It is essential to have some basic knowledge on the biology and behaviour of the species you are trying to conserve. Up until now, the density of the San Martin titi monkey has been studied in just 2 areas; Tarangue and Pucunucho. Tarangue, a protected area, was studied back in 2008 and studies found a presence of 1.41 individual monkeys per hectare. While in the conservation area of Puncunucho, only 1.12 individual monkeys per hectare were recorded. These results were much higher than once thought, however in regards to each area, their density in fact depends on many different factors. Each forest differs in their suitability for a certain species; there is also variation in vegetation and availability of food; also there are differences in the amount of predators present and the amount of human disturbance. All in all, density studies do provide valuable information, but the results must be handled with care and other factors considered.

It is believed that titi monkeys have a preference for forest edges, this could be down to the vegetation being denser and containing more of their preferred food items. Therefore it is expected that the density of titi monkey will be higher on the edges of a forest, compared to the middle. The question is how wide the edges are, and at what moment an edge changes into “real forest”. It has been calculated that if the edge effect penetrates 300m into a 100 hectare square-shaped forest fragment, only 16% of the fragment is unaffected by the edge effect. So, in turn, a small area of rainforest, which has a large percentage of forest edges would have more titi monkeys, compared to a large forest with small forest edges.

Another factor that is important is the presence of forest around the fragment. For instance, if a forest has been cleared around the fragment then it may host an unnaturally high number of monkeys. This could be down to the monkeys fleeing from the deforestation to these last remaining fragments of forest. During the project surveys, there was the impression that some forest fragments had extremely high densities of titi monkeys.

To investigate all of these factors, 2 studies commenced in May. One is a density study in the Ojos de Agua Conservation Concession, and the other is a comparable study in the protected area of the Morro de Calzada. Both forests differ considerably; while Ojos de Agua is covered with deciduous dry forest, most of the forest of the Morro can be labelled as being humid tropical forest. Both researchers will use the same methods, to make a comparison on both areas. This should increase the project’s knowledge on densities and habitat preferences of the San Martin titi monkey. Other density studies are also planned in other areas later on this year; this will get an all round picture on the density of monkeys in different forest types.

Last year the project also created 2 conservation concessions, covering a total area of almost 6,000 hectares. The area is close to 2 villages and to help increase the local support for nature conservation, Proycecto Mono Tocón has invested time in the development of ecotourism. Training programmes have now been developed to train future guides. The training includes lessons about nature (animals and plants), services to the tourists (cooking and food hygiene) and other relevant subjects. 6,000 hectares is already an impressive size, especially in a region where a lot of the lowland forest has disappeared. Plans are to now enlarge the area by creating new conservation concessions that are connected to this existing area. There is a lot of work to do, but if they could indeed increase the protected area to almost 10,000 hectares, then this would be great news for the San Martin titi monkeys (and the other animals that live in the area). Another conservation concession of 808 hectares is also being created. Although it is small in size, it is connected to another conservation concession of 2,700 hectares. This zone is covered with the rare deciduous dry forest habitat and many rare animal and plant species inhabit it. An increase of the protected area by 25% would be a great achievement.

It can often be very frustrating in protecting the remaining pieces of forest in San Martin, especially when many areas of rainforest have been designated as ‘production forest’. Although not all areas are suitable for titi monkeys, much of it is important to conserve. The creation of conservation concessions is time consuming and often expensive. However, as these are initiatives of the local communities, they offer the best chances that the protection will be sustainable throughout the years. Deforestation rates are extremely high in San Martin, and there is little time to protect the remaining forest. Local team members help with these initiatives by visiting local villages, and they believe if we don’t act now it will be too late for the San Martin titi monkey.

Proycecto Mono Tocón is a new project supported by Action for the Wild in 2013, their principal objective is the conservation of Peru’s biodiversity, with an emphasis on the protection of the San Martin titi monkey and its habitat. If you would like to donate to this project please visit our donation page.

Picture of San Martin titi monkey © Proycecto Mono Tocón.

Action for the Wild has been supporting the Hornbill Research Foundation since 2002, and donates $450 annually to support three hornbill families in Thailand. Our families nest around the Budo Mountain area, which is part of the Budo-Sungai Padu National Park in Thailand. The park supports six species of hornbills. In 2012, Action for the Wild sponsored families of rhinoceros, helmeted and great hornbill species. Below is a review of the families during the 2012 breeding season.

