Abstracts of Recently Published Papers on Hunting & Conservation

Abstracts of Recently Published Papers on Wildlife and Habitat Conservation

Conservation Frontlines has selected a range of new scientific, peer-reviewed papers and thesis submissions. Scan the abstracts to get an overview. Links to the original papers are provided (check also additions to the CFL library for more recent material.)

Jobs, game meat and profits: The benefits of wildlife ranching on marginal lands in South Africa.” 2020. W. Andrew Taylor, Peter A. Lindsey, Samantha Nicholson, Claire Relton & Harriet T. Davies-Mostert. Biological Conservation, Vol. 245, May 2020.

Abstract: “The private wildlife sector in South Africa must demonstrate value in the face of political pressures for economic growth, job creation and food security. Through structured survey questionnaires of landowners and managers from 276 private wildlife ranches, we describe patterns of wildlife-based land uses (WBLUs), estimate their financial and social contributions and compare these with livestock farming. We show that 46% of surveyed properties combined wildlife with livestock, 86% conducted two or more WBLUs and 80% conducted consumptive use activities. Intensive breeding was conducted on 46% of properties and covered 5.1% of their total land area. Revenues were higher on wildlife only properties than livestock farms, but we were unable to compare the profitability of wildlife and livestock due to data gaps for livestock. Profits from WBLUs were highly variable, while mean return on investment (ROI) was 0.068. Wildlife properties employed more people per unit area than livestock farms, properties conducting ecotourism employed more than twice as many people as non-ecotourism properties, and biltong hunting properties employed 50% fewer people than non-biltong hunting properties. Mean game meat production on wildlife only properties was 4.07 kg/ha, while the top producers harvested game meat at a level comparable with some extensive livestock farms. We suggest that the financial and social benefits of wildlife ranching on marginal land make this a viable land use, but that the contributions towards biodiversity conservation need to be quantified. The South African model could be a suitable option for other African countries seeking sustainable land use alternatives.”

The pleasure of pursuit: recreational hunters in rural Southwest China exhibit low exit rates in response to declining catch. 2017. Charlotte H. Chang, Michele L. Barnes, Margaret Frye, Mingxia Zhang, Rui-Chang Quan, Leah M.G. Reisman, Simon A. Levin & David S. Wilcove. Ecology and Society 22 (1):43.

Abstract: “Hunting is one of the greatest threats to tropical vertebrates. Examining why people hunt is crucial to identifying policy levers to prevent excessive hunting. Overhunting is particularly relevant in Southeast Asia, where a high proportion of mammals and birds are globally threatened. We interviewed hunters in Southwest China to examine their social behavior, motivations, and responses to changes in wildlife abundance. Respondents viewed hunting as a form of recreation, not as an economic livelihood, and reported that they would not stop hunting in response to marked declines in expected catch. Even in scenarios where the expected catch was limited to minimal quantities of small, low-price songbirds, up to 36.7% of respondents said they would still continue to hunt. Recreational hunting may be a prominent driver for continued hunting in increasingly defaunated landscapes; this motivation for hunting and its implications for the ecological consequences of hunting have been understudied relative to subsistence and profit hunting. The combination of a preference for larger over smaller game, reluctance to quit hunting, and weak enforcement of laws may lead to hunting-down-the-web outcomes in Southwest China.”

Climatic changes and the fate of mountain herbivores. 2020. Sandro Lovari, Sara Franceschi, Gianpasquale Chiatante, Lorenzo Fattorini, Niccolò Fattorini & Francesco Ferretti. Springer.

Abstract: “Mountains are strongly seasonal habitats, which require special adaptations in wildlife species living on them. Population dynamics of mountain ungulates are largely determined by the availability of rich food resources to sustain lactation and weaning during summer. Increases of temperature affect plant phenology and nutritional quality. Cold-adapted plants occurring at lower elevations will shift to higher ones, if available. We predicted what could happen to populations of mountain ungulates based on how climate change could alter the distribution pattern and quality of high elevation vegetation, using the “clover community-Apennine chamois Rupicapra pyrenaica ornata” system. From 1970 to 2014, increasing spring temperatures (2 °C) in our study area led to an earlier (25 days) onset of green-up in Alpine grasslands between 1700 and 2000 m, but not higher up. For 1970–2070, we have projected trends of juvenile winter survival of chamois, by simulating trajectories of spring temperatures and occurrence of clover, through models depicting four different scenarios. All scenarios have suggested a decline of Apennine chamois in its historical core range, during the next 50 years, from about 28% to near-extinction at about 95%. The negative consequences of climate changes presently occurring at lower elevations will shift to higher ones in the future. Their effects will vary with the species-specific ecological and behavioral flexibility of mountain ungulates, as well as with availability of climate refugia. However, global shifts in distributional ranges and local decreases or extinctions should be expected, calling for farsighted measures of adaptive management of mountain-dwelling herbivores.”

Elk in Paradise: Conserving Migratory Wildlife and Working Lands in Montana’s Paradise Valley.” 2020. Whitney Tilt. PERC, the Property and Environment Research Center. 40 Pages.

