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Largely as a result of the expansion of oil palm Elaeis guineensis, forest fragmentation has occurred on a large scale in Borneo. There is much concern about how forest-dependent species, such as the Vulnerable sun bear Helarctos malayanus, can persist in this landscape. The absence of sufficient natural food in forest fragments could drive sun bears into oil palm plantations, where they risk coming into conflict with people. We interviewed oil palm plantation workers and farmers in the Lower Kinabatangan region of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, to ascertain if sun bears were utilizing plantations, if they were causing damage to the crop, and how the bears were perceived by people. To obtain a comparative baseline we extended these questions to include other species as well. We found that bears were rarely encountered in plantations and were not considered to be destructive to the oil palm crop, although they were generally feared. Other species, such as macaques Macaca spp., bearded pigs Sus barbatus, and elephants Elephas maximus, had more destructive feeding habits. Sun bears could use this readily available food resource without being targeted for retribution, although incidental human-related mortality remains a risk. Although bears could gain some nutritional benefit from oil palm, plantations do not provide the diversity of food and cover available in a natural forest.
Understanding species distributions, patterns of change and threats can form the basis for assessing the conservation status of elusive species that are difficult to survey. The snow leopard Panthera uncia is the top predator of the Central and South Asian mountains. Knowledge of the distribution and status of this elusive felid and its wild prey is limited. Using recall-based key-informant interviews we estimated site use by snow leopards and their primary wild prey, blue sheep Pseudois nayaur and Asiatic ibex Capra sibirica, across two time periods (past: 1985–1992; recent: 2008–2012) in the state of Himachal Pradesh, India. We also conducted a threat assessment for the recent period. Probability of site use was similar across the two time periods for snow leopards, blue sheep and ibex, whereas for wild prey (blue sheep and ibex combined) overall there was an 8% contraction. Although our surveys were conducted in areas within the presumed distribution range of the snow leopard, we found snow leopards were using only 75% of the area (14,616 km2). Blue sheep and ibex had distinct distribution ranges. Snow leopards and their wild prey were not restricted to protected areas, which encompassed only 17% of their distribution within the study area. Migratory livestock grazing was pervasive across ibex distribution range and was the most widespread and serious conservation threat. Depredation by free-ranging dogs, and illegal hunting and wildlife trade were the other severe threats. Our results underscore the importance of community-based, landscape-scale conservation approaches and caution against reliance on geophysical and opinion-based distribution maps that have been used to estimate national and global snow leopard ranges.
The Vulnerable snow leopard Panthera uncia experiences persecution across its habitat in Central Asia, particularly from herders because of livestock losses. Given the popularity of snow leopards worldwide, transferring some of the value attributed by the international community to these predators may secure funds and support for their conservation. We administered contingent valuation surveys to 406 international visitors to the Annapurna Conservation Area, Nepal, between May and June 2014, to determine their willingness to pay a fee to support the implementation of a Snow Leopard Conservation Action Plan. Of the 49% of visitors who stated they would pay a snow leopard conservation fee in addition to the existing entry fee, the mean amount that they were willing to pay was USD 59 per trip. The logit regression model showed that the bid amount, the level of support for implementing the Action Plan, and the number of days spent in the Conservation Area were significant predictors of visitors’ willingness to pay. The main reasons stated by visitors for their willingness to pay were a desire to protect the environment and an affordable fee. A major reason for visitors’ unwillingness to pay was that the proposed conservation fee was too expensive for them. This study represents the first application of economic valuation to snow leopards, and is relevant to the conservation of threatened species in the Annapurna Conservation Area and elsewhere.
Extensive areas of tropical forests have been, and continue to be, disturbed as a result of selective timber extraction. Although such anthropogenic disturbance typically results in the loss of biodiversity, many species persist, and their conservation in production landscapes could be enhanced by a greater understanding of how biodiversity responds to forest management practices. We conducted intensive camera-trap surveys of eight protected forest areas in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, and developed estimates of Sunda clouded leopard Neofelis diardi population density from spatially explicit capture–recapture analyses of detection data to investigate how the species’ abundance varies across the landscape and in response to anthropogenic disturbance. Estimates of population density from six forest areas were 1.39–3.10 individuals per 100 km2. Our study provides the first evidence that the population density of the Sunda clouded leopard is negatively affected by hunting pressure and forest fragmentation, and that among selectively logged forests, time since logging is positively associated with abundance. We argue that these negative anthropogenic impacts could be mitigated with improved logging practices, such as reducing the access of poachers by effective gating and destruction of road access points, and by the deployment of anti-poaching patrols. By calculating a weighted mean population density estimate from estimates developed here and from the literature, and by extrapolating this value to an estimate of current available habitat, we estimate there are 754 (95% posterior interval 325–1,337) Sunda clouded leopards in Sabah.
