Sunday, June 30, 2013

Bats in crisis

US National Park Service has come out with excellent videos on the precarious condition of bats, titled “Bats in Crisis”. Have a look at it.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Photographic mark-recapture – A recommendation

Demographic studies of species, using the photographic mark-recapture method have made big strides as digital cameras and pattern-recognition software have improved. Photographic mark-recapture is non-invasive survey technique that is very cost effective. It comes in very handy to biologists seeking to understand spatial and temporal factors affecting a species’ survival, reproduction, and movements.
Many programmes are available to researchers for mark-recapture studies. The pattern-recognition software program called Wild-ID developed at Dartmouth College is very useful and is a free programme. The program has the lowest pattern identification error rate (less than or equal to 0.007) of any photo-identification system currently available. Wild-ID is a multi-platform application. It requires Java 1.5 or higher. (Most Mac OSX, Windows, and Linux systems satisfy this requirement. The download is the same for all systems.

For downloading the programme click HERE

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Global maps of species richness for different categories of species.

                                           Click on the map to enlarge it

Jenkins et al. have come up with a new map that will come in handy to make quick conservation decisions. Many more areas needs to be brought under protected ares category on an urgent basis.

The top row shows the richness of all species in the taxon. For birds the researchers used breeding ranges only. The middle row shows the richness of threatened species (vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered in the IUCN Red List). The bottom row shows the richness of species whose geographic ranges are smaller than the median range size for that taxon. Maps use a 10 × 10 km grid and the Eckert IV equal-area projection. Maps courtesy of Jenkins et al.

For more information have a look at the paper

Clinton N. Jenkins, Stuart L. Pimm, and Lucas N. Joppa. Global patterns of terrestrial vertebrate diversity and conservation. PNAS. 2013.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Worldwide conservation strategy for pangolins planned

Here is some good tiding for Pangolin conservation.

Pangolins found in Africa and Asia, are one of the most trafficked mammals in Asia. Thousands are illegally exported to China and Viet Nam. In an effort to stem this rot The International Union for the Conservation of Nature Species Survival Commission (IUCN-SSC) Pangolin Specialist and Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) are organizing the first ever global conference on pangolin conservation.

50 researchers from around the world are gathering in Singapore this week to define a future conservation strategy for Pangolins. The conference titled “Scaling up pangolin conservation” will run from 24th to 27th.

All eight pangolin species are protected under national and international laws. Two are listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Pangolin is a mammal of the order Pholidota. The one extant family,Manidae, has one genus, Manis, and eight species. The name, pangolin, comes from the Malay word, pengguling, which means "something that rolls up".

The eight species are
Indian pangolin (M. crassicaudata)
Chinese pangolin (M. pentadactyla) Endangered
Sunda pangolin (M. javanica) Endangered
Philippine pangolin (M. culionensis)
Giant pangolin (M. gigantea)
Ground pangolin (M. temmincki)
Tree pangolin (M. tricuspis)
Long-tailed pangolin (M. tetradactyla)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The urgent need for transportation biologists

In India when a new road or bridge project is planned, there is only perfunctory reference to impact on wildlife. An EIA (Environmental impact analysis), might be done in some cases to meet the needs of the statute books, but there is absolutely no proviso for making the roads and bridges wildlife friendly in its true sense. In several European countries, US, and Canada, in house transportation biologists are an integral part of the whole process of roads and bridges building. They see to it that roads and bridges projects avoid or circumvent sensitive wildlife habitat and help minimize and mitigate environmental impacts to streams, wetlands, and other prime wildlife habitats. Sometime exclusive wildlife bridges (ecoduct) are also built. These wildlife bridges guarantee safe crossing for wildlife in the maze of heavy traffic and cacophony of highways.

