1 Tahrcountry Musings: 2014

Saturday, December 13, 2014

New trout species from Turkey

Researchers from Recep Tayyip Erdoğan University, Faculty of Fisheries in Turkey have discovered a new trout species. The new species gets the name, Salmo kottelati and is named after Maurice Kottelat, who contributed significantly to the knowledge of the fish fauna of Europe and Asia.

                                             Natural habitat of the new trout species
Pic Credits: Prof. Dr. Davut Turan

Friday, October 31, 2014

Taking annual break

Hi guys,
             I am taking my annual break. I am going on a trip filled with hiking, Microlight flying and skydiving.
I will be back on blogging scene first week of December.
             Have a great time

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Inger Andersen named IUCN Director General

 Inger Andersen has been appointed as the new Director General of IUCN starting in January 2015. A Danish national, Ms Andersen began her career working on desertification and dryland issues in Sudan, and with the UN Sudano-Sahelian Office in New York. With the establishment of the Global Environment Facility(GEF) in 1992, she moved in  as the Arab Region Coordinator for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), a position she held until 1999 when she moved to the World Bank. She is Currently Vice President for Middle East and North Africa (MENA) at the World Bank. At the World Bank, Ms Andersen worked primarily on water, environment and sustainable development, with special focus on the Africa and MENA Regions.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Biodiversity conservation - We need better metrics rigorously tested

The different t metrics, that we use, such as species abundance and extinction risk, paints different impressions of conservation success. Collen and Nicholson argue that to be successful, conservation efforts require an agreed set of metrics of biodiversity change. These metrics may include existing as well as new ones and must undergo rigorous testing to ensure that they are suitable for our conservation aims

Science 10 October 2014: Vol. 346 no. 6206 pp. 166-167

Friday, October 10, 2014

The 50th anniversary of IUCN Red List of Threatened Species,

As part of communications and fundraising campaign to support the 50th anniversary of   IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, IUCN have released a stunning video explaining the importance of The IUCN Red List as a powerful tool that drives action for nature conservation. The video was produced by the photographer and filmmaker Mattius Klum, who is also an IUCN Goodwill Ambassador.

Monday, October 06, 2014

A beautifully written book

It is not every day that you read a good book. I was delighted to read this very interesting book by Christopher Uhl during my sojourn and it gave me tremendous satisfaction.

Christopher Uhl explores the path to living in harmony with Earth. He believes it begins - not with fixing the environment - but with fixing ourselves, vis-à-vis, our perceptions about Earth. The book gives us enough reasons to ponder the road we are taking and what the future holds in store for us and the corrections that are long overdue.

According to Uhl, economism is the driving force of life stories of people today. Everything is seen in terms of money, without understanding the consequences of their actions on the Earth and on others. Uhl describes economism as a pseudo religion and believes that the present time is an "age of separation”.

Activities and discussion questions follow each chapter, making it a highly useful book for students. It makes them aware of what it means to be alive and to be surrounded by life.

Go ahead and read this wonderful book

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

No update for next five days

Hi Guys,
               I am travelling to areas with no internet connectivity. Consequently there won't be any update for the next five days. Have a great time.Cheers

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Parents of all children should use ventilation while using a gas stove.

This post has nothing to do with wildlife conservation, but I thought what I am going to write has great relevance for parents with children.
A new study by Oregon State University specifically recommends that parents with children at home should use ventilation when cooking with a gas stove. The study showed an association between gas kitchen stove ventilation and asthma, asthma symptoms and chronic bronchitis.
Homes that used ventilation while cooking with gas stoves were 32%less likely to have asthma than in homes where ventilation was not used.  Asthma and bronchitis are common chronic problem in children.

The findings were published recently in the journal Environmental Health.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Social science and conservation

A Guide to Understanding Social Science Research for Natural Scientists
Conservation Biology, Volume 28, Issue 5, pages 1167–1177, October 2014

Conservationists are increasingly depending on social research to study and find solutions to conservation problems.  Conservation problems are commonly social problems.  To get maximum advantage conservationists should have an understanding of the philosophical principles and theoretical assumptions of the discipline, which are embedded in the design of social research. Here the researchers have developed a guide to assist natural scientists in understanding the philosophical basis of social science to support the meaningful interpretation of social research outcomes. The 3 fundamental elements of research are ontology, what exists in the human world that researchers can acquire knowledge about; epistemology, how knowledge is created; and philosophical perspective, the philosophical orientation of the researcher that guides her or his action.  The researchers’ sign off saying the use of their guide can also support and promote the effective integration of the natural and social sciences to generate more insightful and relevant conservation research outcomes.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

We should develop awareness and even people's pride in the concept of corridor conservation

Moving Beyond Science to Protect a Mammalian Migration Corridor
Conservation Biology
Volume 28, Issue 5, pages 1142–1150, October 2014

It was with great fascination that I read this paper on corridor conservation in the journal conservation biology.  The scientists  argue that conservation scientists can and should step beyond traditional research roles to assist with on-the-ground conservation by engaging in aspects of conservation that involve local communities and public policy.

