Frontline Dispatches – October 2020 Vol. II, No. 10


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North & South America

Frontline Dispatches - North & South America

Inclusion in the outdoors is the goal of Wayne Hubbard and Candice Price, the husband-and-wife team behind the TV show “Urban American Outdoors.” Wayne, who is African-American, grew up fishing and hunting in Oklahoma. On their first date, he took reluctant city-girl Candice pheasant-hunting; now the couple is working to foster inclusion for all outdoors men and women by introducing Black people of all ages to the field sports.

Yellowstone grizzlies may be de-listed. Under legislation considered last month by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the Dept. of the Interior would be required to remove the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bear from the list of endangered and threatened wildlife. The Grizzly Bear Management Act (S. 614) would also exempt the delisting from judicial review. The story appeared on The Wilderness Society website in mid-September; TWS has said it would endorse the delisting “so long as recovery targets continue to be met and demographic rate thresholds are maintained.”

Unique collegiate hunting programs at the University of California Davis and Louisiana State University are being created to help wildlife students understand the motivations and culture of hunters before they go to work managing wildlife resources and developing conservation policies. The Journal of Wildlife Management recently published this commentary on these “First Hunt” programs.

The Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative and Working Lands for Agriculture—both US Dept. of Agriculture programs—seek to preserve 1.6 million acres (648,000 ha) of habitat for lesser prairie chickens across the southern Great Plains. The programs encourage ranchers and other producers to alter grazing patterns and remove invasive trees. The USF&WS will decide next spring if the bird should be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The story ran on Kansas Public Radio on September 17.

Hawaii has eradicated an invasive species. With the help of landowners, the Big Island Invasive Species Committee has apparently succeeded in wiping out pampas grass, a noxious weed that contributes to wildfires, after 18 years of effort. According to Big Island Video News, other pest plants are now being targeted.

More than 91 million tons of CO2 have already been generated by California wildfires this year—25% more than the state’s annual emissions from fossil fuels. Scientists warn that these fires are part of a feedback loop: increasing temperatures leads to longer fire seasons, which creates more emissions, which release more carbon into the atmosphere, which leads to a rise in temperature . . . The story appeared on Mongabay in September.

California wildfires also jeopardize condor recovery. The Dolan Fire, in Big Sur, California, burned through the condor sanctuary operated by the Ventana Wildlife Society. In what one biologist called a “miracle,” two missing California condor chicks were found alive after the fire. The Sacramento Bee published the print and audio story on September 3.

Wildfires in Washington have decimated sage grouse habitat, possibly killing more than half of the fewer than 1,000 sage grouse remaining in the state. Mongabay reported on Sept. 18 that more than 600,000 acres (243,000 ha) of forest and sagebrush rangeland, including the state’s largest lek, have burned. Other leks (communal mating areas) in Nevada, Utah and elsewhere also have burned recently.

Wyoming is replacing fences to save wildlife, according to an August 28 story in the Cowboy State Daily. Animals such as deer, elk or antelope can get caught in fences or the fences can cause them to run into a roadway. Wyoming agencies are re-examining state fencing in order to help game move safely across the landscape.

The Modern Carnivore Experience teaches would-be hunters gear selection, field-dressing, ethics, game laws and more. The 12-month program, which costs $180, is intended to educate and inform and then get neophyte hunters safely into the field. Founder Mark Norquist, who created the digital platform and website Modern Carnivore, explained the program to Minnesota’s Star Tribune on Sept. 11.

‘Howl you vote?’ asks the Craig Press in this comprehensive article on the proposed re-introduction of gray wolves to Colorado. Polls have found broad support for the initiative, but opponents call it ”ballot-box biology.”

Montana has altered its rules on the harvest of animals in chronic wasting disease zones, according to Montana Public Radio. Previously, hunters were not allowed to transport carcasses out of CWD management zones; they may now transport the carcasses anywhere in the state but must dispose of them at local landfills.

AF&WA elected Sara Parker Pauley as its first woman president during its recent (virtual) annual meeting. That’s the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies; and Pauley is the current Director of the Missouri Dept. of Conservation—where she was the first woman to serve in that position. The news appeared on The wildlife Society website on Sept. 16.

