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Frontline Dispatches – January 2024 Vol. VI, No. 1


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NORTH AMERICA

Wolverines now listed as ‘threatened’ under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. After a decade of research, litigation, and listing proposals, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced the final decision last month, which will apply federal protection to wolverines across their range in the Lower 48 states.


image: Fin & Fur Films

Texas ocelot reintroduction offers new recovery hopes. Ocelots are limited to just two isolated and inbred populations along the Gulf Coast, totaling fewer than 100 cats. The Recover Texas Ocelots initiative is a public-private partnership meant to establish a new population on the East Foundation’s San Antonio Viejo Ranch, which would secure future recovery against the possibility of hurricanes or disease. The project is only the second attempt to release small, wild cats from a captive breeding program.


image: Meghan Marchetii/Virginia Dept. of Wildlife Resources

Elk are bugling again in Virginia, thanks to successful recovery efforts. Virginia now has more than 250 elk in two herds, and allowed its first elk hunt in 2022, a milestone in the state’s management plan. Read more about “Appalachia’s greatest conservation success story” and the history of elk restoration in Virginia here.


Wildlife bears the cost of California’s ‘megafires.’ Severe and intensifying wildfires, like those that ravaged California in 2020 and ‘21, could have widespread negative impacts on the habitat of 100 species and their ability to adapt, writes Nature.


VIDEO: Watch researchers study mule deer nutrition and predation in Oregon. Mule deer populations are declining throughout the western U.S. and wildlife biologists with the Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife are studying fawns to understand why.


image: Wyoming Migration Initiative

New protection for the world’s longest mule deer migration? The U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s unprecedented proposal would limit energy development along the deer’s Red Desert-Hoback migration route by designating parts of it an Area of Critical Environmental Concern. Some in Wyoming are worried about possible impacts on the oil and gas industry and local communities.


Why are turkey numbers dwindling? Once an American conservation success, turkey populations are declining throughout much of the South and Midwest—perhaps by as much as 30% from peak levels in several states including Kansas. Read more about research being done to better understand turkey habitat, predation, and disease in The New York Times.


U.S. Congress passes Duck Stamp Modernization Act. The bill approves the use of an electronic federal duck stamp, which may increase sales—a small difference that may have a big impact. Since 1934, stamp sales have raised more than $1.1 billion to protect more than 8 million acres of US wetland habitat..


image: SoulGrown, Billy Pope

How to support conservation if you don’t hunt or fish: Fewer Americans now buy hunting and fishing licenses, which help fund the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation—but nearly half of all Americans participate in wildlife watching. Alabama’s Wildlife Heritage license offers an opportunity for everyone to support public land and habitat management.

AFRICA

image: USFWS

Pangolin poaching hotspots revealed by DNA testing, writes Science. Genetic tracing allowed researchers to pinpoint where pangolins were killed. While Nigeria is responsible for 95% of the illegal export of pangolin products, DNA testing shows that less than 5% of it originated there. Areas of intense poaching have shifted eastward from Sierra Leone and Ghana to Cameroon; enforcement is expected to shift also.


image: JP Le Roux, CC BY

Golden mole rediscovered in South Africa after 86 years! The De Winton’s golden mole, known to “swim” through sand dunes, was last seen in 1937 and considered extinct. Learn more from this interview in The Conversation with the biologist who found the species using environmental DNA.

EUROPE

image: Morgan Heim

World’s smallest reindeer is thriving on Norway’s Svalbard archipelago. Averaging just three feet tall and five feet long, the Svalbard reindeer population has doubled since 1989 to about 22,000. Read about the scientists studying these reindeer, and threats to this population, in Smithsonian.

WORLD

image: Dinuka Munasinghe

Sri Lanka’s challenge to manage elephant conflicts was highlighted by the plight of a well-known tusker named Agbo. A record high of 155 humans were killed by elephants in Sri Lanka in 2023; in response, 440 elephants were killed, mostly by trap guns.


image: Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry

New calf brings hope and concerns for Sumatran rhinos. With a wild population of no more than 47 rhinos, each birth is good news. A breeding program using 11 captive rhinos could supplement the wild population, but conservationists are pressuring the Indonesian government to capture more rhinos to increase the breeding herd’s genetic diversity.


AI cameras can reduce tiger conflict in India, reports The Wildlife Society. When the camera’s artificial intelligence detects a tiger, the image is sent to park rangers who can inform local communities. This smart technology is working in central India’s Kanha-Pench Corridor and may help reduce conflict with large carnivores in other regions of the world.


Bison translocated from Berlin Zoo to Shahdag National Park in Azerbaijan. The plan is to build a population of 100 bison in the Caucasus region of eastern Europe by 2028. So far, 36 bison have been released into the wild and the herd numbers 50 animals.


image: Jo Anne McArthur/BBC

Meet three women helping to save wildlife, including mountain gorillas in Uganda, Chinese pangolins in Nepal, and leatherback turtles on the Solomon Islands. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, these wildlife warriors are motivated by the thousands of species threatened with extinction worldwide.