The focus of research is on a North American endemic mammal that relies on long distance migration as an adaptive strategy, the pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) of the southern Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The researchers found that the role of science in realizing policy change, while critical as a first step, was surprisingly small relative to the role of other human dimensions. The researchers built partnership between government and private interests and then enhanced interest in migratory phenomena across the landscape with divergent political ideologies and economic bases. By developing awareness and even people's pride in the concept of corridor conservation, they  achieved local, state, and federal acceptance for protection of a 70 km long, 2 km wide pathway for the longest terrestrial migrant in the contiguous United States. The paper holds good lessons for conservationists round the world. Go ahead and read it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Fossils and the way to restoring lost island biodiversity

University of Florida scientists have discovered how fossils can be used to restore lost biodiversity. The scientist hit on organic materials found in fossil bones, which contain evidence for how ancient ecosystems functioned. The clues gave vital inputs for saving endangered island species and re-establishing native species.
The scientists say “A better understanding of species' natural roles in ecosystems untouched by people might improve their prospects for survival."
The details of the study appear in the September issue of Journal of Herpetology.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Road in Kutch sanctuary Okayed. Is it the right thing to do?

The wildlife board has Okayed, a road through Kutch sanctuary. The road was opposed by environmentalists and the previous board. The main arguments against the road was that it would, in all probability, result in the abandonment of the breeding site of flamingos and India would lose the only breeding site of flamingoes. There is also an argument that an alternate alignment which is feasible, cost-effective and easy to build is available. The environmentalists also say the proposed road would also eliminate the sacred grove of "Shravan Kavadia'', a unique mangrove system, found nowhere else in the world.

Tahrcountry makes a fervent plea to the Prime Minister and the Environment Minister, to look in to all aspects before giving a final clearance to the project. The misgivings of the environmentalists have to be allayed. The common man should feel that tax payer’s money has been spent on a project that would take the country forward without compromising on environment. If more studies are needed it should be done. Development is the need of the hour for the country, but it should not be at the cost of destroying what is irreplaceable.

Friday, September 19, 2014

World's first microbe-powered, self-sustaining wastewater treatment system

Researchers from Washington State University have developed a unique method to use microbes buried in pond sediment for waste cleanup in rural areas.

The newly invented Microbial fuel cells use biological reactions from microbes in water to create electricity. The fuel cell does the work of an aerator and uses only the power of microbes in the sewage lagoons to generate electricity. In the lab the microbes were able to successfully power aerators for more than a year. The researchers hope to test a full-scale plant shortly for eventual commercialization.

The researchers claim that the technology could be used in underdeveloped countries to clean polluted water effectively at a cheap rate.

Details of the research appears in the latest issue of journal “Journal of Power Sources

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Newly constituted wildlife board of India – Now a signature campaign is on

As mentioned in my previous post, some of the frustrated men who have been left out from the new wildlife board had already started a whisper campaign against the new members. Now, if my Delhi contacts are to be believed, they have started a signature campaign against the new members. I am aghast by the puerile mentality of the guys. These old guys had usurped membership by their political clout for years. For them it was an easy way to flaunt themselves as champions of wildlife conservation and earn junkets to wildlife reserves. One of my friends invited a couple of years back, one of the aggrieved guys from Delhi for a conference. His first question was “Where am I going to be accommodated. I stay only in 5 star hotels. These guys are out of sync with reality in the field. They never bother to stay deep in the forest with the frontline staff and find out their problems. They want cushy accommodation in forest rest houses. I am delighted to see that the new Government under Narenrdra Modiji has broken the vicious nexus. The new sets of guys are dedicated and aware of problems in the field. They are never shy of getting their hands dirty. Tax payers money should not be squandered away to pander to the whims and fancies of the elite.

Monday, September 15, 2014

In praise of reconstituted National Board for Wildlife, India

Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Shri Prakash Javadekar have delivered a coup de grace to arm chair conservationists, while they reconstituted National Board for Wildlife, India. For far too long, arm chair conservationists from Delhi and Mumbai have been calling the shots entrenching themselves in successive boards, with their political clout.

The names of the members of the newly constituted board, reads like who is who of India’s best field men. They know the heart throb of India’s wildlife. An even better aspect is their thorough knowledge of the problems relating to protection and the hardships experienced by the frontline soldiers of conservation. I am sure all these augurs well for India’s wildlife. I have no hesitation in rating this as the best board India has seen to this date.

