Our individual-based giraffe conservation science is the biggest giraffe research project in the world! Thank you to all our supporters and partners for this amazing achievement.
Good news about the environment is rare these days, but in Tanzania there are signs that local wildlife conservation efforts can effectively protect the natural resources that provide the lion’s share of revenue for the economy. Eco-tourism is Tanzania’s largest economic sector and biggest dollar earner for this developing nation, but wildlife populations have suffered in recent decades from poaching and clashes with people involved in other economic activities such as farming and mining. The good news comes from a new study that found community-based wildlife conservation can quickly result in clear ecological success, with the largest and smallest species being among the winners.
In a paper published today in the Journal of Mammalogy, scientists from the Wild Nature Institute documented significantly higher densities of giraffes and dik-diks, and lower densities of cattle in a community Wildlife Management Area (WMA) relative to an unprotected control site. Dr. Derek Lee, lead author of the study and Principal Scientist at Wild Nature Institute said, ”There have been social and economic critiques of WMAs, but the ecological value or success of WMAs for wildlife conservation had never been quantified. Our data demonstrated that WMA establishment and management had positive ecological outcomes in the form of higher wildlife densities and lower livestock densities. This met our definition of ecological success, and hopefully these results will encourage more community-based conservation efforts.”
One of the important aspects of Wild Nature Institute's community environmental education and advocacy work is sharing information and providing training for Tanzania's safari guides and people in the tourism industry. Tourism is one of the most lucrative sectors of the Tanzanian economy, bringing critical dollars and jobs as well as creating an incentive to protect wildlife and habitat. Environmental education is an excellent way to convey the results of our research to local Tanzanians, who can then share the knowledge with their colleagues, friends, and families throughout the country.
Wild Nature Institute partnered with PAMS Foundation to create manuals for safari guides about ecology, botany, invertebrates, and wildlife.
The goal is to establish standards and certifications for Tanzanian guides, and ensure a high-quality experience for tourists in one of the most spectacularly wildlife-rich countries on the planet. Our efforts bridge science and public outreach, promote science-based conservation values in guides and their local communities, and spread a conservation message to tourists from across the globe.
We just completed another survey for giraffes and other ungulates as part of our Project GIRAFFE and TUNGO programs in northern Tanzania. We conduct surveys towards the end of each of three precipitation season, the short rains, long rains, and dry season. We identify individual giraffes using photographs of their unique spot patterns - so we know where they are and with whom they spend their time - and we also map the location and number of all the hoofed mammals (ungulates) in the Tarangire Ecosystem. Our data are providing critical information about population trends and habitat use of these ecologically and economically important animals.
We got off to a bit of a rocky start with some heavy rains, and ended up stuck in mud, but once things dried up a bit we had a very successful survey.
The Tarangire Ecosystem of Tanzania is a stunning place, supporting one of the highest densities of large mammals on the planet. The ungulates we are working to study and conserve are key to the health of this ecosystem, shaping the vegetation, spreading nutrients, and comprising a critical component in the savanna's web of life. Without the ungulates, there would be no predators like lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, and wild dogs, nor would there be scavengers like vultures, all of which enable the tourism economy here to thrive. We thank our funders for helping us to protect this critical region.
The Society of Illustrators is the premiere showcase for illustrators, featuring 400 pieces of the most outstanding works created throughout each year. Open to artists worldwide, thousands of entries are considered by a jury of professionals, which include renowned illustrators, art directors and designers. This year, on the Society of Illustrators' 60th anniversary of publication, Wild Nature Institute is proud to announce that an image by Kayla Harren from our new children's book, Our Elephant Neighbours, was accepted in the annual exhibit! The book was produced in collaboration with our partners at PAMS Foundation here in Tanzania.
Last year, Kayla's illustration from Juma the Giraffe was accepted into the 2017 Communication Arts Illustration Annual, and won an award of excellence.
Congratulations once again to the extremely talented and deserving Kayla Harren. We are so lucky to have Kayla bringing to life the stories of Africa's giants - giraffes, elephants, and rhinoceroses - for children in Tanzania and around the world through her captivating images. The illustrator-author team of Kayla Harren and Monica Bond together have created Juma the Giraffe, Our Elephant Neighbours, and the in-progress Helping Brother Rhinoceros, all of which are used in educational programs designed to teach themes of individuality, empathy, and teamwork while inspiring children to love and care for Africa's precious wildlife. For more information, please visit the Celebrating Africa's Giants website.
