Gerardo Ceballos - Ecology and conservation of the prairie dog

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Gerardo Ceballos - Ecology and conservation of the prairie dog Powered By Docstoc
					Dr. Gerardo Ceballos

Ecology and conservation of the prairie dog grassland
ecosystem of the Janos region, Chihuahua, northern Mexico

The desert grasslands of the Janos region in northern Chihuahua are home of one
of the largest surviving prairie dog colonies in the world. Black-tailed prairie dogs
are highly social rodents that live in large groups, and play a vital role in
maintaining the grasslands in which they thrive. Their burrowing activity loosens
and churns the soil, increasing its ability to sustain plants, which in turn attract an
amazing array of wildlife. Surprisingly, it is thanks to the prairie dog that the only
truly free roaming bison herds in Mexico survive here, along with other rare
species such as porcupine, kit fox, jaguaroundi, golden eagle, burrowing owl, and
mountain plover.

For centuries people have also benefited from the prairie dog’s services, grazing
large herds of cattle. But despite their importance to ranching, the black-tailed
prairie dog was until recently considered an agricultural pest. Poisoned because
they were believed to compete with grazing cattle, today it is an endangered
species. One casualty of prairie dog decline has been the black-footed ferret.
Completely dependent on prairie-dogs for prey, it became extinct in the wild in
1987. Over recent decades, roads and the introduction of electricity have
worsened the plight of the prairie and its wildlife by promoting large scale
conversion of native vegetation to crops. The grassland ecosystem is under
increasing threat from disturbance, habitat destruction, wide-scale use of
pesticides and fertilizers, and the unsustainable use of water resources.

Dr. Gerardo Ceballos, 47, is one of Mexico’s foremost ecologists and Head of the
vertebrate ecology and conservation at the National University of Mexico. He is
also Director of Ecociencia, an NGO devoted to the conservation of endangered
species and ecosystems in Mexico. Since 1988, Gerardo has worked to increase
awareness and scientific understanding of the prairie dog and its role in
conservation of the prairie. He and his team successfully reintroduced the black-
footed ferret - the most endangered mammal in North America – back to the
Janos region in 2001 in attempt to restore ecological balance. He now aims to
consolidate his work, establishing a stable population of ferret and prairie dog, and
working with local people to show how cattle ranching and grassland conservation
can – and must – go hand in hand. Gerardo is providing economic activities to
local people that are compatible with conservation. Central to his work is the
creation of an ambitious 500,000 hectare protected area to conserve the prairie
dog ecosystem region in northern Chihuahua.
Dr. Zhigang Jiang

Ecosystem approach to conservation of the Przewalski’s
Gazelle in pastoral areas around the Qinghai Lake, China

Qinghai means ‘green sea’ in Chinese, and the lake of the same name on the
Tibetan Plateau is the largest inland saltwater lake in China. Lying in the northeast
of Qinghai Province, at 3,200 meters above sea level, the lake stretches like an
ocean into the horizon, attracting large flocks of migratory birds. The sandy
steppes and dry grasslands surrounding the lake are also an important grazing area
for many species, including Tibetan wild ass, Tibetan gazelle, as well as one of
China’s most critically endangered species, the Przewalski’s gazelle.

First identified in the 1890, Przewalski’s gazelle populations have declined every
year since they were discovered, and the species is now even rarer than the Giant
Panda. Hunted in the 1900s for meat and hide, and more recently out-competed
by the 3 million head of livestock grazing the plateau, today less than a few
hundred gazelles survive. 500,000 people are dependent on herding in Qinghai
Province, but over-grazing of the fragile altitude grasslands is leading to
desertification, destruction of the plateau and a reduction in the availability of
food for the gazelles. Once a large contiguous area, today the plateau landscape is
criss-crossed by barbed wire fences, cutting off the last gazelles from each other.

