Doubling Tigers in Bhutan's Royal Manas National Park

Doubling Tigers in Bhutan's Royal Manas National Park

In less than a decade, Bhutan’s Royal Manas National Park has achieved a big win for tiger conservation. From only 10 tigers in 2010, its population has now grown to 22.

Singye Wangmo, the Royal Manas National Park’s manager, credits the increase to the great teamwork, including strong transboundary collaboration with Indian counterparts in India’s Manas National Park and partnerships with local communities and WWF, and the leadership of the Royal Government of Bhutan to protect the endangered cat.

With a global population of as few as 3,890 wild tigers, every population increase matters. The latest numbers inside Royal Manas indicate the park may hold one of Bhutan’s largest tiger populations. It is a significant step towards achieving the goal of doubling the world’s wild tigers.

Bhutan is one of 13 tiger countries that committed to doubling the world’s wild tigers by 2022. The concerted conservation efforts spurred by that goal--often known as Tx2--have already seen wild tiger numbers grow from 3200 in 2010 toto as few as 3,890 today, the first rise in populations in over 100 years. But there is still much work to be done to save this species.

 

Once found in diverse habitats across Asia, the world's wild tiger population has shrunk by over 95 per cent in the last century due to illegal tiger trade, poaching, and habitat loss. Today, the world is at risk of losing this iconic species completely.

WWF is working with governments and scientists on the ground to conduct scientific monitoring of tiger populations--an essential component of understanding and managing populations – in addition to supporting anti-poaching efforts, addressing the illegal wildlife trade, and preventing habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict.

“This increase in tiger numbers is a testament to the commitment of tiger range states like Bhutan to protect, conserve and, double their tigers,” said Nilanga Jayasinghe, senior program officer for Asian Species at WWF, “and monitoring enables scientists and governments to assess predator and prey populations, as well as the health of tiger habitats.



Published January 16, 2018 at 06:00AM

Two friends passionate about conservation will take on Capitol Hill for Lobby Day 2018

Two friends passionate about conservation will take on Capitol Hill for Lobby Day 2018

Laura Miller dubs herself shy while Tiffany Jones is decidedly outgoing. This contrast in personality—combined with a shared interest in conservation—makes them a stronger team.

The two 30-something friends from Dallas, Texas, serve as Panda Ambassadors, helping WWF advocate for conservation-focused goals at crucial moments and educating others about wildlife and wild places. Together they’ve played on their strengths to send a stronger message, including speaking to a third-grade classroom about wildlife protection. Miller took the lead on pulling together the necessary research, while Jones managed the visual and storytelling portion of the presentation.

“We were both able to use our strengths and our talents,” Miller said. “Combining them really helps amplify the message.”

They first met at a social event in 2014. Six months later, they bumped into one another again and realized they’re both passionate about wildlife and conservation. They arranged to meet up for coffee to talk about how they could get more involved in advocating for the planet. The rest, as they say, is history.

In March, the pair will head to Washington, DC, to take on the next challenge together: Lobby Day 2018.

WWF’s Lobby Day event is a two-day experience that educates supporters about important decisions in Congress that will affect global conservation and leverages members from around the country to help influence lawmakers on WWF’s priority issues. Activists meet with their congressional representatives and staff to encourage them to support conservation and environmental protection in the decisions they make and the votes they take over the coming year.

Miller participated last year, and while she was nervous to do so, she found the day of training provided to participants before heading up to Capitol Hill helped her find her footing and prepare her for conversations with legislators. This year, Jones is excited to join her for the first time in the nation’s capital.

“There’s something in the news every day that affects the climate, that affects animals,” Jones said. “I’m excited for the opportunity to talk to legislators and get their feedback to hear what they’re thinking about these issues as well.”

Activists attending Lobby Day will focus their conversations around US government support for international conservation. WWF and our partners work to create a safer world for wildlife, protect amazing places, and stand up for communities. And many of our partners rely on international aid to fund the critical conservation work they do in the field, from protecting forests to combatting wildlife trafficking. The United States’ federal spending on international conservation programs has a direct impact on our ability to protect wildlife and our planet, so it’s crucial that we continue providing that support.

This type of funding not only helps wildlife: by protecting the natural resources that people depend on, it also can help stabilize developing communities and prevent regional conflicts.

Activists—whether they’re more reserved like Miller or more gregarious like Jones—can have their greatest impact on decisions made in Congress when they meet with their representatives in person. The more voices speaking up to urge the US government to provide support for international conservation, stopping illegal wildlife trade, and acting on climate change, the bigger the outcome.

