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News Article | April 26, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

For species where both parents work together to raise their offspring, cooperation is key -- it's as true for birds as it is for us! A new study from The Auk: Ornithological Advances shows how pairs of Common Murres update each other on their condition so that when one partner needs a break, the other can pick up the slack. Common Murre parents trade duties throughout the day -- one stays at the nest while the other leaves to forage, hopefully coming back with a fish for the chick. Because brooding the chick requires much less energy than foraging, staying at the nest is preferable for a bird that's in poor condition. Linda Takahashi, Anne Storey, and Carolyn Walsh of Newfoundland's Memorial University, along with Sabina Wilhelm of the Canadian Wildlife Service, studied the "turn-taking ceremony" that parents perform when they switch places. They found that the time they spend preening each other provides a way for the two birds to exchange information about how they're doing, so that if one is in poor shape the other can compensate. The researchers observed 16 pairs of murres with chicks on an island off the coast of Newfoundland in summer 2009, recording their behavior when parents switched duties at the nest and capturing the birds to check their body condition. Their results show that these "nest relief" interactions take longer when one partner is especially low in body mass, suggesting that when brooders withhold preening and stall their departure, they're letting their mates know that they need more time to rest; the returning mate can then compensate by going off to forage again rather than trading places immediately. Similarly, the brooding mate might let a struggling returner take over take over at the nest even if they haven't brought back a fish. "We had been doing murre field work for years in Witless Bay studying reproductive and parental behavior, and we became intrigued with the variation that we saw among pairs in their nest relief behaviors," says Walsh. "Some nest reliefs were short and businesslike, while other nest reliefs seemed to involve a lot of interaction between the mates, and it took a long time for the mates to exchange brooding duty. When Linda Takahashi came to Memorial University as a master's degree student, we decided that her project should focus on getting the details about this very interesting variation in murre nest relief behaviors." "The roles of avian pair members have been much studied in terms of energy investment and food delivery, but we are accustomed to thinking of these problems in terms of evolutionary tradeoffs. The ways in which contributions are actually negotiated within individual pairs has, until recently, been largely overlooked," according to longtime seabird researcher Tony Gaston of Environment Canada. "Linda Takahashi's paper addresses this deficiency, and this is a field which promises to open up additional avenues of research on within-pair communication." "Turn-taking ceremonies in a colonial seabird: Does behavioral variation signal individual condition?" will be available April 26, 2017, at http://americanornithologypubs. (issue URL http://americanornithologypubs. ). About the journal: The Auk: Ornithological Advances is a peer-reviewed, international journal of ornithology that began in 1884 as the official publication of the American Ornithologists' Union, which merged with the Cooper Ornithological Society in 2016 to become the American Ornithological Society. In 2009, The Auk was honored as one of the 100 most influential journals of biology and medicine over the past 100 years.


News Article | April 26, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

FILE - In this undated file photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a Mexican gray wolf leaves cover at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro County, N.M. The Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday, April 25, 2017, lifted a preliminary injunction that had prevented the Fish and Wildlife Service from releasing more Mexican gray wolves. (Jim Clark/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via AP, File) DENVER (AP) — A federal court on Tuesday removed an obstacle to the U.S. government's plan to release more endangered wolves in New Mexico over the state's objections, but it was not clear whether additional animals would be reintroduced under the Trump administration. The Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a temporary order issued by a lower court that stopped the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from releasing more Mexican gray wolves after New Mexico refused to agree to the plan. The state Game and Fish Department is disappointed, but it will keep pursuing the case in federal court in New Mexico, where it was originally filed, spokesman Lance Cherry said. Fish and Wildlife spokesman Jeff Humphrey said the agency was still reviewing the decision. Despite the ruling, it wasn't immediately known whether wolf releases would resume. President Donald Trump has slowed or reversed other environmental initiatives since taking office in January, when the appeals court was considering the wolf case. And many Republicans in control of Congress have long objected to parts of the Endangered Species Act, which is the legal authority for re-establishing the Mexican gray wolf and other animals. Protected status under the act usually brings restrictions on ranching, mining and other activities. Only about 110 Mexican gray wolves live in the wild. They nearly disappeared in the 1970s, and the federal government added them to the endangered species list in 1976. The Fish and Wildlife Service began reintroducing them to parts of their original range in New Mexico and Arizona in 1998. New Mexico has complaints about the way the program is managed, and in 2015 it refused to issue a permit to Fish and Wildlife to release more of the predators. The agency decided to release them anyway, citing an urgent need to expand the wild population to prevent inbreeding. New Mexico officials went to court, and a federal judge temporarily blocked further releases last year while the dispute is resolved. The government appealed. The 10th Circuit says New Mexico failed to show that the state would suffer irreparable harm if more wolves were released — a requirement for such an order. "The irreparable harm comes to the ranchers and the people of New Mexico," said Caren Cowan, executive director of the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association. Wolves are known to attack livestock. "It saddens me to think that the court doesn't understand how much harm is coming to our ranching families and their livelihood," she said. Bryan Bird of Defenders of Wildlife called the ruling a victory for the wolves. He said his group works with residents who live in the wolves' range. "We can coexist with these icons of the Southwest," he said. The appeals court didn't address other questions, including whether New Mexico would likely win in a lawsuit over the dispute. Wolf reintroduction programs are always contentious because of the threat the predators pose to livestock and wild game favored by hunters. Last year, the Interior Department's internal watchdog said Fish and Wildlife had not fulfilled its obligation to remove Mexican gray wolves that preyed on pets and cattle. New Mexico officials also complain that federal officials tripled the target number of wolves in the wild — from about 100 to 300 — without sufficient justification. Separately, a federal court in Tucson, Arizona, will hear arguments Wednesday in a lawsuit from two environmental groups alleging the Fish and Wildlife Service imposed harmful limits on the size and range of the Mexican gray wolf population. Follow Dan Elliott at http://twitter.com/DanElliottAP. His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/dan%20elliott.


