Science Endangered at the Fish and Wildlife Service

The Gray Wolf, The Whooping Crane, The Bald Eagle are just a few of the species of iconic wildlife that define and represent our country.  They are also some of the species that we are a few wrong steps away from losing forever.    Most Americans sleep better at night knowing that our government shares our concern for protecting these iconic species, dedicating money and manpower and using the best science to make management decisions, but a recent report released by the Union of Concerned Scientists suggest that this may not the case. 

The report surveyed 7,000 scientists in 4 different agencies, NOAA, FDA, CDC and the Fish and Wildlife Service and the results were troubling.  Of the scientists surveyed at Fish and Wildlife, 72% believe that too much consideration was given to political interests at their agency, and 47% of agency scientists believe industry interference in agency decision-making is concerning, the highest percentages of any other government agency surveyed.  These numbers suggest that our comfortable confidence that the Fish and Wildlife service is acting in the best interest of America’s wildlife is unfounded, and that FWS is in fact more concerned with catering to the best interests of politicians and their industry sponsors. 


Many of the responses from the scientists interviewed gave startling insight into the fragility of proper enforcement of the Endangered Species Act in the hands of an agency which does not base its decisions on proper scientific research.  Perhaps best stated by an interviewed FWS scientist,

Scientific integrity among biological staff is high, but is sometimes affected by political policy interventions by upper management. We are still hearing of high-level supervisors that take draft BOs home and rewrite them to fit political agendas”.

Or equally concerning: “Less political considerations are needed. Most decisions I’m aware of: wolf, wolverine, American burying beetle, mussels, were the result of political interference.” 

Besides enforcement of the Endangered Species Act, the report highlighted other challenges within the Fish and Wildlife Service.  Multiple comments described a culture of fear at FWS, both for scientists and management, scientists who feel pressured to compromise their science to protect their careers, and management who fear political attacks on the Endangered Species Act.  With a budget that is regularly reduced and continued Congressional attacks to gut the Endangered Species act, a burgeoning culture of fear and reduction of efficacy at FWS is certainly understandable, but not acceptable “Our operating budgets have been decreased, as have our staffs. Our regulatory responsibilities keep increasing. As a result, staff are often spread too thin. As long as our director is a political appointee, politics will always enter into regulatory decisions”.

With the release of UCS’s report it becomes clear that some dramatic changes within The Fish and Wildlife Service need to be made before we as Americans can once again sleep easy.  In the meantime America, wake up.  You are now the last line of defense protecting our vanishing wildlife from disappearing forever in exchange for political gain. With what we now know, the protection of our wildlife can no longer be passed off with trust that others are taking action and making appropriate decisions, your voice is needed.   Step up for wildlife and take action for change by voicing your concerns to the administration of the Fish and Wildlife Service through our action page.   

Orcas, Salmon and Rivers – A Life Giving Linkage

Rivers and salmon are an easy linkage to understand—no water, no salmon. However, what we now know is that some orcas—specifically the Southern Resident orcas of Puget Sound and the Pacific coast—are directly linked to salmon for survival. The connections between wild Pacific salmon, endangered orcas (also known as killer whales), and a great western river make a compelling case for changing how we think about the oceans, rivers, and the creatures that inhabit them. We’ll look at this more closely later in this blog, but right now, everyone who cares about healthy orcas, oceans, and sustainable fisheries should urge President Obama to remove the four dams on the lower Snake River.

L91 and L122 photo credit Monika Wieland

L91 and L122 photo credit Monika Wieland

Here’s Why

The Snake River, with its headwaters in the Rocky Mountains of western Wyoming, flows 1,078 miles to the Columbia River, which is the largest North American river that empties into the Pacific Ocean. The Columbia, the Snake, and their many tributaries once supported 10 to 16 million salmon and steelhead each year on their return from the Pacific Ocean to spawn in their natal streams.

Pacific salmon are truly amazing fish. They are born in freshwater streams and lakes— some hundreds of miles inland—and in the case of the Snake River, as far west as Idaho. Yet these fish are also ocean species. As they grow they travel the course of their native river to the Pacific Ocean, where they spend the majority of their adult lives feeding and maturing, and preparing to make the long journey back to their home stream to spawn and then and then die.

Salmon and steelhead are vital to numerous Native American cultures. For many tribes in the region, salmon have been a primary food source for thousands of years. But they are more than food to many people. The Columbia-Inter River Tribal Fish Commission writes “without salmon returning to our rivers and streams, we would cease to be Indian people.”

The importance of salmon to commercial and recreational fisheries, as well as many families and communities on the West Coast, is indisputable. But wild salmon and steelhead populations are now drastically depleted from their former abundance. Today there are 28 threatened and endangered salmon populations on the western coast of the United States. Thirteen of these populations spawn in the Columbia River and its tributaries. Of those, four are from the Snake River: fall Chinook (threatened), spring/summer Chinook (threatened), sockeye (endangered) and steelhead (threatened). And with large portions of the Columbia and Snake rivers now impassible to fish due to dams, just over half of the wild salmon populations in the Columbia River basin are already extinct. It is estimated that thirty-seven genetically distinct species of salmon have been lost forever.[i]

Major dams on the Columbia River, Snake River and main tributaries, highlighting the lower Snake River dams and dams that do not allow fish passage. Adapted from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Major dams on the Columbia River, Snake River and main tributaries, highlighting the lower Snake River dams and dams that do not allow fish passage. Adapted from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.


On average, there is a major dam every 72  miles in the Columbia River Basin. The upper stretches of the Columbia and the Snake rivers are impassible at the Chief Joseph and Hells Canyon dams, respectively. But salmon can navigate past some other dams.

Four federal dams managed by the Army Corps of Engineers on the lower Snake are built with fish ladders for returning adult salmon, but out-migrating juveniles (smolts) have a very difficult time getting to the ocean. What’s more, the physical features of dams, such as turbines and sluiceways, directly kill both adult and juvenile salmon. And this summer, unusually warm waters, especially in the slackwater behind dams, are killing thousands of salmon returning to the Columbia Basin.

What About the Orcas?

The Southern Resident killer whales are actually a large family or clan of orcas made up of three different “pods.” These pods lives in the Salish Sea and Puget Sound off Washington State during the spring and summer months. Orcas are able to use echolocation to detect different salmon species and focus on their preferred prey.   What scientists are learning is that these Southern Resident orcas prefer Chinook (king) salmon; Chinook salmon are 75-90 percent of the orcas’ summer diet.

