Category : Press Releases

Sliding towards extinction: Scientists find that 60% of mammals are imperiled
2 months, 1 week ago Comments Off on Sliding towards extinction: Scientists find that 60% of mammals are imperiled
Posted in: News, Press Releases

MEDIA CONTACT:

Dr. Varun R. Goswami

Email: <varunr.goswami@gmail.com> | Phone: +91-9901-943676

  • Treating large mammals as ‘umbrella species’ for conservation facilitates protection of the larger ecosystems and overall biodiversity

 

BENGALURU, March 14, 2017 – A public declaration made last year by a group of 43 renowned international scientists called for a global plan to prevent the world’s large mammals from slipping into oblivion. This led to debates among scientists on whether a focus on megafauna conservation would ignore other forms of biodiversity. Allaying such fears, the same scientists have published an article that makes a strong case for how megafauna conservation does not come at the cost of all else, but rather complements biodiversity conservation.

 

Dr. William Ripple and his colleagues highlight how terrestrial megafauna––large-bodied carnivores and herbivores such as tigers, leopards, wolves, bears, elephants and gaur––remain the strongest candidates to serve as ‘umbrellas’ for many species and ecosystems. “Conserving megafauna requires us to safeguard large tracts of forests, grasslands and various other ecosystems that meet the vast habitat requirements of such species”, said WCS India scientist, Dr. Varun R. Goswami, a co-author of the paper. “By conserving these megafauna, we also conserve birds, amphibians, reptiles, as well as a variety of ecosystem processes”, he added.

 

Notably, big charismatic animals attract larger political and public support, owing to their unique socio-economic cultural values and the strong emotional responses they evoke in many people. Tiger Reserves in India represent an ideal example.

Tiger. Photo by Kalyan Varma

The establishment of tiger reserves, tiger conservation efforts and resources earmarked in India have helped safeguard many other species and habitats. “Megafauna such as tigers and elephants are ideal ambassadors for the conservation of nature”, concluded Dr. Goswami.

 

 

Megadiversity countries like India, China, Indonesia, Philippines, Brazil, Ecuador and Venezuela also house an astonishing number of threatened megafauna. This reinforces the compatibility of conservation efforts focused on megafauna with those that target biodiversity as a whole.

 

Whether the focus is on megafauna, ecosystems or overall biodiversity, conservationists are always left with dealing with the crises in a race against time. The rallying call of Dr. Ripple and colleagues is for all concerned conservation scientists to come together to “confront the fierce necessity of ‘how?‘ in the fierce urgency of now.”

 

The article “Conserving the World’s Megafauna and Biodiversity: The Fierce Urgency of Now” was published in January 2017 in the international journal Bioscience, published by the Oxford University Press. It is available online here: https://labs.eemb.ucsb.edu/young/hillary/PDF/Ripple_etal_BioScience_2017.pdf

*Top photo of Indian one-horned Rhinocerous by Kalyan Varma.

Wildlife Conservation Society India Program.

WCS India Program, based in Bengaluru, has combined cutting-edge research on tigers and other wildlife, with national capacity building and, effective site-based conservation through constructive collaborations with governmental and non-governmental partners. WCS India Program is committed to saving wildlife and wild lands, nurturing and inspiring positive attitudes towards nature in people through its scientific and conservation endeavors.

Visit: wcsindia.org Follow: @WCSIndia, @wcs.ind

Home-range size of dhole estimated using camera traps for the first time in India
2 months, 3 weeks ago Comments Off on Home-range size of dhole estimated using camera traps for the first time in India
Posted in: News, Press Releases

MEDIA CONTACT:

‌Arjun Srivathsa

Email: <arjuns.cws@gmail.com>

Dr. Ullas Karanth

Email: <ukaranth@gmail.com> | Phone: 080-2211 8976

  • Researchers present for the first time using camera-traps, home-range size of Asiatic wild dogs (dholes)
  • Study is based on intensive camera-trap surveys in the Western Ghat forests
  • Researchers track two marked individuals, and record their movement in these forests

 

BENGALURU 27 February 2017 – A new study led by scientists from Wildlife Conservation Society-India Program, Centre for Wildlife Studies (Bangalore), and University of Florida, USA, presents the first home-range size estimate of Asiatic wild dogs or ‘dholes’ based on camera trap surveys.

The study, based on intensive camera-trap surveys conducted in Nagarahole and Wayanad wildlife reserves in the Western Ghats India, was part of a long-term project on tiger population dynamics in the region.

Lead author of the study Mr. Arjun Srivathsa, who is a doctoral student at the University of Florida says that “Typically, radio-telemetry is used to obtain information on home-range sizes of large carnivores such as dhole. This is expensive and requires careful handling of animals. In contrast, our estimates are generated through innovative use of non-invasive and relatively inexpensive camera-trap pictures”.

