Do you know about your recent genealogical history and want to find out more? Oxford University recently released an interactive map illustrating the genetic histories of 95 different populations across the world. Aside from being of ample means for procrastination, the map shows the genetic impacts of European colonialism, slave trade and mixing of races along trade routes between the East and West.
A study published in Conservation Biology this month has shown that incentive/community-based conservation efforts are effective in reducing the killing of large carnivores, specifically the lion. Projects such as Cheetah Country Beef by the Cheetah Conservation Fund and the sale of handicrafts by the Snow Leopard Trust have proven that the creation of a direct economic benefit for local individuals has a greater impact in improving predator tolerance than relying on a conceptual knowledge that there may be an overall economic benefit to the community through larger entities such as eco-tourism and trophy hunting. This study investigated 2 different approaches to improving the tolerance of lions with the local people of Maasailand in southern Kenya. They compared a purely incentive-based approach with an approach which integrates community values discovering that while each approach reduced lion killing individually, both approaches working in unison may be the way to go.
The first approach is based on a practice which has already had some success in the North America (with wolves, bears, coyotes, etc.), predator compensation. The goal of predator compensation is to deter vengeful killing by compensating local farmers for livestock losses caused by predators. A private organization called the Predator Compensation Fund was set up in southern Kenya to manage the program and the study found that over the 8 years of data collected, predator compensation resulted in an 87-91% decrease in killing.
The second program uses community cultural values and belief systems by employing traditional warriors, called imurran, to act as Lion Guardians. Imurran warriors are highly respected members of the Masaai community, responsible for defending its people and livestock. The guardians are offered $100/month to discourage locals from killing predators through education and community assistance. Additional deterrents include guardians losing their earnings if lions disappear so the strong Maasai ties to community and it being frowned upon to cause problems for respected community members has nearly wiped out lion killing completely, with the data showing a 99% decrease with the Lion Guardians program.
These percentages were calculated using some pretty sophisticated mathematical models and statistics (for those of you who understand that kind of stuff, they used a jackknifed generalized linear model with pairwise comparisons of the likelihood ratio statistic). Both programs have some downfalls – predator compensation hasn’t been shown to have long-term sustainability when privately funded and can cause livestock management to fall in anticipation for loss, and Lion Guardians doesn’t take into consideration the costs of livestock losses at all – but the benefits of each can counter the costs of the other. A combination of incentive-based approaches would be the most ideal method for improving predator tolerance but, of the two approaches, the one with implications on community values was the more successful and more likely of the two to be successful if run on its own.
•Hazzah, L. et al. 2014. Efficacy of two lion conservation programs in Maasailand, Kenya. Conservation Biology
Most people don't know this about me but... I got married. Yup. I married a handsome Zulu gentleman named Makenna when I was in South Africa. He wooed me. We had a traditional Zulu ceremony. I sat on a throne. I even got a crown. This Throwback Third Thursday (#tbtt) is about when I became a Pretty Pretty African Princess.
I have hinted in a couple of past posts about a big adventure I will be having this year. And, now that all the plans are officially finalized and everything is paid for, I can share the big news.
Three weeks from today I will be arriving in Africa for a three week adventure throughout South Africa and Namibia.
I will be spending two weeks in Nelspruit, South Africa with Wildlife Vets learning about wildlife conservation medicine, then, post course, I will be spending an extra week traveling South Africa and Namibia with Dr. Derr meeting with professional hunter organizations to discuss some ongoing research projects. I might even have the chance to go hunting myself (eek!).
An incident at the Copenhagen Zoo has recently made international news. Last week, a healthy, 2-year-old, male giraffe named Marius was shot and then skinned and fed to lions before the public. The decision to shoot the giraffe was not made lightly. In an effort to prevent inbreeding of the captive giraffe population, the zoo was advised by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria to get rid of the animal. The Copenhagen Zoo used the sad circumstances as a learning opportunity, allowing the public to watch the process of preparing a feed animal to use as enrichment.
Again, animal rights activists are taking the situation way too far. The Copenhagen Zoo and its staff have been receiving threats to their life and livelihood, including threatens to burn the zoo down! How exactly will burning down the entire institution help anything? Isn't that making the problem worse? Isn't that threatening MANY of the individual animals they claim to want to 'protect'? Logic apparently is not part of their mantra to save the animals. The first article I read was from what I can only assume is an extremist website for activists. They ended the article proclaiming “this practice of ‘keeping the population genetically sound’ sure doesn't seem like a kindness to us – either for Marius or for the other giraffes.” And they are right. It is not a kindness to you personally or a kindness to the poor giraffe that had to be shot, but it IS a kindness to ALL of the giraffe – and zoo visitor – relatives and future generations. That giraffe would have had a poor quality of life if they had kept him and given him contraceptives, which have detrimental side effects. The zoo also now has a spot available to bring in another giraffe with new genes to be introduced into the population, which is better for the giraffe population as a whole.
I am a biologist and my life is crap!