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The illegal wildlife trade is driving declines in populations of a number of large, charismatic animal species but also many lesser known and restricted-range species, some of which are now facing extinction as a result. The ploughshare tortoise Astrochelys yniphora, endemic to the Baly Bay National Park of north-western Madagascar, is affected by poaching for the international illegal pet trade. To quantify this, we estimated population trends during 2006–2015, using distance sampling surveys along line transects, and recorded national and international confiscations of trafficked tortoises for 2002–2016. The results suggest the ploughshare tortoise population declined > 50% during this period, to c. 500 adults and subadults in 2014–2015. Prior to 2006 very few tortoises were seized either in Madagascar or internationally but confiscations increased sharply from 2010. Since 2015 poaching has intensified, with field reports suggesting that two of the four subpopulations are extinct, leaving an unknown but almost certainly perilously low number of adult tortoises in the wild. This study has produced the first reliable population estimate of the ploughshare tortoise and shows that the species has declined rapidly because of poaching for the international pet trade. There is an urgent need for increased action both in Madagascar and along international trade routes if the extinction of the ploughshare tortoise in the wild is to be prevented.
The Livingstone's fruit bat Pteropus livingstonii is endemic to the small islands of Anjouan and Mohéli in the Comoros archipelago, Indian Ocean. The species is under threat from anthropogenic pressure on the little that remains of its forest habitat, now restricted to the islands’ upper elevations and steepest slopes. We report the results of the most comprehensive survey of this species to date, and present recommendations for ongoing field conservation efforts and monitoring. Morning counts were conducted at roost sites in the wet and dry seasons during 2011–2013. Habitat structure around the roosting sites was characterized and roost numbers compared, to investigate the potential effect of habitat loss and degradation. We estimate the population to comprise c. 1,260 individuals distributed across 21 roosts on the two islands. All occupied roosting sites were restricted to a narrow altitudinal range, and roosting populations in agroforestry areas were smaller than those found in degraded and undisturbed forest. Only one of the 16 roosts on Anjouan was found in undisturbed, old-growth forest with no nearby signs of clearance for agriculture or landslides following tree-felling upslope. Following a suspected severe population decline as a result of widespread and long-term forest loss Livingstone's fruit bat has been recategorized as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
Although birds are among the best studied taxa, many of the globally threatened species lack the information required to fully assess their conservation status and needs. One such species is the Anjouan Scops Owl Otus capnodes which was presumed extinct until its rediscovery to science in 1992. Based on the limited extent and decline of the moist forests in the highlands of Anjouan in the Comoro Islands, a population size of only 100–200 pairs was estimated and the species was classified as ‘Critically Endangered’. The current study is the first comprehensive survey ever conducted on this species, and aimed to establish the current distribution and population size. Point counts with distance sampling were conducted across the agroforestry and forest zones of Anjouan in both a dry and wet season. A niche suitability model predicted the species distribution to be wider than expected with owls observed as low as 300 m altitude and in highly modified agroforestry habitats. However, the encounter rate in natural relatively undisturbed forest was significantly greater than in other habitats. The wider than expected geographic range of O. capnodes supports a possible downlisting of this species on the IUCN Red List to ‘Endangered’. Population size was found to be far greater than previously thought, at approximately 3,450 individual owls in the dry season and 5,450 in the wet season. These results show the importance of investing in robust surveys of poorly known and cryptic bird species, and provide up to date and important information for landscape scale conservation planning in the Comoros Islands.
The seventh annual Teaching and Learning Conference (TLC) was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from February 5 to 7, 2010, with 224 attendees onsite. The theme for the meeting was “Advancing Excellence in Teaching Political Science.” Using the working-group model, the TLC track format encourages in-depth discussion and debate on research dealing with the scholarship of teaching and learning.