Frontline Dispatches – February 2022 Vol. IV, No. 2


CONSERVATION 101 – A Need For Speed

• Able to run at nearly 60 mph, pronghorn outpace any North American land mammal.
• Peregrine falcons stoop (dive) on prey at more than 200 mph.
• The fastest mammal? Mexican free-tailed bats can fly at 100 mph.




Today ocelots in the U.S. occur only in Texas and Arizona.

Hope For A Wild Cat Comeback 
A Texas A&M study will look at increasing the population of endangered ocelots in that state. The strikingly patterned cats, about the same size as a bobcat, once roamed in large numbers throughout parts of South Texas, Texas A&M reports. Fewer than 100 individuals remain in the U.S. Watch a news clip on the Texas ocelot.

A mule deer buck moves through “The Campsite” in Montana.

A Species Rich Trail Cam Site
Watch grizzly bears chase moose, mature mule deer bucks plow through snow drifts, mountain lions slink by at night, bull elk literally run into trees and so much more. Check out a quick compilation of trail camera videos. All clips were collected at a single site in Montana. Wildlife researchers at the University of Montana employed the surveillance to learn more about species diversity and land use. Watch the full 8-minute video here.

Mountain Lions Face Ballot Box Biology 
Should science or sentiment drive wildlife management? A recent legislative attempt in Colorado aims to ban mountain lion hunting. The proposed bill has sparked strong responses on both sides of the issue, according to The Colorado Sun. Differing opinions are expected, but as one cautious opponent of the bill remarked, “…make sure wildlife management stays in the hands of our state wildlife agency and wildlife managers who are guided by science.”

An Unwanted Meeting With A Polar Bear
Listen as retired wildlife biologist, George Carroll, recounts his face-to-face meeting with a polar bear—one of the many interesting challenges of wildlife field research, NPR reports. Carroll describes the unexpected meeting that turned into a brief and dramatic fight for survival.

The Evolution Of Hunting, Conservation And Hunters
Hunting in North America has evolved and with it so has modern conservation. Over a century ago, the singular pursuit of the largest male animals while hunting led to conservation victories, reports Outdoor Life. These days, the narrative is changing and using the t-word (trophy) is falling out of fashion. Yet a 2019 survey found that 84 percent of the public approves of hunting for meat. Meanwhile, hunters remain a singular force in wildlife conservation.

Seabirds on the Farallon Islands.

Killing Mice To Save Birds, A Contentious Plan
California’s southern Farallon Islands teem with nesting birds. They also teem with house mice that threaten the future of the ashy storm petrel, a designated Bird of Concern. Of recent concern is a mouse poisoning plan aimed at helping the storm petrel, the Press Democrat reports. With 500 mice per acre, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service believes its best option is to scatter grain pellets laced with rodenticide across the islands. Some conservation groups feel otherwise, fearing harm to non-target species, and intend to block the plan.

A black bear surveys the landscape.

Vermont’s Bear Project Leader Combats Misinformation 
Vermont’s black bear project leader, Jaclyn Comeau, cut to the chase in a recent commentary, writing about the state’s achievements in bear conservation. Comeau explained how misinformation distracts from Vermont’s successes when it comes to bear conservation in her state. The commentary is one more example of the need to “focus on the facts and science, and dial back the emotions” when it comes to wildlife management.

How Do You Like Your Roadkill Cooked?
A widely supported permit from Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) has been turning roadkill into meals for several years now, The Sopris Sun reports. State residents are able to salvage meat from vehicle/animal collisions thanks to the permits. While support remains strong for the CPW salvage permit, preventative measures, such as wildlife crossings, are underway in the state to decrease collisions in the future.

Cut The Cameras
In a growing trend in the west, Utah banned the use of trail cameras during big game hunting season, the Wildlife Management Institute reports. Based on a survey of more than 14,000 hunters, the Utah Wildlife Board passed the rule on a 4-3 vote. As remote transmission capabilities, drones and Bluetooth optics advance, pressure on state wildlife agencies to ensure Fair Chase will grow.