In the Netherlands, which has taken a leading role in the field of wildlife friendly roads, there are 600 tunnels to direct wildlife away from highways. Fencing is also resorted to in concert with tunnels, as good option in guiding wildlife to safe crossing structures and prevent crossing in vulnerable areas. In wildlifers’ parlance this practice is called funnelling. Animals’ use of these passages can be optimised by providing plant cover near the entrances. Reducing the plant cover along road curves and increasing it along level stretches has been found to be very effective in bringing down road kills.

I was thrilled to read recently about what Sarah Piecuch,a transportation biologist working with  New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT)  did for otters. While involved in a road a project at Melvin Brook in Clyde, New York, early in the project’s development, Sarah noticed an otter (Lontra canadensis) kill, at a project site. Her inquisitiveness led her to a large culvert in the area which was constantly filled with water. This culvert was interrupting the scent trail of the otters. Scent trail is very important in the biology of otter. The lack of an upland area forced the otters to come out of the water and travel over the road embankment to leave a scent trail. This upland travel made them vulnerable to road traffic and many were inadvertently getting killed. Sarah explained the need and ideal parameters for an upland bench to the engineers. The project engineers were delighted to take up the challenge and came up with an ingenious upland bench below the culvert. It was fruition of great team work of biologists and engineers.  Sarah identified the need and the engineers found a perfect solution. This kind of teamwork is what is needed for our roads and bridges projects and not hastily sewn up EIA.

The transportation biologists have to be involved right from the planning stages. It is easy to find solutions at the early stages.  Providing enough culverts for wildlife, to use as underpasses, could come in very handy, as topography has the greatest impact on road kills. Studies by University of Calgary researchers have found that, small animals were far less likely to get killed on sections of roads that were raised than on sections that were level with the surrounding terrain. Engineers and biologists working as a close knit team could come up with perfect solutions.

Even existing structures can be made wildlife friendly with innovative planning. Species like barn owls and cormorants very effectively use the bridges in urban scenarios. Many other birds use the bridges for perching, nesting and roosting. A transportation biologist can advise the engineer, how to take in to account the needs of the birds while repairing or painting the structures. Bridges can provide suitable day and night roosting habitat for bats.

The avenues of transportation biologists and engineers working hand in hand are multifarious. Road ecology has become an important new branch of science and has made great strides abroad. It is high time we did something along these lines in India also. The time to act is ripe, as India is on a fast track of infrastructure developments. India should not lag behind is this sphere. Mitigating interactions between roads and wildlife is going to be very important in the years to come.

 For people wanting to know more about wildlife friendly roads here is a very useful book. Safe Passages: Highways, Wildlife, and Habitat Connectivity , Edited by Jon P. Beckmann, Anthony P. Clevenger, Marcel P. Huijser and Jodi A. Hilty, published by Island Press.

The ‘why’, ‘what’ and ‘how’of monitoring for conservation

An interesting paper by Julia P.G. Jones,Gregory P. Asner, Stuart H.M. Butchart and K. Ullas Karanth

Here is a very interesting and topical paper worth perusing, by the wildlife researchers and wildlife managers. The paper is a chapter in a recent book published by Oxford University Press, UK, titled Key Topics in Conservation Biology 2; edited by David MacDonald and Katherine Wills.

Monitoring is a very important component of conservation. Monitoring gone awry can be worse than useless, as it will lead to poor decision making and divert scarce resources from other important conservation activities.

The authors contend that effective monitoring must have a clear purpose, a full understanding of ‘why’ it is being carried out and what the data are needed for.  ‘What’ should be monitored and‘how’ the monitoring should be implemented will depend on the objectives, the context and the resources available, and highlights some of the considerations which are essential if monitoring is to result in robust inference. They also stress that professional ecologists should not necessarily have a monopoly and that many types of monitoring can benefit enormously from the involvement of non-professionals. Such collaboration is essential if investment of valuable conservation resources in monitoring is to provide the maximum possible conservation benefit.

I fully agree with the observations of the authors. We need a holistic approach in monitoring, with researchers, managers and the community working hand in hand for conservation.

New Blog

Hi Guys,
              Here comes my new blog. I will be posting wildlife related materials from round the globe