Conservation in the news: 11-17 December 2017

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.

11 December 2017

[Sri Lanka] The Human-Elephant Conflict: Moving Towards Solutions
By Kalana Krishantha, Ground Views, 11 December 2017
Recently the famous tusker, “Dala Puttuwa” of Galgamuwa was killed by poachers, renewing the public discussion around the ongoing human -elephant conflict in Sri Lanka.
Investigators found that Dala Puttuwa was killed to sell its tusks and for coveted ‘elephant pearls’ as they are known. Adding to the controversy, a Buddhist monk has been connected with this killing, revealing the widespread nature of this phenomenon. The human elephant conflict dates back centuries, as historical records by Robert Knox reveal. According to data gathered by the Elephant Conservation Unit of the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC), around 2,844 elephants were killed by farmers and 1,138 people were killed by elephants between the years from 1991 to 2010, while a total of 3,103 homes in Sri Lanka were destroyed by elephants (from 2004 to 2007).

12 December 2017

New maps show shrinking wilderness being ignored at our peril
Wildlife Conservation Society, 12 December 2017
Maps of the world’s most important wilderness areas are now freely available online following a University of Queensland and Wildlife Conservation Society-led study published today.
The authors have made the maps available to assist researchers, conservationists and policy makers to improve wilderness conservation.
UQ School of Earth and Environmental Sciences PhD student James Allan said these wilderness areas were strongholds for endangered biodiversity and critical in the fight to mitigate climate change.

Monkey business: Building a global database of primate conservation studies
By Claire Wordley, Mongabay, 12 December 2017
Primates are our family. From tiny, delicate golden lion tamarins to impressively muscular gorillas, we are part of the same evolutionary lineage; a tree of life stretching back about 65 million years. But while one primate — Homo sapiens — has flourished and spread across the planet, about 60 percent of non-human primate species are threatened with extinction.
Conservation of these intelligent, complex creatures can be challenging on many levels. We must work wisely towards finding the best solutions to the multi-faceted problems threatening their survival.

Want to save tigers? Better have your numbers straight
Wildlife Conservation Society, 12 December 2017
A new book co-edited by tiger biologist Dr. Ullas Karanth of (WCS) Wildlife Conservation Society and Dr. James Nichols, an Emeritus statistical ecologist from the United States Geological Survey (USGS), provides an authoritative text on monitoring tigers, their prey, and many other similarly endangered species.
The volume is co-authored by 32 authors, from several leading research and conservation organizations, representing a range of technical expertise from tiger biology to mathematical statistics and modeling. The text provides detailed answers to critical questions in population assessment, such as why, what and how to monitor animal populations, and offers hope that such rigorous audits will greatly help in recovering wild tigers.

[Cambodia] More rangers needed to protect forests: minister
By Phak Seangly, Phnom Penh Post, 12 December 2017
More rangers are needed to patrol the Kingdom’s protected areas, Ministry of Environment officials said yesterday during the release of a preliminary annual report, which also detailed total seizures from crackdown operations from January through November.
This year some 300 rangers were added to the ministry’s force, bringing the total to 1,260 rangers, according to the report, a far cry from what is needed to patrol the roughly 7 million hectares of land.
“The land to be protected is very large, but there are only about 1,000 park rangers,” Sam Al said, noting that three to four rangers should be assigned for every 100 hectares of protected area.

Consumers in China Widely Support Upcoming Ivory Ban, but Awareness is Low, Largest-ever Ivory Consumer Survey Finds
WWF, 12 December 2017
As a landmark ban on domestic elephant ivory trade comes into effect in China at the end of this month, TRAFFIC and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) surveys found that the ban has widespread support from a majority of consumers surveyed and that it is likely to substantially reduce ivory purchase. However, many citizens are unaware of the upcoming ban.
The ban is widely hailed by the international community as a game changer that, if rigorously implemented, could help to stop the poaching and reverse the decline of wild African elephant populations.

