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Sometime in October 2011 the human population reached seven billion. The date is uncertain—nobody knows exactly how many people there are as national censuses are intermittent and many inaccurate (Bloom, 2011). But the exact date does not matter: this was a political not demographic event. The seven billionth child was deemed by the UN to have been a girl, born in Manila, Philippines.
We describe the distribution of the coconut crab Birgus latro, categorized as Data Deficient on the IUCN Red List, local perspectives towards the species, and its conservation needs on the Nicobar Islands in the eastern Indian Ocean. The species is threatened with extinction across most of its range and in India it is found only on a few islands in the Andaman and Nicobar archipelagoes. We carried out informal discussions with Nicobari communities to examine issues regarding conservation of the species and conducted timed searches in areas where coconut crabs were likely to be found. The discussions revealed that there are social taboos against hunting the coconut crab on most of the Nicobar Islands. However, on some islands these taboos are not being followed and community members may hunt the crab for consumption. Athough the coconut crab is legally protected under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act none of the villagers were aware of this. Of the six islands surveyed we recorded the presence of 17 and 14 crabs on two islands, respectively. On four islands villagers reported the presence of the crab prior to the tsunami of 2004, and on two of these islands the species may now be locally extinct. A small population size and a fragmented distribution in areas of coconut plantations suggest that the species is threatened. We recommend monitoring and detailed research on the ecology and genetics of the coconut crab, along with community-based conservation initiatives to conserve the species and its habitat.
Human population growth is one of the primary drivers of biodiversity loss. Throughout much of the developing world growth of human populations is occurring in part as a result of a lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services, and this is having profoundly negative impacts on biodiversity and natural resource-dependent livelihoods. We present experiences of the incorporation of sexual and reproductive health services within a pre-existing community-based marine conservation initiative in Madagascar as part of an integrated population, health and environment (PHE) programme. Our results demonstrate the considerable demand for, and lack of social barriers to, the introduction of sexual and reproductive health services in this region. These findings emphasize the mutually beneficial synergies, supporting both public health and conservation objectives, which can be created by integrating sexual and reproductive health services into more conventional biodiversity conservation activities. This PHE approach demonstrates the inextricable link between reproductive health and resource use by providing practical, immediate and lasting benefits to public health, gender equity, food security and biodiversity conservation.
Most documented declines of tropical reptiles are of dramatic or enigmatic species. Declines of widespread species tend to be cryptic. The early (1900s) decline and extinction of the common Pacific skink Emoia impar from the Hawaiian Islands is documented here through an assessment of literature, museum vouchers and recent fieldwork. This decline appears contemporaneous with the documented declines of invertebrates and birds across the Hawaiian Islands. A review of the plausible causal factors indicates that the spread of the introduced big-headed ant Pheidole megacephala is the most likely factor in this lizard decline. The introduction and spread of a similar skink Lampropholis delicata across the islands appears to temporally follow the decline of E. impar, although there is no evidence of competition between these species. It appears that L. delicata is spreading to occupy the niche vacated by the extirpated E. impar. Further confusion exists because the skink E. cyanura, which is very similar in appearance to E. impar, appears to have been introduced to one site within a hotel on Kaua'i and persisted as a population at that site for approximately 2 decades (1970s–1990s) but is now also extirpated. This study highlights the cryptic nature of this early species extinction as evidence that current biogeographical patterns of non-charismatic or enigmatic reptiles across the Pacific may be the historical result of early widespread invasion by ants. Conservation and restoration activities for reptiles in the tropical Pacific should consider this possibility and evaluate all evidence prior to any implementation.
