Frontline Dispatches – December 2021 Vol. III, No. 12
Megafire impact on black-tailed deer: they aren’t gone long. A team of researchers tracked 18 black-tailed deer before, during, and after the 2018 Mendocino Complex Fire in California and found that most of the deer returned to their pre-fire range within hours of the burn, while trees were still smoldering, reports ScienceDaily.
Viva Colorado! The Colorado River Delta is coming back to life thanks to a US–Mexico binational agreement, allowing numerous animals to thrive in this aquatic ecosystem, reports Audubon. The historic agreement brings wildlife and people back to a critical and unique river system, and this year represents the first time since 2014 that the Colorado River has reached the sea.
Lessons in wildlife management for an American conservationist during a Scottish red deer cull. MeatEater profiles an educational journey to Scotland for an American conservationist. A valuable perspective on Scotland’s conservation model and the importance of working with private landowners, for the benefit of the public, is front-and-center in this interesting account.
Big bucks for ducks. Chevron donates $500,000 to Ducks Unlimited to support Gulf Coast conservation efforts, reports Ducks Unlimited. The grant will support two restoration projects along the coast of Louisiana: the Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge Moist Soil Enhancement Project to help manage 1,200 acres of wetlands, and efforts to restore and protect 650 acres in Lafourche Parish. Both projects will be big wins for wetland ecosystem conservation.
Iowa white-tailed deer in the midst of their own pandemic. Science summarized that 80% of deer tested were COVID-positive during a three-month sampling period beginning in November 2020. Researchers speculated that deer contracted the disease through contact with infected humans, either by backyard feeding or by licking chewing tobacco spit. Scientists have documented that deer are spreading the virus amongst themselves, but it remains unclear whether the virus is able to spread from deer to humans.
Major draught is a major disruption for migratory birds. Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, along the Oregon-California border, would typically have around 700,000 migratory birds during the month of October, but this year only had about 5,000 reports OPB news. Draught conditions are likely to become more common and will continue to impact migratory birds and reshape their historic migratory flyways.
Hibernation goes beyond just sleeping the winter away.
• Bears can give birth while hibernating
• Wood frogs produce an “anti-freeze” in their blood and can survive being frozen and thawed
• Bats reduce their heart rate and can go minutes without taking a breath
Killing the Shepherd, an award-winning Documentary, Celebrates the Empowerment of the Soli People of Zambia. A remote community in Africa, led by a woman chief, attempts to break the stranglehold of absolute poverty by waging a war on wildlife poaching. This story was documented in the film Killing the Shepherd. “This film is a must see for anyone interested in wildlife conservation…” said Professor Adam Hart of the University of Gloucester. The film has been selected by 38 film international film festivals, winning 20 major awards including categories for best indigenous film, social issues and human rights. Beginning November 27 through January 15, the film will be available via an exclusive digital cinema event at www.killingtheshepherd.com.
Democratic Republic of the Congo authorities seize ivory, pangolin scales and rhino horn. At least $3.5-million in estimated ivory, rhino horns and pangolin scales have been seized by Congolese authorities in a cooperative sting with American officials, who arrested two traffickers in the US in early November.
Video: Two leopards arrived in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique. The two females are a gift from the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency. Leopards arrived in Chitengo by air in October.
Location, demography, and conservation background influence opinion on African trophy hunting. This new study published in Conservation Letters explores demographic and regional differences regarding support for African trophy hunting, trophy import bans, and outside funding of conservation estates supported by hunting. Realistic policy on African trophy hunting should integrate rural African communities’ perspectives, the authors conclude.
Zambia’s Kasanka National Park in peril. The world’s largest mammal migration and Zambia’s Kasanka NP are still under threat from a foreign commercial agricultural company, says Team Africa Geographic in this article.
Ecosystems worldwide are disrupted by lack of large wild herbivores—except in Africa. Biological research has repeatedly demonstrated that the relationship between the producer and the consumer is governed by a scaling law. An international team has now looked into whether this law of nature can be reproduced in the relationship between the production of plants and the number of large herbivores that graze on them. The research revealed that the scaling law holds true only in Africa.
