Wildlife refuges and sanctuaries are the best hope for many wildlife species in a world that is rapidly being overwhelmed by humans. The Sanctuary Asia web site holds an annual photo contest and these are Read the rest of this entry »
Posts Tagged ‘India’
Posted by Richard Conniff on February 9, 2017
Posted by Richard Conniff on April 15, 2016
My latest for Takepart.com:
Lately, media worldwide have been frothy with happy talk about an unexpected increase in populations of the endangered tiger, with the global count suddenly up from 3,200 to 3,890. The World Wildlife Fund and the Global Tiger Forum reported the result based on a tally of recent counts by government agencies and conservation groups.
There was only one problem: The news was a publicity-friendly confection of nonsense and wishful thinking, unsupported by any published science.
Instead, the timing of the announcement had everything to do with politics: It came the day before the scheduled opening of the Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation in New Delhi, bringing together scientists and political leaders from 13 nations.
That group has committed its member nations to the daunting (and arguably unrealistic) goal of doubling the population of tigers between 2010 and 2022. With half that time elapsed, WWF Senior Vice President Ginette Hemley apparently meant to kick things off with some good news and a key takeaway message for the conference attendees. “When you have high-level political commitments, it can make all the difference,” she said. “When you have well-protected habitat and you control the poaching, tigers will recover. That’s a pretty simple formula. We know it works.”
At various points, Hemley carefully attributed the results to better counting methods, not to an actual increase in tiger numbers. “The tools we are using now are more precise than they were six years ago,” she told The New York Times. But that nuance got lost along the way, as it was perhaps intended to do. The Times headline: “Number of Tigers in the Wild Is Rising, Wildlife Groups Say.”
WWF did not respond to a request to interview Hemley—a policy person who spends most of her time in Washington, D.C. So for a reality check, I phoned a tiger biologist: John Goodrich
Posted by Richard Conniff on March 4, 2016
When researchers are trying to understand how leopards live, where they go, and what they need to survive, their best hope is still to go into the bush with them, by vehicle and on foot. That hasn’t changed despite the coming of ubiquitous digital camera traps, satellite tracking, and other technologies.
The standard procedure for radio-collaring a leopard is to lure it, with bait, into a box trap and sedate it. The biologist then has less than an hour to work with the animal as it recovers, taking samples, making measurements, and fitting the collar. When it wakes up again, the leopard goes free. The biologist may never see it again in the wild, even when the slow, high-pitched bpp…bpp…bpp picked up from the radio collar via earphones reveals that the leopard is just 50 meters ahead. Leopards are the grand masters of staying hidden in plain sight.
And yet because researchers often work alone, amid hostile neighbors, the bond with that unseen animal can become their best consolation. Their great fear is not that the leopard might turn on them, but that the steady pulse from the collar will suddenly double, meaning an animal has gone motionless for too long, not rolling over in its sleep, not shaking its head. That’s called the “mortality signal.”
Over the years I’ve heard a lot of sad stories from leopard researchers about their study animals, but none stuck harder, for me, than the lynching of Buddy MacKay. I heard it one night last year, sitting on the verandah of a forest bungalow, drinking whiskey, in the
Posted by Richard Conniff on October 2, 2015
My latest for Takepart:
If you recall the emotional impact of the 2009 movie “The Cove,” you know how horrible it is to witness the spectacle of hunters trapping and slaughtering dolphins. But it was also gratifying to our feelings of outrage, because it seemed like something we could fix, with a bit of public outrage and international pressure.
It’s infinitely harder to come to terms with the fate of an animal like the blind dolphin of the Indus River in Pakistan and India. Nobody stabs or beats them to death any more. Hunting ended by law in the early 1970s. But that is not the same thing as saving the subspecies. Instead the Indus River dolphins are on the red list of endangered species. They have lost 80 percent of their old home range, which once extended almost 2200 miles from the Arabian Sea to the foothills of the Himalayas.
Beginning in the early twentieth century, irrigation dams have repeatedly sub-divided the dolphin’s habitat, into a current total of 17 segments—10 of them now devoid of dolphins. According to a new study in the journal Biological Conservation, anywhere from 1200 to 1750 individuals survive—with 70 percent of them confined to a single 118-mile stretch of river.
Posted by Richard Conniff on February 11, 2014
Ten years ago, Imam Hussein reluctantly moved his family out of their traditional home in the Terai Arc Landscape, a hilly, forested sliver of northwestern India, as part of a government resettlement plan to protect tiger habitat. It was a struggle. The move forced the family to give up the buffalo they had depended on for a pastoral livelihood, and though the resettlement put them on a small plot of arable land, they knew nothing about farming.
But the Husseins’ lives have gradually improved: They farm wheat, they own cell phones, and a 12-year-old daughter is in school. The tigers have benefited too. Hussein used to look around his threadbare forest home and recall, with regret, how it had looked when he was a child. Now, when he visits, that lost forest is visibly recovering.
But the most dramatic change is that his fellow Gujjars, who once clung fiercely to their pastoral way of life, now want to follow him out of the forest. In a new study published this month in Biological Conservation (for which Hussein served as a field assistant), more than 98 percent of the Gujjar families surveyed indicated Read the rest of this entry »