2015, Volume 2
By the year 2020, earths wildlife will share the planet with 7.6 billion people. In the face of mounting pressures, we all share a responsibility to protect the wild species and places on which all lives depend.
Our goal is to conserve the worlds largest wild places in 15 priority regions, home to more than 50 percent of the worlds biodiversity. We have a new strategy and a new look. Our logo a stylized Wstands for wildlife.
We cannot do this work alone. We need a collective approach that meets the scale of the challenge. We need you, our supporters, to join us, unified by a shared promise to save wildlife.
Since its founding, WCS has maintained an unwavering commitment to field conservation. More than a century later, we are the preeminent science-based wildlife conservation organization in the world. Our approach is truly boundless. We work with partners of all kinds, as well as indigenous and local communities, to save species in nearly 60 countries and all of the worlds oceans. Our veterinary and epidemiological expertise spans 35 countries and we collaborate across countless sectors to craft science-based solutions to wildlife crime, climate change, protected area management, and enterprise development, among others.
This WCS Progress Report provides our generous supporters with updates and insights on core field science and conservation action across the globe.
THESE SPECIES, AND THE LIZARD ON THE
COVER, ARE JUST A FEW OF THE MANY SEEN SO
FAR ON THIS GROUNDBREAKING EXPEDITION.
Madidi Expedition Sparks Discovery
WCS is the conceptual and scientific lead of the Identidad Madidi expedition in Bolivias Madidi National Park, now underway after years of careful planning and preparation. This project, which involves an in-depth investigation of 14 different habitat types over 18 months, aims to bring attention to the unique biodiversity of Madidi and showcase Bolivias natural heritage. The expedition began on May 22, the International Day of Biological Diversity. Between June and September, the team ventured across the first five study sites through montane savannahs, dry montane forests, paramo grasslands, high Andean puna vegetation, and elfin treeline forests. During this journey, the experts added an impressive 100 species of vertebrates to the official list of species found in the park. One of these is a possible new species of robber frog, shown in the top center photo. The discovery was made by two herpetologists on the expedition from the Bolivian Faunal Collection, and came about when they noticed the frogs distinctive orange inner thighs. A literature review
supports this discovery as a probable new species, and genetic studies are underway to confirm this. Other discoveriesincluding three catfish, a spectacled lizard, and a gladiator frogcould also be new species, and the team is currently working to verify their uniqueness. The most recent leg of the expedition, which began in October, explores the Amazonian rainforest and foothill forest. With such positive results so far, the explorers are energized about the prospect of more new discoveries to come as they travel to other sites.
You can follow the exciting findings and incredible photos from the expedition on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: @IdentidadMadidi
Identidad Madidi is funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and other generous supporters.
WCS and local authorities in the Russian Far East have achieved an important goal in protecting Amur (Siberian) tigers. Logging roads in wild areas often allow poachers easy access to endangered animals, including tigers. Now, the largest logging company in the region, TerneyLes, is working with WCS and the Terney County Forest Service to dismantle abandoned logging roads currently used by poachers to find and kill tigers. The roads will be made impassable through a combination of bridge removals, trenches, and barricades created by bulldozers. The roads crisscross Terney County in the Russian Province of Primorye, a coastal region that borders China, North Korea, and the Sea of Japan. Primorye is one of the worlds most biologically-rich temperate forest zones, and 30 percent of all endangered species in Russia (including Amur tigers) are concentrated there. In fact, Primorye contains some of the best Amur tiger habitat in the world, with dense forests of oak and pine teeming with deer, boar, and other tiger prey species. Because tigers often use logging roads as travel corridors, they are easy victims for poachers who drive the same roads in vehicles armed with spotlights and high-powered rifles. And tigers are not the only victims: Red deer and wild boar (key prey
species for tigers) are common targets, and northeast Asian species including Blakistons fish owls, mandarin ducks, and a vast array of fish also suffer from the impacts of these roads. Additionally, the increased traffic brings more human-caused fires. The process of dismantling the roads began in summer 2015. WCS and the Provincial Wildlife Department will monitor the closed roads to make sure poachers do not detour around them.
