Today is EDGE’s first birthday and we are celebrating with chocolate cake! Our first year on the EDGE has had plenty of ups and a few downs, but we’ve made it through and thanks to your support, the programme is going from strength to strength.
It’s been a pretty hectic year – right from the first day, which we spent frantically tweaking the website to make sure that everything was ready for the launch. Although the day was amazing (we made worldwide news and were contacted by thousands of people who wanted to help us make a difference), it was extremely sobering to think that our number one EDGE species may already be extinct.
A few months after the launch, the Yangtze River dolphin or baiji was officially declared Possibly Extinct by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Although we have not given up hope that there are still some individuals around – Sam Turvey is planning one last survey of the Yangtze, this time to search for baiji in all the tributaries, which weren’t covered by the November 2006 survey – the future looks pretty bleak for this distinctive freshwater dolphin.
On a brighter note, we have had a number of successes in 2007, including the exciting discovery that Attenborough’s long-beaked echidna may still survive in the Cyclops Mountains of West Papua. Known from a single specimen, collected in 1961, this species was also presumed extinct until the May 2007 EDGE expedition to search for it. Perhaps there is hope for the baiji after all…
The next crucial step in the echidna project is to determine the distribution, conservation status and threats so that appropriate management strategies can be implemented. We are currently working with a local organisation to identify a suitable EDGE Fellow (a Papuan scientist) who can co-ordinate this important research, and work with local community members to devise a plan to protect the species.
Our other EDGE Fellows are working hard to carry out similar research on EDGE species in Mongolia, Thailand, Kenya, Liberia and Sri Lanka. Find out more about their projects here. Jonathan Baillie visited our two Mongolian EDGE Fellows, Uuganbadrakh (focusing on the long-eared jerboa) and Adiya (focusing on the Bactrian camel), in August. He spent a month with them, helping them develop their projects further, and teaching them some of the skills needed to become a successful conservation professional. Jonathan was also lucky enough to film wild long-eared jerboas in their natural habitats for the very first time.
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2008 looks like it will be an even more exciting year. We are launching the brand new EDGE Amphibians project next week – look out for weird and wonderful frogs, salamanders and caecilians in the news on Monday! If you thought EDGE mammals are strange, make sure you come back and visit the website to find out more about the wonderful world of frogs, and why it isn’t easy being green!
We aim to set up a number of new conservation initiatives for amphibians this year, as well as continue our work researching and protecting EDGE mammals. Thank you all so much for all your support during our first year, and very best wishes from the whole team for a happy – and greener – 2008!