Panda porn, crane cross-dressing and dirty devils.. time for conservation triage? Bridget Stutchbury

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1 Panda porn, crane cross-dressing and dirty devils.. time for conservation triage? Bridget Stutchbury

2 Giant Pandas Loss of montane bamboo forests in China National treasure for China Protect and restore fragmented forest patches for wild population now almost 2000 wild pandas Loan out panda pairs to select zoos around the world ($1 million/yr. x 10 yr.) Millions of zoo visitors indirectly pay for panda conservation in China In 2016, down-listed from endangered to vulnerable (after 40 years of habitat conservation, captive breeding, and > $100 million)

3 Captive Breeding & Recovery Females ovulate only once a year must mate over a 1-2 day period Captive male pandas are mostly uninterested in sex (even panda porn & Viagra don t help) Newborns are 1/900 th the size of their mother many die. Less than 10 captive-reared young have been released into the wild

4 Whooping Cranes Loss of wetlands and overhunting 1930s: Fewer than 25 birds from a single migratory population Protected the single wintering site in coastal Texas In 1960s accidentally discovered the only breeding site, in alreadyprotected Wood Buffalo National Park Now over 400 birds in the wild but still only 1 population

5 Captive Breeding & Recovery Tex was a female crane hatched in captivity in a San Antonio zoo who had inadvertently imprinted on humans In the 1970s, George Archibald lived and danced with her for 3 mating seasons to get her interested in breeding Captive breeding: crane caretakers do not speak, they wear costumes and play back crane sounds

6 Teaching Cranes to Migrate To create a new migratory population, the captive-reared juveniles need to be shown where to go on migration Captive-rear cranes in Wisconsin, imprint them on an ultralight and fly with them to Florida But the 100 captive-reared and now-wild cranes in Wisconsin are bad parents only 10 chicks out of 200 nesting attempts Whooping crane conservation costs about $6 million/year

7 Tasmanian Devil Trapped and poisoned by ranchers for decades until early 1940s when they were protected 1990s discovered animals with enormous festering facial tumours (tongue, mouth) Cancer transmitted via biting, which devils do a lot! Animals starve to death, usually within a year, causing 90% population decline

8 Saving the Devil Captive breeding (genetic diversity) and release onto disease-free offshore island Develop a vaccine and release vaccinated devils into the wild to test if they remain healthy ($500,000 per year) Evolution of resistance? Wild devils have been found that survived the disease (so not 100% fatal now) Devil s milk has very strong antibiotic and antifungal properties can even kill antibiotic resistant human superbugs like staph Nocturnal scavengers Pups emerge from the pouch after 3 months

9 Endangered Species Conservation = Hospital Triage Model? Emergency Departments triage all incoming patients In a hospital all patients receive treatment. the most critically injured are treated first, and patients receive almost unlimited medical care

10 But there are now thousands of threatened and endangered species.. critically endangered endangered vulnerable IUCN Red List

11 Modern Conservation = Battlefield Triage? Mass casualties in the field and medical resources are extremely limited Under these extreme circumstances, the most critically injured patients may not receive medical care (and will die) Sacrifice the life of one species to save many others?

12 Conservation Triage If doctors are willing to use triage in allocating resources to save human lives, why would conservation biologists be squeamish? Bottrill et al. (2008) Is conservation triage just smart decision making? Trends in Ecology and Evolution 23:

13 Is the California Condor worth saving from extinction? 1982: 22 individuals in the world. All captured for captive breeding. 2013: ~ 200 free-flying in the wild but 20% are lead poisoned Half of the released birds must be recaptured for lead chelation treatment Wild population not self-sustaining because reproductive rate is too low and mortality too high Finkelstein et al. (2012) PNAS

14 Time for Triage? Triage Tag Condors require immediate and intensive intervention to avoid extinction The condor program costs $5 million per year species will be conservation reliant for decades Should we delay treatment and let condors go extinct in order to save many other (less expensive) species?

15 Eastern Loggerhead Shrike in Canada: on the brink of extinction

16 Are shrikes too expensive to save from extinction? Shrike captive breeding program costs ~ $250,000/year. Environment Canada has withdrawn funding = triage? with captive breeding without captive breeding without captive breeding

17 How do we decide which species to let go extinct? triage is no more than the efficient allocation of conservation resources Bottrill et al. (2008) Is conservation triage just smart decision making? Trends in Ecology and Evolution 23:

18 Conservation Triage: an Economic Approach Score = Value x Benefit to Species x Probability (success) Cost But what is the value of species? How do we guess at the extent of species recovery? How do we predict probability of success? Bottrill et al. (2008) Trends in Ecol. Evol. 23:

19 Assigning Value to Species keystone species umbrella species ecological services (economic value) evolutionary uniqueness endemism/rarity cultural significance popularity/charisma

20 Measuring Benefits to Species For many species we do not yet know the expected benefits of a given conservation action Head-starting turtles: what proportion of artificially incubated young survive to breed? How long should juveniles be retained in captivity before release (i.e. head starting )? 1,435 turtle eggs incubated, hatched, and released at Rondeau Provincial Park in one year (Dr. Christina Davy)

21 How do quantify likelihood of success? Whooping Crane (21 in wild, now > 400) Tasmanian Devil (90% population crash since 1990s due to unpredictable disease) Giant Panda (first captive born cub took 20 years!)

22 Battlefield triage is necessary only if resources are severely limited Surveyed biologists working on threatened/endangered bird species around the world What would be the cost needed to down-list the species over the next 10 years? How much funding do they actually get now? On average, it would cost $1 million/bird species/yr. Current funding only 10% of that McCarthy et al Science

23 Can we afford to save nature? Would need to spend $1 billion/year to save them all 1000 threatened birds Need $76 billion/year to save all endangered and threatened animals and their habitat This amounts to roughly $10/person/year

24 Cost of Conservation Annual global soft drink sales are >$450 billion 2015 U.S. defense budget was $597 billion Canadians spend $30 million per day on coffee ($11 billion/yr.)

25 Which species would you choose to save if you could only pick one? Ploughshare Tortoise (Madagascar) Cotton-topped Tamarin (Colombia) Rusty-patched Bumblebee (Canada)

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