Given the important contribution of urban consumption in bushmeat trade, information on bushmeat sales in urban markets can provide valuable insights for understanding the dynamics of this trade and its implications for conservation and food security. We monitored bushmeat traded in the market of Kisangani (the provincial capital of the Province Orientale in the Democratic Republic of Congo) and compared data collected in surveys in 2002 and 2008–2009. In both periods more than two-thirds of the carcasses sold were of rodents and ungulates. From 2002 to 2008–2009 the number of carcasses increased by 44% but the equivalent biomass by only 16% because of a significant decrease in medium-sized species (10–50 kg) and an increase in small species (<10 kg). The number of carcasses of large species increased between the two periods and those of diurnal monkeys increased fourfold. In both periods smoked bushmeat was one of the cheapest sources of protein available year-round, together with caterpillars, which were only available during the rainy season, and pork. Prices of other domestic meat were significantly higher. This study identified an increase in the market of highly threatened species such as okapi Okapia johnstoni and small diurnal monkeys and the continued presence of protected species, and also highlights the food security role that bushmeat plays for poor urban people who cannot afford alternative sources of protein.
Invasive species are one of the main threats to the loss of global biodiversity. Controlling such species requires a high input of effort and resources and therefore it is important to focus control on areas that will maximize gains for conservation. We present a spatial modelling approach that will help target control efforts. We used presence-only data to develop habitat suitability models for the invasive tree Casuarina equisetifolia and three endemic plant species on the Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean. Substantial overlap was found between suitable areas for the endemics and C. equisetifolia. Evidence for the potential harm that C. equisetifolia could cause to native vegetation was assessed using paired areas with and without invasion. Areas with C. equisetifolia present had lower native plant species richness than areas where it was absent, which suggests a negative effect of invasion on the growth of native plants. No endemic plants were found in areas where C. equisetifolia was present. Based on the data collected we recommend that the three endemic species be categorized as Endangered on the IUCN Red List. By highlighting areas where the endemic plants are found and demonstrating a potential threat to these habitats, we provide a plan for the designation of six Important Plant Areas to promote conservation of these endemic species.
The pepperbark tree Warburgia salutaris is categorized as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, primarily because of human-induced habitat degradation and over-collection for herbal medicine. Benefits from the reintroduction programme for the species in Tanganda Halt, on the edge of the Mutema Highlands in south-east Zimbabwe, are unequally distributed. This has influenced the attitudes of the local people towards the project and any future plant conservation initiatives. People receiving indirect benefits from the programme expressed positive attitudes towards W. salutaris for cultural, aesthetic and ecological reasons; those receiving direct benefits cited positive impacts on their household welfare. If the reintroduction programme for W. salutaris is to play a part in sustainable development in Tanganda Halt then inequalities in the distribution of benefits need to be addressed. The W. salutaris reintroduction programme is still evolving. Evaluating the attitudes of local people towards the programme provides valuable insights for development planning and for future plant conservation programmes in south-east Zimbabwe.
Only two members of the genus Ribes L. (Grossulariaceae) occur in Sardinia, both endemic: R. sardoum and R. multiflorum subsp. sandalioticum. R. sardoum is categorized as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List and R. multiflorum subsp. sandalioticum is a rare species previously known from only a few localities. Both species grow only in mountainous areas. In 2006–2010 we carried out a field survey to verify the conservation status of R. sardoum and to estimate the number of individual plants, identify threats and assess the conservation status of R. multiflorum subsp. sandalioticum. R. sardoum is threatened by grazing, its small population, low seed viability and the activities of tourists, confirming its Critically Endangered status. We found R. multiflorum subsp. sandalioticum in 13 localities, three of which are new records, with the plants in scattered groups or singly, in three populations. The threats to R. multiflorum subsp. sandalioticum are overgrazing, the small populations, habitat fragmentation and the activities of tourists. We propose that R. multiflorum subsp. sandalioticum be categorized as Endangered on the IUCN Red List. Research activities and conservation measures for this genus on Sardinia have been proposed and some conservation actions have already commenced.
