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Successful conservation actions require strategies that combine research, policy formulation and enforcement, practical interventions and education. Here we review the Armadillo Conservation Programme, which was initiated in 2012 as a pioneering multidisciplinary programme for the conservation and management of five armadillo species in the Orinoco Llanos of Colombia. It is led by a multi-institutional alliance that ensures active participation of stakeholders during all stages of the programme. Six main threats affecting armadillo populations in the Llanos were identified, and these were addressed in the first joint action plan of two Colombian environmental authorities. Scientific research facilitated an increase in the knowledge available about the armadillos of the Llanos, and the recategorization of the northern long-nosed armadillo Dasypus sabanicola on the IUCN Red List. Threat evaluation and mitigation included the assessment of illegal bushmeat trade and consumption in local restaurants and the establishment of a certification label for restaurants that do not sell wild meat. Multiple strategies were used to raise awareness about armadillos and position them as flagship species for the Llanos, including education programmes in schools, travelling exhibitions, talks at universities, and the publication of several books. The local communities were actively involved through a network of private reserves committed to the conservation of armadillos, in which armadillos are protected from poaching and monitored by farmers. Breeding and rehabilitation facilities were established that can host confiscated armadillos and raise awareness among the local communities. This case study shows that conservation programmes targeted at inconspicuous and poorly known species can be successful.
The Subantarctic island of South Georgia lost most of its birds to predation by rodents introduced by people over 2 centuries. In 2011 a UK charity began to clear brown rats Rattus norvegicus and house mice Mus musculus from the 170 km long, 3,500 km2 island using helicopters to spread bait containing Brodifacoum as the active ingredient. South Georgia's larger glaciers were barriers to rodent movement, resulting in numerous independent sub-island populations. The eradication could therefore be spread over multiple seasons, giving time to evaluate results before recommencing, and also reducing the impact of non-target mortality across the island as a whole. Eradication success was achieved in the 128 km2 Phase 1 trial operation. Work in 2013 (Phase 2) and early 2015 (Phase 3) covered the remaining 940 km2 occupied by rodents. By July 2017, 28 months after baiting was concluded, there was no sign of surviving rodents, other than one apparently newly introduced by ship in October 2014. A survey using detection dogs and passive devices will search the Phase 2 and Phase 3 land for rodents in early 2018. Seven (of 30) species of breeding birds suffered losses from poisoning, but all populations appear to have recovered within 5 years. The endemic South Georgia pipit Anthus antarcticus was the first bird to breed in newly rat-free areas, but there were also signs that cavity-nesting seabirds were exploring scree habitat denied them for generations. Enhanced biosecurity measures on South Georgia are needed urgently to prevent rodents being reintroduced.
We present the first systematic assessment of the population, demography and distribution of the Endangered Zanzibar red colobus Piliocolobus kirkii, in Unguja in the Zanzibar archipelago, based on a survey effort of 4,725 hours. We estimate the total population comprises 5,862 individuals in 342 groups (mean group size 17.12); 3.4 times the mean of all previous estimates. We calculated a total area of occupancy of 376 km2, with 4,042 individuals living within protected areas. Mean group sizes were significantly higher within protected areas (20.57) than outside (12.80). The number of adult females was 3,179 (54.21%), with a mean of 9.29 per group, and the number of adult males was 932 (15.89%), with a mean of 2.71 per group, giving a ratio of 3.31 adult females to adult males. This ratio was significantly lower outside protected areas. The total number of infants was 958 (16.34%), with a mean of 2.80 per group, and the number of subadults/juveniles was 793 (13.52%), with a mean of 2.32 per group, giving ratios of 0.30 infants to adult females, and 0.25 subadults/juveniles to adult females. The results indicate that P. kirkii is resilient and thriving far better than assumed. However, recruitment is low and the population may be in decline, with individuals outside protected areas most at risk. We tentatively support the categorization of P. kirkii as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, argue for greater protected area status for southern Uzi, Vundwe and Mchamgamle, and discuss conservation implications for this charismatic flagship species.
Across Africa the majority of giraffe species and subspecies are in decline, whereas the South African giraffe Giraffa camelopardalis giraffa remains numerous and widespread throughout southern Africa. By 2013 the number of giraffes in South Africa's Kruger National Park had increased by c. 150% compared to 1979 estimates. An even greater increase occurred on many of the estimated 12,000 privately owned game ranches, indicating that private ownership can help to conserve this subspecies. The estimated total population size in South Africa is 21,053–26,919. The challenge now is to implement monitoring and surveillance of G. camelopardalis giraffa as a conservation priority and to introduce sustainable practices among private owners to increase numbers and genetic variation within in-country subspecies.
