FRONTLINE DISPATCHES – VOLUME 1, NUMBER 6, APRIL 2019

Frontline Dispatches brings you a monthly digest of conservation and hunting news. Our quarterly E-Magazine Conservation Frontlines provides in-depth analysis and opinion on topical issues and our Conservation Frontlines website gives you access to an abundance of reference material.

AFRICA

Botswana reinstates hunting on a strictly controlled basis in designated Concession Hunting Areas (CHAs) and on demarcated game ranches which serve as buffers between communal and wildlife areas, said Acting Permanent Secretary Felix Monggae of the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism. Species currently reflected in Schedule 7 of the Wildlife and National Parks Act of 1992 will be considered for hunting. The annual quota for elephant will not exceed 400. Community Based Organizations are given priority in the allocation of quotas and an adequate number of non-transferable hunting licenses and species permits is to be allocated to Botswana citizens. The guiding principles of the Botswana government were: the need to conserve the natural resources of the country; the need to facilitate human-wildlife coexistence; and scientific management of elephants and other wildlife in of Botswana (Mmegi, BOPA, Botswana Government).

At the elephant summit meeting entitled “Towards A Common Vision For Management Of Our Elephants” the southern African countries representing the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) discussed a common policy for the conservation and management of their shared elephant populations, lobbying among themselves for support for proposals submitted to CITES CoP 18; conducting coordinated transboundary aerial surveys of elephant (and other wildlife populations); and providing incentives for communities to tolerate elephants and coexist with them. (BOPA, The Washington Post).

“In many ways, southern Africa has become a victim of its conservation success, as far as elephants go,” says Dr. Russell Taylor, the Transboundary Conservation Planning Advisor for the World Wildlife Fund. Nearly 75 percent of southern Africa’s elephants are in the vast 520,000 km² (201,000 sq mi) Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) that spans Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Taylor added, “Botswana’s [lifting of the moratorium on hunting] should be properly managed, properly regulated, using sustainable quotas. In most cases, you are harvesting less than 1 percent of the population. It’s what I [call] wise conservation.” (Interview and podcast)

“Elephants Can’t Vote, But They May Decide Botswana’s Election” is the title of a report by Pauline Bax in Bloomberg Businessweek. Bax reports that “Conservationists [are] fiercely opposed to [elephant hunting in Botswana],” but fails to mention that these “conservationists” are in fact a coalition of international animal-rights activists and mostly non-resident owners of photo-safari concessions in the Okavango Delta. Field scientists who live in Botswana and the KAZA-TFCA, members of the IUCN Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group, and, most important, the communities who share the land with elephants and other wildlife support the encompassing consultation process introduced by President Masisi and the re-introduction of limited elephant hunting. The complexity of the issue has been described in “Elephant Hunting and Poaching in Botswana: Politics, Popular Grievances and the Power of Animal Advocacy”; in a letter to the editor of the Daily Maverick—“Trophy Hunting, Part Three: Not quite the end of the game”—signed by Dilys Roe, Chair, IUCN Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group and other concerned experts; and in “Life-changing wildlife revenue for rural Botswana community.

One of the first investors to defy the “sabotage Botswana campaign” because of the lifting of the hunting suspension is France’s richest man, Bernard Arnault. The LVMH Group selected Botswana for its first hospitality business investment in Africa and has been given a green light by the Competition Authority of Botswana. (The Patriot)

“Changing the Ideology of Biodiversity” is the title of an article by Mike Chambers in International Policy Digest. Chambers refers to an op-ed by Malan Lindeque and writes: “A policy line that rejects any and all wildlife harvesting in the name of conservation will alienate African rural communities who are humanities’ front lines in the biodiversity crises. It certainly does seem counter-intuitive. But it also seems to be true. Promising and campaigning not to kill them has the opposite effect. It kills them… I hate the thought of hunters seeking trophies as magnificent as an elephant. But it turns out that this equation is faulty. Local communities benefiting from wildlife and even trophy hunters harvesting wildlife for their egos bring a positive trend to wildlife viability. That, perhaps surprising, situation seems to me to have two logical results. First off, I need to change my view and support hunters and help them connect better with communities. The second one is an ideological problem—[the] most powerful institutions that guard and try to benefit wildlife and biodiversity are locked into a formula for its destruction. Of course, they continue on that route because they don’t have the cohesion or courage to change course.”

