Frankfurt Zoological Society

Newton, South Africa

Frankfurt Zoological Society

Newton, South Africa
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Nuno A.,Imperial College London | Bunnefeld N.,University of Stirling | Naiman L.C.,Frankfurt Zoological Society | Milner-Gulland E.J.,Imperial College London
Conservation Biology | Year: 2013

Assessing anthropogenic effects on biological diversity, identifying drivers of human behavior, and motivating behavioral change are at the core of effective conservation. Yet knowledge of people's behaviors is often limited because the true extent of natural resource exploitation is difficult to ascertain, particularly if it is illegal. To obtain estimates of rule-breaking behavior, a technique has been developed with which to ask sensitive questions. We used this technique, unmatched-count technique (UCT), to provide estimates of bushmeat poaching, to determine motivation and seasonal and spatial distribution of poaching, and to characterize poaching households in the Serengeti. We also assessed the potential for survey biases on the basis of respondent perceptions of understanding, anonymity, and discomfort. Eighteen percent of households admitted to being involved in hunting. Illegal bushmeat hunting was more likely in households with seasonal or full-time employment, lower household size, and longer household residence in the village. The majority of respondents found the UCT questions easy to understand and were comfortable answering them. Our results suggest poaching remains widespread in the Serengeti and current alternative sources of income may not be sufficiently attractive to compete with the opportunities provided by hunting. We demonstrate that the UCT is well suited to investigating noncompliance in conservation because it reduces evasive responses, resulting in more accurate estimates, and is technically simple to apply. We suggest that the UCT could be more widely used, with the trade-off being the increased complexity of data analyses and requirement for large sample sizes. © 2013 The Authors. Conservation Biology published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc., on behalf of the Society for Conservation Biology.