Since 1994, 48 year old Dr. Jiang Zhigang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences
has researched and monitored Przewalski's gazelle around the lake. Zhigang and
his team are working directly with indigenous people on conservation and conflict
resolution initiatives, demonstrating how they can coexist with wildlife. He has
helped elevate Przewalski's gazelle as a flagship species for grassland conservation
in China, and in 1997 successfully established the lake as a National Nature
Reserve, free from illegal hunting. Zhigang is now working with the provincial
and central governments to formulate a conservation strategy for the region. He
is establishing sustainable grazing practices with local people and mapping key
corridors between the four remaining populations of gazelle, to protect this, the
most threatened hoofed mammal in the world.
Manfred Epanda Aimé

Sustainable hunting for great ape conservation at the
periphery of the Dja Faunal Reserve: Cameroon, Africa

Dja Faunal Reserve in Eastern Cameroon is one of the largest and best-protected
rainforests in Africa, with 90% of its area left undisturbed. Almost completely
surrounded by a natural boundary, a loop of the Dja river, the reserve is noted for
its biodiversity and a wide variety of primates. The reserve became a UNESCO
World Heritage Site in 1987, however despite active management since 1992, the
wildlife of this important reserve remains in danger. Intensive logging activities
and hunting pressure at the reserve periphery threaten the forest’s great apes.
Some apes visit plantations at the village borders, damaging crops and leading to
conflict with local communities. At the same time, as bushmeat becomes scarce,
people push ever deeper into the reserve in search of protein.

A team from the Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp established Projet Grands
Singes in 2000 in an attempt to address the issues facing the northern periphery of
the reserve. Realising the urgent need to engage local people, the project has
evolved from a great ape study into an integrated conservation and development
project combining research and education. Now in its fifth year, and led by 29
year old local Cameroonian biologist, Manfred Epanda Aime, a key aim of the
project is the development of a participative management plan to bring hunting
under sustainable control. At the same time as involving local communities in
wildlife conservation, small-scale development projects are helping them find
alternatives sources of income to poaching.

A great achievement has been seen in the signature of an agreement between local
communities and the Conservation Service of the reserve to create and implement
a management plan. Backed by national legalisation, a Community Wildlife
Management Committee has been established to implement the plan through
stakeholder agreement. Highly respected by local people, Manfred now acts as a
vital link between local people and official ecoguards from the Ministry of forest
and wildlife, communicating requests for support to help locals protect their
forest against poachers. Manfred is now expanding anti-poaching activities and
integrating three further communities living at the reserve periphery into the
program. Central to the project is the support and enthusiasm of the local people
is. It is hoped that success here will produce a model that can be replicated at
other reserves in Central Africa to conserve great apes, which in turn will open the
way to scientific tourism and even greater incentives for conservation.
Nguyen Thi Phuong Dung

Mobilising the public through participation – a national
programme to stop the wildlife trade in Vietnam

Illegal wildlife trade is one of the greatest threats facing biodiversity in Vietnam.
As the country's economy grows, infrastructure developments are linking
previously remote areas to outside markets, feeding an alarming trade in wildlife
with neighbouring China, Laos and Cambodia for use in traditional medicine,
foods, and as souvenirs and pets. At the same time, domestic demand within
Vietnam is growing, particularly for bear bile. Incentives to hunt wildlife are often
high for rural people, and Vietnam has now become not only as a supplier of
wildlife, but also a conduit for wildlife smuggled from abroad. Though tens of
thousands of animals are confiscated – more than 15,500 animals in 2001 alone -
this is thought to represent only about 5% of the total trade.

Vietnam became a member to CITES in 1994, and under domestic law, permits
are required to import and export threatened wildlife. However, much of the trade
goes unregulated as enforcement agencies lack the essential equipment, resources
and manpower. Several extinctions have occurred, and some species found only
in Vietnam are now critically endangered, including Tonkin snub-nosed monkey,
Delacour’s langur monkey and Vietnamese pond turtle. Bears, reptiles and
primates are undergoing the most severe declines. Despite the urgency of the
situation, public awareness of the negative impacts of the illegal consumption and
sale of wildlife is low, and is one of the main factors contributing to the scale of
the problem.
Education for Nature was established in 2000 as Vietnam’s first environmental
education-focused NGO. Since 2005, the Wildlife Trade Department of ENV has
been led by Nguyen Dung, 26. Through innovative use a new Wildlife Trade
Hotline, national radio announcements and the media, Dung’s work has not only
increased the public awareness of the problem, but has also increased the capacity
of the authorities to deal with cases. The hotline now provides members of the
general public with the opportunity to report illegal trade, information which is
then passed on to enforcement agencies. In just one year, monitoring has shown
fewer endangered species being sold in Hanoi’s main markets. Dung now intends
to build on this success through expansion of the radio show and hotline to
provincial radio stations and development of a pilot monitoring system in Hanoi to
assess wildlife trade at markets and restaurants.
Suprabha Seshan

