Frontline Dispatches – July 2021 Vol. III, No. 7
Video: Human-Wildlife Conflict with Amy Dickman. Tommy’s Outdoors podcast featured a conversation with the well-known conservation biologist on May 26. Amy and Tommy explore the ethical and scientific issues around human-wildlife conflict in a fast-paced episode. Not everything is clear-cut and some questions are difficult to answer, and you might find yourself questioning your own opinions (Photo from Twitter).
MBA for Conservation Leaders Program for promising African conservation professionals. The School Of Wildlife Conservation (SOWC) of the African Leadership University (ALU) accepts applications for the MBA Program with full funding opportunities. If you are interested in transforming the way conservation is done in Africa, register here.
African Park rangers shot a marauding elephant in Kandi, north-western Bénin. The elephant had killed 3 people, and injured several more outside the W-Bénin park. The meat was distributed to the local community, The Observers/France 24 reported on May13. About 6,000 elephants live in the WAP (W-Arly-Pendjari) complex in West Africa. It’s fairly common that elephants wander close to nearby villages.
Orchid sexually exploits longhorn beetles. The Disa forficaria orchid is known from a single remaining plant in the mountains near Cape Town, South Africa, reported IOL on May 31. Researchers at University of Cape Town’s FitzPatrick Institute now discovered that this extremely rare orchid mimics a female beetle so convincingly that the male beetle mates with the flower, thus pollinating it.
Video: Music is a powerful tool in raising awareness for wildlife. Namibia’s most popular musical talents teamed up with Laurie Marker’s Cheetah Conservation Fund and Thomas Eddington’s ENDANGERED campaign for an inspirational music video. Filmed at the Cheetah Conservation Fund’s cheetah sanctuary in Otjiwarongo, the song “Faster than the Wind” celebrates the wild cheetah (a 22-minute documentation of artists’ experiences along the way is also available on Vimeo).
82% of sites containing lions and elephants in Africa are adjacent to areas with considerable human pressure. Human activities pose the greatest threats to these species, particularly retaliatory killings of lions in response to livestock losses, and of elephants, in response to crop damage (elephants and lions also kill many people each year). As human pressure will increase, bold strategies to conserve these species are needed, stated a team of experts around Prof. Enrico Di Minin in a recent paper published by Nature Communications.
Lion Facts: African lions are now confined to a number of isolated areas amounting to only about 8% of their historic range; more than half of all wild lions share their landscape with people. The Lion Facts Newsletter explains that lions can survive in pastoral regions if communities gain benefits from wildlife.
The endangered slender-horned gazelle (Gazella leptoceros) occurs presently in the wild in Algeria and Tunisia, with some remnants in the Western Desert of Egypt and Libya. Main threats are excessive illegal hunting by locals, oil workers, and VIP hunting groups from the Gulf region; habitat degradation; population fragmentation; and climate change. The slender-horned gazelle conservation strategy provides a framework to guide actions needed to conserve and restore populations (Renata Molcanova photo).
Malaria kills more than 400,000 people each year. Most victims are children in Africa. Work on a malaria vaccine candidate, known as R21, developed at Oxford University’s Jenner Institute, began more than a decade ago. In clinical test R21 has now been found to be 77% effective, reported The Philadelphia Tribune on June 7. In Africa, malaria is far deadlier than Covid-19.
East African Sitatunga (Tragelaphus spekii spekii) live in dense papyrus marshes. Information about their numbers and habitat use in Uganda is sparse. During a three-year study, Camille Warbington recorded over 900 encounters along the Mayanja River with camera traps and from observation platforms. Published in Global Ecology and Conservation Vol. 24, Dec. 2020, Warbington’s doctoral dissertation provides wildlife managers with important data to determine sustainable sitatunga hunting quotas (Camille Warbington photo).
Bureau-craziness in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. A May 24 letter of the provincial director of export control and veterinary public health instructs all “game farms hunting or providing game meat for human consumption … to stop providing game meat for human and animal consumption, unless it has been slaughtered/dressed in an abattoir; was examined by a qualified person before slaughter/harvesting in the field; and that the game carcasses are transported to the abattoir in such a manner as not to compromise their hygenie [sic] status”. (CFF has a copy of the letter).
Elephant relocation in Mozambique. According to two Peace Parks Foundation reports dated May 17 and May 26 a total of 37 pachyderms were relocated from the southernmost district of Matutuine to the 18,000 ha Zinave National Park—part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area. Funding was arranged through the Ivan Carter Wildlife Conservation Alliance (Ivan Carter photo).