I wish the new members the very best in their endeavours to promote the welfare of India’s wildlife. I salute Narendra Modiji and Prakash Javadekarji for the excellent work they have done

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Whoa! 46 Centimeter Shrimp

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have posted several photos of a 46 Centimetre  Shrimp on Facebook.  The photo was taken by fisherman Steve Bargeron, who watched a fellow fisherman hook a massive crustacean at a dock in Fort Pierce, Florida.

                                                                 Pic from MyFWC's post | Facebook


Friday, September 05, 2014

Essential Readings in Wildlife Management and Conservation

There are certain papers which any aspiring or practicing wildlife professional should read. I read a few days back a wonderful book, titled Essential Readings in Wildlife Management and Conservation which is a compendium of forty-two such papers carefully selected, by two leading authorities in the fields of wildlife management and conservation, Dr Paul R. Krausman and Dr Bruce D. Leopold.
The book  is divided into four sections: the philosophical roots of wildlife management, biology, habitat, and human dimensions and contains the classic publications of  K. T. Adair, R. A. Baer, L. C. Birch, W. H. Burt, L. H. Carpenter, G. Caughley, T. C. Chamberlin, E. L. Charnov, L. C. Chase, F. E. Clements, L. C. Cole, J. H. Connell, R. N. Conner, Z. J. Cornett, P. D. Dalke, D. J. Decker, L. R. Dice, J. G. Dickson, D. F. Doak, P. R. Ehrlich, R. Y. Edwards, C. S. Elton, P. L. Errington, D. Esler, C. D. Fowle, T. A. Gavin, V. Geist, M. Gilpin, H. A. Gleason, J. Grinnell, J. P. Hailman, G. Hardin, N. T. Hobbs, C. S. Holling, S. S. Hutchings, D. H. Johnson, S. R. Kellert, R. H. Klopfer, B. A. Knuth, C. C. Kreuger, A. Leopold, R. L. Lindeman, C. A. Loker, R. H. MacArthur, J. Macnab, S. P. Mahoney, G. F. Mattfield, D. R. McCullough, S. L. Mills, A. J. Nicholson, J. F. Organ, R. T. Paine, G. Parsons, M. E. Richmond, S. J. Riley, S. J. Schwager, V. E. Shelford, W. F. Siemer, D. S. Simberloff, M. E. Soulé, G. Stewart, J. W. Thomas, B. Van Horne, S. C. Wecker, E. O. Wilson
I recommend the book unreservedly.
Dr Paul R. Krausman is the Boone and Crockett Professor of Wildlife Conservation at the University of Montana and past president of The Wildlife Society. Dr Bruce D. Leopold is a professor and head of the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Aquaculture at Mississippi State University.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Tree frogs speed up life cycle when there is threat of being preyed on

We believe that events in the life cycle of animals happen consistently, with a set pattern. This view is going to be turned on its head with the latest findings on tree frogs. Researchers  Sinlan Poo and David Bickford of the National University of Singapore, Singapore, have  discovered that Hansen's tree frog (Chiromantis hansenae) speeds up its life cycle to hatch earlier once its eggs are preyed upon. 
Hansen's tree frog is found in Thailand and parts of Cambodia.

Details of the study appears in the latest issue of journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Bringing plants into offices can improve well-being and make people feel happier at work.

Researchers from University of Exeter, University of Groningen in The Netherlands, and the University of Queensland, Australia, have come up with the finding that ‘Green’ offices with plants make staff happier and more productive than ‘lean’ designs stripped of greenery. The researchers monitored productivity levels over several months in two large commercial offices in the UK and The Netherlands.

Lead researcher Marlon Nieuwenhuis, from Cardiff University’s School of Psychology, said:  “Our research suggests that investing in landscaping the office with plants will pay off through an increase in office workers’ quality of life and productivity.

“Although previous laboratory research pointed in this direction, our research is, to our knowledge, the first to examine this in real offices, showing benefits over the long term. It directly challenges the widely accepted business philosophy that a lean office with clean desks is more productive.”

Co-author Dr Craig Knight, of Psychology at the University of Exeter, said: “Psychologically manipulating real workplaces and real jobs adds new depth to our understanding of what is right and what is wrong with existing workspace design and management.  We are now developing a template for a genuinely smart office.”

Professor Alex Haslam, from The University of Queensland’s School of Psychology, who also co-authored the study added: "The 'lean' philosophy has been influential across a wide range of organizational domains. Our research questions this widespread conviction that less is more. Sometimes less is just less".

Posted with inputs from University of Exeter

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

A stark reminder - The death of the world's last passenger pigeon

I wanted to post this yesterday, but was tied up with lot of chores

On September 1, 1914, one hundred years ago, the last member of what was perhaps the most numerous bird species on the planet died in a cage in the Cincinnati zoo. 