The National Marine Fisheries Service listed the Southern Resident killer whale as endangered in 2005. There are now only about 81 orcas  remaining, and the lack of adequate preferred prey—Chinook salmon—is one of the biggest threats to their survival and recovery. Scientists have linked the survival and birth rates of the orcas with the coast-wide availability of Chinook salmon.[ii] When orcas are feeding in the Salish Sea in summer months, they depend heavily on Chinook bound for British Columbia’s Fraser River. New scientific studies show that in the late fall and winter months, two of the three orca pods spend a significant amount of time feeding off the outer wester coast of the United States, as far south as Monterey, California. What’s more, these two pods spend a substantial amount of their time feeding near the mouth of the Columbia River.[iii] What are they doing there? They are feeding on salmon returning to the Columbia and Snake River systems.

Rebuilding Chinook salmon populations is the most important thing we can do to help endangered orcas recover. The National Marine Fisheries Service has determined that the lack of adequate prey for Southern Resident killer whales “will require a long-term commitment to rebuilding and enhancing salmon stocks.”[iv] The federal government, however, has been reluctant to make what is arguably the most important conservation commitment—decommissioning the lower four Snake River dams.

Removing those four dams would restore salmon’s access to thousands of miles of river and streams and would produce hundreds of thousands more Chinook that would help Southern Resident killer whales survive and rebuild their population. In fact, removing these four dams may be the single biggest action that the United States  can take to increase salmon abundance in the region, prevent future salmon population extinctions, and help orcas recover.

Some argue these dams are vital to the region’s hydroelectric power supply and shipping. Yet the four dams on the lower Snake River provide only 1 to 4  percent of the region’s power, depending on the time of year. These dams are increasingly expensive to maintain, and their shipping and power benefits can and are being offset by highway and rail transportation, wind and solar energy development, and additional investments in energy efficiency. According to Jim Waddell, a retired 35-year career U.S. Army Corps of Engineers civil engineer:

“The American people can no longer afford these dams, whether their costs are measured in dollars or fish, lost opportunity or continued environmental damage. The construction of these four  dams has been a mistake, and at some point they will be breached. The longer the time before restoring this river to its natural flow, the greater the cost to the American taxpayer.”[v]

The Endangered Species Coalition is not the first to come to the conclusion that these dams must go to recover salmon and orcas. We are partnering with Save our Wild Salmon Coalition and a growing Orca-Salmon Alliance dedicated to recovering wild salmon and orcas populations:( –

Please join the Endangered Species Coalition and our partners and call on President Obama to remove four dams on the lower Snake River. Click here to sign the petition.


[i] Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission and the Oregon Fisheries Congress. 1997.

[ii] Ward, E.J., E.E. Holmes, and K.C. Balcomb. 2009. Quantifying the effects of prey abundance on killer whale reproduction. Journal of Applied Ecology 46, 632-640.

[iii] Hansen, B. 2015. Distribution and Diet of Southern Resident Killer Whales. NOAA Fisheries Northwest Fisheries Science Center. July 28, 2015 Program Review. Accessed at:

[iv] NOAA Fisheries. 2014. 10 Years of Research and Conservation. Southern Resident Killer Whales. NOAA. NWFSC. Accessed at,

[v] Waddel, J. 2014. Comments to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Waterway Users Advisory Board at their meeting of August 14, 2014 in Walla Walla, Washington. Accessed at:

World’s Cutest In-Patients

This is a guest post By Zoe Helene (@cosmicsister).

Orphaned Costa Rican Wild Animal Babies Rescued and Set Free in the Rainforest

Sam Trull loves wildlife—especially primates and sloths. So she naturally found her dream job as a photographer, conservationist and former wildlife manager at Kids Saving the Rainforest (KSTR), a nonprofit organization in Costa Rica’s Manuel Antonio National Park, founded by two 9-year-old girls who saw the rainforest disappearing and were inspired to help save it. Open to visitors, KSTR’s Wildlife Rescue Center is the only legal rescue center on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast that heals (or nurses) and releases wounded, sick, abandoned and orphaned rainforest animals—and it has a 50 percent release rate, which is high. As many as 70 wild animal in-patients can be at the clinic under the care of Sam and a part-time veterinarian, Dr. Pia Martin along with a professional staff and volunteers. In this biologically diverse and abundant region, Sam has cared for all sorts of orphaned and injured squirrel monkeys, sloths, anteaters, kinkajous, capuchins, raccoons, ocelots, jaguarondi, and eyra cat—a small native wild cat that most people will never encounter. Her prolific photography portfolio of animal portraits capture and bring home the magical connection she has with animals she has cared for.

Over a period of 15 years, Sam worked with primates in North Carolina, Madagascar and West Africa. She now lives on the sanctuary grounds at KTSR. Originally drawn to Costa Rica for the primates, she ended up staying for the sloths, which she finds similar to primates and which she has a passion for. Sam is now the Sloth Specialist at The Sloth Institute Costa Rica, a new independent spin-off project she founded that was initially supported by KSTR. Her first photography book, Slothlove, will be on shelves January 2016 but is available now for pre-order.

Sam is featured with Newbie, a three-toed sloth she cared for, and Tiny, one of the youngest two-toed sloths she had ever come across, on BBC One’s Natures Miracle Orphans which airs Wednesdays, September 23 and 30, 2015 at 8 p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listings). After the broadcast the episode will stream online on PBS Nature.

I caught up with Sam at the sanctuary in Manuel Antonio.

During your two year tenure as wildlife manager, you realized your passion for working with sloths.

I did, and now I serve solely as the Sloth Specialist at KSTR’s The Sloth Institute Costa Rica …a dream come true! They are such loving animals. They form strong bonds with their fellow sloths and with their human caregivers, and they melt the hearts of all who see them. I’m so grateful that I get to combine my two biggest passions—wildlife photography and wildlife conservation and rehabilitation—while making a positive impact everyday on the wildlife here in Costa Rica and around the world. I hope to help people appreciate these amazing animals for more than their obvious cuteness and to inspire a desire to help protect all wildlife and natural habitats.

Samatha holds a newborn baby three-toed (Bradypus variegatus) sloth to her chest. This method is called “skin to skin.” Photo by Seda Sejud

Samatha holds a newborn baby three-toed (Bradypus variegatus) sloth to her chest. This method is called “skin to skin.” Photo by Seda Sejud

Tell me about the photo of you in scrubs holding the baby sloth against your chest.

That’s a newborn three-toed sloth. Her mother came in pregnant and injured badly after falling from a tree and damaging her brain. After three days in our rescue center, I noticed that she was going into labor. After 36 hours of contractions she still wasn’t delivering, so we took her to another vet and X-rays showed that the baby was breached. Together we performed an emergency C-section. And at least to our knowledge, that was the first ever C-section on a wild three-toed sloth! 

This newborn baby three-toed (Bradypus variegatus) sloth, having survived her mother's emergency c-section, looks about at the strange, human world she has been born into.

This newborn baby three-toed (Bradypus variegatus) sloth, having survived her mother’s emergency c-section, looks about at the strange, human world she has been born into. Photo by Sam Trull.