And you don’t have to be a superhero to make a change.

“There’s nothing special about me that enables me to do this beyond just having a passion and feeling that it’s important enough to speak up for and take care of,” Miller said. “You don’t have to be a master debater or great at public speaking. You just need to have a passion and be willing to stand up for it.”

Want to stand up for wildlife and wild places? Join WWF in Washington, DC, for Lobby Day 2018!



Published January 11, 2018 at 06:00AM

How climate change is turning green turtle populations female in the northern Great Barrier Reef

How climate change is turning green turtle populations female in the northern Great Barrier Reef

A new study reveals rising temperatures are turning green turtle populations almost completely female in the northern Great Barrier Reef. 

More than 200,000 nesting females—one of the largest populations in the world—call the northern Great Barrier Reef home. But this population could eventually crash without more males, according to the study published in Current Biology

How does climate change impact sex?

Because incubation temperature of turtle eggs determines the animal’s sex, a warmer nest results in more females. Increasing temperatures in Queensland’s north, linked to climate change, have led to virtually no male northern green sea turtles being born.

For the study, scientists caught green turtles at the Howick Group of islands where both northern and southern green turtle populations forage in the Great Barrier Reef.  Using a combination of endocrinology and genetic tests, researchers identified the turtles’ sex and nesting origin.

Of green turtles from warmer northern nesting beaches, 99.1% of juveniles, 99.8% of subadults, and 86.8% of adults were female. Turtles from the cooler southern reef nesting beaches showed a more moderate female sex bias (65%–69% female).

Lead author Dr. Michael Jensen, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, says northern Great Barrier Reef green turtle nesting beaches have been producing primarily females for more than two decades resulting in “extreme female bias”.

The scientific research was facilitated through the Great Barrier Reef Rivers to Reef to Turtles project, led by WWF-Australia. WWF’s Marine Species Project Manager Christine Hof was also a scientific researcher in the study. 

Great Barrier Reef: On the frontline of climate change

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s richest ocean environments. It’s home to more than 1,500 species of fish, six of the world’s seven species of threatened marine turtles, and more than 30 species of marine mammals. Today, it faces the impact of mass coral bleaching and now a growing threat to its northern green sea turtles.

“Finding that there are next to no males among young northern green turtles should ring alarm bells, but all is not lost for this important population.,” said WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman

Scientists and wildlife managers are seeking practical ways to help the turtles. One possibility is a shade cloth erected over key nesting beaches that could help lower nest temperatures to produce more males.

More ambitious climate change targets must also be adopted and enforced in order to save the Great Barrier Reef, its natural treasures and unique wildlife.

 



Published January 09, 2018 at 06:00AM

Trump Administration to roll back crucial Arctic protections

Trump Administration to roll back crucial Arctic protections

The Arctic Ocean—the pristine home to bowhead whales, gray whales, polar bears, walruses, and other magnificent wildlife, along with many indigenous communities—could potentially lose crucial protections from risky offshore oil and gas drilling.

Every five years, the US Department of Interior creates a plan that says where oil and gas companies can purchase leases for offshore drilling. The most recent one, finalized in January 2017, excluded new oil and gas leasing in the Arctic waters offshore of Alaska through 2022. However, the Department of the Interior launched a process to change that plan last summer. Now a new draft proposal, which would apply to the years 2019-2024, calls for the removal of crucial Arctic protections and authorization of new leasing in this incredible landscape.

“It’s back to the future again with this proposal to promote risky offshore drilling in America’s Arctic Ocean,” said Brad Ack, WWF’s senior vice president for oceans. “Previous failed attempts demonstrated that the region’s unforgiving conditions are no place to explore for fossil fuels the world no longer needs.”

The Arctic was kept out of the previous five-year plan to protect the marine mammals, seabirds, and other wildlife that live there, along with their migratory paths and sensitive habitats. And native communities in Alaska continue to depend on the health of these subsistence resources for survival.

The vast size, remote location, and extreme weather conditions, combined with the complete lack of infrastructure for responding to oil spills, make drilling in the Arctic Ocean extremely dangerous. Oil spill response methods are ineffective in broken ice and other severe weather conditions in the Arctic, making any large oil spill or well blowout catastrophic for the amazing life in the area.

Opening the Arctic up for drilling would needlessly place the entire region at risk.

“Instead of rushing to open public lands and waters in support of an outdated energy strategy, the administration should be investing in the development of our country’s abundant renewable energy resources while protecting our natural treasures,” Ack said.