Summary: “Montana’s Paradise Valley is a rural landscape with deep-rooted ranching traditions, scenic views, and ample recreational opportunities located at the northern gateway to Yellowstone National Park. Surrounded by national forest lands, Paradise Valley and its ranching community support a range of wildlife including elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, and pronghorn antelope. The region also hosts expanding populations of gray wolves and grizzly bears.

“Much of the responsibility and financial burden of providing crucial habitat for these species falls on the valley’s private landowners—yet landowners often feel their perspectives are not adequately heard. This report presents findings from an extensive survey and numerous discussions with landowners in Paradise Valley, which reveal landowner attitudes toward wildlife and point the way to solutions that can support landowners and wildlife in the valley.

“Our results show that elk in particular present significant challenges for landowners in Paradise Valley—including competition with livestock for forage and hay, damage to fences, and disease transmission. As elk spend more time on private lands in the valley, and in greater numbers, tolerance often wears thin. Many landowners feel that the public benefits they provide are too often overlooked by the state and federal land management agencies, hunters, and the general public that often shape wildlife policies.

“We found that Paradise Valley landowners are united in their interest in new approaches that can help preserve agricultural traditions, maintain open spaces, and conserve the valley’s private working landscapes that support agriculture and benefit wildlife. Nevertheless, many landowners are increasingly leery of the potential for regulation and loss of property rights and want solutions that preserve their autonomy and provide tangible benefits for supporting wildlife.

“For wildlife proponents, the message from this report is clear: The private working lands of Paradise Valley are vital for sustaining populations of elk and other wildlife. But to ensure those lands can continue to be counted on as part of a conservation portfolio, more work is needed to embrace private landowners as full and equal shareholders in a new era of cooperation. We offer a toolkit of strategies that landowners, conservationists, and policymakers could employ to help sustain the working lands of Paradise Valley and the wildlife they support.”

Conserving Africa’s wildlife and wildlands through the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.” 2020. Peter Lindsey, James Allan, Peadar Brehony, Amy Dickman, Ashley Robson, Colleen Begg, Hasita Bhammar, Lisa Blanken, Thomas Breuer, Kathleen Fitzgerald, Michael Flyman, Patience Gandiwa, Nicia Giva, Dickson Kaelo, Simon Nampindo, Nyambe Nyambe, Kurt Steiner, Andrew Parker, Dilys Roe, Paul Thomson, Morgan Trimble, Alexandre Caron & Peter Tyrrell. Nature Ecology & Evolution (2020).

Abstract: “The SARS-CoV-2 virus and COVID-19 illness are driving a global crisis. Governments have responded by restricting human movement, which has reduced economic activity. These changes may benefit biodiversity conservation in some ways, but in Africa, we contend that the net conservation impacts of COVID-19 will be strongly negative. Here, we describe how the crisis creates a perfect storm of reduced funding, restrictions on the operations of conservation agencies, and elevated human threats to nature. We identify the immediate steps necessary to address these challenges and support ongoing conservation efforts. We then highlight systemic flaws in contemporary conservation and identify opportunities to restructure for greater resilience. Finally, we emphasize the critical importance of conserving habitat and regulating unsafe wildlife trade practices to reduce the risk of future pandemics.”

Leave It As It Is: A Journey Through Theodore Roosevelt’s American Wilderness. 2020. David Gessner. Hardcover, illustrated. $28.00, Simon & Schuster.

Summary: “An environmental clarion call, told through bestselling author David Gessner’s wilderness road trip inspired by America’s greatest conservationist, Theodore Roosevelt. “Leave it as it is,” Theodore Roosevelt announced while viewing the Grand Canyon for the first time. “The ages have been at work on it and man can only mar it.” Roosevelt’s rallying cry signaled the beginning of an environmental fight that still wages today. To reconnect with the American wilderness and with the president who courageously protected it, acclaimed nature writer and New York Times bestselling author David Gessner embarks on a great American road trip guided by Roosevelt’s crusading environmental legacy.

“Gessner travels to the Dakota badlands where Roosevelt awakened as a naturalist; to Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon where Roosevelt escaped during the grind of his reelection tour; and finally, to Bears Ears, Utah, a monument proposed by Native Tribes that is embroiled in a national conservation fight. Along the way, Gessner questions and reimagines Roosevelt’s vision for today.

“As Gessner journeys through the grandeur of our public lands, he tells the story of Roosevelt’s life as a pioneering conservationist, offering an arresting history, a powerful call to arms, and a profound meditation on our environmental future.”

Responses of carnivore assemblages to decentralized conservation approaches in a South African landscape.” 2020. Curveira‐Santos Gonçalo, Sutherland Chris, Santos‐Reis, Margarida & Swanepoel Lourens H. Journal of Applied Ecology.

Abstract: “Conservation efforts in South Africa play out across multi‐use landscapes where formal protected areas coexist with private wildlife business (ecotourism and/or hunting) in a human‐dominated matrix. Despite the persistence of highly diverse carnivore guilds, management idiosyncrasies are often orientated towards charismatic large predators and assemblage‐level patterns remain largely unexplored.