The shocking condition of lions bred and kept on Pienika Farm were revealed by several South African and international media outlets. According to the reports, National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals inspectors found lions and other predators living under deplorable circumstances on Pienika. The farm is in South Africa’s North West Province near Lichtenburg and owned by Jan Steinman. Steinman is reportedly listed as a council member of SAPA, the South African Predator Association. (SA Breaking News, The Independent UK, The Daily Mail UK, Smithsonian.com)

Namibia’s elephant population grew from about 7,000 in 1995 to about 16,000 in 2004 and the current figure is just over 22,000 elephants, the highest recorded number since population surveys commenced. (NAPHA)

Namibian President Hage Geingob has declared a drought emergency. Government offices, ministries, agencies and all other stakeholders are to be mobilized to ensure that the necessary assistance is rolled out to affected communities. The implementation of drought relief activities started on 1 April 2019.

In Namibia, the Nyae Nyae Conservancy, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and Stephan Jacobs of SMJ Safaris received the CIC’s Edmond Blanc prize for outstanding efforts in wildlife conservation and game management. CIC, the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation, presented the recognition certificate to chief Tsamkxao Oma during the international conference “Crossroads—Leading the Way for Wildlife Conservation” in Windhoek. (The Namibian)

The Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism has prohibited the importation into Namibia of large predators and alien species of wild animals and the exportation of endemic species, as set out in Government Gazette No. 6892.

How the world’s largest lion relocation was pulled off is described in an amply illustrated National Geographic article about the introduction of 24 lions from South Africa into the Zambezi Delta area (Coutada 10 and Coutada 11) of central Mozambique. From this introduction—and with the help of the spirit lions of Thozo community—the lion population in the area could grow to as many as 500 within 15 years. Already, six cubs have been born since the lions’ release. Read details on this hunter-funded conservation project in “Take A Behind-The-Scenes Look At The World’s Most Ambitious Lion Conservation Resettlement” and “Return Of The Zambeze Delta Lions.”  Also watch two videos on the 24-Lion Project at Cabela’s Lion Translocation and Moving Twenty Four Lions. Conservation Frontlines already reported on the Twenty-Four-Lions project and the Twenty-Four-Lions Team, which includes the Cabela Family Foundation, Ivan Carter Wildlife Alliance, The Bateleurs, Zambeze Delta Safaris, Marromeu Safaris, the Thozo community and the Administração Nacional das Áreas de Conservação.

Swayne’s hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus swaynei), known locally as Qorkey, occurs in the Senkele Swayne’s Hartebeest Sanctuary at the gateway to the Omo valley in Ethiopia. The sanctuary is one of the last places where this hartebeest subspecies is found. Qorkey numbers there plummeted from an estimated 3,500 animals to fewer than 70 between 1991 and 1992. Now, an estimated 850 hartebeest live in the sanctuary. Thanks go to the traditional leaders of the Oromo people, who lean on traditions and age-old customs to save this rare antelope from extinction. (Mongabay.com)

Time to legalize big game hunting in Kenya, says The Star columnist Wycliff Muga. He mentions the huge surplus of African buffalo in Lake Nakuru National Park, where buffalo numbers are estimated at 3,850 while the carrying capacity is a mere 500. Muga assumes that there will be calls for a tourism boycott if Kenya were to legalize hunting and he concludes that if ever there was a subject much in need of “public participation” (that is, by those who live with the wildlife and within the wildlife areas, not European and American activists) and new policy, then it is the licensing of recreational hunting in some of the areas surrounding Kenya’s game parks. (The Star)

Kenya’s reputation as a top-drawer ecotourist destination could be in jeopardy, says Adam Welz in “How Kenya’s Push for Development Is Threatening Its Famed Wild Lands.” The country is planning an extensive network of roads, power lines, dams and renewable-energy infrastructure. Many of these projects, including wind farms and geothermal facilities, are to be constructed in the nation’s iconic parks and wildlife areas.