Biological surveys starting in the 1950s provided clear evidence that the Itombwe Massif, located in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, is one of the most important areas for conservation in Africa. Further surveys in the mid 1990s and early 2000s showed key species were still present and could be conserved. Following a report on these surveys the Ministry of Environment established the Itombwe Reserve in 2006 without consulting local communities who have legitimate customary rights to reside within the area and use the region's natural resources. Although creating the Reserve was within the government's legal authority, its establishment violated the rights of the people there. Here we report over a decade of work by a consortium of international and national human rights and conservation NGOs, the local communities and the protected areas authority (Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature), to remediate this taking of customary rights. Starting in 2008 these partners began a participatory process with all 550 villages within and around the boundary of the Reserve. Using a community resource use mapping approach, developed from best practices, the team helped communities determine the boundary of the Reserve, and then pilot participatory zoning to identify zones for settlements, agriculture, hunting, gathering of non-timber forest products, and conservation. This process secured the customary rights of long-term residents in the Reserve and protected their lands from being taken by non-rights holders. As a result of this work the use rights of communities were largely restored and the communities agreed on 23 June 2016 to formalize the boundaries of the renamed Itombwe Nature Reserve.
Hemis National Park of the Trans-Himalayas is home to a large population of the snow leopard Panthera uncia and increasing numbers of agro-pastoralists. To persist in this harsh terrain, farmers have to either farm livestock or hunt free-ranging, native ungulates. The availability of more livestock and fewer natural prey created a dynamic whereby snow leopards depredated livestock, followed by retaliatory killing of snow leopards. In 1992, to assist farmers and wildlife, the government enacted a cost-compensation scheme. Following a decade with marginally fewer depredation events, in 2002, two additional strategies were implemented: predator-proof holding pens and the Himalayan Homestay Programme. We assessed 22 years (1992–2013) of depredation data, comparing the periods before and after the additional initiatives. Government records showed that during 1992–2013, 1,624 livestock were depredated from 339 sites, with c. USD 15,000 paid as compensation. There were significantly more kills annually before (a mean of 41) than after (3.5) the initiatives, and mass killings (≥ 5 animals killed per attack) were significantly reduced from 5.5 to 0.5 events per year. Goats and sheep (57%) and horses (13%) comprised the majority of losses. The marked reduction in depredation occurred whilst regulations against hunting were being enforced, probably resulting in an increase in the number of wild prey as alternative food. We conclude that together, cost-compensation, tighter hunting regulations, improved holding pens and the Homestay Programme helped support the well-being of the community while aiding conservation efforts.
An assessment of management effectiveness was carried out for all the protected areas in the Kingdom of Bhutan. During 2014–2016 the Royal Government of Bhutan developed a custom-made tool for assessing management effectiveness: the Bhutan Management Effectiveness Tracking Tool Plus (Bhutan METT +). This was implemented in Bhutan's 10 protected areas and one botanical park, and the results were verified through field trips and expert reviews. The assessment indicates that protected areas in Bhutan are well managed and there are generally good relationships with local communities, despite an increase in livestock predation and crop damage. However, effectiveness is limited by a low level of resources (both financial and appropriate technical resources) and by gaps in monitoring and research data, which limits the ability to understand the impact of conservation, react to changing conditions and undertake adaptive management to improve efficiency and effectiveness. Bhutan is in the midst of mobilizing considerable conservation funding. The Government is working in partnership with WWF to create an innovative funding mechanism for the protected area system: the Bhutan for Life initiative. The Bhutan METT + study provides an example of how to develop a baseline against which to measure the effectiveness of protected areas over time and assess the impact of conservation inputs.
Monitoring of nesting beaches is often the only feasible and low-cost approach for assessing sea turtle populations. We investigated spatio-temporal patterns of sea turtle nesting activity monitored over 17 successive years in the Lamu archipelago, Kenya. Community-based patrols were conducted on 26 stretches of beach clustered in five major locations. A total of 2,021 nests were recorded: 1,971 (97.5%) green turtle Chelonia mydas nests, 31 (1.5%) hawksbill Eretmochelys imbricata nests, 8 (0.4%) olive ridley Lepidochelys olivacea nests and 11 (0.5%) unidentified nests. Nesting occurred year-round, increasing during March–July, when 74% of nests were recorded. A stable trend in mean annual nesting densities was observed in all locations. Mean clutch sizes were 117.7 ± SE 1 eggs (range 20–189) for green turtles, 103 ± SE 6 eggs (range 37–150) for hawksbill turtles, and 103 ± SE 6 eggs (range 80–133) for olive ridley turtles. Curved carapace length for green turtles was 65–125 cm, and mean annual incubation duration was 55.5 ± SE 0.05 days. The mean incubation duration for green turtle nests differed significantly between months and seasons but not locations. The hatching success (pooled data) was 81.3% (n = 1,841) and was higher for in situ nests (81.0 ± SE 1.5%) compared to relocated nests (77.8 ± SE 1.4%). The results highlight the important contribution of community-based monitoring in Kenya to sustaining the sea turtle populations of the Western Indian Ocean region.
