1 Tahrcountry Musings: May 2011

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Taking a break

Hi Guys,
              I am taking my annual break of one month. I plan to pursue my other two interests that are close to my heart. These are flying and Reiki. I have stopped flying due to exorbitant rates. I have not renewed my flying licence for some time now. A few days back I ran in to a guy who has promised to give me lengthy whirls in his two seater aircraft. I also plan to polish my Reiki and meditation skills. I plan to stay away from internet during this one month. Consequently there won't be any updates during this period.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Estimating body mass of pumas

Estimating body mass of pumas (Puma concolor)
Brian D. Jansen and Jonathan A. Jenks 
Wildlife Research 38(2) 147-151, Published: 20 April 2011

Even though this paper is about estimating body mass of pumas, the facts enumerated here might come in handy for other researchers also
Here Brian D. Jansen and Jonathan A. Jenks from the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, South Dakota State University have attempted to estimate body mass of Pumas from their size.
 In remote and rugged terrain transporting equipment needed to weigh a captured animal is not often a feasible proposition. Here the option is to go in for a workable formula. Formulas have been developed for some species of large ungulates and carnivores. No work has so far been done on Pumas till the researchers here attempted it.
The researchers investigated whether body measurements were related to body mass for pumas, to develop an equation that would accurately estimate body mass of pumas within desired tolerances (~10 kg). 
Multiple regressions were used to determine the relationships between body measurements and body mass for 58 pumas in the Black Hills. The researchers then applied the equation to eight pumas that they captured in areas outside the Black Hills study population.
It was found that a model using body length (cm) and head and chest circumferences (cm) explained 89% of the variation in body mass; sex and age-class information did not contribute significantly to the model. The equation was as follows: body mass (kg) = –61.07 + 0.21 × body length (cm) + 0.56 × head circumference (cm) + 0.83 × chest circumference (cm). The 95% prediction interval for the model was –6.3–6.3 kg. The researchers found the difference between predicted and actual body mass of pumas from other populations was –0.40 kg ± 1.45 (s.e.). The relationship between body measurements and body mass was similar, despite the differences in location and environments

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Eco-tourism tips from IUCN

Ecotourism could prove to be a double edged sword if it is not handled judiciously. Several World Heritage sites have suffered from the negative impacts of tourism. A classic case is the Belize Barrier Reef System where uncontrolled lease and development of land for tourism within the site has led to it being included on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2009.
IUCN has come out with ten tips for eco-tourists who want to visit some of the most beautiful natural sites in the world without damaging the environment. The tips accompany a recent report by IUCN, Sustainable tourism in natural World Heritage.
Here are the tips
1.  Visit destinations which have conservation value, such as protected areas, World Heritage sites or areas where nature and culture is a key attraction. Include in your trip visits and activities related to conservation projects. Visitwww.protectedplanet.net
Or take this a step further and plan a “doing” holiday! Many organizations plan expeditions where you can spend time working on a local conservation project.
2.  Travel light: limit the packaging you bring with you. This will become waste in your holiday destination.
3.  Before you travel, learn as much as possible about your destination, about the natural assets, the local people and their culture and any environmental concerns (for example if there is a drought, if forest fires are a major threat ..). This should help to make your journey more enjoyable!
4.  Use reputable local tour operators, preferably those who contribute to conservation themselves. Aim to follow any local codes, for example regarding behaviour or dress if visiting cultural or sacred natural sites.
5.  Pick nature-friendly accommodation: ask hotels if they are truly eco, for example do they have an environmental policy? Have they implemented energy and water saving measures? Do they contribute to local conservation efforts and support local communities?
6. If you can, try to get to your destination by train or coach – you’ll see more of the country you’re travelling in as well as reducing your carbon emissions. Consider also offsetting your travel using a Gold Standard supplier (http://www.cdmgoldstandard.org/GS-Portfolio-Pledgers.287.0.html)
7.  When you’re on holiday, choose wisely what you put on your plate. Choose locally sourced produce that’s in season and be aware that certain Endangered species may be on the menu without your knowledge - ask local conservation organizations for a list of what to look out for.
8.  Many wild plants and animals are in great danger … you can contribute to protecting them by avoiding buying souvenirs made from Endangered species (jewellery made from red coral and turtle carapace,shatoosh and many others). Be careful if you’re bringing plants or seeds back from your travels – check that they couldn’t become invasive species.
9.  Wildlife watching can be an incredible experience… but don't disturb wildlife, for your own safety and theirs!
10.  Maintain a relationship with your new friends in the destination, become a member of local conservation organizations.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Reliable tiger counts

Dr Ullas Karanth has published an excellent article titled India's Tiger Counts: The Long March to Reliable Science in "Economic and Political Weekly" dated 30 April 2011.

This article makes a review of tiger counts and makes excellent suggestions for future protocols. The author also makes a fervent plea for public private partnership in tiger counts to make them more reliable.

