VOICES Ideas and Insight From Explorers
By John G. Robinson
The illegal wildlife trade is big business. Not including the illegal trade in timber, it exceeds $19 billion annually. The trade is heavily capitalized and is part of the same criminal networks that are involved in drugs, weapons and human trafficking. While the impacts on wildlife populations – including elephants, tigers, and fish species – are widely known, the effects on human livelihoods, community integrity, income-generating jobs, sustainable development, and national economies are equally pervasive.
By Natalia Rossi
President Obama’s decision to normalize U.S. diplomatic relations with Cuba has focused attention on a possible end to the two nations’ long political estrangement. Yet despite the enduring diplomatic impasse, for years many of us in the U.S. conservation community have worked hand in hand with our counterparts in Cuba (with the permission of both governments) to preserve that nation’s globally important biodiversity. That collaboration provides a blueprint for new efforts to secure the protection and management of the most pristine mangrove ecosystems in the entire Caribbean region and the magnificent crocodile species they sustain.
By Graeme Patterson
It has been a decade since viewers first encountered the popular penguins of the crowd-pleasing Madagascar movie franchise. In the 2005 hit, the penguins eventually find their way to the island of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean along with their old friends from the Central Park Zoo: a zebra, lion, giraffe and a hippo who accidentally got dropped off there. Adventures ensue, the running joke is that these visitors are all out of place on Madagascar, as indeed they are. Or are they?
By Dale Lewis
Since 2003, the non-profit company Community Markets for Conservation (COMACO) has been working in Zambia to help poor farmers improve their skills, grow surpluses, and receive above-market prices for their produce in exchange for meeting conservation targets. In managing the production and sale of these nutritious and chemical-free products, COMACO has committed itself to passing on above-market-price profits to farmers in the form of raw materials if they commit to conservation.
By Stuart Campbell and Nils Krueck
The Forgotten Islands occupy a region in the southeastern Indonesian province of Maluku, a sparsely-populated area covering about 50,000 square kilometers that includes a vast expanse of coral reefs. As the region’s name suggests, not much is known about these reefs and their associated fisheries. One important reason for this is that for much of the year the seas are wild and unable to be accessed. Another reason is that Maluku’s Forgotten Islands support around 70,000 people who practice traditional customs that hark back to before the conversion of communities to Christianity. These customs include the guarding of marine resources against occasional visitors, such as nomadic fishers from central Indonesia
By Emily Darling
Protected areas are a hallmark strategy in marine conservation. Yet when they were first created, a growing lethal threat had not yet fully revealed itself. Warming, acidifying, and rising seas have devastated the world’s sensitive coral reefs, widely regarded as “ground zero” for climate change. El Niños and marine heat waves can bleach and destroy vast areas of healthy, biodiverse reefs even where they occur within “protected” parks. If the global impacts of climate change do not stop at park boundaries, what can scientists do? One strategy is to identify and protect climate refuges – habitats with more stable environments where species can survive warming temperatures.
By Bárbara Saavedra and Cristián Samper
On the southern tip of Tierra del Fuego in the Patagonia region of Chile, you’ll find one of the most stunning wild places in the hemisphere, complete with bountiful peat bogs, sub-Antarctic woodlands, windswept steppes, and snow-covered mountain ranges. Spanning 1,160 square miles, the Karukinka landscape is home to Patagonia’s unique wildlife, including the endangered culpeo fox, the Andean condor, guanacos (wild relatives of the llama), and the Magellanic woodpecker, the largest woodpecker in the Americas. It’s also a place rich in plant species like southern beech, Chilean fire bush, white dog orchid, and sundew.
By Julie Kunen
For millennia, tropical civilizations cultivated their crops through a practice known as slash and burn agriculture. In this practice, vegetation is cut down and burned to clear land and improve the soil with the resulting organic matter and nutrients. Fire also kills or drives away pests and encourages the regeneration of grasses in natural pastures. When used over extensive areas in a cycle of planted and fallowed fields, the practice is sustainable. Today, many agricultural communities that lack access to machinery and chemical inputs depend upon fire for their livelihoods, using it to clear and maintain the fertility of agricultural lands and to delimit property boundaries. Yet, fire is also a great danger to humans and there are many risks associated with the use of fire as a land management tool.
By John Robinson
The first day of the IUCN 2014 World Parks Congress marked a significant win for the oceans. The President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon announced the decision to create a new marine protected area network of ten marine parks covering more than 18,000 square miles (over 46,000 square kilometres). The network – encompassing about 23 percent of Gabon’s territorial waters and EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) – will safeguard whales, sea turtles, and other marine species inhabiting the nation’s coastal and offshore ecosystems. As the President noted in his speech, this puts Gabon “near the 20 to 30 percent that marine biologists tell us is needed to maintain biodiversity and restore depleted areas outside parks.” This is a massive increase from the 1 percent of marine area currently protected by Gabon.
By K. Ullas Karanth
The modern resurgent India, now the 10th largest economy in the world, is justly proud of its ancient culture and art. Yet we must not forget that India possesses an even more ancient treasure – its wild lands and wildlife. It is one of the most biodiversity-rich nations on earth.
By Scott I. Roberton
Recently, the Humane Society International (HSI) and the Vietnam CITES Management Authority (MA) announced that in the last year there has been a 77 percent decrease in the number of people who buy or use rhino horn in Hanoi. If accurate, this finding is an incredibly promising sign of success. Nevertheless, the announcement was met with skepticism by many conservationists, demanding greater scrutiny of the findings.
By Susan Lieberman
In the wildlife trafficking policy debate in the U.S., the majority of attention to date has been on elephant ivory and rhino horn from Africa. However, elephants and rhinos are not the only species threatened by illegal international trade. Numerous other species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and others are also subject to trafficking, and they too need increased attention and political and financial support. In testimony I submitted to a meeting of the President’s Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking, I detailed some of the species whose illegal trade is under the radar, but still are suffering the effects of wildlife trafficking.
Suddenly, a humpback whale bursts through this bait ball off the starboard side like a torpedo to its mark. The whale’s mouth is open wide and scooping in as many fish as it can hold, with the remnants spilling back into the sea. As it smacks its massive head down, a wave of very fishy whale’s breath blows across the bow of the boat.
By John F. Calvelli
Shortly after the initiation of CGI’s Partnership to Save Africa’s Elephants one year ago, WCS launched the 96 Elephants campaign, named for the estimated number of elephants killed illegally in Africa every day. The campaign has focused on securing effective U.S. moratorium laws, bolstering elephant protection with additional funding, and educating the public about the link between ivory consumption and the slaughter of elephants.