Ostional in Costa Rica is the second largest nesting site of the olive ridley sea turtle Lepidochelys olivacea, which is categorized as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. In Ostional the local community helps maintain the nesting site and collects olive ridley eggs for consumption and trade within Costa Rica. Since its inception in 1987 the egg harvesting project has integrated sea turtle conservation with community development. We assessed the current status of this project in terms of community awareness, dependency, involvement and perceptions, using a household survey and semi-structured interviews with key informants. We also compared some of our findings with those of previous studies at the site, finding that the project has fewer dependents, primary livelihood activities have shifted towards tourism and hospitality, and respondents are more aware about environmental conservation and stewardship. We map outcomes of the project with the Sustainable Livelihoods Framework, and suggest that further capacity building for research and tourism could contribute towards sustaining the turtle population, local livelihoods, and the community-based conservation institution.
Non-lethal mitigation of crop use by elephants Loxodonta africana is an increasingly important part of protected area management across Africa and Asia. Recently, beehive fences have been suggested as a potential mitigation strategy. We tested the effectiveness of this method in a farming community adjacent to Udzungwa Mountains National Park in southern Tanzania. Over a 5.5-year period (2010–2016) a beehive fence was introduced and subsequently extended along the Park boundary. The probability that one or more farms experienced crop loss from elephants on a given day was reduced in the presence of the fence and was reduced further as the fence was extended. The number of hives occupied by bees along the fence was the best predictor of elephants’ visits to farms. Farms closest to the fence experienced a greater likelihood of damage, particularly during the initial period when the fence was shorter. The number of farms affected by elephants declined when the fence was extended. There was a higher probability of damage on farms that were closer to the Park boundary and further from a road. Our mixed results suggest that the shape, length and location of fences need to be carefully planned because changes in a farm's long-term susceptibility to elephant damage vary between individual farms; fences need to be long enough to be effective and ensure that decreasing crop loss frequency is not outweighed by an increasing number of farms damaged per visit.
Crop loss to foraging elephants is one of the most significant causes of conflict between people and elephants in areas where wild elephants share resources with people. Effective solutions to reduce the effects of human–elephant conflict on local livelihoods are thus essential to foster coexistence between elephants and people. We assessed the effectiveness of chilli-briquettes (bricks made of dry chilli, elephant dung and water) in altering elephants use of space in the eastern Okavango Panhandle, Botswana. We burned > 600 briquettes during the night over a 2-month period to test five treatments: frequent burning of (1) chilli and (2) chilli-free briquettes, occasional burning of (3) chilli and (4) chilli-free briquettes, and (5) a control treatment. Using camera traps and footprint surveys we assessed the number of elephants that used experimental sites, and the times at which they did so. We found elephants changed their movement behaviour from predominantly nocturnal to diurnal in areas where chilli-briquettes were burned throughout the night; however, there was no difference in the mean numbers of individuals between treatments with and without chillies. In other words, chilli-briquettes had a repellent but not a deterrent effect on elephants, keeping them away only at times when chilli-briquettes were smouldering. Based on these findings we recommend the use of chilli-briquettes as a method to deter elephants in the short term. In the long term, chilli-briquettes should be applied in combination with other larger-scale mitigation approaches, such as land management and cooperative community-based tools.
Using the Safe Islands for Seabirds LIFE project as a case study, we assessed the socio-economic impact of a nature conservation project on the local community, focusing on the wealth created and the jobs supported directly and indirectly by the project. The Safe Islands for Seabirds project took place during 2009–2012, mainly on Corvo Island, the smallest and least populated island of Portugal's Azores Archipelago. To assess the impact of the project we used a combination of methods to analyse the project expenditure, the jobs created directly as a result of it, and, by means of multipliers, the incomes and jobs it supported indirectly. We estimate that during 2009–2012 direct expenditure of EUR 344,212.50 from the project increased the gross domestic product of the Azorean region by EUR 206,527.50. Apart from the 4.5 jobs created directly by the project, it also supported indirectly the equivalent of 1.5–2.5 full-time jobs. The project also provided the opportunity to preserve and promote natural amenities important for the quality of life of the local community. Our findings show that a nature conservation project can have positive economic impacts, and we recommend the creation of a standardized tool to calculate in a straightforward but accurate manner the socio-economic impacts of conservation projects. We also highlight the need to design projects that support local economies.