• Body size, demography, and body condition in Ctenosaura bakeri

      Pasachnik, Stesha A.; Montgomery, C.E.; Martinez, A.; Belal, N.; Clayson, S.; Faulkner, S. (2012)
      Abstract.—Utila Spiny-tailed Iguanas, Ctenosaura bakeri, are listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Redlist Assessment and are listed under Appendix II of CITES. This species occupies a portion of Utila, a small continental island located off the northern coast of Honduras, in the Bay Islands chain. Habitat destruction and overharvesting for consumption and the pet trade are among the top threats facing this species. Though first described in 1901 (Stejneger) and currently the focus of a local conservation program, little is known concerning that basic biology of this species. Combining data from six years we examined body size, sexual size dimorphism, and changes in demography and body condition over the study period. Our results indicate that males are larger and heavier than females on average, and have a longer tail for a given snout-vent length, as is the case with most iguanas. Over the study period we found an increase in the ratio of males to females, suggesting that female biased hunting pressure is increasing. This is consistent with an increase in the human population size and a preference for consuming gravid females. The body condition of both males and females declined over the duration of the study, which is suggestive of a decrease in habitat quality. These results indicate that the situation for this endangered species is becoming increasingly threatening. Conservation measures should focus on alleviating these threats through increased law enforcement, outreach, and education.
    • Bringing the Tiger Back from the Brink—The Six Percent Solution

      Walston, Joe; Robinson, John G.; Bennett, Elizabeth L.; Breitenmoser, Urs; Fonseca, Gustavo A. B. da; Goodrich, John; Gumal, Melvin; Hunter, Luke; Johnson, Arlyne; Karanth, K. Ullas; et al. (2010)
      ...Wild tiger numbers are at an historic low. There is no evidence of breeding populations of tigers in Cambodia, China, Vietnam, and DPR Korea. Current approaches to tiger conservation are not slowing the decline in tiger numbers [1]–[3], which has continued unabated over the last two decades. While the scale of the challenge is enormous, we submit that the complexity of effective implementation is not: commitments should shift to focus on protecting tigers at spatially well-defined priority sites, supported by proven best practices of law enforcement, wildlife management, and scientific monitoring. Conflict with local people needs to be mitigated. We argue that such a shift in emphasis would reverse the decline of wild tigers and do so in a rapid and cost-efficient manner....
    • Broad host range of SARS-CoV-2 predicted by comparative and structural analysis of ACE2 in vertebrates

      Damas, Joana; Hughes, Graham M.; Keough, Kathleen C.; Painter, Corrie A.; Persky, Nicole S.; Corbo, Marco; Hiller, Michael; Koepfli, Klaus-Peter; Pfenning, Andreas R.; Zhao, Huabin; et al. (2020)
      The novel coronavirus severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the cause of COVID-19. The main receptor of SARS-CoV-2, angiotensin I converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), is now undergoing extensive scrutiny to understand the routes of transmission and sensitivity in different species. Here, we utilized a unique dataset of ACE2 sequences from 410 vertebrate species, including 252 mammals, to study the conservation of ACE2 and its potential to be used as a receptor by SARS-CoV-2. We designed a five-category binding score based on the conservation properties of 25 amino acids important for the binding between ACE2 and the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Only mammals fell into the medium to very high categories and only catarrhine primates into the very high category, suggesting that they are at high risk for SARS-CoV-2 infection. We employed a protein structural analysis to qualitatively assess whether amino acid changes at variable residues would be likely to disrupt ACE2/SARS-CoV-2 spike protein binding and found the number of predicted unfavorable changes significantly correlated with the binding score. Extending this analysis to human population data, we found only rare (frequency <0.001) variants in 10/25 binding sites. In addition, we found significant signals of selection and accelerated evolution in the ACE2 coding sequence across all mammals, and specific to the bat lineage. Our results, if confirmed by additional experimental data, may lead to the identification of intermediate host species for SARS-CoV-2, guide the selection of animal models of COVID-19, and assist the conservation of animals both in native habitats and in human care.
    • Can science save the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)? Unifying science and policy in an adaptive management paradigm

      Swaisgood, Ronald R.; Wei, Fuwen; Mcshea, William J.; Wildt, David E.; Kouba, Andrew J.; Zhang, Zejun (2011)
      …Here, we review recent developments in giant panda conservation science and propose a strategic plan for moving panda conservation forward…. Specific threats, such as habitat destruction, anthropogenic disturbance and fragmented nonviable populations, need to be addressed simultaneously by researchers, managers and policy-makers working in concert to understand and overcome these obstacles to species recovery. With the backing of the Chinese Government and the conservation community, the giant panda can become a high-profile test species for this much touted, but rarely implemented, approach to conservation management….
    • Co-designing behavior change interventions to conserve biodiversity

