For immediate release
Southwest Environmental Center
Mexican wolves riding wave of worldwide extinctions
LAS CRUCES, NM—The Southwest Environmental Center (SWEC) is urging New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez and state wildlife officials to take immediate action to save endangered Mexican wolves in the wake of a shocking new report indicating that wildlife populations globally are on track to decline by two-thirds from 1970 levels by 2020.
“This report is a wake up call. New Mexico officials can’t save elephants in Africa, but they have the power to save one of the most endangered mammals on the planet, the Mexican gray wolf,” said Kevin Bixby, SWEC executive director. “It’s time for Governor Martinez and the New Mexico game commission to stop playing politics and help save Mexican wolves, before it’s too late.”
The 2016 Living Planet Report (LPR), produced by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), is based on the best available population data on over 3,700 vertebrate species globally. According to the LPR, these populations declined by 58% from 1970 to 2012, and by 2020 that number will be 67%, at a rate the report says is consistent with a sixth mass extinction event. The LPR attributes this staggering rate of loss to human activity.
One of the most endangered species in the United States is the Mexican gray wolf, also known as the lobo. Mexican gray wolves were eliminated from the United States by 1970 as a result of federal anti-predator programs, but following the passage of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), they have begun to slowly recover. At last count, fewer than 100 lobos lived in the wild, far short of the 750 biologists say is a minimum size for a healthy population, while around 250 live in zoos and sanctuaries. Since all lobos in the U.S. are descended from a very small seed population, they are dangerously inbred, with wild lobos being as genetically related as siblings.
According to biologists, the solution to both the population size problem and the genetic diversity problem lies in releasing more captive wolves into the wild as quickly as possible. After a team of federal biologists placed two captive-born wolf pups with a wild litter earlier this year, the state of New Mexico sued to prevent additional releases, saying the feds needed to first obtain state permits which state officials have refused to grant. In June a federal judge for the District of New Mexico halted further releases. The injunction is currently under appeal in the 10th Circuit.