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Owl Trouble

Today’s Endangered All-Star, Blakiston’s Fish Owl, highlights the costs of intensive—often illegal—logging across Siberia and northeast Asia. Like the spotted owl, infamous in the American west for sparking a reassessment of logging, the enormous fish owl prefers old growth forests for nesting; it is also dependent on wild riverine corridors for hunting. Its habitat has been hammered by logging, development, and the construction of dams, and the species now holds on in fragmented populations, with 30-35 pairs of the Hokkaido subspecies and perhaps 100-135 pairs of the subspecies in the Russian Far East. To make matters worse, owls are caught in snares set for furbearing mammals; hunters shoot them for food and out of a belief that the owls spoil the skins of trapped animals. The Blakiston Fish Owl Project, in collaboration with the Wildlife Conservation Society and other partners, is working hard to collect important information about the species and its needs. In 2007, the project began tagging birds with backpack VHF transmitters and is using the data collected to create a species conservation plan and to map potential protected areas in Primorsky Krai, the far eastern Maritime Province of Russia. The project is also dedicated to providing local people with accurate information about the owls and the wider ecosystem, collaborating with Russian NGOs such as Amur-Ussuri Center for Avian Biodiversity, the Phoenix Fund (active in Amur tiger and Amur leopard conservation), and the Uragus Ecological Club. To support this work, the Project sells unique fish owl ringtones as well as shirts, mugs, stickers, and postcards. And we have to say, they’re pretty cool.
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