Elephant photographed at TEAM’s site in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda. (Photos courtesy of the TEAM Network)
For more than five years, the Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring (TEAM) Network has been collecting camera-trap images of animals in tropical forests. TEAM started in Brazil and has now collected data on trees, terrestrial vertebrates and climate in 16 tropical forests in 14 countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America. This year, TEAM reached an exciting milestone: its millionth camera-trap image!
A gigantic African elephant, a family of chimpanzees, an elusive jaguar — these make for beautiful photographs, but what else can we learn from these images?
China recently reformed its collective forest policy, allowing forest owners to grant management rights to outside enterprises. In a letter published last week in the journal Science, Li (Aster) Zhang and other CI scientists propose that “eco-compensation” would bring more income to local communities while protecting habitat for the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca).
In early spring of 2010, my colleagues Russ Mittermeier, Biao Yang and I visited Changqing National Nature Reserve, one of the famous panda protected areas in Shanxi Province. There, we saw a young male panda in the wild. He was so shy, just showing his black-and-white coat for a couple of seconds before disappearing into the dense bamboo forest in front of us.
Beloved by the world for centuries, the panda once lived across large areas of China as well as parts of Vietnam and Myanmar. However, this magnificent creature is now confined to just 21,000 square kilometers (8,100 square miles) in a few isolated mountain forests in southwest China — an area smaller than El Salvador or the state of New Hampshire.
Today, the government of Timor-Leste announced the establishment of seven no-take zones in the country’s coastal waters. This development follows the Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) survey carried out by CI and partner scientists last year, which confirmed the community-identified zones as being biologically significant. Coral scientist and guest blogger Dr. Lyndon DeVantier shares his experience.
In August of last year, I joined Mark Erdmann, Gerry Allen, Emre Turak and local scientists in Timor-Leste to participate in a CI RAP marine survey. At the request of the government, we set out to record the marine biodiversity of corals and fishes and assess the overall health of the reefs to help identify areas of importance for conservation and marine tourism.
To their great credit, the Timor-Leste government has already established a large national park on the eastern tip of the country, covering both land and sea. The park was established in 2007 — after the country had spent only five years as an independent nation — and named in honour of Nino Konis Santana, a Timorese freedom fighter in the 1990s.
If you’re an American football fan, you already know the big game is just around the corner! To help out those of you who might be more familiar with nature than the details of this sport, I present to you the Wildlife Primer for American Football.
Role of offensive lineman: Protect the quarterback and block for the running back.
Role of elephant: Disperse seeds that grow into plants that provide food for herbivores, sequester carbon, produce oxygen and help regulate our climate.
The commonality here is size, which offensive linemen use to their advantage when protecting the quarterback. They also use their understanding of opposing defenses to communicate with each other down the line when a last-second change is made to a play.
Elephants are the largest land animal. They travel in family groups for protection, which sounds pretty similar to how the offensive line works to protect its quarterback. In addition, elephants — just like offensive linemen — eat a lot; they can eat a couple hundred pounds of vegetation every day.
Late last month, CI’s Cambodian Pangolin Conservation Program opened the Pangolin Rehabilitation Center (PRC) near Phnom Penh. Today, Annette Olsson, the scientific technical advisor of CI’s Greater Mekong program, reflects on her six years working with pangolins.
Pangolins are amazing animals — very cool and strange, gentle and yet incredibly strong. Also known as scaly anteaters, they are covered with protective, overlapping scales, and can quickly roll up into a tight ball when threatened.
In 2006, I began working with the Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica), the only pangolin found in Cambodia. At that time, very little research had been conducted on this species, especially compared with other more widely known animals, and the growing threat to its future was only just being realized. Since then, we have discovered that these pangolins have become very rare or locally extinct in some areas.
To change this situation, we first needed to know the status and threats pangolins face throughout Cambodia. To do so, we carried out interview surveys across the country with villagers living in areas known to be inhabited by pangolins. These surveys found that pangolins are now rare in many places where they previously were common, mainly due to hunting for the illegal wildlife trade.
Last year, CI’s visual storytelling team traveled to Colombia to document graffiti artists in Bogotá. Street art is a popular and powerful mode of expression in the Colombian capital; recently, prominent street artists partnered with CI and the Margot Marsh Biodiversity Foundation to raise awareness about environmental issues while trying to steer young people away from drugs and crime. Today on the blog, one of them shares his most recent conservation-themed mural with us.
David “Wap” Suarez (top right) poses with his mural-painting team. (photo courtesy of David Suarez)
My name is David Suarez, and I am 29 years old. I have spent 13 of those years painting art on the streets of Bogotá under the pseudonym “Wap.”
I started drawing during childhood; probably due to the amount of anime and cartoons that I watched and collected, I started to lean toward illustration and art. I saw graffiti in videos and movies that I watched at that time (1997-98), and I was struck by the letters, colors, culture — and above all, the fact that it could be painted on the street where everyone could see it.