News Article | April 17, 2017
Site: co.newswire.com

Connectivity -- it's a hot buzzword when it comes to wildlife. But what does it really mean? At The Vital Ground Foundation, connectivity shapes our organizational vision. A dozen years ago, when the foundation moved from Utah to Montana and became a working land trust focused on grizzly bear recovery, it was connectivity that drew us quickly to the Swan Valley. "We don't need to save thousands and thousands of acres," explains biologist and Vital Ground trustee Douglas Chadwick. "We just need to save hundreds of acres in exactly the right places." South of Canada, grizzlies once lived from Glacier National Park to the Sierra Madre of Mexico and from the Olympic Peninsula to the Dakota prairie. But the development of the West during the 19th and 20th centuries confined the big bruins to the region's remotest corners and eventually pushed them near extinction. Recovery efforts now leave an estimated 1,800 grizzlies in the Lower 48, but the species remains confined to just four percent of its historic range across the American West. That's a problem if your goal is to ensure the survival of the iconic silver-tipped bears as an integral part of our regional heritage, as a birthright for future generations of Montanans, Idahoans, Washingtonians and Wyomingites. Preserving that legacy is Vital Ground's mission-and it's why connectivity looms as our watchword. It's All About Genes "We have a native species on the landscape that we have reduced to exceedingly low population levels," says Wayne Kasworm, a longtime biologist for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. "Bears need secure habitat that provides opportunities for them to move across the landscape without bumping into too many people along the way." While large cores of protected habitat anchor grizzly populations in the Yellowstone and Glacier-Bob Marshall areas, these footholds are not enough to provide long-term security for the species. The key to connectivity, Kasworm explains, is genetic diversity, the thing that prevents the downward spiral of inbreeding. That only happens when reproductive bears can move between previously isolated subpopulations. "When I think about linkages," he says, "it's not only about the ability of the animal to get there, but to get there and reproduce, so we have genetic linkage as well." In western Montana, the Glacier-Bob Marshall bears now range into the Rattlesnake Mountains and south of Highway 200. At roughly 1,000 animals, this Northern Continental Divide subpopulation is the largest south of Canada. The expanse of its range has everything to do with connectivity. Highlighting that success is the Swan, where conservation efforts have linked Mission Mountain habitat with the larger core of the Bob Marshall Complex. Vital Ground began chipping in with a permanent conservation easement on Bud Moore's Coyote Forest property in 2005. Eight easements later, we've helped create a patchwork of protected land in the valley, a corridor that maintains working landscapes while letting bears and other wildlife move between the mountains with much less risk of conflict. "We are continuing the concept of maintaining vital wildlife as well as productive private forests," says Bill Moore, Bud's son and one of the participating landowners in Vital Ground's Elk Flats Neighborhood Project near Condon. "We are striking a sustainable balance in our part of the Upper Swan Valley." Balance is harder to find elsewhere in the state. Although Northern Continental Divide bears periodically venture west of Whitefish and Highway 93, lack of an established habitat link keeps them genetically isolated from their neighbors in the Cabinet-Yaak recovery zone. Connecting these populations stands as a major goal in ensuring survival for bears west of the Glacier region. Even within the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem, the developed Kootenai River Valley splits bears into two struggling subpopulations, one in the Yaak Valley and another in the Cabinet Mountains. With no evidence of breeding females passing between the two-or between the Cabinets and the Selkirk Mountains of the Idaho-Washington-British Columbia borderlands-the Cabinet and Yaak subpopulations hover around just 25 bears apiece, according to Kasworm's latest estimates. "We want to see linkage occur where bears move in naturally," Kasworm says. "We've documented a couple of instances of males getting into the Cabinets from either the Selkirks or the Yaak, and that's certainly a good sign, but ultimately we need reproduction because that's where we get genetic change." With recent DNA sampling showing inbreeding among the Cabinet and Yaak grizzlies, Vital Ground sees the region as ground zero for building connectivity. We've recently purchased two properties in the Kootenai Valley near Troy and our latest project seeks to conserve land along the river, creating a fully protected habitat corridor that links mountainous U.S. Forest Service lands on either side of the valley. But the long-term vision of grizzly stability extends far beyond western Montana. Across the Clark Fork Valley from Missoula and the Rattlesnake Mountains, the sprawling Selway-Bitterroot-Frank Church complex offers several million acres of prime protected bear habitat but the linkages are too weak for any grizzlies to have settled into recorded residency there. Meanwhile, recent sightings show silvertips moving west from Yellowstone into the Big Hole Valley near Wisdom, a promising sign that linking both Yellowstone and Glacier bears to the Selway-Bitterroot stands as a realistic goal. And to the west, in the North Cascades of Washington, a new proposal would gradually reintroduce grizzlies to that ecosystem, a large rugged wilderness anchored by a national park and one that might eventually link to the Selkirks, less than a hundred miles to the east. At a time when the West's political discourse blares with threats of public land transfer, connectivity goals for grizzlies may seem like an environmental pipedream. But Vital Ground and other private-land conservation groups know that it's not, that the template is before us to establish those key corridors that will make a much broader difference. With the Swan Valley for inspiration, we are committed to working with landowners across the region who want to join in our connective vision, saving places not just for bears but for elk and lynx and bull trout and people alike. Join us today in imagining a future that leaves room for all the diverse species and traditions that color our treasured heritage. Matt Hart is a Wyss Conservation Scholar in the Environmental Studies graduate program at the University of Montana and a communications intern at Vital Ground. To learn more and get involved, visit vitalground.org.