Closing Roads to Save Tigers
WCS AND OUR PARTNERS
PERFORM AERIAL SURVEYS TO
CONDUCT ELEPHANT COUNTS.
Elephant Counts in Africa Show Mixed Results
Since 2014, WCS has been leading savannah elephant counts in a number of countries as part of a collaborative effort called the Great Elephant Census, a Paul G. Allen project. The results have been mixed, with both population increases and decreases identified. However, all of these counts have given us and our partners valuable insights into the current status of elephants throughout Africas savannahs and informed where we should concentrate efforts. Aerial surveys of elephant populations in Ugandas national parks have shown that their numbers are increasing. Recent results indicate that elephant numbers in the country have risen to more than 5,000 individuals, up from approximately 700 to 800 individuals in the 1970s and 1980s. WCS attributes this promising rise to improved protection, strong Ugandan government leadership, and other focused conservation efforts. Sadly, rampant poaching is causing severe elephant declines throughout much of Africa. In two countries where WCS conducted surveys, Tanzania and
Mozambique, there have been dramatic drops in elephant numbers. Scientists are estimating a 48 percent reduction of Mozambiques elephants in the last 5 years, down from just over 20,000 to the current estimate of 10,300. The countrywide census results in Tanzania reveal an estimate of 43,330 existing elephants, compared to the 2009 census showing 109,051. This represents an astounding loss of 65,721 elephants in 5 years. The governments of both nations recognize this crisis and are taking steps to protect their elephant populations from further decline. WCS is supporting them in these efforts. WCS also leads major initiatives across Africa to stop the killing of elephants by establishing protected areas, mobilizing ranger patrols, and developing monitoring technology.
Counts have given us and our partners valuable insights into the current status of elephants.
Across Africa and Asia, great apes are threatened due to habitat destruction, as well as hunting (for their meat, and to obtain young animals for the pet trade). Yet conservation teams are taking actions each day to help protect these extraordinary animals. Based on a recent announcement from Sarawak, Malaysia, orangutans are poised to receive a major boost. In August 2015, the Chief Minister of the state of Sarawak issued a video statement highlighting the governments intention to protect orangutans and other fauna and flora in this biodiversity-rich region. The minister announced a series of groundbreaking actions to protect Sarawaks 1,800 to 2,500 orangutans, including efforts to limit new logging concessions and oil palm plantations in the state, which would significantly reduce land clearances that are harmful to orangutan habitats.
What are some of your teams recent achievements?
DR. CALEB MCCLENNEN: In the last year, WCS helped expand marine protected areas in Gabon, Argentina, Indonesia, Madagascar, and Bangladesh. Were also working closely with communities and governments to help improve the management of fisheries. In Belize, were introducing a limited licensing system to reduce the number of fishers and improve overall sustainability. Around the worldfrom Kenya to Indonesia to Fiji
our work on small-scale fisheries is helping individual fishers catch more while protecting the critical coral reef ecosystems on which the fisheries depend. We are also in the process of building a global partnership to take on the challenge of shark and ray conservation and ensure their current declines are reversed. Our recent victories include major manta ray trader busts in Indonesia, fishery reforms in Gabon, and a new shark protected area in Madagascar.
How will your work impact the New York Aquarium?CM: The New York Aquarium is the home base of WCSs local ocean conservation. Leveraging our expertise at the Aquarium, we have developed an impactful conservation program, the New York Seascape Program, to conserve the regions waters. The targets of this programmarine mammals, sharks and rays, diadromous fish, and marine protected areasare all being integrated into the design, interpretation, messaging, and education at the Aquarium.
