Frontline Dispatches – January 2022 Vol. IV, No. 1
CONSERVATION 101-Defending against predators
Wildlife have developed effective defense strategies to avoid being eaten.
• Electric eels can generate over 800 volts of electricity which is 5 times the voltage of a standard wall socket in the US.
• Poison dart frogs emit deadly toxins on their back to deter predators. Indigenous people use the frog’s poison on darts and arrows for hunting.
• Porcupines are covered in nearly 30,000 sharp, barbed quills that are released through direct contact with a predator.
A Nursery For Desert Bighorn Sheep
Utah wildlife officials announced plans for the first desert bighorn sheep nursery, mirroring a similar existing nursery for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep on the Great Salt Lake’s Antelope Island. KSL reports the new desert sheep nursery will be able to hold about 150 wild sheep. The nursery stock will eventually be used to repopulate areas that once held native desert sheep populations.
Geronimooooo! (The Parachuting Beaver)
Methods of relocating wildlife have advanced greatly since 1948. That was the year Geronimo the beaver parachuted into the Idaho wilderness, reports National Geographic. Beaver populations had collapsed in the western U.S. by 1,900 due to overharvest for the fur industry. Eventually recognized for the health they brought to streams and wetlands, game managers sought practical, if perhaps unconventional, ways to safely return beavers to remote areas.
Shrinking Glaciers, A Boon To Salmon?
For all its ills, climate change may help Alaskan salmon—at least in the short run. For decades glaciers have been slowly melting away, allowing new rivers to appear as the ice recedes. With a warmer climate accelerating ice loss, glaciers may now have the potential to create thousands of miles of new salmon habitat. In the Gulf of Alaska alone, melting glaciers are now expected to increase salmon habitat by as much as 27 percent, Science reports.
Rare Birds Shift Fortunes Of A Cattle Ranch
A Colorado ranching family secured their future by betting big on rare black rails, the Colorado Sun reports. Thanks to land practices that support shortgrass prairie, wetlands and uncommon wild inhabitants, Audubon has certified the May Ranch “Bird-Friendly.” The May family’s modern approach to land stewardship is paying dividends in other ways as well, guaranteeing them a future in a changing world. The ranch still raises and sells choice cattle, all while blending what is best for the land, the cattle and the family.
Game Safe Crossings
Colorado’s largest game animals are already using new animal crossings under Highway I-25, a busy six-lane interstate. The structures are expected to reduce wildlife-vehicle crashes by up to 90 percent, the Denver Post reports. Four underpasses have been built thus far, lined with piled sticks and vegetation to replicate natural landscape. Cameras monitoring the crossings have recorded use by elk, deer and bear.
A real-time tracking system developed in Africa to thwart poaching is helping biologists study the role of cougars in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, CBS News reports. What researchers learn will ultimately offer a clearer picture of the genetic health of the big cats in the region.
A Quiet Force Recognized
A new center dedicated to the important role sportsmen/conservationists play in supporting wildlife and wildlife habitat will open in Michigan, Sports Afield reports. The Nimrod Education Center, housed at Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Mich., will help college students and the public understand the true relationship between sportsmen and conservation, including hunters’ and anglers’ immense funding of wildlife management and protection efforts.
Little Argument Over Chronic Wasting Disease
A bill to fight a deadly disease affecting deer, elk and moose is making its way through the U.S. Congress with ease. The CWD Research and Management Act passed the House with an overwhelming majority on Dec. 8, Outdoor Life reports. The legislation would authorize $70 million in federal funding each year through 2028.
Wildlife Funding Scores A “COVID Bump”
Federal Wildlife Restoration revenue, generated from an excise tax on hunting and fishing gear, was up more than 65 percent from the previous fiscal year. Over $1.1 billion was generated, reports the Wildlife Management Institute. The “COVID Bump” resulted from increased hunting and fishing during the pandemic. The funds are reinvested in wildlife conservation and management.
Venison may top the list of eco-friendly foods—a meat that actually makes the environment better, rather than worse, reports the Washington Post. Studies continue to show how overpopulated deer negatively impact certain regions. Hunters can help manage the problem. A delicious protein, healthier habitats, reduced greenhouse gases, less tick-borne diseases—venison chili anyone?
