Frontline Dispatches – August 2021 Vol. III, No. 8
Removing one species to save another. There is owl-to-owl conflict in the Pacific Northwest and Anthropocene explains the challenge to conserve endangered northern spotted owls as the range of more aggressive barred owls expands. Lethal removal of barred owls to benefit northern spotted owls illustrates the ethical complexities of wildlife management.
Trail cameras, no more. Arizona bans cameras that aid in the take wildlife. The Payson Roundup reports that the Arizona Game and Fish Commission voted 5-0 for a statewide ban on trail cameras for the purpose of taking or aiding in the take of wildlife. A contentious topic, issues related to fair chase, hunter conflict, and disturbance to wildlife at water sources all factored into the decision.
Think outside. No box required. The Conversation shares the benefits of outdoor education in early childhood learning and development. Learn more about how we can invest in early learning outdoors to provide high-impact opportunities to young children. Help kids spend time outdoors!
New protection for the “heart and the lungs” of Florida. CNN describes the recent passage of the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act, which allocated upwards of $400 million to protect millions of acres of the state’s unique wildlife habitat. The targeted green space is made up of public and private land with the goal of responsible growth while protecting wildlife and natural resources.
College student views on paying for conservation: oil and gas, hunters, lotto should pay, tax on outdoor recreation equipment not supported. A recent study from North Carolina State University explores how 17,203 undergraduates think wildlife conservation should be paid for in the US. The majority of students supported continued funding from hunting and fishing license fees and a tax on sporting equipment, and were also in favor of funding conservation via revenue from natural resource extraction companies, state lottery proceeds, state sales taxes and local bonds. Funding from a tax on outdoor recreation equipment—tents, backpacks, binoculars, etc.—was not supported by students.
Don’t let barriers stand in the way of joining the hunter-conservationist community. Know a conservation-minded person who is interested in hunting, but thinks they won’t fit in or don’t have what it takes to be a hunter? All Outdoor reports how diversity is increasing in the hunting community and Outdoor Life shares the value of casual hunters to conservation.
2021/2022 Federal Duck Stamp helps wildlife and habitat. 98 cents of every dollar spent on the $25 stamp are used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to acquire and protect waterfowl habitat. You don’t have to be a hunter to support the program (American Birding Association image).
A Legend Is Gone. Valerius Geist, professor emeritus at the University of Calgary, died at age 83. An internationally respected and incredibly prolific biologist and ecologist, Val was always eager for vigorous debate, and didn’t shy away from controversy. His publications on the biology, social dynamics and behavior of North American wild ungulates and their predators made scientific aspects of wildlife management accessible for the broader public. Val was one of the architects of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, an avid outdoorsman, and a strong supporter of Fair Chase (Shane Mahoney recognizes Dr Geist on the IUCN-SULi website).
Which US President has done the most for wildlife conservation?
Here are a few hints:
- He established federal protection for nearly 230 million acres of land.
- He founded the Boone and Crockett Club, the oldest conservation organization in the US.
- He formed the US Forest Service.
It is Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th President of the US, who is known as the Conservationist President.
Bushmeat poaching in Kenya. Bushmeat poaching in Kenya’s Galana River area (bordering Tsavo National Park) reaches industrial proportions, reported NTV Kenya. On June 21, authorities apprehended three poachers and confiscated 596kg game meat. A Voi court found the three guilty and sentenced each poacher to 16 years prison and a fine of KSh2.2 million (ca $20,300) on July 5—two weeks after the arrest. (Photos supplied).
Meanwhile in South Africa, alleged ‘rhino kingpin’ Groenewald was arrested again. On July 21, Dawie Groenewald and Schalk (Abraham) Steyn were apprehended on charges of illegally transporting 19 rhino horns. Groenewald—the former owner of Out of Africa Adventurous Safaris—had appeared in court in 2010 with ten co-accused on numerous rhino horn related charges. More than 10 years later, this case is still dragging on. Steyn, owner of AB Steyn Safaris, is under a five-year suspended sentence for wildlife crimes since 2018. Both accused were released on ZAR50,000 (ca. $3,360) bail each on July 23.
Also in South Africa, gambling and racial conflict threatens oribi survival. In KwaZulu-Natal, “taxi hunts with dogs” are often organized by criminal syndicates. The poachers arrive in minibus taxis at farms, and wealthy gamblers bet on the outcome of the dogs’ chasing wild animals, in particular oribi. Because many commercial farmers are White, and the illegal dog chases are predominantly conducted by Blacks, this betting-fueled poaching exacerbates social and political tensions, say researchers in a paper. (Kim Ludbrook photo).
