Frontline Dispatches – April 2021 Vol. III, No. 4



VIDEO: Africa’s last free-roaming black rhinos thrive in community conservancies in Namibia’s Erongo and Kunene regions, where wildlife conservation has become a way of life. Part 2 of the docu-series “The Last Free Rhinos” gives us the perspective of the rural people who protect and take pride in their rhinos.

The African Rhino Specialist Group’s latest comprehensive report indicates that rhino poaching continued to decline across 14 countries through 2019, to 2.09 animals per day. This is a 43.5% drop since rhino-poaching peaked in 2015.

Diversifying the wildlife economy through communities: At Stellenbosch University in South Africa, the African Wildlife Economy Institute is building a new program of applied research on the ethical basis, governance and operation of the wildlife economy; and at Rwanda’s African Leadership University, the School of Wildlife Conservation is undertaking a major research initiative on the state of the wildlife economy continent-wide.

Mt. Kilimanjaro could become an ecological island, say researchers from Bayreuth University, Germany. Africa’s tallest mountain, in northern Tanzania, is nearly surrounded by wheat farms, sugar cane plantations, rice paddies, livestock and growing settlements. Wildlife corridors between national parks—Amboseli and Kilimanjaro, and Manyara and Tarangire—and from Mt. Kilimanjaro to Mt. Meru are being disrupted. The report appeared in The Conversation in February.

The African leopard is elusive, versatile and adaptable and has the greatest genetic diversity among the world’s big cats. Writing in Current Biology, researchers have now published the first genomic data of leopard, expanding our understanding of population dynamics in apex species.

Tanzania’s Selous Game Reserve is being destroyed. Established in 1896 and eventually covering more than 31,000 square miles (80,200 sq km), the reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But Tanzania is losing its “outstanding universal value” to development. An article in the Jan/Feb Sports Afield Almanac describes broken agreements with donor nations, huge development projects (above: a uranium mine, extensive road construction and a powerplant), the conversion of many hunting blocks to agriculture and the creation of unsustainable national parks.

Tanzanian giraffes are threatened by poaching for meat and by habitat loss to clearing and farms. The Masai Giraffe Project—a partnership between Wild Nature Institute, the University of Zurich, Pennsylvania State University and Tanzania’s Wildlife Research Institute—has identified nearly 3,000 individual giraffes in the Tarangire ecosystem to determine where and why their numbers are stable, increasing or declining. The report (with Sonia Metzger’s photo) was in The Conversation in March.

PODCAST: African environmentalist Allan Savory speaks about paradigm shifts that could enable us to thrive in the future. Savory was a research biologist and game ranger in Northern Rhodesia (today Zambia) and later a farmer and game rancher in Zimbabwe. In the 1960s, he made a breakthrough in preventing the degradation of grassland ecosystems and then exported his methods to four continents.


VIDEO: Have den, will travel. In February, Colorado Parks and Wildlife reintroduced three rehabbed black bear cubs into the wild in an artificial hibernation den. The day-long process required all-terrain vehicles to get the large box and the insulating haybales out to a remote spot in the backcountry. The door to the den was lifted; the cubs can decide if they want to wander out into the wild or stay in their “mobile home” until spring.

Jaguar and ocelot spotted near the Mexican border. The Arizona Republic reported that the ocelot was photographed (above; AZ Game & Fish) in the Huachuca Mountains and the jaguar was seen in the Dos Cabezas Mountains. Only seven jaguars have been documented in the US since 1996. New research finds that habitat in the American Southwest could support up to 151 adult jaguars.

Monarch butterflies are dwindling. The Mexico News Daily reported that monarch numbers at wintering spots in Mexico are down by 26%. The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere saw four times as much deforestation as the previous year, losing almost 50 acres (20 ha). Science magazine says pesticides and habitat loss are not entirely to blame—warmer fall weather is disrupting the breeding cycle and plants the butterflies rely on.

‘Dispersal event’ by a whitetail deer in Missouri, one of the longest on record, spanned 300 kilometres (186 miles). In Ecology and Evolution, the researchers—Conservation Frontlines contributors—write that this occurred during deer-hunting season; and that understanding how far deer travel is important for managing chronic wasting disease.