                                                           Painting by John James Audubon

Monday, September 01, 2014

Lee Acaster - The overall British Wildlife Photography award winner – 2014

                                          Pic credit: BWPA
The Tourist: by Lee Acaster

The winning picture is by Lee Acaster, for his image of a Greylag Goose in London

Judge Mark Ward, Editor-in-Chief, at RSPB Nature’s Home Magazine commented “The winning photograph shows a familiar bird in a familiar setting, but the visual impact is extraordinary. The stormy, brooding backdrop sets a dramatic scene, while the orange and pink from the bird bring vibrancy to the monochromatic cityscape. Lee’s stunning photograph proves you do not have to travel far from home to capture the very best of Britain’s wildlife images.”

Sunday, August 31, 2014

It is uncharitable to paint Prime Minister Narendra Modi as ant-wildlife

Lot of recriminations is doing the rounds, after the recent reconstitution of Indian Board for Wild Life. Lot of apprehensions have been voiced by conservationists regarding the manner in which reconstitution has been done. Many see is it as an attempt to plant guys who are “yes men” for giving clearances to development projects. I think it is carrying things a wee bit too far. The Prime Minister may be a pro-development man and a go getter if he makes a decision, but it is uncharitable to paint him as anti-wildlife. You don’t have to look beyond Gujarat, to see what I am driving at.

The infamous lions poaching case of 2007 in Gujarat hogged the headlines in press across India. Between February and March 2007, organized poachers from Madhya Pradesh had killed eight Asiatic lions in and around the Gir National Park. Narendra Modiji, who was the chief minister of Gujarat, at that time, visited the area twice. Know of any other Chief Minister, who has visited a poaching spot even once? He gave full support to the team of investigators. He was not in the denial mood which is the wont of politicians. He sought help from outside sources also. WPSI Executive Director Belinda Wright chipped in with help for scientific forensic investigation.  Chief Minister himself was monitoring the progress of the case regularly. The Gujarat government appointed special prosecutors at all levels up to the Supreme Court to pursue the case. All these resulted in conviction of all 39 accused, a rare occurrence in India.

Yes, I think, you can put Narendra Modiji on the right track if you convince him. That is your job, environmentalists. Look at the bright side of things and work with a positive attitude. You cannot blame the Prime Minister for toeing the development line, in his effort to build a dynamic and prosperous India.

PMO will look at your concerns, if it is genuine. A few days back I sent a representation to the Prime Minister, regarding the plight of wildlife trained forest officers in India. They are given the short shrift, and incompetent, untrained officers posted in wildlife reserves across India, at the behest of politicians, who look for pliant officers. It is a shame that after spending huge amounts of taxpayers’ money, the trained officers have to sit in office as pen pushers. Others are doing jobs that have nothing to doing with wildlife. This does not augur well for India’s wildlife. PMO has forwarded my representation to ministry of environment for follow-up. They immediately informed me about what is going on. I am sure something positive will come out of this.

Chinese traffickers spell doom for African elephants

A new  report, called Out of Africa; Criminalisation of the African Ivory Trade, commissioned by Born Free USA and C4ADS (a nonprofit organisation that is dedicated to data-driven analysis and evidence-based reporting of conflict and security issues worldwide), has come up with some disturbing findings about role of Chinese gangs in the criminalization of African ivory trade.

The report points out that the majority of the illegal ivory trade is dominated by a small number of gangs spearheaded by Chinese and that the majority of the ivory is shipped via just 100 large annual consignments that make up 70-80 per cent of the trade. Mombasa, Dar es Salaam, and Zanzibar are the ports of exit while the top three airports in the chain are Nairobi, Addis Ababa, and Johannesburg.

Adam M Roberts, CEO of The Born Free Foundation and Born Free USA said, approximately 229,729 elephants were killed and trafficked in fewer than six years.

Read the full report HERE

Friday, August 29, 2014

A worldwide assessment of where roads should be built and should not be built

It was with great fascination that I read a new paper on roads that appeared in journal Nature.The researchers William F. Laurance, Gopalasamy Reuben Clements, Sean Sloan, Christine S. O’Connell, Nathan D. Mueller, Miriam Goosem, Oscar Venter, David P. Edwards, Ben Phalan, Andrew Balmford, Rodney Van Der Ree and Irene Burgues Arrea have come up with a 'global roadmap' for prioritising road building across the world. The study will help planners to balance the competing demands of development and environmental protection. It will also help to limit the environmental costs of road building while maximizing its benefits for human race. Read this against the fact that More than 25 million kilometres of new roads will be built worldwide by 2050.