What is your favorite WCS memory?CM: A great part of my job here at WCS is seeing first-hand the important work our marine field conservationists implement around the globe. I have witnessed some of the most impressive marine wildlife aggregations, coral reef systems, and seascapes on the planet. However, one of the most exciting moments was actually right here in New York. As part of the design process for our new aquarium exhibit, Ocean Wonders: Sharks!, I dove off of Montauk, New York with underwater photographer Keith Ellenbogen. You descend in the emerald water into a cave of glacial boulders similar to what youd see on a mountain. Except these large, 20- to 30-foot rocks are teeming with lifeanemones, sponges, nudibranchs, and massive schools of fish! I had a view of New York underwater that was, frankly, unexpected and as compelling as anything Ive seen around the world.
WCS played a key role by informing the decision and crafting the terms of this policy declaration. During his statement, the chief minister welcomed and encouraged assistance from the scientific and conservation community to ensure the protection of Sarawaks great natural heritage. To help achieve this goal, WCS signed two major agreements with agencies within the Government of Sarawak to promote and implement conservation projects in various protected areas through scientific research, education, information sharing, and training. Since this announcement, the states enforcement agencies have stepped up their efforts to stop the destructive practices that convert orangutan habitat to commercial plantations .
Dr. Caleb McClennen oversees WCSs Marine Conservation Program, which operates in 23 countries and aims to reverse the decline of coastal ecosystems and fisheries, increase populations of threatened marine species, and improve the resilience and livelihoods of coastal communities. Caleb is also supporting the New York Aquariums efforts to build a broader and deeper public understanding of, and political commitment to, the worlds oceans.
Orangutans in Sarawak Receive Major Boost
Conservation efforts often focus on high-profile animals such as tigers and elephants. But what about the other 9 million species on earth? A new WCS study offers hope for some of the lower-profile members of the animal kingdom. The study demonstrates that a Wisdom of the Crowds method can successfully be used to gauge the welfare of species when more costly standard methods are not feasible. WCS assessed the conservation status of the Manus green tree snail a species found only on Manus Island in Papua New Guineaby surveying 400 human inhabitants of the island. People at the islands main market were asked to map the relative abundance of the snail based on personal observations. After analyzing the resulting data, WCS was able to generate a detailed profile that included information on the snails range, likely environmental factors affecting its distribution, and its rate of decline. Using this information, a petition was submitted to the IUCN, which then designated the Manus green tree snail with the globally recognized classification of Near Threatened.
While WCS biologist and study author Nathan Whitmore does not advocate using a Wisdom of the Crowds investigation as a substitute for quantitative field monitoring, he believes the method is sufficient for basic conservation decision making, such as determining a species threat status or triage assessment when funds for field surveys are unavailable.
Using Wisdom of the Crowds to Advance Conservation
A Conversation with Dr. Caleb McClennen
Major Arrests Deter Criminals from Trade
Wildlife trade is an international, multi-billion dollar commercial enterprise, a large proportion of which is illegal. Within Asia, some of this trade starts in Indonesia. Working with key partners, WCS operates the Wildlife Crimes Unit within Indonesia. The team protects threatened species in four ways; we gather intelligence, facilitate vital information sharing, help strengthen law enforcement, and advance national policy on wildlife trafficking. The Unit has substantially bolstered the number of wildlife-related arrests; the successful prosecution rate is more than 90 percent, compared to only 5 percent where WCS is not involved.
APRIL 26: A pangolin smuggler en route to China was arrested for having 5 tons of frozen pangolins, valued at approximately USD$1.8 million.
JUNE 12: Two suspects engaged in the illegal trade of helmeted hornbill casques (known as golden ivory, as shown in far left photo) were arrested in Langkatan important entry point for poachers trespassing into North Sumatra. The suspects confessed to selling at least 124 casques within 6 months to a Chinese middleman.
JULY 3: A trader was arrested in Larantuka, an important fisheries landing area for manta rays and sharks. His shipment included 290 manta ray gill plates weighing more than 33 pounds. The suspect allegedly purchased the plates from local fishermen and traders, and confessed to being in possession of an additional 220 pounds of manta bones and 970 pounds of manta skin. The suspect faces a penalty of up to 8 years in prison and a maximum fine of USD$150,000.