I believe this article has to be read by all people involved in tiger conservation. So guys here is the link for it.Click HERE

Elephants - Age and enhanced ability to make crucial decisions

Leadership in elephants: the adaptive value of age
 March 16, 201110.1098/rspb.2011.0168 Proc. R. Soc. B

This paper makes very interesting reading.
The value of age is well recognized in human societies. Older individuals with vast and varied experience often emerge as leaders in tasks that call for specialized knowledge. Despite this awareness about what happens in human beings no detailed study has so far been done to find the nexus between age and the ability to make crucial decisions in other cognitively advanced social species.
Here the researchers used a novel playback paradigm to demonstrate that in African elephants (Loxodonta africana), age affects the ability of matriarchs to make ecologically relevant decisions in a domain critical to survival—the assessment of predatory threat. 
The researchers found that while groups consistently adjust their defensive behaviour to the greater threat of three roaring lions versus one, families with younger matriarchs typically under-reacted to roars from male lions despite the severe danger they represent. Sensitivity to this key develops exponentially with matriarch age. It is best developed in the oldest matriarchs, who are likely to have accumulated the most experience.
The researchers say their study provides the first empirical evidence that individuals within a social group may derive significant benefits from the influence of an older leader because of their enhanced ability to make crucial decisions about predatory threat, generating important insights into selection for longevity in cognitively advanced social mammals.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Rapid assessment of historical small-mammal community baselines using skeletal remains

The dead do not lie: using skeletal remains for rapid assessment of historical small-mammal community baselines
 December 23, 200910.1098/rspb.2009.1984 Proc. R. Soc. B 22 April 2010 vol. 277 no. 16851193-1201
 Baseline information on the status of ecological communities from before the onset of recent and rapid anthropogenic environmental change is a must for meaningful conservation and restoration efforts. Historical biological survey data that pre-date the onset of intense human activity are scarce
In this paper the authors document that natural accumulations of skeletal remains represent a potential source of high-quality data on the historical composition and structure of small-mammal communities.
To test the power of skeletal remains to reveal baseline shifts ,the researcher employed the design of a natural experiment, comparing two taphonomically similar Great Basin cave localities in areas where anthropogenic land-use practices have diverged within the last century.
The author found relative stasis at the undisturbed site, but document rapid restructuring of the small-mammal community at the site subjected to recent disturbance. The result was validated using historical trapping records to show that dead remains accurately capture both the magnitude and direction of this baseline shift.
The researchers assert, based on her research, that surveys of skeletal remains provide a simple, powerful and rapid alternative approach for gaining insight into the historical structure and dynamics of modern small-mammal communities.
This paper is marked as an open access paper

Monday, May 02, 2011

Risk perception associated with roads

Road proximity and traffic flow perceived as potential predation risks: evidence from the Tibetan antelope in the Kekexili National Nature Reserve, China

Xinming Lian
, Tongzuo Zhang , Yifan Cao , Jianping Su  and Simon Thirgood
Wildlife Research 38(2) 141-146, Published: 20 April 2011

Here is an interesting Paper on animal behavior connected with roads.
The risk-disturbance hypothesis says that animals exhibit risk-avoidance behaviours when exposed to human disturbance.  The animals perceive the disturbance as a predatory threat.

In this study the researchers examined whether Tibetan antelopes (Pantholops hodgsoni) exhibit risk-avoidance behaviour with proximity to a major highway and with increasing traffic.
The researchers used focal-animal sampling to observe the behaviour of Tibetan antelopes. The behaviours were categorised as foraging, vigilance, resting, moving, or other associated activity. The time, frequency, and duration of foraging and vigilance were calculated.

It was noted that as distance from the road increased, time spent foraging and foraging duration increased. Foraging frequency, time spent being vigilant and vigilance frequency decreased. The results indicate that that there is a risk perception associated with roads. Tibetan antelopes presented more risk-avoidance behaviours during high-traffic periods compared with low-traffic periods.

The researchers sign off saying  “The consequences of risk-avoidance behaviour should be reflected in wildlife management by considering human disturbance and road design”.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Biodiversity conservation and human welfare – Attempts for tradeoffs

Hard choices: Making trade-offs between biodiversity conservation and human well-being

Thomas O. McShane, Paul D. Hirsch, Tran Chi Trung, Alexander N. Songorwa, Ann Kinzig, Bruno Monteferri, David Mutekanga, Hoang Van Thang, Juan Luis Dammert, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Meredith Welch-Devine, J. Peter Brosius, Peter Coppolillo, Sheila O’Connor
Pages 966-972,  Biological Conservation Volume 144, Issue 3, March 2011

A Win–win solution where biodiversity conservation goes hand in hand with human welfare looks good in theory, but is difficult to practice. The researchers say trade-offs and hard choices are sine qua non in the present scenario.

Even a proper analysis is difficult. The researchers say “social problems – of which conservation is one – can be perceived and understood in a variety of disparate ways, influenced (in part at least) by how people are raised and educated, their life experiences, and the options they have faced.”

Pre-existing assumptions about the “right” approach to conservation often creates a smokescreen It can befuddle important differences in both power and understanding, and can limit the success of policy and programmatic interventions. The new conservation debate challenges conservationists to be explicit about losses, costs, and hard choices so they can be openly discussed and honestly negotiated. Not to do so can lead to unrealized expectations, and ultimately to unresolved conflict.

This paper explores the background and limitations of win–win approaches to conservation and human well-being, discusses the prospect of approaching conservation challenges in terms of trade-offs and hard choices, and presents a set of guiding principles that can serve to orient strategic analysis and communication regarding trade-offs.