Let’s Save The Rhino By The Horns
In this contribution, Francesco Nardelli, member of the IUCN/SSC Asian Rhino Specialist Group, acknowledges that large rhino horn stockpiles are sitting in bank vaults. Nardelli suggests that a viable solution would be to secure an agreement between rhino countries—legal private owners included—and rhino horn consumer countries like China and Vietnam. Two agencies (sellers = Agency I and buyers = Agency II) are to trade their existing rhino horn stockpiles via exclusive selling and buying procedures between the two agencies. All transactions must be subject to extensive checks by CITES and controls by enforcement agencies and based on a rigorous inventory of stockpiled horns. Nardelli explicitly limits the proposal to presently stockpiled horns and excludes augmenting existing stocks with horns from de-horning. Horns entering the trade process should be permanently tagged with microtaggants (uniquely encoded microscopic particles that are virtually impossible to duplicate, enabling positive, error-free identification with inexpensive readers and detectors). Negotiations for a solid contract between the governments of rhino range states and consumer countries should be managed by an unbiased mediator, and the bureaucracy’s process management must be rigorously controlled, Nardelli says. (Editor’s note: After the evident failure of the total rhino horn trade ban, Nardelli’s proposal may achieve at least some years of reprieve from the rhino poaching pandemic. This time can be used to intensively investigate further measures to ensure the long-term rhino survival in the wild). For further context, download Annette Hübschle’s 2016 dissertation “A Game of Horns—Transnational Flows of Rhino Horn” with extensive bibliography, Hayley S. Clements et al. paper (2020) “Private rhino conservation: Diverse strategies adopted in response to the poaching crisis” as well as IWMC Rhino Overview.

Meanwhile, Rhino Numbers In Kruger National Park Decline
Africa Geographic reports that despite back-breaking work from a dedicated and passionate SANParks team, Kruger National Park rhino populations have continued to plummet—as  per the latest population count from 2020. About 2,607 white rhinos remain in Kruger National Park, while black rhinos are estimated to number just 202. This represents a population decline of 75 percent for white rhinos since 2011 (from 10,621) and 51 percent for black rhino since 2013 (from 415).

Wildlife Conservation And Trophy Hunting In Southern Africa
Political changes in southern Africa profoundly transformed the conservation and trophy hunting narrative, says Never Muboko (University of Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe). In his paper (published in Journal of Political Ecology), Muboko postulates that political changes in southern Africa profoundly transformed the conservation and trophy hunting narrative and concludes that although post-colonial, pro-community conservation programs have inherent weaknesses, to a greater extent they address past injustices.

A pair of male African lions assess their domain.

Collaborative Conservation—The Future For People And Wildlife 
The conservation work of Lion Landscapes involves over 100 people working across Tanzania, Kenya and Zambia. The international LL team under the leadership of Professor Amy Dickman and Alayne Oriol Cotterill researches and monitors the challenges large carnivores face living in landscapes shared with humans and their livestock, has programs for education, training and wildlife management capacity building, develops new wildlife-based income streams that complement traditional sources of funding and works that wildlife becomes a true asset to the people who live alongside it. Lion Landscapes’ Amy Dickman and Paolo Strampelli published articles in Conservation Frontlines. Also read Lion Landscapes’ Contribution to the Call for Evidence, Animals Abroad Bill [of the United Kingdom’s Government] with the principal statement that the UK Government’s proposals on the [banning] of export and import of hunting trophies will not effectively support the conservation of endangered species.(Lion Landscapes photo).

Declining Wildlife Populations In Central African Savannas
Large herbivore populations declined precipitously in recent decades while domesticated livestock has grown. At the same time, revenues from tourists that came to watch, photograph or hunt the animals plummeted. Apart from scaled up funding and enhanced management, the authors of the paper “Conservation overstretch and long-term decline of wildlife and tourism in the Central African savanna” propose to strategically focusing scarce resources on smaller areas. See also this cautionary article in Anthropocene dated Jan 5.

Africa’s Giraffe Populations Are Rebounding 
Giraffe numbers across Africa have grown to 117,000—more than 20% higher than the population in 2015. Across 21 surveyed countries, northern, reticulated, and Masai giraffes have significantly increased in numbers, and southern giraffes have remained relatively stable. “While advanced survey methods may be the reason for some of the increase in population estimates, there has been very positive indicators that conservation programs on the ground are also having a profound impact,” says biologist Jenna Stacy-Dawes in this National Geographic article.