Conservation Funding in the US
Conservation is expensive, so who pays for wildlife and land management in the United States? Since the creation of wildlife management agencies, hunters have been among the most important contributors. In addition to legally required hunting license fees, consider these two BILLION dollar examples:
- The Pittman-Robertson Act is a tax on certain archery, firearms, ammunition, and other outdoor products that is dedicated to fund conservation programs and has generated more than $12.2 billion.
- The Federal Duck Stamp is a $25 fee to legally hunt migratory birds such as ducks and geese which has generated over $1 billion.
Both funding streams are essential for wildlife restoration and show the great conservation contribution of American hunters.
Wyoming wild game meat consumption surveys are coming. Wyoming Game and Fish Department reports a partnership with The Wild Harvest Initiative to learn more about the use and benefits of sustainable harvest of game meat and other wild edibles. Surveys have been sent out in June to randomly selected resident hunters and anglers to assess the use of these important food sources.
Efforts to decrease wildlife vehicle collisions underway. Wildlife vehicle collisions cause and estimated eight billion dollars in damages annually in the US according to a press release from the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. AFWA offered their thanks and support to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure for advancing the Wildlife Crossings Program with dedicated funding to support wildlife habitat connectivity.
Building crossing structures for the Texas ocelots. The Wildlife Society highlights a recent study that shows roads are major source of mortality for ocelots in Texas. A team of researchers used movement and mortality data from a 30 years study and learned that the two small populations of wild ocelots are colliding with cars on minor roads more than large highways. These findings suggest that crossing structures, like box culverts, on smaller roads, in addition to wildlife crossings on larger highways, could also help the rare cat (USFWS photo).
One of North America’s most endangered mammals has hope. National Geographic reports on eight red wolves released into an eastern North Carolina wildlife refuge. The red wolf population is estimated at 20-25 individuals, including four adults and four captive-born pups that were recently released. Found nowhere else in the world, these eight wolves provide hope for survival of the critically endangered species.
Connecting conservation and rural-community goals. With the continued loss of rural industries, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and Heart of the Rockies Initiative report on how conservation and outdoor recreation align with supporting the well-being of rural communities across the United States.
Aquarium founded by Bass Pro Shops conservationist voted best in US. USA Today readers declared Wonders of Wildlife, that champions conservation messages, as the nation’s best aquarium. Bass Pro Founder Johnny Morris partnered with over 40 conservation organizations to create the massive exhibit that houses more than 800 species of live animals.
Draught leads to decrease in waterfowl production in prairie pothole region. Ducks Unlimited reports that the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s 74th annual breeding duck survey shows a below average breeding season due to draught. However, the DU chief scientist says to keep in mind that “periodic droughts on the prairies is a normal part of the climate cycle,” no need to set off the alarms quite yet.
Bringing beavers back to the Beaver State. High Country News reports Klamath Oregon Tribes want beavers back on the landscape to help shape aquatic habitat for fish used as a traditional food source. The Tribes hope to attract the beavers by using natural posts and woven willows to give them a foothold to make dams that will bring back historic wetland ecosystems and associated fish populations.
A Global Change Biology study shows which wild mammals live most successfully alongside people in North America. Science Dailey reports on how the study has been able to show species like pumas and bobcats becoming less active in areas where humans are present. versus deer and rodents that appeared to become bolder and more active.
Listing the lesser prairie chicken under the Endangered Species Act will be contentious. USF&WS proposed the listing of two distinct population segments of lesser prairie chickens, a species that has suffered from the loss of native prairies on the Southern Great Plains. Capital Press reports a proposed ESA listing of lesser prairie-chicken could disincentivize the continuation of decades-long public-private conservation partnerships and erode cooperation among private landowners (Jon McRoberts photo).
Nature and mental health go hand in hand—the benefits of being outdoors. According to the Post-Journal getting outside and being in nature can help decrease anxiety, depression and seasonal affective disorder. Spend some time outdoors today!
The longest public science tradition in the United States. Billions of periodical cicadas crawling, fluttering, and singing in the eastern United States roused a throng of humans mapping and timing their emergence. More than 150,000 people uploaded geotagged photos of cicadas, helping scientists track their emergence after 13 to 17 years underground, reported Science Magazine on June 1.
This livestream from a spotted eagle nest in Latvia (featured already in our June issue) gives you a rare opportunity to watching the eagle chick growing—don’t miss out observing its development.