      Bowie, Matthew J.; Dietrich, Timo; Cassey, Phillip; Veríssimo, Diogo (2020)
      Many threats to biodiversity are the result of human actions, which means that changing human behavior can positively alter the trajectory of our current biodiversity crisis. While there is an increasing number of behavior change interventions being implemented in biodiversity conservation, their design is rarely informed by the people they try to influence, thereby lowering the probability of success. Building successful interventions requires substantial audience research, but this can be challenging for conservation projects with perennially limited time and resources. Here, we critically discuss co-design as a useful and effective approach for gathering audience insights relatively quickly, allowing conservation practitioners to integrate end-user voices when they would otherwise be excluded from intervention design. Specifically, we present a seven-step co-design process, providing an outline and guidance for how to generate more user-centric intervention ideas and transform them into feasible prototype interventions. Further, we show how we applied this seven-step process with coffee consumers in a sustainable conservation context. This study outlines contributions that showcase the value of user-centered design approaches to behavior change interventions for biodiversity conservation.
    • Ecology and conservation of the Turks Island boa (Epicrates chrysogaster chrysogaster: Squamata: Boidae) on Big Ambergris Cay

      Reynolds, R.G.; Gerber, Glenn P. (2012)
      The boid genus Epicrates contains 10 species in the West Indies, several of which are listed as threatened or endangered, whereas the status of the others remains unknown. Little is known about Turks Island Boas (Epicrates chrysogaster chrysogaster), a subspecies of the Southern Bahamas Boa endemic to the Turks and Caicos Islands, and no published ecological studies exist for this subspecies. A long history of human habitation, greatly exacerbated by exponentially increasing development in the last several decades, appears to be threatening the remaining populations of these boas. However, a lack of basic ecological information is holding back conservation efforts. Here we report on the first multiyear ecological study of Turks Island Boas, focusing on an important population located on the small island of Big Ambergris Cay in the southeastern margin of the Caicos Bank. Encounter rates of up to 3.5 snakes per person-hour make this population especially easy to study. We captured 249 snakes, 11 of which were recaptures. We provide basic natural history information including size, color pattern, girth, body temperature, abundance, diet, activity, diurnal refuge selection, and population size. We also clarify the known distribution and discuss the conservation concerns of this species. This study fills a gap in our ecological knowledge of Bahamian boas and will provide important baseline data for the Big Ambergris Cay population of Turks Island Boas as this small island undergoes extensive development over the next several decades.
    • Elephants of south-east Angola in war and peace: their decline, re-colonization and recent status: Elephants in war and peace in SE Angola

      Chase, Michael J.; Griffin, Curtice R. (2011)
      ...the full impact of the civil war on elephants is uncertain because there are no reliable estimates of Angolan elephant populations. Following the end of the civil war in 2002, our three aerial surveys of Luiana PR indicated that elephant numbers are increasing rapidly, from 366 in January 2004 to 1827 in November 2005, and expanding their range in the Reserve....
    • Elephants, ivory, and trade

      Wasser, Samuel; Poole, Joyce; Lee, Phyllis; Lindsay, Keith; Dobson, Andrew; Hart, John; Douglas-Hamilton, Iain; Wittemyer, George; Granli, Petter; Morgan, Bethan J.; et al. (2010)
      ...Tanzania and Zambia (1 5, 1 6) are exploit- ing this restricted moratorium in their peti- tions. Approval requires demonstration that their elephant populations are secure, law enforcement is effective, and sales will not be detrimental to elephants....
    • Got hybridization? A multidisciplinary approach for informing science policy

      Ellstrand, Norman C.; Biggs, David; Kaus, Andrea; Lubinsky, Pesach; McDade, Lucinda A.; Preston, Kristine; Prince, Linda M.; Regan, Helen M.; Rorive, Veronique; Ryder, Oliver A.; et al. (2010)
      ...Developing sound science-based conservation policy that addresses hybridization requires cross-disciplinary social-science and life-science research to address the following two questions: (1) How do human decisions with regard to species protection, trade, transportation, land use, and other factors affect the opportunities for, and rates of hybridization between, rare species and more common relatives? and (2) How do the positive or negative perceived values regarding hybrids and hybrid-derived individuals compare with values regarding their nonhybridized counterparts from social, cultural, economic, and environmental perspectives...?
    • Hunters versus hunted: New perspectives on the energetic costs of survival at the top of the food chain

      Williams, Terrie M.; Jørgensen, Mads Peter-Heide; Pagano, Anthony M.; Bryce, Caleb M. (2020)
      Global biotic and abiotic threats, particularly from pervasive human activities, are progressively pushing large, apex carnivorous mammals into the functional role of mesopredator. Hunters are now becoming the hunted….
    • In-air auditory psychophysics and the management of a threatened carnivore, the polar bear (Ursus maritimus)