Professor William Laurance of James Cook University in Australia, the study's lead author says "Roads often open a Pandora's Box of environmental problems, but we need roads for our societies and economies, so the challenge is to decide where to put new roads and where to avoid them."

Professor Andrew Balmford from the University of Cambridge's Department of Zoology who is a co-author says “"For particular regions the approach can be improved by adding detailed local information but we think our overall framework is a powerful one."

Journal Reference:
William F. Laurance, Gopalasamy Reuben Clements, Sean Sloan, Christine S. O’Connell, Nathan D. Mueller, Miriam Goosem, Oscar Venter, David P. Edwards, Ben Phalan, Andrew Balmford, Rodney Van Der Ree, Irene Burgues Arrea. A global strategy for road building. Nature, 2014, Published online27 August 2014

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A model that explains how geckos move and cling on to walls and ceiling

                                            Pic credit: Oregon State University

Researchers at Oregon State University have developed a model that explains how geckos move and cling on to walls and ceiling. Geckos, spiders and some other insects have branched hairs called “seta” that can instantly turn their stickiness on and off, and even “unstick” their feet without using any energy.

The “smart” adhesion system allows the geckos to run at 20 body-lengths per second. The scientist added that the forces provided by the seta could actually support 50 times the body weight of the gecko.

Details appear in the latest issue of Journal of Applied Physics

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

We are facing a “biological holocaust” warns Dr E.O. Wilson

Dr E.O. Wilson, 85-year old Harvard University scientist considered as world’s foremost authority on biodiversity has warned that we are staring at the face of a “biological holocaust”. The renowned scientist was talking to the interviewers of journal of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. He had a prescription in mind.

“I see a chain of uninterrupted corridors forming, with twists and turns, some of them opening up to become wide enough to accommodate national biodiversity parks, a new kind of park that won’t let species vanish,” said Dr Wilson. Dr Wilson’s dream is to see humans essentially withdraw from half of the Earth. Giving an exposition of his “Half Earth” theory, he said: “It’s been in my mind for years that people haven’t been thinking big enough – even conservationists.

Dr Wilson added that these “corridors” he had in mind running vertically down continents will let species move north as temperatures rise, for example, while those going horizontally will enable species to move east as rainfall declines in the west. We need large corridors at the landscape levels as “islandisation” can have a disastrous impact on wildlife,

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Elan Filler, a 7th grader cracks the mystery of fungus infections

A fungus called Cryptococcus gattii is causing untold misery to lot of patients in Southern California. This has been going on for years. No one had a clue to where it came from. The suspects were trees.

Elan Filler, a 7th grader was looking for a science fair project. Her dad Dr. Scott Filler who is an infectious disease specialist at the University of California ran in to Springer's advisor Dr Heitman at a conference, and told him about Elan and her project. Dr Heitman took it up with Springer. Soon Elan was swabbing tree trunks and growing out the fungus in Petri dishes as per plans chalked out. Springer analyzed the genetic fingerprints of fungi in the samples. To the delight of scientists C. gattii from three trees, Canary Island pine, New Zealand pohutukawa and American sweet gum, matched almost exactly with C. gattii from infected patients.

Details are published in the latest issue of PLOS Pathogens. Elan Filler has been named as an author on the study

Friday, August 22, 2014

What a shame - Zambia has lifted the 2013 ban on hunting

Zambia has lifted the 2013 ban on hunting.  Hunting wildlife, with the exception of big cats, is now legal. Disturbing fact is that hunting of elephants will be allowed.  Read it against the report from scientists that an estimated 100,000 elephants in Africa were killed for their ivory between 2010 and 2012 and their numbers are declining by two per cent to three per cent every year. More animals are being killed than their recruitment. It is a real shame

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Genetic proof of new variety of tarsier

                                           Pic credit: University of Kansas

Researchers at the University of Kansas' Biodiversity Institute have established the presence of a new variety of tarsier. Pronounced as (tar-SEER). Tarsiers are completely carnivorous, a unique phenomenon among primates.

Details appear in the latest issue of journal the journal PLOS ONE

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Never buy a Dell computer- Their service sucks

Guys, if you are planning to buy a computer never go for Dell. I had unpleasant experience with their third rate service.

Last week for no apparent reason, my computer failed to hook on to internet. I attached the modem to another laptop and it worked flawlessly. Just to make make doubly sure I took the modem to the provider BSNL and they hooked it on to their computer. Again there was seamless connectivity.

