Restoring hornbill habitats in Arunachal Pradesh

Pakke Tiger Reserve and the adjoining Reserved Forests in Arunachal Pradesh, India are spread over an area of more than 2000 km2 and harbor a diverse array of plant and animal species. It is known as a haven for 4 hornbill species in India. Human activities like hunting, illegal logging, particularly outside Pakke, are negatively affecting hornbill populations and their habitat. Habitat loss due to logging is a major threat to hornbills that are dependent on large trees for nesting. This area has experienced amongst the highest rates of forest loss for India in the recent past.

With the restoration program, we hope to bring back some of the lost hornbill habitats (by bringing back hornbill food and nest trees) and secure the long-term future of these birds and other wildlife. To this end, rainforest nursery was set up in 2013 in a village near Pakke, with an aim of raising native rainforest tree species and using them to restore the degraded forest patches in and around the area. The tree species selected are important food and nest trees of hornbills and for other birds and mammals and also includes economically important species for planting by the local communities. In the past four years, we have raised around 17,000 saplings of 60 native tree species. Planting began in 2016 and a total area of 11 ha has been covered so far. Survival monitoring indicates 45-85% survival across the sites in a year’s time. Some sites show higher survival (84%) due to controlled conditions like fencing and deweeding. With such successful rate of establishment of the saplings, there is a hope for recovery of these habitats in the long-term. We hope to expand this program and cover more degraded patches in and around Pakke in the coming years.

Sand Cat Ecology and Conservation in the Southern Moroccan Sahara

Although sand cats (Felis margarita) were down listed from near threatened to least concern following a recent IUCN red list assessment, it was highlighted in the assessment that very limited ecological research has taken place and as a result its distribution, impact of threats and status is difficult to assess. Our study was established 2013 in the Southern Morocco, 150 km from the coast and city of Dakhla with the primary aim of improving our knowledge and understanding of sand cat ecology through the use of radio telemetry, for the first time on the African continent. Initiated by Dr. Alexander Sliwa (Curator at Koln Zoo, Germany) and Grégory Breton (then Curator at Parc des Félins, France, and now Managing Director of Panthera France), this study has been able to increase capacity by involving Moroccan collaborators from Rabat Zoo as well as local guides and drivers. The study area itself is characterised by stony and sandy Sahara ecosystems with less than 50 mm of annual rainfall and is strongly impacted by pastoralist activities and structural development with the associated dangers to all mesocarnivores (felids, canids and mustelids). We are collecting spatial data on radio-collared sand cats, which to this extent, has never been done before in the sand cat´s global distribution. Our preliminary results demonstrate that the sand cats are highly mobile and don’t use the landscape homogeneously but in an exceptional temporal and spatial pattern for a small cat species. Moreover, after remaining stationary for a certain period, they make extensive movements likely dictated by habitat condition (we recorded straight line daily covered distances of up to 21 km) and for this reason, they become difficult to track over time. Consequently, we are investigating the possibilities to develop and use new tracking systems such as GPS collars (yet unavailble, not enough miniaturised or powerful to follow such a large-range species) or new technologies (LoRa, IoT) to collect more data, but this requires extra fundings.

Brown bear conservation and research program in a model area in Romania

In 2006, Milvus Group has started the “Brown bear conservation and research program in a model area in Romania”. This small-scale, long-term, in-situ initiative responds to the three main threats to brown bears. We work towards: 1) Improving the social acceptance of the species; 2) Improving scientific knowledge about the species – conservation oriented research; and 3) Securing a suitable habitat for the bears. Under Objective 1, we strive to improve the social acceptance of brown bears in the project areas (and not only), mainly through a systematic mass-media campaign. Under Objective 2, we gather telemetry data from bears we fit with GPS-GSM collars, conduct a study on bear parasites, cooperate on a study on bear poaching in Romania, respectively work on publishing some of our results through peer-reviewed papers. Under Objective 3, we gather scientific data to pave the way for mitigation measures (crossing structures) for large carnivores on one of Romania’s planned highways in the Eastern Carpathians, in order to increase the future highway’s permeability for these species (and not only). Additionally, each year we save a number of orphaned bear cubs and also rescue bears from snares set by poachers.
Some of our achievements so far include: 6 new protected areas (Natura 2000 sites) designated for brown bears (and other species & habitats of EU importance); 18 orphaned bear cubs saved; 11 bears saved from poachers’ snares; 115 bear dens and 8 open nests located and measured; 211 scats and 43 harvested bears examined for endoparasites; genetic samples collected from more, than 150 individuals; 3 habituated bears successfully relocated; 25 bears fitted with GPS-GSM collars; complex questionnaire survey among 865 rural residents, in 4 study areas, on the public perceptions of large carnivores; and more.