Video: Celebrating Africa Geographic’s 2021 Photographer of the Year. 25,023 entries and one winner! Look at the amazing images of the winners’ gallery in this short video.
Grassroots Owen-Smith Community Rangers Awards. As tribute to Garth Owen-Smith, for whom Namibian community conservation was a life-long passion, his partner Margaret Jacobsohn established the GOSCARs to recognize the importance of community rangers to Namibian conservation.
Video: Virunga, Africa’s oldest national park under threat. Fossil Free Virunga is a 10-minute documentary telling the story of four young activists in the DR Congo. They are working to protect their home, and the Virunga NP from oil exploration (Africa Geographic newsletter, July 16).
Damning report on Kavango Basin drilling. Viceroy Research released a report on Reconnaissance Energy Africa Ltd (ReconAfrica)—the Canadian company that has set its sights on the Kavango Basin in Namibia and Botswana. Viceroy labeled ReconAfrica a “stock-promoted junior explorer, drilling imaginary oil basins in a fragile ecosystem” in an Africa Geographic article
Will ending the captive lion industry put wild lion populations at greater poaching risks? Has the legal lion bone trade stimulated poaching and laundering bone, and will international demand for claws and teeth increase? The “Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime” explores these questions in the Daily Maverick. (Africa Geographic photo).
Copper mining in the Lower Zambezi National Park. The open cast Kangaluwi mine in this spectacular Zambian wilderness will cause significant environmental impacts. Various parties are looking into legal alternatives to stop the mine, reported Africa Geographic.
Kilimanjaro’s glaciers are disappearing. Over the last century, ice coverage has shrunk by over 90%. Absorbed solar radiation causes ice sublimation, and subsequently glacier mass loss. The dramatically reduced precipitation—resulting from a natural shift in Indian Ocean dynamics—cannot replace the ice loss. Hence, using Kilimanjaro’s glaciers as an example for drastic climate change effects is misleading, concludes Team Africa Geographic.
Innovative App markets regionally harvested wild meats. The Waldfleisch [Forest Meat]-App connects producers and consumers of healthy wild meat. Sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Economics, over 1.000 qualified hunters registered as suppliers in Germany’s Lower Saxony, and more than 20,000 users installed it within three months of release, reported the German Hunting Association DJV. (Information—in German—at Waldfleisch.de).
New Book: “Animal tracks of Europe” sets new standards. Joscha Grolms is an internationally recognized expert. His detailed encyclopedia of Europe’s animal tracks features detailed descriptions and dimensions on 816 pages, with 1122 color photos and 502 b&w drawings. Grolm’s excellently structured magnum opus (available in German only) helps beginners and advanced trackers determine and interpret signs of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates. “Tierspuren Europas” ISBN: 3818600902. Hardcover €69.95 (ca. $75.00). Verlag Eugen Ulmer.
Reliable wolf-dog hybrid detection. Researchers from 10 European countries developed a method to assess hybridization between wolves and dogs. This could assist addressing European-wide hybridization rate estimates, and support wolf management.
England’s deer populations explode. Rising roe and red deer numbers cause tens of thousands of traffic accidents, and heavy crop and woodland damage. There may be a need for culling as many as a million deer—but the well-oiled animal rights machine reflexively rejects this. “Of all methods available, shooting [deer] may be the only [practical option]”, stated the British Deer Society. Will the public accept the killing, asks a New York Times article.
Video: North Macedonia’s Shar Mountains National Park. Together with neighboring protected areas in Albania and Kosovo, the move creates Europe’s largest trans-boundary park covering more than 2,400km2. Wildlife includes Balkan lynx, brown bear, chamois, wolf, roe deer, and wild boar (J. Bozhinoski photo).
Video: Turtle Dove hitting media headlines. The turtle dove is doing better in countries where it is hunted, and where the hunting community manages and safeguards turtle dove habitats. More details in “Hunting and conservation of turtle dove in Europe – Facts and Figures”, and in the video recording of a turtle dove webinar on July 14 (several members of the European Parliament from different political groups, scientists and hunting association leaders participated).
Galapagos Tortoise still show original migrating behavior. Dominant male tortoises wander up to 10 kilometers into the highlands of the island (young animals stay year-round in the lowlands). The reason for this, and the question of why they don’t rest during the dry season are not known. (J-M García photo).
Wildlife Corridor in Belize. The Maya Forest Corridor connects the massive Maya Forest in Belize’s northwest with the Maya Mountains network of protected areas in the south. Vital for the region’s tapirs, opossums, armadillos, agoutis, jaguars, and other species, the reserves and corridors are part of a critical conservation infrastructure said Jim Krupa from the University of Kentucky-Lexington in Mongabay.