I rang up Dell service and explained my predicament. The guys took me through the whole gamut of trouble shooting over the phone. As the need was mine I stuck to it even though I had other pressing affairs on hand. After lot of seesaw activity, the guy told me that there was no problem with hardware and the problem could be software related. They made me re install Windows 7 which had come preinstalled. It took some more of my precious time. Even after reinstalling there was no connectivity. BSNL guys were absolutely sure that the problem was with the computer. After further round of tinkering the DEll guy told me that the problem is software and they do not attend to software problems. What utter nonsense. The computer came with windows 7 preinstalled by Dell as operating system and the system was covered under warranty. Thy have a moral responsibility to look at the problems. I got a wee bit wild and asked the guy whether I am supposed to throw away the computer which is still under warranty. I could hear him talk to another  guy and after some deliberation the Dell guy told me that a technician will come to my place and attend to the problems. Another 24 hours have elapsed and the technician is still to come and do the repairs.

So, guys, give a wide berth to Dell computers. You have better options with better service.

Undercover operation foils wildlife trafficking in Canada

The Fish and Wildlife Enforcement officials in Alberta, Canada have smashed a wildlife trafficking gang after a two-year undercover operation. Officers seized 322 packages of moose and elk meat, worth about $6,500 on the black market.  $1,105 in cash and a 2013 Ford F-150 truck was also seized. The officers added that unregulated trade in wildlife fuels black market demand which could in turn lead to more poaching.
Yes, little drops of water make the mighty ocean. If all the countries of the world join together in covert and overt actions we can certainly nip the menace of poaching.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Wildlife Ecology, Conservation, and Management, 3rd Edition

Wildlife Ecology, Conservation, and Management, 3rd Edition
John M. Fryxell, Anthony R. E. Sinclair, Graeme Caughley
ISBN: 978-1-118-29106-1
528 pages
June 2014, Wiley-Blackwell

The third edition of the magnificent book, Wildlife Ecology, Conservation, and Management is out and I had a chance to glance through it. Several improvements have been incorporated in this edition.

The authors have introduced a series of modules introducing R to readers and set up a server link to Wildlife Ecology, Conservation, and Management software examples.Worked examples enable readers to practice calculations explained in the text and to develop a thorough understanding of key statistical procedures and population models commonly used in wildlife ecology and management.

 Four new chapters have been introduced. The four new chapters cover: habitat use and selection; habitat fragmentation, movement and corridors; climate change, and; evolutionary response to disturbance. A thorough updating of all chapters has been done to present important areas of wildlife research and management with examples of recent advances.

I recommend the book unreservedly to wildlife managers, park rangers, biological resource managers, and those working in ecotourism.

Friday, August 08, 2014

All ivory market must close down, new study recommends

Legal Ivory Trade in a Corrupt World and its Impact on African Elephant Populations
Article first published online: 7 AUG 2014, Conservation Biology

Elephant poaching is at an all time high in Africa. Against the backdrop of this disturbing trend, the contents of this paper assume great significance.

To save elephants, all ivory markets must close and all ivory stockpiles must be destroyed, according to this paper by Elizabeth Bennet published in Conservation Biology. Illegal hunting of African elephants (Loxodonta africana) for ivory is causing rapid decline in their populations. Since 2007, illegal ivory trade has more than doubled. Bennett says corruption enables the laundering of illegal ivory into legal or potentially legal markets. Poachers and traffickers can rapidly pay their way out of trouble, so the financial incentives to break the law heavily outweigh those of abiding by it. Maintaining reliable permitting systems and leak-proof chains of custody in this context is challenging, and effective management breaks down. Once illegal ivory has entered the legal trade, it is difficult or impossible for enforcement officers to know what is legal and illegal. Bennett signs off saying “If we are to conserve remaining wild populations, we must close all markets because, under current levels of corruption, they cannot be controlled in a way that does not provide opportunities for illegal ivory being laundered into legal markets.”

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Conservation – Facing the uncertain future

I read yesterday, a very good report prepared by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), titled Considering Multiple Futures: Scenario Planning to Address Uncertainty in Natural Resource Conservation. The report includes 12 case studies representing a range of scenario planning approaches for natural resource and conservation issues.

 The report is intended as a guide to natural resource managers’ to plan for a variety of long-term threats to America’s wildlife and habitats. Even though the report is meant for USA, it has inputs that have relevance the world over.

Service Director Dan Ashe said “Scenario planning helps environmental professionals prepare for the future in the midst of uncertainty, and provides conservation leaders with the tools they need to respond to these threats.”

If you are interested in having a look at the report, download it HERE

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

New frog species from Malaysia

The newly discovered frog from Malaysia named Hylorana centropeninsularis

                                          Pic credit:Chan et al. 