In 2012, our helmeted hornbill family were unsuccessful in breeding so unfortunately there is no data to share on this pairing.

The great hornbill family were successful in fledging a chick during 2012. The chick hatched after 40 days of incubation and stayed in the nest for 71 days. It therefore took 111 days from the sealing of the nest to the fledging of the chick. The diet for this family comprised of fruits (98.3%) and animals (1.7%). 86%% of the fruits were non- fig species, while 14% comprised of figs. Again, this family have had another successful breeding year and have fledged 10 chicks since 2001.

Our rhinoceros hornbill family again successfully fledged one chick in 2012. This took 98 days from sealing the nest to fledging. Their diet throughout the nesting period was comprised of fruits (99.1%), with animals brought infrequently (0.9%). The majority of fruits eaten were fig fruits (75.6%). This family have produced at least 10 chicks since 1999.

Data collection by the team during 2012 again was incomplete for some of the other family groups they monitor. This is again like 2011 due to incidents of unrest in Thailand’s southernmost provinces, and so working in unsafe areas had to pause. Also the deep south again experienced a prolonged period of heavy rain, making it very difficult for staff to work in the field. However, the Hornbill Family Adoption Program will still carry on for 2013, with the project continuing to monitor our hornbill families. They will also continue to promote hornbill conservation and train villagers as nature guides, so they can earn an income in a more sustainable way.

Picture of Rhino hornbill © Hornbill Foundation

Action for the wild has been donating $1,650 annually to AEECL since 2004, to help with the running of their reserve, its educational activities and to increase the scientific knowledge of its flagship species, the blue-eyed black lemur.

It’s been a busy first quarter of the year for AEECL with meetings taking place in some of the local villages in Madagascar. In Ambolobozo, the nurseries and the reforestation campaign were discussed. Nurserymen have reported that all seedlings were planted on time. Nurserymen seem to do most of the planting and have now formed the ‘association of nurserymen’, with the objective to enhance the reforestation campaign in Sahamalaza and to make it a model. The nurserymen association wants to work with AEECL and are currently ready to make follow-up plans on reforestation. They have asked for materials, such as watering cans, in exchange for their help. AEECL are now trying to set up a strategy to improve their reforestation campaign and also help out this new association. In the long run, this association can follow up the growth of seedlings and run the next campaign.

Education is a key part to AEECL and pupils have been getting involved with the reforestation campaign. Approximately 130 pupils and villagers came to plant seedlings in an area called Ankarafa, and a few of the villages surrounding this area also collected some young plants and have planted them in their villages. In total, 111,021 forest trees and 35,236 exotic trees and 1,325 mangroves were reforested amongst 14 villages. The current area under reforestation is approximately 238 ha.

In Antsatsaka, a meeting was held to introduce AEECL and its activities, along with asking permission to pass through the village. The villagers also discussed their concerns about drinking water, with only one well for 300 people, along with the rehabilitation of the school, and a teacher for the village. It was agreed that AEECL’s boat can berth in front of the village and that villagers were willing to work with us to protect the forest Ankarafa. They have now collected seedlings and have planted them around the village. It was important for AEECL to have a direct dialogue with villagers and to provide them with a further explanation of the work that they carry out. Although the village is 10 km from the AEECL Research camp, many villagers did not know about AEECL and its projects.

3 month old Nkala is the latest orphaned elephant to join the herds at the Elephant Orphanage Project (EOP). He was rescued last week in Kafue National Park, and was actually discovered by the local community who noticed him wandering alone among their cattle. Thanks to Game Rangers International’s community radio show, the local community at the Nkala Game Management Area were aware of EOP’s work and knew who to contact to initiate rescue. The EOP team first assessed the health of this little elephant, before transporting him to Camp Phoenix. Although he was tired, thirsty and hungry, this 3 month old calf was fighting fit and in relatively good health.

