Conservation in the news: 21-27 November 2016

Conservation Watch’s round-up of the week’s news on national parks, protected areas and conservation in the Global South.

For regular updates, follow @conserwatch on Twitter.

21 November 2016

Is conservation in crisis?
By Peter Frost, New Zealand Herald, 21 November 2016
There is an increasing trend in New Zealand and overseas towards offloading responsibilities for conservation action on to community groups, with or without support from the private sector.
This push is being fostered by government agencies, under direction from the Government, as they seek to manage their statutory responsibilities on decreasing budgets (at least in real terms).
As the Department of Conservation moves away gradually from having many generally local, often species-specific initiatives towards fewer, grand, landscape-scale ones, more onus for local action is falling on community groups.
More than 600 such groups are already working. Whereas some receive assistance from DOC or regional authorities, others function independently.
Government funding of these groups is based largely on a competitive model that effectively pits them against each other.

100 Percent Today, 1 Percent Every Day
By Rose Marcario, Patagonia, 21 November 2016
We’re just days from Black Friday, one of the biggest consumer shopping days of the year in America. And as people think generously about family and friends, we also want to help our customers show love to the planet, which badly needs a gift or two (and still gets coal every year).
This year Patagonia will donate 100 percent of global Black Friday sales in our stores and on our website to grassroots organizations working in local communities to protect our air, water and soil for future generations. These are small groups, often underfunded and under the radar, who work on the front lines. The support we can give is more important now than ever.
We’ll also provide information in our stores and on our website about how to get in touch with these groups and easily be active in your own communities — on Black Friday and every day.

Using Technology to Combat Wildlife Crime
By James Morgan, National Geographic, 21 November 2016
Back in 2012, I worked with World Wildlife Fund to cover a story on the link between wildlife crime and terrorism. I spent time with rangers in both West and East Africa and then followed the trade networks into China and Thailand. At the time, the loss of both wildlife and human life was spiraling out of control. Four years later, the situation has escalated. In March of this year I went back to East Africa, this time to the Maasai Mara, to see first-hand how the battle against poachers and wildlife crime had evolved.
In an attempt to level the playing field, WWF is working with thermal imaging camera manufacturer FLIR to develop a new anti-poaching system – one that combines thermal imaging cameras and human detection software. This is one of the first times this technology has been used outside of the military and law enforcement, to protect wildlife.

Significant Discrepancies Between Indonesia and Netherlands Wildlife Trade Data: TRAFFIC
By Ratri M. Siniwi, Jakarta Globe, 21 November 2016
TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network, issued a report on Monday (21/11) on wildlife trade between the Netherlands and Indonesia indicating that there is a large discrepancy of animals being traded between the countries which remain unaccounted for.
According to the study, Indonesia reported that it exported 456,658 animals to the Netherlands between 2003 and 2013. The study also indicated that the Netherlands reportedly imported 343,992 species in that time.
This also differed from the data provided by the United Nations Environmental Program World Conservation Monitoring Center, where almost 550,000 species were reportedly exported to the Netherlands, according to its trade database.
Of the 550,000 species, 98 percent comprised of coral specimens and the remaining were birds, fish, mammals, molluscs and reptiles.

22 November 2016

Actor Brings Celebrity Spotlight To Help Put A Stop To Illegal Trade Of Endangered Species
Malaysian Digest, 22 November 2016
Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific has recently announced the launch of an originally created Public Service Announcement (PSA) to save the world’s most endangered species — the tiger.
According to the statement, actor Edward Norton will be the narrator for the PSA which will be aired on Discovery’s channels all across the Asia Pacific in helping raise awareness and putting a stop to illegal trade of products of endangered species.
Serving as part of a multi-platform campaign in raising awareness and reduce demand for illegally sold animal products — the call is aimed at global communities to be more informed when making purchases.
It further stated that ignorant buying unknowingly fuels the illegal wildlife trade as the desire to own something rare and unusual — from souvenirs and novelties to trinkets and fashion — has resulted in the poaching, slaughter and decimation of many animal species.

