Woodpecker Recovery Plan May be too Late


Is this the elusive ivory-billed woodpecker? Image credit: Noël Zia Lee/Flickr

For more than 50 years, the ivory-billed woodpecker was thought to be extinct. Then, in 2005, a research team videotaped one of the elusive woodpeckers in eastern Arkansas and a new effort was launched to establish a conservation plan for the bird.

Five years and $14 million later, the effort has stalled and many researchers now believe the woodpecker's numbers are too low for recovery to be possible.Ron Rohrbaugh, a conservation biologist at Cornell University, commented:

We don't believe a recoverable population of ivory-billed woodpeckers exists.

The hunt, which ended last October after funding ran out, turned into a wild chase after fraudulent claims and dubious sightings. Jerome Jackson, an ornithologist at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers and a member of the Fish and Wildlife Service's woodpecker research team, said that claims of the bird's existence had been exaggerated to drum up political support for conservation efforts.

Laurie Fenwood, coordinator of the project, explained that a recovery plan is needed to collect the best scientific data on the species—even if it has already gone extinct.

Doctored photos and fraudulent claims, the project team said, has robbed the project of important funds and set back conservation efforts in some areas "for years."

Read more about extinct species:
Scientists Attempt to Resurrect Extinct Giant Ox
Koalas Extinct in 30 Years as Climate Change, Habitat Loss, Sexually Transmitted Disease Take Their Toll
All World's Tigers Extinct in 15-20 Years Without Better Conservation Efforts

Tags: Animals | Birds | Conservation