News Article | September 1, 2007

The killing of a gorilla is a disaster for us. When a silverback is habituated, it's worse. A habituated gorilla is extremely trusting and will let a human being approach to almost touching distance. They don't stand a chance against poachers, unless we can protect them. The habituation is for tourism, which generates revenue for the local community – their support is one of the main reasons that we have managed to protect them. In January, we received news from Bukima that the Silverback from one of our habituated groups had been shot by a rebel group poaching in the Park. The killing happened less than 600 metres from our abandoned patrol post at Bikenge, now occupied by rebels. A local farmer was ordered to help the rebels collect the meat of the gorilla. He told them that the meat was dangerous to eat, and immediately informed us of the incident. It was one of three possible solitary silverbacks that we have in DRC, and we really wanted to know which one had been killed by the rebels. To retrieve the body, I needed to get UN protection because the military from the 13 battalion who were occupying the Patrol Post at Bukima had entered the gorilla's habitat and started to cut it down to make charcoal. If we didn't do something quickly, it could be a disaster for the gorillas. I wanted to send my rangers in to stop the military from cutting down the forest, but last time I tried to stop them, they shot at me. Then they arrested me, threw me in their prison and had me flogged 65 times until I was bleeding. The military commander responsible has now been sent to Kinshasa, so I decided to try and meet the new military commander in the hope he would be more willing to work with us and control his men. But soon after some of our rangers on patrol were attacked by armed men at Bivumo, about 4kms from the Kakomero Patrol Post inside the Park. They captured one of the rangers and took his weapon after tearing up his identity card. According to the rangers, these men were Rwandan soldiers. As soon as they returned to the Patrol Post they informed the Congolese military stationed at Rugari who, assisted by the rangers, went in pursuit of them. Unfortunately it was already too late – only traces were found. The ranger was later released and he is in good health. We then received more bad news from some of our rangers who live near Bikenge. Very recent gorilla remains were said to have been found about 1km from where the last was killed. Local people reported that its body was cut up and shoved down a pit latrine (this terrible act was done to humans during the Rwandan genocide). If this was true, I knew the gorilla was probably from the group Mapua. With Robert Muir from the Frankfurt Zoological Society and six of my men, we tried to enter the rebel-held territory to talk to the rebel commanders. We were turned back at the first rebel checkpoint on the road. Our only chance at this stage was to get through to higher command and get them to stop their men from killing the gorillas. We were certain it was rebel leader Laurent Nkunda's men, because UN peacekeepers confirmed that no-one else had access to the area where the gorilla was killed. It was also clear that they know they shouldn't be doing it because they were trying to hide the evidence. A second gorilla was killed, with the possibility that others had been shot. It was time to fetch the remains. We entered the valley and drove past a rebel camp, entrenched less than 250 metres from where we were. They were observing us, seemingly a little surprised. We came to a line of trees, and just beyond that was Bikenge, our destination. The site where the gorilla's remains were supposed to have been discarded was still about 500 metres away, but at that point we saw a group of over 20 rebel soldiers pacing down the hillside towards us. As we hadn't been able to get a message across that we were coming, the fair assumption was that they were not too friendly. We decided to move out fast, and retreated a couple of kilometres away. This is where our plan B kicked in. We had sent in two of our trackers the day before and they had managed to get to the area and recover the gorilla's head. It was a terrible thing to have to see. They joined us and we moved out. We did this because we needed to identify the individual, and to bring back irrefutable proof that gorillas were being killed. We learned a lot: the gorilla had been eaten for meat. His name was Karema, another solitary silverback that had been born into a habituated group. Above all, we learned that the remaining gorillas were extremely vulnerable – the rebels were after the meat, and it's not difficult for them to find and kill them. We finally had a meeting with one of Laurent Nkunda rebel commanders, to discuss the gorilla killings and to explain that this has to be stopped. We headed out for Jomba, one of the key gorilla sites close to the Uganda border where the rebels have their headquarters. Shortly after our arrival at 10.30am, a company of men came striding down the hilltop in camouflage gear, most of them carrying heavy weapons and rocket launchers. Quite a few were also carrying spears too. I met Colonel Makenga of the rebel forces and explained who the rangers were, what we were trying to achieve in the park, and how important it is to protect the mountain gorillas and other wildlife, even during times of war. I requested access to the Patrol Posts in the gorilla sector so that my rangers could search for the gorilla groups and establish their status. Col. Makenga granted my request. This was all in January. Then in June, Kabirizi, our biggest group of mountain gorillas, was attacked by an armed group. After hearing three gunshots, my rangers in the Gatovu Patrol Post searched the forest for many hours and found the body of a breast-feeding mother called Rubiga. She had been shot in the head, execution-style. The rangers recovered a two month-old baby who was still attached to the mother's breast. The baby was brought to Goma, and my rangers in the Mikeno Sector began conducting regular monitoring activities of the Kabirizi family. There was one adult female missing from the family – Lesenjina. She has a baby called Mutazimiza who had been seen being transported by his older brother Tumaini. We do not know for sure what happened to Lesenjina. We have not found a body so we cannot know if she has died or disappeared. We continue to look. In July, four gorillas from the Rugendo group went missing. And our fears were confirmed when a silverback called Senkekwe, was found killed. The four were carried on stretchers for four hours back to Bukima with the help of about 70 people from the villages. We also know that three females were killed: Unesi, who had a 2 year old baby who has disappeared; Mburanumwe was a young female that was pregnant and was about to have her first baby; and lastly Safari, whose baby Ndeze was born earlier this year. Safari was killed with a bullet through the chest. Her killing broke my heart. When her baby was born in February this year, we took it as a sign of better things to come. Baby Ndeze was seen fleetingly today with her elder brother who is trying to protect her. That he rescued her from her dead mother's body is incredible. But he cannot feed her because she is still breast-feeding, so she will be badly dehydrated, and is likely to die. We are trying to find them, but it is incredibly difficult in the forest at the moment. If the Silverback is killed by poachers, it has a catastrophic effect on the rest of the group, the group itself is usually destroyed, and the trauma is felt for years afterwards. • Paulin Ngobobo works with WildlifeDirect, a conservation group based in the DRC and Kenya that supports the rangers working in Virunga National Park

Rentsch D.,Frankfurt Zoological Society | Damon A.,Macalester College
Ecological Economics | Year: 2013