Mexican conservation group fights threats to Sierra Gorda nature reserve
By Franc Contreras, CGTN, 12 December 2017
Mexico’s Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve is considered one of Latin America’s most unusual nature reserves. It has eight separate ecosystems, where pine forests give way to lowland tropical jungles and hilly, semi-arid deserts.
The reserve has more than 300 species of birds, including the purple breasted hummingbird. Rare black salamanders also live here.
For 30 years, the Sierra Gorda Ecological Group has been working to save this habitat. It creates scores of sustainable businesses for more than 100,000 people living here.

13 December 2017

[Namibia] Anti-poaching patrols intensified over festive season
By Albertina Nakale, New Era, 13 December 2017
The Ministry of Environment and Tourism has warned poachers that it will intensify its anti-poaching patrols this festive season.
In this regard, the public are warned to refrain from any wildlife crimes that may lead to their arrest, and thus spend the festive season in custody.
The festive season often presents a window of opportunity for poachers to commit their unholy acts, with the hope that many law enforcement officials have taken leave to enjoy the festive season with their families.

[South Africa] Ezemvelo KZN praises community’s anti-poaching efforts
By Shaun Ryan, East Coast Radio, 13 December 2017
That’s despite 218 rhino being poached since the beginning of the year, that’s an increase of about 37 poached animals in comparison to the same period in 2016.
Ezemvelo’s Musa Mntambo says cracking down on poaching incidents remains a priority.
“As long as we have rhinos in our game reserves, it will remain a priority for us. Communities remain the eyes and ears for us, they always tell us whenever they suspect something and we are thankful for their involvement,” he says.

14 December 2017

What Sustainable Wildlife Conservation Really Looks Like
By Peter Zahler, Wildlife Conservation Society, 14 December 2017
Conservation is a long-term effort. Many of the field programs I have been affiliated with have been in existence for 20 or 30 years. One reason for this is that it takes years to collect the data to really understand the threats and potential solutions to a landscape, whether it is poaching of wildlife (local subsistence? outsiders profiting?), predator conflict (poor livestock management? loss of local prey species?), and so on.

To trade or not to trade? Breaking the ivory deadlock
University of Queensland, 14 December 2017
The debate over whether legal trading of ivory should be allowed to fund elephant conservation, or banned altogether to stop poaching has raged for decades without an end in sight.
Now, an international team including researchers from The University of Queensland and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED) is working to break the policy stalemate.
UQ CEED postdoctoral researcher Dr Matthew Holden said the team identified a process aimed to overcome the deadlock on ivory.

Legalising rhino horn trade: don’t charge in blind
By Harriet Davies-Mostert, The Conversation, 14 December 2017
Between 2008 and 2016, poachers killed more than 7100 rhinos in Africa. South Africa, which has nearly 80% of Africa’s rhinos, was the worst affected country, with more than 1000 rhinos killed each year over the last four years.
In 2015 and 2016, the total number of rhinos poached represented almost 6% of South Africa’s rhinos (if white and black rhinos are added up together), which is similar to the estimated population growth rate. This suggests that the situation is close to a tipping point where rhino deaths exceed births.

Two groups that want to save elephants need to find common ground
American Association for the Advancement of Science, 14 December 2017
In this Perspective, Duan Biggs et al. discuss ways in which two groups of people who want to help protect elephants from poaching – but disagree on the means – can achieve their common goal. Poaching for ivory has caused a steep decline in African elephant popu­lations over the past decade, which has fueled debate over what policy would best conserve elephants: banning all ivory trade or enabling regulated trade to incen­tivize and fund elephant conservation. The authors discuss the pros and cons of each approach, but note that the real divide stems from a failure to recognize the differ­ent moral perspectives, or “values,” of stakeholders. Another major problem is that wild elephant ranges span multiple countries, each of which has a different opinion on the best course of action.