Private wildlife ranches protect globally significant populations of wild ungulates. In South Africa, an estimated 20 million hectares are under wildlife ranching. A new study assessed how the sector contributes towards the conservation of ungulates and elephants. In comparison to protected areas, wildlife ranches had significantly higher species richness, more threatened species but also more extralimital species. An estimated 4.66–7.25 million herbivores occur on ranches nationally, representing one of the few examples where indigenous mammal populations are thriving and demonstrating how sustainable use can lead to rewilding. Potential negative impacts: landscape and gene flow fragmentation through game fencing; widespread occurrence of extralimital species may lead to hybridization, biotic homogenization, and changes to vegetation dynamics.
2022 aerial elephant survey for the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA). African savanna elephants are IUCN Red Listed as endangered. Yet, IUCN also acknowledges that their populations are stable or increasing in KAZA. This protected area holds more than 50% of Africa’s elephants. The projected 4-month-survey, jointly organized by Botswana and Zimbabwe, will address current challenges to accurately estimate pachyderm numbers.
Podcast: Is trophy hunting the only tool for wildlife management? Adam Hart—entomologist by training, career conservation ecologist, and professor of Science Communication at the University of Gloucestershire—joins Robbie Kröger from Blood Origins to talk about African trophy hunting, and why even though he is against hunting personally, he supports it anyway.
Video: Are anti-hunting campaigns misleading you? Moreangels Mbizah speaks to four representatives of the Community Leaders Network about misleading statements made during anti-hunting campaigns.
Africa needs a common stance at CITES. Alistair Poole of the African Wildlife Foundation AWF told journalists at a week-long AWF workshop that the 1975 CITES treaty is deeply flawed and biased against the interests of Africa. CITES was designed to facilitate and manage trade in wild species but has morphed into a political organization, with Africa as the biggest loser, Poole stated. He also challenged the media to tell the southern African countries’ conservation success story, push for the continent’s agenda at future CITES gatherings, and counter anti-trade actors from the northern hemisphere.
Community-based trophy hunting programs secure biodiversity and livelihoods. A new study published in Environmental Challenges reviews the effectiveness of the community-based trophy hunting (CTHP) model for conserving rare and threatened wildlife populations, protected and conserved areas, and community welfare and economic uplift, focusing on Pakistan and Tajikistan. Results reveal that CTHP has been instrumental in halting illegal hunting and poaching wildlife while improving community livelihood and local economy. For further context review Sustainable use of wildlife resources in Central Asia—the authors suggest that local people in central Asian countries should join wildlife protection societies and be given official rights to benefit from the development of hunting tourism.
The window of opportunity for further greening China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is closing. Total BRI investments in solar, wind, and hydroelectric power surpassed spending on fossil fuel plants in 2020, but the constellation of projects still includes many that will be environmentally destructive, like the construction of hundreds of dams, some of which fragment aquatic communities and block migratory fish species; or massive linear infrastructure projects (roads, railway lines and pipelines) that damage local ecologies, block mammal migration routes, pose a major risk to global biodiversity (including illegal logging, poaching, cutting through protected areas and encroaching buffer zones), and also increasing emissions and reducing the extent of forests. Glimmers of hope for mitigating the devastation include carefully planned forest planting, fences to keep animals off highways, and forested overpasses. However, effective mitigation must include a network of protected areas and wildlife corridors across Eurasia to limit BRI’s damage and rigorous environmental impact assessments done with international oversight, says an article published in Science on November 4.
Nepal on track to meet a 2022 pledge to double its wild tiger population from a 2010 baseline. Key to growing tiger numbers is the combination of a tough anti-poaching approach and close engagement with communities living near tiger habitats. Programs aim to mitigate human-wildlife conflict by fencing off national parks from adjacent villages and compensating villagers for the loss of animals or crops; reducing communities’ reliance on firewood collected from inside parks; and promoting tiger tourism to drive community development.
In the coldest regions of Russia, permafrost is melting. More than 65 percent of the rural areas in Siberia once had permanently frozen ground; due to global warming the ice masses are melting and thereby releasing gases such as methane. Maxim Shemetov reports on the efforts of a father-son team to mitigate the process in this photo-essay.