The future of Tanzania’s wildlife depends on safari hunting as a conservation tool. Richard Cheatham and Michel Mantheakis narrate this three-part series by Dallas Safari Club Foundation. Watch: Tanzania—How Hunting Saves Wildlife Part 1; Tanzania—How Hunting Saves Wildlife Part 2; Tanzania—How Hunting Saves Wildlife Part 3.

 

NORTH & SOUTH AMERICA

The Maine Audubon Society and the Native Plant Trust recognize that wild lands can’t regenerate because the whitetail deer population is larger than the land can support. Keeping the deer population in check would let native plant populations recover more quickly. The Nature Conservancy allows hunting on its Maine properties, and would like to allow people to harvest more than one deer per year. (Portland Press Herald)

100 years ago, you couldn’t have hunted turkeys in Rhode Island. But about 40 years ago a few wild turkeys were released; the birds thrived and now, all around the state, turkeys are abundant. In 2016, the state sold 1,163 turkey-hunting permits. The birds are notoriously hard to hunt and only 122 turkeys were reported harvested in 2016, but they are an increasingly abundant resource. Read a photojournalist’s story as she accompanied two Rhode Island turkey hunters.

“America’s Wildlife Values: The Social Context of Wildlife Management in the US” is the title of a report assessing how residents across all 50 states think about wildlife. For example, 50 percent of Hispanics and 43 percent of Asians identified as “mutualists,” compared to 32 percent of Whites, and both groups have half as many “traditionalists.” Traditionalists believe that animals should be used for purposes that benefit humans, such as hunting and medical research; mutualists believe that animals deserve the same rights as humans and project human traits onto animals. The study’s findings have wide-ranging implications. As minority populations continue to grow (Hispanics and Asians are far less likely than Whites to hunt or fish), wildlife agencies must increasingly engage and interact with traditional and new partners. To understand how the study is interpreted, read a variety of opinions, such as Louisa Willcox’s article “Of Leopold, the land ethic and the future of grizzlies.

Seventy years after A Sand County Almanac was published, what would “the godfather of modern ecological thinking” say about battles over predators, outdoor recreation and environmental justice? Todd Wilkinson of Mountain Journal had a conversation with writer-historian-conservationist Curt Meine, senior fellow with the Aldo Leopold Foundation and author of a critically acclaimed biography of Leopold in 1988. Read Natural Truths: Channeling The Wisdom of Aldo Leopold.

Wisconsin’s Dept. of Natural Resources rejected a recommendation of the Buffalo County Deer Advisory Council to introduce an antlerless-only deer hunt. The proposal was designed to give counties more tools for managing deer herds. But the dialogue stimulated a discussion of creative ideas to bring down deer numbers, such as “earn-a-buck” or a quota season, where bucks cannot be taken until a certain number of does are killed first.

Colorado wildlife commissioners rejected outlawing trapping and hunting of bobcats, saying that science drove their decision—that is, a lack of evidence that harvesting bobcats at current levels is harmful. Colorado’s bobcat population is thought to be stable, though wildlife managers have observed slight declines in parts of the state. Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists also declared that there is no scientific evidence that hunting or trapping has an impact on the state’s stable lynx population.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted a letter to the Congressional Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife opposing H.R. 2532, the Tribal Heritage and Grizzly Bear Protection Act. The act was introduced by Arizona Congressman Raúl Grijalva, an activist for the Humane Society of the United States and anti-hunters in Washington, DC. The CSF aims to reaffirm state wildlife management authority over grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE). At the time the species was listed under the Endangered Species Act, in 1975, it was estimated there were as few as 136 grizzlies in the region. However, through dedicated funding from state and federal agencies, science-based management and other conservation efforts, the grizzly bear has recovered to a level that is near or at the GYE’s carrying capacity of approximately 700 bears. The US Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that the GYE grizzly no longer requires federal ESA listing and that primary management of the species should be returned to their states.

