In Peru, pink river dolphins are tagged with transmitters for the first time

In Peru, pink river dolphins are tagged with transmitters for the first time

Though well-known for their unique coloring, pink river dolphins face an increasingly uncertain future. Water pollution, dam construction, and poaching—either targeted or as bycatch—seriously threaten these amazing creatures and the key role they play along their rivers. A lack of data about the population status and behavior of the dolphins makes tackling these threats even more difficult.

“Dolphins are like jaguars in the forest. As top predators, their population status is an indicator of the health of the rivers and ecosystems they inhabit,” says Jose Luis Mena, WWF Peru’s Science Director. “If the dolphins are doing well, all the other local species will also thrive.”

In order to learn more about the population status of this species, a scientific expedition set out to install satellite transmitters on pink river dolphins in Peru. This is the fourth expedition as part of the first-ever effort to tag river dolphins in the Amazon, building upon recent expeditions in Bolivia, Brazil, and Colombia. This time, a team of biologists, vets and geographers went deep into Peru’s northern Amazon-- one of the places with the highest density of freshwater dolphins in the world.

 

Safety and speed

Led by WWF and its local partner ProDelphinus, the team worked jointly with local members of the 20 de Enero Community. Together, they were able to safely capture, study, and place transmitters on three male and one female dolphin.

With a little patience and a lot of care, citizens, guided by scientists, helped enclose dolphins with a fishing net and lead them onto stretchers outside of the water. From there, the examination process began, including blood and tissue sampling that will provide information about the dolphins’ health and diet. Finally, transmitters were placed on the dolphins and they were released back into the wild.

“We follow a strict protocol that prioritizes the welfare of the animals and its quick release back into the water, with the least possible discomfort,” says biologist Elizabeth Campbell, ProDelphinus Associate Researcher. “All the dolphins we tagged were safely released back into the river and we will now be able to see what they are doing on a daily basis, how they use their habitat, and even how climate change is impacting their home and behavior.”

 

Science and technology lead the way together

The data collected is of critical importance as Amazon rivers face rampant pressures from human encroachment and related infrastructure. It is more crucial than ever to understand these rivers dynamics, the biodiversity, and resources within them, and how to ensure their long-term continuity.

Dolphin monitoring is part of a comprehensive science and conservation strategy. The expedition in Peru is part of a regional initiative led by WWF with local partners in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, which aims to tag 50 dolphins in total. Data collected will be used to design effective strategies that ensure healthy and free-flowing rivers throughout the entire Amazon. So far, almost 20 dolphins have been tagged across the region.

Global dolphin survival

The pink dolphin holds the largest population worldwide.  Ensuring its conservation could also help inform efforts to save more endangered river dolphin species around the world. Successful satellite tagging provides WWF and its partners with a new way to monitor and gather important information about river dolphin behavior and habitats, which can create better conservation plans.

As science offers better tools to help this species survive, everyone must play their part—the private sector, government authorities, and local citizens—in order to ensure this iconic species remains as the friendly face representing the wealth of Amazon rivers to the eyes of the world.

Take action: Join WWF’s Freshwater Force

 



Published October 15, 2018 at 05:00AM

Ranger survey reveals harsh conditions

Ranger survey reveals harsh conditions

Wildlife rangers are one of the planet’s first and last lines of defense. As pressures on nature, grow, the survival of endangered animals like rhinos, elephants and tigers and their habitats depends in great part on these men and women.

It’s never been an easy job. But now a newly-released survey—the largest ever taken on the working conditions of government employed rangers across Asia and Africa—reveals the harsh realities of their work.

Illegal logging and a violent poaching crisis are at an all-time high. The work of rangers has never been more critical. But challenges for these rangers are enormous and far-ranging.

Working on average 76 hours a week, day and night, for less than $9 (US) a day, a staggering 60 percent of rangers indicated they didn’t have access to drinking water or shelter while on patrol. Rangers are also at great risk of infectious diseases. One in four rangers reported that they had contracted malaria in the last year. In Africa, this jumped up to almost 75 percent of rangers. Some of these could be greatly reduced with a simple mosquito net, yet only 20 percent report having access such equipment.

