Leopard Immobilisation by the IZW Namibia

We are happy to share a video edited by Jackson Engel and Bowen Parrish who had the opportunity to attend one of the leopard immobilisations that our team did on the Farm Krumhuk in April 2015.
The female L065 estimated to be 6 years old and weighting 36 kg was fitted with a GPS collar within the framework of our leopard research project in the Auas Oanob Conservancy, in central Namibia.

Some essentials on coexisting with carnivores

Coexisting with carnivores can be a challenge, but their value makes it worthwhile, as Professor John Vucetich and Professor David Macdonald explain

The well-being of many human communities depends on healthy forests and grasslands. Those ecosystems can be degraded by over-browsing and over-grazing by large herbivores – moose, deer, elk, gazelles and so forth. That overconsumption is far less likely to occur when large herbivores are limited by healthy populations of large carnivore – wolves, lions, lynx, wolverine, bears, etc. Moreover, ecosystems with healthy populations of large carnivores tend to have greater levels of overall biodiversity. In a nutshell, and at risk of glossing over details, the conservation community has concluded that large carnivores have great ecological value.

Nevertheless, human communities often find it difficult to live near populations of large carnivores. Difficulties arise in three ways. First, carnivores kill domestic livestock, which provides for the well-being of some humans. Carnivores do not kill for malice; they do so because their well-being depends on it. Moreover, carnivores would naturally prey on wild animals. In many cases, however, the wild prey have been displaced by domestic livestock.

Second, carnivores kill wild prey that is also hunted by humans for subsistence or recreation. In this way, large carnivores are treated as competition to be eliminated.

Third, some species of large carnivores, on some occasions, threaten and take human lives. Important examples include human-eating lions in portions of Africa and human-eating tigers in portions of south Asia.

While these three elements of conflict are real, they are also frequently and grossly exaggerated. In the United States, for example, the impacts of wolves on livestock and hunting are very small and wolves do not pose a threat to human safety1. Yet, these concerns are an important fuel for wolf persecution.

Under threat

Genuine and perceived threats lead to humans killing carnivores at high rates through illegal poaching and legal culling and hunting. The result of all this killing is that two-thirds of the world’s carnivore species are threatened with extinction and most places do not have their native compliment of carnivores. The end point of treating this conflict – as humanity has thus far – is irreversible extinction and gross mistreatment of carnivores that manage to persist. An important element of this conflict concerns the received and oft-repeated motivation offered for why carnivores should be treated better: because they are ultimately of value to humans. The genuine wellbeing of humans is an important reason to conserve, but it is not the only one and alone it is inadequate.

European colonists and their descendants drove various large carnivores to extinction over a substantial portion of eastern North America. Britain drove its large carnivores – wolves, lynx and brown bears – to extinction centuries ago. It is difficult to mount a case that the wellbeing of those humans is worse as a result of those extinctions. When an object (think, carnivores) is valued only for its utility, its utility may go unrecognised, be outweighed by costs of maintaining it, or replaced by a substitute. This is not a denial of carnivores’ utility, but an acknowledgement of the risk in valuing something only for its utility. As such, nature’s utility is an (important, but) insufficient motivation for conservation.

Conserving carnivores

What if, carnivores are valuable, not only for advancing human wellbeing but also because they have a value in their own right? What if, we have an obligation to treat carnivores fairly and with at least some concern for their wellbeing? The response to those questions begins with the supposition that humans possess this kind of value and are entitled to this kind of treatment because we have interests (e.g., to avoid pain and to flourish). It follows that any entity with such interests would also possess this kind of value. Because all vertebrate organisms possess those interests, they also possess this kind of value and deserve this kind of treatment. The force and universality of this reasoning are indicated by the principle of ethical consistency, i.e., treat others as you would consent to be treated in the same position. Most human cultures are undergirded by some variant of this principle (e.g., golden rule). This intrinsic value of at least some non-human portions of nature is widely acknowledged – reflected by sociological evidence and many instances of laws and policies. Ethicists encapsulate these ideas by saying that carnivores (and many other forms of life) possess intrinsic value2.

Future success in carnivore conservation will depend, in part, on better understanding ideas that will foster effective and fair mitigation and adjudication of conflict, especially:

  • The extent to which conservation can be achieved through protected areas and land-sparing, opposed to land sharing3;
  • Mechanisms of socioeconomic behaviour that adversely impact carnivores. Some elements may be underappreciated (e.g., wealth inequality,4) and other elements may be favourable to conservation (e.g., tendency to increasingly embrace nature’s intrinsic value with increasing economic development,5);
  • How to subsidise coexistence by compensating those adversely affected by living with carnivores. The challenge is tailoring compensation in ways that are fair and effective, yet do not foster, e.g., perverse incentives, additionality, or leakage6;
  • How to best juxtapose the values of conservation and social justice in a manner that genuinely honours the intrinsic value of carnivores without being misanthropic7.

Conservation is no longer limited by ecological knowledge about carnivores’ ecological value or needs. Increasingly, the limiting factor is an effective application of knowledge arising from the synthesis of social sciences, social justice and conservation.

