able to escape and slither around a city neighborhood.

Zoo staff noticed the female tiger rattlesnake was missing during a routine check late Friday. The snake was found dead Monday after a nearby property owner killed it.

Georgia Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman Lauren Curry said Tuesday that an inspection team will be sent to Zoo Atlanta to investigate. Zoo officials have said a staff member did not properly secure a cage door.

Wildlife officials have not decided whether the zoo will face any penalties for the escape.

Review of Toledo Zoo incident in which elephant attacked keeper finds that keeper broke rules
Camels, tiger stolen in Quebec are found safe

-- Associated Press

Video: An Associated Press report from Aug. 31

It's a boy! It's a girl! It's ... 22 baby Komodo dragons?

Komodo dragons

Big news for endangered, giant reptile enthusiasts: 22 Komodo dragons have hatched at the L.A. Zoo since Aug. 8, all offspring of a single female.

Lima, the babies' mother, laid 23 eggs in January. This is the first time the L.A. Zoo has successfully bred Komodo dragons, and it's one of only a handful of zoos in North America that has managed to do so. The hatchlings aren't currently being exhibited for the public, but the zoo expects to eventually move some of them to its Winnick Family Children's Zoo. Eleven of them will eventually move to Ohio's Columbus Zoo, a zoo curator told the Associated Press, and experts with the Assn. of Zoos & Aquariums' Species Survival Plan program will determine where the rest of the babies end up.

Komodo dragon hatchlings typically measure between 14 and 20 inches in length and weigh between 3 and 4 ounces. As adults, they'll weigh up to 200 pounds and can measure as long as 10 feet!

The species is native to a few islands in Indonesia, notably (and perhaps unsurprisingly) Komodo Island. They're extremely effective predators that can fell even a huge water buffalo with their serrated teeth and run up to 13 miles per hour in short bursts. These are important skills for a giant reptile to have, since they can eat 80% of their body weight in a single sitting.

Last year, a research team using magnetic resonance imaging scans discovered that Komodos produce a powerful venom that prevents the blood of a bitten animal from clotting properly. That typically sends the animal into shock and hastens its death, if the force of the Komodo's bite doesn't kill it first. The venom, one expert told the Times of London, makes the Komodo "an amazing killing machine." It also makes it an animal you don't want to run into in a dark alley -- one of the best reasons, in our opinion, to never move to Komodo Island, where you might actually run into one.

Species of titi monkey found in Colombia is new to science -- and in danger of extinction
Octopus species with venom that works at sub-zero temperatures discovered in Antarctica

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Two of the 22 recently hatched Komodo dragons at the L.A. Zoo. Credit: Associated Press

Pea-sized frog? Yes, that's a pea-sized frog scientists have discovered in Borneo

Pea-Sized Frog

Scientists have discovered a frog the size of a pea, the smallest found in Asia, Africa or Europe, on the Southeast Asian island of Borneo.

Adult males of the new micro-species range in size from 10.6 and 12.8 millimeters and the pea-sized amphibian has been named Microhyla nepenthicola after the plant on Borneo on which it lives, according to taxonomy magazine Zootaxa.

Dr. Indraneil Das of the Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation at the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak said the sub-species had originally been mis-identified in museums.

"Scientists presumably thought they were juveniles of other species, but it turns out they are adults of this newly-discovered micro species," he said.

Das published the paper with Alexander Haas of the Biozentrum Grindel und Zoologisches Museum of Hamburg, Germany.

The mini frogs were found on the edge of a road leading to the summit of the Gunung Serapi mountain in the Kubah National Park in the Malaysian state of Sarawak.

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Rehabilitated sea turtles rescued from Gulf oil spill are released in Florida waters


CEDAR KEY, Fla. — The first rehabilitated turtles oiled by BP's massive leak were released back into the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday, with scientists saying that animals taken in by rescuers -- including birds -- appear more resilient than first feared.

Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, who is overseeing the oil crisis for the government, helped release the 22 oiled sea turtles about a mile off the coast of Cedar Key, Fla., an area unaffected by the spilled crude. They were the first oiled turtles found in the gulf and rehabilitated.

"I think it's emblematic of us starting to look forward in the recovery," Allen said, smiling as he released some of the turtles. "This is a very pristine environment. This is their natural habitat."

Even though oil spill rescue crews have brought more sea turtles and birds to shore in the month since BP capped its broken well than the previous month, wildlife officials said both kinds of animals have suffered less damage than originally projected.

Rescuers have taken in 444 oiled turtles that were found alive since April 30, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They found 522 turtles dead, though they've confirmed that only 17 of those had oil on them.


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