A Well-Traveled Fellow
The rough-legged hawk (pictured) made five round-trips between Utah wintering grounds and the Canadian Arctic. Tagged in January 2017 in Utah as part of the Rough-legged Hawk Project, the male hawk was recently captured as part of routine capture/relocation efforts at Salt Lake City International Airport. The hawk was released over 100 kilometers south the following day. Here’s to many more successful migrations. (Photos on the left from 2017, and on the right from 2021. Courtesy HawkWatch International)
Hunter Education Moves North
Launched by the Northwest Territories’ Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Department of Education, hunter education is a three-credit course for grade 10 students in northern Canada. The course was developed collaboratively with input from indigenous governments and organizations. Students will acquire a working knowledge of key hunting safety skills and techniques, including an overview of the Wildlife Act and regulations, wildlife ecology and management, traditional harvesting practices and values, and on-the-land survival skills. See also “Hunter Education—Locally Developed Course.”
Gabon, A Forest Elephant Stronghold
A study conducted by the Wildlife Conservation Society, Gabon’s National Park Agency and Vulcan (a Seattle company) confirmed Gabon as the principal stronghold for forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis), reported ScienceDaily in November. The country’s 95,000 forest elephants are spread over more than 250,000 square kilometers representing about 90 percent of the country. The elephants exist in large and relatively stable populations. These results stand in stark contrast to those of a 2017 study. (Photo WCS Gabon)
30 billion Metric Tons of Climate Critical Carbon
The Congo’s Cuvette Centrale peatlands, prized for the peat’s ability to trap carbon dioxide, face threats from industrial agriculture (palm oil plantations), fossil fuel exploration (hydrocarbons rest deep beneath the peat) and plans to renew logging in the area. These activities could fundamentally tip the balance in the peatlands. Mongabay reports that Congolese researchers and leaders (from the two Congo states) say they are eager to safeguard the peatlands for the benefit of a healthier planet, but they need financial support from abroad to do so. Watch this Mongabay video to learn more.
Joining the Fluorescent Mammal Club
The springhare, whose coat glows a patchy pinkish orange under UV light, now joins the platypus and other mammals with this perplexing trait. This New York Times article brings the southern African springhare’s unique pinkish-orange glow out of the shadows. (Image by Martin and E. Olson.)
Africa’s Pandemic Fueled Conservation Crisis
The pandemic laid bare what conservationists have been warning for years, says writer Rachel Nuwer. Support for Africa’s wild resources is grossly inadequate. In her story published in BioGraphic last November, Nuwer describes the devastating impact of the pandemic on critical tourism, including both extractive and non-extractive (hunting and photographic) activities. The author points out that groundbreaking projects currently scattered around the continent show the tools needed to diversify and amplify Africa’s conservation funding. However, buy-in is needed from local and international policy makers, philanthropists and business leaders, as well as global citizens at large. Diversified market-based conservation solutions would guard against the possibility of future shocks, including another pandemic-level disaster. Nuwer’s article provides many links to a broad range of information on the subject.
Human/Elephant Conflict in the Face of Climate Change
Humans and elephants depend on the same resources in the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA). But climate change intensifies resource competition and food insecurity. An international research team spent three years investigating the dynamics between wildlife, people and the environment in the region. They found that marginal agriculture, limited as it is, is further limited by changes in precipitation. Widespread crop depredation by wildlife compounds food insecurity. The research team advocates for inclusive policies conserving wildlife and supporting people. The study notes that in order to support the conservation of African savannah elephants, habitat protection as well as human-wildlife conflict mitigation needs to be appropriately funded. The study was recently published in Current Biology.
Video: The “SAFE” Approach to Human/Wildlife Conflict
This short video from The Conservation Imperative explains that current strategies for “resolving” and “mitigating” human/wildlife conflict are either too simplistic and short-sighted or address only a part of the problem at specific times of a conflict event. The SAFE Approach to Human/Wildlife Conflict is results-focused and delivered through five strategic outcomes: safe person, safe assets, safe wildlife, safe habitat and effective monitoring. SAFE offers application any place humans and wildlife coexist.