Due to his young age, plans were then made to transport him to Lilayi Elephant Nursery. Royal Air Charters helped fly the calf to the nursery. During the trip, Nkata was mildly sedated; amazingly he was even settled enough to happily munch on some browse. This elephant is currently teething so will chew on branches, but still at 3 months is totally milk dependent, hence the need to get him to the Lilayi nursery. Upon arrival, Nkala ventured out into the boma area to investigate his new surroundings. At such a young age, Nkala is incredibly vulnerable and now has to adjust to a massive life change; losing his mother and family, as well as adapting to a new diet. This is a critical time for him so he is under observation; however staff are already pleased with his progress. Nkala was named after the community that found him and his name means ‘to stay’ at the ‘place of rest’.

To keep up to date with news from EOP and GRI please visit their facebook pages, links can be found on EOP’s project page.

Picture of Nkala © EOP.

The State of Nature Report brings together the work of multiple conservation and environmental organisations over a 50 year period. These organisations have joined forces to collate data on the health of species and habitats in the UK and its overseas territories. Unfortunately this report has shown a downward trend raising serious concerns for the future of our native wildlife. 60% of the 3148 assessed species have declined in the last 50 years and 31% of these have shown a strong reduction in population size. Climate change is a major factor effecting species decline and extinction. An increase in the average UK temperature has occurred over recent decades and although this is allowing some species to expand their ranges, it is having negative impacts on others.

Half of all the species assessed have displayed significant changes in their range and/or numbers supporting evidence that major environmental changes have occurred effecting UK ecosystems. Those species with specific habitat requirements or relationships have been the worst effected rather than generalist or opportunistic species. Conservation priority species included on the ‘Watchlist Indicator’ of birds, butterflies and moths, have decreased by 77% in the last 40 years and trends do not support a positive recovery rate. More than 1 in 10 of the 6,000 UK species assessed using current Red List criteria are now threatened by extinction. Data for the UK’s overseas territories, home to many internationally important species, also recorded negative results with 90% of species facing extinction.

The report also notes that prior to the 50 year recording-period large declines of several important UK species had already occurred due to habitat loss and land-use change. Furthermore, the report draws attention to the general lack of knowledge on UK wildlife, reliable data only being available for some 5% of the total number of species, with particular lack of records for marine ecosystems. Much of the existing data is only available due to the work of volunteer enthusiasts dedicating time and effort. This report has brought to light the state of nature in the UK and urges action through targeted conservation projects, environmental awareness, and public support and participation.

Colchester Zoo and Action for the Wild is working to support UK wildlife conservation with the creation and management of the nature area adjoining the zoo grounds to enhance visitor awareness of native species. Since its creation in early 2010 many new species have been recorded and work continues to monitor animal populations and breeding, improve the habitat, and encourage wildlife to the site. The Fisher’s estuarine moth introduction project has also been running since 2008; this conservation priority species is reared using permanent breeding enclosures and eggs have been introduced onto 20 newly created prime habitat sites in Essex to ensure the long-term survival of the population. For more information on this project and the many others supported globally by Action for the Wild please view our current projects list.

In 2012, 668 rhinos were killed in South Africa alone. That was one every 13 hours. Now it said one rhino is poached every 10 hours. Over the past six years, rhino poaching has increased by a staggering and unprecedented amount and is mainly attributed to the growing demand for rhino horn from Vietnam. So can the surge in demand be tackled?

This is not the first time that rhinos have faced such a crisis. From the late 1970s to the mid 1990s, most rhino populations were ravaged by phases of intensive poaching to support the medicine trade in Asia and jambiya dagger handles in Yemen. This caused some black rhino populations to disappear in some countries. In fact, black rhinos declined by 97.6% from 1960-1994, with only 2,410 remaining in the wild. The northern white rhino fared even worse and was virtually eradicated through its range, and was declared extinct in 2011.

Rhino horn has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years. It is classified as a ‘heat-clearing’ drug and was often combined with other medical ingredients to treat fevers, convulsions and epilepsy. Horns were even carved into highly prized libation cups and chalices, which were reputed to have the ability to detect poison. For years, there have been ever-shifting peaks in demand for rhino horn from various countries.