From November 2014 to January 2015 (45 days), the researchers set-up and monitored camera traps which yielded incidental photographic captures of dholes. Unlike tigers or leopards, individual dholes cannot be uniquely identified from camera-trap photographs because they do not have pelage patterns or natural body markings. Yet the researchers were able to identify two individuals in a pack of five animals, based on distinct markings on their pelage, enabling them to map locations of the pack during the survey period.

Dholes labelled DHL-101 and DHL-102 from the pack of five, identified based on an injury mark (yellow circle) and white coloration on the lower right forelimb (blue circle), respectively, photo- captured in a single frame. Photo ©Ullas Karanth/WCS

Dholes are among the least studied large carnivores in the world. Unlike many other social carnivores, dholes occur at low densities in dense tropical forests. They are wary, difficult to capture and radio-collar, and thereby pose several logistical challenges in the field for tracking their movements or studying their behaviour. For the first time in India, their home-range size (roughly 85 sq. km) has been estimated based on non-invasive camera-trap surveys. ‍

The study appears in the January issue of the international journal Canid Biology and Conservation. Authors: Arjun Srivathsa (Centre for Wildlife Studies, Wildlife Conservation Society-India Program and University of Florida, USA), Dr. N. Samba Kumar (Centre for Wildlife Studies and Wildlife Conservation Society-India Program) and Dr. K. Ullas Karanth (Centre for Wildlife Studies, India and Wildlife Conservation Society, New York). It is accessible online at: http://www.canids.org/CBC/20/Dhole_home_range.pdf

*Top image of Asiatic Wild Dog by Shekar Dattatri

Wildlife Conservation Society India Program.

WCS India Program, based in Bengaluru, has combined cutting-edge research on tigers and other wildlife, with national capacity building and, effective site-based conservation through constructive collaborations with governmental and non-governmental partners. WCS India Program is committed to saving wildlife and wild lands, nurturing and inspiring positive attitudes towards nature in people through its scientific and conservation endeavors.

Visit: wcsindia.org Follow: @WCSIndia, @wcs.ind

3 months ago 1
Posted in: News, Press Releases

MEDIA CONTACT:

Dr. Divya Vasudev

Email: <vasudev.divya@gmail.com>, Phone: +91 96638 99211

Dr. Ullas Karanth

Email: <ukaranth@gmail.com>, Phone: +80 22118976

 

Bengaluru, 18 February 2017 – A new WCS study in India shows that three carnivores – tigers, leopards, and dholes (Asian wild dog) – seemingly in direct competition with one other, are living side by side with surprisingly little conflict.

Usually, big cats and wild canids live in different locations to avoid each other.

Yet in four relatively small reserves in India’s wildlife-rich Western Ghats region, WCS researchers have found that they are co-existing, despite competing for much of the same prey, including sambar deer, chital, and pigs.

Using dozens of non-invasive camera traps for sampling entire populations, rather than track a handful of individuals, the research team recorded some 2,500 images of the three predators in action.

The authors found that in reserves with an abundance of prey, dholes, which are active during the day, did not come in much contact with the more nocturnal tigers and leopards. But in Bhadra Reserve where prey was scarcer, their active times overlapped, yet dholes still managed to avoid the big cats. In Nagarahole, a park teeming with all three carnivores and their prey, leopards actively to avoid tigers.

Overall, the authors say that these carnivores have developed smart adaptations to coexist, even while they exploit the same prey base. However, these mechanisms vary depending on density of prey resources and possibly other habitat features.

Said Ullas Karanth, WCS Director for Science in Asia and lead author of the study: “Tigers, leopards, and dholes are doing a delicate dance in these protected areas, and all are manging to survive. We were surprised to see how each species has remarkably different adaptations to prey on different prey sizes, use different habitat types and be active at different times. Because of small and isolated nature of these high prey densities in these reserves, such adaptions are helpful for conservationists trying to save all three.”

Both tigers and dholes are classified as Endangered by IUCN; leopards are considered Vulnerable.

Understanding these separate yet overlapping species’ needs is critical to managing predators and prey in small reserves, which is increasingly the scenario of the future.  The authors say that by managing populations of flagship predators, like tigers, carefully overall biodiversity can also be conserved.

The study titled “Spatio-temporal interactions facilitate large carnivore sympatry across a resource gradient” authored by Dr. Ullas Karanth, Mr. Arjun Srivathsa, Dr. Divya Vasudev, Ms. Mahi Puri, Dr. Ravishankar Parameshwaran and Dr. Samba Kumar, appeared in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences in February 2017.

This research was supported by the Department of Biotechnology and Department of Science and Technology, Government of India; The Forest Department and Department of Science and Technology, Government of Karnataka; and the Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg Foundation.

 


Wildlife Conservation Society India Program.