Read the details in Herpetologica

Kin Onn Chan, Rafe M. Brown, Kelvin K.P. Lim, Norhayati Ahmad and Lee Grismer. 2014. A New Species Of Frog (Amphiba: Anura: Ranidae) of the Hylarana Signata Complex from Peninsular Malaysia. Herpetologica, 70(2), 2014, 228–240 

Saturday, August 02, 2014

To bait or not to bait

To bait or not to bait: A comparison of camera-trapping methods for estimating leopard (Panthera pardus) density
Byron D. du Preez, Andrew J. Loveridge , David W. Macdonald
Biological Conservation
Volume 176, August 2014, Pages 153–161
Leopards have lost a third of their historical range, and their current CITES status is ‘Near Threatened’ even though they have the largest natural distribution among felids. In this paper the authors describe the pros and cons of normal camera trapping versus baited camera trapping in getting accurate data on leopard populations
unbaited camera-trapping has the disadvantage of low capture rates which in turn affects the accuracy of the resultant density calculations. Another disadvantage is that dependent cubs are underrepresented in the data skewing demographic structure.

In their research the scientists found that baited camera-trapping significantly increased leopard capture rates, as well as recording dependent cubs. To boot it was also cost effective. It has the potential to accurately survey unmonitored populations; including where their density is too low to determine accurately via other means.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The importance of landscape history

Even though I was hooked on to my passion for hiking, flying and skydiving during the course of my sojourn, I found enough time at night to read. I got an opportunity to read a wonderful book by landscape historian Prof Tom Williamson. The book was borrowed from a British acquaintance.

Prof Tom Williamson has authored an important, path breaking book. According to Dr Williamson far from being 'natural', nature and the countryside have for centuries been influenced by activities of humans. Because of this fact we need a better understanding of the human history of important habitats in order manage them into the future. The book examines the impact of social and economic organization on the English landscape and biodiversity against backdrop of agricultural revolution, landed estates, the formation of large-scale industry and the growth of towns and suburbs. Even though the thrust is on England it has inputs that matters the world over. The author dug in to game books, diaries, churchwardens' accounts and even folk songs for his work. The outcome is an original perspective on the complexity and ambiguity of man/animal relationships in this post-medieval period.

Dr Williamson says “"What remains certain is that nature has never existed outside of or independent from the activities of men. The nature lies embedded in the social and the economic: its history is largely, though not entirely, that of successive forms of social, economic, and agricultural organization.
"We must accept the essentially unnatural character of our natural heritage, and we must also celebrate what some have evocatively termed the 'unofficial countryside', of gravel pits, wasteland and sewage farms. But we must also strive to preserve what remains of our 'traditional' countryside, for cultural reasons as much as for biological ones." He also argues that recreating lost habitats needs to be done with an historical perspective and warns of the danger of a one size fits all approach.

Published: 05-12-2013 Format: Paperback
Edition: 1st
 Extent: 296
ISBN: 9781441124869
 Imprint: Bloomsbury Academic
 Illustrations: 25

Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm

Monday, July 28, 2014

Reckoning the impact of social values on spatial conservation priorities

Here is a good paper on coming to terms with impact of social values on spatial conservation priorities. Impact of social values has a very important place, in the scheme of things, while devising conservation strategies. The scientists used conservation planning software Zonation to arrive at some interesting conclusions.  Conservation planners will find the paper very useful.

Integrating Biological and Social Values When Prioritizing Places for Biodiversity Conservation
A paper by
Conservation Biology, Volume 28, Issue 4, pages 992–1003, August 2014
  The cascading impact of social values on spatial conservation priorities has received little attention from scientists and is poorly understood. Here the scientists present an approach that incorporates quantitative data on social values for conservation and social preferences for development into spatial conservation planning. They undertook a peoples’ participation GIS survey to spatially represent social values and development preferences and used species distribution models for 7 threatened fauna species to represent biological values. These spatially explicit data were incorporated in the conservation planning software Zonation to examine how conservation priorities changed with the inclusion of social data. Integrating spatially explicit information about social values and development preferences with biological data produced prioritizations that differed spatially from the solution based on only biological data. However, the integrated solutions protected a similar proportion of the species’ distributions, indicating the fact that Zonation effectively combined the biological and social data to produce socially feasible conservation solutions of approximately equivalent biological value. The scientists were able to identify areas of the landscape where synergies and conflicts between different value sets are likely to occur. They emphasize that Identification of these synergies and conflicts will allow decision makers to devise communication strategies to specific areas and in turn ensure effective community engagement and positive conservation outcomes.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Now, that’s what I call exemplary punishment

Poachers in Africa usually get away with light punishments.  Not anymore. The judiciary is pouncing on poachers.

In a decision hailed by conservationists across the globe, a poacher from South Africa has been sentenced to the heaviest penalty possible now, 77 years, for killing three rhino calves in the Kruger National Park (KNP).
The South African court also held the poacher, Mandla Chauke, responsible for the death of his accomplice. The accomplice was killed by park rangers in the shoot-out following the poaching.  The court convicted Chauke for murder also.

