VOICES Ideas and Insight From Explorers
By Jim Stone
This week President Obama signed into law the National Bison Legacy Act (NBLA). With that act, he has lifted the spirits of Native Americans and created hope on our journey to renew bonds with our ancient friend and provider, the buffalo. This pivotal legislation – which makes the bison our national mammal — reaffirms this magnificent species’ connection to our country and all of its people.
“As the smoke rises and the flames crackle, it is hard not to be swept away by the mixed emotions this spectre creates. It is hard not to think about the thousands of elephants that died to make this fire. It is hard not to wonder if there isn’t a better way to honor their…
When the Kenya burn is over and the smoke clears, WCS is hopeful the world will be even more galvanized in its resolve to end the trafficking crisis that is wiping out Africa’s mighty elephants and rhinos.
Nouabale-Ndoki National Park, Republic of Congo, April 15, 2016 – A week ago, the Wildlife Conservation Society suffered the tragic loss of one of our field researchers, Jana Robeyst, in the Republic of Congo. She died after she was charged by an elephant while she was working with a team of fellow conservationists here. The following tribute was posted on the WCS Congo website to honor Jana and her work.
A report by WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) and Fauna & Flora International (FFI) documents the collapse of the world’s largest great ape- the Grauer’s gorilla – due to a combination of illegal hunting around mining sites, civil unrest, and habitat destruction. I am proud to be part of a generation of Congolese conservationists who, together with a worldwide network of wildlife organizations, have never been better equipped and more committed to save this iconic species.
April 4, 2016 will long be remembered by the Blackfeet Nation. Yesterday, close to 90 bison calves arrived at the 9,000 acre Blackfeet Bison Ranch near Two Medicine River in Montana. These buffalo, from Elk Island National Park in Alberta, Canada, are the true descendants of the Pablo-Allard herd from Montana that were first captured 30 miles east of Browning and subsequently sold and moved to Canada in the early 1900s. The repatriation marked the start of our effort to build and expand the Blackfeet tribal buffalo herd and will form the source stock for future reintroduction onto larger landscapes along the Rocky Mountains.
By Jeremy Radachowsky
Today I am joining colleagues from the Honduran park service, ICF, for a flight over the Moskitia – the second largest forest in Central America and the largest protected areas complex in Honduras. We are here to help ICF with strategies to protect the cornerstone of this vast forest – the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site designated as “In Danger.” Also in danger are the reserve’s rangers and the indigenous Miskitu, Tawakha, and Pech communities that hold territorial rights in the reserve’s cultural zone.
By Sangeeta Mangubhai
After 10 days at sea, traveling over 500km and completing 26 dives, I have solid data on the scale and intensity of damage to the Vatu-i-Ra Seascape from Cyclone Winston – a tropical storm that passed through Fiji on the 20 February 2016.
By Alison Clausen
Today marks the U.N. International Day of Forests. I was asked recently for an “elevator pitch” in 25 words or less on why we should invest resources in saving tropical forests and, in particular, in tropical forests in Madagascar. To those of us working in conservation, this question seems like a no-brainer, so at first I took the question with a grain of salt. However, my questioner persisted and it made me realize both that it is not a no-brainer for everyone – particularly given the competing priorities for peoples’ attention – and that for the conservation community we need to be able to answer such questions if we are to engage people in our work.
It has been almost impossible to predict which reefs would survive Cyclone Winston and which ones would sustain serious damage. There is no clear pattern so far. We would dive on one reef to find it broken apart by waves, then turn a corner and find a reef intact and flourishing. The fish and shark life seemed at this stage to be largely unaffected. We were lucky to swim with white tip and grey reef sharks, large manta rays, and big schools of big-eyed trevally, surgeonfish, and fusiliers.
In my assessment of Cyclone Winston’s impact on the coral reefs of Fiji, I have been spending part of each dive collecting data on the scale and intensity of bleaching across a range of habitats – including fringing patch and lagoonal reefs, channels, and bommies. Over the last four days, I have documented mild levels of bleaching, with common coral genera like Acropora, Pocillopora, Porites (massive forms), Montipora and Pavona mostly affected.
We are here to fly. Today we begin our 5,000-mile “megaflyover” through Central America to document the state of the region’s great forests, starting in the vast Maya Forest of Guatemala, Belize, and Mexico. We are interested in preserving these forests not only for the vital services they provide to humanity, but also because they provide habitat for some of the world’s most impressive wildlife, including the jaguar, Baird’s tapir, and scarlet macaws.
It is Day 3 in our investigation of Cyclone Winston’s impact on the corals of Fiji’s Vatu-i-Ra Seascape. On this day, we woke up to the tall green mountains on the island of Gau in the southern Lomaiviti group and anchored ourselves in the calm sandy lagoon. In addition to being home to the Gau petrel, the area is famous for Nigali Passage. Diving Nigali requires precision – you need to time the tide correctly otherwise you can easily be swept out to sea.
We knew the eye of Cyclone Winston passed over Ra, destroying up to 90 percent of people’s homes throughout the province while churning up the sea in its path. So we were expecting some damage to the reefs. Heading out to our first dive site, we saw in the distance Vatu-i-Ra – an island of cultural and historical importance to the village of Nasau and home to nine species of breeding seabirds. With more than 20,000 pairs of breeding Black Noddies (Anous tenuirostris), the island is recognized as an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area.
Over the next 10 days, through the generous support of Nai’a Cruises — a live-aboard ship that has been diving in Fiji since 1993 — WCS Fiji Director Sangeeta Mangubhai will be surveying coral reefs throughout the Vatu-i-Ra Seascape to assess the damage caused by Cyclone Winston and collect data on coral bleaching. This is the first in a series of blogs on that survey.