Tag: Protected Areas

Cristina Eisenberg on Large Predators, Large Landscapes and Coexistence

In our series interviewing conservation science leaders, we talk with Cristina Eisenberg, a leading researcher and writer on trophic cascades, large predators and how we can coexist with these animals.

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Scaling up Conservation: Replication or Coordination?

TNC senior scientist Jensen Montambault describes the approach the Micronesia Challenge — with 2100 islands and 7.4 million square miles of ocean — is taking to large-scale conservation.

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Alligator Rescue on the Border

The alligator was trapped and destined to die a slow death: time for a rescue operation. An unexpected twist at one of the most biodiverse nature reserves in the United States, the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas.

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10 Top National Wildlife Refuges To Explore

For the traveling naturalist, there’s a lifetime of adventures to be found on national wildlife refuges. But with 560 refuges, where to start? Our blogger offers up his favorites for birds and other wildlife, from spotting tropical specialties in Texas to hiking amongst bighorn sheep in Oregon.

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Northern Elephant Seals: A Dramatic Conservation Success

Northern elephant seals were declared extinct, a victim of the blubber trade. Today, you can see thousands on California beaches, and the population continues to grow. The story of a dramatic (and often unheralded) conservation success.

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Spring’s Top 10 Wildlife Spectacles

Looking for a great wildlife road trip, or just a reason to explore the neighborhood park? Our blogger offers top 10 wildlife experiences for spring, from baby bison to mayfly madness.

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Babirusa: Conserving the Bizarre Pig of the Sulawesi Forest

The babirusa may be one of the coolest and most bizarre animals around. But even those formidable tusks can’t protect it from poaching and deforestation.

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Zumwalt Prairie: Mountain Lions, Mountain Quail & More

Camera Trap Chronicles heads to northeastern Oregon’s Zumwalt Prairie Preserve for a “backstage pass” to see the lives of big predators, cool birds, roaming herds and more.

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Are Latin America’s Protected Areas Effective at Conserving Nature?

Protected areas are the single most important conservation strategy in the world, and Latin America has the most land within protected areas of any region of the world. But are Latin America’s protected areas effective at conserving nature inside their boundaries?

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Saved by Chance: The Incredibly Strange Story of the Pere David’s Deer

The Pere David’s deer may be the only species saved because someone broke a wildlife law. It now is a creature of British deer parks and Texas wildlife ranches, facing a secure future far from its native habitat. What lessons can we learn from this near-collision with extinction?

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Kareiva: Are We Thinking Globally When We Do Conservation?

Conservancy chief scientist Peter Kareiva argues that a key lesson in conservation — and one backed up by recent research — is to realize that when we impose strong conservation policy in one country, there is almost always leakage of our impacts, such that protected areas set up in one country may simply mean damage is done elsewhere.

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For Some Elephants, an Uncertain — But Not Stressful — Future

In a thick pocket of acacia trees, a group of savannah elephants quietly munch leaves. Tails swing, ears flip and flap. Occasionally one scoops up a trunk full of dirt and tosses it across its face and back, to cool the hide and displace insects.

A few yards away, 3 researchers crouch in the brush, watching and filming. The setting seems peaceful and quiet, but the researchers are tensely aware: wild elephants can charge if frightened or startled. And the last thing a scientist wants is to be charged by the largest land animal in the world — especially while in pursuit of its poop.

Yes, poop.

“We needed fresh dung in order to gather DNA material,” explains grasslands ecologist Marissa Ahlering of The Nature Conservancy. But what for? While collecting dung samples from wild elephants is somewhat dangerous and far from glamorous (see video), the work has been providing useful insight into whether elephant populations in Kenya could live in proximity to people and livestock without stress.

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No Surprise: Protected Areas Work

Ferraro, P. et al. 2013. More strictly protected areas are not necessarily more protective: evidence from Bolivia, Costa Rica, Indonesia, and Thailand. Environ. Res. Lett. 8 025011 doi:10.1088/1748-9326/8/2/025011.

Do protected areas that are more strictly protected (IUCN category I-IV) have less deforestation than less strictly protected areas (IUCN category V-VI)?

The short answer is yes but not always.

This might sound like another we-just-proved-the-world-is-round analysis, but this recent study is authored by some of the more rigorous thinkers in conservation. It sets a new standard for accuracy and precision in estimating avoided deforestation from protected area status.

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Quick Study: Do Elephants Get Stressed Out When Living Alongside People?

The Study: Ahlering, M.A., J.E. Maldonado, L.S. Eggert, R.C. Fleischer, D. Western and J. Brown. 2013. Conservation outside protected areas and the effect of human-dominated landscapes on stress hormones in savannah elephants. Conservation Biology, 27: 569–575. doi: 10.1111/cobi.12061

The Big Question: In East Africa, savannah elephants are increasingly expanding outside of protected parks and into surrounding areas where people and agriculture dominate. Do elephants experience stress when living alongside human populations — even in situations where they are not being actively poached? The answer, according to this new paper from lead author Marissa Ahlering of The Nature Conservancy and colleagues, can be found… in their poop.

Study Nuts and Bolts: The ability to measure stress hormones in wild animals has improved dramatically in the past decade with the development of fecal metabolite analysis techniques. In this study, scientists compared the levels of glucocorticoid (GC) hormone (which increases in response to stress) of elephants in a community conservation area (CCA) established by Maasai pastoralists with elephants at two nearby protected areas, Kenya’s Amboseli and Maasai Mara National Parks. The elephants in the CCA are exposed to “dense human settlements, agricultural areas, and intense livestock grazing on a daily basis,” while the elephants in the national parks are only exposed to humans through limited ecotourism and research.

To measure the stress hormone, scientists collected fresh dung samples and extracted DNA and hormone samples. The hormone samples were frozen immediately in liquid nitrogen, transferred to Nairobi for storage and then shipped overnight on dry ice to the United States where they were run through a series of metabolic analyses.

The Findings: The researchers found no evidence of chronic stress in the elephants living within the CCA. The stress levels of the CCA elephants were the same as elephants in the nearby protected area of Maasai Mara, although elephants at Amboseli exhibited lower stress than the other two groups.

What it All Means: The results surprised the researchers — they expected the elephants in the CCA to exhibit higher levels of stress due to a higher degree of contact with humans. These findings indicate that elephants can successfully live in human-dominated areas — and suggest that CCAs should be part of the solution in efforts to restore elephants to areas where illegal ivory poaching has decimated their populations.

Editor’s Note: Check back later this week for a more in-depth report on this research. 

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Forest Dilemmas

Too many deer. Logging one tree to save another. Beavers versus old growth. Welcome to forest conservation in the Anthropocene. Beginning Monday, July 21, join us for a provocative 5-part series exploring the full complexity facing forest conservation in the eastern United States.

What is Cool Green Science?

noun 1. Blog where Nature Conservancy scientists, science writers and external experts discuss and debate how conservation can meet the challenges of a 9 billion + planet.

2. Blog with astonishing photos, videos and dispatches of Nature Conservancy science in the field.

3. Home of Weird Nature, The Cooler, Quick Study, Traveling Naturalist and other amazing features.

Cool Green Science is managed by Matt Miller, the Conservancy's deputy director for science communications, and edited by Bob Lalasz, its director of science communications. Email us your feedback.

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