Wild Nature Institute Researchers Find Post-fire Logging, But Not The Fire Itself, Harms Spotted Owls
Wildlife ecologists studying the rare spotted owl in the forests of California have discovered that large, intense wildfires are not responsible for abandonment of breeding territories. Instead, the researchers found that post-fire logging operations, which are common on both private and National Forest lands, most likely caused declines in territory occupancy of this imperiled wildlife species. In the absence of post-fire logging, they found no significant effect of large forest fires on spotted owl territory occupancy. Post-fire logging damages important spotted owl foraging areas in "snag forest habitat" that is created by patches of intense fire. This habitat is rich in the small mammal prey species that the owls feed upon, but post-fire logging largely removes this habitat, thereby causing higher rates of territory abandonment.
"This is good news for declining California spotted owls because this is something that we can control—we can make policy decisions to stop post-fire logging operations in spotted owl habitat," said Dr. Chad Hanson, a research ecologist with the John Muir Project of Earth Island Institute, who is one of the study's authors. The article was published this week in the peer-reviewed, open-access scientific journal Nature Conservation.
The study sheds light on recent large fires, such as the 99,000-acre King fire of 2014 on the Eldorado National Forest in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Spotted owl occupancy was reported to have declined in the King fire area, but the new study found that this was most likely due to post-fire logging. In addition, many of the spotted owl territories in the King fire which were previously described as lost due to the fire had in fact been unoccupied for years prior to the fire.
"Most studies of spotted owls and fires in California found little to no effect of fires on owl site occupancy, but the King Fire study results contradicted these. Now we have a better idea where the King Fire results came from—it was post-fire logging and pre-fire abandonment," said Monica Bond, a wildlife ecologist with the Wild Nature Institute, and a co-author of the study. Bond added, "Our results were not surprising considering that spotted owls evolved with forest fires, but logging is a new disturbance to which they are not adapted"
The scientists' findings also expand upon previous research that found very high spotted owl occupancy after the 257,000-acre Rim fire of 2013 in the Sierra Nevada prior to post-fire logging. The current study found a decline in owl territory occupancy in the same area after post-fire logging occurred. A co-author on both studies, Dr. Derek Lee, also of Wild Nature Institute, said, "It is time to stop thinking logging will help the forest; we need to take a much more hands-off approach to forest management so natural processes can re-establish."
The study's results coincide with the strong consensus among hundreds of U.S. scientists opposing post-fire logging operations due to a wide range of ecological harms. Pro-logging members of the U.S. Congress have recently pointed to large forest fires as a justification for proposed logging bills that would override most environmental laws and dramatically increase logging, including post-fire logging, on U.S. National Forests and other public lands. The results of this study indicate that such legislative proposals would be contrary to science, and harmful to spotted owls. Other studies also indicate that increased logging would substantially reduce forest carbon storage, and increase greenhouse gas emissions, exacerbating climate change.
More information: Hanson CT, Bond ML, Lee DE (2018) Effects of post-fire logging on California spotted owl occupancy. Nature Conservation, 2018.
Wild Nature Institute wishes everyone a new year that is full of peace, joy, and cooperation among people to protect our beautiful Earth and all its creatures. Happy 2018!
Angela Roi is offering fashion accessories with a cause. Get beautiful and help Wild Nature Institute save the giraffes!
Angela Roi is a New York-based ethical luxury handbag brand. Their new Aisha Giraffe Collection includes a key chain/bag charm and the Zuri travel pouch. A portion of each sale will be donated to Wild Nature Institute to help Aisha and her friends. Shop here: http://bit.ly/AishaGiraffeCollection
We just completed our sixth year of surveys collecting identification photos for giraffes in the Tarangire Ecosystem of Tanzania. We use the giraffes' unique spot patterns to identify individuals and map their movements around the ecosystem. We also calculate their survival and reproduction in different areas and at different times of the year, and examine how the environment, human influences, and season affect their fitness.
Each evening, after completing surveys for the day, we make camp in the bush. We enjoy a cup of juice, cook up some dinner as the sun sets, and of course back up all the day's data on the field laptop.
To date, we've identified and are tracking more than 3,000 individual giraffes in our study area. Our results are helping to understand where giraffes are doing well and where they are not, and why. This information is useful in developing effective conservation measures for this magnificent mega-herbivore, so giraffes can continue to grace the savanna as they have for the past million years.
As always, we are grateful to our generous donors for helping us to accomplish this work. Thank you for six years of giraffe conservation research!
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