Some time went by before I got access to my first spray-paint cans to make my first piece, which was a total disaster. But I kept trying, learning from various painting and drawing techniques, color theory, etc. Finally in 2004, I and another street artist founded a group called “dot exe crew” — one of the most important in the history of graffiti in Bogotá.
For the last four years I’ve managed CI’s Green Wall project in Indonesia. This project is located in the Gunung Gede-Pangrango National Park, a forested, mountainous landscape that is one of the last havens for biodiversity on the island of Java. It is home to rare species found nowhere else, such as the silvery Javan gibbon(Hylobates moloch) and Javan leopard (Panthera pardus melas).
What many people don’t know is that these mountains are also essential for local people. They serve as the primary water catchment area for over 30 million people living in five cities — including Jakarta, Indonesia’s bustling capital. Water filtered from this forest is so clean and pure that over 20 water bottling companies have situated themselves downstream. These forests also help to prevent floods and droughts for the millions of people in these cities.
Sadly, the forest is struggling. In the past few decades, much of it has been converted to farmland and residential areas. Illegal logging continues in the remaining forested areas, largely carried out by local people simply trying to make ends meet.
The Green Wall project involves replanting trees on the fringes of deforestation. It also includes a tree adoption program, agroforestry, community education and public outreach activities across the island. The project is described as a “green wall” as it lies on the boundaries of the national park — separating natural and degraded areas — and will protect against encroachment of critical ecosystem services.
In the last four years, we’ve managed to restore 200 hectares (almost 500 acres) of green wall — but with thousands of hectares of degraded landscape remaining, our work is far from done.
I work closely with the communities in this landscape to educate them on the importance of preserving the forest for future generations. It takes patience and commitment to shift the practices of local people from exploitation to sustainable management.
Part of that process involves offering the community direct benefits for supporting conservation, such as tools for agroforestry, livestock, fisheries and health services. In return, they must agree to actively support conservation efforts and refrain from contributing to deforestation in the park.
Sometimes these benefits can radically change the lives of rural residents in a single day. Last year, we installed piped water for over 500 families here, as well as electrical power for a village of six families. It was really satisfying to see the joy that the families gained from these basic services so many of us take for granted. (Learn more in the video below.)
When we talk about conservation, many people — both here in Indonesia and around the world — often think it’s about saving species. In reality, conservation is about changing people’s behavior in a way that benefits them, too.
We need to understand what’s important for these people, and then try to design a program that will change their behavior but also meet their needs. We need to be concerned about the state of the local population’s livelihoods, health care and food security because assisting with these factors is absolutely critical to gain local support for conservation. Only by addressing those issues can we get conservation going.
This project is made possible through a donation from Daikin Industries, a Japanese company that manufactures air conditioners. In addition to directly improving the lives of over 500 families, their investment has indirectly helped 30 million people living downstream in this watershed. For so long, humans have taken nature’s gifts for granted, so it’s great to see companies or individuals give back to support conservation.
Looking ahead, we would like to continue to help local communities (who have committed to protecting the forest) with their daily needs, such as improved health through proper sanitation. We also need to raise our level of engagement with the general public and stakeholders in Java on the importance of this watershed and our conservation activities. We hope these next steps will allow us to help more people understand that protecting nature is for all of our benefit.
Anton Ario is CI-Indonesia’s Gedepahala program manager. Special thanks to Lynn Tang, communications manager for CI’s Asia-Pacific Field Division, for her help with this blog.
From the Inuit of the Arctic to Amazonian Indians to the diverse peoples of New Guinea, traditional societies constitute “thousands of natural experiments in how to construct a human society,” according to Dr. Jared Diamond.
An exploration of cultural aspects of these societies — and how they contrast with the modern, industrialized world — is the subject of Diamond’s new book, “The World Until Yesterday.” Last week, the ornithologist, geographer, best-selling author and CI board member gave a lecture on this subject at National Geographic’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. Having been a fan of his work since reading “Guns, Germs and Steel” in college, I was excited to attend and learn about his newest publication.
Russ Mittermeier, CI’s president, technically lives in Virginia, but it would be more accurate to call him a true “citizen of the world.”
As the only working field biologist at the head of a major international environmental organization, Mittermeier spends much of his time traveling across the globe — continuing his field research on primates and other species, attending meetings with important decision-makers and continuing the spread the word about the importance of protecting nature for all of us.
CI’s internal communications team recently created a video series called “Where on Earth is Russ?” in order to share stories of his travels with staff. We thought you might like it, too. Today’s video takes us to Suriname — site of the Central Suriname Nature Reserve, a protected area created by CI and the Surinamese government in 1998.
Mittermeier was joined by CI’s visual storytelling team, who are working on two films about the importance of the Guiana Shield region — which includes Suriname — for the people of South America. Stay tuned!