      Owen, Megan A.; AE, Bowles (2011)
      Management criteria for preventing biologically-significant noise disturbance in large terrestrial mammals have not been developed based on a sound, empirical understanding of their sensory ecology. Polar bear (Ursus maritimus) maternal denning areas on the coastal plain of Alaska’s North Slope hold large petroleum reserves and will be subject to increased development in the future. Anthropogenic noise could adversely affect polar bears by disrupting intra-specific communication, altering habitat use, or causing behavioral and physiological stress. However, little is known about the hearing of any large, carnivorous mammal, including bears; so, management criteria currently in use to protect denning female polar bears may or may not be proportionate and effective. As part of a comprehensive effort to develop efficient, defensible criteria we used behavioral psycho acousticmethods to test in-air hearing sensitivity of five polar bears at frequencies between 125 Hz and 31.5kHz. Results showed best sensitivity between 8 and 14 kHz. Sensitivity declined sharply between 14and 25 kHz, suggesting an upper limit of hearing 10-20 kHz below that of small carnivores. Low frequency sensitivity was comparable to that of the domestic dog, and a decline in functional hearingwas observed at 125 Hz. Thresholds will be used to develop efficient exposure metrics, which will be needed increasingly as the Arctic is developed and effects of disturbance are intensified by anticipated declines in polar bear health and reproduction associated with climate change driven sea ice losses.
    • Increasing generations in captivity is associated with increased vulnerability of Tasmanian devils to vehicle strike following release to the wild

      Grueber, Catherine E.; Reid-Wainscoat, Elizabeth E.; Fox, Samantha; Belov, Katherine; Shier, Debra M.; Hogg, Carolyn J.; Pemberton, David (2017)
      Captive breeding of threatened species, for release to the wild, is critical for conservation. This strategy, however, risks producing captive-raised animals with traits poorly suited to the wild. We describe the first study to characterise accumulated consequences of long-term captive breeding on behaviour, by following the release of Tasmanian devils to the wild. We test the impact of prolonged captive breeding on the probability that captive-raised animals are fatally struck by vehicles. Multiple generations of captive breeding increased the probability that individuals were fatally struck, a pattern that could not be explained by other confounding factors (e.g. age or release site). Our results imply that long-term captive breeding programs may produce animals that are naïve to the risks of the post-release environment. Our analyses have already induced changes in management policy of this endangered species, and serve as model of productive synergy between ecological monitoring and conservation strategy.
    • Informing species conservation at multiple scales using data collected for marine mammal stock assessments

      Grech, Alana; Sheppard, James; Marsh, Helene (2011)
      Background Conservation planning and the design of marine protected areas (MPAs) requires spatially explicit information on the distribution of ecological features. Most species of marine mammals range over large areas and across multiple planning regions. The spatial distributions of marine mammals are difficult to predict using habitat modelling at ecological scales because of insufficient understanding of their habitat needs, however, relevant information may be available from surveys conducted to inform mandatory stock assessments. Methodology and Results We use a 20-year time series of systematic aerial surveys of dugong (Dugong dugong) abundance to create spatially-explicit models of dugong distribution and relative density at the scale of the coastal waters of northeast Australia (∼136,000 km2). We interpolated the corrected data at the scale of 2 km * 2 km planning units using geostatistics. Planning units were classified as low, medium, high and very high dugong density on the basis of the relative density of dugongs estimated from the models and a frequency analysis. Torres Strait was identified as the most significant dugong habitat in northeast Australia and the most globally significant habitat known for any member of the Order Sirenia. The models are used by local, State and Federal agencies to inform management decisions related to the Indigenous harvest of dugongs, gill-net fisheries and Australia's National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas. Conclusion/Significance In this paper we demonstrate that spatially-explicit population models add value to data collected for stock assessments, provide a robust alternative to predictive habitat distribution models, and inform species conservation at multiple scales.
    • Morphological and demographic analyses of Ctenosaura melanosterna across its range: Implications for population level management

      Pasachnik, Stesha A.; Montgomery, C.E.; Ruyle, L.E.; Corneal, J.P.; Antunez, E.E. (2012)
      The Black-chested Spiny-tailed Iguana, Ctenosaura melanosterna, is listed as Endangered by the IUCN Redlist Assessment and under Appendix II of CITES. The species has two evolutionarily significant units (ESUs), found in the Valle de Aguán and the Cayos Cochinos Archipelago, Honduras. Each ESU has been shown to be genetically distinct and each is listed, for differing reasons, as Critically Endangered by the IUCN. Habitat destruction and overharvesting for consumption and the pet trade are among the top threats facing the mainland, Valle de Aguán, population. The Cayos Cochinos population faces similar threats to a lesser degree; however, its restricted range (2.2 km2 ) heightens the potential severity of these threats, and makes this population highly susceptible to the impact of hurricanes. We examined body size, demography, and body condition in both populations. Our results show that the average adult size is smaller on the mainland, and there are more than expected small individuals in that population. Additionally the sex ratio is significantly male biased on the mainland relative to the islands. These results demonstrate evidence of a more severe poaching pressure on the mainland that is biased towards larger individuals and females. Body condition index did not differ between the more disturbed mainland area and the more pristine island area, suggesting that habitat alteration does not pose as serious a threat to the mainland population as poaching. Potential negative effects of a restricted range on the morphology and demography of the island ESU were observed. Conservation measures should acknowledge the differences between the ESUs when defining management initiatives for this species.
    • Seasonal and diurnal patterns of behavior exhibited by Atlantic bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in the Mississippi Sound