WCS India Program, based in Bengaluru, has combined cutting-edge research on tigers and other wildlife, with national capacity building and, effective site-based conservation through constructive collaborations with governmental and non-governmental partners. WCS India Program is committed to saving wildlife and wild lands, nurturing and inspiring positive attitudes towards nature in people through it’s scientific and conservation endeavors.

 

Visit: wcsindia.org Follow: @WCSIndia, @wcs.ind

3 months, 3 weeks ago Comments Off on Ullas Karanth’s Book on Conservation Science Released
Posted in: News, Press Releases

MEDIA CONTACT:

Dr. Ullas Karanth

Email: <ukaranth@gmail.com>

Phone: +80 22118976

  • Science and Conservation of Wildlife Populations released by conservation icon Dr. George Schaller
  • The book is a compilation of 26 Articles co-authored by Dr. Ullas Karanth and other global conservation experts
  • The book covers topics ranging from species population biology to conservation policy and targets Indian wildlife conservationists 

 

BENGALURU, JANUARY 31 2017 – Eminent wildlife scientist Dr. George Schaller, who is currently in India formally released the book Science and Conservation of Wildlife Populations by Ullas Karanth and co-authors on 27-1-2016 at the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Bengaluru.

Cover page of the book ‘Science and Conservation of Wildlife Populations’

The book is a compilation of 26 articles that are authored or co-authored by Dr. Karanth in collaboration with other leading scientists and conservationists including James Nichols, Melvin Sunquist, John Seidensticker, Eric Dinerstein, Stuart Pimm and others. It is published by Natraj Publishers New Delhi and enables Indian readers to easily access articles published in prestigious international journals and books in one comprehensive volume.

 

Spread over three sections, the book covers techniques and analytical approaches to studying wildlife populations, robust and practical methods of population assessments of wildlife such as tigers, leopards, elephants, hyaenas, sambar deer, gaur. The final section addresses effective policy interventions for wildlife conservation that describe studies on the consequences of mining, carnivore translocations, wildlife tourism, and fair and incentive-driven village resettlement projects.

 

Says Dr. George Schaller, “His [Ullas Karanth] depth of knowledge has influenced government policy and reserve management in India as well as perceptions and research techniques internationally. His writing both scientific and popular, including books such as Monitoring tigers and their Prey and The Way of the Tiger, have influenced a wide audience”.

 

Dr. Melvin E. Sunquist, University of Florida says “In a nation of a billion or more people, with enormous pressure on natural resources, it is amazing that India is still home to the largest surviving wild tiger population on just 3% of the world’s land. Without a doubt, outstanding individuals like Ullas have made a difference”.

Edit: The book can be bought in all leading book stores in India. It can also be ordered online here.


Wildlife Conservation Society India Program.

WCS India Program, based in Bengaluru, has combined cutting-edge research on tigers and other wildlife, with national capacity building and, effective site-based conservation through constructive collaborations with governmental and non-governmental partners. WCS India Program is committed to saving wildlife and wild lands, nurturing and inspiring positive attitudes towards nature in people through it’s scientific and conservation endeavors.

 

Visit: wcsindia.org Follow: @WCSIndia, @wcs.ind

Elephant connectivity cannot be ignored while mitigating conflict, Scientists say
4 months, 2 weeks ago Comments Off on Elephant connectivity cannot be ignored while mitigating conflict, Scientists say
Posted in: News, Press Releases

MEDIA CONTACT:

Dr. Divya Vasudev

Email: <vasudev.divya@gmail.com>

Mobile: +91 96638 99211

 

PRESS RELEASE

  • Landscape connectivity critical for elephant conservation

  • Sites important for elephant connectivity often faced with human–elephant conflict

  • Barrier-centric conflict mitigation that come with substantial monetary costs can also come at the cost of elephant conservation

  • Minimising conflict without impinging on elephant connectivity is the need of the hour

 

BENGALURU, JANUARY 9 2017 – Scientists from Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), India Program are calling for a re-think on conservation strategies for threatened and wide-ranging large mammal species.

In an article published in the international journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, Dr. Varun R. Goswami and Dr. Divya Vasudev, conservation biologists at WCS India, highlight the need to balance multiple conservation needs and opportunities in large landscapes.

“Asian elephant conservation provides the perfect example”, says Dr. Goswami who heads the elephant program for WCS India. “Elephant survival in heterogeneous landscapes rests on their ability to move among habitats in search of food and space,” he elaborated. But this movement often brings elephants into contact and potential conflict with people, especially in densely populated countries like India.

A typical response to conflict is to prevent elephants from coming out of forests through fences and trenches. “But this strategy has a direct negative impact on connectivity, and as a result, on elephant persistence”, says connectivity expert Dr. Vasudev.

While some say that demarcated corridors will not be fenced, Dr. Vasudev cautions, “animals don’t always move through corridors that people demarcate, rather they use routes they view as least threatening. Corridors are of course important, but we still have a way to go in knowing where animals move, what stops dispersal, and which areas are most critical for maintaining connectivity”.

