A Discussion on Conservation Strategies for Endangered Charismatic Megafauna

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1 1 Lions, Tigers, and Bears, Oh My! A Discussion on Conservation Strategies for Endangered Charismatic Megafauna Megafauna Large animal species with widespread popular appeal whose protection can help conserve other species, as well; they can also help rally public support, acting as animal ambassadors Examples: large cats (like lions and tigers), bears, elephants, wolves, and whales Often on the logos of conservation organizations They usually require of (like tropical rainforest or African savanna) Does focusing on charismatic megafauna dumb-down conservation? Is it a successful strategy for conserving the diverse habitats and organisms in need of protection? A number of studies have found this strategy to be beneficial As charismatic mammals have an important marketing value, they can be promoted to generate funding, which can then facilitate the implementation of conservation action and cover management costs, thereby indirectly benefiting other threatened biodiversity (Minin and Moilanen, 2014). Perhaps best if used in combination with protection of diverse habitat types, to ensure coverage of plants and insects in need of conservation Lions Lions Dramatic decline in recent decades In 1960s, population size around 200,000 In 2000s, population size around 20,000-30,000 Why? (a 2012 Duke University study found a 75% loss of savanna habitat over last 50 years) Trophy hunting Controversial: Is it helpful or harmful? 1

2 Example: Walter Palmer paid $54,000 to kill Cecil the lion Promoted as funding conservation and supporting local communities However, a recent report by the US House of Representatives found that : In assessing the flow of trophy hunting revenue to conservation efforts, we found many troubling examples of funds either being diverted from their purpose or not being dedicated to conservation in the first place Human-lion conflict Hundreds of lions killed each year by to prevent Tanzania has the highest rate of retaliatory killings, averaging between per year, according to LionAid.org Should a be built? Some prominent lion researchers believe it is the only hope of saving lions (read the article Fences divide lion conservationists ) Benefits: could prevent human-lion conflict, and prevent illegal grazing and degradation of remaining lion habitat Risks: could hinder movement of animals in search of food, isolating populations and resulting in Lions can be translocated, but at a cost of about $47,500 each Expensive at the outset, costing about $3000 per kilometer Lion Fencing Video Alternative: Build a Boma (fence in the livestock or villages) Cost only $500 each Bonus Activity 1 Read the article Fences divide lion conservationists Put yourself in the role of a World Wildlife Fund employee, tasked with designing a lion conservation program. You have $2,000,000 to spend. What would you do? (In particular, focus on the fencing issue; decide how best to use your resources to protect genetically diverse lion populations. Use the terms gene flow and genetic drift in your justification. Also include a budget. 2

3 Some numbers to help with your budget: One reserve in Senegal covers 9,130 square kilometers; has only between lions now; habitat is degraded by allowing people to graze their cattle on the land Would take about 382 km of fence to fence it in An additional $500 per year to maintain the fence It costs $2000 per square kilometer per year to pay for anti-poaching patrols Tigers Tigers Over the last 100 years, tiger populations have declined by around % Only about tigers left in the wild Several different, genetically unique subspecies exist 3 of the 9 subspecies are already extinct In India, the Bengal tiger (the most common subspecies) numbers only about 1,400 Fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers remain Why? Habitat loss Poaching for hides, teeth, bones, etc. (big black market in animal parts) Ancient Chinese Medicine: In central India, tiger habitat is fragmented and the species exhibits dynamics A is a group of populations that are separated by space but consist of the same species. These spatially separated populations interact as individual members. India has 50 Tiger Reserves administered by the National Tiger Conservation Authority to protect and manage their populations Those connected by have more gene flow restrict gene flow between reserves Recent study found that small habitat patches and corridors are more valuable than their size would predict they enable between the larger reserves (read Connecting the Tigers ) Bonus Activity 2 3

4 Again, put yourself in the role of a World Wildlife Fund employee, tasked with designing a tiger conservation program for India. You have $2,000,000 to spend. What would you do? Options include: purchase agricultural land at $250 per acre between any two of the Preserved Areas shown in the map of central India; you would need to acquire at least 7000 acres to relieve a pinch point. Which pinch point (between which reserves) would you choose, and why? Another option would be to add land to an existing reserve, increasing the available habitat for that subpopulation within the metapopulation. Use the same pricing guidelines as above. A single tigress needs a territory size of approximately 5000 acres Use the terms metapopulation, gene flow, and genetic diversity in your answer, along with a budget Elephants Elephants There are three species: African Savanna, African Forest, and Asian African elephants are the largest terrestrial mammals in the world Complex social structure Reproduce slowly: only one calf born every years, and have a month gestation period Asian elephants are smaller and have ears that are straight at the bottom All are at risk, but the Asian elephant has a much smaller population size; around 100,000 in 1900, but now only around 25,600-32,700 Why declining? Habitat loss Poaching for their Recent (July 2013) seizure of smuggled ivory in Hong Kong; 1,148 tusks, worth $2.25 million; rising affluence in Asia causing rise in demand for ivory and other illegal animal parts 4

5 Understanding life history of elephants can help us determine best strategies for conserving them. However, their long lifespans and slow rate of reproduction are a challenge for researchers. tables track (the chances of an individual in a population surviving to various ages), and often (the number of offspring produced by an individual in a specific age class per year). These data can be used to make projections about whether the population is increasing or decreasing in size To make these calculations, multiply the survivorship by the age-specific fecundity at each age class; this gives you the average number of births per female per year in a given age class Sum all of the births per female per year to calculate R 0 for the population. An R 0 greater than means the population is growing, but less than means it is declining Bonus Activity 3 A life table based on a 2001 study of a population of elephants in Amboseli National Park in Kenya is provided Calculate the R 0 for this population using the life table Is this population growing? A recent study found the population size of African elephants in central Africa has declined by 64%, largely due to poaching. A second life table represents a population that is being hunted for ivory, experiencing a 30% decline in survivorship over a 4-year period. Calculate the R 0 for this population Can this population sustain this level of poaching? Moon Bears (Asiatic Black Bears) Moon Bears Distribution: From Iran to southern and eastern Asia to Japan, Korea, and far eastern Russia In decline due to habitat loss and poaching for body parts, including Population has declined by an estimated 30-49% over the last 30 years China initiated bear farming in 1984, in an attempt to satisfy the demand for ; however, wild bears still killed for their Also killed for other body parts, including their skins and paws Body parts of 1 bear can fetch $1000 on black market Bear bile farms extremely cruel; Animals Asia works to end this practice and bring the farmed bears to their sanctuary Animals Asia Moon Bear Rescue: 5

6 27 Solutions? Bonus 4 Again, put yourself in the role of a World Wildlife Fund employee, tasked with designing a moon bear conservation program. You are tasked with designing a media campaign. Write a script for a television commercial making the case for moon bear conservation Background info: IUCN states: Widespread illegal killing of bears and trade in parts, combined with loss of habitat indicate that this species is likely declining in most parts of its range, especially in Southeast Asia and China. The major threat to bears in China and Southeast Asia is the commercial trade in live bears and bear parts, especially gall bladders (bile) The demand for these bear products has fuelled a growing network of international trade throughout Southeast Asia, and has turned many subsistence hunters into commercial hunters. Use your smart devices to research alternatives to bear bile. 28 So many sad stories, so many species on the brink of extinction So many opportunities to make a difference! 6

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