Friday, 7 December 2012

Lions have lost 75% of their original habitat in Africa

A new study has confirmed that lions are rapidly and literally losing ground across Africa's once-thriving savannahs due to burgeoning human population growth and subsequent, massive land-use conversion.

Representing the most comprehensive assessment of the state and vitality of African savannah habitat to date, the report maintains that the lion has lost 75% of its original natural habitat in Africa - a reduction that has devastated lion populations across the continent. 

The report, entitled The size of savannah Africa: A lion's (Panthera leo) view, was published online in the journal ‘Biodiversity and Conservation.'

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Tiger Tourism in India - 2

India’s Supreme Court lifted its interim ban on tiger tourism on the 15th October – so is everything back to normal for tiger watching trips? Absolutely not!

Most Indian states took little notice of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, which rather vaguely said that tiger reserve ‘core zones’ should be ‘inviolate’. States made their own definition of what this might mean – some decided that any number of visitors could go provided they didn’t stay overnight; others decided the State could built tourist lodges in the core zone and others ignored it completely & left it as a free for all.

Community activist Ajay Dubey instigated the ban, because he was appalled at how the Wild Life (Protection) Act was being ignored. In lifting the ban states have been given six months to respond to the 69-page document of guidelines drawn up by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (part of the Ministry of Environment and Forests). A number of states, like Karnataka, recognise they don’t comply – so they have maintained the ban on tourists visiting their tiger reserves.

So if you’ve got a tiger watching trip booked - you might not get to see any tigers.

Tiger Tourism in India - I

I’ve been researching tiger tourism for a magazine article & what a mess India has allowed the issue to become.

There’s a real possibility that in the not too distant future tigers will only exist in zoos.

But even zoos are not safe places for tigers. This September in India’s north-eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh a gang of poachers managed to enter a high-security zoo in the capital and hack a tiger to death.

They choose a time when all three security guards decided to go to lunch together, leaving the animals unprotected. Poachers were free to enter the zoo, tranquillise the six-year-old tigress & then cut her to pieces whilst she was unconscious.

The Zoo chief, Zoram Dopum, said that the poachers fled when the ‘hapless’ security guards returned - but no one has been identified, captured or prosecuted for the slaughter.

The growing wealth in China & southeast Asia has seen demand for dead tiger products skyrocket. Tiger skins fetch $20,000, bones sell for $1,200 per kilogram and a whole animal would retail at $30,000.

Poaching is rampant and is the primary cause of the year on year decline in tiger numbers – there are even some tiger reserves where resident tigers have been poached to extinction.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Priceless or Worthless?

What is a species worth?
September 2012: Tarzan’s chameleon, the spoon-billed sandpiper and the pygmy three-toed sloth have all topped a new list of the species closest to extinction released by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

For the first time, more than 8,000 scientists from the IUCN Species Survival Commission (IUCN SSC) have come together to identify 100 of the most threatened animals, plants and fungi on the planet. But conservationists fear they'll be allowed to die out because none of these species provide humans with obvious benefits.

While the utilitarian value of nature is important conservation goes beyond this. Do these species have a right to survive or do we have a right to drive them to extinction?

Difficult conservation
Professor Jonathan Baillie, ZSL's Director of Conservation said: “The donor community and conservation movement are leaning increasingly towards a ‘what can nature do for us’ approach, where species and wild habitats are valued and prioritised according to the services they provide for people. This has made it increasingly difficult for conservationists to protect the most threatened species on the planet.”

Priceless or Worthless
The report, called Priceless or Worthless?, will be presented at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in South Korea this month (Tues 11th Sept), and hopes to push the conservation of ‘worthless’ creatures up the agenda that is set by NGOs from around the globe.

Co-author of the report, ZSL’s Ellen Butcher says: “All the species listed are unique and irreplaceable. If they vanish, no amount of money can bring them back. However, if we take immediate action we can give them a fighting chance for survival. But this requires society to support the moral and ethical position that all species have an inherent right to exist.”

Decline often caused by humans
The decline of these species has mainly been caused by humans, but in almost all cases scientists believe their extinction can still be avoided if conservation efforts are specifically focused. Conservation actions can deliver results with many species such as Przewalski's Horse (see Reintroducing an extinct species to the wild - and Humpback Whale have being saved from extinction.