“The problem faced by rangers during patrol is that we don’t have adequate equipment to perform our work, like boots and raincoats,” said a ranger who had to remain anonymous for security reasons.

And it’s not just equipment, almost four in ten rangers didn’t feel they had adequate training when they started their job. Such preparation is vital when they come face to face with armed gangs, have to search for deadly snares, assess crime scenes, negotiate hostile situations and even provide potentially life-saving aid to a colleague who’s suffered a serious injury in the field.

“When we get injured in the jungle it is difficult to get medical treatment, especially for injuries that require a doctor or a hospital. There is no helicopter to lift us out and take us to the hospital for emergency treatment,” said another anonymous ranger.

So what can be done to help rangers? While rangers are government employees, organizations such as WWF provide support to some sites and programs and help rangers gain better access to basic facilities.

But there is much more that needs to be done. Stronger, more effective government policies are a crucial first step. WWF is calling upon governments to urgently review and address shortcomings that are endangering the lives of rangers and as a result, nature and wildlife. Adequate training, as well as appropriate equipment and communications devices, should be immediately addressed. WWF is also looking to secure 100 percent insurance coverage for serious injuries and loss of life to help rangers and their families.

Back a Ranger now: Help the men and women on the front lines of conservation get the resources they need to stop wildlife crime



Published October 09, 2018 at 05:00AM

Our planet is warming. Here’s what’s at stake if we don’t act now.

Our planet is warming. Here’s what’s at stake if we don’t act now.

Our climate is changing around us faster than predicted. From more frequent and extreme storms to unprecedented heat waves, we’re feeling the impacts of human-caused global warming.

But we still have time to change course. We can avoid more dire impacts of climate change by limiting warming to 2.7° F (1.5° C), according to a new report by the United Nations.

The world is already 1.8° F hotter than it was between 1850 and 1900, the pre-industrial era. And while there’s no question that limiting warming to 2.7° F will be difficult, there’s also no question that it’s worth it.

We need to work together to eliminate the release of heat-trapping carbon by 2050—and, ideally, by 2040.

This is not a challenge government can solve alone; we need collaboration across businesses and communities as well. We also need to help wildlife and people cope with a rapidly warming planet.

WWF is working with national, state, and city governments, and businesses to deliver on the ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement. Signed by nearly 200 countries, the pact requires all nations to pursue efforts to limit global temperature increase to 2.7° F to stave off some of the worst impacts of a warming planet.

Here’s what’s at stake if we limit warming to 2.7°F versus 3.6°F.

   

1.5° C (2.7° F)

2° C (3.6° F)

 

Sea-Level Rise

Sea level rise by 2100:

1.5 feet 1.8 feet

 Rising sea levels could impact tens of millions of people and wildlife around the world, particularly those living on coasts and islands
 

Coral Bleaching

Coral reefs at risk of severe degradation by 2100:

70% Virtually All

Changes in water temperature causes algae to leave coral reefs, turning them white and making them vulnerable to disease and death—a phenomenon known as coral bleaching.
 

Ice-Free Arctic Summers

Ice-free Arctic summers:

At least one every 100 years At least one every 10 years

Arctic sea ice recedes every summer, but still covers millions of square miles of ocean today. But the Arctic is warming faster than anywhere else on Earth and ice-free summers could become a reality.
 

Heat Waves

People exposed to extreme heat waves at least once every 20 years:

700 million 2 billion

Heat waves will become more frequent and severe around the world, affecting hundreds of millions—or even billions—of people if we don’t act.
 

Flooding

Increase in flood risk:

100% 170%

Global warming increases the risk of more frequent—and heavier—rainfall, snowfall, and other precipitation. And as that risk increases, so too does the risk of flooding.


Published October 08, 2018 at 05:00AM

WWF’s Ming Yao on why China’s ivory trade ban matters

WWF’s Ming Yao on why China’s ivory trade ban matters

China made it illegal to buy and sell elephant ivory at the end of last year, and the law is already producing positive results.

Among 2,000 people surveyed across 15 Chinese cities with ivory markets, those who previously said that they’d either bought ivory products in the past and planned to do so again, or wanted to buy ivory products for the first time, dropped substantially now that the law is in full force, according to two new studies by WWF and TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network.