Minnesota moose were denied ‘endangered’ status by the US Fish and Wildlife Service because, given their linkages with adjacent Canadian populations, the moose are not a “discrete” population. Minnesota’s Dept. of Natural Resources has designated moose as a species of special concern since 2013; and two environmental groups, the Center for Biological Diversity and Honor the Earth, submitted the petition for listing under the Endangered Species Act in 2015. Minnesota Public Radio carried the story on September 15.

GPS, smartphones and legislation could improve public land access. Last month, the MAPLand (Modernizing Access to our Public Land) Act went before a US Senate subcommittee. It would direct federal land agencies to “consolidate, digitize and make publicly available recreational access information as GIS files.” Outdoor recreationists would then be able to obtain via smartphone information about rights-of-way, closures of roads and trails, vehicle and watercraft restrictions, boundaries of areas with special rules or hunting prohibitions and more. The report appeared on the TRCP site on Sept. 17.

Coronavirus drives outdoor recreation. In late August, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Wisconsin saw an increase in state park attendance, campsite reservations and the sales of fishing licenses and spring turkey hunting licenses coincident with the coronavirus pandemic.

Utah’s Div. of Wildlife Resources offers game meat to citizens in need. The meat, generally elk and deer, is from animals that have been euthanized to reduce conflict with farmers and ranchers. The Pyramid carried the story in late August.

Mercury concentrations in fish in Alaska’s Yukon river could surpass the EPA’s human-health threshold by 2050. A study published in Nature Communications on Sept. 16 estimates potential releases of mercury from thawing permafrost under different carbon-emissions scenarios. The mercury could accumulate in fish; the Yukon river hosts one of the world’s longest salmon runs and supports commercial and subsistence fishing.

A record number of hunters have applied for bighorn sheep licenses in North Dakota. Thanks to strong population numbers and high demand, the state is allocating six bighorn licenses for this season, one more than last year and twice as many as two years ago, according to the Bismarck Tribune on Sept. 7.

147 national wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries across the US will offer expanded hunting and fishing opportunities this fall, announced Interior Secretary David Bernhardt on August 18.

US Fish and Wildlife Service will lift endangered species protection for gray wolves across most of the nation sometime this year, the Associated Press reported on September 1.

More than $130 million in funding for wetland conservation projects has been approved, announced the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission, chaired by Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. Wetlands provide many ecological, economic and social benefits such as habitat for fish, wildlife and a variety of plants.

Exempting conservation and forest-related jobs from the suspension of guest-worker visas was the goal of a campaign by the Boone & Crockett Club, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation and some 30 other member organizations of the American Wildlife Conservation Partners. The Trump administration banned non-immigrant guest workers from entering the US, but is now granting H-2B visas for jobs such as collecting seeds for tree nurseries, invasive species control, forest thinning, fuel reduction to prevent wildfire and forest restoration, which Americans typically do not apply for.

Conservation of Western big-game species continues to improve, according to an August 12 news release from the Dept. of the Interior. (The Wildlife Society analyzed the claim, which is largely based on protections for migration corridors and winter ranges.) Interior Secretary Bernhardt also announced that some of the first funds from the Great American Outdoors Act will go toward putting tracking collars on pronghorn antelope, mule deer and elk in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.

More than 87% of this year’s wildfires were human-caused, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. California was in the top spot with more than 7,072 fires; Texas was second with 4,170. Utah’s Division of Forestry, Fire and State Land announced on September 17 that 2020 has already broken that state’s all-time record for the number of human-caused wildfires.

Wood storks throughout the Southeast that were displaced by development are altering their diets. Scientists at Florida Atlantic University found that urban storks that ate foods such as chicken wings and hot dogs were healthier than birds living in “sub-optimal” wildlands. Otherwise, body condition did not differ between urban and wildlands storks, indicating that cities can help protect species from natural food shortages.

Africa

Frontline Dispatches - Africa

The birth of the first eastern black rhino in the western Serengeti in decades was announced by the Grumeti Fund. The calf is now two months old and thriving. In 2019, the Grumeti Fund, in partnership with Tanzania’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism and the Wildlife Management Authority, among other agencies, translocated a breeding nucleus of rhino from an out-of-range population in South Africa.

