Frontline Dispatches – September 2021 Vol. III, No. 9



Bipartisan infrastructure legislation helps forests and conservation programs.  Infrastructure investments in the restoration and management of America’s national forests as well as for wildlife crossings, habitat restoration, and coastal resiliency are natural climate solutions that protect communities, water supplies, and fish and wildlife populations, said the Boone & Crockett Club.(J. M. de Leon photo).

Poach & Pay Underway. Wildlife crimes negatively impact wildlife populations throughout the US and undermine public perception of legitimate, regulated harvest. The Wildlife Management Institute and the Boone & Crockett Club are developing the first comprehensive estimate of undetected wildlife crimes beginning with eight states in the US. Supported by the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, results will direct future conservation efforts to maintain wildlife as a public resource.

Mountain lions move less during pandemic. The University of Nebraska and the National Park Service tracked 12 mountain lions with GPS transmitters in California and learned that as people stayed inside, mountain lions decreased movement outside Science Daily reports. The study coincided with a statewide stay-at-home order and the closing of most parks around Los Angeles. Human impacts prior to the stay-at-home order were causing increased movement, which contrasts with prior assumptions about large carnivore movements.

Oh deer! White-tailed deer exposed to COVID-19. Although showing no clinical symptoms, deer in four states have been exposed to the coronavirus reports USA Today. A USDA study says that 40% of deer tested in four states in 2021 were positive for COVID-19 antibodies. It is still unknown whether the deer are transmitting the virus amongst each other or other animal species, or if humans are the source. For now, there is no evidence that deer are helping spread the virus and the risk of COVID-19 spread from deer to humans remains low. (Scott Bauer/USDA photo).

Conflict in the sage brush: wild horses vs. greater sage-grouse. In Nevada, a US Geological Survey study suggests that as wild free-roaming wild horse populations increase, greater sage-grouse populations will decline This is Reno reports. If wild horse population rates continue to increase at the current pace, the study predicts that sage grouse populations may continue to decline by more than 70% within areas where horses live by 2034.

Linking grizzly bear and Indigenous lineages through salmon runs. Grizzly bears and Indigenous people of coastal British Columbia have lived side-by-side for millennia. Using hair samples, recent DNA analysis has identified three distinct genetic groups of grizzlies in the region and these groups align closely with the region’s three Indigenous language families, reports Science Magazine. Researchers believe it could be based on survival needs such as salmon runs.

Catching fire: Policy and action struggle to keep up with a record-breaking fire season. A recent comprehensive synthesis of more than 1000 published papers led scientists to “largely agree that reducing these fuels is needed to make our forests and surrounding communities more resilient to wildfires and climate change,” Washington University reports. The group of scientists from universities, government agencies, and NGOs hope their reports will help policy-makers make decisions using the best scientific data available.

Meanwhile, it rained in Greenland. On August 14, 2021, rain was observed at the highest point on the Greenland Ice Sheet, aka Greenland Summit, for several hours, and air temperatures remained above freezing for about nine hours, reported Forbes. It is the first recorded rainfall at this location, which is 10,551 feet in elevation. A flow pattern associated with a low-pressure center over Baffin Island and high-pressure to the southeast of Greenland brought warm, moist air from the South. NASA experts worry about the longer-term implications.


Think white-tailed deer were always so common?
Think again!

• In the early 1900s, deer populations were at historic lows because of unregulated harvest.
Fact: Biologists estimated that there were 500,000 deer US.
• During the next century, conservationists and hunters worked together to help deer populations recover.
Fact: Today there are an estimated 30,000,000 deer in the US.

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In Zimbabwe, a 12-year-old male lion was killed by a hunter near Hwange. The hunt was conducted with the necessary permits within a hunting concession bordering the national park. Africa Geographic’s report drew some interesting and controversial comments, which provide context. For a different view, watch this short video “The Name Game”. Dozens of articles in traditional and social media around the globe bemoaned the demise of this particular lion.

But the same news outlets never mentioned that three children were killed by lions in Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Conservation Area. This tragic incident was never mentioned by Born Free (USA) or the Humane Society of the US. The children had gone to look for lost cattle near the Ngorongoro CA (reported by News24); a fourth child escaped with minor injuries, after climbing a tree. One of the lions—unnamed, as far as we know—apparently was collared for research purposes. Revenge killings of lions by the bereaved community are now a distinct possibility.

Namibia’s lion population shows steady growth. The 2020 statistics indicate that there are approximately 800 lions countrywide (ca 96 to 124 lions in Kunene; 305 to 366 in Etosha; 39 in Kavango; 52 in Zambezi and over 100 on private land). Conservation measures mitigated threats and challenges like persecution by livestock farmers on commercial and communal land; habitat loss and environmental degradation; and decreasing prey species numbers caused by the recent drought.

Video: Kenya guides race to watch wildlife. This short TikTok video shows an avalanche of vehicles racing towards a wildebeest crossing point in the Maasai Mara. Who is responsible for this madness? The guests wanting to secure the best viewing spots, the guides competing for tips, or a combination of both? Certainly unsustainable, unethical, and detrimental to an authentic safari experience.

