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Reintroduction & Rewilding

Sanju Offline
Senior member
( This post was last modified: 05-02-2019, 10:22 PM by Sanju )

How the world’s largest lion relocation was pulled off

To bring lions back to central Mozambique, logistics ranged from providing safe transport to blessings from the spirit world.

*This image is copyright of its original author

Zambezi Delta, MozambiqueThere was once a peaceful hunting community called the Thozo, living in the lush, wildlife-rich wetlands of central Mozambique. Beyond their village, great herds of buffalo thrived in the swamps, elephants rumbled in the forests, and prides of lions hunted on the fringes of the floodplains.

The village was lead by a great chief, Galanguira—a hunter who loved the land because it provided for his family and community.

After years of civil war in Mozambique, lions were all but lost in the Zambezi Delta region. The introduction of 24 lions from South Africa in 2018 could grow the population to as many as 500 within 15 years. Already, six cubs have been born since the lions’ release.

Photographs by Ami Vitale, National Geographic

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People in the village of Sosone, seen from above, have always lived alongside the wildlife of the Zambezi Delta. But apex predators, including lions, have been largely absent due to two decades of civil war.

*This image is copyright of its original author

Sosone villagers head to work in the early morning. With the reintroduction of lions to the region, they’ll need to change their routines to avoid encounters.

Photograph by Ami Vitale, National Geographic

One day, a large army from a neighboring tribe arrived. Twelve warriors with spears came to Galanguira’s house to kill him, while the rest of the army waited nearby. Galanguira fought like a warrior, defending his life and his village. He killed ten of the men. But he didn’t finish off the last two. Instead, he dropped his spear and raised his arm—exposing his heart—and told them to kill him. With one thrust of an enemy’s spear, Galanguira dropped to the floor.

The two triumphant men were about to leave when suddenly a magnificent lion rose out of Galanguira’s body and stood before them. Shocked and fearful, the men ran off to tell the rest of the army the about the supernatural animal and the powers of the Thozo people.

The army was never seen again.

*This image is copyright of its original author

Chief Jorge Tenente Thozo is part of a long line of chiefs in his community. On this day, his job is to meet with villagers to explain the proposed introduction of 24 lions to the area. It’s a sensitive issue, with concerns of village safety high on the agenda.

Photograph by Ami Vitale, National Geographic

“Galanguira’s spirit lion still lives near here, protecting us,” says Jorge Thozo, waving at the thick forest behind his house. He is the current chief of the Thozo community, and the great, great grandson of Chief Galanguira. Sitting on a wooden bench outside his small mud-brick house, he tells the story of his grandfather with such pride and enthusiasm that one can feel the meaning of the words even before they are translated from his scattered Portuguese.

Jorge can hardly remember the last time he saw a real lion.

When he was a child, numerous prides of lions roamed the game-rich wetlands of the Zambezi Delta. But their numbers were decimated when their prey was overhunted during the drawn-out Mozambican civil wars, which raged from 1977 to 1992. Across Africa, a similar decline is occurring, with wild lion numbers dropping 42 percent in the last two decades, mostly as a result of habitat loss.

In 2018, conservationists, landowners, donors, and the Mozambican government came up with an ambitious plan to add some two million acres to African lions’ range. They identified 24 healthy lions from reserves in South Africa and planned to relocate them to central Mozambique—the largest lion reintroduction ever attempted.

The lions’ proposed new home was the Marromeu Game Reserve—Chief Thozo’s backyard—where the local community subsists in the thick forests that fringe the Zambezi Delta floodplains.
With all the permits signed, partners on board, and the lions ready to go, all pieces were in place to make the ambitious project happen.
But one question remained: Would the spirit lions allow it?

A restoration story
There was very little wildlife in the Coutada 11 concession, in central Mozambique, when Mark Caldain, a South African hunter and one of the architects of the lion reintroduction, first arrived in 1995.

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“I guess, when you are young and stupid, I looked at the place and said: ‘Jesus, this is my piece of Africa!’” He laughs loudly as we sit in the humid Beira airport, the springboard to the wildlife concessions of central Mozambique. “It was my first chance to actually own a concession. I think it was a heart thing. Because it didn't have a lot of game. It was as wild as it is now, but the big game had gone.”

In a spontaneous decision, Caldain bought the lease from a German owner who wanted nothing more to do with war-torn Mozambique. At the time, there were fewer than 44 sable antelope and perhaps a thousand buffalo on one million acres. The forests were full of snares and traps for small game species, and signs of civil war were everywhere.

“The brick walls that line our runway were chipped with bullets. Mortars,” Caldane says. “Back then, I didn't know how good it would get.”

Operating a single hunting lodge, Caldane dedicated much of his time and resources to helping the wildlife return by investing in anti-poaching measures, such as motorbike patrols and a team of scouts. “Animals gravitate towards the most ideal habitat and protection, and I think, just by absolute chance, it happened to my block,” he says. “They came in, and then we had to look after them.”

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Zebras run through the Zambezi Delta.

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A herd of buffalo thunders across the floodplain at sunrise. Because of the anti-poaching efforts implemented by Mark Caldaine and his team, buffalo numbers have increased from a thousand to 20,000 on his million-acre concession.

Photograph by Ami Vitale, National Geographic

Caldane takes me on a tour of the land in his helicopter. As we swing over the floodplain, the full scale of the wilderness comes into view. Striped throngs of zebra bound below among groups of red hartebeest and shaggy waterbuck. Reedbuck dance through the water. And then a scene of true African elegance: A herd of sable run in unison, their brown and white mains flowing like waves across heavy backs, and their iconic, sickle-shaped horns dancing on their heads.

“There are over 3,000 sable antelope on the concession today,” Caldain says over the chopper din. We circle over a big herd of buffalo—some 300 galloping through the reeds like combine harvesters. Today, he says, his block holds some 25,000 buffalo.
“All the animals have come back, virtually to capacity, with the only exception being the apex predators.”

The spirit lions
The Thozo believe that when you die, you can become a spirit lion.
“All of my ancestral spirits are lions,” says Jorge Thoza, the chief. “If I want to be a spirit lion, the witch doctor goes in the bush to get secret sticks, nobody really knows what they are, and they make medicine. If I take that medicine, I will turn into a lion when I die. As a spirit lion, I will stay here to watch over the people.”

Long before plans were made to re-introduce 24 lions into the area, Caldane and his partners on the project spent time with the community living in the concession. Some villagers are employed at his camp, but most rely on subsistence farming. How would they feel about having a potentially dangerous predator roaming the bush once again?

“Most of the conservation areas in Mozambique have people living on them,” says Samuel Bila, a veterinarian from the University of Maputo and a key partner in the project. “When we decided to bring back the lions in Marromeu, the people were concerned for their safety, so we had to consult them first.”
He says he was quite surprised and happy to hear that the community had such a deep spiritual connection to the lions. “The spirit lions are perhaps one of the reasons that they were happy with the proposal,” he says.