It’s a remarkable story!

Holding a newborn baby to your chest is a method called “skin to skin.” It’s used for human babies immediately after surgery to increase their body temperature to reverse hypothermia, which is a common complication in C-section births. It’s a quick and effective method, and it worked.

Clyde, a baby Titi monkey, is all grown up now. He was moved first into the big cage with the adult Titi monkeys, the next step in forming a troop for release into the wild.

Clyde, a baby Titi monkey, is all grown up now. He was moved first into the big cage with the adult Titi monkeys, the next step in forming a troop for release into the wild. Photo by Sam Trull.

This adorable baby being bottle fed is an indigenous Squirrel monkey. Are Squirrel monkeys the same as Titi monkeys?

Yes, they are. Titi is a native local name for Squirrel Monkeys (Saimiri oerstedii), but it the name is not really known outside of Costa Rica. If you visit the rescue center, you’ll see squirrel monkeys and Spider Monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi) and Marmosets from Brazil up close, and you’ll learn something fascinating about them.

Moving a species up from a designation of “critically endangered” to “endangered” is a rare reversal in today’s world. And all it really took, essentially, was erecting a series of thick blue ropes!

We rescue wild animals, but we also work very hard to prevent harm to them in the first place.

The leading cause of death for the endemic Titi monkeys is electrocution by high-tension electric wires—an extremely traumatic and painful experience. The second leading cause of death is being hit by cars, which isn’t any fun, either. KSTR erected bridges that offer monkeys and other animals a safe alternate route across the roads of Manuel Antonio. We put them in strategic areas where being electrocuted or hit by a car is likely, and they’ve been very helpful.

A Titi monkey crosses one of the blue rope monkey bridges put up by Kids Saving The Rainforest. Photo courtesy of the Kraft Family.

A Titi monkey crosses one of the blue rope monkey bridges put up by Kids Saving The Rainforest. Photo courtesy of the Kraft Family. 

And these bridges are just thick blue ropes?

Yes, and they work perfectly and the monkeys love them! Lots of other animals—including anteaters and sloths—use the monkey bridges, too! When you consider how simple and effective this solution is, the costs of erecting and maintaining bridges is minimal.

I sponsored a monkey bridge and I think is a great gift idea for animal lovers.

Yes, it is—because it is such a positive and hopeful project, and a little goes a long way. Just $10 a month we can provide maintenance on a monkey bridge for an entire year. Several years ago there were approximately 1,200 to 1,500 Titi monkeys, and today the count is up to around 3,000. Yes, that’s remarkable and rare but they’re still endangered. We need to add more monkey bridges so the species can fully recover, so we hope many more people will Sponsor a Monkey Bridge.

These marmosets are safe and healthy but they can not be set free.

These marmosets are safe and healthy but they can not be set free. Photo by Sam Trull.

The marmosets at the rescue center aren’t native to Costa Rica, right?

They’re from Brazil, brought here by a retired scientist who was studying them and no longer needed them. They’ve been in captivity for generations, so even if they were in Brazil they wouldn’t be suitable candidates for release.

How do you hand-rear orphaned babies while ensuring that they can be released back into the wild when they’re old enough?

We minimize human contact, so animals that are being rehabilitated for release are not on the tour. The only animals on the tour are the permanent residents, which means they’ve been deemed “unreleasable.” They live indefinitely within the sanctuary. During a small section of the tour, visitors can walk past the clinic and look through the glass window to see wild animals being rehabbed, but the babies can’t really hear what’s going on outside so they’re not affected. We limit human contact, big time.

Baby Katniss is a Coati (Nasua narica), which is a member of the raccoon family. But unlike raccoons, which are mostly nocturnal, the coati is diurnal, which means most active during the daytime.

Baby Katniss is a Coati (Nasua narica), which is a member of the raccoon family. But unlike raccoons, which are mostly nocturnal, the coati is diurnal, which means most active during the daytime. Photo by Sam Trull.

Even though you keep the babies away from visitors, you still have to hand rear them from a very young age. How do you keep them from becoming habituated?

These animals have had a good experience with a human being but they gravitate to their own kind. We put babies with other babies of their own species as often as possible so they’ll have social companionship with a member of their own species and don’t end up entirely dependent on humans. It’s really important to get them with their own kind as soon as they’re ready. We just have to keep pushing them to be emotionally independent. When I’ve raised squirrel monkeys, for example, the babies need social companionship from me when they’re a lot younger, but as soon as I put them with another monkey they’re kinda like, “Who are you?”

So, you have to encourage that space.

These darling baby Costa Rican Raccoons (Mapache) belong to the same feisty, clever species as the ones in North America—they just look a little different. They were between 1 and 2 months old when this photo was taken.

These darling baby Costa Rican Raccoons (Mapache) belong to the same feisty, clever species as the ones in North America—they just look a little different. They were between 1 and 2 months old when this photo was taken. Photo by Sam Trull.

There’s no way that you could raise them being completely hands-off.

They need love and touch to survive. Without that they would just die because they’d be so depressed. It’s a tricky situation, for sure, because they do need you for emotional development and just to learn how to be wild—not just logistically but also emotionally. Then you have to back off when its time, and hopefully they don’t become so habituated that they’ll come up to humans when they’re in the wild.

Would these animals die if this rescue center didn’t exist?

Yes, they would.

This little Tolomuco (Eira barbara) was found tied up to a tree on a beach, crying.

This little Tolomuco (Eira barbara) was found tied up to a tree on a beach, crying. Photo by Sam Trull.

What is this sweet little fellow with the orphan eyes?

He’s a tolomuco! They’re also known as “tayras”. They’re omnivorous, and from the Mustelidae family… think “weasel”. He was found tied up to a tree on a beach, crying. A good Samaritan followed the wailing sounds and found him. No one knows what happened to his mother, but it is highly likely that she was killed so they could catch the baby and sell it as a pet. He was so little he could barely even walk around but he grew up quickly and was full of playful energy. We gave him space to explore and play because we wanted to encourage any wild exploratory behaviors for the day when he got released into the jungle.

We get all sorts of characters here.

Pesto the Woolly Opossum (Caluromys derbianus) came to the center as a tiny orphan and later was released successfully into the wild. Woolly Opossum's are nocturnal and solitary.

Pesto the Woolly Opossum (Caluromys derbianus) came to the center as a tiny orphan and later was released successfully into the wild. Woolly Opossum’s are nocturnal and solitary. Photo by Sam Trull.

I like Pesto the Woolly Possum!

Pesto was awesome. He was brought to us as a tiny orphan and grew up into a healthy an amazing woolly opossum that could jump, climb and forage for food with great speed and accuracy. So one day, when he was ready, we left his rehab cage door open at night. This began the process of what we call a “soft release”, which allowed Pesto the freedom to take his time coming and going until he felt comfortable enough to permanently leave.