News Article | April 23, 2017
Site: www.prnewswire.com

Via the live-streaming cameras on dceaglecam.org, it became apparent to worldwide viewers that DC4 was in trouble and distressed, and that a human-coordinated rescue could significantly decrease the chance of serious injury to the eaglet's leg. The non-profit American Eagle Foundation (AEF) and the U.S. National Arboretum immediately cooperated with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Ex-Cel Tree Experts to plan the removal of the eaglet from the nest. "Typically when something goes awry in a wild eagle nest, we don't even know about it and nature simply takes its course," says AEF President Al Cecere. "In this case, however, we could all clearly see how much the eaglet was struggling and how human intervention might make the difference between life and death. We had the power in our hands to help, so that's what we did." After being retrieved and lowered from the tree by professional arborists Matt Morrison & Marty Levine, the eaglet was initially assessed on the ground by US Fish & Wildlife Service biologist Craig Koppie (also an experienced tree climber). It then received further examination by veterinarian Samantha Sander at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, who truly gave the eaglet the "presidential treatment!" A physical check-up and radiograph revealed no permanent damage to DC4's leg, with the only visible signs being a slight abrasion and swelling. Overall, the eaglet received an acceptable health report and was approved by the veterinarian to be placed back into its nest. DC4 was successfully returned to its nest at the Arboretum on April 21st at around 5pm EDT. Mr. President, The First Lady, and DC5 welcomed DC4 back home, safe and sound! The entire process of freeing the eaglet's lodged/stuck leg, getting it checked out/radiographed, and then returning it to the nest took less than 24 hours. Sue Greeley with USNA helped facilitate the entire process at the Arboretum, while AEF President Al Cecere guided and monitored the effort virtually by phone and internet from Tennessee. The nest cam footage of these events can be seen on the AEF's Facebook & Youtube pages. "We are extremely grateful for all USFWS, AEF, USNA, Ex-Cel, & Maryland Zoo staff and volunteers who readily responded to this emergency situation and helped make this a quick, safe and successful rescue effort," says Cecere. In 2015, the American Eagle Foundation (AEF) staff traveled to D.C. to install state-of-the-art cameras, infrared lighting, and other related equipment in-and-around the nest tree with the help of volunteers and experienced tree arborists and climbers. This past year, the AEF added microphones near the nest to further enhance the viewing experience, and a team of arborists and eagle experts affixed natural tree limbs beneath the nest to provide added support. The USDA's U.S. National Arboretum ran a half-mile of fiber optic cable to the cameras' ground control station, which connects the cameras and microphones to the Internet. The entire system is powered by a large mobile solar array (containing several deep cycle batteries) that was designed and built by students and staff from Alfred State College, SUNY College of Technology and was partially funded by the Department of Energy and Environment. USNA has implemented a backup generator that will kick-on if prolonged inclement weather causes the solar array to provide insufficient power to the system. In 2016, APEX Electric Inc. (Kenmore, Washington) traveled to D.C. to assist the AEF in successfully installing audio equipment in and around the tree. The AEF uses Piksel to stream the video images to viewers around the world, and AEF volunteers are trained and coordinated to pan, tilt and zoom the cams, as well as educate the public via LIVE chats while viewers watch the eagles via the cams on the Internet. To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/rescued-eaglet-returned-to-national-arboretum-nest-in-washington-dc-300443927.html