After a number of meetings with the community, the chief gave his personal blessing over the lions. But it did come with one warning: In the end, he said, it would not be up to him whether the lions would survive. That would be the decision of the spirit lions.

The plan
This was going to be the largest movement of wild lions across borders in history—24 in total.

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The 24 lions, donated from reserves across South Africa, wait in boma in KwaZulu Natal before being flown to Mozambique. It’s the largest international transportation of wild lions ever attempted.

Photograph by Ami Vitale, National Geographic

“Many people said it's not possible; you can’t do that volume,” says Ivan Carter, a conservationist, hunter, and TV personality who founded the Ivan Carter Conservation Alliance. Finding and transporting that many healthy, disease-free lions would not be cheap or easy, and keeping track of the lions once on the ground would be a huge challenge. “But if you allow the naysayers to control your life,” he says, “you won't get anything done.”

Carter is a partner in the reintroduction project. A long-time funder of the anti-poaching efforts in the concession, he connected Mark Caldane with donors from the U.S., the Cabela family, who have helped to fund the project.

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The lions are sedated and marked with spray paint as identification in preparation for the flight from South Africa to Mozambique.

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Left: Lions’ eyes don’t close when they’re sedated, so they’re fitted with hoods to protect their eyes from the light. The hoods also helps keep them calm should the sedative start to wear off.
Right: The lions are flown in small groups to Mozambique.

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Carter agrees that 24 lions is a lot to manage. “But that gives us a better chance of success,” he says. “By putting 18 females and six males into such a big area, you now can afford to lose a few in their normal, natural way of living.”

In order to keep the genetic mix as wide as possible, the team sourced the lions from various reserves in South Africa and kept them all in a boma in KwaZulu Natal’s Mkhuze Game Reserve for three weeks to complete medical tests. Then they were sedated and put in two private planes for the journey to Mozambique.

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On August 5, 2018, a large crowd was gathered at the dusty airstrip in Marrameu Game Reserve as the planes touched down with their precious cargo. Many of the local villagers had never seen a lion before, and there were murmurs of both fear and excitement as the lions were offloaded. They were moved to a holding boma, and that’s when the ceremony began.
“We made a ceremony for my ancestors [the spirit lions] to introduce the lions,” says the chief, recounting the day the big cats arrived. The chief laid out various offerings in plastic cups—coke, beer, tobacco—for the spirit lions. If the spirits were unhappy, Jorge explains, they would kill the new lions. And if the lions were accepted, “we asked the spirit lions to protect the village, and to prevent the lions from biting anybody.”

"Perfect habitat for lions"
A hot, humid mist hangs over the floodplain as eight eyes watch us wearily from a nearby thicket of lala palms. We can see the tips of the lions’ ears flicking dew. One of the females rises and walks out of the thicket into the open, shaking the condensation from her body as if emerging from a morning sauna.

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It’s been six months since the lions were released from the holding bomas. Vets and ecologists have spent the last few days darting, testing, and collaring the lions, and Caldain and Carter are happy with their condition and progress.

“You just have to look around and you can see this the perfect habitat for lions,” whispers Carter as we sit in his truck and watch the lions emerge. “They’ve got over two millions acres to explore. There’s a wealth of game here. You can’t drive for five minutes without seeing warthog, reedbuck, zebra, hartebeest. I can’t imagine what they don’t have here!”
Though the stress of the big relocation is over, Carter is not ready to relax just yet. “The next milestone is going to be when the cubs come out,” he says. “I’ll only relax and consider this successful when we can truly consider this place a stronghold for the wild African lion.”

These particular lions will never be hunted, says Carter. A proponent of the conservation benefits brought by hunters’ dollars, he says: “Some time in the future, if there’s 300 lions walking around here, and hunting three of them will sponsor your anti-poaching scouts for a year, why wouldn’t you? You hunt three lions out of 300, less than 1 percent, and suddenly you have paid for your scouts for over a year.”

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Fifteen of the 24 lions wear tracking collars. There’s a good chance the prides will split up as they explore the new areas, so the collars allow ecologists to continuously monitor them.

With Mozambique’s war-torn history, Carter is certain that this wilderness and its animals would not exist if it were not for the few hunters who pass through the camp each year. And it’s been through careful off-take management that Caldane was able to build such a healthy population of animals while still running a hunting camp.
“A lot of hunting outfitters don't give a damn about anything other than profit, and their concessions are dying” says Carter. “But if you look at Mark’s investment in anti-poaching—it’s in the millions! The helicopters, the motorbikes, and anti-poaching teams are the foundation of the success of the reserve.”

As a vet, Samuel Bila says that hunting is not his first choice for conservation. However, “Mozambique needs income and to develop its conservation areas. Marrameu is a designated hunting area, and this can bring in profit and help with protection. Of course, we put strict laws and quotas in place based on numbers. But hunting is part of the utilisation of wildlife in Mozambique.”

Settling in
Six months after the introduction of lions, and the community is in good spirits.
“At first, the people were very scared,” says Thoza. “Now, people are not scared anymore. They know the lions are out there, but they are not aggressive.”
He says he’s not worried because his grandfather is protecting him and the villagers from the lions. He knows that if the lions attack a villager, the spirit lions will kill them.

We meet a younger man named Jon sitting beside the road with his kids climbing up and down his leg and hanging on his back. He speaks about his grandfather, a spirit lion. He says that when his grandfather was alive, he always promised that he would become a lion and remain there to protect them. Now, when Jon is out in the bush and feels scared or lost, he asks his grandfather for help, and he always receives it.
For the Thozo community, the spirit lion is a symbol of sacrifice, heroism, protection, legacy, and love of family. Chief Galanguira sacrificed his life for the people and the land, and he came back stronger.
As we head back to camp, filled with the stories of Galanguira and the spirit lions, Carter begins to talk about his own life path. What initially began as an ambitious career in guiding and TV, he says, has developed into a quest to make an impact. He created his NGO because he saw a need for frontline conservation work. He now helps fund various projects across Africa, including ambitious projects to save orphaned chimps in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and supporting giraffe conservation in Africa.
“You get so inspired when you do something that really matters,” he says. “I hope that one day this place will be a stronghold for the wild African lion. I hope they will be here long after I am gone.”
Just a few months after we left Mozambique, a lioness suddenly became pregnant, and later two more, ending up with six little cubs. Caldain sent me a message saying how excited they were to see cubs so soon, and suspects the father is a very old rogue male from Mozambique that he’s seen on only one occasion, and he presumed was dead.
“Perhaps he was a spirit lion,” I replied, with a wink.

Read more here:

@Rage2277 @Lycaon @smedz
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smedz Offline
Regular Member

Cougar Reintroduction in Ohio    

Note: this is not currently happening, but I will email the information I gathered to the Ohio Division of Wildlife to try to convince them to at least consider bringing these big cats back to my home state. With that out of the way, let's get started.     