Tiny orphan baby Pesto the Woolly Opossum (Caluromys derbianus) got a happy ending. The name of their genus, Caluromys, means “Beautiful Mouse” in Greek.

Tiny orphan baby Pesto the Woolly Opossum (Caluromys derbianus) got a happy ending. The name of their genus, Caluromys, means “Beautiful Mouse” in Greek. Photo by Sam Trull.

You’re not kidding when you say he was tiny!

Yes. He was teeny-weeny and super cute! We think he’s doing well out there in his new life in the wild.

Baby anteaters come into the center fairly regularly, usually because the mother was either killed by a dog or hit by a car.

Baby anteaters come into the center fairly regularly, usually because the mother was either killed by a dog or hit by a car. Photo by Sam Trull.

Are most of the baby animals at the center orphaned by humans?

Yes. Unfortunately. Anteaters, for instance, climb trees to hunt for insects but can spend half their time on the ground, where dogs are. Dogs and cars are big problems for anteaters, the most common animal to get hit by cars. Northern tamandua (Tamandua mexicana) babies come into the center fairly regularly, usually because the mother was either killed by a dog or hit by a car.

Do all the patients have names?

Yes, we do name them all, and we have themes for each species. We name the anteaters after comedians because they’re so hilarious. We have Robin, who came in as a baby right around the time that Robin Williams passed away, Lucille Ball, and Whoopie Goldberg. Anteaters are so goofy and play a lot in a cute, clumsy way. They don’t have the best vision, so they maneuver around based mostly on excellent hearing and sense of smell. They get startled pretty easily. We try not to startle them, but we just find ourselves laughing around them a lot.

Sam raised Kermie, a two-toed (Choloepus hoffmanni) sloth, from orphaned newborn to “handsome young sloth” during a year she calls “one of the best of my life”. In this photo, Kermie and his friend Pelota enjoy guarumo fruit, a favorite food. Kermie has since been successfully released into the wild. Check out those cool toes! Kermie and his friend Pelota grace the cover of Sam's new photography book, Slothlove. Photo by Sam Trull.

Sam raised Kermie, a two-toed (Choloepus hoffmanni) sloth, from orphaned newborn to “handsome young sloth” during a year she calls “one of the best of my life”. In this photo, Kermie and his friend Pelota enjoy guarumo fruit, a favorite food. Check out his cool toes! Kermie and his friend Pelota grace the cover of Sam’s new photography book, Slothlove. Photo by Sam Trull

How do you name the sloths?

We give adult three-toed sloths fancy, dignified British names like Winston and Fiona because they present themselves in a very calm and distinguished manner. We name adult two-toed sloths after action heroes like Stallone or Schwarzenegger because they’re strong and aggressive animals. We name the baby sloths after TV show characters. Kermie was named after Kermit the Frog, and Ellen was named after Ellen DeGeneres.

This tiny little girl is a baby Kinkajou (Potos flavus), also known as the “honey bear”. Sometimes you can hear them making a short, barking “wee-wee-wee” call at night. Kinkajous have fully prehensile tails which they use like a fifth hand when they're climbing. They are hunted for the pet and fur trade, and for their meat.

This tiny little girl is a baby Kinkajou (Potos flavus), also known as the “honey bear”. Sometimes you can hear them making a short, barking “wee-wee-wee” call at night. Kinkajous have fully prehensile tails which they use like a fifth hand when they’re climbing. They are hunted for the pet and fur trade, and for their meat. Photo by Sam Trull.

I want to ask you a little about some of my favorite of your fantastic portraits. The adorable baby in the flowery white bowl. What is that?

That’s Hilary the kinkajou, and she’s doing great. We don’t get too many kinkajous; in fact, she was the first baby kinkajou we’ve had since I’ve been here. The scientific name for a kinkajou is Potos flavus but you could easily substitute the “O” for a “U” which would be POTUS which is President of the United States. But she was a girl, so we started to think, well, who is going to the first female president of the United States? So we named her after Hilary Clinton.

Someone killed this Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) kitten's mother and kept the baby as a pet.

Someone killed this Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) kitten’s mother and kept the baby as a pet. Photo by Sam Trull.

What about the gorgeous little ocelot kitten?

Someone killed her mother and kept the baby as a pet. The government confiscated her, and she was brought here to us. We sent her to a specialist feline facility about an hour or two north of us, where they have more expertise in big cats. Not that she’s a big “big cat,” but she’s a wild cat species, which requires a lot of specific expertise. We do a lot of emergency work, so we’ll triage big cats if they come in with wounds or illnesses that are urgent, but then we find the best location for them.

These four beautiful owls arrived at the rescue center as babies and were later released successfully into the wild.

These four beautiful owls arrived at the rescue center as babies and were later released successfully into the wild. Photo by Sam Trull.

What are some of the things you love the most about your work?

I love the moment that we release them back to the wild. I love feeling like we’re helping them and reversing the damage that’s been done in their lives. We get so many animals for reasons that were caused by humans, like electrocutions, which is probably the number one reason we receive animals. And these electrocutions are so heartbreaking. These animals come in almost completely burnt.

A howler monkey came in with more than 90 percent of her body was burned, including her face. I took before and after photos of her because she’s one of my favorite patients. Her name was Helen. So, releasing her back to her troop and seeing her with her family and friends again after having been with us for 10 months—that’s why I do this.

Helen the Howler Monkey after she healed from her heartbreaking electrocution.

Helen the Howler Monkey after she healed from her heartbreaking electrocution. Photo by Sam Trull.

She survived!

She survived. When she first came in I was extremely concerned and even thought for a minute that maybe it would best that she be euthanized because she was in such bad shape, but we literally looked into each other’s eyes and I just felt that she had this energy that she really wanted to provide. So we did IV fluids, pain meds, antibiotics, the whole nine yards—and 2 months later she was going back to her family.

And the opposite of that: what are the most difficult, challenging things that you face in your work?

The flipside is when they don’t make it, especially when you’ve tried so hard and put everything into them. Sometimes even after months and months of rehabbing, they don’t survive. That is one of the worse feelings you can have because not only do you miss them as individuals—because they each have their own personalities and you care about them—but you also lose that dream of releasing. When they die, you feel like a failure. You feel like you’ve failed them.

This is a calling rather than a job. Why do you do this?

I can’t imagine doing anything else. I’ve always wanted to devote my life to doing something that helps animals in the best way possible. And the thing that I like about my position at KSTR is that not only are we helping animals on a daily basis—as in physically helping individuals—but we’re also spreading the message about conservation and animals on a larger scale.