Governments in Japan, South Korea, Yemen and Taiwan have, over the years, managed to reduce the demand in rhino horn in their countries. Concern still exists in China as there are varied avenues for illegal trade, but overall, over the decades, intensive international pressure and outcry at the rhino crisis led to poaching levels and the illegal trade gradually declining. In fact by the mid 1990s, virtually all major traditional consuming countries had a ban in place. Between 1990 and 2005, losses in South Africa averaged 14 animals each year. Sadly, since 2005, killings have surged and the situation is now at crisis point. Vietnam is now the world’s largest recipient of both legal and illegal rhino horn from South Africa.

The current rhino horn trade in Asia appears to be linked directly with economic development and increasing levels of disposable income. Vietnam, over the past few decades, has experienced some rapid economic growth; this has increased the demand for wildlife products. Rhino horn is often used as a status symbol amongst the wealthy, in business deals and social gatherings, where it is ground into powder, mixed with water and drunk. It is also being used for non-traditional purposes, such as a miracle cancer cure, and as a body detoxifier following excessive consumption of alcohol or rich food. With the alarming rate of poaching, there is a serious cause for concern, and an urgent need for action from Vietnam. Bans in the past have been implemented by CITES and the same force used with other countries needs to be applied to Vietnam. The priority now is for the Vietnamese government to show political will in tackling the illegal trade, along with public awareness campaigns to change attitudes and increase understanding of the damaging effects of illegal wildlife consumption.

Recent history has shown us that demand can be reduced in Asia, so organisations are positive that this can and will be done again.

Picture of White Rhino Mother and calf © Dirk swart.

The Punta San Juan (PSJ) team had another busy year in 2012. An important part of their work is to carry out a census of Humboldt penguins at major sites around Peru. The objective this year was to allow Peruvian colleagues to complete their own census along the coast, while Saint Louis staff worked on logistics and provided funding for the teams counting. Below is the summary of the census carried out between the 17th January and the 4th February 2012.

In an area known as San Juanito, a total of 1,653 penguins were seen on two islets just a few hundred metres off the coast. In San Juan Marcona, which houses the largest colony of penguins in Peru, a total of 2,717 penguins were counted. Figures are slightly down compared to last year. The main difficultly during the census were the large number of cormorants that were breeding in this area, thus making it inaccessible to staff.

Punta Coles, a reserve to the south, was also visited. Its beaches often see large numbers of fur seals, along with many sea lions. The area also has a lighthouse and it seemed many of the penguins were located close to this, so staff paired up with the lighthouse guard to gain access to this area. A total of 367 penguins were counted, of which 300 were in the process of moulting. Only one part of the reserve was not counted, this was due to pelicans nesting here, however the guard mentioned that perhaps 80 penguins live in this part.

Another area that was check out was Punta La Chira, it’s a small reserve, and according to the guardian and the local people there are a number of penguins in a cave, very close to the north side of the reserve. The team could only account for eight penguins while watching from a boat, and these 8 were only seen as they were very close to the entrance of the cave. It is believe there are many more nesting inside the cave. Many other areas were visited and counts taken, however numbers were low at many of the sites due to poor visibility conditions.

The total number of penguins recorded during 2012’s census was 5,593 individuals. Most penguins were recorded between PSJ and San Juanito (4,370 individuals). A second count was carried out in these areas on the 3rd February and even higher numbers were recorded, totalling 5,787 penguins.

In conclusion, San Juan de Marcona continues to host the largest number of Humboldt penguins on the southern coast of Peru. Ocoña is projected as the second most important area for the Humboldt penguin. It has favourable conditions for penguin reproduction and has little and difficult land access, therefore the colonies can be left undisturbed. However other areas are not so lucky, with many seeing uncontrolled overfishing and an increase in seaweed collecting.

The project now plans to talk to fishermen and seaweed collectors about the importance of habitat for the Humboldt penguin along the entire Peruvian coast and to perform a bimonthly/quarterly report on Ocoña to assess reproductive success, environmental conditions and threats in this area. The project will also hold meetings with municipal leaders and the fishing community to work in a coordinated manner on the protection of the areas surveyed. There is also a report of hares (possibly the European hare) on one of the reserves, so it is necessary to evaluate the possible impact it may have on the penguin colony in the future.