The clouded leopard Neofelis nebulosa is a potent ambassador species for conservation, occurring from the Himalayan foothills eastwards to Indochina, between which Myanmar is a biogeographical land bridge. In Myanmar's Northern Forest Complex, the species co-occurs with the tiger Panthera tigris, leopard Panthera pardus, marbled cat Pardofelis marmorata, golden cat Catopuma temminckii and leopard cat Prionailurus bengalensis. We deployed cameras within the Htamanthi Wildlife Sanctuary over 2 consecutive years. In 2014–2015 we deployed 82 camera stations around the Nam Pa Gon stream (Catchment 1) for 7,365 trap days. In 2015–2016 we deployed 80 camera stations around the Nam E Zu stream (Catchment 2) for 7,192 trap days. In Catchment 1 we identified five tigers from 26 detections, five clouded leopards from 41 detections (68 photographs) and 11 marbled cats from 13 detections. Using Bayesian-based spatial capture–recapture we estimated the densities of tigers and clouded leopards to be 0.81 ± SD 0.40 and 0.60 ± SD 0.24 individuals per 100 km2, respectively. In Catchment 2 we identified two tigers from three detections, nine clouded leopards from 55 detections and 12 marbled cats from 37 detections. Densities of clouded leopards and marbled cats were 3.05 ± SD 1.03 and 8.80 ± SD 2.06 individuals per 100 km2, respectively. These differences suggest that human activities, in particular gold mining, are affecting felid populations, and these are a paramount concern in Htamanthi. We demonstrate the importance of Htamanthi within the Northern Forest Complex and highlight the Yawbawmee corridor as a candidate for protection.
We provide insights into pack composition and den site parameters of the Himalayan wolf Canis (lupus) himalayensis based on observations of free-ranging wolves in three study areas in Nepal. We combine this with a social survey of the local Buddhist communities regarding human–carnivore conflict, to draw inferences for conservation practice in the Nepalese Himalayas. We recorded eight wolf packs (with an average composition of two adults and three pups), and found five home sites in high-altitude shrubland patches within alpine grasslands at 4,270–4,940 m altitude. There was a spatial–temporal overlap of wolf home sites and livestock herding during spring and summer, which facilitated human–wolf conflict. The litters of three out of five wolf packs found in Dolpa during 2016 were killed by local people in the same year. In Nepal compensation is offered for depredation by snow leopards Panthera uncia, with associated lowering of negative attitudes, but not for depredation by wolves. We recommend the implementation of financial and educational conservation schemes for all conflict-causing carnivores across the Himalayan regions of Nepal.
We synthesize information on parameters useful for managing the hunting of two common mammal species that are important for local people in the Neotropics and Africa: Cuniculus paca and Philantomba monticola, respectively. We highlight the scarcity of data available on the parameters needed to manage these two species sustainably. As most of the studies were conducted > 40 years ago, we stress the need to supplement the information available using methodological and technical innovations. In particular, we call for new assessments covering the possible variations in parameter values across the species’ distribution ranges, and covering various anthropogenic contexts, to test density-dependent and compensatory processes that may explain the resilience of these species to hunting.
Hunting of wildlife is one of the major threats to biodiversity. For effective conservation programmes in countries where hunting and shifting agriculture are the main sources of subsistence, forest management should aim to reduce hunting pressure and forest exploitation. The presence of researchers has been promoted as one of the main ways to mitigate anthropogenic pressures on wildlife populations. Our aim was to test whether local management and the establishment of a research station had a role in decreasing forest exploitation by local people living adjacent to a recently protected area in south-east Madagascar. We interviewed local people from nine villages at various distances from the recently established research station of Ampasy, in the northernmost portion of the Tsitongambarika Protected Area, to explore how people use the forest, with a particular focus on hunting. We also performed transect surveys to estimate snare and lemur encounter rates before local forest management began, at the establishment of the research station, and 1 year after. The impact of local communities on the forest seems to have decreased since the beginning of forest management, with a further decrease since the establishment of the research station. Participants from villages not involved in the local management were more reluctant to declare their illegal activities. We conclude that a combination of local management and related activities (e.g. installation of a research station) can assist in temporarily reducing forest exploitation by local communities; however, community needs and conservation plans should be integrated to maintain long-term benefits.