Additionally, all pre-ban legal ivory shops visited by wildlife trafficking experts in 2018 had stopped selling ivory, and the magnitude of illegal ivory trade in most of the cities and online platforms surveyed had dropped.

Despite these promising results, there’s still more work to do. Ivory trafficking hotspots remain in China, including along its border with Vietnam. Awareness of the ban is also low.

WWF spoke with Ming Yao, a member of WWF’s wildlife conservation team who has worked closely on ivory demand reduction projects, to learn more about her point of view on China’s ivory ban and how it has influenced consumer behavior in her country.

Read the studies here and here.

Ivory has always been part of the Chinese culture and often considered a symbol of achievement. What kind of conversations have you had with friends in China regarding the ban?
My first personal experience with an ivory product was five years ago, when my older sister got an ivory bracelet as a gift from her friend who had recently traveled to South Africa. I clearly remember that the piece of jewelry was stunning, and her friend told us she paid approximately $3,000. At the time, her friend knew it was illegal to bring ivory into China, but there was no explicit ivory ban at that time, so she took the risk and got away with it. Since the inception of the ban, many awareness-raising campaigns have launched and many Chinese citizens have come to realize the importance of protecting elephants.

My friends and I are excited to hear that the ban is having positive impacts. We think that if no one buys ivory, elephants have a great chance or survival. It’s important to raise more awareness on the existence of the ban because I still have friends who don’t know about it and its importance for conservation.

You’re a millennial. Were you surprised by the research findings that millennials are one of the groups most interested in buying ivory in China?
I was very shocked by the results of the recent surveys because I thought young Chinese would have more knowledge of elephant conservation and would not be inclined to buy ivory products. Nevertheless, they are still attracted by the beauty of ivory and what it represents to own it.

We need to work harder to change perceptions and behaviors of millennials and help them see that not by not buying ivory they give hope for elephants.

Have campaigns raising awareness that buying ivory is detrimental to the survival of elephants generated impact on consumer habits?
Yes, most of my friends will not buy ivory products after learning that over 20,000 African elephants are poached every year because of consumer demand for ivory products. They are also very mindful of the legal implications that can occur if they buy ivory.   

Many conservation organizations are working hard to stop the demand. Celebrities like actress Li Bingbing have also been key in raising awareness among consumers—but changing mindsets can be hard. We need to continue to inform people so that China can reduce the demand for ivory and instead become a champion for elephant conservation.

What else can we do to stop the demand to buy ivory products?
In the immediate future, we can take advantage of Golden Week, China’s biggest travel holiday. Many people travel to nearby countries where elephant ivory is not illegal and bring back ivory products. This is a great opportunity to raise awareness and reduce people’s desire to purchase ivory during their trips. We can also engage travel industry leaders and influencers to deliver our campaign messaging to outbound Chinese travelers in popular destinations. This is also a great time to share awareness-raising messaging about legal penalties and law enforcement for ivory smuggling through information placed at key locations, including airports, online travel sights, shopping sites, and other transportation hubs.

Are you taking any personal steps to help stop demand?
I want to use my upcoming wedding as a platform to raise awareness of the ivory ban in Tongling City, a small city south of the Anhui province. We will have around 1,000 guests attending and my fiancĂ© and I want to use this opportunity to have elephant motifs throughout the venue (and even on my dress) that highlight the importance of protecting these animals. We are also working on creating a compelling video with a powerful message that encourages our guests to help stop the demand for ivory products so we can preserve this species.



Published September 28, 2018 at 05:00AM

How sustainable honey helps a community and precious forest in Sumatra

How sustainable honey helps a community and precious forest in Sumatra

Around 10pm one night in October 2017, in the rain forests of central Sumatra, Feri grabs a hammer, loops it over his shoulder, and scales a tree so massive it makes him look the size of a squirrel. The ladder he’s using is a chain of bamboo poles lashed to wooden pegs. Flashlights from the ground cocoon his figure in light as he reaches the uppermost pole, whacks a new peg into the trunk, and waits for another climber to carry up the next length of bamboo.

The tree, in Feri’s language, is a sialang, meaning “big tree with honey.” He and three other climbers—who belong to a community of indigenous Talang Mamak people—have been building the ladder for hours. Once it reaches the bees’ nests hanging from the sialang’s branches, they’ll use a smoking torch to drive out any bees.