      Miller, Lance J.; Solangi, M.; SA, Kuczaj, II; (2010)
      Many of the threats to bottlenose dolphins are anthropogenic factors including overfishing, high‐speed boats, chemical runoff, and noise pollution. Having a thorough understanding of the behavior and behavioral patterns of these animals can help with conservation plans to protect this species. This study examined the behavioral states and behavioral events of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in the Mississippi Sound....
    • Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae): A review of conservation status

      Wibisono, Hariyo T.; Pusparini, Wulan; (2010)
      The majority of wild Sumatran tigers are believed to live in 12 Tiger Conservation Landscapes covering approximately 88 000 km2. However, the actual distribution of tigers across Sumatra has never been accurately mapped. Over the past 20 years, conservation efforts focused on the Sumatran tigers have increased, but the population continues to decline as a result of several key threats. To identify the status of the Sumatran tiger distribution across the island, an island-wide questionnaire survey comprised of 35 respondents from various backgrounds was conducted between May and June 2010. The survey found that Sumatran tigers are positively present in 27 habitat patches larger than 250 km2 and possibly present in another 2. In addition, a review on major published studies on the Sumatran tiger was conducted to identify the current conservation status of the Sumatran tiger. Collectively, these studies have identified several key factors that have contributed to the decline of Sumatran tiger populations, including: forest habitat fragmentation and loss, direct killing of tigers and their prey, and the retaliatory killing of tigers due to conflict with villagers. The present paper provides management authorities and the international community with a recent assessment and a base map of the actual distribution of Sumatran tigers as well as a general overview on the current status and possible future conservation challenges of Sumatran tiger management.
    • The effects of education programs on Atlantic bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) behavior

      Miller, Lance J.; Mellen, J.; Greer, T.; Kuczaj, S.A. (2011)
      ...The present study examined the short-term effects of dolphin shows and interaction programmes on the behaviour of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins at six facilities. Rates of affiliative behaviour, aggressive behaviour, repetitive behaviour and percentage of time spent socialising were found to be unrelated to dolphin shows or interaction programmes....
    • The nominative technique: a simple tool for assessing illegal wildlife consumption

      Davis, Elizabeth Oneita; Crudge, Brian; Glikman, Jenny A. (2020)
      The aim of our study was to test the efficacy of the nominative technique for estimating the prevalence of wildlife part use within a small sample. We used the domestic consumption of bear Ursus thibetanus and Helarctos malayanus parts in Lao People's Democratic Republic (Laos) as a case study and performed 179 semi-structured interviews in Luang Prabang, northern Laos, in August 2017 and April 2019. We also assessed whether the specialized questioning of the nominative technique could be used for qualitative data collection methods, such as semi-structured interviews. The technique theoretically ensures more accurate statements of illegal wildlife consumption by maintaining the anonymity of an individual's sensitive behaviour through asking about the behaviour of peers. We also directly asked about participants’ use of bear parts. The nominative technique suggested that c. 11% of the participants’ peers used bear parts, whereas respondents’ direct admittance of using bear parts was approximately double, at 23%. Use of bear parts appears not to be sensitive in northern Laos. In addition, we found a strong association between responses to questioning using the nominative technique and direct questioning, indicating that users of bear parts have social networks with higher levels of use. This lends supports to theories that use of wildlife products is directly influenced by social group. The underreporting resulting from use of the nominative technique indicates the high variability of response that can occur within small samples. However, our results show that the nominative technique may be a simple, useful tool for triangulating data, assessing users’ integration into social networks of use, and assessing changes in behaviour prevalence.
    • Usage, definition, and measurement of coexistence, tolerance and acceptance in wildlife conservation research in Africa

      Knox, Jillian; Ruppert, Kirstie; Frank, Beatrice; Sponarski, Carly C.; Glikman, Jenny A. (2021)
      The terms ‘coexistence’, ‘tolerance,’ and ‘acceptance’ appear frequently in conservation literature, but lack consistent characterization, making them difficult to apply across intervention frameworks. This review aims to describe the common characterizations of these three terms using Africa-based research as a case study….