CSF also submitted a letter to the US Fish and Wildlife Service regarding a proposed rule to remove the gray wolf from the list of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. As with the GYE grizzly bear, the Service has determined that gray wolf recovery has reached the point where federal listing is no longer necessary. In its 1992 “Revised Recovery Plan for the Eastern Timber Wolf,” the Service defined a Minnesota population goal of 1,251 to 1,400 wolves spread across 40 percent of the state and 100 wolves each for Michigan and Wisconsin. Recent surveys suggest there are now well over 2,000 wolves in Minnesota and that Michigan and Wisconsin have exceeded their targets of 100 animals for each year since 1996.

“There is a singular reason that some of the best marshes [along the Lake Erie coastline] were saved,” says internationally recognized birding expert Kenn Kaufman; “One reason, two words: duck hunters. It sounds blunt and oversimplified to say it, but, from the viewpoint of wildlife, farmers, merchants and developers almost wrecked this land. The duck hunters saved it.” Russ Terry, a regional biologist for the Great Lakes with Ducks Unlimited, adds “and it’s not just the waterfowl hunters that have helped make this happen, because all hunters take the lead as conservationists. A lot of the money they spend goes toward preserving and protecting habitat.” Matthew Kovach, the Lake Erie coasts and islands project manager for The Nature Conservancy, says that “duck hunting clubs played a role in [habitat preservation], and that’s not as odd as some people make it out to be. You can’t separate the two.” (The Toledo Blade)

Missouri’s Dept. of Conservation (MDC) banned the hunting of wild pigs on roughly 1,000 conservation areas in June 2016. The US Army Corps of Engineers followed suit for its properties. The US Forest Service currently allows only the “incidental take” of wild pigs on its lands. Now farmers and others say the number of wild pigs in Missouri is climbing and they question the MDC’s no-hunting and trapping-only policy. With only anecdotal evidence and no credible population estimates, the controversy highlights an uncomfortable truth: There is little room for error when dealing with the most reproductively prolific large mammal in North America. Read more contrasting opinions on Missouri’s pig problem.

The population of feral pigs in Canada grew during the past 27 years at a rate of about 9 percent per year, according to a University of Saskatchewan study. The pigs are descendants of European wild boar brought to Canada for game farms and as food. At Montana’s northern border, it’s only a matter of time before they wander south, says Stephanie Hester, Invasive Species Outreach coordinator for the Montana Dept. of Natural Resources and Conservation. Montana hunting regulations state, “to prevent the introduction of feral swine into Montana, the 2015 Legislature prohibited the transportation, possession, and hunting of feral swine” (KPVI News).

A foot disease that affected 24 rare huemul deer in Chile’s Bernardo O’Higgins National Park seems to have been identified. Preliminary results from tests on tissue samples from an infected fawn suggest a parapoxvirus as the main cause. If the virus is indeed the disease agent, then it is an additional threat to the endangered Hippocamelus bisulcus because it is highly contagious. Researchers suspect the virus may have come from cattle that were illegally introduced into the park in 1991. (Mongabay.com)

 

ASIA

 

Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve in the Dhawalagiri Mountains of western Nepal spreads over 1,325 km2 (512 sq mi). Six Himalayan blue sheep (Tibetan bharal, Pseudois nayaur nayaur) and three Himalayan tahr (Hemitragus jemlahicus) have been taken by hunters in Dhorpatan in 2019. The Dhorpatan Reserve office had issued hunting permits for 10 bharal and four tahr to six hunting companies who paid fees of around Rs 1.3 million ($12,000) for each permit to the Dept. of National Parks and Wildlife. (Nepal 24Hours.com)

Pangolins, the only mammal with scales, are being trafficked by the ton. In just the first eight days of April 2019, authorities in Singapore seized two 14-ton shipments of pangolin scales, representing an estimated 72,000 animals and worth $90 million. In February, Malaysian police seized 33 tons of mostly whole, frozen pangolins. Pangolin scales are used in traditional Chinese medicine and the meat is considered a delicacy in parts of Asia. Learn how you can help pangolins in National Geographic and here.

