Classics: the Allee effect

ConservationBytes.com

220px-Vortex_in_draining_bottle_of_waterAs humanity plunders its only home and continues destroying the very life that sustains our ‘success’, certain concepts in ecology, evolution and conservation biology are being examined in greater detail in an attempt to apply them to restoring at least some elements of our ravaged biodiversity.

One of these concepts has been largely overlooked in the last 30 years, but is making a conceptual comeback as the processes of extinction become better quantified. The so-called Allee effect can be broadly defined as a “…positive relationship between any component of individual fitness and either numbers or density of conspecifics” (Stephens et al. 1999, Oikos 87:185-190) and is attributed to Warder Clyde Allee, an American ecologist from the early half of the 20th century, although he himself did not coin the term. Odum referred to it as “Allee’s principle”, and over time, the concept morphed into…

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Photo Shows Wolf Pups in Northern California

CDFW News

Media Contact:
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937
Matt Baun, USFWS Communications, (530) 841-3119

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has photographic evidence of five gray wolf pups and two adults in Northern California.

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After trail cameras recorded a lone canid in May and July, CDFW deployed additional cameras, one of which took multiple photos showing five pups, which appear to be a few months old and others showing individual adults. Because of the proximity to the original camera locations, it is likely the adult previously photographed in May and July is associated with the group of pups.

“This news is exciting for California,” said Charlton H. Bonham, CDFW Director. “We knew wolves would eventually return home to the state and it appears now is the time.”

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CDFW has designated this group (comprised of two adults and five pups) the Shasta Pack.

Wild wolves historically inhabited California, but…

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The Risk of Captive Carnivores

I would like to share with you a very interesting article written by the The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) about the risk of keeping carnivores in captivity and the bussiness behind. Many so-called NGO`S, Charities, etc which argue to work for carnivore conservation are part of one of the most unethical bussiness. Not only they keep wild animals in captivity as pets but also translocated what they call “problem animals” to new areas without monitoring the translocation, without a scientific protocol and viability study and sometimes (most of the times) without even a permit.. Please read and share the article, it would help you to identify who are this so called NGO´s and Charities:

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Picture above: Captive adult cheetah male showing submissive behavior

The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) is growing increasingly concerned about the proliferation of captive facilities holding a range of carnivores in South Africa for the sole purpose of tourism and financial gain. We urge the public to consider a few facts when visiting any of a number of these facilities that hold lions, Cheetah, Leopards, Wild Dogs, hyena and even some exotic (non-native to South Africa) species such as tigers and panthers.

* No captive carnivore facility is breeding carnivores for release into the wild, despite what they may claim. Captive carnivores do not contribute to the conservation of free roaming populations; they are not releasable and they do not form part of any registered conservation or management plan for any carnivore in Africa.

* In many carnivore facilities, petting and bottle feeding of cubs is offered, for a fee. These cubs are often taken away from their mothers to stimulate faster reproduction and provide aconstant supply of petting carnivores. Visitors pay to pet the animal and have their photograph taken with it, as well as with their slightly older tame carnivore siblings.

* These carnivores become human imprinted, they do not grow up in a natural social group, and this makes it impossible to release them into a natural habitat for the long-term. This, coupled with the disease risk posed by captive bred animals, as well as their potentially dubious genetic lineage renders them a risk for release to not only themselves, but to other free roaming carnivores.

* Frequently the situation of a ‘paying volunteer’ is exploited for further financial gain, with volunteers being told that the carnivore mothers are not able to care for their offspring and that once they are old enough, hand-raised carnivores will be returned to the wild.

* “There are approximately 6 000 captive lions in South Africa bred for a variety of economic purposes”, as opposed to approximately 2 300 free roaming in reserves and parks. [Draft Biodiversity Management Plan (BMP) for Lions, 2015]. In fact the BMP defines Captive Lions as being “lions [that] are bred exclusively to generate money. Managers actively manipulate all vital rates and demographics.”

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Picture above: Captive adult cheetah male showing both aggressive and defensive behavior

The EWT’s concern relates to the public’s understanding of the role and the purpose of captive carnivores and these facilities in carnivore conservation and we urge the public to better understand the role of these facilities as well as the risk that these animals may pose to the public:

* Captive bred carnivores are always more dangerous than their wild counterparts. They lose their fear of humans and tend to associate humans with food providers. Their social structures are heavily interfered with and their natural cycles are often manipulated. A wild carnivore will usually steer away from humans but a captive bred carnivore may not feel the need for such caution.

*  A facility breeding carnivores will usually have to sell their offspring; it stands to reason that they cannot always have cubs and youngsters if they do not sell ‘excess’ animals.