The Green Phoenix: plant conservation, habitat restoration
and community education in the Western Ghats, India

Only 10% of original forest still covers the Western Ghat Mountains of Southern
India. One of the world’s most biodiverse tropical ecosystems, high levels of
floral endemism make the forests unique. For generations, local people have
cultivated these valuable plants for use in herbal cures and in cooking. Today,
however, human pressure on the region is enormous, and in some areas up to
50% of the plant species are extracted for the burgeoning global medicinal market.
Deforestation and the invasion of exotic species are also threatening India’s floral
biodiversity. It is feared up to 20% of all native plant species could become extinct
within a few decades.

The Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary was founded in 1981 to protect these
endangered plants. The project has successfully propagated 2,000 species of plant,
an incredible one third of the region’s flora. As highly specialised plants, many are
rare or endangered, and 40% are endemic. This is the largest collection of Western
Ghat species in the world and includes mosses, ferns, orchids, grasses and trees.
The Sanctuary has a trained team of local women - ‘eco-system gardeners’
dedicated to regenerating wild populations of flora. Locally the Sanctuary has
acquired small parcels of land, nurturing devastated habitats back to natural forest.
In the mountains, work focuses on restoring endangered shola grasslands: a
montane ecosystem exclusive to the Western Ghats.                 Following habitat
assessment and species surveys, restoration projects have been initiated in
National Parks, temple sanctuarys, community lands, and degraded forest,
involving hundreds of landowners.

39 year old Suprabha Seshan has lived in these forests for the past 13 years and is
Director of Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary. Committed to raising awareness of
India’s floral wealth, Suprabha founded the ‘School in the Forest’ initiative,
helping establish the Sanctuary as an important learning centre where thousands
of school children visit every year. With her dedicated team, Suprabha now aims
to expand the Sanctuary as a centre of excellence for learning and education, and
as a training resource centre for fledgling conservation staff. Through increased
regional collaboration with research bodies, NGOs, and government, Suprabha is
committed to increasing the reach of the Sanctuary as a centre for excellence in
environmental education and habitat restoration.
Sergey Bereznuk

“Fighting for Minds”: Amur tiger conservation through law
enforcement and outreach activities in Primorye, Russia

Primorye in the Russian Far East is the only area in the world where both the
Amur tiger – more commonly known as the Siberian tiger - and Amur leopard still
exist in the wild. In spite of worldwide publicity, these big cats still face many
threats - illegal poaching, human encroachment, deforestation, and a lack of
natural prey species. An estimated 450 mature Amur tigers and 35 Amur leopards
are left in the wild, and of the surviving tigers, only approximately 10% are found
within protected areas. The numbers protected are not enough to sustain the
population, and thus the future of the tiger is still at stake and depends on the
attitude of the local people towards them.

The Russian NGO, Phoenix Fund was established in 1998 to help conserve
Russia’s rare and endangered wildlife. Led by Sergey Bereznuk, Phoenix works
closely with the local communities, conservation agencies and experts to develop
and maintain a network committed to the conservation of the Primorye’s habitats
and wildlife. In the short-term, a war with poachers is being waged. But in the
long-term it is re-education of the community that will ensure tiger survival.
Through ‘Tiger Outreach’, local children are being taught about tigers and their
conservation, supported by summer camps and Tiger Festival Days held annually
at Vladivostok, Novopokrovka and Luchegorsk to celebrate the tiger. A Tiger
Eco-Centre at Novoprokrovka has been established with the support of other
conservation organisations, visited by over 2,600 pupils in the district.