The 100 species, from 48 different countries are first in line to disappear completely if nothing is done to protect them.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Wilderness knows no boundaries

Today PAN Parks announced Europe’s first successful verification of a trans-boundary wilderness area between Oulanka (Finnish) and Paanaj√§rvi (Russian) National Parks. This verification will strengthen the protection of wilderness across political boundaries.

Oulanka and Paanaj√§rvi were certified PAN (Protected Area Networks) Parks, but artificially divided by the country border between Finland and Russia. After a decade of working hard to harmonise the two areas management plans, the third-party verification conducted by PAN Parks’ experts confirms that natural values of the two areas are taken care by the two management bodies in close cooperation.

Home to some of Europe’s rarest creatures - bear, wild reindeer, lynx, wolf and wolverine this collaborative approach will aid their survival.

Photo: Andy Gehrig
The trans-boundary status of the area is the largest protected area within the European Wilderness Preservation System set up through the PAN Parks’ network. The two parks cover over 132,000 hectares, from which 103,000 hectares are managed according to wilderness principles. ‘These principles mean there is no extractive use within the wilderness zone! No hunting, no logging, no grazing with domestic animals, but nature developing on its own!’ explains Vlado Vancura, conservation director of PAN Parks Foundation.

This approach is still unique in Europe and unfortunately the few existing wilderness areas cover less than 1% of Europe’s land territory compared to 5% covered by artificial surfaces (roads, industry, housing, etc).

Monday, 6 August 2012

Our Wetland Wildlife weekend – 8th and 9th September

The UK’s wetlands range from small ponds and trickling streams to gushing rivers and massive reservoirs, and all are vitally important natural resources.

As well as supporting a huge variety of wildlife, including charismatic species like otters and marsh harriers, they also provide a range of crucial ecosystem, economic and cultural services – such as food, fuel, flood prevention, water storage, recreation and transport.

Despite this, wetlands are some of our most damaged habitats, and are still being lost at an alarming rate. 

The Wildlife Trusts are in the forefront of efforts to protect and restore the UK’s precious wetland habitats, in the face of threats from climate change, drainage and development. 

Wildlife Trusts across the UK are holding a series of ‘Our Wetland Wildlife’ events on Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 September.  The events form part of The Wildlife Trusts’ Centenary celebrations.

Be among the first to visit the new lagoons and hides at Rutland Water, spot water birds in Lincolnshire, identify moths in Cumbria, or take a wetland bat walk in Cheshire. Celebrate the wetland restoration work carried out in Radnorshire, go pond-dipping in Warwickshire, or check out the beavers back in Scotland after 400 years of extinction.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

First 2012 turtle hatchlings reach the sea at Zakynthos

The turtle hatching season has begun once more in Greece, with Sekania beach being the first to produce hatchlings. On the night of July 24th 2011, Archelon ( volunteers spotted five baby turtles beginning their precarious life journey.
After an incubation period of 49 days, the first five female hatchlings emerged and two more nests on the same beach followed suit the next day. The remaining nests will continue to hatch until the end of October.

Every year, hundreds of baby turtles begin the journey to the sea, but it is estimated that only one in a thousand will manage to survive and return as an adult back to her birthplace after 25 to 30 years. During hatching season it is very important that no artificial lights exist at the back of the beach, because baby turtles become disoriented and crawl away from the sea and dying. People should also resist going onto nesting beaches at night, as there is a good chance that baby turtles will be accidentally trampled and killed.

Indian tiger numbers down from 100,000 to 1,700 in a century

The number of India’s tigers has shrunk alarmingly in recent decades. A 2011 census counted only 1,700 tigers left in the wild, compared to 100,000 a century ago. Poaching and human-wildlife conflicts between tigers and people living in and on the periphery of tiger reserves are the biggest threat.

A landmark ruling, this month, by India’s Supreme Court has ordered a ban on tourism in "core zones" of more than 40 of the country’s central government-run tiger reserves.