South African National Parks and Southern African Wildlife College strengthen ties.  According to a memorandum of understanding, both parties will collaborate using a holistic approach to applied and inclusive conservation management. The recognition of SAWC as strategic partner to SANParks underpins the important role of the College in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Video: African wild dogs come-back to Malawi. Fourteen animals (originating from Mozambique and South Africa) were recently translocated to Liwonde National Park and Majete Wildlife Reserve. The reintroduction was a team effort between African Parks, who manages the two protected areas, and the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) from South Africa. (Matt Moon photo).

Namibia Elephant Auction Update. The Namibian Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism has sold 57 of the 170 elephants which were put on auction in December 2020. 15 elephants will be captured and remain in Namibia while 42 will be exported. The sale netted N$5.9 million from three successful bidders. MEFT says that these funds will be transferred into the Game Products Trust Fund (MEFT press release, August 11).

COVID-19 drove tourist arrivals in Namibia down. In 2020 only 169,565 tourists arrived in the country, down from 1,595,973 arrivals recorded in 2019—a significant decline of 89%—said MEFT Minister Pohamba Shifeta in the  Tourist Statistical Report 2020.

Scientific terms in African languages. A research project called Decolonize Science plans to translate 180 scientific papers from the AfricArXiv preprint server into 6 African languages that are collectively spoken by around 98 million people: isiZulu and Northern Sotho from southern Africa; Hausa and Yoruba from West Africa; and Luganda and Amharic from East Africa. Reported by Nature on August 18.

Understanding how elephants use their trunk. The elephant trunk has an extraordinary kinematic versatility as it can manipulate a single blade of grass but also carry loads up to 270 kilograms. Using motion-capture technologies developed for the movie industry, a team of scientists at the University of Geneva demonstrates—the study was published in Current Biology—that the complex behaviors of the elephant trunk emerge from the combination of basic movements.


Dam construction threatens UNESCO World Heritage Site in Thailand. The rich biodiversity and wildlife migration corridors in and around Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai (DPKY) Forest Complex are at risk from proposed dams,  reported Mongabay on June 18. DPKY holds two breeding populations of the rare Indochinese tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti).


Bespoke computer tracks the carnivorous rosy wolf snail. In Tahiti/French Polynesia researchers solved the extinction mystery of indigenous forest snails using a tiny computer screwed delicately on the shell of the alien predatory rosy wolf snail. The transmitted data confirmed that bright conditions protect the native snails on the forest edge from the rosy predators, whereas snails living inside the light-deprived forest are easy prey for the invaders.


Road construction threatens Brazil’s Iguaçu National Park. If the proposal for construction of a 17.5-kilometre road moves ahead, researchers fear that it will threaten the park’s lush forest, a biodiversity hotspot that is home to almost 1,600 animal species. Environmentalists and researchers are arguing that road will bring pollution and poachers, while supporters say the road will connect towns and stimulate economic growth.


Reforestation holds promise for Europe’s increasingly drier summers. A new study in Nature Geoscience suggests that if all land suitable for reforestation was forested in Europe, average summer rainfall would increase by 7.6%, partially ameliorating drier summers predicted as a result of climate change. However, “Forestation alone cannot mitigate all the greenhouse gas emissions produced by mankind currently,” one of the researchers also said. “To tackle this problem, we need rapidly to minimize our greenhouse gas emissions in the first place.”

Raccoon dogs threaten ground-nesting birds in Finland The raccoon dog, an invasive species indigenous to mainland East Asia and now abundant in Finland, is a more common duck nest predator than any indigenous mammalian species, artificial nest experiments demonstrated. Racoon dogs depredated nests on shorelines as well as in forests, rural landscapes and urban area; hence duck species are faring poorly, with more than half listed as threatened to a varying degree. (Christina Krutz photo).

Download the newest CIC digital magazine. The International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation CIC presents its latest magazine in English, German and French.

Video: In Galicia, Spain traditional silvopasture helps prevent wildfires. During the summer, Galicia in north-western Spain is Europe’s hardest-hit region in terms of wildfires. Livestock grazing among trees—with sheep and cattle reducing the brush that often ignites during dry times—offers a solution. Farms that implement ancient silvopasture practices have not burned during recent fires, and brush and trees provide food and cover for livestock. Adequate sustainable agroforestry in the mountains also sequesters carbon and provides habitat for wildlife while boosting farmers’ incomes, Mongabay reported. (See also AFINET project. Silvopastoral system with Galician sheep).