To investigate the practice of hunting by local people in the southern Bahia region of Brazil and provide information to support the implementation of the National Action Plan for Conservation of the Central Atlantic Forest Mammals, we conducted 351 interviews with residents of three protected areas and a buffer zone. Thirty-seven percent of respondents stated that they had captured an animal opportunistically, 16% hunted actively and 47% did not hunt. The major motivation for hunting was consumption but people also hunted for medicinal purposes, recreation and retaliation. The most hunted and consumed species were the paca Cuniculus paca, the nine-banded armadillo Dasypus novemcinctus and the collared peccary Pecari tajacu; threatened species were rarely hunted. Opinions varied on whether wildlife was declining or increasing; declines were generally attributed to hunting. Our findings suggest there is illegal hunting for consumption in and around protected areas of the region. Management efforts should prioritize fairness in the expropriation process for people who must be relocated, and adopt an approach to wildlife management that involves residents living around the protected areas, and considers their needs.
The killing of Cecil the Lion in July 2015 generated considerable media attention worldwide. We measured public interest in Cecil's death to examine the degree to which this high-profile incident represented the type of focusing event that public policy scholars often emphasize as being important for triggering policy change. Finding that public interest in lion conservation spiked in the weeks immediately following the incident, we then analysed whether this focusing event led to policy changes to restrict trophy hunting in eight countries (USA, Spain, France, Russia, Canada, South Africa, Germany and Mexico) that most frequently import lion Panthera leo trophies. The surge in public attention seems to have had only a limited impact on the adoption of significant new policy, although it may have hastened changes in some countries.
Ecosystem services typically benefit multiple groups of people. However, natural resource management decisions aiming to secure ecosystem services for one beneficiary group rarely consider potential consequences for others. Here, we examine records of moose hunting in Vermont, USA, a recreational ecosystem service with at least two beneficiary groups: hunters, who benefit from recreational experiences and moose meat, and residents, who live in hunting areas and benefit from hunters’ expenditures. We ask how the allocation of hunting permits has affected (1) the total number of hunters and therefore the benefits enjoyed by this group, (2) the benefits residents received, and (3) the spatial distribution of benefits for each group. We found that changes in the allocation of permits had heterogeneous effects on the beneficiaries. For example, increasing the number of hunting permits increased the total number of hunters, but not necessarily the number of residents who potentially benefit. Also, a more balanced distribution of permits across Vermont increased the total number of potentially benefiting residents, but not those from lower socio-economic groups. Understanding these differences and interactions between beneficiary groups is necessary to distribute benefits equitably amongst them.
Habitat fragmentation creates habitat edges, and ecological edge effects can cause major changes in the ecology and distribution of many taxa. However, these ecological changes may in turn influence animal movements and lead to molecular edge effects and edge-related genetic structure, matters that are largely unexplored. This study aims to infer molecular edge effects and to test three possible underlying mechanisms in the Endangered golden-brown mouse lemur Microcebus ravelobensis, a nocturnal species in the dry deciduous forest of the Ankarafantsika National Park in north-western Madagascar. Mouse lemurs were sampled in one edge and two interior habitats in close proximity to each other (500–1,400 m) in a continuous forest. A total of 41 mouse lemur samples were genotyped with seven nuclear microsatellites, and a fragment of the mitochondrial control region was sequenced for all samples. The overall genetic diversity (allelic richness, heterozygosity, haplotype richness, nucleotide diversity) was lower in the edge habitat compared to the two interior sites and all subpopulations showed signals of relatively low genetic exchange and significant genetic differentiation between them despite the short geographical distances, supporting the local preference model. These findings can be interpreted as preliminary signals of a molecular edge effect and suggest the potential for local adaptation. They are highly relevant for the conservation of fragmented populations, because a further subdivision of already small populations may increase their vulnerability to stochastic demographic changes and collapse.
Although roads are often assumed to be barriers to the dispersal of arboreal species, there has been little empirical testing of this assumption. If arboreal animals are unable to cross roads, population subdivision may occur, or resources may become inaccessible. We tested the hypothesis that Route Nationale 4 (RN4), a paved highway, was a barrier to movement and dispersal of the Endangered golden-brown mouse lemur Microcebus ravelobensis in Ankarafantsika National Park, in north-west Madagascar. During June–August 2015 we conducted a capture–mark–recapture study at three sites: two adjacent to RN4 and one within intact forest without a potential barrier. During 2,294 trap nights we captured 120 golden-brown mouse lemurs 1,032 times. In roadside habitats we captured significantly more males than females, whereas the opposite was the case in interior forest habitat. We detected eighteen crossings of highway transects by nine individuals; however, all potential dispersal events involved males. In roadside habitat, movement was significantly inhibited in both males and females. We present some of the first data on the effects of roads on movement patterns in arboreal Malagasy mammals, showing species- and sex-biased effects of roads as dispersal barriers. Our findings indicate that roads may not be complete barriers to dispersal in lemurs. We recommend that conservation managers and scientists examine explicitly the effects of roads and natural arboreal bridges in Madagascar in future studies.