This sweet baby Howler Monkey named Tommy was raised at KSTR for a few months and was then sent to a facility that specializes in howler monkeys so that he could be introduced to other juvenile howler monkeys and someday released into the wild as a complete troop. Photo by Sam Trull

This sweet baby Howler Monkey named Tommy was raised at KSTR for a few months and was then sent to a facility that specializes in howler monkeys so that he could be introduced to other juvenile howler monkeys and someday released into the wild as a complete troop. Photo by Sam Trull

What are some of the lessons you’ve learned from animals?

One of the biggest lessons is once you blur the line between human and animal, once you realize they’re important (i.e. they’re similar to us, like the primate connection), then it’s really hard to figure out where to draw that line again.

Humans, of course, are animals. We just tend to forget that because as a species we’re so full of ourselves.

We’re a pretty self-centric species and we’re not always very nice to each other, obviously. But we are negatively affecting animals and their environment, so it’s the right thing to do to try to reverse that. And also, we need them. Without animals we would have no forests, and if we had no forests we would die. Everybody is interconnected, and we need each other to survive. So if we don’t care about what’s going on with the animals in the forests, then we’re basically saying that we don’t care about ourselves.

What are some of the most common questions you get asked about your work or your lifestyle?

I find that people often seem—amazed—that I would want to live in the jungle or that I would want this to be my life. They think it’s cool but they also find it—amazing. Which is always so surprising to me because it just feels like I have to do this. I’ve had people say, “Oh, you’re a hero!” I’m not a hero. I don’t feel like a hero, I just feel like I’m doing what comes naturally and what makes sense and what I feel like I have to do. So while being called a hero is flattering, it always makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. I’m just doing the best I can.

Another random question people often ask me is, “What do miss about living in the States the most?”

What do you miss about living in the States the most?

Convenience. Having whatever I want whenever I want it and being able to drive to go and get it myself. But that’s about it.

Other than donating, which is always helpful, how else can people help the animals?

Donating is always helpful. But also, don’t support the exotic wildlife pet trade. People in the United States fuel the pet trade in other countries, for sure. It’s not removed. Just because you buy the animal in some pet store in Florida, for instance, doesn’t mean its mother wasn’t killed. We can definitely make a change that way.

Nubbins, a baby parakeet, after getting his vitamins to make his feathers perfect. Costa Rica is home to many species of parrots and parakeets but sadly they are dwindling in numbers due to poaching for the illegal pet trade and to habitat destruction, including for palm oil plantations.

Nubbins, a baby parakeet, after getting his vitamins to make his feathers perfect. Costa Rica is home to many species of parrots and parakeets but sadly they are dwindling in numbers due to poaching for the illegal pet trade and to habitat destruction, including for palm oil plantations. Photo by Sam Trull.


Primatographer on Twitter @Primatography

Slothlove #slothlove

Kids Saving the Rainforest (KSTR)

KSTR’s Wildlife Rescue Center.

The Sloth Institute Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio National Park

All images are copyright protected and are published with permission. To request permissions for use, please contact Sam Trull at Primatography



Those Dammed Salmon — Set them Free!

So… I was not anticipating being so touched by a movie about dams. How moving could that possibly be?

Very moving, as it turns out. The people behind Stoecker Ecological, Felt Soul Media and Patagonia knew what they were doing when they made DamNation. If you haven’t seen it, set aside an evening very soon, get the movie on Netflix, pop some popcorn, and gather the kids around–yes, even the kids. The movie is that good.

There was a time when talking about dam removal was something that mainstream conservationists would do only behind closed doors. It seemed too big, too “out there.”

But as economics, science, and data have overwhelmingly shown us recently, there are a lot of dams that are obsolete today, and yes, even harmful. Harmful not just to fish, but to species such as orca, who rely on salmon, and to humans, who have lost whole fishing communities, and to the businesses built around the fishing communities, and to tribes that lost parts of their culture — all hurt by dams. Guess how many dams there are in the United States? Seriously, don’t Google it; guess. No, it’s higher than that. (Keep reading.)

Hands down, salmon are the lifeblood of Northwest ecosystems. When salmon are free to do their thing–to swim from the upper reaches of our Western mountains out to the deep ocean (some reaching Japan), and then to come all the way back to start the next generations that will keep repeating the journey–they’re not just saving themselves, they’re helping us all.

The one most important thing that we can do to set them free, free to provide this incredible, abundant resource for us and for the creatures with whom we share this planet, is to take down some dams that no longer serve our communities. And with well over 75,000 dams across America, there are a good number that fall into that category.

Sounds radical? It’s already being done with great success and great results. It’s radically rational.

Our National Park Service recently oversaw the biggest dam removal project in history. Beginning in 2011, the Park Service began removing the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams on the Elwa River in Washington’s Olympic National Park. These dams had shut off all but the lower five miles of river to spawning salmon. Now the waters flow freely from the Olympic Mountains headwaters all the way out to the ocean.

Imagine all that rock and earth that the river slowly weathered away. It became trapped behind the dams for decades. As those building blocks of nature — the sand and dirt — tumbled past the remnants of the dams, acres of new beaches and estuary habitats were created seemingly overnight. And species came swimming, crawling, and slithering back.

Their ancestors hadn’t been above these dams in more than ten generations. Yet in September 2014, three confirmed adult Chinook salmon were spotted above the site of the blasted-away dams. It was the first return of the Chinook in 102 years.

Without the dams, salmon have come home. They’re getting 70 miles of their habitat back. Historically, when Chinook reached their full-size potential, they were 100 pounds or more–bigger than a German shepherd.

The Elwha River dam removal shows us what is possible. But the removal of the four lower Snake dams is the Holy Grail. Removing these dams would mean we could restore the largest remaining potential salmon habitat in the lower 48 states.

The Snake River dams are not just holding back a lot of sediment, they’re holding back salmon, orcas, and humans. They’re holding back the full glory of the Pacific Northwest. Imagine the richness of the ecosystems, the health of the oceans, the diversity of the species, the progress of the communities, and the return of the cultures that will all be revived in one fell swoop–or more accurately four fell swoops. Let’s make it happen.

Want to make a difference? Go here and help us tell President Obama to take down those dams!

You can learn more from our member group, Southern Resident Killer Whale Chinook Salmon Initiative and Save Our Wild Salmon.

Read Part 1–Making a Connection: Salmon as Networker
Read Part 2–Hungry, Hungry Whales


Hungry, Hungry Whales

I admit that I’m totally charmed by orcas. But I know I’m not alone. What is it about those glossy black and white creatures? Do we see in them a reflection of us? Is our bond with orcas more apparent than with other animals?

I guess it doesn’t hurt that orcas are essentially big dolphins — very big (think of the difference between a smart car and two tractor-trailers). Orcas are social creatures, interacting with each other in complex and fascinating ways. And just as with dolphins, people report uncanny stories of connecting and interrelating with them.