Many years ago, Ohio was full of large animals. These included White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus), elk (Cervus canadensis), Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), American Black Bears (Ursus americanus), Gray Wolves (Canis lupus), Canada Lynx (Lynx canadensis), Bobcats (Lynx rufus), Bison (Bison bison) and of course cougars, the cat with way too many names (Puma concolor). When the white man came along, they hunted all the animals to the point of extirpation. Now in the present, animals like the turkey are now plentiful again, bears and bobcats are making a comeback. While the wild has improved, our ecosystem is missing something vital. That would be an apex predator. I do not count black bears as true apex predators because while they are large, powerful, fast, and do eat meat, 95% of their diet is plant based. I also do not count human hunters as true apex predators because real apex predators don't need laws to make sure they don't kill off everything. I had a choice between the cougar and the wolf, and I have chosen the cougar due to it's better ability to live closer to people. Now to get deeper into detail. 

                                                                                                                                        Ecological Reasons    

When predators are taken out of an ecosystem, prey populations increase, and overbrowse or overgraze areas. Here in Ohio, the only native wild ungulate is the White-tailed Deer, and you better believe the deer are huge in numbers. In fact, the deer populations in state parks have grown to the point where hunters are allowed to go into them and kill deer to keep the population under control. Even the staff Cuyahoga Valley National Park have decided to allow the culling of deer in the park.  

So as you can see, we do have a deer population issue. With the return of the cougar, they will keep the number of deer in check in areas where hunters really shouldn't be allowed to hunt in. When it does come to population control, by keeping deer in check, they can help reduce deer and vehicle collisions. If cougars came back to the east or midwest, in 30 years, 155 deaths could be prevented and 21,000 injuries could also be prevented, and a single cougar could help save nearly $40,000 in associated costs. Another issue we have with deer in Ohio is Chronic Wasting Disease. Hunters in the state now must be wary to try to prevent harvesting a deer with the disease for obvious reasons. Cougars on the other hand are different, as they can eat the meat of diseased animals, but that of course, doesn't mean they could eat a deer with CWD. Can they though? Actually yes, in one study, cougars seem to selct for CWD infected mule deer since they were easier to catch and kill, and there is no evidence that this disease affects predators. So with the return of the cougar, the spread of the disease can be slowed down.     

When it does come to controlling the deer population, there is a huge difference between hunters and cougars. For example, sometimes a cougar that kills every 10-14 days can kill 20 deer a year and a cougar that kills every 10-18 days or a cougar with cubs that kills every 2-3 days can kill up to 52 deer a year (Mountain lion Foundation). An average deer hunter in Ohio only kills about 1-2 deer in a year (ODNR website). So having cougars is a much much much more effective way of keeping deer populations under control.     

One thing both hunters and farmers in Ohio have in common is that they hate coyotes. Luckily, cougars do include coyotes in their diet, one female even had a thing for coyote meat.    

Along with that, a recent study by Panthera on cougar interactions with other predators does confirm that cougars do dominate coyotes. 

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In Ohio, we also have a population of Wild Boar, which are not native to North America at all. The goal is to get them out of the ecosystem, or at least get them under control. Research and camera traps confirm that cougars do include wild boar in their diet in the Davis Mountains in Texas and also Florida. I do have to say that they make up a small percentage of their diet in Texas, but the region that research was conducted in has lots of other wild big game, it's practically a buffet up there for them. Ohio doesn't have as many big game animals, so perhaps wild boar will be a bigger part of their diet here. 

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Last but not least, a study has found that some areas in Ohio are now capable of supporting elk herds! As we all know, cougars prey on elk, and in this case, having a natural predator keep their numbers in check is going to be VERY important. 

.pdf   ProjectWapiti_FinalReport_PDF.pdf (Size: 2.84 MB / Downloads: 0)             

     Cougars also happen to be ecosystem engineers, their kills actually provide food and hokes for carrion dependent beetles, and they make more kills than other predators, which is more important to the ecosystem, and it increases the number of animal interactions, so they're essential to maintaining ecosystem resilience in. I'll put in this chart made by scientists that sums up this whole thing. 

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For another point, tigers have proven to also be beneficial to people living in their home ranges, and experts have been learning lots of new things about cougars, so maybe perhaps cougars have an unknown way of benefitting people as well. (Check my post in the human interactions thread). Also, we do have American Burying Beetles in Ohio, which also need carrion for food and to raise their young, and they happen to be endangered in Ohio, and carrion availability may be one of the factors to allow these beetles to prosper. (ODNR website) So the return of the cougar can help with the recovery of the beetles as well. 


With cougars coming back, I believe that will help the economy, why? The answer is Eco-tourism! think about it, the animals people really want to see are big animals. With more large animals in the state, the better tourism can be, and tourism does make more money then hunting does. For example, in the Great Bear Rainforest in Canada, people spend 12 times as much money then trophy hunting. So the return of cougars and elk, can help the economy in this way. 

                                                                                                            Hunting and Conflict    

Not all people will be happy about cougars coming back. Those would be hunters and farmers. I will also try to convince the ODNR to not allow cougar hunting in Ohio. The reasons for this are that cougars are self-regulating, they are controlled by food availability (Predator Defense), and by each other since they're territorial, males kill cubs that aren't their own, and they will kill other cougars in fights. Cougars also don't decimate game populations like hunters claim. Both predator and prey have coexisted for millions of years, and predators kill the sick, weak, or wounded members of populations and therefore, making the game populations healthier and stronger. Hunting the dominant males ends up leaving unnatural numbers of juveniles because the territory is now available to them, and juveniles are the age group that is most associated with attacks on humans because unlike the adults, they haven't learned to avoid humans yet, so hunting only increases the odds of a person being attacked by a cougar. As for attacks, they are rare, only 25 deaths have been confirmed in 130 years. In fact, hunters seem to be more dangerous as approximately 1,000 people in North America are shot by hunters every year, 100 fatally (Predator Defense). Pretty ironic wouldn't you say? After listening to their excuses, I completely ignored hunters because they will make up any excuses to make sure that they don't have to share any of the game animals with predators. That's the way they are. Farmers on the other hand are a different story because they do depend on livestock. Also especially since Ohio happens to be one of the most agriculture happy places in the United States, I did have to take them into consideration. Since hunting cougars only brings bad, I looked into the non-lethal methods of protecting livestock from cougars. Here's the list, info from the Mountain Lion Foundation. 

1. Packs of guard dogs 
2. Confinement Shed lambing, kidding, and calving 
3. Fall birthing 
4. Multi-species stocking 
5. Aversive Conditioning 
6. Brush Clearing of trees and bushes within 1/4 mile of buildings and livestock concentrations
7. Fencing with fences over 12 ft tall, can be electric 

I will also suggest some changes to the law enforcement, like increasing the number of game wardens per county to try to prevent poaching.  Also here's the link to juvenile problem cougars.  

