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A tally of monarch butterflies wintering in Mexico rose to 56. 5 million this year from a record low of 34 million last year but conservationists said on Tuesday the increase was too slight to reduce the threat of extinction facing the insect. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said last month the popular orange-and-black butterfly may warrant federal Endangered Species Act protections tied to declines in cross-country migrations because of farm-related habitat loss. Sarina Jepsen, endangered species director for the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, said scientists had predicted that favorable weather in the butterfly's breeding grounds in the U.S. Midwest and elsewhere would result in more monarchs migrating to Mexico this year than the 56.5 million estimated this week by the Mexican government and that country's chapter of the World Wildlife Fund.
(Reuters) - The San Francisco Zoo is giving the spurned and broken-hearted a new reason to mark Valentine's Day - the chance to adopt a giant scorpion or hissing cockroach named after a heart-trampling ex. "When you think about the detritus of your love life this Valentine's Day, consider adopting a Madagascar hissing cockroach for your ex," the San Francisco Zoo said on its donation page of Monday's promotion. For those suffering the sting of rejection, the zoo recommends the giant hairy scorpion.
By Julia Edwards WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will call on Congress to expand protection of Alaska's Arctic refuge where oil and gas drilling is prohibited to 12 million acres (5 million hectares), an area that includes 1.4 million oil-rich acres along the coast. The proposal, unveiled by the Interior Department on Sunday, ran into instant criticism from Republicans and will likely face an uphill battle in Congress, where Republicans now control both chambers. The wilderness designation, the highest level of federal protection under which oil and gas drilling is banned, would be extended to a total of 19.8 million acres (8 million hectares) under the proposal, the Interior Department said. Republicans kicked off the new Congress earlier this month with a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline to help move Canadian tar sands oil to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.
By Zachary Fagenson MIAMI (Reuters) - Lolita, a killer whale that has lived in a tank at Miami's Seaquarium for 44 years, could move a step closer to freedom this week. After decades of campaigning, animal rights activists hope U.S. officials will include the orca on a list of endangered whales that frequent the waters where she was captured, off Washington state. About 1,000 protesters gathered outside Miami Seaquarium this month to demand the release of Lolita, who performs in shows seven days a week and was the subject of the 2003 video documentary "Lolita: Slave to Entertainment." Officials at Miami Seaquarium, where the orca has lived since 1970, say the release plan is dangerous and Lolita would not survive in the wild after so many years in captivity. "This is a non-releasable animal," said curator Robert Rose.
Shortly before 11 am on the last Saturday in May, a heavily laden white Mitsubishi truck pulled into the Fuji Motors East Africa car dealership in an industrial neighbourhood on the northern edge of Mombasa. When Kenyan police officers raided the car lot five days later, they refused a bribe of five million shillings ($55,000, 49,000 euros), seized the ivory and arrested two men. The bust was one of the biggest in the country's history but the suspected mastermind, Feisal Mohamed Ali, aged 46, had escaped. Ali was "alleged to be the ringleader of an ivory smuggling ring in Kenya" according to Interpol, and in November the international police organisation listed him among the world's nine "most wanted environmental criminals".
As he scrubs the road to India's Taj Mahal on his knees for less than five dollars a day, Ramjeet beams with pride at the thought of US President Barack Obama admiring his handiwork. Ramjeet, who does not have a last name, is one of 600 cleaners mobilised in the city of Agra ahead of Tuesday's visit by the US president and First Lady Michelle Obama to the world's most famous temple of love. The streets need to be spick and span," said India's former chief archaeologist KK Mohammed, who has guided world leaders around the white marbled mausoleum. "You cannot have a VVVIP of the world come to the Taj Mahal and let him see that," Mohammed told AFP.
By Letitia Stein CRYSTAL RIVER, Fla. (Reuters) - On winter days, Florida manatees flock by the hundreds to the balmy waters of Three Sisters Springs, drawing crowds of snorkelers and kayakers to the U.S. sanctuary, where people may swim with the endangered species. "It's kind of a madhouse," said Kimberly Sykes, assistant manager of the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, which includes Three Sisters Springs. "People are just bumping into manatees, because they can't see them." Manatees flock to warm water sites when temperatures in other places fall below 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius). While they want to preserve an experience that has created countless lovers of the species, they also want to protect the manatees, a beloved state symbol in Florida.
The actor seen in the "Twilight" movies and on the NBC series "Revolution" has landed a recurring role on "Zoo," the new drama series set to join "Extant" and "Under the Dome" on CBS this summer. The ecologist Chloe Tousignant and the biologist Jackson Oz attempt to solve the mystery of the animal violence before it's too late. Known for playing Bella's father in the "Twilight" franchise and Miles Matheson on the now canceled sci-fi series "Revolution," Billy Burke will play Mitch, a large-animal veterinarian who prefers the company of his patients to human interaction. The actor joins James Wolk ("Mad Men"), who was announced earlier in the lead as Jackson Oz, and French actress Nora Arnezeder, who will play Chloe Tousignant.
By Michael Fleeman LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - An 8-foot alligator was found next to the carcasses of two cats in the back yard of a suburban Los Angeles home where the reptile had been living illegally since the 1970s, authorities said on Thursday. Animal control officers armed with a search warrant discovered the alligator, estimated to be about 40 years old, in a closed box with the cat remains at the home in Van Nuys, Los Angeles Animal Services Commander Mark Salazar said. Salazar said Animal Services was conducting a full criminal investigation and called on any residents in the area who have lost small pets at "any time over the last 40 years” to contact the department. Keeping wild animals without a permit is illegal in Los Angeles.
By Jonathan Kaminsky NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Two monkeys belonging to a species that is critically endangered died at a Louisiana zoo after they were left out overnight in the cold by a caretaker, officials said on Wednesday. The cotton-top Tamarins, weighing less than a pound and distinguishable by their shock of white hair, were among three that were kept outside overnight last week in temperatures that dipped into the 30s Fahrenheit at the Alexandria Zoo in central Louisiana. One of the monkeys survived, officials with the city of Alexandria, which owns the zoo, said. ...