Antelope Naturally Conserved Thanks to Djibouti
At the Horn of Africa, there endures a kind of natural conservation, one without human intervention. Here, the presence of seven antelope species is linked to the Djiboutan traditional culture. Rooted in a nomadic pastoralist lifestyle, the Djibouti do not hunt wildlife for food. Here, gerenuk, Salt’s dik-dik, Soemmering’s gazelle, dorcas gazelle, Beisa oryx, Beira antelope and klipspringer have been recorded though no exact population estimates are available.
S.A.’s Private Ranches Protect Wildlife
In South Africa, an estimated area of 20 million hectares is under wildlife ranching. These private land enterprises adopt wildlife-based land uses for commercial gain. The authors—affiliated with South Africa’s Endangered Wildlife Trust—estimate that 4.66–7.25 million herbivores occur on ranches nationally. This wildlife ranching represents one of the few examples on earth where indigenous mammal populations are thriving. It demonstrates how sustainable use can lead to rewilding. The study also discusses the potential negative impacts of widespread game fencing on landscape fragmentation and gene flow as well as unintended hybridization, biotic homogenization and changes to vegetation dynamics. Despite these challenges, commercial wildlife ranching offers a viable option for conserving large mammalian herbivore biodiversity.
Shell Ordered to Halt Wild Coast Seismic Blasting
Royal Dutch Shell will have to call a halt its seismic survey along the ecologically sensitive Wild Coast after the High Court in Makhanda barred it from proceeding on December 28. Shell and mineral resources and energy minister Gwede Mantashewere were ordered to pay the legal costs of the application.
A Lie Spread Halfway Around The World
Two writers claiming to be researchers travelled across Namibia for eight weeks, filing a report discrediting Namibia’s community conservation and sustainable use programs. Apparently, the pair set out with a conclusion, and worked backwards to produce “documentation”. Anti-sustainable-use writer Don Pinnock celebrated their unsubstantiated claims in The Daily Maverick. The groups who funded the travel and reports—among them Human Society International and Born Free Forever—oppose sustainable use, as does the principal author. However, Africa Geographic, not known to be sympathetic to hunting, featured three responses from 76 Namibian people and entities. The responses highlight factual inaccuracies of the “study” and question the motives of the two “researchers”. The South African conservation community and government agencies must continue to vigorously challenge this “study”, since its disingenuous conclusions have the potential to be used at CITES, CBD and CMS
Mutemba Receives Capstick Award
Dallas Safari Club recently announced the 2022 winner of the Peter Capstick Hunting Hewritage Award, Mateus Mutemba of Mozambique. Mutemba served as the general director of the National Administration of Conservation Areas. In that capacity, Mutemba was tasked with managing parks, reserves, hunting blocks (coutadas) and game farms. He oversaw licensing of hunting activities and ecotourism in conservation areas, management of wildlife and planning for sustainable resource use, including hunting. In 2021, Mutemba was an elected member of the International Coordinating Council of the Man and Biosphere Program. (Image courtesy Dallas Safari Club.)
Arabian Oryx Re-Intro Shows Positive Signs in Abu Dhabi.
The number of Arabian oryx in Abu Dhabi’s Al Dhafra reserve stands now at 946 animals, 22 percent more than existed four years ago. A total of 83 calves were recorded, proof of success for the Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Arabian Oryx reintroduction program. (Photo courtesy Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi.)
Rarer Than the Asian Tiger
A recent analysis of habitat and status across the clouded leopard’s range was not encouraging. While still relatively widespread in northeast India, Bhutan, Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia, the mainland clouded leopard may be totally extinct in Vietnam and close to extinction in China and Bangladesh. The biggest threat to the mainland clouded leopard is almost certainly poaching. Body parts frequently enter the illegal wildlife trade, with skins the most traded parts. Skulls and canine teeth are also valued contraband. The 2021 IUCN Red List assessment classifies the mainland clouded leopard’s conservation status as “vulnerable,” but some of the authors of the assessment would have preferred listing the species as “endangered,” reported The Third Pole. (Bill Attwell photo)
Overrun With Wild Boar, Spain Turns to Bowhunters
Burgeoning wild boar populations are causing growing environmental and social conflicts in Spain. Volunteer bowhunters, selected for their skill and experience, started boar control operations in Madrid and are now deployed also in Oviedo, Gijón, Vitoria, Alicante, Lugo and Málaga. This project is featured in the FACE Biodiversity Manifesto.