This debate becomes highly pertinent in light of the railway fences coming up around some of India’s most important forests. The cost of these fences reportedly runs to more than Rs. 1 crore per km. “These fences come at huge monetary and manpower costs, and before putting them up, we need to think hard about where we place them” Dr. Goswami emphasized. “It is critical that we minimize human–elephant conflict, but while simultaneously thinking about elephant movement needs between habitats.”

“Endangered species—elephants, tigers, gibbons—are more and more present in fragmented landscapes. Conserving them in these landscapes means that we need to have science-based policy, long-term vision, and incorporate diverse challenges and opportunities”, says Dr. Vasudev.

The article titled ‘Triage of conservation needs: the juxtaposition of conflict mitigation and connectivity considerations in heterogeneous, human-dominated landscapes’ authored by Dr. Goswami and Dr. Vasudev appeared in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, and can be accessed at: https://doi.org/10.3389/fevo.2016.00144


Wildlife Conservation Society India Program.

WCS India Program, based in Bengaluru, has combined cutting-edge research on tigers and other wildlife, with national capacity building and, effective site-based conservation through constructive collaborations with governmental and non-governmental partners. WCS India Program is committed to saving wildlife and wild lands, nurturing and inspiring positive attitudes towards nature in people through it’s scientific and conservation endeavors.

Visit: wcsindia.org Follow: @WCSIndia, @wcs.ind

4 months, 3 weeks ago Comments Off on Experts in Ecology and Statistics explore cutting-edge methods
Posted in: News, Press Releases

Pictured attendees of the workshop ‘Statistical Ecology and Related Topics’ held at Indian Statistical Institute – Bangalore Centre, during 8-11 December 2016. Photo by Avinash/ISI-Bangalore

MEDIA CONTACTS:
Dr. Arjun Gopalaswamy, [arjungswamy@gmail.com], Phone: 8050821192
Dr. Ullas Karanth, [ukaranth@gmail.com], Phone: 080-2211-8976
Prof. Mohan Delampady, [mohan@ms.isibang.ac.in]

 

  • India’s first workshop on Statistical Ecology conducted in collaboration by Indian Statistical Institute-Bangalore and Wildlife Conservation Society’s India Program

  • Inter-disciplinary team of leading experts in statistics, ecology and conservation meet to explore cutting edge methods of gathering and analysing ecological data

  • Over 60 researchers from institutions from India, USA, Malaysia, Myanmar and Australia attend the workshop on “Statistical Ecology and Related Topics” at the Indian Statistical Institute-Bangalore Centre, during December 8-11, 2016

Bengaluru, 30 December, 2016 : Global advances in statistical methodologies which direct the gathering and analysing of data in fields as diverse as economics, epidemiology and weather forecasting are rapidly being developed by Indian researchers. However, in the field of ecology, particularly conservation monitoring, India has made little progress, in spite of being home to both world class mathematical and statistical knowledge as well as many talented ecologists and conservationists who have made their mark globally.

 

To bridge this gap between statistics and ecology, a group of globally recognized experts from both these fields were brought together to conduct the first such workshop on “Statistical Ecology and Related Topics” in Bangalore between December 8-11, 2016. The workshop was jointly organized by Indian Statistical Institute (ISI)-Bangalore Centre and Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) India Program and attracted the participation of 60 researchers from multiple institutions in India, USA, Australia, Malaysia and Myanmar.

 

The workshop elucidated examples of advanced statistical applications to research problems in diverse areas of animal ecology, plant ecology, environmental genetics, epidemiology and wildlife monitoring. Advanced quantitative approaches covered included Likelihood-based and Bayesian inference, Markov-Chain Monte Carlo and Boot-strapping methods. The application of such techniques with appropriate statistical models to sample and estimate animal/plant distributions and abundance across space and time were explained through lectures and panel sessions led by several experts in statistics and ecology.

 

They included Dr. Robert Dorazio (US Geological Survey) and Prof. Sudipto Banerjee (University of California, Los Angeles), Prof. Mohan Delampady (Indian Statistical Institute), Prof. Vidyasagar Padmawar (Indian Statistical Institute) and Prof. Arnab Chakraborty (Indian Statistical Institute), Dr. Ullas Karanth (Wildlife Conservation Society and National Centre for Biological Sciences) and Dr. Arjun Gopalaswamy (Oxford University and Indian Statistical Institute).

 

The workshop focused on the full scientific process – from asking ecological questions to building statistical models that tackle these questions based on sound data. It covered nuances of statistical computation techniques, and, issues of wildlife population assessment as well as societal challenges to advancing the field of statistical ecology in India.

 

Dr. Ullas Karanth (Wildlife Conservation Society and National Centre for Biological Sciences), who handled two sessions on the monitoring and assessments of wildlife populations says, “It is regrettable that in spite of recent advances in statistical ecology, which can benefit wildlife conservation hugely, their rapid absorption is often blocked by Governmental constraints as shown by our national ‘tiger census’. This situation can be changed only with a wider and genuine involvement of qualified scientists from outside the official structures that manage wildlife in India”.