The consumption of meat from wild animals (or bushmeat) occurs throughout Africa and highlights the conflict between two distinct development goals: food security and biodiversity conservation. Growing human populations throughout the greater Serengeti ecosystem rely heavily on bushmeat as a source of protein, which places pressure on migratory wildlife populations. This paper uses unique data from protein consumption surveys from 131 households over 34. months in a generalizable empirical framework to estimate price, cross-price, and expenditure elasticities of protein sources, and analyze the potential economic effects of policies to mitigate bushmeat hunting and consumption. Results suggest that: (1) directly increasing the price of bushmeat through enforcement or other policies to reduce supply will have the most direct and largest effect of bushmeat consumption; (2) increasing income increases bushmeat consumption as well as consumption of other meat sources; (3) if surrounding fisheries experience a negative shock, or collapse, this will lead to a dramatic increase in bushmeat consumption. Overall, these results strongly indicate that policies to reduce bushmeat hunting while maintaining food security must be considered in a broad and comprehensive framework. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.

Rentsch D.,Frankfurt Zoological Society | Packer C.,University of Minnesota
ORYX | Year: 2015

Bushmeat hunting is a threat to wildlife populations in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, including to migratory wildebeest Connochaetes taurinus and other wildlife populations in the Serengeti ecosystem. Accurate assessments of offtake through bushmeat hunting are necessary to determine whether hunting pressure on the wildebeest population is unsustainable. We used a panel dataset of local bushmeat consumption to measure offtake of wildlife and examine the long-term threat to the Serengeti wildebeest population. Based on these data we estimate an annual offtake of 97,796-140,615 wildebeest (6-10% of the current population), suggesting that previous estimates based on ecological models underestimated the effect of poaching on these populations. Copyright © Fauna & Flora International 2014.

Tadie D.,Frankfurt Zoological Society | Fischer A.,Frankfurt Zoological Society | Fischer A.,James Hutton Institute
Human Ecology | Year: 2013

Hunting is often either portrayed as the ultimate means to enact a close connection between the human being and nature, or investigated in terms of its contribution to livelihoods. Through in-depth interviews and focus group discussions, we explored the meaning of hunting in the lower Omo valley, Ethiopia, and found that large game hunting was best understood as an activity that served to establish and maintain human-human relationships. Hunting was important as it created the basis for long-term bond-relations between a hunter and his friend ('misso') and a hunter and his honorary elder sister ('misha') that could be drawn on in times of hardship. By contrast, interactions between hunter and wildlife were given hardly any attention by our participants. We discuss implications in relation to the stark decline in wildlife and the degradation of grazing land over the last decades, and the consequences of our findings for conservation and development activities. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media New York.

Kinahan A.A.,Frankfurt Zoological Society | Bunnefeld N.,Imperial College London
Endangered Species Research | Year: 2012

Due to the financial limitations faced by many protected areas today, identifying costefficient monitoring protocols has become important in ensuring the long-term sustainability of conservation. The selection of monitoring protocols is usually driven by a range of factors, such as widespread practice or accuracy, but the cost efficiency of protocols is rarely considered. The mountain nyala Tragelaphus buxtoni, classified by the IUCN as Endangered, is endemic to the Ethiopian highlands. This species has high economic potential for local communities through tourism and trophy hunting, but the expansion of human settlement is causing habitat degradation and fragmentation. A significant proportion of the global mountain nyala population occurs in Bale Mountains National Park (BMNP); thus the development of a long-term monitoring protocol was identified as a priority. Like many protected areas, the BMNP is operating well below its financial needs; hence developing a robust, cost-effective method that can detect changes in population size is important. We compared the effectiveness and cost efficiency of distance sampling and total counts. Results showed that while the population estimates were relatively similar, total counts under estimated population size but were more precise, had a greater power to detect changes in population size and required only 12% of the resources needed compared to distance sampling. We suggest that investing in initial comparisons of the effectiveness and costs of different methods can result in significant cost savings, without jeopardizing the effectiveness of a survey. © Inter-Research 2012.

