1 Tahrcountry Musings: June 2011

Friday, June 24, 2011

Smart-phones and wildlife conservation

Modern life styles have put a damper on wildlife conservation efforts across the world.  Conservationists have rued the use of many modern gadgets. To buck the trend here is a case where a modern invention is coming to the rescue of wildlife.
Scientists at the Zoological Society for London (ZSL) have announced the launch of a new "bat phone”, a smart phone application that ordinary people can use to track the movements of local bat species. It has has been developed for a global bat monitoring programme covering at least 16 countries. More than 900 species of bat can be tracked with the help of an ultrasonic microphone.
Smart phones, internet, online crowd sourcing and social networks are being judiciously put to use to further the cause of conservation. The citizens en masse act as field researchers collecting valuable data. The data is uploaded to a website that identifies each of the calls to build an accurate picture of bat populations. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Effectiveness of camera trapping Vis-à-vis live trapping for sampling terrestrial small-mammal communities

A comparison of the effectiveness of camera trapping and live trapping for sampling terrestrial small-mammal communities
Natasha De Bondi , John G. White , Mike Stevens , Raylene Cooke 
Wildlife Research 37(6)

I just read a very interesting paper about the comparison of the effectiveness of camera trapping and live trapping for sampling terrestrial small-mammal communities

Camera-trap technologies are being increasingly used for surveys of medium to large terrestrial mammals. The authors content that the method also have significant applications for broad-scale surveys of small mammals.

In this study the researchers tried to compare results from camera-trapping surveys to those of the more traditional live-trapping techniques. The aim was to test the effectiveness of the techniques for detecting species, and the cost effectiveness of both approaches.

Surveys were conducted in 36 sites in the Grampians National Park, Victoria, Australia, between April and July 2009. A combination of Elliot and cage trapping and camera trapping were tried. 
Results were compared for both their ability to generate small-mammal presence data and their cost effectiveness.
Camera-trapping surveys compared favourably with those of live-trapping surveys. Similar species were detected across the sites. Camera trapping was definitely more cost effective than live trapping.

The researchers signs off saying “camera-trapping surveys of small terrestrial mammals may provide a new and cost-effective technique for surveying terrestrial small mammals.  Improving the replication and spatial coverage of studies has the potential to significantly increase the scope of research questions that can be asked, thus providing the potential to improve wildlife management”.

Friday, June 17, 2011

A grain of hope in the desert - News story about the latest red list from IUCN

16 June 2011 | IUCN News story

The regal Arabian Oryx (Oryx leucoryx), which was hunted to near extinction, is now facing a more secure future according to the latest update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™. Its wild population now stands at 1,000 individuals.  
“To have brought the Arabian Oryx back from the brink of extinction is a major feat and a true conservation success story, one which we hope will be repeated many times over for other threatened species,” says Ms Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Director General of the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi. “It is a classic example of how data from the IUCN Red List can feed into on-the-ground conservation action to deliver tangible and successful results.”
The Arabian Oryx, a species of antelope found only on the Arabian Peninsula, is locally known as Al Maha. It is believed the last wild individual was shot in 1972. This year, thanks to successful captive breeding and re-introduction efforts, the oryx has finally qualified for a move from the endangered category to Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List—the first time that a species that was once Extinct in the Wild has improved by three categories.
Although we are achieving successes, there are some alarming new findings. Of the 19 species of amphibian (frogs, toads and salamanders) that have been added to the IUCN Red List this year, eight are listed as Critically Endangered, including Atelopus patazensis, a species of harlequin toad from Peru, and Dendrotriton chujorum, a dwarf species of salamander from Guatemala. Amphibians remain one of the most threatened species groups with an estimated 41% at risk of extinction; the main threats they face include habitat loss, pollution, disease and invasive species.
In the case of New Caledonia’s endemic reptiles, which have been assessed for the first time, two thirds (67%) of species within this group for which we have sufficient data are at risk of extinction. Many of these reptiles are threatened by ongoing habitat loss and fragmentation as New Caledonia’s nickel mining industry continues to expand. This is compounded by the effects of introduced species; for example, deer and pigs damage remaining available habitat, and fire ants, which are invasive alien species, decimate lizard populations, leading to localized extinctions.
“The key to halting the extinction crisis is to target efforts towards eradicating the major threats faced by species and their environment; only then can their future be secured. The IUCN Red List acts as a gateway to such efforts, by providing decision makers with a goldmine of information not only on the current status of the species, but also on existing threats and the conservation actions required,” says Simon Stuart, Chair of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission.
A further new addition to the IUCN Red List is the recently discovered primate Wallace’s Tarsier (Tarsius wallacei). This forest-dwelling species was first described in 2010, and is found in just two small areas of Central Sulawesi, Indonesia. Unlike its cousin the Siau Island Tarsier (Tarsius tumpara), also new on the IUCN Red List this year and classified as Critically Endangered, Wallace’s Tarsier has been listed as Data Deficient. Species are classified as Data Deficient when not enough information is known to assign them to another category.
An assessment of all 248 lobster species has been completed, with 35% being classified as Data Deficient, including the Caribbean Spiny Lobster (Panulirus argus). This species shows decreasing populations as a result of over-exploitation, but unfortunately very little else is known about it. An estimated 1.2 billion people worldwide rely on marine species for food and livelihoods, so obtaining reliable information on catch levels is essential.
“It is extremely important that we keep pushing forward with surveys of little-known species, as without adequate data, we cannot determine their risk of extinction and therefore cannot develop or implement effective conservation actions which could prevent the species from disappearing altogether,” says Jane Smart, Director, IUCN’s Global Species Programme.
Biodiversity loss is one of the world’s most pressing crises, with many species declining to critically low levels. Numerous extinctions are taking place unnoticed, and the number of species classified as Critically Endangered (those at most severe risks are increasing ). Estimations from the IUCN Red List indicate that extinctions are happening at anywhere from 100 to 1,000 times the ‘background’ or natural rate. The causes are many, including habitat destruction, land conversion for agriculture and development, climate change, pollution, illegal wildlife trade, and the spread of invasive species.
“Conservation does work and species can recover, as shown in the case of the Arabian Oryx. Using data from the IUCN Red List, an opportunity exists for governments and society to guide conservation programmes to put the brakes on species extinctions,” says Julia Marton-Lefèvre, IUCN’s Director General.
For more information, please contact:
Borjana Pervan, IUCN Media Relations, m +41 79 857 4072, eborjana.pervan@iucn.org
Lynne Labanne, Species Programme Communications,IUCN, t +41 22 999 0153, m +41 79 527 7221, e lynne.labanne@iucn.org
Kathryn Pintus, Species Programme Communications, IUCN, t +41 22 999 0154, e kathryn.pintus@iucn.org