Recovery plans for the Endangered loggerhead marine turtle Caretta caretta cite mammalian predation as a major threat, and recommend nest protection efforts, already present at many rookery beaches, to protect eggs and hatchlings. Nest protection techniques vary but wire box cages and plastic mesh screens are two common tools used to deter predation by a host of beach-foraging, opportunistic mammalian predators. We empirically tested the efficacy of wire cages and plastic mesh screens in preventing red fox Vulpes vulpes predation on artificial nests. Both techniques averted fox predation (0%), whereas unprotected control nests suffered 33% predation under conditions of normal predator motivation, or a level of motivation stimulated by loggerhead turtle egg scent. However, in side-by-side comparisons under conditions of presumed high predator motivation, 25% of mesh screens were breached whereas no cage-protected nests were successfully predated. In addition to effectiveness at preventing predation, factors such as cost, ease of use, deployment time, and magnetic disturbance were evaluated. Our study suggests that the efficacy of plastic screens and the potential disadvantages associated with galvanized wire should influence selection of mechanical barriers on beaches where fox predation threatens loggerhead nests.
We examined impacts from effective predator management on nesting success of marine turtles in an exceptional nesting year at Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, USA, a beach with a high density of nesting marine turtles that has a history of severe nest predation. Historically up to 95% of nests were predated, primarily by raccoons Procyon lotor and, more recently, armadillos Dasypus novemcinctus. Predator control was identified as the most important conservation tool for marine turtle reproduction. Predator management by refuge staff as ancillary duties typically only held predation levels to c. 50%. However, when experts in predator control were employed predation was substantially reduced. An extraordinary opportunity to evaluate the biological and economic benefits of this management approach occurred in 2008, a year with exceptionally heavy nesting. Loggerhead turtle Caretta caretta nesting resurged, green Chelonia mydas and leatherback Dermochelys coriacea turtles nested in record numbers, producing twice or more than their median number of nests, and the first Kemp’s ridley Lepidochelys kempii nest was observed. Overall predation was 14.7%, resulting in an estimated > 128,000 additional hatchlings emerging compared to estimates had no predator management been in place and historical predation rates occurred, and > 56,000 hatchlings more than expected had predator management been conducted as ancillary duties rather than by experts. The USD 12,000 investment for expert predator management equated to only USD 0.09 spent for each additional hatchling produced compared to the scenario of no predator control and only USD 0.21 compared to the scenario of predator control as ancillary duties.
The population size of the Critically Endangered white-shouldered ibis Pseudibis davisoni has always been poorly known. The first-ever census across Cambodia in 2009–2010 using simultaneous counts at multiple roost sites found substantially more birds than previously estimated, with a minimum of 523 individuals. The census allowed us to make a revised global population estimate of 731–856 individuals, increasing hope for the species' long-term survival. However, the largest subpopulations are imminently threatened by development and c. 75% of the birds counted in Cambodia were outside protected areas.
Translocation and reintroduction are used to reduce extinction risk associated with a small population and range size in threatened mammal species. We evaluated the outcome of a reintroduction of the bridled nailtail wallaby Onychogalea fraenata to Avocet Nature Refuge, a private refuge in central Queensland, Australia. This macropod was also reintroduced to Idalia National Park in western Queensland in 1996 and occurs in one natural population in central Queensland. We estimated population growth, adult and juvenile survival, and distribution changes since the last release of O. fraenata to Avocet in 2005, and evaluated female reproductive success and health. Although animals were in good condition, population size was a tenth of that of the 1996 Idalia reintroduction reported after 3 years and, unlike at Idalia, juvenile survival at Avocet was low. The likely causes are consistent with predictors of translocation and reintroduction failures in mammals. These are predation, the small number of individuals in each release, the likely suboptimal health status of reintroduced individuals, drought, and possibly lack of dispersal from the small area of preferred habitat. The lessons of this reintroduction are that future attempts are likely to have the best chance of success if they occur in non-drought years, at sites with large, non-fragmented areas of brigalow forest, involve the release of large groups of animals together, and are accompanied by intensive, long-term baiting to control introduced predators.