So there you have it, cougars have every right to live here in the Buckeye state, and hunters are not good sources of information on predators.
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Virgin Islands, U.S. Rage2277 Offline
animal enthusiast

At Mount Camdeboo we are driven by the desire to protect, manage and rehabilitate the natural resources of our region for long-term conservation and sustainable utilisation. Most recently, we have realised our long vision of rewilding the property with the introduction of lion and elephant onto the reserve - species which were historically indigenous to the Great Karoo region.

The relocation will aid increased biodiversity and goodwill of the animals and other wildlife in surrounding areas, and has enabled us to achieve an environment closer to what naturally occurred many, many years ago.

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United Kingdom Sully Offline
Ecology & Rewilding

The ambitious plan to recover and rewild the feisty, dwarf cow
Jeremy Hance
3 days ago

*This image is copyright of its original author

*This image is copyright of its original author

Don’t let appearances fool you. The animal pictured above — the dwarf cattle known as tamaraw (Bubalus mindorensis) from the island of Mindoro in the Philippines — may look cute; it may even look like an animal you’d like to touch, pet, or feed by hand at a petting zoo. But this little cow will mess you up.
“The local communities and guides … don’t want to get anywhere near it,” says Barney Long, senior director of species conservation at Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC), which works with the local group the D’Aboville Foundation on tamaraw conservation. “Everyone says it’s dangerous and it will attack you if you get too close. When you think of a water buffalo in Asia — which has had 3,000 years of genetic and breeding to make sure it’s as docile as possible — it’s the opposite of that.”
When visiting tamaraw areas, Long says, locals will avoid both forests and long grass areas, and instead stick to the short grass “because you can see far enough ahead in front of you.”

*This image is copyright of its original author

*This image is copyright of its original author
A tamaraw in Iglit Baco National Park. The park is stronghold for this critically endangered species with a population that ranges from 400-500 animals currently. Photo by: Barney Long.
“The tamaraw aren’t out to attack anyone, but they certainly will defend themselves if need be,” says James Slade, the wildlife crime prevention officer for GWC, who’s gone on numerous patrols with local rangers.
Conservationists, local people and indigenous groups have recently agreed to a plan as bold as the tamaraw itself: to rebuild the critically endangered species’ core population while also prepping for rewilding parts of the island.
The hope is that one day the tamaraw will again roam the mountains of Mindoro from coast to coast, keeping everyone out of the long grass.
Comeback cattle
June Pineda-David is the project coordinator of the Tamaraw Conservation Program (TCP), a special project under the Philippine government’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). As such, she’s actively involved in all things tamaraw: from getting information to local schools, to making sure rangers have necessary equipment, to working with indigenous communities inside the park.
She says first seeing wild tamaraw in 1995 was a “truly life-changing” experience.
The tamaraw is our treasure, pride and heritage,” she says of its wider value to her home country.

*This image is copyright of its original author

*This image is copyright of its original author
A statue of the tamaraw on its home island of Mindoro. The species has become a point of pride for the Philippines. Photo by: Barney Long.
The tamaraw is not the world’s smallest wild cattle species; that honor belongs to the mountain anoa (Bubalus quarlesi) of Sulawesi, an Indonesian island. But Long describes the tamaraw as about “half the size” of a water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis), known locally as carabao. It weighs around 180 to 300 kilograms (400 to 660 pounds) and stands around 100 centimeters (40 inches) at shoulder height. It has attractive V-shaped horns that slope upward from its head and, like many dwarf species, short limbs and a stocky body.
Despite being considered a dwarf species, the tamaraw is still the largest wild land animal in the Philippines.
In 2000, the IUCN estimated a population of somewhere between 30 and 200 of the animals. Not only was the tamaraw believed to be on the edge of extinction, but conservationists really had only a vague idea how many remained. Today, the global population stands at nearly 500 animals at three confirmed locations, the bulk of them at Mounts Iglot-Baco National Park.
What conservationists have managed to do in the last 20 years is secure, and even grow, a core population in the park. This population, while by no means unthreatened, presents today a security against total extinction — and an opportunity to grow the population beyond.
The park today is actively monitored; conservationists are working closely with the indigenous tribe there to co-protect the tamaraw, and rangers patrol regularly.
“[Rangers] record anything they find and report it back to the headquarters where they can plan an operation together with other national authorities as needed. They provide a much needed and consistent presence within the protected,” says Slade.

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*This image is copyright of its original author
A ranger on patrol in Iglit Baco. Rangers have been instrumental in decreasing threats to this species, working with tribal groups, and educating the public. Photo by: Barney Long.
At the same time the tamaraw has become quite a celebrity in the Philippines, even though it’s only found in Mindoro. It’s currently being considered for formal recognition as the Philippines’ national animal (that title is held, unofficially, by the carabao, even though the animal is not native). It has a popular pickup truck model named after it and its notoriously independent reputation. And the Philippine government isn’t just actively involved, but enthusiastically so.
This means the tamaraw is now in the enviable position of having the best chance of long-term survival of the three wild cattle species deemed critically endangered, according to James Burton, chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission Asian Wild Cattle Specialist Group.
The two other species are the kouprey (Bos sauveli), native to the Southeast Asian mainland and considered possibly extinct, not having been seen in more than 30 years; and the saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis), the most recently discovered large land mammal on Earth, found only in Vietnam and Laos, and among the most threatened.
The tamaraw, though, is not out of the long grass yet. It remains threatened by poaching, both by wealthier Filipinos and indigenous tribes, and can fall into traps set for wild pigs.
It’s also imperiled by loss of habitat, the arrival of invasive plant species that could wipe out its habitat, and, most worrying of all, by the potential of disease, especially since the bulk of its population is concentrated in one location. Rinderpest, which could be transmitted by domestic cattle, is of particular concern.
“What we need to do is make sure there’s biosecurity between those cattle farms and wild tamaraw which, in their current locations, is not necessarily a risk, but the cattle ranchers are getting closer and closer,” says Long.
A plan to build on success
Last December, with tamaraw numbers generally stable in Mounts Iglot-Baco National Park, stakeholders got together to discuss the future of this feisty dwarf.
Long says a meeting 20 years ago came up with a detailed plan of how to recover the tamaraw from the jaws of what then looked like imminent extinction.
“And what needed to be done was done in Iglot-Baco National Park and they went from 200 animals up to 400 or 500,” he says. “[But] nothing was done in any of the other sites, and they’ve all either disappeared or decreased rapidly. What that tells me is we know what to do and we’ve demonstrated that it can be a success.”