[Indonesia] For Papuan villagers practicing conservation, a bid to formalize the familiar
By Christopel Paino, Mongabay, 14 December 2017
It took more than two hours by boat, through a driving rain, to reach the village of Saubeba from the nearest large town of Sausapor in Indonesia’s West Papua province. There, locals had gathered to discuss a government-backed plan to designate Tambrauw district, of which Saubeba is a part, a conservation zone.
On paper, at least, this would seem a no-brainer: 80 percent of the district’s nearly 11,400 square kilometers (4,400 square miles) is lush forest that falls within existing conservation or protected areas; its coast is a hatching ground for the rare leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), and its rainforests home to exotic birds-of-paradise (family: Paradisaeidae).

[Kenya] KWS unveils 78 community rangers to curb poaching in Turkana
By Solomon Nuingi, The Star, 14 December 2017
Kenya Wildlife Service on Thursday unveiled 78 new rangers to be deployed in conservancies in Turkana South, Pokot, and Kajiado to curb poaching.
Edin Kalla, the KWS senior assistant director in charge of parks and reserves, said the community rangers will be the agency’s eyes and ears in the said areas.
He spoke during the passing out parade of the group at the KWS law enforcement academy at Manyani in Taita Taveta county.
Kalla said they are focused on wildlife conservation and ecosystem management in the two counties.

Lions to roar again in Malawi at Liwonde National Park thanks to Leonardo DiCaprio
Nyasa Times, 14 December 2017
The Liwonde National Park, one of the Malawi’s wildlife reserves managed by African Parks will soon see the return of lions thanks to Leonardo DiCaprio and the Lion Recovery Fund.
The fund was created by Wildlife Conservation Network and Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation to protect lions and their ecosystems across Africa.
The exercise comes after the African Parks completed the Africa’s largest elephant translocation project in history, which saw 500 elephants being relocated from Majete Wildlife Reserve and Liwonde National Parks to Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve.

[Malaysia] Need investigators to end killing of endangered species
By Stephanie Lee, The Star, 14 December 2017
Sabah needs professional investigators and informers to stop the killing and poaching of endangered species in the state.
Scientific director for HUTAN, a Sabah-based wildlife research and conservation non-governmental organisation, Marc Acrenaz, said there seemed to be an increasing number of cases involving the killing and poaching of endangered animals and this has to stop.
“Many years ago, we know that locals killed animals for food but now, we see that the trend has changed and people are poaching for the international trade and kill because of animal-human conflicts,” he said when contacted.

[Myanmar] Elephants Are Being Slaughtered for Their Skin to Make Jewelry — Tell the UN to Step in Now!
By Natasha Brooks, One Green Planet, 14 December 2017
The world’s elephants face many threats to their survival, including habitat loss, human-wildlife conflict, being captured by the tourism and entertainment industries, and of course, poaching for their tusks. However, there is now yet another disturbing threat to elephants — poaching for their skin to make jewelry and bogus “medicine.”
You can view images of this heinous slaughter and jewelry here, but we warn you, it may be too graphic for some people.
A petition on Care2 explains one incident in particular in a riverbed in southwestern Myanmar, where more than two dozen rotting skinned elephant corpses were found; their skins cut and peeled off to be rolled into beaded jewelry and mixed into tonics to be sold to ignorant individuals. To combat these threats to elephants, the World Wildlife Fund has set up poaching patrol units in Myanmar which have already led to the arrest of thirteen poachers.

Soldiers do their best to plug South Africa’s porous borders
By Kim Helfrich, defenceWeb, 14 December 2017
While not soldiering in the true sense of the word, the deployment of more than 2 700 soldiers on “border duty” has done much to prevent even more illegal aliens from settling in South Africa, stopped millions of Rand worth of illegal goods from being sold locally without the necessary duties and kept tons of narcotics off the streets.
The 2017 calendar year, some days short of completion, saw goods, vehicles and livestock conservatively valued at R123 121 542 either confiscated by soldiers or recovered for the rightful owners in the case of livestock and vehicles, according to Lieutenant Colonel Piet Paxton, Staff Officer, Operational Communication, SANDF Joint Operations Division.