Wilsonville company cracks down on poachers in Africa
By Keely Chambers,, 22 November 2016
A Wilsonville company is playing a crucial role in cracking down on the poaching epidemic going on right now in Africa.
Every year, criminals hunt down and kill rhinos and elephants by the thousands for their horns and tusks.
“There’s about 30,000 elephants per year being killed for their tusks in Africa and just last year, 1,200 rhinos were been killed for their horns in South Africa,” said Colby Loucks with the World Wildlife Fund.
The poachers often use the dark of night as a cover. But FLIR Systems in Wilsonville is taking away that cover making it almost impossible for poachers to hide.
“We’re using thermal imaging technology which basically builds the image that you’re seeing based on the heat that comes out of every object, person and animal in the world,” explained FLIR Systems marketing director Andrew Saxton.

Watch wildlife rangers nab poachers with thermal imaging
By Sean Patrick Farrell, Wired, 22 November 2016
Wildlife poachers who stalk endangered animals in East and South Africa have long operated under the cover of night. But lately not even a moonless sky is safe cover for stalking impalas, elephants, and rhinos. Now, the power of increasingly inexpensive infrared cameras, artificial intelligence, and drones are being used to stop illegal poaching. Rangers are rounding up veteran poachers in the middle of the night, says Colby Loucks, World Wildlife Fund’s senior director of wildlife crime technology, who ask, dumbfounded, “How are you finding me?’”
This spring, the World Wildlife Fund began deploying thermal sensing infrared technology from the imaging company FLIR to combat poaching in Kenya’s Maasai Mara Conservancy park—and at another secret location that’s home to rhinos, one of the most imperiled creatures on Earth.

Fires threaten ‘Paddington’ bears in Peru
Reuters, 22 November 2016
Firefighters have been dispatched to a wildlife preserve in northern Peru to battle a days-old blaze that could threaten the beloved spectacled bear which inspired the popular Paddington bear children’s books.
The blaze started last Thursday (Nov 17), and is still burning.
Officials say up to 2500 acres may have been scorched.
But officials say there’s more to worry about than the land itself.
This wildlife preserve in northern Peru is home to the spectacled bear, already under threat from human encroachment.
The bear is the inspiration for the beloved Paddington bear children’s books.
The spectacled bear is the only bear native to South America.

[Tanzania] An East African Border Town Struggles With Growing Pains
By Nathan Siegel, Pacific Standard, 22 November 2016
In Namanga, a town on the border between Kenya and Tanzania, it’s hard to know where one country stops and the other starts. While a major border station is almost finished along the main road, signaling tourists and truckers where to pass, for the rest of the population the border is almost non-existent.
In the center of town, an expanse of dirt no wider than 200 feet separates the two sides. Elsewhere, there is no indication whatsoever of the division.
When the town of now 9,000 was territory of Maasai pastoralists, who still feature prominently in Namanga, there was little, if any, border to speak of. Like in the old days, Maasai still herd their cattle across the border without any trouble. But Namanga has come a long way since then. It’s now a multicultural transit point between Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, and Arusha, Tanzania’s second largest city and a major diplomatic and tourist hub.

[Zimbabwe] Fundira elected into wildlife taskforce
The Herald, 22 November 2016
Chief executive officer of the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe (SOAZ) Mr Emmanuel Fundira has been appointed a member of the world task force of the Advisory Council of Wildlife Trafficking (ACWT). Mr Fundira was appointed at the ACWT meeting held in London last week along with seven others representing different organisations. The council’s term starts on January 1 and ends in December 2019.
Other members of the ACWT include: Judith Mchale (President, Canes Investments), David Hayes (Stanford Law School), David Barron (Chairperson, International Conservation Caucus Foundation), Cristain Samper (President, Wildlife Conservation Society), Patrick Bergin (CEO, African Wildlife Foundation), Crater [sic] Roberts (President and CEO, World Wildlife Fund) and John Webb (Independent).
The ACWT is charged with giving technical expertise to a host of member states and organisations across the world on issues of capacity building, reducing and curbing the illegal movement of wildlife.