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Rangers patrolling in the mind-blowing Mount Iglit Baco National Park. Photo by: Emmanuel Schutz / Daboville Foundation.
The key now is to take the success in Iglot-Baco and translate it to other current and potential tamaraw sites.
The December meeting ended with an ambitious 30-year plan to support and rewild populations outside of Iglot-Baco, creating a potentially large and wide-ranging population.
The first goal is to increase the Iglot-Baco population to a stable size of 500-plus animals. At that point, Long says, conservationists believe they can start taking animals out of this core population and moving them to low-population sites such as the Auryan Malati, with only about a dozen animals, and the Amnay River, which may house 65 to 100 animals, though this hasn’t been verified.
Then the real fun begins: rewildling sites where the tamaraw is believed to be extinct.
“There’s a potential to seed small populations,” Long says, “and effectively try and get four or five subpopulations across the island in the next few decades.”
He says conservationists already have eyes on a couple additional sites.
Indigenous people are key
None of this would have happened without Mindoro’s indigenous people.
“The indigenous peoples of Mindoro … believe that they co-exist with the tamaraws since time immemorial,” says Pineda-David. “Their elders have taught them that tamaraws are part of their culture and tradition, including the fact that it is part of their diet. They also believe that if the species is lost, it will be their end too.”
The plan of rewilding, says Long, was really ignited by the island’s indigenous people.

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*This image is copyright of its original author
Female tamaraw and her calf in Mount Iglit-Baco Natural Park. Photo by Emmanuel Schutz / D’ABOVILLE Foundation.
“At this workshop, the [indigenous] leaders were standing up basically saying that the tamaraw are us, we are the tamaraw,” he says.
When the conversation turned to the fact that tamaraw were disappearing from certain areas, Long says it was the tribal groups who took the lead. The Tawbuid tribe, who inhabit Iglot-Baco, expressed a desire to give the tamaraw back to tribes who had lost them.
“That’s when this workshop turned from … really getting momentum around how we could actually recover tamaraw across the whole island,” Long says. “The Tawbuid could basically become the spiritual home of the tamaraw giving back to other ancestral groups across the island.”
In partnering with the Tawbuid and other groups, Long says that conservationists support the indigenous people’s efforts to finally get ancestral domain, legal land rights, within Iglot-Baco.
“[The Tawbuid] actually don’t like the park because it stops them getting ancestral domain. Really, those two things are not in competition,” he says. “We’ve been working with the park to develop a new management plan and actually get it.”
Another issue is traditional hunting of tamaraw by the indigenous groups.

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*This image is copyright of its original author
A group of tamaraw caught on camera trap in the Arugan Malati region of Mindoro. The population here could range anywhere from . Photo by: WWF-Philippines and D’Aboville Foundation.
Long says this kind of hunting, likely practiced for thousands of years but illegal now, was probably sustainable historically when the cattle population was much larger.
“We want to be able to work with the indigenous peoples to somehow control their traditional hunts but not necessarily stop them, but certainly make sure they are sustainable,” he says. “That’s going to be a balance and a conversation as we go forward.”
New surprise
In mid-June, the feisty cattle of Mindoro gave conservationists another surprise.
An expedition in Mount Calavite Wildlife Sanctuary, located at the far west end of the island, spotted a young male tamaraw. It was the first sighting of an animal there in 27 years, and marks a fourth location that the species still calls home.
It means Mount Calavite Wildlife Sanctuary could be a future place not for rewilding, but simply rebuilding what is already there.
In an age of mass extinction and vast ecological decline, the tamaraw shows what can happen when people come together.
Pineda-David says “partnership and collaboration” have been vital in successfully fending off extinction and finding a way forward for the island’s rising star, the feisty tamaraw.
Banner Image: Tamaraw caught on camera trap installed at the core habitat of Tamaraw in Mts. Iglit-Baco Natural Park. Photo by: WWF-Philippines and the Tamaraw Conservation Program.
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Feds look again at reintroducing grizzly bears to North Cascades

The on-again, off-again effort to return grizzly bears to North Cascades National Park is back on.

Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke surprised wildlife advocates last year when he announced he was a fan of the bear and supported reintroduction to the North Cascades. However, he stopped work on the plan last August, with no plan for how it would be resumed.

That changed Thursday when the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the public-comment period has been reopened. A 90-day extension of the comment period on the draft grizzly bear recovery plan and environmental impact statement begins Friday and closes Oct. 24.

Biologists estimate that fewer than 10 grizzly bears remain in the North Cascades, the most at-risk bear population in North America. The last verified grizzly sighting in Washington’s Cascades was in 2011, with more recent sightings in the British Columbia portion of the ecosystem.

The main threat to grizzly bears in the North Cascades is this small population size and isolation from other grizzly populations in central British Columbia and the Rocky Mountains. Successful restoration of North Cascades grizzly bears would restore a key predator to its home, where it has not roamed since the turn of the 19th century, and bring a healthier ecological balance to the area.

“We are pleased to see recovery efforts for grizzly bears in the North Cascades get back on track,” said Robb Krehbiel, Northwest representative for Defenders of Wildlife, a national conservation nonprofit.

“The science is clear on the ecological benefits of grizzly bears,” Krehbiel said. “Defenders of Wildlife has been proactively working with partners in the region to prevent human-bear conflicts. We know that Washington communities can thrive alongside these bruins. It’s time to bring back the bears.”

Zinke, who resigned in December, had committed to finalizing a plan to return grizzlies to the North Cascades Ecosystem before the end of last summer. He had restarted the North Cascade Grizzly Bear Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process to analyze options to recover this state’s population of bears, allowing agencies to review the more than 126,000 public comments received in 2017.

The North Cascades Grizzly Bear Recovery Zone is anchored by North Cascades National Park. The area includes nearly 10,000 square miles of wild country. The North Cascades were singled out for grizzly bear reintroduction by federal scientists in 1997 after they determined the area had sufficient quality habitat to support a self-sustaining population of grizzly bears — as it did for thousands of years.

Beyond the predator’s historic place in the food chain, grizzly bears contribute to the North Cascades ecosystem by spreading seeds and turning soil while they dig for roots.
The grizzly recovery study was announced in 2014 during the Obama administration as a three-year process. In mid-2017, Interior officials, without clear explanation, halted progress on the recovery efforts. Now the process has kicked back into gear.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and other ranching groups opposed the reintroduction effort and reacted with just as much surprise to the administration’s announcement last year.

To comment on the proposal, go to Or, mail or hand-deliver comments to: Superintendent’s Office, North Cascades National Park Service Complex, 810 Highway 20, Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284.
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One of Britain's rarest mammals has been re-established in the wild in England and given protected status.
A population of 18 pine martens has been successfully released in the Forest of Dean.
The animal had faced extinction in this country because of extensive hunting and loss of English woodland.
Forestry England, the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, Vincent Wildlife Trust and Forest Research worked together to support the pine martens in the forest.
The 18 pine martens have been moved from Scotland, fitted with tracking collars and released in the Forest of Dean.
Forestry England will work with volunteers, local communities and partner organisations to monitor how they are moving through the forest.
Dr Catherine McNicol, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust's Conservation project Manager, will be leading the monitoring of the pine martens.
She said she hoped the project would give them the "boost they need to become resilient and thrive".

Rebecca Wilson, Forestry England's planning and environment manager in the west of England, said pine martens played an integral role in the "delicate balance" of the woodland ecosystem.

The mammal forages on fruit, fungi and a range of prey including the grey squirrel, a non-native species which has had a "detrimental impact on broadleaf woodland" throughout England.