Bighorn sheep fight back against bacteria. A new study shows that bighorn sheep in California’s Mojave National Preserve are more resilient to a respiratory infection than originally thought, Mirage News reports. A 2013 outbreak killed dozens and infected even more; biologists found that exposure to the bacteria is more widespread now, but fewer sheep have actually been infected.

Two multimillion-dollar initiatives to restore habitat were recently announced by Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever and by the US Dept. of Agriculture. The Call of the Uplands campaign will pump $500 million into conservation research, education, habitat protection and engagement across 9 million acres (3.6 million ha) of land. The National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund will dedicate $285 million to 500-plus infrastructure projects across national forests and grasslands as part of last year’s Great American Outdoors Act.

A cool $1 billion will go to state wildlife agencies in 2021, says the US Fish and Wildlife Service, generated by the boom in sales of hunting and fishing gear and boat fuel in 2020. This is a $121-million increase in Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson funding in support of habitat and creating or improving opportunities for sportsmen and women.

North America’s largest mammals were not hunted to extinction by humans, a new Science Daily article suggests. Instead, populations of mammoths and other large animals fluctuated with climate change—drastic cold began the decline and extinction of these megafauna around 13,000 years ago. (Warpaintcobra image)

Watch and Learn: How to Talk About Hunting. This four-part webinar will begin on April 15 and registration is free. It will explore attitudes towards hunting and cover effective ways to connect with the public. The goal is to make hunters, conservationists and wildlife professionals “more effective proponents of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.”

Scientists have cloned the black-footed ferret with cells from a wild ferret that died in the mid-1980s. The ferrets are critically endangered, with only 400 to 500 “significantly inbred” individuals in the wild, according to NatGeo.com. Cloning can introduce genetic diversity to help protect the species against diseases and other stressors.



Nature is stressed, but not by hunting. FACE, the European Federation for Hunting and Conservation, recently fact-checked the European Union’s 143-page 2020 State of Nature Report. From a total of 5,596 habitat reviews, only three even refer to hunting. Lists of pressures on wildlife other than birds refer to hunting in 0.17% of cases and, including birds, in 2.58% of cases; overall, hunting accounts for just 0.66% of all significant pressures on wildlife across the EU.

Poland’s black grouse have crashed to an estimated 200 males remaining in a few isolated populations. FACE reports that, in response, the Polish State Forests joined a major cooperative project to conserve the species through predator management and a reintroduction program.

Germany is shirking its obligations to conserve fauna and flora, claims the European Commission. Under the European Habitats Directive, countries must designate Special Areas of Conservation and develop conservation objectives and measures to maintain or restore habitats. In February, the EC referred Germany to Europe’s Court of Justice over the matter.

But Germany protects 324 species and 92 habitats under EU law. The country has 22,843 protected areas, 5,200 Natura 2000 sites (protecting 324 species and 92 habitats) and 17,643 sites designated under national laws, per the Biodiversity Information System. The Federal Environment Ministry says the EC’s demands go too far and would demand too much cost and effort.

Otters are rebounding across much of the UK after major mid-20th Century declines due to water pollution. The Woodland Trust reported in February that otters have returned to every county in England, with their strongest numbers in Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

More than half of Europe’s forests are at risk from climate change-induced disturbances such as wind, wildfire and insects, finds a new study led by Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry. Large and old trees are especially threatened. The photo, from ScienceDirect, shows premature leaf aging in a European beech.


The Black Jaguar Foundation plans to reforest 1 million hectares (2.4 million acres) along Brazil’s Araguaia and Tocantins rivers in the Amazon and Cerrado biomes, reported Mongabay.com in February. The “green corridor”—2,600 kilometres, 1,615 miles, long (map)—will require planting about 1.7 billion trees on 24,000 privately owned lots. Some owners are not yet sold on the benefits.