A newly completed project in a remote corner of southwestern Ontario is being hailed as a landmark achievement in the protection of at-risk species and a model for other communities around the world seeking to reduce the number of animals killed on roads that run through fragile ecosystems. For decades, the causeway linking Lake Erie's Long Point peninsula with mainland Ontario was among the deadliest for threatened and endangered reptiles. Researchers estimate that, since 1979, as many as 10,000 animals per year -- representing more than 100 species of reptiles, amphibians, mammals and birds -- were killed by traffic on this 3.6 km stretch of two-lane road. The causeway separates Long Point Bay and the marshy wetlands of Big Creek National Wildlife Area, all part of a large UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. While amphibians were by far the most common casualties, the biggest concern was the number of dead reptiles, particularly at-risk and endangered species such as Blanding's turtles, snapping turtles, Eastern foxsnakes and others. In 2003, the carnage earned the Long Point Causeway the notoriety of 4th place on a list of the world's top turtle road mortality sites (after two sites in Florida and one in Montana). The Long Point Causeway Improvement Project has changed all that, dramatically reducing the incidence of fatal interactions between vehicles and wildlife by installing special fencing and culverts, and through public awareness campaigns and signage. Launched at a public meeting of concerned residents and community groups in 2006, the work has taken 10 years and cost CDN$ 2.7 million, funded by local groups, the Ontario government, the Canadian government and even a US environmental foundation. "With most of the causeway now fully fenced, the average number of turtles venturing onto the road has dropped by 89 per cent and snake numbers are down 28 per cent," said Chantel Markle, a McMaster University biologist who led a research project that analyzed historic and current road mortality data to evaluate the impact of the protection measures. The study is published in the journal Wildlife Society Bulletin (wildlife.org/publications/wsb). Markle and her co-investigators also studied wildlife activity in several aquatic and terrestrial culverts - special tunnels of different sizes and materials constructed under the causeway to allow the natural movement of turtles, snakes and other animals. "The success story documented in our study is very important because it offers a model that can be used and adapted in other areas where road mortality threatens important wetlands biodiversity," said co-investigator Scott Gillingwater, a species at risk biologist with the Upper Thames Valley Conservation Authority. By comparing historic and current data on road reptile counts, the team showed that while fully fenced sections of the causeway showed dramatic reductions in roadkill, stretches where only partial fencing was possible - to permit access to private property, for example - were the same as -- and in some places worse than -- unfenced sections. Using motion-activated and time-lapse cameras as well as passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags with stationery aerials, the research team also confirmed that the various types of culverts, also called "eco-passages," were being used by several turtle species - Blanding's turtles, northern map turtles, snapping turtles and midland painted turtles. They also fitted 15 male and 15 female Blanding's turtles with radio transmitters and learned that their home range overlapped with different sections of the causeway. Built in the 1920s by the local community to create land access to the beaches on Long Point, the causeway has presented a near century-old hazard for turtles needing a place to lay eggs (in June, up to 30-40 eggs per female), to reach summer habitat, and to find winter hibernation sites. Often female turtles, which only reach reproductive age in their teens, use the gravel shoulders for nesting, making them and their hatchlings especially susceptible to cars. Weighing up to 30 kg with a shell up to half a meter long, the snapping turtle is the most common species at Long Point and Canada's largest freshwater turtle. Omnivores, they feed on aquatic plants and invertebrates, as well as fish, frogs, birds and small mammals. They also eat dead animals, helping to keep waterways clean. Seldom seen, the turtles spend the day buried in mud. Over the winter, they burrow into the bottom of the pond and become dormant. Though they can live up to 90 years or more, few survive to adulthood. Scientists from the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS), which manages the Big Creek National Wildlife Area, had been studying road mortality on the causeway since the 1970s. Disturbingly, in one study researchers watching from a blind found that almost 3% of drivers swerved deliberately to hit a rubber turtle or snake placed on the centre line of the causeway. Since the 1990s, Paul Ashley, of the Canadian Wildlife Service, and Scott Gillingwater, a herpetologist / wildlife biologist, had both been working in the Long Point region and monitoring the effects of the Causeway on reptiles. They combined efforts to look at opportunities to limit the high rates of wildlife mortality and initiated a dialogue between stakeholders in 2005. At a 2006 meeting of Long Point community groups, biologists, and representatives of the CWS and other federal, provincial and local government agencies, a plan to address the carnage began to take shape. "We all agreed that it was time to put an end to the slaughter," said Rick Levick, a veteran Long Point cottager who became the coordinator of the Long Point Causeway Improvement Project. Local organizations provided start-up funding which the steering committee used to secure government funding for a feasibility study. "There were two objectives - the specific goal of reducing the reptile road kill and the broader ecological goal of reconnecting Big Creek marsh to the bay," said Levick. "Both are important to restoring the health of this world-renowned ecosystem." The construction of exclusion fencing began in 2008 and two years later, most of the causeway was fenced, despite daunting challenges presented by the marsh and lake shore conditions. Soon, overall reptile road kill numbers had fallen by half and by 60 per cent for important species-at-risk reptiles. Not everyone in Long Point was impressed. A small group of opponents calling themselves The Friends of the Causeway fought the project from the outset and raised many objections during the environmental assessment process that preceded the start of the next phase - construction of the culverts or "eco-passages." "There was a lot of misinformation but their main argument was that the cost of the work would be added to the local tax bill, which was not the case," said Levick. "Norfolk County's actual cash contribution has only been about three per cent of the $2.7 million we have raised from many sources." In the end, the friends of the reptiles prevailed, the remainder of the project was approved, funding was secured and the first three turtle tunnels - two small terrestrial culverts and a large aquatic culvert - were installed in 2012. Over the next four years, nine more were built with the 12th and last installed in January 2017. Reptile road mortality has decreased by nearly 90 per cent. "At many stages during the project, we have found ourselves at the leading edge of the both the science and technology in this field," said Levick. "For example, we have experimented with a number of different types of fencing materials and fence designs to come up with solutions that are effective in the different environments found along the causeway." The project has identified an ideal, affordable fencing material made of thick black recycled plastic, as well as a culvert design made of a polymer-concrete material that offers both the light and warmth (relative to regular concrete) needed for the turtles to enter. Where possible the culverts were installed no more than 150 meters apart, based on studies that showed 75 meters to be the rough limit of a turtle's perseverance. Studies had also shown that cold-blooded turtles are sometimes reluctant to use certain types of culverts, so a number of designs were used -- terrestrial, aquatic, large, medium and small. This diversity of culverts proved successful. A trick introduced where fencing had to be interrupted (eg. where it met private property) involved bending the end of the fence into a U-shape to at least turn turtles around and point them in a safe direction. "We had to think like a turtle," said Levick. "Now we get approaches from other conservation and environmental organizations and government agencies that want to know how we overcame the many challenges involved in a project like this. Basically, our work became one long running experiment to find solutions to the problems we encountered that we could share with others." Levick said that while installing the fencing and culverts really made a difference, it was also important to change drivers' attitudes and behaviour towards wildlife crossing the road. "We've learned that if you install a 'Turtles Crossing' sign and leave it there all year, people eventually stop noticing it - it just blends into the background," he said. "Instead we install a large electronic message board at the beginning of spring warning drivers to watch for turtles on the road. We now leave the sign up from May until September and it has been much more effective." Levick said that motorists crossing the causeway are much more turtle conscious now. "It's quite common now for people to stop and help a turtle across the road rather than run over it. That makes a big difference too, not just here on the causeway but on any road where wildlife wander onto the road." Long Point residents Jan and John Everett have also supported public awareness by engaging kids. Originally created by Jan as a birthday gift for her husband - a veteran at helping turtles to safety, saving as many as 30 per year with a large shovel stowed in his car trunk - the cartoon-illustrated story became a local hit with children. The retired couple have a long list of school visits lined up for readings and discussion of the book, "Never Give Up," the sale of which (available for $10.50 at http://longpointcauseway. ) now helps raise funds to maintain Long Point's culverts and fencing. Insurance industry statistics show that in the US alone drivers report hitting one million to two million animals every year - figures that don't include millions of unreported collisions with smaller animals like turtles, raccoons or squirrels (although there are documented cases of a turtle smashing through a windshield after being launched by a passing car's tire). According to recent figures reported by The Guardian, the last 16 months have seen 2,213 reported dead animals on English highways. Figures for last year included 10 polecats, 36 swans, three ferrets, a pig and a wallaby. Eighty-five animals were "deemed too squished to identify." Even if one were to remove all other threats faced by turtles across North America, in some areas road mortality alone would still result in turtle population declines and eventual losses. Said Gillingwater: "Our perception of abundance in natural wildlife populations is biased by a shifting baseline, one that continues to change with each successive human generation. Because of this, we often lose sight of the true losses to our natural world." "As a result of extensive human impact on the landscape, freshwater turtle and snake abundances today represent only a fraction of former numbers. Reptiles face numerous threats in Ontario, with turtles being particularly susceptible to population declines." "Increases in adult mortality can lead to outright losses of populations," he said. "Turtles have a very late age of maturity (up to 20 years before some species can lay their first clutch of eggs), very few eggs survive through incubation, and very few hatchlings ever reach maturity." "These biological limitations were not an issue before human settlement, but as people have spread out further across the landscape, the numbers of adult turtles has declined, fewer eggs hatch, and even fewer hatchlings reach maturity. Furthermore, the importance of older animals in a population cannot be over-stated, as turtles many decades old are often the most reproductively successful in the population." "Unfortunately," he noted, "road mortality does not discriminate by age."