Tanzania: New Anti-Poaching Squad Formed
By Bertha Ismail, The Citizen, 14 December 2017
A new anti-poaching unit which will involve members of the police force and other security organs has been formed.
The unit has been tasked to ensure Tanzania is free from poaching by 2020.
This was announced here yesterday by the assistant director in charge of anti-poaching operations in the ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism Robert Manda.
He disclosed this when closing a two-day workshop on transboundary environmental crimes experience sharing at the Kibo Palace Hotel.

[Tanzania] Hope for one of the world’s rarest primates: First census of Zanzibar Red Colobus monkey
Wildlife Conservation Society, 14 December 2017
A team of WCS scientists recently completed the first-ever range-wide population census of the Zanzibar red colobus monkey (Piliocolobus kirkii) an endangered primate found only on the Zanzibar archipelago off the coast of East Africa.
The good news: there are more than three times as many Zanzibar red colobus monkeys (more than 5,800 individual animals) than previously thought, and many more monkeys living within protected areas than outside of them. And the bad news: survivorship of young animals is very low, species now extinct in 4 areas, forest habitat on which the primates and others species depend are rapidly being cleared for agriculture and tourism development projects and hunting is common.

Stop sneezing on the chimpanzees! Primates in Uganda are dying from human cold virus
By Lara Rebello, International Business Times, 14 December 2017
Chimpanzees in Africa have been suffering from the sniffles and it looks like human beings are to blame. Research into an outbreak of respiratory disease in a community of wild chimpanzees in Uganda’s Kibale National Park has identified that a human “common cold” virus known as rhinovirus C was killing healthy chimps.
Scientists believe that the virus could have been transmitted to the primates through researchers, conservationists and tourists who may have come into contact with the animals. They published their findings on 13 December in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

15 December 2017

[Belize] Tribute to Rangers, Our Local Heroes!
Wildlife Conservation Society, 15 December 2017
When was the last time you said “thank you” to a ranger? We know them as fisheries officers, forest officers, park guards or wardens. They work for governments, NGO’s and community groups, often for little reward and/or recognition, risking their lives to protect our wildlife and its fragile ecosystems. It is a fact that these brave men and women stand on the frontline of conservation to safeguard Belize’s wildlife, forests and coastal seas.

[Botswana] Rhinos could go extinct by 203
The Voice, 15 December 2017
Communities need to be sensitized about rhino poaching and other illegal activities that threaten to bring rhinos to extinction by the year 2030.
And as part of Wilderness Safaris’ ongoing Botswana Rhino Reintroduction Project and other conservation partnerships, which have contributed in mitigating the rhino poaching threat in Botswana, the entity recently participated in the Walk for Rhinos Campaign to sensitize the public about the risk that continues to exist across the continent.

Thailand’s private sector is driving conservation, thanks to tourism
By Andrew Lawton, Global News, 15 December 2017
If you want something done, do it yourself. That’s the ethos embraced by some tourism sector companies in Thailand when it comes to the environment.
In North America, activists may frame corporations as the environment’s enemy. But here, the opposite is true.
Thailand welcomes more than 30 million tourists each year, ranging from culinary to cultural. As travellers seek to be more environmentally conscious, some companies have decided to make investments into the protection of the country’s flora and fauna.

16 December 2017

Myanmar companies support saving elephants
Mizzima, 16 December 2017
Two of the largest conglomerates in Myanmar – Kanbawza (KBZ) Group of Companies and Shwe Taung Group – have joined hands with VOICES FOR MOMOS, supporting the nationwide campaign to end the sale of elephant and other illegal wildlife products in Myanmar.
KBZ Group is amplifying the VOICES FOR MOMOS public education efforts through an integrated print, digital and outdoor advertising campaign that kicks off today at the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda (Golden Rock) in Mon State, with public service messages printed on the newly-launched cable cars shuttling visitors to one of the country’s most popular pilgrimage sites.

17 December 2017

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