The ruling seeks to protect the core zones of the tiger reserves, but tourists will still be able to visit buffer areas, up to a distance of 10km from the core areas. However, court fines of 10,000 rupees (£115) on states not complying with its earlier tiger protection directives seem unlikely to be a major deterrent.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Saving the Whale in Brighton

30 years ago today the International Whaling Commission met at the Brighton Hilton Metropole on 23 July 1982 and made the decision to ban whaling. This year, the world’s leading whale charities and whale watching businesses are returning to the same location to join forces on behalf of whales worldwide.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Help save our seas during The Wildlife Trusts’ National Marine Week

To mark the start of National Marine Week 2012 - from Saturday 28 July to Sunday 12 August, The Wildlife Trusts are recruiting ‘Friends of Marine Conservation Zones’. 

The UK’s seas host some of our most fascinating wildlife – and some of the most diverse animals and plants in Europe – but they are in serious decline from overfishing, pollution and other harmful human activity.

To help restore and protect this vitally important habitat, 127 Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) in English and offshore Welsh waters have been recommended to the Government for protection, following consultation with more than a million stakeholders. 

However, there are indications that only a small proportion of these will actually be designated.  To put pressure on the Government to designate the full suite of 127 recommended sites, The Wildlife Trusts are encouraging people to become ‘friends’ of their local MCZ.  Only by designating all the recommended MCZs can we provide protection to the full range of habitats in our waters, ensuring that species are able to move between protected habitats. 

To help inspire people about the amazing diversity of our seas, and to encourage them to befriend their local MCZ, The Wildlife Trusts are hosting more than 80 exciting events around the country for National Marine Week 2012.

With your local Wildlife Trust you can really make the most of the UK seaside this summer – enjoy an educational ‘Shark, Skate and Ray Day’ in Cornwall, ‘Lunch and Limpets’ in Sussex, trips to the shore in Yorkshire, sea dipping in Norfolk, or a rock pool ramble in Durham.

In addition to the events, The Wildlife Trusts are also providing online details of locations, species and habitats for all 127 recommended MCZs.  People can also help to save our seas by signing our ‘Petition Fish’, which is calling for the creation of an ecologically coherent network of Marine Protected Areas.
Click here for a full list of The Wildlife Trusts’ National Marine Week events:

To read more about befriending your local MCZ, see here:

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Rarest Big Cat On The Planet Gives Birth To Twins in Kent

The Wildlife Heritage Foundation in Kent has just announced the birth of two Amur leopard cubs - the rarest big cat on the planet. After a 90 day pregnancy two cubs were born on the morning of the 22nd May.

WHF aim to prevent the Amur leopards going the way of the Tasmanian Tiger by running a managed breeding program that should eventually lead to the grandchildren of these cubs being reintroduced into the wild.

The Amur leopard (aka Far East leopard, Manchurian leopard, Korean leopard) is a rare leopard subspecies living in the temperate forests and harsh winters of the Russian Far East. They are facing extinction because of unsustainable logging, forest fires, land conversion for farming and poaching for the illegal trade of their unique spotted coats.

It is a critically endangered sub-species on the IUCN's 2000 Red List of Threatened Species and CITES has listed it on Appendix I. There may be a mere 30-35 left in the wild and only around 100 in captivity.

The Wildlife Heritage Foundation have been actively involved in many breeding programs over the past 10 years, helping to raise funds for conservation projects all over the world. Previously the charity has raised money for leopard conservation chairty Amur ALTA, Wildlife Vets International, and Project Life Lion in Africa.

The WHF is based at The Big Cat Sanctuary in Smarden, Kent, where they house a small number of selected endangered big cats with the view to breeding and where possible re-introduction to their home continents. The WHF is a charity allowing people from all walks of life, nationalities and countries to join and actually assist (if they wish) in the long term care, and where possible reintroduce animals and plants in to their native habitat.

The WHF is supported by its sister site Paradise Wildlife Park -

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Are Dolphins merely cargo?

According to an internal memo leaked to the Chinese media Hong Kong Airlines recently flew five dolphins from Japan to Vietnam in their cargo hold.

Animal welfare groups said the dolphins were in packed into what amounted to ‘flying coffins’ for up to seven hours in transit from Osaka to Hanoi. But overwhelming pressure from customers and animal welfare groups has made the airline stop what it had seen as a lucrative business opportunity.