Wildlife in South Sudan, which is home to the world's second-largest land mammal migration, includes species of global importance, such as elephant, giraffe, lion, and hippopotamus. WCS conducted the aerial survey in 2015-16 as part of a project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and part of the Great Elephant Census, funded by philanthropist and Microsoft cofounder Paul G. Allen. WCS previously conducted aerial surveys of South Sudan's wildlife and protected areas in 2007, 2008, 2009-10 and 2013. The 2015-16 aerial survey covered the areas of Boma, Badingilo, Nimule, Southern, and Shambe National Parks, and the proposed Loelle protected area. A combination of aerial survey methods (systematic surveys and recce surveys) were employed with a total of 17,934 km flown (98 hours of flight time) and an estimated 20,845 sq. km surveyed systematically. The survey confirmed a minimum of 730 elephants in the surveyed zone. However, about 50 percent of previously documented important wildlife areas—including the northern part of South Sudan's vast wetland, the Sudd—were inaccessible due to conflict, preventing a comprehensive assessment. Earlier surveys and applied research conducted by WCS and the South Sudan Wildlife Service estimated an elephant population of some 2,300 in the country prior to the civil war, which began in December 2013, down from an estimated 79,000 in the 1970's. Elephants face continued and expanded threats. Giraffe are in very low numbers—down from some 13,000 in the early 1980's to only hundreds remaining now and at risk of local extinction. Migratory tiang and other antelopes are vulnerable due to annual migration between Badingilo National Park and the Sudd. The survey documented northern giraffe Kordofan subspecies in Shambe National Park area and hippopotamus and Uganda kob in Nimule National Park. Endangered northern giraffe Nubian subspecies, reedbuck, common eland, Beisa oryx, ostrich and wild dog were observed in Badingilo, Boma, and Loella areas. The white-eared kob and Mongalla gazelle were found to be the most dominant species in Badingilo and Boma. Important transboundary conservation linkages between South Sudan and neighbouring Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda were also documented. Hon. Jemma Nunu Kumba, Minister, Ministry of Wildlife Conservation and Tourism stated: "These surveys are important for our country as they show the world that South Sudan is still home for many iconic wildlife species. However, some of these species have become endangered. I want to appeal to the people of South Sudan to take special care in protecting these endangered animals so that the next generation will continue to benefit from their presence. These animals serve and will serve as an import source of ecotourism for the country." "The United States Government is supporting wildlife conservation in South Sudan because it is a priceless resource for the people of South Sudan and our shared global heritage," said USAID South Sudan Mission Director Jeffrey Bakken. "Our assistance has helped provide employment opportunities, helped resolve local conflicts and promoted knowledge sharing with local communities about the importance and benefits of protecting their wildlife heritage. South Sudan's wildlife and natural resources can directly contribute to peace and sustainable development." Said Cristián Samper, WCS President and CEO: "There is still hope for wildlife in South Sudan even as conflict rages on. But there must be actions taken, including strengthening protected areas, to ensure the protection of South Sudan's natural heritage which is vital for wildlife and communities alike. Healthy wildlife populations and well managed Parks can improve livelihoods and security, and stabilize the region."