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Population regulation of territorial species and the complexity of the regulatory process.

Population regulation of territorial species: both site dependence and interference mechanisms matter

Published online before print December 15, 2010, doi: 10.1098/rspb.2010.2352 Proc. R. Soc. B 22 July 2011 vol. 278 no. 1715 2173-2181

I read this paper the other day and found it very interesting.

It is assumed that spatial patterns of site occupancy are driven by habitat heterogeneity and this has a bearing in shaping population dynamics through a site-dependent regulatory mechanism. The authors say most studies have only focused on a single vital rate (reproduction), and little is known about how space effectively contributes to the regulation of population dynamics. They investigated the underlying mechanisms driving density-dependent processes in vital rates in a Mauritius kestrel population where almost every individual was monitored.
Different mechanisms acted on different vital rates. The breeding success was regulated by site dependence (differential use of space) and juvenile survival by interference (density-dependent competition for resources).
Although territorial species are frequently assumed to be regulated through site dependence, the researchers show that interference was the key regulatory mechanism in this population.  The integrated approach demonstrated that the presence of spatial processes regarding one trait does not mean that they necessarily play an important role in regulating population growth, and demonstrates the complexity of the regulatory process.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Monitoring carnivore populations at the landscape scale: occupancy modeling of tigers from sign surveys

Monitoring carnivore populations at the landscape scale: occupancy modeling of tigers from sign surveys
Kota Ullas Karanth1,, Arjun M. Gopalaswamy, Narayanarao Samba Kumar, Srinivas Vaidyanathan, James D. Nichols and Darryl I. MacKenzie

Here is a new paper from Dr Ullas Karanth et al, which is of great relevance to conservationists. It has appeared in the Journal of Applied Ecology. The paper lays emphasis on the use of surveys of large carnivore signs such as tracks and scats, to assess their distributions across large landscapes.

This is an application of an occupancy model Dr Ullas had earlier developed with Jim Hines and other colleagues at USGS and was used to assess tiger distributions in 30,000 sq.km landscape in Karnataka.
The method uses spatial replication and deals explicitly with the problem of imperfect detections, which is often a problematic issue with distribution surveys.The method has great potential for cost effective surveys of tigers and other similar wide-ranging species.  

Dr Ullas Karanth is currently working on further model extensions to link these data to rigorous estimates of tiger density from camera trap surveys at specific sites to generate tiger abundance estimates for larger regions.
This paper is a must read paper for wildlife researchers and managers. I recommend it unreservedly.