Hunter dollars outside national parks sustain conservation.

Supplying Meat Restores Ecosystems
Video: Listen to Dr Mike Arnold’s second TEDx presentation on sustainability-in-action. In Mozambique, wildlife outside National Parks depends on the influx of hunters’ dollars. Mike, who is a distinguished research professor at the University of Georgia, applies his scientific expertise to real-world examples of ecosystem restoration. (Screenshot).

Anti-sustainable-use campaigns threaten community livelihood.

Local Perceptions Of Trophy Hunting On Communal Lands In Namibia
Video: Traditional lands where the natural resources are managed by and for the benefit of the local communities are the foundation of the success story of communal conservancies in Namibia. Sustainable income streams are generated from safari hunting and nature-based tourism, yet the policies of some northern hemisphere governments—driven by emotionally-charged campaigns of anti-sustainable-use organizations— willfully ignore and ultimately aim at dismantling proven community livelihood options. Watch this 3-minute video produced by The Conservation Imperative.



A juvenile Siberian tiger in the snow.

Siberian Tigers Face Perilous Incursions
Driven by illicit medicinal demand in China, Russian deforestation and an expanding road network, Siberian tiger poaching appears to be on the rise.  National Geographic profiles the personal dangers and social challenges faced by a wildlife crime researcher as she tries to shed light on the problem, and offer solutions.

The saola, also called spindlehorn, is one of the world’s rarest large mammals.

Scientists Ramp Up Search For Elusive ‘Asian Unicorn’
The saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis) is a forest-dwelling bovine found only in the Annamite Range of Vietnam and Laos. The Saola Working Group (SWG) has yet to encounter a saola in the wild. The SWG scientists now will use trained dogs to detect saola signs, and identify such signs with rapid saola-specific DNA field test kits developed together with Wildlife Conservation Society’s Molecular Laboratory in New York.


A commercial market for hunter-sourced meats is booming in Germany.

28,900 Tons Of Venison On German Tables In 12 Months
German hunters supplied more than 16,400 tons of wild boar meat, 8,900 tons roe deer, 2,400 tons red deer and 1,300 tons fallow deer for German gourmets between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021, announced the German Hunting Association (DJV). Local game meats are available directly from hunters, regional butchers, and food markets. The commercial market for locally harvested venison is booming. (Image courtesy DJV).

UK Parliamentarians Debate Anti-Trophy-Hunting Bill
Labour MP John Spellar’s attempt to fast-track the Hunting Trophy Import (Prohibition) Bill on January 14 failed. The Deputy Speaker remarked during the session: “We have run out of time for the Bill today. … However, the right hon. Gentleman has named Friday 18 March as the day on which the matter will come before the House again, and I hope that anyone watching our proceedings who is interested in this matter will tune in then and hear what he has to say.” For context, read Dr Hugh Webster’s opposition to Spellar’s bill; Guardian columnist George Monbiot (a non-hunter) states unequivocally that “evidence shows powerfully that, when well-regulated, [trophy hunting] creates a powerful incentive for the conservation of both species and habitats”. Conservationists and community representatives from Africa and elsewhere take note of the date of the second reading, and tell UK parliamentarians that trophy trade bans are bad for conservation! 

Nutria populations Explode In Germany.
The furry critters known as nutria (Myocastor coypus) are native to South America and became an invasive nuisance in Germany (introduced primarily by fur farmers). According to statistics of the German Hunting Association, hunters have killed more than 100,000 nutria during the 2020/2021 season. Known for their destructive burrowing and feeding habits, hunting this invasive species contributes to the protection of flood retention dams and reed belts.

Rigorously trained, German hunters benefit wildlife and habitat.

Germany: More Hunters Than Ever 
403,420 people have a valid hunting license—6,006 more than in 2020. They all have passed a government exam covering such diverse areas as nature and wildlife conservation legislation, meat hygiene, wildlife biology, safe firearm handling, and more. Hunters volunteer to look after the local wild animals; they help reducing the risk of wildlife diseases, actively protect species and nature, and contain wildlife damage to forests and agriculture. (Image courtesy DJV).