Elephants are preventing fan palms from reaching full size and reproductive potential, says a July report in Nature. The fan palm was thought to be resistant to elephant feeding damage since its seeds are dispersed by elephants. However, elephant damage prevents palms from reaching the necessary height for reproductive maturity. Other woody trees like baobabs and several acacias are also affected. The study concludes that large numbers of elephants can result in the widespread conversion of woodlands to grasslands.

Wildlife corridors linking private reserves to other protected areas are one possible way to encourage gene flow and genetic diversity of leopards in South Africa while improving the cats’ resistance to climate events says a recent study from the University of Cape Town.

The escalation of human-wildlife conflict in Botswana in 2019 was due to the country’s hunting ban, suggest Lelokwane Mokgalo (Botswana International U. of Science and Technology) and Peet Van Der Merwe (North-West University, South Africa). The researchers recommend lifting the remaining hunting restrictions in order to benefit rural communities and reverse negative attitudes about wildlife conservation.

Poaching and bushmeat hunting are surging in parts of Kenya as many rural communities, which have received almost no help from the government, suffer “COVID hunger.” The report (with graphic images) appeared recently in Britain’s The Telegraph.

A notorious elephant poacher was sentenced to 30 years in prison in the Congo Republic in July. According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, and reported in the Daily Maverick, Mobanza Mobembo Gerard, known as Guyvanho, led poaching expeditions that may have killed more than 500 elephants since about 2008.

Elephants are engineers of the forest, writes a Purdue University ecologist in American Anthropologist. Her research on elephant trails leading to Dzanga Saline, a famous forest clearing with a large water source in the Congo, evaluates the role of biological anthropology in conservation. “Elephants shape the landscape in many ways that benefit humans. We’re talking thousands of miles of trails. If we think about the loss of elephants over time, then we will see the forest structure change and human activities also would shift.”

Zimbabwe has banned mining in game reserves after conservationists accused two Chinese companies of exploring for coal inside Hwange National Park, Reuters reported on September 8. The park, Zimbabwe’s largest, holds more than 40,000 elephants, large prides of lions, herds of buffalo and other game and birds, and is popular with tourists.

Despite the plunge in prices, an oil pipeline across 900 miles of East Africa is moving ahead. The $20 billion project will displace thousands of small farmers and put wildlife habitat and waters at risk. Construction of the world’s longest heated oil pipeline, stretching from Lake Albert to the Indian Ocean at Tanga, Tanzania, is scheduled to begin in April 2021. Yale Environment 360 also noted the impacts of two proposed oil fields on the shores of Lake Albert—500 wells sunk by Chinese and French companies.

Let Africans conserve their own wildlife, demands the video Let Africans Decide. More than 50 community leaders, representing millions of people across Southern Africa, urge British celebrities to stop undermining the human rights of impoverished people and jeopardizing wildlife conservation.

Carnivores are at risk in Namibia’s dry climate. Gail Thomson reports in Africa Geographic on the new mammal Red List for Namibia and says that wildlife scientists urgently need the help of citizen scientists—anyone who lives in or visits Namibia can contribute towards the Namibian Environmental Information System with the free smartphone app Atlasing in Namibia.

Burkina Faso’s wildlife reserves have become battlefields as extremists target rangers and kill game at will. According to a September 13 article in The Washington Post, “The forest takeover marks another violent chapter in Burkina Faso’s four-year fight against militants loyal to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.”

A community won its lawsuit against the Limpopo provincial government. The Makuya Community‘s safari hunting business, on its lands bordering the northern Kruger National Park in South Africa, was abruptly shut down by provincial authorities in October 2019. Now, after a historic victory overturning the ban (reported in the Chronicle last week), the community is suing to recover its losses.

In South Africa, predator conservation relies on a patchwork of government, private and communal conservation models that don’t always complement each other. “A phenomenal field effort” used 294 trail cameras for an average 75 days each to generate 7,224 images of 13 carnivore species from mongooses to leopards. The international team of ecologists reported in late August that SA’s growing reliance on private game farms and reserves to manage free-ranging carnivores is a “mosaic” of unequal protection across different land types.

