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Three at-risk species are now protected under the Endangered Species Act

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The Sonoyta mud turtle, the Hawaiian ‘i’iwi, and the pearl darter

The Hawaiian bird ‘i’iwi is now listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
Photo by Brett Hartl / Center for Biological Diversity

Three new species have been added to the endangered species list: Arizona’s Sonoyta mud turtle, the Hawaiian bird ‘i’iwi, and a fish called the pearl darter that’s found in the Southeastern US. This means certain federal protections will be put in place to keep the animals from going extinct.

The three join over 150 other species that have been protected as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act through the years. Eleven more species are currently being considered for protection, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. A decision is expected by the end of the year.

The Endangered Species Act was passed by Congress in 1973 to boost the conservation of threatened and endangered animals and plants. When a species is listed, certain protections are applied: listed animals can’t be hunted, for example, and their critical habitats can’t be degraded.

The Sonoyta mud turtle is a species found only in Sonora, Mexico, and in a single reservoir within Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona. It’s endangered because much of its habitat, including the surface waters the turtle needs to survive, have been lost due to the development and pumping of groundwater.

The Sonoyta mud turtle.
Photo: National Park Service

The ‘i‘iwi is a honeycreeper that lives in high-elevation areas on the Big Island, Maui, and Kauai. Its population has declined by 92 percent on Kauai in the past 25 years and by 34 percent on Maui, because of several threats. Aside from habitat loss, the bird is threatened by avian pox and malaria brought by mosquitoes, which are not native to Hawaii. The ‘i‘iwi can be found primarily over 3,600 feet, because it’s too cold up there for the bugs. Global warming is expected to push mosquitoes in that range, however, putting the animals at greater risk.

The pearl darter.
Photo: Conservation Fisheries

The pearl darter was found in rivers in Mississippi and Louisiana, but today it has been reduced “to scattered populations in a fraction of its range,” the Center for Biological Diversity says. That’s mainly due to water pollution, sand and gravel mining, agriculture, and development.

“Each of these three species is precious, and we need to do all we can to save them,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center, in a statement. “We’re fortunate to have the Endangered Species Act, an incredibly effective law that has saved more than 99 percent of the species under its protection and put hundreds more on the road to recovery. This landmark law can save these species too.”