23 November 2016

“It’s Time for a Paradigm Shift in Conservation”
Snow Leopard Trust, 23 November 2016
Snow leopards are being killed at alarming rates – the majority of them in retaliation killings by local people trying to protect their livestock. To reverse this trend and protect endangered species like the snow leopard, conservation needs a paradigm shift, argues Whitley Award winner Dr. Charu Mishra in his new book on Community-Based Conservation, introduced to the public by Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev.
A recent report by TRAFFIC estimates that more than 450 snow leopards die each year at the hands of people – a majority in retaliation for livestock attacks. Poaching numbers for tigers, leopards, elephants and rhinos are equally alarming.

Conservation Genomics — saving genomes, not individuals
By Dr Graham Etherington, Decoding Living Systems, 23 November 2016
Conservation genomics gives endangered species a helping hand in recovering their numbers back to a sustainable size. Dr Graham Etherington, Senior Computational Biologist in the Vertebrate & Health Genomics Group explains how we use the latest technologies to bring endangered species back from the brink.
Large populations are generally diverse in their genetic makeup. This means that if you randomly selected a gene from a number of different individuals of the same species, you would find very subtle differences in their DNA sequence.
This variation is what we term ‘genetic diversity’ and every difference between individuals is known as an ‘allele’.

Latin America Conservation Council Celebrates 5 Years of Action for Creating a Sustainable Future
The Nature Conservancy, 23 November 2016
Henry M. Paulson, Jr. and Roberto Hernández, co-chairs of the Latin America Conservation Council (LACC), led this year’s annual meeting in Oaxaca, Mexico, to review progress on innovative collaborations between The Nature Conservancy and Member organizations over the past five years. The Council focuses on the themes of Water Security, Sustainable Food and Smart Infrastructure, and the meeting celebrated solutions being deployed to date and proposed 2020 outcomes to build on successes achieved so far.
“If you look back objectively, you see 20 water funds… mapping millions of acres in Brazil, even mapping entire watersheds to look at trade-offs for developing hydropower in a river system,” Paulson observed “Some impressive things have been done. But I worry that we may be winning some important battles while losing the environmental war. Looking back and reflecting on the past and thinking about the future are what this meeting is about.” The Council resolved to raise the visibility of their public-private partnerships in 2017, to expand participation and spread the word that development with conservation is possible.

24 November 2016

It’s time to take a fresh look at plant conservation around the world
Dr Alan Forrest, The Scotsman, 24 November 2016
In a world of complexities, it is logical to assume that conserving biodiversity – especially in plants, which are neither fluffy nor cute – is not at the top of the priority list in many countries. Those affected by conflict or environmental disasters and the resulting poverty, for example, could be presumed to have better things on their mind.
Despite this, the links between poverty, gender equality, peacebuilding and sustainability with biodiversity conservation can be easily made. Today, it is becoming more clearly recognised and stated that the conservation of biodiversity and the effects on livelihoods are inextricably linked and can work together to tangibly improve people’s lives.
Yet, on-the-ground projects that actually integrate these separate strands are still all too difficult to find. Claims that a project has improved livelihoods or biodiversity assessments are all too often lacking in supporting data. Part of the reason for this is a hangover from days of yore, when conservation was achieved by examining species distributions and formulating Protected Areas based upon little else but the existence of species in certain sites. However, simply conserving species and areas in isolation does not always take into account the values that can be placed upon these species – and certainly not how they contribute to the day-to-day lives of local communities.

[India] Forest Department takes conservation message to students
The Hindu, 24 November 2016
In order to bring the conservation message to school and college students, the forest department in the Nilgiris South Division is allowing youngsters to trek with Forest Department and learn about the importance of the local plant and animal species to the ecology.
“The Conservator of Forests, Coimbatore Circle, I. Anwardeen, and District Forest Officer (Nilgiris South Division), K. Rajkumar came up with the idea,” said R. Rajmohan, Assistant Conservator of Forest (Nilgiris South).