Asia

Frontline Dispatches - Asia

The snow leopard is facing extinction, even though it’s perfectly equipped to roam the steep mountains of Central Asia, says the August 14 IUCN report “Action for snow leopards.”

Snow leopards in northern India’s Himachal Pradesh are the focus of a recent National Geographic article that details efforts by rural communities to conserve blue sheep and ibex, the secretive cats’ prey. Kibber, a small hillside village at 4,270 metres (14,200 ft) has become a hotspot for snow leopard tourism.

Cave bear remains with soft tissue, fur and internal organs were discovered by reindeer hunters on Bolshoy Lyakhovsky Island in the East Siberian Sea. Meanwhile, a mummified cave bear cub was discovered on the mainland, in Yakutia, according to a September 17 report in Live Science. The bears likely lived between 39,500 and 22,000 years ago.

Water deer have been confirmed for the first time in Russian Federation territory. The small antlerless deer (Hydropotes inermis) was “captured” by a trail camera in the Land of Leopard National Park in the southern Khasansky District of Primorsky Krai, Russia, in April 2019.

Europe

Frontline Dispatches - Europe

The Swiss canton of Valais will stop issuing ibex permits to foreigners in 2021. Currently, Valais earns about CHF650,000 ($719,000) per year from hunting permits and fees based on horn length. According to SwissInfo.ch, only Valais citizens will be allowed to hunt, in order to regulate the ibex population. The annual quota (male and females of all ages) for 2020 was 544, including 45 permits for males older than 11 years, of which 25 were sold to foreigners.

The EU REACH Committee approved restricting lead shot over wetlands, according to a FACE Press Release dated September 4. The proposal will now be submitted to the European Parliament and Council for scrutiny. The European Chemicals Agency Enforcement Forum says that the proposed definition of a wetland would pose serious problems for enforcement.

Scotland’s Association of Deer Management Groups and NatureScot encourage walkers in the Highlands to follow alternative routes to avoid areas where deer-stalking is taking place. The partners have created an online platform called “Heading for the Scottish Hills” that informs outdoor enthusiasts and helps them to conform with the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.

‘EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030’ recognizes primary and old-growth forests of outstanding ecological value, and the need to protect them. In SciTech Daily on Sept. 15, a research team presented the first assessment of the conservation status of “untouched” forests in Europe.

African swine fever was discovered in Brandenburg in the Märkisch-Oder-Land district in late September, reported the German Hunting Association on October 1. Scientists now assume that the epidemic has been rampant in Germany since mid-July.

Pacific

Frontline Dispatches - Pacific

The world’s best fire-management system is in northern Australia and it is led by indigenous land managers, according a recent article in The Conversation. Fire management by indigenous community-based ranger groups combines traditional burning with scientific knowledge and new tools.

World

Frontline Dispatches - World

Bird-proofing wind turbines takes . . . black paint. That’s the finding of researchers in Norway who reduced bird mortality by an average of 71.9% by painting one blade of each turbine black. No word yet on whether this also works on bats; ground birds like ptarmigan tend to crash into windmill bases, not blades; and more research is needed—but such a solution appears functional and inexpensive. Anthropocene reported the story on September 2.

The World Wildlife Crime Report focuses on illicit trafficking of specific protected species of wild fauna and flora, and provides a broad assessment of the nature and extent of the problem at the global level. The 136-page report is available for download.

 

 

Trade in birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles affects 24% of species globally. Numbers in brackets are the total number of traded species. The IUCN “Threat Status” codes, above, mean data deficient (DD), least concern (LC), near threatened (NT), vulnerable (VU), endangered (EN) and critically endangered (CR). From Global wildlife trade across the tree of life, published by Science on September 18.

The impacts of the pandemic on nature tourism was the topic of a presentation to the Global Environment Facility’s COVID-19 Response Task Force on September 1, available in this 13-minute video. The speaker is Dr. Anna Spencely, chair of the IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas Tourism and Protected Areas Specialist Group.