Video: Falconry in Saudi Arabia. The 47-minutes documentary Wild Allies takes a look at the fascinating history of falconry in Saudi Arabia—from its ancient desert origins, to its prominence today, when falconers compete in high-tech falcon races. The video provides insights into the intricacies of falcon breeding, training, as well as into current research and conservation.
Pan Borneo Highway disrupts elephant migration paths. Cutting through a protected forest reserve, an 8-mile highway section in Sabah/East Malaysia may impact orangutans, clouded leopards, Bornean pygmy elephants and other endangered species. NGOs request authorities to consider alternatives, reported Mongabay.
Kazakhstan’s saiga population more than doubled. The April 2021 aerial survey showed that numbers rose from 334,000 to 842,000 since 2019, reported BBC (watch embedded video). In the Ustyurt area, a saiga population of ca. 1,000 (after the 2015 die-off) increased to 12,000 according to the census.
Babirusa, the enigmatic pig-deer, captured on camera. Camera traps confirmed the presence of babirusa on Indonesia’s Buru Island for the first time in 26 years, reported Mongabay. The Buru or hairy/golden babirusa (Babyrousa babyrussa) is threatened by destruction of rainforest habitat and poaching.
Asia’s Dhole populations at risk of extinction. The dhole (Cuon alpinus), occurs on the Indian subcontinent, and in Central and Southeast Asia with a wild population >2500 mature adults. This article informs about the dhole’s decline, and how to bring them back from the brink. (Anish Andheria photo).
Javan rhino calves sighted in Java/Indonesia. The Jakarta Post reported that camera traps in Ujung Kulon National Park captured images of two calves, a female and a male. There are now population 73 of this critically endangered rhino.
Cambodia’s first giant muntjac sighting. Camera trap surveys in Virachey National Park recorded the country’s first sightings of the critically endangered large-antlered muntjac (Muntiacus vuquangensis), reported Phys.Org.
Great Barrier Reef not listed “in danger”. The World Heritage Committee did not place Australia’s Great Barrier Reef on the list of world heritage sites that are “in danger”—ignoring an UNESCO assessment, which concluded that the reef was in danger from climate change, reported The Guardian.
Wide-ranging actions address growing threats to migratory species. The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) agreed to create four new working groups: a) migratory species and health, including zoonotic diseases; b) risks to migratory species from linear infrastructure; c) prevention or mitigation of growing impacts of light pollution on migratory species; and d) impacts of climate change on migratory species, and the benefits of migratory species and healthy ecosystems for mitigating climate change.
Intact forests overlap with extractive industries. Tropical Intact Forest Landscapes (IFLs) in South America, Asia-Pacific, and Central Africa are critical for conserving biodiversity and fighting climate change. A study in Frontiers in Forests and Global Change reveals that nearly 20 percent of these IFLs (or 376,449 square miles/975,000km2) overlap with concessions for mining, oil and gas. (Iron ore mining in Brazil’s Carajás Mountains—Joshua Stevens image).
Video: Camera trap study morphs into wildlife ID game. Players of the new mobile game “Unseen Empire” take on the role of researchers, reported CNN. Based on an ongoing, decade-long camera trap study of the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) team, the game was designed by Kenya-based Internet of Elephants. The start-up designs this and other digital experiences for users to better understand conservation science. (Image supplied).
Green List provides road map for species recovery. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) announced its Green Status of Species List—a scientifically rigorous and practical tool for tracking and communicating a species’ journey towards full recovery. The new tool aims at catalyzing conservation initiatives by highlighting successes and opportunities for future action. 181 species have been assessed in the new green status categories, IUCN reports in Conservation Biology.
How to best assess conservation progress? In conservation, the term “save” needs to be better defined, says Bob Pressey from James Cook University. Politically and economically convenient parameters such as money invested, square kilometers of protected areas established, and the number of species contained therein, often hide a lack of progress in real conservation, and don’t focus on how much biodiversity loss is avoided.
Extreme weather with deadly floods and heat-fueled wildfires. Climate change is hitting people, wildlife, and environment. Heatwaves in western North America, the Russian Far East, the Middle East, and southern Europe spark wildfires, blotting out the sun with a toxic haze of dust, emissions, and ash-laden smoke. Extreme downpours cause floods in Europe, China, India, and northwestern Africa. The evidence of our planet’s warming is all around us—for example in Goa/India, where the water runs black with coal dust; in Russia’s Kuznetsk Basin where polluted air colors the snow black; and visible damage to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. A visualization feature published on July 15 by the Earth Science Communications Team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory captures the quantities of our carbon dioxide emissions that cause Earth’s climate to change (U.S. Department of Agriculture photo).