1 Vucetich (2016), Oversight Hearing, United States House Of Representatives. https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-114hhrg21616/pdf/CHRG-114hhrg21616.pdf

2 Vucetich et al. (2015), Conserv Biol, https://doi.org/10.1111/cobi.12464

3 Fischer et al. (2014), Conserv Biol, https://doi.org/10.1111/conl.12084

4 Holland et al. (2009), Conserv. Biol., https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1523-1739.2009.01207.x

5 Bruskotter, Vucetich, et al. (2017), BioScience, https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/bix049

6 Dickman, Macdonald, & Macdonald (2011), Proc Natl Acad Sci, USA. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1012972108

7 Vucetich & Nelson (2010), BioScience,https://doi.org/10.1525/bio.2010.60.7.9


Professor John A. Vucetich

School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science

Michigan Technological University



Professor David W. Macdonald

Wildlife Conservation Research Unit

The Recanati-Kaplan Centre, Department of Zoology

University of Oxford



Source: http://www.adjacentopenaccess.org/farming-environment-marine-sustainable-news/essentials-coexisting-carnivores/35223/

What you don´t learn at University (Part 1)

Dear followers,

This post starts a new episode in this blog where we wish to share not only wildlife research but our own experiences as wildlife researchers that live and work in the bush.

So, there is a picture of wildlife biologist Vera Menges’ legs after checking leopard kill-sites and looking for their prey remains. Despite of the scratches (that after 4 months are still visible), she had a successful day and found prey remains at seven different locations and I am pretty sure that the thorny bushes did not have a better ending…

Leg scratchs

This is the kind of girl that you don´t mess with!

Probably, during your studies you were never taught that fieldwork and legs do not always get on well, specially if you work in the thorn-bush savanna…

Some of you may wonder why she is not wearing long trousers. To put it in her own words:

It is freaking hot here and if I have to choose between melting or being scratched. I’d rather choose the later!

This is only one of the challenges that you will face during fieldwork. Those of you who are doing it every day and enjoying it as much as me, are most likely thinking that nothing will never erase the smile that the field put on our faces.

Enjoy the nature fellas!

P.S. Want to find out more about her research? Join the Leopard Project Facebook page.

Drastic population fluctuations explain the rapid extinction of the passenger pigeon

The number of passenger pigeons went from billions to zero in mere decades, in contrast to conventional wisdom that enormous population size provides a buffer against extinction. Our understanding of the passenger pigeon’s extinction, however, has been limited by a lack of knowledge of its long-term population history. Here we use both genomic and ecological analyses to show that the passenger pigeon was not always super abundant, but experienced dramatic population fluctuations, which could increase its vulnerability to human exploitation. Our study demonstrates that high-throughput–based ancient DNA analyses combined with ecological niche modeling can provide evidence allowing us to assess factors that led to the surprisingly rapid demise of the passenger pigeon.

To assess the role of human disturbances in species’ extinction requires an understanding of the species population history before human impact. The passenger pigeon was once the most abundant bird in the world, with a population size estimated at 3–5 billion in the 1800s; its abrupt extinction in 1914 raises the question of how such an abundant bird could have been driven to extinction in mere decades. Although human exploitation is often blamed, the role of natural population dynamics in the passenger pigeon’s extinction remains unexplored. Applying high-throughput sequencing technologies to obtain sequences from most of the genome, we calculated that the passenger pigeon’s effective population size throughout the last million years was persistently about 1/10,000 of the 1800’s estimated number of individuals, a ratio 1,000-times lower than typically found. This result suggests that the passenger pigeon was not always super abundant but experienced dramatic population fluctuations, resembling those of an “outbreak” species. Ecological niche models supported inference of drastic changes in the extent of its breeding range over the last glacial–interglacial cycle. An estimate of acorn-based carrying capacity during the past 21,000 y showed great year-to-year variations. Based on our results, we hypothesize that ecological conditions that dramatically reduced population size under natural conditions could have interacted with human exploitation in causing the passenger pigeon’s rapid demise. Our study illustrates that even species as abundant as the passenger pigeon can be vulnerable to human threats if they are subject to dramatic population fluctuations, and provides a new perspective on the greatest human-caused extinction in recorded history.

This article contains supporting information online at http://www.pnas.org/content/suppl/2014/06/13/1401526111.DCSupplemental/pnas.1401526111.sapp.pdf


Chih-Ming HungPei-Jen L. Shaner,Robert M. ZinkWei-Chung Liu,Te-Chin ChuWen-San Huang, Shou-Hsien Li

Drastic population fluctuations explain the rapid extinction of the passenger pigeon PNAS 2014 published ahead of printJune 16, 2014,


Desert Lion Conservation Project

With only in the region of 120 free roaming desert adapted lion remaining in Namibia, and the increase in incidents of human-animal conflict on the rise, Dr Philip Stander of Desert Lion Conservation, tracks and monitors these unique animals.
Relying solely on donations from the public and support from local tourism operators, Dr Stander has devoted his life’s work and resources to researching the desert adapted lions of Namibia, managing human-animal conflict in an environment of sustainable tourism.
Links: http://www.desertlion.info

Over the past few months conflict between the lions and farmers in the Kunene region of Namibia has reached a peak. Money is urgently needed for the erection of kraals and more collars, so that lions can be tracked in real-time and farmers alerted as to their position. Dr Stander relies solely on donations from the public and support from local tourism operators,these can be made by contacting logistics@desertlion.info