We love apes and monkeys, but we still don’t know how to “conserve” them. That’s the conclusion of German researchers who evaluated 13,000 primate studies and found that only 80 of them looked into the effectiveness of conservation measures. The studies also focused largely on certain species and regions. The Conservation Evidence report, in BioScience on August 26, noted that since “Primates are key elements of the planet’s biodiversity, because of their critical ecological roles as seed dispersers and ecosystem engineers . . . conserving them would also conserve a broad suite of other species in these biodiverse areas.”

There was less winter ice on the Bering Sea in 2018 and 2019 than at any time in the past 5,500 years, according to peat-core analyses. This suggests that the North Pacific is sensitive to even small changes in greenhouse gases. Researchers also found that sea ice loss may lag behind changes in atmospheric CO2 concentrations by decades, meaning that “complete loss of winter ice in the Bering Sea could already be guaranteed . . . based on greenhouse gases human activities have already released into the atmosphere.” The report appeared on ScienceMag.org in September.

So just how cold was the Ice Age? In August, researchers from the University of Arizona released their findings: Average daily temperatures worldwide during LGM, the Last Glacial Maximum (the Ice Age) was 46 degrees Fahrenheit, or 6 degrees C. That’s 11º F cooler than the average global temp during the 20th Century.

‘Guidelines for Working with Free-Ranging Wild Mammals in the Era of the COVID-19 Pandemic’—for scientists who work with free-living wildlife in situ—have been developed by the IUCN Wildlife Health Specialist Group and the World Organization for Animal Health. Available in English, French and Spanish.

The 2020 Wildlife Conservation Film Festival will run online until November 8. A 24/7 all-access ticket costs $12 and lets you watch more than 250 films covering every continent. During daily LiveChats via Zoom, audience members can interact with filmmakers, conservationists and scientists. Some highlights include The “Edge of Existence” (reviewed by Conservation Frontlines), about human-wildlife conflict in Africa. The short film programs also delve into some interesting topics—“Akashinga: The Brave Ones” features the all-female anti-poaching unit in Zimbabwe that is revolutionizing how wildlife is protected and communities are empowered.

Conservation benefits by the numbers: in late August, Conservation Letters published a scientific analysis that found that “conservation action prevented 21-32 bird and 7-16 mammal extinctions since 1993, and 9-18 bird and two to seven mammal extinctions since 2010. Many remain highly threatened and may still become extinct. Considering that 10 bird and five mammal species did go extinct (or are strongly suspected to [have gone extinct]) since 1993, extinction rates would have been 2.9-4.2 times greater without conservation action.” Rescued species include the California condor and the black-footed ferret, once believed to be extinct across the world.

New Additions to the Conservation Frontlines Library October 2020

Zambia Community Based Natural Resources Management Forum 2020 Urgent appeal to enable conservation and uphold human rights in Africa (addressed to Nancy Pelosi Speaker of the House U.S. House of Representatives and Kevin McCarthy Republican Leader U.S. House of Representatives) Rural Communities
Farawo Tinashe

2020

Hunting proceeds benefit the vulnerable Rural Communities, Sustainable Use
Durkin Patrick

2020

Can Trophy Hunting Alter Wildlife Genes? Sustainable Use, Species Assessments
Sillars Joe

2020

‘3 Billion Birds?’ America’s War On Feral Cats Conservation & Wildlife Management
Dorsey Chris (Forbes)

2020

One Family’s Quest To Save A Species…Through Hunting Citizen Conservationists, Sustainable Use
Leonard Bryan & Edwards Eric (PERC)

2020

Contracting and the Commons: Linking the Insights of Gary Libecap and Elinor Ostrom Conservation & Wildlife Management, Rural Communities
Hill PI & Regan Shawn (PERC)

2020

Resource Governance in the American West: Institutions, Information, and Incentives Conservation & Wildlife Management, Rural Communities
Kaelo D, Sopia D, Bell D, Diggle R & Nelson F

2020

From crisis to solutions for communities and African conservation Conservation & Wildlife Management, Rural Communities
Parker K, De Vos A, Clements HS, Biggs D & Biggs R

2020

Impacts of a trophy hunting ban on private land conservation in South African biodiversity hotspots Conservation & Wildlife Management, Sustainable Use
Hart AG, Cooney R, Dickman A, Hare D et al.