* The captive bred lion hunting industry in South Africa has increased rapidly in recent years and South Africa is increasingly supplying captive bred lion bones for export to Asian markets.

* The Department of Environmental Affairs released figures in December 2013 that stated that “South Africa officially issued permits for the export of nearly (if not more than) 1 300 dead lions from South Africa to China, Lao PDR and Viet Nam from 2011 to 2012 inclusive.” BMP, 2015.

* “The so-called ‘canned hunting’ industry for lions has also increased in recent years and the total value generated from hunting captive lions amounted to about R98 million in 2006/2007.” Lion BMP, 2015.

* This raises the question: where do all these lions come from or go to? In South Africa, a thriving canned hunting industry can, in many cases, be linked to an equally thriving industry based on cub petting and commercial captive breeding centres.

Some may argue that there is educational value in allowing people to handle wild animals. Howeverthis kind of education provides the incorrect message that wild animals exist for human entertainment, that they can be petted like domestic animals. They also do not learn much about the natural behaviour, social structure or role of free roaming carnivores.
It is important to note that captive breeding is not a conservation recommendation for any carnivore species in South Africa. Carnivores in fact breed extremely well in the right conditions and for almostall our threatened carnivore species, the conservation priorities include reducing human-wildlife conflict, securing suitable habitat, reducing illegal offtake and maintaining balanced, functioning ecosystems. Without these in place, captive breeding leads to an over-supply of non-releasable animals which often end up as trophies. We also question that any funding generated from captive carnivore breeding goes to support the conservation of free roaming carnivores.

The EWT does not allege that any specific facility is breeding carnivores for the lion bone trade or forthe practice of ‘canned hunting’ but we do urge the public that visit these facilities to ask at the very least these critical questions:
· What is the plan for the long-term future of the animals in this facility?
· Where are the cubs’ mothers?
· Why are cubs not being raised by their mothers?
· What happens to the facility’s cubs when they grow up?
· If they are released into larger wildlife areas, where are these and can the facility provide documentation to prove a viable, ethical and successful release process?
· If the facility is breeding, do they have a management plan that determines responsible husbandry and management of all stock?
· Do any of the ‘stock’ have the opportunity to live out their natural lives, or are they hunted or bred with again?
· What happens to the facility’s surplus animals?
· Can the public inspect the record books of the facility and follow the life cycle of an individual animal?
· If these animals become part of another breeding programme, for what purpose?

The EWT calls for a more active participation from the public in questioning the role of all captive carnivore facilities and the management of the animals in their care. We also call on the tourism sector to recognise the role that they may be playing in supporting some facilities that cannot account for the conservation claims that they make. Find a pdf of the article HERE

Contact: Kelly Marnewick
Carnivore Conservation Programme Manager
The Endangered Wildlife Trust
Tel: +27 11 372 3600
kellym@ewt.org.za

Yolan Friedmann
CEO
The Endangered Wildlife Trust
Tel: +27 11 372 3600
yolanf@ewt.org.za
Lillian Mlambo
Communications Manager
The Endangered Wildlife Trust
Tel: +27 11 372 3600
lillianm@ewt.org.za

To this words, I would like to add a few links:

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v425/n6957/full/425473a.html

http://www.catsg.org/cheetah/05_library/5_3_publications/I_and_J/Jule_et_al_2008_Effect_of_captive_experience_on_reintroduction_success_of_carnivores.pdf

Photo Competition

As mentioned in the inserted tweet, Our Cheetah research project is participating in a Photo Competition of Air Namibia Deutschland. Please help us and give a like to our pic on the following LINK.

Thank you for your help and support!

Large carnivores’ tough life: Lion and Buffalo fight to death

I usually hear people saying that herbivores are prey and are vulnerable to be killed at any moment. They have fear, and while grazing/browsing are vigilant and ready to run if anything similar to a predator has been spotted or smelled in the surroundings. They are seen as the weakest against the powerful predators armed with sharped claws and muscled jaws that hold an army of threatening canines.

From my point of view, the truth is slightly different. Predators do not have an easy life neither. They have to compete with other powerful and armed carnivores of their same and other species for food, space, access to reproduction, survival, etc. They also have to cope with diseases, human persecution (their biggest challenge in life!) and always have to be in good shape. They must be successful hunters which required skills and techniques that need to be constantly improved throughout their life.

Quite a difficult task too… who is afraid now?

Next pictures were published in the Daily Mail two weeks ago. They were taken by Matt Armstrong-Ford, who works as a safari guide in the South Luangwa National Park, Zambia.

I thought interesting to share them as they well illustrate the predators’ tough life.