Dr Gareth Parry, director of conservation at Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, said bringing back the pine marten "plays a vital role in ecosystem functioning" and was an important part of work to tackle a "biodiversity emergency".

The organisations said it was hoped over the next two years more pine martens would be released into the forest and a population would establish there.
In 2018, the government's 25-year Environment Plan stated the reintroduction of native species such as otters and polecats was "key" to nature's recovery.
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Short documentary about reintroduced European bison in the carpathians

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Could Abandoned Agricultural Lands Help Save the Planet?

Agriculture’s global footprint is decreasing — more land globally is now being abandoned by farming than converted to it. This, some researchers contend, presents an opportunity for ecological restoration that could help fight climate change and stem the loss of biodiversity.
By Richard Conniff • December 10, 2019

People have lived in Castro Laboreiro, where northern Portugal borders Spain, long enough to have built megaliths in the mountainous countryside and a pre-Romanesque church, from 1,100 years ago, in the village itself. But the old rural population has dwindled away, leaving behind mostly elders yearning for their vanishing culture.
Roughly half the area once grazed by sheep, goats, and cattle is now unused and reverting to nature, meaning that wolves, bears, wild boars, and other species have rebounded in their old habit. Iberian ibex and griffon vultures thrive where they were extinct, or nearly so, as recently as the 1990s. So what feels like loss to some village residents, looks to others like a great recovery.
Places like Castro Laboreiro are of course everywhere. Abandonment of rural lands has become one of the most dramatic planet-wide changes of our time, affecting millions of square miles of land. Partly it’s a product of rural flight, and the economic, social, and educational appeal of cities. Partly it’s about larger forces like climate change and globalization of the food supply chain. But the result, according to a new study in Nature Ecology and Evolution, is that the global footprint of agriculture has “started decreasing in size during the past two decades, with more land now being abandoned from agriculture than converted to it, especially in Western Europe and North America.” (This change doesn’t appear to have affected global food supply, at least not yet, because the land lost was marginal to start with, and farming elsewhere has become more productive.)
The study, led by researchers from the University of Minnesota, found that abandoned lands can take decades or even centuries to recover their original biodiversity and productivity. But it termed land abandonment “an unprecedented opportunity for ecological restoration efforts to help to mitigate a sixth mass extinction and its consequences for human wellbeing.” Indeed, by some accounts, a more aggressive—and evidence-based — approach to restoring abandoned lands could bring about major progress in both the climate and extinction emergencies.

The biggest caveat is that current governmental initiatives on degraded lands lack even rudimentary planning.

A study earlier this year in Science calculated the potential tree cover on “degraded” lands worldwide and found, according to senior author Thomas Crowther of ETH Zurich, that a massive program to plant trees and grow them to maturity “could cut carbon dioxide in the atmosphere … to levels last seen almost a century ago.” That study, which elicited sharp criticism from other researchers, called for planting at least 6.6 million square miles of degraded land not currently used for urban or agricultural purposes. More than half the planting would take place in six countries that are, conveniently, also major contributors to climate change: Russia, the United States, Canada, Australia, Brazil, and China.
Crowther calls it “the best climate change solution available today,” with the potential to remove 25 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions humans have added to the atmosphere. But critics have characterized the proposal as a distraction from the immediate priority of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They also questioned the suitability of land in the study for reforestation.
“These plans have been developed by scientists who do a lot of remote sensing and don’t understand the social context of why these lands are in transition, or if they are in transition,” says Mark Ashton, a forest ecologist at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. “This is much more complex than looking at a map and thinking you can plant trees, without understanding the human context around that land.”

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Biodiversity and species richness continue to increase for years after farmland has been abandoned. Isbell et al, Nature 2019

The study came with major caveats of its own: The authors could not determine whether the available land is publicly or privately owned. Moreover, some lands that are now suitable for regeneration could become much less so as climate change advances.

The biggest caveat, though, is that current government initiatives on degraded lands typically lack even rudimentary planning. For instance, of the 48 nations that have committed to restore forests under the Bonn Challenge — an international reforestation initiative — about 10 percent have committed to restore more forest than they have land to grow forests on. Many other countries have committed to restore an area that’s less than half the abandoned land they have available.
This haphazard approach persists even though the estimated scale of land abandonment is massive. China has reported losing about 7,700 square miles of agricultural land each year. The United States has lost almost 98,000 square miles of farmland just from 1997 through 2018. And according to one recent estimate, the European Union could have up to 82,000 square miles of abandoned farm land by 2040, or roughly 11 percent of the area that was being farmed at the start of the century.
Worldwide, a 2011 study in the journal Climatic Change put the current area of “recovering secondary vegetation,” including old fields, pastures, and recovering forests, at 11.2 million square miles of land — roughly triple the entire land area of the United States — and rising. But that number included lands used and abandoned at any point over the past 600 years. It was also based on computer models. Measurements of actual landscapes are still surprisingly difficult to make, according to Robin Chazdon, a tropical forest ecologist now retired from the University of Connecticut. Satellites and other remote monitoring technologies cannot readily distinguish, for instance, between a naturally regenerating forest and a tree plantation.
Quote:Under certain circumstances, grasslands and rangelands can prove more resilient than forests for carbon storage, one study found.
The current chaotic approach to abandoned lands often pushes land managers in directions that do nothing for either wildlife or climate change, says Chazdon. For instance, many tropical nations, such as Costa Rica, Peru, and the Philippines, have well-intended laws that strictly ban harvesting of native trees, including the trees that regenerate naturally on abandoned fields. “But if you document that you planted the trees, they become yours,” she says. “This has created a perverse incentive to prevent farmers from turning their land back into natural forest, and to plant tree plantations instead.”
Elsewhere, climate and biodiversity initiatives often compete instead of supporting each other, says Frans Schepers, managing director of Rewilding Europe, a nonprofit group working to re-establish native landscapes across Europe. “The mainstream response to abandoned lands is, ‘We have to put windmills and solar out there, or we need to use biomass and burn materials from our forests.’” Even tree planting can become “a technological solution, a numbers game, planting the wrong species, in a straight line, and in areas where they wouldn’t actually grow back on their own,” resulting in “a huge waste of money.” It makes more sense, he says, to regenerate natural forests as functioning ecosystems, including large herbivores to reduce fuel accumulation on the forest floor and prevent wildfires.
Likewise, says Schepers, converting abandoned pastures to forests based on the simplistic notion that this will automatically improve carbon storage can end up harming species and climate alike. Not only do many plant and wildlife species require open habitat, but under certain circumstances, grasslands and rangelands can prove more resilient than forests for carbon storage, according to a 2018 study from the University of California at Davis. That’s because they store carbon largely underground, where it is less vulnerable in drought- and wildfire-prone areas than the above-ground carbon stored in trees.