As well as continuing to engage local communities to participate in conservation,
Sergey is strengthening anti-poaching and habitat protection, and working to
formalise research to aid the development of best practice. The Phoenix Fund is
part of a coalition of organisations that recently succeeded in persuading the
Russian Government to re-evaluate the routing of a 4,000km Pacific Oil pipeline
and terminal through Amur Bay in Southwest Primorye, in the range of the Amur
leopard. An essential task is to continue to address governmental inertia and
bureaucracy through lobbying for greater protection of tiger habitat.
Dmitry Lisitsyn

Vostochny wild salmon refuge: conservation of biodiversity,
Sakhalin Island, Russia

Sakhalin Island, a Russian territory to the north of Japan, is one of the last places
in the world where pristine coniferous forests maintain river and basin conditions
for wild salmon spawning. During the last century, industrialization has led to the
systematic destruction of the island through concentrated clear-cutting, poaching
and unlimited industrial fishing. 9% of Sakhalin Island is protected on paper, but
in practice, whilst most of these areas have strict protection from use by local
people, nearly all are commercially logged and fished. Despite this, the Pursh-
Pursh and Vengeri Rivers which flow into the Sea of Okhotsk frame 65,000
hectares of ancient forest untouched by human activity. Known as Vostochny
refuge, these rivers provide spawning grounds for five species of wild Pacific
salmon, including pink, chum, cherry, coho and endangered Sakhalin taimen.

The territory is extremely productive with annual runs of over 4 million fish
providing food for brown bear and Steller’s sea eagles, as well as important
wetland habitat for waterfowl. This last natural and untouched part of the island
is critical for the salmon ecosystem, but commercial fishing and logging industries
seek to establish permits to deforest and fish the refuge. Well-organized teams of
poachers sponsored by a fishing mafia set up poaching stations at remote
locations on the river banks each year. It is feared that exploitation of Sakahlin’s
last untouched area will have a detrimental impact on both wildlife and local

Local environmentalist Dmitry Lisitsyn, 38, is leader of ‘Sakhalin Environment
Watch’, a local NGO established in 1995 to protect Sakhalin’s natural
environment. With strong local support, Dmitry and his team have led a 9 year
program of protection at Vostochny refuge, patrolling against poachers and illegal
loggers. Through the efforts of SEW and other local NGOS, Vostochny achieved
protected area status in 1999, but in 2004 the commercial fishing company
‘Laguna’ succeeded in overturning this status by exploiting a legal loophole.
Laguna is now applying for commercial fishing rights to the reserve, presenting a
new threat to both wildlife and the islands’ inhabitants. Dmitry is working to
create an effective system of wild salmon protection by redesignating Vostochny
as a reserve with full stakeholder consultation. He aims to create an area where
sustainable use by local people will be allowed, with strict prohibition of any
commercial use of natural resources.
Dr. Patricia Majluf

Mapping traditional fishing areas as a tool for developing
proposals for marine protected areas, Punta San Juan,
Southern Peru

The industrial anchovy fishery off the Pacific coast of Peru is the largest single
species fishery in the world. With average annual landings of between 8 and 12
million metric tons, this fishery represents around 10% of all global marine
captures. This wild catch goes to produce fishmeal and fish oil to feed farmed
fish in Europe and China. Though the guano system of the region has been
protected by the Peruvian Government since 1909 for the extraction of fertiliser,
the economic importance of the fishery has meant its negative impact on the
marine ecosystem has largely been ignored. The once magnificent populations of
anchovy predators - pelicans, sea lions, fur seals, penguins and dolphins - have
suffered steep declines, and in just fifty years, the guano bird population has
plummeted from 28 to 1.8 million - a decline of more than 95%.

Overfishing of Peru’s marine ecosystem is having a negative impact on both
wildlife and people. As anchovies have declined, so too has the resilience of their
marine predators to survive El Niño, a periodic natural event when unusually
warm, nutrient-poor seas cause a drop in fish availability. Conservationists fear
that as El Niño events become both stronger and more frequent as a result of
climate change, Peru’s already decimated marine wildlife will decline further.
Local artisanal fisheries now struggle to survive because the large carnivore fish on
which their trade depends are scarce. The discharge of industrial effluents from
fishmeal plants is polluting the main breeding and nursing grounds of many
important commercial species of fish and shellfish.