Not surprisingly, American Indian and First Nation tribes revere orcas. And it seems that every camera- and cell phone-toting eco-tourist on the West Coast can’t get enough of them–they’re practically celebrities. More than 400,000 people went whale watching in the waters off Washington State and British Columbia in 2014 alone.

Orcas can be found in oceans across the world. Though they’re beloved, the orcas that live off our U.S. Pacific coastline — the Southern Resident Killer Whales — are endangered. How can that be? Good question…

These particular whales are part of one big clan living in three pods: J, K and L. They organize their society along matrilineal lines. Yep, each family centers on mom — or more often, on the pod’s grandmother or great-grandmother. (In fact, J Pod’s granny is estimated to be 104 years old.)

They also talk — and each pod has a unique language. Just as we can tell the difference between a Texan and a Bostonian, scientists can tell the difference between groups of orcas.

They celebrate. All three pods acknowledge each other, lining up as families when they come back into the Salish Sea.

And just like some of us, they’re picky eaters. Orcas eat only what mom eats, which means almost nothing but salmon — 97 percent of their diet — but not just any salmon. They prefer the biggest and fattest of them all — the Chinook. These orcas move with the salmon, hugging the inland waters of Washington State to southern British Columbia from spring to fall. In winter, they expand their range south to California and north to Southeast Alaska.

Yet they face a major problem — a lack of food. The mighty rivers of the West — including the Columbia Snake River watershed, a key source of Chinook — have been broken. Though the Columbia Snake once brought salmon all the way from inland northern Nevada to the Pacific Ocean, today it is full of dams. The four lower Snake River dams kill millions of Chinook juveniles every year as they attempt to migrate downriver to the ocean.

In the course of just a few decades, Southern Resident orcas went from gorging on a salmon-rich buffet to searching for some measly leftovers. As of early August 2015, there are 81 Southern Resident orcas. Four of these are calves born in the past six months. No calf has survived in the past two and a half years, though so these newest “little ones” aren’t out of the woods yet. Mortality rates for first-born calves are in the 37-50 percent range. And many more of these orcas have died than survived (21 from 2010-2014). The Southern Resident population is moving in the wrong direction.

Scientists had pinned their hopes on Rhapsody (J32), who had just reached mom-age at 18- years-old, to help her whole extended family grow. But in December 2014, hearts were broken when Rhapsody died carrying a nearly full-term female baby.

A scientist who has studied these pods for 40 years surmised that Chinook salmon were so scarce that Rhapsody relied on her own blubber to keep her going. But as she tapped into that blubber, toxins stored there (called bioaccumulation) were released, harming her immune and reproductive systems. Her passing renews concerns about the fate of this whole population.

While whale lovers and Rhapsody’s family grieve for her, we have a chance to turn this sad story around. We can commit to save this extended family in time. The solution isn’t just great for orcas, it is also great for people, salmon and all the species that rely on them. The solution has the added benefit of being extremely cool — like a Die Hard movie cool.

Stay tuned for Part 3 of this blog, “Those Dammed Salmon–Set them Free!”

Read Part 1–Making a Connection: Salmon as Networker

We Need Our Mighty Rivers to Save Salmon…And Whales

Making a Connection: Salmon as Networker

I have been watching Cosmos a lot. It’s got wide appeal in my house–children and adults are equally enchanted. Cosmos reminds me of our connection to all living things–all of us born of stardust. I hadn’t thought about that in a long time.

Most of us don’t dwell on the mysteries of the universe, but they matter. Our interconnectedness, in particular, matters for people–and for wildlife out there in those wild places. Some species are more linked than others. In Malcolm Gladwell‘s world, we’d call them “connectors.” In science, they’re called “keystone species.” These animals, and even some plants, have a large impact on the creatures surrounding them–so large that the habitat would be fundamentally different without them. 

Salmon are amazing connectors; they connect to more than 190 plants and animals. So when salmon go missing, it’s like the life of the party has suddenly disappeared–everyone feels it. It may not surprise you to learn that salmon are an important food for orcas, sharks, sea lions, seals, otters, and bears.

But did you know that birds, amphibians, and even insects consume salmon carcasses and eggs? Salmon are so connected that they benefit plants, even vineyard grapes.

How, you ask? It’s all about their journey.

Pacific salmon are marathon swimmers–beginning in the briskly cold freshwaters of the Snake, Klamath, and Sacramento Rivers, and other rivers and their tributaries. From these rivers, they spill into the open expanse of the Pacific Ocean. Some go on to swim all the way to Japan.

Near the top of the food chain, salmon eat and absorb nitrogen from creatures unlucky enough to be lunch. The nitrogen in these ocean-dwelling animals is unique. Scientists call it “marine-derived nitrogen,” or (MDN for the techies at heart). And when salmon swim all the way back to our roaring rivers of the West, scientists can track the impact of salmon by this special marker–the MDN–in other animals and plants.

When a salmon dies, that marker works its way through the habitat–from the colossal grizzly to the little bug. Bears and wolves fish the salmon out. They carry the carcasses further upstream. Parts of the carcasses are often left behind for other animals and insects to scavenge. The animals that eat salmon also then do what animals do in the woods… and, as a result, this nitrogen gets absorbed by the soil and works its way into algae, mosses, herbs, shrubs, and the royalty of plants–ancient trees.

Scientists are discovering remarkable things. When more salmon reach their spawning grounds, the MDN, not surprisingly, gets more widely dispersed into the watershed. This, in turn, creates wild places that are healthier and more diverse–more bugs, more birds, more plants. And playing the role of Sherlock Holmes, scientists can track the impact of MDN from tree core samples to an otter’s whiskers.

But many salmon are becoming an endangered species. What happens when salmon disappear from these ecosystems and the ocean? Very bad things. Just ask the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales or orcas (Orcinus orca), which live in Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean from Southeast Alaska to California. These whales are going hungry, and the impacts mean life or death for individuals and for the population as a whole.

Learn more about salmon from our member group Save Our Wild Salmon and stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog, “Hungry, Hungry Whales.”


Read the post at

The Heavy Price of Trophy Hunting

The world came together last week in a rare moment of solidarity following the abhorrent slaughter of what was, by all accounts, a very popular lion. When the now-infamous dentist from Minnesota unleashed the bolt from his crossbow, he ignited a global fury by taking down this beloved lion – though it required another 40 hours of pursuit before the dentist finally found the badly wounded Cecil and ended his life with a rifle. Officials in both the United States and Zimbabwe are seeking the offending trophy hunter for questioning, and calls for indictments and policy changes rose out of the online outcry. Our own petition calls for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to reconsider exempting some trophy hunters from what would otherwise be a solid ban on importing African lion trophies after a proposed listing is final.