In a recent statement HKA said it had carried the dolphins in compliance with government rules and International Air Transport Association live animal regulations. However, after consulting with welfare groups, HKA said it had been persuaded that providing transportation for this type of cargo could result in the endangerment of wildlife.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Chance to become a Rainforest reporter - Together For Trees competition

Win a two-week trip to an RSPB rainforest project to experience the conservation projects first hand. The competition winner will be required to report back daily to the UK on the work being done whilst on the Rainforest Trip - using blogs and websites set up by Together For Trees. They will also be required to capture imagery and film content. The Winner will be able to help with some of the day-to-day conservation work on the ground and meet some of the local teams.

This is a competition to raise awareness about the importance of rainforests but is also a great opportunity for someone to spend time in a rainforest & practice their social media skills.

Entrants must complete an online application form detailing why they are interested in becoming the Rainforest Reporter using the Together For Trees website:

Entries must be in by 23rd March 2012 (11.59PM GMT) & the winner will be announced on 18th May 2012

Together for Trees is an organisation aiming to help save rainforest around the world & is sponsored by the charity Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) & Tesco.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Do protected wildlife areas improve outcomes for animals?

Scientists from the top conservation charity The Earthwatch Institute will be discussing key conservation issues in London this month.
A lecture, Protected Areas: Do they improve outcomes for key species? takes place at 7pm – 8:30pm on Thursday 15 March at the Royal Geographical Society, 1 Kensington Gore, London SW7 2AR. Cash bar from 6pm. To reserve your place visit, call +44 (0)1865 318856, or email

Friday, 9 March 2012

Want a Wildlife Conservation Job in Australia?

Competition running from 24 February - 30 June 2012
The South Australian Tourism Commission, working in association with STA Travel and Tourism Australia, is offering travellers the chance to win a job as a conservation assistant on Kangaroo Island.

This job offer is part of a wider campaign designed to boost awareness of the opportunities for young people in Australia. It’s obviously part of an Australian tourist promotion but as far as I can see the jobs are real, although they are deemed to be ‘prizes’ to be won so if they’re half as popular as Tourism Queensland’s 2009 ‘Best Job in the World’ - competition will be fierce.

In South Australia there is an opportunity to work on Kangaroo Island as a conservation assistant on Seal Bay. Kangaroo Island is a fabulous island off the Adelaide coast & is famed for its abundance of free roaming native wildlife. Seal Bay Conservation Park is one of only two places in the world where visitors can get up close to a breeding colony of rare Australian sea lions.
In Victoria there is an opportunity to work as an environmental assistant on Phillip Island Nature Park, which is just off the Melbourne coast. This is the location of the 2010 BBC documentary - Penguin Island - successful candidates can expect to work with penguins, koala and other native Australian wildlife.
In Tasmania there is an opportunity to work with a conservation project on Bruny Island, which is just off the southern tip of Tassie. The job is likely to involve working with native Australian wildlife with some time checking marine life on the Southern Ocean.

Flights, the job and visa fees are all included in the prize. To be in with a chance of winning one of these jobs go to

Criteria for a Working Holiday Visa:
- must be between 18 and 30 years old
- must have a British passport with one year validity or more
- must have no dependent children
- must show sufficient funds for a return/onward fare and for the first part of the stay
- be of good character and meet the health criteria

Thursday, 8 March 2012

New edition of Wildlife & Conservation Volunteering, March 2012

I am very pleased with the success of the first edition of Wildlife & Conservation Volunteering (Bradt, 2009) and excited with the publication this month of the second edition (Bradt, 2012).

This new edition had been completely updated and expanded, including more organizations, updated assessments, more volunteer stories and more field adventures. There is also a new chapter on great wildlife migration events – how, when and where to see them, with more great photographs.

A conservation volunteering experience is so much more than a wildlife trip or safari, not just for the positive feel-good factor of doing something useful but because of the hands-on involvement and insights they provide into the life of wild creatures and the country they live in.

For example, Jason, a ranger on the deserted island of Curieuse in the Seychelles, told me how when he arrived for work on the morning of 24th December 2004 all the giant tortoises had mysteriously disappeared from their normal beachside habitat. Two days later the tsunami struck but the tortoises had laboriously struggled up onto the islands high ground – behaviour he had never seen before. It seems like scientists are missing a low-tech trick for a tsunami early warning system.