2020

Threats posed to conservation by media misinformation Social Media Impact
Taylor AW, Lindsey PA et al.

2020

Jobs, game meat and profits: The benefits of wildlife ranching on marginal lands in South Africa Conservation & Wildlife Management, Rural Communities, Sustainable Use
Fobar Rachel (National Geographic)

2020

China promotes bear bile as coronavirus treatment, alarming wildlife advocates Conservation & Wildlife Management, Social Media Impact
Lelokwane M & van der Merwe P

2020

A sustainable strategy to mitigate the ban of hunting on local communities in Botswana Conservation & Wildlife Management, Rural Communities, Sustainable Use
Roe Dilys, Amy Dickman et. al

2020

Beyond banning wildlife trade: COVID-19, conservation and development Conservation & Wildlife Management
Baker B, Jacobs R, Mann M, Espinoza E & Grein G

2020

CITES Identification Guide for Ivory and

Ivory Substitutes

Conservation & Wildlife Management, Sustainable Use
Joubert Christoffel J et al.

2020

A baited-camera trapping method for estimating the size and sex structure of African leopard (Panthera pardus) populations Species Assessments
Lindsey Peter et al.

2020

Conserving Africa’s wildlife and wildlands through the COVID-19 crisis and beyond Conservation & Wildlife Management, Wildlife Diseases
Ruhweza Alice, Worden Jeff & Kaoma Brighton

2020

Re-Imagining Africa’s Food Future at the Intersection of Agriculture and Conservation Conservation & Wildlife Management, Rural Communities
Geib Claudia (Mongabay)

2020

Spying on fear in the wild: Q&A with ecologist Meredith Palmer Conservation & Wildlife Management, Citizen Conservationists
Brottem Leif (Mongabay)

2020

Protecting African wildlife: A defense of conservation territories Conservation & Wildlife Management
Kashwan Prakash

2020

American Environmentalism’s Racist Roots Have Shaped Global Thinking About Conservation Conservation & Wildlife Management
BPCT

2020

Botswana Predator Conservation Trust Annual Report 2019 Conservation & Wildlife Management, Rural Communities
Wilkinson Todd (Mountain Jornal)

2020

Unbroken Wilderness:’ Big Sky And The Human Appetite For Consuming Wildness Conservation & Wildlife Management, Rural Communities
Quimby Charlie (Mountain Jornal)

2020

TR, The Imperfect President Who Changed The Way A Nation Thinks About Nature Conservation & Wildlife Management
Curveira‐Santos Gonçalo et al.

2020

Responses of carnivore assemblages to decentralized conservation approaches in a South African landscape Conservation & Wildlife Management, Hunting: Fair Chase, Culture, Arts
IUCN SULi

2020

Trophy Hunting in the Spotlight: to ban or not to ban? Sustainable Use
Wilkinson Todd (Mountain Jornal)

2020

To Live Or Die In Bear Country: Counting The Seconds In Your Grizzly Moment Of Truth Conservation & Wildlife Management
Haus Jacob, Bowman Jacob & Rogerson Joe

2020

What Scientists Learned that Changed How They Hunt Mature Bucks Sustainable Use, Hunting: Fair Chase, Culture, Arts
Humphrey G J, Ziervogel G & Gillson L

2020

Trusting local knowledge: the case of fire management in a Namibian park Conservation & Wildlife Management, Rural Communities, Sustainable Use
Scheffers BR, Oliveira BF, Lamb L & Edwards DP

2019

Global wildlife trade across the tree of life Conservation & Wildlife Management, Sustainable Use
Garshelis DL, Noyce KV & St-Louis V

2020

Population reduction by hunting helps control human–wildlife conflicts for a species that is a conservation success story Conservation & Wildlife Management, Sustainable Use
Montana GBAC

2020

Recommendations and Input on the Future of Grizzly Bear Management and Conservation in Montana Conservation & Wildlife Management, Sustainable Use, Species Assessments
Gwin Peter (National Geographic)

2020

Himalaya ‘ghost cats’ are finally coming into view Conservation & Wildlife Management, Rural Communities, Species Assessments
Pedersen S et al.

2019

Impacts of wolves on rural economies from recreational small game hunting Rural Communities, Sustainable Use