Australia’s wild horse cull not enough. Up to 10,000 feral horses, known as brumbies, might be killed or removed from Australia’s largest alpine national park under a draft plan to control the rapidly growing population of non-native animals. But the plan does not go far enough, say scientists. “Alpine wetlands continue to degrade even with very small numbers of feral horses,” says an open letter from the Australian Academy of Science. “Kosciusko [National Park] cannot begin to recover from drought, extensive bushfires and overgrazing if, as currently proposed, 3,000 feral horses remain.” Read the full article in Nature.
New software predicts the movements of large land animals. New software developed by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research helps determine the movements of large wild animals thereby minimizing conflicts with people. The software is simpler than data obtained using radio transmitters and can be used where conventional methods fail. The researchers illustrate this with the Marsican brown bear (Ursus arctos marsicanus) from the Abruzzo region of Italy. The energy an animal needs to expend to travel a certain distance is calculated, based on the weight of that animal and its general movement behavior. This energy expenditure is then integrated with the topographical information of an area. “From this information we can then create ‘energy landscape maps’ for individuals as well as for groups of animals. Our maps are calculated rather than measured and thus represent a cost-effective alternative to traditional maps,” the researchers say.
Vital funding support for Caucasus nature conservation.The Caucasus Nature Fund (CNF) and the German government’s Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau have signed a € 40 Million Grant Agreement to support nature conservation in the Southern Caucasus. The grant will be used to finance CNF’s transboundary grant program for protected areas in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
A new paper describes the evolutionary history of the enigmatic Corsican mouflon (Ovis gmelini musimon).. Translocated during the Neolithic as ancestral livestock by humans migrating from the Fertile Crescent to the Western Mediterranean, the Corsican mouflon occurs today around Bavella and Cinto. The two disconnected mouflon populations split ca 600 years ago, according to the authors, and show strong genetic differentiation, warranting separate management.
Roadkill is a problem for populations of 83 species at risk. According to a study published in Global Ecology and Biogeography, roadkill puts leopards in north India, brown hyenas in southern Africa, maned wolf and little spotted cat in South America, at risk. The world’s fast-growing web of roads also affects Iberian lynx, black and brown bears, jaguars and lion tailed macaques. (Editor’s note: Let’s not forget the tens of thousands of deer killed by vehicles across the Americas and Europe).
ICARUS—on the move with animals. The animals of our planet are constantly in motion – some may fly, swim, or migrate thousands of kilometers; others move just a few hundred meters. They all have one thing in common, however: little is known about their journeys. With an Internet of Animals, Scientists now track all sorts of wildlife. Using tiny sensors (solar-powered bio-loggers that are the size of two fingernails and weigh less than three grams, about one-tenth of an ounce, costing about $500 each) and equipment aboard the space station, the ICARUS (International Cooperation for Animal Research Using Space) project revolutionizes animal tracking. Migration date are published in the Movebank database accessible to everyone.
Mischaracterizing wildlife trade and its impacts may mislead policy processes. A review of recent research that uses wildlife and trade-related databases highlights three relatively widespread issues: (1) mischaracterization of the threat that trade poses to certain species or groups, (2) misinterpretation of wildlife trade data (and illegal trade data in particular), resulting in the mischaracterisation of trade, and (3) misrepresentation of international policy processes and instruments. This is concerning because these studies may unwittingly misinform policymaking to the detriment of conservation, for example by undermining positive outcomes for species and people along wildlife supply chains. The study was published in Conservation Letters.
Eating hunted wild meat instead of livestock reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Wild meat consumption by residents of communities in the Amazon jungle—primarily Brazil, Ecuador and Peru—and Afrotropical forest, which covers most of Africa and parts of the Arabian peninsula, would cut up to roughly 78 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, a study published by Scientific Reports found. “Our results clearly illustrate the potential value and importance of considering sustainable game hunting … at both national and international scales,” said Peres, a professor of conservation science at the University of East Anglia in England.
Meanwhile, don’t conflate cows and cars in climate change debates. Livestock has become a villain of climate change, frequently blamed alongside vehicle emissions for its contribution to global warming. The simplistic all-livestock-are-bad narrative as promoted by campaigners, celebrities, philanthropists and policymakers alike calls for radical shifts in livestock production and diet. But Ian Scoones warns in an article published by The Conversation that it is vitally important to look more closely at where and how the harm is done. Effects from intensive industrial livestock production differ from those seen in pastoral systems common across Africa. A more sophisticated debate is needed, says Scoones.