The verdict has come as a shot in the arm for the embattled park rangers who go through extreme ordeals in the course of duty.

Poverty alleviation,close links with local communities, concern for their welfare  and condign, speedy punishments for poachers, hold the keys to future conservation strategies

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Arabian tahr- Exciting news

My friends in UAE, has some exciting news regarding endangered arabian tahr. Management of Nature Conservation (MNC), has done some admirable piece of work in ex-situ conservation.100 animals were born this season, in this facility. The centre is expecting five more births before the season ends. The highlight is a twin birth; a rare occurrence in Arabian tahr. The centre has 425 Arabian tahrs, believed to be the world’s largest Arabian tahr population in captivity.

A rare occurrence. Pic of twin tahrs born in Management of Nature Conservation facility
Pic credit: MNC

Thursday, July 10, 2014

out, travelling

I will be travelling to areas with no internet connectivity for the next few days. Consequently there will be no update till 26th.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Cookies, citizen science and robust research methods to track the diversity of ant species

This is brilliant. Scientists from North Carolina State University and the University of Florida have combined cookies, citizen science and robust research methods to track the diversity of ant species across the United States. The method has helped the scientists to collect more data, more quickly, from more places than a research team could do otherwise. The protocol involved Pecan Sandies cookies and sealable plastic bags, with specific instructions of what should be done. More than 1,000 participants, with samples from all 50 states, have taken part in the project since its launch in 2011.

The project increased the public's ecological literacy and the criticisms that public involvement made citizen science data unreliable was turned on its head. It emphatically depicted that citizen science is very reliable if properly guided.

Details of the study appears in the open-access journal Ecosphere published online on July 7

Friday, July 04, 2014

Cause for alarm- Disturbing increase in Thai ivory trade

A survey by TRAFFIC has revealed a near trebling of the number of ivory items for sale in the past 18 months and a sharp rise in the number of outlets selling ivory in Bangkok. The quantity of ivory found far exceeds the limited supply available. Thailand permits legal trade in ivory from domesticated Asian Elephants in Thailand. This is the loophole used by unscrupulous elements.

“As TRAFFIC’s latest market research demonstrates, Thailand’s efforts to regulate local ivory markets have failed: it is time for the authorities to face the facts—their nation’s ivory markets continue to be out of control and fuel the current African Elephant poaching crisis. Without swift and decisive action to address glaring legal loopholes, this unacceptable situation will continue,” said Naomi Doak, TRAFFIC’s Co-ordinator for the Greater Mekong region.

The findings are published in TRAFFIC report:  Polishing off the ivory: Surveys of Thailand’s ivory market

If you are interested in reading the report click HERE

Thursday, July 03, 2014

World's protected areas are not doing enough

 Scientists from James Cook University, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the University of Queensland, Stanford University, BirdLife International, the International Union for Nature Conservation, and other organizations have come up with the disturbing finding that the world's protected areas are not doing enough to protect the world's threatened  biodiversity. 85 percent of world's 4,118 threatened mammals, birds, and amphibian species are not adequately protected in existing protected areas.  Dr. Oscar Venter is the lead author of the study.

Dr James Watson, WCS’s Climate Change Program Director and a Principle Research Fellow at the University of Queensland, and senior author on the study said "The problem is that countries tend to favour land that is cheap to protect when establishing new parks, instead of focusing on land that is important for wildlife.”

Professor Hugh Possingham of the University of Queensland adds “By formalizing the interdependence of protecting both wild terrestrial areas and threatened species, we can greatly increase the chances of maintaining Earth’s biological diversity for future generations. When these goals are combined, countries are much more likely to create new parks in biologically threatened areas, which will lead to long-term dividends for global conservation.”

The authors of the study are: Oscar Venter of James Cook University and the University of Queensland; Richard Fuller of the University of Queensland; Daniel B. Segan of the Wildlife Conservation Society and the University of Queensland; Josie Carwardine of CSIRO Ecosystem Science; Thomas Brooks of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the University of the Philippines, and the University of Tasmania; Stuart H.M. Butchart of BirdLife International; Moreno Di Marco of the Global Mammal Assessment Program, Sapienza Universitá di Roma; Takuya Iwamura of Stanford University; Liana Joseph of the University of Queensland and the Wildlife Conservation Society; Damien O’Grady of James Cook University; Hugh P. Possingham of the University of Queensland and Imperial College London; Carlo Rondinini of Global Mammal Assessment Program, Sapienza Universitá di Roma; Robert J. Smith of the University of Kent; Michelle Venter of James Cook University; and James E.M. Watson of the Wildlife Conservation Society and the University of Queensland.

The details of the study appears in the latest issue of journal PLOS Biology