Conservation scientist, Dr. Patricia Majluf, 47, has since 1979 run the Punta San
Juan Project to understand the changing ecology of this important marine area.
She is undertaking long-term monitoring and examining the interactions between
wildlife and local fisheries by recording changes in catch size. Since 1996, Patricia
has worked to establish Peru’s first network of marine protected areas through
incorporating Punta San Juan and the other 34 islands of the guano reserve system
into a national protected area framework. Through building capacity, raising
public awareness, and working closely with both Government agencies and local
fishermen, Patricia is working to bring an end to the unsustainable fishing
practices which threaten both livelihoods and the region’s unique wildlife.
Pedro Vaz Pinto

Conservation of the critically endangered Giant Sable
Antelope, Malanje Province, Angola, Africa

The giant sable antelope (Hippotragus niger variani) is one of Africa's most
magnificent and least known animals, having remained hidden in its central
Angolan refuge for centuries, protected and revered by local tribes. A subspecies
of the common sable antelope, the giant sable is found only in Angola, and has
been a national emblem since its discovery in 1909, proudly displayed on Angolan
postage stamps and currency. However, the giant sable’s most striking
characteristic - its long curving horns which can exceed 160 cm - soon made it a
prime target for hunters. In 1975, just as moves were being made to secure a
future for the antelope, the Angolan civil war erupted. The area became closed to
conservationists and the giant sable was feared lost barely 70 years after it was

In 2003, an ambitious project aimed at proving the giant sable's survival and
establishing the grounds for its conservation was launched by local conservation
scientist, 38-year-old Pedro Vaz Pinto. Expeditions failed to sight anything, but
cameras traps set in April last year produced the first photos of giant sable seen
for more than twenty years. Whilst the overall numbers of surviving antelope
remain unknown, the evidence suggests the last sables are restricted to the
woodlands and sandy grasslands of the Luando Reserve, a 880,000 ha area in
Malanje province and the 63,000 ha Cangandala National Park.

Pedro is leading a research team from The Catholic University of Angola to secure
a future for the last giant sables. By understanding the distribution of the
antelopes and the level of threat posed by poaching, Pedro is consolidating
approaches to conservation of the species. Central to the project is the crucial
role played by local communities in successfully conserving the antelope over the
centuries. A programme launched in October 2004 resulted in the successful
involvement of several locals as "sable shepherds", working to monitor and
protect the sable from poachers. Pedro now aims to expand the pilot, training
more locals to patrol the reserves on bicycle, monitor camera traps and report
illegal hunting. The Giant sable is not only a flagship species for protected area
conservation but also for a country emerging from years of civil war.
Alexander Arbachakov

Conserving the cedar forests of the Shor People in Gornaya
Shoriya, Kemerovskaya region, Russia

The Kemerovskaya Region is part of Russia's largest coal basin and lies where the
West Siberian Plain meets the mountains of Southern Siberia. Despite being one
of Russia’s most populous regions, some areas such as Gornaya Shoriya still
harbour valuable cedar forest wilderness. Sable, squirrel, weasel, Siberian deer and
brown bear survive here in the taiga forests, a cold biome just south of the tundra
where food is scarce and for six months of the year the temperature falls below
freezing. It is also home to some 13,000 Shor, indigenous people who rely on
their environment to survive where other animals hibernate and migrate the

The Shor rely on the forest for hunting, shelter, for gathering berries and other
edible plants and herbs. The cedar is a sacred tree, rarely cut down, and only ever
once the tree has been asked for forgiveness. But despite the importance of the
forests to the Shor and to wildlife, only 100,000 ha of forest in Gornaya Shoriya
remain and the State Environmental Agency has been largely ineffectual in giving
these valuable relic forests the protection they require. Over the last 30 years, the
forests of Kemerovskaya region has been reduced by more than 15%, with the
greatest losses occurring at Gornaya Shoriya. With the forests and wildlife
diminishing, many rare species of flora unique to the region are also being lost
along with any independent future for the Shor.

Alexander Arbachakov, 41, has worked for over 15 years to protect the forest
home of his people. In 1999 he founded The Taiga Research and Protection
Agency (AIST) with other members of the Shor to stop illegal logging at Gornaya
Shoriya. AIST is mapping the most valuable territories, identifying threats and
prioritising areas of value to both the Shor and wildlife. AIST has created a
database of traditional knowledge to document how the Shor people use their
environment without harming biodiversity. Alexander now hopes to use this
knowledge to create a model for the sustainable use of cedars across the region.
Through workshops to train both the Shor and other local people techniques for
monitoring forest health, AIST is increasing collaboration between different
ethinic groups and developing a basis for long-term conservation. Alexander is
committed to raising awareness across Russia of not only the importance of forest
protection, but also the value of the Shor People’s traditional culture.

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