[Malaysia] Defining conservation priorities in tropical and biodiversity rich countries
University of Nottingham press release, 24 November 2016
Rich in biodiversity, with a rapidly growing economy, Malaysia exemplifies the tension between conservation and economic development faced by many tropical countries.
While recent initiatives have attempted to address conservation priorities at global and national scales, most of these focus on developed countries in temperate regions. There is a need, say experts at The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus (UNMC), to develop similar strategies in developing countries, especially in biodiversity hotspot areas.

25 November 2016

Mainstreaming ‘nature’ can help conserve ecosystems
By Ananda Banerjee, Live Mint, 25 November 2016
Does nature need marketing campaigns? The question raised by writer-director Justin Bogardus struck a chord at the World Conservation Congress organized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), in Honolulu, US, in September. Since Bogardus’ remarks, two international conventions on nature conservation have been held: the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), in Johannesburg, South Africa, in September, and the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, held in Marrakesh, Morocco, this month.

Bypassing Bollywood, a Filmmaker Focuses on Wildlife Conservation
By Gary Strauss, National Geographic, 25 November 2016
Most filmmakers want their work seen by the widest audiences possible. Shekar Dattatri is more interested in reaching influencers who can catalyze wildlife conservation in his native India.
“The films I made for broadcast television were seen by millions of people, and that definitely was an ego boost, but I’ve turned to smaller audiences, influencers, and decision-makers such as government officials and influential leaders who can make a difference and can help raise awareness,’’ says Dattatri, a Rolex Laureate who eschewed mainstream efforts with commercial potential early in his career.

[Indonesia] Conservation in oil palm is possible
By Erik Meijaard,, 25 November 2016
Whereas most oil palm concessions are associated with the destruction of orangutan habitat, at least one company, PT KAL in West Kalimantan, stands out for protecting some 150 orangutans in its concession. Important lessons are to be learned from this case.
The oil palm sector is often blamed as one of the biggest threats in tropical conservation. Much of the critique of the sector is justified. Oil palm plantations at industrial and small-holder scale have displaced large areas of tropical forest and their increasingly threatened wildlife. As was shown in a recent study on Borneo, the rate at which this happens is still increasing. So what to do?

26 November 2016

Global wildlife populations continue their rapid decline
By Adam Wernick, PRI, 26 November 2016
A new report from the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London says global wildlife populations have declined by almost 60 percent since the 1970s — and the losses continue.
The two organizations jointly release a biennial Living Planet report that assesses how the natural world is coping with the stress of rising human population. The outlook for the world’s wildlife is grim, according to Colby Loucks, the senior director of the Wildlife Conservation Program for WWF.
“The big findings are that we’ve seen a 58 percent overall decline in population sizes from 1970 to 2012,” Loucks says. “So, if in 1970, you looked out your window and saw 100 of your favorite species, today you would only see about 42.”
The 58 percent decline is an average measured across over 3,700 vertebrate species, Loucks adds. In other words, while you might see only 42 crows where once you saw 100, in a pond where there used to be 100 frogs, you might see only 19.

27 November 2016

Project C.A.T.: Conserving Acres for Tigers launched
Business Mirror, 27 November 2016
Discovery Communications recently announced a historic partnership with World Wildlife Fund (WWF), through which Discovery will fund and help conserve nearly 1 million acres of protected habitat in India and Bhutan to protect and increase the wild tiger population. “The global movement to protect tigers just got 1 million acres stronger,” said David Zaslav, president and CEO of Discovery Communications, who made the announcement.
“Discovery is a purpose-driven company, and for more than 30 years we’ve had cameras in every corner of the globe, from Planet Earth to Racing Extinction, documenting and inspiring audiences about the beauty and splendor of our planet.

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