You can help
The administration is holding multiple comment periods during which private citizens—like you—can voice their opinions. During the last comment period, nearly 90,000 WWF supporters spoke up to keep the Arctic out of the leasing program.

Your voice matters.

Sign our public comment to President Trump and Secretary of the Interior Zinke, and demand that new offshore drilling is kept out of America’s Arctic.



Published January 05, 2018 at 06:00AM

Looking for a New Year’s resolution? Put your food waste on a diet

Looking for a New Year’s resolution? Put your food waste on a diet

When that ball drops, we all start thinking, how can I be a little better this year? Many of us go straight to food resolutions: eating healthier, joining a gym, dropping a few pounds. How about a food resolution that will protect the planet AND your wallet? Why not put your food waste on a diet?

Around the world, a third of the food we grow and process to feed people never reaches our plates (or our bellies). That has serious impacts on the planet's water, energy, and wildlife!  Just think about it: if we make better use of the food already out there, we wouldn’t need to produce so much – and we could protect more habitats and feed more hungry people.

Plus, it’s the gift that keeps on giving - it will save you money! The average family of four loses between $1,365 to $2,275 each year on wasted food.

Try exercising these tips to drop those food waste pounds: 

  1. Meal plan…for the planet! Well, sure, planning can be a little bit of a drag. But there are lots of tools and apps that make it fun and easier to save money. Use apps like Guestimator to calculate how much food you need for each guest at those holiday parties. (Hint - it's less than you think!)

    Buying more than we can use is a big reason behind food waste. With just a little bit of planning, you can avoid over-buying or make sure you have a backup plan for ingredients or dishes that go unused or uneaten. And it will give you more bang for your buck. Shopping with a plan will benefit your piggy bank.
     
  2. Push the limits of your ingredients. Is some of your produce wilting in the crisper? You can reinvigorate some veggies, like lettuce, with a quick ice water bath. Bananas going brown? Peel them and toss in a Ziploc in the freezer to use later for baked goods or smoothies. Overcooked leftovers, wilted or ugly produce are all prime ingredients for hearty soups and stews.

    The truth is most food is safe to eat a lot longer than we think—for fresh and canned goods. Most expiration dates have nothing to do with safety and, depending on the kind of item, many foods are still good and safe to eat days, weeks, or months after the confusing "best buy", "sell by", and "best before" labels. Most of the time, trust your senses to know when food has gone bad or you can search the FoodKeeper App to learn more about food freshness and storage options.
     
  3. Ready, set, freeze! The weather outside may be frightful, but the chill in your freezer is your best friend when cutting food waste. You can freeze almost anything - eggs, meats, produce, sauces - whether you just brought it home, or already cooked it. If you keep containers tight and leave a little room for liquids, even freezer burn (which is harmless!) can't get you down.

    Another tip: freeze in portions for easy access, and date and label so you don't forget what's what. While it's a bit of extra work up front, freezing will save you loads of cooking, prep, and even shopping time later down the line. And you’ll save money if you use everything you buy.

If one of your resolutions this year is to protect the planet or conserve wildlife - this is one simple way you can take action. And even if you’re an original Food Waste Warrior, there’s always room for improvement. It's never the wrong time of year to resolve to cut your food waste.

To learn more about how food impacts wildlife, check out the plate-planet connection.



Published December 28, 2017 at 06:00AM

New species discovered in the Greater Mekong

New species discovered in the Greater Mekong

Not every newly-discovered species becomes a cartoon character. But the Vietnamese crocodile lizard (Shinisaurus crocodilurus vietnamensis) has achieved such fame as “Shini,” a lizard who teaches the importance of protecting his species to local schoolchildren.

The lizard is just one of 115 species—including a snail-eating turtle and a horseshoe bat—discovered in the Greater Mekong region in 2016. That’s an average of more than two new species found each week. A new WWF Report, Stranger Species, documents the work of hundreds of scientists around the world who have discovered previously unknown amphibians, fish, reptiles, plants and mammals in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam.

Meet a few of the Greater Mekong species from the latest report:

The mountain horseshoe bat, (Rhinolophus monticolus), is found in the evergreen forests of mountainous Laos and Thailand. Its distinctive horseshoe-shaped facial structure—known as a noseleaf—has been likened to a character from the cantina scene in Star Wars.

The Vietnamese crocodile lizard (Shinisaurus crocodilurus vietnamensis) is a medium-sized lizard that lives in remote freshwater and evergreen forest habitats of South China and Northern Vietnam. It is so heavily threatened by habitat destruction, coal mining and collection for the pet trade that as few as 200 individuals could remain in Vietnam. The lizard has been immortalized in a comic strip in which the character “Shini,” explains to school children the importance of protecting lizards.