 

Says Dr. Arjun Gopalaswamy (Oxford University and Indian Statistical Institute), “The workshop was a great success because it brought together the right experts to raise good questions and explain the best methods to address them. This is a new area at the interface of ecology and statistics, which the participants found exciting and useful, I think”.

 

Professor Mohan Delampady from Indian Statistical Institute-Bangalore Centre says, “Indian Statistical Institute has a deep tradition, going back all the way to its founder Prof. Mahalanobis, of bringing the best of statistics and science together to solve the country’s problems, as it pursues its developmental goals. I hope this workshop will take that tradition forward into the new and highly relevant areas of ecology and conservation”

 

Dr. Robert Dorazio from the United States Geological Survey, says – “I was gratified at the high caliber and intense interest and enthusiasm of most workshop participants. It was a privilege to see statistical ecology advancing in India, which is one among the worlds most biologically rich nations”.

 

One of the participants, Dr. Ravishankar Parameshwaran says that the workshop provided a clear overview of ecological concepts. He says, “the workshop was challenging and exciting, the various topics discussed were easy to follow”.

 


Wildlife Conservation Society India Program.

WCS India Program, based in Bengaluru, has combined cutting-edge research on tigers and other wildlife, with national capacity building and, effective site-based conservation through constructive collaborations with governmental and non-governmental partners. WCS India Program is committed to saving wildlife and wild lands, nurturing and inspiring positive attitudes towards nature in people through its scientific and conservation endeavors.

 

Visit: wcsindia.org Follow: Twitter: @WCSIndia, Facebook : @wcs.ind

 

Western Ghats Coffee Plantations Sustain High Bird Diversity in India
8 months ago Comments Off on Western Ghats Coffee Plantations Sustain High Bird Diversity in India
Posted in: News, Press Releases

Media contact:

Dr. Krithi K. Karanth <krithi.karanth@gmail.com>

 

  • One of largest scientific assessments of tropical birds in the world, covering an area of 30,000 sq. km in Karnataka
  • Coffee, rubber and areca agroforests found to support 204 bird species, including 13 endemic birds of the Western Ghats
  • Coffee is richer in birds than areca and rubber, but all three agroforests are important for bird conservation in the Ghats
  • Tree cover is an important factor associated with higher bird species richness

Bengaluru, 24 September 2016: Globally, it is recognized that agricultural plantations and agroforests host a diversity of insects, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, birds and bats. In India’s Western Ghats, small and isolated protected areas are embedded in a matrix of multiple land-uses, most of which include agroforests. These agroforests are being increasingly recognized for their supplementary role in conserving wildlife.

This study evaluated bird diversity in areca, coffee and rubber agroforests, which are the most widely grown plantation crops in Karnataka’s Western Ghats.

 

The study, “Producing Diversity: Agroforests Sustain Avian Richness and Abundance in India’s Western Ghats,” appears in the current edition of Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. Dr. Krithi K. Karanth (Associate Conservation Scientist, WCS-NY), lead author of the paper stated that “this effort involved intensive research in 187 plantations covering an area of 30,000 km2 – taking the team two years to complete. This is one of most comprehensive assessments of tropical bird diversity outside protected areas conducted in the world”.

 

The study finds that coffee agroforests support higher diversity and abundance birds when compared to areca and rubber, and found 13 endemic bird species. “Large-bodied frugivores like pigeons and hornbills are found in much higher densities in coffee. These birds play a very important role of seed-dispersal and maintenance of forest trees in the region”, says Shashank Dalvi who is a co-author of the paper and one of the leading ornithologists in the country.

 

The scientists found a clear positive association of tree density and tree cover in the surrounding areas, on bird diversity. Changing agricultural practices that open-up shade tree canopy or switching from coffee and areca to monoculture crops such as rubber can seriously damage the ability of these agroforests to support birds.

 

Agroforests of the Western Ghats play a critical supplementary role in conserving India’s birds. The authors note that the biodiversity value of agroforests discovered in the study should be incorporated into future planning and policy decisions to facilitate and promote long-term biodiversity conservation. These scientific results should be integrated with policy and markets so that biodiversity rich agroforests can be incentivized to promote sustainable farming practices that enhance birds in coffee, rubber and areca agroforests.

 

The authors of this study are Dr. Krithi Karanth, Vishnupriya Sankararaman, Shashank Dalvi, Arjun Srivathsa, Dr. Ravishankar Parameshwaran, Sushma Sharma, Dr. Paul Robbins, Dr. Ashwini Chhatre. This study was a collaboration by scientists from Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Centre for Wildlife Studies, University of Wisconsin (Madison), University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) and Indian School of Business (Hyderabad) and supported by the National Science Foundation (USA). The open access paper can be found at http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fevo.2016.00111/abstract.