JULY 9: An orangutan trader was sentenced to two years in prison and fined USD$750 in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia. The trader was first arrested on February 27 by Indonesian authorities with technical support from the Wildlife Crimes Unit. At the time of the arrest, he was attempting to sell a one-year-old female orangutan that he was transporting in a knapsack. The orangutan is currently under the care of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme and will eventually be returned to the wild.
JULY 13: A major ivory trader and smuggler was arrested in Bintuhan, a notorious transit city for ivory, tiger skins, and other wildlife contraband. The police confiscated numerous carved ivory smoking pipes and swagger sticks, which are ornamental canes. The trader admitted to police that he has been involved in the ivory trade for the last five years.
AUGUST 8: Poachers and a dealer trading tiger parts were arrested during a bust of their operation, which involved a transaction for 1 fresh tiger skin, 13 pounds of tiger bones (including a tiger skull), and 4 tiger fangs for USD$10,000.
AUGUST 31: Six bird poachers were arrested in Gunung Leuser National Park in the Stabat Area of Sumatra. Evidence seized in the arrest included 25 lesser green, greater green, and blue-winged leafbirds, along with bird netting and bird decoy equipment.
These arrests send a clear message that wildlife trafficking in Indonesia will not be tolerated, and serve as a deterrent to other potential traders. WCS has received reports that, in response to the large percentage of successful busts, several poachers and traffickers in the country have recently quit the nefarious business, now believing that the risk is far greater than the reward.
Over the past several months, the Wildlife Crimes Unit has assisted Indonesian authorities with several successful arrests and prosecutions of major wildlife traffickers:
The successful prosecution rate is more than 90 percent, compared to only 5 percent where WCS is not involved.
Designation of a protected area as a World Heritage Site, under the UNESCO World Heritage Convention, adds an additional level of protection beyond national legislation to treasured places worldwide in recognition of their outstanding universal value to humankind. The global network of landscapes and seascapes in which WCS works overlaps with 28 natural and mixed natural/cultural World Heritage Sites, including 8 sites considered to be in danger. Sites are determined to be in danger due to many factors, including armed conflict or war, natural disasters like the recent earthquakes in Nepal, unsustainable development like oil and gas extraction, and poaching and wildlife trafficking. These threatened sites include the iconic Virunga National Park in Central Africa, Belize Barrier Reef, and the Atsinanana rainforests of eastern Madagascar. WCS knows from assisting government partners on the ground in World Heritage Sites that the World Heritage Convention, which was implemented 40 years ago, is one of the best tools to help ensure the protection of our planets flora, fauna, and ecosystems. WCS engages with the Convention at the annual meeting of its World Heritage Committee, and undertook a comparative analysis of the top threats facing natural World Heritage Sites, drawing from data collected from 20 of these sites worldwide through UNESCO State of Conservation
Species Affected and Health Issue WCS Response
Gorillas & Humans EBOLA: Scientists estimate that over the past 20 years this disease has killed significant numbers of the worlds gorillas and chimps.
In certain Ebola hot zones, WCS scientists are collecting samples from a range of species, including gorillas, chimps, and bats, to study viral transmission pathswork that will help health experts unravel where this virus hides and how it spreads among wild animals and eventually to people. We hope to use this information to develop measures that will ensure that wild apes survive in Africas forests for generations to come.
TigersCANINE DISTEMPER:A virus once believed to affect only the Canidae, or canine family (dogs, wolves, foxes), which now threatens tigers.
WCS health experts and Russian partners were the first to confirm the presence of this disease in wild tigers. We are now studying how the virus behaves and is transmitted among a range of wild and domestic species, as a step towards designing control measures including potential development of specialized vaccines. We are also developing a lab-in-a-box to analyze samples at the point of collection a huge time saver when tracking dangerous diseases.