Video: Global Initiative on Ungulate Migration GIUM. Animal migration connects systems and promotes the resilience of the ecosystems that sustain subsistence hunting, rural economies, and provides the primary prey base for almost all the world’s top carnivores. GIUM works collaboratively to: 1) create a global atlas of ungulate migration using tracking data and expert knowledge; and 2) stimulate research on drivers, mechanisms, threats and conservation solutions common to ungulate migration worldwide. The GIUM network of global experts represents the world’s major terrestrial regions, and most if not all of its longest migrations (e.g., Serengeti wildebeest, arctic caribou, Mongolian saiga, white-eared kob, African elephants, among many others). Their collaborative initiative (see also Matthew J. Kauffman’s article in Science “Mapping out a future for ungulate migrations”) seeks to spark conservation efforts worldwide by sharing and discussing new, ongoing, and proven approaches to maintain migration corridors across large landscapes. (Caribou in Alaska have the longest land-based migration in the world. NPS/Kyle Joly photo).

Earth’s vital signs worsen. In 2019, a coalition of 11,000 scientists declared a global climate emergency. The researchers of the original study now released a new paper in BioScience that suggests many of Earth’s crucial systems are nearing, or have already blown past, dangerous tipping points. Writing in The Conversation, the study’s lead authors note the unprecedented surge in climate-related disasters, including floods, storms, fires, and record heatwaves (July 2021 was the world’s hottest month ever recorded). They recommend a three-pronged approach—a globally implemented carbon price, a phase-out and eventual ban of fossil fuels, and the creation of environmental reserves to safeguard and restore natural carbon sinks and biodiversity. (The number of signatories has now swelled to almost 14,000).

Meanwhile, the unsettling news and warnings of the recently released IPCC report were highlighted in a series of articles published in The Conversation. Not all agree with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change though—Climate Intelligence (CLINTEL) said on August 9 that “New IPCC report provides little objective basis for policymaking”.

Biodiversity and the challenge of pluralism. A paper, (published in the journal Nature Sustainability) addresses how living nature is conceived and valued by the conservation movement on the one hand, and by many different people, including marginalized communities, on the other. The authors conclude that often policymakers see the rather rich and vocal urban conservationists as ‘the’ voice of conservation. If uncritically accepting this group’s particular biodiversity understanding as valid, policymakers will continue to rely on a narrow set of approaches. That is, conserving certain pockets while turning a blind eye to the ravaging of the rest of living nature in the name of economic growth. Instead, the authors suggest, a new approach should capture the multiple goals and values of biodiversity, build bridges among a broader set of nature-concerned citizens, and challenge the structures that condition nature versus human well-being. This could eventually result in policymakers mainstreaming nature concerns into policies across sectors.

Video: “Kiss the Ground” Trailer. This full-length documentary (streaming on Netflix) sheds light on an “new, old approach” to farming called “regenerative agriculture” that has the potential to balance our climate, replenish our vast water supplies, and feed the world. The story line awakens us to the possibilities of regeneration, and shows that the solution is right under our feet. Over 9 and a half million people have watched this must-see 2 ½-minute trailer. The 45-minute educational version is available for schools to stream for free, or as DVD (for a free link fill out the form here).

RESTOR helps plan, manage and monitor restoration projects. This map-based, open-source platform combines on-the-ground knowledge, ecosystem research, and satellite imagery of places around the globe to learn about their potential for restoration or conservation. The locations of more than 50,000 restoration and conservation initiatives are now registered on RESTOR. Anyone with a project can apply for access to the site and enter data about their project and ecosystem.


New Additions to the Conservation Frontlines Library September 2021

Jackman Tony 2021 The grazier, the novice and the Day of the Hunt Conservation & Wildlife Management, Sustainable Use, Hunting: Fair Chase,Culture, Arts
Stiles Daniel (Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime) 2021 Black Market Brief: African Elephant Ivory Conservation & Wildlife Management, Sustainable Use, Species Assessment
Odonjavkhlan C et al. 2021 Factors affecting the spatial distribution and co-occurrence of two sympatric mountain ungulates in southern Mongolia Conservation & Wildlife Management, Species Assessment
Hessami Mateen A et al. 2021 Indigenizing the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation Conservation & Wildlife Management, Rural Communities
Balfour Dave & Dzib Luthando  2021 Saving Private Rhino: We must reimagine the future of species conservation in South Africa Conservation & Wildlife Management, Species Assessment
Adams Chuck  2021 Thoughts About Trophy Hunting: At the end of the day, memories will forever be bigger than antlers. Hunting: Fair Chase,Culture, Arts
Ramírez-Valdez Arturo  2021 Giant sea bass are thriving in Mexican waters – scientific research that found them to be critically endangered stopped at the US-Mexico border Conservation & Wildlife Management, Rural Communities, Sustainable Use
Hendry James 2021 Another giant elephant trophy hunted – is this conservation? Rural Communities
Hendry James 2021 Do we have an elephant problem? Conservation & Wildlife Management, Species Assessment
Team Africa Geographic 2021 Oil in the Okavango Basin – an investment scam? Conservation & Wildlife Management, Rural Communities
Spera Stephanie  2021 234 scientists read 14,000+ research papers to write the IPCC climate report – here’s what you need to know and why it’s a big deal Conservation & Wildlife Management, Rural Communities
Deutsche Wildtier Stiftung 2021 Gamslebensräume in den Bayerischen Alpen Species Assessment