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mercoledì 11 maggio 2016

The Latest Addaxes

Image credit: Thomas Rabeil/Sahara Conservation Fund
A new survey has discovered that type of antelope known as the Saharan Addax has been pushed “to the very knife-edge of extinction”—as it found that there are only three left in the Nigerien wild, according to an IUCN report.

The survey involved an extensive search in March across key areas of the Addaxes’ main habitat, Niger. Teams spent 18 hours performing aerial surveys—involving Intelligence Reconnaissance and Surveillance (IRS) technologies, including infra-red capture, and ultra-high resolution cameras that can distinguish different antelope species from the air—but could not locate a single Addax via this method.
A ground search had more success. After traversing more than 430 miles (700 km) in areas where there had been reports of Addax tracks in the past six months, they were able to find one small, apparently nervous group of three Addax—a drastic difference from just six years ago in 2010, when a survey estimated the wild population in Niger at about 200 animals.
The IUCN believes they know why the population here has plummeted so drastically: The oil installations operated by the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) paired with habitat encroachment and loss has led to massive disturbances, and the soldiers who protect the oil industry have been poaching the Addax as well.
Researchers, it seems, are not taking the extinction of wild Addax sitting down.
"We are witnessing in real time the extinction of this iconic and once plentiful species – without immediate intervention, the Addax will lose its battle for survival in the face of illegal, uncontrolled poaching and the loss of its habitat,” said Dr, Jean-Christophe Vié, Deputy Director of IUCN Global Species Programme, in the report. “On behalf of all concerned parties we are recommending a set of emergency measures to help save the Addax from imminent extinction.”
These measures include securing the remaining populations of wild Addax, stopping the soldiers’ poaching, working with the CNPC to prevent their extinction, and bolstering the existing wild populations through the introduction of captive individuals.
“Those with commercial interests in the desert could make important contributions to the protection of the Addax by cooperating with the wildlife authorities and by adopting more sensitive practices, becoming stakeholders in the management of protected areas and by sharing sightings of these elusive animals with conservationists,” added Dr. Thomas Rabeil of the Sahara Conservation Fund.

Not all is lost

While this survey has dire implications, it is important to note that the survey could have missed Addax (although not likely many), and that there are other Addax habitats outside of Niger—like in Morocco or Tunisia. However, the one in Niger is the largest and most important.
Further, captive populations of Addax can be found both in breeding programs and in private collections across the world, with perhaps 1600 Addax total between them. Of course, some of these private collections are hunting lodges where you can pay to kill Addax, so that probably isn’t helping the problem.

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