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Desesperate six-year-old male lion suffering from mange was waiting nearby a waterhole for a meal when the lone female buffalo appeared in the scene.

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The feline is tossed around in the air as he attempts to mount his adversary.

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The amateur photographer said that the fight lasted up to an hour. The buffalo managed to shake the lion itself off several times but instead of trying to escape just stood there. Both animals stared at each other both too exhausted to move. After a few minutes of rest the lion then went for the buffalo and another ten-minute battle ensued.

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As it looked like fortune was favouring the exhausted but ravenous lion a member of the buffalo’s herd came to its aid and delivered a deadly blow.

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After this the lion managed to drag himself under a bush to lick his wounds. Both animals were covered in blood by the end. Two days later the lion succumbed to his injuries, while the buffalo’s carcass was found two weeks later having failed to fight off infection

Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2945904/Battle-death-Buffalo-lion-endure-epic-hour-long-fight-leaves-animals-fatal-injuries.html

What killed off the giant beasts, climate change or man?

By  for The Guardian,
Earth’s ‘megafauna’ vanished as tribes spread. Now palaeontologists are asking if early humans were the cause
Mammoth

Humans might have played a role in the extinction of the woolly mammoth. Photograph: Andrew Nelmerm/Getty Images/Dorling Kindersley

They were some of the strangest animals to walk the Earth: wombats as big as hippos, sloths larger than bears, four-tusked elephants, and an armadillo that would have dwarfed a VW Beetle. They flourished for millions of years, then vanished from our planet just as humans emerged from their African homeland.

It is one of palaeontology’s most intriguing mysteries and formed the core of a conference at Oxford University las 20th of march when delegates debated whether climate change or human hunters killed off the planet’s lost megafauna, as these extinct giants are known.

“Creatures like megatherium, the giant sloth, and the glyptodon, a car-sized species of armadillo, disappeared in North and South America about 10,000 years ago, when there were major changes to climates – which some scientists believe triggered their extinctions,” said Yadvinder Malhi, professor of ecosystem science at Oxford, one of the organisers of the conference, Megafauna and Ecosystem Function.

“However, it is also the case that tribes of modern humans were moving into these creatures’ territories at these times – and many of us believe it is too much of a coincidence that this happened just as these animals vanished. These creatures had endured millions of years of climate change before then, after all. However, this was the first time they had encountered humans.”

Modern humans emerged from Africa around 70,000 years ago, travelled across Asia and reached Australia 50,000 years ago, a time that coincides with a wave of extinctions of creatures there, including the diprotodon, a species of wombat that grew to the size of a modern hippopotamus. By about 14,000 years ago, humans had reached North America by crossing the land bridge that then linked Siberia and Alaska. Then they headed south.

By 10,000 years ago, Homo sapiens had conquered North and South America at a time that coincided with major megafauna extinctions, including those of the giant sloth and the glyptodon.

“We think of Africa and south-east Asia – with their lions, elephants and rhinos – as the main home of large animals today, but until very recently in our planet’s history, huge creatures thrived in Australia, North America and South America as well,” said Professor Adrian Lister of the Natural History Museum in London. “The question is: why did they disappear in the new world but survive in the old world?

“Some believe it is because large animals in Africa and south-east Asia learned to become wary of human beings and decided to avoid them at all costs. However, I also think climate change may have been involved in the Americas and Australia and that humans only finished off these big animals when they were already weakened by loss of habitats and other climate-related problems.”

The idea that humans were involved in any way in eradicating dozens of species of giant animal when we were still hunter-gatherers has important implications in any case. It was thought, until relatively recently, that it was only when humans invented agriculture several thousand years ago that our species’ relationship with the natural world become unbalanced. Until then, humans had a close affinity with nature. But if ancient hunter-gatherers played a part in wiping out these species of huge animals as long as 50,000 years ago, humanity’s supposed innate harmony with the living world appears misplaced.

More to the point, humanity is still paying the price for the disappearance of the megafauna of the Americas and Australia, the Oxford conference will hear. “There is now a lot of evidence to suggest that large herbivores like gomphotheres, a family of elephant-like animals that went extinct in South America around 9,000 years, played a key role in spreading nutrition in areas like the Amazon. They would eat fruit in the forest, including avocados, and their excrement would then fertilise other areas. That no longer happens and places like the Amazon are today affected by low nutrition as a result,” Malhi said.

Another example is provided by the giant wombat, the diprotodon, which some scientists have argued browsed bush across Australia and kept biomass levels very low. When the diprotodon vanished, plants and shrubs across the outback grew unhindered. The result was major bush fires which, archaeologists have discovered, became a serious problem just after the giant wombat disappeared from Australia.

Diprotodon optatum from the Pleistocene of Australia.

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