Bayarjargal Agvaantseren from Mongolia has won the Goldman Environmental Prize for her campaign to stop mining firms from destroying a critical habitat for snow leopards by persuading the government to create a huge nature reserve in the South Gobi Desert and cancel 37 mining contracts in the area. (BBC News)

 

PACIFIC

Australia Is dead serious about killing millions of cats. Feral felines are driving the country’s native species to extinction, and now extensive culling is underway to preserve what’s left. In The New York Times, Jessica Camille Aguirre reports that Australia’s national government decided in 2015 to try to kill 2 million feral cats by 2020 out of grave concern for indigenous wildlife—in particular, small rodent and marsupial species that are particularly susceptible to predation by cats. The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology estimated that 211,560 cats were killed during the first 12 months after the plan was announced.

 

EUROPE

Only mass deer culls can prevent destruction of British woodlands and wildlife, say Paul Dolman and Kristin Wäber of the University of East Anglia: “Deer populations are going through the roof—there is an explosion in numbers.” A report in the Journal of Wildlife Management finds that between 50 and 60 percent of wild deer in Britain should be destroyed each year for populations to remain stable. (The Independent; see also article)

The case for sustainable hunting as a management tool for large carnivores in Europe and the role of hunting in improving coexistence of people and wildlife was supported by an Opinion of the Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the EU. The statement green-lights licensed wolf hunting for population management purposes, provided certain strict criteria are fulfilled. This case and its outcomes will also be relevant for the management of other protected species across the EU, including large carnivores such as bear and lynx.

Germany’s government is also discussing wolf legislation. The draft legislation intends to align the interests of livestock breeding and species protection. It stipulates that individual wolves may be “lethally removed.” This could lead to the removal of entire wolf packs until livestock killing ceases. Yet the wolf will remain a strictly protected species and each “extraction” must be pre-approved by state authorities. Environmental organizations, hunting groups and livestock owners’ associations criticized the draft. (Frankfurter Allgemeine)

A comprehensive import ban of hunting trophies at the EU level is at the core of a parliamentary motion introduced by the German Green Party. The motion further requests that Germany support all prohibitions or stronger restrictions on trade during the next CITES negotiations, and that German government representatives seek a consistent ban on hunting of protected species in negotiations with countries receiving development aid.

As some 80 percent of environmental rules come from Brussels, the EU is hugely important to Europe’s 7 million hunters. On 23 May 2019, representatives of the European Federation for Hunting and Conservation (FACE) met with EU Commissioner Karmenu Vella (Malta) to look back at the past five years and discuss how sustainable hunting can be promoted in the next five years. One achievement is the Commission’s commitment to implementing Adaptive Harvest Management, which seeks international coordination for the conservation and sustainable use of wildlife species. FACE welcomed the Commission’s new project on farmland wild-bird habitat, which should help the recovery of small game populations. FACE also referenced the need for greater flexibility in approaches to conserving and managing large carnivores. The present EU elections will be significant for European hunting and FACE is looking forward to working constructively with the next Commission. (FACE news release)

 

WORLD

Humans are transforming Earth’s natural landscapes so dramatically that as many as one million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction; this poses a dire threat to ecosystems that people all over the world depend on for their own survival. This is the conclusion reached by a sweeping new United Nations assessment. The 1,500-page report is the most exhaustive look yet at the decline in biodiversity across the globe and the dangers this poses to human civilization. An advance summary of the report, approved by representatives from the United States and 131 other countries, was released on 6 May 2019. The full report will be published this year.

In most major land habitats, from the savannas of Africa to the rain forests of South America, the average abundance of native plant and animal life has fallen by 20 percent or more, mainly over the past century. With the human population passing 7 billion, activities such as farming, logging, poaching, fishing and mining are altering the natural world at a rate “unprecedented in human history.”

At the same time, a new threat has emerged: Global warming has become a major driver of wildlife decline by shifting or shrinking the regional climates that many mammals, birds, insects, fish and plants evolved to survive in. When combined with other ways in which humans are damaging the environment, climate change is now pushing a growing number of species closer to extinction. As a result, biodiversity loss is projected to accelerate through 2050, particularly in the tropics, unless countries drastically step up their conservation efforts. Read Brad Plumer’s two articles in the New York Times “Humans Are Speeding Extinction and Altering the Natural World at an ‘Unprecedented’ Pace” and “To Tell the Story of Biodiversity Loss, Make It About Humans.