Wildlife Conservation Society India Program.

WCS India Program, based in Bengaluru, has combined cutting-edge research on tigers and other wildlife, with national capacity building and, effective site-based conservation through constructive collaborations with governmental and non-governmental partners. WCS India Program is committed to saving wildlife and wild lands, nurturing and inspiring positive attitudes towards nature in people through it’s scientific and conservation endeavors.

 

Visit: wcsindia.org Follow: Twitter: @WCSIndia, Facebook : @wcs.ind

9 months, 1 week ago Comments Off on Landscape Connectivity Affects Genes to Communities
Posted in: News, Press Releases

Media Contact: Dr. Divya Vasudev,

<vasudev.divya@gmail.com>

+91-96638-99211

  • Connectivity between forest fragments is critical for avoiding extinction
  • A review of 370 scientific articles reveals that isolation of habitats or wildlife populations almost inevitably has negative impacts such as high mortality, low reproduction and local extinctions. 
  • Studies on the impacts of connectivity are sadly lacking in India. 
  • Scientists recommend more objective-based assessments to understand impacts of landscape connectivity

Bengaluru, 18 August 2016: Wild animals disperse or move between isolated forest fragments to maintain linkages or connectivity. But in a fast changing world, these linkages are slowly eroding.

“Across species, and across geographies, whether you are looking at genetic material, population growth rates, or communities, the answer is the same – as connectivity erodes, species lose out,” says Dr. Robert Fletcher, lead author of the study and Associate Professor at the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida.

As connectivity is lost, genetic variability declines. Consequently, animals are less able to adapt to new environments, more prone to diseases, and can suffer from low survival and reproduction. Ultimately, local extinctions may occur, leaving behind depauperate animal communities and collapsing ecological systems.

“In India, Protected Area sizes are small, and landscapes are rapidly changing”, says Dr. Divya Vasudev, Wildlife Conservation Society (India). “Still we have little knowledge of the consequences on our biodiversity”.

Photo by Somashekar N/CWS

Large mammals like the tiger, for instance, make use of corridors to disperse across landscapes. Photo by Somashekar N/CWS

Even for a species that is well studied, like the tiger, we are only now acquiring empirical knowledge on the role that connectivity plays in preventing its extinction. Potentially dispersing tigers have been removed into captivity from conservation landscapes.

The country is immersed in debates and court cases on the construction of National Highways across recognized tiger corridors. “If we had a better handle on the consequences of disrupting connectivity between tiger populations, maybe it would prompt more effective mitigative action”,  adds Dr. Vasudev.

Connectivity research provides practical insights to specific negative implications of habitat fragmentation on wildlife.

The authors recommend focusing on estimating connectivity effects, capturing movement processes, accounting for uncertainty and isolating connectivity effects relative to others. This will enable immediate on ground action needed to ensure that functional linkages are maintained between habitat patches, and further fragmentation is immediately and effectively curtailed.

The paper titled ‘Divergent perspectives on landscape connectivity reveal consistent effects from genes to communities’ was published in the journal Current Landscape Ecology Reports last month. Authors include Robert J. Fletcher, Noah S Burrell, Brian E. Reichert, Divya Vasudev, and James D. Austin.

The paper can be accessed here:

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40823-016- 0009-6


Wildlife Conservation Society India Program. 

WCS India Program, based in Bengaluru, has combined cutting-edge research on tigers and other wildlife, with national capacity building and, effective site-based conservation through constructive collaborations with governmental and non-governmental partners. WCS India Program is committed to saving wildlife and wild lands, nurturing and inspiring positive attitudes towards nature in people through it’s scientific and conservation endeavors.

Visit: www.wcsindia.org Twitter: @WCSIndia, Facebook: @wcs.ind

10 months ago Comments Off on International Efforts Needed to Save World’s Largest Mammals, Scientists Say
Posted in: News, Press Releases

New paper warns of imminent extinction crisis for largest wild animal species

Study Link:http://bioscience.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2016/07/25/biosci.biw092

doi: 10.1093/biosci/biw092

Media Contact

John Delaney – 718-220-3275jdelaney@wcs.org

New York (July 27, 2016) – A team of conservation biologists is calling for a worldwide strategy to prevent the unthinkable: the extinction of the world’s largest mammal species.

In a public declaration published in today’s edition of the journal BioScience, a group of more than 40 conservation scientists and other experts are calling for a coordinated global plan to prevent the world’s “megafauna” from sliding into oblivion. 

 

Among the threats cited by the group as drivers of this mass extinction are illegal hunting, deforestation and habitat loss, the expansion of agriculture and livestock into wildlife areas, and the growth of human populations.

 

“The more I look at the trends facing the world’s largest terrestrial mammals, the more concerned I am we could lose these animals just as science is discovering how important they are to ecosystems and to the services they provide for people,” said Dr. William Ripple, professor of ecology at Oregon State University and lead author of the study.