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Critics note that flawed strategies have encouraged tree farms, such as this oil palm plantation in Costa Rica. Shutterstock

The bottom line is that putting abandoned lands to work again for a livable planet will require considerable nuance. For instance, instead of simply paying rural people to do the things that made sense in the past — graze livestock on marginal lands — those subsidies may need to be targeted to address different concerns in different places. It might make sense to pay subsidies, as the European Union now does, to preserve the traditional way of life in areas with a rich cultural heritage, like Castro Laboreiro, says Emma van der Zanden of VU University Amsterdam. But it could also make sense to stimulate abandonment, for instance, by subsidizing green projects in other areas where environmental values predominate.
In Australia, many marginal and abandoned areas could become more productive if converted to forests for carbon storage, paid for by fossil fuel-intensive industries, says David Lindenmayer, a landscape ecologist at Australian National University, Canberra. Farm income could come partly from grazing, partly from cropping, and partly from regeneration, which would incidentally improve water retention in those areas. “If you want people to stay on that land you have to pay them for the asset, and the asset clearly has to be carbon storage,” he says. “But our government refuses to create a mechanism for paying farmers to store carbon.”

As he speaks, Lindenmayer looks out his window at the evidence of Australia’s latest prolonged drought, combined with a deadly heatwave, and massive wildfires that have darkened skies across much of the country. Australia, he warns, is merely “at the leading edge of the kind of challenges that are going to arise” for other nations as warmer and less predictable climate conditions become more common. Abandoned lands could help minimize or even prevent the likely damage. But that will only happen if scientists and policymakers come together quickly on the smartest ways to put those lands back to work.
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( This post was last modified: 12-25-2019, 04:42 AM by Sully )

Pleistocene Rewilding: An Optimistic Agenda for Twenty-First Century Conservation

Abstract: Large vertebrates are strong interactors in food webs, yet they were lost from most ecosystems after the dispersal of modern humans from Africa and Eurasia. We call for restoration of missing ecological functions and evolutionary potential of lost North American megafauna using extant conspecifics and related taxa. We refer to this restoration as Pleistocene rewilding; it is conceived as carefully managed ecosystem manipulations whereby costs and benefits are objectively addressed on a case-by-case and locality-by-localitybasis. Pleistocene rewilding would deliberately promote large, long-lived species over pest and weed assemblages, facilitate the persistenceand ecological effectiveness of megafauna on a global scale, and broaden the underlying premise of conservation from managing extinction to encompass restoring ecological and evolutionary processes. Pleistocene rewilding can begin immediately with species such as Bolson tortoises and feral horses and continue through the coming decades with elephants and Holarctic lions. Our exemplar taxa would contribute biological, economic, and cultural benefits to North America. Owners of large tracts of private land in the central and western United States could be the first to implement this restoration. Risks of Pleistocene rewilding include the possibility of altered disease ecology and associated human health implications, as well as unexpected ecological and sociopolitical consequences of reintroductions. Establishment of programs to monitor suites of species interactions and their consequences for biodiversity and ecosystem health will be a significant challenge. Secure fencing would be a major economic cost, and social challenges will include acceptance of predation as anoverriding natural process and the incorporation of pre-Columbian ecological frameworks into conservation strategies.
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2020 ballot initiative would restore wolves to Colorado

Earlier this month, more than 200,000 signatures were delivered to the Colorado secretary of state calling for the restoration of gray wolves (Canis lupus) to be put on the 2020 statewide ballot.

Collected by volunteers from the Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund, Initiative 107 would instruct Colorado Parks and Wildlife to take public input and then develop a plan for reintroducing wolves to western Colorado by 2023. If passed, the Colorado General Assembly would also be tasked with developing a compensation program for ranchers who may lose livestock. This could mark the first time that voters direct the reintroduction of an endangered species.
Mongabay reached out by email to wildlife biologist and Director of the Turner Endangered Species Fund, Mike Phillips, for his take on the initiative.
Mongabay: Can you say a little about your background in conservation?
Mike Phillips: I’ve worked as a conservation biologist with a focus on restoration of imperiled species since 1986. I led the historic effort to restore the red wolf to the southeastern U.S. and the gray wolf to Yellowstone National Park.
What would the ballot initiative do, if it passes?
For the first time in history, Initiative 107 allows Colorado voters to determine through direct democracy whether the wolf should be part of the future of the great public wildlands that stretch across 17 million plus acres of the western half of the state. If it passes, the state of Colorado will reintroduce wolves by December 2023 to establish  a viable population to restore the state’s natural balance.

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*This image is copyright of its original author
A wolf sporting a tracking collar. Photo credit: William C. Campbell, US Fish and Wildlife Service
What makes wolves particularly critical for ecosystems in Colorado?
As important predators, wolves are helpful for ensuring the health and integrity of Colorado’s wild ecosystems.
On a grander scale what would a restored Colorado wolf population mean for populations throughout their expansive historic range?
A viable population of wolves in western Colorado would serve as the arch stone connecting wolves from the high Arctic to the Mexican border. There is no other place in the world where one can imagine completing the restoration of a much maligned, misunderstood, and endangered large carnivore across such a sweeping continental landscape.
What would you tell any voters on the fence about this issue?
I’d tell them four things:
1. Reintroducing wolves would help to restore Colorado’s natural balance. Good science makes clear that native species like the wolf are essential to ecosystem health and integrity.
2. There is widespread, bipartisan support for restoring wolves to Colorado, as revealed by public opinion surveys conducted over the last 20 years, and as recently as February 2019.
3. Wolves can be restored and managed in a manner that is humane, effective, affordable, and respectful of the needs and concerns of Coloradans.
4. We owe it to future generations to maintain the health of Colorado by keeping wildlife, like wolves, alive.
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A couple examples of rewilding in an agricultural context

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Rewilding of rivers

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Emu poo study the key to finding out how they could be reintroduced in Tasmania

Tasmania's ecosystem could be missing out by no longer being home to wild emus, and researchers say the answers are hidden in the large birds' poo.

Key points:
  • Emus became extinct in Tasmania in the 1800s
  • Researchers say they were important in the state's ecology because they dispersed seeds far and wide
  • Now researchers are gathering clues in south-east Victoria about what emus eat, and are thinking about how they could be reintroduced to Tasmania
Emus became extinct in Tasmania during the mid 1800s, and very little is known about how they lived.

University of Tasmania researcher Matthew Fielding said emus were no longer performing an important seed dispersal role in Tasmania.

"Emus will eat practically anything, and they walk a whole bunch of kilometres," Mr Fielding said.

"They will then poop out those seeds, and those poos can have up to thousands of seeds in them.

"They were moving these plants around in the environment."

Mr Fielding said emus could travel 50 kilometres in a day, spreading seeds far and wide.

The research will map the current distribution of plants and model what has changed since the emu became extinct.

*This image is copyright of its original author

PHOTO Researcher Matthew Fielding collecting emu droppings on Wilsons Promontory.


A big scat hunt

Mr Fielding and fellow researcher Tristan Derham travelled to Wilsons Promontory in south-east Victoria to find answers about the emu.