The first aerial assessment of the impact of South Sudan's current civil war on the country's wildlife and other natural resources shows that significant wildlife populations have so far survived, but poaching and commercial wildlife trafficking are increasing, as well as illegal mining, timber harvesting and charcoal production, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) said in a report issued today. Wildlife in South Sudan, which is home to the world's second-largest land mammal migration, includes species of global importance, such as elephant, giraffe, lion, and hippopotamus. WCS conducted the aerial survey in 2015-16 as part of a project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and part of the Great Elephant Census©, funded by philanthropist and Microsoft cofounder Paul G. Allen. WCS previously conducted aerial surveys of South Sudan's wildlife and protected areas in 2007, 2008, 2009-10 and 2013. The 2015-16 aerial survey covered the areas of Boma, Badingilo, Nimule, Southern, and Shambe National Parks, and the proposed Loelle protected area. A combination of aerial survey methods (systematic surveys and recce surveys) were employed with a total of 17,934 km flown (98 hours of flight time) and an estimated 20,845 sq. km surveyed systematically. The survey confirmed a minimum of 730 elephants in the surveyed zone. However, about 50 percent of previously documented important wildlife areas -- including the northern part of South Sudan's vast wetland, the Sudd -- were inaccessible due to conflict, preventing a comprehensive assessment. Earlier surveys and applied research conducted by WCS and the South Sudan Wildlife Service estimated an elephant population of some 2,300 in the country prior to the civil war, which began in December 2013, down from an estimated 79,000 in the 1970's. Elephants face continued and expanded threats. Giraffe are in very low numbers -- down from some 13,000 in the early 1980's to only hundreds remaining now and at risk of local extinction. Migratory tiang and other antelopes are vulnerable due to annual migration between Badingilo National Park and the Sudd. The survey documented northern giraffe Kordofan subspecies in Shambe National Park area and hippopotamus and Uganda kob in Nimule National Park. Endangered northern giraffe Nubian subspecies, reedbuck, common eland, Beisa oryx, ostrich and wild dog were observed in Badingilo, Boma, and Loella areas. The white-eared kob and Mongalla gazelle were found to be the most dominant species in Badingilo and Boma. Important transboundary conservation linkages between South Sudan and neighbouring Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda were also documented. Hon. Jemma Nunu Kumba, Minister, Ministry of Wildlife Conservation and Tourism stated: "These surveys are important for our country as they show the world that South Sudan is still home for many iconic wildlife species. However, some of these species have become endangered. I want to appeal to the people of South Sudan to take special care in protecting these endangered animals so that the next generation will continue to benefit from their presence. These animals serve and will serve as an import source of ecotourism for the country." "The United States Government is supporting wildlife conservation in South Sudan because it is a priceless resource for the people of South Sudan and our shared global heritage," said USAID South Sudan Mission Director Jeffrey Bakken. "Our assistance has helped provide employment opportunities, helped resolve local conflicts and promoted knowledge sharing with local communities about the importance and benefits of protecting their wildlife heritage. South Sudan's wildlife and natural resources can directly contribute to peace and sustainable development." Said Cristián Samper, WCS President and CEO: "There is still hope for wildlife in South Sudan even as conflict rages on. But there must be actions taken, including strengthening protected areas, to ensure the protection of South Sudan's natural heritage which is vital for wildlife and communities alike. Healthy wildlife populations and well managed Parks can improve livelihoods and security, and stabilize the region."


JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN, May 24, 2017 -- The first aerial assessment of the impact of South Sudan's current civil war on the country's wildlife and other natural resources shows that significant wildlife populations have so far survived, but poaching and commercial wildlife trafficking are increasing, as well as illegal mining, timber harvesting and charcoal production, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) said in a report issued today. Wildlife in South Sudan, which is home to the world's second-largest land mammal migration, includes species of global importance, such as elephant, giraffe, lion, and hippopotamus. WCS conducted the aerial survey in 2015-16 as part of a project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and part of the Great Elephant Census©, funded by philanthropist and Microsoft cofounder Paul G. Allen. WCS previously conducted aerial surveys of South Sudan's wildlife and protected areas in 2007, 2008, 2009-10 and 2013. The 2015-16 aerial survey covered the areas of Boma, Badingilo, Nimule, Southern, and Shambe National Parks, and the proposed Loelle protected area. A combination of aerial survey methods (systematic surveys and recce surveys) were employed with a total of 17,934 km flown (98 hours of flight time) and an estimated 20,845 sq. km surveyed systematically. The survey confirmed a minimum of 730 elephants in the surveyed zone. However, about 50 percent of previously documented important wildlife areas -- including the northern part of South Sudan's vast wetland, the Sudd -- were inaccessible due to conflict, preventing a comprehensive assessment. Earlier surveys and applied research conducted by WCS and the South Sudan Wildlife Service estimated an elephant population of some 2,300 in the country prior to the civil war, which began in December 2013, down from an estimated 79,000 in the 1970's. Elephants face continued and expanded threats. Giraffe are in very low numbers--down from some 13,000 in the early 1980's to only hundreds remaining now and at risk of local extinction. Migratory tiang and other antelopes are vulnerable due to annual migration between Badingilo National Park and the Sudd. The survey documented northern giraffe Kordofan subspecies in Shambe National Park area and hippopotamus and Uganda kob in Nimule National Park. Endangered northern giraffe Nubian subspecies, reedbuck, common eland, Beisa oryx, ostrich and wild dog were observed in Badingilo, Boma, and Loella areas. The white-eared kob and Mongalla gazelle were found to be the most dominant species in Badingilo and Boma. Important transboundary conservation linkages between South Sudan and neighbouring Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda were also documented. Hon. Jemma Nunu Kumba, Minister, Ministry of Wildlife Conservation and Tourism stated: "These surveys are important for our country as they show the world that South Sudan is still home for many iconic wildlife species. However, some of these species have become endangered. I want to appeal to the people of South Sudan to take special care in protecting these endangered animals so that the next generation will continue to benefit from their presence. These animals serve and will serve as an import source of ecotourism for the country." "The United States Government is supporting wildlife conservation in South Sudan because it is a priceless resource for the people of South Sudan and our shared global heritage," said USAID South Sudan Mission Director Jeffrey Bakken. "Our assistance has helped provide employment opportunities, helped resolve local conflicts and promoted knowledge sharing with local communities about the importance and benefits of protecting their wildlife heritage. South Sudan's wildlife and natural resources can directly contribute to peace and sustainable development." Said Cristián Samper, WCS President and CEO: "There is still hope for wildlife in South Sudan even as conflict rages on. But there must be actions taken, including strengthening protected areas, to ensure the protection of South Sudan's natural heritage which is vital for wildlife and communities alike. Healthy wildlife populations and well managed Parks can improve livelihoods and security, and stabilize the region."


News Article | May 26, 2017
Site: motherboard.vice.com

One of Rick Levick's earliest memories is seeing two smooshed snapping turtles along a causeway that cuts through this at-risk reptile's wetland habitat, Lake Erie's Long Point peninsula in southern Ontario, where he's been cottaging since 1956. In 2006, he helped launch a fight to save these critters—and after ten long years, it's a stunning success in protecting animals and their habitats, one that came from the grassroots. The Long Point Causeway, which allows tourists and cottagers access to Lake Erie's famous sandy beaches, was constructed in the 1920s. Surveys performed by the Canadian Wildlife Service indicate that, since 1979, there have been years where about 10,000 animals were killed by cars zooming along this 3.6 kilometre (two-mile) stretch of road. It's right on the border of the Big Creek National Wildlife Area, which is a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. "This whole project came together when some concerned citizens called a meeting and presented the problem to a group representing all kinds of different community organizations and government agencies," Levick told Motherboard in a phone call. "'We've been running over turtles for years,so why bother?' That's probably what they said before the buffalo disappeared." That was the beginning of a remarkable effort described in a study published today in the Wildlife Society Bulletin. The paper, by McMaster University biologist Chantel Markle, shows that road mortality of endangered reptiles has gone down 89 percent after fencing and culverts (dug-out tunnels that allow the turtles access to the sandy beaches where they lay their eggs) were installed along the Long Point Causeway. The final culvert was installed this January. "It was a problem we were all aware of. If you lived in the Long Point area and if you were a cottager like myself, you've seen turtles killed on the road for years," said Levick. Between the years 2008 and 2010, 6,000 meters of fencing was installed along the roadway. The area is home to many threatened and endangered creatures, like the Blanding's turtle, the ribbonsnake, and the snapping turtle. These critters don't just face threat from road mortality: it's illegal to harm, collect, buy, or sell them. The team who built the tunnels and fences to protect these animals have even kept many specifics under wraps, to avoid tipping off potential poachers. This has been successful so far, but it wasn't all smooth sailing. "We did have some opposition," said Levick. "It was people very skeptical that we could do anything that said: 'Well we've been running over turtles for years, and they're still here, so why bother?' Of course, that's probably what they said just before the buffalo disappeared." Other residents were worried about the cost of the project, which ended up being about $2.7 million spread out over ten years. But Levick and his group found creative ways to fund the effort, with grants from Environment Canada and the US National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. An illustrated children's book by a local resident, called Never Give Up, has also helped raise funds. Only a small portion of the cost came from local coffers. Read More: Millions of Canadian Lakes Could Hold Clues About Ancient Life These turtles can live for up to 90 years, so it's hard to quantify right now exactly how much the population has bounced back. But the average number of turtles heading onto the road is down by 89 percent, and snakes are down by 28 percent. Markle hopes that these techniques can be brought into other areas that threaten local wildlife. She told me the trial and error that this one community went through—a decade of effort, and a price tag of $2.7 million—can save others similar time and effort in the future. The study also helped discover "how best to monitor this type of work," Markle explained. "How many years you should be doing it for? What type of equipment to monitor the culverts with?" Markle sees the Long Point project as a sort of citizen science that gets results. The community embraced the efforts, reaching out the to the research team when they observed turtles on their yard and properties. "It was a really great opportunity to meet the local people as well as the tourists who are coming in and enjoying the trails, and checking out the park and the marsh," she explained. "We would get to talk to them and share our work on a day-to-day, person-to-person basis, which was amazing." Now, with all this work, there's a lot more harmony between the human and animal residents of Long Point peninsula, a harmony that can be shared with others. Subscribe to Science Solved It, Motherboard's new show about the greatest mysteries that were solved by science.