 

Ripple worked with other authors on the study to examine population trends of many species, including many of the most well-known, charismatic species such as elephants, rhinos, gorillas, and big cats that are now threatened with extinction. 

Approximately 59 percent of the world’s biggest mammalian carnivore species—including the tiger— and 60 percent of the largest herbivores are now listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species as threatened with extinction.

Wild Water Buffalo_Kaziranga_Photogaph Varun R Goswami

Wild Water Buffalo, Kaziranga. Photograph by Varun R Goswami

“Perhaps the biggest threat for many species is direct hunting driven by a demand for meat, pets, and body parts for traditional medicines and ornaments,” Dr. Elizabeth Bennett, WCS’s Vice President of Species Conservation and a co-author on the study. “Only a massive commitment from the international community will stop this rampant destruction of so many animal populations.”

 

All of these large species play critical roles in their ecosystems. Species at risk include elephants, that provide a suite of vital ecosystem services as ecological engineers, dispersing seeds and nutrients across vast areas. “The loss of elephants in the forests of Central Africa is increasingly damaging the function of the region’s most important ecosystems,” said WCS Conservation Scientist Dr. Fiona Maisels, one of the study’s co-authors. “We’re only beginning to understand how vital these keystone species are to the health of rainforests and other species that inhabit them.” 

Human–wildlife conflict is a serious concurrent threat for many species. “With simultaneous loss of wildlife habitat and expansion of human populations and agriculture, negative interactions between people and wildlife are bound to rise,” said WCS India Scientist Dr. Varun R. Goswami, also a co-author on the study. “For wide-ranging megafauna like elephants and tigers, we need landscape-scale conservation strategies, taking into account the increasing interface between wildlife and people.” 

 

Some megafauna face the threat of obscurity. The loss of elephants worldwide to poachers in pursuit of ivory is well-known and is the focus of extensive efforts to shut down this trade, but the study authors point out that many species are at risk from many similar threats but are so poorly known that effective conservation efforts to save them are difficult. 

 

The paper includes a 13-part declaration that highlights the need to acknowledge the threatened status of many large mammals and the vital ecological roles they play. The declaration also cites the importance of integrating the efforts of scientists and funding agencies in developing countries where many species occur; the need for a new global framework to conserve megafauna; and the moral obligation of saving the world’s biggest mammal species. 

 

The study titled “Saving the World’s Terrestrial Megafauna” appears in the latest edition of BioScience. The authors are: William J. Ripple of Oregon State University; Guillaume Chapron of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences; José Vicente López-Bao of Oviedo University; Sarah M. Durant of the Zoological Society of London and the Wildlife Conservation Society; David W. Macdonald of the University of Oxford; Peter A. Lindsey of Panthera and the University of Pretoria; Elizabeth L. Bennett of the Wildlife Conservation Society; Robert L Beschta of Oregon State University; Jeremy T. Bruskotter of Ohio State University; Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz of the University of Nottingham; Richard T. Corlett of the Chinese Academy of Sciences; Chris T. Darimont of the University of Victoria; Amy J. Dickman of the University of Oxford; Rodolfo Dirzo of Stanford University; Holly T. Dublin of the Wildlife Conservation Society and the IUCN Species Survival Commission; James A Estes of the University of California; Kristoffer T. Everatt of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University; Mauro Galetti of the Universidade Estadual Paulista; Varun R. Goswami of the Wildlife Conservation Society; Matt W. Hayward of Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University; Simon Hedges of the Wildlife Conservation Society; Michael Hoffman of the IUCN Species Survival Commission; Luke T.B. Hunter of Panthera; Graham I.H. Kerley of Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University; Mike Letnic of University of New South Wales; Taal Levi of Oregon State University; Fiona Maisels of the Wildlife Conservation Society and Stirling University; John C. Morrison of the World Wildlife Fund; Michael Paul Nelson of Oregon State University; Thomas M. Newsome of Oregon State University; Luke Painter of Oregon State University; Robert M. Pringle of Princeton University; Christopher J. Sandom of University of Sussex; John Terborgh of Duke University; Adrian Treves of University of Wisconsin-Madison; Blaire Van Valkenburgh of University of California; John A. Vucetich of Michigan Technological University; Aaron J. Wirsing of University of Washington; Arian D. Wallach of University of Technology-Sydney; Christopher Wolf of Oregon State University; Rosie Woodroffe of the Zoological Society of London; Hillary Young of the University of California; and Li Zhang of Beijing Normal University.


WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) MISSION: WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in nearly 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: newsroom.wcs.org Follow: @WCSNewsroom. For more information: 347-840-1242.