The Talang Mamak have been harvesting honey and a host of other natural products from these forests, located in a region known as Thirty Hills, for generations. But they just began collaborating with a PT Alam Bukit 30 (ABT), a new business aiming to help them improve their production and profits--while also keeping the trees standing.

The company was launched in 2015 by WWF-Indonesia, the Frankfurt Zoological Society and The Orangutan Project to protect a large forest concession of land in Thirty Hills. A pulp and paper company had been trying to acquire and clear the concession for plantations, but ABT won the license to it as an “ecosystem restoration concession.” Now, the company is working with local communities there to create a sustainable business plan to create revenue from the intact forest, from everything from sialang honey and rubber to rugs, baskets, and other handicrafts made from rattan and bamboo.

Some of those communities, like Feri’s, live inside ABT’s concession. While they don’t legally own their land, they have deep roots in Thirty Hills. “We believe this forest is ancient, and that it is a family member of the Talang Mamak,” says Fahmi, the head of Feri’s village. ABT wants the indigenous communities to stay in the concession and prosper from its sustainable production model.

Other settlements, like the village of Suo Suo, lie just outside the concession’s boundaries. “We were already making these products before,” says Adnan, a 69-year-old Suo Suo resident, sitting cross-legged in one of the village houses as she works a new strand of bamboo into a woven basket. “But ABT can help us sell them to bigger markets so we can make more income.”

Eventually, the local communities partnering with the company will be invited to become shareholders in it--an uncommon move for a company in Sumatra. “These communities are used to being marginalized,” says Jan Vertefeuille, who leads wildlife conservation advocacy for WWF-US and helped realize the creation of the ABT concession. “Usually, if a pulp and paper or rubber or palm oil comes in, the local communities can’t tell them to leave because they don’t have land tenure.”

Not all of the villages in Thirty Hills are convinced yet that ABT is a company they can trust. But Anto, who lives in Feri’s village, says most of the people there have decided to give the partnership with the company a try.

“We initially rejected ABT because we weren’t aware of what it was and how it was supposed to help local people,” he says. “But now, 85% of the village supports it. We need a change, a good change. We need to improve our livelihoods. Having a partnership with ABT can help us have a better life.”



Published September 20, 2018 at 05:00AM

Eerie animals?

Eerie animals?

Bats and spiders, black cats and owls—can you imagine a spooky Halloween without them? Though they may give you goosebumps on the year’s most frightful night, these animals actually help keep our planet—and all who live here—healthy and safe.   

WWF works to protect landscapes where these animals live and helps both wildlife and people thrive.

Spooky spiders?

Spiders often get a bad rap because their eight legs, multiple sets of eyes, and signature fangs seem a bit…well…spooky. But contrary to the narrative of some horror flicks, these web spinners are a huge plus to have around. Found all around the world except in the coldest places, spiders serve as major predators of insects—including those that pester humans, transmit disease, or eat food crops. We know of more than 40,000 different species of spider, and likely still have thousands more to discover.

Bone-chilling bats?

Vampire bats may send a shiver down your spine, but out of about 1,200 species of bats in the world, only three carry that label. The majority—two-thirds—serve as nighttime pest patrol, snacking on mosquitoes and other insects. Other bat species act as pollinators and seed dispersers. By feeding on flowers and fruits, bats pollinate wild bananas, the saguaro cactus, and durian.

Creepy cats?

A black cat crossing your path on Halloween seems like a bad omen. However, catching a glimpse of a much bigger black cat—the elusive black jaguar—would be quite the stroke of luck. They’re the same species of jaguar found in the Amazon, but with a rare color variant. This color adaptation may aid them in catching prey. WWF helps protect the Amazon and tracks jaguars to learn more about their habitat and needs.

Ominous owls?

Just because most owls fly through the night doesn't mean they’re ominous. In fact, the snowy owl hunts mainly during the day, using both sight and sound to locate prey. This white-feathered bird is usually monogamous and often pairs for life. Snowy owls live mainly in Arctic regions, but are known to fly south into the United States during the winter months.

Learn more about WWF's work to protect wildlife.



Published September 24, 2018 at 05:00AM

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