Kendall C.J.,Princeton University | Virani M.Z.,Ornithology Section | Hopcraft J.G.C.,Frankfurt Zoological Society | Bildstein K.L.,Acopian Center for Conservation Learning | Rubenstein D.I.,Princeton University
PLoS ONE | Year: 2014

The ongoing global decline in vulture populations raises major conservation concerns, but little is known about the factors that mediate scavenger habitat use, in particular the importance of abundance of live prey versus prey mortality. We test this using data from the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem in East Africa. The two hypotheses that prey abundance or prey mortality are the main drivers of vulture habitat use provide alternative predictions. If vultures select areas based only on prey abundance, we expect tracked vultures to remain close to herds of migratory wildebeest regardless of season. However, if vultures select areas where mortality rates are greatest then we expect vultures to select the driest regions, where animals are more likely to die of starvation, and to be attracted to migratory wildebeest only during the dry season when wildebeest mortality is greatest. We used data from GSM-GPS transmitters to assess the relationship between three vulture species and migratory wildebeest in the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem. Results indicate that vultures preferentially cluster around migratory herds only during the dry season, when herds experience their highest mortality. Additionally during the wet season, Ruppell's and Lappet-faced vultures select relatively dry areas, based on Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, whereas White-backed vultures preferred wetter areas during the wet season. Differences in habitat use among species may mediate coexistence in this scavenger guild. In general, our results suggest that prey abundance is not the primary driver of avian scavenger habitat use. The apparent reliance of vultures on non-migratory ungulates during the wet season has important conservation implications for vultures in light of on-going declines in non-migratory ungulate species and use of poisons in unprotected areas. © 2014 Kendall et al.

Lowassa A.,University of Dar es Salaam | Tadie D.,Frankfurt Zoological Society | Fischer A.,Frankfurt Zoological Society | Fischer A.,James Hutton Institute
Journal of Rural Studies | Year: 2012

The role of women in natural resource use has been a recurrent theme in social scientific research, especially in relation to developing countries. In contrast to much of this literature which focuses on differences and tensions between female and male roles, we argue that the interplay between and complementarity of such gendered roles might be highly relevant in understanding contested resource use, but are often neglected. We explore here the role of women in illegal hunting, specifically bushmeat hunting in eastern Africa. Using qualitative data from two sites, lower Omo in Ethiopia and western Serengeti in Tanzania, we found that in both places women, while not actively hunting, played a strong role through a variety of verbal and non-verbal behaviours that motivated male hunting and discouraged their non-hunting. Hunting activities were highly gendered and driven by the interplay between male and female roles, which served to maintain these activities despite strong disincentives from legislation and conservation and development interventions. In contrast to the current literature on women and natural resource use, we thus found that gendered roles complemented and reinforced each other. We discuss implications for research on gender, environment and development, and for the design of conservation-oriented interventions. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.

News Article | August 31, 2016

How can ivory possibly be more important than saving an iconic species? The Great Elephant Census (GEC) is a three-year, $7 million project created to survey African elephants (Loxodonta africana). Managed by Elephants Without Borders, the immense project's report shows that elephant numbers are plummeting. The current rate of population decline is 8 percent per year, mostly thanks to poaching. Currently the savannah elephant population is estimated to be 352,271 within the 18 countries surveyed. Africa may have been home to over 20 million elephants before European colonization and 1 million as recently as the 1970s, notes the report. Many elephant carcasses were discovered in protected areas, indicating that elephants are not doing particularly well within and outside of parks. The ivory trade and consequent poaching are posing such a serious threat that experts say we are at risk of losing elephants entirely from certain parts of Africa. The census is the first-ever of its kind and is an impressive effort: Overall, 90 scientists, six non-governmental organization partners, and two advisory partners, managed by a team at Paul Allen's Vulcan Inc. collaborated in the work. These included the organizations Elephants Without Borders, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Nature Conservancy, Frankfurt Zoological Society, African Parks Network and the advisory groups Save the Elephants and the International Union for Conservation of Nature's African Elephant Specialist Group. The effort was conducted which partnered with in country park biologists, rangers, and game wardens. In figuring out the number and distribution of the continent’s remaining savanna elephants, we now have a baseline on a scale for future surveys and trend analyses that wildlife ecologists will be able to use in the effort to ensure African elephants' survival. Dr Michael Chase, the Principle Investigator on the project, says, "the results of the GEC show the necessity of action to end the African elephants' downward trajectory by preventing poaching and protecting habitat." As the report concludes, "The future of African savannah elephants ultimately depends on the resolve of governments, conservation organizations, and people to apply the GEC’s findings by fighting poaching, conserving elephant habitats, and mitigating human-elephant conflict." For more data and to see how the research was conducted, you can read the report in the journal PeerJ.