WildSeve: A pioneering conservation initiative addresses human-wildlife conflict in India
10 months, 2 weeks ago Comments Off on WildSeve: A pioneering conservation initiative addresses human-wildlife conflict in India
Posted in: News, Press Releases
  • A win-win solution for farmers in distress and threatened wildlife species, responds to 3420 calls in 365 days
  • Nearly 1,000 Families have received or are about to receive substantial and fair compensation, as mandated by the government
  • WildSeve is an innovative initiative of the Wildlife Conservation Society, supported by technology giant Oracle 

WildSeve allows us to respond to people instantly, help with the onerous process of claiming compensation, and tracks the efficacy of the entire process

Dr. Krithi Karanth, WCS conservation scientist

12 July 2016, Bengaluru: Addressing human-wildlife conflicts is one of the major challenges in wildlife conservation today. Previous research by Dr. Krithi K. Karanth, a conservation scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS, New York) found that less than one third of rural families in India experiencing crop loss, property damage, livestock predation as well as human injury and sometimes death, received the government mandated compensation payment around India’s wildlife reserves, in which, populations of globally threatened species like the tiger, leopard, wild dog, elephants are now rebounding.

In 2015, Dr. Krithi Karanth launched the ‘WildSeve’ Project in 284 villages surrounding Bandipura and Nagarahole National Parks, two of India’s premier tiger reserves. This user friendly mobile technology based platform integrates a toll free number that farmers can call to report a wildlife conflict incident. ‘WildSeve’, a non-profit conservation initiative, works as an intermediary between farm families facing economic losses and the State Forest Department mandated to help them.

Farmers facing a wildlife conflict incident can call the toll free number to report an incident. Motorcycle borne trained responders, located strategically in the affected areas, rush and assist families in filing compensation claims, completing all due processes including fair assessment of the damage. They act as intermediaries between people and government agencies, ensuring transparency.

In just one year, the WildSeve team has already helped file claims in 3261 incidents of crop and property damage by elephants and other herbivores, 148 cases of livestock predation by big cats and wild dogs, 11 cases of injury and 2 deaths among human victims of the conflict. Of these, 2998 toll free calls came from Bandipur and 422 from Nagarahole. Till date, nearly 1000 families have either received or are about to receive substantial and fair compensation.

Dr. Krithi Karanth says “WildSeve arose from 7 years of my research on understanding the complexities of human-wildlife interactions across India and finding that compensation has a role to play in fostering tolerance towards wildlife. It offers a rare opportunity to help people directly affected by conflict in the hope that they will tolerate their losses and not retaliate against wildlife. It is a brilliant example of how creativity and innovation can bring technologists and wildlife conservationists together to develop simple solutions that can have powerful transformative impacts on society. WildSeve allows us to respond to people instantly, help with the onerous process of claiming compensation and tracks the efficacy of the entire process”.

Over the long term, WildSeve through its thousands of case histories will build a system that identifies high conflict regions, villages and vulnerable families that require short and long term assistance. In one year it has identified 787 families who experienced multiple incidents of crop raiding and 18 families who lost livestock repeatedly.

Dr. John Robinson, WCS Executive Vice President of Conservation and Science adds, “WildSeve is proving to be a good example of how technology is key to advancing conservation solutions. I applaud Dr. Krithi Karanth and collaborator Nikhil Velpanur for designing a simple solution for a complex challenge and Oracle for having the vision to fund it. I am optimistic that we can learn from this work and apply it globally.”

“Oracle is extremely proud to support WildSeve,” said Colleen Cassity, Executive Director of Oracle Giving, which supports Dr. Karanth’s work at WCS as well as the work of other scientists and conservationists in India and Africa helping to save big cats in the wild as part of the National Geographic Society’s Big Cats Initiative. “It’s vital that we educate local communities on how to coexist and flourish with big cats and other wildlife in their backyards. Ensuring that famers affected by wildlife get help is equally vital. WildSeve is a simple, brilliant solution toward achieving both ends.”

WildSeve was developed by the WCS India program in collaboration with technology entrepreneur Nikhil Velpanur (a TED Fellow) and his team. Nikhil says “that he was inspired by listening to Krithi speak of her work at INK and offered to help in any way”. WildSeve is a product of this collaboration. He states that he is “humbled by the impact and the WCS field staff are the true heroes of WildSeve”.

WildSeve was supported by the Oracle, Rufford Foundation and National Geographic Society’s Big Cats Initiative.

Media Contact: Dr. Krithi Karanth (India), 91-99-00-902041, <krithi.karanth@gmail.com>


Wildlife Conservation Society India Program. 

WCS India Program, based in Bengaluru, has combined cutting-edge research on tigers and other wildlife, with national capacity building and, effective site-based conservation through constructive collaborations with governmental and non-governmental partners. WCS India Program is committed to saving wildlife and wild lands, nurturing and inspiring positive attitudes towards nature in people through it’s scientific and conservation endeavors.

Visit: www.wcsindia.org Twitter: @WCSIndia, Facebook: @wcs.ind