News Article | May 12, 2017
Site: www.marketwired.com

Discovering Biodiversity Even at the Heart of the Nation's Capital OTTAWA, ON--(Marketwired - May 12, 2017) - Next May 16, right at Parliament Hill itself, comes the launch of a new cross-Canada initiative, BioBlitz Canada 150, one of the Canada 150 Signature Projects. Coordinated by the Canadian Wildlife Federation and more than 60 partner organizations, this series of BioBlitz events will reach thousands of Canadians from sea to sea to sea in a celebration of our wild natural heritage. The launch will take a "nature selfie" of the Hill, outdoors, in habitat that lives on at this historic site. A select all-party squad of parliamentarians, some of whom are accomplished scientists in their own right, will team up with expert naturalists and head out to demonstrate what a BioBlitz is. Before media representatives and a film crew, they will have 45 minutes to survey a section along the base of the wooded slopes and the riverside, in a friendly race to list all the living species they can see, hear or reach. "This fascinating project will help us raise our environmental awareness," said the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage. "Let's take this opportunity to celebrate Canada 150 by connecting with Canada's natural beauty and learning more about Canada's wild species -- a priceless resource." "BioBlitz Canada 150 calls all citizens to be citizen-scientists this year," added Rick Bates, CEO of the Canadian Wildlife Federation. "Canadians, like our parliamentarians, range from very expert to just getting to know our wildlife better. But everyone can truly contribute real scientific knowledge in 2017 for the future of Canada's natural heritage." Leading the way, Senator Rosa Galvez (Independent) and MPs Will Amos (Liberal), Richard Cannings (NDP), Elizabeth May (Green) and Robert Sopuck (Conservative) will show how Canadians everywhere can come together too in 2017 to explore Canada's rich biodiversity. In 2017, 35 official BioBlitz events across the country will include 5 flagships in Regina, Toronto, Vancouver, Quebec City and Halifax, with 20 community celebrations and science activities, as well as 10 specialized science-intensive surveys by taxonomic experts. The BioBlitz Canada 150 events, including the demonstration launch, will gather real scientific data, tracking the changing species mix in each area -- maybe even making discoveries of species new to science. This information will ground our knowledge of such issues as climate change and the state of our biodiversity. The results will be shared in the public domain, accessible to all citizens, wildlife managers, conservation groups, science and education institutions, and government organizations to help shape wise decisions now and into the future to help conserve these wild species for generations to come. For more information about BioBlitz Canada 150 and for the list of events, as they roll out across the country, please visit bioblitzcanada.ca. The Canadian Wildlife Federation is dedicated to fostering awareness and appreciation of our natural world. By spreading knowledge of human impacts on the environment, sponsoring research, promoting the sustainable use of natural resources, recommending legislative changes and co-operating with like-minded partners, CWF encourages a future in which Canadians can live in harmony with nature. Visit CanadianWildlifeFederation.ca for more information. BioBlitz Canada is a national partnership of leading conservation, education and research organizations with the goal to document Canada's biodiversity by connecting the public with nature in a scientist-led participatory survey of life from sea to sea to sea, and make sure this important information can be useful to current and future science, with open-source access to all. Its vision is to help Canadians learn about and connect with nature, be it in one's own backyard or the most important ecological sites in Canada. Alliance of Natural History Museums of Canada, Biodiversity Institute of Ontario, Biological Survey of Canada, Birds Studies Canada, Canadian Museum of Nature, Canadian Wildlife Service (Environment and Climate Change Canada), iNaturalist Canada, Nature Canada, Nature Conservancy of Canada, NatureServe Canada, New Brunswick Museum, Parks Canada, RARE Charitable Research Reserve, Royal Ontario Museum, Royal Saskatchewan Museum, Stanley Park Ecology Society, Toronto Zoo, Vancouver Aquarium and other organizations. About iNaturalist Canada: Launched in 2015, iNaturalist Canada is a virtual place where Canadians can record and share what they see in nature, interact with other nature watchers, and learn about Canada's wildlife. The app is run by the Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF) and the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in collaboration with iNaturalist.org and the California Academy of Sciences. Parks Canada, NatureServe Canada and CWF's Hinterland Who's Who have been key partners in the development of iNaturalist Canada and will continue to play a role in the program.

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