Cecil’s death was strikingly similar to the killing of another beloved animal closer to home. In December 2012, a hunter shot and killed what was then Yellowstone’s most popular wolf. Scientists studying her knew her as 832F, while others called her the ‘06 Female or ’06. She was a six-year-old, radio-collared alpha female from the Lamar Canyon Pack that roamed Yellowstone National Park.

06 Female (832F)  Photo credit Jimmy Jones Photography

06 Female (832F)
Photo credit Jimmy Jones Photography

The Wyoming trophy hunter that killed 832F was, by many accounts, acting legally, as Wyoming then allowed the hunting of wolves. In 2014, Wyoming was ordered by a federal judge to again protect them under the Endangered Species Act. Wolves in that state, unlike those in neighboring Montana and Idaho, are currently fully protected under the Act.

While the killer of ’06 may have been acting within the law (though there is some question as to whether he artificially and illegally lured the wolf out of the safe confines of Yellowstone National Park), he was certainly acting against the public interest. Like Cecil, ’06 was the subject of ongoing scientific study and was treasured by wildlife enthusiasts. For as little as $18 (the cost of a “wolf license” for Wyoming residents), this trophy hunter was able to deprive the rest of the public from continuing to enjoy the benefits of ’06.

Beyond the loss of scientific benefit in continued study, there is a clear economic cost to allowing trophy hunters to satisfy their own wants by taking animals like ‘06. Wolf-related tourism brings in $35.5 million annually to Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. High profile wolves like ’06 are key drivers of that spending. Like Cecil, she was a park favorite that drew photographers and wildlife enthusiasts who wanted only to see her.

Also like Cecil, she served a very valuable role in her ecosystem. Apex predators like lions and wolves facilitate balance by preventing other animals from overgrazing and by keeping these same populations healthy. When wolves were brought back to Yellowstone in 1995, they changed the behavior patterns of herbivores, allowing plant life to regenerate and bringing benefits across the environmental spectrum. Lions serve a similar function, keeping their ecosystems healthy by preying on ungulates, and keeping those herds and their shared habitat healthy.

Tragically, these two killings bear another similarity in their immediate impact on existing social structures. Cecil’s killing will bring the ascension of another lion who will likely kill Cecil’s twelve cubs. Scientists call this the perturbation effect. When a dominant male lion is killed, other adult male members of his coalition and their offspring are often killed by the successor to his crown.

The death of ’06 was equally devastating to her pack. The social structure of the Lamar Pack was torn apart following the killing of ’06 and another wolf, 754M, a beta male in the pack, who was also ‘06’s mate’s brother. The mate of ‘06, 755M (754M’s brother), abandoned the pack following the killings and left the area to set out on his own. A previously healthy, thriving pack was upended and has never fully recovered.

The killing of ’06, like the killing of Cecil, was not just the killing of a lone animal. Their social structures were ripped apart. Economic, environmental, and scientific benefits were sacrificed. Hearts were broken.

These killings are preventable. In Cecil’s case, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service can quickly act to close the U.S. market for “trophies” like Cecil’s by finalizing proposed protections under the Endangered Species Act. African lions have declined by as much as 60 percent in just three decades. If we don’t act, they could be extinct by 2050. In addition to issuing its final rule protecting lions, the Service should reconsider its planned exemption for the import of lion trophies from countries it deems to be engaging in “scientifically sound management.” Trophy hunters kill as many as 600 African lions annually. That is roughly a 2 percent loss every year, spread disproportionately onto healthy, adult male lions favored by trophy hunters. USFWS should immediately remove that exemption from their proposed listing to help lions recover and to prevent future lions like Cecil from being killed.

The Service should also act to prevent the killing of the next ’06. Her death illustrates the economic, environmental, and social costs of trophy hunting of still-recovering gray wolves. The pending USFWS proposal to remove Endangered Species Act protections from most of the gray wolves in the lower 48 states has been deemed unscientific and is widely opposed. Federal courts have found their efforts to delist Great Lakes wolves lacking and have ordered them protected.

Congress can help in two ways. First, members of Congress should oppose all attempts to legislatively delist wolves. Scientists, not politicians, should make decisions about endangered species protections. Congress should also quickly move to pass the Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large Animal Trophies (CECIL) Act, introduced last week by Senator Robert Menendez, D-NJ. This bill would ban the imports of trophies form lions and other at-risk species into the United States.

The Cecils and ‘06s of the world need these protections from trophy hunters. Congress and the USFWS should listen to the worldwide uproar around their deaths and work to protect remaining wolves and lions.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Punts on Red Wolf Recovery

For Immediate Release

For More Information Contact:

Wildlands Network: Susan Holmes, 202-329-1553

Conservationists Dismayed — Call upon USFWS to Renew Its Commitment to Restoring the Eastern Red Wolf

Durham, NC – (June 30, 2015) The Wildlands Network and the Endangered Species Coalition are dismayed by the United States Fish and Wildlife’s (USFWS) announcement today that it will suspend reintroductions for the Red Wolf Recovery Program. According to Ron Sutherland, Lead Biologist at the Wildlands Network “The program has already been suffering from a lack of resources including unfilled key staff positions and abandonment of important pup fostering efforts.” Leda Huta, Executive Director of the Endangered Species Coalition, added “The Agency has an obligation to recover these animals. Over 30 red wolves have been lost to gunshot and vehicle strikes since 2012, reducing the population by more than 15 percent.

The Service also announced that they will continue the highly controversial practice of allowing landowners to legally kill red wolves. Last week, the USFWS sanctioned the killing of a lactating red wolf mother by a landowner, a move that brings the estimated population of red wolves in the wild to less than 80 according the USFWS website. “Unintentional gunshot has been the leading cause of death for red wolves in recent years, and they will continue to sanction intentional gunshot.  This could have devastating effects on the population,” said Dr. Sutherland.

According to both Huta and Sutherland, the USFWS should take this opportunity to renew its commitment to the Red Wolf Recovery Program. This would include pup fostering, reintroduction of more animals into the wild, comprehensive landowner outreach on wolf co-existence and coyote sterilization.

“The red wolf needs a science-based path to recovery, including better protections from being killed unnecessarily by humans. The agency needs to commit more funding to this critical program and to educate landowners about the value of carnivores. It is worth reminding people that there are fewer red wolves in the wild than there are giant pandas, snow leopards or whooping cranes, which our own citizens work valiantly to protect, “ said Dr. Sutherland.

Sutherland explained further, “We now know that the ecological value of our carnivores in North America is more important than ever. We don’t expect the agencies to go this alone. We’ve just completed a scientific study and mapping efforts that tell us exactly where the key wildlife corridors are that can accommodate the endangered red wolf. Likewise the red wolf conservation community is already expanding its outreach strategies to reach residents and landowners.”

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should be actively reintroducing wolves to bolster the current population. We have over 200 animals in breeding facilities; what we need is more reintroduction sites and more outreach to explain why co-existing with wolves and other carnivores is not a choice, it’s a duty and an ecological necessity,” said Huta.