Investigators led by EWB director Mike Chase say the Pan-African survey shows that for savannah elephant populations in 15 GEC countries for which repeat counts were available, populations declined by 30 percent, or 144,000 animals, between 2007 and 2014. Billionaire philanthropist Paul G. Allen and his sister Jody Allen are the primary funders of the survey. Chase and colleagues presented results at the World Conservation Congress in Honolulu on Sept. 2, and findings were published on Sept. 1, in the peer-reviewed open access journal PeerJ. Wildlife ecologist Curt Griffin at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, with postdoctoral researcher Scott Schlossberg, are members of a research team that compiled the data, conducted statistical analyses and applied new data analysis techniques to help Chase and EWB estimate the abundance and geographic distribution of savannah elephants across Africa using the most accurate, up-to-date statistical methods to analyze the survey data. Results provide a baseline that governments and wildlife conservation organizations can use to coordinate conservation efforts. Chase was Griffin's graduate student at UMass Amherst when Chase founded the Botswana-based EWB in 2007. The GEC is the first continent-wide aerial survey of African elephants. Griffin, who visits Africa every year to conduct research with Chase and EWB, says, "We at UMass Amherst are very proud to be a key partner in this great elephant count. We continue to advocate and work hard for the conservation of elephants in the face of the slaughter they are caught in." Until now, Griffin says, there has not been a coordinated continent-wide survey of elephants, and "we really didn't know how accurate the estimates were, coming in from the various countries." For this work, EWB worked with dozens of elephant researchers, government wildlife agencies and conservation groups to conduct aerial surveys from small planes and helicopters to count elephant herds across African savannahs. These surveys covered 463,000 km, equal to flying to the moon and a quarter of the way home. Overall, 90 scientists, six non-governmental organization partners and two advisory partners collaborated in the GEC. EWB partnered with park biologists and rangers, game wardens and organizations including the International Union for Conservation of Nature's African Elephant Specialist Group, Wildlife Conservation Society, Save the Elephants, The Nature Conservancy, Frankfurt Zoological Society and African Parks Network. "An important question we wanted to answer in our research," Griffin adds, "is how many elephants are being missed by observers on aerial surveys. To answer that we did a double observer study to understand the sources of error, so we can develop more accurate estimates of elephant population numbers." Further, Schlossberg conducted unique statistical trend analyses that yielded the first quantitative model of elephant population trends across Africa. "Although these statistical tools were out there," Griffin notes, "they had never been applied before to elephant populations. Results from the GEC now provide us benchmarks to gauge if elephant conservation efforts are successful and to identify areas where more work is needed to conserve habitat and stop poaching." Overall, GEC researchers estimate the savannah elephant population is 352,271 in the 18 countries surveyed to date, representing at least 93 percent of savannah elephants in these countries. They say the rate of decline increased from 2007 to 2014. In their surveys, they sighted 84 percent of the elephants in legally protected areas compared to 16 percent in unprotected areas. However, large numbers of carcasses were counted in many protected areas, indicating that elephants are struggling both within and outside of parks. Experts say that poaching and the ivory trade pose serious threats, and if not stopped, savannah elephants could disappear from many parts of Africa. The GEC was launched in late 2013 and the first flights were in February 2014 over the Tsavo National Park in Kenya. The census has completed 18 country surveys with two countries still to be completed, organizers say. South Sudan and the Central African Republic are to be flown by the end of 2016, depending on safety conditions. Explore further: Botswana warns over elephant deaths ahead of anti-poaching summit

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