The objectives of the project for 2013 are to continue to fund the censuses, help with the logistics, tally results and record/report numbers. The project wants to come up with a document for training local people on how to do the census, so it can be shared with all the teams, ensuring everyone is then using the same methodology.

Humboldt penguin in Peru © Punta San Juan.

The Komodo dragon Varanus komodoensis is endemic to five islands in south-eastern Indonesia; however, one of these islands; Flores, does not make up part of the Komodo National Park. Since the 1970’s, population densities of Komodo dragons on the island have decreased, mainly as a result of expansion of human settlements, forest clearance and slash-and-burn agriculture. On Flores, Komodos are now mainly found in the nature reserves of Wae Wuul and Wolo Tado, located on the western and northern coast of the island. Since 2005, Action for the Wild has been supporting the Wae Wuul Reserve Rehabilitation Project and their work to protect this remnant Komodo population.

The main threats to the reserve and Komodo dragons are deer poaching, arson and sporadic illegal logging. In response to these threats, protection plans, such as the one at Wae Wuul, have been developed to help protect the remaining Komodo dragon populations by raising community awareness of the plight of this species, involving the local community and setting up security patrols and legislation to help offer more protection from poaching and destruction of habitat.

The training of staff in wildlife monitoring techniques is an essential part of the project. Staff of the Indonesian Central Bureau for Conservation of Nature Resources (Balai Besar Konservasi Sumber Daya Alam – BBKSDA) are trained in wildlife monitoring techniques and ecological data analysis. This data helps to produce estimates of Komodo dragon and ungulate population size and density. To collect data on Komodo dragons, staff are trained on how to use baited aluminium cages for trapping them, marking them with microchips and on the collection of blood samples. Collection of this data will give a deeper understanding into the current population size, survival rates and age structure of Komodo dragons on the reserve. A total of 26 trap locations were positioned in the Wae Wuul reserve and, during 2011, a total of 14 Komodo dragons were trapped. Two of these dragons were animals already captured in 2010.

As well as directly looking at Komodo dragons, the project also carries out regular assessments on the population density of their main prey species; the Timor deer, the water buffalo and the wild pig. Direct counts of deer, pigs and buffalo from vantage points are not feasible in several areas of the reserve due to the presence of forest and woodland habitats. So, instead, the project uses faecal pellets counts to estimate the relative or absolute abundance of the prey species. In 2011, the survey resulted in a relatively high number of Timor deer pellets, a very slight increase in wild pig pellets and an increase in water buffalo pellets. These numbers, specifically showing that deer numbers are increasing in the reserve, represent stability of the Komodos’ natural prey species and therefore will be a significant contribution to the sustenance of the current dragon population.

The Wae Wuul project is also involved with community awareness, and has set up a programme that visits villages located close to the boundary of the reserve. The programme aims at promoting the importance of sustainable use of natural habitats and the commitment of national and international sponsors in the sustainable development of Wae Wuul. Overall, the community awareness sessions held in 2011 emphasized the importance of the involvement of the local community, and the maintenance of such initiatives in a long-term programme for effective sustainability of the Wae Wuul reserve.

Patrolling activities represent another important component of the Komodo dragon conservation programme in the Wae Wuul nature reserve. The patrolling programme is conducted by members of BBKSD and selected members of the local community. Patrolling is conducted across the reserve to monitor and control arson in the savannah and grassland, control the occurrence of feral dogs, wood harvesting and halt illegal hunting of deer. Patrolling was conducted in Wae Wuul every other day from June to August. In 2011, a few instances were reported where local people felled forest trees in an attempt to make a cultivated field near the eastern boundary of the reserve. Fires were also spotted in the central part of the Wae Wuul grassland habitat, but were later extinguished. The project during its patrolling activities also tested a new monitoring technique, using cameras and bait to attract wildlife. The hope is this could be used as an alternative to live caging for Komodo dragon population density estimates.

Action for the Wild donates annually to the Wae Wuul project and just last month (January) our annual donation of €1,000 was sent across. £200 of this donation was kindly raised by the Mid Anglia Herpetological and Invertebrate Club (MAHIC). Action for the wild would like to again send their thanks to MAHIC for their donation.

If you would like to donate towards the Wae Wuul project please visit our donation page.

Picture of komodo at Wae Wuul © Luke Harding.

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