In Bolivia, Chinese triads traffic in jaguar fangs, bones and genitalia, according to a recent Mongabay.com story. Such poaching, driven by the traditional medicine market, is also rife in Suriname, where jaguar teeth and paste (made by boiling down the meat and smaller bones) are the main illegal commodities.

It’s not the cow, it’s the how. Restoring Brazil’s overgrazed Cerrado requires holistic management and rotational grazing. A young chef turned farmer shows that intensive but sustainable grazing can regenerate grasslands by imitating the natural migrations of herbivores—rotating cattle quickly from one small plot to another, to trap more carbon in the soil and keep the land green. Mongabay.com covered the story in March. The concept came from Allan Savory, the Zimbabwean ecologist (and co-founder of the Savory Institute) mentioned above.


China, home of the largest traditional medicine market, has revised its list of National Key Protected Wild Animals for the first time since it was published in 1988; 517 species were added for a new total of 988 wild animals now under official state protection.

The Siamese crocodile is making a comeback in Laos. A joint project there involving local communities and French and US NGOs protects wetlands and the critically endangered Siamese crocodile and other wildlife, and promotes sustainable rural livelihoods, reported The Star in February. The photo is from a NatGeo.com story on the crocodile.

The black-browed Babbler, last seen 170 years ago, was rediscovered in South Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo, in 2020, according to BirdingASIA. Malacocincla perspicillata was known only from a specimen at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in the Netherlands. A few months earlier, scientists described five new songbird species and five new subspecies found on a single small island near Sulawesi, Indonesia, over a 6-week expedition.


The Amazon rainforest now probably contributes to global warming, according to a new analysis. Rising temperatures, drought and deforestation are reducing the capacity of the world’s largest rainforest to absorb atmospheric CO2, to help offset emissions from burning fossil fuels; and parts of the tropical landscape now may be releasing more carbon than they store. The findings appeared on NatGeo.com last month.

What remains of Earth’s wilderness? More than 25% of forests have been cleared and more than half of 12.6 million square kilometres (4.9 million sq mi) of wetlands have been drained. The current rate of deforestation is 160,000 square kilometres (62,000 sq mi) per year, a loss of about 1% of forest annually. See graphic representations in New Scientist, February 17.

Biodiversity? Habitat? University of Adelaide, Australia, scientists, writing in PNAS, say that the relationship between genetic diversity and species survival is often wrong. They conclude that conservation should focus on habitat protection instead, noting that “Nature is being destroyed by humans at a rate never seen before” and that an estimated one million species are threatened with extinction.

The rescue plan: Expand protected areas globally to at least 30% of land and sea by 2030. A February New Scientist article explains the 30×30 Plan; see also HuntFish 30/30. As Outdoor Life noted on February 18, alongside the US Administration’s order to protect 30% of the nation’s lands, a buy-in by hunters, anglers, farmers, Native American tribes and other stakeholders would be a “massive win for fish and wildlife.”

The lowly clam can filter out 38% of the nitrogen that runs into the sea from fertilizer and 51% of the nitrogen from wastewater. Anthropocene reports that, based on studies in Long Island Sound, in the northeastern US, shellfish can cleanse other pollutants too, as well as provide food, create aquatic habitat and buffer coastal zones against extreme weather.

Birders—and all conservationists—should buy coffee grown under mature trees. Shade-grown coffee provides critical habitat for birds (and other wildlife), but most consumers aren’t aware that “most of the shade coffee in Latin America has been converted to intensively managed row monocultures devoid of trees or other vegetation.” Cornell and Virginia Tech ornithologists released the news in early March.

Conservation Successes: Up to 32 birds and 16 mammals have been saved since 1993 and extinction rates would have been up to four times higher without action. In February, the New Scientist reported its top 10 conservation success stories: the California condor, the black stilt, the tiger, mountain gorilla, Indus river dolphin, Antarctic blue whale, European bison (above), Javan rhino, giant panda and Hainan gibbon.

Facebook fights climate disruption. Fortune.com reported in late February that Facebook will expand its online Climate Science Information Center to counter climate misinformation. Modeled on FB’s COVID-19 Information Center, the site was first launched in September. Climate-change denials are widespread on FB; and in October The Guardian reported that climate-disinformation FB ads were viewed 8 million times in the first half of 2020.