Culling is a divisive issue, but it may be necessary to rebalance ecosystems, also in Europe. In Ireland there is an over-population of deer according to Raidió Teilifís Éireann; they impact on grassland, crops, and disrupt woodlands regeneration. Also, a surge in the seal population in Irish waters, is unsettling the ability of local fishermen to make a living.
No unjustified restrictions on wildlife trade, including on the movement of hunting trophies. This was the message of the European Parliament on June 8 (as reported by FACE). A majority of parliamentarians ensured that the text of the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 would not restrict legal and sustainable wildlife trade.
Griffon vultures were considered extinct in the Eastern Balkan Mountains of Bulgaria in the 1970s. Now, a long-term restoration program, described in April issue of Biodiversity Data Journal brought Gyps fulvus back. 23-25 breeding pairs are distributed over five different colonies.
The Sustainable Wildlife Management (SWM) Program—a major international initiative—advances conservation and sustainable use of wildlife in different ecosystems. Field projects in 13 African, Caribbean and Pacific countries aim to improve wildlife hunting regulations; increase the supply of sustainably produced meat and farmed fish; strengthen the management capacities of indigenous and rural communities; and reduce demand for wild meat in towns and cities. Stay informed with the SWM Newsletter.
False jeopardy in nature documentaries. Styled like mini soap operas, and presenting perfectly normal situations in animals’ lives as though they are unusual, these documentaries propagate misconceptions about nature and conservation, said Keith Somerville, Amy Dickman and colleagues in an article published by People and Nature. The authors substantiate their view by exposing anthropomorphism, false jeopardy, and conspicuous narratives in the BBC Natural History series Dynasties.
Forest rangers struggle to prevent poaching amid lockdowns. Many countries noted an increase in wildlife and forestry crime during the pandemic. Officials from Asia, Africa, and Latin America are facing off with poachers, as the economic fallout from coronavirus lockdowns left locals struggling for goods to barter, firewood, and food, reported Science/The Wire on May 21.
Three key changes to the 50-year-old CITES treaty needed. A paper published by Frontiers in Ecology & Evolution proposes to address conservation failures flowing from the present simplistic set of biological and trade criteria. The authors suggest: (1) development of a formal mechanism for [consideration] of likely consequences of species listing decisions; (2) broadening of the range of criteria used to make listing decisions; and (3) amplifying the input of local communities living alongside [wildlife].
7th issue of Global Conservation Translocation Perspectives published. The IUCN SSC Conservation Translocation Specialist Group series—launched in 2008—features 418 case-studies on conservation translocations and reintroductions (download the books, or view the searchable database). This new issue includes case studies of Père David’s deer (or Milu) from China, southern pudu in Chile, bison in Montana and Romania, collard peccary in Argentina, and more (Milo in Dafeng NR, China; Yuhua Ding photo).
Building collisions are the second leading cause of bird fatalities. Turning off half of city lights at night could cut mortality by up to 60 percent, reported Anthropocene on July 23.
African and Amazonian tropical forests must be protected and restored. Important buffers against anthropogenic climate change, tropical forests capture and store a significant portion of our carbon emissions. This function is on the verge of being reversed. Drought and elevated temperatures cause trees to die, and vegetation structure and composition change. The Norwegian University of Life Sciences reports that more than a hundred scientists show that we are in the midst of a dramatic shift: the forests’ ability to bind carbon is in sharp decline. They may soon cease to be carbon sinks, and begin to release carbon.
SOUTH & CENTRAL AMERICA
Spectacled bears in Bolivia’s highlands. A small and hitherto unknown population of Tremarctos ornatus subsists in the El Palmar Integrated Management Natural Area (one of the last surviving patches of inter-Andean dry forest) reported Mongabay. (Smithsonian Nat. Zoo photo).
Chelonoidis phantasticus, a Galápagos tortoise, is not extinct. Documented on a photo taken in Santa Cruz, on the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador on July 10, 2019, and verified by genetic studies at Yale, the DNA comparison with a specimen extracted in 1906 confirmed that it is indeed the tortoise which had been considered extinct more than a century ago, reported CNN on May 27.
In Nepal, greater one-horned rhinoceroses are thriving. The population rose to 752 across four national parks, up from 645 in 2015, reported the WWF Nepal in April.
Unprecedented snaring pandemic on the Indochinese Peninsula. Millions of high-grade industrial snares set to trap wild pigs threaten Indochinese tigers, clouded leopards, Indochinese leopards, dholes and other rare jungle predators. A commentary by Gregory McCann, published by Mongabay discusses that protected areas in Thailand could present a last bulwark against indiscriminate poaching (Thai rangers examining Indochinese tiger tracks—G. McCann photo).