A snail eating turtle (Malayemys isan) was discovered by a scientist in a local market in Northeast Thailand where shopkeepers say they pulled the animals from a nearby canal. The turtle is under threat from growing infrastructure including dikes and dams.

Two new species of moles were found in a network of streams and rivers in Vietnam. Unlike many species in the region, moles have been able to maintain a steady population and escape threats as going underground keeps them out of site from poachers and safe from other threats.

A vibrantly colored frog, Odorrana Mutschmanni,is one of five new species discovered in the same karst forest in Northern Vietnam Their forest home is in desperate need of protection as it is threatened by quarrying for cement and road construction.

The freshwater loach fish from Cambodia sports striking black and brown stripes on its elongated body. So far these fish have only been found in smaller streams and not in any larger mainstream rivers, where large hydropower dams and agricultural runoff can threaten wildlife.

Since 1997, more than 2,500 species have been discovered in the Greater Mekong region. It’s a positive sign of biodiversity in a region where wildlife remains under tremendous threat. Intense development—from mines to roads to dams—threatens the habitats so many species call home. Poaching for bushmeat and the illegal wildlife trade puts wildlife at dire risk. As a result, many species could be lost before they are even discovered.

WWF is working to stop the illegal wildlife trade by shutting down the biggest illegal markets in the Greater Mekong. Working with partners and across borders, WWF aims to significantly reduce illegal trade in key threatened species such as elephants, tigers and rhinos through legislation, transboundary cooperation and improved law enforcement. By safeguarding these species, we protect biodiversity and keep important natural landscapes intact.



Published December 19, 2017 at 06:00AM

60 Minutes: WWF is saving black rhinos by moving them

60 Minutes: WWF is saving black rhinos by moving them

Will you help save rhinos today?

Black rhino and calf in Africa

Every dollar you donate will support WWF's efforts to save rhinos from extinction.

Donate

Rhinos, one of the oldest groups of mammals, are virtually living fossils. They once roamed across Africa’s savannas and Asia’s tropical forests, but today, very few rhinos survive outside of national parks and reserves.

WWF has worked for decades to stop rhino poaching, increase rhino populations, and protect their vital habitats. By conserving land for rhinos, we also help protect other important wildlife that share rhino habitat, such as elephants.

Specifically, WWF’s Black Rhino Range Expansion Project (BRREP) in South Africa has been working with passion, commitment, and determination to ensure a brighter future for the critically endangered black rhino for more than a decade. BRREP works to grow black rhino numbers by creating new populations and provides equipment and training to rangers to monitor, manage, and protect rhinos.

How WWF safely moves rhinos to help the species thrive
Looking back over years of moving black rhinos to create new populations as part of the Black Rhino Range Expansion Project, it’s worth noting how capture and release techniques have improved. Check out how WWF safely and efficiently completes this essential conservation measure.

Black rhino calf on a brrep site credit pip mortlock © Pip Mortlock

A total of 87 calves, like this one, have been born on project sites which now span some 850 square miles. Nine of those calves were used as part of the new population for the 11th BRREP site. Eleven calves were born on BRREP sites so far in 2017. 

Black rhino being airlifted to a safer area © Green Renaissance/WWF-SA

A total of 178 black rhinos have been relocated by BRREP. The 11th black rhino translocation, which includes moving rhinos from parks with significant populations to others that historically held rhinos but currently do not, was completed in October 2017. During translocations, some rhinos are airlifted by helicopter. They are first sedated and then carefully airlifted to awaiting vehicles which take them to their new location.

Ground team helps with lowering a black rhino credit green renaissance wwf sa © Green Renaissance/WWF-SA

Back in 2004, 15 black rhinos were released on to the first BRREP partner site in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. That population has grown so well that some of the offspring have been moved to form part of the project’s 11th breeding population.

A man patting the back of a black rhino that is standing up © Green Renaissance/WWF-SA

In 2015, black rhino numbers in KwaZulu-Natal passed the milestone of 500. There has been a 21% increase in the black rhino population in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal since 2003. “When the project first began, the main concern was the slow population growth rate of the critically endangered black rhino,” explains project leader Dr. Jacques Flamand, pictured here after administering an antidote to a sleeping rhino. “Now population growth has increased, but so has poaching, so concern remains.”



Published December 14, 2017 at 06:00AM

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