The news of the announcement is not expected to sit well with the more than 110,000 people who submitted comments in support of saving this highly endangered species.  According to Sutherland, “North Carolina residents and people around the world are already reeling from the reprehensible shooting of a lactating red wolf mother and will be disappointed by this news.”

North Carolina is home to the only wild population of red wolves. Red wolves bred in captivity were reintroduced on a North Carolina peninsula within their native range in the late 1980’s after red wolves were declared extinct in the wild. Once common from Massachusetts to Florida, hunting and loss of habitat decimated wild red wolf populations. Today they are the most endangered wolf species in the world and the only wolf species that is found solely in the United States.


The Endangered Species Coalition’s mission is to stop the human-caused extinction of our nation’s at-risk species, to protect and restore their habitats, and to guide these fragile populations along the road to recovery. We work to safeguard and strengthen the Endangered Species Act, a law that enables every citizen to act on behalf of threatened and endangered wildlife – animals, fish, plants, and insects – and the wild places they call home.

Wildlands Network’s mission is to reconnect nature in North America, to realize a future where native animals and plants thrive amidst healthy wildlands and other habitats. Working together with networks of people protecting networks of land, the 25-year-old conservation organization focuses on reconnecting habitats along four continental-scale wildlife pathways called the Eastern, Western, Boreal and Pacific Wildways. Alongside this effort, they work to restore carnivores and other wide-ranging animals throughout their natural ranges

Panelists Urge House Committee to Maintain a Strong Endangered Species Act to Protect Wildlife on the Brink of Extinction


Contact: Tara Thornton, Endangered Species Coalition, (207) 504-2705,

               Derek Goldman, Endangered Species Coalition, (406) 721-3218,


Washington, D.C. – Two wildlife biologists, a national religious leader and a Peregrine Falcon testified at a special briefing to the House Natural Resources Committee today to highlight the importance of the Endangered Species Act – our nation’s safety net for fish, plants and wildlife on the brink of extinction.

“The Endangered Species Act is our nation’s safety net for plants, fish and wildlife on the brink of extinction,” said Joe Roman, author, conservation biologist and researcher at the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont. “We owe it to our children and future generations to protect endangered species and the special places they call home.”

The briefing entitled, “The Endangered Species Act: Benefiting Landscapes, Wildlife and People,” occurred in the midst of several Congressional efforts to weaken protections for endangered species. Recent defense and appropriations bills in both the House and the Senate have contained “riders” that would remove, prohibit or delay Endangered Species Act protections from several imperiled species of wildlife, including the sage grouse and the gray wolf.

“The Endangered Species Act works to prevent imperiled wildlife from disappearing forever,” said Mary Minette, Director for Environmental Education and Advocacy at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. “The diversity of life is a gift from God, and we are called to help endangered species and all of God’s creation survive and thrive now and in the future.”

The Congressional briefing sponsored by 12 conservation and scientific advocacy groups, including American Bird Conservancy, Audubon, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, Endangered Species Coalition, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, Wildlands Network and WildEarth Guardians, was hosted in cooperation with Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, Ranking Member of the Committee on Natural Resources.

“I am committed to working with my colleagues in Congress to ensure our nation’s imperiled wildlife are protected under the Endangered Species Act,” said Rep. Grijalva. “It’s unacceptable that certain Members of Congress are using their personal political agendas to undermine this bedrock environmental law. The relentless attack on the ESA – whether it’s attaching dangerous policy riders to funding bills or voting to safeguard industry profits over environmental protections – is out of step with the American public.”

According to 2011 public opinion poll, 84 percent of Americans support the Endangered Species Act, including strong majorities in all regions of the U.S. and across both major political party affiliations. More than 1,300 imperiled species of plants, fish and wildlife in the United States have been protected by the Endangered Species Act, and only ten have gone extinct since the Act became law, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Additionally, a study of 110 protected species found that 90 percent are recovering at the pace expected in their scientific recovery plans. Biologists have indicated that the task of recovering a species from near-extinction is a decades-long endeavor. The Peregrine Falcon for example, rebounded from near extinction in 1975 to several thousand breeding pair today. The falcon was declared recovered and delisted in 1999.

“The Endangered Species Act, one of the most powerful environmental laws globally, has directly prevented extinction of hundreds of species, such as the bald eagle,” said Cristina Eisenberg, lead scientist at Earthwatch, U.S.A and author of two books on carnivore ecology. “In this era of rapid environmental change and enormous threats to our natural resources, it is crucial for our wellbeing as a nation that we maintain the integrity of this law.”


Panelist Bios


Cristina Eisenberg is an ecologist and the Lead Scientist at Earthwatch, USA. Her ecological research focuses on wolves and fire in Rocky Mountain ecosystems. She has a master’s degree in conservation biology from Prescott College, and a PhD in Forestry and Wildlife from Oregon State University. Cristina is a Smithsonian Research Associate, a Boone and Crockett Club professional member, and Black Earth Institute Scholar/ Advisor. Her books include The Wolf’s Tooth and The Carnivore Way. She is currently writing a book titled, Taking the Heat: Wildlife, Food Webs and Extinction in a Warming World. For two decades she lived with her family in a remote, wild corner of Montana. She currently lives in Concord, Massachusetts, near Walden Pond.


Mary Minette is Director of Environmental Education and Advocacy for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Washington Office. She is also the North American representative to the Climate Change Advisory Group for the ACT Alliance and president of the board of Creation Justice Ministries (formerly the National Council of Churches eco-justice program). Mary has also served in senior positions with a number of secular environmental organizations, including the Earth Day Network, the League of Conservation Voters, and the National Audubon Society’s endangered species and trade and environment programs. She is a graduate of Stanford University and the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law.


Joe Roman is a conservation biologist and researcher at the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont and a Hardy Visiting Fellow at Harvard University. His research, focusing on endangered species conservation and marine ecology, has appeared in Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, and many other journals. Joe has received a Fulbright Fellowship in Brazil to research invertebrate conservation, a McCurdy Fellowship at the Duke University Marine Lab to examine the ecological role of whales in the oceans, and a AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowship to study the influence of biodiversity on human well-being.


Maggie, the Peregrine Falcon hatched in the spring of 2014 – atop a building in downtown Richmond, VA that was on the Richmond Falcon Cam. Two days after fledging from her nest, the young falcon crashed into a building, severely damaging her left eye and fracturing the tip of her beak. Veterinarians at the Wildlife Center of Virginia treated Maggie’s eye with medication for several weeks, but about a month after admission, the veterinary team had to surgically remove the damaged eye. With only one eye, Maggie cannot see well enough to be released back into the wild. She currently serves as an education animal at the Wildlife Center.