Frogs & AmphibiansCHYTRID:A deadly fungus responsible for the deterioration of amphibian populations around the world.
WCS has custom-built a mobile molecular diagnostic laboratory that we deploy around the world to collect and analyze samples from the field in near real-time. This mobile lab has been instrumental in quickly tracking the spread of Chytrid fungus and the species being affected. This critical information helps shape amphibian protection plans.
VulturesDICLOFENAC:A veterinary anti-inflammatory drug used to treat livestock has been responsible for the near-extinction of vultures in areas where it has been used.
Diclofenac is currently licensed for veterinary use in some European Union countries, including Spain which is home to approximately 95 percent of Europes vultures. WCS is collaborating with other conservation organizations to urge the EU to ban the use of this medicine, for which there are alternatives, due to its harmful effects on vulture populations.
Southern Right Whales UNKNOWN:Over the last decade, the southern right whale breeding ground of Pennsula Valds has experienced unprecedented mortalities and strandings.
WCS conservationists and partners continue to investigate possible causes, including decline in food availability/nutritional stress, harassment by kelp gulls, infectious disease, or other factors. Our scientists have satellite tagged southern right whales in order to track their migrations to provide further scientific clues for understanding the die-off. This information has revealed previously unknown feeding grounds and migratory routesinformation that is essential to assess any links with the whale mortalities.
Addressing Wildlife Health Issues
reports, the IUCN World Heritage Outlook analysis, and a survey of WCS field programs. These findings were released at the 2015 World Heritage Committee meeting in Bonn, Germany.
Other harmful factors listed include climate change, wildfires, and oil and gas extraction.
In addition, the report surveyed successful protection and management interventions at World Heritage Sites where WCS works. It found that research and effective law enforcement, along with engagement with local communities and development of tourism programs, are the most effective actions to address these threats. The international community must collaborate on the strategies identified before some of the most special places in the world are irreparably harmed.
Commercial hunting (illegal killing and trade)Agricultural expansionGround transport infrastructure expansionIllegal activities of all kindsMining & quarryingWar, civil unrest, military exercisesLogging & wood harvestingInvasive/alien speciesLivestock farming & grazing of domesticated animalsImpacts of tourism & recreational activities
Understanding Threats to World Heritage Sites
TOP THREATS INCLUDE:
Many now-famous conservation leaders received funds and support from WCS early on, which helped jump-start and direct their careers. Since 1993, WCS has funded 346 proposals totaling more than $3 million. The Research Fellowship Program responds to the international need for more trained and experienced conservation scientists who have the highest possible level of commitment, education, and expertise. This program results in young citizens building their own individual capacity to become leading conservationists in their countries.
Thanks to a long-term presence and deep relationships with communities in the sites where we work, WCS has helped to develop over 40 small and medium enterprises that deliver alternative sources of income to communities, as well as positive conservation outcomes. These enterprises are in large part managed by local communities across WCSs conservation sites in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. They cover a diverse set of sectors from ecotourism to sustainable agriculture initiatives, such as coffee, cacao, cashmere, and vanilla farming and distribution all with direct benefits to wildlife. These enterprises directly support approximately 300,000 people globally, while contributing to the conservation of some of the worlds most biodiversity-rich areas.
I had just completed my masters degree when I received the RFP grant to implement my very first funded conservation project entitled Assessing the distribution of marine mammals in Cameroon coastal areas. By funding this project, RFP has given me the unique opportunity to translate my idea into concrete action, which has profoundly and positively impacted my career and marine conservation in Cameroon. Through this project, I created the first fishermen sighting network made up of local fishermen who have been documenting life and death sightings of marine mammals in Cameroon, thus enhancing the countrys baseline data on these species. RFPs funding has triggered subsequent additional support from other organizations.