“We conducted an extensive camera‐trap survey in a natural quasi‐experimental setting in KwaZulu‐Natal, South Africa. We sampled across a protection gradient characterized by a provincial protected area (highest and formal protection status), a private ecotourism reserve, game ranches and traditional communal areas (lowest protected status). We evaluated assemblage‐level and species‐specific responses of free‐ranging carnivores to the varying management contexts and associated environmental gradients.

“Despite similar assemblage composition between management contexts, site‐scale carnivore richness and occupancy rates were greater in the formal protected area than adjacent private reserve and game ranches. Carnivore occupancy was more similar between these private wildlife areas, although putative problem species were more common in the private reserve, and contrasted with depauperate assemblages in least protected communal lands. Variation in carnivore occupancy probabilities was largely driven by land use contexts, that is, the level and nature of protection, relative to underlying fine‐scale landscape attributes (e.g. distance to conservation fences) or apex predator populations.

Synthesis and applications. Our findings provide convincing empirical support for the added value of multi‐tenure conservation estates augmenting and connecting South Africa’s protected areas. However, our emphasis on free‐ranging carnivores exemplifies the importance of maintaining areas under long‐term formal protection and the risks with viewing lucrative wildlife business as a conservation panacea. We suggest that unmanaged carnivore species be the formal components of carnivore reintroduction and recovery programmes to better gauge the complementary conservation role of South Africa’s private land.”

Status of Flare-Horned Markhor (Capra falconeri falconeri) in Jutial Conservancy, District Gilgit, Gilgit-Baltistan (previously Northern Areas), Pakistan.” 2018. Mayoor Khan, Pervaiz A. Siddiqui, Abid Raza & Peter Zahler. International Journal of Biology and Biotechnology, 15 (2): 343-349, 2018.

Abstract: “This study was carried out to investigate the status of the flare-horned markhor (Capra falconeri falconeri) in Jutial Conservancy, District Gilgit, Gilgit-Baltistan. Field surveys were conducted during the winter (rut season) of 2014 when markhor population gathered in large herds at lower slopes. Habitat degradation due to removal of natural vegetation for fodder, firewood collection, over-grazing of pastures by livestock and uncontrolled movement of tourists in the core markhor habitat are still major factors that restrict the markhor population in the conservancy. The illegal hunting in the Conservancy is still a threat to markhor population due to movement of markhor to the adjacent/surrounding conservancies of Sai and Kargah. Field surveys using vantage point method for counting markhor were conducted in potential markhor habitat during December, 2014 and questionnaire-based interviews were also held with the community wildlife rangers, local hunters and shepherds to assess the ingenious knowledge and to compare the current and past status of the species. Survey results revealed the presence of a total of 162 markhor with the composition of kids/yearlings, females and males. The results of the study also indicated a significant increase in the population of markhor, including trophy-sized animals, validating that community participation and co-management has contributed to the conservation of the area’s wildlife and habitat. The outcomes of the study further justify that the conservation interventions, specifically the trophy hunting program initiated in the Conservancy both by the Parks & Wildlife Department Gilgit-Baltistan and the Wildlife Conservation Society, are a successful model of community-based markhor conservation in the region, which can be replicated in other parts of the range of the species for collaborative management of markhor and other natural resources and to improve the livelihood of local communities.”

Population reduction by hunting helps control human–wildlife conflicts for a species that is a conservation success story.” 2020. David L. Garshelis, Karen V. Noyce & Veronique St-Louis. PLOS ONE 15(8): e0237274.

Abstract: “Among the world’s large Carnivores, American black bears (Ursus americanus) are the foremost conservation success story. Populations have been expanding across North America because the species is adaptable and tolerant of living near people, and because management agencies in the U.S. and Canada controlled hunting and other human-sources of mortality. As a result, human–black bear conflicts (damage to property, general nuisance, threat to human safety) have dramatically increased in some areas, making it urgently important to develop and deploy a variety of mitigation tools. Previous studies claimed that legal hunting did not directly reduce conflicts, but they did not evaluate whether hunting-controlled conflicts via management of population size. Here, we compared temporal patterns of phoned-in complaints about black bears (total ~63,500) in Minnesota, USA, over 4 decades to corresponding bear population estimates: both doubled during the first decade. We also quantified natural bear foods, and found that large year-to-year fluctuations affected numbers of complaints; however, since this variation is due largely to weather, this factor cannot be managed. Complaints fell sharply when the management agency (1) shifted more responsibility for preventing and mitigating conflicts to the public; and (2) increased hunting pressure to reduce the bear population. This population reduction was more extreme than intended, however, and after hunting pressure was curtailed, population regrowth was slower than anticipated; consequently, both population size and complaints remained at relatively low levels statewide for 2 decades (although with local hotspots). These long-term data indicated that conflicts can be kept in tolerable bounds by managing population size through hunting; but due to the bluntness of this instrument and deficiencies and uncertainties in monitoring and manipulating populations, it is wiser to maintain a population at a level where conflicts are socially-acceptable than try to reduce it once it is well beyond that point.”