Wilsons Promontory is similar to the north-east of Tasmania, except that it has a large emu population.

The pair collected emu scats to examine what was inside and tracked what the birds were eating, and it turned out they were not fussy eaters.

"There's basically everything in there," Mr Fielding said.

"We can use that to infer what the Tasmanian emu was eating.

"We want to look at what plants are being eaten [in south-east Victoria] and then look at the distribution of those plants in Tasmania now."

Mr Derham said there were all the expected native seeds plus bracken, and surprisingly, whole she oak cones.

"They'll just pick up anything in that great big wide mouth of theirs and swallow it whole," he said.

*This image is copyright of its original author

PHOTO Researcher Tristan Derham on the search for emu droppings on Wilsons Promontory.


Tasmania full of emu habitat

Mr Derham said not a lot was known about why the emu became extinct in Tasmania, but the bird was gone about 50 years after European settlement.

The species survived in the wild until about 1865, and the last captive bird died in 1873.

"I was really surprised the first time I heard there were emus in Tasmania," he said.

"I decided to look into it and think about why there are not emus in Tasmania.

"It seems to me there are lots of great emu habitats, but they are gone."

*This image is copyright of its original author

PHOTO An emu scat with seedlings growing out of it on Wilsons Promontory.


He said the emu became extinct before the thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger.

"It turns out they disappeared very, very quickly," Mr Derham said.

He said the bird was hunted intensely at a time when Europeans cleared land and took Indigenous people off their lands.

Part of his study is modelling where the emus lived, and where they could be reintroduced.

His early data shows the bird could happily live throughout the east of Tasmania where it is dryer and flatter, as well as the Midlands.

"It would be the easiest thing in the world to buy a few hundred emus from an emu farmer on the mainland and put them in an enclosure and slowly release them to the environment," he said.

"We'd have to think pretty carefully about where we'd release them."

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PHOTO An unsigned engraving from 1880 depicting kangaroos, emus and 'tiger wolves' in the Tasmanian bush.
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Trophic rewilding presents regionally specific opportunities for mitigating climate change


Large-bodied mammalian herbivores can influence processes that exacerbate or mitigate climate change. Herbivore impacts are, in turn, influenced by predators that place top-down forcing on prey species within a given body size range. Here, we explore how the functional composition of terrestrial large-herbivore and -carnivore guilds varies between three mammal distribution scenarios: Present-Natural, Current-Day and Extant-Native Trophic (ENT) Rewilding. Considering the effects of herbivore species weakly influenced by top-down forcing, we quantify the relative influence keystone large-herbivore guilds have on methane emissions, woody vegetation expansion, fire dynamics, large-seed dispersal, and nitrogen and phosphorus transport potential. We find strong regional differences in the number of herbivores under weak top-down regulation between our three scenarios, with important implications for how they will influence climate change relevant processes. Under the Present-Natural non-ruminant, megaherbivore, browsers were a particularly important guild across much of the world. Megaherbivore extinction and range contraction and the arrival of livestock mean large, ruminant, grazers have become more dominant. ENT Rewilding can restore the Afrotropics and the Indo-Malay realm to the Present-Natural benchmark, but causes top-down forcing of the largest herbivores to become commonplace elsewhere. ENT Rewilding will reduce methane emissions, but does not maximize natural climate solution potential.
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New Study Finds Broad Public Support For Wolf Reintroduction In Colorado
84% of Coloradans Back Wolf Measure on November Ballot

FORT COLLINS, Colo.— A peer-reviewed study authored by 11 researchers in public opinion, biology and economics at Colorado State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows 84% support among Colorado’s public for Proposition 107 to reintroduce gray wolves. The proposition will appear on November’s ballot.
The study also found that Colorado’s 10 largest-circulation daily newspapers focused more on themes related to the overblown negative impacts of wolves than on the public’s broad support for reintroduction.
“Almost everyone in Colorado appreciates the ecological benefits of restoring the balance through wolf reintroduction,” said Michael Robinson at the Center for Biological Diversity. “But journalists who faithfully seek to report both sides of the story sometimes make the continental divide appear to be a political divide, when in fact city dwellers and rural folks want wolves almost equally.”
The study published last week, “Public Perspectives and Media Reporting of Wolf Reintroduction in Colorado,” found that while voters were signing petitions to place Proposition 107 on the November 2020 ballot last summer, almost 80% of Western Slope and Eastern Plains residents and almost 85% of Front Range residents would vote “yes.”
The survey found similarly strong support for the wolf reintroduction initiative among self-identified hunters, ranchers, gun rights advocates and property rights advocates.
“We understand that in the news business controversy attracts readers,” said Rob Edward of the Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund. “But the hidden story that reporters are missing is the ‘kumbaya’ aspect of wolf reintroduction, the fact that reintroducing wolves to restore natural balance unifies Coloradans.”
“Anti-wolf interest groups are working hard to use the press to scare Coloradans away from voting to restore gray wolves to our state,” said Jonathan Proctor, Rockies and Plains director at Defenders of Wildlife. “Despite these efforts to undermine, Coloradans remain firmly in support of restoring wolves and the natural balance to our state.”
The 734 respondents for the survey were recruited online at random and agreed to participate without knowing the survey’s subject matter. The survey included all Coloradans and not just registered voters. Results were weighted demographically by age, gender and region.
The survey found support for wolves at 84.9% among Front Range residents, 79.8% among Western Slope residents, and 79.3% among Eastern Plains residents, along with 83.3% among ranchers statewide.

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Gray wolf. Photo courtesy of John and Karen Hollingsworth, USFWS. Image is available for media use. 


Public perspectives and media reporting of wolf reintroduction in Colorado


In the state of Colorado, a citizen ballot initiative to reintroduce gray wolves ([i]Canis lupus[/i]) is eliciting polarization and conflict among multiple stakeholder and interest groups. Given this complex social landscape, we examined the social context surrounding wolf reintroduction in Colorado as of 2019. We used an online survey of 734 Coloradans representative in terms of age and gender, and we sampled from different regions across the state, to examine public beliefs and attitudes related to wolf reintroduction and various wolf management options. We also conducted a content analysis of media coverage on potential wolf reintroduction in 10 major daily Colorado newspapers from January 2019, when the signature-gathering effort for the wolf reintroduction initiative began, through the end of January 2020, when the initiative was officially added to the ballot. Our findings suggest a high degree of social tolerance or desire for wolf reintroduction in Colorado across geographies, stakeholder groups, and demographics. However, we also find that a portion of the public believes that wolves would negatively impact their livelihoods, primarily because of concerns over the safety of people and pets, loss of hunting opportunities, and potential wolf predation on livestock. These concerns—particularly those related to livestock losses—are strongly reflected in the media. We find that media coverage has focused only on a few of the many perceived positive and negative impacts of wolf reintroduction identified among the public. Our findings highlight the need to account for this diversity of perspectives in future decisions and to conduct public outreach regarding likely impacts of wolf reintroduction.

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