UK High on List of Nature Depleted Nations
A Natural History Museum analysis revealed that the United Kingdom, with just half (53 percent) of its biodiversity remaining, ranks as one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. The Biodiversity Intactness Index (BII) places it in the bottom 10 percent of the world’s countries, well below China and last among the G7 group of nations, said Sky News three months ago.
Spellar Bill, In Parliament, An Affront To Wildlife Conservation
In November 2021 the global media was awash with triumphant news about the soon-to-be-enacted ban on importing hunting trophies in the United Kingdom via the Spellar Bill. Hugh Webster offers a different view in his blog. Webster reveals that the Tory government, acting in bad faith, disregarded evidence presented to parliament by many conservation scientists. (See the facts in this post by Webster.) The scientists advised that trophy hunting does not threaten populations of endangered African wildlife. They further advised that land set aside for hunting is in fact supporting growth in populations of lions, elephants and giraffes in countries where these animals are still permitted to be hunted. The UK government ignored the evidence and chose instead to listen to the misrepresentations of a small cohort of animal rights activists and celebrity cheerleaders who have the ear of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s wife. The lies they told are a matter of record, revealing astonishing ignorance or breathtaking mendacity. With this ban, that now familiar “world-leading” bravado has been on full display, concluded Webster. The Tories also claim their ban will somehow protect 7,000 of the world’s most threatened species.
New Oxford Professor Will Direct WildCRU
David Macdonald, who founded WildCRU in 1986 as part of the University of Oxford’s Department of Zoology, announced that new professor Amy Dickman will become WildCRU’s director as of January 1, 2022. Dickman’s career began as an intern and then field assistant at WildCRU, working with cheetahs. She then went on to complete a doctorate on human-wildlife conflict before returning to WildCRU as the Kaplan Senior Research Fellow at Pembroke College. Her research has focused on understanding and improving human coexistence with large carnivores, particularly lions. Conservation Frontlines is delighted to celebrate Amy’s professorship, her WildCRU directorship and all her valuable contributions to conservation science. (Photo Claudio Sillero, Amy Dickman, David Macdonald and Andrew Loveridge.)
Brazil’s Fishing Jaguars Like Company
Jaguars live in the 11,555 hectares (28,553 acres) of Taiamã Ecological Station during both the wet and dry seasons. They feed mostly on fish and caimans. Trail camera images and movement data show that Taiamã jaguars are highly social, hunting and even playing together with no territorial disputes despite the area having the highest jaguar density in the world. A fascinating report was published by Mongabay with video footage of the canguçu (the indigenous Tupi word for “big-headed jaguar”). The Pantanal jaguars are known to generally be bigger and stronger than jaguars found elsewhere. Males may grow to 140 kilograms (310 pounds) and females 90 kilograms (200 pounds). (D. Kantek photo.)
Arctic Report Card Reveals Story of Cascading Disruptions
Sea ice is thinning at an alarming rate, snow is shifting to rain and humans worldwide are increasingly feeling the impact of what happens in the seemingly distant Arctic. Read about this worrying peer-reviewed assessment in The Conversation. (Image: Donna Erickson cuts fish at camp near Unalakleet, Alaska. Jeff Erickson.)
Video: Cultural Importance of Falconry Receives Major Recognition
The Intergovernmental Committee of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity has included six countries—Croatia, Ireland, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia and Kyrgyzstan—under the inscription, “Falconry, a living human heritage.” The six countries join nineteen others. The ancient art of falconry is a hunting tradition defined as “taking quarry in its natural state and habitat by means of trained birds of prey.” Watch also the video “Falconry, a living human heritage” to learn more about falconry and how it is practiced by people of all ages in over 80 countries.