VIDEO: Climate warming is ‘extremely likely due to human activities’ finds NASA, the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration, reporting that a review of scientific journals shows that 97% or more of climate scientists agree.

The UK is now halfway to net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions and the news made the front page of The Times on March 18. A new analysis in CarbonBrief shows that the country’s CO2 emissions in 2020 were 51% below 1990 levels—halfway to the 2050 net-zero target. The milestone came after an estimated 11% drop in greenhouse gas emissions in 2020, largely due to the pandemic.

New Additions to the Conservation Frontlines Library April 2021

Baldus R D 2021 The End of the Game – The Selous, Africa’s largest Hunting Reserve, is being destroyed Conservation & Wildlife Management, Sustainable Use
Bell Rizzolo Jessica  2021 Effects of legalization and wildlife farming on conservation Conservation & Wildlife Management, Sustainable Use
Cassidy L & Salerno J. 2020 The need for a more inclusive science of elephant


Rural Communities, Species Assessment
ChapmanL Laura A & White Piran CL 2020 Anti-poaching strategies employed by private rhino owners in South Africa Conservation & Wildlife Management
Deutsche Wildtier Stiftung 2021 Der Wolf ist zurück – jetzt braucht es ein gut funktionierendes Wolfsmanagement Conservation & Wildlife Management, Species Assessment
Gorman James 2020 Ancient Remains in Peru Reveal Young, Female Big-Game Hunter Hunting: Fair Chase, Culture, Arts
Haas Randall et a. 2020 Female hunters of the early Americas Hunting: Fair Chase, Culture, Arts
IUCN WCPA 2020 PARKS: The International Journal of Protected Areas and Conservation (Issue 26.1, May 2020) Conservation & Wildlife Management
IUCN WCPA 2021 PARKS: The International Journal of Protected Areas and Conservation (Special Issue 27 on COVID-19, March 2021) Conservation & Wildlife Management
Kuemmerle Tobias et al. 2020 Identifying priority areas for restoring mountain ungulates in the Caucasus ecoregion Conservation & Wildlife Management
Leibniz Institute 2021 Spotty cats, solid data: Namibia’s first national cheetah survey Species Assessment
McKean Andrew  2021 Elk Management in Montana Shows the Blind Spots of Our North American Model of Wildlife Conservation Species Assessment
McKean Andrew  2021 Elk-tag bill proposed outside usual process Species Assessment
National Council of SPCAs South Africa 2021 NSPCA challenges the captive lion industry Conservation & Wildlife Management, Species Assessment
Pečnerová Patrícia et al. 2021 High genetic diversity and low differentiation reflect the ecological versatility of the African leopard Species Assessment
Rajak Sauleha  2020 Linking Conversation and Conservation in Africa Rural Communities, Social Media Impact
Renkl Margaret  2021 Yes, America, There Is (Some) Hope for the Environment Conservation & Wildlife Management
Sen Nag Oishimaya  2020 Time To Recognize That Hyenas Are Nice, Not Nasty Species Assessment
Somerville Keith, Dickman Amy, Johnson Paul & Hart Adam 2021 Soap operas will not wash for wildlife Conservation & Wildlife Management
Stoddard Ed 2021 The Abelana Game Reserve is a study in a so-far successful community-private partnership Rural Communities, Sustainable Use
Teixeira João C & Huber Christian D 2021 The inflated significance of neutral genetic diversity in conservation genetics Conservation & Wildlife Management, Species Assessment
Venkataraman Vivek  2021 Women were successful big-game hunters, challenging beliefs about ancient gender roles Hunting: Fair Chase, Culture, Arts
Wilkinson Todd & Sadler Tom 2021 A ‘Dark Ages’ Of Wildlife Management Descends On The West Conservation & Wildlife Management, Sustainable Use
Wintersteeen Kyle  2021 Social Media Bullies Can Stunt Hunter Recruitment Hunting: Fair Chase, Culture, Arts, Social Media Impact