Educating the Next Generation of Conservationists
Previous Fellowship Award Recipients:
FEATURED FELLOW: Aristide Kamla Takoukam
Starker Leopold and F. Fraser Darling1952: Arctic wildlife
John Emlen and George Schaller 1959: mountain gorillas
Dian Fossey 1967: mountain gorillas
Iain Douglas-Hamilton 1967: African elephants
George Archibald1971: Asiatic cranes
Russ Mittermeier 1973: Amazon primates
Alan Rabinowitz1982: jaguars
Nigel Leader-Williams 1984: black rhinoceros
Mrcio Ayres1990: Brazilian primates
SPOTLIGHT ON IBIS RICEThe Northern Plains of Cambodia are a unique landscape, home to a diverse community of large mammals and wetland birds found nowhere else in the world. Cambodias national bird, the giant ibis, and many other endangered species of the Northern Plains are now more protected thanks to an enterprise development initiative supported by WCS. The Wildlife-Friendly Ibis Rice project was created in 2009 as a not-for-profit ethical enterprise to protect this important wildlife habitat while improving local livelihoods through incentives for communities to engage in conservation. These incentives are extended
Enterprise Development Benefiting Local Communities and Wildlife
I have since created a local non-profit organization called the African Marine Mammal Conservation Organization (AMMCO). We have developed an innovative mobile app called SIREN which is being used to report and document sightings of aquatic animals in real time. The RFP has provided an opportunity to acquire field experience and network with important scientists and funders. This helped me secure my PhD application at the University of Florida. Moreover, following my RFP project, I have been granted both a Fulbright scholarship and a Beinecke African Conservation scholarship. I am looking forward to fulfilling my dream of making a better world for marine mammals in Africa. Alone I am just a dreamer, but with support like RFP, I have become an actor.
Thank you for helping us save wildlife and wild places around the globe.
Learn more at wcs.org
With deep appreciation to: Dwi Nugroho Adhiasto, Elizabeth Bennett, Tom Clements, Peter Clyne, Richard Cuthbert, London Davies, Melvin Gumal, Simon Hedges, Julie Kunen, Susan Lieberman, Kate Mastro, Caleb McClennen, Steve Osofsky, Lilian Painter, Andrew Plumptre, Howard Rosenbaum, Jon Slaght, Aristide Kamla Takoukam, Kira Topik, Mariana Varese, Rob Wallace, and Peter Zahler
Photos: Front and Back Cover, p.2, p.4 Mileniusz Spanowicz/WCS; p.6 (top) Jonathan Slaght; p.6 (bottom), p.12 (first, second, fourth) Julie Larsen Maher WCS; p.7, p.12 (fifth) Cristin Samper/WCS; p.8 Drew Albinson/WCS; p.9 (top) Katephotographer/Dreamstime; p.9 (bottom) Nathan Whitmore/WCS; p.10 (top left) Dewantoro/WCS; p.10 (top right) Paul Hilton/WCS; p.10 (bottom), p.15 WCS; p.12 (third) Tracey Seimon/WCS; p.13 Sarah Walker/WCS; p.14 Aristide Kamla Takoukam
to villagers whose opportunities are limited by the constraints of living in a remote area with little opportunity to expand their farms and limited market access. Ibis Rice buys rice paddy at a premium from farmer networks in villages of the Northern Plains in exchange for the farmers commitment to wildlife protection and land-use rules. Ibis Rice markets and sells this sustainable, premium quality rice throughout Cambodia. Buyers include domestic tourist hotels and restaurants, major supermarket chains, and, potentially in the future, international markets.
WCS is helping prepare the next generation of conservationists through the Research Fellowship Program (RFP). This small grants program supports individual field research projects that are led by citizens of developing countries and have a clear application to the conservation of threatened wildlife and wild places.
Executive Editor: Mary Deyns Brando Managing Editor: Sarah WalkerWriters: Nellie Beach, Jennifer Orlando, Christine Westphal
Art Direction: Drew AlbinsonStaff Photographer: Julie Larsen MaherEditorial Support: Tal Aviezer, Libby Del Greco
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